>\n\nWorst to First: 28. San Diego Chargers \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 28. San Diego Chargers

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/20/2010

The San Diego Chargers seem to be one of those teams who disappoint when they're expected to do well and excel just when you think they're going to have a down year. And playing in the AFC West they're always a good bet for the playoffs regardless of how well or poorly they're playing. They've shifted from being one of the best run offenses in the league to being one of the top passing offenses instead and they finished up one of the hottest teams in the league winding up the season with an 11 game winning streak before ultimately being upset by the Jets in the playoffs. They have lost a few players but for the most part, not ones who contributed to their successful 2009 so they should be in a great position to challenge for the big prize again this year as long as they can fill a couple of holes. One of them a gaping physical hole left by Jamal Williams, another being a massive metaphorical hole left by future hall of famer LT. We'll see how the Chargers cope with the favourites tag this year...
2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
Eric Ghiaciuc C (Browns,RFA), Brandon Manumaleuna TE (Bears,UFA), Kassim Osgood WR (Jaguars,UFA), LaDainian Tomlinson RB (Jets,UFA-cut), Charlie Whitehurst QB (Seahawks,RFA-trade), Jamal Williams NT (Broncos,UFA-cut) Marcus Mason RB (Redskins,UFA-cut), Donald Strickland CB (Jets,UFA-cut), Nathan Vasher CB (Bears,UFA-cut)
2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
Michael Bennett RB (UFA-cut), Alfonso Boone DE (UFA), Demetrius Byrd WR (UFA-cut), Jeromey Clary T (RFA), Tim Dobbins ILB (RFA), Malcom Floyd WR (RFA), Antonio Garay DE (RFA), Marques Harris LB (RFA), Vincent Jackson WR (RFA), Travis Johnson DE (RFA), Marcus McNeill T (RFA), Shawne Merriman OLB (RFA), Dennis Norman T (UFA), Jon Runyan T (UFA), Dontarrious Thomas LB, Kris Wilson FB (UFA) Antwon Applewhite LB (RFA), Ryon Bingham DL (UFA), Kevin Burnett LB (UFA), Jacques Cesaire DL (UFA), Jeromey Clarey OT (RFA), Stephen Cooper LB (UFA), Tim Dobbins LB (UFA), Antonio Gates TE (UFA), Scott Mruczkowski C (UFA), Legedu Naanee WR (RFA), Paul Oliver DB (RFA), Ian Scott DL (UFA), Brandon Siler LB (RFA), Darren Sproles RB (UFA), Mike Tolbert RB (RFA), Billy Volek QB (UFA), Eric Weddle S (RFA)

Quarterbacks Minimal Need
A lot of words were written about the Chargers choosing Phillip Rivers over Drew Brees all those years ago. And it's hard to argue with a Superbowl ring for Brees but then again, Rivers is an elite QB as well now. Throwing only 9 picks all season and going over 4000 yards again means he's now the focal point of their offense. Bill Volek is probably one of the best backups in the league but he hasn't had to do very much for a few years. He's a free agent next year and the trading of Charlie Whitehurst has given them a good boost into round 2 of the draft, but no developmental type QB. So think maybe a late rounder on a QB to bring along slowly. With Rivers' ability to play 16 games a season though, they could easily opt to carry just 2 QBs this year.

Runningbacks Major Need
The loss of LaDanian Tomlinson is a massive gap to fill. Or it might be if the Chargers hadn't moved to be more of a passing team now. Even so it leaves a big hole and has forced them to overpay Darren Sproles yet again. The money may not be a huge issue as I figure they're going to grab themselves a RB with one of their first 2 picks and they'll be relatively cheap. Mike Tolbert gives them some ball carrying ability as a FB as well so one top rookie ought to have the Chargers, well, charging again. Ryan Mathews is a hot tip but they've had a lot of RBs in through the doors. Toby Gerhart being an intriguing one. They should have a few prospects to pick from either at #28 or at #40.
Wide Receivers Minimal Need
Vincent Jackson's now in the top end of NFL WRs and his gaudy 17+ yards per catch last year shows you what a big play threat he is in this offense. The Chargers next best WR is Malcom Floyd who had a relatively meagre 45 catches... but also at over 17 yards per catch. That's some arm Rivers has... it also helps that both these guys are built more like Tight Ends than WRs. Speaking of Tight Ends. That's why Floyd's figures aren't as bad as you'd think. He's the 3rd receiving option in this offense. 50 or so catches is a good return. Legedu Naanee figures to be the 3rd WR at the moment and he's ok but I note former first rounder Craig Davis caught 6 balls in week 17 when he was forced into the starting lineup. Floyd caught 9 in the same game. What I'm saying is they've got a star WR, a good 3rd receiving option in Floyd, a serviceable 3rd WR and a player who can be effective as a starter even though he's 4th on the depth chart. I guess Davis could challenge Naanee for that 3rd WR role this year but they're looking pretty good as a unit. They could probably use a 5th guy at some point in the draft, especially as Naanee, Floyd and Jackson are currently scheduled to be free agents in 2011.
Tight Ends Minor Need
Antonio Gates picked a great year for a career season. He's a free agent in 2011 and the Chargers should be looking to extend him this offseason. Gates' agent should have the upper hand. As a unit though the Chargers let Brandon Manumaleuna join the Bears. He was thei best blocking TE and they'll need to replace him. This something of a big need for them but fortunately, blocking TEs are available in the mid to late rounds. It might be a need but it won't be high up their shopping list, and they may even find one on the undrafted scrap pile.
Offensive Line Minor Need
The only questions on the Chargers line revolve around who's going to play Right Guard and can they get Marcus McNeill sewn up long term. Right Tackle could stand an improvement but Brandyn Dombrowski should challenge for one of the right side positions and 3rd round rookie Louis Vasquez should develop more in his second season. Losing Nick Hardwick at Center early in the season didn't help though his backup Scott Mruczkowski did admirably. Hardwick, Dielman and McNeill give them a nice left side but I would rule out some more competition on the right side being added in the draft. I just don't think it's going to be too early on unless someone takes a tumble, like maybe Anthony Davis? Guys like Rodger Saffold could come into play in round 2 or 3. I think they have their likely 2010 starters on roster though and an improvement at RB will help the line look a lot better too.

Defensive Tackles Major Need
When they lost Jamal Williams to injury last year the Charger's run defense fell to pieces. As often happens in a 3-4 when you lose your NT. He's the key to your run defense and Williams is rather good at it. Even more unfortunate is the fact that Williams signed with the Broncos. Unless the Chargers plan on using a 4-3 front in 2010 they must improve their NT situation. Ogemdi Nwagbuo struggled before succumbing to injury himself. Nwagbuo looks better suited to playing End in the 3-4 anyway so this is a massive need for a massive player. And one of the most massive players in the draft might be a good pick, Terrence Cody. Dan Williams would be great but it's highly unlikely he'll slip to #28. Cody isn't known as Mount Cody by accident and he's instantly upgrade a poor run defense. The knock on him is his conditioning, as with a lot of 3-4NTs, That concern should mean he may even be there at #40.

Defensive Ends Minimal Need
Luis Castillo is still a good 3-4DE but Jacques Cesaire, well he's no Igor Olshansky. It sounds like the Chargers are ok with going into the 2010 season with him and a better NT alongside him would help of course. He could face some competition with the return of Ryon Bingham. In addition they have second year player Vaughn Martin as well as Travis Johnson and possibly even Nwagbuo. I'm not convinced there's a player of Olshansky's ability in there but they already have plenty of options to try. If there's a great player available for incredible value, maybe they'd do it, but I consider this Minimal Need at the moment. They may not have a great starter but they should have a good rotation.

Linebackers No Need
On the outside Shaun Phillips had a pretty good year. Maybe not as many sacks as you'd hope for but he made a lot of big plays and caused plenty of turnovers. Which is a good thing because it looks like Shawn Merriman may be somewhere near the end. a paltry 4 sacks having come off a missed 2008 was disappointing to say the least. With the Chargers having drafted a potential replacement for him last year too (Larry English) he could even be a draft day trade to some 3-4 pass rush starved team out there (oh hai Miami!). But with English already on board they'll want to give him every chance to succeed. If Merriman does go it could mean a return to duty for Jyles Tucker who managed 10 sacks in spot duty in 2007 and 2008 before losing his spot to English and injury. So they should be good for depth on the outside even if they do let Merriman go. If they pick up a late or mid round pick for Merriman they'd be well advised to use it on a 3-4OLB conversion project but there's no need otherwise. On the inside Stephen Cooper and Kevin Burnett make for a good pairing and with Tim Dobbins and Brandon Siler they have some good depth too. Again this is an area where an improvement at NT is going to make a huge difference.
Cornerbacks Minor Need
The Chargers are high enough on Antoine Cason to have traded away Antonio Cromartie. Least that's the official story. Possibly more to do with having more kids than Interceptions last year! But that leaves the Chargers with Cason, Quentin Jammer and the added duo of Nathan Vasher and Donald Strickland. The latter two probably worrying the Chargers physio crew more than opposing QBs. But what it does do is give the Chargers the ability to not have to reach for a CB in this draft. They have their presumptive starters set and a couple of guys who between them might be healthy long enough to fill the nickel slot. That means they only need a 4th CB for this year. Which in turn means they probably don't need to use either of their first 2 picks on a CB and can look to improving run defense and run offense instead.

Safeties Minimal Need
Eric Weddle's something of a rising star at Safety and his big plays are on the increase. Entering a contract year he's a good bet to further improve them this year and make himself indispensable to the Chargers. Strong Safety is a little cloudier. Second year player Kevin Ellison looks like he has the inside track on the job but was only a 6th rounder. Paul Oliver and Steve Gregory are in the mix too. Between the 3 of them they can probably get the job done but if a good SS type pops up in the mid rounds they're could attract some attention. 

Specialists No Need
Nate Kaeding had a rough time in the playoff loss to the Jets but he's a quality kicker and he won't be facing any real competition for his job. Neither will Mike Scifres who's right up there with the best in the league as well.

Return Game No Need
How much they're willing to use Sproles on returns this year will determine the need here. I'm going to assume he's going to be the main guy in both facets and there's no need here.

Dream Day One
 1.28 Terrence Cody NT Alabama
2.40 Ryan Matthews RB Fresno State
Player Visits
Dan Williams DT Tennessee
Terrence Cody DT Alabama
Jonathan Crompton QB Tennessee
Levi Brown QB Troy
Jahvid Best RB California
Ben Tate RB Auburn
Toby Gerhart RB Stanford
Montario Hardesty RB Tennessee
Deji Karim RB Southern Illinois
Lonyae Miller RB Fresno State
Mike Williams WR Syracuse
Devin McCourty CB Rutgers
Chris Cook DB Virginia


Last Edited: 04/14/2010

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