San Diego Chargers Mock Draft: Updated 7-Round Projections After Senior Bowl
And the mock drafts begin.
Writers all over the Internet will create multiple mock drafts over the duration of weeks and months leading up to the draft in April. Many will be made, but all are just predictions.
After an otherwise forgettable season by the San Diego Chargers, they will have the 11th selection of the NFL draft. New head coach Mike McCoy will team up with new general manager Tom Telesco and figure out which players will make the most immediate impact.
With Ken Whisenhunt now running the offense for the Bolts, Philip Rivers will remain the focus in San Diego. That being said, he must be protected.
Overall, the biggest needs for the Chargers are offensive line (OT and OG), cornerback, inside linebacker and running back.
Round 1: Lane Johnson (OT) Oklahoma
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As soon as Luke Joeckel declared for the NFL draft, he became the best offensive tackle prospect and arguably the top prospect overall. Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan were the two best after him, but they both decided to return for their senior years.
Eric Fisher started making noise as soon as he became the second-best tackle in the field. His day at the Senior Bowl set him over the top. CBS Sports now has Fisher as the sixth-best prospect in the draft. Some are considering that he is better than Joeckel, or at least could be.
With the Chargers sitting at pick No. 11, they might have to trade up if they really want one of the two. They will not trade up for one reason: Lane Johnson.
The former quarterback transitioned to offensive tackle and has been excelling ever since. He also had a great Senior Bowl and has been rising on everyone's charts across the country. As of now, he ranks 11th on CBS Sports' big board.
Bucky Brooks from NFL.com said this about Lane Johnson's Senior Bowl.
"Johnson has demonstrated impressive footwork, balance and body control while snuffing out pass rushers in drills."
The Chargers desperately need an anchor to protect Philip Rivers. Lane Johnson and his 6'6'', 302-pound frame would be perfect.
The way I see it, San Diego will remain at the 11th spot and select one of the top three offensive tackles. They'll most likely end up with whoever is left, whether it be Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson. Don't count on Joeckel or Fisher being available.
Round 2: Desmond Trufant (CB) Washington
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WOULD START FIRST YEAR
In my first mock draft, I had the Chargers selecting Desmond Trufant in the second round as well. After his incredible week in Mobile, Ala., San Diego would be lucky to get him in the second round.
Throughout the next couple of months, I can see Desmond Trufant becoming a first-round prospect.
Trufant stood out during the game at the Senior Bowl as well as in individual drills earlier in the week. His one-on-ones had everyone talking.
Rob Rang, NFL draft analyst, on Desmond Trufant:
“He was unquestionably the top defensive back in Mobile,” Rang said. “There were very few completions thrown against him. He was breaking up passes, and quarterbacks were forced to look the other way because he was blanketing guys.”
There's a lot of speculation on whether or not the Chargers will keep Quentin Jammer and/or Antoine Cason. It wouldn't be a surprise if San Diego brought in a veteran cornerback to play alongside Shareece Wright, Marcus Gilchrist and whoever they decide to draft.
Round 3: Johnathan Franklin (RB) UCLA
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Ryan Mathews had one touchdown in 2012 and two broken collarbones. He ran for 3.8 yards per carry, finishing with 707 yards in 12 games.
The Chargers' dreadful offensive line has not helped Ryan Mathews in his first three years, so his ability and talent should not be called a "bust" just yet. On the other hand, his inability to stay healthy puts the Chargers in a tricky situation. They rolled with Mike Tolbert the first two years of Mathews' career and then with Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle this past season. All three players have talent, but they are not every-down backs or change-of-pace backs that Rivers and the offense needs.
Johnathan Franklin, a 5'10'' running back out of UCLA, led all rushers at the Senior Bowl. His speed is his biggest threat, and his ability in the pass game makes him even more valuable. Franklin should run around a 4.49 or under 40-yard dash at the combine.
San Diego needs a new Darren Sproles. Why not Johnathan Franklin?
Round 4: Leon McFadden (CB) San Diego State
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Leon McFadden is another player who had an outstanding week in Alabama. Coaches were immediately impressed with the cornerback's play, but an injury held him out of the game.
In an article written by Todd McShay on ESPN, Leon McFadden was praised.
"San Diego State's Leon McFadden stood out. He jumped Tavarres King's out route and had a nice interception in one-on-ones. He stuck to receivers like glue, was balanced and under control. He didn't turn and run vertically much, but he has looked sharp defending short-to-intermediate routes on several one-on-one and seven-on-seven reps."
As mentioned in my Round 2 slide, the Chargers need to establish a better, younger secondary. With additions like McFadden and Trufant, letting Jammer and Cason walk would be much easier.
Round 5: Kevin Reddick (ILB) North Carolina
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Takeo Spikes, if he returns next season, will be 36, turning 37 in December. He plays alongside sensational standout Donald Butler, who is only 24. San Diego must find a diamond in the rough to pair with the young Butler.
Kevin Reddick, who also stood out at the Senior Bowl, should be available in the fifth round unless someone jumps on him. His coverage skills need work, which is why he will not be considered a top inside linebacker in the draft.
Reddick excels in stopping the run, much like Takeo Spikes. Some say he has the potential to be the next NaVorro Bowman or Brian Cushing, but that would very well depend on how the team that drafts him goes about developing him.
Round 6: JJ Wilcox (SS) Georgia Southern
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JJ Wilcox played his first season at safety in his senior year. He played wide receiver in his freshman year and then transitioned to running back the next two seasons.
Wilcox has "corner feet and safety size," according to NFL.com. CBS Sports is projecting Wilcox to go in the sixth or seventh round, and the Chargers could use some depth in the secondary. Brandon Taylor will be recuperating from his torn ACL he suffered late in the year, and Atari Bigby was far too inconsistent in 2012 to not beef up the position.
Wilcox is a speedy player that can help in the secondary and on special teams.
Round 7: Jeff Baca (OG) UCLA
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Offensive guard is another position that needs to be bulked up. San Diego would love to get a player like Jeff Baca in the final round to add depth to the front line. Rex Hadnot, Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez are the three guards on the current roster.
Tom Telesco may bring in veterans to push the players, but it's also been speculated that he would like to build through the draft, not free agency. Baca would create competition during camp with the other players.
Let's face it, the Chargers offensive line can't get much worse, so any player has a shot at becoming the starter.