OF VULTURES AND ANCIENT MEN
Why there is value in little-used backs and old wideouts.
The endzone is his vapid carcass.
Last weekend saw the emergence of my favorite two groups of NFL players: the Touchdown Vultures, as evidenced by Tim Hightower's two-TD game, and the Ancient Wideouts, highlighted by Isaac Bruce breaching the end zone twice. These are my favorite types because, more often than not, they're either still available on the waiver wire or easy to obtain in trades. And while this is because the vultures don't get enough carries, and the ancients are about to collect Social Security—if it still exists after this week!—they still both have value.
With that in mind, let's do some hardcore judging, first-to-worst!
Tim Hightower, Cardinals
Hightower gets the top spot because (a) he's the only backup to a quickly aging Edgerrin James; and (b) he shares a last name with that dude from Police Academy. Oh and hey, he's tied for second place in the NFL with 5 TDs, despite getting only 36 carries. But since there's really no way he's still available in your league, let's move on.
Hightower was also nominated for, presumably, dozens of Oscars for this role.
Michael Pittman, Broncos
While Mike Shanahan's Hollywood Golden Era Producer-esque plan of picking one running back, exploiting him for all he's worth, and then dumping his used body on the scrap heap is seemingly over, that doesn't mean you can't find a worthwhile back in the Mile High city. Pittman has received the least amount of carries of the running back triumvirate (29, compared to Selvin Young's 47 and Andre Hall's 32), but he's getting the most important ones: goal line carries. And with an offense like that, there'll be plenty of those.
LenDale White, Titans
While it's disheartening for White owners that the presumed two-headed beast in Tennessee has turned into a Chris Johnson-dominated attack—something that isn't going to change if White keeps on getting only 2.6 yards a carry versus Johnson's 4.5—they can take solace in the fact that at least LenDale is getting business at the goal line. He scores once per game, on average. But if Johnson keeps playing like he has been, that could change. For the worse.
T.J. Duckett, Seahawks
What Duckett has done in his career is well-documented, and this year's no different: He has 3 TDs in only 25 carries. Essentially, he's this generation's Mike Alstott, but without the blocking assignments or awesome neck brace. By which to say, there's no point in going on about his virtues as a Vulture, but I'd be seen as ignorant if I didn't include him on the list.
Jason McKie, Bears
The only fullback on the list, this one I'm throwing out just because I've analyzed every Bears game this year and noticed how much they enjoy running the old Fullback Dive on short yardage situations. While he's not necessarily a game-changer, McKie does already have 2 rushing TDs, the same amount as rookie star Matt Forte.
Isaac Bruce, 49ers, 35 years old
I'm going out on a limb here saying that Bruce finishes the year as the Best of the Geezers, but he's been getting a decent amount of looks so far this year; 34 targets in 4 games is nothing to sneeze at. But what will help him most is (a) his knowledge of the complex Martzian offensive system; and (b) the fact that, for some reason, Bryant Johnson refuses to accept the responsibility that comes with being a number one option. Plus, it's always fun to hear announcers explain to the audience that they're not really booing him.
Donald Driver, Packers, 33 years old
Driver hasn't shown any signs of slowing down this year. Unfortunately, Aaron Rodgers hasn't noticed because he's been too busy oogling Greg Jennings; Driver has only 33 targets this year, as opposed to Jennings' 45. While there's not much of a reason to expect things to change, defenses will have to catch on to Rodgers' tunnel vision at some point this year, forcing him to look in Driver's direction. Unless, of course, he truly does become Favre-like and just start heaving it up into triple coverage.
Muhsin Muhammad, Panthers, 35 years old
It's tough not to be surprised by the numbers Muhsin has put up so far (25 catches, 358 yards, 2 TDs), but if you're looking forward, you have to expect that production to take a hit. He's been targeted 41 times in 5 games, but 21 of those came during weeks 1 and 2, when Jake Delhomme's bestest friend in the whole wide world Steve Smith was suspended for encouraging his teammate a little too enthusiastically, by which I mean, punching him in the face and breaking his jaw. And while D.J. Hackett has been pretty gimpy all year, you can bet that the Panthers didn't pay him all of that money to not throw him the ball.
Amani Toomer, Giants, 34 years old
With a dismal 12.2 yards-per-catch this year and the monolithic Plaxico Burress lined up across from him, there isn't a reason to expect much production from Toomer. (Unless Plax keeps getting himself suspended.) In fact, it would be wise of you to find out who in your league owns Toomer (there's always one in every league), go to his house, watch the Giants game, and after he only catches one pass for 12 yards deliver the witticism "That Toomer's benign!" Try to videotape the proceedings, since the hilarity will most definitely go viral.
Marvin Harrison, Colts, 36 years old
It's not official yet, but I'd be shocked if Marvin stays above Anthony Gonzalez on the WR depth chart. As of today, he has more targets (34 to Gonzo's 26), but they're tied in catches (17) and Marvin has an abysmal 9.6 yards-per-catch. While it wouldn't be smart to drop him outright (the fact that Peyton Manning's going to start returning to form soon can only help Harrison's numbers), I'd trade him straight up for Gonzo in a heart beat, before he pulls a Dick Cheney and "accidentally" shoots a friend of his in the face.
Player on My Team of the Week: DeAngelo Williams, who had the game of his life with 123 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving, and a triptych of touchdowns.
How to Heckle One of My Players of the Week: "Hey DeAngelo Williams, why don't you save those kinds of games for when you're not on my bench!"
The News Story of Our Lifetime Award: Remember that weird story earlier on this year about a woman who had to have medics physically pry her from a toilet seat after sitting on it for two years straight? And how said toilet resided in her boyfriend's apartment, who finally called police to tell them something was wrong after two years? Well, that guy just won the lottery. Again.
Buy High: Advertising space near Brett Favre's front lawn, which will soon be chock-full of the all-important 18-64 year-old PETA member demographic once they find out about Favre's "killing an animal and putting the carcass in a teammate's locker" prank.
Sell Low: The "I'm not only the president, I'm also a client" style of testimonial after Nathanael Lineham of Newport Beach was arrested for drug exporting after Feds broke into his Blackberry and found incriminating emails. Lineham's day job? He runs Datalocking Corp., an encryption company that claims its methods are unbreakable.
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