Thursday, July 12, 2012
AFC North Top 25: 21st-ranked player
By Jamison Hensley
The AFC North blog is continuing its series on the top 25 players in the division with No. 21:
Why Leach is ranked 21st: A fullback on the top 25 list? I know, this pick will draw some criticism. But Leach is the best fullback in football, which is why he was No. 45 on the NFL Network's Top 100 list. To be honest, I was tempted to place Leach higher because of his impact on the running game. One year after blocking for the NFL rushing champion (Arian Foster), Leach paved the way for the league's No. 2 rusher in Ray Rice last season.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Ravens averaged 91.4 yards rushing and 4.5 yards per carry on runs during the regular season when Leach was the lead blocker. Baltimore also scored 14 touchdowns running behind Leach. A better way of measuring Leach's importance is comparing the Ravens' running game with and without him. Without Leach in 2010, Rice averaged 4.0 yards per carry and scored five rushing touchdowns. With Leach last season, Rice averaged 4.7 yards per carry and scored 12 rushing touchdowns. If you don't believe Leach deserves to be on this list, just ask the NFL linebackers who got walloped by him.