Despite signing LaDainian Tomlinson to a new deal and slapping Darren Sproles with the franchise tag, the Chargers are all but forced to add a running back in this year's draft. Tomlinson will be 30 before the season begins; Sproles could leave as a free agent after the '09 season; and Michael Bennett could follow suit a year later.
The Chargers also need someone capable of carrying the load in case Tomlinson is injured for a third consecutive season. Sproles (5-foot-6, 181 pounds) is undersized for that role and Bennett has topped 20 carries in a game just once since 2003.
|RB Chris Wells |
The Case against Wells: The primary knocks on Wells -- he gets injured too often and lets his injuries severely hamper his play -- are the same criticisms surrounding Tomlinson. With LT aging and due a $2 million bonus next March, San Diego may be looking for an heir apparent more than a complement; Wells would seem to be more of the latter.
The Expert Says: "Wells has all the physical tools of a great running back, but more importantly, he has great instincts. For a big guy, he's very elusive," said Marcus Hartman, a staff writer for the Buckeye Sports Bulletin.
|RB Knowshon Moreno |
The Case against Moreno: San Diego is in win-now mode, so it makes little sense to use a first-round pick on a player with a skill-set so similar to that of another player already on the roster. If Tomlinson stays healthy and Sproles reports to camp at a reasonable time, there would be virtually no reason to play Moreno outside of garbage time.
The Expert Says: "It's hard to compare any player to LaDainian Tomlinson, because a player of his talent comes around once in a decade. But Knowshon Moreno is also a special player who has yet to realize his full potential; the potential to be the next LT," Scout.com Draft Analyst Chris Steuber.
The Final Verdict: If the Chargers decide to go running back in the first round, they would do well with either player. Wells would likely carve out a larger role in 2009, but Moreno is the favorite to deliver a long-term payoff.
In this scenario, Wells likely gets the nod. This season, he could log about a half-dozen carries per game while giving the team another option in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Beyond this season, he could form an intriguing tandem with Sproles, whom the Chargers are trying to sign to a long-term contract.
Another option is trading down and picking up a running back late in the first round or early in the second. San Diego has met with several running back prospects with that kind of grade, including Connecticut's Donald Brown and Iowa's Shonn Greene.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com 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.