Fantasy Football: The five best surprises of the first half


Fantasy Football: The five best surprises of the first half

Nobody can predict the future.

That's an important fact to keep in mind as you read through or listen to any fantasy football preseason advice. Whoever is doling out the info is just guessing at best, because that's all it is: An educated guess.

Every fantasy season, plenty of surprises come out of nowhere - both good and bad.

[RELATED - Fantasy Football: The most disappointing players of the first half]

As we enter Week 8, we sit at roughly the halfway mark between most fantasy regular seasons in leagues, so the CSN Fantasy crew is taking a look at the best surprises at each position:

QB - Andy Dalton, CIN & Blake Bortles, JAC

These were the Nos. 26 and 27 QBs off the board in ESPN drafts, going unselected in most leagues and formats. Entering Week 8, Dalton is No. 4 on the leaderboard among QBs, ahead even of Aaron Rodgers. Bortles is the No. 6 QB thanks to three straight multiple-TD games.

Who expected this out of either guy? Dalton threw for 33 tuddies and almost 4,300 yards in 2013, but took a major step back last year (3,398 yards, 19 TD) despite not missing a game. This year, Dalton is averaging more than two TDs a contest, on pace for 37 TDs and almost 4,700 yards.

Bortles, meanwhile, has already thrown four more TDs than last seven fewer games. The second-year Jags QB is on pace for more than 4,100 yards and 34 TDs, which helps make up for his 18-INT pace. He has a solid stable of receiving options in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas and the Jags are an up-and-coming team on both sides of the ball.

Of course, there is the chance that both players are just out to a hot start. But they also both have the talent (and, in the case of Dalton, the track record) to keep this up for the rest of the fantasy season, at least. (Tony Andracki)

RB - Devonta Freeman, ATL

Raise your hand if you had Devonta Freeman tied with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as the leading fantasy scorer through seven weeks of the season. I certainly didn't.

The second-year running back out of Florida State has blown his ADP of 117 out of the water. He's scored 161.1 total fantasy points for a ridiculous average of 23 points per game. The next closest running back is Mark Ingram who has 98.5 total points.

[ROTOWORLD - Week 8 touches and targets]

No longer is Freeman a change-of-pace third down back who's only skill is catching passes out of the backfield — pretty much all he was in 2014 with 473 total yards. Freeman was put on notice when the Atlanta Falcons used a Day 2 draft selection on Tevin Coleman. In response, Freeman has transformed into one of the best all-around backs in the game, and is running behind a Top 5 offensive line. Time will tell if he can keep it up this pace, but so far he's made a believer out of everybody. (Scott Krinch)

WR - Travis Benjamin, CLE

It's all about the U. And Travis Benjamin. Undrafted everywhere other than the annual Benjamin family fantasy league (probably), the Browns' new No. 1 wide receiver has been phenomenal after having a preseason ADP at 170.0. In his first three seasons the Miami product caught 41 passes and five touchdowns; in seven games this year he's at 35/575/4 and is the No. 6 wide receiver in standard leagues.

His 11.9 fantasy points per game rank him above A.J. Green, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Amari Cooper. That's not to say Benjamin will continue his torrid pace, but he's absolutely denounced the notion that he was simply a one- or two-week wonder and just a home-run threat after catching six passes, three of which went for touchdowns, in the season's first two weeks.

After combining for just seven targets in those first two weeks, his targets by game have gone as such: 10, 10, 12, 13, 8. Easily his most impressive game came in Week 5, when he caught nine passes on 13 targets for 147 yards against the vaunted Broncos secondary. Doing all this with Josh McCown (and Johnny Manziel under center) has made this an even bigger surprise. That, and no other Browns receiver has really made a name for himself, notably the absent Dwayne Bowe. That means more targets for the 5-foot-10 Benjamin, who is locked in as a high-end WR2 until further notice. Kudos are in order if you snagged him in Week 3 or 4, because it's paying off in a big way. A Browns wide receiver not only worth owning, but worth starting every week? Now I've seen it all. (Mark Strotman)

TE - Gary Barnidge, CLE

In Week 3, we were all saying "Wow, the Raiders are so bad they let some dude named Gary Barnidge torch them." Now, we are saying "Wow who DOESN'T Gary Barnidge torch?" The Browns TE has certainly been one of the Waiver Wire Pickups of the Year and has not disappointed since his Week 3 coming out party. Since that performance against the Raiders, he's posted double digit fantasy points in standard leagues every week since.

[Complete CSN fantasy football coverage]

Now can he keep it up? I don't see why not as long as Josh McCown is still behind center. In the two games Johnny Manziel played in, Barnidge didn't post pretty numbers (4 catches, 55 yards combined). If Barnidge can score double-digit points against the Broncos defense, I have faith in him in most matchups for the rest of the year. Long live Gary Barnidge. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

Saints DE Cam Jordan really wants to hit Chase Daniel, but swears it's out of love

Saints DE Cam Jordan really wants to hit Chase Daniel, but swears it's out of love

All signs this week have pointed to Mitch Trubisky returning for the Bears’ Week 7 matchup against New Orleans, which should be exciting news for Chicago fans (right?).

Cam Jordan and the Saints defense, for their part, won’t be happy to see Mitch under center, but maaaaybe not for the reason you’d think. In an appearance on NFL Total Access this afternoon, Jordan was asked by Lindsay Rhodes what the difference between facing Trubisky and backup QB Chase Daniel is for New Orleans, and he laid out a pretty compelling case for preferring Daniel:


“I’ve been meaning to hit Chase ever since I got to the league,” Jordan said. “I’ve already hit Mitch.”

Jordan was quick to clarify that he “love[s] Chase” from his days sharing a locker room with him in New Orleans early in each of their careers. Daniel backed up Drew Brees from 2010-2012, overlapping with Jordan’s rookie and sophomore seasons (2011-2012). 

“He brought so much juice to our locker room when he was here,” Jordan continued. “I can’t wait for a chance to hit him. That’s how I show love to my friends.”

Daniel took the rib in stride, tweeting out a light-hearted response to the clip of Jordan a few hours later:

Jordan responded to that by saying he has "nothing but admiration" for Daniel and implored him to be the Brett Favre to his Michael Strahan. (Favre, you'll remember, famously crumpled in a heap at the feet of Strahan in Week 17 of the 2001 season, with Strahan needing only one sack to break the single-season record. That record of 22.5 sacks still stands to this day.) Chicago fans would certainly sign on for Daniel granting Jordan's wish, in the event of a blowout Bears victory.  

Whether it’s Trubisky or Daniel leading the Bears’ huddles on Sunday, though, the Saints defense will prove a formidable matchup, and Jordan is a big reason why. The four-time Pro Bowler has already racked up five sacks (tied for eighth in the NFL) and nine quarterback hits six games into the season.

Optimistically, the hope is Jordan never gets the chance to set his sights on any Bears quarterback this Sunday. Unrealistic? Definitely. But one can dream.

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Alvin Kamara officially out for Week 7 game at Bears


Alvin Kamara officially out for Week 7 game at Bears

The Bears are getting good news on their injury report, but the Saints definitely are not.

While it sounds like Mitchell Trubisky will return for the Bears, the Saints will be missing both of their backfield starters for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field.

Quarterback Drew Brees was already known to miss the game, but now running back Alvin Kamara is officially listed as out with an ankle injury. Kamara had 11 carries for 31 yards and seven receptions for 35 yards in last week’s 13-6 win at Jacksonville, but won’t take on the Bears.

The 24-year-old has 373 rushing yards and 276 receiving yards this season.

Latavius Murray is expected to fill in for Kamara as the starter. Murray has the same 4.3 yards per carry average as Kamara so far this season.

Brees has been out since injuring his thumb in a Week 2 loss at the Rams. Teddy Bridgewater has gone 4-0 as the starting quarterback, but won’t have the threat of Kamara behind him on Sunday.

On top of that, starting tight end Jared Cook is also out with an ankle injury. Cook has 15 receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns this season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.