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The best Chargers running back seasons of the last decade

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The Chargers have had some great running back performances in the last decade. Some were better than you might realize.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The title says "best running back seasons," but I actually compiled a list of "all (qualifying) running back seasons" of the last 10 years. Why limit yourself, right? Anyway, we are measuring "best" by Football Outsiders' DYAR statistic. For those unfamiliar, it accounts for context in a way traditional stats do not. It considers down, distance, location on the field, and quality of opposing defense. It then compares the results to a theoretical replacement level. This allows efficiency to overcome a lack of volume and punishes a player for accruing a bunch of yardage just due to high volume.

The least surprising result of this is that LaDainian Tomlinson's record-setting 2006 season tops the list and it does so by a huge margin. It's also no shock that his 2007 season comes in second. What might surprise people is that Danny Woodhead takes two of the remaining top-five positions with his work in 2013 and 2015. Most of Woodhead's value comes from the fact that he is a tremendously effective receiver. His receiving DYAR alone in 2013 was worth more than any total output from any 'back not named LaDainian Tomlinson or Ryan Mathews.

Another guy that really stands out is Darren Sproles who achieved his place on the list in largely the same way Woodhead did. Sproles is the only player to appear three times in the top 10. Tomlinson, Mathews, and Woodhead all appear only twice, and Michael Turner gets on once.

Take a look at the whole list:

Rk Name Year Total Rush Rec
1 LaDainian Tomlinson 2006 579 460 119
2 LaDainian Tomlinson 2007 418 285 133
3 Danny Woodhead 2013 386 104 282
4 Ryan Mathews 2011 317 171 146
5 Danny Woodhead 2015 248 13 235
6 Darren Sproles 2008 220 54 166
7 Ryan Mathews 2013 202 141 61
8 Michael Turner 2006 166 144 22
9 Darren Sproles 2009 154 -19 173
10 Darren Sproles 2010 126 -20 146
11 Mike Tolbert 2010 122 46 76
12 Ronnie Brown 2012 111 31 80
13 LaDainian Tomlinson 2008 104 56 48
14 Mike Tolbert 2009 95 48 47
15 Ryan Mathews 2014 94 62 32
16 Mike Tolbert 2011 90 30 60
17 Branden Oliver 2014 88 20 68
18 Branden Oliver 2015 66 27 39
19 Mike Tolbert 2008 62 -17 79
20 Ryan Mathews 2010 48 61 -13
21 Jacob Hester 2008 35 -10 45
22 Jacob Hester 2010 29 -14 43
23 Ronnie Brown 2013 18 -5 23
24 Donald Brown 2015 14 21 -7
25 Lorenzo Neal 2006 8 49 -41
26 Ryan Mathews 2012 3 6 -3
27 Jackie Battle 2012 -4 -67 63
27 Michael Bennett 2009 -4 -29 25
29 Darren Sproles 2007 -8 12 -20
30 Curtis Brinkley 2011 -19 -12 -7
31 Lorenzo Neal 2007 -33 -8 -25
32 Le'Ron McClain 2012 -34 -24 -10
33 Curtis Brinkley 2012 -50 -48 -2
34 Jacob Hester 2009 -58 -33 -25
35 LaDainian Tomlinson 2009 -61 -21 -40
36 Jacob Hester 2011 -66 -8 -58
37 Michael Turner 2007 -68 -52 -16
38 Donald Brown 2014 -73 -51 -22
38 Melvin Gordon 2015 -73 -68 -5

The bottom half of the list is mostly full backs and guys nobody wanted to see getting playing time. The bottom five, though, include down years from Tomlinson and Turner, and Gordon's rookie campaign. Hopefully, Gordon's future looks more like LT and Turner and less like Donald Brown and Jacob Hester.