NFL Draft 2011 Grades: San Diego Chargers' First-Round Analysis

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IApril 29, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  Corey Liuget, #18 overall pick by the San Diego Chargers, holds up a jersey on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The San Diego Chargers desperately needed to find a left defensive end, as Jacques Cesaire will be hitting the free-agent market come Friday. All of the mock drafts had them choosing Cal’s Cameron Jordan if he happened to be available. He was available, but the Chargers instead selected DT Corey Liuget from Illinois.

General Manager A.J. Smith's primary focus was adding a quality player to his defense front, and Liuget is versatile enough to play either end or tackle. He thrives in playing the gap to utilize his size, strength and quickness in disrupting plays behind the line of scrimmage. What an addition to a unit that finished first in the league in total defense last season.

Early in his collegiate career, Liuget was questioned about his conditioning and commitment to football, but no more. At the NFL Combine, he impressed several teams with his maturity and the willingness to pay the price in becoming the best at his position. 

Looking ahead to the second day of the draft, Smith will have a great opportunity to add depth to his roster, as he will have four choices (50, 61, 82 and 89) to make on Friday evening. There is some scuttlebutt that he will trade up in the second round to acquire DE Da’Quan Bowers, a true pass rusher that the Chargers lack.

One possible player they could draft is North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant, who has the skills to become the anchor of the defense from the inside linebacker position. He makes quick reads in locating the ball-carrier for key losses in the backfield.

Smith will also be looking for a replacement for Vincent Jackson, who was franchise tagged for the upcoming season and could leave via free agency in 2012. Philip Rivers can make any receiver look good, as he completed a pass to 17 different receivers last season, but he lacked that one playmaker who could consistently extend drives.

San Diego Chargers First Round Grade: B+