LaDainian Tomlinson Retirement: Where LT Ranks Among All-Time NFL RBs

John Rozum@Rozum27Correspondent IJune 17, 2012

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 06:  LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the San Diego Chargers walks off the field after his team's 17-6 victory over the Tennessee Titans during their AFC Wild Card Game on January 6, 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the best running backs of his generation, will be announcing his retirement this week.

According to the San Diego Chargers' official website, Tomlinson is set to retire as a Charger on Monday:

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson will re-sign with San Diego and immediately announce his retirement from the National Football League at a press conference Monday at Chargers Park.

Finishing his career as pro football's fifth all-time leading rusher, Tomlinson was arguably the best ball-carrier of his generation which began in 2001 and concluded after an 11-year career.

So where does LaDainian rank among the best running backs ever?

Well, let's dive back into history and see where Tomlinson ends up.

1. Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders was a 10-time All-Pro selection in 10 NFL seasons and had literally zero help around him throughout his entire career. Retiring as the NFL's third all-time leading rusher, Sanders' worst season was 1,115 yards in 1993 and he averaged 1,819 total yards per season for his career.

Lest we forget, but Sanders also averaged five yards per carry with defenses constantly stacking the box and run-blitzing against him.

2. Jim Brown

Jim Brown was ahead of his time and had he played for the Browns in the 1980s, Cleveland surely would have made it to at least one Super Bowl.

He was extremely fast, quick and explosive for his size and it's no wonder Brown ran over everyone on the field. We also have to keep in mind that when Brown played, the NFL was only a 12 and 14 game season.

3. Walter Payton

You can't go wrong with "Sweetness" as Walter Payton was the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears. Although he wasn't the size of Jim Brown, Payton ran over would-be tacklers like a fullback and outran defensive backs like a track star.

The NFL's second all-time leading rusher, Payton also accounted for 4,538 receiving yards during his 13-year career.

4. Emmitt Smith

The NFL's all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith was the focal point of the Dallas Cowboys' offense during the 1990s. Winning three Super Bowls in four years, Smith ran for over 1,000 yards in 11 straight seasons (1991-2001) and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII.

On an arguably more impressive scale, Smith totaled 1,042 yards for the Arizona Cardinals in 2004 at age 35.

5. Gale Sayers

Gale Sayers is arguably the best player ever to have his career cut short. "The Kansas Comet" possessed an extremely athletic combination of speed, agility, vision and acceleration.

He holds the NFL record (tied) for six touchdowns in one game but most impressively, Sayers performed this feat on basically a mud-covered field. An amazing return man, Sayers' versatile threat will likely never be seen again.

6. O.J. Simpson

Pro football's first 2000-yard rusher, O.J. Simpson was the Buffalo Bills during the 1970s.

And for as difficult as it is to remember the "Juice" for his time spent on the gridiron, when strictly looking at him from a football perspective he was one of the best ever. Not to mention, but Simpson did gain over two grand during the 14-game season of 1973.

7. Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk did everything for the St. Louis Rams and the "Greatest Show on Turf" was built around him. Even before joining the Rams in 1999 Faulk was a complete threat with the Indianapolis Colts from 1994-1998.

There, Faulk hit over 1,000 yards in four of five seasons and kept the momentum rolling in St. Louie. You can call him the updated version of Roger Craig because Faulk was a dual-threat back that finished with 6,875 receiving yards during his illustrious career.

8. LaDainian Tomlinson

LaDainian Tomlinson comes in at No. 8 overall and considering the Bolts' offense revolved around him, he's definitely a similar player to Marshall Faulk.

Tomlinson compiled over 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first eight seasons and caught no less than 51 passes during that span. Even when with the Jets in 2010, Tomlinson collected almost 1,300 total yards at age 31.

Easily one of the most explosively dynamic players to play in the backfield, Tomlinson holds the NFL record for most touchdowns (31) and rushing touchdowns (28) in a single season (2006).

9. Eric Dickerson

The only downside about Eric Dickerson's career was that he spoiled NFL fans with his first two NFL seasons. After rushing for 1,808 as a rookie in 1983, Dickerson set the NFL single season rushing record (that still stands) with 2,105 yards in 1984.

Thereafter, Dickerson hit over 1,800 yards one other time but finished his career in a disappointing fashion (under 800 rush yards in each of final four seasons).

10. Earl Campbell

Earl Campbell had legs that were the size of my entire body. The man was pure beast and literally ran over, around and through anyone who attempted to tackle him.

An underrated aspect of Campbell's game though, was his speed. Having great top speed to beat defenders to the edge, Campbell even ran over Oakland's Jack Tatum. Unfortunately, Campbell was overused by the Oilers (averaged 351 carries through first four years) and retired after just eight seasons.

John Rozum on Twitter.


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