The NFL Draft talk has started to heat up for all 32 teams across the league and the San Diego Chargers are clearly fully engaged in draft mode themselves at this point. Addressing every possible shortcoming is mandatory at this time of year when rosters are beginning to take shape and just a few need areas remain.
After adding plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the ball in free agency, the Bolts still have some concerns on their roster along the offensive line, in the secondary, and in the pass rushing department. Sean Tomlinson from theScore.com reached out to me for my input on several issues of interest regarding the Chargers as the draft nears ever closer. Here is a look at the conversation we had.
TOMLINSON: Mark Barron’s name has been tossed around between a few teams, but safety may not be the strongest need in San Diego. Is there a chance the Chargers find him too irresistible, and simply go with the best player on the board if he’s around?
BLAKE: Safety is certainly on the list of needs, but not nearly as pressing as both corner and outside linebacker. If both Whitney Mercilus, Courtney Upshaw, and Cordy Glenn are off the board, then Barron may get some consideration. Otherwise I look for the team to address the safety position in the second round as GM A.J. Smith has been very high on Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith in the pre-draft process.
T: What about an upgrade at right tackle? Glenn should be available…
B: That’s a great observation. I really do think Glenn would be the perfect fit. He’s versatile enough to play inside at guard and maul or he could just start from day one on the right side and replace Clary. Many mock drafts actually have Glenn going 13th to the Cardinals, but if he is available, it wouldn’t surprise me if Smith turned the unlikely into a reality.
T: After adding Corey Liuget up front last year, a versatile outside pass rusher could be a priority too. Would Courtney Upshaw fit?
B: There’s no doubt that Smith would love to snag a premier pass rusher in this year’s draft, but I’m wondering who the Bolts really do favor at this point. If both Upshaw and Mercilus were on the board with the 18th selection, right now it’s 50-50 who would actually be the choice. Personally, though, Mercilus seems to have the most upside, so I see A.J. leaning in that direction.
T: With Tolbert gone, will Smith look for more backfield depth in the mid to late rounds to support Ryan Mathews? Or is he satisfied at that position between Curtis Brinkley and Le’Ron McClain?
B: I sure hope so. Mathews is a dynamic player with big-play ability when healthy, but durability has been big a question mark thus far in his career. If not during the draft itself, the team will definitely be in the market for some depth at running back among undrafted free agents. Bringing back veteran Jacob Hester remains a strong possibility as well.
T: Do you have any late round sleeper picks that could develop and address key needs?
B: Tight end has to be an area the team takes a serious look at in this year’s draft. Antonio Gates has been incredible over the better part of the past decade, but injuries have cost him a lot of time recently. Small school guy Ladarius Green out of Louisiana-Lafayette has my attention. He’s 6’5” 238 lbs, and he put up his best performances against the top competition with four receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown versus Georgia and six catches for 64 yards against LSU.
After this conversation, it has to be said that my opinion on the Chargers’ primary needs in this year’s draft may have changed a bit. Outside linebacker was once thought to be the on main area of concern, but now it seems that offensive line, in trying to replace the loss of Kris Dielman, and the safety position, in finding a player to pair with Eric Weddle, rank ahead of the pass rusher idea in my mind.
One thing is certain and that’s the fact that whichever name is called for the Bolts’ selection at 18th overall, that player needs to make an immediate impact during the 2012 season.
Now it’s your chance. What do you think about the idea of Mark Barron being the pick at number 18? Are you sold on Whitney Mercilus or Courtney Upshaw to improve the team’s pass rush? Could Cordy Glenn be the prefect selection to help repair an offensive line trying to rebuild? Do you think the team needs to add another solid running back to spell Ryan Mathews as an insurance policy? What do you think about the idea of adding a developmental tight end to groom under Antonio Gates in this year’s draft? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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