Offensive Line Rebuild Will Come Via the NFL Draft for San Diego Chargers
For the San Diego Chargers, the 2012 season has quickly turned into a bit of a joke (and not the funny kind). The Bolts have been a calamity of errors this season and at 4-8, it appears that attention will begin to shift from the current state of affairs to the future where the club will likely have a new coach, plenty of new players, and possibly even a new general manager. That much change in one offseason can only mean one thing, the dreaded “rebuilding”.
Where the team has rebuilt in the past is through the NFL Draft and that will likely be there top priority again this time around. As it currently stands, the Chargers would have a top ten draft pick for the first time since 2004 when they drafted Eli Manning first overall only to trade him for Philip Rivers and others shortly thereafter.
While picking high is a benefit when attempting to rebuild, it is also a real testament to just how far the franchise has fallen over the better part of the last decade. Arguably the biggest reason for this decline has been the club’s inability to replace aging talent on an offensive line that was once a force, but is now more like a sieve. With a top ten pick, there will be plenty of top flight line talent to choose from in the upcoming draft. Here are the top offensive tackle prospects as things currently look prior to the college bowl season.
Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M 6’6” 310lbs. – This kid has been one of the primary reasons that Johnny Manziel is projected to win the Heisman Trophy. His elite pass protection has been huge against some of the top pass rushers in the SEC this season and he could immediately provide a boost to the Bolts ailing offensive line.
Jake Matthews, Texas A&M 6’5” 305lbs. – It’s not often that the same school has the two best tackle prospects in the land, but this season has been phenomenal for the Aggies. Matthews is more of a grinding run blocker than Joeckel and could be considered a right tackle at the next level which diminishes his value a bit in the top ten of the draft, but he still has the skills to be elite at the next level.
Taylor Lewan, Michigan 6’8” 302lbs. – Here is a bit of work in progress with plenty of upside headed to the NFL. Lewan can sometimes get sloppy in his footwork which leads to some messy looking pressures, but he has size that you can’t coach. He is an aggressive player that has a real feisty mentality that will be very beneficial in the league.
Eric Fisher, Central Michigan 6’8” 305lbs. – This is my favorite of the group if the Bolts can’t get Joeckel. Fisher has so much upside and coming from a smaller school with lower level competition, there will be plenty of questions about him through the scouting process. Joe Staley has proven that the Chippewas can produce NFL offensive line talent and Fisher looks very similar to Staley in build and stature.
While these are just possibilities at this point, there is no denying the fact that the Chargers need a rebuild on the offensive line. The pressure on Rivers this season has been relentless and a big reason why he has struggled to set his feet and consistently deliver the football on time. Now that the team has zero postseason aspirations remaining, it only seems fitting to crank up the draft machine and let the conjecture begin.
Follow Anthony Blake on Twitter @AnthonyMBlake or on Facebook at Anthony Mizarkus Blake