Well, once the Chargers have again failed to win the Superbowl comes my second favorite time of the year. Especially now that the NFL Network televises the Combine, nothing like a little 3 cone shuttle and wide receiver gauntlet to start dreaming of next year. As we watch LT discuss how he's gone and realize that the Chargers paid $13.2 million dollars last year (LT's $6.6 and Sproles $6.6) to be 31st in the league in rushing, it might be time to take a look at running back. While the line wasn't perfect, it wasn't as bad as LT's pride makes it sound like it was. As a fantasy enthusiast, I know rookie running backs, unlike other positions, tend to find immediate success in the NFL -see Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Steve Slaton. Since most early projections have the Chargers picking a running back again, I'd like to make the case for Jonathan Dwyer (just as I made the case for Beanie Wells and Shonn Greene last year.)
1. Jahvid Best - I am a die-hard Cal Fan and I love Best -he's explosive and won the state championship in the 100 meter dash but he's a little small and fragile - there was the infamous shot in Maryland two years ago where he got drilled and puked his neon green Gatorade, he missed games with a dislocated elbow, and then there was the horrific season-ending, helmet ejecting air landing in the endzone. He added weight last year without really impacting his speed but I don't see him as an every down back - he's a homerun threat like a Reggie Bush with less moves but taller. I don't think this is what the Bolts need - Shane Vereen was in ways better for Cal as the every down back because he would make tough yards and not lose them when nothing was there (which was part of LT's problem.)
2. Ryan Matthews - The Fresno State back I've only seen in youtube highlights but I can already see that he does not run with a forward lean and is upright. Unless you're as powerful and explosive as Adrian Peterson, I don't see him lasting in the NFL with being big and upright. That is a recipe to go down in a heap. He outruns inferior competition but I don't see clips of him making tough yards. I'm not sure he's even worth a second rounder.
3. Legarrett Blount - I love his right hand but he is merely Mike Tolbert. Without breakaway speed, he's going to look like Marshawn Lynch and slowly wear down with violent NFL hits. I love power backs but I honest think Tolbert could fill this role. Not sure about his hands.
Which brings me to:
Jonathan Dwyer - Georgia Tech. Tech ran the triple option, told everyone what they were going to do and did for the most part last year - mostly because of a talent like Dwyer. Comparing him to Matthews on Youtube clips, he looks bigger, more powerful, and a better everydown back. He has multiple clips of trucking defensive backs. Even more impressive are his multiple long runs where he is contacted 3-4 times and then runs away from the defense and last defenders. Unlike Matthews, he is outrunning the pursuit angles of safeties and corners from the likes of Miami and Florida State with guys who run sub 4.5 or better. Watching Rashard Mendenhall versus Darren McFadden clips two years ago, you could tell that D-Mac had NFL speed while Mendenhall was merely good enough to outrun guys with no pro future (while D-Mac hasn't really had opportunities to show his speed, it is clear that Mendenhall will never breakway in the NFL.) I see the same between Dwyer and Matthews. Best may be as fast or faster but I find him more one or two dimensional. The Chargers need to shed some of their soft offensive identity and having a bruiser in the vain of Michael Turner like Dwyer seems the best way. The knock might be his experience catching but its not because he can't catch. Watch the clip (around 3:20 of the link) of him lined up outside and then going up to make an over the shoulder catch on a fly route. That was a wide receiver play.