Just In Case

With the NFL draft quickly approaching, a boatload of Chargers fans are asking what the team will do on day one of the draft to fix the many leaks on San Diego's perennially sinking team. And while at this early juncture literally thousands of scenarios are possible, below are the three that are the most likely.

Case Scenario 1
In case scenario one, the Chargers decide to keep the top selection in the draft. They in turn use the pick on the former Ole Miss starter and current genetic juggernaut Eli Manning. Immediately after the selection, Marty will announce that the starting quarterback on opening day will be decided through an open competition during training camp. Regardless of how the players perform, Manning will win the starting job, Doug Flutie will be named the number two man, and Drew Brees will be jettisoned either via trade out outright release. The team has soured on him, and it is a short leap from Marty Schottenheimer's doghouse to the waiver wire.

In the second round of the draft the Chargers select Jacob Rogers to fill their gaping hole at left tackle. And although Nat Dorsey has more upside and should be available, Rogers is more aptly suited to handle starting duty during his inaugural campaign.

In the third round the Chargers grab wide receiver Ernest Wilford, formerly of Virginia Tech. Wilford is not a burner, but he has great size, good hands, and can work the sidelines and deep out very well. It is a given that when a team drafts a quarterback number one overall they draft a receiver to grow along with him. With the state of the Chargers current crop of pass catchers, they are in no shape to buck that trend now.

Case Scenario 2
In case scenario number two, the Chargers trade their number one overall selection to the New York Giants in exchange for the Giants first round pick, their second round pick, their sixth round pick, and running back Ron Dayne. The Giants throw in Dayne because they want him gone, and the Chargers could use a player who could spell Tomlinson while playing the role of short yardage and goal line bully. Also, adding Dayne along with Jamar Fletcher and Kevin Dyson would give the Chargers the off-season's premiere haul of former first round underachievers.

The Chargers then use the number four overall pick to select quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Despite rumors that his draft status is slipping due to reasons suspiciously kept unheard, Roethlisberger's size and athleticism enamor Coach Schottenheimer. He would be put in a mock open competition in training camp that would eventually result in his starting by opening day. The team wedges its bet on the fact that the strong running game provided by Tomlinson along with the improved defense provided by new coordinator Wade Phillips will be enough to eliminate the majority of Roethlisberger's rookie struggles.

In the second round the Chargers select wide receiver Michael Clayton, whose draft stock has dropped after running the forty-yard dash in the mid 4.5 second range during his workout. Despite the slow clock speed, Clayton has shown he can get open and be a consistent producer. Plus, his diligence in the downfield blocking aspect of the game would be a nice bonus for a team that lives and dies by the run.

In round three the Chargers nab offensive tackle Max Starks from the University of Florida. The Chargers worked with Starks during the Senior Bowl and love his size and power. Regarded more as a right tackle prospect, the Chargers worked Starks at left tackle during that game, and apparently coach Houck likes what he saw. If Starks cannot be prepared to start at left tackle by opening day, then he will provide depth behind journeyman Leander Jordan until he is.

Case Scenario 3
< The Chargers use the top pick in the draft to grab an elite offensive lineman in former Iowa left tackle Robert Gallery. With left tackle being arguably both the most pivotal point in an offense as well as the Chargers current most glaring weakness, the team cannot resist shoring up the position for the next decade. Gallery starts from day one, and has a larger impact of any player taken in the 2004 player selection meeting. Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Chargers on opening day, that player just got better with this selection.

In round two the Chargers select Donnell Washington, the junior defensive tackle from Clemson. Although this may seem like a bit of a reach at present, it will not seem so come draft day. Although Washington underachieved last season he still flashed great pass rush ability and showed he has the capability to dominate. He has the size and speed to play any position on the Chargers three man defensive front, and that versatility would be a huge boost to a unit lacking depth.

In round three the Chargers make Robert Gallery feel right at home by adding another former Iowa standout, kicker Nate Kaeding. Some may question selecting a kicker this high, especially when the Chargers have so many other holes to fill. But keep in mind that last season AJ Smith was the first draft day decision maker to jump into specialist pool with the early selection of punter Mike Scifres. Smith later admitted to drafting Scifres a round higher than he had planned on doing just to insure his selection. With points at a premium on a Marty-ball team, Smith may feel he has to get the only sure fire impact kicker in the draft before he loses his chance.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at BenLeber51@yahoo.com

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