AFC West: Toby Gerhart

This year’s NFL supplemental draft has an interesting prospect in Brigham Young running back Harvey Unga.

He is a power back who had great college production. Unga, 6-foot, 230 pounds, compiled 3,455 yards and had 36 rushing touchdowns in three seasons at BYU. Known for his ability to break tackles, Unga is also sure-handed out of the backfield.

Any team that wants Unga will have to surrender a 2011 draft pick. He will likely go in the middle rounds. The draft will be held July 15. Here is a look at whether he’d fit in the AFC West.

Denver: The Broncos’ have a full backfield, but they are missing a true power back. Denver was interested in power backs Toby Gerhart and Montario Hardesty in the April draft, but the team didn’t take either player. I’m sure Denver will consider Unga.

Kansas City: The Chiefs are reportedly one of the teams most interested in Unga. The Chiefs are set with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, but Unga would be an interesting short-yardage player and a prospect for the future.

Oakland: The Raiders have Michael Bush, but a player like Unga wouldn’t hurt here, either. He’d provide good depth for Oakland.

San Diego: The Chargers are focused on first-round pick Ryan Mathews. San Diego also likes big Mike Tolbert in short-yardage situations. Unga could help San Diego, but I’m not sure if the Chargers will bite.
The Kansas City Chiefs have given up on promising, but oft-injured, running back Kolby Smith. However, the Denver Broncos are willing to give him a chance to succeed in the NFL.

In a mildly surprising move, Denver claimed Smith off of waivers on Tuesday. The Chiefs cut Smith on Monday because he was stuck behind Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones in Kansas City’s backfield.

Smith joins a Denver backfield that includes Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Arrington. Smith is 5-11, 219 pounds. He will get a look in short-yardage situations. The Broncos were looking into bigger tailbacks Toby Gerhart and Montario Hardesty before the draft.

If he can stay healthy, Smith is worth the risk.

Meanwhile, Denver also went a long way in deciding its punting situation. It cut punter A.J. Trapasso. That means Britton Colquitt is the only punter on Denver’s roster. He will likely get camp competition but Colquitt -- the younger brother of Kansas City’s outstanding punter Dustin Colquitt -- has impressed Denver’s staff and unless he is terrible in training camp and in the preseason, he should take over as Denver’s punter.

Denver also cut rookie free agent linebacker Korey Bosworth. The UCLA product is the nephew of former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Denver is visiting with former Philadelphia running back Brian Westbrook.

He visited Washington earlier Wednesday.

It is interesting that Denver is showing an interest in Westbrook. The Broncos already have Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Arrington at tailback. The Broncos had interest in rookie prospects Toby Gerhart and Montario Hardesty prior to the draft partly because of their size and how it would add to Denver’s backfield.

Westbrook, 30, is 5-foot-10, 203 pounds. However, Westbrook has struggled recently with knee and concussion issues.

Westbrook doesn’t look like he’d give Denver a missing aspect to its offense, especially at his age and with his injury history. Still, Denver coach Josh McDaniels has a history of working with multiple running back options, so he must see some value in Westbrook. If Westbrook ends up in Denver, expect it to be in a limited role.

Meanwhile, rookie Denver quarterback Tim Tebow has bypassed lucrative endorsement opportunities to concentrate on his rookie season. This decision should further ingratiate Tebow with the Broncos. Any athlete who puts his primary job ahead of making endorsement money has to be appreciated.

AFC West mailbag

April, 21, 2010
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Pre-draft mailbag:

Brian from San Diego wants to know if the Raiders could take Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain at No. 8.

Bill Williamson: I think it’s a possibility. Oakland will look at tackles and that is its biggest need. But McClain is an interesting prospect for Oakland because it wants to revamp its linebacker crew. McClain has great potential. Oakland could also look at Florida cornerback Joe Haden if it decides to shun the offensive line and go defense first.

Tyler from Hamilton, Ontario, wants to know if the Broncos could make a run at Tennessee running back LenDale White in a draft-day deal?

BW: Denver is looking at bigger back in the draft. It wants some size. If Denver doesn’t make a bigger back it looks Stanford’s Toby Gerhart), perhaps it will show some interest in training camp White. That probably wouldn’t take place until the third day of the draft. White is a Denver native. Perhaps heading home would energize his career.

Jason from Corning, N.Y., wants to know if it would be wise for Denver to draft Dez Bryant to replace Brandon Marshall. Like Marshall, Bryant has character concerns.

BW: It’s a good question, Jason. But it is a situation in which Denver may not have a choice but to take Bryant. The Broncos have a major need for a top receiver. Bryant would be a great fit for this offense. But the last thing Denver wants is to draft a player who will be a headache after the team solved the Marshall problem. But the Broncos have done their due diligence on Bryant. If the Broncos feel like his off-field issues have been blown out of proposition and he could handle making the transition to the NFL, he may be the choice. Again, Bryant is Denver’s best option at receiver. So, it may be worth the risk.

AFC West mailbag

April, 17, 2010
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Tom from Kansas City wants to know if the Chiefs could look at Texas safety Earl Thomas ahead of Tennessee safety Eric Berry at No. 5.

Bill Williamson: Thomas is making a push up the draft boards. I think some teams may like him more than Berry. At least one draft expert thinks Thomas is better than Berry. I think there is a decent chance Kansas City could draft a safety. I still think the Chiefs would take Berry over Thomas. But it seems like Thomas is making a charge. Both players should have excellent NFL careers.

Ben Ford from Ramona, Calif., wants to know if Chargers could package their two 2011 third-round picks acquired in trades this offseason to move up into the first round next week.

BW: The picks were acquired from the Jets (Antonio Cromartie) and the Seahawks (Charlie Whitehurst). I think the Chargers have a lot of firepower and general manager A.J. Smith likes being in this position. Smith loves moving up and down the draft board. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chargers get a second first-round pick, perhaps using No. 40 this year (acquired in the Whitehurst deal) to get there.

Jordan wants to know if the Chargers could draft California running back Jahvid Best.

BW: Best is a fine running back. But I think he may be a bit smaller than what San Diego is looking for. If the draft class wasn’t so deep with big, strong running backs, I’d think Best would be a sure thing for San Diego. But I do think the Chargers will look at bigger backs such as Ryan Mathews, Jonathan Dwyer and Toby Gerhart first. Plus, Dwyer and Gerhart may require a lesser draft picks than Best.
Eric BerryAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe draft could take a turn toward the unexpected at No. 5, where the Chiefs may take Eric Berry.
There are several juicy AFC West story lines to watch for as the draft unfolds April 22-24. Let’s examine some of the more intriguing questions:

Will the draft change at No. 5? There are expectations that the drama of the draft will begin when Kansas City picks at No. 5. With Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Russell Okung expected to be the first four picks; the Chiefs represent the first question mark. Kansas City could take safety Eric Berry or a tackle such as Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis. A trade down is also possible assuming Okung is off the board. No matter what the choice is, it will be fun when Kansas City is on the clock.

What will the Chargers do? There will be almost as much drama when the Chargers’ turn arrives. I expect them to be big draft-day players. They have the No. 28 and No. 40 picks. San Diego has big needs at nose tackle and running back. There are several solid running backs available and the Chargers will likely make one of them their new primary tailback. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers take a nose tackle or a running back first. They could also trade up (San Diego has two third-round picks in 2011 to use as bait) in the first round and get a premier player at either position. No matter what happens, expect San Diego general manager A.J. Smith to be in wheeling-and-dealing mode.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesCould new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and quarterback Jimmy Clausen be reunited in Kansas City?
Will the Chiefs look at a Golden Domer? Kansas City has hired former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis to be the offensive coordinator. Could he talk the Chiefs into taking quarterback Jimmy Clausen at No. 5 or receiver Golden Tate with one of the team’s second-round picks? The Clausen selection would be stunning, considering Kansas City paid Matt Cassel so much money last summer. However, if Tate is available at No. 36, Kansas City may jump on him. He would fill a big need and he would have advantage because he knows the offense so well.

Will Bryant replace Marshall in Denver? The Broncos visited with Oklahoma State standout receiver Dez Bryant this week. Now that Brandon Marshall has been traded, Bryant could be the team’s choice at No. 11. Bryant is very talented, but the Broncos would be adding a new set off off-field issues after trading Marshall. This would be a big story if he ends up in Denver. The Broncos could trade down from No. 11 and still get Bryant, who could tumble because of his issues.

Will Mt. Cody rise in the AFC West? The Broncos, Chargers and the Chiefs have all shown interest in Terrence Cody, the huge nose tackle from Alabama. He is considered a prototype 3-4 nose tackle, and all three of those teams use that scheme. San Diego has the most pressing need for a nose tackle of the three. It wouldn’t be a shock if the Chargers used the No. 28 pick on Cody. The Chiefs could potentially look at him in the second round, and -- if he lasts -- so could Denver. Fellow defensive tackles Brian Price and Dan Williams could attract interest from AFC West teams. However, Williams may be taken in the first 15 picks.

Will the Raiders address their quarterback needs? The Raiders are clearly looking to upgrade their quarterback situation this offseason. It could happen in the draft. Clausen has been linked to Oakland with the No. 8 pick. But he does not have the huge arm coveted by Oakland owner Al Davis. Tim Tebow has talked to the Raiders. He’d likely require a second-round pick. Oakland has worked out Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka, a likely mid-round pick. It would not be a surprise at all if Oakland drafts a quarterback to develop.

Will there be veteran trades? The Marshall trade may not stop the veteran action in the division, Denver is also shopping tight end Tony Scheffler. He could be had for a mid-round pick. There is also the possibility Oakland could pursue Washington quarterback Jason Campbell on draft day. Campbell could likely be acquired for a mid-round pick and Oakland has reportedly shown interest. Baltimore tackle Jared Gaither is reportedly on the block. Both Oakland and Kansas City could add a tackle. Gaither would likely cost a second-round pick. There is also the possibility of San Diego acquiring a veteran running back such as Marshawn Lynch or Marion Barber if they become available. Still, the odds are San Diego looks to the rookie class for its new tailback.

[+] EnlargeRolando McClain
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireThe Raiders may have their eyes on Alabama's Rolando McClain.
Will the Raiders go defense first? The Raiders’ greatest need is at left tackle. But it wouldn’t be a stunner if the Raiders used the No. 8 pick on a defensive player. The Raiders are said to have been snooping around Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain (who Denver could take at No. 11). Florida cornerback Joe Haden said he has received a lot of interest from Oakland. A Haden-Nnamdi Asomugha cornerback combination would be intriguing for the next few years.

Will the Tebow project continue in the AFC West? Tebow visited with Denver this week. The Broncos have two picks in the second round and could pull the trigger on the project then. Tebow has met with Oakland officials. It would be wild to see the pristine Tebow in the Silver and Black. He wouldn’t be ready to contribute right away, but he could be an interesting project. While I don’t think the Chargers would address a quarterback before the third round, Tebow could be a possibility if he fell. The Chargers need to develop a young quarterback and Norv Turner can do wonders with quarterback prospects. It would be an interesting pairing.

Will the Raiders add a receiver? The Raiders have studied the likes of Bryant, Tate and Mardy Gilyard. It’s not out of the question that the Raiders will look at receivers early in the draft. It would be intriguing. The Raiders have a lot of young, promising players at the position. What they need is a veteran presence. If a top receiver is taken in Oakland, what does it mean for the development of existing youngsters Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy?

Will Toby Gerhart pound his way through the AFC West? The rough-and-tumble Stanford tailback is on the radar in San Diego and in Denver. The Chargers make more sense because they have more of a pressing need. However, the Broncos also like the Heisman Trophy runner-up. The Broncos need a big back. I could see Gerhart, who is rising up draft boards, ending up in this division.

Will the Broncos find their new center? If the season started today, the Broncos would not have a starting center. They are looking for one in the draft. The Broncos love Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey. But taking him at No. 11 may be too high. The Broncos may have to move -- possibly up, perhaps down -- to get Pouncey. He is on their wish list, though. Boston College’s Mark Tennant and Baylor’s J.D. Walton are other possibilities.

Evening AFC West notes

April, 5, 2010
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Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty is one of the players Denver is looking at prior to the draft. The Broncos are showing an interest in Hardesty and Stanford rusher Toby Gerhart, despite having used their No. 12 pick last year on running back Knowshon Moreno. Gerhart and Hardesty would require a fairly early pick.

  • NFL.com is reporting Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth could be available. He is best suited to be a 4-3 tackle. The only team in the AFC West where he could fit is Oakland. The Raiders have a need in the middle of their defensive line. But Haynesworth would be very costly.

AFC West mailbag

March, 28, 2010
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Weekend mail call:

Jon from Fort Collins, Colo. wants to know what college running backs is San Diego coach Norv Turner targeting.

Bill Williamson: At the NFL owners meetings this week, Turner discussed several of the top running backs available. The players he mentioned by name were Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, Cal’s Jahvid Best, USC’s Joe McKnight, Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews and Stanford’s Toby Gerhart. There are other players San Diego will look at including Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer. I wouldn’t be surprised if San Diego ends up with one of these players.

Spencer from Oakland wants know to if Oakland could pursue Philadelphia quarterbacks Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick.

BW: It has been reported that Oakland has interest in McNabb. But McNabb would rather go to a contender. I think Vick could be interesting. No quarterback on Oakland’s roster is far and away better than Vick. He’d also come fairly cheaply, but still I’m not sure Oakland is ready to make such a move. But it is important to know that the Raiders are looking at options other than Bruce Gradkowski and JaMarcus Russell.

Tyson W. from Denver wants to know if free-agent receiver Kevin Curtis could fit in with the Chiefs.

BW: Curtis has been available for more than week and the Chiefs have not shown any interest. They brought in Arizona free agent Jerheme Urban. He played for Kansas City head coach Todd Haley in Arizona. The Chiefs think Urban can be a very solid No. 3 player, so there may not be much room for Curtis. Plus, Kansas City will likely draft a receiver fairly high.

Turner talks about rookie RBs

March, 23, 2010
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San Diego coach Norv Turner spoke at the NFL owners meeting Tuesday.

Much of his session centered on the Chargers’ draft needs at running back. San Diego is sure to use a high pick on a running back and Turner seems pleased with the available group. Here is some of what Turner covered:

Turner
Turner
His impression of Clemson running back C.J. Spiller and the other top backs:

“I’ve had limited exposure, but you see him enough to know that Spiller is just dynamite. He does it all, the return game, the explosiveness, the perimeter running. He’s an exciting player. He’s probably a little bit like [Jahvid] Best at Cal, similar style. Like Joe McKnight at SC. Those three guys are as explosive as you can be around. They’re big plays just waiting to happen with those guys.”

On Stanford’s Toby Gerhart:

“Gerhart is a lot more explosive player than people realize because he’s very physical. I just named seven guys that are pretty good players.”

On whether he would want to draft a physical, big back because the team has change-of-pace back Darren Sproles:

“I think people look at it and say, 'Hey, with Sproles they can offset that.' But we just want the best back. We’re going to adjust to what he does. It’s a physical game. The guys I named who are those elusive type guys, they’re still -- coaching Chris Johnson in the Pro Bowl, he’s so fast that you don’t realize how physical a player he can be.”

On if Gerhart and Jacob Hester are similar players:

“I think Gerhart is more of a pure runner. Jacob has been, even with us, he’s kind of been that role guy that ran some, caught some, blocked some, done a lot of things. Jacob’s just been an outstanding player for us. We’ve put him at fullback with Tolbert, and then he’s been just a great special teams player. He and Tolbert, they’re two of our leading tacklers on all our special teams, and they’re good. Jacob blocked a punt for a touchdown, stripped a ball from the punt returner and ran it in for a touchdown. He makes big plays. He’s just a [solid] player.”

On what he expects from linebacker Shawne Merriman:

“Everyone talks about it takes another year to come back from a surgery. The biggest thing -- and I had this conversation about two weeks ago with Philip Rivers -- he says that it’s not so much that the knee takes a year. But while you’re rehabbing your knee, it doesn’t allow you to do all the other things that you need to do to get ready for the season.

"So Shawne went through the year and missed time with the groin, missed time with the foot. The knee wasn’t the issue. So I think having a great offseason so he doesn’t have those nagging injuries, and then the knee being a year better… Shawne had a really good year last year. He just didn’t have those game-changing-type plays that we’ve all seen him have. But I think those will come. He’s such a competitor, such a physical player, that when he gets that step back he’ll return as an outstanding pass-rusher."

On if Merriman lost explosion:

“I think you could see that coming back all the way through the year. The problem was when he had the foot injury, he had the plantar fascia and the problem with the foot, it was a six-week injury and he wasn’t able to practice a lot. You could see him where he was favoring it a little bit. I think those things were more of a factor than him losing the explosion.”

On what his team can learn from the playoff loss to the Jets:

“I think that game has to be a great learning situation for our guys when we get back into that situation. There are a lot of different things you look at and try to analyze: Were we trying too hard? Were we too revved up? All the different things once it started going the other way, guys were trying to do things they hadn’t done throughout the season. The thing we’ve got to try to build from is we won 11 straight games, and we won them every possible way you could -- a goal-line stand, downing a punt inside the 5, getting a big kick return to set our offensive up for a short drive, driving the ball four times in the last two minutes for touchdowns, those things that our guys have to take a lot of pride from. All of us, when we get back in that situation, we’ve just got to handle it better.”
This is our first mock draft since Feb.10. We will run mock drafts periodically after developments occur, leading up to the first round, which will be held April 22. We are conducting this mock draft after attending the NFL combine in Indianapolis during the weekend:

No. 5 Kansas City: OT Russell Okung, tackle, Oklahoma State. If Okung gets by Detroit at No. 2, and at this point I think he does, Kansas City needs to grab him. He looked great at the combine. He’d help the Chiefs’ line.

Last mock: OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers

No. 8 Oakland: OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland. Campbell was a combine star. Oakland loves combine stars. He fits a need. I could see this pairing although Campbell has been inconsistent on the field and he has some character questions.

Last mock: LB Rolando McClain, Alabama.

No. 11 Denver: McClain. The middle linebacker would change Denver’s defense. He’d be a perfect fit

Last mock: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State.

No. 28 San Diego: DT Terrence Cody, Alabama. Cody arrived at the combine slimmed down 16 pounds from the 370 he weighed at the Senior Bowl in January. Cody would be a great fit as San Diego’s nose tackle. Yes, the Chargers really need a running back, but the running back class is deep. I could see San Diego taking Cody in the first round and a running back such as Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer, Stanford’s Toby Gerhart or Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon in the second round.

Last mock: Dwyer.
Jimmy Clausen, Anthony Davis & Terrence CodyAP, Getty ImagesQuarterback Jimmy Clausen, OT Anthony Davis and DT Terrence Cody took part in the NFL scouting combine and could be attractive options for AFC West teams in April's draft.
With the NFL combine wrapping up in Indianapolis, each AFC West team is preparing for the NFL draft in full force.

Here are five players each team in the division may be studying for various reasons as the combine concludes:

Denver

Dez Bryant, receiver, Oklahoma State: Bryant did not run at the combine due to a hamstring injury. Still, Denver is keeping a close eye on this game-breaker. If Brandon Marshall is traded, Bryant, the jewel of the receiver class, could be heading to Denver at No. 11. But there are some off-field concerns that could make Bryant a risk.

Jimmy Clausen, quarterback, Notre Dame: Clausen is a long shot. However, he fits coach Josh McDaniels’ system. Denver has other needs, but if Clausen slips past Washington (No. 4) and Buffalo (No. 9), Denver could be tempted to answer its long-term needs at quarterback.

Terrence Cody, defensive tackle, Alabama: The Broncos need a sturdy nose tackle as they enter the second season of using the 3-4 defense. Cody, who slimmed down 16 pounds from the Senior Bowl, has a chance to be a dominant force. If he is available in the second round, Denver could make a run at him.

Mike Iupati, guard, Idaho: Denver is looking to get bigger on the offensive line. The 6-foot-5, 331-pound Iupati would do the trick. He is rising up draft boards. He may not be on the board in the second round, but if he is, Denver could snatch him up.

Rolando McClain, linebacker, Alabama: This is a legitimate option at No. 11. McClain was impressive in his meetings with teams at the combine. He is a leader and would be a perfect middle linebacker in Denver.

Kansas City

Eric Berry, safety, Tennessee: The Chiefs would love to get the chance to draft Berry with the No. 5 pick, but they will need some help. If St. Louis drafts a quarterback, Berry could fall to Kansas City, but that could be a long shot. If not, Tampa Bay may take him at No. 3.

Clausen: This is another long-shot scenario. However, you have to think Clausen intrigues Kansas City. He played for new Kansas City offensive coordinator Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. Although Kansas City likes quarterback Matt Cassel, a Clausen-Weis pairing could be intriguing. Clausen said at the combine that he wants to prove to NFL coaches that he does not have a bad attitude. He would not have to win over Weis, whom already believes in his former player.

Russell Okung, offensive line, Oklahoma State: Okung is a favorite to be drafted by Kansas City. He would be an instant starter at left tackle and would enable the team to move 2008 pick Branden Albert to right tackle. Okung was impressive in his interviews at the combine and he looks the part. A hamstring injury should not hurt his draft status.

Anthony Davis, tackle, Rutgers: Davis is a player Kansas City could be eying at No. 5 if Okung is off the board. Davis may be a bit of a reach at No. 5, but Kansas City has to be paying attention to him.

Golden Tate, receiver, Notre Dame: Tate helped his cause very much at the combine. He ran great and won over teams in his interviews. It is not out of the question that he worked his way into the bottom part of the first round. If he sticks around to the second round, Tate could be reunited with Weis.

Oakland

Bruce Campbell, tackle, Maryland: Campbell has the look of a player Oakland will seriously consider taking. Campbell was one of the stars of the combine. He tested well, and at 6-foot-6, 314 pounds, Campbell ran a 4.85 40-yard dash. He did not always play well in college, and there are some attitude concerns. However, his combine test and his great size and speed may help him skyrocket up draft boards. Oakland loves combine stars and it really needs a tackle. This could be a pairing.

Davis: Oakland will also look at Davis. The Raiders will study several tackles. It is the most likely position the Raiders will choose from at No. 8. Davis should still be available.

Dan LeFevour, quarterback, Central Michigan: There was talk that Oakland could target LeFevour in the mid rounds. Oakland will be looking for a quarterback in the draft and many scouts thought LeFevour would be an excellent prospect to consider in the third through fifth rounds. However, he struggled at the combine and showed a lack of arm strength. That could turn off Oakland. Owner Al Davis likes strong-armed quarterbacks.

McClain: If some of Oakland’s top options are gone, it could make a run at McClain. He should be available at No. 8. He would help the Raiders, who could use a spark on the defensive front seven.

Okung: The Raiders were surely reviewing Okung in Indianapolis. Drafting him may be wishful thinking. Okung is the best player at Oakland’s biggest area of need. If he is available at No. 8, Oakland has to take this star.

San Diego

Jahvid Best, running back, California: Best may have been too good at the combine for San Diego’s liking. He was the fastest running back at the combine. That could move him up the draft board dramatically. He was considered a late first-round talent prior to the combine. Now, Best could move into the top 15 along with Clemson’s C.J. Spiller. San Diego picks No. 28 and would likely love to get a shot at Best.

Cody: Along with running back, nose tackle is San Diego’s biggest need. Cody is the type of player who could help San Diego. With his improved effort at the combine, San Diego has to consider him a decent option at No. 28.

Jonathan Dwyer, running back, Georgia Tech: Dwyer said he had a great meeting at the combine with San Diego. He said he thought the team was interested in him and said he is interested in the Chargers. However, he did not have a great performance at the combine. He ran a pedestrian 4.64 40-yard dash. He could be available in the second round. If San Diego feels comfortable with Dwyer’s game film and are not swayed by his slow 40 time, perhaps it could consider taking Cody in the first round and Dwyer in the second round.

Toby Gerhart, running back, Stanford: Although Dwyer had a less-than-stellar combine, Gerhart performed very well. He ran better than expected and showed his versatility by ranking near the top of several combine tests. Gerhart may now be a sure second-round pick. The Southern California native looks like a good fit for the Chargers’ system. He did not hurt his chances in Indianapolis.

Trindon Holliday, receiver/returner, LSU: Holliday could be a decent replacement if Darren Sproles leaves San Diego through free agency. Like Sproles, Holliday is a tiny speedster. Holliday is 5-foot-5 and is awfully quick. He ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the combine. What better way to replace Sproles than with a Sproles clone?

Who will replace LT in San Diego?

February, 26, 2010
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Icon SMIThe Chargers need to find an answer at running back now that LaDainian Tomlinson is no longer with the team.
One of the top story lines of the NFL offseason will be what San Diego does at running back.

The Chargers probably will bring in at least two new running backs. The team released legend LaDainian Tomlinson this week after he showed -- in his ninth NFL season -- that he could no longer be a reliable lead running back. San Diego may need another tailback to replace change-of-pace standout Darren Sproles, who appears headed to free agency.

San Diego was 31st in rushing last season. It has to find a new spark. Watch for the Chargers -- who are at the NFL scouting combine this week working on improving the position -- to explore trades, free agency and the draft. Expect the draft to be a major option because the current list of available veteran talent is fairly unimpressive.

Here's a list of running backs who could be headed to San Diego:

Jahvid Best, California

How: Draft

The skinny: Best will be closely looked at by San Diego. If he checks out medically --- he had head and neck issues at the end of last season --- the dynamic Best should be available late in the first round. San Diego has the No. 28 pick and may be able to get in on Best. He is a fast, game-breaker type and would work well if San Diego grabbed a big back. But Best also could fit well if the Chargers kept Sproles.

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants

How: Trade

The skinny: There has been some thought that the Giants could dangle either Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs in a trade for San Diego cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who is being shopped. Bradshaw could be the more likely of the two to be dealt. He’d be a decent rotational option.

Bush

Bush

Reggie Bush, New Orleans

How: Free agency

The skinny: If Bush is cut, the only way San Diego would be interested in this native son is if Sproles left. This is a long shot.

Tashard Choice, Dallas:

How: Trade

The skinny: I get the feeling Choice is the Chargers' top choice among the veteran lot. San Diego inquired about the Cowboys’ backup in the Cromartie conversations. However, Dallas is reluctant to give up Choice. If that changes, San Diego may pounce on him.

Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech

How: Draft

The skinny: Dwyer is a big, strong back. The combine is important for him. If he does well, he could sneak into the first round. If he is average, Dwyer could be had in the second or third round, where San Diego would consider him if it also gets a veteran back.

Toby Gerhart, Stanford

How: Draft

The skinny: Gerhart seems like a player who would intrigue San Diego general manager A.J. Smith. He was a very productive college player and has a big upside. He could be a steal in the third or fourth round. The Southern California native is big and rugged. If he and a veteran were brought in, and Sproles was kept, it could be an exciting time in San Diego.

Jones

Jones

Thomas Jones, New York Jets

How: Free agency

The skinny: Jones is not free yet, but he is expected to be cut. If so, put him at the top of San Diego’s veteran wish list. Even though he is 31 and past his prime, Jones is a tough runner who could help for a year or two. Add Jones with a rookie and Sproles, and San Diego’s run offense would surely improve in 2010.

Ryan Mathews, Fresno State

How: Draft

The skinny: Mathews had a productive season and is one to keep an eye on. He will surely be in San Diego’s mix along with Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon and USC’s Joe McKnight.

Willie Parker, Pittsburgh

How: Free agency

The skinny: He shouldn’t be high on the list. Parker is on the decline, but there aren’t many high-quality running backs on the market yet. He could be a backup plan.

C.J. Spiller, Clemson

How: Draft

The skinny: He is expected to be the class of the rookie crop. If he does what is expected of him in the next two months, Spiller could be a top-15 pick, which would be difficult for San Diego to get to. If for some reason he fell into the 20s, expect the Chargers to make a draft-day run at this potential difference-maker.

Taylor

Taylor

Chester Taylor, Minnesota

How: Free agency

The skinny: Taylor is 30, but he has fairly low mileage. The most carries he's had in a season was in 2006 when he had 303 and ran for 1,216 yards. He hasn't had more than 160 carries in any of his other seven seasons. It's unclear how he would do if given the opportunity to carry the ball 20-25 times a game.

Pierre Thomas, New Orleans

How: Free agency

The skinny: The restricted free agent would be intriguing if he hit the open market. Thomas may not be the answer as the primary back, but he’d help as a rotational back.

LenDale White, Tennessee

How: Trade

The skinny: If the Titans were to let go of White at a decent price, San Diego might be tempted. He's big and strong and he can get the job done if not too much is asked of him. Add him to a backfield that included a rookie and Sproles and San Diego would be able to get by nicely.
The closest NFL team to Toby Gerhart's boyhood home of Norco, Calif. is the San Diego Chargers.

It would not shock me in the least bit if Gerhart plays in the NFL with the Chargers.

The bulldozing Stanford product, who was the Heisman Trophy runner-up, announced Friday he will enter the NFL draft. Gerhart will likely be a second or third round pick. The fast and strong Gerhart ran for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2009. He played well against Stanford’s toughest competition.

He will get plenty of pre-draft attention. And, while it is just a feeling, I think much of that attention will come from the Chargers’ draft room. He seems like a good fit for San Diego and general manager A.J. Smith. He is a big fan of players who produce in college.

The Chargers will also likely have a need at the position. It wouldn’t be a surprise if San Diego uses a high pick at running back. It may need a young primary back.

There is a strong chance future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson is entering his final days in San Diego. Tomlinson, 30, has seen his production slip significantly and he is owed more than $5 million in 2010. San Diego almost didn't bring Tomlinson back in 2009 and it would not be a surprise if he is not with the team next season.

The Chargers could bring back all-purpose back Darren Sproles with a long-term deal. But the tiny Sproles is a not a feature back. Sproles would still be dangerous if he were teamed with the bruising Gerhart as a change-of-pace back.

Plenty will happen in the next three months, but a Gerhart-San Diego pairing makes sense to me.

AFC West mailbag

December, 16, 2009
12/16/09
3:30
PM ET
Mid-week mailbag:

Jay Pennington from San Francisco wants to know if I think Wade Phillips could resurface as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator if he is fired as the Cowboy’s coach.

Bill Williamson: I think the only way it could happen is if current defensive coordinator Ron Rivera gets a job as a head coach. Rivera will not be replaced. He is doing a nice job. Rivera could be a serious candidate to get a head coaching-gig. He’s been a finalist before and I’d expect him to get some looks around the league. If Rivera goes elsewhere and Phillips is available, perhaps a reunion could occur. Phillips is beloved by many in the San Diego organization.


Tony from Sacramento wants to know if the Raiders are upset that Washington quarterback Jake Locker is planning to return to school next year.

BW: I don’t know if it ruined Oakland’s week or anything, but it does take a quality player off the board at a position Oakland may look at. But there is still Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford for Oakland to consider. Still, it is no sure thing the Raiders will take a quarterback early in next year’s draft. Oakland has other needs, so quarterback could wait another year in the draft.


Jared from JC, Oregon wants to know if any of the five Heisman Trophy finalists will fit in the AFC West.

BW: Jared, it’s an interesting question with many possibilities. So, I’m going to make one connection. I think Stanford running back Toby Gerhart could be a good fit in both Kansas City and in San Diego. Both teams could be looking for running backs and Gerhart could be a good value pick in the second or third round. He is a big, rugged back and could fit both team’s systems. I would not be surprised if the Heisman runner-up landed in this division.

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