RB Ray Rice (Miller Safrit/Scout.com)
The Bolts find themselves in an unfamiliar position going into the draft: needing a running back. San Diego's scout team is working hard to find a back who could replace Michael Turner and compete with Darren Sproles for the No. 2 spot. SDBoltReport.com analyzes a player who's eager to fill the role...as long as he doesn't have to block Shawne Merriman.
San Diego is no stranger to small running backs. Rutgers running back Ray Rice (5’8”, 199 pounds) would like to see the trend to continue and hear his name called by the defending AFC West Champions.
A small back with a middle-round projection, Rice could allow San Diego the flexibility to pick up an offensive tackle such as Gosder Cherilus in round one without losing the opportunity to adequately replace Michael Turner.
A quick glance at Darren Sproles (5'6", 181 pounds) shows that a small statute doesn’t deter the Chargers. Rice has remained complex-free himself.
"When I look at the NFL, I ask myself how many small backs are carrying the load,” Rice said. “I think that term 'small back' is used in a different way. I feel like being a small back can be an advantage. You have a big old lineman at 6-foot-6 and once you get behind him, before you are 2 or 3 yards down the field, defenders probably can't even see you.”
Rice isn’t concerned about pass blocking in the NFL. He looks at is as a mentality of how he runs the ball. He takes the passion into pass-blocking battles, but he would rather have Shawne Merriman on his side than go up against him.
“If you've got a guy like Merriman coming, why not give it your best shot?” Rice said. “It's the same thing if you're going to run the ball and think you are going to get tackled every time by Shawne Merriman...there could be one time you can make him miss.”
Rice knows it will be a challenge to hang with the big boys, but that is part of life in the NFL. He focuses on the positive aspects of his stature that can make him a special running back in the league.
"Being small can be an advantage,” Rice said. “Being small has a lot to do with the kind of heart you have. I run bigger than my size. I usually don't shy away from too much contact, which you have to work on at the next level because everybody's bringing it. But I definitely run bigger than my size."
If Rice stayed in school for his senior year, his height wouldn’t have changed. So he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the draft, even though though this year's crop of running backs is markedly deeper than next year's will be.
“I didn't consider any other backs in my decision,” Rice said. “I said to myself: 'I'm going to come in and do what I have to do here and any other place.'
"It's definitely going to be another challenge for me. I'm just ready to prove myself all over again. I definitely proved at the college ranks that I was a great football player. Now, I will just continue to pursue my dream of being an NFL player and try to be the best I can be."
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of Shawne Merriman, Lorenzo Neal, Shaun Phillips and others for Sixthman Communications.