Though just approaching the halfway point of the NFL regular season, we are already halfway in most fantasy leagues and past it in the usual fantasy regular season. That means our database has some basis in reality, and 2017’s reality is weird.
Heading into Week 8, we have had a number of surprising fantasy football performers. At the same time, some of our stalwarts have easily lived up to expectations. Despite the competition, Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt is the midseason MVP, and it’s not even close.
Hunt is not the leading fantasy scorer right now in standard leagues. That distinction belongs to Todd Gurley. Hunt is second, as both backs are outscoring all quarterbacks, which is remarkable. Trailing close behind the two runners are two surprising QB names: Alex Smith and Carson Wentz. Not until the fifth and sixth spots do usual suspects creep into the fray, as Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown make appearances.
The weirdest part of the fantasy leader board is how many non-quarterbacks litter the top 12. We have seven non-passers in the top 12 right now. For comparison, only two of the top 12 players from 2016 were not quarterbacks. In fact, only two of the top 20 were not QB’s a season ago. Things are much different right now.
That landscape, along with so many injuries to the very best fantasy players in the league, makes a reliable top pick more valuable than normal. Gurley, Bell, and Brown are valuable because many of their fellow first-and second-round picks have crumbled around them. As the common refrain goes, you can’t win a fantasy league with your first two picks, but you can lose it. David Johnson, Odell Beckham, and others have lost people leagues. These top scorers have not.
But there is something less exciting about preventing a loss rather than capturing a win. What wins leagues are late-round explosions. Smith and Wentz certainly qualify. But half of the starting-caliber quarterbacks were not drafted as such. How much value do the top two have when half a dozen others are in the same boat? Smith and Wentz are better, but it’s a matter of degree. With Hunt, there is no degree or comparison.
Hunt was nothing more than a sleeper before Spencer Ware went down in late August. Leagues that drafted in the middle of August only took Hunt as a lottery ticket backup. Those that drafted in the final week before the season were able to take a bigger shot on the rookie runner, along with fellow rookies Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, and Dalvin Cook.
That shot has paid off in full. Hunt is number two in scoring, as stated. The return on his draft slot is remarkable. More importantly than the gross numbers, though, has been Hunt’s consistency. He has topped at least 14 fantasy points in every week this season. Though his numbers are declining since his historic start, he has not fallen off. He is averaging 15.6 points per game during the month he has been “bad.” That mark would still make him a top 10 player at his position.
Gurley, the only player ahead of Hunt, has been great. But he may have lost his owners a week. He has already fallen below 14 points twice this season, even scoring just five points in Week 5. Leonard Fournette missed Week 7 entirely. Bell, Brown, and Ezekiel Elliott each have weeks where they scored single digit fantasy points. Hunt has been the most consistent superstar this season.
A lot of the season still remains. If Hunt continues to decline as his workload builds, he will fall out of this discussion. The rookie wall stands in his way of fantasy MVP. Right now, he is the leader heading onto the back nine.