Scouts, Inc.'s Matt Williamson highlights the reasons for LaDainian Tomlinson's current high-risk, low-reward Dynasty value. Aging and injury-prone players may often be worth a roll of the dice if there's a reasonable chance of a perfect-storm monster season still left in the tank, but Tomlinson's ceiling is no longer 2,000 total yards and 20+ touchdowns. The high-end reward isn't worth the risk of being left holding the bag on a value-drain.
It pains me to say it because I respect what he has accomplished a great deal, but LaDainian Tomlinson is heavily on the decline and the end is near for an all-time great running back. I base this on one thing -- film.
Tomlinson clearly was injured to some degree throughout last season, and I really have no way of judging how severe those injuries were. Also, his offensive line declined to some degree as well in 2008. But the Tomlinson of old would have shined despite the blocking he received last season. He was that good in his prime. He is not that good now.
. . .
First, he has taken a beating over the years. Despite his tremendous elusiveness and vision -- he rarely took big head-on shots -- the wear is beginning to deteriorate his once massive skill set.
He no longer explodes out of his cuts like he once did. He rarely breaks long runs -- one of the very first things to go in a great running back. His trademark jump cuts are not what they once were. He doesn't make your jaw drop in the open field and doesn't move the pile as he once did. Some of this can be attributed to his toe injury, but last year's Tomlinson is more of what we will see than the great Tomlinson of the past. At this point, he gets what is given to him and little more.Tomlinson eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark only twice last season, with a high of 106 yards. Those two games were against the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints -- not exactly high-end run defenses. Tomlinson's eyes see the play to make, but his body can't finish it off. That is what happens when great players decline.
Tomlinson's game isn't going to fall off a cliff; it should be a more gradual slide. His yards per carry declined in each of the past two years, dipping to a measly 3.8 in 2008. There will be fewer and fewer highlight runs -- even though he is now a part of a deadly passing offense that will pull defenders out of the box.
The injuries probably will continue to be a problem -- that is simply what happens to running backs with the number of carries he has logged . . . He is now a complementary piece of an exceptional offense. Philip Rivers must be the central figure.