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The Biggest Surprise Players From Each NFL Division

TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Shaquil Barrett #58 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts after a sack against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Everyone loves a surprise party, right? As television ratings can tell you, quite a decent amount of people like football. We combine the two here, as we take a look at the best individual performances the NFL has produced by division so far...

AFC East: RB Frank Gore, Buffalo
New England's monopoly on the division continues, but the Bills have placed themselves in a good position to potentially take over if and when Tom Brady moves on. The stage has partially set by the resurgent Gore. After a forgettable year in Miami, Gore was brought in primarily to serve as a mentor to potential new playmaker Devin Singletary. With the rookie injured most of the season, Gore has picked up the slack. His production (333 yards and two scores thus far on a 4.4 average) have taken some of the pressure off of developing passer Josh Allen.

NFC East: WR Terry McLaurin, Washington
The Redskins might not be able to duplicate the championship success of their fellow capital-dwellers (Mystics and Nationals), but they can take solace with what's looking like the steal of the 2019 draft. A third-round pick out of Ohio State, McLaurin leads all rookies with 408 yards on 23 receptions, five of which have gone for touchdowns. Making this start all the more impressive is the eternal quarterback controversy engaged in Landover, this one burying fellow Ohio State alum Dwayne Haskins.

AFC North: TE Mark Andrews, Baltimore
Lamar Jackson's sophomore renaissance has come with some help from a fellow second-year man. Oklahoma alum Andrews has already tied his tally of reception from all of last year (34), helping Jackson get comfortable in the cutthroat NFL. Among AFC tight end, Andrews' 21 first downs are second only to Kansas City icon Travis Kelce.

NFC North: S Tracy Walker, Detroit
Detroit sits in the familiar position of Northern cellar dwellers, but Walker's efforts have them in a decent position at 2-2-1. Last season's third-round pick, Walker leads the team with 43 tackles and four pass defenses. He's also shown an interesting ability to disrupt action in the backfield, ranking second on the team and first in the secondary with three tackles for a loss.

AFC South: QB Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis
In hindsight, perhaps the Colts' literally (Andrew) Luckless start wasn't the death blow many envisioned it to be. Brissett is among the biggest reasons the panic has subsided. He was miles better than the last time he had to handle a full season's slate in 2017, but there was still apprehension in trusting a quarterback with a career 81.6 rating and a 5-12 record as a starter. The former Patriot has responded well, though, taking advantage of a revamped offensive line, proving himself to be a consistent dual threat. Upon the departure of one franchise quarterback, the Colts could very well have "lucked" into another, even if he'll never reach the same heights as the man who came before.

NFC South: LB Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay
Barrett is only six games into his Tampa Bay career, but his name already appears in several chapters of the Buccaneers' record book. He officially announced his presence with a four-sack, two-forced fumble game against the New York Giants. Barrett's league-high nine sacks were also the most in NFL history through four games. This is quite the step up for Barrett, originally an undrafted free agent of Denver's in 2014-- his prior career-high was 5.5 sacks picked up in 2015.

AFC West: TE Darren Waller, Oakland
With the uncertainty of the Patrick Mahomes injury marring more Kansas City magic, the Raiders (3-2) are in good positon to take advantage if the Chiefs falter. Part of the reason has been the emergence of Waller. The fourth-year man and former sixth-round selection never earned over 100 yards in his NFL career, but he wound breaking that streak in a single game with 134 in a loss to Minnesota in Week 3. At 359 yards thus far, Waller ranks sixth among tight ends in yardage, as well as third in receptions (37). Waller is also second among his positional group with 211 yards after the catch, good for No. 12 overall in the league.

NFC West: CB Richard Sherman, San Francisco
After a tough go at it in 2018, it appeared Sherman's personal brand of boom was silenced. He failed to intercept a pass the whole season for the first time in his career, and career-lows (in healthy seasons) also awaited him in tackles and pass defenses. The nadir probably came when Sherman was ejected from a Week 16 game for throwing punches at opposing Chicago Bears players. This season, however, Sherman has been a big reason for the Niners' current perfection. Typical Sherman swagger and antics have guided San Francisco to a 5-0 mark, and Sherman has been the headliner of a fearsome defense. He has thus far added 19 tackles and two interceptions, one that commenced a 31-3 prime time win over Cleveland.