San Diego is in the unfamiliar position of taking a step back while the competition in the AFC West seemed to improve a year ago. Norv Turner's Chargers are in a solid position to make some instant improvements with this year's annual selection showcase.
Boasting the most picks in the division (along with Kansas City), the Chargers will use their eight picks to fill numerous holes on the offensive line, as well as on a sparse overall defensive unit.
Also, don't be surprised if the Bolts look to some late-round possibilities to support some of their aging stars, such as Antonio Gates.
Again, this is a big weekend for the Chargers, and we're going to track, analyze and grade each of San Diego's draft picks right here, so check back often to get the most comprehensive coverage of this year's selection show from start to finish.
If this year's draft—and subsequent NFL season—doesn't go well, it could be the last on the San Diego sideline for head coach Norv Turner, who found himself on the hot seat yet again in 2011.
The Chargers' picks and/or pending picks are below, which will be updated in real time during the entire draft, so make sure you check back and click through each slide for detailed information and analysis of each new member of the Chargers.
Round 1, Pick 18: Melvin Ingram, DE/LB, South Carolina
Round 2, Pick 17 (49th Overall): Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn
Round 3, Pick 10 (73rd Overall): Brandon Taylor, S, LSU
Round 4, Pick 15 (110th Overall): Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana-Lafayette
Round 5, Pick 14 (149th Overall): Johnnie Troutman, OG, Penn State
Round 7, Pick 19 (226th Overall): David Molk, C, Michigan
Round 7, Pick 43 (250th Overall): Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State
Ranked by many experts as the top overall outside linebacker in this year's draft field, Melvin Ingram become the second South Carolina Gamecock to go in the draft's top 20, becoming Norv Turner's first of eight picks in this year's selection weekend.
Last year, the 6-2, 265-pound Ingram was a first team All American—setting a school record with 10 sacks to go along with his 48 tackles, 15 TFL, as well as a pair of picks and a pair of touchdowns (one on a fumble, and one on a fake punt that showcased his athleticism and pure speed for his size).
His speed and strength give him the look of the next great Charger outside linebacker, possibly rush end. He has shown an ability to get to the quarterback in a short amount of time—really only a consistent, full-time starter during his senior year in 2011.
Additionally, Ingram has the agility and closing speed to play the run, as well as the strength to fight off blockers.
Perhaps the two knocks against Ingram at the collegiate level were his inability to wrap up on ballcarriers, as well as remaining healthy—suffered both a broken hand and a broken foot at various time during his career.
Nonetheless, his physical size and sheer agility make Ingram an solid choice for a Chargers team in need of restocking a dwindling defense, especially for a place known for athletic, standout linebackers.
It's a different view for San Diego, being in the bottom-third of the NFL's defensive rankings for sacks, but that's exactly where they found themselves last year. Bringing on a guy like Ingram shows a dedication to returning to the top of those lists, as they are accustomed.
As expected, the Chargers remain defensive with their second pick in this year's NFL draft, selecting Kendall Reyes with the 49th overall pick.
The 6-4, 299-pound Reyes was a first-team All-Big East defensive tackle the last two seasons, and started 42 career games for the Huskies. He left UConn 10th on the all-time school list with 32 tackles for loss.
STRENGTHS: Reyes is a big-bodied defensive tackle who has the look of a professional defensive tackle, and has a good motor. He has a good skill set, good hands and good footwork. Effort and consistency are also there.
WEAKNESSES: Sometimes Reyes has a hard time getting off blocks—especially double-teams—that he should be able to beat. He won't overwhelm a team with his run-stopping, or by getting deep into the backfield right away.
Still, he's an overall solid football player who can be a plug in the middle of the defensive line. He's got enough athletic ability that the Chargers should be pleased with him once he adjusts to the speed of the professional game.
San Diego could've done much worse here than picking a solid football player with the size and smarts of Reyes.
If you are a Chargers fan who was hoping the Bolts would grab some offensive weapons, then you're not having a lot of fun tracking this draft. From a need standpoint, and as anticipated, San Diego grabbed another defender when they selected standout LSU safety Brandon Taylor with the 73rd overall pick, keeping their defensive draft theme alive.
Taylor is a 5-11, 210-pound powerful and punishing safety who has been one of the key cogs to one of the nation's top defensive unit for the last several years.
STRENGTHS: Taylor's physical presence is the basis of his identity. He likes to crash the line of scrimmage and be disruptive in the run game. He's a great tackler—tallying the third-most on a stacked Tiger defensive unit a year ago.
Despite liking to mix it up physically, Taylor is durable and consistent—he was a three-year starter at LSU.
WEAKNESSES: He's not the fastest safety prospect on the board this year, but he did run faster than some thought he would at this year's combine. His man-to-man coverage skills in the secondary have long been a question mark for him.
For a defense looking for a major upgrade, Taylor fits in nicely as someone who can hop on the field and help out relatively quickly, and is the third-straight solid pick for the Bolts.
As expected, the Chargers have selected a tight end in this year's draft—Louisiana-Lafayette's Ladarius Green—to backup legen Antonio Gates, if not eventual take over those primary go-to duties that Gates has long had a grip on.
This isn't to say that Green will push Gates out of the starting lineup, but it should be noted that Gates isn't getting younger, and health is often a concern at the position.
That said, San Diego brings on the 6-6, 240-pound Green to begin his development into a potential star for the Chargers.
Green has been a first-team All-Sun Belt selection for the last two seasons. In 2011, Green caught 51 passes for 606 yards and eight touchdowns, including a 121-yard performance in the Ragun Cajuns' bowl win over San Diego State.
Though he never won the prestigious Mackey Award for the nation's top tight end, Green was on numerous preseason watch lists and postseason finalist lists for the award.
STRENGTHS: Green is a raw talent. He's big and strong and fast for his size, which could make him a scary tight end at the professional level. Additionally, Green has great leaping ability and great hands. His athletic potential is nearly unlimited, and his stock has been rising consistently for several months.
WEAKNESSES: His skill set needs work. The raw ability that makes him attractive is the same thing that is deemed as cautionary. He's definitely considered a developmental project at the position at the NFL level, as he needs some coaching and polishing on his technique, especially as it pertains to general route running.
This is a strong pick for San Diego. This is an athlete who needs work, but gets to learn from one of the best in the game, and can do so at a non-stressful pace. This is one of the ideal situations for a guy who needs some time to become a star, while they coach his skills to match his tremendous athletic ability.
Getting some additional protection for star quarterback Phillip Rivers, San Diego selected Penn State guard Johnnie Troutman with the 149th overall selection.
Troutman is your typical-looking guard with a 6-4, 325-pound frame, and was a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions.
Troutman was a honorable-mention All-Big Ten selection in 2011.
STRENGTHS: Troutman excels at run blocking and likes to pull around the end. He has a good motor and can get out front and lead, as well as finish blocks in the running game. Having played both guard positions in college, Troutman is diverse enough to provide the Chargers with instant depth at a few different spots along the offensive line.
WEAKNESSES: Where scouts like his work in the run game, they are concerned about his ability in pass protection. Even though a strong guy, he has a tendency to get overpowered against stronger rushers.
With Troutman, the Chargers don't really get a game-changer, but they get some depth to help keep Rivers' protective unit healthy and at full strength. Average fifth-round safe pick.
Nothing like drafting the best center in college football from a year ago with a seventh-round pick.
San Diego grabbed Michigan center, and 2011 winner of the Rimington Trophy, David Molk with the draft's 226th overall selection.
Molk's had a highly successful and decorated career.
In addition to the Rimington, Molk was a consensus first-team All-American, winner of the Big Ten's Rimington-Pace Offensive Linemen of the Year award and a first-team All-Big Ten—all from the 2011 season.
Molk started more than 40 games for the Wolverines and was a first-team all-conference selection again his junior year in 2010.
Although San Diego's center position has long been anchored by Nick Hardwick, he has been injury prone over the last few years, so Molk gives instant depth and stability at the position, ensuring quarterback Phillip Rivers can get the football.
STRENGTHS: Molk is strong and fast for his position and size—6-0, 300 pounds—and gets off th e line of scrimmage in a hurry. He's got great footwork and his skill set is impressive particularly in the passing game.
WEAKNESSES: Although he excels in pass protection, Molk's primary strike has been his run blocking. He's likely going to have to bulk up a little bit to handle big strong defensive linemen of the NFL, but there's no doubt the Chargers can get his strength up.
This guy is from a power conference and excelled in all aspects of his position while taking on big, strong, fast Big Ten defensive linemen enough to win the Rimington Trophy.
Even if Molk is merely an addition to add depth to the line at both center, and possibly guard positions, he's a steal in the seventh round, and continues a solid and smart draft for San Diego thus far.
San Diego kept its theme of smart, safe, sound NFL draft picks alive with its final pick of this year's selection by grabbing solid Michigan State running back Edwin Baker.
Baker ran for nearly 2,300 yards on 462 carries and 19 touchdowns during his Spartan career.
Earlier in his career, he was a first-team All-Big Ten selection after rushing for 92.4 yards per game in 2010.
STRENGTHS: Baker is a tough runner who likes to run inside, but is also patient enough to wait for the play to develop and quick enough to accelerate through the hole once it does. He's a better-than-average blocker.
WEAKNESSES: Might have to work on his strength and stamina to make an impact at the next level. Also, seemed to lose his competitive edge after being replaced as the starting running back.
This is nearly the last pick of the draft, so it's not a terrible spot to grab another running back for San Diego. It's a safe pick that could pay dividends if the Baker rediscovers the ability he had early in his Michigan State career.