Biggest Surprises from the 2012 Fantasy Football Season

Jamal Collier@@JCollierDAnalyst IIIDecember 24, 2012

Biggest Surprises from the 2012 Fantasy Football Season

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    No matter how many predictions, projections and prognostications happen each season, fantasy football still turns up a number of surprises on a yearly basis. Injuries are a part of the NFL game, so happenings on that front aren’t entirely shockers.

    Besides, for the purposes of this 2012 season recap, we’ll be looking at pleasant surprises—the kind of thing that’s more like finding car keys or jewelry in your Christmas stocking rather than coal and tissue paper.

    The top 10 fantasy surprises of 2012 are trends relating to an individual player/group instead of single-game performances. Doug Martin’s 251-yard, four-touchdown outing against the Oakland Raiders in Week 9 was remarkable, but it was one game. It wasn’t several weeks worth of astonishingly high returns on a fantasy investment.

10. Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Cecil Shorts has emerged as a long-touchdown maestro, accumulating four receptions of 52 yards or longer in his sophomore campaign. He went from an inconsistent fantasy wideout—he had zero targets in Week 2 followed by an 80-yard touchdown grab on his only catch in Week 3—to a reliable receiver down the stretch.

    In seven of his last eight games, Shorts has tallied 100 receiving yards, a touchdown or both. With one game remaining, he fell just shy of his first 1,000-yard season before sustaining a concussion in Week 16, according to

    Not bad for a guy that went largely undrafted in fantasy circles.

9. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers

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    Randall Cobb has lived up to his preseason sleeper status, and it’s not just because fellow Green Bay Packers wideouts Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings have had trouble staying on the field (unlike fellow fantasy surprise James Jones). Cobb’s nine-catch showing in Week 1 showed us that the Packers had a plan for him to be involved in the offense early and often.

    Since then, Cobb has added eight touchdowns and three 100-yard receiving days. He’s also been a PPR beast, grabbing six or more catches in four of six games since Green Bay’s Week 10 bye.

8. Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots

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    A New England Patriots running back was on pace for 300 carries and 10 touchdowns halfway through the season, and that same running back then rattled off a TD in five straight since New England’s Week 9 bye.

    And Tom Brady wasn’t hurt.

    Regardless of who that running back is, that a single RB in New England’s pass-happy offense—and backfield committee—would get so many carries was not expected heading into the season. Stevan Ridley has done just that.

7. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

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    Peyton Manning has thrown at least a touchdown in every game this season. That’s not all that surprising.

    But he’s tossed three scores in eight games this year with an entirely new situation as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos. He picked up where he left off in Indianapolis two seasons ago—prior to the multiple neck surgeries that kept him out of action for 2011—and topped 4,000 passing yards for his sixth consecutive season.

    At age 36, Manning has been a strong and relatively consistent fantasy QB in 2012.

6. Danario Alexander, WR, San Diego Chargers

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    When Danario Alexander was cut by a receiver-needy St. Louis Rams team because of a checkered injury history, it didn’t bode well for his NFL future. But like Laurent Robinson (circa 2011 with the Dallas Cowboys) before him, DX has caught on elsewhere and made noise in a different uniform.

    Alexander’s 100 percent catch rate of Philip Rivers’ three targets in Week 9 provided a sign of things to come. The puzzle pieces were in place for the 6’5” wideout to succeed with the San Diego Chargers, but what he did from Week 10 to Week 14 was even more spectacular than the great Brandon Marshall in the same span.

    (Marshall is one point removed from being the No. 1 WR in fantasy football this season.)

    DX was targeted 47 times in the five games. He caught 30 passes for 494 yards and five touchdowns, propelling many fantasy teams into the postseason before promptly laying an egg in Week 15—but this is about pleasant surprises.

    Think happy thoughts…

5. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins

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    A sixth-round pick from Florida Atlantic isn’t supposed to be this good this early. Alfred Morris is.

    The Washington Redskins rookie running back has topped 1,400 rushing yards and scored 10 touchdowns this season. A rookie wall hasn’t been a problem for him, either: Morris has carried the ball 302 times this season, only getting better as the year has progressed.

    He’s taken 138 carries in his last six games, including 20 or more in every contest, for 620 yards and five touchdowns.

4. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons

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    Tony Gonzalez’s age-36 season has been every bit as impressive as many of the Hall of Famer’s campaigns of yesteryear. He has 88 catches (fifth-best season and still one game to go) for 889 yards (ninth) and eight TDs (fifth) in 2012.

    Gonzalez has snatched 76.5 percent of his targets this year. He scored a touchdown in each of the season’s first three weeks as well as five in the final 12. Matt Ryan can attribute a lot of his statistical success this season to Gonzalez’s production.

3. Chicago Bears D/ST

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    Gone are the days of the Chicago Bears defense completely demoralizing opposing offenses, scoring as many or more touchdowns than its opponents on a too-regular basis. But the first half of Chicago’s season gave countless fantasy owners the upper hand in their league standings.

    The Bears D/ST held three opponents to seven or fewer points in its first eight games. They also forced 28 turnovers and scored eight touchdowns.

2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins

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    Robert Griffin III exceeded the loftiest of fantasy expectations with his dynamic and truly dual-threat play as well as his surprising level of durability. Many predicted that his running style would result in a string of injuries, but RGIII has missed just one full game (LCL sprain) and was knocked out of another due to a concussion.

    Meanwhile, he’s thrown for 3,100 yards, 20 touchdowns and five picks—five interceptions—and run 114 times for 752 yards and six more scores.

    Fantasy owners who drafted Griffin struck gold, and they found that out quite early: He accumulated 320 passing yards, 42 rushing yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers in his first game as a professional.

1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

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    Perhaps the only person that is not surprised by Adrian Peterson’s MVP-caliber 2012 season is Peterson himself. The rest of us marvel at his ferocity on the football field—and the statistical success that accompanies it.

    Peterson is looking to add to his NFL rushing record resume with a single-season tally after gaining 1,898 yards on the ground through 15 games. It has taken him just 314 attempts to reach that mark (6.0 yards per carry).

    He’s collected double-digit rushing touchdowns for the sixth consecutive season, matching his six years of NFL service. Why is this surprising?

    Because he tore his ACL and MCL exactly one year ago.


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