The San Diego Chargers have been hot and cold in the draft. Lately, it’s been cold in the early rounds. General manager A.J. Smith could care less what the consensus might be around the league. He has his own player rankings and he sticks to them. It makes for some unpredictable drafts. While most fans cheer–or boo–their team’s draft selections, Charger fans tend to respond with “uhh…okay…” or “what?!” Overall the Chargers have drafted well, especially in the later rounds, so I can’t complain too much.
The Chargers need to get better on defense. They have had a top 5 offense for nearly a decade. Meanwhile the other side of the ball has been inconsistent to unreliable. I think the first two, or even three picks in this draft should go to the defensive side of the ball. With that in mind, this is what I would do if I was running the show (round 1 only).
Option 1: Move up and pick SS Mark Barron.
The Cowboys want him at 14 from what I hear, so the Chargers would have to move up 5 spots to get him. That could be a pricey move, but one I’m okay with. SS is a need position and I think Barron is special. He has excellent hands, is smart, rangy, and scheme diverse. He can play deep or in the box, cover man or zone, and intimidate in the middle. Barron does need to work on his tackling technique, but that’s definitely something that can be coached. He is also a little stiff in his hips apparently, limiting his man cover abilities, but unless he’s covering wide receivers one-on-one, it doesn’t appear to be a real issue. Pairing him with Eric Weddle could give the Bolts the best safety duo in the league.
Option 2: Stay put and pick the best player available.
Someone always falls and that way the Bolts get the best value for the pick whereas filling a need might be a reach. OLB Whitney Mercilus would be my choice, but again, it’s wide open here.
Besides having possibly the best defensive player name ever, Illinois DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus has all the traits and measurables of a premier pass rusher. He’s in the mold of Demarcus Ware and Aldon Smith. He led the nation in sacks with 16 and added 9 forced fumbles to boot. He’s a physical, high motor player with good production. The knock against him is that he’s a one-year wonder so he does have boom/bust potential.
Option 3: Trade Down and pick Harrison Smith, Shea McClellin, Chandler Jones, or Courtney Upshaw.
Harrison Smith is the 2nd best safety in the draft and after him the fall is precipitous. I think Smith brings to the SS position what Eric Weddle brings to FS: intelligence, range, athleticism, and sound technique. Plus Smith is a pretty big hitter. In fact, I don’t think there’s too big a gap between Smith and Mark Barron. Barron is more of a play-maker and has better field vision, but they’re within spittin’ distance.
DE/OLB Shea McClellin is being compared to Mike Vrabel and that alone is reason enough to draft him. The guy can play almost anywhere in the defensive front 7. He can chase and tackle, cover, and rush the passer–inside or out. McClellin was a captain and a play-maker on Boise State’s nationally ranked football team that’s so good no one wants to even let them in their conference, much less play them. I am a little concerned about his functional strength; he had the fewest bench press reps of any defensive lineman at the combine and had a tendency to get swallowed up in the run game from time to time. I don’t know enough to say whether that’s an issue of technique or strength or even scheme but it should be correctable with coaching and conditioning.
OLB Courtney Upshaw looks to drop (possibly out of the first round) due to disappointing offseason workouts. He’s what scouts call “a football player,” meaning a guy who may not run fast or lift a lot of weight, but still performs well on the football field. Unfortunately, he’s also considered a ‘tweener, meaning there is no position he is ideally suited for. Another Alabama team captain, Upshaw had 6 tackles and a sack in the Tide’s 21-0 lambasting of LSU in the national championship game. He could turn out to be a steal.
Syracuse DE/OLB Chandler Jones has seen his stock rise as scouts have gone back to the game tapes. I think he has a lot of Shaun Phillips’ qualities but he’s not nearly as fast out the gate, which is huge. It doesn’t hurt that his big brothers are UFC light-heavyweight champ Jon “Bones” Jones and Baltimore Raven DL Arthur Jones. Bloodlines help but they don’t guarantee success (ask Casey Matthews). Still, I think he can be a good player; I’m just not overly-excited about him.
So that’s my take, I guess. We’ll find out this Thursday just how wrong I actually am! 😀