Below is a list of some of the biggest surprises of the 2011 Fantasy Football season. If you want to add to this list feel free to post them in our Fantasy Football Forum.
After an extremely slow start Lynch went nuts in the second half of the season and ended as a top 10 fantasy running back. From week 8 on Lynch was the hottest running back in the league, and we saw why he is said to be in “Beast Mode”. It will be interesting to see how much love Lynch gets in next years drafts, but we have to imagine that he will probably be a late first early second round pick. Lynch will be 26 this year so he is getting pretty old in running back years, but he still has some tread left on his tires.
We liked Bush going into this year, but we wrote him off after a slow start. It looked like Thomas was going to take over as the featured back, and Bush was going to go back to being a third down specialist. After Thomas got banged up Bush took full advantage of the extra carries and proved he can be an every down back. He played in 15 games and had his first career 1,000 rushing yard season. Bush is still somewhat of a scary pick moving forward, but he offers a ton of potential value in PPR leagues.
Graham was my favorite sleeper tight end coming into the year, but he exceeded everyones expectations. He ended the year as the 2nd fantasy tight end, while racking up 99 catches for over 1300 yards and 11 TDs. Graham is a matchup nightmare and he will be an early pick in next years drafts. It wouldn’t even surprise me if Graham is a 3rd round pick in fantasy drafts in 2012.
We will be the first to admit that we were wrong about Newton and his fantasy potential in his rookie season. It wasn’t that we were questioning his athletic ability but rather his situation. He was joining a Panthers offense that was among the worst in the league in 2010, and his main weapon through the air was an aging Steve Smith who appeared to have his best years behind him. Not only did Newton prove us wrong, but he rewrote the book about rookie quarterbacks in fantasy. We would still express extreme caution with how much value you give rookie quarterbacks moving forward. Newton was the first rookie quarterback to be a no brainer starter week to week since the fantasy football era started.
Gronkowski was another tight end that we thought was a great pick in the later rounds, but 17 TDs was something that no one saw coming. Just like Jimmy Graham he is going to be an early pick in 2012 fantasy drafts, and he and Graham are rewriting the book when it comes to how much a top tight end can help your fantasy team. The Patriots offense still has Brady and a ton of other weapons, so Gronkowski and the Patriots offense should be in line for big numbers for many years to come.
Sometimes this year the Packers made scoring points just look so easy, and Nelson was one of the reasons why. The Packers spread the ball around a ton which explains why Nelson only had 68 catches, but he found the end zone 15 times. Nelson ended the year as a top 5 wide receiver and as long as Rodgers is the one throwing him the ball he should continue to have success.
Mario Manningham was suppose to be the Giants receiver that had their breakout year not Victor Cruz. Cruz took full advantage of the extra targets after Manningham got a little banged up early on in the season and he never looked back. After their bye week 7 he was one of the top receivers in fantasy averaging over 6 catches a game during that stretch. He has a lot going for him and he should be targeted early in drafts next year especially in PPR leagues.
We all know Sproles is fast and he is a hard guy to tackle in open space, but he has never been seen as a great fantasy running back. In prior years he has had value in PPR leagues and leagues that count return yards, but in 2011 he had value in all leagues. He had over 1300 total rushing and receiving yards, 86 catches and 9 total touchdowns. Sproles is exactly what the Saints offense needed, and he was a big reason why the Saints had the 2nd highest scoring offense in the league.
We had written off Smith coming into this year. He was coming off of his worst season in years, and now he had a rookie quarterback throwing him the ball. All signs were pointing to the Panthers having another rough year on the offensive side of the ball, but the exact opposite happened. Smith had an amazing bounce back year and proved that he still has some gas left in his tank. Smith has had injury issues in the past and he isn’t getting any younger, so he will be a bit of a scary pick in 2012.
The second year receiver out of Central Michigan was suppose to be a bigger part of the offense this year. However, with Wallace, Sanders, and Ward all looking for targets, we didn’t see Brown as being as much of a factor as he was. Not only was he a factor but he ended the year with just under 70 catches and over 1100 yards. He didn’t find the end zone that much with only 2 TDs, but with his big play potential he is a guy to target for 2012 drafts. Brown also handled a lot of the Steelers return duties so he has even more value in return yard leagues. He might not keep his return duties if they continue to use him so much in the passing game, but if he does then he gets a big bump in those types of leagues.
If you want to add to this list feel free to post them in our Fantasy Football Forum.