By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFANINENGLAND)
Everyone likes a surprise, from an unplanned gift out of the blue from a loved one to your favourite team scoring a huge upset against an ‘on-paper’ better opponent.
It may only be the start of Week 3 but some highly desirable packages are already being unwrapped across the landscape. Here, we take a look at the five early surprises in the 2019 NFL season.
John Ross III – WR – Cincinnati Bengals
Ross was a top-ten first round selection in 2017 who wowed scouts with a 4.22 40 yard dash. His first season, bar one run, was obliterated by injury, and his second, despite suiting up in 13 games was abysmal, only catching 21 balls (from 58 targets). The small ray of light in 2018 was that one third of his catches resulted in touchdowns. Expectations had been lowered entering 2019, with the buzz falling at Tyler Boyd’s feet after A.J. Green was declared out for the early part of this season. Ross has stunned lots of folks with two 110+ yard games (270 yards in total) in two weeks, scoring three touchdowns. Andy Dalton looks like he has done an Andy Dufrense after the removal of Marvin Lewis and his top splash-plsy target is John Ross. This production won’t sustain a full season, but stating on the field Ross can break 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Gardner Minshew – QB – Jacksonville Jaguars
Coming into the 2019 season, unless you were a College football aficionado or you wore a teal T-shirt with the words ‘Duuuuuuval’ emblazoned on the front, then the likelihood is you didn’t know who Gardner Minshew was. Now thanks to his facial hair and cheeky smile he is sweeping the nation with Minshew Moustache Mania, a phenomenon only intensified with a nationally televised Thursday Night win over the Tennessee Titans. Minshew was a Round 6 pick after a spectacular senior season at Washington State where he ended up fifth in Heisman Trophy. In 2018 Minshew won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, an accolade that has been picked up in the past by the likes of Peyton and Eli Manning and Matt Ryan. Minshew is the new cult hero in the NFL, which is a welcome distraction from the Antonio Brown debacle for the Commissioner. I’ll meet you down the joke shop for a Fu Manchu moustache.
D.J. Chark (do do do do do do do do) – WR – Jacksonville Jaguars
Yes it is mandatory that every time you say D.J. Chark’s name (do do do do do do do do) that you hum that tune. The Jaguars second round draft pick in 2018 was under the water as a rookie, averaging just over one catch a game in 11 contests (14-174). In just two games this year the co-MVP of the 2018 Senior Bowl had two starts, two touchdowns and two-hundred and one receiving yards, at 18.3 yards a catch. In Week 3 he caught a touchdown for a third consecutive game and is now averaging 5 balls and 90 yards a game. After a rookie season where Chark (do do do do do do do do) fumbled on his first ever catch he has been reborn in year two. He doesn’t have significant college tape, having not recorded a catch until his third season at LSU. In three weeks this season he already has enough You Tube highlights to make a montage with some cheesy rap music featuring Crystal and ‘Yac. If you haven’t already make sure you check if he is on any of your fantasy waiver wires.
Carlos Hyde – RB – Houston Texans
This dude has already played on one-eighth of the NFL’s rosters, suiting up in 66 contests to date, including two this season for the Houston Texans. With over 3,400 rushing yards and 120 career catches Hyde is no slouch. When Lamar Miller went down for Houston in late August there was a big hole in the backfield, so the Texans traded tackle Martinas Rankin to the Chiefs for Hyde. Quietly but efficiently in 2019 Hyde has accumulated 173 yards rushing at 5.8 a carry in two starts. No touchdowns to date, and not a perfect pickup, Hyde is getting the ugly yards, the first and second down work in the middle 50 yards of the field. Deshaun Watson has looked a bit funky so far this year and he needs Hyde to ensure he has someone in the backfield that can run and pass block. Hyde is not a pass catcher, but he knows how to sustain drives. With a scattering of scores Hyde becomes fantasy relevant, but for now he is still surprising fans with some veteran savvy toting the rock.
Eddy Pineiro – K – Chicago Bears
The term ‘double-doink’ only existed in the pantheon of a clown display in circus tents, or for you ancient people, by Timmy Mallet on an episode of Wacaday. That changed forever when Cody Parkey the Chicago Bears kicker made that not-so-sweet metallic pipe music in a playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears kicking game became a punchline since the doinktastic miss, and the Training Camp and Pre-Season kicking battle in the Windy City has suffered from national ridicule. Step up Eddy P, who has fully justified his coach’s decision to keep him as he scored a game winning 53-yard field-goal as time expired against the Broncos in Week 2. Pinerio has been 100% on all 5 of his kicks so far, but the Bears kicking woes are not yet eliminated as he is listed as questionable for MNF against the inept Redskins.
One other name to mention in the surprise package category is New England Patriots punt returner Gunner Olszewski, the best unit based name since the legendary Detroit Lions quarterback of the early 90s the one and only Chuck Long, There is a long way to go in the 2019 season, and it will be fascinating if these guys are still fan favourites by the time we reach December.