The 2016 Fantasy Football Season had a lot of surprises. There were a lot of the same names at the top of the positional rankings, but several players far surpassed where they were drafted last summer.
Who were the top surprises at each position for the 2016 season? Let’s have a look at my All-Surprise Team.
Quarterback – Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
There are few players at the quarterback position who have been as up and down as Matt Ryan has been over the last several years. That up and down play led to many seeing Matt Ryan as a QB2 in even the deepest of leagues.
According to FantasyPros.com, Ryan was being ranked as the 19th best quarterback in standard scoring leagues. By the end of the 2016 season, the Atlanta Falcons’ passer was the second highest scoring quarterback in fantasy football.
Honorable Mentions: Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys), Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers), Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills).
Running Back – Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
No other player rose in value like rookie Jordan Howard throughout the 2016 season.
Slotted behind second-year player and incumbent starter, Jeremy Langford, Howard didn’t get a lot of run in the first quarter of the 2016 season. Following a Langford injury, Howard saw the full-time workload and never relinquished it.
Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing behind fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, and nearly had double-digit touchdowns.
Finishing ninth in scoring at the running back position (in both per game and total points) is a tremendous feat considering the Chicago Bears’ offense had little else going for them. With a preseason consensus ranking as the 59th running back selected, Jordan Howard is the player who had the biggest impact based on preseason impressions.
LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots aren’t known for giving one running back a full workload. In fact, unless you have Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots have traditionally been one of the least friendly teams for fantasy squads throughout the Bill Belichick era. LeGarrette Blount broke the mold this year, finishing as the seventh best fantasy running back by scoring 18 rushing touchdowns. Ranked as the 35th back in the preseason, Blount had a huge impact at very little cost.
Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
Jay Ajayi was an interesting player this season. He went from getting very little work, to being a healthy scratch, to then carrying the Miami Dolphins’ rushing attack for a majority of the season. He was the 39th ranked running back, according to Fantasy Pros’ preseason consensus rankings, and finished as the 11th highest scoring back in fantasy football this season. He had some huge games and some duds too, but when it mattered most, he likely won your Fantasy League Championship with over 200 yards in week 16.
Honorable mentions: Melvin Gordon (San Diego Chargers), Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns), Ty Montgomery (Green Bay Packers).
Wide Receiver – Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas was a near-dominant force for the New Orleans Saints in his rookie season. Just like his Ohio State teammate Ezekiel Elliott, Thomas made waves in his rookie year finishing inside the top-ten at the wide receiver position.
Wide receivers don’t typically experience a breakout until their sophomore season (see Allen Robinson’s 2015), but after leading the Saints in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns, it’s safe to say that Michael Thomas was the biggest steal at the wide receiver position.
Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders
This first statement about Michael Crabtree may surprise you, so put down your coffee before reading; Michael Crabtree outscored Amari Cooper in both total fantasy points and on a per game basis. Crabtree was ranked as the 35th best wide receiver in the preseason, while Cooper was likely ranked in the top 10-15 at the position. Crabtree, in the middle to late part of your draft, provided really strong dividends by seasons end.
Honorable Mentions: Tyrell Williams (San Diego Chargers), Rishard Matthews (Tennessee Titans).
Tight End – Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
There’s a good chance Jimmy Graham went undrafted in your 2016 fantasy drafts. And for good reason.
Since coming to Seattle, Graham had been a pretty average fantasy tight end. 2016 was something of a resurgence for the former New Orleans Saint as he finished third at the position in total points and inside the top-ten in points per game. This, after being ranked 17th in the FantasyPros.com preseason consensus rankings.
Honorable Mentions: Cameron Brate (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota Vikings).
Who were the biggest surprises for your Fantasy Team this season? Who do you think will surprise in 2017?