Before they run out of town the Chargers drafted a running back.
OK, the first part is still debatable, but not the second.
The Chargers made a bold move in Thursday’s NFL Draft, snagging Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon.
Gordon has light feet and will be asked to carry a heavy load for the Chargers, but Gordon wasn’t cheap.
Tom Telesco, the Chargers’ general manager, traded up for the third straight year, but for the first time in the first round.
He did business with San Francisco, flipping first-round picks and giving the 49ers San Diego’s fourth-rounder this year and a fifth-rounder in 2016.
That’s quite a tab to wiggle up two positions, but it illustrates the Chargers’ urgency in filling such a glaring hole.
Gordon, the second back taken behind Georgia’s Todd Gurley, rushed for 2,587 yards last season, the second-most in college history. He led the nation with 184.8 yards per game, averaged nearly a record 8 yards per carry, and now will be asked to pace the Chargers’ tepid rushing attack.
Before the draft Telesco was clear he was pleased with his stable of runners: Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver and Donald Brown, but his actions said otherwise.
The Chargers were ranked No. 30 in rushing last year and that was with a part-timer in Ryan Mathews. With Mathews going to the Eagles — and taking half of the team’s rushing touchdowns (three) with him — Gordon was the right move.
Gordon, who had 32 touchdowns last year, rushed for a record 408 yards last year in breaking former Charger LaDainian Tomlinson’s mark. That standard didn’t last long, which is just the opposite the Chargers’ hopes for Gordon.
The speculation in the draft’s buildup was if the Chargers would swap Philip Rivers to Tennessee to gain the No. 2 pick and get Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. But Rivers stays put and he’s got a running back to help keep him upright.
While the running game was a shortcoming, it wasn’t the only area where the Chargers need help. Other upgrades would have been welcomed at offensive line, pass-rusher, wide receiver and safety, but Gordon was too tempting, even if some say he was too expensive.
In 2010, the Chargers went up 12 spots in the first-round to draft Mathews. While Mathews gave the Chargers a 1,000-yard season in 2013, his career was derailed by various injuries.
Gurley, who went five selections ahead of Gordon, is coming off a torn knee ligament. Gordon, after entering the draft as a junior, has no such issues.
What he does posses is a quick burst, an ability to change direction and a smooth running style which reminds some of Eric Dickerson.
AFC West First Round Draft Notes:
- The Oakland Raiders gave their young but promising quarterback Derek Carr a much needed weapon by selecting Alabama’s Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick. The wide receiver figures to make an immediate impact for the Raiders’ offense. Under Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, Cooper worked in a West Coast system, similar to what Bill Musgrave will likely implement in his first year as offensive coordinator in Oakland. Cooper caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns last year and was considered by many to be the number one wide receiver in this year’s draft class.
- The Kansas City Chiefs took a gamble on a talented player with character concerns by selecting Washington cornerback Marcus Peters with the 18th overall pick. He was kicked off the team in November but is considered to be one of the best, if not the best, corners in the draft. Peters’ athleticism is unquestioned and scouts rave over his excellent spatial awareness. In his eight games last season, Peters had 30 tackles, three interceptions, seven pass breakups and 10 pass deflections. He is expected to complete for snaps right away.
- Like the Chargers, the Denver Broncos followed their AFC West rivals by trading up to get the player they wanted. Denver moved from 28th to 23rd to take Missouri defensive end Shane Ray. In addition to receiving Denver’s first round pick, Detroit picked up a fifth rounder this year, a 2016 fifth-round pick, and guard/center Manny Ramirez. Ray was a highly regarded pass rusher but his stock fell after he was recently issued a marijuana citation. He finished with 19 career sacks at Missouri, including 14.5 in 2014. He joins Von Miller and Demarcus Ware on the Broncos potent defensive line.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)