This will be the 3rd in a series of Mel Kiper Mock Draft reviews, which is also the number of mock drafts that he's done this year. In the first review we discussed his selection of Georgia OT/OG Cordy Glenn for the Chargers. In the second review, we looked at his Mock Draft 2.0 selection of Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd for the Chargers. In what is now his 3rd mock of the year, I believe that Mel has come to see the light. In those previous two mocks he was focusing too much on immediate needs and players that might have a difficult time making an impact in 2012. This time around, in his Mock Draft 3.0 (ESPN Insider subscription required), Mel's come to my way of thinking: the best 1st round pick for the Chargers is a pass rusher.
The Chargers will address the offensive line through free agency. They are either going to bring back some of their own guys or go out and get some veteran help to replace what they lose via cuts and free agency. At WR the Chargers can work to bring back Vincent Jackson and if they need to use the draft to add to the depth at that position, they can do that by using a 2nd or 3rd pick in what figures to be a WR heavy draft. Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill or Appalachian St. WR Brian Quick can give you similar ability to Michael Floyd without his baggage and high draft pick status.
This sort of strategy frees up that 1st round pick to go after a player that can both have an impact in 2012 and improve with time to perhaps a Pro Bowl level. The position that can best accommodate such a player (due to rotation and the high impact nature of the sack) is the 3-4 OLB linebacker. Find out who Mel chose for the Chargers to play this position after the jump.
#85 / Defensive Lineman / Illinois Fighting Illini
|2011 - Whitney Mercilus||13||16
The book on Mercilus is he's an athletic, long-armed pass-rush specialist who simply dominated as a senior. The track record over a few seasons isn't there, but he could be a steal if what we saw in 2011 is what Mercilus truly is. The Chargers need help on the offensive line, but I think free agency will help us get a clearer picture. Mercilus is a great value here, but we'll see how the needs shift.
That little blurb is from Mel Kiper's Mock 3.0. He mentions the knock on Mercilus that he only really shined in his final season (which he calls a Senior year, but would be a Red Shirt Junior year for eligibility purposes). It's risky to bet on a 1 year wonder, but when you pick 18th you have to take on some sort of risk. Recently, at the combine and Mercilus' Pro Day last Tuesday March 6, he's showed scouts how physically gifted he is. That allays fears that he "got lucky" in that final season and helps to convince that he's mature physically as a player to the point where he's a legit 1st round NFL prospect.