Analysts are frequently criticized for being too bullish on stocks, overestimating the long-term potential for many names, and employing far more bullish than bearish ratings.
Indeed, with stocks down over the past year, price targets have looked overly optimistic; more than 60 percent of stocks are trading below the median price target analysts had a year ago.
Yet some choice names are on the other side of the equation, far outperforming what the average analyst anticipated. And within the S&P 500, eight nondeal stocks stand out.
The name that has outperformed most dramatically is Electronic Arts, which has consistently beaten analysts' expectations, crushing earnings estimates in the past eight quarters. The company has generated huge sales for Madden NFL 16, and expectations for its coming Star Wars games are running high.
Perhaps a more striking name is semiconductor stock Skyworks; analysts foresaw just a 4 percent gain, but the stock has surged more than 50 percent in a year.
Analyst Alex Gauna of JMP Securities (who one year ago had a very bullish $75 target on the now-$88 stock) said there were several factors working in Skyworks' favor, including success of the LTE wireless communication for mobile phones in China.
"A limbo that analysts didn't see is what China would do," Gauna said in a Tuesday interview with CNBC. "It was something that was questionable a year ago."
Skyworks manufactures the integrated circuits that enable LTE for smartphones. With the global rollout of LTE service, Skyworks is now supplying a greater number of chips that are also more complex, Gauna said.
As the semiconductor company's largest customer, Apple also plays a large role in Skyworks performance. According to Gauna, the release of the iPhone 5s had underwhelmed the market and sales seemed to be flattening. When Apple released the iPhone 6, the success was a boost for Skyworks, as well.
Lastly, Gauna said Skyworks was able to increase efficiency in factories to an unprecedented level.
"Skyworks has proven they can keep pace with Apple and its very rigorous demand," Gauna said. "Because Skyworks factory loading was so high, they were able to achieve gross margin and operating margin leverage beyond what people were looking for and what they thought the market would even support."
When it comes to another outperformer, O'Reilly Automotive, Wedbush analyst Seth Basham of Wedbush Securities (who a year ago had a target of $140 on the $245 name) said the stock's unexpected rise can be attributed to industry strength, increasing miles driven and a benign competitive environment.
Basham also noted that a power shift from vendors to O'Reilly in payables leverage has helped with cash flow and share repurchases.
Ignored here are several stocks that have been boosted by deal news, which is often difficult for analysts to predict, and expectations of which generally do not often find their way into price targets.