Although widely regarded as one of the most talented teams in pro football, the San Diego Chargers still have positions on the roster where improvement is needed. Whether adding quality depth behind an existing player or looking to upgrade over an incumbent starter, the Chargers will turn to the NFL Draft to address their team needs.
UPDATE: SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 2010 DRAFT NEEDS
The college bowl and all-star games have come and gone. The Scouting Combine is now behind us, and Pro Day workouts are just about completed. The dust has begun to settle and teams are beginning to assemble their draft boards. As players are being get shuffled around, stocks rising and falling, NFL clubs are keying in on their draft day targets. With the 2009 NFL Draft less than a month away, the San Diego Chargers are reviewing their needs and formulating their plans.
According to BoltHype.com, the San Diego Chargers' top draft needs in 2009 are:
1. Safety / Cornerback (Strong Need, 1st-3rd round)
It is clear that the Chargers desperately need to upgrade their safety position opposite Eric Weddle. Clinton Hart has no business starting for an NFL team, especially not one competing for a championship. A liability in run support, Hart also struggles in coverage where he is too often late with over-the-top help. Hart gets abused by tight ends and approaches ball carriers with trepidation.
It should be noted that I have listed Defensive Back as a need. If the Chargers decide they like Paul Oliver or Antonie Cason as a safety, then that Changes the safety need to cornerback. Antonio Cromartie is auditioning for his job this season and unless he improves his effort, he wont be resigned. Quentin Jammer is quietly aging and the secondary all but fell apart against the Steelers when Jammer was forced to the sidelines with an injury.
The Chargers have shown that they are not shy about spending top draft picks on secondary help, and they may go to that well again this year.
2. Offensive Tackle (Strong Need, 1st-2nd round)
The right side of the Chargers offensive line was suspect last season. AJ Smith is placing a priority on improving the run game, and he very well may bring in help via the draft. The Chargers left right offensive guard walk in free agency, and have signed right tackle Jeromey Clary to only a one year deal. Clary is in a make or break year, and as a former 6th round pick playing on a one year contract, there are no guarantees that he has a long-term future in San Diego. Personally, I like Clary and think he is a decent starter. That being said, he struggled last year and even if he improves this season, the Chargers lack depth at the position and will have to bring in help.
Adding a top right tackle could move Clary into guard or force him into a back-up role. The Chargers need to make major improvements in the running game if they hope to play well in December and January, and a quality offensive tackle could be the key.
3. Defensive Tackle / Defensive End (Medium Need, 2nd-4th round)
The departure of former starting DE Igor Olshansky brings to focus the lack of depth along the defensive line. The Chargers like rotating in Ryon Bingham and Jacques Cesaire at defensive end, and they get real production out of the duo. Combined, Bingham and Cesaire produced 47 tackles and 3.5 sacks, which is quite good. The impact of losing of Olshansky is softened by the fact the Ron Rivera had already all but stopped using Olshansky in the second half of last season. Rivera wanted a little more athleticism from his line and increasingly played Bingham and Cesaire over Olshansky.
While the Chargers figure to be okay at Defensive End, they would still need another body there to compete for a starting job. Additionally, they continue to roll the dice each year hoping Jamal Williams holds up for the entire season. He is as dominant as ever, but Williams is 32 years old and takes a beating down there in the trenches. Having played in 147 games in his 11 year career, Williams has more wear and tear on his body than anyone on the Chargers. The team would be smart to take the pressure off Williams by bringing in a Defensive Tackle to play the "Zero."
4. Tailback / Fullback (Medium Need, 3nd-5th round)
Ladianian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles are in the fold for 2009, but will they remain in San Diego in 2010? There is some discussion that Sproles might be traded come draft day, the Chargers could very well move him to recoup a second round draft pick. Word is Tomlinson could get north of 300 carries next season, but how will his body hold up to such an intense load, and how much longer can he be such a workhorse?
Jacob Hester's role is also in question; is he a tailback or a fullback? If the coaching staff thinks he fits better as a ball carrier, the they could try to draft a true fullback on day-two. The running game suffered without Lorenzo Neal, and the Chargers could try to pair LT with another bruising fullback via the draft.
5. Best Player Available / Wild Cards
A. Inside Linebacker
With the addition of Kevin Burnett and the retention of Matt Wilhelm, it looks as if the San Diego Chargers are prepared to head into 2009 with inside linebackers Burnett, Wilhelm, Cooper, Dobbins, and Siler. Cooper is solid at inside linebacker, but the Chargers are still evaluating their options opposite him. All signs are pointing to Burnett earning the job, but Brandon Siler is an emerging player who is also one of the hardest hitting players on the team. Siler has proved to be a crucial goalline and special teams player, and it's only a matter of time before he sees more action on defense.
The Chargers don't have a pressing need at inside linebacker, but Rey Maualuga would be a player who they could not pass up. Aside from Maualuga, I don't expect the Chargers to spend a significant pick on an inside linebacker.
B. Tight End
Tight End is interesting because besides Antonio Gates, who else do the Chargers have? Gates is coming up on the end of his contract, and while the Chargers will do every thing they can to extend him, the team is also trying to sign QB Philip Rivers and OT Marcus McNeill. If the Chargers can only afford two out of the three, Gates is likely the odd man out.
Blocking specialist Brandon Manumaleuna is in the last year of his contract and Scott Chandler has been injured every year he's been on the Chargers. Chandler needs a productive year to keep his job, but if he emerges the Chargers might be more willing to let Manumaleuna leave in free agency. The Chargers could potentially draft a tight end as depth, someone who blocks well and can catch-and-run with the football.
C. Wide Receiver
Vincent Jackson has developed into an impressive player who can stretch the defense and fight for the ball in traffic. He has produced the first 1000 yard season by a receiver since Curtis Conway in 2001. But Jackson is coming up on the end of his rookie contract and with mulitple DUIs on his record, he has lost some trust among the front office.
Chris Chambers had an off year last season, partly due to nagging injuries, and partly due to Norv Turner's desire to get Vincent Jackson the ball downfield. In my mind, Chambers was playing out of position as the X, but he is a far more polished route runner than Jackson and could more effectively handle the "Out" routes while Jackson could focus on running basic "Go's" and "Curls." I think Chambers is a find wide receiver and the Chargers are better with him than without.
Craig 'Buster' Davis on the other hand, has a mountain to climb in order to justify his lofty draft status as former first rounder. Davis has done essentially nothing in the NFL and needs to prove he is tough enough to play in the NFL. When AJ Smith said certain players were on notice, he almost certainly was talking about Davis.
While the Chargers figure to solid at receiver in 09, they may decide to draft a player who can bring value as a return man.
Labels: NFL Draft 2009
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