Four Reasons The Chargers Might Pass On A First Round Running Back

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?

April 19, 2009

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OSUBoltFAN said... Apr 19, 2009, 7:29:00 PM

I will admit, Beenie Wells would be hard to pass up! But we do have greater needs. Would love for Malcolm Jenkins to fall to us @ 16

Anonymous said... Apr 20, 2009, 1:07:00 AM

Let's get Rey...

Neoplatonist Bolthead said... Apr 20, 2009, 8:11:00 AM

You forgot Reason #5: A RB worth taking in the first round is plug-and-play, so you should only do that if you have no starter, or if you are 100% convinced that this guy is LaDainian reincarnate. With LT, Sproles, Bennett and Hester (who can totally play halfback and is totally replaceable as a fullback), we don't need a guy today, and if LaDainian went down in Week 1, we still would have a nasty committee. We have three 4th rounders. That's where we'll find a RB. That and a late flyer on a TE or WR (who probably wouldn't play in '09) is as much attention as this team can afford to put into offensive skill positions this year. Otherwise, two OTs (early and late) and 4 defenders, and we need to hit on any two of those six, and that's what really matters.

Anonymous said... Apr 20, 2009, 8:34:00 AM

we need to focus on the defensive side of the ball if we can't get T.Jackson we need to make a move for the Sting Rey without a question...he will be a major impact both of pass coverage and run defense.

spencer said... Apr 20, 2009, 10:15:00 AM

The Chargers need to strengthen their offensive line or there will be no holes for any back to hit.

P.S. Oh and please bring Lorenzo Neal back. LT's carer took off when he came to SD and started to slow when he left.

Jim said... Apr 20, 2009, 10:58:00 AM


There's a reason Lo Neal sat on the sidelines for most of the '08 season. He's done. A great FB in his day, but it's two years past.

Jennifer said... Apr 20, 2009, 12:50:00 PM

Please bring back Neal so we can run that awesome screen play over and over again...

Anonymous said... Apr 20, 2009, 9:52:00 PM

With Sproles we can run the screen pass over and over and over without Lo Neal. PEOPLE wait till the season, With a better OLINE LT, Sproles and Bennett will be fine, Add depth to the defense = winning the Superbowl, Steelers did it with defense,we need to get our defense stacked, no problem with the offense, the No.2 scoring offense last year will be better this year....

Anonymous said... Apr 21, 2009, 7:39:00 AM

Guys be reasonable. It is EXTREMELY LIKELY that either LT or Sproles will be gone next year, and in either case we need a runningback to spell them. And seeing as this is a shallow D-line draft, and the Chargers don't have any other glarring needs this will be the best chance we have to obtain a franchise caliber running back.

By the way Beanie is only 20yrs old, I'm perfectly fine if he sits and learns from a HOF'r for the next 2yrs before he starts.

Timothy said... Apr 21, 2009, 8:19:00 AM

A screen pass to Sproles or LDT is perfectly fine; I wish they used it more, especially with Sproles because that play was nearly indefensible at times--ask the Colts or the Broncos. I was being sarcastic about that mind-boggling, drive-killing screen pass that went to Neal for negative yards that the Chargers always ran....
Please don't draft a RB with the first pick. It is proven every year that you can do just fine with a serviceable back found in later rounds. Wait until next year to address that; RBs don't need to be groomed. It doesn't take years to grasp the concept of hitting a hole or picking up a block. The Chargers hardly have any trouble moving the ball on almost every team, they have problems STOPPING EVERY team in the league. "Bend but don't break" is a dangerous philosophy to live by and rarely ends with a championship. That defense needs to dictate its will to the opposing offense, not the other way around. Put Rey-Rey on that defense and you immediately have two players that guys are literally scared of, guys that if you don't gameplan for could end your career. And that just makes everyone else better. Remember that Seau/Harrison combo? Same idea.

Timothy said... Apr 21, 2009, 8:22:00 AM

And please, AJ. No more white guys at skill positions. You have only hit on one of those and you let him go....

Anonymous said... Apr 21, 2009, 8:37:00 AM

Moreno or Wells would be reasonable value at #16, but if one of the top OTs falls to us, or a blue chip DT or LB is available, I think the team needs dictate going in that direction. My value RBs in this draft are Donald Brown of Connecticut (probably gone in the 2nd round) and Cedric Pearman of Virginia, who should probably be available in the 3rd or 4th rounds.

Anonymous said... Apr 21, 2009, 12:22:00 PM

For those of you, who think we don’t need a Running Back, think about this. I know that we got LT, but he gets injury during the play-off most of the time and that is a big problem. We need somebody that will back up LT if he gets injury. I know what you’re going to say, we got DS#43! I know that, but he is not good enough to take us though the play-off.

arnie said... Apr 22, 2009, 3:42:00 PM

we have three backs to back up LT. please get off the Moreno, Wells, train. because they ain't stoppin' in San Diego. again as Timothy pointed out, the chargers have no problems scoring points, is stopping the other teams from scoring. more specificaly, stopping the pass....

they might get a back, just not in the first round, and not either of those two.

Anonymous said... Apr 23, 2009, 2:31:00 PM

I believe we should draft Chris Wells from Ohio State simply because there is no running back that is coming out next year that is as good as him. He is a bigger back but is faster than most of the other backs and he can also run outside instead of just going up the middle. I know AJ Smith likes to get running backs in later rounds but there is no one running back in the later rounds that will be as good as Wells. He will be an impact player and I believe the running back position is a position of need because if LT goes down again we'll have no one capable of backing him up - remember what happened in Pittsburgh? I don't believe in drafting for need unless you can get a player that can make an impact and the only player we can get at 16 that can make a big impact is Wells. We won't find another running back that can run inside and outside at 230 pounds like he can anytime soon so we better jump on this opportunity.

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