All-overachievers fantasy lineup: Biggest surprises of this season

Ben Leibowitz, PointAfter
Roto Arcade

Regardless of how skilled you are at evaluating NFL players and projecting how they’ll perform from one year to the next, much of what determines a fantasy football owner’s success is the luck of the draw.

Picking up that breakout stud on the waiver wire in Week 4 or taking a flyer on a crafty veteran who experiences a throwback season has the potential to swing a season. These seemingly minor transactions can transform fantasy doormats into champions. So who fit the bill this season as fantasy overachievers?

The team at PointAfter set out to answer that question. By looking at each player’s projected fantasy total and comparing it to their actual scoring output, we determined the biggest fantasy overachievers from the latest campaign. We also determined the biggest underachievers of the year.

Note: The scoring system used is from standard Yahoo leagues.

QB: Cam Newton, Panthers

Total projected: 325.5 points
Total actual: 399.0 points
Difference: 73.5 points

Newton doubles as both the highest-scoring fantasy quarterback and the biggest overachiever at the position. He turned in an MVP-caliber campaign by leading Carolina to a 15-1 record. He frequented our weekly series breaking down the perfect fantasy lineup throughout the season and ultimately separated himself with his legs. He threw for 3,827 yards, 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions – not as impressive as Tom Brady’s 4,770/36/7 – but added 636 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. In effect, the former Heisman Trophy winner became the only player in NFL history with at least 30 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs in a single season.

The Top 5 Fantasy QBs of 2015 | PointAfter

RB1: David Johnson, Cardinals

Total projected: 135.0 points
Total actual: 179.8 points
Difference: 44.8 points

A rookie running back out of Northern Iowa, Johnson showed plenty of promise early in the season – particularly as a third-down back who could make plays in the passing game. A resurgent Chris Johnson minimized the first-year player’s impact, but when CJ2K suffered a broken leg, the younger Johnson shined. His best outing of the season occurred in Week 15 against Philadelphia when he amassed 187 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries to accompany four receptions for 42 yards. The 40.9-point fantasy explosion swung numerous fantasy playoff matchups and earned Johnson a spot on Week 15’s highest-scoring lineup.

Arizona Cardinals 2015 Rushing Distribution | PointAfter

RB2: DeAngelo Williams, Steelers

Total projected: 143.6 points
Total actual: 180.2 points
Difference: 36.6 points

Owners who drafted Williams either as a short-term fix for running back depth or as a handcuff to Steelers starter Le’Veon Bell (who started the season on a two-game suspension) were rewarded in the early going. In Bell’s two-game absence to open the campaign, Williams ran 41 times for 204 yards and three touchdowns. He touched the ball just 14 times (carries and receptions) in five games after the fact, but holding on to Bell’s backup proved to be the best possible decision in the fantasy landscape. Bell tore ligaments in his knee against the Bengals and was limited to just six games. With Williams back in the driver’s seat, he eventually ran for 907 yards and a league-best 11 touchdowns. The numbers he posted are kind of unreal when considering his five-game stretch serving as the backup.

[2016 fantasy position previews: Quarterback | Running Back | Receiver/Tight End]         

WR1: Doug Baldwin, Seahawks

Total projected: 119.8 points
Total actual: 188.6 points
Difference: 68.8 points

One of the most sure-handed wideouts in all of football, Baldwin posted the best season of his career by far. Quarterback Russell Wilson compiled a league-best 110.1 passer rating behind a shaky offensive line in part because his go-to wide receiver performed so well down the stretch. From Nov. 29 through Dec. 27 (five games), Baldwin caught 11 of his 14 touchdowns while averaging nearly 100 receiving yards per game. With injuries stacking up at the running back position, Baldwin’s breakout was exactly what Seattle needed to make the playoffs.

Seahawks Leaders in 2015 Redzone Targets | PointAfter

WR2: Allen Robinson, Jaguars

Total projected: 163.8 points
Total actual: 224.0 points
Difference: 60.2 points

Several predicted Allen Robinson would have a breakout season. Sure enough, he avoided a sophomore slump en route to a phenomenal campaign. He tied with Baldwin and Brandon Marshall for a league-best 14 receiving touchdowns and added an even 1,400 receiving yards to boot (good for No. 6 in the NFL). His teammate, Allen Hurns, also shattered expectations this season, which is a testament to Blake Bortles’ maturation under center.

TE: Jordan Reed, Washington

Total projected: 99.4 points
Total actual: 157.2 points
Difference: 57.8 points

Reed dominated throughout the fantasy playoffs. He was the top scoring tight end in Week 14, Week 15 and Week 16. As Kirk Cousins found his groove for Washington, Reed played the part of his security blanket. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was the top-scoring tight end overall (big surprise), but Reed established himself as one of the league’s best at just 25.

Jordan Reed Earned and Projected Fantasy Points in 2015 via Rotowire | PointAfter

Flex: Gary Barnidge, Browns

Total projected: 100.8 points
Total actual: 158.3 points
Difference: 57.5 points

Speaking of breakout fantasy tight ends, Barnidge erupted out of nowhere in 2015. The former fifth-round pick’s previous career high in receptions for a season was 13 (which he recorded in 2014 and 2013). This past season, the 30-year-old hauled in 79 catches for 1,043 yards and nine TDs.

Barnidge's 2015 Statistical Explosion | PointAfter

What makes the unexpected production even more impressive is the fact that Cleveland was forced to go with a three-QB Lazy Susan of Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel and Austin Davis. Barnidge joined Delanie Walker, Greg Olson and Gronk on the short list of tight ends who eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in 2015.

D/ST: Kansas City Chiefs

Total projected: 107.8
Total actual: 178.0 points
Difference: 70.2 points

The Chiefs D/ST finished one fantasy point behind the Denver Broncos at season’s end, but KC’s unit was not expected to perform nearly as well as Von Miller and Co. Despite relatively modest expectations, Kansas City finished fifth in the league in takeaways (29) and seventh in total yards allowed (5,269). After an abysmal 1-5 start, the Chiefs won out and made the playoffs. In those final 10 games, Kansas City’s defense allowed more than 20 points just once.

K: Chris Boswell, Steelers

Total projected: 86.7 points
Total actual: 126.0 points
Difference: 39.3 points

Unless you drafted Stephen Gostkowski – whose 171 fantasy points were more than Demaryius Thomas, DeMarco Murray and others – the kicker position continued to be a crapshoot. Ultimately, the best bet is to roll with a high-powered offense, and Pittsburgh fit that bill. Interestingly, Boswell didn’t even start the season on the Steelers’ roster. Josh Scobee played the first four games, missing four out of 10 field goals and an extra point before getting released in favor of Boswell, who was signed on Oct. 3. Scobee’s replacement made 29-of-32 field goals and 26-of-27 extra points in 12 games.

Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that is part of the Graphiq network.

More Fantasy Football advice from Yahoo Sports

What to Read Next