The biggest part of free agency is now over. The San Diego Chargers came out of it in perfect condition. Vincent Jackson and the team finally parted ways, as he is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Mike Tolbert also left San Diego to join the Carolina Panthers. Steve Gregory is also a notable loss at strong safety, as he will be playing in New England next season.
The Chargers had to make up for those losses, which they did.
Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal round out the receiving core with Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown. Meachem is the vertical threat that Vincent Jackson was. He may not have the height and athleticism as Jackson, but his speed makes up for that. Eddie Royal will become the new slot receiver. The position that was expected to be filled by Patrick Crayton.
Jared Gaither was re-signed to protect Philip Rivers at left tackle. Gaither finished last season with the Chargers and earned his new contract. Now, he needs to prove it. Dante Rosario became the fifth tight end on the roster with the recent re-signing of Randy McMichael.
Le'Ron McClain will become the new lead blocker for Ryan Mathews. He's one of the leagues best fullbacks, which is great for San Diego's run game. If Mathews is playing well, the pass game will open up for Rivers. The offense is almost set. All they need now is a backup running back. That player could come in free agency or the draft.
The defense has only gotten better as well. Jarret Johnson, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker, was signed to add veteran leadership and toughness to the Chargers defense. San Diego loves his ability in the running game, but another pass rusher could be drafted in April. Atari Bigby, as of now, is the new starting strong safety. That position will definitely be addressed in the draft.
Free agency improved the Chargers in many ways, and they will look to get even better with the draft. Here is an updated seven-round mock draft for the San Diego Chargers.
The first one, before free agency, can be found here.
The Chargers have a decision to make here. They can either trade up and take Nick Perry, trade back and take Mark Barron, or stay put and take the next best available player. Ultimately, the NFL world will here this on draft day.
With the 18th (depending on whether they trade up) pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the San Diego Chargers select Nick Perry (LB/DE) from the University of Southern California.
Nick Perry is a 6'3'', 250-pound defensive end. It would be quite simple for San Diego to transition him into the linebacker position to take the spot of Larry English and Travis Laboy. Shaun Phillips, Takeo Spikes, Jarret Johnson and Nick Perry would make an excellent linebacking core.
Perry would learn more in San Diego than he would on any other NFL team. He would be playing with three veteran linebackers who know the game very well.
The Chargers can't wait for Perry to drop the 18. They must make a move that will benefit the team. In the 2012 NFL draft, San Diego must focus on defense.
With the 49th pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the San Diego Chargers select Harrison Smith (SS) out of the University of Notre Dame.
This guy is the main reason the Chargers will jump up and take Nick Perry. Mark Barron is the top safety in this draft class, but Harrison Smith isn't a drop-off at all. The Chargers will be lucky to have Smith in their secondary this season.
Like Perry, Smith will learn a lot playing in San Diego. He'll be the safety opposite to all pro Eric Weddle and Bob Sanders could even return if he's willing to take the pay cut. The veteran support from both those players will turn Smith into an instant starter in the NFL.
Harrison is 6'1'' and 213 pounds and is very fast. His advantages come with his athleticism in the secondary, but his tackling ability needs work. Eric Weddle should teach him a thing or two about that.
With the 79th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers will select Tony Bergstrom (OL) from the University of Utah.
Kris Dielman, you will be missed. The front line is better than it was two weeks ago with Gaither returning. Now, all they have to do is fill Dielman's position. Tony Bergstrom, welcome to San Diego. Your job description is easy. Simply do exactly what Kris did. Tony Bergstrom is 6'5'' and 315 pounds. His draft stock has been on the rise lately, and the Chargers will be lucky to take him this late.
San Diego will focus very hard on the defense in the draft, but this guy can't be passed up.
With the 110th pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the San Diego Chargers select Trumaine Johnson (CB) from the University of Montana.
The Chargers will be lucky if Johnson is still available at this point. Trumaine Johnson is 6'2'' and 204 pjounds. He is very long in stature, which allows him to make plays on passes downfield and reach around receivers to knock the pass down. Even if San Diego can't take Johnson here, they will still select a cornerback.
Maybe Josh Robinson from Central Florida or Leonard Johnson from Iowa State. But if he is available, Trumaine Johnson will become San Diego's fourth cornerback, behind Quentin Jammer, Antoine Cason and Marcus Gilchrist.
With the 141st pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the San Diego Chargers will select Ronnie Hillman (RB) from San Diego State University.
Darren Sproles spent his first year out of San Diego this past season. His play affected both the New Orleans Saints and the Chargers. Last year, the Chargers didn't have a change of pace back. Mike Tolbert played well, but defenses weren't as afraid of him as they were Darren Sproles.
San Diego should be in the market for another speedy back. Why not someone from San Diego State?
Ronnie Hillman, who resembles Darren Sproles in many ways, is 5'10'' and 190 pounds. His acceleration, again like Darren Sproles, is a bigger factor than his speed. He can get through tiny holes because of his size and quickness. Once he gets past two defenders, don't expect to catch him with the breakaway speed he has.
Ronnie Hillman should join his buddy Vincent Brown and become the Chargers backup, change-of-pace running back.
With the 172nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers will select Mike Daniels (DT) out of the University of Iowa.
Antonio Garay has yet to be re-signed. San Diego really wants to bring him back as the free agent market for defensive tackles is limited. If Garay is not re-signed, the Chargers will draft a DT earlier in this draft. Some feeling tells me Garay will return to San Diego.
Mike Daniels could be a steal for the Chargers if they play their cards right. Daniels is projected to go in the sixth round, which is a surprise since he led Iowa in tackles for a loss last season. He also is a great run stopper in the middle, much like Garay. Daniels was thought to go as early as the third round in December, but he has gone unnoticed ever since. The Chargers should not pass on Mike Daniels.
With the 209th pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the San Diego Chargers will select Ryan Miller (OL) from the University of Colorado.
The Chargers offensive line is not set in stone. Nick Hardwick and Jared Gaither will more than likely start at their respective positions, but the other three positions are up in the air. Tony Bergstrom should also be in the discussion for positions on the front line.
Ryan Miller should be San Diego's final selection for one reason, potential.
This guy is 6'7'' and 321 pounds. Yes, he has things to work on, but he has tremendous upside. If he is picked by the Chargers, don't be surprised if you see Ryan Miller starting on the offensive line next season.