One of the best examples is Barry Sanders, who hung up the cleats after a prolific run of 10 seasons in the National Football League. Sanders called it a career on his own terms and did so with class and dignity. He had accomplished just about all there was to accomplish in the game, although winning a SuperBowl is one achievement he never attained.
Recently, Tiki Barber retired after 10 great seasons with the New York Giants. Edgerrin James had a very successful seven year run with the Indianapolis Colts, but the franchise allowed Edge to become a free agent and replaced him with a young stud in Joseph Addai. Fred Taylor has played for 10 seasons in Jacksonville but the Jaguars felt they needed to add some youth to the position and have paired Taylor with the dynamite Maurice Jones-Drew. Deuce McAllister is only in his 7th season but the Saints nonetheless drafted Reggie Bush last year. Shaun Alexander has played for 8 seasons but after winning the MVP award in 2005 has shown signs that his body might be breaking down. Alexander missed 6 games last season and it looks like he will miss his third game in a row in 2007.
As beloved a player that Ladainian Tomlinson is, he isn't invincible. Certainly there are few in the league that is as body-aware as Tomlinson is, and there might not be a harder working guy in football than LT. But the fact of the matter is that 2008 will mark the 8th season of Tomlinson's career and while he has shown no signs of slowing down there are few players, especially runningbacks, who can keep up such an amazing pace of carries for that long. This isn't a doom and gloom post and I am not claiming that LT is slowing down or has lost a step (LT still averages over 4 yards per carry and is second among runningbacks for first downs). I am simply pointing out that the fact that at some point the San Diego Chargers will need to prepare for the future and should help protect both themselves as a team as well as Ladainian Tomlinson's career by drafting a running back within the next two years.
Certainly the team will need to have a plan when current backup Michael Turner departs as a free agent in 2008, so it would make sense to draft someone in April. Elite franchises stay elite by drafting elite players and with that in mind I am prepared for the very real possibility that AJ Smith and the San Diego Chargers entertain the idea of selecting a running back with one of their top picks. There is still plenty of time to analyze the current Chargers roster as well as evaluate potential NFL prospects but it would not come as surprise to see the Chargers pull the trigger on a talented runner in April.
In the coming week I will be profiling some intriguing college prospects who might be a good fit in San Diego as a second runningback as well as updating, in my opinion, what the San Diego Chargers 2008 draft needs are.
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