This is a long list of well deserving surprises from the 2012 fantasy football season. The top ten have been parceled out from the honorable mentions. While Peterson and Manning are easily MVP candidates they are not by any standards fantasy shockers since most fantasy owners know what they are both capable of doing on the football field when healthy. Peterson had a more incredible season statistically and Manning put up huge numbers, but this just only proves the bounce-back candidates column from earlier this season. These shockers from our top 10 outperformed their draft stock insurmountably and were pleasant surprises to all fantasy owners this season. So here we go!
Denver Broncos Defense
Saddle up! The Broncos’ defense was particularly staunch this season. Not only did they score 8 touchdowns on defense and special teams but they also were the #2 point generator of all defenses behind the Chicago Bears. The return game was bolstered by Trindon Holliday’s lightening quick returns and Champ Bailey and co kept the secondary locked down. With 3 Pro-bowlers on the defensive side of the ball, including Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, this team is a sack and turnover machine waiting to happen. This could easily be a top 5 defense again next year. They finished middle of the pack last season and kept Tebow’s team in the game just long enough for his 4th quarter magic. This season it’s obvious that the expectations of the offense were mile high, but it was the Bronco’s defense that surpassed their expectations by a mile.
For all of those who drafted Antonio Gates or Vernon Davis this season, what were we thinking? Owen Daniels, who went namely undrafted in many leagues, was a top 10 tight end this season. He scored 100 fantasy points and was a consistent target for Matt Schaub in the Texans’ passing game. I did not expect this type of season and obviously he would have had more touchdowns had Foster not been such a beast at finding the end zone. Definitely a nice surprise if you were able to pick up Daniels. Dennis Pitta and Daniels are nice value picks to look at in next season’s draft.
After sixteen seasons in the NFL it’s safe to say this may have been Tony’s most impactful. His connection with Matt Ryan has blossomed and this past season he was the top tight end the first 8 weeks of the NFL season and wound up with top 3 numbers and a total of 8 touchdowns. Clearly he was not the choice of most fantasy owners until the later rounds. I had him going beyond the 8th round and his top tier numbers put him on the list of shockers. This could be his last playoff tilt, but if Gonzo keeps up the TDs and big time catches he could be around in Atlanta for a few more seasons.
Decker paid tremendous dividends in Denver’s mile-high air-attack this season. Most felt that D. Thomas would be the main beneficiary of Peyton Manning’s presence behind center. However, it was Decker who was the key possession receiver and racked up the 7th most fantasy points in standard leagues, tied with Andre Johnson. I mean Eric Decker, really? Would anyone have expected him to put up 2nd or 3rd round numbers? In some drafts he went in the 5th or 6th rounds, but his 13 touchdown receptions were only second to Green Bay’s James Jones. Unbelievable season for the Broncos, as long as Manning and Decker are together in Denver expect similar results.
Randall Cobb had a little buzz around the pre-season with his dynamic play-making abilities and speed, but most figured he would be the odd man out, even though Donald Driver had all but disappeared from the Packer’s offense. When Jennings went down with the groin injury Cobb was inserted into a starting role and become Rodger’s favorite target down the stretch. With 8 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 receiving yards he plays a pivot role in the offense and is a vital part of Green Bay’s playoff run. He is as much a threat to beat the defense deep as he is to run the ball out of the backfield. Cobb is simply all over the field, he’s straight buttered corn on the cob.
C.J. spilled his touchdown dances all over the place this past season. Going into the season Jackson was the favored running back until he went down early to injury. Spiller’s speed and elusiveness in the passing game also served him well to a total of 8 touchdowns and over 1,200 rushing yards. He entered the elite category of having averaged at least 6 yards per carry in a single season, a feat only 7 players have amassed in NFL history. Spiller should certainly be on the radar in the top 3 or 4 rounds next season especially with a new coaching staff that might be less devoted to Jackson. If the Bills are to make a run at the playoffs soon, they will certainly need to lean on Spiller much more.
Doug Martin, I have to admit was a complete shocker to me entering the season. I still thought LeGarrette Blount was the feature back before the Bucs drafted this rookie out of Boise State in the 2012 draft. The “muscle hamster” had his fair share of monster games, highlighted by a game against the Raiders where he put up Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl numbers. He was an every down back and appeared very durable. He amassed as many touchdowns as Marshawn Lynch and tied Arian Foster for total fantasy points. Those running backs were drafted in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts and Martin was picked anywhere between the 4th and 8th rounds in many drafts, so this was certainly a surprise for the Bucs to build around in the future.
Alfred “the dump truck” Morris had a tremendous season for the Redskins. Drafted on the final day of the NFL draft in the 6th round from a Florida Atlantic University program that went 1-11 was impressive. However, making the team was pretty unbelievable since he was competing against Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Tim Hightower to even stay off the practice squad. When Hightower was cut, many thought Helu had the fast track to the starting spot in the backfield with RGIII. However, Alfred Morris emerged after the first couple weeks and put up an NFC best 13 rushing TDs, even more than Adrian Peterson. His 1,600 yards plus rushing put him amongst elite company with rookie running backs in NFL history. Morris who was drafted in less than .001% of fantasy football leagues is the most deserving to be atop the “Shockers” of this past fantasy football season.
Going into the pre-season for the Seahawks out of training camp there were many questions whether Wilson or Flynn would be given the nod as the starter in Seattle. After out competing and earning the starting QB spot as a rookie and 3rd round draft pick it’s tough to make that argument that he isn’t the rookie of the year in the NFL. He’s done absolutely everything asked of him and since the middle of the season, when he was given more free reign of the offense, he’s taken flight. He carried some teams during the post-season with his monster games and finished the season with 30 total touchdowns (rushing and passing). For a guy who was probably not taken off the waiver wire until week 3, he was certainly a welcome surprise to the fans from the emerald city and his fantasy owners.
Robert Griffin III
RGIII hysteria has swept the nation and this column. RGIII virtually did it all this season. Only Drew Brees outperformed him at QB position, statistically in fantasy, up until the last few weeks when RGIII suffered a nasty knee injury. However, RGIII still managed to put up top 5 fantasy numbers overall. His dual threat abilities pushed him past the Cam Newtown video game numbers from last season and elevated his game with 27 total touchdowns. As dynamic as he was this past season he has much more ability and will certainly accomplish much more in the near future and he might not be done yet this NFL postseason.
Peyton Manning deserves to be mentioned but I think most fantasy owners believed he would come back and do well this season. He should earn comeback player of the year honors and definitely think he will earn it if AP is rightfully awarded the NFL MVP. The reports of Peyton’s spinal injury were not positive prior to the season, but 37 TDs later should quite the critics now.
All Day Peterson ran over his opponents and very nearly topped the most rushing yards in a single season (only 9 yards away). Peterson has the shock and awe factor but is not a shocker. He’s an absolute genetic freak and although not at 100% at the beginning of the season, it was well known what he is capable of doing on any given Sunday. He was taken on average in the second round, which should go up a round next season.
Reggie Wayne saw a big time resurgence with Andrew Luck taking the reigns at QB in Indianapolis. He ended up 7th in the league in total receiving yards, ahead of Wes Welker. In fact, he was the most highly targeted and had the most receiving yards by mid-season. For a wide-receiver that was taken around the 8th to 10th rounds, this qualifies Wayne as a superb “shocker.”
Heath Miller is one of the few Steelers offensive players who had a successful season. He was 4th in the NFL with 8 TDs from the tight end position and would have had even bigger numbers had injuries not ravaged the QB situation. Miller is a good value pick in later rounds of the draft next season.
Walsh led all fantasy kickers in points and was a pleasant surprise for the Vikings. If you go 6 for 6 on kicks of over 50 yards and your nickname out of the University of Georgia is the “Athens Assassin,” then you are certainly deserving of making the list.