Spotlight - RB LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers
Posted 8/25 by Jason Wood and Chase Stuart,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
Let's face it, you don't need me to tell you that LaDainian Tomlinson is a great running back. Furthermore, unless you have the 1st overall pick you probably haven't thought too much about LT since he's the consensus top choice this year. So what I had planned on doing was elaborating on just how impressive LT's first four seasons have been from a historical perspective. But then my writing partner Chase went ahead and stole my thunder (see below).
So racking my brain trying to figure out something thought provoking to write about Tomlinson, I came up with the following excercise. What if we took his WORST showing in each key metric over his first four seasons, and compiled those stats...how would LT2 match up from a historical fantasy basis?
- 313 carries (2003)
- 3.6 yards per carry (2001)
- 1,127 yards rushing
- 53 receptions (2004)
- 6.2 yards per reception (2002)
- 329 receiving yards
- 10 rushing TDs (2001)
- Zero receiving TDs (2001)
Again, the above numbers would imply the season Tomlinson would produce if he matched his LOWEST output in total rushes, receptions, YPR, YPC and TDs. The aforementioned stats would equate to 206 fantasy points, according to Footballguys scoring.
Over the last five seasons, 206 fantasy points would've resulted in a year end fantasy ranking of:
- 2004 -- RB10
- 2003 -- RB13
- 2002 -- RB15
- 2001 -- RB10
- 2000 -- RB16
- Average -- RB12.8 (RB13)
- One of the best players in football, much less at his own position. Tomlinson possesses a work ethic that few can match, and has set a personal goal of 2,200 yards rushing this season
- Tomlinson can handle a heavy workload, break long runs, catch 100 passes and scores at will
- With Drew Brees maturing and viable options like TE Gates and WR McCardell in the lineup, teams can't key on Tomlinson with 8 men in the box all the time
- OL coach Hudson Houck worked wonders with the Chargers line, but now calls Miami home
- As the 1st overall pick, he HAS to be exceptional in order to justify his ADP (anything less and you're at a disadvantage)
- If you don't have the 1st overall pick, you're going to have to watch him torment you and the rest of your leaguemates each week
There is no RB who, if healthy, has either the upside OR the downside protection of Tomlinson. To think that if he somehow had his worst output in all key metrics it would still be good enough for a 13th place finish should be enough to comfort any jitters you have as you're about to call out his name with the 1st overall pick.
Chase Stuart's Thoughts
Tomlinson is regarded as one of the best RBs in both the NFL and fantasy football by nearly all football fans. In fact, comparing Tomlinson to his contemporaries doesnít really make for an interesting discussion. So how does Tomlinson compare to the all time great RBs through the first four years of their careers?
- First in total fantasy points with 1,159
- First in total yards with 7,921 yards
- First in touches with 1,654 rushes + receptions
- Second in total touchdowns with 60 (Davis)
- Second in receptions with 291 (Craig)
- Fourth in rushing yards with 5,899 (Dickerson, Campbell, Davis)
Tomlinsonís also set some impressive single-season marks:
- One of only two RBs to ever record 100 catches in a season (Centers)
- His 2,370 yards from scrimmage in 2003 was the second most ever (Faulk)
- Scored a touchdown in a record twelve straight games last season
Tomlinsonís one of the best athletes in the NFL, and has shown impressive toughness, durability and consistency in his four years with the Chargers. His impressive combination of quickness and vision, along with his young age and wealth of experience, makes him the best RB in both the NFL and fantasy football.
- Tomlinson is a master of all trades: He is a third-down RB, goal-line vulture and workhorse RB all-in-one. Heís the only player in the NFL with 1,000 carries or 4,500 yards the past three seasons.
- Despite playing hurt all of last year, an improved San Diego offense helped Tomlinson remain a strong fantasy force. Now that heís healthy, heís got the best supporting cast of his young career.
- San Diego has shown a strong commitment to the running game, ranking fourth in rushing attempts last season.
- Perhaps the biggest negative for Tomlinson will be the loss of offensive line coach Hudson Houck. Houck helped transform the Chargers OL from terrible to well above average in 2004.
- Will Antonio Gates and Drew Brees repeat their breakout seasons? If not, will defenses return to focusing all their attention on Tomlinson?
- Will all the touches through four years slow him down? As noted earlier, no RB has had as many touches through four seasons. He also rushed for 4,008 yards his final two years in college.
- As the Chargers continue to acquire more weapons in the passing game (Gates, Keenan McCardell, Reche Caldwell, Vincent Jackson), Tomlinsonís receiving numbers should drop. The year he had 100 receptions, only one other Charger had 25 receptions; last year four Chargers had 25 catches.
Tomlinson will be the first pick in nearly all leagues, especially ones that give out points per reception. While Shaun Alexander may very well match or exceed Tomlinsonís stats, Alexanderís perceived upside is much lower than Tomlinsonís. On the other end of the spectrum, Priest Holmesí perceived upside is much higher than Tomlinson, but most feel heís unlikely to match Tomlinsonís stats due to injury risk.
Tomlinson is a great combination of consistency, reliability and potential. He may be ready for his best year yet, as heís healthy and on a great team. The Chargers strong defense should ensure a ton of carries for LT, and he could approach 20 TDs this year. Remember, Antonio Gates set an NFL record for TEs with 13 TDs in 2004; a return to the 8-10 level could give Tomlinson the bump heíd need for a historic season.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
Ministry of Pain:
Very very very togh schedue. I think the passing game will take a step backwards, however that might not make a huge impact on LT2. His production over the the last 6-7 weeks last season was incredible. He rarely had a bad game during the season. He was also dinged up during the middle of the season but he played anyway.
LT is the man. Other owners can take Priest and worry about his hip/leg/age or whatever. I'll take LT and only worry about his groin. Hey, wait a minute...Anyway, LT was banged up last year and the offense in general did not go through him as it has in the past. This year he is looking healthy and from reports, very quick in camp. At the very least you have to take his numbers from last year and add to that. I'll take the tougher schedule and counter that with more weapons on offense. I think this is the year that he breaks through to God-like numbers.
I think people are underestimating the numbers that Tomlinson will put up this year. He had a pretty bad groin pull last year and he was noticably a different runner. His ability to make people miss was just not there. He looked more like a guy who just hits the hole and falls forward for about 4 yards. And he still put up 1800 yards and 18 TDs. Amazing.
LaDainian Tomlinson Projections
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