Fantasy Football 2012: 10 First-Half Surprises

Ryan BrowerContributor IIINovember 1, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: 10 First-Half Surprises

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    You can't discuss fantasy football's 10 biggest first-half busts without naming the first-half's biggest surprises. 

    On the opposite spectrum of a bust, this surprise list is made up of guys who went in later rounds, usually taken as lottery tickets, or maybe even guys who went undrafted all together.

    The point is, these are the 10 guys who have out-produced their draft day value from the start of this season. If you have a few of these guys on your team you're doing pretty well. 

10. Heath Miller

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    Yes, 30-year-old Heath Miller is currently second to only Rob Gronkowski in fantasy points for tight ends in Yahoo! standard scoring leagues. Miller was an afterthought at the beginning of the season when all the talk was of the transformed tight end position with the Gronks and Jimmy Grahams of the world destined to take over.

    Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has been saying from day one this season that Miller would have a huge year, and that he's the best tight end in the league. And with Heath leading all receivers, not just tight ends, in red-zone targets with 16 he's making a strong argument for that. He's also pulled in 16 of those targets for six scores, trailing James Jones by one for the league lead. 

    Where he will finish

    The Steelers are going to keep using him heavily, so expect a top-10 finish out of Heath this year if he can keep producing with his opportunities. 

9. Andre Brown

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    Coming into this season all eyes were on rookie running back David Wilson in the New York Giants backfield.

    He was drafted as the heir-apparent to the always injury prone Ahmad Bradshaw. But when Ahmad went down in Week Two it was Andre Brown who took over the workload and ran with it, exploding for 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns versus the Panthers in Week Three. 

    Tied for third in the league with five rushing touchdowns, Brown hasn't had a game like that since though. He suffered a concussion in Week Five, but since returning it's obvious he is playing the old Brandon Jacobs role of thunder in the Giants backfield, taking over goal line duties and finding pay dirt the last two weeks.

    Ahmad Bradshaw continues to have nagging injuries, and Brown will continue to alleviate some of Bradshaw's workload. Brown sits ahead of names like Steven Jackson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Ryan Mathews in total fantasy points halfway into the year. 

    Where he will finish

    It's quite possible Ahmad Bradshaw misses a few more games this year. If that's the case, expect Brown to be a top-25 back by year's end. 

8. Tony Gonzalez

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    The ageless wonder Tony Gonzalez isn't far behind Heath Miller in fantasy points this year (trails him by just under two points in Yahoo! standard scoring leagues). The 36-year-old ranks seventh in receptions this year with 46 and has hauled in four touchdowns already. 

    After last year's 80 receptions for 875 yards and seven scores, many assumed that would be Tony G.'s last serious effort. But thanks to a rigorous diet, a highly and precise Matt Ryan and tons of attention on wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, Tony continues to be one of the most dominant tight ends in football. 

    Where he will finish

    Tony G. is continuing to solidify himself as the greatest tight end who has ever played. Another top-five finish is on the horizon. 

7. Miami Dolphins Defense

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    The Miami Dolphins defense has morphed into one of the top run stopping defenses in the NFL. They are third in the league, allowing opponents 82 yards/game on the ground while giving up only 18 points/game this year. 

    They currently rank seventh in Yahoo! standard scoring leagues for total defensive fantasy points, and are sixth in the league in total sacks with 22. If they are still on your waiver wire, grab them now. 

    Where they will finish

    With a second half schedule against more conservative/struggling offenses (excluding the Patriots), don't be surprised to see them finish as a top-10 fantasy (and real life) defense for the first time in awhile. 

6. Adrian Peterson

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    We were all thinking the same thing during training camps, preseason and fantasy draft time: Yeah, Adrian Peterson says he is going to be back, but dude had ACL surgery only eight months ago. Those who believed in the Freak have reaped the benefits of the NFL's leading rusher this year.

    Sitting second in running back scoring, Adrian has shown that normal rules do not apply to the best runner in football. He has only put up one game this year of under 10 fantasy points (and it was still a decent eight points).

    Where he will finish

    The lesson learned this year is to never, ever doubt Adrian Peterson. Another top-three finish for Adrian Peterson once again. 

5. Stevan Ridley

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    Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is notorious for rotating running backs and providing a cloudy backfield situation for fantasy purposes—he's almost as bad as Mike Shanahan. But it appears this year the Patriots have found someone they can lean on in the run game, Stevan Ridley.

    Ridley is currently sitting fourth in running back fantasy points in Yahoo! standard scoring leagues. He's rushed for 100 yards or more in five games this season. But he's also put up four games with under 10 fantasy points (two of which he went for less than four). 

    Where he will finish

    A Patriots running back in the top-five in fantasy scoring halfway through the year is a major surprise—and a major reward for those who did their homework during draft time. As long as Ridley holds onto the ball more consistently, you can expect him to finish within the top-15 easily, and maybe even within the top-10. 

4. Andre Roberts

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    Arizona Cardinals teammate and fellow wideout Larry Fitzgerald was the number three first-half bust on our list. So, it only makes sense that Andre Roberts makes the surprises list then. 

    The reasons Fitz is on the busts list are the exact reasons why Roberts has been a first-half surprise: the Cardinals lack a running game, they have a horrible offensive line and teams key in on stopping Fitz. Hence, Roberts sees a ton of single-man coverage and is looked for as a quick safety valve because of it. 

    If I told you in the beginning of the season that halfway through Andre Roberts would have more touchdowns and fantasy points than both Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald you would have laughed right in my face. But today you'd be telling me I was right...

    Where he will finish

    Andre will finish as a high-end WR3/low-end WR2. Somewhere in the top-25 would make him one of those third year wide receiver breakouts that everyone tries so hard to predict. 

3. Robert Griffin III

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    After Cam Newton's record breaking rookie season last year, predictions on similar rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III this preseason were all over the place. Some were predicting huge numbers for RGIII, others saying what Cam did could never be done again. Most were taking him as a backup QB in fantasy drafts. 

    Halfway through, RGIII is the No. 1 fantasy scoring player. He's scored under 20 fantasy points only twice this year (and one was during a game in which he was knocked out early). 

    He also appears more accurate and effective with his throws than Cam was last year. RGIII is throwing less than Cam did last year (which may be due to the loss of Pierre Garcon), but running way more than Cam did. This equates to more fantasy potential. 

    Where he will finish

    The Redskins have no qualms with letting RGIII run, despite already being knocked out of one game this year. He had a very soft schedule for most of the first half, and things will definitely get a little tougher for him in the second half (remember Cam's drop-off last year?). But expect RGIII to finish as a top-10 QB. 

2. Reggie Wayne

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    Okay, so maybe this one appears to be a bit of a cop out initially. It was obvious Reggie Wayne's numbers suffered last year from horrific and inconsistent quarterback play.

    We knew he'd still be a viable wide receiver this year, somewhere in the WR3/4 range. But did anyone on draft day expect the 33-year-old to lead the NFL in targets, receiving yards and receiving yards/game halfway through the season?

    The answer to that one is no. 

    Reggie and Andrew Luck have developed immediate chemistry, and Reggie is showing flashes of his old self this year. Currently eighth in Yahoo! standard scoring leagues among wide receivers, Wayne has put up more than seven fantasy points in every single game this year (and he's put up more than 13 three times). 

    Those who grabbed him in the latter parts of the draft are looking pretty smart right about now.

    Where he will finish

    If the targets keep coming, which it appears they will, expect Reggie to finish as a top-10 fantasy receiver; something he hasn't done without Peyton Manning. 

1. Alfred Morris

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    It is a fact that Mike Shanahan loves to screw with fantasy footballers when it comes to his backfield. Of course a rookie by the name of Alfred Morris, who probably went undrafted in every single fantasy football league this year, is the No, 6 fantasy scoring running back in Yahoo! standard scoring leagues.

    But it appears that Shanahan has finally found his man in Morris, hopefully bringing an end to many years of painful Shananagans.

    Morris is third in rushing yards (717), tied for third in attempts (151), and tied for third in touchdowns (five). The kid runs hard and has been as consistent as they come in the first half—he's only had two games with less than 10 fantasy points. 

    Where he will finish

    Remember the days when Shanahan running backs like Clinton Portis, Mike Anderson and Terrell Davis would finish inside the top-10 year-in and year-out? Well, we may be in for a few years of that with Morris. Expect a top-10 finish from the kid.