The 2012 fantasy football campaign has come and gone, and as is usually the case there were as many players that defied expectations as those that lived up to them. That was especially true in the wacky and often unpredictable world of Individual Defensive Players. Whether it was good or bad, many IDPs left us scratching our heads and wondering where their 2012 numbers came from.
It's vitally important in IDP leagues that you don't read too much into the past (even if it just happened), but it's just as important that you glean what information you can from it before moving on to the future, so with that in mind let's try to straddle that line by looking at some of the most pleasant (and not-so-pleasant) IDP surprises of the 2012 season.
I Knew It All Along!!!
J.J. Watt -- DE, Houston Texans: After finishing the 2011 season strong many IDP experts predicted that Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt would take the mythical "next step" in his second NFL season, but no one thought that step would involve Watt jackstomping his way through the NFL.
Watt's 81-tackle, 20.5 sack explosion in 2012 not only netted him the best IDP season by a defensive lineman by a huge margin, but Watt was the top IDP overall in Default IDP Manor Scoring, and while that sort of ridiculous production may not be easy to duplicate next year Watt has gone from upside pick to bona fide stud.
Geno Atkins -- DT, Cincinnati Bengals: Defensive tackles are notoriously unpredictable for IDP purposes, but after finishing third at his position in 2011 there was room for some optimism where Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals was concerned entering this season.
Atkins lived up to that hype and then some in 2012, racking up career highs across the board, finishing sixth in the NFL with 12.5 sacks, and not only finishing the year as fantasy football's top defensive tackle but also posting top five numbers among all defensive linemen.
Luke Kuechly -- MLB, Carolina Panthers: It may not seem entirely fair to label Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers a "surprise" given that he was the first rookie taken in most IDP drafts last summer, but after Kuechly opened the season as a part-time weak side linebacker many fantasy owners likely thought they'd drafted a dud.
Then middle linebacker Jon Beason got hurt, Kuechly flipped to the MIKE position where he belongs and by season's end, all the youngster had done was lead the NFL in tackles with 164 and finish as fantasy's third-ranked linebacker.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar -- OLB, St. Louis Rams: Entering 2012, St. Louis Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was a four-year NFL veteran who had never topped 80 tackles in a season but he was possibly worth a late-round pick given his new role as the every-down weak side linebacker in the Gateway City.
By the end of the year, however, Dunbar had shattered his career highs across the board, topped 10 tackles in a game five times, and that end of the draft flier had become a weekly starter who finished inside the top 20 at his position.
Reshad Jones -- FS, Miami Dolphins: Miami Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones is the 2012 poster child for why you should wait to draft defensive backs in IDP leagues, as the third-year pro likely began the season on the waiver wire in most leagues.
Jones certainly didn't end the season there, however, as a torrid second half to the season propelled Jones to a career-high 95 tackles, which coupled with his two forced fumbles, four interceptions and a sack was enough to rank Jones sixth among IDP defensive backs for the year.
You See, What Had Happened Was...
Jason Pierre-Paul -- DE, New York Giants: As fantastic an IDP season as J.J. Watt had in 2012, the year turned in by Jason Pierre-Paul should serve as a cautionary tale for fantasy owners entering next season.
The third-year pro enjoyed a similarly dominant sophomore season in 2011 with 86 tackles and 16.5 sacks, but that production regressed badly in 2012, and while Pierre-Paul still registered top-10 numbers at his position it was a far cry from what IDP owners thought they would get when they made Pierre-Paul the first defensive player taken in many fantasy drafts.
Jeremy Mincey -- DE, Jacksonville Jaguars: If Jason Pierre-Paul is a cautionary tale for IDP owners about chasing last year's numbers then defensive end Jeremy Mincey should serve as the same where career seasons are concerned.
After notching only seven sacks from 2008-2010 Mincey's 57 tackles and eight sacks were enough to land the fifth-year veteran both a fat contract extension and the faith of many IDP drafters. But with no one to take pressure off on the other side, constant double-teams led Mincey to finish with only three sacks in 2012, placing him outside the top 40 defensive linemen in fantasy points.
Donald Butler -- ILB, San Diego Chargers: Sometimes, in spite of the fact that you should know better, even the savviest of IDP owners let a tantalizing situation suck them into drafting a player who ends up a massive disappointment.
Such was the case with San Diego Chargers inside linebacker Donald Butler, who appeared set for big things in 2012 as the three-down WILB for the Bolts. However, Butler was as streaky as ever, and his dependency on favorable matchups and four missed games combined to leave him outside the top 50 fantasy linebackers for the season.
Mason Foster -- MLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If there's one player on this list whose disappointing 2012 season I can't fully explain it has to be middle linebacker Mason Foster of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who started the year with 36 tackles over his first four games.
However, despite the fact that Tampa's defense went into decline right about the time that Foster was pulled from the nickel, he spent the rest of the season sitting in sub-packages and finished 2012 as a disappointing low-end IDP LB3.
Eric Berry -- SS, Kansas City Chiefs: I mentioned earlier in this article (for about the 8,000th time) that you should wait in IDP drafts before drafting defensive backs, and strong safety Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs is the reason why.
Yes, Berry entered the season as the top-ranked defensive back according to many pundits (myself included), as there appeared to have been ample time for the ACL tear he suffered early in the 2011 season to heal. However, that knee was clearly an issue for Berry for much of the season, and while the 24 year-old seemed to turn the corner later in the year Berry still barely finished inside the top 50 defensive backs in 2012.
Looking for more IDP information? Be sure to check out all the other great IDP articles by the rest of the Fantasy Sharks' crew, the IDP Forum, IDP Manor, and for the latest injury news follow @IDPManor on Twitter.