2013 Chargers draft needs: Protecting QB of utmost importance for new management

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LAST SEASON Rush Offense - 91.3 ypg (27th)
Pass Offense - 205.9 ypg (24th)
Total Offense - 297.3 ypg (31st)
Scoring Offense - 21.9 ppg (20th)
Rush Defense - 96.4 ypg (6th)
Pass Defense - 230.1 ypg (18th)
Total Defense - 326.4 (9th)
Scoring Defense - 21.9 ppg (16th) MOST PRESSING NEEDS Offense: Offensive line and skill position playmaker (RB, TE and/or WR)
Defense: Cornerback


QUARTERBACK The Draft Board

7th round Sean Renfree, Duke (6-3, 219)
Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah (6-4, 237)
Alex Carder, Western Michigan (6-2, 220)

Philip Rivers wasn't the solution last year, but he sure isn't the problem. He needs to cut down on his turnovers, but better protection, a trustworthy running threat and an additional pair of hands will help him do just that. Charlie Whitehurst is a capable backup, but a decent third-string QB should be on the to-do list.

Sean Renfree was on his way up many teams' draft boards before he took a wicked hit on the last play of his college career that knocked him out of commission for a few months. But he learned under the tutelage of David Cutcliffe, who was instrumental in the return of Peyton Manning in 2012. And who was it that coached Peyton Manning last year in Denver? New Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. 

RUNNING BACK The Draft Board

2nd round Eddie Lacy, Alabama (5-11, 231)
Joe Randle, Oklahoma St. (6-0, 204)
Giovani Bernard, UNC (5-8, 202) 3rd round Andre Ellington, Clemson (5-9, 197)
Montee Ball, Wisconsin (5-11, 214)
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (5-10, 205)
Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (5-9, 214)
LeVeon Bell, Michigan St. (6-1, 230) 4th round Christine Michael, Texas A&M (5-10, 220)
Mike Gillislee, Florida (5-11, 208)

Ryan Mathews has shown little of the burst and explosiveness that were hallmarks of his career at Fresno State. It appeared he would turn the corner in 2012 after a strong second season, but he regressed, averaging less than four yards per carry. The offensive line shares a portion of the blame for that, but  Mathews' lack of production and injuries are concerning. There isn't a bonafide star running back worthy of a first-round pick, but that's probably a good thing because it'll force the Chargers to march on with Mathews while finding competition for him.

Eddie Lacy should be gone by the 13th pick of the second round, but if he's not, it's almost a no-brainer for the Chargers to add this bull. Short-yardage problems will be a thing of the past. Joe Randle is less bull and more versatile, but he can run behind his pads and explode through tacklers as well. He's one of the best receivers in this draft, and Oklahoma State used him extensively in the passing game. Stepfan Taylor might be the best complement to Mathews. He's got a strong lower trunk and powers through arm tackles, but most importantly, he plays his absolute best against top competition. 

WIDE RECEIVER The Draft Board

3rd round Aaron Dobson, Marshall (6-3, 210)
Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas (6-2, 212)
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (5-10, 193) 4th round Chris Harper, Kansas St. (6-1, 229) 5th round Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (6-1, 194)

Malcom Floyd had the best season of his career, but he only caught 56 passes after replacing Vincent Jackson as the No. 1 option on the perimeter. The Chargers shouldn't have to break the bank to bring Danario Alexander back as he has yet to play in more than ten games in a season. And the Chargers would love to see Vincent Brown stay healthy after missing all of 2012 with a broken ankle. With Floyd back, and Alexander and Brown presumably healthy, the receiving corps is adequate. That said, the Chargers could use inexpensive labor found in the middle rounds of the draft.

Aaron Dobson can catch a BB in the dark; the man's hands are tremendous. He started to fill out his 6-3 frame and that added strength has given him the ability to fight through press man at the line of scrimmage and get open between the numbers. Cobi Hamilton is a better athlete than Dobson, but the former Marshall star is a better overall receiver at this point. Stedman Bailey could be an interesting fit in San Diego. He can impact every area on the field in the passing game.  He has great hands, gets open against man or zone, can be a catch and run guy and will be dependable in the middle of the field.  He's in the third round because he doesn't have jaw dropping athleticism like other WRs.  If there's a receiver that we'll all look back and wonder how he fell to the third round, it's Bailey, so the Chargers may want to take a chance on him if given the opportunity.  

TIGHT END The Draft Board

3rd round Travis Kelce, Cincinnati (6-4, 255) 4th round Dion Sims, Michigan St. (6-4, 262) 5th round Nick Kasa, Colorado (6-6, 269)
Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (6-3, 258) 6th round Matt Furstenburg, Maryland (6-3, 242)

Antonio Gates believes he has plenty left in the tank, but the Chargers would be wise to acquire another tight end. Furthermore, McCoy utilized two tight ends in Denver extremely well, so Randy McMichael and Ladarius Green will play important roles in his offense. The draft provides some exciting, athletic options to team with any of the three aforementioned Charger tight ends.

Travis Kelce's biggest issue may be off the field. He sat out the entire 2010 season for violating team rules, but it may work to his advantage that he went through that adversity. He's got the full package and can be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Dion Sims has cut 15 to 20 pounds, but even at 262 pounds, he's not a tremendous inline blocker. Matt Furstenburg is more H-Back/move option than true tight end, which may not fit well next to Gates, who does much of that for the Chargers already. But, given his athleticism, he's good value if the Chargers pass on tight end until the sixth round.

OFFENSIVE LINE The Draft Board

1st round G Chance Warmack, Alabama (6-2, 317)
LT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (6-7, 306)
G Jonathan Cooper, UNC (6-2, 311)
LT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma (6-6, 303) 2nd round T Kyle Long, Oregon (6-6, 313) 6th round T Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas (6-5, 298)
C P.J Lonergan, LSU (6-3, 304) 7th round T Jeff Nady, Nevada (6-7, 305)
T Emmett Cleary, B.C. (6-7, 316)

It's safe to say that the offensive line's inability to protect Philip Rivers was THE story of the Chargers' 2012 season. Well, that and not stopping Ray Rice on fourth and 29. The offensive line gave up 49 sacks, second worst in the league. Not to mention the offense averaged under 92 yards per game rushing the football. The Chargers appear to be in good shape under the projected salary cap, so expect a free-agent signing or two. Regardless as to what they do in March, pick No. 11 is likely going to be an offensive lineman.

If the Chargers sign a left tackle, then Eric Fisher and presumably Lane Johnson will come off the board. If not, the Chargers would be smart to take Johnson at No. 11 if he's available. If not Johnson, then it's got to be Jonathan Cooper. Chance Warmack gets publicity and with good reason, but Cooper is one heck of an athlete who would complement Vasquez well.

DEFENSIVE LINE The Draft Board

4th round DE William Gholston, Michigan St. (6-6, 278), DE Jordan Hill, Penn St. (6-1, 292) 5th round NT Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin (6-4, 328) 6th round DE Chris Jones, Bowling Green (6-1, 293)

The previous Chargers regime targeted the defensive line (and linebackers) early in the previous two drafts. That focus paid off and set the organization up for the foreseeable future on the DL. The focus in the draft will be on building the depth base behind a solid nucleus up front.

As far as depth options go, this is a solid group starting in the fourth round. William Gholston was an underachiever, given his physical dimensions and athleticism. In San Diego, though, he won't have to be a starter right away and as a rotational five-technique defensive end, he'll fit right in. Jordan Hill has played defensive tackle throughout his career but how about moving him outside to defensive end? He's worth the value in the fourth round. 

LINEBACKER The Draft Board

5th round OLB Lerentee McCray, Florida (6-2, 249)
OLB Travis Johnson, SJSU (6-2, 244) 6th - 6th round OLB Nathan Williams, Ohio St. (6-3, 240)

The Chargers' linebacking corps is not rife with issues, but there are some minor questions the new regime must answer before April. First and foremost, they must decide on the future of veteran ILB Takeo Spikes and OLB Shaun Phillips. Even if Spikes and/or Phillips are cut, there's a young, cagey and talented nucleus at linebacker in San Diego, with or without Larry English. Donald Butler and Melvin Ingram make up the young and talented part, while Jarret Johnson makes up the cagey part.

The consistent trait amongst the three on the board is the ability to rush the passer. Lerentee McCray had one of his best games against future top pick Luke Joeckel. It took a while, but he finally started finding his pass rush skills as a senior. Travis Johnson played 4-3 DE at SJSU but he's an accomplished pass rusher. The same can be said for Williams, who fought injuries throughout his career.

SECONDARY The Draft Board

1st round CB Dee Milliner, Alabama (6-1, 199) 2nd round CB Desmond Trufant, Washington (6-0, 186)
CB Johnthan Banks, Miss. St. (6-1, 185)
CB Logan Ryan, Rutgers (6-0, 190) 3rd round CB David Amerson, N.C. St. (6-2, 193) 4th round CB Robert Alford, SELA (6-0, 185)
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, UConn (6-2, 190)

If offensive line isn't the focus of the first round, it has to be cornerback. The problem in picking secondary is that there isn't a good option on the board for the Chargers until the second round if Dee Milliner is off the board by No. 11. Unrestricted free agents Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason mean a lot of uncertainty. If the Chargers can bring Cason back at a team-friendly rate, it'd make sense. With some potential money to spend in free agency, the Chargers should sign a CB, but they'll also make cornerback a priority early in the draft.

Let's say the Chargers sign a left tackle free agent and Milliner is on the board at No. 11. San Diego may make the call, even though the former Alabama star will have surgery just after the combine.  The rub is that there are more starting CB prospects in the second round than there are immediate starters in the OL in that round.  As such, the better option will be to select Cooper at guard, Desmond Trufant or Johnthan Banks in Rounds 1 and 2 as opposed to drafting Milliner and reaching on an OL in the second round. 

Follow John Harris on Twitter @jharrisfootball.

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