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San Diego Chargers: What to Make of Ronnie Brown

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San Diego Chargers running back Ronnie Brown (30) smiles during training camp at Charger Park.
San Diego Chargers running back Ronnie Brown (30) smiles during training camp at Charger Park.

I remember the 2005 NFL draft well. I remember being confused by it all and thinking that the scouts were crazy. There were three facts heading into that draft and they all seemed to contradict each other.

  • Fact 1: Cadillac Williams, who had 1,317 total yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in his senior season at Auburn, was one of the best running backs in the draft.
  • Fact 2: Williams' backup at Auburn, Ronnie Brown, was also viewed as one of the best running backs in the draft. He was also a senior and finished the season with 1,226 total yards from scrimmage and 9 touchdowns.
  • Fact 3: Even though Brown was Williams' backup, and both guys ran the same 40 time, it was assumed that he would be picked first.
At the time, none of that made sense to me. If you have a choice between the starter and the backup, you assume the coaches know what they're doing and you pick the starter. Right? Well, not really.

Scouts loved the Brown was just as fast despite being an inch taller and 15 lbs heavier. They loved his soft hands and pass blocking, things that Cadillac was good-but-not-great at. It was just enough to make him the 2nd overall pick while the starter was the 5th overall.

Both Cadillac and Ronnie Brown went on to decent careers, although the teams that drafted them probably hoped that they were picking stars with those high draft picks and neither of them were really that.

Ronnie Brown was to be the cornerstone of the Miami Dolphins' offense, and in a lot of ways he was. Brown will always be known as the player that ran Tony Sparano's Wildcat offense most commonly and most effectively (despite only ever throwing 12 passes), but that's not why the San Diego Chargers signed him this offseason.

A.J. Smith is hoping that there's still some life left in those legs that averaged 4.3 yards per carry behind 6 years of bad offensive lines in Miami. If there isn't, he's still found himself a solid pass-blocker and pass-catcher for 3rd down duties.

You could make a case either way for Ronnie Brown, as you could with most players. I could tell you that, when healthy, he has the talent to be a top 10 RB in the league. I could bring up stats that show that RBs most commonly break down at 3,000 carries (and not at the age of 30, which is the common thought process), and point to his 1,170 career NFL carries. I could show you how he hasn't missed a game since 2009, and point to his lack of use with the Eagles last season as a good way for him to give his body a rest and some recuperation.

On the other side of the coin, Ronnie Brown hasn't lived up to the high expectations of being the 2nd overall pick in the draft. Outside of games here and there, he hasn't been dominant or elite. He missed large chunks of the 2007 and 2009 seasons with injuries. Coming up on 31 years of age, he probably doesn't have the speed or power that he had at 23.

All of these things, good and bad, are mostly irrelevant though. Despite the fact that he will probably be the starting RB for the Chargers for the first few weeks of the season, he was not signed to be the main ball-carrier for the team all season and he won't be used that way. He was signed to be a 3rd down RB that occasionally might need to dust off the old starting RB skills for a few weeks, and when you look at him with that perspective.....there may not have been a better signing this offseason by the Bolts.