My Early First Round Pick: RB Felix Jones

Tossing a causal glance at the Chargers roster won’t reveal much in terms of need. After all, just about every starter from last year will return in 2009. But look a little deeper and you’ll find some key areas where a backup player or upgrade over an incumbent starter is needed.

One of these positions is running back, where Michael Turner is expected to depart via free agency. Turner has played an invaluable role as Ladainian Tomlinson’s primary backup and his contributions to the team will be missed. With Tomlinson quickly approaching ten years in the NFL, its important to prepare for the future of the position.

The Chargers are currently carrying a talented but unproven bunch of running backs, mostly late-round or free-agent acquisitions. Heading into the 2009 NFL season, the Chargers are going to be expected to not only reach the playoffs, but win once in. Making sure the team has an insurance policy behind Tomlinson is of paramount importance as far as I am concerned, and this is why I have strongly stated in the past that one of the team’s most important needs is running back. In fact, it’s so important that I would spend a first round draft pick on a running back. Hear me out:

The San Diego Chargers run an offensive system which is built to feature a dynamic running back that can be used as a weapon in a variety of ways. We have seen LT’s emergence as the league’s most complete back through all of the ways in which his offensive coordinators have exploited him, be it in the running game or in the passing game. Behind Tomlinson sat Turner, and the team was blessed to never see a drop off in production between the two of them. Turner’s presence kept opposing defenses on their toes even when #21 was on the bench. The Chargers need to continue to have a threat behind Tomlinson.

I mentioned before that I support spending the Chargers first round pick in the draft on a running back, but I should clarify that I would not spend that 27th overall pick on just any running back. No, the guy I would target is Felix Jones. I have evaluated the top runners in this draft and watched guys like DMAC, Jonathan Stewart, Jamaal Charles, Steve Slaton, and Ray Rice play on Saturdays. But the guy who would best fit the Chargers and make the most immediate impact is Felix Jones. Not only is Jones an incredibly gifted runner with absolutely blazing speed (6'0" 200lbs with a sub 4.4 forty), he is also a very dangerous return man who would be a significant upgrade over Darren Sproles. I have also mentioned in the past that the team needs to explore improving in the return game, and I feel Jones is the guy to fill both needs.

Because no amount of words could replace actually watching the guy play, I’m going to let these highlight clips do my talking:

The bottom line is this: You give Jones the opportunities to return punts and kicks, and you give him 5-10 touches a game on offense, and he will make things happen and that's exactly what this team needs from a scoring perspective.

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February 19, 2008

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