The San Diego Chargers gave up on LT.
Managers who do the same in fantasy football drafts might be missing out on a gem.
LaDainian Tomlinson is no longer a feature back in the NFL, nor should he be on your team. Most fantasy football projections have the New York Jets running back as a late-round pick; I have him at No. 98 on my draft board, as a potential RB2 or bye-week fill-in.
Shonn Greene is the man in New York, a barely-25-year-old back out of Iowa who rushed for 540 yards and two touchdowns on 108 carries in 2009.
People are calling Tomlinson washed up, pointing to his declining numbers over the past three seasons (from 1,815 yards and 28 TDs in 2006 to 1,474 and 15 in 2007; 1,110 and 11 in 2008; 730 and 12 in 2009) and the fact that he’s now 31 years old with 2,880 career carries under his belt.
I’m not deterred.
And in fact, I suspect Tomlinson might move up my fantasy football projections a bit before draft day.
Before you scoff, consider the following:
• The Jets ran the ball a league-high 607 times in 2009. They are aiming to be a little more balanced in 2010, but they’ll still be a run-first team, and LT will get his share of carries.
• Like LT this season, Thomas Jones turned 31 before the start of the 2009 campaign. All he did was rush for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns. True, Jones was New York’s starter, amassing 331 of those 607 carries, but there’s no reason to think Tomlinson will get fewer than 200 carries this season.
• Tomlinson should be rejuvenated this year, in a new situation and not having to be the every-down back. I also suspect he’ll steal some goal-line carries, making him even more valuable in fantasy football drafts.
• LT has proven himself adept in the passing game, averaging nearly 60 receptions a season during his nine years with the Chargers. He’s certainly got an edge over Greene in the receiving department, meaning the Jets could find other ways to use him in their offense.
I’m not suggesting we’ll see a return to the LT of old, nor that Tomlinson will necessarily put up numbers like Thomas Jones did in 2009. I think he could do it, given the carries Jones had, but I don’t see that happening.
What I do see is a guy who is being undervalued in many fantasy football projections and could be a solid producer in 2010.
More Fantasy Football Projections:
• Click here for: Ranking the Top 100 Players
• Click here for: Quarterback rankings for all 32 teams
What do I know?
I’ve been playing fantasy football since 1998, and have participated in a keeper “dynasty” league since 2003. I also play in two or three single-season leagues each year, because as much as I love the keeper format, it’s just fun to draft each season. I’m putting together these lists not because I think I’m a fantasy football expert (although I DID finally win my keeper league, plus another single-season league in 2009) but because I’m researching these players and stats and figured maybe I could help out other fantasy managers along the way. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these lists, and I’ll continue rolling out positional and overall lists through the month of August, while fantasy football drafts are ongoing and while new information becomes available on players as they prepare for the 2010 season.