Skip to main content

Late bloomers

One of the beauties of fantasy football is that a player can spend the majority of a season producing mediocre stats. Then, suddenly, he can become one of the top scorers in the league.

The variables in the game are what attract many people to play fantasy football. Aside from injuries, a player's performance can change considerably based on changes in coaching staffs, shifts in offensive or defensive philosophies, movement on the depth chart and much more.

Following are three players whose fantasy value has risen dramatically thanks to some recent developments. While the players once were considered solid fantasy contributors, now they are among the NFL's leading scorers at their respective positions.

**Steven Jackson (RB –

was slated by many fantasy owners to be a solid third-round pick. It wasn't certain how many carries running back Marshall Faulk would take away from the Rams' former first-rounder. Also, many people questioned the role of the running back in head coach Mike Martz's pass-heavy offense.

Following the Rams' fifth game of the season, Martz left the team to recover from illness. Joe Vitt, the team's linebackers coach and assistant head coach, took over duties, and the offense became more balanced, especially with injuries to wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, as well as to quarterback Marc Bulger.

Three games into Vitt's head coaching tenure,

's carries have increased from 15.2 to 20.6 per game. He still averages around three catches each week, and he has scored four total touchdowns, equaling the number he scored through the first five weeks of the season.

Considering the Rams have won two of their last three games, don't expect Vitt to revert to Martz's pass-happy ways. Also, barring injury, count on

to finish the season as one of the top-10 running backs in fantasy football.

Larry Johnson (RB – Kansas City Chiefs) –For fantasy football owners that drafted Priest Holmes, but were unable to nab Johnson as insurance, the former first-round running back always seemed to lurk in the shadows.

Now, Johnson has entered the spotlight because Holmes is shelved for the season following a head injury he suffered two games ago against the San Diego Chargers. Johnson replaced Holmes once every three series prior to the injury. Now, he'll garner reps on every possession, vaulting him from a borderline top-25 running back to one of the AFC's upper-echelon playmakers.

Johnson's talent has never been an issue. His work ethic, on the other hand, was questioned during his rookie year in 2003 when he had trouble surpassing Derrick Blaylock as the second-string running back. Johnson put those concerns to rest with several prolific performances near the end of last season. This year, he has averaged more yards per carry (5.2) than Holmes (3.8), and has scored the same number of rushing touchdowns (6) on 22 less carries.

Moving into the starting lineup behind the Chiefs' renowned O-line will give Johnson plenty of opportunities to make fantasy owners pleased with their early-season investment.

**Ernest Wilford (WR –

a year ago.

It did, however, take Wilford a while to move into the Jaguars' starting lineup opposite veteran wideout Jimmy Smith. Less than pleased with former first-rounder Reggie Williams, and still waiting for another first-rounder, Matt Jones, to develop, head coach Jack Del Rio made Wilford a full-time starter last week against the Texans.

Wilford responded with four catches for 89 yards (22.3 avg.) and a touchdown. That came one week after he tied a career high with six receptions for a career-high 145 yards (24.2 avg.) and a touchdown at


The 6-4, 223-pounder from Virginia Tech was a late-round pick in most fantasy drafts, though some fantasy owners believed he was waiver wire material. Not the case anymore. Wilford already has four touchdown catches and 351 receiving yards. With consistent playing time, Wilford has the chance to become one of the top pass catchers in the AFC.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content