Rewind: Breaking Down the New Bolts

Who was A.J. Smith's best pick? Who is the most likely to surprise? And what will each of the rookies bring to the table?

Anchored with the No. 28 pick and desperate for a running back, Chargers general manager A.J. Smith did business with the Dolphins -- trading draft picks and inside linebacker Tim Dobbins to Miami.

So the Chargers leapfrogged up the board and seized Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews at No. 12. It's the highest pick the Chargers have awarded a running back since LaDainian Tomlinson went fifth overall in 2001.

Mathews' favorite player? Tomlinson, and Mathews wore No. 21 at Fresno State to prove it.

The Chargers gave up a lot but this is the year they're pushing all the chips to the table's center -- and good for them. While the string of four straight AFC West titles is impressive, the Chargers have lost three of their last four playoff games and need to master that postseason hump.

Enter Mr. Mathews.

"We think he is a great football player," Smith said. "He was a targeted guy that we'd looked at for a long time. We really had some concerns that he'd make it down (to 28).

"We think he is a championship-level running back. The intangibles are fantastic; his work-ethic, he's an all-around back. He can catch the ball, run the ball and he's a very good blocker -- physical. We think he is going to add a lot to our offensive package."

As potent as the Chargers' passing game is, they need some balance, which they hope Mathews delivers.

BEST PICK: Running back Ryan Mathews: The Chargers have fallen in the last two playoffs, in part because they couldn't run the ball. The drafting of Mathews could be a return to a balanced approach after finishing near the bottom in every significant running category last year.

COULD SURPRISE: Defensive tackle Cam Thomas: Stopping the run is a Chargers' shortcoming; Thomas could clog the middle early-on.

A closer look at the Chargers' picks:

Round 1/12 -- Ryan Mathews, RB, 6-0, 218, Fresno State

The Chargers had to deliver an impressive package to Miami to move up 16 spots in the first round and snag LaDainian Tomlinson's replacement. Mathews is more physical than Tomlinson; he looks to gain yards between the tackles as well and in finding the edge. He will be asked to contribute immediately, sharing the rushing duties with Darren Sproles.

Round 3/79 -- Donald Butler, ILB, 6-1, 245, Washington

Butler played inside on the Huskies' 4-3 alignment and that is likely where he will land in the Chargers' 3-4; known for his run-stuffing skills and strength.

Round 4/110 -- Darrell Stuckey, FS, 5-11, 205, Kansas

Stuckey is usually around the ball as he led the Jayhawks with 93 tackles. While not a speed-burner, he uses angles and smarts to get to the ball-carrier.

Round 5/146 -- Cam Thomas, DT, 6-4, 330, North Carolina

The Chargers were desperate for a big body after losing Jamal Williams to the Broncos. Thomas is that. He started two years at North Carolina.

Round 5/168 -- Jonathan Crompton, QB, 6-3, 222, Tennessee

Crompton will line up behind Philip Rivers and Billy Volek, with the Chargers hoping he never sees the field. Crompton threw 27 TDs and 13 INTs last season.

Round 7/235 -- Dedrick Epps, TE, 6-3, 250, Miami

He could earn a backup role with Brandon Manumaleuna's exit to Chicago.

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