With most fantasy football leagues in the throes of pitched playoff battles this week, I want to take a moment to spotlight something other than strategy. What NFL superstar LaDainian Tomlinson is doing on the gridiron this season is just plain sick. His brilliance, which I’ll speak about below, compels me to discuss once again a long-standing and ensconced schism in fantasy football – Serpentine versus auction drafting.
We all know how this plays out. For years a minority of fantasy commissioners, website owners and magazine editors have been espousing the superiority of auction drafting, while a preponderance of owners have been sticking to their serpent ways. Not too many owners seem able to sit the fence on this issue, but I’d urge you to play the field if you haven’t tried both options. You can be in more than one league.
If you only play in auction leagues, you should try a serpentine draft. It sharpens your overall fantasy skill set. Still, my focus this week is to trumpet the main attraction of an auction draft – full accountability. That feature forces the full shame of defeat when you lose, but it also means you get all the glory of victory. After all, you put that team together yourself. If you don’t want to give up serpentine drafting that’s fine, but do yourself a future favor and at least try an auction draft next year. Why? Because you are afforded the opportunity to take any player you want. Just not every player you want.
And who among you wouldn’t mind that chance about now? I mean, am I the only guy who wishes I had the chance to cough up some faux cash so Tomlinson could anchor my championship team?
Let me illustrate this for you with a personal anecdote. This year I tanked in the SI.com experts league. Before the season, I drew the fourth pick in the draft, widely recognized as the worst spot in the first round of serpentine drafts this season. The reason of course was that after the “Big 3” of 2006 (Larry Johnson, Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander in no particular order) the perceived drop-off in value to the next tier of players was enormous.
I was forced to take a lesser player, and ended up settling for Tiki Barber, who I didn’t particularly like. Now, while everyone knew Barber had his career year last year, no one could have predicted that he would completely implode this season – giving up the goal line to Brandon Jacobs full time. And I will admit that had I been bestowed the top pick in the draft I likely would have selected Alexander, not Tomlinson. That is because up until this season Alexander had been as dependable a fantasy force as you could possibly want. I’m not laying this all at the feet of Barber. Larry Fitzgerald’s lost season helped me get lost in the shuffle.
Still, this situation stinks. The fact is that owners subjected to a serpentine draft do not have control of their fate, and cannot chart their own course. At best, owners can deftly maneuver through the rounds of a draft, hoping that the players no one before them wanted live up to the statistics expected of them based on the round in which they are drafted.
How important has the option been for those in auction leagues who did draft Tomlinson? Huge. Let’s now take a moment to truly appreciate what he is accomplishing.
As everyone knows by now, Tomlinson just last weekend set the all-time NFL single-season touchdown record when he scored three times as San Diego demolished the Denver Broncos. His 29 touchdowns on the year surpassed Shaun Alexander, who had his own tremendous touchdown trounce through the league last year en route to a then-record 28 scores. The current 29 scores represent a nearly 100% better total than the next-best guy right now, who is Larry Johnson with 15 touchdowns.
Tomlinson has accomplished this feat in only 13 games. He has three more games to pad his record. The total does not even include the two touchdown passes he has thrown this year, giving him six passing scores for his career. Those six scores tie him with Marcus Allen, Keith Byars and Greg Pruitt for second all-time by a non-quarterback behind the immortal Walter Payton, who registered eight career touchdown passes.
His recent touchdown pace has been extraordinary. He has scored at least two times in the last seven games he has played, tying former Redskins ruffian John Riggins, who first pulled off the feat in 1983. In those last seven games, he has scored 21 times, or an average of three trips to the end zone per game!
Those points have added up in a hurry. They place Tomlinson far and away at the top of the total points category this year. Tomlinson, with 174 points, is 62 points ahead of his nearest competitor, Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould. That is unheard-of. Normally, a kicker leads the league in points scored. Here is a look at the points-scored leader the last three years, and the player in second place:
||Jeff Wilkins - PK, STL
||Priest Holmes - RB, KC
||Adam Vinatieri - PK, NE
||Shaun Alexander - RB, SEA
||Shaun Alexander - RB, SEA
||Jay Feely - PK, NYG
When Priest Holmes took the title of most touchdowns scored in a season away from Marshall Faulk in 2003, Jeff Wilkins still outscored him by a point. Alexander did come out on top last year, but only by 20 points.
Even more impressive, the points put Tomlinson on the cusp of breaking a truly hallowed record in the NFL, one that has remained impregnable for 46 years. In 1960, Paul Hornung, a pro icon who remains one of football’s most revered players, tallied 176 total points for the Packers when he scored 15 touchdowns, kicked 15 field goals and knocked in 41 extra points. Only two points behind Hornung now, Tomlinson will charge far beyond the former Green Bay great.
Beyond the points, Tomlinson is only five yards rushing behind the current league leader, which is once again Larry Johnson, who tops everyone at the moment with 1,432 yards. In his career, San Diego’s luminary tailback has joined former great Eric Dickerson as the only men who have ever rushed for over 1,200 yards in each of their first six seasons. Simply put, the guy is electric.
This has undoubtedly been the year to own Tomlinson in your league. His jaw-dropping production seems unfair to those who never had the chance to draft him. If you now can fully appreciate how much more valuable the game’s few top fantasy players are than other players at the same position, perhaps you will consider giving an auction league a try, making your league fair from the start.
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.