Fantasy Money Shot

Touchdowns are the money shot of the fantasy football world. Yes I said it. Odd analogy? Perhaps … but bear with me through the article and you will soon see why the fantasy football money shot isn’t just a clever name but also something that is a trend in fantasy football. Even if it’s not the biggest trend, or most widely talked about, or hell something that’s never been broken down before this!

What exactly is the fantasy money shot? It’s when a player; either running back, wide receiver, or tight end, average scoring at least 1 touchdown per week during a given season. Touchdowns are the hardest thing to predict in fantasy football but when a player reaches the climax of where he can go in the touchdown world, what can we expect the following year? Will he repeat that special performance? Will he be over drafted because of his previous ridiculously touchdown-heavy year? Does age factor in? Does position played make a difference?

All your questions will be answered because I went back to 2000 and broke down every single player who achieved the rare “fantasy money shot” status, factoring in age, fantasy points scored, fantasy finish, and other notes of record per individual.

To have qualified for this list a player has to average 1TD per game while playing in at least 12 games in that given season. Let’s dive in and break it down by individual who will be able to be drafted in 2015, as well as by trends by each position:

RUNNING BACKS

PLAYER

YEAR

TEAM

AGE

GAMES

TOTAL TDS

FANTASY POINTS

FANTASY FINISH

ARIAN FOSTER

2014

HOU

28

13

13

235

5TH

MARSHAWN LYNCH

2014

SEA

28

16

17

269

3RD

JAMAAL CHARLES

2013

KC

27

15

19

312

1ST

ARIAN FOSTER

2012

HOU

26

16

17

264

2ND

ADRIAN PETERSON

2011

MIN

26

12

13

189

8TH

LESEAN MCCOY

2011

PHI

23

15

20

282

2ND

ARIAN FOSTER

2010

HOU

24

16

18

329

1ST

ADRIAN PETERSON

2009

MIN

24

16

18

290

2ND

CHRIS JOHNSON

2009

TEN

24

16

16

346

1ST

MAURICE JONES-DREW

2009

JAX

24

16

16

272

3RD

BRANDON JACOBS

2008

NYG

26

13

15

202

12TH

BRIAN WESTBROOK

2008

PHI

29

14

14

217

10TH

DEANGELO WILLIAMS

2008

CAR

25

16

20

283

1ST

MICHAEL TURNER

2008

ATL

26

16

17

276

2ND

JOSEPH ADDAI

2007

IND

24

15

15

233

4TH

LADAINIAN TOMLINSON

2007

SD

28

16

18

302

1ST

LADAINIAN TOMLINSON^

2006

SD

27

16

31

418

1ST

LARRY JOHNSON

2006

KC

27

16

19

333

2ND

MARION BARBER

2006

DAL

23

16

16

181

14TH

STEVEN JACKSON

2006

STL

23

16

16

329

3RD

WILLIE PARKER

2006

PIT

26

16

16

267

5TH

COREY DILLON

2005

NE

31

12

13

169

16TH

LADAINIAN TOMLINSON

2005

SD

26

16

20

303

4TH

LARRY JOHNSON

2005

KC

26

16

21

335

2ND

SHAUN ALEXANDER

2005

SEA

28

16

28

363

1ST

LADAINIAN TOMLINSON

2004

SD

25

15

18

285

3RD

PRIEST HOLMES**

2004

KC

31

8

15

197

8TH

SHAUN ALEXANDER

2004

SEA

27

16

20

306

1ST

AHAMN GREEN

2003

GB

26

16

20

345

2ND

CLINTON PORTIS

2003

DEN

22

13

14

274

5TH

LADAINIAN TOMLINSON

2003

SD

24

16

17

339

3RD

PRIEST HOLMES

2003

KC

30

16

27

373

1ST

SHAUN ALEXANDER

2003

SEA

26

16

16

269

6TH

CLINTON PORTIS*

2002

DEN

21

16

16

289

4TH

DEUCE MCALLISTER

2002

NO

24

15

16

270

5TH

PRIEST HOLMES

2002

KC

29

16

24

372

1ST

RICKY WILLIAMS

2002

MIA

25

16

17

323

2ND

SHAUN ALEXANDER

2002

SEA

25

15

18

263

7TH

MARSHALL FAULK

2001

STL

28

14

21

240

1ST

SHAUN ALEXANDER

2001

SEA

24

16

16

262

4TH

EDDIE GEORGE

2000

TEN

27

16

16

292

3RD

EDGERRIN JAMES

2000

IND

22

16

18

338

2ND

FRED TAYLOR

2000

JAX

24

13

14

247

6TH

LAMAR SMITH

2000

MIA

30

15

16

230

10TH

MARSHALL FAULK

2000

STL

27

14

26

374

1ST

 

^ = NFL RECORD FOR TDS BY POSITION

* = ROOKIE SEASON

**=JUST 8 GAMES PLAYED

Player-by-Player breakdown:

Arian Foster: 3 appearances on the list. Most recently accomplished the feat last season as well as 2012 & 2010.  Foster is going to be 29 coming into 2015, and hasn’t had the best record with his health. Although the only 2 times he managed to play in all 16 games he made this list (2010 & 2012) while leading the league in rushing yards and scrimmage yards in 2010 and taking the total TD crown in both 2010 and 2012. Foster is still the type of player who can help anchor your fantasy squad as he proved last season. In 2014 he finished with the 5th most fantasy points among running backs, and was just 1 of 2 players who finished as a RB1 while playing fewer than 15 games (Broncos CJ Anderson was the other with 14 games). He went over 100 total yards in 11 of his 13 games last year while scoring TDs in 9 of those games. I would definitely feel more comfortable with Foster if Houston had a QB that at least caused defenses to have some hesitation about stacking the box but until Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer show flashes of brilliance Foster will be opposing team’s first target to stop. He very well could finish as a RB1 again in 2015, and he will be drafted as such, but I wouldn’t pull the trigger on Foster until late round 1, early round 2 to pair with another stud would be best.

Marshawn Lynch: Made list for first time last year. Hard to argue that Marshawn is the hardest runner in the league. He bowls people over, yet he can sprint away from the secondary down the sideline while keeping himself nimbly inbounds during BeastMode-type runs. While 2014 was the first time Lynch was able to average 1TD per contest, he’s been consistently near the top of the RB fantasy games for several years. Of the 2 backs to reach “Money Shot” status last year, if I’m selecting 1 to repeat in 2015 it’s Lynch. Lynch is just 1 of 2 running backs to have 1400+ scrimmage yards in every year since 2011 when he became the starter in Seattle. Matt Forte of the Bears is the other RB with 1400+ each year since 2011, but Forte has only scored double-digit TDs in 2 of those 4 seasons, while Marshawn has found the end zone 10+ times in all 4 seasons. Now the Seahawks got Jimmy Graham at TE, and Russell Wilson is emerging as one of the league’s best young QBs. Lynch pounded in 17 TDs in 2014. While hitting that number again will be an uphill battle, Lynch will still go into BeastMode and with defenses having to watch Wilson’s feet and now having Graham to contain in the passing game (especially the red zone) don’t be shocked if Lynch does reached the ‘Money Shot” promised lands again in 2015. Lynch should be a top 5 pick in all leagues this year.

Jamaal Charles: Made only appearance on list in 2013. Charles was the only back to make the list in 2013 when he tore up the fantasy world for 19 total scores and north of 300 fantasy points (312 to be exact). Since 2010 we’ve only seen 4 running backs hit 300+ points in standard scoring leagues. Even the season Le’Veon Bell had in 2014 didn’t get him to 300 points in standard scoring (287). Kansas City had only the 27th best o-line last year, and signing Paul Fanika and trading for Ben Grubbs should upgrade both guard positions and help open more holes up for J-Chuck in 2015. Not only that but they actually signed a WR who should catch the first TD by a Chiefs wide out since Donnie Avery caught one from Alex Smith in the 2013 Wild Card playoffs in Indianapolis (that’s over 15 months ago from writing this article). If the pass game does open up more, I can see a Lynch-like scenario where Charles can be a top 3 draft pick in 2015 and more than live up to those expectations. He’s averaged 1652 scrimmage yards and 17 touchdowns over the last 2 seasons. Like Foster and Lynch, Charles will be 29 this season, but unlike those 2, Jamaal has Andy Reid. Reid will throw the ball to his RB more than anyone in the league. Hey Brian Westbrook got on this list when he was 29 under Reid, just sayin … So if Charles doesn’t get snatched with a top 3 pick in 2015 in your league I’d be shocked.

Adrian Peterson: Has appeared one the list twice, in both 2009 and 2011. Of the top 5 names on this list (the most realistic names who can make the 2015 “Money Shot” list), I believe Adrian Peterson will have the most difficult time. First of all he and the Vikings aren’t seeing eye-to-eye. They won’t see that way anytime soon either. It’s obvious Peterson wants out of Minnesota, but he has a lofty contract (which he still thinks he deserves more on top of!) that many teams couldn’t handle, plus he’s hit the dreaded age 30 mark earlier this year. There will be those who argue since he missed last season he may have more in the tank, saved his body from the punishment, yada yada yada, I’m not buying it. Look at his last full season in 2013 (when he actually played 14 games) and he posted the worst numbers of his career in rushing yards and scrimmage yards outside of his injury ended 2011 season. His 11 total TDs in 2013 were the 3rd fewest of his career and he’s only posted better than 11 scores just once since 2010 (2012 during his 2,000 yard season). If he got traded to a playoff-type team like New England, Arizona, or even Atlanta I could see him with the “payback for doubting me” mentality as well as passing threats on each of those squads. If AP is forced to play in Minny in 2015 I just can’t see big things happening. Of the RBs drafted in 2007 with Peterson, only Ahmad Bradshaw and Lynch are around. Only Lynch has been trending up with his stats consistently. Peterson’s draft position is hard to determine now, if he plays he will be a 1st round pick, but personally unless I’m the tail end of the draft I won’t touch him (especially in PPR legues)!

LeSean McCoy: One appearance on the list back in 2011. McCoy had an unreal year in 2011 scoring 20 total TDs, the last time a running back on this list managed to find the end zone 20+ times. McCoy is still in his prime, only going to be 27 this coming season, however he got traded from the Eagles to the Bills this offseason which seems like a downgrade on the surface but is it? He is going to see a downgrade as far as the line he is running behind, quarterback, and overall offensive scheme. However with Rex Ryan in charge I expect to see Shady get over 300 rush attempts for the 3rd straight year. Ryan loves using a bell cow-type back and he’s already come out and said McCoy is that guy for him this year. Even with all his talent, Shady wasn’t the best fit with Chip Kelly in Philly. McCoy is more of a cutter and East-West guy to get going, while Kelly’s system needs more of a North-South back to hit the hole. McCoy will be free to be his jump-cutting, elusive self that he was in 2011 when he had 10+ fantasy points in 14 of the 15 games he played. We also can’t forget how effective LeSean was in the passing game before last year when Kelly got ahold of Darren Sproles and McCoy’s targets got cut nearly in half from 2013 (64) to 2014 (37). Shady should see closer to his career average of 64 targets per season in Buffalo this year even with Fred Jackson still hanging around to steal a few touches. McCoy left a bad taste in owners mouths who drafted him as a top 3 player in 2014, but if you are drafting in the back half of your draft (especially a PPR) don’t shy away from taking a chance on Shady this year.

Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, and Steven Jackson: This trio of backs each made the list once. Johnson in his 2K season of 2009, Williams in 2008, and Jackson back in 2006. All three of these guys are going to be 30+ this season and just one, Williams, is actually on a team currently. All these guys are backups at best in the real world, and in the fantasy world are even worse. I can’t imagine getting much out of Williams in Pittsburgh behind Le’Veon (other than the weeks he could be suspended), and Johnson and Jackson are both waiting for the phone to ring to even try and make a squad. These 3 guys had their seasons of glory and being top dogs in the fantasy running back department, unfortunately they are way past those days. Williams is draftable as a handcuff to Le’Veon Bell and could be useful during Bell’s 3-game suspension to kick off 2015. Jackson and Johnson still don’t have teams and if they get signed before the year kicks off they won’t be more than a handcuff and that’s best case scenario.

Overall Positional Trends:

  • The largest gap between multiple appearances is 2 years; doesn’t look good for Adrian Peterson (2011 last appearance) or LeSean McCoy (2011 last appearance) in 2015.
  • LaDainian Tomlinson is last player to make this list in back-to-back years in 06 & 07. Only Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster are the only 2 who could go back-to-back (2014 &2015).
  • Just 6 of 45 (a measly 13%) of the names on the list made it after the age of 28; Brian Westbrook being the last to do it in 2008 at age 29. LeSean McCoy (27) is the only active name who will be under the age of 28 in 2015.
  • Last time we saw back-to-back years with multiple RBs make this list was 2008-2009 when we saw 4 guys (Turner, Williams, Westbrook, Jacobs) hit it in 2008, and 3 (MJD, CJ2K, AP) followed in 2009.
  • Since 2009 we’ve not see more than 2 RBs make the list in the same season 
  • Only Marion Barber (14th) in 2006 and Corey Dillion (16th) in 2005 made this list and failed to finish the season as a RB1.
  • RBs on this list averaged 286 points per season.

 

WIDE RECEIVER

PLAYER

YEAR

TEAM

AGE

GAMES

TDS

FANTASY POINTS

FANTASY FINISH

QB

DEZ BRYANT

2014

DAL

26

16

16

228

3RD

TONY ROMO

ODELL BECKHAM JR*

2014

NYG

22

12

12

206

5TH

ELI MANNING

CLAVIN JOHNSON

2011

DET

26

16

16

265

1ST

MATTHEW STAFFORD

RANDY MOSS^

2007

NE

30

16

23

287

1ST

TOM BRADY

TERRELL OWENS

2007

DAL

34

15

15

226

2ND

TONY ROMO

BRAYLON EDWARDS

2007

CLE

24

16

16

224

3RD

DEREK ANDERSON

MUHSIN MUHAMMAD

2004

CAR

31

16

16

238

1ST

JAKE DELHOME

TERRELL OWENS

2004

PHI

31

14

14

203

4TH

DONOVAN MCNABB

RANDY MOSS

2004

MIN

27

13

13

154

19TH

DAUNTE CULPEPPER

RANDY MOSS

2003

MIN

26

16

17

267

1ST

DAUNTE CULPEPPER

TERRELL OWENS

2001

SF

28

16

16

239

2ND

JEFF GARCIA

 

^ = NFL RECORD FOR TDS BY POSITION

*=ROOKIE SEASON

Player-by-Player Breakdown:

Dez Bryant: One appearance on the list which came last year. In 2014 Dez made a mockery of opposing secondary’s, scoring 16 times in his full slate of games played. Hell Bryant is only one of two wide outs to have double-digit touchdowns each of the last 3 seasons (Demaryius Thomas is the other), and Bryant’s 41 receiving TDs over the last 3 years is most among WRs and TEs. Romo will be tossing to Bryant again this year, and behind the NFL’s best offensive line (which somehow got stronger by signing La’el Collins for peanuts after his situation with the law) once again. Dallas’ o-line allowed Romo to be hit while throwing just 1 time in 2014 (only Peyton Manning’s 0 was better). And Romo is the only active QB to make this list twice and the only QB to do it with 2 different wide outs. It will be difficult for Bryant to make this list again in 2015 seeing as just a single wide receiver has ever appeared on here in back-to-back seasons (Randy Moss 03 and 04), but with DeMarco Murray gone and Jason Witten another year older I won’t be shocked to see Dez get a career high in targets this upcoming season.

Odell Beckham Jr: Talk about bursting onto the scene! There was a lot of under breath muttering from Giants fans, football fans, and fantasy players with all the injury time ODB was missing before 2014 kicked off but once he came back week 5 he came into the league hard and didn’t slow down the entire year. Beckham posted the best numbers we’ve seen (91-1305-12) out of a rookie wide out since Randy Moss in 1998 (69-1313-17; record for TDs by a rookie WR). Beckham had 22 more catches and just 8 fewer yards and 5 few scores in his rookie season compared to Moss but ODB did that in 4 fewer games! Beckham scores in 7 of his 12 games last year, including 5 of the final 6 (4 straight to end 2014). Even in the 5 games he failed to find the end zone he had 6 or more catches for 90 or more yards in 4 of those 5 games. Beckham had what looked like the catch of the century last year and even when teams knew ODB was the man to stop they still couldn’t stop him. They could barely slow him down and 2015 won’t be different. Like I said for Dez, making this list back-to-back as a WR is damn near impossible but if someone does it anytime in the near future I’d place a large bet that Beckham is that guy.

Calvin Johnson: Megatron. The nickname says it all. Although he is an absolute monster, Johnson is the last receiver on this list I’d expect to make a repeat appearance. Johnson has seen his numbers sliding slowly over the past 3 years. Targets, catches, and yards all have been slipping since his NFL record performance (1964 yards and his 122 grabs that year were 5th most of all time) in 2012. The Lions have to feed Golden Tate again this year (his 6 games with double-digit targets last year are the only such games of his career) and rookie RB Ameer Abdullah is expected to be a “Reggie Bush-type” back. Theo Riddick (RB last year) is rumored to be getting time in the slot as a receiver too. But back to Calvin, he hasn’t played 15+ games in a season since 2012, and only played full slates in back-to-back seasons just once in his career. The one big plus Megatron has heading into 2015 is the fact he caught just 8TDs last year. Weird to say “just 8 touchdowns,” but for Johnson’s career he’s never had single-digit scores in back-to-back seasons in his career. And when he posts double-digit TDs in a year he has never scores fewer than 12 times. Johnson has more downside than Dez or ODB with age and competition for targets around him, but even if he gets fewer targets he will always be Stafford’s first look in the red zone and it’s a whole lot easier to score TDs the closer you get; especially when you’re 6’5” with the leaping ability of a panther wearing PF Flyers on a trampoline.

Overall Positional Trends:

  • Just once did a WR make this list and failed to finish as a top 5 receiver come the end of the season (Moss in ’04).
  • Moss was the only WR to make this list in back-to-back seasons (2003 & 2004).
  • Odell Beckham Jr in 2014 is the only rookie WR to make this list.
  • Moss is the only WR on this list to score more TDs than have games played; he did it twice.
  • Tony Romo is the only QB to make this list twice, in non-concurrent seasons, with a different WR each time.
  • Average age of WR to make the list is 27. Notable WRs that will be 27 in 2015: Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown, Golden Tate, and AJ Green.
  • WR on this list averaged 230 points per season.

 

TIGHT END

PLAYER

YEAR

TEAM

AGE

GAMES

TDS

FANTASY POINTS

FANTASY FINISH

QB

JULIUS THOMAS

2014

DEN

26

12

12

120

7TH

PEYTON MANNING

JIMMY GRAHAM

2013

NO

27

16

16

217

1ST

DREW BREES

ROB GRONKOWSKI

2012

NE

23

11

11

145

2ND

TOM BRADY

ROB GRONKOWSKI^

2011

NE

22

16

17

240

1ST

TOM BRADY

 

^ = NFL RECORD FOR TDS BY POSITION

Player-by-Player Breakdown:

Julius Thomas: Thomas had caught 24TDs in just 27 games over the last 2 seasons (12 scores each season). Thomas is now out of Denver and in Jacksonville where their TEs combined to score 10 times over the last 2 seasons. While Blake Bortles isn’t Peyton Manning, Thomas could have went to a worse situation. Bortles targets his tight ends just 15% of the time in 2014, but can you blame him when you’re throwing Clay Harbor and Nic Jacobs? No TE played more than 9 games for Jacksonville so even if Thomas plays 12 games again in 2015 that’s already a more consistent target for Blake. Thomas has had a scoreless drought of more than 2 straight games just once over the last 2 years, and that was the final 3 games he played last year when it looked like he still wasn’t 100% and Denver used him as more of a decoy than anything. Most of the other TEs on the Jaguars roster are going to be used as blockers so Thomas will see virtually all targets going to the TE position in 2015. Thomas’ current ADP is 6.12; which is almost 5 rounds later than Rob Gronkowski and 4 rounds later than Jimmy Graham. When it comes to TD production Thomas is scoring in 89% (24TDs in 27 games) of his games since 2013, Gronk is at 73% (16 in 22), and Graham is at 81% (26 in 32). You’re getting tremendous value for Julius this year, and I for one will be taking advantage in any league I can.

Jimmy Graham: Graham made the move this offseason from the high-powered, pass-first Saints offense to the Seahawks grind-it-out, run-first offense. A lot of people see it as a downgrade but I’m not in that boat. Graham is going from Brees, an elite QB on the downslide, to Russell Wilson one of the next big 3 elite QBs (with Rodgers and Luck). Graham has scored 10+ TDs in 3 of his last 4 seasons, and when he missed double-digits in 2012 he still found the end zone 9 times. The Saints had more offensive firepower than Seattle and Graham still averaged 138 targets the last 4 years. Graham will be looked at as Seattle’s number 1 passing threat. Russell Wilson has increased his pass attempts by 7% from year 1 to 2, and by 11% from year 2 to 3. If he has another 4% increase Wilson will have an extra 70 passes to be distributed, and if Graham gets his average of 21% of his QBs targets like the last 3 seasons he will see 110 targets. Odds are Graham sees better than 110. The last 4 years Graham has averaged scoring once per 7 receptions. Even with just 110 targets Graham would still be on pace for 10 scores. And check this fact: of Wilson’s 72 career TD passes 51 came in the red zone (71%) while 40 of Graham’s 51 touchdown receptions (or 78%) came inside the 20. Graham will be a top TE come years end, and if I’m betting on a TE to hit the money shot again Jimmy is who I’m putting my cash on.

Rob Gronkowski: The only tight end to appear on this list multiple times (twice). Gronk has one thing no one else has going for him: Tom Brady. Ok he doesn’t have TB12 for a full slate of games this year, but even when Jimmy Garoppolo is starting the first handful of games this year (4 as of now, but Brady’s appeal could make that number smaller) Gronkowski will be his first look. Whether between the 20’s or inside the red zone, Gronk contributes in every way. Unlike Julius Thomas who isn’t one to gain a ton of yards (788 is his career high thus far), Gronkowski has had 790+ yards in 3 of his last 4 seasons, and the year he fell short he was on pace for over 1300 yards when he got injured. He’s scored double-digit touchdowns in 4 of his 5 NFL seasons and is averaging 11 scores per year since coming into the league. He’s a lock as the first TE off the board, and if healthy should finish as a top 3 TE again in 2015 for the 4th time in 5 years.

Overall Positional Trends:

  • Julius Thomas is the only player on the list to have scored at least 12TDs in back-to-back seasons.
  • Julius Thomas in 2014 is only player on this list to not finish as a top 2 TE.
  • Unlike WR, the TE position has been steady on production having at least 1TE make the list in each of the last 4 season.
  • Antonio Gates had 10TD catches in 2010 in 10 games; with TE not as deep with elite players as WR and RB, figured that was worth a mention.
  • TEs on this list averaged 180 points per season.
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