Fantasy Football’s All-Surprise Team at Regular Season Midpoint
Ah, the sweet smell of mock drafts and the hope of fantasy glory. Yeah, that was like 100 years ago because somehow we are already at the midseason point of the 2018 fantasy football regular season. As Le’Veon Bell, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jimmy Garoppolo owners can attest to, things don’t always smoothly align with pre-draft player rankings and ADP (average draft position). But sometimes owners smartly (or ok, maybe with a little luck) draft a few diamonds in the rough or players who were simply quite undervalued.
To mark the half-season point, we thought it would be both fun and excruciating to single out the most pleasant surprises and crushing disappointments. We’ll start on the happier end of things today with our All-Surprise Team. How many of these guys are on your rosters?
(Come back tomorrow with your violin hand as we unveil the All-Disappointment Team)
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Current position: QB1
They don’t get more obvious than this. While offseason excitement brewed for young Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, few expected this level of sheer domination. Some early highlights for “Showtime” Mahomes: 13 TDs in his first three starts, an 8.8 average yards per completion, only one game with under 300 yards. The stats are glorious but so is a very underrated aspect of fantasy, having a player with jaw-dropping talent that is an absolute dream to watch. Mahomes’s arm already had its own fan club well before his first start but given how often he is compared to Brett Favre, his interception-free ball in the first four weeks of the season might have been the biggest surprise.
Mahomes has now thrown two picks in each of the past two games and did struggle in the first half against the Patriots. But c’mon, unless his arm falls off or someone dips Tyreek Hill’s cleats in a jar of invisible molasses, the point parade should continue.
Next up: Week 7 vs. Bengals. Week 8 vs. Broncos, Week 9 at Browns
Adam Thielen, Vikings
Current position: WR1
Thielen has put up one of the most consistent early season performances by a receiver in some time. Double-digit targets in every game. Over 100 yards in every game. A touchdown in 4-of-6 games. This is absolute utopia for Thielen owners who are benefitting from the undrafted wideout’s top-notch route running, an explosive quarterback, and a lot of defensive attention showered on Stefon Diggs.
Next up: Week 7 at Jets, Week 8 vs. Saints, Week 9 vs. Lions
Tyler Boyd, Bengals
Current position: WR13
Conventional wisdom suggested that Cincy’s top pick in 2017, John Ross, would be the clear no. 2 to A.J. Green this season. But it is Boyd, previously known for ousting the Ravens from the playoffs on a last second strike from Andy Dalton, who has emerged as a frequent, juicy target for Dalton. Boyd topped 90 receiving yards in each game between Week 2-4 and is coming off two touchdowns against the Steelers. There have been some pedestrian single-digit performances in there from Boyd because this offense is not exactly built around him. But with Tyler Eifert’s season-ending injury and Boyd’s budding chemistry with Dalton, he should at the very least continue as a consistent end zone target.
Next up: Week 7 @ Chiefs, Week 8 @Bucs, Week 9 Bye
DeSean Jackson, Bucs
Current position: WR14
Jackson is like Michael Myers from Halloween…never ever ever count him out. The now 31-tear-old Jackson has again resurrected his career in 2018, thanks in large part to the early season gunslinging of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jackson started off the season with back-to-back games of at least 129 yards and three combined touchdowns, and Jameis Winston’s return hasn’t exactly slowed him down. Jackson has put up just under 200 yards over the past two games.
The key concerns are playbook limitation (Jackson’s targets have stayed in single-digits all seasons) and general nagging injuries. But if you nabbed Jackson in the late rounds and he’s giving you this kind of production as a WR3, you are in fantastic shape.
Next up: Week 7 vs. Browns, Week 8 at Bengals, Week 9 at Panthers
Calvin Ridley, Falcons
Current position: WR10
Rookies always emerge and despite Ridley’s low-ish ADP he was considered a probable breakout candidate in 2018. Ridley owners have reaped the benefits of his speed, ability to create separation and most importantly, finding the end zone.The rook already has six touchdowns but half of them (and his only showing over 100 yards) came in Week 3 against the Saints.
Owners now have to deal with a new ankle injury that may limit his production. And, in case you weren’t aware Ridley isn’t exactly the top receiving threat in Atlanta. That honor goes to Julio Jones. TE Austin Hooper has more receptions as well. But, assuming Ridley is on the field, he is such a stud that he’s very difficult to bench.
Next up: Week 7 vs. Giants, Week 8 BYE, Week 9 at Washington
James Conner, Steelers
Current position: WR4
If we’ve learned anything about James Conner’s performance in Le’Veon Bell’s absence it’s that Conner is a bonafide starting rusher. Conner owners won the jackpot here – a handcuff that maybe would get two or three starts before Bell came to his senses and returned. Wrong! Conner has notched six starts, bulldozing his way to 100+ yards and two TDs in three of them. His aggressiveness, ability to attack holes and general reliability near the goal line has impressed all of his teammates including Bell who constantly send Conner congratulatory messages. Bell will likely be able to share his thoughts with Conner in person as all signs point to his return in time for Week 8. Conner’s value should take a hefty drop but what he’s produced to this point is manna from heaven for his owners.
Next up: Week 7 Bye, Week 8 vs. Browns, Week 9 at Ravens
Isaiah Crowell, Jets
Current position: WR8
The perennially undervalued Crowell has struck again this season. Despite getting five less touches than Bilal Powell, Crowell has outperformed his teammates in every relevant metric (430 yards, 6.1 yards per carry and FIVE touchdowns). Crowell has proven mostly reliable near the goal line and as a big play threat. Because of Powell and shifting gameplays, Crowell is a boom or bust candidate and it’s not always obvious when each will occur. The upcoming schedule looks particularly treacherous.
Next up: Week 7 vs. Vikings, Week 8 at Bears, Week 9 vs. Dolphins
Austin Ekeler, Chargers
Current position: RB17
Most owners drafted Ekeler as a handcuff to top dog Melvin Gordon but turns out Ekeler has been a decent WR2/Flex. He naturally lags greatly behind Gordon in terms of touches. But Ekeler has added value via the air, notching all three of his touchdowns on receptions. The targets dropped from at least three a game to zilch last week but that shouldn’t deter owners from considering Ekeler a playable option moving forward or at least a healthy bye week replacement.
Next up: Week 7 vs. Titans, Week 8 Bye, Week 9 at Seahawks
Jared Cook, Raiders
Current position: TE4
The Raiders may be the NFL’s most dysfunctional organization but Cook has risen above the chaos and showcased his physicality and speed when given the opportunity. Two games have made Cook this season, Week 1 and Week 4 when he had over 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns on double-digit targets. He hasn’t done much in the others, toping out at five receptions. But that is more than enough to make Cook a top 5 tight ends in this season where his position is not experiencing the same offensive glory as others.
Next up: Week 7 BYE, Week 8 vs. Colts, Week 9 at 49ers