Most Valuable Chargers #10: King Dunlap

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The first of ten articles on the players that the San Diego Chargers can't afford to lose.

When determining a player's value, the most simple way to do so is to ask: "How much would it hurt the team if the player was lost for the season?" So that is how this list is compiled. Each player is valuable for different reasons, and here is why King Dunlap is the tenth most valuable:

Run Blocking

The Chargers signing of Dunlap in the 2013 offseason flew under the radar, largely due to the contract (2 years, $3.7 million), as well as his less than stellar play. He was actually criticized for his run blocking, but he turned that into a major strength. According to Pro Football Focus, no offensive tackle (left or right) was a better run blocker than "the King" in 2013. He had a higher run blocking grade than every other tackle despite missing 5 full games (and various in-game injuries). Offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris did a fantastic job with Dunlap, as he turned him into a valuable piece of the Chargers offensive line.

Left Tackle Depth

Dunlap's pass protection may be about average, but it could get a lot worse in San Diego. Mike Harris, who put on one of the worst offensive lineman performances in 2012 (in fairness, an undrafted rookie should never be in that position) looks to be the back-up left tackle for now. Harris showed major improvement in 2013 but is far from a sure thing to lock down the blind side.

Last season's solution to Dunlap's injuries was a complete overhaul of the offensive line. D.J. Fluker would slide from the right side (where he is most comfortable) to left tackle. Jeromey Clary would move from guard to right tackle, causing a new lineman to play guard (usually Johnnie Troutman). If Dunlap went down, not only would we see a drop-off at left tackle, but right tackle (and maybe guard, depending on your view of Clary) would also see a decline.

Dunlap is a very good offensive lineman who is also playing in a contract year. His health, particularly concussion/neck issues could be a bigger factor in the continuity of the offensive line than fans would like. If he can play a complete season, King Dunlap should be in for a breakout year. If not, lack of depth could haunt the Bolts O-line once again.

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