Ryan Mathews was San Diego's target all along

SAN DIEGO -- The worst-kept secret in the NFL this offseason was San Diego’s need for a primary tailback.

The Chargers, who were 31st in the NFL in rushing last season, cut former star LaDainian Tomlinson in February. Getting a running back was the team’s primary need.

“Everybody knew we needed one,” San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said.

Teams flooded Smith with trade offers. Yet, he stayed put. He had a top choice and he wanted to wait to see if he could get him before going to backup options.

“There were some intriguing things out there,” Smith said. "But I had my guy -- I wanted Ryan Mathews.”

Smith got him.

Fueled by their pick at No. 40, obtained by trading never-used backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle, Smith put together a big package to send to Miami to move from No. 28 to No. 12.

It was all designed to get Mathews. Smith said if that trade wasn’t made, he had backup plans throughout the draft in an attempt to snare Mathews.

“If we didn’t get him, I would have gone down my list,” Smith said. “Thankfully, I didn’t have to.”

Like San Diego coach Norv Turner, Smith thinks Mathews is a perfect fit for San Diego.

“He can help us,” Smith said of the rookie from Fresno State. “That’s why we targeted him. He was the best fit out there of all the available guys. He’s the one.”