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End-Zone Kings
The difference-maker in fantasy football is touchdowns scored
By Joe Levit
November 6, 2003
 

Every fantasy football owner tries each year to draft the guys who will gain a ton of yards and score many points. It is easier to determine who will get the yards, rather than who will get to celebrate in the end zone a lot. As we will illustrate with running backs, the fantasy rankings of players fluctuate with receiving yards, but particularly touchdowns, added to the mix.

Look below at the top 20 running backs in terms of rushing yards so far this season:

Player Rushing Yards
Jamal Lewis 1045
Stephen Davis 992
Ahman Green 871
Deuce McAllister 871
Clinton Portis 793
LaDainian Tomlinson 780
Priest Holmes 770
Tiki Barber 687
Ricky Williams 660
Shaun Alexander 631
Garrison Hearst 595
Fred Taylor 583
Curtis Martin 580
Moe Williams 571
William Green 559
Travis Henry 551
Troy Hambrick 544
Michael Pittman 513
Anthony Thomas 508
Domanick Davis 483

This first list would seem to indicate that you should get fantasy backs in the descending order, based on one fantasy point for every ten yards rushing. Using only this data, which is what a lot of fantasy owners do during the season, Jamal Lewis is worth nearly two Travis Henrys. That is out of place, as we shall see when we add more information. This next graph has the rushing and receiving yards of each player after nine weeks:

Player Rushing Yards Receiving Yards Fantasy Points
Jamal Lewis 1045 106 115.1
Stephen Davis 992 78 107
Ahman Green 871 281 115.2
Deuce McAllister 871 220 109.1
Clinton Portis 793 236 102.9
LaDainian Tomlinson 780 281 106.1
Priest Holmes 770 333 110.3
Tiki Barber 687 233 92
Ricky Williams 660 171 83.1
Shaun Alexander 631 186 81.7
Garrison Hearst 595 186 78.1
Fred Taylor 583 291 87.4
Curtis Martin 580 85 66.5
Moe Williams 571 230 80.1
William Green 559 50 60.9
Travis Henry 551 101 65.2
Troy Hambrick 544 70 61.4
Michael Pittman 513 317 83
Anthony Thomas 508 8 51.6
Domanick Davis 483 228 71.1

After receiving yards are entered, the picture changes, but still is skewed from reality. At this point, Michael Pittman is worth just as much as Ricky Williams, and Fred Taylor is worth more than Williams. Ahman Green now beats out Jamal Lewis for the top spot, by .1 fantasy points. Let us add in the total touchdowns of these players to see where the true value lies through nine NFL weekends.

Player Rushing Yards Receiving Yards Total TD's Fantasy Points
Jamal Lewis 1045 106 6 151.1
Stephen Davis 992 78 5 137
Ahman Green 871 281 11 181.2
Deuce McAllister 871 220 4 133.1
Clinton Portis 793 236 5 132.9
LaDainian Tomlinson 780 281 5 143.1
Priest Holmes 770 333 12 182.3
Tiki Barber 687 233 2 105.9
Ricky Williams 660 171 6 119.5
Shaun Alexander 631 186 8 129.7
Garrison Hearst 595 186 4 102.1
Fred Taylor 583 291 3 105.4
Curtis Martin 580 85 0 66.5
Moe Williams 571 230 4 104.1
William Green 559 50 1 66.9
Travis Henry 551 101 9 118.9
Troy Hambrick 544 70 5 91.4
Michael Pittman 513 317 2 95
Anthony Thomas 508 8 3 69.6
Domanick Davis 483 228 2 83.4

Travis Henry is now worth more than 2/3 of Jamal Lewis. Shaun Alexander is worth well more than Ricky Williams, and just below both Deuce McAllister and Clinton Portis. Both Ahman Green and Priest Holmes put Jamal Lewis in the dust and Priest Holmes barely edges Ahman Green as the top fantasy back, which isn't surprising considering he was the top fantasy back last season as well.

If we reorganize by fantasy points, the new table looks like this:

Player Fantasy Points
Priest Holmes 182.3
Ahman Green 181.2
Jamal Lewis 151.1
LaDainian Tomlinson 143.1
Stephen Davis 137
Deuce McAllister 133.1
Clinton Portis 132.9
Shaun Alexander 129.7
Ricky Williams 119.5
Travis Henry 118.9
Tiki Barber 105.9
Fred Taylor 105.4
Moe Williams 104.1
Garrison Hearst 102.1
Michael Pittman 95
Troy Hambrick 91.4
Charlie Garner 85.2
Domanick Davis 83.4
Eddie George 69.8
Anthony Thomas 69.6

LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander have moved up two spots each, from sixth to fourth and tenth to eight, respectively. Travis Henry went from sixteenth to tenth, and Priest Holmes went from seventh to first.

Because of their low touchdown totals, Curtis Martin (0) and William Green (1) are actually kicked off the top 20 list. In their place are Charlie Garner and Eddie George, thanks to three touchdowns apiece. It is clear that touchdowns make a monumental difference in fantasy football, and owning the guys who cross the stripe will help you cross into your league playoffs.

The difference is even more marked in quarterbacks and receivers, where rushing yards for receivers don't amount to much and rushing touchdowns for quarterbacks mean extra fantasy points. This is what makes Santana Moss, Ike Hilliard and Chris Chambers so valuable so far this year, and places Jeff Garcia, Steve McNair, Daunte Culpepper and even Marc Bulger higher than they would be without the keeps near the goal line.

Joe Levit, based in Boston, writes for www.cnnsi.com and www.thehuddle.com. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a devoted Detroit Lions fan. He can be contacted at lavishjetpoet@aol.com.