Fantasy MVPs and League Winners


Let’s take a trip down memory lane. I’ll list some fantasy MVPs for each of the past 6 years. I will also list the most common players on playoff and championship rosters for each of the past 6 years – the “League Winners.” It’s interesting that the two lists for each year don’t always match. 

League winners are those guys who outperform when it really counts. To identify these candidates ahead of time we look for favorable playoff schedules and we look for guys who are playing great come playoff time. There’s one guy I’ve heard of, for example, who always gets stronger through the season, but only once the snow starts falling in Vermont. 

MVPs are players who outperform their average draft position over the course of a full season or, if a first round pick, a player who lives up to his ADP. Identifying MVPs is the basis for draft strategy every year. Who you believe will outperform ADP. A championship team will often have at least one player in each of these categories, league winners and MVPs. Sometimes they’re the same dude, ahem, Christian McCaffrey.

The players that follow should sound very familiar to you as they probably either brought you a #footclantitle or beat your buns on your opponent’s roster. It will blow your mind when I list some of their ADPs for that season. 

Cue “One Shining Moment” and let’s get to it.

2018 MVPs

Patrick Mahomes had 5000 yards passing and 50 touchdowns for the Chiefs in his record setting campaign. Not bad for the 16th QB off the board. Mahomes’ ADP was 10th round, behind Kelvin Benjamin and the Jaguars defense! Saquon Barkley was a beast as a rookie in NY. Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan had high touchdown totals. Christian McCaffrey might be some analysts’ choice for MVP, especially considering he was being drafted in the late second round in 2018. 

2018 League Winners

Christian McCaffrey was the championship-bringer, on 37.8% of winning teams. He was worth at least 20 fantasy points (.5 ppr)  in each of the three playoff weeks (14,15,16). Other league winners were Todd Gurley, who appeared on 34.4% of winning teams, and Patrick Mahomes, who was on 31.5% of championship rosters. Rounding out the top 5 were Alvin Kamara, on 30.8% of winning teams, and Saquon Barkley, present on 29.5% of championship rosters.

2019 MVPs

Christian McCaffrey dominated the 2019 fantasy football season, effectively combining RB1 and WR1 production, which was instrumental during the playoffs. For the second year in a row he laid a strong claim for MVP. Lamar Jackson shattered records, scoring the highest fantasy points for a quarterback in a single season. The Austin Ekeler breakout party surprised many. He was a top performer despite not being the starting running back initially, excelling particularly in the passing game and significantly outperforming his eighth-round ADP. Michael Thomas set a receptions record and was a powerhouse in PPR leagues. Finally, both Dalvin Cook and Aaron Jones rained tuddies on their fantasy managers in 2019. Great consistency from those two.

2019 League Winners

Lamar Jackson was found on a whopping 45.3% of winning teams. He averaged 27.8 fantasy points per game in Weeks 14-17​. Christian McCaffrey scored 66.8 ppr points in weeks 15 and 16 combined. He was included on 38.8% of championship rosters. Michael Thomas was on 36.9% of winning teams. Chris Godwin was present on 34.9% of championship rosters. Travis Kelce was on 31.4% of winning teams and was the TE1 in 2019, also TE1 in playoff weeks..

2020 MVPs

Alvin Kamara made managers happy at his top 6 ADP. Travis Kelce became the untouchable tight end we know him as, drafted at a cheap 18th overall. Stefon Diggs made a significant impact in his first season with the Buffalo Bills, topping the NFL in receptions and receiving yards, greatly exceeding his late 4th ADP. Tyreek Hill continued to dazzle with over 1,200 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, and was a difference maker for both the Chiefs and his fantasy managers. 2020 was the last season Hill has been drafted outside the first round on average. 2020 was also Josh Allen’s turn to take the fantasy world by storm as a true dual threat. Anyone who drafted the season’s top QB at his 7th round ADP was grinning and winning.

2020 League Winners

In the 2020 fantasy football playoffs, several key players were instrumental on winning teams, each bringing significant points to their fantasy managers. Stefon Diggs was the most common player on championship rosters, found on over 25% of winning teams. His presence and performance were critical during the playoffs. Derrick Henry, known for his robust end-of-season surges, appeared on 24.1% of championship teams. Who can forget Alvin Kamara’s six-touchdown game in Week 16? Kamara was on 23.8% of championship-winning teams. Davante Adams also had a significant impact, appearing on 22.7% of championship rosters. Travis Kelce, TE cheat code, was on 21.9% of winning teams.

2021 MVPs

Cooper Kupp blew the roof of the sucker in ‘21. He led all wide receivers in fantasy points by a significant margin while securing the receiving triple crown for receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Better yet, Kupp’s average draft position was 44 overall! Jonathan Taylor was drafted at the end of the first round and delivered for managers as the RB1. His total points on the season were certainly bolstered by a single 53.4-point outing against the Bills in week 11 – an unforgettable performance for ‘21 Taylor owners. Deebo Samuel was drafted in the eighth round and delivered extreme value, ending as the WR3. Austin Ekeler was the 22nd player off the board and delivered on that valuation, ending the season as the RB2 behind Taylor. Without Taylor’s week 11, the two would have both finished at 275 fantasy points in .5 ppr.

2021 League Winners

Cooper Kupp, a standout wide receiver for the Rams, was a common figure on 14% of playoff rosters, thanks to his season-long dominance that extended into the postseason. Jonathan Taylor, was consistent throughout the regular season on playoffs, appearing on 13% of playoff rosters. Ronald Jones II, despite a quieter season, emerged as a crucial playoff asset for 13% of playoff rosters, particularly after stepping up in the absence of Leonard Fournette. Deebo Samuel and Amon-Ra St. Brown also made their marks, appearing on 13% and 12% of playoff rosters, respectively.

2022 MVPs

Austin Ekeler was a powerhouse in both the running and passing game, accumulating 295.6 fantasy points. He was worth the number 3 overall pick. Justin Jefferson led WRs with 330.4 points, justifying his early draft status with an ADP of around 6.5. Tyreek Hill was right behind JJettas and perhaps provided a little more value at an ADP of 14.5. Travis Kelce continued his reign as the top tight end in fantasy, scoring 262.8 points with an ADP of 15.5. T.J. Hockenson, by comparison, scored 193, and was a fantastic middle round TE choice. But Kelce doesn’t even register as a TE. He’s a top 10 WR you can slot into your TE position. TEs 2-9 in 2022 averaged 100 fewer points than Kelce, he’s that good.2022’s MVP  list was generally all difference makers that were also drafted high. When it came to outperforming ADP, DeVonta Smith and Tyler Lockett were drafted at WR37 and WR38, respectively, and finished at WR14 and WR15.

2022 League Winners

We gotta put Ekeler at the top of the league winner list with his 30 point fantasy championship week 17. Some of the others from the MVP list fell short when it came to the playoffs. George Kittle would have been a better TE to carry you through the playoffs than Kelce in ‘22. Justin Jefferson had a dismal week 17, but he definitely got you there up until then. Mike Evans was the WR hero for many fantasy managers in week 17.

2023 MVPs

When Christian McCaffrey stays healthy, this is what we get. He was on 58.9% of fantasy championship teams. Say less. He’ll be back to consensus #1 in 2024. Another notable MVP was Kyren Williams, whose low draft position (if he was even drafted)  and high output offered tremendous value. Ceedee Lamb and Tyreek Hill were the top 2 WRs and delivered on their high ADPs. 2023 was Ceedee’s breakout party, cementing him as a top 3 WR talent for 2024.

2023 League Winners

Amon-Ra St. Brown could also be in the list above, finishing at WR3, but he especially killed it during the fantasy playoffs where he was the only non-quarterback to score at least 20 points in all three weeks. Kyren was particularly strong during the fantasy playoffs, finishing as the RB 6, 8, and 1 in the final weeks of the season. Rashee Rice is a perfect league winner archetype – WR9 from week 11 on and scored a ton of points in the playoffs. Josh Jacobs helped a lot of managers get that chip in ‘23, as well. Strong playoff performances.


Well this has been fun. It’s interesting to see when all these players’ breakouts occurred. Once a player breaks out, it’s tough remembering them not being a perennial top pick. Besides the entertaining retrospective, this article was meant to illustrate the importance of balancing consistent studs with high upside value picks when constructing your roster. To make a deep playoff run, these guys need to be peaking at the right time and a favorable NFL schedule during your fantasy playoffs can help with that. Make a list of your diamonds in the rough and those teams/positions with soft playoff schedules even before your fantasy draft. Things will change but thinking about playoff schedules early will benefit you later. Whether you’re a beginning fantasy manager or a seasoned veteran, this article should give you some good food for thought as you prepare for next season. Good luck and have fun!

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