One of the things that's hard to avoid when you're making a mock draft as a fan is that you may start to make the draft fit what you want your team to get. Last year, there were probably times where I put the blinders on to what other teams might do and felt that they would let Ryan Mathews fall to us. A.J. thought differently, acted aggressively and surrendered yet another 2nd round pick to move up and take the Fresno State RB. I've made it known that I don't want the Chargers to trade their picks and would prefer to stockpile players in order to make the team better for years to come. This requires a waiting game as our picks come up. When you do play the waiting game you have to rely on some, let's call it, luck to go your way. Let's see what kind of luck we could use.
First off, let's just pick some reasonable targets for the 18th spot. Ryan Kerrigan, Cameron Jordan and J.J. Watt seem like good ones. Let's make some assumptions about where people are ranking these players, pretending that for the most parts teams have them ranked the same. Let's say that Kerrigan is the #4 3-4 OLB and the #5 4-3 DE. Jordan would be the #3 3-4 DE. Watt would be the #4 3-4 DE and perhaps the #4 ranked 4-3 DE.
In order to try to figure out how to end up with these targets I came up with a point system. I show my work as to why each of these factors is important after the jump.
* 1 pt for each QB after first 2
* 1 pt for each CB after first 2
* 1 pt for each OT after first 2
* 1 pt for each WR after first 2
* 1 pt for each RB, OG, OC, S or TE taken
* 1 pt for each player in this list (Bowers, A. Smith, Quinn, Liuget, Wilkerson or any other DE/OLB/DT not named Kerrigan, Watt or Jordan)
If we can get to 7 points (a touchdown!) we've got a great shot at our pick of the 3 or at least one falling. 6 pts is a great shot at 2 being there. 5 pts means that one should fall to us. 4 pts or less probably means we either traded up, settled for someone else or perhaps got someone that was supposed to go high to fall to us.
First off, the most obvious thing is that needs to happen is that some team needs to like Auburn's Cam Newton enough to pick him high. Why? Because teams like the Panthers and Bills have secondary needs on defense and picking Newton instead of defense helps the Chargers. The same thing goes for Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert is a fine QB, but he's not in the same class as many of the previous QBs that have gone in the top 10. A team like Cincy could go defense if they don't go gaga for Gabbert. Minnesota, Buffalo, Washington and Tennessee are all good landing spots for QBs as well. Essentially, the more QBs the merrier. Personally, I have no clue how many teams are willing to use high draft picks on QBs, but the rumor mills put it anywhere from 2-5. So, that's two pre-Chargers picks we don't have to worry about and any surplus should be counted as a point.
There are a few players that I'm willing to assume will go early enough that even slight falls will keep them out of the Chargers hand. That takes up spots in the draft order that help us figure out who will trickle down. Alabama's Marcel Dareus is going in the top 3 for sure. All 3 teams are in on him and it just depends on if Newton or Miller are preferred over him. That's another pre-Charger's pick gobbled up. We're up to 3.
The next obvious high pick is LSU's Patrick Peterson. Plenty of teams near the top will want a potential shutdown corner that can also return kicks. I don't know where he's going, but I'm pretty sure the lowest he could possibly go is Dallas at #9 (or higher if Dallas trades up). Anyway, that makes 4 already off the board.
Also, we have two WRs in Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones that will go high. I can make the case for any number of teams in the top 10 taking these guys. A.J. Green will certainly go as a sort of consolation prize to a team that doesn't get the QB they want or the elite defender they covet. Julio Jones will go to the next team needing an offensive upgrade. Cincinnati, Cleveland and Washington seemed like the most likely landing spots. That now brings us up to 6 spots accounted for. It seems unlikely that any other WR could go this high, but if they it should count as a point.
Nick Fairley was a dominating force for the BCS Champion Auburn Tigers, but seems to have slipped from the top of everyone's mock drafts. He'd make sense to me for Cincinnati, but if he goes past them then the Titans have to be giving him a long look. Even if Tennessee decides to pick a QB over him I can't imagine a team like the Rams passing, so he's one to figure on taking up a pre-Chargers pick. With his card already delivered to Goodell that tallies 7 pre-Chargers spots spoken for.
Next come some players that I'm less sure about. Nebraska's Prince Amukamara has been near the top of draft boards since last April. I've heard some experts say they'd rather have Colorado's Jimmy Smith. The Chargers would like to see one get pick, but, hey, both would be extra nice. So, we can say that one is very likely to go and move our running count to 8. Any extra CBs taken can go towards the points system.
The OTs in this draft can be though of like the QBs. I know there will be OT picks, but who, how many and where? Tyron Smith seems to be the highest ranked in a lot of places. The highest I could see him going is to the Cowboys. THIS IS IMPORTANT the Cowboys run a 3-4 and will vie for some of the same players as the Chargers. Unless they miraculously get Peterson or step up to the plate for Amukamara or J. Smith, then we want them to take an OT. They don't need a QB or a RB or WRs, so they'd be robbing the draft pool of potential Chargers if they don't OT or CB. The other option at OT could be Boston College's Anthony Constanzo. That could be a Cowboys target, but also the Lions will likely prioritize OT. There is also a chance the Vikings could go the OT route. We also could see a team that really likes Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod, Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi or Colorado's Nate Solder take one of them high. There seems like enough need where we count two as being taken, bringing our pre-Chargers pick total to 10, and there's also reason to believe that more can go so each one of those will count as a point.
Going back to how we ranked our targets, we have Jordan and Watt as the top 3-4 DEs left and Kerrigan as the 3rd highest 3-4 OLB and 4th highest 4-3 DE remaining. The players that could be ahead of him are North Carolina's Robert Quinn, Clemson's DaQuan Bowers and Missouri's Aldon Smith where Bowers only qualify for 4-3 DE. If all 3 of these players are higher ranked, as we assume they are, then the Bolts are getting close to a safe zone with 3 of the targets left and 3 picks to go before their chance. When any of those guys get taken, it should count as a point.
There is some scariness though to this situation. A. Smith, Quinn and Bowers all have baggage. If enough teams are willing to pass them the Chargers will be left choosing from these guys instead of the one's I mentioned as targets. That may not be a bad thing with Quinn and Smith, but I don't know how A.J. feels about these guys.
I also mentioned earlier that the Cowboys are a threat as a 3-4 team with a higher pick, well the Dolphins also play a 3-4, the Jaguars are said to covet Ryan Kerrigan, the Rams might go D-Line and take a 3-4 DE to play DT for them and then of course there's the Patriots. Anyone considered to be a target by the Chargers should be considered a Patriots target. If the Patriots stay put the Chargers better have two targets left because chances are New England will take one of them.
But, there's hope. Miami could go with, as rumored, Florida's Mike Pouncey to fill a hole at OG. That should count as a point. The Patriots could possibly go OT or trade down to a team needing a RB, OT, OG, CB or QB. We knew about the potential for OTs, CBs, OGs and QBs, but that RB position should also count as a point. The Rams could go with Illinois' Corey Liuget, who projects better at DT or fast rising Temple DT Muhammad Wilkerson. Both of those guys should count as points, although it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if they were there when the Chargers picked. We can also throw in the unlikely occurrence of any OCs, TEs and Ss being picked this high we can count those as a point each.
There you go. 10 sure-fire-pre-Chargers picks. And the corresponding points to figure out where the other 7 picks should go in order for the Chargers to get some "luck".