Bolt Family, the NFL Draft is coming nearer and nearer! Next week we´re going to find out how right or wrong all those mock draft analysts have been. And I have to tell you, I´m excited as hell! I´m really looking forward to what all the NFL teams will do with their available draft picks. But of course, there´s is one thing I await more than anything else; the draft strategy of our rookie General Manager Tom Telesco. He said a couple of times that he´ll try to fix the team in the draft and not in free agency. From April 25th to 27th it´s his time to prove that he practices what he preaches!
In order to enter the NFL draft well prepared, we have to figure out the San Diego Chargers´ biggest needs. If Tom Telesco decides not to trade down, then we only have one pick in each of the seven rounds. With only seven picks Telesco wouldn´t be able to address all the holes in the roster. But whatever, it´s nearly impossible to rebuild a team via only one draft and one free agency.
I figured out eleven positions, which I think need to be addressed. I´m gonna rank them according to their priority, starting with the lowest:
No. 11 – Quarterback
Okay, let me explain this one right here. I´m a Philip Rivers fan to the fullest; he is our franchise quarterback and the leader on the field. But it´s Charlie Whitehurst that should get replaced as backup for Rivers in my opinion. The Chargers drafted “Clipboard Jesus” in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft. In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks signed him to a two-year, $8 million contract. But as he wasn´t able to impress anyone in Seattle, A.J. Smith brought him back in March last year to once again back up Philip Rivers. He´s a $1.8 million cap hit in 2013 and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2014. This means it may not be a big priority to replace Whitehurst this off-season, but as he is a “Norv guy,” he´s definitely expendable in the new system of the new Chargers´ coaching staff. We also might have to start thinking about a “post Rivers era.” Bringing in a young raw talent and benching him for the first few years to learn from the four-time Pro-Bowler would definitely be a wise decision. Philip won´t get any younger and as the last two years revealed, he also may not get better. But don´t get me wrong; with a (hopefully) improved O-Line and without the pressure to play for Norv Turner´s job, I think our franchise quarterback will do just fine in 2013. But with only seven draft picks, I doubt Tom Telesco will be able to address the signal-caller position this year. This will be a task for the NFL draft in 2014. But as we´re in need of an upgrade at backup quarterback, I made it my number 11 on my list of the Bolts´ biggest draft needs.
No. 10 – Defensive End
Well, the defensive line got pretty thin this off-season. We lost Vaughn Martin, Aubrayo Franklin and Antonio Garay. So besides one or two nose tackles, we might also have to bring in another defensive end. Tom Telesco already signed defensive end/tackle Jarius Wynn last week. The 26-year old was drafted in the sixth round in 2009 by the Green Bay Packers but they released him in August last year in order to meet roster requirements. He signed with the Tennessee Titans in November and this April he became a Charger. He has only started four games his entire career. So, if one of our young sack beasts, Corey Liuget or Kendall Reyes, goes down with an injury, then we´re probably in trouble. The backups Harrell Logan and Scafe Damik have no starting experience. It´s just too bad Telesco wasn´t able to re-sign Vaughn Martin, but that´s just how it goes; in the end it´s all about money. Although Tom Telesco might have to get us another defensive end onto the roster, I don´t think he´ll be able to do it in the draft. There are too many holes to fill and this isn´t the position for which we´re in most desperate need of an upgrade. He maybe has to look out for a decent undrafted rookie before training camp starts.
No. 9 – Wide Receiver
This ranking right here is based on the assumption that Danario Alexander will wear a Chargers uniform in 2013. If he leaves San Diego, then this position has to be ranked much higher. Robert Meachem gets paid like a No. 1 receiver, but DX lines up as the top wideout for the Chargers. With his history of knee issues – he´s only 24 in age but already underwent five surgeries on his knees – he definitely is a risk going forward. But when healthy, he´s a stud; he ranked first on the roster in receiving yards per game, yards per reception, and touchdown receptions while he was second in receiving yards. The Bolts´ front office placed a one year tender worth $1.3 million on Alexander, and teams have time until next Friday to sign him to this deal or to offer him a more lucrative contract. The Cleveland Browns – this means Norv Turner -already showed interest and still has an eye on him. The bad news is the Browns received over $20 million more in cap space than the Chargers. So if Norv really wants him, then he´ll get him. Besides DX, Vincent Brown, Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal and Richard Goodman (and maybe also Mike Willie) will see significant playtime in 2013. Except for Meachem, all of them had injury issues last year. Brown, Royal, and Goodman ended the season on injured reserve; and we all know Floyd can´t stay healthy for a whole season. A lot of fans would love to see Tom Telesco selecting Tavon Austin or Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round of the upcoming draft. Both athletes would be great additions to the roster and starters from day one. Especially Tavon Austin – he can play running back and receiver, and he is a returning specialist. The small sized speedster (5´8″) maybe could fill the hole Darren Sproles has left on the roster with his departure after the 2010 season. But as great as he may be, I think we have to spend our 11th overall pick on an other position. I´m also convinced that we´re going to see a different Robert Meachem on the field next season. Head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will find a way to get the best, or at least more out of him than Norv Turner was able in 2012. So, no more “Ronald”, but “Robert” Meachem in 2013. And let´s not forget, days ago Tom Telesco signed Deon Butler (third round pick in 2009) and Dan DePalma (undrafted in 2011) for depth purpose. I personally would love see Micheal Spurlock on that list too; he had some great performances last year.
No. 8 – Cornerback
I´m pretty sure most of the Chargers fans will call me nuts for this low ranking. Whatever, let me put some words here on this matter. I know we lost both starting corners from last year, Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer, in free agency. Actually, Quentin Jammer is still available, but Tom Telesco surely won´t consider to bring him back – at least not as cornerback. In a previous piece, I posted some reasonable arguments about why I think Jammer would be a good fit for the Chargers at strong safety. But whatever, we´re here to talk about the cornerback position.
Tom Telesco´s first player move as General Manager of the San Diego Chargers was to claim Johnny Patrick off waivers from the New Orleans Saints. He also signed Derek Cox to a four-year deal worth $20 million, with $10.25 million guaranteed. The former third-round pick of 2009 (by the Jacksonville Jaguars) was one of the bigger cornerback names in this year´s free agency. He has good size (6´1”) and is very physical. But as talented as he may be, his inability to stay healthy is a bit of a concern. He has missed 17 games over the past three seasons and 14 over the last two. He surely will be a starter in 2013, and the way I see it, Shareece Wright will be the second starting corner. On April 8th, Telesco brought in free agent cornerback Cornelius Brown who went undrafted in 2010 and played some games for the Indianapolis Colts from 2010 to 2011. He´ll compete for a roster spot in training camp. Due to all those signings I decided to rank other positions a little bit higher, and this leaves the cornerback spot at No. eight of the Bolts´ biggest off-season needs in 2013. But whether or not the Chargers will trade down, they just have to get us another corner in the draft, or at least in free agency.
So these are the numbers 11, 10, nine, and eight on my list of the biggest Chargers´ needs.
Stay tuned for the numbers seven to one! Thank You!