The San Diego Chargers had an overall disappointing season in 2010, as they failed to win their fifth straight division title, and they failed to make the playoffs. The team couldn’t overcome a very slow start, and they just couldn’t overcome the up and coming Kansas City Chiefs. Yet they finished number one overall on team offense and defense, so the future still looks bright in San Diego.
Phillip Rivers had the best season of his career in 2010, throwing for over 4700 yards and a 101.8 quarterback rating. With him at the helm, the Chargers will always have a chance to reach the Super Bowl, but he hasn’t taken them to one yet. Ryan Matthews didn’t have the impact expected of him last year, and the Chargers missed having LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield. Mike Tolbert played pretty well, and the running back tandem of him and Matthews looks at least adequate moving forward.
Their top receivers missed a lot of time with injuries and suspensions in 2010, and I doubt that Malcolm Floyd will be back now that Vincent Jackson has been franchised. The rest of the receivers aren’t overly impressive, but if they can stay healthy they can provide decent depth. Antonio Gates is still one of the top tight ends in the game, and Randy McMichael is a solid backup.
The offensive line is pretty solid overall, with Marcus McNeil and Kris Dielman holding down the left side, and Nick Hardwick and Louis Vasquez providing stability at the center and left guard positions. The right tackle spot isn’t locked down, but Brandyn Dombrowski played solid there last year.
Luis Castillo is still a solid performer at defensive end, but the other end position is a giant question mark. Jacques Cesaire didn’t play well in 2010, and he most likely won’t be back next year, so an upgrade will be needed. Antonio Garay played pretty solid at the nose tackle position in 2010, and he may have the starting spot locked down heading into the 2011 season. Shaun Phillips is a pro bowl caliber linebacker on the outside, but Larry English hasn’t played up to expectations so the Chargers may look to bring in some competition for him.
Kevin Burnett and Stephen Cooper played well in 2010, but both of them are free agents, as is top backup Brandon Siler. This position is a question mark as of now, as nobody knows whether Burnett and/or Cooper will be back. The starting cornerbacks are solid with both Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer.
The depth isn’t overly impressive anymore now that Antonio Cromartie is in New York. Eric Weddle played very well last season, and he will most likely be back even though he is a free agent. Paul Oliver, Steve Gregory, and Bob Sanders will battle for the other spot. Sanders is by far the most talented of the three, but it remains to be seen how long he can stay healthy.
1. (12) RB Ryan Matthews, Fresno State: He didn’t make the impact that was expected for the 12th overall pick, but he flashed some potential later in the season. 12 GP/ 9 GS
3. (79) ILB Donald Butler, Washington: Butler missed the entire season due to injury, but I love his potential and he may get a big opportunity in 2011. 0 GP/ 0 GS
4. (110) S Darrell Stuckey, Kansas: He only played in one game in 2011, and it remains to be seen how big of an impact he’ll have in 2011. 1 GP/ 0 GS
5. (146) NT Cam Thomas, North Carolina: Thomas didn’t get a big opportunity last season, but they want to develop him as the nose tackle of the future. 6 GP/ 0 GS
7. (235) TE Dedrick Epps, Miami: He failed to stick with the team, and he ended the season with the Miami Dolphins. 3 GP/ 0 GS
Summary: After just one season, this draft class is looking to be very disappointing. Matthews will make or break this class, and he needs to play better in 2011. The overall grade could improve if Butler and Stuckey can make a bigger impact coming back from injuries, but this class looks really bad initially.
Luis Castillo remains the starter at one defensive end position. He is one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in the league, and he should remain in San Diego for at least the next few seasons. The problem for this position lies on the other side, where the Chargers badly need to find an upgrade for Jacques Cesaire. He is a free agent, and I highly doubt that he will be brought back for 2011, so look for the Chargers to use an early pick on a defensive end.
There isn’t a whole lot of depth at the defensive end position either, so the Chargers may also want to look at bringing in two defensive ends this offseason to help improve that depth.
Round One: J.J. Watt, Adrian Clayborn, Corey Liuget
Round Two: Cameron Heyward, Allen Bailey, Christian Ballard, Stephen Paea
Round Three: Marvin Austin, Terrell McClain
Round Four: Pernell McPhee
If J.J. Watt is still available when the Chargers come on the clock in Round 1, it’ll be very difficult for the Chargers to pass on him. He would be able to fill the starting role immediately, and he can form a very solid duo with Luis Castillo at defensive end.
Shaun Phillips has one of the outside linebacker spots locked down, as he has gradually become one of top outside linebackers in the NFL. He will continue to be the top pass rusher on this defense. The other linebacker spot is an issue, as Shawn Merriman is now in Buffalo, and Larry English hasn’t developed into a top level pass rusher that they thought he would be when they made him a first round draft pick.
I don’t think the Chargers should entirely give up on English just yet, but they need to bring in somebody who can compete for the starting job with him, and who can also provide depth to a position that needs it.
Round 1: Akeem Ayers, Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan
Round 2: Dontay Moch, Brooks Reed, Mason Foster
Round 3: Sam Acho, Jeremy Beal
Round 4: K.J. Wright, Lawrence Wilson
With two second-round picks, it may be a good idea to take someone like Moch or Reed who can provide competition for English. If the Chargers truly believe that English will break out in 2011, then this position isn’t much of a need early on in the draft.
Vincent Jackson had the franchise tag placed on him yet again, but I highly doubt he will sit out a chunk of the season again like he did in 2010. With Jackson back in the fold, it’ll be interesting to see if the Chargers can bring back Malcolm Floyd as well. There may not be enough money to give to Floyd, with a few other players on the roster needing to get paid as well.
The depth of this position is also a concern. Legedu Naanee and Seyi Ajirotutu both have some potential, but the Chargers can’t afford to have one of them starting in 2011.
Round 2: Jerel Jernigan, Greg Little, Torrey Smith, Jon Baldwin, Titus Young
Round 3: Dwayne Harris, Randall Cobb, Niles Paul, Greg Salas, Vincent Brown
Round 4: Cecil Shorts, Jeremy Kerley, Austin Pettis
Round 5: Ronald Johnson
Julio Jones will most likely be gone by the time San Diego picks, but if he somehow falls to them, the Chargers probably won’t pass him up. Greg Little or Torrey Smith would be great picks, as they can provide Phillip Rivers with a solid second option to Vincent Jackson if Malcolm Floyd leaves.
Depending on who is brought back via free agency, this could be a minimal need, but the Chargers won’t know for sure heading into the draft. I fully expect the Chargers to bring back Kevin Burnett, as he played very well last season and he’s in the prime of his career. Stephen Cooper, however, may not be back as he will be 32 years old next season.
Top backup Brandon Siler is also a free agent, but I think that Donald Butler will get an opportunity to make a big impact next season coming off of an injury.
Round 2: Martez Wilson, Kelvin Sheppard
Round 3: Quan Sturdivant, Greg Jones
Round 4: Casey Matthews, Akeem Dent
Round 5: Nick Bellore
Round 6: Derrell Smith, Chris White
The Chargers might lose two of their top three inside linebackers, so they may opt to choose an inside linebacker as early as round two. Sheppard and Wilson would be able to contend for a starting spot next season opposite Kevin Burnett.
The Chargers are very solid with their top two cornerbacks in Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, however the depth is very questionable. Trading Antonio Cromartie last offseason got rid of a “locker room cancer,” but it really weakened the depth of this position. Donald Strickland and Dante Hughes really aren’t suited to be nickel cornerbacks.
The Chargers should really use a mid round pick on this position in the draft, as they can’t rely on Strickland or Hughes to start if Cason or Jammer gets injured. They may even look for a cornerback in free agency.
Round 2: Brandon Burton, Ras-I Dowling, Curtis Brown
Round 3: Kendric Burney, Curtis Marsh, Davon House, Jalil Brown
Round 4: Chimdi Chekwa, Shareece Wright
Round 5: Chykie Brown
The Chargers would have to reach on either Brandon Harris or Aaron Williams in Round 1 if they want a corner that early, and I don’t think they will. Burney or Chekwa would fill the nickel back position, and would provide the Chargers with some more young talent to go along with Cason.
Safety: Eric Weddle will most likely be back after an excellent season in 2010, but if he isn’t this could become a big need moving forward.
Offensive Tackle: Brandyn Dombrowski will most likely be the starter heading into the season, but they could look for a solid backup for him and Marcus McNeil at offensive tackle.
Quarterback: Billy Volek is one of the better backups in the league, but he is a free agent and he may not be back in 2011.
Despite having the No. 1 overall offense and defense, both of the Charger’s units have some questions heading into 2011. The defense has some fairly pressing needs at the defensive tackle position and the nickel back position. The linebacker position could be a need due to the free agents, but the Chargers may plan to bring all of them back, so they may not target one in the draft.
The offense also has some question marks, specifically if Malcolm Floyd isn’t brought back. The Chargers have some talent already in place, but they need to have a solid draft so that they can make it back to the playoffs in 2011. I think the Chargers will most likely be the favorites to win the AFC West in 2011, but they can’t afford to have another bad draft as they did in 2010.