San Diego Chargers: Weighing Value vs. Need in 2014 NFL Draft

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San Diego Chargers: Weighing Value vs. Need in 2014 NFL Draft
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

When the Chargers selected Keenan Allen in the third round of last year's draft, the decision to pick value over need paid off handsomely.

Allen ended up becoming a finalist for AP Offensive Rookie of the Year by season's end and was especially useful to San Diego when two of its top receivers went down with injuries.

In what's being called the deepest draft class in maybe a decade, can the Chargers afford to pass up on value to fill needs?

Here's where the team stands on draft needs thus far and how it might go about finding value.


 

Cornerback

Most draft analysts across the board have the Chargers taking a corner in the first round and for good reason. San Diego's pass defense was one of the worst in the league this past year, which prompted the dismissal of free-agent bust Derek Cox and Johnny Patrick after just one season with the team.

Of the four corners remaining on the active roster, Shareece Wright is the only one with starting experience. In free agency, the Chargers added former Cincinnati Bengal Brandon Ghee on a two-year deal. While Ghee has spent four years in the NFL, he lacks starting experience and is injury prone.

One alternative the team could explore is moving Marcus Gilchrist back to corner. Before he made the switch to strong safety last season, Gilchrist accumulated eight starts at slot corner the two previous seasons and fared well.

Steve Williams, the team's fourth-round pick from last year, is also an option after missing his entire rookie season with a pectoral injury.

 

Draft Need: High

There's no question a corner or multiple corners will be on San Diego's radar in the draft, but there shouldn't be an obligation to reach for a guy in the first round if he's not a fit. For all we know, Gilchrist or Williams could be the answer to the problem at corner.

While it wouldn't come as a shock to see the Chargers move in on a defensive back in the first round, it wouldn't be shocking to see the them wait for one in the middle rounds either. Someone like a Stanley Jean-Baptiste out of Nebraska could be of value.

 

Pass-Rusher

Depth at inside linebacker was solidified with experienced veterans this week as the team announced a three-year deal with former Indianapolis Colt Kavell Conner and a two-year deal for Reggie Walker, who played for San Diego last season.

What the Chargers still lack in the linebacking corps is a dynamic pass-rusher. Injuries to Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney obliterated the team's pass-rush, forcing Jarret Johnson and Thomas Keiser to pick up the slack.

Even with Freeney and Ingram slated to return healthy for next season, San Diego could still stand to add another pass-rusher in the draft, if not now then for the future. Freeney and Keiser will be entering the final year of their contracts, and Johnson, who turns 33 in August, may be in his final year with team as well.

 

Draft Need: High

If the Chargers pass on a corner in the first round, a pass-rusher would be the next best thing to acquire depending on who is available. Auburn's Dee Ford had an impressive week at the Senior Bowl and is confident he's better than top-rated prospect Jadeveon Clowney, as he so publicly expressed on SIRIUS XM NFL Radio Sunday.

If Ford can back up the talk with serious pass-rushing ability then he's first-round material for San Diego. Denver's acquisition of DeMarcus Ware this week gives the Broncos a formidable pass rush in the division and if the Chargers intend to keep up, they'll need to do so in the draft.

 

Defensive Tackle

San Diego was reportedly in the mix for former Houston Texans defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, but Miami's checkbook apparently won him over. Cam Thomas, last year's starter for the Chargers, could be out of the picture as well—he's visiting with Pittsburgh, according to Gehlken.

The active roster has just two defensive tackles under contract for next season—Sean Lissemore, who was acquired via trade from Dallas last season and undrafted rookie Kwame Geathers, who played in seven games in 2013. 

 

Draft Need: High 

Depth all along the defensive line is concerning. Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget are blossoming into stars for San Diego, but the depth behind them is frightening. What's missing, however, is a big-bodied nose tackle to free up linebackers.

There's no shortage of girth at defensive tackle in this year's draft but only a select few are projected first-rounders. One player who best fits the Chargers is Louis Nix III out of Notre Dame.

Nix fits the bill of a space-eater at 330-plus pounds and would be well deserving of a first-round nod. DaQuan Jones out of Penn State could be another option in the middle rounds if Nix is gone. Defensive tackle may not be at the top of the list in team needs, but the value is tough to pass on.

 

Wide Receiver

A position with the deepest showing in this year's draft will likely be at receiver—many of which are underclassmen. They may not be as polished as their senior counterparts but bring a wealth of talent to develop on any roster.

San Diego could be without Malcom Floyd next season if he chooses to retire after sustaining a serious neck injury in Week 2 of last season. Floyd has yet to make indication he's done, however, and he was recently cleared to begin running and light weightlifting, per Gehlken.

The good news for the Chargers is that Eddie Royal will be returning for another season after restructuring his deal. He and Allen managed to find success in the absence of Floyd and Danario Alexander last year. Vincent Brown, meanwhile, is still trying to find his stride after a quiet 2013.

 

Draft Need: Moderate

A deep receiver class shouldn't force San Diego to make any hasty decisions in the early goings of the draft. Philip Rivers could always use more weapons at his disposal, but the defensive needs seem to outweigh the offense.

One particular reason the team should consider finding receiver help is the health of Royal, who has yet to stay healthy in the two seasons he's been a Charger. Floyd's situation is also in that discussion.

We know Tom Telesco wants to add speed on offense but where will he find that speed. Donte Moncrief tied for the fastest 40 time among receivers at the combine and he's projected to go in the middle rounds. Is that fast enough, Tom?

 

Offensive Guard

It appears the Chargers will put out the exact same offensive line they featured in 2013 after inking Chad Rinehart to a new two-year deal. After allowing just 30 sacks on the year, tied for fourth-fewest in the league, why not keep the O-line the same?

Still, a need for depth should be in the works, not just at guard but all along the line. The shuffling of offensive linemen last year because of injuries was a bit comedic at times. There were days when we didn't know if San Diego would even have any subs left after going through so many.

 

Draft Need: Moderate

Jeromey Clary avoided the guillotine in free agency, for now, but his contract will be up after the 2014 season. Unless the Chargers want to continue overpaying a mediocre player, they better start looking for a replacement.

The same could be said for Nick Hardwick, who nearly retired in the offseason. The 10th-year center has enjoyed a fulfilling career with San Diego, and the odds of him stalling retirement another season don't look too good. The only center on the roster other than Hardwick is Nick McDonald, a two-year player who signed to a futures contract in January.

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