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Fantasy recap: Draft low, score high
Surprises became the norm in a football season full of breakthroughs

Kooky would be the best way to describe the 2010 fantasy football season. How else would you characterize a year in which the top-scoring quarterback, running back and wide receiver likely were either mid- to late-round draft picks, or waiver wire additions?

Starting with those leaders -- Philadelphia QB Michael Vick, Houston RB Arian Foster and Denver WR Brandon Lloyd -- here's a look at seven of the breakout stars from this past season.

*Vick: A concussion suffered by opening-day starter Kevin Kolb opened the door, then Vick blew the hinges off. He set career highs in completions (233), completion percentage (62.6), yards (3,018) and touchdowns (21). His real value, however, came from his 676 yards and nine TDs on the ground.

*Foster: Two games at the end of the 2009 season provided a glimpse of Foster's vast potential. He rushed 29 times for 216 yards and three touchdowns in those games, numbers that looked positively pedestrian in comparison to his '10 season opener. Against the Colts, he exploded for 231 yards and three touchdowns. He went on to finish the year with 2,218 rushing and receiving yards and 18 TDs.

*Lloyd: Definitely the biggest surprise of 2010. Lloyd finished with 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Broncos. Entering the season, he had 15 career touchdowns in his first seven years.

*Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland: He struggled at the worst time, during the fantasy playoffs, but 1,177 rushing yards and 11 TDs from a (likely) waiver-wire add is excellent production.

*Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland: Finally. After crushing fantasy hopes for his first two seasons, the former No. 4 overall pick put it together. His 1,664 yards from scrimmage ranked fifth in the NFL, and he finished with 10 TDs. McFadden was also fairly consistent, gaining at least 114 yards from scrimmage in 10 of his 13 games.

*Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City: Finally times two. Bowe went from supreme disappointment in '09 to star in 2010. His NFL-leading 15 TD catches will make him an early-round pick in '11 drafts.

*Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville: Production outside the top two or three tight ends is always hard to find, which made Lewis' career year of 700 yards and 10 TDs a pleasant surprise for those who wisely plucked him off the waiver wire.

>Buffalo's best

New England rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski and Tampa Bay rookie receiver Mike Williams made all of Buffalo proud during their fantastic first seasons in the NFL. And the Western New York duo had no bigger cheerleader than one of our assistant sports editors here at The News, Lisa Wilson.

Lisa outsmarted us all by drafting both Gronkowski and Williams. The move was a big reason she made it to the championship game of a competitive 14-team league (for her sake, I promised I wouldn't mention how that game turned out).

Gronkowski was a touchdown machine for the Patriots, reaching the end zone 10 times (a good thing, since he cracked 100 yards receiving in a game just once, in Week 17).

Williams pulled off the rare feat of being a steal in both the real draft and fantasy drafts. He played himself into being an early-round pick next season with 964 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on an emerging Bucs' offense.

>Checking the Bills

The arrival of Chan Gailey gave the Bills a capable offense for the first time in recent memory. It's just that the offensive turnaround featured some unexpected contributors. Here's the good and bad, fantasy-wise, from the Bills.

>Good:

*WR Stevie Johnson's emergence: ESPN's choice as the Bills' fantasy MVP based on his 1,073-yard, 10-touchdown season. Johnson's got a shot to be a No. 2 fantasy WR in '11.

*RB Fred Jackson's hot streak: From Weeks 10-14, crunch time for those trying to make the playoffs, Jackson had 625 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns. He's not a No. 1 fantasy back, but Jackson has shown when he gets carries, he produces.

*QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's production: He had a couple of monster games (Baltimore, Cincinnati) and in four separate weeks scored at least 20 points in ESPN leagues. Spin it how you want, but 3,000 yards and 23 TDs is hard to ignore. Fitzpatrick will likely be a late-round draft pick as a backup next season.

>Bad:

*Lee Evans' disappearance: While Johnson was busy becoming a star, Evans continued to fade. Drafted as a No. 2 receiver, he found himself dropped in many leagues before going on injured reserve after 13 games. His 37 catches and 578 yards were both career lows. Evans will likely go undrafted next season, save in the deepest leagues.

*C.J. Spiller's no-show: Taken before Jackson (and Marshawn Lynch) in several leagues, Spiller did nothing to live up to that draft status. Does he have any McFadden-type potential? I wouldn't bet on it next season.

*Return game woes: The Bills' defense was expected to struggle with its switch to a 3-4, and it did. On paper, the return game -- featuring Spiller, Leodis McKelvin and Roscoe Parrish -- appeared to give Buffalo a chance to put up some fantasy points on big plays. Didn't happen. The Bills managed just one return touchdown, a kick return by Spiller in Week Three.

e-mail: jskurski@buffnews.com

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>LOOKING AHEAD

One man's take on how the first round of 2011 fantasy leagues may play out, based on 12 teams:

1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota: You know what you're getting.

2. Arian Foster, RB, Houston: Might lose a few carries to Ben Tate.

3. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee: Bet he improves on his 1,364 rush yards.

4. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia: Someone always falls in love with him.

5. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City: I'd pick him in the top three.

6. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville: Produced the yards, not the TDs, in '10.

7. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore: He's a monster in PPR leagues.

8. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta: Three years, 39 TDs for the Falcons.

9. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay: 86 TDs in three years as Pack's starter.

10. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland: Big-play potential is off the charts.

11. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh: Philly's McCoy also an option here.

12. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston: Could set off a run of WRs in Round Two.

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