Every fantasy football season brings its fair share of surprising players, both in a good way and bad way. As this fantasy season has made it past the halfway point now, it's a good time to analyze which players have over or underperformed at an extreme level.
Owners that are on top of their leagues most likely did a good job of avoiding players that have not had good years and/or were able to grab guys that have pleasantly surprised in 2011.The opposite is likely the case for teams at the bottom of the barrel.
That being said, the following is a list of eight fantasy players whose performances thus far have probably made or broken your season.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson has been a perennial first-round draft pick over the last few seasons. That was no different in 2011, even with his contract issues.
Through the first eight weeks of the season, Johnson was outrushed by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. He's averaging just 3.0 yards per carry, 2.6 less than his 2,000 yard rushing season in 2009.
Johnson's performances have made him barely worth starting in a flex position, let alone as a top stud. After rushing for at least 1,200 yards in his first three seasons, he is on pace for fewer than 800 in 2011.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton barely earned his starting position with his play in the preseason this year. There were almost no expectations of him at all in the fantasy world as Carolina was expected to be an anemic offense once again.
Instead, Newton has turned into a top five fantasy quarterback. He is actually sixth in the league in passing yards with 2,393 yards, but most of his value has come with his legs.
The seven rushing touchdowns by the rookie trails only Beanie Wells, Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy. His combination as an effective goal-line running back and above-average passer has fantasy owners cashing in big time.
After taking the fantasy world by storm as a rookie in 2010, Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams was looking like a near elite fantasy wideout heading into this season.
Instead, Williams has turned into more of a possession receiver, as he has just one touchdown and 363 yards in eight games. He scored 11 touchdowns last year, so his performance has been way lower than expected.
The numbers that Williams has put up barely makes him a WR3, let alone the upper echelon of his position. His inability to separate from coverage has been mind boggling for both the Bucs and fantasy owners alike.
At one point this preseason, there was rumors that CJ Spiller was going to take over the starting running back position for the Buffalo Bills. Thus not many people were that excited about drafting Fred Jackson this season, and he was probably not even selected as a starter by most owners.
All the veteran has done this season is put up over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his first eight games and he he is third in the league in rushing behind only LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte.
Jackson has gone from a solid reserve to an every-week stud in 2011, and I am sure you will find his name on many of the top fantasy teams. He's on pace to double his average output of his last two seasons as the Bills starting running back.
New Orleans running back Darren Sproles might have had a little appeal in points per reception leagues heading into this season. But not many would have expected him to put up every-week starter numbers in those formats or to be a solid contributor in regular formats.
Sproles took over for Reggie Bush after coming over from the Chargers in the offseason. He has been just as electric as Bush ever was, but more importantly in fantasy land, more consistent.
The 56 receptions by Sproles trails only Wes Welker in catches among all NFL players. While the Saints haven't had their bye week yet, the performance by Sproles has been nothing less than spectacular in 2011.
Whenever Mario Manningham had a starting job in the past for the New York Giants, he put up numbers at least worthy of a WR2 in fantasy football. Heading into this season, he looked to have a clear job opposite of star Hakeem Nicks with the departure of Steve Smith to the Eagles.
Instead, Manningham has had much of his appeal drained by the emergence of Victor Cruz. He did not catch his first touchdown until Week 8 and still hasn't had a 100-yard game to this point.
The fourth year receiver's numbers are actually on pace for less than what he had in 2010 when he wasn't a full-time starter. Instead of being a rock solid WR2, he hasn't even made enough noise to be an automatic WR3 or flex play.
Not much was expected out of the Cincinnati Bengals restructured offense in 2011. There was no way that rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green could muster up much of a passing attack, right?
Wrong, as both Dalton and Green have become relevant in fantasy leagues. Green is a solid WR2 while Dalton is one of the better quarterback plays after the top studs at the position.
Green is on pace for 10 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards, as only Cam Newton has been a better rookie for fantasy leagues. Dalton has been steadily improving from week to week and had his first game with three touchdowns in Week 9.
After throwing a career-high 25 interceptions in 2010, the arrow was pointing down for Manning in 2011. A subpar preseason along with the loss of Steve Smith didn't help that pessimism.
Instead, Manning is having perhaps his best season of his career, and his numbers are among the elite fantasy quarterbacks in the game. He's on pace for a career high in passing yards and has thrown just six interceptions.
Manning has done a much better job of making the right decision this year, and is enjoying a solid season. Only Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers have a better touchdown to interception ratio among the top quarterbacks.