How Far Will LaDainian Tomlinson's Fantasy Stock Fall in '09?

Tom FroemmingCorrespondent IFebruary 11, 2009

After being a top fantasy pick for years, LaDainian Tomlinson is going to fall on most people's draft boards. The question is how far?

After putting together the most impressive single season in NFL history two years ago, LT has seen a dramatic drop in his production. While no one could expect him to go over 2,300 yards and 30 touchdowns on a yearly basis, no one could have predicted the steep decline either.

While it's not even certain which team he'll be suiting up for in 2009 (though the trade winds have slowed), it seems like a safe bet that his numbers next year will be closer to those from '08 than those from '06.

LT has played through injuries in each of the past two seasons, and turns 30 in June, which has long been thought of as the expiration date for running backs.

With all those factors in mind, LaDainian Tomlinson is going to be the type of draft pick that will make or break a fantasy team in 2009.

Those who draft him are hoping for a renaissance season, knowing full well, the numbers show he's on the decline. He could turn out to be one of the better value picks next year—or, like last year, a huge disappointment.

While it's an ever-evolving list that changes by the day, here are my top-10 running backs if I was drafting a fantasy team today.

1. Adrian Peterson
2. Michael Turner
3. Matt Forte
4. DeAngelo Williams
5. Steven Jackson
6. Brandon Jacobs
7. LaDainian Tomlinson
8. Chris Johnson
9. Brian Westbrook
10. Maurice Jones-Drew

It's going to be a deep crop of backs in 2009. I couldn't even fit in the NFL's fourth-leading rusher, Clinton Portis, who averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in the second half of the season.

LT, meanwhile, slides to No. 7 at this point, behind Steven Jackson and Brandon Jacobs. While I don't feel like I have to defend the top four guys ranking in above LT, those last two may raise some eyebrows.

S-JAX had another disappointing, injury-prone season in St. Louis, but did show flashes of brilliance. Over the final three weeks of the season, "The Predator" tallied 461 total yards and three touchdowns. In the end, he ranked third among backs in fantasy points per game.

Finally healthy, and with his team heading in a new direction under new head coach (and former Giants defensive coordinator) Steve Spagnuolo, the sky is the limit next year.

Speaking of the Giants, both Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward are free agents, but it's starting to look like Jacobs is the more likely of the two to return to the G-Men. If that's the case, Big Brandon will be running behind the best run blocking line in the league and will get the majority of the reps in '09.

He has never carried the ball more than 220 times in a season which means he's still got a lot of life left in those 26-year-old tree-trunk legs.

While they certainly don't have the track records, I'd take either Jackson or Jacobs over Tomlinson. LT may still have some slipping to do before the offseason is over.

On a final note, some may be shocked (my brother included) at the similar drop of Brian Westbrook on my board. Westy faces similar challenges to LT, and I think if you're going to drop one, you have to drop the other.

While elite at certain points, Westbrook was intolerably inconsistent last season, and his year ended with a thud, averaging less than three yards per carry and scoring one touchdown over his final six games (including the playoffs). Westy also turns 30 this year, and has always been an injury risk.

So, expect the Eagles to draft a running back to take some of the load off No. 36.


*Article originally posted at Fro Bros. Fantasy Football