Although the Chargers ultimately made the playoffs with an 8-8 record and beat the Colts in the wild-card round, the Chargers weren’t the team many thought they would be last year, and GM A.J. Smith has admitted to making bad personnel decisions.
It is crucial that the Chargers have a good draft, as the team is not getting any younger and also has holes on both defense and offense. There are three positions I consider needing to be addressed sooner rather than later; defensive end, free safety, and right guard/right tackle.
Right guard seems to be the most pressing, as unlike the other two, there are no possible in-house replacements to start the 2009 season.
Defensive end and free safety should be addressed early on as well, but if not, the Chargers should be able to get by with what they already have.
Lastly, with LaDainian Tomlinson being on the backside of his career, management viewing Darren Sproles only as a situational back, and Jacob Hester moving to fullback, it is a high possibility the Chargers are considering drafting a running back as high as the first round.
Last year they Chargers gave the strong safety position to veteran journeyman Clinton Hart. Hart had a rough year, allowing some big passes and missing key tackles. However, in all due respect, he did break his hand early in the season and played with some sort of cast in every game.
By the end of the year, Steven Gregory was getting most of the playing time. But Gregory seems like a short-term solution rather than a long-term fix.
Some people are saying second-year cornerback and 2008 first round pick Antoine Cason will be moved to safety, but yet again that depends on other factors; i.e. can CB Antonio Cromartie rebound from a very disappointing season least year and get over his hip injury?
If CB/FS Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State slips down and is available with the 16th pick, he may be hard for the Chargers to pass up.
Current FS Eric Weddle is capable of playing either strong safety or full safety.
The Chargers decided not to attempt to resign DE Igor Olshansky. Olshansky, while a good run-stopper, was hurt often and almost invisible on passing plays.
Furthermore, DE Luis Castillo, while having a lot of potential, has been slowed greatly by injuries in his career.
The Chargers do have two backups that have had significant playing time because of the aforementioned injuries in Ryon Bingham and Jacques Cesaire.
Tennessee’s Robert Ayers should be available by the time the Chargers pick 16th. He is big (6’3’’ 272 lbs) and a good pass rusher.
Right Guard/Right Tackle
This should be the highest priority. The Chargers decided not to retain RG Mike Goff, who ended up signing with the division rival Kansas City Chiefs, and there are no solid young backups.
It has been stated that the Chargers could also draft a tackle and move Jeromey Clary from RT to RG. This seems a high likelihood as there should be more tackles available with the 16th pick than guards.
One possibility is OT Michael Oher of Mississippi. However, the Chargers may be wise to pass up on him as he is a raw talent with a high ceiling, whereas the Bolts need offensive line help immediately.
It may less of a risk to pick Arizona tackle Eben Britton.
I really think this should be on the back burner, maybe even left for the 2010 draft unless the Chargers honestly think they would be drafting the next L.T. In my opinion, the Chargers have a solid future in the running game with Darren Sproles and Jacob Hester.
However, the Chargers have been holding personal workouts for many RB’s in recent weeks, so it seems they are highly considering preparing to groom L.T.’s heir.
Knowshon Moreno of Georgia and Chris “Beanie” Wells of Ohio State have both been at the Chargers complex over the past few weeks.
Moreno (5’10’’ 212 lbs) had the second fastest 3-cone time at the combine (6.84) and was one of the top running backs in college football last year. The 21-year-old sophomore had 1,400 yards on 250 attempts and 16 touchdowns last year.
Wells (6’1’’ 235 lbs) is not very fast, but is a bruiser much like Michael Turner. He amassed 1,197 yards on 207 attempts last year with 8 touchdowns. He is a junior and 20-years-old.
Wells would fit in with the team’s more immediate plans as a third and fourth down back. Also, if the Chargers decide to keep the 5’6’’ Darren Sproles long-term, Wells would provide a nice balance to Sproles’ slash-and-dash style.
Donald Brown (5'10'' 210 lbs) of Connecticut, projected going in the second round, also recently visited the Chargers complex. He had 2,083 yards on 367 attempts with 18 touchdowns last season and is a 21-year-old junior.
Anything short of a trip to the playoffs will and should be seen as disappointment in San Diego. Not only do the Chargers have veteran stars Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Quentin Jammer, Philip Rivers, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Jamal Williams, but they are also getting OLB Shawn Merriman back after missing almost all of last season due to knee surgery. FS Eric Weddle also seemed to improve throughout the 2008 season, and hopefully CB Antonio Cromartie can bounce back from his sophomore slump.