Fullbacks might not be all the rage in the statistics-happy NFL, but certainly a few of them matter, from Mike Tolbert in San Diego to John Kuhn stealing the occasional touchdown in Green Bay. The wide Peyton Hillis was a fullback at the start of camp last season, and we all saw how that turned out. The point is, while most fullbacks are asked to simply block -- hello Vonta Leach -- on occasion circumstances align and carries come their way.
The Kansas City Chiefs are a mess so far, having lost multiple key players to knee injuries. We've talked all week about veteran Thomas Jones and quick Dexter McCluster filling in for Jamaal Charles and handling the rushing load. Well, as we get to yet another Friday edition of the sneaky pickup blog, here's another name to watch, and he's the team's fullback: Le'Ron McClain.
McClain became a fantasy star in 2008 for the Baltimore Ravens when he rushed for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns, filling the gap between the Willis McGahee and Ray Rice eras. Today, McClain is owned in less than 1 percent of ESPN standard leagues, and it makes sense since he's been given only four rushing attempts and two receiving targets through two miserable weeks. However, one could certainly see how opportunity could come his way. McClain has a track record, notably near the goal line, and while the 33-year-old Jones did score six touchdowns last season as a Charles complement, he was hardly impressive at the goal line, where he converted five of 15 attempts. Enter McClain, perhaps as soon as this week.
Ultimately, it's going to be rather interesting to see how the Chiefs handle things on offense this week; I expect Jones to get at least 15 carries, McCluster to total 15 or so touches -- they have to get him the ball in the open field -- and quarterback Matt Cassel just has to be better than he's shown, though I showed so much faith that I left him out of my top 25 quarterback rankings for this week, even thinking he'll be playing catch-up football against the Chargers in San Diego. Plan ahead, however, and add McClain in deeper leagues. It's not so crazy to think he will matter, and he could matter a lot.
Here are three other names that don't figure to bring much immediate reward, if any, for this weekend, but keep their names in mind, as this is, after all, a blog about the longer-term future:
Brandon Stokley, WR, New York Giants: He's lost a step or two since catching 10 touchdown passes from Peyton Manning in that glorious 2004 season for the Indianapolis Colts, but even last season he was fourth on the Seattle Seahawks in receiving yards. Stokley is a slot receiver and a potentially useful one for a strong New York passing offense short on depth. Consider that top dog Hakeem Nicks is dealing with a knee problem, Mario Manningham could miss Sunday's game in Philly with a concussion and Domenik Hixon sadly tore the ACL in his right knee for the second consecutive season last week. That leaves Stokley and Victor Cruz.
Patrick Crayton, WR, San Diego Chargers: Crayton has yet to play this season, as he's been dealing with bone spurs in his ankle, but it's looking like Malcom Floyd (groin) won't be able to suit up, making Crayton an interesting option in an elite passing offense. Crayton, 32, has never been elite himself, but he averaged 18.4 yards per catch in his first season with Philip Rivers, and he scored 20 touchdowns his final four seasons in Dallas. Remember, there are a bunch of bye weeks ahead in which six teams will be off. Crayton could be one of many Chargers to skewer the awful Chiefs, and when he does he'll likely be one of the wide receivers discussed as a free-agent add next week.
Keiland Williams, RB, Detroit Lions: I actually found quite a few running backs -- I always do -- for this Friday blog. Certainly Deji Karim (Jaguars) and Isaac Redman (Steelers) are seeing more touches than people expected, and they're wise handcuffs for first-round picks, and I think Atlanta's Jacquizz Rodgers has serious skills in case Michael Turner can't stay healthy. But when it comes to health -- and I'm not trying to be pessimistic -- it's reasonable to ask who the backup is in Detroit for Jahvid Best. He's been busy, as he's sixth in the league in touches (and 13th in yards from scrimmage). Jerome Harrison saw eight carries in Week 1 and four in the Week 2 blowout of the Chiefs. Keiland Williams got nine carries and scored a touchdown in Week 2. And Maurice Morris is still around. I think the 230-pound Williams is next, and even if Best keeps thriving, at some point he'll need some help.
Have a great weekend everyone and best of luck in Week 3!