Top 15 Unexpected NFL Fantasy Players That Saved Your Season

Who has been your savior this football fantasy season? There have been no shortage of injuries to key players throughout the year, as top draft picks like Jamaal Charles have been lost for the season with a torn ACL, while other premier players such as Eddie Lacy, who while remaining healthy (relatively speaking), is not producing at the level that anybody expected of him when they drafted him.

The football season is brutal and your fantasy teams outlook can change drastically week to weekand you need to have the depth or the knowledge to prepare for when disaster strikes. For every key injury, opens up the spot for a new player, sometimes an unknown, to come in and make an impact that can end up saving your fantasy season.

With the NFL fantasy season nearly over, it is also intriguing to get insight on some of the second year players and see their growth through the NFL. Quarterbacks like Blake Bortles and Derek Carr, who were sometimes serviceable as fantasy options last year, are now players that have helped save many smart fantasy owners seasons.

Everyone knows who the top players are in the NFL. That is not always how you are going to win at fantasy football. It's about looking at the matchups and trying to predict who had a flukey week and who had production that you feel is sustainable throughout the season.

No matter what position of your team got decimated from injury this year (because they all got hit), there were players on the waiver wire that would have helped change your season if you had been able to get to them quicker.

Always keep your eyes peeled to the injury reports and the depth charts from around the league and you may just find the next stud who is going to help save your fantasy season.

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15 Gary Barnidge 

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Gary Who? Did anyone expected Barnidge to be one of the top tight ends in football this year? I suppose the Cleveland Browns don't exactly cause excitement, but Barnidge has been a fantastic tight end this year. At #2 on Yahoo! rankings behind only Gronkowski (because c'mon now), Gary has sustained a stellar production since week 3 (which is probably when you grabbed him on Waivers). After Manziel was named the starter, it was likely encouraging to see Barnidge get in the end zone this past Sunday. There is no telling how the rest of his year will go, but he's absolutely exceeded expectations.

14 Stefon Diggs 

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It's hard not to love watching Stefon Diggs play. The fiery rookie didn't make his debut till later on in the season, but he's been an instant spark plug for the Vikings. Diggs wasn't drafted anywhere but is now a must play on the best team in the NFC North. The only knock on him is that the Vikings heavily favor the run game, but Diggs has still shown multiple games of promise, totaling 507 yards of receiving in six games. As the Vikings continue to make a push towards the playoffs, you can hope for the best from some of their big name players and that is quickly including Diggs.

13 Jeremy Langford 

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It may seem a bit premature to put Jeremy Langford on this list. While he has only been fantasy relevant for a few weeks, he’s been a savior for many fantasy team. He's even more valuable if you own Forte, who is one of many premier fantasy running backs to get sidelined this year for several weeks. In his two games as the featured back, Langford showed value both on the ground and through the air. His best performance came in week 10 against the Rams, where he rushed for 73 yards, caught for another 109 yards, along with scoring two TDs. It is unsure how much volume Langford will receive if Forte comes back soon, but there is no doubting his talent.

12 Todd Gurley 

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Nobody knew how effective Todd Gurley would be when he got drafted by the Rams. Coming off a torn ACL, he did show promise in college as a premier back, but no one knew when exactly he'd be back in action. When he finally got his chance to start, he did not disappoint. With several TDs and a few games of 100+ yards, Gurley has become a top back in fantasy and should only get stronger as the year goes on. His best fantasy day came when he ran 19 times for 128 yards and 2 TDs. Amazing value for a player who fell in most drafts.

11 Allen Robinson 

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I absolutely love watching Allen Robinson play football. He constantly goes up and makes contested catches and is a huge reason for the success of Blake Bortles this year. It isn't reasonable to say that people didn't see this coming, as he was drafted by any intelligent league, but he's still greatly outproducing his ADP. Robinson already has 871 yards on 50 catches and 7 TDs, while Bortles is growing more confident in throwing the ball deep to him.

10 DeAndre Hopkins 

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Don’t get me wrong, people knew that DeAndre Hopkins was going to be a good player this year. However, not many thought he would be arguably the top wide receiver in fantasy football. This is made all the more impressive by the fact that his quarterbacks have stunk. What's been helping Hopkins' value is that his target numbers are off the charts. With the ball coming to him often, it’s not shocking that a talented player like Hopkins is playing like a top 5 wide receiver.

9 Derek Carr 

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The Oakland Raiders are currently boasting a top 10 offense, led by a trio of young superstars on the rise. Perhaps the most promising of them all is quarterback Derek Carr. Carr is excellent at distributing the ball across the field to his numerous targets. As chemistry continues to grow with top rookie Amari Cooper and newcomer Michael Crabtree, the ceiling for Carr is only going to continue to grow. That ceiling is already pretty high, as Carr is currently tied for 3rd in the league with 21 passing TDs.

8 Blake Bortles 

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Blake Bortles is developing nicely in his second year as the quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. With a win on Thursday night, his team is continuing to prove that they are still alive in the playoff hunt. The more competitive the Jags can stay, the more aggressive the playcalling will be, which will only help Bortles' fantasy value. Helping Bortles are two stud receivers in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, but Bortles is still an excellent trigger-man. With several multiple TD games to his credit, Bortles has saved many people who have had their key quarterbacks go down for parts of the season (like Romo and Big Ben).

7 Michael Crabtree 

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Michael Crabtree has turned back the block and had a fantastic year, along with Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. Crabtree leads the team in targets and has had some stellar games for the young and upcoming Raiders offense. King Crab's best performance came in Week 9 when he hauled in 2 TDs and 108 yards on 12 targets. If the Raiders can stay in contention and if Crabtree can stay healthy, it's safe to assume his production will continue.

6 Eric Decker 

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When Eric Decker made the switch from Peyton Manning to the New York Jets' QBs, few thought that he would continue to be a useful fantasy WR. Well, if you drafted Decker this year, you would know that he's been absolutely terrific. Despite battling injuries, Decker has made his way to the end zone seven times this season while suiting up for only eight games. As the Jets continue to make strides towards the playoffs, we hope that his production will continue. Decker benefits largely when Brandon Marshall is healthy, as they form a great tandem for Ryan Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith.

5 Karlos Williams 

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Karlos Williams is an absolute beast on the football field. Not afraid to lower the shoulder, he is the exact type of player that the Bills need complimenting LeSean McCoy. Given McCoy's health concerns in the past, Williams should have been on the radar of every McCoy owner. Karlos has scored a TD in the first six games of his NFL career and that is money to any fantasy owner. There is no telling what Karlos Williams' potential would be if he was the lead back, but there is no doubting his nose for the endzone.

4 Travis Benjamin 

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Travis Benjamin wasn't on many people’s draft boards. In fact, FantasyPros ranked him as the 125th wide receiver...out of 141 options (yikes). Som Benjamin decided to make us all look foolish by having stats that have him ranked as the 12th best receiver according to Yahoo!, not too shabby T-Ben! It’s hard to blame people for not being high on Benjamin. Like Barnidge, he suffers from playing in Cleveland, which isn't usually the premier destination for offensive weapons. While there was a stretch of games where he failed to produce, Benjamin has still exceeded expectations of anyone who picked him up late in the draft or off the waiver wire.

3 DeAngelo Williams 

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Many people who drafted LeVeon Bell this year likely drafted DeAngelo Williams as well. With Bell suspended for the first two weeks, Williams stepped in and did an admirable job for fantasy owners. Hopefully those who own Bell held onto Williams, because with Bell out for the season due to an MCL strain, Williams' stock may never be higher. While he struggled in week 10, he exploded in week 9 for 170 yards (rushing), 55 yards (receiving) and 2 TDs. Yeah, that's one heck of a 'backup' that the Steelers have.

2 Tom Brady 

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Now don't get me wrong, there is not a person who plays fantasy football who does not know Tom Brady. Yet for many people, their fantasy draft happened around the time of Brady's possible suspension. While we now know the four games got revoked, it was still a somewhat risky draft pick as no one knew how long it might be. When it was revealed that Brady would not be suspended, it was clear to many that he was about to rip the league apart. That's exactly what Tom is doing this year, leading one of the most prolific offenses in the game. Sure it helps when you have Gronk ripping apart defenders, but Terrific Tom is looking as good as ever.

1 Devonta Freeman 

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Devonta Freeman was not a high draft pick this year, ranked as the 37th best running back by FantasyPros. As the backup/kind of starter with Tevin Coleman, it didn't seem like either RB would be a great value pick. Not to mention that few thought Atlanta was going to start out as hot as they did. Yet when Coleman went down, Freeman stepped up to help out fantasy owners everywhere. Freeman's top game came in week 3 when he ripped apart the Cowboys for 141 yards on the ground, 52 yards through the air and 3 TDs. Freeman has been able to sustain a great level of production and is the top rated running back according to Yahoo!.

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