As part of our preseason fantasy football content on NFL.com, we’ve started doing a series of video debates between myself and fellow fantasy enthusiast Adam Rank.
One of our first debates centered around the value of LaDainian Tomlinson for the 2009 season. That debate has triggered several email responses from NFL.com readers who think I’m completely anti-L.T.
That’s not true.
In my opinion, Tomlinson is not worth taking in the first five picks of your fantasy draft. Age is a factor. So is a schedule that includes eight games against teams that finished in the top 12 in run defense last season.
The Chargers offensive line isn’t doing Tomlinson any favors, either.
Furthermore, how can you argue that Tomlinson’s decline hasn’t already started? In 2006, he scored an amazing 413 fantasy points on NFL.com. He was again strong in 2007, but he finished with 120 fewer points.
Tomlinson, in what was his worst statistical season since his rookie campaign, finished 2008 with 209 points. That’s an 84-point drop from the previous season and a 204-drop from his record-setting 2006.
The fact that L.T. is now 30 also really makes me skeptical that he can return to an elite level.
Sure, other backs like Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett have had good seasons at or over the age of 30. But do you want to use a top-five pick based on a comparison of runners who’ve had “good” seasons?
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for a “great” season from someone I take that high in the first round.
That means taking runners like Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew or Michael Turner — younger, less-weathered backs who have still not yet reached their statistical potential.
If I end up with a late first-round pick and Tomlinson is still on the board, yes, I would take him there and target Darren Sproles as insurance in the middle rounds.
But I wouldn’t expect the L.T. of 2006 — more like the one from 2008.