For every fantasy football flop like Matthew Stafford, Justin Blackmon and Darren McFadden, there have been pleasant surprises who have either surpassed expectations or have come out of nowhere to put up numbers no one in their right mind could have predicted.
Here are four players doing much more than most fantasy experts expected this season:
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (RB)
With Gore advancing in age and San Francisco signing Brandon Jacobs, drafting LaMichael James and having shifty Kendall Hunter waiting in the wings, it seemed that 2012 would be the year Gore would start to share some carries and lose some fantasy worth.
Not so fast, Wesley Walker! Jacobs has not played due to injury, James has not played because he is not ready and not needed, and Hunter has not played enough to cause a problem.
Meanwhile, Gore has gored defenses for 601 rushing yards and four touchdowns in seven games while averaging an amazing 5.8 yards per carry. He remains the main man in San Fran’s rushing attack no matter how many backs the 49ers acquire.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (RB)
Most fantasy owners were under the assumption that Evan Royster was Washington’s starting tailback when drafts and auctions were taking place back in August, but that Mike Shanahan hid his true intentions like a shady infomercial host.
Morris was anointed the starter right before Washington’s opening game and has never allowed Royster or anyone else to come within a furlong of taking his job. Morris has barreled for 658 rushing yards, only one yard behind Houston’s Arian Foster, the league leader until Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson surpassed him with the help of a Thursday night game.
Morris has scored five touchdowns and has not had a bad week yet—all from a guy most thought was a third-string running back! Royster has been treated like he has forklift foot and has watched from the sidelines while Morris has dominated the rushing attempts.
Morris does not fool around. No tap dancing or tippy-toeing. He goes downhill harder than Picabo Street ever did. Morris is shaped like Maurice Jones-Drew but does not have MJD’s hands, yet thanks to Shanahan’s running back-positive system he has thrived and is the clear favorite to win the Breakout Player of the Year award in many fantasy publications.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (QB)
While Cam Newton has had the dreaded sophomore slump suplex him multiple times this year, the second-year guy everybody assumed would fall flat on his helmet, Dalton, has surprised many by throwing better than he did during his rookie campaign.
Dalton has 13 touchdown tosses, more than Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, four quarterbacks undoubtedly drafted ahead of him in most fantasy leagues.
The “Red Rifle” is way ahead of his 2011 touchdown and passing yards pace and has helped turn top target A.J. Green into the best receiver in fantasy at the moment. Not all quarterbacks take a step back in Season Two—even if they were drafted in the second round and not the first.
Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals (WR)
When it has come to the Arizona receiving corps the past several seasons, it has been Larry Fitzgerald and a bland bunch of no-namers with about as much fantasy value as second-string kickers.
Arizona drafted Notre Dame deep threat Michael Floyd in the first round this past April to finally fill the No. 2 WR void Anquan Boldin left behind years ago. But while Floyd has struggled to get on the field and make any contributions, Roberts has broken out and become a surprising fantasy force.
Roberts has 29 receptions for 389 yards and five touchdowns in Arizona’s seven contests. That means he is on pace for close to 65 catches, 900 yards and 10 touchdowns over a full season. No fantasy pundit predicted that kind of output for a little guy thought of as a No. 3 slot receiver.
Roberts might eventually lose targets, catches and yards to Floyd once the promising rookie gets his game together. But there is just enough chance of Roberts becoming a mini Victor Cruz who finds new and innovative ways to make spectacular grabs and score touchdowns.