Touchdown vultures earn the scorn of fantasy football owners everywhere, but watching Mike Tolbert steal goal line scores will draw less fury if he plays for your squad.
Drafters despise seeing their player’s hard work amount to nothing when one of these vipers swoops in to deliver a one-yard touchdown set up by the primary running back breaking off a 50-yard carry. As more teams implement systems with multiple running backs, this phenomenon will not disappear, so owners might as well embrace these touchdown machines.
While drafters should not ignore runners who amass yards without scores, handcuffing them with vultures who embezzle the end zone trips can pay off in some leagues.
Ryan Matthews owners can rest easy now. Those relying on any Carolina Panthers’ rushers may have some long nights ahead of them, though.
Tolbert joins DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in an already crowded backfield. All those running backs means Tolbert will receive less carries, but the 243-pound runner should still be a goal-line menace in 2012.
The Panther most hurt by Tolbert’s arrival is Cam Newton, who tallied 14 rushing touchdowns during his rookie season. Instead of letting their franchise’s star talent handle the goal-line attempts, the Panthers should let Tolbert bruise his way through defensive lines for some short touchdowns.
Tolbert’s draft stock took a hit when he joined Carolina, but any running back with 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons is worth a look.
At this time last year, LeGarrette Blount entered drafts as one of the league’s most intriguing running backs. His inclusion on this list certainly signifies a downfall, but don’t give up on him just yet.
Blount, whose average yards per carry dropped from 5.0 in 2010 to 4.2 in 2011, produced a disappointing 781 yards and five touchdowns last season. The 25-year-old’s lackluster performance caused the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to draft Doug Martin in the first round to start at running back.
Martin will seize the bulk of the carries in Tampa, but Blount is not going to be completely cast out of the backfield. As Martin takes over Blount’s spot as the trendy breakout choice, the 247-pound back could emerge as an end zone fiend.
While Blount must resolve his fumbling issues and outperform Martin in short-yardage situations, he is worth a late round gamble now that all the hype has vanished.
Brandon Jacobs can often be a maddening player to follow, but the mammoth running back usually finds the end zone with regularity.
For a 6’4”, 264-pound rusher, Jacobs ran side-to-side too much last season, and as a result, he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. He has, however, averaged 5.0 yards per carry or higher in three of the past five seasons, and he still scored eight touchdowns last year.
Jacobs signed with the San Francisco 49ers to join an array of backs added to keep Frank Gore fresh. While Jacobs will likely receive fewer touches, the limited attempts will aid his bruising style and allow him to inflict more damage when he gets the ball.
During his seven-year career, Gore has only reached double digits in rushing touchdowns once, so Jacobs won’t be the first guy to vulture some of Gore’s scores.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis racked up touchdowns during his last two years with the New England Patriots, so his exit creates an opening for the team to fill.
After scooping up 13 touchdowns during 2010 and 11 scores last season, Green-Ellis will now manage the bulk of the Cincinnati Bengals’ rushing attack while New England mixes and matches in their backfield.
Joseph Addai will transition from teaming up with Peyton Manning for years in Indianapolis to pairing with another legendary quarterback in Tom Brady. The veteran signed with New England to complement scat-back Danny Woodhead and youngsters Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
Although Addai hardly impressed with 3.7 yards per carry last season, Green-Ellis averaged the same amount in 2011 and still tallied 11 touchdowns. With all the defense’s attention devoted to stopping New England’s potent passing attack, Addai could sneak into the end zone quite a bit this season.
Don’t blame the Madden Curse; Peyton simply just could not duplicate an inexplicable breakout year.
Hillis fell catastrophically from 1,654 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010 to 717 yards and three scores last season. Maybe such a steep fall was unexpected, but is it any less believable than emerging out of nowhere to become one of the league’s top running backs?
Now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Hillis no longer needs to carry the load. With Jamaal Charles returning from a torn ACL, Hillis will complement the dynamic rusher in short yardage situations. Even when Charles played at full strength, the Chiefs mixed up their backfield with veteran Thomas Jones, who earned six touchdowns playing with Charles in 2010.
The pressure is off Hillis to perform as a top rusher, so the 250-pound back could thrive in less carries while excelling near the goal line.
Okay Matt Forte owners, do you want the good news or bad news first?
Let’s start with the good news. Marion Barber retired, so the renowned vulture is no longer lingering on the sidelines waiting to poach Forte’s touchdown opportunities.
Now the bad news: The Chicago Bears signed Michael Bush to fill Barber’s role as a short-yardage back.
As Darren McFadden constantly struggled to stay on the field in Oakland, Bush amassed eight scores in each of the past two seasons. The 28-year-old has averaged 4.2 yards per carry during his career and should see his fair share of chances in Chicago.
Forte accounted for most of the Bears’ offense last season, but he only finished with four touchdowns in 12 games. He should visit the end zone a few more times, but Bush will resume Barber’s role in frustrating anyone who drafts Forte.
McFadden staying healthy during a full season is a risky proposition, so somebody needs to replace Bush.
The Oakland Raiders signed Mike Goodson in hopes of him shadowing McFadden. Before suffering a hamstring injury that hampered his 2011 season, Goodson showed promise in 2010, accumulating 762 total yards while earning 4.4 yards per carry.
According to Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee, Goodson said his hamstring is no longer a concern. If healthy, Goodson should benefit from McFadden's fragility and see plenty of handoffs his way as Oakland's No. 2 back.
If Cedric Benson joins Oakland, which could happen according to NFL.com's Marc Sessler, Goodson's fantasy value falls down the drain. For now, consider Goodson an interesting gamble as a late-round selection.
Listing a player with two rushing touchdowns in two seasons as a vulture may seem outlandish, but Toby Gerhart should spike that total this year.
Gerhart progressed during his sophomore campaign, tallying 531 yards on 4.9 yards per carry. Taking advantage of playing time afforded to him with Adrian Peterson sidelined, Gerhart netted 369 yards in the season’s final five games.
Although Peterson is expected to recover from knee surgery in time for the opening week, he may not return at full strength. ESPN’s Tom Pelissero wrote that Peterson might not be ready for a full slate of touches immediately, and Gerhart gained some muscle in the offseason in preparation of receiving a heavier workload.
Expect the Minnesota Vikings to protect their franchise player, which will provide Gerhart with more opportunities to find the end zone. Gerhart could steal some touchdowns as Minnesota handles Peterson with kid gloves, and he could flourish in a much bigger way if Peterson cannot stay healthy.
Faced with sky-high expectations leading up to his rookie season, Mark Ingram failed to meet the lofty hype.
Many drafters anticipated Ingram to immediately produce like an elite runner the moment his career began. He only rushed for 474 yards on 122 carries, scoring five touchdowns in 10 games.
For his first crack at the pros, Ingram did not play all that bad. His 3.9 yards per carry does not quite inspire drafters, but Emmitt Smith, who Ingram drew frequent comparisons to during last year's draft coverage, averaged the same amount during his inaugural season.
Landing on the New Orleans Saints hurt Ingram, who will never approach 300 carries in a pass-first offense that implements multiple running backs. He could, however, emerge as their primary red-zone back since Darren Sproles is not a threat down in the trenches.
If Ingram can notch a full season under his belt, he could achieve double-digit touchdowns.
Sorry, but there is no escaping Tim Tebow.
Although the polarizing quarterback does not hold a starting job, he could see the field when the New York Jets reach the red zone. Unless Mark Sanchez falters, Tebow will essentially serve as a goal-line runner who the Jets implement in an occasional gadget play.
Tebow notched six rushing scores in each of the past two seasons and tallied 660 rushing yards last year. In most leagues, his touchdown potential will not make him a worthwhile option, but he could make an interesting bye week play in two-quarterback leagues.
Shonn Green still has not proved himself as a stud rusher, and New York lost their premier red-zone target in Plaxico Burress, so Tebow could pile up several touchdowns.
And if Tebow captures the starting job, the brawny quarterback warrants consideration in the right matchup.