It's that time of year to identify, highlight and commend those players who have exceeded expectations and rookies who haven't let the big stage of the NFL slow them down. Fantasy success is built on the back of these players, it's your later round picks (or cheap auction buys) that make up your best squads. So here's to these players, I hope for all your sake many of these names are powering your 2013 fantasy team.
- Peyton Manning - it's hard to call him a surprise but when he has 8 more TD's than any other QB (not to mention 200 more passing yards), it's safe to say he's a surprise, and setting a new standard, not to mention carrying a few fantasy teams along the way.
- Phillip Rivers - Rivers along with the Chargers in general have quietly had a great year, so much so that I doubt people realize he's currently the #5 fantasy QB and on pace for 36 TD's and nearly 5000 yards passing. Even if he cools he's back to where he was just a few years ago, a top 10 fantasy QB.
- Jay Cutler - he's been overrated for so long that he may now be underrated. Off to the best start of his career, he's the #7 fantasy QB so far and been steady to boot.
- Terrelle Pryor - The Raiders still look mediocre at best but they're average on some days to the massive improvement of Pryor, who looks like a legitimate starting NFL quarterback and at times even shows flashes of being special.
- Knowshon Moreno - Sitting as the #5 overall fantasy RB is enough to annoint him as arguably the biggest surprise of the year to date, irrespective of position, but it's part of the bigger Peyton Manning sets every single season passing record theme that hits every position so far this year. Moreno is least likely to keep it up but maybe he's finally fullfilling his draft position & promise.
- Reggie Bush - The #7 fantasy back landed in the perfect offense for his skill set, demonstrating the versatility and explosiveness that everybody expected when he was drafted. Of maybe any of the player surprises, this is the one in retrospect we should have all seen (and many did but nobody projected top 10 status). He's even missed a game due to injury...which is the only way he isn't a dominant force going forward.
- Fred Jackson - The #10 fantasy back is the Buffalo back everybody forgot. Partly due to CJ Spiller dancing too much, Fjax just produces when he gets touches and is showing everybody who gave up on him they made a terrible mistake.
- DeSean Jackson - Sitting squarely as the #1 overall fantasy receiver, the big play man is back to where he was in his sophomore season. He's still a boom or bust type player, capable of winning a week or just as easily scoring nothing but I'll take that anyday as long as they are about even.
- Wes Welker - the #3 receiver is on a similar receptions and yardage pace he'd established in New England but thanks to Manning's pace, Welker will exceed his career high TD totals with his next one, and sitting just one spot down is his teammate (DThomas), and another ten spots from there is the "other" receiver Eric Decker. So chalk this up to the theme of the first half...Peyton Manning can't be stopped.
- Alshon Jeffrey - the '12 second rounder has stepped up big time to give Jay Cutler a little diversity in the Bears offense. Currently the #12 fantasy receiver, Jeffrey looks like a big-time posession guy who is a mismatch in the red zone and an heir apparent to Brandon Marshall's dominance down the road.
- Julian Edelamn - the #25 fantasy receiver was supposed to be his higher paid, free agent addition to the Patriots Danny Amendola, but as anybody who's paid attention knew, there was no chance he'd stay healthy. So Edelman is getting his first chance to show what he can do and is living up to the Wes Welker legacy. The big question mark is health, he's not as brittle as Amendola but he's not as big a warrior as Welker either.
- Julius Thomas - a poor man's Antonio Gates is benefitting from Peyton Manning on pace to blow away Tom Brady's single season TD tosses record. He's sitting at #3 overall at TE and likely was no more than a TE2 entering the year, so kudos to those who picked him up.
- Jordan Cameron - a spectacular athlete, more hybrid WR/TE than pure TE but he's in the Jimmy Graham / Vernon Davis class of ability and if he were playing with a better QB and teammates, he could ascend to number one overall status, as it is he's sitting at #4 overall.
- Gio Bernard - the #12 fantasy RB so far looks like the real deal, a Ray Rice type of runner, he'll improve as the season goes along and should be a featured, dynamic back and a top 10 fantasy producer '14.
- Andre Ellington - the #26 overall fantasy RB is all the more amazing because he's a role player, receiving less than a third of the touches but doing a lot more than most anybody else is doing when he receives them. His build says he may never be a smasher but he's got explosive running ability and great hands, so versatility says he'll continue to get more and more playing time.
- Kenbrell Thompkins - Not sure if he's officially a rookie and anybody who watches the games will tell you he's been bad (leads NFL WR's in drops) but he's the #22 fantasy receiver who presumably will grow & improve with more playing times this year.
- Terrance Williams - the Baylor product and Dallas draft pick is surprising everybody as the #30 fantasy receiver to date. Williams is growing into the slot role and will get more playing time as Miles Austin recovers from his injury.
- Joseph Fauria - he's "just scoring TD's" and certainly is making a name for himself with his celebration dances but he still needs to show consistency between the 20's before he ascends to fantasy relevance long-term.