Very rarely do drafts go as planned.
All of the players you’d originally had penned on your list may end up somewhere else, and general managers frequently switch priorities on short term if there is that can’t-miss prospect, regardless of whether that player will fill your immediate needs or not.
In other cases, given the opportunity, you will agree to trade down or up. Such was the case last year with the Chargers when they snagged what they thought to be a can't-miss in running back Ryan Matthews, in the first round.
This mock draft of the Bolts was compiled with a view to fulfill the more immediate needs of the Chargers as well as what players might be ideal fits. From a talent standpoint, the Chargers are a few good players away from winning it all. The picks suggested here could easily fill that void.
Five of the seven projected picks are defensive players. Although the defense finished first overall in total defense last season, the team still lacks playmakers and is aging.
Forcing three and outs is commendable; forcing turnovers before that is better. This is especially the case at the end of the game when the defense might not have the strength to force three, let alone, four, and outs. That will no longer do.
Improving this unit may prove to be vital to the Bolts’ chances next year with the absence of defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, now the head coach of the Panthers. It will remain anybody’s guess what the scheme will be, whether the 3-4 will become a 4-3, whether there will be a coach who will be more blitz happy or whether he will stress more skill in pass coverage.
I have also seen calls for wideouts to be drafted in the first few rounds, which I think makes as much sense as recruiting zebras to prance and dance around at Sea World. As we have seen last year, you could line up a can of baked beans at flanker and a QB like Phillip Rivers will find a way to get it some catches.
The overall package depicted here should more than meet the Chargers’ needs, both immediate and in the long term.
In the 3-4 defense, the first-round pick of a DE-OLB has always been popular with the Bolts brass, as the past picks of Shawne Merriman and Larry English can attest.
What the Chargers are still waiting for is a keeper, a pesky defensive lineman who spends enough time in the opponent's backfield to obviate too many blitz packages.
Ryan Kerrigan could very well be that guy.
With the Chargers 3-4, you obviously want to see a DE put pressure on the QB, something no Chargers DE has been capable of doing consistently since the Bronze Age and Leslie O’Neill.
What you have to like about Kerrigan is that this is a player used to succeeding. This is not somebody who will hope to make an impact, but one who expects it. A second team All-American, there is no denying the kid’s smarts on and off the field.
What will prevent him from being drafted higher is the label that he is all work, that he utterly lacks the natural talent other DEs have in the draft. A little oversized to play linebacker, Kerrigan should play DE, and quite possibly in a revamped 4-3 defense.
A sleeper pick for Round 2, Franklin could play at either tackle or guard, most likely on the right side, where the Chargers need help.
Too often late in games did the pocket collapse in clutch situations, landing Phillip Rivers on his backside and the digits from the scoreboards displaying the 3rd- or 4th-and-long yardages mercilessly taunting the offense from the scoreboards.
You have to like Franklin’s size, and his football smarts are certainly more than adequate. What’s more, he often seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder and a mean streak that the Chargers at times sorely lacked when some extra muscle was required.
Unfortunately, scouts scoffed a little at his play in his senior season, claiming he could be tested against faster DEs that he had trouble locking on to at times.
Given the ideal combination of brains and brawn, expect him to contribute to the line, although not necessarily off the bat.
This one might be a gamble, but one that could pay off big.
Scouts rave at Burton’s versatility. He can run a 4.5 on the 40 or better. He’s a good blitzer and will play the run as well as any DB out there.
Questions loom over the fact that he’s started for only two years and opted to forego his senior year for the draft. His strength also doesn’t seem to be up to par with his peers, a liability that might scare some teams away.
The best guess here would be to start him off in a nickel package and have him work his way up under the tutelage of veterans like Quentin Jammer.
Like the rest of the defense, the Charger corners performed admirably as a whole in 2010. What they lacked was depth and a CB with the playmaking abilities of a Cromartie when football was still his priority. In other words, a player is needed who can create that key turnover in the game when needed.
Consider, for instance, that Antoine Cason was the leader in interceptions with four and you realize where improvement is needed. Burton has always been a player offenses don’t pick on. Now is the time to see if he can cement that reputation at the next level.
Again, playmakers (sorely) needed.
Safety Eric Weddle led the Chargers in tackles last season with 96, suggesting that running backs might have spent a little more time in the Chargers secondary than they should have.
Wright has the durability and the football IQ to play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. He is known for diagnosing plays well and finding the football in any situation, not to mention possessing that quick burst that should enable him to stay with most tailbacks or TEs in pass coverage.
The knock on Wright has been that he was out of position too often and will have to improve on his stats in pass coverage. Zero career interceptions in college most likely dropped him at least one round. This also means scouts project him as a weak side LB. Bad hands are a liability for any linebacker aspiring to play every down in this league, something he will need to improve on.
His history so far seems to suggest that he is very coachable and can provide leadership on the field, having been the defensive captain on the Bulldogs. His durability is commendable, as he has never missed a game since his freshman year.
In all, you have to like this match.
In the late third round, you would have to consider McDaniel a steal. Armed with a fast pair of wheels and considerable strength, scouts agree he could play both safety positions.
Admittedly, his stock went down considerably following his senior season. Scouts seem to think that he seemed to have lost a step, which his 40 time at the combine confirmed.
One glance at his record, however, will make football front offices froth at the mouth.
His best season was his junior year in 2009, when he made a whopping 102 tackles, eight interceptions and two sacks. His coaches preferred to play him at strong safety, a subtle hint that he might not have all the tools to cover the entire gridiron as a roaming free safety.
What is undeniable is that the Chargers need more depth here too. For years the Chargers have been missing a playmaker at either free or strong safety, a game breaker with the tools of a Dawkins or a Polamalu.
McDaniel in Round 3 would be a solid pick and a player who could make an immediate impact with the proper guidance.
There are many ifs with this players, but GM A.J. Smith has been known to make believers out of candidates like these.
Cam Newton’s favorite target, Darvin Adams could add both depth as a wide receiver and a special teams player that, it should go without saying, needs an upgrade.
As a punt returner, he could also ease the load on Darrel Sproles, who could contribute in more ways to the offense if freed from the majority of kick and punt returns.
By now, we have also established how receivers can benefit from the abilities of a Phillip Rivers and a Norv Turner run offense, which is why Adams might be the ideal fit for this offense.
The question here remains is whether he will still last until the sixth round, a bone of contention between the league’s scouts. This is a guy who could contribute right away, although it might take another year or two to crack the starting lineup.
His size and slight built are a concern, but if he can give the Chargers 10-15 more pounds, this could translate to 10-15 plays a game on special teams and the offense, meaning this pick will have more than paid for itself.
Scouts have him projected as going from somewhere in the fifth round to not being drafted at all. Personally, I think this would be a clever late-round pick. Rejected mostly for his size, it’s hard to disagree with the assertion here that Kendall Smith is a safety playing out of position.
One thing is indisputable: he has tremendous speed for a linebacker which could help on third down situations in pass coverage and on the kicking teams.
If he can bulk up and add five to 10 more pounds, then he can give the Chargers that lift in the 3-4 inside that they have been missing, assuming that the Chargers retain the 3-4. This would be his best bet. In a 4-3, it would be hard to see Smith getting too much playing time, except for third-down situations and passing downs.
His playmaking abilities are top of the shelf, although people still doubt whether he can be starting material. I think he could fill in ably and provide 10 plays on defense per game with 10 more on special teams.