Which rookies will make the biggest impact for the San Diego Chargers in 2012?
The San Diego Chargers selected seven players in the 2012 NFL Draft. Former South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Melvin Ingram was chosen in round one. Ingram had 10 sacks in 13 games played last season for South Carolina. The Chargers desperately needed to add another pass rusher because their 32 team sacks were tied for 23rd in the league for 2011. San Diego added former Connecticut Huskies defensive tackle Kendall Reyes in round two. Reyes recorded 46 tackles to go along with 4.5 sacks last season with the Huskies. The Lightning Bolts added former Louisiana State Tigers strong safety Brandon Taylor in round three. Taylor recorded 71 tackles, two interceptions and a sack with LSU in 2011. San Diego ranked 20th against the run last season, so Reyes and Taylor will be much needed additions to the team.
San Diego added former Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns tight end Ladarius Green in round four. Green caught 51 passes for 606 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. Former Penn State Nittany Lions guard Johnnie Troutman was taken in round five, but he tore his pectoral muscle during workouts and is likely to miss the entire 2012 season. Troutman would have added depth to a position in which the Chargers only have three guys to play. San Diego added former Michigan Wolverines center David Molk in round seven as well as former Michigan State Spartans running back Edwin Baker. San Diego was only carrying two centers before the draft, so Molk was a smart pickup. Baker finished his 2011 season with 170 carries, 665 yards and five touchdowns.
I expect Ingram, Reyes and Taylor to have the most impact for San Diego in 2012 because the team was lacking in a second pass rusher to go along with Antwan Barnes and the Chargers need to improve their run defense. The strong safety position was a weakness as well because Steve Gregory, who is no longer a part of the team, was one of the worst strong safeties in 2011 according to Pro Football Focus. There is a possibility for Green to see more playing time than expected because Antonio Gates missed six games in 2010 and three games last season. If Nick Hardwick goes down with an injury, they may decide to move Rex Hadnot from guard to center or Molk will compete for extended playing time with Colin Baxter. Baker could be in a battle with Curtis Brinkley and Michael Hayes to be the backup for Ryan Mathews. Hayes had 132 attempts for 727 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Houston Cougars last year and was signed as an undrafted player. Brinkley only has 32 career rushing attempts in two seasons while Hayes and Baker are rookies.