Fantasy Football: 10 Biggest Surprises of the 2010 Season So Far
2010 has seen many players that were heralded during the summer leading into this year's fantasy football season fade into mediocrity and many players rise from obscurity into the spotlight.
Chances are you've got one of your top draft picks riding your bench or sitting on the league's waiver wire and you've got guys starting for your team whose names you didn't even know coming into September.
Here's a breakdown of 10 of the NFL's biggest surprises that have been lighting it up in fantasy leagues across the country. Pat yourself on the back if you had the foresight to add any of these guys to your roster early on, but try not to punish yourself too badly if you didn't.
10. Steve Johnson: WR, Buffalo Bills
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Steve Johnson emerged as a top fantasy wideout in Week 3 when he posted his first touchdown of the year against the New England Patriots.
Although he hasn't posted double-digit fantasy points consistently, Johnson seems to blow up every other week for a great fantasy outing.
Johnson had his best game of the year last week against Cincinnati, scoring three TDs and accumulating 137 receiving yards on eight receptions.
Sure, Johnson grabs most of his points during garbage time at the end of the game when the Bills are trailing and Ryan Fitzpatrick is heaving the ball down the field on every play, but by no means does that fact devalue Johnson as a top fantasy wideout.
If you're not a believer in Johnson, look at the numbers. Johnson has more fantasy points on the year than Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson and Andre Johnson. Who saw that coming?
9. Dwayne Bowe: WR, Kansas City Chiefs
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At the beginning of the season, predictions of Dwayne Bowe's fantasy demise were rampant; however, like his team, the Kansas City Chiefs, Bowe has risen from the ashes. He has become the Chiefs' top fantasy option.
Bowe has been putting up consistent numbers this season thanks to solid play from Matt Cassel throwing him the ball and the two-headed monster of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones forcing opposing teams to respect the Chiefs' running game.
Bowe has recorded a touchdown in each of his last six games and had 10 total touchdowns during that stretch. The resurgent Bowe has quietly become a top five receiving option this season. Expect Bowe to continue to retain his spot among the league's top fantasy receivers.
If you question Bowe's elite status, look at the numbers. The only fantasy wideouts that have posted more total points this season than Bowe are Terrell Owens, Roddy White and Brandon Lloyd. Also, Bowe leads all receivers with 11 touchdowns on the season.
8. LaDainian Tomlinson: RB, New York Jets
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Coming into the season, most people expected LaDainian Tomlinson to get his fair share of carries but for second-year back Shonn Greene to be the featured back.
However, Tomlinson has returned to peak form with Gang Green and has taken over the starting role in the Jets' backfield.
Although LT has only scored touchdowns in three games, for a total of five, and only broken the century mark in one, the fact that Tomlinson has carried the ball at least 11 times each game and posted consistent fantasy numbers week in and week out still makes him one of the year's bigger fantasy surprises.
Despite his lack of touchdowns and hundred-yard rushing performances this season, Tomlinson has been a factor in the passing game and established himself as a top 15 fantasy tailback. LT has also managed to post more total points this season than hyped backs coming into the season, such as Ray Rice and Steven Jackson to name a few.
7. Brandon Lloyd: WR, Denver Broncos
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Lloyd's success has been directly linked to strong play from his quarterback, Kyle Orton.
Lloyd has only reached pay dirt in five games this season, but he has become one of the league's premier fantasy receivers based on the receiving yardage that he can accumulate each week. Lloyd has topped 100 yards receiving in five games this season.
The Broncos haven't been as successful as they hoped to have been this season establishing the run with Knowshon Moreno, and it seems that every week Denver is either in a shootout or falling way behind early. Both of these factors have, and will continue, to contribute to successful outings for Lloyd.
This season, Lloyd has more receiving yards than anyone else in the league, and no other wideout has scored more fantasy points.
6. Ryan Fitzpatrick: QB, Buffalo Bills
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Since taking over the starting job under center in Buffalo, all Fitzpatrick has done is throw touchdowns.
Although most of his yards and touchdowns have come during garbage time when the Bills are already out of the game, Fitzpatrick has shown that he can consistently close the gap at the end of the game and pad his stats, which is all you need from a fantasy perspective.
Fitzpatrick has been plagued by turnovers this season, but he has thrown for over 200 yards in all but two of his starts and thrown a touchdown in every appearance this season.
The Bills have finally achieved some stability at the quarterback position, which is especially impressive this year when starting quarterbacks seem to be dropping like flies due to both poor performance and injury.
Fitzpatrick may not be a top-tier signal caller, but he has managed to tally more fantasy points this season than quarterbacks such as Matt Schaub and Donovan McNabb.
5. Josh Freeman: QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Freeman has been a stalwart of consistency this season. He's posted double-digit fantasy points in every game this season with the exception of the Bucs' game against the Steelers in Week 3.
Although Freeman may not put up huge numbers against anyone, you can be sure that he will take care of the ball and get you double-digit fantasy points virtually every week, no matter the opponent.
Freeman's name isn't associated with the marquee quarterbacks in the league, but he ought to receive more credit as a a top fantasy option at his position. Freeman has outscored Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Matt Schaub and Jay Cutler to name a few.
4. Peyton Hillis: RB, Cleveland Browns
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Hillis was given the starting job after the early season struggles and injuries of Jerome Harrison and Montario Hardesty and has been shredding opposing defenses ever since.
Peyton has broken the century mark in three games this season and has posted double-digit fantasy points in every appearance this season except in the Browns' trip to Pittsburgh in Week 6.
Seeing as the Browns' quarterback position has been a revolving door, Hillis has been the bulk of the Browns offense, and he will continue to carry the ball about 15 to 25 times per game.
The only two running backs that have recorded more fantasy points so far this season than Hillis are Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster.
3. Kyle Orton: QB, Denver Broncos
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Orton may not be an elite quarterback in the NFL, but he has been lighting it up this fantasy season.
The Broncos traded Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins this offseason but have not seen the kind of drop-off at the receiver position that was expected. Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney have all stepped up and contributed to the Broncos' passing game when called upon, which has been key to Orton's success.
The Broncos have been in a lot of shootouts, which has been good for Orton's stats. Expect the Broncos to continue to be a pass first team, as their running game has struggled to successfully establish itself the way Broncos fans had hoped.
Orton has posted the fourth most fantasy points of any quarterback in 2010. The only quarterbacks to post more points are Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning.
2. Michael Vick: QB, Philadelphia Eagles
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Vick currently looks to be playing better than anyone else in the NFL and has to be a leading candidate for the league's MVP award along with Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
When healthy, Vick has been putting up incredible numbers, including in the Eagles' Week 10 matchup against the Washington Redskins in which Vick accounted for six touchdowns.
We knew Vick was talented, but if Kevin Kolb hadn't gotten hurt early on in Week 1, who knows when, or if, we would have seen Vick this season?
Despite missing three-and-a-half games this season, Vick is still the sixth highest-scoring fantasy quarterback this season with a higher point total than Tom Brady and many others. If he's healthy, he has more potential to blow up any given week than anybody else in the NFL.
1. Arian Foster: RB, Houston Texans
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Coming into the season, Ben Tate was touted as the most talented tailback among the stable of running backs in Houston, and it seemed that Arian Foster would be limited to a supporting role in the backfield.
That all changed when Tate went down in preseason with a season-ending injury. Foster finished his season debut with 231 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries.
Foster has simply been outperforming every other running back in the NFL this season. Arian is the first back to accumulate 1,000 yards this season, and he is the only running back with double-digit touchdowns on the year. With the Texans' passing game in a rut, expect heavy doses of Arian Foster when the Texans take the field.
In case you didn't know, Foster has more fantasy points than any other player in the NFL this season.