While resisting the "mock" fracas for as long as possible, it would appear the temptation has grown too great. Before delving into a full first-round mock-up, it seemed befitting to start here, with the San Diego Chargers.
Mocking a round is far different from mocking a team. With a league it is almost entirely based on what you think a team will do. When it comes to your team however, it tends to become much more of a blend between what you think a given GM will do and what you would do were you the GM.
Some choices were made leaning to one direction or the other in that regard, but here it is, the San Diego Chargers mock draft:
The safe choice is also the most likely choice. Dan Williams would be the prized catch, but it would take a phenomenal string of events to land him in San Diego’s possession, which I do not see happening.
After Williams there are three trains of thought: Terrence Cody, Matthews, or someone outside the NT/RB ranks.
The third option is just as likely as either, but there is no front-runner from among the half-dozen potential positions, so picking from there becomes a simple guessing game based around predicting an unpredictable GM.
Split between Cody and Matthews, I think Matthews gets the edge. The team appears happy with how the rotation at nose worked out last year. That does not preclude them from looking for a pick, but it does make it easier to avoid reaching.
Matthews fulfills several needs for the San Diego Chargers to make him a solid option.
First, San Diego needs a lead running back. Darren Sproles is a solid talent, but he is a change of pace and not a tandem back. Giving him double digit carries in a split-load backfield will not improve his effectiveness.
Matthews has the build to handle a heavier workload. He won’t see a Martyball number of carries, but a 240-260 carry year should be in line with what the Chargers offense wants to see, and is more than the team should feel comfortable entrusting to next highest ranked back Jahvid Best.
Matthews has the size and strength to help push the team through in short yardage and goal-line situations as well as to help handle the extra contact afforded by a more pass-centric array of blockers (be they OL, TE, or FB).
The threat of a back that can run for power up the middle also becomes a great asset in the passing game. Defenses will be forced to choose their poison and respect the run, something a slower developing toss to a shifty scatback might not be able to do.
The final reason steps off the field. San Diego let an icon depart, and while great value is there to be had across the deep second-tier of running backs, it would be a good move for the team to net a player like Matthews for the fans to rally around. For a team that doesn’t make a lot of splashy moves, this might just be the time to make one.
With NT bypassed in Round One, it becomes something of a necessity here. Thomas may be a bit over-valued this high in the second, but with Terrence Cody likely gone it leaves a limited nose tackle pool that should either be addressed with the 40th overall pick, or bypassed for another year.
Linval Joseph has found himself moving up draft boards for great workout numbers, but Thomas appears ready to contribute sooner. He has great footwork and athleticism, while also carrying along the size San Diego sorely lacks from among its primary NT rotation, and a strong Senior Bowl is a good sign for how well a player can adapt out of his college team’s specific system.
The first two picks tend to favor the "think they will do" avenue; this one treads over into the "want them to do" arena, as they may be content to keep Clary at right tackle.
Calloway could be a solid value at the back of the third round however. The deep first-tier of offensive tackles and his projection of staying on the right side mean most teams actively pursuing help at the position will have filled the need early, which drops Calloway down this far.
He is already accustomed to playing on the right side while also spending time at left tackle and guard. This means that even if he does not break the starting lineup, he could be a versatile reserve for a unit that has seen its fair share of injuries the last few seasons.
It also helps that Iowa’s reputation for churning out quality offensive linemen is sterling, and should continue to be with Calloway, probable top-10 pick Brian Bulaga, and possibly guard Dan Doering.
CB is low on the team’s "need" chart after picking up two free agent corners this offseason. Yet Warren has the potential to be a great pickup here. His primary knock is being inexperienced and not quite NFL-ready after forgoing his senior year for this draft.
San Diego has the luxury of developing him without his needing to see extensive game-time action in his first few years in the league. Vasher and Strickland only have two-year contracts, while Jammer’s physical play may start to take its toll as age starts to creep in.
The temptation to find a player ready to contribute right away is very real, but a great value developmental prospect fits in well with Smith’s build-from-within approach.
Easley is another example of drafting solid value for the future with the idea that a 13-3 team shored up from free agency and the first two rounds can afford to take some time to develop talent. Easley is very raw, a walk-on that had only five receptions before his senior year.
But he has both the size and athleticism San Diego loves, as well as the drive to improve.
The team may be settled at the starting wide receiver position, but it does sorely lack for depth. In the short term his athleticism should be an asset on special teams, where a departed Kassim Osgood has left a vacancy.
He also should be far more suited to stepping in for Jackson or Floyd along the outside. Buster Davis is an unreliable commodity while Legedu Naanee’s talents are better suited playing the wideout equivalent of a change-of-pace running back.
San Diego developed one big undrafted wide receiver into a successful starter, now is the time for another project to follow suit.
This is where it gets difficult. Not only am I trying to predict who is still around, but what to do from among those names? The temptation is there to go anywhere from an insurance RB to DE to TE, but ultimately two factors favor Sharpe.
The first is that Smith has had more success finding defensive players in mid-to-late rounds, the second would be the number of questions surround Shawne Merriman.
Merriman has multiple concerns surrounding him at the moment that may warrant insurance at the OLB position. After missing the bulk of 2008 to injury, he returned in 2009 only to be limited by several smaller, more nagging injuries that limited him to only four sacks despite playing in 14 games.
He is also restricted free agent that has made no effort to hide his dislike for receiving a tender instead of a surefire contract.
The salary he is seeking is weighted towards the strong three-year start to his career, and exceeds what San Diego would likely be willing to pay until they are sure he can return to dominance.
This means the team will once again have to concern itself with Merriman’s contract in the 2011 offseason. They would likely have a franchise tag available for him, but Julius Peppers proved that multiple one-year tags only staves off the inevitable.
A few off-field headaches and potentially awkward fit in Ron Rivera’s system (due to minimal coverage skills) coupled with those contract and performance/health issues mean that a low-threat potential heir is a sound choice at this point in the draft.
The desire may be there for San Diego to try to find a replacement for Jacques Cesaire in the first three to four rounds of the draft. Unless they try for someone with that second round pick, however, the drop-off can get steep. It may be better to wait for the 2011 draft, where they hold five picks in the top three rounds to try to find a new starter.
In the meantime, the team should at least look to replace aging Alphonso Boone in the reserve role. Travis Johnson shows promise, while Vaughn Martin could be an interesting conversion, but both are likely to find their niche as multipurpose reserves rather than step into the rotation.
Washington played 3-4 end in college for defensive guru Nick Saban, so his learning curve should be much shallower than the usual 4-3 defensive tackle convert. He isn’t the flashy game-changer an earlier draft pick might be, but does could give the team steady play and showed some flare with a pair of sacks and five tackles for loss in 2009.