Last year Bill Belichick dug up his umpteenth diamond in the rough by signing Danny Woodhead, an undrafted rookie out of D-II Chadron State. To be fair, Woodhead wasn't totally unknown having previously enjoyed a brief 15 minutes of fame as a New York Jet running for 158 yards in a preseason game against Philadelphia and getting a few touches, but he was let go by two teams before Belichick gave him his first chance to shine.
Once given his chance to shine, Woodhead proved he knew what to do with it. He rose to fame despite measly totals of 97 rushes and 34 grabs to prove his talent. With those precious few touches he racked up 547 yards (good for 5.6 YPC) and five scores on the ground to go along with his 379 receiving yards and a touchdown reception.
Seemingly out of nowhere he turned into the most electric member of the infamous New England running back carousel and is expected to build on those numbers this year.
Production like that from the running back position is of course highly sought after, so the Chargers took a flyer on another D-II phenom, Isaac Odim of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Not many people know who he is, but nobody knew who Danny Woodhead was right away either.
So how's this for an introduction: he holds virtually every rushing record (17 total single game, season and career) in school history, he's a top-notch scholar (2009 ESPN The Magazine All-Academic Team and 2010 National Scholar-Athlete Award winner) and he has remarkable statistical similarities to the aforementioned Woodhead.
Danny Woodhead's career stat line at Chadron State in 44 games:
Rushing: 7,871 yards (6.9 YPC), 101 TD
Receiving: 119 catches, 1,388 yards (11.7 YPC), 8 TD
Isaac Odim's career totals at UMD in 34 games:
Rushing: 4,242 yards (7.2 YPC), 72 TD
Receiving: 47 catches, 637 yards (13.3 YPC), 8 TD
Woodhead's totals might be slightly higher, but he had 10 more games and a lot more touches to boost those numbers. Odim was right there with him if not better at scoring, and his yards per carry and yards per catch show that he was actually slightly better.
At the collegiate level Odim displayed amazing field vision, quickness, speed and an uncanny nose for the end zone that really separated him from the pack. If his skills translate into the NFL game he could easily be just as successful if not more than Danny Woodhead was last year.
While they both have very impressive career totals, Odim is a more risky pick-up in one way and more promising in another.
Going with the risk factor first, his senior season was ended prematurely when he tore his meniscus during practice. He seems to be fully recovered now, however, as he is a full participant in San Diego's training camp.
Odim can also be considered a more promising pick at the same time because he did something Woodhead never came close to: he lead his team to a national championship and he even did it twice. Granted, he wasn't available for the playoffs the second time around, he still has a winning track record that makes him that much more of an exciting candidate to make the Chargers' final roster.
His chances already seem good considering the Chargers Offensive Coordinator Clarence Shelmon could use a replacement for Sproles to change the pace and give the big guns a rest (NFL.com lists Odim as 5'11" and 210 lbs). He is already taking reps with Rivers and the first team according to Sign On San Diego's website.