The debate of what could, should, or might happen in this Thursday night’s first round when the Chargers are placed on the clock has been going on since the regular season came to an unceremonious conclusion. Still there is a big question looming over just what the team may do in round one and whether they will be content to stay put and select at 18th overall or if they wish to maneuver the draft in one direction or the other. A lot can be said for teams capable of masterfully manipulating the draft to suit their needs and it would be smart for the Bolts to examine all possibilities in this year’s selection process to maximize their potential haul from this draft class.
The fact that the Chargers need to add a defensive end or two to their roster is widely known and that need could easily be considered the most pressing on the entire depth chart. Head Coach Norv Turner addressed this topic with the San Diego Union-Tribune discussing Jacques Cesaire’s future with the club saying: “Both our ends played really good last year. The perception is we’ve got to get more (impact) plays out of them. Some of it is the system. Jacques played awfully well. Yeah, we want to get better. We’ve got some young guys who can play there and get better, and obviously you can get better by drafting a young guy.”
This quotation itself contains very little in terms of substance and really overwhelms with rhetoric, but the final thought is the one that Bolts fans want to consider. Cesaire is a free agent as of now and the team would like to re-sign him for depth purposes, but it appears his days in a starting role are over. San Diego has clearly lacked toughness up front recently and needs to reestablish themselves in the trenches to again be thought of as a legitimate title contender.
How does the idea of trading either up or down factor into this discussion?
It’s quite simple actually with such a deep defensive end class and so much ammunition in terms of draft choices, the Chargers have the ability to target a particular player that they feel best fits their system and add that youngster to their roster. Now let’s consider the candidates.
As the draft nears it seems more and more likely that both J.J. Watt of Wisconsin and Cameron Jordan of California could be gone by the 18th overall selection. Both the Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots at 16th and 17th overall respectively would love to add one of these pieces to their defenses. If the Bolts really love one of these two individuals, teams like the St. Louis Rams at 14 and the Miami Dolphins at 15 could be perfect trade partners in facilitating such a leap up the draft board.
For the Rams, if both of the top wide receivers are gone (as projected) by their selection at 14 they would likely be looking on the defensive side of the ball. St. Louis has been linked to Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget in many mock drafts and he would likely still be available in a trade with the Chargers down to their spot at 18.
With the Dolphins things could be trickier as they may be targeting Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey or even Alabama running back Mark Ingram. It’s possible that either player would still be on the board at 18, but not as clear cut as the scenario with the Rams.
While either one of these possibilities would nearly ensure the Bolts to grab one of the top talents in the 2011 class of defensive ends, some analysts believe that the drop off in talent between players like Watt and Jordan down to the next tier of 3-4 defensive ends isn’t really that steep. This could mean that the Chargers stand pat at 18 and take the best player on their draft board or they could field trade offers to move down and accumulate some additional picks.
One viable candidate to move back with in the draft order could be the Seattle Seahawks who have the 25th overall selection and may be in pursuit of Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Going back to that point in the draft could land the Bolts a player like Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward who also fits ideally into a 3-4 alignment as a defensive end. General Manager A.J. Smith personally attended Heyward’s workout and may be inclined to take the Buckeye in round number one with his impressive upside.
By either staying put or moving down a few spots, the Bolts could also consider Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson who fits ideally as a 3-4 end. His ability to shed blockers and penetrate the backfield while still effectively anchoring when necessary and holding at the point of attack is a rare combination that would really provide a much needed upgrade.
Other scenarios could arise on draft night with the inevitable yet unpredictable slides of certain blue chip prospects, but these possibilities are nearly impossible to forecast. Some have also thought the Chargers may postpone their pursuit of a defensive end until the second round with players like Miami’s Allen Bailey and Iowa’s Christian Ballard there to fit the bill.
The only certainty heading into Thursday’s selection is that there are plenty of quality players to be had in the first three rounds of this draft and the Chargers have five picks out of the top 89 to add some real strength to their lineup. If the war room plays its cards right, this could be a real turning point for the Bolts toward regaining their Super Bowl aspirations for years to come.
Now it’s your turn. Do you think Jacques Cesaire’s days as a starter in San Diego are over or does he still have some good play left in the tank? In your opinion, is the gap between the top two 3-4 defensive end prospects and the second tier players large enough to warrant trading up or not? Would you be in favor of trading back in the first round and taking a player like Cameron Heyward to fill the need at defensive end? Could the team wait until the second round to address the defensive end position or is it too pressing of a need to fill with a second round player? Please leave your pre-draft thoughts in the comments section below and get the discussion started!
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