Chargers draft preview: RBs to consider

The San Diego Chargers appear set at running back.

Ryan Mathews is the incumbent starter, while Danny Woodhead remains the third-down back. And the Chargers signed Donald Brown in free agency as a complement to Mathews on early downs.

Still, Mathews and Woodhead will be free agents after the completion of the 2014 season, so the Chargers could conceivably consider drafting a running back as insurance should one of those two players move on in 2015.

The reason Chargers general manager Tom Telesco wants to stockpile running backs is running the football is tied to San Diego winning football games.

San Diego was 9-2 when the team totaled at least 112 rushing yards in a game in the 2013 season.

“We have a physical offensive line, and physical running back in Ryan, and I think that helps,” Telesco said. “It keeps people off balance and helps our passing game. We weren’t one-dimensional last year, even though we had a top-tier quarterback. So obviously it helps.”

Best RB drafted since 2004: Selected in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, Darren Sproles defined the role of a scat back in today’s NFL. Sproles served as Philip Rivers’ security blanket during his time in San Diego, and was named to the Chargers’ 50th anniversary team. With two, 1,000-yard rushing seasons in four years, Mathews is a close second.

Worst RB drafted since 2004: Selected in the fourth round (No. 134 overall) of the 2009 draft out of Colorado State, Gartrell Johnson never played a down during the regular season for the Chargers, and was waived by San Diego after the first game of the season. Johnson was claimed on waivers by the New York Giants, and played 19 games in the NFL, finishing with 73 rushing yards.

RB depth chart: Starter – Ryan Mathews ($2 million in total compensation in 2014). Reserves – Donald Brown ($4 million), Danny Woodhead ($1.75 million), Kerwynn Williams ($420,000), Zach Boren ($420,000).

A review of running backs San Diego might select in each round of this year’s draft:

First round, No. 25 pick: Carlos Hyde, 6-foot, 230 pounds, Ohio State

Eric’s rationale: He’ll likely go in the second round, but Hyde is a physical thumper in the run game.

Second round, No. 57 pick: Bishop Sankey, 5-10, 209, Washington

Eric’s rationale: Sankey is more explosive than folks give him credit for, and could develop in to a good third-down back in the NFL.

Third round, No. 89 pick: Jeremy Hill, 6-1, 233, LSU

Eric’s rationale: A one-cut, downhill runner who finishes strong at the end of runs.

Fourth round, No. 125 pick: Charles Sims, 6-0, 216, West Virginia

Eric’s rationale: Sims offers versatility, with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Fifth round, No. 165 pick: Ka'Deem Carey, 5-9, 209, Arizona

Eric’s rationale: Carey ran a slow 40-yard time, but put on the tape – he can play.

Sixth round, No. 201 pick: De'Anthony Thomas, 5-9, 174, Oregon

Eric’s rationale: Can contribute as a returner and possibly replace Woodhead if he moves on in free agency.

Seventh round, No. 240 pick: Tyler Gaffney, 6-0, 220, Stanford

Eric’s rationale: The San Diego native is a hard runner who ran a surprisingly fast 40-yard time (4.49 seconds).