End of an era

LaDainian Tomlinson is no longer an "elite" running back.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It may have gotten lost in all the Olympic hype, but LaDainian Tomlinson was released by the San Diego Chargers yesterday. It denotes the end of an amazing run for the star running back.

Actually the "party" came to an end last year when for the first time since 2002, "LT" wasn't one of the top-three backs in the league, but sometimes people are stubborn in acknowledging the inevitable. Particularly when it comes to one of the best running backs in the history of fantasy football.

Running backs usually have a "shell life" of three-to-four seasons in which they produce solid results. Tomlinson had eight.

A four-year running back at TCU, Tomlinson was the fifth-overall pick in 2001 behind, Michael Vick, Leonard Davis, Gerard Warren and Justin Smith. Even in his first season, you knew he was special, posting 1,236 yards and 10 touchdowns and adding 59 receptions for 367 yards.

From 2002-2007 Tomlinson produced top-three overall results. His reliability was unsurpassed as he never posted less than 1,335 yards rushing, 370 yards receiving and at least 15 touchdowns. Included is the year 2006 when he outscored every NFL player by a mile, putting up 2,323 yards from scrimmage and accounting for 33 touchdowns (28 rushing, three receiving, two passing).

Tomlinson's 456 fantasy points in 2006 even surpassed what Chris Johnson did this past season in which he ran for 2006 yards and earned 429 fantasy points. "LT" was the consensus No.1 pick from 2003 through 2007 and was still a top- three pick in 2008.

He fell from "fantasy royalty" in 2008, but it was mainly due to a foot injury that he couldn't shake throughout the season. This year, despite the emergence of Darren Sproles, Tomlinson had a RapidDraft ADP (Average Draft Position) of 8.0, meaning he was still being drafted in the first round.

Tomlinson didn't meet expectations for the second consecutive season for fantasy owners or for the Chargers and with a big guaranteed check due in March, San Diego cut ties with the five-time Pro Bowler.

No longer an "elite" running back, "LT" indicated that he was still interested in playing and is actively looking for a contender to sign with, but it's likely going to be in a part-time role at best.

It's the end of a era for Tomlinson, but it's just the beginning for the Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew era. Let's hope their "run to glory" is as long and productive as Tomlinson's Hall-of-Fame body of work.

LaDainian Tomlinson NFL Career Statistics
Year Gm Att Yds Ave TD Rec Yds Ave TD
2001 16 339 1236 3.6 10 59 367 6.2 0
2002 16 372 1683 4.5 14 79 489 6.1 1
2003 16 313 1645 5.3 13 100 725 7.2 4
2004 15 339 1335 3.9 17 53 441 8.3 1
2005 16 339 1462 4.3 18 51 370 7.2 2
2006 16 349 1815 5.2 28 56 508 9.1 3
2007 16 315 1474 4.7 15 60 475 7.9 3
2008 16 292 1110 3.8 11 52 426 8.2 1
2009 14 223 730 3.3 12 20 154 7.7 0


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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