The window opens this morning in Indianapolis for NFL teams to begin full scale preparation for the NFL Draft. 323-players will be on hand this week for the Draft Combine, and for the Chargers, it is a critical week.
Tom Telesco heads to his third draft as the Bolts decision maker. His opening draft was a raging success, with the early pick of OT-DJ Fluker, the fast development of WR-Keenan Allen, and the selection of LB-Manti Te’o.
Last year’s draft looked good at the top and the burst of athleticism and the dynamics of CB-Jason Verrett and LB-Jerry Attaochu gives you good hopes for the future if they can get completely healthy.
This draft is critical, for QB-Philip Rivers is on the clock. A great career about to wind down, but sadly with a franchise falling down around him. The team has one playoff win in its last six years. They have been to postseason play just once in the last four falls with Rivers at quarterback.
And now he has started to accumulate injuries; a chest injury in 2013; the rib and back injuries last season. He took 36-sacks and 110-hits last fall, and has been sacked 115-times over the last 3-years, and this in a shotgun friendly, 3-step drop offense. Too much pressure, too many hits.
The Chargers draft 17th in the first round, and Telesco and his scouts need to hit on either a right tackle, or one of the quality group of guards, that will likely be there.
Thankful for San Diego, they have versatility. DJ Fluker has excelled at right tackle, but might be better at right guard. Chris Watt came in as a guard, but wound up at center because of injuries. The Bolts could take a right tackle if available and move Fluker into guard. If a center is rated best, then maybe Watt moves to guard and Fluker stays on the edge.
The top lineman they will look at are Stanford OT-Andrus Peat; Ereck Flowers-OT-Miami; La’el Collins-OT-LSU; Brandon Scherff-OG-Iowa; Cam Ervin-OC-Florida State; or Jake Fisher-OT-Oregon.
A couple of them will likely be there, and the key to get it right. Find the mix of athleticism, toughness, intelligence, and fire that will allow a pick to come in and play immediately.
There are no guarantees in any of this. Two years it appeared there were sure-fire OL atop the draft board, and it hasn’t quite worked out. Kansas City’s Eric Fisher has struggled mightily at both RT-LT. The Eagles’ Lane Johnson struggled, got hurt, and then was suspended on a drug issue. Jacksonville’s Luke Joeckel got hurt as a rookie and struggled all last year. Jonathan Cooper permanently rode the inactive list or bench in Arizona.
San Diego needs to hit it big now with this first round pick. Yes there are other needs, more pass rush help, another corner, and maybe nose-tackle, but protecting Rivers is more important than anything. Drafting an OL is not a sexy pick, but they need a solid player to make a statement coming out of a three point stance.
You lose Rivers to an injury behind a poor offensive line, and San Diego becomes Cleveland-Buffalo-
Jacksonville. No quarterback-no hope. Tom Telesco cannot let that happen.