The Winners and Losers of Fantasy Football 2014

The waiver wire solved nothing.

Your championship game is this weekend, half your team is injured, and the other half plays for the Giants. Fantasy football can be frustrating, but it’s never boring – and this year’s season was no exception to that rotisserie rule. Based on an extremely casual survey, Maxim is comfortable saying that no fantasy owner got out of the draft without making at least one retrospectively regrettable decision. On the one hand, that’s an indictment of the NFL. On the other hand, that’s precisely the damn point of playing fantasy in the first place.

These are the picks that deserve a second look, the guys who defied the expectation (of the guys who drafted them anyway) and made the season memorable. This was their year – even if it emphatically wasn’t.

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The Human Highlight Reel: Le’Veon Bell

He was probably the MVP of your fantasy season (whatever the scoring system), but Bell set himself apart by doing more than racking up massive totals and squirting through Pittsburgh’s line into the end zone. The guy was just fun to watch. There’s something about his loitering-with-intent running style that makes for great television (as well as breakout runs). A large clock would look agile next to Big Ben, but Le’Veon looked superhuman.

The Should Have Been a Smart Draft:Josh Gordon

He’s great and the weed suspension, especially in light of Le’Veon and LaGarrette’s joy ride, was universally criticized (correctly) as petty. That’s why your buddy told you he was going to get playing time this year and rubbed it in your face when he finally did, displaying that trademark speed. The only catch: The dude still plays for the Browns. Manziel can’t see him over his line and Hoyer couldn’t get him the ball.

The Wait Until Next Year:Carlos Hyde

It seemed like the burly runner was going to break through for the Niners, putting up some almost-legitimate RB2 performances later in the season. Then the Niners just broke. Ironically, it was Harbaugh who went all Mr. Hyde.

The Belichick Hit and Run:Jonas Gray

Remember week 11 when Gray put up 44.1 points on the back of 201 yards and four touchdowns? So does Gray. We’re betting he thinks about it a lot while sitting on the sidelines. Will he ever get another chance? No one knows. The Patriots’ backfield is the Bermuda Triangle for running backs.

The Money Pits:Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Jonny Manziel, Victor Cruz

Being indicted and being benched and being injured are all the same for fantasy football. That said, your friend who kept Peterson on his bench is an asshole. Ditto your friend who kept Ray Rice. (It was probably the same friend.)

Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The Predictable Disaster:Jay Cutler

Beautiful wife aside, Chicago’s curiously nicknamelessQB had nothing going for him this season. He couldn’t find his terrific receivers with a magnifying glass and he spent almost as much time on his back as former Bears field general Pard Piece, who died in 1974. But was there any way to see it coming? Absolutely. Cutler has historically butted heads with offensive coordinators and after one successful season working with Aaron Kromer, it was only a matter of time. Say what you will of his long ball, Cutler remains the best sulker in the league. He’ll have time to show off that skill as Jimmy Clausen takes snaps.

The One-Man Team(s): DeMarco Murray, Arian Foster

The two Texas-based backs have been absolute monsters this year, routinely topping 20 points and looking good doing it.

The Started At The Bottom Now He’s Here:Eddie Lacy

Lacy started the season looking determined to follow in the footsteps of other great Alabama backs who wilted in the NFL. Then, around week seven, he woke up, remember that he’s massive, and started barreling through defenses. It takes a while to adjust to the cold up north.

The Erratic Rookie:Tre Mason

Starting Tre Mason was a high-stakes gamble even after he broke through against San Francisco in week six. It was a roller coaster after that. Whenever the word “potential” gets bandied about in regards to a player, fantasy owners get nervous. They were right to be nervous about Mason, whose upside is enormous and whose downside is the Ram’s O-line.

The Redeemer: Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr. was so much more than that one highlight for the players savvy enough to get him off the waiver wire. The only New York Giant who didn’t shrink in stature this season, Beckham Jr. practiced catching balls thrown behind him. No wonder he and Eli Manning work so well together.

Photos by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images