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Monday, September 15, 2003
Scoring in Bunches

by Graham Hays
ESPN Fantasy Games

Did Jamal Lewis enter the realm of overrated by proving he's every bit as good as advertised? Lewis grabbed the fantasy spotlight by rushing for an NFL single-game record of 295 yards against Cleveland, tacking on a pair of touchdowns for 41 total fantasy points. But just how good will Lewis be the rest of the season?

Jamal Lewis
Running Back
Baltimore Ravens

Ahman Green has eight fewer fantasy points than Lewis after two weeks of play, but which would you rather have: 22 and 23 points or 12 and 41 points? It's a fair question. Lewis' monster performance virtually guarantees a win that week, but Green's consistency may provide a better base for picking up a pair of wins. Obviously there are no guarantees that Green will maintain such consistent production, or that Lewis will continue in an on-again, off-again manner, but point distribution is important to consider when evaluating fantasy value.

We all remember mean, mode and median from high school math, even if the intervening years have left us a little cloudy on the specifics of each term. And when it comes to FFL points, a player's average (mean) isn't necessarily the number most representative of the group. One high-scoring week can leave a player near the top of the rankings, even if his subsequent production doesn't justify the value attached to his name.

Consider the one-week highs for each of last season's top 10 FFL running backs, and the percentage of their season point total it represented.

Player2002 HighPct. of Total
1. Priest Holmes 48 points 13.2
2. Ricky Williams 34 points 11.0
3. LaDainian Tomlinson 45 points 15.3
4. Clinton Portis 44 points 15.8
5. Deuce McAllister 34 points 13.2
6. Shaun Alexander 52 points 20.6
7. Tiki Barber 28 points 11.1
8. Travis Henry 34 points 13.8
9. Charlie Garner 30 points 12.2
10. Eddie George 25 points 11.7

  • Holmes and Portis suffer from missed action -- Holmes as a result of injuries and Portis as a result of Denver's early-season depth chart. Portis would likely still be on the high end of the scale with a full load in all 16 games, but Holmes would end up much closer to Williams.

  • For the record, Lewis had a 2002 season high of 26 points, or 12.7 of his season total. But based on the early numbers, Lewis is a completely different player this season. He's already rushed for three touchdowns, half of his 2002 total. That's a good sign for his continued productivity, as could be the fact that he has yet to catch a pass. How so? Lewis caught 47 passes for 442 yards last season, so he's proven his ability to contribute fantasy points in the passing game. And a key to living up to his current sky-high value will be earning points wherever he can find them.

  • It's also noteworthy that Tomlinson -- this season's consensus No. 1 pick -- averaged just 16.5 points outside of his season-high game. Priest Holmes averaged 24.2, and Ricky Williams averaged 18.4 points.

  • Lewis stands a chance of becoming this year's version of Alexander. Make no mistake about it, any owner who had Alexander active for the back's monster Week 5 performance was happy to take the points, but was he really the sixth-best back in fantasy over the course of the entire season? Minus that game, Alexander averaged 13.4 points. A solid total, but less than Tiki Barber (16.0), Travis Henry (14.2), or Charlie Garner (14.3) averaged in their second-best 15 games.