It’s been quite a while since the Chargers made any sort of splash in the NFL draft. Will this be the year San Diego does a Ron Burgundy-sized cannonball? Anthony Blake and Jeff Williams of Bolt Hype join the GLS panel to discuss what the Bolts will look to do in the 2011 draft.
1. Last year’s draft class did a whole lot of nothing. Do the Chargers need to make up for bad picks, or is it just taking time for some of those guys to get reps and improve?
Jeff: It’s not that the Chargers need to make up for last year’s draft class. One bad draft would be OK. Looking back at the Chargers’ last three drafts you will find only three consistent starters: Louis Vasquez, Antoine Cason, and Jacob Hester. Obviously Ryan Mathews has a lot of potential, but if the Chargers can’t improve in the production they are getting from draft picks, things are going to continue to get worse.
Anthony: The consensus around the NFL says that it takes at least three years to accurately evaluate the success or failure of a draft class. It’s tough to be overly critical of the 2010 class as of yet, but this coming season will say a lot about just how this group ultimately pans out. Ryan Mathews needs better blocking and less predictable play calling to be successful while Donald Butler, Darrell Stuckey, and Cam Thomas each need to actually see the field this year to know if they can grow into the roles of starters.
2. A lot of mock drafts are sending defensive ends/outside linebackers San Diego’s way. Is that the team’s biggest need?
Jeff: I think so, although you could make a case for offensive line help or a wide receiver. The Chargers’ defense is on the verge of being decimated by free agency, so a solid crop of defensive players in this year’s draft is vital to the team’s long-term success.
Anthony: That is the prevailing wisdom and the team did struggle against the run in stretches last year. The right tackle spot is still an area where this team could use an upgrade and has been begging for one over the past two years. Don’t be surprised if A.J. Smith goes against the grain (wouldn’t be the first time) and takes an offensive tackle.
3. What about receiver? Vincent Jackson’s future with the team is up in the air and Antonio Gates dealt with injuries for much of the second half of last season…
Jeff: You might look at the team’s talent at receiver beyond Jackson and Gates and start to worry, but in 2010 Philip Rivers proved that he can get the ball to just about anyone. Sure, you don’t want an all scrub unit running routes for you, but this team really is best when they play a more ball control style of football on offense, and a pass-rushing style of defense.
Anthony: Jeff is right on the money with this one. Philip Rivers is the west coast version of Tom Brady throwing to guys you’ve never heard of and moving the chains. Finding some value guys in the later rounds to flesh out the depth chart at both tight end and wide receiver would be nice, but it isn’t a necessity even with V Jack’s lingering contract issues.
4. Who do you hope they land with that first-round selection?
Jeff: I hope they can land J.J. Watt, but I don’t see it happening. Cameron Jordan might be a stretch as well, but he would look great in lightning bolts. Muhammad Wilkerson is looking more and more like the pick, mostly because all of the other top defensive linemen will be gone.
Anthony: I have been ALL OVER the place on this one and contradictions are normal this time of year. If J.J. Watt is available there is no doubt in my mind that he will be the pick, but if he isn’t, don’t be surprised if A.J. Smith throws a curveball here and goes with another Wisconsin guy, offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. Of this year’s tackle crop, Carimi is arguably the most NFL-ready and he could be a starter from day one on the right side of the Bolts line. This addition could help to revitalize a struggling running game as well as prevent Rivers from hitting the dirt so often this coming season.