By now, any consistent reader of mine knows that I follow and write for the Houston Texans during the regular season. Therefore, I usually know much more about players on their roster that the common NFL or national sports writer may know about them.
One such player I was always a fan of when he was still in Houston was fullback Vonta Leach. But when I saw that the NFL Network placed him at $45 on their “Top 100″ special, I couldn’t help but spit my drink out at the thought. #45?! Let me explain.
While a member of the Texans, I felt like not enough credit was given to the job that Leach did on the field, but I also felt like he was overrated just a bit by Texans fans. They liked to heap tons of praise on him for the success of Arian Foster’s breakout season in 2010 that saw him explode for 1,600 plus yards rushing and 16 touchdowns in 2010.
The national pundits began to jump on the Leach bandwagon after Foster’s big season as well and it eventually drove up his market value so much that Houston let him walk when Baltimore offered to make him the highest paid fullback in the league with a three-year, $11 million contract in free agency.
I’m not going to argue that the man didn’t deserve the raise. I’m not even going to debate that he’s the best fullback in the league. What I will debate is that he is still a fullback. He is a glorified blocker that is ranked in the top 45 players in the NFL, according to this list. That just doesn’t mesh for me.
People are immediately going to look at the two guys he’s blocked for the past two seasons and point out their stats. This means that Leach is responsible, right? Not necessarily.
Arian Foster and Ray Rice are considered two of the back running backs in the league, without argument. Let’s see what Ray Rice did in 2010 without Vonta Leach blocking for him. He tallied 1,220 yards and 5 touchdowns.
In 2011, with Leach, his numbers went up marginally to 1,364 yards. But without splitting carries with “the touchdown vulture” Willis McGahee, his touchdown total went up to 12. This could be credited to Leach, sure. But let’s take a peek at what Arian Foster did without Leach in 2011.
I won’t be able to make a direct comparison with 2012, because Foster did miss 4 games in 2011. But without Leach, he totaled 1,224 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. If you go by his average per game and add that in over the 4 games he missed, you get pretty damn close to his 2010 numbers. And this is with Lawrence Vickers blocking for him. The same Lawrence Vickers that the Texans cut during this offseason.
I guess you could say that my gripe with this ranking would be that Leach gets too much credit for blocking for two of the best running backs in the entire league right now.
Again, don’t misunderstand me, Leach is easily the best fullback in the game and he does a ton of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He’s the kind of guy any running back would want blocking for him in a short yardage situation. But the fact remains that he is still a fullback and a fullback has no place in the top 50 players in the National Football League, in my opinion.