While the order may be in question, it is at least the general consensus that the team has three primary needs this offseason—cornerback, running back, and nose tackle. Having lost a starter at each of the three positions this offseason, San Diego needs to focus its efforts on those three ahead of all others.
Assuming that translates to a player drafted to each position in the first three rounds, that leaves the later stages of the draft up for debate. They lack a sixth round draft pick because of a trade for backup defensive lineman Travis Johnson, but hold the 28th position in all other rounds.
That gives them three mid-late draft picks to try and address the team’s lesser needs. Generally speaking, by that point in the draft, attentions turn to simply “the best player available” at any position not overflowing with depth.
Given that that strategy is not conducive to pre-draft speculation, let’s address those rounds from a more direct format of looking at needs over the impossible-to-predict availability.
As the fifth-to-last drafting team, San Diego is somewhat at the mercy of other teams. Because of this, the top one or two names in a given round are almost sure to be unavailable, another wrinkle in trying to figure out what to do.
At round four the team still has a solid chance of landing a player that can compete for a starting job. Because of this, the team must take into consideration where the team could use that type of competition.
The two most obvious would be right tackle and defensive end. Jeromey Clary and Jacques Cesaire are both very good rotation guys that only make adequate starters.
With a deeper mid-round field at offensive tackle, as well as much greater depth on the team at defensive end, RT is the fourth round position to address.
Kyle Calloway would be an excellent choice if he were still available. His availability may hinge on Jason Fox’s health concerns. If Fox’s health takes Calloway out of the equation early, then the situation muddies.
Selvish Capers and Ed Wang both are athletic prospects with solid upsides, but are also project tackles that would probably not compete for the job for at least a year.
Sam Young has better experience than either of the two and showed great promise in his junior year, but had a poor senior campaign that could be worrisome. He is, however, a giant and would give the team a pair of massive bookends.
In the fifth round the team has a few options. Personally, I feel the team might be better served making due at the position for the year so they can try and grab a player of greater value in 2011 (perhaps with that Antonio Cromartie pick).
Instead, San Diego can look to lesser needs with its final two picks. For the fifth round choice the team should pursue a wide receiver to address the limited depth at the position. Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd are secure as starters, while Legedu Naanee is a solid change of pace wideout.
After that, the team has Buster Davis, who has seen little action throughout his Chargers tenure and Demetrius Byrd, who may or may not be able to play football in 2010.
There are a host of good-sized receivers fitting the Chargers system that could be brought in around the fifth round.
Marcus Easley could be a great find as an unpolished player in need of some time. With the starters already in place, San Diego would be in a great position to oblige him that time and could reap the benefit with another Malcolm Floyd-type player in three or four years.
Another option could be a big possession-type receiver like Eric Decker. He wouldn’t be the downfield threat of Jackson or Floyd, but could complement them well by making 8-10-yard catches across the middle, making room for Gates to go deeper.
By the seventh round, a team is just looking for someone who may contribute in some fashion. Trying to find a starter is a tough proposition.
Because of this, San Diego should look more to niche players who have the potential to be solid at the specific role they do.
With Brandon Manumaleuna signing with the Chicago Bears, San Diego could use a new sixth-lineman type of tight end. Virginia Tech monster Greg Boone fits that bill. At 6'3", 283 pounds, he would be tremendously helpful for the team in short yardage and goal-line situations, where the team’s subpar running game could especially use help.
The other option would be the always useful offensive line depth. Dennis Landolt and Kyle Jolly would be solid options who could give the team depth, while actually having the skills and athleticism to be dark horse options to crack the starting lineup at right tackle.
Given San Diego’s recent history, and the probable loss of at least one more free agent, San Diego is likely to receive a compensatory pick in the fifth or sixth round, but as that is impossible to predict until announced, the current draft choices available stand at four, five, and seven.
With those, the San Diego Chargers could reap the benefits of taking:
4. Kyle Calloway or Sam Young
5. Marcus Easley
7. Greg Boone
On the surface it seems peculiar not addressing positions of greater need with the latter two picks, but picking quality players who can contribute should ultimately help the team more than hoping they land another late round, rookie starter like Kevin Ellison.