By Loren S. Casuto
BoltTalk Staff Writer
For yet another year I will provide who I think the Chargers will select in this
year’s draft. Unlike previous years I’ve done this, the Chargers have immediate
needs all over the place especially considering the potential to lose numerous
valuable contributors if/when there is free agency. Combine this with the first time
in five years that the Chargers didn’t make the playoffs, and you have a team and a
GM that needs to nail this draft. While some of this might be hopeful/wishful
thinking, I think the Chargers stand a good chance selecting these players. So
without further delay:
With the 18th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select
Cameron Jordan Defensive End from California
The Chargers might have many needs but defensive line is definitely a
priority. Though they found a gem in Antonio Garay and have a potential great
player in Cam Thomas, their defensive ends have been mediocre at best. Luis
Castillo is getting better but is vastly overpaid and hasn’t lived up to the promise he
showed in his rookie season, that’s of course when you can get him onto the field.
Jacques Cesaire is a good player and has done very well considering, but he’s a free
agent and has always been better suited for a backup role. Vaughn Martin has made
great strides but still has a ways to go before he can be a good backup, let alone a
starter. Travis Johnson and Ogemdi Nwagbuo haven’t shown much either along with
the former being a free agent. The Chargers have got to find someone to put
The son of Vikings pro-bowl tight end Steve Jordan, Cameron has been
prepared for the NFL his whole life. At 6’4 287 he ‘s the perfect size for a 3-4 DE
with great speed, long arms and huge hands. He shows great speed for his size and
exceptional power along with outstanding balance and control. He is a dominating
run stopper, the primary job for a 3-4 DE, routinely knocks blockers back and away
and also shows a great ability to disengage from offensive linemen. He dominated
OT Nate Solder in both the Senior Bowl and the game versus Colorado as well as
being instrumental in shutting down Oregon’s high powered offense. He never quits
and will take advantage of anyone napping, as well as showing incredible instincts
and awareness for the play around him. He also shows incredible versatility; he
played as a 4-3 DE and DT and has even done some work as a 3-4 outside
linebacker. The negatives are that he needs to learn more pass rush moves, and
needs to get stronger in his lower body.
The reason I think the Chargers can acquire a Cameron Jordan without
moving up is that I believe there will be a run on QBs early in the draft; too many
teams need it combined with no free agency. However the Chargers could end up in
one of three situations: 1) the Chargers really want someone (Watt, Robert Quinn or
even Jordan) and trade up. AJ has clearly shown a willingness to do it. 2) The
Chargers reach to get a third tier defensive end (Wilkerson, Heyward) because
there’s a run on defensive players. 3) There’s no one defensive left and the Chargers
take either an outside linebacker or an offensive tackle (hopefully in that position
the Chargers make a trade but there’s no guarantee).
Other potential targets here: J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, Muhammad Wilkerson,
With the 50th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select Martez
Wilson Linebacker from Illinois
While Shaun Phillips has shown signs of greatness at outside linebacker over
the last two years, there’s three problems. First, he played well over 900 snaps last
year, and that’s way too many. Second, Phillips is very good on his own but is not as
good as he was when he had Shawne Merriman opposite him. Third, Larry English
has not shown he can be a top flight starting outside linebacker. One way or another
the Chargers have to address this in the draft, they not only need someone to push
English but someone who can take snaps for Phillips from time to time. Antwaan
Barnes was a nice find but he’s strictly a pass rusher and not a multiple down OLB.
While they could go with an OLB in the first round, especially if the best DEs are off
the board, if Cameron Jordan fell to the Chargers that would make the decision very
Wilson is a unique specimen of linebacker because he could fit anywhere at
any position, especially in a 3-4. At 6’4 250 he has good size along with very good
speed and agility. Unlike many potential OLBs though, Wilson has played outside
before and already has a wide range of outstanding pass rushing moves with very
good initial and closing speed. Wilson is also an effective run stopper with good
instincts to locate the ball and to get away from blockers. He’s also an effective
tackler, but not someone who will knock out other players. On the negative he
doesn’t have great instincts in coverage, even though he has the speed to match up
man to man effectively. He needs to learn to not look into the backfield as much and
needs to control his aggression. He also has a little bit of an injury history (out all of
2009 with neck injury) and a little off the field trouble (suspended once in 2008 and
was involved in a fight in 2010 though he was coming to the aid of a teammate).
Wilson is considered one of the best linebackers in the draft and might be gone by
then. If so the Chargers would be well suited to draft someone like a Brooks Reed or
a Jabaal Sheard. I think he will be available because while he’s played in a 4-3 he
doesn’t fit that system as well as a 3-4 while at the same time not playing there or as
a defensive end. Combine it with his issues and a very poor workout, and he could
very well fall.
Hopefully Larry English takes that next step and becomes a top flight OLB.
If that’s the case, Wilson has great value to play both outside and inside – like
Applewhite only much better. He can provide the break that Phillips need and even
give the Chargers another rusher in a three outside linebacker package. If English
continues on his path towards being a first round bust, Wilson is someone with the talent and ability to become that good pass rusher the Chargers desperately need
Other potential targets here: DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard, WR Jon Baldwin, OL
Danny Watkins, WR Torrey Smith, CB Ras I Dowling, DE Christian Ballard, S Quinton
With the 61st pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select
Orlando Franklin Offensive Tackle from Miami (FL)
The Chargers have had a pro bowl caliber left tackle for five years in Marcus
McNeil but have not had a great right tackle in longer. Jeromey Clary has never been
one of my favorites though I have to admit he’s shown improvement over the last
year. However Clary is just one of a large number of free agents the Chargers will
have to deal with when/if there’s a free agency. As such the Chargers would be left
with Brandon Dombrowski who showed last season he’s a better swing tackle then
Franklin has primarily played guard for the hurricanes but has played tackle
before. At 6’5 316 he’s a natural size for a right tackle with the right aggressive
temperament for the job – he doesn’t just look to beat you, he looks to bury you.
He has great strength and punch in both the running and passing game. He shows
impressive power in driving players off the ball in the run game as well as showing
the ability to shove edge and speed rushers outside of the running and passing
lanes. He’s also been very effective against some of the best talent in this draft; he
handled Da’Quan Bowers effectively and routinely dominated DT Marvin Austin.
The negatives on him is he’s had an injury history especially on his left meniscus,
that he has not played tackle as much as he’s played guard and that he has some lazy qualities (not that he’s lazy but has those qualities).
This is a guy I’ve been high on for a while and think he’d be a perfect fit into
the Chargers system. Combined with a healthy Louis Vasquez, Franklin would
provide a ton of power and nastiness on a right side of the line that has been a
problem for years. Finally the Chargers could feel comfortable running on the right
side with two massive individuals clearing the lanes. He will need to be the focus of
the offensive line coach to ensure that he does not get too complacent and keeps his
weight in check, but he’s going into an experienced group of linemen who can
mentor him effectively.
Other potential picks: OT Marcus Cannon, CB Brandon Burton, WR Titus Young,
ILB Quan Sturdivant, DB/RS Marcus Gilchrist, WR Jerrel Jernigan
With the 82nd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select
Greg Little Wide Receiver North Carolina
Prior to the 2010 season, few areas of the team were as good as their stable
of wide receivers. After the 2010 season there’s more questions then answers.
Vincent Jackson’s futile holdout cost him and the team money and the services of a
great wide receiver. He’s franchised but there appears to be too much bad blood to
see a long term relationship in San Diego. This was Malcolm Floyd’s time to shine
but injuries slowed him down and he proved to be less effective without Vincent
Jackson, in addition to him being a free agent. Patrick Crayton and Kelly Washington
were very good pickups who fit the system but aren’t top-flight receivers. Legedu
Naane and Buster Davis are out of here, the latter finally cut after showing what a
bust he was, the former released after showing what an idiot he was. The Chargers
must draft someone unless they want Patrick Crayton and Seyi Ajirotutu to start.
Greg Little missed the entire 2010 season after being embroiled in a “scandal” where he, DT Marvin Austin and DE Robert Quinn got in trouble for receiving improper benefits from an agent. Little has been forthright and honest about what happened and it hasn’t seemed to hurt any of the players’ draft status.
On the field, the 6’2 231lb wide out is a great fit for the kind of vertical offense the
Chargers have. He has very good speed (though he’s a big strider) combined with a
great knowledge of how to set up and confuse defenders. He shows outstanding
hands and body control, a requirement for a QB who likes to throw jump balls to his
receivers. Little also shows incredible passion and fire for the game on; he will go
through the middle, grab the ball, get hit and pop back up. For a college player he’s
also a good route runner but doesn’t run a large number of routes, so he will have to
improve. In addition Little has a great deal of experience for the Tar Heels as a kick
returner. On the negative he needs to control his emotions and needs to learn to pay
attention to the little details – his drive and determination are not an issue but only
his finer points.
I see a lot of Vincent Jackson in Little; in fact his scouting reports all read very
similar to those I red for Jackson back in 2005. Little could fit into the scheme
beautifully learning from Charlie Joiner the finer points. He shows the drive and
passion to be something special and would be a great compliment to Floyd and
Jackson for the first year, assuming they cooperate/re-sign. At worse case Little
would provide depth as a slot receiver and kick returner for a year.
Other potential picks: ILB Casey Matthews, S Tyler Sash, NT/DE Kendrick Ellis,
DE/OLB Dontay Moch, OT Marcus Gilbert, DE Jarvis Jenkins
With the 89th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select Mason
Foster Inside Linebacker from Washington
The Chargers picked a hell of a time to have three quarters of their inside
linebackers go into free agency; 2011 has one of the worst classes of inside
linebackers in years. Frankly if this was a normal year I’d do my best to find a
replacement ILB in free agency, but since that’s not possible right now, the Chargers
will have to find someone to pair with 2010’s third round pick, Donald Butler.
While I like Casey Matthews, I think he’s going to be overdrafted because of his last
name. So instead the Chargers will get the teammate of last year’s third rounder.
Foster played outside linebacker for the Huskies but will fit inside of the
Chargers 3-4. A three year starter with great instincts, motor and speed, he was a
lone bright spot this year for Washington’s defense. He is a team leader, a strong tackler who can light someone up and make plays sideline to sideline. At 6’1 245lbs
he doesn’t have the size you normally look for in a 3-4 nor is he great (though he’s
far from bad) in coverage. He also needs to keep his aggression in check, he can be a little out of control.
Foster looks and plays very similarly to Donald Butler, though Foster is a
better run stopper while Butler was better in coverage. Both were outstanding
players for a college team that didn’t have much. Foster can provide the toughness
and strength that Butler doesn’t provide and with two intelligent backers, the
Chargers won’t run into the problems they had after losing Cooper, where they lost
the man who made the adjustments for the defense.
Other potential picks: LB Akeem Dent, WR Vincent Brown, TE Virgil Green, DE
Lawrence Guy, NT Jerell Powe
With the 183rd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select Mark
Herzlich Linebacker from Boston College
The Chargers select their third linebacker in one draft; while that would
seem weird most years, as mentioned above, this is a year where the Chargers need
to replenish their depth at this position. Remember, the Chargers have only two
inside linebackers on their roster (Butler & Foster) with one guy who can play
inside and outside (Applewhite). At 6’4 244 Herzlich is a physical specimen who
was a dominating presence on the Eagles defense. He is a powerful physical
presence with a great ability to take on and shed blockers on his way to making a
play. He plays 100% at all times and never quits, has great instincts and is incredibly
smart. Herzlich was the unquestioned leader of the Boston College team. In addition
he is very skilled as a pass rusher and blitzer with a good mix of speed and moves.
Unfortunately what knocks him down this far is that he missed the entire 2009
season recovering from cancer and has a metal rod inserted into his left leg to help
him recover. He came back in 2010 and showed signs he was returning as the
dominant force he was in 2008. I could easily seen concerns about his health and
recovery dropping him this far, and if he were here, Herzlich would be a great risk
to take. If he checks out medically and can continue to recover, the guy could be a
dominating presence at linebacker. And if he doesn’t, well, this far down he isn’t that
big of a loss. Still the chance on greatness this far down is too good to pass up.
With the 201st pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select
Eric Hagg Free Safety from Nebraska
The Chargers have had safety trouble for the longest time and now face
trouble because of the uncertainty of that position. They drafted Darrell Stuckey last
year believing he could be a starter at strong safety only to see him get injured and
play in only one game. Eric Weddle had, arguably, his best year at free safety but is
now a free agent and his return is uncertain. Coupled with the pending free agency
of Paul Oliver but the acquisition of Bob Sanders and a back up free safety becomes
a higher priority. Hagg is at his best as a centerfielder, the same position Weddle plays. He has good speed, very good body control and is a secure and willing, but not
a powerful, tackler. Hagg can also play special teams, giving the team more
flexibility. On the negative, Hagg doesn’t have great instincts so he can’t replace
Weddle as someone who can call plays and adjustments in addition to the fact that
he’s not a physical safety, so he’s a free safety only. At best case scenario Hagg can
compete with Gregory, Quinton Teal and Paul Oliver for a backup safety job, at
worse he can be pressed into service as a centerfielder if we lose Eric Weddle.
Either way the depth at safety and special teams Hagg will give us makes him a
valuable addition this late.
With the 233rd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select
Schuylar Oordt Tight End from Northern Iowa
For my last pick, I will pull a Bobby Beathard and selecting a player from a
tiny school! Combine this with the Ray Chan special (selecting someone with an
impossible to pronounce name), and this is a perfect selection for the Chargers here.
At 6’5 ½ 261, basically the same size as Antonio Gates, Oordt converted from Wide
Receiver and is a major project. He doesn’t run a lot of routes, he needs a lot of time
in the weight room to build up his strength and learn how to block better. What
Oordt does have is size, good hands and very good speed for a tight end (ran a 4.63).
He has been very good at exploiting seems in a defense and can take advantage of
teams napping, a very useful skill in a vertical offense. I basically see him and think
with two or three years he could be a good tight end similar to Antonio Gates, and
around the same time that Gates’ amazing career would be winding down. He needs
a lot of work but this deep in the draft he definitely fills a need for a project who can
learn from Gates and, potentially, Randy McMichael.
Hey! Why didn’t you pick a:
Third running back: because the Chargers don’t necessarily need one. The Chargers
have said they want to give Tolbert and Mathews more playing time and compared
to the long list of immediate needs the Chargers have, an extra running back is not
one of them.
Cornerback: I considered it thoroughly and if someone like a Ras-I-Dowling or a
Brandon Burton fall to us in the second, I wouldn’t be surprised to see AJ snatch him
up But this is again not as essential as some of the other needs; Jammer and Cason
are very good and Dante Hughes showed some good ability at nickel.
Nose Tackle: That’s the one part of the defensive line we don’t need now; Garay was
outstanding and Thomas is coming along well. Not as high of a priority as defensive
end in addition to this not being a great class for 3-4 nose tackles unless you want
to see our first round pick go to Phil Taylor out of Baylor, which would be a wicked
Quarterback: I think there’s going to be a massive run on QBs in the initial part of
the first round because of the need and panic of teams without one especially with
no free agency. In addition, after the Jonathan Crompton experiment I get the feeling
the Chargers will look for a veteran backup as they did after releasing Crompton
early in 2010.
Safety earlier: This is a very weak safety class and I’m not sure that reaching for a
player would be the smartest thing to do. In addition the Chargers and Weddle have
suggested they want to come to an agreement when free agency starts. In addition
they had just drafted Stuckey last year and still think highly of him as well as signing
Bob Sanders. This isn’t as big of a need in my opinion.