Chargers Pay Hefty Bounty for Mathews

The Chargers made a splash by trading for Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews. We break down the move by explaining A.J. Smith's logic, detailing the risk he takes and profiling San Diego's new running back.

The Chargers selected Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews with the No. 12 overall pick in the NFL Draft. San Diego acquired the pick in a trade with Miami, sending the Dolphins a first-round pick (No. 28), a second-round pick (No. 40) and Tim Dobbins. In return, the Chargers also received a sixth-round pick (No. 173). Additionally, the teams swapped fourth-round selections, allowing the Chargers to move up 16 spots in that stanza.

Here's more on San Diego's new starting running back:

Why a Running Back?

When San Diego traded up to No. 12, many speculated it was for NT Dan Williams. However, GM A.J. Smith decided running back was the more pressing need.

San Diego can improve on the defensive line without the addition of a high draft pick. Ryon Bingham and Ogemdi Nwagbuo come off injured-reserve; Vaughn Martin gains another year of experience; and Travis Johnson, Alfonso Boone and Antonio Garay get the benefit of a full offseason program.

The running back position, however, was not going to get any better without an influx of talent. So Smith paid what he had to secure his man -- something he has a history of doing -- and brought the Chargers the workhorse running back they sorely need to replace LaDainian Tomlinson.

Is Mathews Worth the Risk

By NFL Analyst Ed Thompson

There's no doubt that RB Ryan Mathews is a huge talent, but for San Diego to move up from No. 28 to No. 12 by surrendering their only second-round pick (40th overall) as part of the trade was a heavy price to pay. Mathews was banged up in each of his three seasons playing in the WAC, including a concussion last year. He'll take a heavier pounding in the NFL, and if he can't hold up, the Chargers have to rely on Darren Sproles, who only averaged 3.69 yards per carry last year.

Steuber Says

By Draft Analyst Chris Steuber

Strengths: Mathews is a strong runner who excels between the tackles, but has the deceptive quickness to be successful on the edge. He displays the patience, quick feet and vision necessary to find an opening within the line, has a burst that allows him to get to the second and third levels and finishes his runs strong by delivering a powerful stiff-arm. He has great balance and strength, runs with a forward lean and breaks several tackles before being pulled to the ground. He runs with a purpose at all times and plays faster on game day than his timed speed suggests. He's surprisingly shifty and will make defenders miss in a small area. He's an effective pass catcher out of the backfield, demonstrates focus and tremendous hand/eye coordination and quickly turns up field looking for a big gain. He's a solid blocker who initiates contact to an on-coming defender and does a good job of sustaining his blocks due to his strength. He's a complete back who plays with great effort.

Weaknesses: He lacks elite speed, and, while he has a burst, he tends to be deliberate in his approach towards the line. He has the strength to be an effective blocker, but must work on his hand placement and technique. Durability is a concern, due to his strong running style.

Steuber Says: Prior to the 2009 season – his first-year as a starter - Mathews was part of a running back by committee scenario during his freshman and sophomore campaigns. As a freshman, he shared the load with Clifton Smith and Lonyae Miller. During that season, Mathews rushed for 866 yards on 145 carries and led all NCAA freshmen in YPC (6.0) and touchdowns (14). The ensuing season, Fresno State had big plans for Mathews, and after he got off to a promising start - 470 yards rushing and four touchdowns in four games – it appeared that he was on his way to a breakout year. But, just as he was heating up, injuries kept him out of the lineup. Mathews missed five games due to a knee injury and finished the year with just 113 carries for 606 yards and six touchdowns. This past season, he played in every game but one and had the kind of year Fresno State envisioned him having in 2008; he rushed for 1,808 yards on 276 carries and 19 touchdowns. The biggest concern scouts have with Mathews is his durability. He's extremely talented and deceptively quick on the edge, but his aggressive style of running and his inability to elude big hits will eventually take its toll. Mathews has workhorse-like qualities and can carry the ball between 22 – 27 times in a game, but at the next level, the team that selects him should keep his touches between 18 – 22.

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