As the struggle to ascertain just which direction the Bolts may go in the 2011 NFL Draft’s opening round continues, the thing that remains definite is the crucial nature of this year’s draft class for the team. The team’s stockpile of ammunition to make some noise in the draft this time around only puts more pressure on the Bolts front office to add some quality players and make the most of those early picks. Don’t expect that to deter General Manager A.J. Smith from trusting his instincts and choosing the players that he feels are best suited to contribute to this Chargers team right away.
In the past, Smith’s style has often included trades during his tenure with the team from his infamous deal to acquire Philip Rivers on draft day in 2004 to his not so renowned deal trading up for Jacob Hester in 2008. The jury is still out on Smith’s aggressive mentality as far as last year’s draft is concerned moving up sixteen spots to snag running back Ryan Mathews, but that doesn’t mean his strategy is going to change any time soon.
Speaking of last year, the Chargers’ trade partner from that draft twelve months ago, the Miami Dolphins, are only three slots ahead of them in this year’s selection order, but the two teams between the Fins and Bolts are both in the market for similar style of players. Both the Jacksonville Jaguars at 16th overall and the New England Patriots at 17 are in the market for a defensive end which could take a player that the Bolts covet right out from under them in the middle of round one.
The idea of moving up just three positions from 18 to 15 doesn’t seem like it’s even worth the effort on paper, but it could mean a great deal in terms of the quality of player that the Chargers land in round number one.
Odds are that either Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt will still be available by the time pick 15 rolls around, but might be gone once the 18th overall selection is put on the clock. Rather than take the gamble of having to settle for a presumed second tier player like Muhammad Wilkerson at 18 or a lesser need position such as right tackle Gabe Carimi, the Chargers could employ Smith’s aggressive attitude and jump up to snag one of the two best defensive fits on their draft board.
In a trade up scenario with Miami, the long-standing NFL trade value chart shows that the difference between the 1,050 points that the 15th overall selection is worth and the 900 points that the Chargers’ 18th pick is valued at is only 150 points. A trade in theory could be done with the Bolts first third round pick at 82nd overall which is valued at 180 points, but theory doesn’t always get the job done. Any potential deal would likely require a little more than just a third rounder with the heightened emphasis placed on first round picks especially in this year’s draft. The 61st overall pick late in round two could be offered up to sweeten the pot with the Fins perhaps sending a fourth or fifth rounder to the Bolts as part of a deal affording the Bolts some additional flexibility further down the line while landing them the player they truly desire in the first round.
A trade of this nature makes as much sense for the Dolphins as it does the Chargers as the Fins are reportedly looking for either a quarterback or a running back early in the draft, but there is only one first round worthy ball carrier while the top two quarterbacks will likely be long gone by the time they are on the clock. Players like Mark Ingram at tailback or both Jake Locker and Ryan Mallet under center have been mentioned as potential targets for Miami, but could most likely be had at 18 just as easily as 15.
It’s clear that defensive line is the biggest need area for the Bolts and most believe that either Watt or Jordan would be the ideal fit for the team’s 3-4 scheme on the end. Both have experience in those base formations from their collegiate days and could make the transition from college to the professional ranks with a reduced number of growing pains by remaining in their natural positions.
Having a history of making deals work when time is of the essence is an underrated aspect of trading in the draft and with the Dolphins and Chargers hooking up for a swap meet last April, perhaps these teams have the rapport needed to make things happen for a second year in a row.
Now it’s your turn. Do you think the importance of this year’s draft is truly elevated or is it important to make the most of your picks every year? Will A.J. Smith be aggressive in his pursuit of either J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan or will he be content to stay at 18 and let the chips fall as they may? Does moving ahead of both New England and Jacksonville seem like a sensible move for the Chargers’ pick or would it be an unnecessary deal to make? Which defensive line prospect do you like the most in this year’s class for the Chargers and why? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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