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2008 Chargers draft needs

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Apr 17, 2008.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    By Loren Casuto<em> -BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>

    <img class="alignleft" style="float: left;" src="http://www.rivalfish.com/rivalroom/uploaded_images/SD_979-734320.gif" alt="San Diego Chargers logo" width="160" height="218" />With the NFL Draft less then a week away, I thought it would be important to look over the needs of the San Diego Chargers and give my own take on the likeliness of each position being picked. "Needs" is a strong word to use for the Chargers; this team could not have a single pick in the draft this year and still walk into the 2008 season as one of the most talented and complete teams in the NFL. However the draft is about replenishing possible and future needs as well as immediate needs. AJ Smith already announced that we won't be seeking a punter, a kicker or a tight end in the draft period. It also is apparent that we don't need any more inside linebackers, centers, defensive ends, fullbacks, wide receivers and quarterbacks as we remain well stocked at all those positions. With that in mind, here are the top six needs of the San Diego Chargers.

    1. Offensive Tackle

    Considered by the majority of pundits to be the need, this can simplified from offensive tackle to simply "right tackle". The Chargers are set with a pro-bowler at left tackle in Marcus McNeil. The Chargers even have two solid backups in Jeromey Clary on the roster and, possibly, Roman Oben who's in semi-retirement. The Chargers began the year with Shane Olivea, who had started almost every game at right tackle since 2004. Olivea's play deteriorated during the year and he was benched after it was rumored that he was too nonchalant about his starting role and his performance. Jeromey Clary, a sixth rounder from 2006 out of Kansas State, took over at right tackle and performed solidly throughout the year in both run and pass blocking. While he was solid the general consensus was that Clary would not get much better from what was seen this year and would be better suited as a backup.

    Luckily for the Chargers, the 2008 draft has the best class of tackles in twenty years and a great mix of talent at both left and right tackle. There will be at least five offensive linemen taken in the first round (Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Jeff Otah, Chris Williams and Branden Alpert) with two other first/second round possibilities (Gosider Cherilus and Carl Nicks). At 27, the Chargers should be able to find someone to fill the right tackle need and if not the Chargers could look in the fifth and sixth rounds at players like King Dunlap from Auburn, Kirk Barton from Ohio State or Breno Giacomini from Louisville. It is very fortunate that the Chargers have their one "need" arise at a time when that class is at its strongest point, and you can guarantee the Chargers will probably select some offensive tackle in the 2008 NFL Draft.

    2. Defensive Tackle

    This has been a need, in a sense, for four plus years and it's always been for the same reason. NT Jamal Williams, the pro bowl stud cornerstone of our 3-4 Defense, is 32 (this year), can't play forever and is often injured (even though his injury time has dropped considerably since playing in the 3-4). However there is usually some truth in every pundit's pound of talk. Jamal is still going strong but there is concern he's starting to slow down a bit, and was injured more this year then in the last three. His backups are Ryon Bingham and Brandon McKinney. Bingham fills in more at DE as a run stopper, and has proven his worth by being given a six year extension. Bingham however doesn't have the size to play NT on a full time basis. McKinney filled in from time to time in the middle and played solid but is still raw and needs more development. Its also doubtful whether he could be anywhere near the player Jamal is. As such sooner or later it would behoove the Chargers to find a real young stud, if for no other reason to provide Jamal with a better change of pace player.

    Finding a 3-4 Nose Tackle is difficult for any scout; you need to find a player who's fairly big now (no less then 305lbs now) and with the ability and frame to get bigger (ideally in the 330 to 350 range) who can take up two or more blockers and still be able to split the double team from time to time. A nose tackle needs to be able to hold the offensive linemen's attention long enough to permit the inside linebackers to make plays. There are few such players in this crop of draft picks but the three names that come to mind are Pat Sims from Auburn (mid to late second rounder), Red Bryant from Texas A&amp;M (late second to early third) and Frank Okam from Texas (5th or 6th rounder). Outside of a chance on Okam, Sims and Bryant are too far down to pick with a first rounder, but if the Chargers trade down they could use one of their picks to grab one of these three individuals.

    3. Cornerback

    A lot of Charger fans might be looking at this and wondering why cornerback would be the third need when we lost our former starter Drayton Florence. The reason is two fold; first is that I don't believe in using my first round pick to select a person who, if we can sign Cromartie long-term, would never advance beyond a nickel back. That just strikes me as being a waste of a draft pick that would go to other more important needs. Second reason is because the Chargers have basically drafted themselves into a conundrum.

    They have Cletis Gordon on the roster already who they've kept for a few years even though he's been inactive a lot of the time. He's the second or third fastest Charger player and the coaching staff must like him because he's still here. Then the Chargers used their fourth rounder this year to take CB/S Paul Oliver in the 2007 Supplemental Draft. There have been conflicting reports as to where the coaching staff will use. Bottom line is that the Chargers drafted Oliver with the intention of moving him into the nickel role when Drayton Florence left. So the Chargers basically have to find out what they have in Oliver and Gordon before they can draft a cornerback high up, especially in the first round. There's a possibility the Chargers might use a late pick on another cornerback or go heavy with undrafted free agent corners but for the first round, I doubt heavily this is where the Chargers go.

    4. Safety

    Much like cornerback this is a lesser need for the Chargers because they have a recent draft pick holding down a position. Marlon Mcree was cut at the beginning of the free agency period and signed with Denver. This left Eric Weddle, whom the Chargers thought high enough to send three draft picks to Chicago to move up and grab him, as the starter at free safety. Weddle performed well last year including coming up with a key interception against the Colts. Everyone speaks highly of Weddle and its believed he'll be a fantastic safety.

    At strong safety is Clinton Hart who had a very good first year starting and was rewarded with an extension. Weddle was secure in his starting role but there were some questions about whether the Chargers would consider drafting a safety, though those questions are partially answered with Hart's extension. Behind Hart though are Steve Gregory, who hasn't played much in two years, and Tra Battle on the practice squad.

    The 2008 NFL Draft has one of the weakest safety classes ever but the first safety in the draft has been predicted to go near the bottom of the first round. Kenny Phillips from Miami had a mediocre junior year before entering the draft but he's talented and effective in every asset of the game. If the Chargers were to find all the tackles they want off the board and don't want to spend a first on a corner or a nose tackle, they could take Phillips and move Hart back to a swingman role where he was effective from 04-06. Otherwise I expect the Chargers to draft late a safety to provide some more depth.

    5. Running Back

    The 2008 NFL Draft is considered to have one of the deepest and best running back classes in history with numerous outstanding runners from across the country entering the draft. The Chargers have the best running back in the game right now starting, but their prized back-up left for a well deserved big contract and starting job at the start of free agency. Draft pundits have been discussing the possibility of the Chargers, the team with no real need, grabbing the ultimate luxury of a Felix Jones or a Jonathan Stewart with the first round pick and keeping him as a ‘back of the future' and backup.

    There's three problems with this thinking: first is my own disapproval of using first round picks on players who will never start. Second is the belief that the Chargers need a ‘back of the future'. LT is turning 29 in July, and while 30 is the age that running backs start to decline there have been plenty of examples of running backs that didn't fade at that age. Not the least of which include Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders. LT conditions and trains harder then any player I've seen before and I have no reason to believe that, even though he is a workhorse, LT will fade. Third is the fact that the Chargers, as they move towards a vertical offense and away from a run first offense, have other options for touches already on their roster. The Chargers plan on giving Darren Sproles more touches and will also use Andrew Pinnock more in one back formations, as the need for a traditional two back set has diminished. So while the Chargers won't use one set backup a'la Michael Turner, they'll split the carries he got between Pinnock and Sproles.

    Still if the Chargers find themselves at 27 with no tackles or safeties to pick, and say Jonathan Stewart from Oregon staring at them, they might be inclined to pull the trigger. I just believe that the chances of that happening are slim to none.

    6. Offensive Guard

    I personally believe there's little reason the Chargers need a guard at this point. The Chargers are set at the left guard position long term with Kris Dielman. Mike Goff will be a free agent at the end of the 2009 season and it's doubtful the Chargers will sign him back. They also have a good young guard named Scott Mrzucowski, whom the coaching staff has raved about over the last two years, who could take over at right guard. Behind Mrzucowski there's nothing really, but again its doubtful the Chargers will spend a first round pick on a guard, especially considering there isn't much after Branden Alpert out of Virginia. The Chargers might be considering Alpert, who has recently rocketed up the draft boards because of his size, talent and ability to play multiple positions. If he's not there however, do not look for the Chargers to take a guard. It would not be surprising to see the Chargers spend one of their later picks on a guard, someone like a Mrzucowski, to eventually become the key backup.
     

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