Chargers Fantasy Outlook: Running Back

A 4-12 team doesn't figure to have much in the way of fantasy players, but they do sport one of the top three players in all of fantasy land. You may be surprised to learn that they were 14th in the league in yards per game and 16th in the league in points scored per game. The surprises end there as the Chargers rush offense was 6th in the league and led, of course, by LaDainian Tomlinson, a Pro Bowler to anyone who knows anything about anything.

LaDainian Tomlinson

His overall stats have risen each year since he entered the league as a rookie in 2001. His yards per carry have gone up, despite playing behind an unknown cast of misfits commonly referred to as their offensive line. Most importantly is the fact that his touchdowns have gone from 10 to 14 to 17 from year one to year three. Tomlinson has clearly established himself as one of the top three backs in the league.

In 2003, Tomlinson ran for 1,645 and added 725 yards through the air. He established a new record for running backs with 100 receptions, shattering the old mark of 91 set by Roger Craig. He scored 17 touchdowns, 13 on the ground and four through the air. He was charged with two fumbles (one was on a bad snap and subsequent handoff from Doug Flutie), he did not lose a single one in 413 touches. He was rewarded by the ignorance of everyone when he was left off the Pro Bowl squad.

Tomlinson has not missed a single game in his first three seasons in the league. He is durable and elusive enough to not take many hard hits. Tomlinson is as close to a home run threat as you will find. He had ten plays of 30 plus yards on the year and six of those were for 50 plus yards.

A look at his line:

One of the biggest questions has always been and may continue to be his offensive line. This year the Chargers have again turned over their line and could potentially enter the season with a brand new starting five from a year ago.

But is it better?

Roman Oben will play left tackle and he is certainly better at pass protection than Damion Sackintosh. His rush push will be key from the left side as Courtney Van Buren, a second year man who is still raw mans the right. Oben does not have the experience run blocking for a stud such as Tomlinson but he will more than hold his own when compared to McIntosh.

Toniu Fonoti is still the odds on favorite to start at left guard. He is the mauler they desire to play that position, formerly manned by Kelvin Garmon. He is equally as big, ok bigger, and the Chargers want him desperately in shape so he can man the position and offer some consistency. He lined up at guard two years ago and showed promise, particularly in run support.

Jason Ball is still out and he is the best center the team has. He is sure in his snaps and was one of the better linemen over the past two years. With Ball out, Nick Hardwick figures to see the bulk of playing time. Hardwick is a rookie but has shown to possess a learning curve. He has, however, quickly put anything taught to him to use. He is a rookie still and it will hamper the line to be led by a rookie.

Mike Goff brings stability to the right guard position. Goff has blocked for Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson and has done it well. He is an upgrade over the previous ensemble that included Bob Hallen and Phil Bogle. Bogle is still with the team and will become the top reserve. That bodes well for the rushing attack.

Overall, it is hard to argue that the line has improved. They have added two veterans and potentially will bring back Fonoti. If Ball is there it will be a trifecta and one of the better lines the team has fielded in recent years.


Tomlinson will, and should be, a top two back. With the Chargers potentially starting a rookie quarterback, his value is that much greater. Any Marty Schottenheimer team is based on the running game and Tomlinson will be leaned on.

His numbers should easily top 2,000 total yards from scrimmage for the third straight year. Expect his receiving numbers to take a hit and drop to a more manageable 70 receptions. His rushing numbers should remain intact while his touchdowns figure to move up again – for the fourth consecutive year. Look for 20 touchdowns combined from Tomlinson and a solid top two pick in the world of make believe.

The rest

The Chargers drafted Michael Turner in the fifth round and is viewed as a steal. He may actually get more carries than any other running back ever has with San Diego but it still won't be much. He should be kept on reserve for that thing that cannot be said.

Lorenzo Neal can block the heck out of people and if they gave points for blocking Neal would be at the top of your list. Since that is not the case he has no fantasy value.

The team has one back they go to and nobody else. There is no third down threat that will pick up 30-40 catches. Those catches all go to LT. He is the epitome of a number one back and drafting him first overall will net little groins of disapproval.

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