Chargers Draft Projections: Version 1.0

With the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine now in the books, draft boards across the league are starting to take shape. The Chargers will be busier than most in late April with five picks inside the first three rounds. Here is what San Diego will do with those picks as it aims to regain contender status.

Round 1, Pick 18: OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

Although the Chargers finished second in the league in sacks last season (47), more help is needed opposite Pro Bowler Shaun Phillips. Larry English has yet to live up to his first-round billing and Antwan Barnes is a pass-rushing specialist and pending free agent. Kerrigan is an elite pass rusher with a variety of moves. Although he spent his college career playing with his hand on the ground, he has shown the athleticism to drop into coverage.

DE Christian Ballard
Mark Cunningham/Getty
Round 2, Pick 50: DE Christian Ballard, Iowa

The Chargers could address this need in the first round with Wisconsin's J.J. Watt. But with Kerrigan proving too tempting to pass up, Ballard is an excellent Plan B. He was a big part of a Hawkeyes defense that finished second in the Big 10 in rush defense, yet he has the quick first step to contribute as a pass rusher. He could start opposite Luis Castillo.

Round 2, Pick 61: WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami

Even if the Chargers re-sign Malcom Floyd, they will be on the lookout for a receiver. Hankerson is a great value here and won't fall any farther after catching the attention of San Diego scouts with his strong showing at the Senior Bowl. He has the height San Diego prefers in its receivers (6-foot-3) and productivity to match; last season he caught 72 passes for 1,156 yards and 13 scores.

Round 3, Pick 82: LB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina

One year after selecting Cam Thomas, the Chargers go back to the North Carolina well to shore up their linebacker corps. Sturdivant played inside and outside for the Tarheels but will play inside San Diego's 3-4 defense. He can play downhill and knife into opposing backfields, or he can drop into coverage with surprising smoothness. He does have a couple of red flags, though, including a hamstring injury that cost him some games last season and a past citation for marijuana possession.

Round 3, Pick 89: Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple

Jarrett played every game in his college career, posting 292 tackles and nine INTs. He also played on Temple's kickoff and punt teams, which is where he'll likely begin his career in San Diego. He will have a chance to work his way into the defensive rotation, as well, potentially taking the place of free-agent-to-be Paul Oliver. Jarrett has better man-to-man skills than most safeties, making him a truly excellent fit in Greg Manusky's aggressive unit.

Which players should the Chargers draft? Discuss in the Insider's Message Boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His work has been published by NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.

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