CONTEST: Four NFL players who surprised in 2012

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By Susan Lulgjuraj | Beckett Football Editor

The 2012 NFL season will be remembered for the hyped-up rookies that made good and veterans who proved they were still elite players despite serious offseason surgery.

However, several football players unexpectedly jumped on to the scene in 2012 – guys who were afterthoughts or backups coming into the season.

Here’s a look at some who surprised in 2012.

1. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay, RB (Martin’s OPG): The Tampa Bay rookie had 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns on 319 carries. Martin was a first-round draft pick, but excelling this quickly caught many by surprise. By Week 9, NFL fans knew his name as Martin rushed for 251 yards in a 42-32 win over Oakland.

2. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco, QB (OPG): The second-year player started the season on the bench as Alex Smith’s backup. It seemed Smith was becoming the quarterback the 49ers imagined he would be, and Kaepernick’s role became murkier. However, an injury to Smith threw Kaepernick into the mix and he finished the season as San Francisco’s number-one arm. He had 1,725 passing yards and 10 touchdowns with 321 rushing yards in the final eight games of the regular season.

3. Alfred Morris, Washington, RB (OPG): The sixth-round draft pick probably was the biggest surprise of the 2012 rookie class. All the focus was on another rookie on the Redskins, but Morris couldn’t be ignored after averaging 98.2 yards a game through the first five games of the regular season. Morris finished the year with 1,613 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

4. Russell Wilson, Seattle, QB (OPG): Wilson was on the radar for many, he just didn’t get a lot of attention because of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. However, Wilson forced people to take notice and took the Seahawks deeper into the playoffs than any other rookie QB in 2012 – not too bad for a third round draft pick. He completed 252-of-393 passes for 3,118 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He added four rushing TDs in the regular season.

So, who was your surprise of 2012?

Answer the question in the comments to win the Doug Martin patch card pictured above. Make sure to include your email address. One random winner from the comments will be selected on Monday.

Susan Lulgjuraj is an editor of Beckett Football. You can email her here with questions, comments or ideas. Follow her on Twitter here. Follow Beckett Media on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Jordan
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Wilson was the surprise of 2012. He showed flashes of greatness, and proved to be a great leader.

  2. Ian Cavanaugh
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    My surprise player would have to be Kaepernick. I would heave to pick him because I didn’t even know about him until his monday night game. I didn’t expect him to be as good as he was. He led his team to the Super Bowl. Pretty amazing.

  3. Mike McKenna
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    My suprise of 2012 has to be Morris. Especially when you consider the lack of emphasis that Sherman puts on a running game. He always plays RB toilet and never truly commits to one RB. Morris forced his hand by playing so well right out of the gate. If not for the big 3 QB’s having great years, Alfred Morris would have won Rookie of the Year!

  4. J.J. Hernandez
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    As a Niners fan, I’m not going to say Colin Kaepernick because I’m sure everyone else will but I was not surprised about his breakout season. I will say was surprised with Lamichael James. I didn’t think he would get much playing but towards the end of the season when Kendall Hunter got injured he filled in quite well and even had some key touchdowns in the playoffs.

  5. Mark Grof
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    The man for the prize as a life long bucs fan it was a complete shock. Cadialliac Williams like rookie year shocked alot of die hard fans

  6. Christopher Rodriguez
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Definitely have to go Russell Wilson. I expected “Teach me how to” Dougie to have a great season, Kaepernick to be a great running quarterback, although I didn’t expect him to get much playing time, and Morris to excel in Shanahan’s system. Wilson was the wild card and I don’t know if anyone expected him to play as well as he did in his rookie season as a 3rd round pick.

  7. Erling Crousse
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I would say Alfred Morris for sure. Nobody saw him coming, especially coming out the fifth round. He was supposed to start the year as the third stringer! Great compliment to RG3’s style. Having those two on the field, you almost have to be thinking run every play, but clearly we’ve seen RG3 can throw the ball too. I expect Morris to be going a lot higher in Fantasy drafts this fall, opposed to the undrafted he went in most pools this year.

  8. Trevor Gaffney
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Ryan Tannehill

  9. Joe
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    To me, the biggest surprise was Colin Kaepernick. The other players had nice seasons, and while I think Morris was a close second as a sixth round draft pick, I’d have to say Kaepernick taking the Niners to the Super Bowl was beyond my expectations for the him.

  10. Michael
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Biggest surprise for me had to be Kirk Cousins. To have both your starter and back-up playing their first season is a pretty gutsymove. Cousins seemed to step right in and pick up where RG3 left off every time the Redskins needed him. I see a bright future for this guy in the NFL.

  11. Bryon Pratt
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Outside of the four mentioned above, I would say Henry Melton. He went from middle round pick several years ago to pro bowl defensive tackle.

  12. nerfderfy
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    All solid choices, but the biggest one there was Morris, in my opinion. He kinda came out of nowhere to the uninitiated like myself.

  13. blair burnside
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I love all the young guys listed above but gotta hit up Peyton manning as a big surprise…older guy, injury concern and making big money…can he produce…damn right he can…made the broncos seriously good…

  14. Bruce Wilson
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    You can’t argue with your four selections. I would say you could include Adrian Peterson for his great season and comeback from injury. I think Joe Flacco was a huge surprise in the playoffs and super bowl.

  15. Dallas
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Doug Martin. I drafted him in the 7th round of my fantasy draft as a backup RB and he almost single handedly won the championship for me.

  16. Krista
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Alfred Morris, 7th rounder from a mid-major school at best and broke Redskins rushing record in rookie season

  17. Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    I thought Bernard Pierce was fairly solid behind Ray Rice. He should definitely be one to watch in the futre.

  18. Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really expect him to keep it up, because of who is coaching him, and how much he reminds me of Mike Anderson, but Alfred Morris has gotta be the guy.

  19. MIchael McMannis
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Mine was how Andrew luck came out and lead the team like he was a veteran pro player

  20. Ryan Sutley
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I have to go with Kaepernick as the biggest surprise of 2012 because of the way he came in during the middle of the season and led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. While Wilson was an incredible QB, nobody payed any attention to Kaepernick until he came off the bench after Smith suffered a concussion

  21. Ryan Taylor
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Colin Kaepernick definitely. He’s a double threat with his mighty arm and lightning speed. Definitely a surprise and I look forward to watching him play in the future.

  22. bob enlow
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    martin by far.

  23. Casey
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a huge Doug Martin fan since he was at Boise, so his success did not surprise me at all! The player that surprised me the most was Alfred Morris. It seemed to me he came out of no where and had an amazing season! Please send me the “Dougie Fresh,” “Muscle Hamster” card!!!

  24. Lee Patton
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Alfred Morris was my surprise of the year. He was a player I had only heard a little bit about and was the easiest to collect at first as the hype wasnt there until he started going crazy on the field and plus he was in the shadow of RG3. As a Packer fan I can only hope the Pack find a steal like Mr. Morris!

  25. Norman Carlisle
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Adrian Peterson with Flacco a solid second

  26. Jordan
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    My surprise was Adrian Peterson. After his injury I expected this year to be a rehab year. To go for that many yards on a team with no pass threat…now that’s a surprise!!

  27. Richard Hardy
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Russel Wilson was mine. I am a huge Steelers fan, but i can respect others. Russel’s work ethic and ability made me like him right away. I see a super bowl in his future.

  28. David Johnson
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson were pretty big surprises considering they were both coming off injuries. Peterson was definitely unbelievable considering how poor the passing game was in Minnesota last year.

  29. Andrew
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    I think the biggest surprise with Kaepernick was that he remained the start after Smith returned. Gutsy call. We’ll never know how Smith would have done had he returned, but Kaepernick certainly made the most of the opportunity.

    As a Giants fan, David Wilson was a huge surprise. Looking forward to seeing him develop.

  30. Alfredo Martinez
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    The biggest surprise of 2012 was Doug Martin. He was a late 1st round selection. Legarrete Blount was the returning starter after rushing for 1800 yds combined in 2010 and 2011. Doug Martin played against the Minnesota rushing defense that held A. Morris to 47 yds rushing 1 td and 9 receiving yards. Doug Martin against the same Vikings defense ran for 135 yds, 1 td & 79 yds receiving with 1 td. Plus he kept the Bucs in most games.

  31. Rodney Shear
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I would have to say Adrian Peterson. To come back after his injury and surgery and come just 9 yards short of the record was AMAZING. He just showed what a superstar he really is. I have to be truthful and say that I figured he would end up injured again and not finish the season. Way to go AP and Go VIKES!!!!

  32. Daniel peters
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I am a huge Russell Wilson fan since his days at NC state. I wanna say he was the biggest surprise, but I would be wrong. I have to say Alfred Morris. He came into a system 4th on the depth chart, and made his way to number 1. Did this on Coach Shanahans team, was well over shadowed by RG3, 6th round pick. Came within 200 yards of the all time rookie yards mark. And he’s Modest, driving his 1991 Mazda 626 everyday when he could afford any car he wants! Applause, applause!!

  33. clayton kruger
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Luck and Wilson were great but Alfred Morris was my biggest surprise. He looked good in preseason and made me look like a genius for drafting him in both leagues. The guy was a beast and could be the next Forte.

  34. Posted March 26, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Russell Wilson brought about a vague, yet welcomed attention to detail. He wasn’t he caliber of Andrew Luck or RGIII or Ryan Tannehill, yet he brought about a fun and up-tempo concern to the whole of NFL fans. They all brought talent and respect, but Wilson brought bravado and intensity.

  35. Travis M.
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Colin Kaepernick, because he took a team from average to a major playoff contender.

  36. Posted March 26, 2013 at 11:58 pm | Permalink


  37. Corky
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Russell Wilson
    I thought he had the skills but I thought his height was going to be a set back. As a life long Seahawks fan, I am happy that I was wrong.

  38. GMEN Fan
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Joe Flacco. I know a lot of people will scratch their heads and say..WHAT?? I think the way he played in the regular season lacked but when those playoffs started up he was like Joe Montana. The guy was overly impressive in the playoffs throwing for no picks and beating three great teams on the way to the Super Bowl win. No one expected them or him to put up such a performance.

  39. Randy
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Russell Wilson for rookie def biggest surprise.. Manning as a ver with all the questions regarding his neck very surprised he played that well..

  40. Rob B
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    I’d have to say Kaepernick was the biggest surprise for me..It was such a surprise to me that I sold off the rookie auto I had of him before the season started…

    I didnt even expect him to start any games much less the Super Bowl..

  41. Joseph Reynolds
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    My biggest surprise was me walking onto the field, oh hold on, I’m dreaming again. I would have to say it was Russell Wilson. Definately going to be making a Bowl appearance in his future.

  42. Jason Taylor
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I’m going to go outside of the 4 above and pick Bernard Pierce of Baltimore. At the beginning of the season, no one thought Pierce would be anything more than a 5 carry/game back, especially with Ray Rice toting the rock. But as the season progressed, and Cam Cameron got fired, Pierce got even more carries and played a pivotal role in the playoffs. Now, the Ravens have a pretty solid backfield going into next season.

  43. Zachary
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Definitely Russell Wilson. Many thought he would be on the bench all year behind Flynn and Jackson. Instead, he started immediately and excelled.

  44. Corey
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    It had to be Alfred Morris. A 6th round pick from Florida Atlantic. He was drafted to be a fullback for the Redskins, but ended up being the starting runningback by out playing the other guys. He was almost unstoppable when they decided to give him the ball. Running over or past the defenders most of the time. And he could have accomplished more if the Redskins gave him the ball even more (the Redskins would for some reason would stop giving him the ball when he would have a number of big yard runs).

  45. Alyssa Miller
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Kaepernick for sure. He’s one of those guys I expected to come back to reality every week, and he never did. And you better believe I still fully expect him to crash back down to earth next season. (If it qualifies, Flacco’s contract is my second biggest surprise).

  46. Kurry Ferguson
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Alfred Morris all the way. He was a middle of the draft pick that many had noteven heard of. If not for the QB’s in the draft class, he would have gotten Rookie of the Year, and I still believe he should have.

  47. Jason Rothman
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    It has to be Wilson. Not a first round pick. Seahawks spent money in free agency on a QB. Guy was put down because of his size. All that and he steps up to lead that team to a surprise season. Add Harvin into the mix – watch out in 2013!

  48. Michael Lee
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    It has to be Colin Kaepernick, not just because the way he performed, but for the way it all unfolded. At the beginning of the year it was Alex Smith and the 49er defense and there wasn’t even a peep about Kaepernick. Then, like a rogue wave, he comes in and takes the NFL by storm. I’ll tell you what, I didn’t see that coming!

  49. Scott
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Colin Kaepernick. Who could have seen this coming? Alex Smith gets hurt and then his replacement not only comes into play but takes his team to the Super Bowl. You talk about a surprise!

  50. Kong Vang
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I would say that the biggest surprise would have to be Alfred Morris. He came out as a 6th round draft pick and was a total sleeper before the season started. And no one would ever expect him to finish that well at the end of the season. And with also having a big name rookie QB on his team, Alfred Morris was flying under the radar while everyone watched how RG3 was going to perform. And if you know Mike Shanahan, he has a great eye for great running backs just like when he was with the Denver Broncos. He always knew how to choose great running backs that always finished with over one thousand yards like Terrel Davis, or Clinton Portis.

  51. Mike Carreiro
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    My biggest surprise of the 2012 season were the Baltimore Ravens. Starting the season in one of the toughest divisions in football the AFC North, the Ravens had to deal with the Steelers, upstart Browns and the Bengals trying to breakout themselves in the division. The Ravens started off under the radar and were going to be lucky to make the playoffs. Then they came into their own. Rattled off a number of wins in a row. Welcomed back Ray Lewis, had an average QB in Joe Flacco, made the playoffs, Beat the class of the AFC (Petting/Broncos and Brady/Patriots) and then overcame the superhot Colin Kaepernick, Jim Harbaugh and the San Fransico 49ers to win the Super Bowl. Who would have guessed that at the beginning of the season?!

  52. Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Russel Wilson

  53. Bryan Mc
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I’ll admit, I’m a huge Packers fan, but I still don’t think my pick for biggest surprise is too far out in left field: Packers WR James Jones. He’s been solid for several years, but not spectacular, and he’s had a little bit of an issue dropping crucial passes. This year, though, no one was as sure-handed in the end zone as this guy, who went from being a third (or fourth!) receiver to leading the entire league in TD catches! In fact, Arian Foster was the only player to score more total TD’s than Jones. He’s become the favorite end-zone target of the best QB (sorry Flacco) in the league, and his performance this year led to the Packers being comfortable with the idea of letting their top receiver, Greg Jennings, go in free agency.

  54. Paul
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I have to go with Colin Kaepernick. I don’t believe anyone expected him to even start, much less have the season he had.

  55. Nate Goleman
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I thibk Alfred Morris was the most surprising..He had to emerge from the proverbial shadow cast by RGIII, and in doing so turned a lot of heads! Morris and Griffin will be a dynamic duo for years to come, keeping Washington in the playoff picture!

    Posted March 27, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    For me it’s Russell Wilson.

  57. Ian Lewellin
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I know for most it is/will be Russell Wilson. It was not for me. I watched him play his 1 year at UW and new he was going to be great. My surprise has to be Colin Kaepernick. He torched the Pack, easily.

  58. Josh Mintz
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Gotta be Colin Kaepernick. It’s hard enough to take a team to the Super Bowl as it is, but for a guy who had taken about five snaps prior to this year and was a backup until week 7? Amazing.

  59. Jason
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s 50/50 for Kaepernik and Wilson. I think their impact will be felt for years to come

  60. Cam
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Russell Wilson without a doubt. SO many QBs were taken way before him and he was arguably the best one in the draft.

  61. Jeremiah johnson
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Kaepernick tossed and ran for some nasty TDs
    while leading the 9ners to the Super Bowl while
    Alfred Morris rumbled to the end zone for many
    Touchdowns for Redskins nation !!

  62. kevin
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Martin was a great pickup for the bucs.

  63. Nick Mikulicich
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Alfred Morris was the biggest surprise. Everyone else was expected to eventually be a NFL star. He was a late-round draft pick who few would have been surprised if he hadn’t made the team.

  64. Shawn Walker
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    My surprise player would be Adrian Peterson I didn’t quiet expect him to bounce back off of the knee injury the way he did.

  65. JT
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    My biggest suprise was Colin Kaepernick.

  66. David Woolman
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Easily, it was Colin Kaepernick. He didn’t have a starting job coming into the season, but by the end…was the talk of the town, and rightly so with how he played.

  67. Justin Sentner
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m going on defense and will have to say Luke Kuechly, because he led the nfl with 164 tackles on his way to winning defensive rookie of the year. Thank you for the contest

  68. Philip Palomo
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Colin Kaepernick has to be the surprise player of the year. Alex Smith had led the 49’ers to a deep playoff run the year before and was in line to do it again until Kaepernick burst onto the scene. He excelled to the point,in only his second year, that he took his team to the Super Bowl. None of the other breakout stars can claim that feat. That is why Colin Kaepernick is my surprise of the year.

  69. Joel Richford
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Biggest surprise for me was seeing Kaepernick lead the 49ers to the superbowl. Wilson was a very close second!

  70. Matt Biello
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I think it has to go Alfred Morris. I mean a sixth round draft choice is not suppose to be the guy who gains the second most yards in the NFL. If it was not for Adrian Peterson everybody would be astonished at this guy. Lets hope for the same in his sophmore season.

  71. Tim
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I have to say it’s Morris, as there were zero expectations for his performance to be anywhere close to what he delivered.

  72. Susan Lulgjuraj
    Posted April 2, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    The winner of the contest is Jason Taylor. Thanks to everyone who entered.

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