By this time next week most fantasy owners will either be wallowing in their sorrows of narrow defeat or enjoying the bragging rights (and hopefully, lots of cash) that come with a fantasy championship. Before the two sides diverge, though, there seems no more appropriate time then now to celebrate the fantasy players who got them to this point – the biggest fantasy surprises. It is these diamonds in the rough, and having the savviness to use them properly, that, year after year, is one of fantasy football’s greatest pleasures. Here are our picks for 2012:
10) Alfred Morris, Redskins RB (1,322 yards, 9 TDs): In a very non-Shanahan narrative, Morris was the starter Week 1 and has been ever since. Very impressive numbers for Morris, especially considering he shares running back duties with his quarterback.
9) Dennis Pitta, Ravens TE (613 receiving yards, 7 TDs): The man who sounds like a “Hunger Games” stand-in became one of Joe Flacco’s most reliable targets in 2012. Like most tight ends, his fantasy points fluctuated, but he started off strong, and has three touchdowns in his last two weeks.
Pitta owners love a good stretch!
8) Seahawks Defense (16 INTs, 12 fumble recoveries, 4 touchdowns): A top five defense in most formats, Seattle really came to when it counts – the playoffs. Week 14’s dazzling performance against the Cardinals may have single-handedly knocked out a number of opponents.
7) Bryce Brown, Eagles RB (538 rushing yards, 4 TDs): This two-week wonder entered our lives at the perfect time – the heels of the playoffs! Week 12 – 178 yards, 2 TDs; Week 13 – 169 yards, 2 TDs. Need we say more?
6) Heath Miller, Steelers TE (771 yards, 8 TDs): After just two scores last season, Miller became an afterthought on the deep spectrum of fantasy tight ends. But in 2012 he is currently the 4th most productive tight end. Welcome back, HEEEAAATTH.
5) Cecil Shorts, Jaguars WR (925 yards, 7 TDs): Rookie Justin Blackmon was all the rage in Jacksonville, but it was second-year receiver who was the splashier performer. Shorts scored in every game between Weeks 10-14, and has four games with at least 100 yards.
4) Doug Martin, Buccaneers RB (1,250 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs, 397 receiving yards, 1 TD): Martin proved to be the real deal. After a slowish start, Martin had a least 100 all-purpose yards or a touchdown in eight of ten games starting Week 6.
3) James Jones, Packers WR (622 yards, 12 touchdowns): Jordy Nelson. Greg Jennings. Randall Cobb. James Jones??? That’s right, Jones became Aaron Rodgers’ go-to target in the end zone. Owners especially reveled in his games with multiple touchdowns (Weeks 4, 5, 6, 15).
Jones loves him some end zone!
2) Robert Griffin III, Redskins QB (2,802 passing yards, 18 passing TDs, 4 INTs, 759 rushing yards, 6 TD): Somehow Griffin was able to surpass Washington’s godly expectations for him. Most owners drafted him as a QB2 and quickly realized he was high-end QB1 material. All that rushing production was nice, but only throwing four picks was Griffin’s real surprise.
1) Adrian Peterson, Vikings RB (1,812 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs, 38 receptions, 211 receiving yards): Peterson, a risky pick on draft night due to his post-ACL status, turned out to be the fantasy running back of the year. A.P. and non-A.P. owners alike have to be rooting for him to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.
Click here for the Top 10 Fantasy Disappointments of 2012