Free agency appears to be over. At least the 20 piece free agent puzzle that A.J Smith was trying to put together.
So, now is when the clearest view of the Chargers draft plans will come to light.
Here is a pretty clear position by position needs list that face the Chargers, followed by a mock which addresses all in the order of urgency.
Urgency of need:
Offensive line - Low.
Free agency signings. Mario Henderson, Nick Hardwick , Jared Gaither.
Depth - Jeromey Clary , Tyronne Green ,Louis Vasquez, ,Brandyn Dombrowski, Stephen Schilling,
If anything, I think a draft addition would only solidify the depth, not become the instant starter, so a late round pick is probable, an early round pick is highly unlikely.
Wide receiver- Low
Its pretty clear.
2. Robert Meacham
3. Vincent Brown - Eddie Royal
5. Roscoe Parrish/ Michael Spurlock / Richard Goodman
I doubt the Chargers go receiver anywhere in this draft.
3. Later round QB- if they see potential in, I could see a late round pick up here.
Tight End- Low
1. Antonio Gates
2. Randy McMichael
3. Dante Rosario
Korry Sperry is also on the roster, wasting a draft pick here would be pointless.
Running backs- Moderately High need
1. Ryan Mathews
2.? 2nd or 3rd round pick
3. Le'Ron McClain
Wherever Jacob Hester doesn't fill in, Le'Ron McClain will, and vice versa.
The utility back position is filled nicely.
Draft needs Offense- (2) possibly (3) BPA
2nd/ 3rd round RB
4th-7th round OL
Draft picks defense.
Pass rush Specialist / LB- Need (High)
In a 3-4, these guys are very important in getting to the Quarterback from the outside. They just didn't get the job done in 2011. Gamble, Mouton, and English have so much potential, but I see Smith taking one more shot here in the first with a pass rusher that he's been missing the past few drafts.
32nd in the league on 3rd down is the most pressing need the Chargers should be looking to improve on.
(Safety) - High need
Eric Weddle (FS)
Darrel Stuckey (S)
Atari Bigby (SS)
Nick Polk (FS)
If Mark Barron will be taken in the first, the Chargers will need to trade up to get ahead of Philadelphia and Dallas.
The Harrison Smith hype as of late will push him way out of the Chargers 49 spot, and I seriously doubt the Chargers will want him at 18.
Cornerbacks- Moderately High need
Quentin Jammer- Lost a step
Antoine Cason- great some games , burned bad others.
Marcus Gilchrist- Flashes of greatness, flashes of poor play
Shareece Wright- His lack of play at all last year speaks volumes for what faith the Chargers have in him.
Defensive Line- Low
Luis Castillo, Jacques Cesaire, Antonio Garay, Corey Liuget, Vaughn Martin,Cam Thomas will be used in heavy rotation, and won't set the world on fire, but provide a solid 3-4 D-line .
Defensive Needs (3)
Special teams needs - Low.
Scifres, Windt, and Kaeding are locks:
So here it is. My final mock draft
1. Nick Perry / Courtney Upshaw
2. LaMichael James
3. DeQuan Menzie
4. Brandon Taylor/ Sam Ihenacho
5. Ryan Miller
6. Kellen Moore
7. Braylon Broughton
Defending my picks:
1. Either Nick Perry or Courtney Upshaw will be on the board when San Diego picks. The Chargers wont have to trade up, and will get a solid pass rusher at 18 that will fit their 3-4 style very well.
These guys come from big schools and played in big games, so its not so much a gamble as former similar 1st round picks (Northern Illinois).
If either of these guys are draft busts, A.J Smith wont need a defense attorney.
2. LaMichael James. RB
No, he will not drop to the third round. Yes he is small. I think he would fit the Chargers offense perfectly. He can catch out of the backfield, and is elusive as a runner as you will find.
Last season at Oregon he had 1805 rushing yards, averaged 7.3 yards per carry and 18 Touchdowns.
No he's not a one year wonder, he's averaged 6.6 yards per carry or better since his freshman year. For the Chargers to use a second round pick on him is not a stretch in the least. He reminds me a lot of Sproles, and before him Lionel James, and before him James Brooks, the Chargers always seem to have a type of player like this, last year he was missed.
3. Dequan Menzie Cornerback/safety Alabama.
He has slid quietly under the radar because of all the other stars at Alabama, but what makes him a great fit for the Chargers at round 3 is his versatility. Two positions the Chargers need help in, he plays well.
Although he's a projected 4th rounder, I can see the Chargers taking him before that. The interview the Chargers did with him is on Chargers.com, and its pretty obvious , AJ has an eye on him. The higher Harrison Smith and Mark Barron's draft stock rises, the more I can see Bolts on Menzie.
4. Brandon Taylor Safety LSU
Would be the obvious pick here at Safety from LSU, simply because he has played in a bigger division, but in terms of size, strength, and instincts, Sam Ihenacho ( San Jose state) is right there with him. Both are projected as 4th or 5th rounders. And like Menzie, The more Smith,and Barron's draft stock rises , the more these guys look likely to be wearing Chargers uniforms next season.
5. Ryan Miller OG - Colorado
After the 1st round , the guard position drops off rapidly, but Miller (projected 6th round) seems like a great pick up for depth. At 6'7" 320 pounds, he fits the role, and if nothing else solidifies the line, and provides competition for Clary. Its a win win deal for Rivers.
6. Kellen Moore QB Boise state
Yes, I get it , he's small, he's left handed, he doesn't have the rocket arm. Did that stop him from winning more games than any other college players ever? The only time I ever saw him lose was when he was done in by his kicker, so he has that in common with Rivers. He's started every game since his freshman year and got better every year. His 2011 stats are:
74% completion rating
Now that Mike Mayock, Skip Bayless and the draft gurus have done their job on him, he's a projected 7th round pick. Mark my words, he'd be a steal in the 6th.
7. Braylon Broughton DE/OLB TCU
Broughton is slated to go in the 7th or UFA, so I think he'd be worth the pickup. He's said to be a good special teams player, and very versatile because of his size 6'4" 260 Lbs. So in terms of a project player, depth player, or just special teams, a 7th round pick here is well worth the gamble.
Keep in mind, A.J will beg, borrow and steal for this years draft to be successful, after all his , and Norv's jobs are riding on the 2012 season. So a trade up will surprise me less than trading down.
For me, this draft would be a grade A report card for Smith.
1. Nick Perry DE/OLB USC
2. LaMichael James RB Oregon
3. DeQuan Menzie SS/Cornerback Alabama
4. Brandon Taylor Safety LSU
5. Ryan Miller OG Colorado
6. Kellen Moore QB Boise state
7. Braylon Broughton OLB/DE TCU
This is based on no trades up, and no reaching, every player would be taken at or above their projected draft round.