Entering 2008, the Chargers are in the rare position of having no glaring needs entering the draft, and they need to be in that position.
For the upcoming draft, the Chargers only have their first-round pick on day one and then they don't choose again until the fifth round. This will likely change depending on what the NFL deems appropriate for the compensatory pick for losing Donnie Edwards to the Chiefs in free agency last year.
In a change of character, the usually pick-heavy Chargers’ depletion of selections came about because they sent the Dolphins their second-round pick for wide receiver Chris Chambers, they packaged their third-round selection in a move up to get safety Eric Weddle in last year’s draft and their fourth-round pick was used up in the supplemental draft when they chose cornerback Paul Oliver.
The prevalent thought in NFL circles is that A.J. Smith will pull something off to give them an extra pick or two by moving down in the draft. I wouldn't count on it.
Yes, Smith is not shy on pulling a deal, but he also loathes to lose a player he feels can make an impact. If a player the Chargers covet drops to the 27th spot, they will be using the pick.
However, Smith will not reach. He is more than willing to pick players that other teams are leery of, but if a player the he feels is worthy of the pick is not available, he will try to move down. For now, we will assume that he will use the pick and the Chargers will receive a fourth-round pick for the loss of Donnie Edwards.
The draft picks for the Chargers will be as follows (*all picks after the second round are approximate due to compensatory picks):
- 1st Round (27)
- 4th Round (135*)
- 5th Round (161*)
- 6th Round (193*)
- 7th Round (235*)
The top need for the Chargers is depth. In the first round, look for the Chargers to take the best player available between a right guard, right tackle, nose tackle or inside linebacker.
They have no glaring holes in their starting lineup, with the only ones that can really be pushed are in the right side of the offensive line. Both Goff and Clary played well last year, but the majority of Tomlinson's yards came off the left side, which is usually the pass protection side, not the power running side.
A monster on the right side would help the Chargers’ offense be even more versatile and creating more worries for the opposing defensive coordinators.
At age 31, the rock in the middle and most important piece of the defensive puzzle, Jamal Williams is starting to wear down. After four straight years of at least 15 games, Williams was forced out of two games last year and didn't suit up for three others.
He also had surgery on both knees during the bye week and is looking at surgery again in the off-season. A nose tackle takes a few years to groom because it is such a demanding position, the Chargers would be wise to draft him now.
San Diego’s current inside linebackers are solid, but not spectacular. If Smith sees a potential star slide down, I expect him the take him. I don't think we would expect to see him use a later pick on an inside backer though, the Chargers have solid depth in their linebacking corps.
The Chargers are not expected to use their first round pick on a cornerback, so the fans that have been hoping for a Rodgers-Cromartie and Antonio Cromartie family reunion should put that thought on hold. The Chargers like their current crop of cornerbacks, but could add one with a later pick.
Looking at recent draft history, you should expect the Chargers to be able to nab at least one impact player later on in the draft.
Recent picks that were later round picks include Legadu Nanee (pick No. 172), Darren Sproles (130), Shaun Phillips (98), Michael Turner (154), Matt Willhelm (112) and Rodney Harrison (145).
Also looking at recent history, you can likely expect the Chargers to take a player that other teams have shied away from and turn him into a Pro-Bowl caliber player as evidenced by Luis Castillo, Marcus McNeil, and most recently, Cromartie.