It's that time again. The free agent frenzy is over and now it's onto the draft.
Everything is up to A.J. Smith and the rest of the Chargers' front office. Biggest needs that need to be addressed are LB/DE, CB, SS, and OL. There are also many questions surrounding the Chargers.
- Will they trade up/down?
- What will they do in the first round?
- Will a backup running back be drafted?
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What are these two men planning? That's the main question most Charger fans want an answer to.
A.J. Smith went to work early by signing Jarret Johnson, Eddie Royal, Robert Meachem, Le'Ron McClain, Demario Williams, Atari Bigby, Dante Rosario, Charlie Whitehurst, Michael Spurlock and Roscoe Parrish. He also re-signed Jared Gaither, Luis Castillo, Jacob Hester, ANtonio Garay, Nick Hardwick, Randy McMichael and Kory Sperry. The only big names they lost were Vincent Jackson and Mike Tolbert.
Seems like an A+ for San Diego right?
Now it's on to the draft. The Chargers have the No(s). 18, 49, 78, 110, 149, 183, 226 and 250.
Defense will be a focus for this year's draft. Speculation has been made around the Chargers in round one and where they could go. ESPN's draft expert Mel Kiper has stated that he feels that San Diego could target multiple positions at No. 18.
San Diego has shown high interest in Notre Dame's safety Harrison Smith. He's the ideal size of a safety at 6'1'' with speed to run all over the field. Smith is a solid tackler and a very smart player. Playing next to Eric Weddle would make him an even better player. Smith actually reminds me a lot of Weddle his rookie season. Click here for a more in-depth scouting report on Harrison Smith.
Nick Perry, Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram and Whitney Mercilus are the pass rushers that are on San Diego's radar for the first round.
David Decastro, Riley Reiff, Jonathan Martin and Cordy Glenn are the offensive linemen on San Diego's radar for the first round.
Mark Barron, Stephon Gilmore and Dre Kirkpatrick are the secondary players on San Diego's radar for the first round.
Don't count out Harrison Smith in the first round either. A.J. Smith has decisions to make. A pass rusher should be picked.
Defense defense defense. That point needs to be stressed.
Is A.J. Smith thinking different? Kevin Acee, writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, tweeted this on April 6th.
"Chargers have signed 16 wide receivers this offseason, and now I'm told A.J. Smith highly impressed by Michael Floyd @ Notre Dame's Pro Day."
Smith attended Notre Dame's pro day for Harrison Smith, but as the tweet stated, Michael Floyd caught his attention. The news and rumors around Smith didn't stop there.
On April 12th, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune stated that A.J. Smith and the Chargers are 'Wide Open' to a draft trade. Smith has a history of draft trades. Ryan Mathews, Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle were all acquired via trade. If San Diego's front office likes someone that much, they get him.
Who would they trade up/down for?
Michael Floyd has to be number one on that list right? Absolutely not. There is no way a wide receiver is drafted in the first round, especially if a trade is needed to be made. Melvin Ingram is a player I can see them trading UP for. Whitney Mercilus is a player I can see them trading DOWN for. Both of them are pass rushers, and should be high on the draft target list. If someone is available that San Diego really likes at 15 or 16, the Chargers will be willing to trade up to take him. Trading down doesn't seem unlikely either. I wouldn't be surprised if A.J. Smith trades far back in the first and takes his guy, Harrison Smith.
Everything lies in A.J. Smith's hands. Scary thought to say the least.
Alabama's Pro Day
Both prospects here will be first rounders. There's more of a chance that Upshaw will be taken than Barron, but both have incredible talent.
DE/LB - Whitney Mercilus
OG - Jeff Allen
WR - AJ Jenkins
Whitney Mercilus is a top five prospect for the Chargers at No. 18. San Diego might even be willing to trade back and take Mercilus. His pro day might have impressed the Chargers, but are they still worried he may be a "one year wonder"? Jeff Allen could be selected in the third round, but not so sure that COULD means they SHOULD. Jenkins is a solid prospect, but a receiver will not be taken in the draft.
OLB - Miles Burris
RB - Ronnie Hillman
One or both of these players will end up staying in San Diego to play pro football. Burris is an athlete, period. If he is available in the sixth round, the Chargers shouldn't think twice about taking him. Ronnie Hillman could be the next Darren Sproles. All the hype is surrounding LaMichael James, but Hillman may be the better option.
SS - Harrison Smith
WR - Michael Floyd
As already stated, both of these prospects have impressed San Diego. Smith would be an excellent selection in the second round. Michael Floyd may be good, but he won't be a Charger.
OLB/DE - Nick Perry
Another linebacker coming out of USC. The Chargers know a little about something like that. (Junior Seau) There is a good chance that Nick Perry will be selected at number 18.
The Chargers have worked out several players.
DT - Ronnie Cameron - Old Dominion
299 lbs. 6'2''. The Chargers are looking for a DT to play behind Garay. Cameron is a seventh-round prospect. He may even go undrafted. If that's the case, San Diego may invite him to camp.
S - D.J. Campbell - California
201 lbs. 6'0'' Campbell is another prospect that could go undrafted. The Chargers are trying to find the best safety to play alongside Weddle. He would add to the competition.
LB - Ronnell Lewis - Oklahoma
254 lbs. 6'2''. Lewis is the best overall player that the Chargers have worked out. He's a third round prospect, but could go in the second. He's coming off of a knee injury, which has lowered his stock.
DB - Brandon Hardin - Oregon State
217 lbs. 6'3''. Hardin is a guy that can play safety and cornerback. San Diego is looking to improve the secondary, and an all-around player like Hardin, could speed up the process. His stock has been rising lately, making him a fourth round prospect.
DE - Donavan Robinson - Jackson State
232 lbs. 6'3''. Robinson will more than likely go undrafted. He should be another training camp addition for San Diego.
TE/FB - Brad Smelley - Alabama
238 lbs. 6'2''. Smelley is a sixth-round prospect that I don't see the Chargers taking. There are five tight ends on the roster and the full backs, Le'Ron McClain and Jacob Hester, are two of the best in the league.
S - Tavon Wilson - Illinois
205 lbs. 6'0''. Wilson is another safety the Chargers are considering. He should be available in the sixth, maybe even the seventh, and if a safety hasn't been selected, Wilson could end up in San Diego.
San Diego has three major areas to improve: Secondary, pass rushing and the offensive line.
Which one will be addressed in the first round? Here's an outlook on possible players being drafted at number 18.
Melvin Ingram - South Carolina
Nick Perry - USC
Whitney Mercilus - Illinois
Courtney Upshaw - Alabama
Andre Branch - Clemson
Cordy Glenn - Georgia
Jonathan Martin - Stanford
David Decastro - Stanford
Stephon Gilmore - South Carolina
Dre Kirkpatrick - Alabama
Mark Barron - Alabama
Harrison Smith - Notre Dame
The Chargers will more than likely make their list, and whoever is the best available player on their rankings will be chosen. Melvin Ingram, David Decastro, Courtney Upshaw, and Mark Barron will probably not be there at 18.
Verdict: The Chargers will go with a pass rusher. It's time to replace Larry English on the outside. That player will be Nick Perry.
Is it sad to say that we are still recovering from the LaDainian Tomlinson era?
Yes, Ryan Mathews is now here, but he isn't LT. Tomlinson carried the load every game. Mathews needs a counterpart. Mike Tolbert has been the backup for the past couple of seasons, but he will be playing in Carolina next season.
The Chargers are also recovering from another loss—Darren Sproles. His explosiveness was deadly. Last season, when Tolbert came in, most defenses caught on that it was going to be a pass play. With Sproles, defenses needed to be ready for anything. The Chargers NEED that type of player once again. Jordan Todman was drafted last year, and isn't even on the roster this year.
When and who will that backup running back be selected this year?
Antoine Cason is inconsistent, Marcus Gilchrist hasn't proven himself yet and Quentin Jammer isn't getting any younger. It's time to start adding talent to the secondary, preferably the cornerback position.
San Diego's defense was ranked 22nd last season in points allowed, 16th in yardage allowed, 13th in pass yardage allowed and 20th in rush yardage allowed. The defense must get better. The Chargers need to establish a dictating defense. Everything starts with the secondary.
How and where will the Chargers improve their secondary?
Verdict: The second round will be used for a secondary player. If Harrison Smith is still available, the Chargers will select him without a doubt. If he isn't, a cornerback will be selected. One to two more picks later on in the draft will also be used on secondary players.
This picture represents the San Diego Chargers. Philip Rivers is the heart and soul of the team. He does what he can to win every single game. It's time he gets a little help.
2012 NFL Mock Draft: San Diego Chargers
18 - Nick Perry, LB, USC
49 - Harrison Smith, SS, Notre Dame
79 - Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma
110 - Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State
149 - Lucas Nix, OG, Pittsburgh
183 - Jacquies Smith, DE, Missouri
226 - Miles Burris, LB, San Diego State
250 - Ronnie Cameron, DT, Old Dominion
This draft covers every need for San Diego. Thanks for reading and check back for any more updates, rumors and predictions.