The San Diego Chargers are seemingly forever underachieving and plagued with mediocrity. The window may be closing on this team’s chances of making a title run. If they are going to win, now is the time. Philip Rivers is 33 years old and his longtime favorite target Antonio Gates is about to turn 35. They are a team that has quite a few holes to fill but at the same time isn’t that far away. It wouldn’t be shocking if they won six games or twelve games in 2015. Now that free agency is beginning to wind down, it’s time to explore what they need to be targeting in the draft:
Offensive Needs: RB, OL, WR
The Chargers have an ever changing cast of characters around Rivers and Gates. Now it’s possible that neither player will be back in 2016, so the Chargers will do all they can to build the best possible offense they can this season, in order to give Rivers every reason to return. They didn’t do a whole lot in free agency, so now they will have to build through the draft.
San Diego’s most pressing need on the offensive side of the ball is at running back. Ryan Mathews is now in Philly and Branden Oliver is currently the lead back. Oliver showed flashes of greatness last season, however, at just 5-foot-8, 208 pounds, he is not capable of enduring a feature back workload. Danny Woodhead is expected back, which will give them a boost but he’s more of a pass catcher. Donald Brown was absolutely atrocious last season and there is a decent chance he is the odd man out. The 17th pick may be a bit too high to draft a RB and in such a deep draft for backs, they can still get a great back in the second. I currently have them projected to take the Miami Hurricane’s all-time leading rusher Duke Johnson with the 48th overall pick. There will be other very good RBs available, nevertheless, none have the upside or explosiveness as Johnson.
The re-signing of King Dunlap was big for the Chargers. The retirement of Nick Hardwick was also a big hit though. San Diego brought in Orlando Franklin in free agency, however, they still need interior lineman. Their guards were a major weak spot last season and they absolutely need to get better. There are high-end options for them in this draft. If they wait for the second round, they could grab Laken Tomlinson. Drafting Tomlinson’s have worked out for them in the past.
Wide Receiver is the least pressing of their offensive needs. They still have Keenan Allen and have brought in Stevie Johnson. The Chargers also have Malcom Floyd and Jacoby Jones. Dontrelle Inman is a very interesting prospect. He came on strong late in 2014 and looked very good with limited opportunities. It would be shocking if the Chargers draft a WR in the first couple of rounds. However, they will likely pick up a WR a bit later in the draft. Johnson is a journeyman, Jones is more of a returner and Floyd will be 34 years old. So it will be necessary to start building a young WRs corps.
Defensive Needs: DE/OLB, DT, CB
San Diego has a pretty solid foundation on the defensive side of the ball. They just need to plug a few holes. A small handful of players could have this defense back to being one of the best in the NFL.
A pass rusher could give the defense a huge boost. There are a plethora of them in this draft. I currently have them projected to take Vic Beasley with the 17th overall pick. There is a decent chance he will not be around at that point though. So they will need to consider backup plans as well. One guy that isn’t exactly a pass rusher but could help on the line is Arik Armstead. He’s a monstrous disruptive force that can play DT or DE. He will likely be available and very difficult to pass up on if Beasley is off the board. If Eddie Goldman or Malcom Brown are still around, they could be solid options at tackle as well. Currently I have both of them projected to be off the board by the time the Chargers are on the clock.
Re-signing Brandon Flowers was a huge win for their secondary. They could still use another CB. If they wanted to go corner in the first round, Marcus Peters may be available. However, there are enough great young corners in this draft that they could also attack this position in the second or even third round. I predict they do not draft a corner until at least the third round. Nonetheless, with the premium on corners now, you just never know.