If there’s one thing that is predictable with fantasy football, it is to expect the unexpected. Each season, each week even, there a player will emerge out of nowhere to shock the fantasy world.
Through the first three games of the season, there have been at least 10 pleasant surprises who have the opportunity to last the entire season.
10. Kyle Orton, DEN
Orton has always been a game manager.
Orton was good last season in his first go around with Head Coach Josh McDaniels’ offense.
However, when the Broncos traded away their superstar receiver Brandon Marshall, nobody could have predicted that Kyle Orton would be this effective.
Orton is spreading the ball around and has made four receivers fantasy relevant in the first three games.
He brought 2008’s rookie sensation Eddie Royal back from the graveyard. He has resurrected the lackluster careers of Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd.
Although he only has four touchdowns and has thrown two interceptions, Orton is second only to Philip Rivers in passing yards with 1,078.
He set career highs in every statistical category last season. Now in his second year with Josh McDaniels, Orton could very well once again set career highs en route to being a reliable fantasy QB.
9. Dustin Keller, NYJ
It was never a secret that QB Mark Sanchez treated Dustin Keller as his No. 1 target. However, Dustin Keller is destroying expectations to open the season.
Keller is tied for third in receptions among tight ends with 15. He is only behind three of the top tight ends in the league in Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, and Jermichael Finley.
He is third in receiving yards among tight ends with 226. He is behind only Jermichael Finley and Antonio Gates.
Finally, he is second among tight ends in touchdowns with three. He trails on Antonio Gates, who has four.
Keller is working his way to elite tight end status. He has the size and speed to be a match up nightmare, similar to Antonio Gates, Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis. He has good leaping ability as well.
Most importantly, he is Mark Sanchez’ favorite target.
When Santonio Holmes returns in Week 5, Keller will have even more opportunities to excel. With Santonio Holmes stretching the field, Keller will have a lot of room to work underneath the coverage and over the middle of the field.
Expect Keller to be among the league leaders in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
8. Mark Clayton, STL
Oddly enough, Clayton is reaching his full potential with a rookie QB in Sam Bradford.
Just as odd is how impressive Clayton has been with limited time with the St. Louis Rams.
Clayton exploded in Week 1 after being with the team for less than a week. He caught 10 passes for 119 yards.
In the following two games as Sam Bradford’s go-to-receiver, Clayton has seven receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
Sam Bradford is displaying excellent accuracy and arm strength to open the season. The chemistry between the two has been on point.
Clayton has a good match up in Week 4 against the Seattle Seahawks. More importantly, as the best receiver on the team, Clayton will see a lot of targets from Sam Bradford and have every opportunity to finish the season as a top 30 or 25 fantasy wide receiver.
7. Jahvid Best, DET
Clearly, many analysts had the top rookie running back all wrong.
Many predicted that Ryan Mathews would steal the show.
However, Jahvid Best was overlooked in fantasy drafts just like he was in the real NFL draft.
Of course, the No. 1 concern with Best has crept up again: Health issues.
Best is currently suffering from a toe injury. In the first two games, though, nobody could compete with Best.
Best exploded on to the scene in the first two games.
He had 98 yards rushing, 14 receptions for 170 yards, and a whopping five total touchdowns.
He suffered at the hands of a dominant Minnesota Vikings defense and the toe injury in Week 3. Best appears determined to prove doubters wrong and wants to gut it out Sunday in Week 4 against Green Bay.
Toe injuries are tough to overcome for a player like Jahvid Best, just look at LaDainian Tomlinson the past two seasons. However, if he can manage to cut, he shouldn’t have trouble as long as he can withstand the pain.
Even if Best sits out a game or two to let the injury heal, he should be able to get right back on track and close out the season in spectacular form.
Even better will be when Matthew Stafford comes back to take pressure off Best in the running game and provide a better compliment through the passing attack.
6. LaDainian Tomlinson, NYJ
Tomlinson is currently laughing in the face of every doubter as he is enjoying a renaissance with the New York Jets.
Tomlinson was plagued in his last two seasons in San Diego by injuries and poor offensive line.
Now in New York, with the same chip on his shoulder, the revitalized Tomlinson has seemingly snatched the starting reigns from sophomore running back Shonn Greene.
In three games, Tomlinson has outperformed Greene in every aspect.
He currently has 208 yards rushing with one touchdown and nine receptions for 60 yards.
He is still displaying the same pass catching ability and excellent vision, except now he has his quickness back. With the incredible offensive line leading the way, Tomlinson is seeing bigger holes than he was the past two seasons.
He will be a factor for the entire season as the Jets eye a Super Bowl run.
Most important for Tomlinson’s fantasy value is his pass catching and amazing red zone ability. Tomlinson always had a nose for the red zone and will continue to see goal line work.
5. Arian Foster, HOU
Week 1’s eye-popping wonder seemed o steal the Colts’ souls.
The Texans seem to have finally found their star running back, although everyone thought that in 2008 with rookie sensation Steve Slaton.
Arian Foster proved in the past two weeks that he impressive 2010 debut wasn’t just at the hands of the suspect Colts rush defense.
Foster leads the league with 406 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
He has also shown that he can be just as effective in the passing game, as he eight receptions for 96 yards.
Foster is getting it all done for the Houston Texans who are eying the playoffs.
Foster’s power, speed, one cut quickness and vision are the perfect compliment for Head Coach Gary Kubiak’s rushing offense.
Foster will just have to avoid his fumbling issues from creeping up again and he will be one of the best fantasy running backs throughout the season.
4. Darren McFadden, OAK
The third year running back is finally displaying the talent everyone knew he had.
McFadden seems stronger than ever this season. He is also showing the quickness and vision that made him an excellent runner in college.
McFadden has taken full advantage of Michael Bush’s thumb injury. He is present in the passing game and has excelled in rushing plays.
McFadden is currently third in the league with 345 rushing yards and as added one touchdown. He also has 10 receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Michael Bush will certainly take away some carries, but with McFadden’s new display of power, it will be interesting to see if Head Coach Tom Cable pulls him from the goal line. Bush taking away some carries will benefit McFadden, who has had trouble staying healthy in his first two seasons.
Sometimes, it just takes a player a couple of years to adjust to the speed of the NFL game and understand the different defenses he is facing. With an improved offense around him, McFadden has the talent and opportunity to finish as one of the better running backs in the league.
3. Peyton Hillis, CLE
Hillis has always been a versatile player, showing this in college and for the Denver Broncos the past two seasons.
When the Cleveland Browns traded Brady Quinn for Hillis in the offseason, many wondered what his role could possibly be.
Hillis has taken his role seriously. He has excelled in the passing game and at the goal line despite two fumbles in the first game.
Hillis was impressive in the first two games.
Hillis was even more impressive in his first start in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens. Battling one of the best rushing defenses in the league, Hillis ripped them for 140 yards rushing and a touchdown while adding seven receptions for 36 receiving yards.
Hillis displayed amazing power. He also displayed very good speed and burst at the line of scrimmage.
Hillis still has to face the Steelers twice and the Ravens again, but if Head Coach Eric Mangini continues to feed Hillis the rock, he will have provided excellent value for one fantasy owner.
2. Austin Collie, IND
Arguably the biggest break out star in the first three games.
Collie displayed flashes last season and was clearly overlooked in preseason analysis.
Many jumped on the Pierre Garcon bandwagon after his excellent postseason. However, a hamstring injury caused him to sit out Week 3. Even before then, Austin Collie has proved to be the reliable third target that Peyton Manning depends on.
Austin Collie, amazingly, leads the league in receptions with 27, yards with 359 and touchdowns with four.
He has been arguably the most consistent receiver in the first three games.
With Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark demanding so much attention, and Garcon’s inexplicable fall from grace, Austin Collie should remain a top 15 or 20 fantasy receiver throughout the year.
1. Michael Vick, PHI
The biggest surprise of the fantasy season thus far since nobody believed he would be starting this soon.
Many, myself included, believed Vick would start at some point in the season for the incapable Kevin Kolb.
However, it is tough to believe that anybody predicted Vick would play this spectacular. Vick looks better now than at any point in his career. Vick always had incredible arm strength.
Now with capable receivers for the first time in his career, Vick is displaying excellent vision and accuracy.
He is throwing strikes to Jeremy Maclin in the end zone and hitting Maclin and DeSean Jackson in stride down the sidelines with pin-point accuracy.
It is tough to believe that Vick will cede the starting gig to the ineffective Kevin Kolb. Vick has always been a winner with excellent athleticism.
He is still able to make defenders look like a joke behind the line of scrimmage as he evades oncoming sacks, spinning off defenders and eluding their pursuit. Vick has arguably the best rushing vision in the league and can still make plays with his legs.
Now, however, Vick has more confidence in his arm than before, which is scary for the rest of the NFL.
Vick has yet to turn the ball over and has six passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. He has thrown for 750 yards and rushed for 170 yards.
Michael Vick is back and better than ever.
About the Author
Written by Brandon Galvin