With the 2011 NFL draft less than three weeks away, mock drafts around the football world are beginning to take fans beyond the first two rounds.
While it is never easy to predict exactly how a team will execute its draft until the big day is actually upon us, it is fun to speculate about what possibilities may happen.
I don't think any Chargers fan could have possibly foreseen the move that was made by general manager A.J. Smith during the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. Smith jumped 16 spots to select running back Ryan Mathews with the 12th overall pick.
Could we see Smith work some draft-day trade magic this year? I sure hope so, especially with some of the holes the Chargers need to fill.
The Chargers have seven selections in this year's draft and are sitting pretty with three selections within the first two rounds.
While I took a very broad approach in creating this mock for the Chargers, I tried to narrow it down to the players who I felt could make an impact. The Chargers need to fill holes at DE, DT, OLB, ILB, RT, WR, CB and FS.
It will be very interesting to see how things will continue to unfold as we get closer to the start of the draft on April 28.
When it comes to the Chargers' first selection overall in the 2011 NFL draft, there has been much speculation
Some mock drafts have San Diego spending its first pick on a linebacker, while other mock drafts have the Chargers selecting a defensive end. The consensus is that a defensive player is going to come off the board with the 18th overall pick.
I'm still very high on Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt. He was explosive at the combine and carried on that performance at Wisconsin's pro day.
I have Watt still available on the big board when the Chargers come up.
Should Chargers general manager A.J. Smith feel the same way I do about Watt, I could see him pulling off another draft-day trade to move up and select him should Smith feel that Watt would not be available when the Chargers are slated to pick.
Watt could instantly provide a spark on defense that the Chargers are in desperate need of.
In a previous mock draft I had done, I had the Chargers using the 50th overall pick to select Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews, but when Matthews injured himself at the combine, I changed the selection.
I was definitely impressed with Martez Wilson's performance at the combine, and I believe it helped his draft stock as well.
Wilson could be an immediate contender for a starting inside linebacker position and challenge Brandon Siler for his job. He's a solid pass rusher.
It could be a stretch for Wilson to be available when the 50th overall pick comes around. Some mock drafts have Wilson being picked as high as the late first round, while other mock drafts have him scattered throughout the early and middle second round.
Should the Chargers maintain their first of two picks in the second round, barring a trade up in the first round, I feel that if he is still on the board when the Chargers are ready to select, it would be in their best interest to grab him.
The Chargers experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to have a passing offense when all of the targets you normally throw the ball to are injured or, in Vincent Jackson's case, sitting on the sideline because he didn't get the contract he wanted.
At 6'5", 230 lbs., Baldwin has a perfect wide receiver frame and solid hands. He could become a favorite target of Philip Rivers. At the NFL combine, Baldwin ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
I'm not completely sold on Baldwin just yet. However, I think that he would thrive in a Chargers offense that over the past two seasons has focused more on passing. He never had a great quarterback to throw him the ball while playing at Pittsburgh, and that would definitely change once he got to San Diego.
I believe that Baldwin possesses solid skills, and with proper coaching at the NFL level, he could eventually become a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver.
Baldwin would suit the Chargers' needs in case the franchise player tag doesn't make it into the next collective bargaining agreement and Malcom Floyd is wooed away by another team during free agency.
If the Chargers decide to draft him, Baldwin would definitely have to keep his nose clean. Back in May of 2009, he was arrested and charged with assault, harassment and disorderly conduct. On a positive note, all of the charges were dropped.
Mississippi State linebacker K.J. Wright is definitely a solid choice towards the middle of the second round. The consensus of mock drafts published right now show Wright as a late third-round to mid fourth-round selection.
If he is still available when the Chargers are scheduled to draft with the 82nd pick, then I think it would be a good idea to take a look at him.
Wright would provide immediate depth at a position where the Chargers are very thin. Of course Chargers fans are still waiting for the emergence of first-round draft pick Larry English, who has been plagued by injuries since being drafted in 2009. However, I feel that Wright could challenge English for the starting job during training camp.
Wright is a solid football player and possesses amazing physical tools. He is a versatile player and very well rounded. I believe that with the number of linebackers available in this year's draft, Wright is definitely underrated.
With 2010 second-round draft pick Donald Butler coming off an injury sustained in training camp last year and the possibility of drafting K.J. Wright, both men could prove to be the one-two pass-rushing punch the Chargers have been looking for.
The Chargers will be looking to bolster their secondary through the draft. Quentin Jammer is no spring chicken, and Antoine Cason still needs a lot more time to develop into a potential Pro Bowl-caliber defensive back.
I'm not the biggest fan of drafting a defensive back in the first round because of the fact that defensive backs need at least one to two seasons of actual playing time.
The Chargers would be getting one heck of a deal by drafting Chimdi Chekwa with their second pick in the third round.
Chekwa is an athletic player and has the physical skills that are necessary to be a starting cornerback in the NFL. He displays bursts of speed and has no problem mixing it up with receivers. Chekwa also gets his hands on the ball to break up catches. He possesses great run-stopping skills and can make solid open-field tackles.
There is a downside to Chekwa though. He suffered a broken wrist that required surgery to repair it.
This pick for the Chargers could be a complete stretch. A consensus of mock drafts had the Chargers either taking Cameron or taking another defensive back in Chris L. Rucker.
Don't get me wrong—adding another six-foot-tall corner to the Chargers secondary in Rucker wouldn't be a bad thing. However, I feel that the Bolts may be looking for a backup to Antonio Gates.
Gates is one of the best tight ends to wear a Chargers uniform since Kellen Winslow, but with the injuries that have plagued him over the past two seasons, drafting Cameron might be a solid move.
Cameron is one of the top 10 tight ends in this year's draft. However, he might not see his name called until the third day, not because he isn't a great football player, but because other position needs of NFL teams.
In addition to playing football, Cameron also played basketball while at USC and uses those skills to go vertical in a crowd. He also possesses the ability to extend his arms and catch balls thrown outside of his long, lean muscular frame. Cameron is light on his feet with great agility that allows him to create separation coming out of his breaks and shake defenders.
The Chargers boosted their secondary this offseason by acquiring free-agent strong safety Bob Sanders, and with the possible departure of Eric Weddle, the Chargers will be looking to add a free safety to their defensive backfield.
This pick is also another toss-up. If the Chargers go with Jordan Cameron for their first pick in the sixth round and Williams has already come off the board, they may go with adding defensive back Chris L. Rucker instead.
Williams is a big free safety, coming in at 6'2", 205 lbs. The Chargers could definitely use someone with size in the secondary.
He is an aggressive playmaker who won't hesitate to lay his shoulder into an opposing ball carrier.
There is a downside though. On December 31 at the Music City Bowl, Williams suffered a broken left leg. Questions have arisen on whether he will be healthy and be able to maintain that health after coming off a serious injury.
With his size and athleticism, I believe he is worth taking a chance on.
The Chargers have been in desperate need of a nose tackle since Jamal Williams left for Kansas City via free agency.
While Dexter Larimore may not prove to be the solution the Chargers are looking for, he could provide depth at position that saw a few players rotate throughout the season due to injuries.
A consensus of mock drafts have Larimore going in the mid sixth to mid seventh round.
Larimore wasn't invited to the NFL combine; however, he posted solid numbers during Ohio State's pro day. He ran a 5.11-second 40-yard dash and had 32 reps in the bench press.
He is a hard-working defensive lineman who gets off the ball with a solid and quick first step. He is incredibly explosive at the point of attack and uses his hands well to protect himself. Larimore would work effectively in a four-man line. However, I believe he would do well in the Chargers defense by plugging up holes.