http://bolttalk.com/threads/anteaters-2012-chargers-mock-draft.26545/ With the 18th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers select Mark Barron, Safety from Alabama I have been writing these mock drafts since 2005, and for the first time I honestly have no idea where the Chargers will go with their first pick. Also for the first time since I started writing, the Chargers had the most active free agency since the beginning of the century. At the start of the off-season the Chargers had needs at outside linebacker, wide receiver and the offensive line. All three of these needs have been improved thanks to AJ Smith’s first free agent shopping spree. Though the team still has needs at a number of positions, they’re in better shape than at the start of free agency. So why Mark Barron? For one, strong safety is a position the Chargers haven’t solved since Rodney Harrison left. Regardless of whether it was through the draft (Terrance Kiel, Keith Ellison) or free agent (Marlon Mcree, Clinton Hart, Bob Sanders), the team has not unsuccessful. Second, this is a weak safety class; there are few top talents available. Though the Chargers were apparently very interested in Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame, the lack of talent in this class has pushed Smith to the top of the second round and out of the Chargers range. Third, of all the positions addressed in free agency, this is the only one that hasn’t really been touched. The Chargers added a starting OLB in Jarrett Johnson, they carpet bombed the wide receiver position and resigned who they could on the offensive line. The Chargers might have added Atari Bigby and have said that Darrell Stuckey could compete for a job, but neither player is starter quality. As such the Chargers must be looking for someone in the draft. Mark Barron has been an impact player in Nick Saban’s complicated defense since his sophomore year. He is as close to a complete safety as you will find in the draft with great ability in both coverage and run support. While not asked to cover much his senior year, he did show great range in the zone plus the ability to cover most tight ends. He also reads the quarterback’s eyes very well in addition to his good instincts and awareness. In run support he truly shines; Barron plays under control and fills in the gaps quickly. Most importantly he knows when to tackle and when to hit hard. The negatives on him are that he’s stiff in the hips making it difficult for him to cover slot receivers. He also has some durability concerns and is still recovering from double hernia surgery. I personally think Mark Barron is a slight reach at 18 in part because strong safeties are not as valued in this pass happy league the way they were a few years ago. However if you are going to reach, make sure you select someone who can effectively fill a void in the line up. Barron does that and will be a fixture with Eric Weddle for years to come. Finally the Chargers will have two starting safeties. With the 49th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers select Ronnell Lewis, Outside Linebacker from Oklahoma Universally agreed among all draft experts and fans is that the Chargers must improve their pass rush. Even though Greg Manusky’s scheme wasn’t a blitzing scheme, the team has had trouble with establishing consistent effective pass rush. Antwan Barnes has been an unexpected diamond after being picked up in 2010 but he’s the only person the Chargers have gotten production out of. Larry English is a bust, Travis Laboy is marginal and Shaun Phillips is not as effective without someone opposite him. The signing of Jarrett Johnson means the team can reserve Barnes and even Phillips for passing downs, but that alone doesn’t improve the rush. The team needs somebody who can provide pressure. Nicknamed “The Hammer”, Lewis is seen by many as a solid 3-4 outside linebacker. He works hard, his motor runs constantly and he doesn’t take plays off. Lewis has impressive upper body strength and uses it well in both setting the edge in the run game and while pass rushing. His tackling ability is outstanding and, like Barron, he knows when to make a tackle and when to light someone up. As a pass rusher he has a good combination of moves, speed and power, and when he’s after the quarterback he plays with very bad intentions. The negatives are durability; he has had surgery on both knees, major on left (MCL) and minor on right in addition to back trouble. In addition Lewis doesn’t have the greatest instincts or the ability to change on the fly. He is at his best when he’s pointed at the ball carrier. The Chargers have the ability to draft Ronnell Lewis and use him in much the same way as they did with Antwan Barnes, as a third down pass rusher. This way they can bring him along slowly while letting him make a big impact. Don’t forget that Shawne Merriman started his career with the Chargers in a similar manner. Lewis has the added benefit of being an outstanding special teamer early in his career, providing immediate benefits in two areas. Moving him and Barnes to third down while using Phillips and Johnson as the two down backers will improve the rotation outside as well as overall production for a team in desperate need of a pass rush. With the 78th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers select Derek Wolfe, Defensive End from Cinncinati Even with the drafting of Corey Liuget, the development of Vaughn Martin and the re-signing of Luis Castillo, the Chargers lack a strong playmaker at the defensive end position. I say this knowing that one year does not make a bust, in the case of Corey Liuget, and that there is some potential to develop still in Vaughn Martin. Even with all that said, the team has a group of mostly backups at defensive end with the sole question mark being Liuget. Though Castillo, Martin and Cesaire are talented, they have not shown they’re starters at defensive end. As such the team will dip yet again into the draft, and might just find a star in the third round. While options could include Mike Martin from Michigan or Jared Crick from Nebraska, here’s a player who is a natural fit for the 3-4. At 6’5, 295lbs, Wolfe has almost prototypical size for a 3-4 Defensive end. What makes him a solid addition is his ability to anchor and defeat double teams, which he did with frequency at Cincinnati. This is combined with his initial quickness and awareness makes him very difficult to get past. He also has violent and fast hands, which combine with his strong swim and rip pass rush moves, make him a solid defensive end pass rusher. Wolfe has no durability issues and was a solid character throughout his time in Cincinnati. The only question is whether he’d be able to make the adjustment to the 3-4 having only played in a 4-3 his entire career. Wolfe has been rising up most draft boards from behind a third day pick to a likely second day selection. He has the talent, the mental toughness and the drive to be a solid starting defensive end, and supposedly teams like New England are targeting him. As such this could be an optimistic view of where he would land. Ideally, Wolfe would start at defensive end with Liuget with Castillo and Martin backing them up. This would give the team two young talented defensive ends that could better stop the run and provide some pass rush from the outside. With the 110th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers select Asa Jackson, Cornerback from Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo Like defensive end, the Chargers used draft picks in 2011 to help shore up the cornerback position. Also like defensive end, the Chargers got very little for their picks. Marcus Gilchrist started and was benched numerous times throughout the year while Shareece Wright never got onto the field. This occurred while starters Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason had horrible seasons on the field. With both starters in the final years of their contracts, and Gilchrist and Wright still question marks, the team will likely add another defensive back in the draft. Jackson has quick feet, good speed and very good instincts, which makes him a great addition on defense and special teams. He runs with wide receivers effortlessly and has outstanding closing speed to go along with great movement to get in and out of cuts. Even though he’s only 5’10, 190lbs, he is a solid tackler along with a willing player in run support. The lack of size does mean he has trouble with bigger receivers and he needs to improve his recognition of routes and moves, as it stands now he uses his natural talent too much. Immediately Jackson could be used on special teams where he earned praise at Cal Poly. He has the talent and the ability to become, at worst, a solid nickel corner who could challenge and push Gilchrist and Wright. At best Jackson could end up a #2 corner and join with the aforementioned players in a new, young group of cornerbacks. With the 149th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers select Nate Potter, offensive lineman from Boise State The Chargers finally check in with their first offensive player all the way in the fifth round, and it’s an offensive lineman. One of the teams’ immediate priorities was re-signing tackle Jared Gaither. By doing such, the Chargers kept a man who nearly saved their season and their start quarterback’s health. However Gaither has two areas of concern; an history of injuries with his back since his time in college and a reputation of laziness. Gaither has said the right things since signing with the team, but the front office would be smart to grab another backup tackle as protection if those issues return. Nate Potter is a three year starter for the Broncos and was a protector for Kellen Moore and their high powered offense. He is 6’5, 305lbs with the frame to grow much bigger. He is a solid pass protector who can mirror defensive ends with ease while keeping them at bay with his long arms. He plays smart and with good awareness, especially when getting to the second level. The negatives are that he is not as effective against power rushers and needs to get stronger to play better in the NFL. There are also questions as to the level of competition, first in the WAC and then in the Mountain West. Potter is a guy who you would at least feel comfortable protecting Philip Rivers in a pinch. He would fill the role of swing tackle easily while he continues to get stronger and refine his ability. At the very least he’s a better backup than Brandon Dombrowski or Mario Henderson and can handle speed rushers, of which there are quite a few in the AFC West. With the 183rd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers select Nick Jean-Baptiste, nose tackle from Baylor As goes the nose tackle, goes the entire 3-4 defense. The Chargers have been lucky to first have Jamal Williams as their nose tackle from 2004-2009. Since then the Chargers have been in the hands of the young improving player Cam Thomas and the veteran and fan favorite Antonio Garay, who signed a two year contract in April. The contract with Garay however gives him a $5 million signing bonus in 2013 which, for a 32 yr old nose tackle with an injury history, is a little much and makes this automatically a one year deal. Even though AJ Smith has a history of waiting until the last minute to fill this important void, I believe he’ll target Garay’s replacement at some point in the draft. Jean-Baptiste reminds me a little of Cam Thomas in that he is a big man playing in a 4-3 that doesn’t seem to best use his talents. He has impressive size and mass that allows him to stoutly hold up against the run and double teams. Jean Baptiste is a powerful tackler with an impressive, but still raw, bull rush in addition to a great make up and work ethic. Negatives are that he is raw in technique and hand use, in addition to needing work on his stamina and upper body strength. As a sixth rounder he would probably be inactive the whole year to work on his strength and technique. He has the talent to be a good nose tackle with natural talent you can’t teach, and areas to work on that can be taught. With the 226th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers select John Brantley, quarterback from Florida Mercifully, the quietest positions on the Chargers roster for the past six years have been the backup quarterbacks. Philip Rivers has remained healthy since the 2007 playoffs, even with the beatings he has taken over the last few years. In fact except for mop up duty either at the end of the game or the rare last game of the season, Rivers has played through out. It’s been so quiet in fact that the Chargers haven’t bothered to carry a third quarterback since 2009, but that wasn’t entirely by choice. The Chargers drafted Jonathan Crompton in 2010 hoping to develop him, but he was abysmal and released. The team also brought in Scott Tolzien in 2011 and unsuccessfully tried to hide him onto the practice squad after a very good pre-season. Though the team brought back Charlie Whitehurst, they need to develop someone into a solid backup. Brantley endured three different offensive coordinators while in Gainesville, but did learn a pro style offense. He’s got a pretty good arm, good touch on deep balls while remaining accurate on short and intermediate throws. Brantley is also smart and a hard worker. He does need to clean up his mechanics and his footwork in addition to build up his frame more. At this stage in the draft he’s the best of the late draft quarterbacks and could be groomed into a solid backup for Rivers. With the 250th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers select Jeff Demps, athlete from Florida An athlete might seem like an odd choice this late in the draft, but it is especially so considering he might never play football. There are questions as to whether Demps wants to continue his football career as he’s currently training for the 2012 London Olympics as a sprinter. That alone should tell you why I would consider drafting him here; he is obscenely fast. This is one of the few cases where world-class track speed actually translates onto the football field. Demps would need only a crease to turn a small run into a massive gain; he accelerates in the blink of the eye and if he has any space on you, he can’t be caught. Even better is that he has great lateral mobility and can chain moves together with little wasted movement and little impact on his speed. Demps however is a toothpick; at 5’8, 184lbs he’s short, lean and not meant to run in between the tackles. He also has had injury problems throughout his Florida career. While he has never backed down from a fight and shows great competiveness, there’s only so much you can do when you are that small. Demps is a pick I’d compare to 2009 7th rounder Demitrius Byrd; Byrd was injured in a car accident just before the NFL draft and the Chargers drafted him hoping that he might play again. Demps might never return from being a track star but if he ever did, he’d be the kind of toy that Norv Turner would drool over. That kind of speed and agility could be used as a receiver, as a running back and most importantly as a returner; the only limits are the imagination of Turner and his offensive staff. That’s more than enough of a reason to draft this guy.