By Steve Schwarz, Fantasy Sports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - For most fantasy leagues, the season is over and the winner has been crowned. Time to look back at what took place, to evaluate what went right and what went wrong.
We do this because those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat their mistakes year after year after year.
Let's begin our investigation with those players who surprised us with big- time performances when we least expected it.
Philip Rivers, San Diego - Last August, when fantasy owners were drafting their teams, Rivers wasn't on many radar screens. He was coming off his worst season since 2007 and prospects weren't good after his best receiver, Danario Alexander, tore his right ACL. Josh Freeman and E.J. Manuel were being selected ahead of him. All Rivers did was throw for 4,249 yards, including three 400-yard games in the first five weeks and 29 touchdown passes against just 10 interceptions.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia - Foles had lost the preseason battle for the starting role to Michael Vick. In fact, Vick started the first five games for the Eagles. But once in the lineup, Foles was truly a fantasy miracle, rivaling all but 2013 MVP favorite Peyton Manning in his nine starts. Throwing just two interceptions versus 25 touchdown passes, fantasy owners who jumped on the Foles bandwagon were hugely rewarded as he led the league in QB rating (118.7) and finished in the top-12 at the position despite missing 40 percent of the season.
Running Backs -
Knowshon Moreno, Denver - Before the season began, Moreno was buried so far down the Broncos running back depth chart he needed a miner's hat to see the surface. Fantasy owners were mostly excited about rookie Montee Ball (ADP 53.4), but also believed Ronnie Hillman was his backup. Denver first began using Moreno because he was the best blocker in the group and they wanted to protect their prized quarterback most of all. Then a funny thing happened. Moreno ran the ball and caught the ball so well neither Ball or Hillman could get back into the lineup. Moreno posted 1,016 rushing, 507 receiving yards and scored 12 times to finish fifth among all running backs.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo - At the draft, fantasy owners were extremely high on C.J. Spiller (ADP 5.5), particularly after his coach said he was going to run Spiller until he puked. A light workload was always what kept Spiller's value down and Jackson's up. So not much was expected of Jackson in 2013 (ADP 105). Instead, Jackson totaled 1,170 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns. The only ones with an upset stomach were Spiller owners as Jackson stole much of his thunder.
Wide Receivers -
Josh Gordon, Cleveland - Fantasy owners who wanted to draft Gordon had to deal with a two-game suspension to start the season which explained his 87.2 ADP. What is harder to explain is how good Gordon was in 2013 with Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell under center for the Browns. Gordon will finish the season as the No. 1 fantasy receiver, ahead of Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. Playing just 13 of 15 weeks, Gordon led all receivers averaging 120.3 ypg.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago - Jeffery was the "other" receiver. The guy who got no media attention while Brandon Marshall grabbed all the hype. Making spectacular catch after spectacular catch, Jeffery changed the perception of him by hauling in 86 balls for 1,341 yards and seven touchdowns. Both he and Marshall finished as top-eight receivers. In preseason, fantasy owners were drafting injured Percy Harvin, Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Kenbrell Thompkins before Jeffery. That won't be the case next season.
Tight Ends -
Julius Thomas, Denver - Thomas had a total of one career catch heading into the season and the Broncos already had Joel Dreessen and Manning favorite Jacob Tamme on the roster, so fantasy owners didn't see this coming, But his opening night five-catch, 110-yard, two-touchdown game quickly caught their attention and Thomas was a solid tight end option with 60 receptions for 752 yards and 12 scores.
Unfortunately, there is also an equally significant group of guys who disappointed us in 2013. Below is the list of the most egregious offenders.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta - Ryan's season can be excused because of the injuries to his top-two receivers - Julio Jones and Roddy White. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt that fantasy owners spent a high draft pick on Ryan (ADP 54) and he didn't give us what we expected in return (24 TDs, 16 INTs). He was the sixth quarterback off the board, but finished at No. 13.
Eli Manning, New York Giants - Considering Manning threw for 812 yards over the first two weekends, his season-long numbers were atrocious. Eli finished the fantasy season with 3,666, 17 touchdowns and a league-worst 26 interceptions.
Running Backs -
Stevan Ridley, New England - Ridley began the season as a second-round pick as fantasy owners expected him to build on his 2012 season (1,263 rushing yards, 12 TDs). Not only did he fall flat on his face, he fumbled the ball on the way down. Ridley lost his starting job through his inability to produce or hold onto the football. By mid-season he was buried on the depth chart behind Shane Vereen and Bucs' castoff LeGarrette Blount.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo - Spiller was a top pick on draft day, going before the likes of Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris. By the end of the season the injury-prone back was the second-best running back option on the Bills roster. That's not suppose to happen with a top-six pick.
Wide Receivers -
Roddy White, Atlanta - Ok, injuries happen, but what killed fantasy owners was that White tried to play every week despite being limited. While we admired his grit, fantasy owners were forced to start the talented receiver when they should have gone to a backup plan. He ended up playing 13 of 15 games, but didn't score his first touchdown until mid-November and didn't post a 100-yard game until December.
Danny Amendola, New England - When he signed with the Patriots, Amendola was supposed to be the next Wes Welker. But 53 receptions for 624 yards and three touchdowns was only about a half year's production when Welker caught passes from Tom Brady. And of course he was injured more than he was healthy. It turns out the Pats already had their "Welker-clone" on the roster - Julian Edelman (96-991-6).
Tight Ends -
Jared Cook, St. Louis - Cook was a popular choice to blow up after signing with the Rams. And after a monster Week 1 (7-141-2) it appeared that those predictions were going to become fact. Unfortunately, he cracked 50-yards receiving just one time over the next 14 games and scored just two more times leaving fantasy owners confused and disappointed.
12/25 12:19:05 ET