Just a few weeks ago, the NFL MVP race seemed wide open, with Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and perhaps a few others (Tom Brady, Matt Ryan) as the leading candidates. But Peterson's remarkable run at the league's all-time rushing record has likely put any debate to rest. His amazing recovery from a serious knee injury, his team's surprising wild-card run and arguably the best season of his career make him the clear-cut leader.
From a fantasy football angle, his owners have to be pleased. Peterson was a mid-second round choice in ESPN average live drafts, but he has been so good that where you drafted him (or how you acquired him) is somewhat irrelevant.
Make no mistake, when discussing fantasy MVP choices, when the candidates were drafted (if at all) matters. Look at the quarterbacks chosen in the first round of 2012 drafts. Aaron Rodgers, Brady and Drew Brees have certainly been usable this season, but they haven't delivered commensurate value related to their first-round draft position. Other quarterbacks, young and old, have been more valuable when you factor in ADP, and there also have been surprising performances at running back and wide receiver that trump some of the bigger names.
Regardless, with two weeks remaining in this season -- best of luck to all of you in your fantasy playoffs! -- here is one writer's current ballot for fantasy MVP honors, taking into account statistics, draft-day value, expectations, consistency and everything else.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: Enters Week 16 sixth in standard season scoring, 27 points up on the next non-quarterback and 59 points up on No. 4. Even if All Day had been the first running back off the draft board and even if he sits Week 17 (which doesn't seem likely), he'd probably get the vote here. Wow.
2. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins: Surprise! Look, Arian Foster is the No. 2 running back in fantasy scoring, but he was also the first overall pick in most drafts. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-9 Morris, chosen in the sixth round of the NFL draft out of noted fantasy factory Florida Atlantic (um, that's sarcasm) and guaranteed nothing by his hard-to-read coach Mike Shanahan, is 10th among the flex position lot (running backs, wide receivers, tight ends) in season scoring. And he is hardly hitting the rookie wall, averaging well more than 100 rushing yards per game in the past month. Morris was a 10th-round fantasy pick, just after Peyton Hillis, Santonio Holmes, four defenses and teammate Roy Helu. That, my friends, is awesome value.
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: How about them Redskins! Griffin did not play in Week 15 due to a knee injury, which was a problem for his fantasy teams, yet he entered the week leading all of fantasy in scoring. Griffin was a fantasy fifth-rounder and ninth at his position. If he plays in Week 16, you want him active, even if he's less than 100 percent.
4. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The value here is also tremendous, as this rookie taken 65th overall (seventh round), on average, in ESPN leagues is the No. 3 running back -- and the provider of the best individual game of the season when he exploded for 51 fantasy points at Oakland in Week 9. He has scored steadily well since then, though his Week 15 performance was a disappointment.
5. Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos: Quarterback has been a deep fantasy spot this season, certainly when compared to running back. Believe it or not, Manning wasn't all that undervalued on draft day (fourth round). Still, what a comeback season!
6. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans: There have been plenty of recent seasons in which the first overall pick was a bust. This is not one of them. Foster has one game with fewer than 10 fantasy points. Picking first in 2012 drafts was a great spot to be, certainly better than fourth (LeSean McCoy), eighth (Chris Johnson) or ninth (Maurice Jones-Drew) or with the quarterbacks, none of whom are likely to throw for 5,000 passing yards, unlike last season.
7. Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears: While Calvin Johnson was a consensus first-rounder, and has been great, Marshall has outscored him by seven fantasy points, thanks to having twice as many touchdown receptions. Marshall also leads the NFL with 107 receptions, for those in point-per-reception formats, and he has done this from a fourth-round fantasy draft position. Pretty good!
8. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos: He is sixth in wide receiver scoring, but the fellows with more points were all chosen ahead of him. Thomas was the No. 20 wide receiver off the ESPN board. As with Martin, his Week 15 performance (one fantasy point) stings, but Thomas helped you get to the fantasy playoffs.
9. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns: How, in good conscience, can we nominate this rookie -- the fourth on this list -- over Calvin Johnson? Well, Richardson has 182 fantasy points in standard formats this season, only five fewer than Johnson. And he was chosen 30 spots later, on average, in ESPN standard leagues. That's how.
10. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: He's really, really good!