After a heartbreaking Week 13, here are three unheralded medal-earners (started in less than 20-percent of Y! leagues) projected to finish in fourth place who ended up setting the fantasy pace:
Matt Moore, Mia, QB
Y! Percent started: 9-percent
Very quietly a storm has brewed on South Beach over the past five weeks. The Dolphins, once the essence of tranquillity, have suddenly transformed into a legitimate fantasy force, blowing through opponents with a well-balanced offense and unyielding run defense. Tony Sparano's bunch, losers in its first seven games, has won four of its past five, three of those victories in convincing fashion. The offense, which has surpassed 30 points in a game three times since Week 9, is finally firing on all cylinders, putting to bed concerns about the team's shortcomings inside the red-zone.
Several reasons explain 'Fins dramatic offensive turnaround. For starters, Reggie Bush, thriving on designed tosses and sweeps installed by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, has found his niche. No longer tap-dancing to the line, he's exploded through holes with previously unforeseen assertiveness. Also, the offensive line has done a marvelous job creating running lanes and protecting the pocket. Over the first seven games of the season, Miami QBs were sacked 27 times. Since then, the unit has surrendered just seven takedowns.
However, Matt Moore might be the biggest reason for Miami's ascension. The former Panther, who once unfathomably lost his starting job to animated poo Jimmy Clausen, has rediscovered his 2008 form, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt while posting a 9:2 td:int split over his past five, including a terrific 18.6-point performance Sunday versus Oakland (162-1-0, 22-1), the 10th-best QB output of the week.
Believe or Make Believe? Believe. For the past several days, Andy Behrens and yours truly have tried to cram Moore down the throats of playoff-minded owners. Though his skill set is nothing to write home about, the weapons around him are. Bush, Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess are nothing to scoff at. Neither is his rest of season schedule. Gifted favorable matchups against Philadelphia (seventh most fan points to QBs since Week 9), Buffalo (14th) and New England (sixth) over the next three weeks, he could remain a fixture in the QB top-10 during the most crucial juncture in the virtual season. Last year, backup-turned-starter Jon Kitna was a second season savior in deeper leagues. This time around, Moore (18-percent owned) could rescue QB-starved owners.
Demaryius Thomas, Den, WR
Y! Percent started: 1-percent
Compare Thomas to former Bronco Brandon Marshall and the resemblances are uncanny. From size to skills both are nearly identical. The youngster, who missed considerable playing time due to injuries over his first two seasons, just needs more experience to unlock his inner monster. His route-running and coverage reads are still a work in progress.
Still, Sunday's breakout 4-144-2 performance in Minnesota might be a preview of what's to come.
Against a ravaged Vikings secondary Thomas had his way, outmuscling, and in some cases, outracing corner Cedric Griffin. Part of his big day was due to mental lapses in coverage — Vikes defenders must have thought the receiver had leprosy he was so open on his two scoring plays — but not all. On his second TD of the day, he showcased his plus open-field speed and leg-churning power.
Believe or Make Believe? Make Believe. Unquestionably, Thomas has spectacular long-term upside. But before this week, Tim Tebow had eyes only for Eric Decker. That bond combined with the conservative nature of John Fox's newly installed read-option offense and Eddie Royal's expected presence, diminishes the wideout's rest-of-season prospects as a WR3 in 12-teamers. With New England and Buffalo left on the schedule, he could reemerge, but he's definitely a risky commodity. Prior to Week 13, he only attracted 3.7 targets per game. His future is bright, but he's not a horse worth saddling over the rest of the season except in the deepest of leagues.
Dan Orlovsky, Ind, QB
Y! Percent started: 2-percent
Jokingly on this past week's episode of "Fantasy Football Live," I said Orlovsky, when translated from Polish (or Russian) to English, means "sucks." Apparently, it also means "garbage time hero."
The journeyman quarterback, best known for unknowingly running out of the end-zone versus Minnesota while a member of the winless Lions three years ago, proved effective against the leagues worst-ranked pass defense. Compiling most of his gaudy numbers attempting to mount a furious late-game comeback, he finished with 353 yards and two touchdowns, a top-six effort for the week. Overall, he commanded the Indy offense well, providing the My Little Ponies a scoring spark not seen in weeks.
Believe or Make Believe? Believe. In eight career starts, Orlovsky has looked at least semi-competent averaging 266.6 passing yards per game while notching a 10:7 td:int split. Without a doubt, he's possess much more upside than Curtis Painter did in the same role. Because of Indy's tremendous defensive woes and improving, yet still subpar, rushing attack, it's very likely the passer will chuck the rock at least 35 times per game over the remainder of the season. Yes, his end-season schedule isn't all that appealing (at Bal, Ten, at Hou), but, due to the strong blowout factor, he could be a zone-buster in fourth quarters. Keeping that in mind and with Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Jacob Tamme as targets, it's conceivable he'll post borderline top-15 numbers in a couple games racing toward the finish line. For owners in resource-strapped leagues, he could be a godsend.
Honorable mentions: Christian Ponder, Min, QB, Josh Johnson, TB, QB, Toby Gerhart, Min, RB, Ricky Williams, Bal, RB, Donald Driver, GB, WR, Dexter McCluster, KC, RB/WR
Image courtesy of US Presswire
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