The candidates to replace Darren Sproles as San Diego's third down back are are Mike Tolbert, Jacob Hester and Ryan Mathews. Likely, since none has demonstrated Sproles’ acumen for pass protection or for running routes, it will be a combination.
He is not at Sproles' level, but Tolbert currently possesses the best all-around skill set to be the primary replacement for Sproles. Hester, though, is an athletic fullback who head coach Norv Turner utilizes to block and catch.
Mathews is the unknown. His aptitude in those two areas had a long way to go to catch up to his running ability in 2010, but he has spent a lot of time working on with running backs coach Ollie Wilson. Mathews said already in camp he can tell the difference when he lines up, knowing where to look and which defender to pick up.
This is a battle to watch, especially with Tolbert and Mathews each possessing fantasy value. Whoever can get the receptions that Sproles used to get will see their value rise, especially in a pass-happy offense like San Diego's.