NFL Combine 2013 is Over – Who´ll be the Chargers´ 1st Draft Pick?

The NFL season 2012/2013 is history – let’s get heated for season 2013/2014.

And how could we do it better than watching 333 hungry college athletes perform physical and mental tests to see how fast, strong, and smart they are? 
The “workout warriors” who stand out the most will be rewarded with lucrative contracts even if the tape doesn´t add up.

Now that the “underwear Olympics of football” are over and the results are available on tape, the question will be, which position shall the San Diego Chargers address with their first pick in the NFL Draft 2013?

Well, the answer is easy: the offensive line!

Even if Tom Telesco and his team are going for an offensive lineman already in free agency (Andy Levitre?), they have to bring in young talent at tackle or guard with their highest pick (11th overall).

Now let’s take a look at the names worth picking at number 11 in the NFL draft this year:

Offensive tackle:
- Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M)

- Eric Fisher (Central Michigan)

- Lane Johnson (Oklahoma)

Offensive Guard:

- Chance Warmack (Alabama)

- Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina)

Luke Joeckel is considered the top tackle prospect entering this year´s draft.
The 6’6″ offensive tackle from Texas A&M will probably already be gone when the Chargers make their selection at No. 11. 
Although he ran poor 40-yard dash times of 5.22 and 5.35 (unofficially), Joeckel, often compared to Broncos´ Ryan Clady, will be an interesting option for the Chiefs (depending on what happens with free agent Brandon Albert), the Eagles with their 4th overall pick, or the Cardinals at No. 7. One of those teams will pick the 310-pound tackle – would be more than a surprise if he isn’t a top-five pick in April.

Joeckel´s closest competition for the top tackle spot in the draft is Eric Fisher.
The offensive tackle from Central Michigan made a name for himself with his performance at the Senior Bowl. 
In general, good or bad 40-yard dash times don´t matter too much for offensive tackles. But it’s worth mentioning that Fisher´s (unofficial) times 5.01 and 5.07 were better than Joeckel´s. And at 6’7″ he´s also taller than the No. 1 tackle prospect from Texas A&M.
Fisher also impressed with his broad jump skills: his 116.0 inches were only beaten by Lane Johnson´s 118.0 (among offensive linemen).

Some fans think that Eric Fisher will probably be available for the Chargers at 11. I´m not too sure ’bout that. It mostly depends on the Chiefs and what they do with their first overall pick. Reports say that they are going for Nick Foles and/or Alex Smith in free agency. And they maybe won´t resign offensive tackle Brandon Albert. If they get Foles or Smith and lose Albert, I´m very sure they will pick an offensive tackle (Joeckel). This would also mean that the Eagles or the Cardinals would pick Eric Fisher. And even if the Chiefs draft a quarterback (Geno Smith?) or a defensive lineman (Star Lotulelei, Sheldon Richardson?), I wouldn´t be surprised if the Cardinals steal Fisher at No. 7.

If that’s the case and Eric Fisher isn´t available at No. 11, then Tom Telesco can still go for another great offensive tackle prospect: Lane Johnson.

The 6’7″, 303-pound left tackle from Oklahoma ran an amazing 40-yard dash at the combine: his 4.72 was the second-fastest time for an offensive lineman behind a 4.71 set by Terron Armstead (Arkansas-Pine Bluff). He also outlasted the other top tackles on the bench press (although he does have longer arms). The list of Johnson´s impressive performances on Saturday goes on:
Vertical Jump:
- 34.0 (second best among offensive linemen behind Terron Armstead´s 34.5)
Broad Jump:
- 118.0 (BEST among offensive linemen)
Cone Drill:
- 7.31 (second best among offensive linemen behind Jeff Baca´s 7.26)

Most of the fans and experts around the league already see Lane Johnson wearing a Chargers uniform next season. But when looking at the stats and numbers listed above, it’s fair to question if he´ll be available at No. 11 in this year´s draft. As already mentioned, the Chiefs, Eagles, and Cardinals, and maybe even the Jets, could use some new young talented blood in their offensive lines. And I guess it’s only appropriate to allocate the attributes “young” & “talented” to Lane Johnson – especially after his performances in the NFL combine (and as already seen weeks before in the Senior Bowl).

There´s one thing about Lane Johnson that shouldn´t be overlooked though: he has played only one season at left tackle. In his junior year he protected his quarterback´s right side; he also played tight end and defensive end, and he was a junior college quarterback prior to his transfer to the Sooners. But on the plus side of the list stands his 2012 third team All-American voting by (as left tackle).

So these were the names of the top tackle prospects going into this years´ NFL draft.

If we experience the – in my opinion very unlikely – scenario that none of these offensive tackles are available at No. 11 for Tom Telesco and the San Diego Chargers, then we´ll have to concentrate on drafting an offensive guard. There are two talents worth picking in the first round at this position: Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper.

Chance Warmack is considered the best pure football player in this year´s draft class by a lot of experts.
It’s usually very unlikely for an offensive guard to be a top ten draft pick. But Warmack (6’3″/320 pounds) has all the skills to be exactly that. He is very light on his feet, very smart with his blocks, and his body control in general is absolutely outstanding. He couldn´t impress anyone with his 5.49 in the 40-yard dash, but he showed great power from a standing position with his broad jump; his 110.0 inches were the seventh highest for a lineman. It is more than likely that Warmack won´t be available at No. 11, as besides the above mentioned teams, the Tennessee Titans are in need of an offensive guard. Chris Johnson needs an elite offensive line in order to get free and gain his yards (he isn´t exactly the “breaking tackles”-type of running back); his performances last season definitely showed that.

Philip Rivers definitely would be more than excited to have a guard like Warmack protecting his blind side.

What if the worst case scenario becomes reality and all the top tackle prospects Joeckel (Chiefs), Fisher (Eagles), Johnson (Cardinals), and top guard Warmack (Titans) are gone when the Chargers make their selection at 11? Well, then they´ll have to go for the No. 2 rated offensive guard: Jonathan Cooper.

I don´t actually think all those names will be unavailable at No. 11. But if that happens, then Cooper wouldn´t be a bad option for the Lightning Bolts. He was a second team All-ACC selection in 2010 and 2011, and with his performances at the NFL Combine on Saturday, the 6’3″ guard from North Carolina definitely upped his draft stock. With 5.07, he posted the 10th fasted time in the 40-yard dash – pretty solid for an offensive lineman. He stood out during the shuffling drills; he moved side to side, back and forth without any struggle. With 35 repetitions in the bench press, he also outlasted all offensive linemen invited to the Combine except for Eric Herman (Ohio) with 36 repetitions. And with more than 35 starts for the Tar Heels he would also bring along the required experience to be an immediate starter in the National Football League.

So after hearing all these great names, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Chargers will get a solid offensive lineman with their 11th pick in the first round of the NFL draft 2013.
But more than all the other candidates that may be available at 11, I would love to see Eric Fisher putting on that Chargers cap on draft day. I think it would look damn good on him. But if it’s Chance Warmack or Lane Johnson that is photographed with the Chargers´ jersey in his hands, then I would be excited as hell too.

So therefore let’s hope Telesco makes great decisions in free agency. This would take some pressure off of him in April.

I´m confident…


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