Pick a word even loosely synonymous to underachieving and go ahead and insert it when describing the San Diego Chargers of 2011. Again.
The team that keeps coming up short when the talent on the roster suggests its darn near impossible to did so again last year, although they did come within a game of winning the AFC West.
That’s more of a testament to the dismay of the division than the Chargers’ success, however, so the fact remains that Norv Turner’s team is in need of a bounce back 2012 or he wont earn an extension on his current deal (which is set to expire at the conclusion of next season).
San Diego has been aggressive in free agency, landing such noteworthy pieces as linebacker Jarrett Johnson, wide receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, and retaining veteran defensive lineman Luis Castillo.
An aging defense would figure to be the focus for the Chargers the rest of the way this offseason, particularly in a division that now contains Peyton Manning.
More specifically, the Chargers could stand to add a boost in both the secondary and pass rushing departments, the latter of which is an area of depth this year.
Alas, let’s dig deeper into the Chargers draft plans, and figure out what to make of the 18th pick in the upcoming draft.
Who they will draft: Whitney Mercilus, defensive end/outside linebacker, Illinois. No player collected more sacks in college football last season than Mercilus, and that’s a fact that San Diego fans will love to hear associated with their first round pick. He’s long, a sufficient athlete, and a guy who should develop into an outside linebacker for San Diego. My issue with Mercilus? I don’t see him as having a particularly high ceiling. That’s not exactly what you want in a first round investment.
Who they should draft: Chandler Jones, outside linebacker, Syracuse. Here’s the question on Chandler: can he transition into an outside backer role in a 3-4 scheme after playing his Syracuse career as a hand-in-the-dirt end? He’s a superb athlete with the right body structure to do so, and I think that, contrary to Mercilus, he has a chance to be a special talent at the next level. He has good football pedigree, as his brother Arthur is a defensive tackle for the Ravens, and the younger Jones strikes me as an NFL star in the making.
Who they could draft: Cordy Glenn, offensive line, Georgia. The Chargers suffered a blow when Kris Dielman announced his retirement this offseason, a move that stemmed from a concussion and subsequent seizure on the team plane home from a game. San Diego needs to upgrade on the interior, and Glenn is the type of guy who could come in and start right away. He’s got the strength of a mammoth and is versatile enough to flex to guard or tackle.
Who they shouldn’t take: Mercilus. Sorry, but I’m just not sold on Mercilus’ ability to get depth in space and take on coverage responsibilities. He was only a one-year starter at Illinois, which suggests that he’ll take some time to develop at the next level. The Chargers are in need of a guy who can enter the mix and compete right away, as both head coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith are on the hot seat in the final years of their contracts. Mercilus, for now, doesn’t sound like that guy to me.