Chargers Draft Primer: Running Backs

With LaDainian Tomlinson approaching 30 and Michael Turner flying the coup for the Falcons, the Bolts are in the market for a top-notch running back. A.J. Smith should have a couple enticing options if he chooses to fill the need in round one. However, his options may improve if he moves down. Team expert Michael Lombardo fills in the details.

If the Chargers tab a running back at No. 27, the most likely candidate is Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart (5'10", 235 pounds). That option is becoming increasingly popular as the draft draws near; draft analyst Chris Steuber projected the Chargers to land Stewart in his latest mock draft.

Stewart is a powerful back who would provide a seamless transition from the Michael Turner era. He is a patient runner who waits for holes to develop and then explodes through them. Offseason toe surgery has put his stock in question, which is the only reason he might be available at the end of round one. As a senior, Stewart logged 280 carries for 1,722 yards (6.2 ypc) and 11 TDs.

RB Felix Jones
Beth Hall/AP

If the Chargers decide to chase speed over size, Arkansas' Felix Jones (6'0", 200 pounds) and East Carolina's Chris Johnson (5'11", 200 pounds) would be the top choices to consider. Jones is electric in the open field and is used to playing second fiddle after backing up Darren McFadden in college. Johnson's 4.24 time in the 40-yard dash put him on the map, but he may be a reach in round one.

While there is a lot to like about the aforementioned prospects, A.J. Smith seems more fascinated by backs with second-round grades. If Smith manages to trade down, as was hinted at in this article, his primary target will likely be Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice (5'10", 215 pounds).

The Chargers have met with Choice four times this offseason, including a private visit at Chargers Park earlier this month. Choice is a strong between-the-tackles runner who can pick up yards after contact. He's also a complete player, able to pick up blitzes and catch passes out of the backfield.

Another complete prospect who's caught San Diego's attention is Tulane running back Matt Forte (6'1", 217 pounds). Forte visited San Diego on April 11 for a private visit. If he was as impressive in person as he is on the field, he could be the player the Chargers target in a potential trade down.

And if the Chargers don't draft a running back? Click here for the primer on offensive tackles or here for the primer on cornerbacks.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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