In the NFL, TO is synonymous with Terrell Owens. His flamboyant, boisterous and callous characteristics make him hard to ignore. In the world of fantasy football, TO means something entirely different: Touchdown-Only leagues.
In this day and age, touchdown leagues are an ever-diminishing mode of play. Not only is their market share smaller because of the number of owners who favor performance leagues, but also due to the surfeit of fantasy games themselves. Despite those facts, there is a specific contingent of owners who remain steadfast to this tradition of scoring.
Touchdowns mean a lot in the NFL. It is well and good if a team can move the chains between the 20s, but if it consistently stalls in the red zone, failing to punch it in for six, there won’t be any realized success for that squad. The same goes for fantasy teams. It’s nice to have a player like Tiki Barber who can create a ton of yards, but because he hasn’t scored more than once this season he isn’t even worthy of his first-round fantasy draft status. While performance leagues better gauge the overall impact a player has on a pro or fantasy team, there is something to be said for the straightforwardness of touchdown-only leagues.
With this simplicity in mind, here is a look at some unanticipated touchdown makers. While the analysis is naturally skewed toward a touchdown-only audience, owners in any league can pay attention to the lessons learned to help discover such future producers.
Tony Romo (13 Touchdowns)
Even those who have been espousing Romo all season and expecting the team to make a switch to him sooner must admit it wasn’t likely that Romo would conjure up a five-touchdown game. That’s a feat that even the indomitable Roger Staubach never accomplished.
The Lesson: When you have more mobility than your statuesque predecessor, and can count two game-breaking receivers as your targets, the sky is the limit.
Couldn’t have predicted: That Romo would manage Owens so well, and bring Patrick Crayton into the mix.
Philip Rivers (15 touchdowns)
Philip Rivers was a virtual unknown until this season, despite an NCAA-record 51 career starts at North Carolina State and 13,484 career college passing yards, good for second all time.
The Lesson: Learning plays for a year or two before starting really makes a difference for most young quarterbacks. Also, it helps anyone to join an offense with two superstar players (Tomlinson and Gates) already present.
Couldn’t have predicted: That he would handle with such aplomb the expectations placed upon him due to the forced departure of Drew Brees.
Rex Grossman (18 touchdowns)
Grossman finally has his health, and the defense is dominant enough to consistently provide him healthy field position.
The Lesson: If a team keeps coming back to a guy even though he hasn’t really proven anything in three years, there might be something there.
Couldn’t have predicted: That Bernard Berrian and Desmond Clark would become such reliable targets.
Marion Barber (11 touchdowns)
Last week against the Buccaneers, Barber was given the majority of carries in the game, and also registered his obligatory trip (twice) to the end zone.
The Lesson: Pay attention when a player displays a nose for the end zone and doesn’t have durability issues.
Couldn’t have predicted: That he would take away the starting job from Julius Jones without an injury intervention.
Maurice Jones-Drew (8 touchdowns)
Jones-Drew is like the little engine that could – small in stature, but compact and with a terrific drive and sense of purpose.
The Lesson: Go with the hot hand. Owners could see Jones-Drew scoring early in the year, and he hasn’t stopped since.
Couldn’t have predicted: That he would even get enough carries to be fantasy relevant with Fred Taylor on the team.
Brandon Jacobs (8 touchdowns)
It is well publicized that Jacobs was third string at Auburn behind Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown for some time. If Barber does follow through on his retirement plans, Jacobs should perform as well or better than either of his college colleagues as a number one fantasy back next year.
The Lesson: Known vultures continue to carry on their scavenging ways.
Couldn’t have predicted: That he would be the only one to score rushing touchdowns, even though he was the designated goal line back.
Marques Colston (7 touchdowns)
Colston has been a super story for the Saints, and a major contributor to a team leading its division 12 weeks into the season. He has been consistent with or without Joe Horn in the lineup, and seems to be a steady force throughout a game.
The Lesson: Don’t discount other rookies because an anointed savior has joined the team.
Couldn’t have predicted: That before hurting his ankle, Colston would lead the league in receiving yards and tie for the league lead in touchdowns. He is the 2006 version of Anquan Boldin.
Kevan Barlow (6 touchdowns)
Whatever negative thing you wish to say about Barlow, he does score touchdowns.
The Lesson: A change of scenery and coaches can give any player the balls to score.
Couldn’t have predicted: That he would contribute enough. Curtis Martin was a constant vague threat, and both Leon Washington and Cedric Houston have had their moments this season.
Chris Henry (6 touchdowns)
It isn’t a coincidence that the Bengals have flourished on offense now that Henry is back in the lineup. He presents a third legitimate receiving threat.
The Lesson: Drunk as a skunk, in trouble with the law or not, Henry has the downfield speed and reliable hands to be a force in touchdown-only leagues.
Couldn’t have predicted: That so far this season Henry would have one fewer touchdown than Chad Johnson (who has been on a monumental hot streak) and as many as T.J. Houshmandzadeh in three and one fewer games, respectively.
Michael Jenkins (5 touchdowns)
To be quite honest, Jenkins has let at least one, and possibly a few touchdowns literally slip through his fingers. Hard to believe, but I have to agree with Vick on this one – at some point his receivers just have to catch the passes.
The Lesson: At some point, an Atlanta receiver was going to have to be productive with Vick.
Couldn’t have predicted: How were we to know that Jenkins would be a respectable target this year? Mediocre Falcons wideouts have come and gone for a few years now, and Roddy White was the one getting the big media play in the preseason.
Owen Daniels (5 touchdowns)
Daniels, a former quarterback, knows how to help his own QB by coming back from a route and getting open. His knowledge of another’s mindset is akin to Troy Brown of the Patriots knowing how to shut down slot routes as a part-time defensive back because he plays the slot as a receiver.
The Lesson: Take some chances on the waiver wire with unknowns.
Couldn’t have predicted: That this fourth-round draft pick would be tied for the team lead in touchdowns with Andre Johnson.
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.