Paired with running back as the most obvious need for San Diego, the position of nose tackle also stands as one much more difficult to fill.
The deep running back pool this year means that San Diego can afford to miss out on their first or second choice while still securing a great back.
At the nose position the well runs dry much sooner.
Dan Williams is the consensus top prospect at the position, but would have to slip through a minefield of candidates including Miami (who can check Dez Bryant off the wish list) at No. 12. Should he somehow slip to 28 he is the obvious choice for San Diego in the first round.
Assuming Williams is taken off the board, the situation grows murky however.
Terrence Cody has been pegged anywhere from top 25 to the fourth round across his up and down offseason. Right now he has regained much of that lost ground by shedding his Senior Bowl poundage and looking a much more manageable 350.
The question of if he will be limited to being a two-down lineman actually makes San Diego something of an ideal landing place for Cody, as the Chargers have several talented but undersized linemen who could easily relive Cody on passing downs.
That makes this one a question of value. He may be available when San Diego selects in the upper reaches of the second round, but could just as easily be taken off the board.
The team might take a wait and see approach to this, hoping to secure him there rather than tie up the first-round choice in a player with conditioning issues.
The benefactor of this should be either Cam Thomas or Linval Joseph.
Thomas has been the unquestioned third-ranked nose tackle for the bulk of the offseason before Joseph slowly eased his way alongside Thomas recently.
They are very similar in size (both 6’4’’ with Thomas two pounds heavier at 330) but Joseph shows better workout numbers to Thomas’s experience advantage.
Smith has proven willing to pull the trigger on raw prospects and smaller-school standouts before; just last year he drafted Larry English out of Northern Illinois in the first round and Western Ontario alum Vaughn Martin in the fourth. Martin especially stands out as a player selected primarily off of raw physical potential over anything in-game.
That said, Thomas is much more NFL ready while still maintaining good athleticism. It becomes almost a pick ‘em scenario here with Thomas edging out Joseph.
The draft crop looks very thin after those names. Torrell Troup would be the third-round consolation pick after the first four, but needs to put on 10-15 pounds and is still a bit raw. Should San Diego still be looking here (or later) it would not be a surprise if the team elects to stay with who they have on the roster.
A late choice like Kade Weston could step in as the Ogemdi Nwabuo of 2010 however. He would stand as a late pick that may even be available as an undrafted free agent.
He has better size than the team’s current rotation at 6’5’’, 322, and is already experienced at the nose having played the 0 technique in college. He is much better at holding the point of attack rather than collapsing a pocket, showing good strength and leverage but mediocre burst and lateral movement.
Playing in a 3-4 that is much less of an issue as he should not be asked to slip blocks and make a play, but rather to tie up blockers in the middle and open up Siler and Cooper to operate freely.
Given the array of scenarios, I could see any one of the first four nose tackles going to San Diego. I think if the team waits for Round Two then Cam Thomas becomes the pick, but everything depends on who can fall where in the draft.