With every fantasy football season, comes great surprises but also big heartbreaks. There were some very unlikely candidates this year that surprised us with “STUD” performances week in and week out. But we also saw massive disappointments from players that have been huge fantasy stars in years past. Here are a few players that had surprisingly STUD years, and players that ended up being massive DUDS.
Josh Gordon – WR – Cleveland Browns
Going into the season Trent Richardson was the only player on the Browns that had any fantasy value but that only lasted a few weeks. Josh Gordon who was drafted in last year’s supplemental draft was suspended for the first two games of the season for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. In most fantasy football leagues, Josh Gordon went undrafted, something that he made many owners regret. Despite missing the first two weeks of the season, Gordon currently leads the league in Receiving Yards and YPC (Yards per catch). Many expected a player like Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, AJ Green or Brandon Marshall to lead the league in one of those categories, and not a undrafted receiver like Gordon. What makes Gordon’s feat even more incredible is the inconsistency of the Browns’ quarterbacks this year. Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brandon Hoyer have all started games under center for Cleveland which usually prevents receivers from building chemistry with their QB but it hasn’t stopped Gordon from producing.
Julius Thomas – TE – Denver Broncos
This past offseason, the Denver Broncos signed Wes Welker to a contract, providing Peyton Manning with another lethal weapon. With Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker all suiting up for the Broncos on a weekly basis, no one thought that there was room for another pass catcher with any fantasy value. Then Week 1 happened. Julius Thomas, a tight end that went un-drafted in most leagues, caught 5 passes for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns in the season opener. Since then, Julius Thomas has caught a touchdown in each game except for 2, totaling 11 touchdowns. The TE position is a very hard position to draft because each week their production can vary so much, which is why Julius Thomas’ consistency makes him one of the biggest studs of the year.
Knowshon Moreno – RB – Denver Broncos
Its hard to mention Julius Thomas and the Broncos offense without bringing up Moreno’s name. He was drafted in 2009 and has been on the Broncos ever since, but never really lived up to expectations. The Broncos drafted Montee Ball in last year’s draft, leaving many to believe that the Broncos had seen enough from Moreno. But to everyone’s surprise, Moreno emerged early on as the Broncos starter and has become a fantasy stud. He has racked up 1256 total yards and 11 TD’s so far this year making him one of the best fantasy RB’s in the league. From now on, it’s safe to say that any player that suits for the Broncos offense has a a good chance at becoming a valuable fantasy player. I think we have all learned our lesson this year.
Arian Foster – RB – Houston Texans, CJ Spiller – RB – Buffalo Bills, and Doug Martin – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As many fantasy owners were preparing for their draft before the start of the 2013 NFL season, they were trying to figure out how they were going to draft two top RB’s early in the draft. With many teams incorporating “running backs by committee” into their offense, it was imperative that fantasy owners drafted the few remaining three down backs in the league. Rice, Foster, Spiller, Martin and Richardson were all players that were viewed as solid fantasy options considering their involvement in their respective teams’ offenses. They received close to 20 carries and 5 catches a game in their previous seasons. Whether it was on the ground or through the air, many fantasy owners were confident that these players would find the end zone one way or another. Injuries to Foster and Martin were the main reasons for their lack of production this year but even before being put on IR they were not producing their usual numbers. Going into the preseason, Doug Marrone, the Bills new head coach, vowed that Spiller would be used as much as possible (both in the Rushing and the Passing game). However, no one anticipated Fred Jackson being the #1 back in Buffalo this season. Going into week 15, Fred Jackson has 157 carries and 41 catches while Spiller has 149 carries and 24 catches. Spiller has missed time due to some nagging injuries but it still does not explain the backfield situation in Buffalo.
Ray Rice – RB – Baltimore Ravens, Trent Richardson – RB – Browns/Colts
Ray Rice and Trent Richardson’s pathetic seasons however, cannot be explained. Going into week 15, Ray Rice has 549 yards and is averaging just 3 YPC. Some experts even compared Rice’s open field running to that of “a child in a snow suit”. The Ravens’ offensive line has been horrendous and incapable of creating gaps for Ray Rice, but even when he has an open field ahead of him he can’t create the type of separation that he has had in previous years. There are 26 Running backs that have more rushing yards than Rice, something that none of us could have predicted going into the season. Richardson’s production is even more confusing considering he is still a relatively new player in the league. He was traded in early September to the colts, a team that believed they were acquiring a franchise running back. After racking up 1317 total yards and 12 TD’s last year, many believed that Richardson was primed for a great year. However, his season in Indianapolis so far has been a nightmare. He has racked up 326 yards on the ground, averaging whopping 2.9 yards per carry. Donald Brown, a running back who had spent his career up to now as a backup, has even replaced Trent Richardson as the starter.
Lets hope that these running backs will bounce back next year, but many fantasy owners will not forget the agony and disappointment they cost them.