Okay, so the offseason is just beginning. We haven't even seen the Combine yet, and a lot of the Chargers' needs will be decided by the free-agent moves we do or don't make. Will we re-sign Vincent Jackson? Will Marcus McNeill, Kris Dielman, and Nick Hardwick return? Does AJ break tradition to make a blockbuster move such as signing a Mario Williams or Tyvon Branch?
Time will tell, but based on how our roster is looking right now, here's my premature seven-round mock draft.Round 1 (#18 overall): Nick Perry, OLB, Southern California
I thought long and hard about this one-- I used to have Vinny Curry here, but upon review, he's just not worthy of a pick this high. Perry has always struck me as the "other guy" in a 3-4 scheme: more finesse than brawn, who can take advantage of a disruptive force of nature on the other side to max out his potential-- the role that Shaun Philips played when we had a healthy Merriman, if you will. Nevertheless, he's a gifted pass rusher who can make an impact immediately, and he definitely has the tools to mature into a more complete linebacker. The hiring of his old coach Joe Barry will help out a lot with this, I think.
Round 2 (#50 overall): Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina
There really aren't any linemen who suit our needs in the second-- lots of tweener types or developmental picks-- so it's worth it to address the defensive backfield here. Norman shone at the East-West Shrine game, and has a natural grasp of the playbook. He's also a superb athlete and can stick with just about any receiver in the division if not the league. The media has repeatedly brought up his "character concerns", which should be a non-issue-- he was arrested during his freshman year for unpaid parking tickets, which he has since moved past and his teammates and coaches describe him as a leader on the team and in the community.
Round 3 (#82 overall): Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
Kris Dielman has always been one of the best guards in the league, but with his age and recent concussion, it's time to start thinking about his replacement even if he does come back. Zeitler is a big, gritty warrior who does everything at least adequately. He's a mauler of a run blocker and has potential to become pretty good at pass pro-- the main knock on him is that he's slow off the snap, but Hal Hunter should be able to coach that up. He should be at least as good as Tyronne Green or Steve Schilling in his first year and should compete for a starting spot should Dielman retire.
Round 4 (#114 overall): Evan Rodriguez, FB/TE, Temple
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn if Jacob Hester walks, because he's easily replaceable. Rodriguez fills two needs here, as a very capable H-back who can lead block or line up at tight end. He's got great hands and is a threat when running with the ball too, but he isn't a top-flight lead blocker. He'll develop as he's asked to take that role more in the pros. Norval likes these type of players, and Rodriguez could eventually turn into Chris Cooley. Rodriguez also plays special teams-- and well, I might add.
Round 5 (#146 overall): Ryan Miller, OT, Colorado
He's really, really big, (6'8", weighs in around 300) but moves well for his size and doesn't often get beat around the edge by speed guys. He's also Hulkishly strong and has a nasty streak, but his height allows pass rushers-- especially bull-rush guys-- to get under him and gain the leverage advantage. Projects out to right tackle. Another guy who will benefit from pro coaching.
Round 6 (#178 overall): Gary Joe Kinne, QB, Tulsa
GJ Kinne is a bit short, a bit thick, and tougher than a bowl of nails. He's not a scrambler, but he can move the chains like a Jeff Garcia or Kyle Boller type in a pinch. He's also matured significantly in the last few years and as a senior did a much better job reading defenses and makes good throws-- his arm strength is a shade below the top level, but he's pretty accurate (completion percentage of 63.3 his senior year, and Tulsa's receiving core wasn't great) as well. Coming from a shotgun-spread at Tulsa into a pro-style offense will require adjustment. Overall, a gritty and intelligent guy who finds a way to win and should improve with the tutelage of Norv Turner and Philip Rivers. Will be perfectly qualified to hold the clipboard for a few years and move up to second-string when Volek retires.
Round 7 (#210 overall): Chris Rainey, WR/RB, Florida
I've projected us missing out on the Devon Wylie sweepstakes, so Rainey is a good option to fill the same role. He's diminutive at 5'9" and 174 lbs., but possesses explosive speed and can line up in the slot or the backfield. Elusive, with good hands--a great Sproles/McCluster change-up guy. His small size makes him an injury risk, but if he can add muscle without losing speed, he's an excellent scatback option.
UDFAs to consider:
Josh Chichester, TE/WR, Louisville: Doesn't have great stats and is not a blocking tight end by any stretch of the imagination, but led the Cardinals in receiving touchdowns this past season, is a significant vertical threat, and he'd immediately be one of the tallest receivers in the league at 6'8". Can't overstate the bit about his height-- can you imagine Rivers playing pitch-and-catch with that guy in the red zone?
Hebron Fangupo, DL, Brigham Young: Nasty and physical. Gets his pads a bit high and isn't a factor in the pass rush game, but could grow up to be a Jamal Williams type anchor-of-the-line. We can always use depth along the line, as this past season has proven.
Miles Burris, OLB, San Diego State: The hometown boy is a capable pass-rusher, a hard worker, a vicious hitter, and a special-teams stud. He's fast enough to chase down plays outside, and versatile enough to play inside or outside. Doesn't have a great drop into coverage, and is a bit of a one-dimensional pass rush guy at this point, but he brings the hustle, vocal leadership, and meanness that the defense has lacked since Merriman departed. Again, you can't have too many pass rushers.
Lance Mitchell, SS, Oregon State: He's a half-step slow, but has good instincts and good intuition, so he's usually around the ball. Good tackler as well, but doesn't have the athleticism to be an impact player. Worth a look as a camp body.
Ifeanyi Momah, WR, Boston College: A guy I love. Why? I'll just quote the NFP review on him:
Loves to get after it in the run game as a run blocker. Generates a pop into contact, loves to pick off defenders at the second level and has a real physical element to his game. Will play as a rush DE in nickel situations for the defense and brings a defensive type mentality as a blocker.
He's also very big for a wideout (six foot six). Good acceleration, doesn't have the best flat-out speed, but uses his burst and his shiftiness to evade coverage and get off of jams. Can still be a vertical threat of the same caliber as Jackson or Floyd, but he'll take a bit of grooming.
If you've got any other UDFA prospects to add, post them in the comments. Feedback on the draft picks is appreciated too. I do want to address the absence of a strong safety being drafted-- but unfortunately, unless we spring for Barron in the first, where we have bigger needs, there's nobody who would be an immediate upgrade over Stuckey and/or Gregory.