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Fantasy Check

Running backs of the decade

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The best: LaDainian Tomlinson
The next: Shaun Alexander
The rest: Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Jamal Lewis

LaDainian Tomlinson defined the running back position in fantasy during the first decade of the 21st century.

Based on touchdown average (total touchdowns divided by games played), not only is Tomlinson the fantasy running back of the decade, but you could make a reasonable argument for him being the most valuable player in fantasy history.

Tomlinson averages 1.14 touchdowns per game, the best in NFL history among running backs who have played a minimum of 68 games. That's how many games Gale Sayers played before retiring, and the Hall of Famer's touchdown average of .706 is one of the highest of all-time.

To give you an idea of the separation between Tomlinson and other prolific touchdown scorers, consider Emmitt Smith's touchdown average is .779. Smith is the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (164).

Since his rookie season in 2001, Tomlinson has averaged 16 fantasy points per game in standard-scoring formats (six points per touchdown; one point per 10 yards rushing; one point per 10 yards receiving). But perhaps the best indicator of just how good Tomlinson has been is that this season he has 12 touchdowns, which by his standards constitute a down year.

It was a close decision for the second best fantasy running back of the decade. The choices came down to Shaun Alexander and Edgerrin James, with Alexander winning out because of his .911 touchdown average (second all-time).

From 2001 to 2005, Alexander played in all 80 regular season games and had no fewer than 16 total touchdowns in each of those seasons. In 2004 and 2005, he scored 20 and a then-record 28 total touchdowns respectively. Tomlinson, Smith and Marshall Faulk are the only other players in NFL history to have consecutive seasons of at least 20 touchdowns.

James's touchdown average of .561 kept him from supplanting Alexander as the decade's second best fantasy running back, but in yardage-heavy leagues, the two-time rushing champion was more consistent throughout the 2000s.

Since 2000, James has had seven seasons of at least 1,343 yards from scrimmage and four seasons with at least nine total touchdowns. As for durability, James entering this season had played in at least 13 games all but once.

By Gene Wang  |  December 29, 2009; 10:00 AM ET  | Category:  Fantasy Football Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Quarterbacks of the decade | Next: Wide receivers of the decade

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