The two big questions surrounding the draft revolved around the 220-pound back. Initially the debate was whether San Diego favored a nose-tackle prospect over Mathews at 28.
When it seemed to be edging more and more towards running back, the question was then if a team like the Houston Texans would secure Mathews before San Diego had the opportunity.
In a bold move A.J. Smith dealt the team’s 40th overall pick, linebacker Tim Dobbins, and their fourth-rounder in order to swap first-round picks with the Miami Dolphins and move from 28 up to 12.
The move both guaranteed Smith could get his man, and proved undeniably that running back took precedence over nose tackle, as the top-rated nose tackle prospect (Dan Williams) was also still on the board.
With C.J. Spiller taken with the ninth overall pick, it was now a possibility that the Seattle Seahawks might preempt even the Houston Texans and select Mathews with the No. 14 pick.
The team did take a risk by making the move however.
San Diego had several minor needs that did not have to be immediately addressed, but the perception was that there were two glaring needs in nose tackle and running back.
In order to properly address one of those two concerns, A.J. Smith sacrificed the team’s second-round draft pick, 40th overall.
With a relatively thin nose tackle pool to choose from, the odds seem poor that Smith will be able to draft one of the second-tier prospects (Cam Thomas or Linval Joseph) without making another trade to move up from their next pick at 91.
That gamble on Mathews may stem heavily from a strong combine where he posted the best 40 time of any running back over 200 pounds. Before his combine he was a fringe first-round choice that was more likely to see the top of Round Two.
Without that showing the Chargers may have been able to stay pat and select him without a trade. As it stands, San Diego has now traded up or down within the early rounds in four of A.J. Smith’s seven drafts (if you include the draft and trade of No. 1 pick Eli Manning).
Interestingly enough, San Diego may not have had the necessary collateral to secure that pick had they not pulled off a deal in which third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was sent to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for swapping the team’s late second-round pick for Seattle’s at that No. 40 slot.