Mel Kiper's 2012 NFL Mock Draft (subscription required) starts out the way many of the 2012 variety do these days. Andrew Luck goes first to the Colts. Then predictability the next 3 off the board are Justin Blackmon, Matt Kalil and Robert Griffin III. Those four names are commonly placed in the top 4, in varying orders, but aren't Mel Kiper's top 4 according to his Big Board (subscription required). He actually likes BCS title game participants RB Trent Richardson and CB Morris Claiborne more than Blackmon and Griffin III. So, those two come off the board next. If you remember last year's draft, I had an article that outlined an NFL Mock Draft Best Fit Point System. Players like Trent Richardson are ones you want to get picked before the Chargers pick at #18. He's a RB, which is not a 1st round target position for the Chargers. Some rank him very high, some a little lower and most agree that picking a RB in the 1st round is a luxury item and not meant for the rebuilding teams that pick high in the draft. Nevertheless because Richarson is so highly regarded, it's pretty likely that he'll come off the board before the Chargers, thereby deeping the pool of players the Chargers would actually want to select.
As his mock moves on we see some names that would interest the Chargers come off the board. Picks 10-16 all are players that you could see the Chargers want to sport Blue and Gold. Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw, who has been mentioned in plenty of comments here, goes to the Bills. Penn State DT Devon Still ends up on the Kansas City Chiefs to play in their 3-4 defense. South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram is selected by the Seattle Seahawks, depriving the Chargers of another pass rushing option. Two Stanford OL go next with OT Jonathan Martin landing with the Arizona Cardinals and OG David DeCastro gobbled up by the Dallas Cowboys. Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly might not be an ideal fit for the Chargers defense and fits better with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he's a talent at a position that need more depth. Alabama S Mark Barron would fill an opening for the Bolts, but Mel has him becoming a New York Jet.
At pick number 18 Mel Kiper has the Chargers selecting a player that has not been linked to the Chargers very often. He's a player we scouted week 1 of the college season for a game he didn't even play that well in. That player is...
Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
Here's what I said about the 6'5 Senior Guard way back in September:
His best skill is run blocking and that skill gets the highest grade possible, but also gets high grades for pass blocking as well. Extremely durable, hasn't missed a game yet. He's got that mean streak you look for and is real tough and physical. More than held his own against Nick Fairley last year when he went against him one-on-one. No character issues and has shown maturity since becoming the starter as a freshman.
That week the Georgia Bulldogs took on the Boise State Broncos. You can find a number of sources that will tell you that Cordy Glenn struggled against a good Broncos defensive line. Here's an example from CBS Sports' draft expert Rob Rang:
A few highly touted players struggled in season-openers. I'm quite high on the upside of Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn, for example. However, the behemoth Glenn (6-5, 345) struggled with Boise State's speed in his first start at left tackle in nearly two years. While Glenn did start four games at left tackle in 2009, the other 32 starts of his career have come inside at either left (28) or right (four) guard. If Glenn continues to struggle outside, he'll confirm what scouts already suspect -- that he best projects inside at the pro level.
The optimist in me, however, wanted to highlight a breakout performer rather than a disappointing start considering the season has just begun.
You see that Rang didn't give up an his optimism towards Glenn and obviously he must have impressed in other games. Georgia played poorly to start the season and came together towards the end. It's reasonable to think that Glenn was one of those Dawgs that improved. It's reasonable because he's still universally highly regarded. Mel Kiper has him ranked 17th overall. The aforementioned Rob Rang has him 16th. Scouts Inc. has him 38th (subscription required). WalterFootball has him 22nd. ProFootballWeekly has him 19th. DraftCountdown has him 25th. The one detractor is the National Football Post who have him at 52.
What we can conclude is that the selection is more or less appropriate for the location of the pick in the draft, but is it the best direction for the Chargers to go. In my Team Needs Chart I list OG as a "Starter Competition" need. I define that category as "Current starter is FA next year and has understudy or current starter is inexperienced". The Chargers have 3 OGs with starting experience under contract for 2012: Kris Dielman, Louis Vazquez and Tyronne Green. All 3 have only 1 year left on their contract and on top of that Dielman is contemplating (and probably should go into) retirement. It's obviously a position that needs to be addressed in the near term. However, a 1st round selection may not be the answer.
If the Chargers select Glenn, most likely he rides the pine in 2012 while the more experienced players start. Even if Dielman doesn't return, I think we saw that Green is effective enough that he won't be easily replaced (assuming he stays healthy). Unlike other positions on the team, there's no rotation used on the offensive line to rest players and these large men don't play on kick return or coverage units. It's essentially a pick that may not be useful in 2012. Are the Chargers really in a situation where they can use a 1st round pick on a player that doesn't seem likely to play in 2012?
I think most of us would agree that the answer to that question is "No". Many of us will also realize that is unfortunate, because you'd like the luxury of picking players for the future instead of the present. But, aswould say, "It is what it is".
Using Mel Kiper's own Big Board, the best available player is Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox, who Mel has the Denver Broncos selecting at 25th overall despite the massive DL prospect being ranked #13 by the man with hair. Mel says he's a 3-4 DE, which if the Chargers cut Luis Castillo (as Kevin Acee has mentioned), Cox could be an upgrade on Vaughn Martin.
Next available on his board is LSU DT Michael Brockers, who could probably play DE or DT in the 3-4. He came out early and will be one of the youngest players in the draft. Mel has him going 27th to the New England Patriots despite a #15 ranking.
Mel Kiper doesn't have USC DE/OLB Nick Perry ranked in his top 25, but linked him to the Tennessee Titans at #20. This is probably who I would have selected for the Chargers if given a mock with the first 17 going the way that he had them go. However, it's curious as to why he doesn't rank highly on Mel's Big Board.