A Different Approach To The 2011 NFL Draft

As we near the home stretch in the countdown to this year’s NFL Draft, team scouts and General Managers around the league are undoubtedly playing out each and every possible scenario for their respective teams in preparation for April 28th. Several players have been linked with the Bolts at this point and plenty of misdirection has been levied by a number of different clubs as the line between fact and fiction becomes more and more blurred.

While the majority of the experts have linked the Chargers to primarily defensive players up to now, it only seems reasonable that we should consider the possibility of the Bolts looking to bolster their offensive line in round one. The defensive line class is quite deep and with five picks in the first 89 selections of this year’s draft, chances are the team could still land a potential day one starter in the second or even third round. Chargers’ director of college scouting John Spanos said: “This is a big offseason for us, a big draft for us. We’re excited.”

Although the offensive tackle class is thought to be a bit weak at the top this year, there will likely be several possibilities still on the board when the Bolts first round pick at 18th overall rolls around.

Perhaps the man with the most upside potential is former Southern California product Tyron Smith who is quite an athlete, but his lack of bulk does concern some when projecting him to the next level. He added some weight for the NFL Scouting Combine, but he could be a poor man’s D’Brickashaw Ferguson at the next level and will be limited to playing at the left tackle spot.

The top two are arguably interchangeable and Colorado’s Nate Solder is the latter half of that tandem. At 6’8”319lbs., Solder certainly has the prototypical size to be a blindside protector in the NFL and many believe he will be gone by the time the Chargers are on the clock.

Behind those two highly touted names lie both Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin and Anthony Castanzo of Boston College each of whom fit into the right tackle mold where the Bolts need the most help. Jeromey Clary has been a below average right tackle for the last two seasons committing mindless penalties and allowing sacks far too easily far too often. His run blocking is perhaps the one asset that has allowed him to hang on with the team during his career, but even those numbers have declined recently as the club has become more and more one-dimensional.

These inexcusable lapses from Clary may finally pave his way out of town this offseason with the team not committing to him long-term as of now. In order for the Bolts to get to running the ball like they did in the days of Marty Ball (bet you never thought you’d hear that again), an upgrade at right tackle would certainly be a step in the right direction. Marty Schottenheimer may have never gotten this team over the hump in the postseason, but at least his teams never lacked intensity and strength at the line of scrimmage.

It seemed obvious to assume that General Manager A.J. Smith’s presence at the Wisconsin pro day was to watch defensive end J.J. Watt in action, but it is also quite possible that Smith had his eye on Carimi as well. Technique is the only real question mark with the massive 6’7” 314lbs. former Badger, but his mauler blocking style is perfectly tailored to play on the right side of the offensive line.

Castanzo also has been given high marks during the pre-draft evaluation as he plays with flawless technique sinking his hips well and maintaining a great spine angle even on the move. Overall strength is a concern when looking at this BC product however as he had a tendency to be overwhelmed when matched up against a more powerful edge rusher. His lack of quickness off the snap also is a cause for concern and could be a contributing factor to his vulnerability to superior size and strength.

The Bolts could certainly decide to postpone the makeover on the offensive line until the second or third rounds and still find some awfully talented players at that point in the selection order. A small school prospect like Villanova’s Benjamin Ijalana in round two could certainly interest GM Smith who has a penchant for under the radar players. At 6’4” 317lbs., this Division II product is built more like a guard and plays with a low center of gravity which lends itself well to run blocking and maintaining an advantage in leverage.

With a top heavy draft this year having those five picks in the first 89 and only one other selection after that in the sixth round, much of the Bolts’ fortunes will ride on their ability to make sound decisions in the first three rounds. That’s not to say that this hasn’t been the case already recently with a staggering 8 of the last 13 picks for the Chargers dating back to 2008 taken beyond the third round failing to even play a down in San Diego to this point.

The pressure rests squarely on the shoulders of team management this offseason to turn things in the right direction and revamp this Bolts roster as they try to avoid missing the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2004.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think the Chargers draft will have a defensive focus in the first round or will they surprise the consensus and go offense? Which offensive tackle do you think fits the team’s style best and would help revitalize a struggling running game? Would GM Smith take a chance on drafting a small school prospect like Ijalana in the second round ala Vincent Jackson or would that be too big of a reach? Is the lack of success in the later rounds of the draft for the Chargers a big reason for their recent decline in playoff success or just a coincidence? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

March 22, 2011

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cczer08 said... Mar 22, 2011, 1:03:00 PM

I would say lack of success in the draft of late has been a huge factor for the Chargers in terms of their recent decline. Not just the later rounds, but the entire draft. From 2007-2010, the Chargers have gotten very little production from the draft. Yes, they have a couple of productive starters in Eric Weddle and Antoine Cason, but they have far more picks from that period of time who have faild to live up to expectations or are no longer on the team. They should draft heavily on defense this year, with a new RT coming from the 2nd or 3rd round. However, as we all know with AJ, no matter how obvious the needs seem to be there is no way to predict that he will actually address them.

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