OK -- so every analyst has a different view on LaDanian this year; seems like there are only 2 sides of the fence: 1) those that feel last season was fluky due to turf toe injury, and that he will rebound in a big way on a strong SD team this year, and 2) those that feel the decline is now in full effect, and that the Chargers locked up Sproles for a reason, intending to increase his workload this year as LT continues to be ineffective.
How you feel about this issue is obviously pivotal in the first round, particularly with a middle of the round pick (as I have, thus my agonizing thoughts).
I am leaning towards the pessimistic crowd, and I was wondering what the vibe was among the cafe elite crowd...
My current projections (non-PPR): 1110 rush yds, 10 rush TD, 350 rec yds, 1 rec TD.
Personally, I'm firmly on the pessimistic side of this debate. Historically, RBs don't just gradually decline, they fall off a cliff. And while I don't believe Tomlinson is going to just disappear ala Priest Holmes or Shaun Alexander, I do think last season was the beginning of the end for him. I would put Brian Westbrook in the same group as guys that I'd rather pass up a year early than hold onto a year too long. You can't afford to have your 1st round draft pick blow up in your face. Just for the record, I'm not saying LT and Westie won't have great years, I'm just saying it won't be for my team.
"Here's the thing: if you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, you are the sucker."- Rounders
Not touching him in any of my redraft leagues. It just is not worth the risk with your first round pick especially with Sproles there. I don't care what Turner said about getting LT carries..if he turns out to be ineffective you had better believe he will make Sproles the primary RB when they start losing games because LT doesn't have it anymore. There are plenty of people who disagree and think he will bounce back and say he posted pretty good numbers last year all things considered, but the guy is only getting older and has had a lot of carries in his career.
I'm quite firmly on the opposite side of things. Here are some things to consider to the contrary of what's already been said here.
First of all, it's one thing if he had some major injury problems like a torn ACL at his age or something of that sort...but the guy had turf toe (pretty bad too) and still managed to play all 16 games and put up much better numbers than most of the other RBs in this league. He was still a top 5-6 RB in nearly every league despite being hurt with one of the most nagging injuries you can possibly have as a RB, especially one that runs like Tomlinson does...apparently he couldn't even really cut left at all without considerable pain which obviously will hurt a player who runs with the style of LT. None of the injuries he had last season are the kind that will carry over to this next year...so it won't have any impact on this upcoming season.
Secondly, if you watched his last regular season game (which I did) he looked like the old LT with the same explosiveness and same cutting ability that has made him the great RB he is. They said before the game that he was finally over his turf toe injury and guess what? He had a great game...he looked fantastic and it was quite obvious that he hadn't lost a step.
Also, something you will never be able to say about LT is that he won't put the work in. He has one of the absolute best work ethics of any RB in the NFL and it's no coincidence that he's never missed a regular season game in his career. He stays in immaculate shape and he's completely healthy right now...Norv Turner has said multiple times that he still wants to get LT around 320 carries which means he WILL put up numbers. The age of 30 isn't some magic number that all of a sudden players get worse at...LT has the work ethic and drive to be the exception more than the rule.
Here's a good article that talks about how LT is looking at the season ahead:
Lastly...Darren Sproles is obviously no more talented than Michael Turner was...if you think that they're going to give Sproles a larger role than Turner had before he left and went to Atlanta I think you're kidding yourself. Turner got 71 and 80 carries in his last 2 seasons in SD and I could see similar totals for Sproles...he had 61 carries last season while LT was hurt all year so I have a hard time believing that's going to significantly increase to a point that it will hurt LT's production.
I'm grabbing him whenever he's there in the middle of the first or later.
I'm with mattb on this one. The only thing I'll say to the contrary is that Sproles may cut into LT's receptions a bit as Norv was using Sproles on 3rd down a relatively high percentage of snaps in the second half of last season and I could see Sproles filling a similar role this season.
With that being said, I'll take LT in a heartbeat if he's there in the middle of the 1st round. I rank him fairly high based on his expected TD totals alone. LT had 12 TDs last year despite the injuries, had at least 17 in each of the previous 5 seasons, is on a high-powered SD offense, and Sproles isn't going to be a goal-line vulture. I currently have LT projected for 16 TDs, which is more than I have any other RB projected for except MJD (who I also have at 16 and am very high on).
I also project LT to have decent yardage totals but that's because I see him having a bounce back year and I understand opposing arguments on these numbers. I think he's a lock for 12+ TDs though and I think that alone combined with at least moderate rushing and receiving totals would make him a good value in the mid to late first round.
One thing about Tomlinson as well though is that he's NEVER been under 50 receptions, even last season. That's saying something and I don't think we can expect him to get any fewer than 50 again this year (it's only a little over 3 receptions a game) so I don't know that Sproles will really "hurt" him in that respect even if he is used in the passing game more. Funny thing is that Sproles averaged 2.6 receptions per game over the 2nd half of the season (after just 1.4 for the first half) and LT still averaged 2.9 receptions per game (including the last game when he hurt his groin and didn't play the whole game). I think we could see LT with 55-60 receptions and Sproles with 30-35 himself.
I'm with Matt on this one but I need him to tone it down a little, ok Matt? I've had LT keep sliding to me late in the first round and I've grabbed him every time he's been there and I'd love to see it keep happening as long as it can. The only other thing that I can add to this argument that Matt hasn't already beaten me to is an elaboration on what Matt said. If you go back and look at RB production numbers over the past 10 years, you will quickly see that almost every time there is some exception to a general pattern, that LT is either the only exception or one of two or three exceptions.
The bottom line is that he hasn't been one of the best RBs of all time just because he's athletically gifted. His work ethic, knowledge of the game, and ability to hurt defenses (and produce fantasy results) in so many ways is what puts LT into a class of his own. After watching week 17 of last season, there was no doubt in my mind that LT would be able to return to form this year and nothing over the off season has led me to alter that belief.
So I will go on record now saying that LT could be one of the biggest "steals" of the draft as anyone who gets him at the end of the first is getting a RB that will finish in the top 5 for RBs by year's end.
I have Tomlinson ranked #2 overall. I think you'd be a fool to pass on him anywhere outside of the #1 pick in a redraft league. The first round this year is littered with a bunch of unproven guys that more likely than not are simply one year wonders. I think there is a severe dropoff after Tomlinson this year. Have people forgotten how amazing this guy was with two working toes? Do people fail to realize the kind of production that Norv Turner gets out of his RBs? Are the doubters out there expecting Oakland, Kansas City, and Denver to development NFL caliber defenses over night? Or are they simply stuck on the number 30? We're looking at probably the best RB to ever play in the NFL. This is a guy who has missed one single game over a nearly 10 year career. Last year he played injured for a full 16 game season and still finished well within the top10 RBs in the league. The guy carried the ball five times and scored a touchdown in the playoffs last year with a TORN GROIN. Few RBs in the league have as high a ceiling as this guy, and most of the risk he carries is perceived risk rather than actual IMO.
If you believe otherwise, you should be drafting Darren Sproles in the 6th rounds of your drafts.
While I've got the love for LT, I don't have the #2 overall pick love. But I love that you do. That's a lot of love for two sentences this early in the morning huh? I've actually got LT at 4RB in my PPR rankings for this year. I have him clearly behind ADP and MJD and right in line with SJax.