Analysis: Draft Needs by Position, p. II

With the NFL Draft less than a week away, goes position by position to see where help is needed (using a scale of zero to five). This two-part series concludes on the defensive side of the ball. New coordinator John Pagano needs personnel upgrades on all three levels, but two glaring holes will take precedence.

To see how San Diego's offensive needs stack up, click here.

The "need level" at each position is rated on a scale of zero to five.

  • Zero: No need at all
  • One: Maybe a late-round pick to add depth
  • Two: Only if the value is right
  • Three: In the market, but not desperate
  • Four: Definitely will address this position
  • Five: Must spend a high pick here

Defensive Line: Two

This had the look of a glaring need until Antonio Garay (two years) and Luis Castillo (one year) opted to come back for another go-round. This unit now returns six core players, so depth is no longer the big issue. However, the line got pushed around at times last season, so A.J. Smith will keep his eyes peeled for any possible upgrades. Smith has drafted a defensive lineman each of the last three years.

Inside Linebacker: One

Starters Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler return and there will be two new players behind them: Demorrio Williams, signed after being released by Kansas City, and Jonas Mouton, a 2011 second-round pick who missed last season with a shoulder injury. Smith loves to draft linebackers in the later rounds, as they can also help on special teams, but there is not a huge need here.

Outside Linebacker: Five

The Bolts have a lot of bodies -- Shaun Phillips, Jarret Johnson, Antwan Barnes, Travis LaBoy, Larry English -- but still need another pass rusher to round out the unit. San Diego has posted more than 35 sacks just once in the last four years. This is likely where Smith will go with his first-round pick, with Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, USC's Nick Perry and Illinois' Whitney Mercilus all on the radar.

Cornerback: Three

Smith loves to pick cornerbacks and this area has question marks. Quentin Jammer will turn 33 this offseason and struggled at times last year. Antoine Cason and Marcus Gilchrist showed well in spurts but need to be more consistent, while 2011 third-round pick Shareece Wright remains untested. Smith believes this is the most important position on defense and may address it earlier than most expect.

Safety: Five

Atari Bigby has played well as a spot starter and Darrell Stuckey has a chance to translate his special-teams success to defense, but new coordinator John Pagano needs a front-line starter at strong safety to deploy alongside All Pro Eric Weddle. Notre Dame's Harrison Smith would be an ideal fit if he falls to No. 49; a trade-up is also a possibility.

Punter: Zero

Mike Scifres endured the nightmare 2010 season and came back strong in 2011, posting a net average of more than 39 yards for the fourth time in the last five years. He is under contract through 2016, so this is one position the Chargers are sure to ignore come draft time.

Which positions must the Bolts address via the draft? Talk in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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