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Red Rover Sent Over
Joe Levit
December 22, 2004

Priest Holmes started out this season on pace (14 scores in 8.5 games) to top his own tough record for touchdowns in a single season, the 27 he scored for Kansas City in 2003 as the team logged a 13-3record. For fantasy fans, Holmes has appeared to be a Superman in recent seasons, and although he does have a will of steel, it isn’t his powers alone that should be credited for the record, or his success. His line has been one of the best in the business, and perhaps one of the best ever, for a few years now.

Since perennial Pro Bowl lineman Willie Roaf came over from the Saints to man the left tackle spot for the Chiefs in 2002, the Kansas City offensive line has been terrific. He and perpetual Pro Bowl talent Will Shields, who anchors the other side of the line at RG, are two keystones to a horizontal arch on the field which forms a punishing pocket, moving piles of guys backward and creating lanes for backs to burst through.

The Denver Broncos, and Mike Shanahan in particular, keep getting mentioned for their uncanny ability to throw new running backs into the lineup and make stars out of them. While that praise is deserved, the Chiefs are clearly just as capable of bestowing instant fantasy stud status to any running back who suits up to start for them with this group of guys along the line. Even this year, when they lost RT John Tait in free agency to the Chicago Bears, the Chiefs have been outstanding as a unit.

Witness the monster game in week eight against the then-highly-touted Atlanta Falcons rush defense. Priest Holmes had four touchdowns by halftime and finished with 139 yards rushing for a 6.3-yard average. In the same contest, backup Derrick Blaylock also had four rushing touchdowns, with 4.7 yards per carry on 19 attempts. Both backs were highly effective.

Kansas City Rushing
Priest Holmes 22 139 6.3 16 4
Derrick Blaylock 19 90 4.7 16 4
Tony Richardson 6 29 4.8 8 0
Dante Hall 2 13 6.5 12 0
Team 49 271 5.5 32 8

After Holmes got hurt in the ninth game this season, Blaylock came out and put up 186 yards and a touchdown against New Orleans in week 10. Following a slow week-11 tilt versus the versatile New England defense he scored twice more with a 7.1 yard-per-carry average against San Diego in week 12.

When Derrick Blaylock strained his neck early in the second quarter a week later against Oakland, the team’s third-string back – 2003 number one draft pick Larry Johnson – got to show what he could do. He finished that game with 118 yards rushing and two touchdowns. That was a tremendous lift for the team, and for Johnson. He was ridiculed earlier in this year by his own coach, and was beginning to be considered a bust in the making despite the fact that he had never been given the game-time opportunity to prove his worth. Well, he has been a beacon of light for the Chiefs lately, in a year that has been hugely disappointing.

The last two weeks have seen Johnson top 100 yards, with two touchdowns in each game. The Chiefs have only six wins this year, but after Johnson’s recent performances it is clear that they have a player to receive the rushing torch once Priest passes it on, which could be almost any time for a back who is 31 years old and logged seasons of 327, 313, and 320 carries in 2001-2003 before this year, when he was on pace for even more with 196 in almost nine games.

What is also becomes apparent is that whoever dons the arrowhead helmet as the starting running back for the team behind this line is a legitimate fantasy threat. Start KC backs with abandon, and reap the rewards.