These days, the more versatile a fantasy player is, the better. Men who can score points for owners in multiple ways are often more valuable than their peers, even over those men who may be better at the skills standard for the position. This principle makes itself evident among running backs. Now that point-per-reception leagues are a typical feature in fantasy football, it is more important than ever to grab running backs that get receptions. That feature makes a player like the Lions’ Kevin Jones a strong fantasy start this season, helps Tiki Barber retain top-end value despite the fact that he has yet to score a touchdown, and keeps underachieving players like Ronnie Brown from being utterly disappointing.
Where these extra dimensions are even more impressive is where they are unexpected. Two players best exemplify this element of surprise right now in the NFL. Let’s take a look at this decidedly exciting duo, and then briefly discuss two younger players who may be able to play the same game in the near future.
This year, fantasy owners overlooked star player LaDainian Tomlinson in their drafts. Hard to believe, I know, since he was one of the three guys considered for the top overall pick in most fantasy leagues. But, in many leagues he was the third player taken after Larry Johnson and Shaun Alexander. Of course at the time that looked like a reasonable decision. After all, Alexander was just coming off a record-breaking campaign, during which he posted the most touchdowns in a season ever – 28 – and Johnson was racking up 100+ yard, two-touchdown games at will.
But at the moment it is clear that LT is numero uno. He has a league-leading eight touchdowns this year, over halfway toward logging his fifth straight season of 15+ touchdowns. Shaun Alexander logged five such seasons simultaneously heading into this season, but his streak is likely to come to an end this year because of his injury. He currently sits at two scores.
Tomlinson’s secret fantasy power, however, is his arm. Just last week he threw a short touchdown pass against the Kansas City Chiefs. The year before, he threw for three touchdowns. His four career aerial strikes already have him in HOF company.
In fact, Tomlinson became just the third player in league history to log at least 70 rushing touchdowns, five touchdown receptions and four touch down passes. The other two players are Walter Payton and Marcus Allen. In fact, Allen in his career passed for six scores.
Though this three or four-point play once or twice a year may seem just a passing fancy, it isn’t. That ability allows Tomlinson those few extra touches a game he needs to make something spectacular happen.
Every year, fantasy owners overlook Michael Vick as a fantasy quarterback. This is because he typically throws so few touchdowns. That truth is partly a product of his style of play, and partly attributable to his sub-par receiving corps. For the last few years, we have kept hearing about how This was the year that Vick would have viable wide receiving targets downfield. But Peerless Price, Dez White, etc. have come and gone, and still the receivers are mediocre at best.
Michael Jenkins recently dropped a long bomb that no quarterback could have delivered any better than Vick did, and that was after he faked out a defender to get the pass off. Roddy White is nowhere to be found. Last week Vick happened to have a career day. Though he passed for four scores, three of them went to standby blankie Alge Crumpler. The thing that separates Vick from other quarterbacks, and thus from any other player, is his ability to run with the ball. It makes him a valuable fantasy commodity, at the quarterback position.
Currently Vick is rated 30th in passing yards in the league. His 908 yards find him behind such “luminaries” as J.P Losman and Damon Huard, and even behind both Joey Harrington and Daunte Culpepper of the Dolphins.
However, Vick is also 19th in rushing yards in the league this year, comfortably ahead of Edgerrin James, Thomas Jones, Clinton Portis, Cadillac Williams, Jamal Lewis and Ahman Green.
So, after knowing about Tomlinson and Vick, which other players in the NFL might you target special production for your lineup? Two extraordinary rookies may hold keys to this extra dimension. Vince Young and Reggie Bush are exceptions to many rules.
Though off to slow starts this year, both Young and Bush have the long-term potential to be great. Bush, who has had to defer the majority of the reps at tailback to Deuce McAllister, is a multipurpose fantasy machine. He has 38 receptions this year, tied for seventh in the league. and outstanding in points-per-reception leagues. He also can contribute on special teams. Against Tampa Bay this year, Bush won the game on a punt return for a touchdown.
Vince Young has been able to accomplish some remarkable feats on football fields. He will be an erratic player all of this year, but has the running ability to gain yardage when necessary.
Joe Levit provides fantasy football presentations for corporate outings or client appreciation events. Go to www.FantasyFootballSpeaker.com and find out what this service is all about. Joe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.