San Diego Chargers Running Back
Ladainian Tomlinson who is better known as “LT” is the running back for the San Diego Chargers.
No other fantasy football player (with the possible exception of Peyton Manning) has been more consistent than Ladainian Tomlinson. Every single year for the past five NFL seasons, LT has been a top five pick in fantasy football leagues across America.
Every time Tomlinson was drafted with one of those top picks, he was worth the selection. With a combination of breakaway speed, pass-catching ability and durability, Ladainian Tomlinson has every tool a great fantasy football running needs.
Ladainian Tomlinson – College Career
Since he didn’t start as a running back until his senior year in high school he was recruited by the relatively small school Texas Christian University or TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.
He spilt time until his junior year when he set a record for single game rushing yards with 406 and leading the NCAA with 1,850 yards overall. His senior year he led the NCAA again with 2,158 yards.
Ladainian was in the 2001 NFL draft and was picked fifth overall by the San Diego. (It should be noted that the Chargers traded their first overall pick to the Atlanta Falcons for the fifth pick that got them Tomlinson. The Falcons ironically traded up to pick Michael Vick).
Fantasy Superstar LT2
Tomlinson has been a monster in Fantasy Football since his introduction into the league in 2001. This due mostly to the fact that he has never had a serious injury in a seven year career while still consistently averaging big numbers. Even with a dropoff year last year, LT2 managed to amass 1,950 yards, 18 touch downs, and 60 catches.
Not only is Ladainian Tomlinson a great runner but he has good hands as well. Add in the occasional passes he makes and you’re picking points out like asparagus from your teeth.
LT and the Chargers Passing Game
The Chargers offence for the 2008 season looks set to the strongest they had in years. Philip Rivers should continue to improve with two years of experience earned as the starting quarterback, and if he performs like he did the second half of the season expect not only more passes to Tomlinson, but also more freedom for the running game.
The offensive line has also improved during the during the off-season, couple that with the Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers duo that proved to be the best tandem of wide receivers San Diego has seen since the very early 80’s and defenses will have to stay honest and that means loads more running room for Tomlinson.
In the past, San Diego has lacked the playmakers to threaten or "stretch" defenses, but with Vincent Jackson slowly gaining the skills needed at the wide receiver position and Chris Chambers with a full training camp with the San Diego Chargers, that dynamic might change this year.
Ladainian Tomlinson in 2007
If you take the second half of 2007 (forget about the playoffs and the knee which we’ll get to in a second) and replicate it in 2008, then Tomlinson’s numbers should be big again. The larger question on the table obviously at the moment is the injury. After a several seasons of no injury whatsoever it seemed he was immune to injury, but any player is susceptible to injury after the amount of carries LT2 has had the past five years.
A slight MCL tear suffered at the end of last season is the only small cloud hanging over LT and the Chargers. Reports of an intense preseason for him were quickly squashed saying he is still feeling pain though he appears to have no real fears about it himself and reports have been generally positive.
Ladainian Tomlinson Injury Status
Luckily, Ladainian Tomlinson has had a long off season for the injury that typically sidelines a player for about 6 weeks, but when knees and running backs are mentioned in the same sentence there are always a few winces around the room, especially for the parties involved. The re-injury occurred on January the 20th, but as late as March 11th reports he was still feeling pain.
That means it was more than eight weeks from the second injury, and more than nine from the first initial injury.
Reports come back every day that he is improving and has started running and cutting. If you ask me “the injury” was just something over-reported during a long offseason, and because it came at the inopportune time of the Chargers playoff run and defeat at the hands (once again) of the New England Patriots.
He always takes care of his body and though people are saying he turns 29 soon you have to think he has several seasons left in him before you even see the first signs of him slowing down.
Ladainian Tomlinson, for all his production, is a player who avoids the big shot when he can. He has a squirrely way of avoiding solid hits on tackles, and Tomlinson is known for running out of bounds to avoid a tackle altogether. While some football fans might not like to see their running back avoiding hits, I tend to view Ladainian Tomlinson as less of an injury risk than many of the other top ball carriers for that very reason.
San Diego Chargers Offense
I think the Chargers have a chance to be better on the outside in the 2008 season. Philip Rivers has had two full seasons as the starting quarterback to learn the NFL game, so the light might come on in his third full season as a starter. You can say Rivers is now a veteran quarterback.
The wide receiving corps should be better than it has been in recent years.
Chris Chambers should give Rivers a veteran target he’s never had, while Vincent Jackson is a tall wideout who continues to show flashes of star talent. Craig "Buster" Davis, a high draft pick last year, is coming into his second season and should show a lot of improvement.
The big question mark for the Chargers offense is Antonio Gates. There are indications his injured toe still isn’t well, and it looks like Gates might miss most of training camp. There’s even the concern that Antonio Gates might go on the PUP list and could miss the start of the season. That’s probably offseason alarmism, but missing Gates would definitely hurt the Chargers offenses’ chances for improvement.
An improved San Diego offense would work both ways for Tomlinson. One reason he’s been so productive the last few years was that LT and Gates were the only viable options. One of the two were likely to score the touchdowns. So an improved unit could mean LT loses touches near the goal line.
At the same time, an improved unit also means there will probably be more trips to the goal line. Also, defenses won’t be able to key on Ladanian Tomlinson as much as they have in the past, so LT could have a little more space to run. Finally, Tomlinson is at the point in his career where a reduced workload might be good for his injury prospects, while also increasing his effectiveness when he does get the ball.
LaDainian Tomlinson – 2009 Fantasy Football Season
LaDainian Tomlinson appears to have settled into that 5th or 6th overall running back on many RB lists coming into the 2009 season, after slipping as low as 10th or 11th in certain fantasy football magazines early in the summer.
If you’re drafting in the middle of the first round, you’ll face the choice of LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Frank Gore or DeAngelo Williams, and LT might start looking nice to you.
Think about it: Steven Jackson is on an awful team and awful offense and he’s hurt more than LT2, while Frank Gore is on a mediocre team and DeAngelo Williams has a 2008 1st rounder breathing down his neck for playing time (in Jonathan Stewart). All these guys have upside, but so does Ladainian Tomlinson, and Tomlinson will be playing on one of the NFL’s best offenses.
Teams are going to watch an offseason of Philip Rivers throwing the ball all around the field, and the Chargers have threats like Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles on the squad. So LaDainian Tomlinson should face less attention from the defense than he has in the past.
The main question is, will LaDainian Tomlinson hold up for another season. In 2007 and 2008, LT broke down as the season went on. He was a waste in the NFL playoffs. While he was able to play through most of the NFL regular season, the last thing you want is a running back out of games in December, when most of us hope to be playing for league titles.
But there’s another question about LT these days, besides health.
Tomlinson: Does He Still Have It?
Ladainian Tomlinson looks to have slowed down as he’s reached the age of 30. He’s not the same back he was when he was 27. LT has lost half a step – or at least appears to be.
Of course, no one is the back LaDainian Tomlinson was when he was 27. And even at age 30, LaDainian Tomlinson is still one of those special backs. But for the first time in years, LT isn’t the can’t miss fantasy football prospect. He’s no longer a no-brainer
But when the time comes and you’re on the clock, you’re either going to remember LT winning you a league title or you’re going to remember LT beating you for a league title and you’re probably going to draft him over those other backs.
Given the fact he’s on the San Diego Chargers and they’re pretty good these days, I think that’s the right choice. But if you draft Ladainian in 2009, just remember to draft Darren Sproles to cover your ass. If you don’t, then the pick of LT is probably a bad pick. The last two years indicate he’s not likely to play a full NFL schedule.
Ladainian Tomlinson – 2008 Fantasy Football Season
LaDainian Tomlinson no longer has Michael Turner backing him up. In two of the past three seasons, Turner ran significant part of the time in the San Diego Chargers offense. Without a reliable backup, expect to see LT get a larger percentage of the San Diego Chargers carries — though the percentage was one of the league’s largest in recent years anyway.
If he stays healthy, the departure of Michael Turner is a good thing for Tomlinson owners, especially in redraft leagues where you only care about production and health for this year.
For those who think Adrian Peterson should go ahead of LT because he’s younger, you have to remember that AD had a long history of injuries with the Oklahoma Sooners. Peterson also plays a significant portion of his games on turf, which tends to increase the injury factor. Finally, Adrian Peterson showed inconsistency even last year, often because Brad Childress would limit AD’s carries the week after he broke records — no doubt because of injury concerns and the presence of Chester Taylor on the roster.
All in all, I would still grab LaDainian Tomlinson with the 1st overall pick. He’s shown he’s worth that selection over a long period of years, and I don’t think his injury risk is much larger than Adrian Peterson’s at this point. Tomlinson should be the focus of a solid offense which gives him plenty of opportunities to score, and Tomlinson has a better offense around him than Adrian Peterson.
If you get the first pick, grab LT and expect another All Pro season from the 29 year old LaDainian Tomlinson.