The Chargers head into next week's NFL Draft with a variety of needs, some more pressing than others. Some feel the team would do well to draft a running back as heir apparent to Ladainian Tomlinson. Others feel spending a high draft pick on a runner would be a mistake, especially considering the value that can be had at that position in later rounds. Let's look at four reasons why the Chargers might indeed pass on a running back in the first round:
REASON #1: Ladainian Tomlinson is back in the fold for 09
There was a drawn-out and much publicized contract renegotiation between the Chargers and their superstar running back, Ladainian Tomlinson; things looked dire at one point, and the idea that Tomlinson could be playing in another team's uniform started to creep into even the most die-hard fan's mind. But team owner Dean Spanos stepped up in a big way and made sure LT was going to stay a Charger:
"It was important to me to get this done so LT could continue his career here in San Diego where he means so much to our team, our fans and our community. The alternative was just unthinkable. He belongs in San Diego."
The Chargers would not have made such a concerted effort if they didn't plan on utilizing LT as their primary back in 2009. Norv Turner has been on record saying he plans to give LT around 300 touches this season.
REASON #2: The Chargers traded-up for Jacob Hester last year
Last year the Chargers made a deal with the New England Patriots to move up and select LSU tailback Jacob Hester. To complete that trade, the Chargers sent the Patriots their fifth round pick in 2008, along with this year's second round pick. The Chargers obviously think quite highly of Hester to have given up so much to get him. After drafting Hester in the third round last year, AJ Smith confirmed that “This is the guy we wanted.” The Chargers like the versatility Hester brings in that can play tailback, but he can also line up at fullback from time to time. Hester might be a bit of a tweener but the team doesn't see that necessarily as a bad thing. They were impressed with his production in the SEC and think he is a complete player.
REASON #3: Darren Sproles was franchise tagged
Darren Sproles emerged last season as a dynamic return man who could also provide an excellent change of pace in the running game. The Chargers are trying to resign him to a new deal as his current contract has expired. In the interim, the Chargers have decided to franchise tag him to guarantee his services for at least one more season. They'll continue to talk with his agent about a long-term deal, but it's clear they want him around for at least the 2009 season. At a salary of over $6 million dollars this year, the Chargers are going to want to get the most out of Sproles.
REASON #4: The Chargers have a history of drafting running backs in the mid-rounds
San Diego struck gold when they found Michael Turner in the fifth round of the 2004 draft. Turner provided the team with excellent depth and would eventually go on to become a Pro Bowler in Atlanta. In 2005, the Chargers took Darren Sproles in the fourth round. Sproles become on of the leagues best return men and has given the offense an excellent change of pace. Last year, the Chargers drafted Jacob Hester in round three, for the reasons we established earlier, and they also drafted Marcus Thomas in the fifth round (no longer with the team). AJ Smith has shown confidence that he can find quality running backs in the mid rounds, and if he decided that the team needs more depth at that position, he'll likely wait until rounds three through five to find his man.
So what do you think? Should the Chargers draft a running back in the first round? Why or why not?
Labels: NFL Draft 2009
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