The Norv Turner/A.J. Smith era finally came to an end this season. With endings come new beginnings and for San Diego fans I have to think those new beginnings will be welcome.
The Chargers are coming off one of the most disappointing periods in team history. In the minds of many, there was a three to four year window in the last decade where they were the most talented franchise in the NFL, yet have nothing to show for it.
New Head Coach Mike McCoy brings an offensive mindset to a team that needs a new identity on offense. 2012 saw a quarterback once thought of as being elite struggle to establish any sort of chemistry with his new receivers and get very little help from a pedestrian running game. A lack of solid play on the offensive line didn’t help matters.
Let’s take a look at how McCoy and new G.M. Tom Telesco might spend San Diego’s draft picks in April in an effort to right the ship as quickly as possible.
Round One, Pick 11 – This has to be a lineman. If Rivers is going to get back to the upper echelon of NFL quarterback, he’ll need protection. Even with the 11th pick, it doesn’t sound like Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher will be around. No matter. Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, a former high school quarterback who started his college career as a tight end, may be the best athlete in the draft class. San Diego would do well to take him and not worry about the left side of the line for a decade.
Round Two, Pick 45 – The Chargers need help at corner with the possibility of losing Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason. Peyton Manning isn’t going anywhere just yet and the Raiders and Chargers can only get better in their passing game. This calls for an elite shutdown corner to take away one side of the field. Enter Boise State’s Jamar Taylor (pictured). I highlighted him as one of five prospects to watch in an article on KnowItAllFootball.com. He is the top corner on my board, but because of the lack of respect NFL teams continue to give Boise State players, he should be available. I can see him being the premier corner in the NFL quickly.
Round Three, Pick 74 – My apologies to Ryan Mathews fans, but it’s time for a change. Durability issues combined with lackluster production when healthy have made him expendable. It’s time for new blood in San Diego at the running back position. You have to be able to catch the ball as a back in today’s NFL. Few backs in this year’s draft are better at doing that and making plays after the fact than Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor. Taylor may be the most well-rounded back in the draft and would fit Mike McCoy’s offense like a glove.
Round Four, Pick 105 – The Chargers need more of a presence on the defensive line. Nothing would establish that more than the addition of Georgia defensive tackle Kwame Geathers, a 6-6, 355 monster of a man who wreaked havoc on SEC opponents in 2012. Not only would his size make it nearly impossible to for opponents to run up the middle, his height would add an extra obstacle for opposing quarterback to avoid while looking downfield.
Round Five, Pick 136 – Philip Rivers needs more weapons at receiver. Mount Union’s Jasper Collins is as dangerous as they come. He possesses ankle-breaking footwork that can get him open or leave defenders grasping for air in the open field. Like former Mount Union receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts, I doubt it takes Collins long to make noise on the NFL scene.
Round Six, Pick 167 – At this point I’d shoot for the best player left on the board. All things considered, I think at this point in the draft that would be Ohio State linebacker Etienne Sabino. Sabino was highly recruited out of high school but had a somewhat disappointing collegiate career. He has all of the tools one would need to be a solid NFL linebacker and with the right coaching, could still be just that.
Round Seven, Pick 203 – With the same school of thought as they had in Round 6, the Chargers must look for guys who can make their roster and add depth. One player left on the boards at this point who could surprise some and work his way into a starting role is Nebraska defensive end Eric Martin. He would be an outside linebacker in a traditional 3-4. Martin was pegged by CBS Sports as the Big Ten’s most underrated pass rusher. His entire game, from getting around and through blockers to making impact with the quarterback is centered on raw violence. He has the chance to become a feared enforcer in the NFL.