San Diego Chargers Draft Needs 2009

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.


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, 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.

March 31, 2009

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Jeff said... Mar 31, 2009, 1:10:00 AM

i agree with your ranking of our needs coming into the season. Improving our secondary is vital for defense to keep our opponents points to a minimum. Our defensive line is very thin in depth especially with Igor gone, Jamal getting old and battered, and Castillo who seems to be made out of glass. Our linebacker core and our makeshift defensive line will allow us to bend and not break as long as our secondary is shored up.
There are no big names in the secondary in this years draft, so we may be able to draft a safety in the later rounds. In the first round i think we should aim for a D-tackle/end like tyson jackson from LSU.. or go for an OT like michael oher.. (if hes still available at 16). As much as I would love to see Rey Maualuga in bolts.. he is not our most pressing need.. but if Jackson and Oher arn't there.. i believe we should get maualuga.. It'd also be interesting if we drafted beanie wells.. LT's days are almost over.. which is unfortunate..

Anonymous said... Mar 31, 2009, 9:50:00 AM

"We need another Donnie Edwards type player in this years draft." Deffinately OL too. Would like to see them pick up a great safty two!

bryce hiker said... Mar 31, 2009, 7:11:00 PM

Scott Chandler is not a blocking TE: He is not a replacement for Brandon Manumaleuna

They are happy with Mike Tolbert and won't be spending a high pick on Fullback. Besides Turner doesn't run alot of 2 back sets.

Yes Cason or Oliver may be moved to Strong Safety.

The 1st round pick will be a back if Moreno or Wells are still on the board. If not they will draft the Best OL or DT available.

JD said... Mar 31, 2009, 8:36:00 PM

We need a inside linebacker with some umph. If we could get a great middle linebacker it would help with the pass rush, coverage and relieve the pressure on Williams to stop the inside run. Besides can you imagine Lights Out and Phillips on the outside and Maualuga onthe inside. But, Rey Maualuga is gone then we need a running back. Tomlinson won't be around for ever, and I LOVE Sproles but we need youth. The secondary wil be better with Rivera coaching a full year and lights out being back.

Denver really screwed up.

Anonymous said... Mar 31, 2009, 9:13:00 PM

Maualuga might slip to us as most teams are in need of an OLB (Cushing, Maybin, Matthews, Orakpo, Brown) and Denver might as well go for B.J. Raji as it is their most pressing need, or possibly a QB now ?

Anonymous said... Apr 1, 2009, 11:52:00 AM

Great article: my take is that with Merriman back (if he's the same old Merriman) will increase our run and passing defense (quicker to the qb, more quick throws, more penetration, more success for db's). If he's not, we need severe help on D-Line first, then secondary with all of them on notice to be very aggresive (Hart, Cromartie), Middle Linebacker is my second concern behind d-line...out is Wilhelm, in is ?. So D.Line first, then middle linebacker, then backfield. On offense, first O.Line, then a running back. We're more potent on offense then we were potent on defense. Need the penetration first to hurry up any offense, if we do, the db's don't look so bad.

Anonymous said... Apr 1, 2009, 1:33:00 PM

I doubt we are going to see a DB as first choice 2 years in a row. I would think consideration should be made for moving Jammer to safety. He has developed into a pretty darn good hitter and I think he has the mentality to play it. Put Cason in his CB spot. A backup for these guys can be found in the later rounds.
I think Def & Off line should be the priority. The Off line struggled greatly because the right side was really weak. I'm not sold on Clary at all. Maybe he could be a guard but he's overwhelmed at the tackle spot. They need a dozer to plow the road for LT at the right side and need it now. Like others have said, Jamaal isn't going to last that much longer. Father-time always wins.
If by some miracle Maualuga is there I'd take him. That's just too much talent and ferocity to pass up.

Neoplatonist Bolthead said... Apr 1, 2009, 5:39:00 PM

I think the Bolts really need to trade down badly. Jackson looks like a good 5-Tech DE, but I think a lot of what soured Rivera on Igor is that Rivera isn't Wade P, and an Igor clone isn't the fix. Maualuga looks like he'll rock, but I think that Siler and Burnett will be a pretty solid Moe committee going forward, so a first-rounder ILB isn't necessarily the best option. A RT would be nice, but they might be able to get a fine one in the second round. I think they should try to get their own 2nd-round pick back from the Patriots. NE has picks 34 and 47; on the draft value chart, that's 990 points, as opposed to 1000 for #16. NE would still have their own 2nd-rounder, and would be able to move up 7 spots from their current first pick without actually burning their first-round pick, and SD would get as-good-as-any shots at their RT and SS of the future.

Anonymous said... Apr 1, 2009, 6:06:00 PM

Your grammar is so bad that it hurts to read this article

Anonymous said... Apr 2, 2009, 2:06:00 PM

AJ will pick the best guys available and sign some undrafted guy who will become an all-pro

Go Chargers!!! Miami here we come

Anonymous said... Apr 4, 2009, 12:47:00 AM

We need playmakers on defense. I'm hoping for R. Maulauga from USC. I hope I spelled his name right. He is better than Keith Rivers and Keith Rivers was having a solid rookie season till he had his jaw broken so I believe Maulauga will be a playmaker in the NFL, however, there is just one thing I'm worried about - his 40 yard time is a little slow. These NFL players are not as fast as I thought. I was nothing more than a street player but I am not that much slower than these guys. Maulauga and Merriman with Phillips on the outside will create a formidable defense and Maulauga is known to be the hardest hitter in the draft. He and Merriman will intimidate.

Jordan Xavier B said... Apr 5, 2009, 11:57:00 AM

great article and opinions. I dont think people realize how HUGE Lorenzo Neal was and whoever said tolbert is doing ok is wrong. He stopped playing at the end of the season because he couldn't produce. We need another Mack Truck like Lo Neal. Our line has struggled the last 2 years, but it was more evident last year because neal was gone.

With that... In AJ smith I believe. Lets go Bolts!

Anonymous said... Apr 5, 2009, 1:32:00 PM

Tony Fiammetta FB could be a possibility in the later rounds and lets not hope for another Hester move by AJ

Anonymous said... Apr 6, 2009, 12:55:00 PM

Rob - You pretty much got it right except I would put inside linebacker as #4 and put RB at the bottom - no way do they trade Sproles and his lofty salary has nothing to do with it! LT will be ready + the Sproles combo is potentially mind boggling. We have a big need at ILB opposite Cooper, who is great - I am sick of seeing Wilhelm chase ball carriers around the field. How is this guy still on the team?

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