OK, so that list on the previous slide might not have done much for you, because you couldn’t have come up with that team out of any draft. There were too many preseason premium fantasy picks who finished at the top.
Here is a lineup you might have been about to cobble together. It is the All-Emack Team, a collection of fantasy players who dramatically outproduced their draft position.
Finding these middle- to late-round gems is how you truly win your league year to year.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
As much as you might have liked his having A.J. Green as a leading target and getting Tyler Eifert in the first round of the NFL draft, you couldn’t have drafted Dalton as a starting fantasy quarterback—much less expected him to become elite with almost 4,300 yards passing and 33 touchdowns.
Dalton quietly finished not only among the viable starters, but as an elite one as the No. 3 scorer at the position. Heck, in some eight-team, two-quarterback leagues, he might have been able to be drafted as a third quarterback. That’s some serious return on investment.
Honorable mention: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles, and Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
You might struggle to remember who many fantasy analysts had atop the Broncos depth chart in the preseason. Your first guess might be second-round rookie Montee Ball if you think this was a trick question. Your second guess would be Moreno, if you didn’t.
It was Ronnie Hillman. Who?
Moreno finally became a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown back, and he did it in a season in which he could have been considered third on the depth chart going into training camp.
Honorable mention: Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
While you had to love the talent and potential of this second-year receiver, you couldn’t have expected elite numbers out of him. He just had too many things working against him:
- He was raw at a position that tends to be dominated at the top by veterans.
- He has a poor supporting cast with no reliable secondary target to draw double coverage off him.
- He had to endure and ingest a new coaching regime and offensive system.
- He had to deal with a poor quarterback to start the season, Brandon Weeden.
- He had to deal with multiple quarterback changes, from Weeden to Brian Hoyer to Jason Campbell.
- No running game to take the pressure off. Willis McGahee led the Browns with 377 yards rushing!
- He missed the first two games of the season to a suspension.
Gordon overcome a lot to lead the NFL in receiving yards and fantasy football in standard scoring. It sure sets him up for a huge career.
Honorable mention: Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears, and Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
This defines an All-Emack Team player, someone who might have been picked up off waivers after Week 1 of the season. Darn you, Emack! How did you not rank this guy as a fantasy starter in the preseason?!
Easy. The Broncos had just too many wide receiver weapons to pick through. Still, Thomas has emerged as a new-wave star at the position.
Honorable mention: Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
This is the only pick—if this unit wasn’t a waiver claim in almost all leagues—that earned All-Fantasy and All-Emack status this year. They have positioned themselves well for the future and might be the No. 2 pick next year to the Seattle Seahawks.
Honorable mention: Kansas City Chiefs
Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
There was debate whether the Packers would even bring this maligned kicker back after a disappointing 2012 season. There is no debate now; he is an elite option all over again.
Honorable mention: Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks