As the Chargers look to retool this offseason, there are a few directions in which they may go with their picks. As careful observers of the Chargers' approach to the draft, we've noticed certain trends have emerged. In terms of how much value the Chargers place on each of the different positions, and considering current team needs along with the Chargers draft history, we think it breaks down as follows:
EARLY ROUND VALUE
Defensive Tackle: Considering the unique 3-man front that the Chargers employ, there is more projection involved when identifying potential defensive line draft prospect. College teams don't normally play 3-4 full-time; as a result, the prospects who might fit that pro-style defense are premium commodities - nose tackle specifically. Additionally, players who can project to the 5-technique (defensive end in a 3-4) are also highly coveted because they do so much for the defense. The Chargers have previously invested a first round pick in a 5 technique when they drafted Luis Castillo, so it will certainly be a consideration for them in the first round.
Offensive Tackle: Looking around the league, the vast majority of the starting left tackles (23) were picked within the first two rounds. As one of the most important positions on the field, prospects who can be immediate starters at the left tackle position are highly coveted and don't last long on draft day. While the Chargers don't have a current need for a left tackle, there is still an undefined starter at right tackle. Players who can swing from left or right tackle are in demand these days, and the Chargers have obviously placed high value on the position before when the drafted Marcus McNeill in the second round. The Chargers are always looking for offensive lineman.
Defensive Backs: As another of those "premium positions" - the Chargers currently have three first-round cornerbacks on their roster. With Antonio Cromartie moving on shortly, the Chargers will need to replace him on the depth chart. At this point its obvious the team targets defensive backs early in the draft (Eric Weddle in the second round trade-up), and this year should be no different. Will the Chargers draft a cornerback in the first round? That remains to be seen; there are circumstances that have yet to be resolved, but it will certainly be a consideration for them.
Outside Linebacker: Two of the Chargers' outside linebackers are former first-round picks; Larry English and Shawne Merriman. The Chargers appear set at the position - at least for now. But the purpose of this post is not to predict the pick necessarily, but rather to examine the trend the Chargers have displayed. And there is no doubt, considering the 3-4 defense they play, the Chargers have no hesitation drafting pass rushing linebackers in the first round.
EARLY TO MID ROUND VALUE
Running Back: Michael Turner and Darren Sproles are the most high-profile recent examples of the Chargers' ability to find good running backs in the mid rounds, but Jacob Hester and the released Marcus Thomas and Gartrell Johnson were also recent draft picks taken in the mid rounds.
Wide Receiver: As good as he has become, Vincent Jackson was a second round pick project. Craig Buster Davis on the other was a first round pick who has yet to pan out. And Legedu Naanee was a fifth round pick out of Boise State. The Chargers have shown they place value in the early to mid rounds on the wide receiver position.
MID TO LATE ROUND VALUE
Center/Offensive Guard: The Chargers have done a good job at drafting interior linemen in the mid round rounds. Nick Hardwick and Luis Vasquez are two talent young linemen taken in the third round. As is typical of the Chargers, they will likely invest late round draft picks along the offensive line.
Inside Linebacker: The inside linebacker position has shown to be pretty much plug-and-play in the Chargers 3-4 defense. As such, the team has typically waited until the mid to late rounds to draft inside linebackers; Tim Dobbins and Brandon Siler are examples. They also tend to bring in a lot of undrafted free agents at the linebacker position.
Tight End: The Chargers haven't had much luck when in comes to drafting tight ends. In fact, their best pickup at the position, Antonio Gates, went undrafted. It would come as a surprise to see the Chargers jump on a tight end early - they like to wait towards the latter rounds before zeroing in on a tight end.
Do you see any trends when it comes to the Chargers draft history? What direction do you think AJ Smith and staff will go in the first round? How about in the mid rounds? Sound off below, all takes are welcome!
Labels: NFL Draft 2010
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