Biggest Surprises of the 2019 NFL Season

Ryan Phillips
Ryan Tannehill plays for the Tennessee Titans against the Houston Texans
Ryan Tannehill plays for the Tennessee Titans against the Houston Texans / Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The 2019 NFL regular season was full of surprises. These were the biggest.

Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill was a revelation this season for the Titans. A castoff after six years with the Dolphins, he signed a one-year deal with Tennessee to back up Marcus Mariota. He replaced Mariota as the full-time starter on October 13 and never looked back.

In 12 games, Tannehill completed 201 of 286 passes (70.3 percent), for 2,741 yards, with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. He led the NFL in yards per attempt (9.6) and passer rating (117.5). In the 10 games he started, the Titans went 7-3, and he led them to a playoff berth.

The 2019 season represented quite a renaissance for Tannehill, who could never take his game to the next level in Miami. Now the 31-year-old is in line for a big contract this offseason.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers had a massive turnaround this season, from 4-12 in 2018 to 13-3, an NFC West title and the top seed in the conference in 2019. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh both deserve a ton of credit for San Francisco's incredible transformation.

The 49ers ranked fourth in offensive yards per game (381.1), second in rushing yards per game (144.1) and second in points per game (29.9). Defensively, the 49ers ranked second in yards allowed per game (281.8), first in passing yards allowed per game (169.2) and eighth in points allowed per game (19.4). The Baltimore Ravens and 49ers were clearly the best teams in the NFL this season.

The 49ers were expected to be improved this year with Jimmy Garoppolo back healthy and an improved defensive front, but no one expected them to dominate the NFC all year.

Lamar Jackson

I mean, obviously Lamar Jackson is on this list, he's the runaway favorite to win the MVP award. While some expected Jackson to work out in the NFL, very few -- if any -- experts thought he'd be this good.

Jackson was incredible in 2019. He completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 3,127 yards, averaged 7.8 yards per attempt, and had an NFL-best 36 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He ranked third in the league in passer rating (113.3) and first in QBR (81.7). He also ranked sixth in rushing yards (1,206), averaging an incredible 6.9 yards per rush, which was tops in the NFL.

In concert with Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Jackson improved dramatically in his second season. He went from completing 58.2 percent of his passes as a rookie, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt and 4.7 yards per rush, to dominating in 2019.

Jackson didn't just have a great individual season, he led the Ravens to a 14-2 record and the top seed in the AFC. He earned every bit of his almost certainly incoming MVP award.

Shaquil Barrett

Where they heck did this come from? In four seasons with the Denver Broncos, Barrett had 14 sacks. In his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he led the NFL with 19.5, and also forced six fumbles. How did this happen all of a sudden? What changed to suddenly make him one of the NFL's best edge rushers?

Barrett was undrafted out of Colorado State in 2014 but became a rotation player in Denver. The Buccaneers gave him a one-year deal this offseason and he's elevated himself to an All-Pro level in Tampa. Barrett is in contention to be named Defensive Player of the Year and is one of the best stories of the 2019 season.