Coming off ACL surgery, Carson Palmer getting through this season completely healthy was hardly a certainty. Not only has he started every game for the Cardinals, but to the tune of 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions through Week 11. That's an admirable season for any 35-year-old.
After falling out of good graces with fantasy owners in 2014, Doug Martin had some work to do this year -- with a starting job barely a guarantee. But the 26-year-old has come through in a big way, and is an important reason why the Buccaneers are holding their own at 5-5. Entering Week 12, Martin is sitting at 941 yards with three touchdowns -- both the highest marks since his phenomenal 2012 campaign.
Andy Dalton had spent his entire career meddling in mediocre fantasy territory, but this year has changed everything. He's scored the fifth-most fantasy points (standard ESPN scoring) with more than 2,700 yards to go along with 20 scores and just five picks.
The 22-year-old NFL sophomore enjoyed decent success in his first year out of Penn State, but 2015 has solidified Allen Robinson as a premier fantasy receiver. Currently with 871 yards and seven scores, he's the sixth-ranked receiver in all of fantasy.
A starter at tight end over the previous seven years, Gary Barnidge had totaled 603 yards and three touchdowns on 44 receptions from 2008 through last season. This year alone, Barnidge has scored seven times on 48 catches for 667 yards. To say the 30-year-old has come out of nowhere would be an understatement. He currently sits fourth among tight ends in fantasy points.
Chris Johnson was struggling to find NFL work last summer after a disappointing campaign with the Jets in 2014, but the 30-year-old has revived his career with the Cardinals. Currently with 797 yards and three scores in eight starts, Johnson ranks among the top 15 in fantasy scoring among running backs.
Over his first three NFL years, Travis Benjamin had been targeted 96 times. This year, with no Josh Gordon in the fold, Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown have called the receiver's number 82 times, translating to 48 catches, 736 yards and four touchdowns. Still just 25, Benjamin should be a piece Cleveland can build with moving forward.
Playing just one game last season after an encouraging rookie campaign, Tyler Eifert was left undrafted in most standard leagues -- but he's proved most owners wrong with a dominant year for the Bengals. An outstanding goal line target, Eifert has come down with 11 touchdowns on 64 catches.
Returning from the depths of fantasy hell, Larry Fitzgerald has come back in 2015 as a top option at wide receiver. With a legitimate NFL quarterback under center in Carson Palmer, Fitz has caught 73 passes for 926 yards in his 12th NFL season.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
1. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta
The best player in fantasy this season is also the sport's biggest surprise. Drafted in the fourth round in 2014, Devonta Freeman failed to eclipse 300 yards as a rookie. This year, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and a league-best nine touchdowns and 764 yards, the 23-year-old figures to be a to fantasy threat for years to come.
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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With this year's fantasy season slowly gearing toward the playoffs, it's almost time to take a look back on the campaign as a whole. And 2015 has been headlined by its remarkable surprises.
Fantasy's top running back, Devonte Freeman, emerged from a disappointing rookie year to take firm grasp of the No. 1. spot. Old timers -- like a certain trio that powers the Arizona Cardinals' offense -- has returned from the depths of fantasy irrelevance to dominate the season.
Above, we ranked the top 10 surprise fantasy breakout stars. Click through the gallery to see how we see things, and tweet us at @AOLSports to share your thoughts.
See how one little-known running back may change the makeup of your league's playoffs:
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