For some teams lucky enough to have a solid depth chart already in place, the NFL Draft is merely a place to stockpile talented players to groom for the future. With the San Diego Chargers, they didn’t have that luxury heading into the 2013 version after a dismal 7-9 record last season that was worse than it actually shows. General Manager Tom Telesco needed to find players that could provide an immediate impact to the roster in the year ahead, and that’s just what he did with a star-studded class from this past weekend.
D.J. FLUKER, OT
Beginning in round one, Fluker will be a starter from the get-go. It remains to be seen just what will get worked out at the left tackle spot, but it seems safe to say that Fluker can hold down the right side in 2013. According to the Baltimore Sun, the Bolts are in hot pursuit of blindside protector Bryant McKinnie, but that shouldn’t impact Fluker in the least. He will immediately provide an upgrade over Jeromey Clary and help this San Diego rushing attack get back on the map.
MANTI TE’O, LB
He may be the most controversial pick in this year’s crop of rookies, but there is no controversy over his on-field ability. Te’o is an intelligent, instinctual football player who plays faster than his lackluster timed speed due to his elite anticipation. With Donald Butler already turning into a Pro Bowl caliber player at one inside linebacker spot in the 3-4 defense, pairing Te’o with him will give the Bolts a formidable duo for the better part of the next decade.
KEENAN ALLEN, WR
Robert Meachem was a complete free agent flop, and the only reason he is still on the roster is it would cost the team more to cut him than to keep him around for another season. Allen should have no trouble overtaking him on the depth chart and quickly accelerating into a role as the third option on the team’s depth chart at receiver. Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander appear safe at one and two, but Allen could see his share of balls along with Meachem and Eddie Royal this season.
STEVE WILLIAMS, CB
At 5’9” 181lbs., Williams doesn’t exactly fit the free agent signing of trending toward bigger cornerbacks with the 6’1” 195lbs. Derek Cox. Still he makes up for that with blazing speed and an unofficial 4.25 time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. He will likely see immediate playing time in the sub-packages on defense like nickel and dime which are more like the base formations these days in the wide open NFL. Look for Williams to make an impact right away for the Bolts.
KWAME GEATHERS, NT — COURTNEY GARDNER, WR
I’m glossing over the final two picks in the draft because they are both likely nothing more than depth in the coming season, but these two fellas could make an instant impact. Geathers struggled with his consistency and work ethic in college, but aside from that he was an animal. At an enormous 6’5” 342lbs. he can anchor the nose and give Cam Thomas much needed intermittent breathers in year one. He also has the upside potential to be a starter sooner rather than later.
As for Gardner, he is a matchup nightmare as he proved at 6’3” 220lbs. at the JUCO level. Now granted the NFL isn’t JUCO, but Gardner will still be tough to cover one on one in the red zone. His ability to climb the ladder and make tough catches will give him a chance to make immediate contributions and even score a touchdown or two in year one. This kid has the potential to be a serious sleeper from the class of 2013.
In short, this 2013 San Diego Chargers team could be awfully young, but they will be fielding loads of potential in the upcoming year. It may not be a stretch to say that Telesco’s haul in year one will rival former GM A.J. Smith’s classes from his heyday back in 2004 and 2005. This class could provide the building blocks to return the Bolts to contender status sooner rather than later.