There were some awesome gems that came out of nowhere (and I mean nowhere) to help you win in fantasy football in 2011.
Reggie Bush and DeMarco Murray dropped 200+ rushing days and were elite for about half the year. Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz dominated their team's passing offenses. And Tim Tebow used his unorthodox style to be an unlikely fantasy beast in most weeks.
Their big seasons have come and gone. If you missed on them last year, you're probably kicking yourself. But now comes the tough part.
Which of last year's breakout studs will keep it going in 2012, and which of them will crash back to reality? Here's five guys who will ride the momentum, and five guys that will come back down to earth a bit in 2012:
I know it was his first season, but you have to love Cam Newton. He started his career off with a bang by throwing for over 400 yards in his first start. Then the skeptics (including myself) said he couldn't do it again. Then he tossed for over 400 yards again the next week.
And then he just kept carrying fantasy teams all the way to and through the fantasy playoffs. When it was all said and done, Newton had rushed for an NFL record (for a quarterback) 14 touchdowns, and threw for a rookie record 4,051 yards.
He's a freak, and he has a good cast of weapons around him. This freight train won't be stopping anytime soon, and you can take it to the bank.
Maybe Stafford was a result of a "lockout year" that had three 5,000+ yard passers, and several other guys who got close. Perhaps he's just a product of Calvin "Megatron" Johnson.
You can think it, but I wouldn't dare believe it.
The truth is, Stafford is an elite quarterback right now, and he's only going to get better. He's got a big arm and he can make all the throws, while he has the best receiver (arguably) in the game today. Johnson being on the 2012 Madden Cover worries me a bit, but otherwise I'm fully confident Stafford will have another huge year.
Some people are going to doubt Nelson going into 2012, just like they doubted him going into 2011. Don't make that mistake.
Nelson showed during Green Bay's Super Bowl run two years ago that he was the real deal, and that translated into a huge 2011 season. With the size, speed and ball skills this guy possesses, I just don't see how he doesn't have another big year.
The beauty of last season for Nelson is that he put up his 15 touchdowns and 1,263 receiving yards off of just 68 catches (18.6 yards per catch). There's just no way he catches less balls and suddenly isn't utilized in the red-zone next year. He won't score 15 times again, but 10 touchdowns and another big yardage season can be expected.
Much like Nelson, Cruz broke out in a big way in 2011 with 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, and did it off of just 82 catches (18.7 yards per catch). The difference between the two, however, is that Cruz was arguably much more consistent, as he posted 10 games with at least 90 yards receiving, and had three others with at least 70.
Even when he's not having a huge game, Cruz would at least make a couple of big plays that got you some points, due to his speed and explosiveness.
It's the opposite way for Cruz in comparison with Nelson. You can't expect 1,500+ yards again, but he'll still get you 1,200-1,300, while his touchdowns have a great chance of rising in his second season as a full-time starter.
Graham is a freak. Everyone talks about Rob Gronkowski (and they should), but Graham is more athletic and explosive, and he plays in just as good of an offense with just as good of a quarterback.
Graham was sick in 2011, posting career highs of 99 receptions, 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. The jump he made from his rookie year to 2011 was insane. He literally tripled his reception total, doubled his touchdowns, and put up 1,000 more yards than the year before.
I'm not saying he'll put up better numbers in 2012, but I'd bank on numbers that are very similar to what he did in 2011. Robert Meachem is gone to San Diego and Graham is Drew Brees' favorite target. That isn't going to suddenly change with one less proven weapon on the field.
You can dog Sanchez all you want as a leader and winner, but he got it done in the fantasy realm in 2011 - for the most part. He threw for 26 touchdowns and ran for six more, while passing for 3,474 yards and completing over 56% of his passes. Believe it or not, those were all career highs, and actually pretty respectable numbers (except the completion percentage, of course).
It's the turnovers where he didn't meet expectations, as he tossed 18 interceptions and lost an insane eight fumbles. In fact, he coughed up the ball at a staggering pace, with at least one turnover in 13 of his 16 starts, and two or more turnovers in eight of those 16 games. And do we really need to dive into the way he finished the season with seven picks over the final three weeks?
The point is, Sanchez hasn't made the necessary progress, and now Tim Tebow has him looking over his shoulder. I just can't see Sanchez suddenly rebounding and having an elite season with everything considered.
I like Bush and hope he continues to prove people wrong, but I'm not sold on him as an every down back. His injury history and the presence of Daniel Thomas and newly drafted Lamar Miller certainly don't do him any favors, either.
I can't back it up statistically in Bush's case, because he was actually impressive as the lead guy, putting up six games of 100+ total yards in his last nine games, with one of them going for over 200 yards.
I like what he proved in 2011, but he's not the most durable back and he has competition. I'd shy away or get him as late as possible in your fantasy draft.
Greene broke out with 1,000+ rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2011 after two disappointing seasons to start his career. But I don't see his production going up much higher than that, and I wouldn't be shocked to see someone else eventually out-play him.
I haven't been in love with Greene since he entered the league, and last year didn't change anything. The stats tell that story, too.
He tripled his yearly touchdown number, but three of those scores came in just one game. That means 50% of his total touchdown production came from one game, and he scored three times over his other 15 contests. I know New York is planning on running the ball more, but I just don't trust Greene.
DHB is one of the fastest players in the league. He's explosive, has loads of potential, and actually had a solid 2011 with 64 receptions, 975 yards and four touchdowns. The sad part was they were all career highs. The even sadder part is they might stay career highs.
The fact is, DHB was an inconsistent weapon, and basically accumulated roughly 50% of his receiving yardage in just four combined games. In other words, in the other nine games he played in, he was either average, or didn't even show up.
I could be wrong and DHB could just keep getting better, but I find it hard to trust these raw Raiders receivers, as well as anyone that's catching passes from Carson Palmer. DHB is still very raw, and is a difficult guy to gauge - let alone trust.
Robinson broke out in Dallas with Tony Romo, and then he left for the cash and a bigger role in Jacksonville. My condolences.
Still, you can't ignore Robinson's sick 2011 numbers. He only played in 13 games and didn't even have a consistent role until mid-season, yet he still put up 858 receiving yards and a whopping 11 touchdowns. He had eight games with at least one score and three with two scores, while at one point scoring a touchdown in five straight contests.
Perhaps Robinson is about to be a star. Or maybe he's this year's Dwayne Bowe; a receiver who scores a ton of touchdowns one year, and does little the next. One thing is for sure - he'll have his work cut out for him to keep it going at a high level with Blaine Gabbert and/or Chad Henne throwing him passes.
Think we missed someone or disagree with any of the picks? Comment below!