It's around this time of year that the names Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. become important. Though they both work for ESPN, each puts out separate "mock drafts" leading up to the NFL Draft in April. Their mock drafts are generally among the most accurate and most telling when analyzing the draft stock of a prospect.
Each of these men released a new mock draft today and, although they both have the San Diego Chargers selecting offensive linemen with their #11 overall selection, they do not agree on who the Bolts will be taking.
Lane Johnson, OT (Oklahoma)
McShay sees the Chargers parting ways with Jared Gaither, opening up a hole at the most important position on the line (Left Tackle). Johnson is not only a first-round talent when it comes to pass blocking and run blocking, but he's a good fit for the Zone Blocking scheme that new Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris will be implementing in San Diego.
Cutting Gaither would free up $500,000 in cap space in 2013, but it would also save the Chargers $4.5 million in real dollars. The #11 pick in last year's draft, Dontari Poe, got a 4-year contract worth $11.3 million. His cap hit for his rookie season was a hair over $2 million. Would the Chargers be willing to eat $1.5 million in cap space to replace Gaither with Johnson?
Mel Kiper, Jr.
Jonathan Cooper, G (North Carolina)
Kiper went back and reviewed tape of the 2012 San Diego Chargers and was shocked at how poorly the Guards played. He seems to think that they were equally responsible for the poor pass blocking, and more responsible for the poor run blocking, as were the Offensive Tackles.
Cooper would be an easier addition to a roster than Lane Johnson, if only because the team barely has just one Guard (Johnnie Troutman) signed for the upcoming season.