The San Diego Chargers must upgrade their offensive line this off-season to protect Philip Rivers and open up running lanes for Ryan Mathews. However, it could be difficult to get a good offensive tackle in the upcoming NFL Draft.
With Luke Joeckel expected to go in the top five and Eric Fisher’s likely ascendance into the top 10, the Chargers could be left without a suitable tackle to take at pick number 11. Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson is rising but would still be a reach if the Chargers stay put and take him. The Chargers have their highest draft pick since 2004 and need to take a top-11 player to replenish the talent that has eluded the team over the past few years.
Though tackle is their most pressing need, the Chargers should not reach for the position if the talent doesn’t justify the draft slot.
The Chargers’ biggest need heading into the 2010 NFL Draft was running back, but the team also needed help at wide receiver, safety, and along both the offensive and defensive lines. The Chargers traded up from 28 to 12 to grab running back Ryan Mathews, which many at the time considered a reach and desperate move. Mathews was taken ahead of guys like Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Earl Thomas, who have become top players at their positions, while Mathews is considered a bust by many.
The Chargers currently have plenty of other needs, specifically at offensive guard, cornerback and linebacker. The team’s needs may change by April, but the Chargers don’t have much cap space to completely fix these issues in free agency. General manager Tom Telesco has already said he would like to build through the draft, meaning the team will still likely have plenty of immediate needs that have to be shored up come April.
Guard Chance Warmack, cornerback Dee Milliner and defensive end/outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo are other options that the Chargers could look at if Joeckel and Fisher are off the board. All three would fill immediate needs and are better prospects than Lane Johnson.
The Chargers can get by with Jeromey Clary at right tackle if necessary. However, on the left side, Jared Gaither will likely be released due to his inability to stay healthy, and Mike Harris can’t be counted on to protect Rivers’ blindside for another season. The Chargers still need to bring in a new left tackle, but hopefully can pick one up in free agency or later in the draft.