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Your 2008 Ryan Leaf Award Winner is....

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Matt Wilhelm, Inside Linebacker


I don't know if you readers know this, but this award has been around the internet and back.  Not only were there over 800 900 votes cast here at Bolts From The Blue, but this post was copied and linked to at Chargers sites around the web and debated with vigor.  I haven't been able to follow all of those conversations, but I've checked up on a couple and am surprised by some of the responses.

First, Chris Chambers.  I've seen more than one person comment that it's ridiculous that Chambers was even considered.  Why?  My point was not to say that Chambers is a bad player, I think he's a very good player.  My point was to say that he underperformed his contract in 2008.  Do you think that Steve Smith, with his two-game suspension to start the season and everything, was really worth the same amount of money as Chris Chambers was in 2008?

Let's do a quick comparison.  Smith started 14 games, Chambers started in 9.  Smith caught the ball 78 times for 1,421 yards.  Chambers caught it 33 times for 462 yards.  Smith had 6 TDs and Chambers had 5 (none after week 5).  How does that equal same value?  Hell, in 2008 Vincent Jackson had 59 catches, Gates had 60 and even Floyd had 27 (in 13 games).  So although I like Chambers and think he's an effective player, I do not think he earned his paycheck as the 17th highest paid receiver in the NFL in 2008.

Second, LaDainian Tomlinson.  This one I maybe could be talked into.  Some commentors at other blogs were mad that he wasn't included as an option and perhaps I'd agree.  Although he was the highest paid RB in football last year, with a cap value of $7,817,316, LT certainly wasn't the one of the top RB in terms of performance.  He ranked 16th in Yards Per Game (69.4) and 10th in Rushing Yards (1,110).  While the best RBs in football posted Yards Per Carry averages in the mid-to-high 4s, Tomlinson wound up averaging 3.8 Yards Per Carry.  The only starters who posted a lower YPC than that are Jamal Lewis, Marion Barber, Cedric Benson, Willie Parker, Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, Tim Hightower and Reggie Bush.

Even with that being the case, I doubt LT's inclusion would've made much of a difference.  Anytime you're paying several million a year to a player that might get cut in training camp, he's probably going to be your most overpaid player.  So, congratulations to Matt Wilhelm and we hope you never win another Ryan Leaf Award.  As a matter of fact, for all the bashing of Wilhelm that went on there were still some people that remembered his 2007 campaign fondly.  I hope Wilhelm comes to training camp strong and wins the Inside Linebacker job next to Cooper outright.  Then I hope he makes his 2009 cap value look like a steal by having a great year.

Make sure you visit Bolts From The Blue over the weekend, as we'll begin voting on the yet-to-be-named award for the most underpaid Chargers player in 2008.

Do you have any thoughts about Bolts From The Blue?  Any tips you want to send our way?  Whenever you have something to say, don't hesitate to e-mail me directly.