COMMENTARY | New San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco learned the ropes under Bill Polian, an executive who believed in building through the draft. Telesco's cautious approach on the free agent market suggests that in his first year leading the Chargers front office, San Diego can expect a similar approach.
Offensive line improvement is the most pressing need of the Chargers this offseason, coming off a season in which quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked a whopping 49 times for 311 yards
Numerous veteran departures from the secondary also make it an area of priority for the Chargers' draft weekend. A bumper crop of talented cornerbacks are available this year, which should give the organization its choice of options in the second round.
Building depth at other positions is key. Look for Telesco to solidify a few problem areas -- to that end, multiple selections on the offensive line and in the secondary could be in order.
Round 1: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Versatile and athletic, Lane Johnson is one of the more ballyhooed offensive tackle prospects in one of the deepest classes in recent memory. Such depth is good news for a Charger organization in desperate need of protection for its quarterback.
Should Texas A&M star Luke Joeckel, and fast-rising Central Michigan product Eric Fischer go before San Diego drafts at No. 11, Johnson is obvious choice in the first round.
Round 2: Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
In a recent interview on Chargers.com, Telesco pointed to Indianapolis trading up to acquire T.Y. Hilton in the 2012 draft. Hilton was an explosive, yet under-the-radar prospect coming from Florida International. Hilton was a breakout performer in the Colts' playoff run last season.
Cornerback Robert Alford could have a similar impact. Alford emerged on the national radar during Senior Bowl Week, commanding attention for his abilities at both cornerback and returner.
Much like at offensive tackle, this year's corps of defensive back prospects is deep. Alford could remain on the board by No. 45. However, if a replay of Indianapolis trading up for Hilton is in order, Alford is a talent worth the gamble.
Round 3: Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State
The only thing small about defensive tackle Brandon Williams is the university he played his college football. This Div. II prospect is a potential steal. He earned All-America honors three times, including this past season when he recorded 8.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and forced five fumbles.
At 6-foot-3 and nearly 330 pounds, he's a space-eater in the middle of the defensive line reminiscent of another Williams -- former Charger standout Jamal Williams.
Round 4: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
Exciting Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills stepped up as the Sooners' top receiver after losing Ryan Broyles midway through 2011. The Chargers need depth at wide receiver, particularly if the Robert Meachem experiment again goes awry.
Stills is a hometown prospect, who played his prep football at area powerhouse Carlsbad La Costa Canyon.
Round 5: Earl Wolff, SS, North Carolina State
North Carolina State led the nation in interceptions during the 2011 season. Earl Wolff accounted for three of them, and picked off another two pass attempts this past campaign.
But Wolff is more than a threat to create turnovers. He is effective in pursuit of the rush, evident in his 105 tackles in 2011, and team-leading 119 in 2012.
Round 6: Matt Stankiewitch
The more offensive line support San Diego can muster this off-season, the better. With a tackle likely to go in Round 1, and the free agent acquisition of King Dunlap, a late round interior lineman makes sense.
Penn State center Matt Stankiewitch spent a season learning under former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien -- not a bad tutor for readying for the NFL.
Stankiewitch's stock is rising leading up to this month's draft, thus the Chargers should target him before the final round.
Round 7: Travis Johnson, DE/OLB, San Jose State
Travis Johnson emerged as the defensive star of San Jose State's surprising, 11-win campaign. Johnson ranked among college football's leaders in tackles-for-loss with 21.5. Johnson also made 13 sacks -- as many as South Carolina superstar Jadeveon Clowney -- including a game-saver in the Spartans' Military Bowl defeat of Bowling Green.
Johnson played defensive end at SJSU, but should convert nicely to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator John Pagano's 3-4 base set.
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist and blogger. He covers the University of Arizona for the Rivals.com network site GoAZCATS.com, and is the founder/managing editor of the college football site SaturdayBlitz.com. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- San Diego Chargers
- Robert Alford
- San Diego
- Jamal Williams