I’m sorry Ryan Mathews fans, but YES. In my opinion, the San Diego Chargers could very well trade Ryan Mathews during the 2014 NFL Draft.
If you’re anything like me, you probably had the sneaking suspicion that something was brewing back in March of this year when the Chargers announced the signing of Donald Brown, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts. Brown was drafted by the Colts with the 27th overall pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. A pick that Tom Telesco had a hand in making.
In 1998, Tom Telesco started out as a scout for the Indianapolis Colts and gradually worked his way up the organization. By 2005, the Colts had promoted Telesco to the position of Director of Player Personnel thus beginning the greatest era of football in Colts history. Telesco’s promotion contributed to two Super Bowl appearances and one Lombardi Trophy over the next seven years until eventually being lured to San Diego by the Chargers in 2013.
Why am I telling you this? Because Telesco is a master of three things: scouting, building a team, and winning. Telesco knows what he has in Donald Brown, injury history and all. He also knows what he does and doesn’t have in Ryan Mathews.
He does have a running back who has hit the 1,000 yard mark twice in the last three years.
He does have a running back that averages almost 4.5 yards per carry over his career.
And perhaps most importantly, Tom Telesco does have have a running back in the prime of his career, whose contract expires at the end of the 2014 season.
The Have Nots:
Telesco does not have a consistently healthy running back. Ryan Mathews has missed 7 games in the last 2 years and has left numerous games early, including the a crucial playoff game against the Denver Broncos resulting in the Bolts playoff elimination. In that game, the gameplan was tailor-made for Mathews, and the Bolts couldn’t recover from his absence.
He does not have a consistently productive running back. Although in 2013 Mathews racked up over 1,200 rushing yards during the regular season, he failed to reach 75 rushing yards in 9 of 16 appearances. Also, Mathews only recorded 78 total rushing yards for his combined playoff efforts against the Bengals and Broncos.
And perhaps most importantly, Tom Telesco does not have any loyalty to Ryan Mathews.
In his second year as the General Manager of the San Diego Chargers, Tom Telesco will continue to define his legacy through the 2014 NFL Draft. With a deep draft and plenty of options on the table, that legacy might not be carried out on the legs of Ryan Mathews if the price is right. The Chargers can afford to take a running back in the draft and let him develop behind Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead. Here are some possible scenarios that we could see play out when the 2014 NFL Draft begins:
Part 1: The San Diego Chargers trade their 1st (25th overall) and 2nd (57th overall) round picks to the Tennessee Titans for the 11th overall pick in the draft.
Part 2: The San Diego Chargers trade Ryan Mathews to the Jacksonville Jaguars for their 2nd (39th overall) and 4th (114th overall) round picks.
Why: The Titans are rumored to want to move down in the draft to acquire additional picks and Tom Telesco already has connections with Ken Whisenhunt. If the Chargers are wanting to make a play at one of the top 2 corners in the draft, this is how they could do it. I also believe that the Jaguars will address the running back situation in the draft and Toby Gearhart will be relegated to the backup role once more.
The San Diego Chargers trade Ryan Mathews to the Tennessee Titans for their 2nd (42nd overall) round pick and swap 3rd round picks.
Why: If the Titans don’t trade down with the Chargers they will find another suitor. Mathews has already proven his ability to beat the AFC South, racking up over 100 rushing yards versus Jacksonville and Indianapolis last year while scoring on a receiving touchdown against Houston. Mathews already knows Whisenhunt’s system and has a couple years of experience under his belt. Whisenhunt seemed happy with Mathews’ production in San Diego and could seek him out as the answer in Jacksonville.
The San Diego Chargers trade Ryan Mathews to the Cleveland Browns for their 2nd (35th overall) and 3rd(83rd overall) round picks.
Why: The Browns acquired Ben Tate in free agency, but Tate has never proven himself over a full season sitting behind Arian Foster. The Browns can afford this trade and a two-headed monster might be the protection needed for whichever mobile quarterback they take off the board in the 1st round. The AFC North can be a tough place to play in the winter, even tougher on running backs, which is why a 50/50 work-share might not be off the board.
With Donald Brown set to make $3 Million in San Diego during the 2015 season, don’t be surprised if the Chargers decide to “sell high” on Ryan Mathews in the draft.