2012 NFL Mock Draft: San Diego Chargers Full Mock Draft 1.0
After reading the headline to this slideshow, many fans will think that this is quite early for a mock draft.
That may be true, but it's never to early to have a watch on NFL prospects.
As of late, the San Diego Chargers have been awful to watch, mainly because they're riding a six-game losing streak, including three to AFC West rivals Kansas City, Oakland and Denver. This streak disrupted a season where the Bolts had started the season 4-1.
The only positive outcome from this terrible season may be the firing of Norv Turner, who has continued to let the Chargers falter under his control. That, and San Diego will have better draft positions should they continue to lose.
San Diego has plenty of needs, some more important than others, but all can be filled next offseason. This mock draft is based off needs, the talent available and adding depth to certain areas.
Read and enjoy, as this won't be my last mock before next April comes about.
First-Round Pick: OLB Courtney Upshaw (Alabama)
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This pick seems too perfect, as it would make a ton of sense.
The San Diego Chargers have had a glaring weakness at OLB opposite from Shaun Phillips ever since Shawne Merriman's play declined and he was eventually removed from the team.
In 2009, A.J. Smith tried to provide that OLB the Bolts needed by drafting Larry English with the 16th pick of that year's NFL draft.
This was and still is a very confusing pick, considering Clay Matthews was still available.
English has since had injury problems and has never justified his case for being selected in the first round. Because of the major bust pick of English, San Diego is still in major need of a playmaking OLB.
Courtney Upshaw may be the answer to the Chargers' problems at OLB. Upshaw, a complete animal from the Crimson Tide, is the best OLB prospect in the 2012 NFL draft.
His play is outstanding against both the run and pass, and he also plays in the 3-4 defensive scheme at Alabama. Nick Saban, Alabama's head coach, has groomed this linebacker to be a successful player at the next level. He reminds many of the defensive stalwart on the Baltimore Ravens, Terrell Suggs.
Upshaw has the power needed to overpower offensive lines, while also having the speed and burst to simply rush around them. He's an athletic linebacker, and his coverage skills are decent, but it's certainly an area that could be worked on.
At 6'2", 265 lbs, his size and frame are perfect for playing as an NFL OLB.
In 2010, Upshaw recorded 52 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four forced fumbles.
This season, Upshaw has continued to produce with 44 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception that he returned 45 yards for a touchdown.
Upshaw's an absolute tank of an OLB and fits the highest need for the Chargers. Mark this pick as one that's very likely to happen.
Second-Round Pick: WR Marvin McNutt (Iowa)
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The San Diego Chargers currently have a receiving corps made up of Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Brown.
Jackson's play has been streaky this season, but he's still a great talent in the NFL.
The problem with Jackson will be his contract demands, as he's been asking for top-receiver money.
Chargers GM A.J. Smith will almost certainly not pay him that, due to Jackson's off-the-field issues and his age. Unless his demands come flying down, Charger Nation can expect to see Jackson in a different uniform next year.
If Jackson leaving is imminent, a franchise tag and trade scenario would seem probable.
Malcom Floyd shows all signs of being a great receiver for the Chargers, except he can't seem to stay on the field long enough without getting injured.
Floyd signed a two-year deal last offseason, so he would be under contract for next year, but San Diego can't depend on him to be a No. 1 wide receiver simply because of his durability problems.
Vincent Brown, the rookie receiver out of San Diego State, has been impressive in the time he's played thus far. His routes look crisp and he's shown that his hands are NFL-worthy.
Brown looks suited to be a No. 2 receiver or in the slot, though, so him being a No. 1 receiver for the Chargers is unlikely.
With all that said, San Diego will be looking for a receiver that has the potential to be a No. 1 in this year's draft, and they'll make their selection in the second round with the Iowa product, Marvin McNutt.
McNutt fits the ideal Chargers receiver mold. He's 6'4", 215 lbs with 4.4-4.5 40-yard dash speed. McNutt's hands are great, his routes are smooth and he knows how to go after a "jump ball."
An added bonus to this prospect is his good character. McNutt is putting up a fine senior season with 78 receptions, 1,269 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Third-Round Pick: TE Coby Fleener (Stanford)
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Antonio Gates has been a superstar for the Chargers throughout his entire career, but his years as a top tight end are coming to a slow close.
Gates was forced to miss 14 games the last two years due to turf toe and serious plantar fasciitis.
Both injuries coming on the feet of a tight end, which is certainly not something to ignore.
Granted, he has played well in his return, but he's also 31 years old, and it would be a smart move to add a young tight end in this year's draft.
One of the best tight end prospects is Stanford's Coby Fleener.
Fleener is a focal point in the Cardinal offense, as the tight end has 32 receptions for 648 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
Fleener has every skill a tight end should possess. He's got great size at 6'6", 244 lbs. His athleticism is superb, and his speed is better than that of most tight ends. His route-running ability is phenomenal, and it's close to impossible for a linebacker to cover him in man-coverage. He's also a very dependable blocker in the pass and run game.
I have no doubt that Fleener will be an X-factor in the NFL. His being utilized in a pro-style offense at Stanford only continues to help his case, and San Diego would have an unfair advantage by having both Gates and Fleener on the same offense.
The NFL has already seen offensive sets with two freakish tight ends, as New England uses Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to rip up defenses. The combination of Gates and Fleener would be just as scary.
When it's all said and done, Fleener should be a San Diego Charger this summer.
Fourth-Round Pick: OT Blake DeChristopher (Virginia Tech)
While it's not going to be considered a high priority by San Diego's front office, the Chargers will need to select a potential right tackle in this year's draft.
Jeromey Clary is not the answer there, but he is currently under contract for next season after being re-signed last summer to a two-year deal.
San Diego won't draft a tackle high in this draft for several reasons.
For starters, they don't necessarily like to do it, as shown by previous drafts.
Secondly, this draft is somewhat deep in terms of offensive tackles, but yet only three separate themselves as elite talents (Matt Kalil, Jonathan Martin and Riley Reiff).
These three studs are projected to be high first-round picks, and considering San Diego's biggest need is at OLB, the Chargers will pass on the thought of a lineman in the first round.
Here in the fourth round, Blake DeChristopher, the right tackle for Virginia Tech, will be available.
DeChristopher has been great in the Hokies offenses of recent past. He's been an anchor on the line and someone the VT running backs are confident running behind.
DeChristopher is 6'5" and weighs 311 lbs, which is a decent size for the NFL. He's athletic enough to run downfield while the play is in process. He's also a leader in the locker room, with his lengthy beard becoming a second mascot and a joking matter for the Hokies.
He's blocked for several productive players throughout his years at Virginia Tech.
He's pass-protected for Tyrod Taylor and Logan Thomas. He's also run-blocked for Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson. Each of those three having great careers as Hokies. Also, all three went over 1,500 yards rushing in different seasons.
This pick could turn out to be a steal in the mid-rounds for San Diego.
If DeChristopher is drafted to the Chargers, he would likely have at least one year to transition to the NFL before taking over at right tackle.
Fifth-Round Pick: WR/KR/PR T.Y. Hilton (FIU)
The Chargers should draft another receiver here in the later rounds.
As said earlier in this slideshow, there's a chance Vincent Jackson may not return to San Diego next season.
Patrick Crayton will surely not be brought back. The same goes for Richard Goodman with the way he's played this season.
Malcom Floyd's constant injuries may be enough for the Bolts to trade or release him, which would leave the team very thin at receiver. Through the draft and free agency, though, they could easily pick up the pieces needed to have a dangerous corps once again.
What's becoming a must-have in the NFL is a speed-threat receiver. The Pittsburgh Steelers are fortunate enough to have two in Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. The Philadelphia Eagles have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
It's been quite a while since the Chargers have had a legitimate, speedy receiver. For as long as most can remember, San Diego has been infatuated with tall, possession-type receivers. It's time Philip Rivers is given a receiver that can burn opposing defensive backs and get open quickly.
T.Y. Hilton is that type of receiver. Hilton has been leaving players in the dust throughout his whole college career.
He's a guy with 4.2 40-yard dash speed, the ability to make quick cuts and shiftiness that allows him to juke defenders to gain yards after the catch (YAC). Hilton is listed at 5'10", 183 lbs, but he might be slightly smaller than that.
Regardless of size, he's an absolute terror to match up with on offense and returns.
Sixth-Round Pick: OC Ben Bojicic (Bowling Green)
Nick Hardwick is getting older, and his days of being a Pro Bowler are behind him.
He's still a very effective center for the Chargers, but San Diego should find a future replacement while also adding depth to that position.
Bojicic is a five-year senior, due to him being redshirted his freshman season.
An interesting fact about Bojicic is that he's smart enough and talented enough to where he can play every position on the offensive line.
He's even played left tackle this season for the Falcons. This would seem useful, considering how many of the Chargers' linemen went down this season.
Bojicic isn't considered a great prospect or one that would start right away, which is fine for San Diego's purposes. He'd have the opportunity to learn as much as possible from Hardwick and the other seasoned linemen, while also being able to fill in when needed.
Seventh-Round Pick: QB Kellen Moore (Boise State)
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With a seventh-round pick, why not take a chance on the winningest QB in FBS history?
Moore has been the main reason Boise State has been relevant the last couple of seasons—without him, the Broncos would be nothing more than a team who played on blue turf.
He doesn't have the big QB mold, but he does have an accurate arm and a high football intelligence.
His anticipation on throws is underrated, and even though his arm strength is lacking, he can still fit the football in a lot of tight windows.
If there was a time Philip Rivers did go down to injury and Moore had to replace him, fans would feel fine with knowing that at least Moore has a chance to keep that game going. Even if it was a close game, Moore has the ability to lead his team down the field in clutch moments.
Billy Volek is getting older, and from how he played in the preseason this year, he looks to be dropping off in actual talent. He still knows the current offense, but with the head coaching position potentially going up in questions, what good does that even do?
Moore would be cheaper than Volek as a backup QB, while also allowing Moore a chance to make it with an NFL team.
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For those who are wondering why there aren't offensive lineman being selected higher in my mock draft, it's because I don't find it is a huge need in this year's draft
If not for injuries, San Diego would still sport one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.
Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeil are both on injured reserve. That's two former Pro Bowl lineman that the Chargers are without and basically the whole left side of the offensive line.
Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez have also missed plenty of time, and without them, San Diego has been forced to use players whom they shouldn't have needed to, thus causing the line to be weak and inexperienced, which are two descriptions an offensive line should never be.
All these injured players are expected to make healthy returns for the 2012 NFL season. When they do, San Diego's line should be back to how it was and not the absolute train wreck that is has been in 2011.