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Fantasy: Biggest Surprise Performers of the 2017 Season (so far)

October 18, 2017 • Ben Heck • Fantasy, Front Page, Lists

With the first six weeks of the 2017 NFL season down, typical fantasy leagues are nearing the midway point in their season.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest surprises, with plenty of young guys stepping in and making an impact for their respective teams. Not only that, but they have been game-changers for anyone who picked them up off waivers in their fantasy football league.

It’s certainly nice to see three rookies make this list.

(Note: the “Fantasy Point” numbers are according to the standard ESPN.com fantasy league and are PPR-driven. The fantasy points vary from league to league depending on the scoring set-up).

Quarterback

Deshaun Watson, Texans (R) — 168 fantasy points (28.0/game)

The Houston Texans may finally have found their long-term franchise quarterback in their 12th overall draft pick. He’s already a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year winner and could even find himself in the running of the Most Valuable Player award if he can keep this kind of pace up. In his four starts (five games played overall), Watson has tossed a league-leading 15 touchdowns with just five picks. His 101.1 QB rating is sixth-best in the league. Houston may have lost J.J. Watt for the second consecutive year, but having Watson under center gives the Texans a great shot at the AFC South title this year. Having DeAndre Hopkins to throw to certainly boosts his fantasy value as well.

Alex Smith, Chiefs — 149 fantasy points (24.8/game)

I never truly felt Alex Smith was a viable and consistent fantasy option at quarterback, but he’s slowly proving himself to be an option. But he’s now found himself not only as a QB1 option in most leagues, but he’s even entered into the early-season MVP talk. His 149 points is behind only Watson and Tom Brady. He has over 1,600 passing yards and 12 touchdowns and has yet to throw a pick. His 119.2 QB rating is the best in the National Football League.

Running back

Kareem Hunt, Chiefs (R) — 148 fantasy points (24.7/game)

Incredibly enough, the third-round draft pick has taken the league by storm through the first six weeks of the season. Hunt, 22, leads the league in rushing yards (630) on 106 attempts. He sits behind only Ravens rookie RB Alex Collins in yards per carry, posting a 5.9 average. He has racked up six total touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving).

Leonard Fournette, Jaguars (R) — 133 fantasy points (22.2/game)

Fournette’s fast start to the 2017 season is a big reason for Jacksonville’s 3-3 start to the season. It also helps that Jacksonville’s defense is stepping up in a big way, but the rookie runner is second in the league in rushing yards (596) behind only – yes, you guessed it, Kareem Hunt. He’s also racked up six touchdowns on the ground (most in the league) with another one through the air.

Wide Receiver

Tyreek Hill, Chiefs — 87 fantasy points (14.5/game)

As a rookie last season, Hill made an impact in the passing game for Kansas City. But I’m not so sure people truly saw him emerging as a top 10 fantasy talent this quickly in his young career. His 87 fantasy points in six games is good enough for seventh among receivers.

Chris Hogan, Patriots — 82 fantasy points (13.7/game)

I guess this really shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Tom Brady’s ability to turn former nobodies into somebodies. But with targets like Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks, it’s interesting to see Hogan leading the team in receiving touchdowns (5). His 82 fantasy points puts him at 10th among receivers. There’s no doubt that the 29-year old Hogan will surpass career-highs in catches and yards this season. He’s already done so in receiving touchdowns.

Tight End

Zach Ertz, Eagles — 94 fantasy points (15.7/game)

Ertz may finally proving to be a top five tight end option in fantasy. Now that Philadelphia has a long-term franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, Ertz is poised to put up career-high totals this season. At this point in the year, his 94 fantasy points is No. 1 among tight ends. Ertz’s 34 catches, 405 yards and 4 TD are all ranked at the top of the TE list.

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers — 71 fantasy points (14.2/game)

Tampa Bay selected TE O.J. Howard in the draft last spring, yet somehow Brate is seeing enough targets come his way to rank fourth in fantasy points among tight ends. He’s third on the team in catches (21) and yards (281) and has reeled in a team-high four touchdowns. He has now caught a touchdown in four straight games for Tampa Bay.

Defense/ST

Jaguars — 91 fantasy points (15.2/game)

Jacksvonille has the highest fantasy point total among defensive and special teams units, scoring 11 more points than second-place Detroit. The defense returned two Ben Roethlisberger interceptions for touchdowns two weeks ago. The team leads the league in interceptions (10) and has surrendered the third-least touchdown passes (4). They’ve also recorded a league-high 23 sacks and have the lowest opposing QB rating (60.0). Impressive, Jacksonville.

Kicker

Jake Elliott, Eagles — 50 fantasy points (8.3/game)

Caleb Sturgis started the season as Philadelphia’s starting placekicker. Now, after having been signed off Cincinnati’s practice squad in mid-September, the 22-year-old Elliott may be the most beloved Eagles kicker since David Akers. His 50 fantasy points is sixth among kickers, and he’s three of four field goal attempts from 50+ yards. Not to mention his 61-yard game-winner against the G-Men in Week 3.

Photo: Logan Bowles/Getty Images

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