NFL Draft Watch: Back Isn't Short on Talent

The San Diego Chargers have not shown interest in free agent running backs, meaning the team will likely have to address this position twice in the draft. We examine a mid- to late-round prospect who could restore an explosive element to the ground game.

The San Diego Chargers will select a workhorse running back early in the NFL Draft. Whether it's Fresno State's Ryan Matthews or Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer, GM A.J. Smith will lasso his bell cow early on.

But Smith can't stop there, not when the only other runners on his roster are scat-back Darren Sproles and waiver wire pick-up Marcus Mason.

RB Shawnbrey McNeal
Marco Garcia/AP
SMU's Shawnbrey McNeal (5-foot-9, 194 pounds) brings another dimension. In his only season as a collegiate starter, McNeal rushed for 1,188 yards and 12 touchdowns and added 31 receptions for 283 yards and two more touchdowns.

"McNeal is a very interesting prospect," draft analyst Chris Steuber said. "A transfer from Miami, McNeal played just one season at SMU and put together a tremendous season. He's a versatile player who has the speed and toughness to excel on the edge and between the tackles. He also possesses reliable hands to be an effective receiver out of the backfield. The biggest concern about McNeal — and it was revealed at the Scouting Combine — was his straight-line speed. He only ran a 4.56 in the 40 and that will hurt his draft stock. He's likely to be a mid- to late-round pick, who could develop in an offense if he's given time."

McNeal, a Texas sprint champion in high school, spent his first two seasons at Miami before transferring to SMU — located in his hometown of Dallas — to be with his mom, Mattie, who has diabetes.

"She's been dealing with it for as long as I can remember," he said at the Scouting Combine. "And it's the worst it can be right now. If anything goes wrong, she can pass away at any moment."

Because of the situation, McNeal was given a waiver by the NCAA and didn't have to sit out the season due to transfer rules. After carrying the ball 33 times as a freshman and sophomore, McNeal became the first 1,000-yard rusher ever for acclaimed head coach June Jones.

Whoever lands McNeal will land a talented, versatile and mature player.

"I had to mature, to grow and be a man early," he said. "When my dad walked out of my life when I was 8 years old, it kind of gave me the role of being the head of the household, where nobody could take anything from me or disrespect the household. My mom helped me grow early, which is something most people don't go through in life. You're 16, at home, and have to pay bills, working my way to make something happen for the family. But the experience was great. I'd never change anything that the Lord put me through in life. He put me through things to make me stronger. There are always bumps in the road, to get to the next situation in life."

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