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Clinton Portis Is Mr. Underappreciated

It’s time for a Fantasysharks.com quiz. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and put all your other stuff under your desk – especially your cellphones and any other electronic gadgets. Turn the Internet off, too – no cheating allowed. Anyone caught cheating will be sent to principal Tony Holm’s office.

 

Here are your questions:

 

1.

   

Which running back leads the National Football League in rushing attempts through Week 7?

 

2.

   

Which running back leads the NFL in rushing yards through Week 7?

 

3.

   

Which running back leads the NFC in rushing touchdowns through Week 7?

 

4.

   

Which running back leads the NFL in first-down runs through Week 7?

 

5.

   

Which running back was the most reluctantly selected in drafts by fantasy owners?

 

Put your pens down, and hand in your quizzes. Here are the answers:

 

1.

   

Clinton Portis (Washington Redskins). He has carried the ball 163 times. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings) currently ranks No. 2 in carries with 151.

 

2.

   

Portis. He has amassed 818 rushing yards. Peterson’s 684 rushing yards is the second-highest total in the league.

 

3.

   

Portis leads the NFC with seven rushing touchdowns. In case you’re wondering, LenDale White (Tennessee Titans) currently leads the entire NFL with eight rushing scores. Ronnie Brown (Miami Dolphins) is tied with Portis with seven rushing scores of his own.

 

4.

   

Portis. He has logged 43 first-down runs.

 

5.

   

This one is open for some healthy debate, but the answer we are looking for here is – you guessed it – Portis.

 

Think back to August or to the time just before the start of your fantasy drafts. The top-five running backs on most draft boards were some combination of the following players: LaDainain Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers), Brian Westbrook (Philadelphia Eagles), Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings), Joseph Addai (Indianapolis Colts) and Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers). Portis has been more productive than any of them, but there was very little excitement about him among most fantasy owners heading into the season. Many had regarded Portis as a middle-of-the-road first round pick or a lower first-round pick. I can recall seeing Portis drop into the second and even the early third rounds of some drafts. Portis, however, has clearly been the most dominant fantasy back in the league to this point, and any doubts about his ability have been erased. The name Clinton Portis should be mentioned again among the league’s elite players. Why did such a talented player fall out of favor with fantasy owners after exploding onto the fantasy football scene six years ago in Denver?

 

The Portis Profile

 

Portis, who was born in Laurel, Mississippi, starred at the University of Miami (Fla.).

 

Clinton Portis – COLLEGE CAREER

RUSHING

RECEIVING

YEAR

ATT

YARDS

AVG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

TD

1999

143

838

5.9

8

4

44

11.0

2

2000

77

485

6.3

2

5

102

20.4

0

2001

220

1,200

5.5

10

12

125

10.4

0

TOTALS

440

2,523

5.7

20

21

271

12.9

2

 

In 1999, he set a Miami freshman school record with five 100-yard rushing performances as the Hurricanes’ leading ball-carrier. Portis’ sophomore season, however, was a disappointment, because he had lost his starting job. Portis bounced back in 2001 with the best season of his college career to help lead Miami to the National Championship. He left the Hurricanes ranked No. 4 on the school’s career rushing list and tied another record with 14 100-yard rushing performances. The Denver Broncos selected Portis with the No. 51 overall pick in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft.

        

Clinton Portis – DENVER BRONCOS

YEAR

AGE

G

GS

ATT

YDS

AVE

TD

REC

YDS

AVE

TD

2002

22

16

12

273

1,508

5.5

15

33

364

11.0

2

2003

23

13

13

290

1,591

5.5

14

38

314

8.3

0

 

As you can see from the numbers, Portis was a great fit for Denver head coach Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking rushing attack. Portis did not start immediately as a rookie due to a fumbling problem, but Shanahan learned to live with the occasional turnover and finally inserted the mega-talented Portis into the starting lineup. In 2002, Portis was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He followed his first pro season up with an outstanding 2003 campaign. Playing against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 7, 2003, Portis set an NFL record by scoring five touchdowns in that contest. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl that year.

 

Prior to the start of the 2004 season, Shanahan and the Broncos did what at the time was considered unthinkable: they traded Portis to the Washington Redskins in exchange for cornerback Champ Bailey (Denver Broncos) and a second-round pick in the 2004 NFL draft. The Broncos needed a shutdown corner, and we have found out that Shanahan thinks any running back with Portis’ skill set can succeed in the Denver rushing scheme. Portis inked an eight-year, $50.5 million deal with the Redskins to become the club’s new franchise back.

 

Portis’ Struggles In Washington

 

Clinton Portis – WASHINGTON REDSKINS

YEAR

AGE

G

GS

ATT

YDS

AVE

TD

REC

YDS

AVE

TD

2004

23

15

15

343

1,315

3.8

5

40

235

5.9

2

2005

24

16

16

352

1,516*

4.3

11

30

216

7.2

0

2006

25

8

7

127

523

4.1

7

17

170

10.0

0

2007

26

16

16

325

1,262

3.9

11

47

389

8.3

0

            *A Redskins single-season rushing record

 

It’s probably not fair to say Portis struggled. His 2005 and 2007 numbers look impressive, but they obviously pale in comparison to the Pro Bowl statistics that he had amassed in Denver. What happened to Portis? Were the criticisms that he was just an average player who shined in Denver’s running-back-friendly offensive system true?

 

  1. The 5-foot-11, 223-pound Portis was not a perfect fit for the power-running scheme called “counter gap” that was used by now-former head coach Joe Gibbs. Portis is a capable between-the-tackles runner. However, he is not a true power back, like Stephen Davis, John Riggins or Jerome Bettis. Unlike Gibbs’ scheme, the Denver offense had relied on stretch runs and runs to the outside that allowed Portis to utilize his speed and explosiveness. The Redskins also had some weak offensive lines, especially in 2004.

  2. Portis had gained a reputation for being injury prone. His 2006 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury and a broken hand. Portis also played the entire 2007 season with an arthritic knee. Although he did not miss any starts due to the knee ailment, backup Ladell Betts spelled him on occasion, which frustrated Portis’ fantasy owners. Amassing three 320-plus carries in the last four seasons also gave owners cause for concern about whether Portis would eventually break down.

  3. The Redskins lacked a consistent, legitimate passing game that could stretch the field and keep opposing defenses from focusing exclusively on stopping Portis – particularly in 2004 and 2006. In 2004, the team started the season with Mark Brunell under center and finished the campaign with inexperienced Patrick Ramsey (Denver Broncos) as the starter. In 2005, the Redskins handed the starting job back to Brunell, who actually played competently. Brunell began the 2006 season as the starter, but designated franchise quarterback Jason Campbell finished the year as the No. 1 signal-caller while trying to learn then-offensive coordinator Al Saunders’ huge, complicated playbook. In 2007, the club handed the starting job to Campbell, but he had his ups and downs during the season. After Campbell went down late in the year with a dislocated knee cap, Todd Collins took over as the starter through the playoffs.

So Far, So Good In 2008

 

Getting back to Portis in the present day, I don’t recall him making any highlight-reel/ESPN runs so far this season, but he keeps churning out fantasy points each week.

 

Clinton Portis – 2008 REGULAR SEASON STARTS

 

OPPONENT

RESULT

ATT

RUSH YDS

RUSH TD

REC

REC YDS

REC TD

Week 01

@NY (NFC)

L, 07 – 16

23

84

0

0

0

0

Week 02

N. Orleans

W, 29 – 24

21

96

2

2

3

0

Week 03

Arizona

W, 24 – 17

21

68

1

2

19

0

Week 04

@Dallas

W, 26 – 24

21

121

0

2

14

0

Week 05

@Philadelphia

W, 23 – 17

29

145

1

2

13

0

Week 06

St. Louis

L, 17 – 19

21

129

2

1

14

0

Week 07

Cleveland

W, 14 – 11

27

175

1

1

8

0

 

PER-GAME AVERAGES

23

116.9

1.00

1.4

10.2

0.00

 

Why is Portis succeeding now? You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that new head coach Jim Zorn’s West Coast offense is a nice fit for Portis, and the club has the necessary personnel to run the scheme. The unexpectedly rapid development of quarterback Jason Campbell has also played a major role in Portis’ success. Campbell has flourished in Zorn’s scheme, keeping enemy defenses from crowding the line of scrimmage to stop Portis.

 

Do you own Portis? Should you trade him? Unless some owner makes you an offer of the century, don’t do it. Did you know that Portis is currently on pace to rush for close to 1,900 yards and score 16 touchdowns? Can he maintain that pace? I doubt it. The only major concern that I have about the 27-year-old Portis is his health. I don’t consider Portis injury prone. However, he is not a large back and admittedly takes a lot of punishment that leads to minor, nagging ailments. Case in point: Portis is currently playing with a sore hip, but he is expected to start against the Detroit Lions in Week 8.

 

Here is Washington’s remaining schedule:

 

DATE

WEEK #

OPPONENT

RANK VERSUS THE RUN

Oct. 26

Week 08

@Detroit

31

Nov. 03

Week 09

Pittsburgh

2

Nov. 09

Week 10

BYE

Nov. 16

Week 11

Dallas

13

Nov. 23

Week 12

@Seattle

21

Nov. 30

Week 13

N.Y. (NFC)

5

Dec. 07

Week 14

@Baltimore

1

Dec. 14

Week 15

@Cincinnati

28

Dec. 21

Week 16

Philadelphia

9

Dec. 28

Week 17

@S. Francisco

23


Granted, the schedule looks a bit harder for Portis during the second half of the season. Not counting Week 17 (most fantasy leagues end in Week 16), Portis will face four favorable matchups and three unfavorable ones. His Week 14 game against the Ravens, which is when some fantasy leagues start their playoffs, is obviously a very tough matchup.

  However, we all know Portis is a must-start, regardless of whatever team is on the schedule. Barring a serious injury, Portis should continue to produce. I think 1,650 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, 25 receptions, 180 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns is a realistic prediction for his final 2008 numbers.

 

 

 

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FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.