For those familiar with my draft coverage you'll recognize the Team Needs chart. I break it down to brass tacks. I try not to interpret how the organization feels about a particular player, but merely what players are currently under contract and how much experience they have. Here's what the Team Needs chart would have looked like at the start of free agency:
|Past starter is FA and has no surefire understudy||Projected starter is inexperienced and has no competition for his spot
||Open backup jobs
||May need a new starter or backup after 2012 season|
|FB, OT||S, WR, DT, OLB, OG, DE
||S, WR, RB, TE, CB, OT, C
||QB, K, OLB, DT, DE, TE, WR
And here's what it looks like now:
|DT, OG, DE
||S, RB, CB, C
||K, OLB, DE, TE, WR
There are 3 starting positions that are currently question marks based on this criteria. All of those positions are projected to be manned by players that were drafted by the Chargers and have been developed with the idea that they'd become starters. They are not pressing areas of concerns. One could argue that the team just needs a solid backup at each spot, something better addressed with another free agent signing than a draft pick.
This means that, arguably, the Chargers have no draft needs. Or to put it a different way, there are no players that they can draft in 2012 that are required to come in and compete for starting jobs. The closest thing to that are the situations at the LG and DE position. OG Tyronne Green only has one year remaining on his contract, so even if he does hold down the fort at that spot, the team may still need someone else long term. Same with Vaughn Martin at the DE position. Cam Thomas is the projected starter at DT, but unlike the other two, his contract runs through 2013.
The Chargers can now attack the draft without having to focus on certain positions. They can draft the best player available with every draft selection. In the long term, this should make the football team better as the young talent pushes the established veterans and earns their way to the top instead of being handed it. They could do something crazy like draft Alabama RB Trent Richardson to create a dynamic backfield. They could draft a WR that could sit and learn for a year, but replace Malcom Floyd next year. They could go for an OLB that could compete with English and LaBoy for time and maybe force the Chargers hand in 2012 or just be ready to go in 2013.
This is what the free agent spending spree really bought the Chargers. Draft flexibility and the removal of the need to count on some fresh faced college standout to immediately become an NFL producer.