The end of a fantasy football era

If you’ve been playing fantasy football for the last five years, you know about the enormous impact of LaDainian Tomlinson.

Since 2004, L.T. has finished no worse than sixth in fantasy points among running backs on NFL.com. He finished third behind Shaun Alexander and Larry Johnson in 2005, and was the top-scoring runner in 2006 and 2007.

But just like the rest of us, age finally caught up with him.

This past season at the age of 30 (when so many running backs before him also broke down), Tomlinson finished with career lows in yards and ranked just 20th in fantasy points at his position.

Now comes a report from the San Diego Union Tribune that 2009 was likely the last for Tomlinson in a Chargers uniform.

The future Hall-of-Fame running back is due a $2 million roster bonus in March and $5 million in salary, neither of which the team is expected to pay. That means that within the next few months, one of the greatest running backs in fantasy football will be unemployeed.

Of course, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. We all remember an aging O.J. Simpson with the 49ers, Eric Dickerson in Atlanta, Tony Dorsett wearing a Broncos uniform and Emmitt Smith in Arizona.

Next season, it looks like Tomlinson will be wearing something other than Chargers blue and yellow. But wherever he lands, L.T. won’t be re-gaining his status as an elite fantasy player.

He might not even be a starter for his next franchise.

Just like Marshall Faulk was replaced by Priest Holmes, Holmes was replaced by Shaun Alexander and Alexander was replaced by Tomlinson, now Tomlinson has been replaced as the top running back in fantasy football.

And the new king of the mountain is Chris Johnson.

The Titans running back broke Faulk’s record for scrimmage yards in a single season in 2009, and finished as the top-scoring player on NFL.com. Based on those numbers, he’ll be consensus top pick in most 2010 drafts.

Yes my fantasy friends, the times they are changing.

Whether it’s the fall of Tomlinson, the rise of Johnson or the increased value of quarterbacks in 2010, we too have to change to take home a league championship.

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