The Loop Fantasy Football Report Week 10: New Viking Dobbs only latest first-half surprise

Week 9 was pretty busy for Joshua Dobbs. The quarterback was traded to the Vikings, spent a few minutes meeting teammates and learning a fraction of the playbook, then led Minnesota to a stunning comeback victory in Atlanta.

The former Cardinals QB had already posted surprising numbers before being dealt by Arizona. So much so that in the fantasy scoring system on, Dobbs is the 10th-rated quarterback this season. Really.

As the season officially hits the halfway point, it’s time to look at the biggest fantasy surprises of the 2023 campaign.

We’ll deal with the dregs that have already ruined the season for The Loop and others next week. But for now we offer our lineup of the year’s most pleasant surprises. Players who have posted fantasy numbers far beyond what any experts predicted back in August:

C.J. Stroud (Texans QB) – The No. 2 draft pick is coming off a record 470-yard performance against Tampa Bay, the most ever for a rookie QB. He has 2,270 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns and one TD run. Only Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Philly’s Jalen Hurts are averaging more fantasy points per game among quarterbacks.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 05: C.J. Stroud #7 of the Houston Texans leaves the field after a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at NRG Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Raheem Mostert (Dolphins RB) – He’s tied with Christian McCaffrey for the NFL lead with 13 touchdowns. He’s fourth in rushing with 605 rushing yards and is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season. And he’s one of three Miami players to top 21 mph on a play this season. SPEED!

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 29: Raheem Mostert #31 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates after his rushing touchdown during the third quarter against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on October 29, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Travis Etienne (Jaguars RB) – The former Clemson star wasn’t considered a top-10 running back in the summer, in part, because of hype over rookie Tank Bigsby. But Etienne is sixth in the league with 849 total yards and eight touchdowns. BIgsby? Just 60 total yards.

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 29: Travis Etienne Jr. #1 of the Jacksonville Jaguars converts a two-point conversion during the third quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on October 29, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Puka Nacua (Rams WR) – The rookie from BYU hasn’t completely cooled off after his record start. He’s fourth in the NFL in both receiving yards and receptions. The only drawbacks have been his lack of TDs (2) and the return of all-world teammate Cooper Kupp.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 29: Puka Nacua #17 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts after a first down during the first quarter o a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 29, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Adam Thielen (Panthers WR) – Turns out the Minnesota favorite is not nearly over the hill. The Mankato legend is sixth in the league with 62 receptions, and he has been the star of the otherwise stagnant Carolina offense with 610 yards and four TDs.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 29: Adam Thielen #19 of the Carolina Panthers runs the ball against Tavierre Thomas #4 of the Houston Texans during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium on October 29, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Cole Kmet (Bears TE) – Chicago’s biggest pass catcher has 41 catches for 374 yards and five TDs. He has become a favorite target of backup quarterback Tyson Bagent and should continue to see ample targets with the return of starter Justin Fields.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – NOVEMBER 05: Cole Kmet #85 of the Chicago Bears catches a pass while defended by Zack Baun #53 of the New Orleans Saints during the first half at Caesars Superdome on November 05, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Brandon Aubrey (Cowboys K) – The Dallas rookie hasn’t missed yet, making the first 19 field-goal attempts of his career, an NFL record. He’s tied for second in scoring among NFL kickers. Not too shabby for a dude who played only soccer in college at Notre Dame.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 29: Brandon Aubrey #17 of the Dallas Cowboys kicks in the second half of a game against the Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium on October 29, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Matchup game

When is the Jonathan Taylor breakout coming, if at all? We say this Sunday when the Indy RB faces New England in Germany. … Green Bay RB Aaron Jones had his busiest week in a while against the Rams, and he’ll be productive again vs. the Steelers. … Vikings RB Alexander Mattison will be doing nearly all of the running for the Vikings against the Saints. … D.J. Moore is returning to Carolina, so we expect a big game from the Bears’ receiver Thursday night. … We also see big things for Vegas WR Davante Adams against a Jets team that tried in vain to trade for him. … Chargers WR Keenan Allen looked great Monday night, and he could have a big game against the Lions. … While on the other side, Detroit QB Jared Goff can post some great stats against the still-not-fantastic Chargers defense.

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – NOVEMBER 05: Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers and teammates celebrate after a touchdown in the second quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on November 05, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Sitting stars

The Giants’ offense is such a mess that you probably can’t even start RB Saquon Barkley against the Cowboys. … Cleveland RB Jerome Ford has cooled off, and he could be icier against Baltimore. … Same goes for Atlanta rookie Bijan Robinson, who is losing more carries to teammate Tyler Allgeier. … The 49ers’ George Kittle runs hot-cold, and he might be a bit chilly this week against Jacksonville. … Browns-Ravens should be a tight AFC North defensive struggle, so both Lamar Jackson and especially Deshaun Watson will be kept in check. … Denver QB Russell Wilson will come back down to earth against Buffalo. … And even though we like Kyler Murray’s prospects long-term after his knee injury, we would never consider starting him sight unseen against Atlanta.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 05: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants is tackled by Nate Hobbs #39 and John Jenkins #95 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the second half of a game at Allegiant Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Injury watch

The big news regards quarterbacks: those returning (Bears’ Justin Fields, Cardinals’ Kyler Murray), those who won’t be (Giants’ Daniel Jones) and those who are on Week 10 byes (Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, Rams’ Matthew Stafford). Waiver activity for replacement QBs will be heated. … Vikings RB Cam Akers is done for the year after tearing his Achilles’ tendon. … Philly TE Dallas Goedart broke his forearm and will be sidelined for a while. .. . Cincinnati star wideout Ja’Marr Chase suffered a back injury Monday night and is a question mark for this week. … Others considered questionable include Lions RB David Montgomery, Houston RB Dameon Pierce, San Fran WR Deebo Samuel, Packers WR Christian Watson, Colts WR Josh Downs, Titans WR Treylon Burks and Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson.

CINCINNATI, OHIO – NOVEMBER 05: Ja’Marr Chase #1 of the Cincinnati Bengals fails to catch a pass against Dane Jackson #30 of the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter at Paycor Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Dean/Getty Images)

The deepest sleeper

This mega-bye week’s pool of talent is so shallow that our deepest sleeper is a dude who just ran for 138 yards. Ravens running back Keaton Mitchell got the first nine carries of his NFL career last week against Seattle, and he wound up averaging more than 15 yards per attempt, with one touchdown. While Baltimore coach John Harbaugh will likely keep his backfield committee approach intact, the rookie from East Carolina could easily start getting some of the goal-line opportunities that were being monopolized by Gus Edwards.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – NOVEMBER 05: Keaton Mitchell #34 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after a touchdown during the second half in the game against the Seattle Seahawks at M&T Bank Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

The Thursday pick

Panthers at Bears (-3½):
Pick: Bears by 7

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – OCTOBER 15: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears throws a pass against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on October 15, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Breaking news

We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to

You can hear Kevin Cusick on Wednesdays on Bob Sansevere’s “BS Show” podcast on iTunes. You can follow Kevin on Twitter — @theloopnow. He can be reached at

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