San Diego Chargers 2014 NFL Draft: Fact or Fiction
The 2014 NFL draft is nearly upon us, and the numbers from college seasons, the combine and pro days are all finally in, so fans and media members alike are watching the San Diego Chargers and the other 31 NFL teams for any indication of who they will be targeting in the upcoming draft.
Every fan wants to know exactly what direction their team is headed in. The wait can be agonizing, as football experts from all over deify prospects and proclaim them the key to fixing their team's mess at position X, only to then dash those dreams by having the player go two picks too early when they publish their updated mock drafts.
It's the time of year where many fans would like to find themselves dropped into a Spike Jonze film and call it Being Tom Telesco, to find out exactly who the Bolts general manger is planning on taking in the draft, or better yet, influence him themselves.
The Chargers have just seven picks, one in each round, in the 2014 NFL draft, and most of the focus is naturally on what they will do in the first couple of rounds. Seven picks means no bonus chances in any round to select a great player.
There is always time to parse through some of these prognostications and try to separate the fact from the fiction (or the probable from the improbable), and hopefully, make some sense out of what experts and reporters around the country are saying about the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers Will Take Louis Nix III If Available in the First Round: Fact
Since the Chargers finished with the 29th-ranked pass defense last season, multiple mock drafts have them taking Louis Nix III, defensive tackle out of Notre Dame, with the 25th pick in the draft.
Eddie Brown of U-T San Diego has the Chargers taking Nix, as well as Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com. Nix registers at 6'2" and 331 pounds, but has played at over 340. Fans who get nostalgic thinking of Jamal Williams plugging the gaps at Qualcomm Stadium will be excited by Nix's size and physicality.
It is imperative the Chargers find another defensive tackle since, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, the team released all 334 pounds of defensive tackle Byron Jerideau, who missed the entirety of his rookie season due to injury. This leaves the Bolts with Sean Lissemore and Kwame Geathers as the only two true defensive tackles on the current roster.
A space-eater like the monolithic Nix would be perfect for the Chargers young inside linebacker duo of Manti Te'o and Donald Butler.
Te'o would be reunited with his run-stuffing college teammate, and the fact he knows Nix's capabilities and tendencies may help him develop as a linebacker and keep him from catching too many blocks, as Te'o looked a step slow as a rookie last year.
A strong presence at tackle would also allow Butler to continue to develop, something the Chargers are expecting considering the hefty contract they rewarded him with this offseason.
Cam Thomas did well for the Chargers in this defensive tackle role last season, but the Pittsburgh Steelers snapped him up to help relieve an aging Casey Hampton. Nix more than fits the bill, and probably the uniform, and would be an excellent centerpiece for the Chargers to build their defense around.
And who can't love a guy who moonlights as a quarterback in the springtime? Eat your heart out, Jared Lorenzen.
Last year's Blue-Gold Game saw Louis Nix take the reins as QB and score on a 2 point conversion- http://t.co/smtVzZ1r6d— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) March 24, 2014
Bradley Roby Is a Strong Possibility as a Chargers First-Round Choice: Fiction
"It's time for them to get a great corner," Roby said. "I would love to play for you guys and have a great career."
Roby's scheduled to see the Chargers sometime in April, according to Gehlken of U-T San Diego.
While the Chargers' brass will be happy to hear there are players excited to come to San Diego, it doesn't seem likely it will use its first-round pick on a player rated by CBSSports.com as the fifth-best cornerback available.
This goes back to Telesco's draft philosophy he laid out last year, via Ricky Henne of Chargers.com:
Number one, we don’t rank our needs. To me, if you start ranking your needs, it may start influencing your draft board so we have positions we think we’d like to add players to and then after that we let the board tell us where to go. We don’t rank our players 1-255. It’s more of a horizontal look by position and then we’ll rank each player against each other at different positions. But we let the board tell us where to go. Obviously we do take in to account which positions we’d like to add players to but we don’t go into it with a one or two, these are positions we have to hit early.
The fact remains the Chargers, with just two defensive tackles on the roster and a roster full of unproven cornerbacks, can't afford to go after anything less than a stud at the 25th pick. That means players like Nix or even Timmy Jernigan of Florida State, the second-best defensive tackle prospect, according to Mike Mayock, could be ahead of Roby on the Chargers big board.
Telesco wants proven talent over the influence of positional need, and Roby's shaky junior season could scare him off. Eric Galko of Sporting News compared Roby's situation to that of the Baltimore Ravens' Jimmy Smith.
In terms of talent , inconsistency, off-field concerns, where he'll be projected/land, Bradley Roby reminds a lot of Jimmy Smith in 2011.— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) April 8, 2014
This is not to say Roby won't have a strong professional career, but considering Smith didn't really come on strong until 2013 (two interceptions and 15 passes defensed), his third year in the league, the Chargers won't be looking for a possible project at corner in the first round, meaning Roby is likely to end up elsewhere.
Chargers Will Consider a Wide Receiver in First Round: Fiction
According to Dustin Hockensmith of PennLive.com, the Chargers have the potential to draft a wide receiver like Penn State's Allen Robinson in the first round, but this type of move would be a bad use of the Chargers' prime draft real estate.
NFL Insider Matt Wlliamson, via Eric D. Wiliams of ESPN.com, also seems to think the Chargers could use a guy like Odell Beckham Jr., out of LSU, but does doubt he would be available for the Chargers at the 25th pick.
Some might also see Telesco's comment that he wants to "infuse some speed" into the Chargers offense, via Annie Heilbrunn of NBCSanDiego.com, as indication he plans to add a speedy wide receiver for Philip Rivers to throw deep too (well at least on the outside, since Ladarius Green has that covered between the hash marks). This may be the case, but it won't be before the other team issues are addressed.
All of this chatter doesn't matter, as the Chargers will be defense first when it comes to their early draft choices.
If you consider reports like the Chargers working out Troy quarterback Deon Anthony at wide receiver, according to Aaron Wilson of NationalFootballPost.com, then you can expect experimental approaches to the wide receiver position would be saved for later rounds of the draft.
Keenan Allen proved to be one of the steals of the draft last year—falling all the way to the 76th pick in the third round—so perhaps Telesco is confident he can unearth another gem at wide receiver in 2014 as well. Not to mention, there are still promising commodities on the Chargers roster.
Vincent Brown went from 19 catches his rookie year in 2011 to 41 in 2013, and he did so despite missing all of 2012 due to injury. If Brown makes similar strides this year, the Chargers will be well-off at wide receiver.
Malcom Floyd is still a question mark considering his lingering neck issues, but he is a veteran wide receiver and would be plenty helpful to the Bolts if he regained some of his past form.
The Chargers are more likely to lose games in 2014 if Eric Weddle is busy playing the Winston Wolfe role cleaning up the defense's messes than if Rivers has one less player who can run a proper deep post pattern. Wide receiver can wait.
Chargers Should Take a Cornerback Before Day 2 Is Done: Fact
If the Chargers don't end up with a premier cornerback in the first round, they will be expected to take a cornerback in the second or third round, or fear the wrath of an angry fan base for neglecting such a glaring positional need.
Brown of U-T San Diego has the Chargers taking Pierre Desir of Lindenwood in the second round of his mock draft. Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated has the Chargers lucking out with the highly rated Jason Verrett in the first round.
Desir put Lindenwood on the map at the Senior Bowl, and at 6'1", would make a good complement to the 5'11" Shareece Wright in the Chargers secondary.
If the Chargers want to add some size at cornerback in a later round, they can take a look at Utah's Keith McGill, or Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska.
Both players are listed at 6'3" and over 200 pounds and would stack up well against Demaryius Thomas or Dwayne Bowe, two wideouts who are pure nightmare fuel for Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano.
In fact, Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller had good things to say about Jean-Baptiste in particular.
Liked Stanley Jean-Baptiste's film quite a bit. Issue was how athletic/fluid he was. This week he's shown well. Rd 1 pick wouldn't surprise— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2014
It would be nice to see some size in the Chargers secondary, and with a deep draft class full of great corners, the Chargers should prove the experts correct and take a cornerback early this year.