For obvious reasons, the biggest fantasy stories are personal stories. If the key to your 2013 championship was Andy Dalton's monster performance in Week 16 — or Tobias Harris' beastly April, or Brandon Moss' three-homer closing week — then for you there's really no debate about the year's biggest fantasy story. The most memorable game/moment/player of 2013 is whatever, or whoever, clinched your league title. On that, we can hopefully all agree.
Our mission today, as we rip away the final pages of the calendar, is to review the fantasy stories that had the greatest impact in 2013, across the largest number of leagues. We intend no disrespect to the dozens of deserving athletes and events not mentioned here. It's merely a list of ten (in no particular order), beginning with No. 18...
Peyton Manning breaks all the big records, delivers the NFL's first 5,000-50 season.
Peyton's season opened with a ridiculous 462-yard, seven-touchdown performance against the defending Super Bowl champs, and he ended with a 266-yard, four-TD effort at Oakland. He reached the 400-yard plateau in four different games, topping 300 yards 12 times. Manning now owns the all-time single-season records for passing yardage (5,477) and passing scores (55). His 115.1 passer-rating was the fifth best in league history.
Clearly, anyone who spent an early pick on Manning enjoyed a profitable fantasy season. There's almost no way you could have struggled with Peyton at QB. The man threw 19 touchdown passes over his final five games, so he did much his finest work during the most important fantasy weeks.
The first-round running backs were just a big bowl of bust.
Trent Richardson? Traded and terrible. Doug Martin? Injured and inefficient. CJ Spiller? Committee'd, contained. Ray Rice? Blech.
This past year was a little rough for the first-round backs, no question. Blame the players if you like, or blame the gurus who ranked 'em. We'll all try to do better next year.
You might think that the high failure-rate of RBs might cause fantasy experts to veer to a more predictable, reliable position in the early rounds next season, but that's not actually the early vibe. Old habits are hard to break, even when they're bad. Prepare for another preseason filled with RB-RB strategy pieces. (If you ask me, I'll suggest that you don't apply a 1999 solution to a 2014 problem.)
Half your fantasy roster ensnared in Biogenesis mess.
Fantasy owners can't say they didn't see the tidal wave of Biogenesis suspensions coming, because the scandal unfolded over many weeks and innumerable rumors. But still, there's only so much a manager can do when he/she loses a first-round pick (Ryan Braun), a 40-steal middle-infielder (Everth Cabrera) and a power-hitting outfielder (Nelson Cruz). Every league contained a team that could have been renamed "The Tony Bosch All-Stars." (Note: In the Yahoo Friends & Family League, I was that owner.)
The Biogenesis bloodbath will of course spill into 2014, as we're left to reassess the fantasy value of all those involved. But that's a nightmare for another day.
Backup goalies rule the Earth
Jonathan Quick gets hurt in LA? No problem. Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones save the day. Sure, like you knew of the undrafted, unheralded Jones was before the season. Josh Harding stands on his head in Minnesota, too. And Cam Talbot grabs eight wins on Broadway.
Harding is first in goals-against average in the league, Scrivens is second, and Jones — who basically shoved Scrivens out of the way through his amazing nine-game run — would be first if he qualified. Jones has also stopped .953 percent of his shots through his short sample, which is insane. It's enough to make everyone forget that Quick was ordinary before he got hurt. (Hat-tip to Pianowski for hockey blurb.)
KD becomes the highest-scoring member of 40-50-90 club.
Kevin Durant didn't win the scoring title in 2013, nor was he the league's MVP. He couldn't quite carry his injured team to the NBA finals, either. But KD managed to produce a 40-50-90 season last year — 40-percent shooting on 3s, 50-percent from the field, 90 from the line — becoming both the youngest member of an elite group, and the highest-scoring player to achieve the feat. Durant joined Larry Bird as the only players to go 40-50-90 while also scoring 2,000-plus points. That's just ... well, it's absurd. High-volume shooters are supposed to do things like that — seriously, look at all these shots. KD is a sniper of the highest order.
Jamaal Charles owns the goal line, finally.
No one should have ever questioned whether Jamaal Charles could be an effective goal-to-go running back — the man ranks among the most efficient runners in league history. Nonetheless, no Chiefs head coach had ever fully trusted Charles at the goal line until Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City. Jamaal entered the season with just three career scores of three yards or less; he'll leave it with 14 scores from inside the 3-yard line.
Get the ball to your best players at the goal line, NFL coaches. Let's not pretend this stuff is excessively complicated.
Henderson Alvarez hurls end-of-season no-hitter, possibly deciding your league's championship.
OK, perhaps Alvarez's season-ending blanking of the Tigers wasn't even a blip in your league — maybe no one added him as a desperation final-day play. But I was involved in a pair of leagues — one roto, one head-to-head — where the Alvarez no-no influenced the order of finish. After the long grind of the MLB fantasy season, there's just nothing like seeing an improbable performance by a perfectly average player decide your title.
If you lost to an Alvarez-led opponent, you're probably still not over it. Sorry to bring it up. Let's just move on...
Tim Duncan turns back the clock.
Somehow, at age 36, Tim Duncan played an awful lot like the 27-year-old version of himself. Can't say many of us saw that comin'. If you drafted Timmy in the middle rounds, you saw an absolutely massive fantasy profit — we're talking league-winning windfall. Duncan's year-over-year scoring jumped by 2.4 points per game, his rebounding increased from 9.0 to 9.9, and he blocked shots at a rate he hadn't reached since 2003-04 (2.7). He also managed to knock down 81.8 percent of his free throws, which ain't bad for a career 69.4 percent shooter.
Chris Davis does bad, bad things to baseballs.
These days, humans are not supposed to be capable of hitting 53 home runs in a single season, and they aren't supposed to slug .630-something. Baltimore's Chris Davis did the trick, however, powering past Miguel Cabrera to win the HR and RBI crowns in the A.L. If you owned him — which didn't require much of a reach at the draft table — you surely had a successful fantasy season. Davis had always been an unstoppable mauler in the high minors (career .337/.397/.609 at Triple-A), and he's finally unlocked major league pitching. Woe unto A.L. East pitches in 2014. He's here to stay.
Chip Kelly's offense hums in Philly.
Entering the final week of the regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles led the NFC in both scoring (27.9 PPG) and total yards (420.7 YPG), plus they featured the league's leading rusher (LeSean McCoy), a record-setting passer (Nick Foles), and a top-10 fantasy receiver (DeSean Jackson). Philly has played at a blistering pace, as promised, and the team has plainly improved as the year unfolded. If you were a Chip Kelly skeptic back in August, he probably made you a believer on opening night, when his team played wickedly fast in a win at Washington. This isn't merely some big green gimmick, gamers. Kelly's offense is a fantasy machine, now headed to the postseason.