The Secret is Out
Most NFL teams are very good about disguising their draft-day intentions. The Chargers, however, made no such effort this time around. Everyone and their sister knew San Diego needed a running back, so GM A.J. Smith made no effort to hide his interest in Ryan Mathews, the most complete running back class.
Chargers coaches met with Mathews at the Scouting Combine, where he impressed by running a 4.45 40-yard dash and posting 19 reps of the 225-pound bench press. Later in the offseason, Smith attended Fresno State's Pro Day to get a closer look.
Mathews reaffirmed everything Smith saw on film, which is why San Diego's general manager decided to make his move at No. 12.
The True Cost of the Deal
Most Bolts fans are happy with the addition of Mathews but upset at the price paid to obtain him. However, the cost was not as prohibitive as it seemed on the surface.
Essentially, the trade breaks down like this: San Diego gave up its second-round pick (No. 40 overall) and LB Tim Dobbins to move up 16 spots in the first round. That's not unbearable by any means, especially considering the Chargers originally stole that second-round pick from the Seattle Seahawks in the Charlie Whitehurst trade. Also, the loss of Dobbins is lessened by the presence of Stephen Cooper, Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler.
Additionally, the Dolphins threw in a sixth-round selection and swapped places in the fourth round, allowing San Diego to move up 16 spots in that stanza.
The Trade to Twelve
Mathews became the second player drafted by A.J. Smith with a No. 12 overall selection. The first was Shawne Merriman in 2005, and like Mathews, Merriman's arrival came via trade. Smith landed the No. 12 pick in the 2005 draft as part of the Eli Manning-Philip Rivers trade in 2004.
Despite losing the 2008 season to a knee injury and struggling to regain his form in 2009, Merriman has been one of Smith's most successful draft picks. Smith can only hope Mathews is as succesful as a rookie as Merriman, who posted 10 sacks in '05 despite starting just 10 games.
Did You Know?
If Mathews is in the starting lineup on Monday Night Football against the Chiefs, it'll mark the second time one of A.J. Smith's first-round picks was an opening-day starter. The other? That would be 2003 first-round pick Sammy Davis, Smith's first-ever pick as general manager. Davis started all 16 games as a rookie, then went on to start just 16 more games during the remainder of his six-year career.
What are Chargers fans saying about Mathews? Find out in the message boards.
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. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.