Peyton Hillis: Power Ranking Fantasy Football's Most Surprising Studs of 2010

Ray TannockSenior Analyst INovember 8, 2010

Peyton Hillis: Power Ranking Fantasy Football's Most Surprising Studs of 2010

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    The 2010 NFL season has been an amalgamation of surprises and injuries to say the least, and it has been this union—so to speak—that has paved the way for some surprising NFL studs. Whether it has been a players’ rejuvenated career or the emergence of a competitor that was thought to be bench material only, fans and their respective teams are enjoying the rise of some of these new players.

    I’d like to take a look at the 10 biggest NFL studs (offense only) and power rank them as of the end of Week 9, while taking a small inside look at each player and what we can expect from him moving forward.

    So sit back, and enjoy the slide, and if you enjoy this piece feel free to follow me on Twitter (@silverstar2924) or at Fantasyknuckleheads.com.

    As a caveat, please keep in mind that this list could obviously be bigger but will only house 10 players. Feel free to list—at the bottom, of course—any additional players you have in mind and get the debate going.

10. RB, LaDainian Tomlinson – New York Jets

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    No, I am not going retro to 1997, L.T. starts off my list at No. 10, and decisively so. This is a guy who was brought into New York supposedly to be a part of a RBBC with fellow teammate Shon Green, but instead has usurped a bit of Green’s touches and has seemingly rejuvenated his legs and his career.

    This is—to say the least—a bit unexpected, but well received by Jets’ fans and fans of Tomlinson considering many believed his days as a power featured back were over before his exodus out of San Diego.

    Tomlinson is clearly running with confidence and has brought his listless career back from the dead.

    LaDainian Tomlinson already has 533 yards and five TDs on 123 carries, has surpassed over 3,000 touches for his career (3,003) and is on pace for—at the very least— 1,100 yards and 10 TDs.

    And those are numbers coming from a guy who averages out at around 20 touches a game.

9. RB, Chris Ivory – New Orleans Saints

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    When you take a quick glance at RB Chris Ivory, you may not label him as a “stud” due to his stat line of 382 rushing yards on 78 carries through seven games, but don’t be so hesitant.

    Sometimes, a player can be an effective stud by simply giving his team-in-need the one thing they so desperately desire to effectively march towards the post season.

    The Saints are a team that lives and breathes with the play action, and when Pierre Thomas went down, that play action went with him leaving the Saints extremely vulnerable.

    That is until Ivory came along.

    Once the staff found confidence in him, they went back to doing what they do best which was threatening to run or pass out of the backfield which has afforded the Saints the offensive flexibility they need to be dominate.

    Going forward, Ivory is destined to go back to the bench or at least share playing time with Thomas, but his value as a bench player far exceeded the initial value.

8. WR, Brandon Lloyd – Denver Broncos

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    Another player who has seemingly been risen from the dead is Broncos’ wide out Brandon Lloyd. Denver entered 2010 with a bevy of weapons—both on the ground and in the air—making a strong case as a team that would spread the wealth in the passing game.

    Well, despite that becoming reality, it has been Lloyd that has benefited the most.

    The 6', 29-year-old Illinois alumni has garnered 878 (20.9 average) yards on 42 catches and four scores through eight weeks of play and remains an unstoppable threat for Denver no matter where he is on the field.

    Don’t be surprised if Lloyd finishes a Top 10 WR in the NFL with 85 catches, 1,628 yards with six TDs.

7. QB, Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams

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    Being a new quarterback in the NFL is probably—if I had to guess anyway—one of the hardest transitions for any player type to make, especially if you are highly regarded as gifted and talented. There is the obvious worry of becoming a bust as well as a constant uphill battle to adjust to the speed and defensive intricacies of the NFL.

    But then there’s Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams.

    And it isn’t so much the fact he has already passed for 1,674 yards or the 11 touchdowns he has already thrown, but the fact that he has done all of this with a patch work collection of receivers in Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and a couple of random stray cats that weren’t even supposed to be a part of the mix.

    This is the type of skill and ability a team looks for in a franchise QB, and don’t be too overwhelmed when Bradford finishes the year with 3,800 yards and 25 touchdowns.

6. WR, Kenny Britt – Tennessee Titans

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    Before his hamstring injury Kenny Britt was making a strong rising case for himself as a viable weekly threat that just couldn’t be shut down. But this wasn’t much of a surprise to many of us who were paying attention when he was still a bench player.

    Each time Kenny Britt got a chance to play as a fill-in WR, he made good by systematically growing as a solid deep threat target, and a receiver who couldn’t be defended, scoring in every game he played in (seven TDs in total) except for one.

    The hamstring injury is said to keep Britt out until at least Week 13 leaving his soaring career in ruination for 2010, but you can expect a huge rebound in 2011.

    Still, I can see Britt finishing the year with 750 yards and 10 TDs…not too shabby for a guy who will only play in 11 games this year—maybe less.

5. WR, Steve Johnson – Buffalo Bills

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    Who? Steve Johnson?  That’s about the type of sentiment you get when mentioning Buffalo Bills’ receiver Steve Johnson. But Johnson has—through six games mind you—provided the Bills with a viable downfield target, as well as, racking up 554 yards and six touchdowns on just 41 catches.

    Given the upcoming schedule and Johnson’s skill level, it is not out of the question to suspect that he will eclipse 1,100 yards and 13 scores if not more.

4. WR, Mike Williams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The rookie out of Syracuse immediately made an impact on the Bucs in camp, only to have that impact translate into the regular season to become one of the main receiving threats in Tampa right now.

    Mike Williams has already scored five touchdowns—two of them in his last two games—and has garnered 559 yards on just 36 catches.

    Tamp was not seen as a team that was going to throw much, rather viewed as a run first team at the start of the season, but they have found a great deal of balance through Mike Williams’ services.

    I see Williams finishing the year with 1,068 yards and nine TDs.

3. LaeGarrette Blount – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The newest stud to enter the arena this year is Tampa RB LaGarrett Blount, and unless you have been on an extended vacation, devoid of human contact, you know exactly what I mean.

    Many believed that if there was any back who would see playing time behind the Cadillac in traffic it was going to be Kareem Huggins. Well, an injury to Huggins later, and a couple of opportunities, and suddenly Tampa realized they have not only a viable running back on first and second downs, but a huge goaline back.

    Blount should ride the year out as a featured back but may suffer a bit statistically in a shared approach. I think he is still good for 863 yards and nine touchdowns by year’s end.

2. RB, Peyton Hillis – Cleveland Browns

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    Where do I even begin with the pride of Arkansas and the new poster boy in Cleveland—Peyton Hillis?

    Aside from the diehard Browns’ fan, there weren’t many people who believed that Hillis would even have a chance at seeing playing time, much less do any sort of damage if he did.

    But that’s pretty much par-for-the-course in the NFL.

    Hillis got his chance early in the season and hasn’t looked back, racking up 644 yards and seven touchdowns on just 133 carries with three 100 yard+ games to his credit and is on pace for over 1,400 yards and 15 TDs before everything is said and done.

1. RB, Arian Foster – Houston Texans

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    Move over Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson, because here comes Arian Foster; a candidate for this year’s MVP and the newest power back in the league.

    Adrian Foster came out of nowhere this year in a Houston running system that had a lot of question marks during training camp this year.

    He currently leads the league in rushing yards ahead of Vikings back Adrian Peterson and leads the league in rushing touchdowns ahead of Titans running back Chris Johnson and has emerged as the new sheriff in town.

    Foster is clearly the biggest NFL stud through Week 9, and going forward, I expect Foster to win league MVP, finish the year as the undisputed No. 1 back in the league and cap off a remarkable 2010 campaign with 1,854 rushing yards on 315 carries with 18 touchdowns.