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Six Years of Tomlinson - A Comparison
David Dorey
January 1, 2007

LaDainian Tomlinson concludes his historic and record-setting NFL season but how does he compare to the greats of the past? There can never be a 1:1 comparison given the different eras and all that entails but it is interesting to see just how much Tomlinson has accomplished in his first six years.

Using Shaun Alexander as the other best back that is currently playing, consider the first six seasons for those two players versus what was done by Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Jim Brown in their first six years:

  FF Gms Rushing Receiving Total
  Pts Plyd Att Yards YPC TD Rec Yards TD Yards TDs
LaDainian Tomlinson 1,874 95 2,051 9,176 4.5 100 398 2,900 11 12,076 111
Emmitt Smith 1,691 93 2,007 8,956 4.5 96 301 1,951 4 10,907 100
Shaun Alexander 1,520 96 1,717 7,817 4.6 89 188 1,387 11 9,204 100
Barry Sanders 1,453 89 1,763 8,672 4.9 62 210 1,782 6 10,454 68
Walter Payton 1,438 89 1,865 8,386 4.5 65 202 1,791 5 10,177 70
Jim Brown 1,388 76 1,499 7,459 5.0 70 168 1,563 11 9,022 81

Overall, Tomlinson has scored more fantasy points than any other running back in their first six years. That comes with the acknowledgement that Jim Brown and Walter Payton did not play in 16 games seasons each year. And Alexander did not play much in his first season. Overall though, for six seasons you could not have made a better fantasy draft pick for at least a good season if not, of course, the all-time best one. Now we just have to hope that Tomlinson does not experience the same problems that Alexander had in his seventh season.

Below are the first six seasons of each player for comparison.

LaDainain Tomlinson Shaun Alexander
Year Gm Att Rush Yd TD Rec Rcv Yd TD Year Gm Att Rush Yd TD Rec Rcv Yd TD
2001 16 339 1,236 10 59 367 0 2000 16 64 313 2 5 41 0
2002 16 372 1,683 14 79 489 1 2001 16 309 1,318 14 44 343 2
2003 16 313 1,645 13 100 725 4 2002 16 295 1,175 16 59 460 2
2004 15 339 1,335 17 53 441 1 2003 16 326 1,435 14 42 295 2
2005 16 339 1,462 18 51 370 2 2004 16 353 1,696 16 23 170 4
2006 16 349 1,815 28 56 508 3 2005 16 370 1,880 27 15 78 1
TOT 95 2,051 9,176 100 398 2,900 11 TOT 96 1,717 7,817 89 188 1,387 11
Emmitt Smith Barry Sanders
Year Gm Att Rush Yd TD Rec Rcv Yd TD Year Gm Att Rush Yd TD Rec Rcv Yd TD
1990 16 241 937 11 24 228 0 1989 15 280 1,470 14 24 282 0
1991 16 365 1,563 12 49 258 1 1990 16 255 1,304 13 36 480 3
1992 16 373 1,713 18 59 335 1 1991 15 342 1,548 16 41 307 1
1993 14 283 1,486 9 57 414 1 1992 16 312 1,352 9 29 225 1
1994 15 368 1,484 21 50 341 1 1993 11 243 1,115 3 36 205 0
1995 16 377 1,773 25 62 375 0 1994 16 331 1,883 7 44 283 1
TOT 93 2,007 8,956 96 301 1,951 4 TOT 89 1,763 8,672 62 210 1,782 6
Walter Payton Jim Brown
Year Gm Att Rush Yd TD Rec Rcv Yd TD Year Gm Att Rush Yd TD Rec Rcv Yd TD
1975 13 196 679 7 33 213 0 1957 12 202 942 9 16 55 1
1976 14 311 1,390 13 15 149 0 1958 12 257 1,527 17 16 138 1
1977 14 339 1,852 14 27 269 2 1959 12 290 1,329 14 24 190 0
1978 16 333 1,395 11 50 480 0 1960 12 215 1,257 9 19 204 2
1979 16 369 1,610 14 31 313 2 1961 14 305 1,408 8 46 459 2
1980 16 317 1,460 6 46 367 1 1962 14 230 996 13 47 517 5
TOT 89 1,865 8,386 65 202 1,791 5 TOT 76 1,499 7,459 70 168 1,563 11