I have written it many
times in the past two years..."our computer
scouting really likes Mike Tolbert."
The subsequent next sentence that always links
to the prior statement is..."but our computer
scouting analysis loves Ryan Mathews."
Most people's like/love-meter may be different
on Tolbert vs. Mathews, but the final outcome is
likely always the same...most everyone prefers
Mathews over Tolbert. The Mathews over Tolbert
"feelings," is where the potential lies in the
2012 Dynasty League Fantasy Football off-season.
Mike Tolbert is an
unrestricted free agent for 2012.
In the 2011 preseason,
Tolbert was a restricted free agent coming off a
very nice 2010 season in which he posted 735
rushing yards, 951 total yards, and 11
TDs...mostly in relief of oft-injured rookie
Ryan Mathews. That nice 2010 effort, got him
a one-year deal for 2011.
In this past season,
Ryan Mathews stepped up big (when not hurt)
and Tolbert mostly sunk into the background
after his 3-TD game on opening day. Tolbert's
value/standing in the football community is down
right now, as his 2011 season quietly came to a
close...a season of hiding in the shadows of
Despite the quiet finish to
2011, we have heavy intrigue with Tolbert. We
see some potential for Tolbert to be a "poor
man's" Michael Turner...only a
Turner-like RB, who is also an excellent
receiver out of the backfield (unlike Turner).
More on why we think Tolbert could be a Fantasy
Football superstar in waiting, in a moment...
First, let's think about
the national mood swing among football
fans/media, etc. that could happen with Tolbert
in the next few weeks and months. Pretend for a
moment that Tolbert just signed a nice contract
with Cincinnati (and Benson not
re-signed/released), or signing with Cleveland
(and Hillis not re-signed/released), or
Indianapolis, or Detroit? If Tolbert's new
contract lands him into a situation where he is
expected to be the main-carry RB, his Fantasy
Football stock will instantly skyrocket for
The possibility of a huge
Tolbert value pop, is why we need to explore
getting in ahead of that in Fantasy
Football...either to count on him for 2012
output, or to turn around and deal him on the
Let's look at Tolbert's
journey to coveted NFL free agent, and we will
lay out the case for his potential
stardom...ultimately making the case of why
Tolbert may be a cheap lottery ticket RB to
bring in for you Dynasty League team right now;
before the majority puts this "2 & 2"
From the mind of A.J.
Say what you want about San
Diego General Manager A.J. Smith, but you
could make the case that there has been no
better "drafter" of RB talent than A.J. Smith.
As an Assistant GM, and long-time head of
scouting, A.J. Smith was part of the
decision-making that brought LaDainian
Tomlinson into San Diego in 2001. I would
also admit, that the Tomlinson selection was not
necessarily a "stroke of genius"...the Chargers
had the 5th pick overall, and LT made sense.
However, we have to give credit...it was San
Diego that made this franchise changing
decision. The more impressive "needle in
haystack" RB draft picks were to come after LT
in 2011, picks made directly by Smith...
Smith became the General
Manager for San Diego in 2003, and went on an
impressive RB draft run over the past eight
years. In 2004, Smith selected Michael Turner
with pick #154 in the NFL Draft. Smith followed
that up with the 2005 selection of Darren
Sproles at pick #130. Yes, at one time the
Chargers possessed LaDainian in his prime, with
Sproles and Turner rounding out the RB depth
In 2010, the Chargers made
a huge/controversial move by trading up in the
NFL Draft to the #12 pick, and selecting Ryan
Mathews. Whether you value RBs as 1st-Round
worthy NFL picks, or not...Mathews hasn't been a
bust, and has been the best of the three RBs
taken in the 2011 1st-Round (over Spiller and J.
Best). Our computer scouting models has pointed
to signs that Ryan Mathews could be a
true NFL elite RB...on the level of Tomlinson,
but it remains to be seen. Only time will tell.
Smith didn't draft Mike
Tolbert...he simply scooped him up as an
undrafted free agent. Another great RB scouting
maneuver, made brilliant in the context of the
value of the move versus the cost...which is
almost nothing with an undrafted free agent.
Another thing that Tolbert will have in common
with some of the aforementioned A.J. Smith
RB draft picks steals...he is likely headed to
another team soon.
The value of Mike
They don't make many RBs
like Mike Tolbert. The only RB "comps" in
recent history (to us) are Michael Turner,
Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis (Hillis circa
2010)...monster-sized 235+ pound RBs, with good
(or better) speed and/or great agility. These
giant RBs typically have "hands of stone" in the
passing game, but in this past 2011 season,
Tolbert was 4th among NFL RBs with 54
receptions...including games with 8, and 9,
catches in a game. Tolbert can catch, run
between the tackles, bowl over defenders, is a
trusted blocker, and can leap over goal-line
piles...in other words; Mike Tolbert is
an every down NFL RB.
In his 4-year career,
Tolbert has played 14 games in which he has
received 10+ carries in the game. In those 14
games, Tolbert has averaged 88.3 total (rush +
rec) yards per game, 4.3 yards per carry, and an
amazing 1.0 TDs per game. A hypothetical 16-game
season for Tolbert, based on his 10+ carry games
would be -- 251 carries, 1,068 yards rushing,
1,413 total yards, 16 TDs, and 14.5 Fantasy
Football PPG (16.8 PPR PPG).
Tolbert doesn't appear to
wear down with a heavy workload. In his eight
career games with 15+ carries in a game,
Tolbert's yards per carry jumps to 4.4 per. In
Tolbert's two career games with 20+ carries, he
has rushed for 100+ yards in both games with an
average of 135.0 total yards per game.
It's Tolbert's TD-prowess
that gives him that extra Fantasy Football value
punch. Tolbert has 21 TDs in his past 30 games
played (last two seasons), and most of those
games played he was not a starter. Tolbert has
20 career games where he has had 10+ touches
(carry + catch) in a game, and he has scored 16
TDs in those 20 games. Only seven other NFL RBs
have as many regular-season TDs as Tolbert in
the past two seasons, and he is tied with Ray
Rice for 8th most. Tolbert has more TDs than
MJD or Frank Gore in the past two
seasons. Keep in mind that Tolbert's high TD
tally/comparison over the past two seasons,
comes with the fact that he doesn't get nearly
the carries/opportunities that the RBs ahead of
him in TD tallies do. Tolbert is physically
built for the red-zone, and his statistical
output shows he can deliver in the NFL.
Mike Tolbert 2012
When the dust settles,
post-Super Bowl, in a few days/weeks...the
mainstream football media will turn their full
attention toward the 2012 season. The NFL Draft
will dominate discussions, and just underneath
that (in media importance) will be unrestricted
free agent rumblings. When those discussions
begin initially, outside of San Diego, I'm not
sure anyone is going to care heavily about 2012
unrestricted free agent Mike Tolbert.
I just did a quick Google
search for 2012 NFL free agent lists, and I had
to laugh. It's unscientific, and I didn't scour
the universe...but the first article I came
across, which ranked all free agents by
"importance," didn't contain Tolbert in their
top-50. The first article I perused which ranked
2012 free agents by position, had Tolbert 7th
among all free agent RBs (two spots behind
Michael Bush). My sense in conversations, and
looking at the Football media reporting, is that
Tolbert is rarely on anyone's mind...and that's
where the Dynasty League opportunity is right
now (before they wake up to it).
Let's talk in terms of a
simple 1-10 valuation. Mike Tolbert's
value (mentally) to most Fantasy owners is about
a 5-7, closer to 7 if the owner possesses
Ryan Mathews as well. If Tolbert signed a
contract today with the Patriots, or Browns, or
Lions...his value would jump to a 8-9. Long-time
Tolbert owners know what he is capable of, but
most have admitted recent defeat/deference to
An owner with Tolbert only,
likely has little love (unless they have
realized the free agency ramifications) for
Tolbert and might set him free fairly easily. A
great "cloud cover" on this is if you own
Mathews, it makes sense for you to be calling
for his handcuff. However, the Mathews angle to
this is the potential "two-fer" grand-slam
possibility in these Tolbert dealings.
The Ryan Mathews/Mike
Tolbert Dynasty League "two-fer"....
If Tolbert is on the same
Fantasy Football team with Mathews in your
league, I would recommend a risky strategy of
going after both in trade. On that 1-10 value
scale, we would estimate Mathews is probably a
7-9 value and Tolbert is a 5-7 is an owner's
mind right now. If the possibility exists to
acquire both, the owner with "dual custody"
might/typically sees them as "one" RB...not two
separate valuable entities. Tolbert is just the
"Mathews insurance policy" for many Dynasty
owners. Packaged together, a Dynasty owner may
see Mathews-Tolbert as a combined value of about
a 11-12 scale...not a loftier 15-17 value the
would be separately. Acquiring both of these
RBs, could land you two top-10 RBs in 2012+...if
Tolbert splits off into his own greatness. Worse
case, you get Mathews and all his upside if
Tolbert flames out.
If you land Tolbert easily
from one owner, and Mathews is owned by
another...go for Mathews next under the guise of
pairing with Tolbert. Beating the drum of
Mathews linked to Tolbert is the key to
everything here. The more people see them as
"one," the more you can get one...or both.
If you already own Mathews,
flying in after Tolbert makes sense...no
eyebrows are raised, you are simply just trying
to get the Mathews handcuff. I keep discussing
them from the Tolbert point of view, but the
Mathews real/perceived value also jumps if
Tolbert is gone from San Diego as well.
The Mathews-Tolbert plan is
an excellent one for a Dynasty team that has
been mired at the bottom of the pack for years.
On the Chargers, Mathews and Tolbert kind of
chip into each other's statistical output
upside. Separately, they could be two top-10
Fantasy Football RBs for years...a possible
Dynasty franchise changing maneuver for Dynasty
teams needing a jumpstart.
There is a risk here with
this Tolbert maneuver, as there is in
everything. One risk is that San Diego applies a
franchise tag on Tolbert, and he is "stuck" with
Mathews for another season. A franchise tag
could sting Tolbert's ouput for 2012, but
ultimately, you would think the Chargers are not
going to retain two high contract RBs. A.J.
Smith has shown that he will not keep the 2nd RB
expensively...i.e. Turner, Sproles. Possibly,
the "genius" of a pre-emptive Fantasy Football
move on Tolbert, might have to wait on the
pay-off until 2013.
There is a risk Tolbert is
not that good, but you should not have too give
away too much for him straight up...this should
be a relatively cheap look-see.
There is a risk that
Tolbert becomes a free agent and winds up on a
team with a solid RB, and ends up as part of an
RB-tandem. The way of the NFL world anymore is
the RB-tandem, so it is possible...but Tolbert
is a preferred RB to have in a tandem, as he
will be the goal-line "heavy" in any RB-duo.
"Greed is good"...
Right before Gordon
Gekko said those famous words..."greed is
good," he declared that he was not a "destroyer"
of companies, that he was a "liberator" of them.
Snagging both Mathews and
Tolbert as "one," is not much different than
buying a company because it's worth is higher if
it is broken up and all the assets sold
off...versus its value to continue operations as
normal. If Tolbert is "liberated" from San Diego
in the next few weeks, whether you possess him
alone, or with the Ryan Mathews matching
set...you may be sitting on a possible goldmine
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