LaDainian lands with the Jets
What is it with these veteran rushers? Can't they go someplace where they won't impede burgeoning fantasy stars? First Chester Taylor eschews options such as the Houston Texans or San Diego Chargers to go to the Chicago Bears, where Matt Forte's fantasy owners were hoping against hope that Forte would thrive under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Then Thomas Jones rains on Jamaal Charles' fantasy parade, taking short money to play for a bad team in a non-starting role. And now the guy who probably stands as the fantasy football MVP of the 2000s, LaDainian Tomlinson, is in New York to haunt Shonn Greene.
Tomlinson has signed a two-year deal to play for the Jets, instantly muddying what looked like rather clear waters for Mr. Greene. When Jones was jettisoned from Gotham, suddenly Greene looked like he'd be a plow horse, a 20-carry-per-game guy who'd be his own goal-line option, and would probably come out of the game only on passing downs. There was a groundswell to consider Greene in the first round of fantasy drafts, a temptation that we at the Worldwide Leader fortunately never succumbed to, because now Greene's value looks shakier.
Don't get me wrong. I was the guy begging you not to draft LDT last season, the guy who thought his legs were done at the end of '08. I don't think Tomlinson will suddenly recapture past glory and warrant double-digit carries each week. But he is still a very good pass-catcher, and he does have a ridiculous record of performance on the goal line. He's going to be involved. There are going to be weeks in which he steals points-rich touches from Greene, and we're going to wring our hands.
But you know what? After I heard about this move, I thought about it, and I didn't lower Greene one notch from where I had him: 13th among running backs, and 24th overall. Do I believe Tomlinson is going to steal some touchdowns? Sure I do. Will Greene wind up with fewer rushing yards because LDT is around? Probably. But Tomlinson just isn't a big-play threat anymore, and if Greene's impressive playoff run this January showed us anything, it's that he's not merely the plodder it sometimes seemed he might be when he was a draft prospect coming out of the University of Iowa. He has a little bit of juke, and some really nice acceleration. I believe he's still going to wind up being the guy the Jets ride behind that wonderful offensive line. What this move does to his fantasy value is inject some downside. And I think maybe that winds up being kind of a good thing. It'll temper expectations, so nobody is expecting him to produce a Michael Turner-circa-2008 season all of a sudden.
Now, Leon Washington's role in the Jets' offense does get thrown for a bit of a loop, even if he is able to fully heal from his leg fracture. Tomlinson's hands are still adept, and provided he still has between five and 10 snaps per game in him, I expect he'll be the team's primary third-down option, leaving Washington to focus on specialty plays and special teams. Unless one of the two guys in front of him gets hurt, it's hard to see fantasy value for Washington in '10.
Finally, a quick word about the Jets' decision-making here. I really don't understand their decision to go with Tomlinson over Jones as Greene's backup. I really don't. I mean, maybe there are interpersonal issues here, locker-room stuff that simply ruled out Jones returning. But barring that, are there really a lot of people out there who think LDT is a better player than Jones at this point in their respective careers?
The Jets reportedly didn't want to pay Jones his $3 million roster bonus on top of his $2.8 million base salary. But Jones wound up signing a two-year deal for $5 million, essentially the same dollars the Jets gave Tomlinson. Was there really no chance at all of working something out? Maybe not. Maybe Jones' pride was too injured by the notion of his team refusing to pay him a bonus after a 1,400-yard season. But boy, I think the Jets are a worse team with Tomlinson instead of Jones, and as a football fan, I'd have liked to see them work that out.
Anyway, fantasy owners scratching their heads about recent fantasy stars landing in crowded situations can at least take solace in this: At least Tomlinson didn't land with the Vikings.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.
2010 Fantasy Football Offseason
ESPN.comkeeps you connected to fantasy football all offseason long with updated rankings, mock drafts and analysis of all the important moves.
NFL Draft• Day 1: Ryan Mathews the big winner
• Day 2: Toby Gerhart now a handcuff
• Day 3: Rounds 4-7 can yield sleepers
• Matthew Berry's Top 150, updated June 4
• Christopher Harris' Top 200, updated May 11
• Fantasy Staff Top 200, updated April 30
• Christopher Harris' Top 200, updated April 19
• Matthew Berry's Top 100, April 8
Analysis from Christopher Harris
• Don't expect much from T.O. in Cincinnati
• Vincent Jackson no longer a top 25 receiver
• Jason Campbell is still bland in Oakland
• LenDale White, Leon Washington in Seattle
• Brandon Marshall deal to Miami boosts Henne
• Santonio Holmes' value falls with trade to Jets
• Donovan McNabb's stock drops with Redskins
• Willie Parker joins Redskins veteran RBBC
• Browns wheeling and dealing potential options
• LDT signing with Jets muddies Greene's value
• Larry Johnson still irrelevant with Redskins
• Derrick Mason's re-signing helps Flacco
• Antonio Bryant decent fit with Bengals
• Thomas Jones loses lots of value with Chiefs
• Reggie Brown intriguing with Tampa Bay
• Boldin trade doesn't do much for his value
• Taylor, Burleson open free-agency season
• NFL scouting combine fantasy review