Many of the mock drafts this year had the San Diego chargers selecting a running back in the first round. this prediction is justified with LT nearing the end of his career and Darren Sproles simply not being an every down back.
However, after going through four picks (two of which were spent on guards) the Chargers finally drafted Gartrell Johnson, the 22 year old out of Colorado State University, at No. 134.
Running back is one of those positions where it is not far-fetched to find a franchise player in the lower rounds. And the last few years of drafting have shown us that A.J. Smith has a gift when it comes to finding future starters in the lower rounds.
Up until pick No. 134, I was infuriated that the Denver Broncos (of all teams) had "stolen" the electrifying Knowshon Moreno from the Chargers. However, when I saw that we had finally drafted a running back the name "Gartrell Johnson out of Colorado State" rang a bell.
After researching what Johnson had done in his college career, I was very impressed with his ability.
Gartrell Johnson stands at 5'10" and 219 pounds. He has great burst and a low center of gravity. He hits the hole with authority and is very good at eluding defenders in the open field. Gartrell has shown that he has strength and is an effective pass blocker.
Johnson is also a good ball-carrier. He only fumbled once in 310 carries throughout the 2008 season.
The biggest question surrounding Johnson is his lack of break-away speed. He failed to break 4.7 at the NFL combine which has led many scouters to suggest that he become a fullback in the NFL.
Ironically, in 2001, many scouting reports praised LaDainian Tomlinson for the same things as Johnson. They also had questions about Tomlinson's speed and balance if he did not get low and run under his pads.
While I do not believe there will ever be a running back with the same ability and impact as Tomlinson, I think I see the future of San Diego's running attack in Gartrell Johnson. Do not be surprised to see Johnson begin complimenting his fellow Mountain West back as soon as the 2009 season begins.
I am excited to see how Johnson develops throughout the off season, and just maybe, the San Diego Chargers have stumbled upon the next LaDainian Tomlinson.