NFL San Diego Chargers

5 NFL Draft Prospects Who Could Be Instant Starters for San Diego Chargers

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5 NFL Draft Prospects Who Could Be Instant Starters for San Diego Chargers

San Diego Chargers 2014 NFL Draft
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Finding starters from day one in the NFL Draft is almost mandatory in the salary cap era, and the San Diego Chargers were fortunate enough to land three immediate contributors from their class of 2013. Keenan Allen was obviously the most decorated at wide receiver in year one, but tackle D.J. Fluker had a fantastic rookie campaign and linebacker Manti Te’o was also solid despite playing with a lingering foot injury.

Fans will be expecting general manger Tom Telesco to put on an encore performance in the 2014 NFL Draft, and with the No. 25 overall selection in round one there are a multitude of possibilities for the Bolts to choose from.

The team could use some serious help in the secondary with both cornerback and safety needing some work this offseason. Injuries have created uncertainty at the wide receiver position despite the aforementioned Allen’s strong rookie season. With Danario Alexander unlikely to return after yet another torn ACL and Malcom Floyd’s career potentially over due to a serious neck injury, adding another pass catcher would be wise. Nose tackle is another area of need that must be addressed with 2013’s starter Cam Thomas a free agent after an underwhelming campaign in his contract year.

Clearly there are plenty of angles the Bolts could take when it comes to finding immediate plug-and-play starters in the May’s draft. GM Telesco and company have to hope that this year’s crop yields the type of success the team enjoyed this past season, and landing any of these five guys would produce an instant starter for the Chargers in 2014.

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5. Dee Ford - DE/OLB - Auburn

Dee Ford 2014 NFL Draft
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The Senior Bowl really put Dee Ford on the map as a legitimate first-round option as this pass rusher really put on a clinic both in practice and at the game itself. The former Auburn Tiger ran circles around would-be blockers en route to the quarterback which is something the Chargers could desperately use with Larry English still a perennial disappointment and Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson getting long in the tooth. Pairing Ford with Melvin Ingram would give the Bolts a youthful pair to wreak havoc on opposing signal-callers for years to come.

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4. Kelvin Benjamin - WR - Florida State

Kelvin Benjamin 2014 NFL Draft
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

My intuition says taking a wideout in round one would be a huge mistake given the depth of the position and the fact that San Diego found Keenan Allen in round three last year, but if they are stuck Kelvin Benjamin would be a great option. Malcom Floyd’s lanky frame for jump balls and field-stretching may not be back due to his injury, and Benjamin could provide that red zone threat to the offense. The receiving corps is currently only composed of the smallish (6-foot-2 Allen, a 5-foot-11 Vincent Brown and an even smaller 5-foot-10 Eddie Royal. Clearly some size is needed, and at 6-foot-5, 235-pound Benjamin would plug right in immediately as a starter.

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3. Deone Bucannon - S - Washington State

Deone Bucannon 2014 NFL Draft
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It would be wise to trade down before taking the top strong safety in this class in Deone Bucannon, but the Bolts showed some interest in this hard-hitter at the Senior Bowl by interviewing this former Washington State Cougar. With Eric Weddle pretty much taking care of everything in the secondary in 2013, adding a deterrence like Bucannon would certainly give opposing wideouts second thoughts about coming over the middle. He packs quite a punch at 6-foot-1, 215-pounds that would certainly take some of the burden off of a suspect crew of cornerbacks in 2014.

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2. Justin Gilbert - CB - Oklahoma State

Justin Gilbert 2014 NFL Draft
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of suspect corners, adding Justin Gilbert would be a direct way to upgrade a group of cornerbacks that woefully underachieved last season. Gilbert is the biggest corner in this year’s class at 6-foot, 200-pounds which would provide much-needed size to match up with some of the bigger receivers in the game today. Some refinement would be needed in what is a somewhat lax technique at times, but superior athleticism translates well at any level. With a little bit of coaching, the Chargers could have a terrific shutdown corner in the making if they can land Gilbert at No. 25 overall.

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1. Louis Nix III - NT - Notre Dame

Louis Nix III 2014 NFL Draft
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Not many consider nose tackle to be a primary need for the Bolts, but Cam Thomas is a free agent the team would rather not bring back and Kwame Geathers isn’t ready to take over inside just yet. Adding Louis Nix III to have a rotation of sorts at the crux of the 3-4 defense would be a terrific move for a team that really lacked physicality in 2013. It may be a bit of a stretch to call him and “instant starter,” but there’s no doubt Nix would see a ton of the field as a rookie. At 6-foot-3, 342-pounds he clearly has the size to occupy multiple blockers and clog up running lanes as the prototypical nose tackle. It would just be nice to see the San Diego defense have a nose tackle capable of holding up at the point of attack and winning battles in the trenches once again for the first time since the days of Jamal Williams.

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