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All Caught Up
Joe Levit
September 19, 2007

The main maxim in fantasy football has always been to draft running backs early and often. Many owners grab two running backs with their first two picks in a draft, and a few even make it a habit to draft three runners before attempting to fill any other position. That logic bears success most of the time. But this season may mark the beginning of something different.

Those running back tandems that were to be all the rage this year have either been ineffective (Taylor/Jones-Drew, Bush/McAllister) or cast aside (Peterson/Taylor).
Defenses are seeing more max protect schemes as offenses decide to get more of their yards through the air.

Some solo running back stars have posted a sorry start to the season. Larry Johnson has produced a pathetic 98 yards rushing with no touchdowns. Steven Jackson has not fared much better. He has posted a sad 118 yards rushing with no scores. Even the consensus number one fantasy pick – Chargers tailback LaDainian Tomlinson – has not been exempt. Tomlinson has faced two admittedly tough defenses, against Chicago and at New England. Still, his grand total of 68 yards rushing and one score (he also passed for a touchdown) is certainly not what owners who selected him first overall were expecting out of the gate this season. 

The beneficiary of this backfield drought has been the wide receivers. The dawn of the big pass play or big reception day as the meat and potatoes of teams’ repertoire is upon us.

Nine wide receivers have over 200 receiving yards. In contrast, only six running backs have so far surpassed 200 yards rushing. Of those, two have been because of aberrant games. Chris Brown rang up a stunning 175 yards on the Jacksonville Jaguars in a wacky week one, and Jamal Lewis turned back time by clocking the Cincinnati defense with a wacky 216 yards in week two.

In contrast, the top receivers have mostly been a model of consistency. Here are those nine receivers over the first two games:

Wide Receiver Week 1 Yards Week 2 Yards Total
Chad Johnson 95 209 304
Randy Moss 183 105 288
Steve Smith 118 153 271
Andre Johnson 142 120 262
Jerricho Cotchery 57 165 222
Javon Walker 119 101 220
Joey Galloway 72 135 207
Antwaan Randle El 162 44 206
Chris Chambers 92 109 201

But far more impressive than the astronomical yardage put up by the receivers is their end zone dominance. Receivers this season are by far exceeding expectations and running back prowess as far as touchdowns are concerned. Of the 27 NFL players who have more than one touchdown so far this season, 16 are wideouts. That number jumps to 19 if you include tight ends. More astonishing still is that of the nine players with three or more touchdowns this year, seven of them are receivers. Here is the list of every player with two or more scores:

Player Touchdowns
Plaxico Burress 4
Steve Smith 4
Marion Barber 3
Frank Gore 3
T.J. Houshmandzadeh 3
Chad Johnson 3
Andre Johnson 3
Randy Moss 3
Terrell Owens 3
Joseph Addai 2
Shaun Alexander 2
Drew Carter 2
Laveranues Coles 2
Braylon Edwards 2
Joey Galloway 2
Antonio Gates 2
Torry Holt 2
Edgerrin James 2
Calvin Johnson 2
Joe Jurevicius 2
Clinton Portis 2
Matt Spaeth 2
Benjamin Watson 2
Reggie Wayne 2
Roy Williams 2
Cadillac Williams 2
DeShawn Wynn 2

With new passing hope from teams like the Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns to go with heavy passing attacks in Detroit, New England, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, don’t expect the year of the fantasy wide receiver to dwindle any time soon.

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