LaDainian Tomlinson, Fantasy Monster June 19, 2012  |  Jeff


As all avid Fake Footballers can attest, running backs have routinely ruled the fantasy landscape. There aren’t many feelings as cozy as building a fantasy roster around an exciting and productive running back, and for an incredible eight year span, LaDainian Tomlinson was the cornerstone all fantasy football owners coveted. Whether it was on the ground or through the air, Tomlinson was a reliable and dynamic fantasy thoroughbred that consistently led his owners to the winner’s circle. As the great “LT” recently announced his retirement, I decided to wipe the dust off my bifocals and abacus, and take a look at the pure awesomeness of LaDainian Tomlinson, the fantasy football running back.

 

Stat Stuffer

The NFL career of Tomlinson, and subsequent fantasy domination, was built upon world class consistency. An injury to a 1st round pick can devastate a fantasy team (insert annoying Jamaal Charles one-liner), but that was never a worry for the owners of LT. The first eight years of Tomlinson’s NFL career saw the star running back play in 127 out of a possible 128 regular season games. Even more incredible than his health was his production when he stepped onto the field and stared down opposing defenses through that dark tinted visor. LT finished his rookie season 9th in the NFL in rushing and did not finish outside the top 10 until 2009. In real world terms, there were zit faced high school kids drafting LT as a rookie who had graduated college and started a family before Tomlinson finished a season with less than 1,100 yards rushing. Simply incredible.

 

Average Draft Position

Thanks to the good folks at myfantasyleague.com, we can take a look at the Average Draft Position (ADP) of LT throughout his fantasy career. As the 5th overall pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 2001 NFL draft, Tomlinson was well respected in fantasy circles and commanded a 4th round pick in 12-team leagues (42nd overall ADP). LT did not disappoint as a rookie, producing over 1,600 total yards and 10 touchdowns.

As a 2nd year back in 2002, Tomlinson was drafted 15th overall, on average, which was an absolute steal with a season of 2,172 total yards and 15 scores on the horizon. It was that 2002 season that cemented Tomlinson as a fantasy superstar, and permanently planted the LT flag atop fantasy football first rounds.

In the 2003-2008 seasons, LT was the #2 overall selection once, and carried the honor of the #1 ADP five other times.  In 2009, LT dropped down to an ADP of #6 overall, completing a streak of seven consecutive seasons drafted inside the top six picks in fantasy football drafts. If you happened to draw the 7th pick or lower in your fantasy drafts for the better part of a decade, your team wasn’t getting a sniff of fantasy football’s top dog.

 

LT vs. Today’s Studs

2012 has some very dynamic running backs that are powerful forces in both the running and passing games. Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, and a slew of other first round worthy workhorses are primed for stellar fantasy seasons and will be productive early round selections. So, how would LaDainian Tomlinson’s prime years stack up against today’s top talent? Let’s take a look:

First up is Adrian Peterson. This guy is pretty good. With five years now under his belt, Peterson has racked up some very impressive statistics, but his fantasy stats don’t quite reach the height of LT’s. Peterson’s 2008 season notched a solid 1,885 total yards…a total that Tomlinson surpassed in four separate seasons. In the touchdown department, AP’s 2009 career high of 18 scores was matched or beaten by LT four times as well.

Maurice Jones-Drew has built a very productive and reliable career as a fantasy running back and has famously used his “tank-like” low center of gravity to mash his way into the end zone on many occasions. However, MJD’s 2009 career high of 16 total touchdowns would have merely been Tomlinson’s sixth highest single-season TD total.

How about 2011’s highest scoring fantasy running back? Ray Rice clocked in at 297 total points in standard scoring leagues once 2011 came to an end. Undoubtedly, this is a healthy total that should get fantasy owners very excited about Rice’s prospects in 2012. Although a great performance, 297 fantasy points was surpassed by the great LT in five different seasons.

 

Triple Threat

In addition to the phenomenal rushing and receiving prowess that produced fantasy points by the ton, one of the most exciting aspects of watching LaDainian Tomlinson in the red zone was San Diego’s creative use of LT as a passer. Whenever the Chargers were inside the red zone, defenses and fantasy players alike watched with anticipation to see if LT would catch a toss out of the backfield and fire a strike into the end zone. LT finished his career with a passing line of 8-12 for 143 yards and seven touchdowns, and threw for three scores in 2005 alone. Think about that for just a second. In 2005, LT not only pumped out 1,832 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 touchdowns, but he threw three more touchdowns in the same season. Also, consider the fact that Sam Bradford threw 357 passes in 2011 and only managed to throw six touchdowns. LT truly was an all-around fantasy monster.

 

On behalf of The Fake Football, I would like to extend a sincere thank you and congratulations to LaDainian Tomlinson for an amazing NFL career, and an equally impressive run as a fantasy football star.

 

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