If I were a carpenter...

As the Chargers make their preparations for the draft, they need to relinquish the conservative mindset that has haunted them all off-season. With two first-round draft picks and ample salary cap space, the Chargers are as capable as anyone of moving up and down the draft board this April.

There a number of possible trades that could land the Chargers in a much more ideal draft position. For example, the Chargers trade their two first round picks to the Redskins in exchange for the 9th overall pick and wide receiver Rod Gardner. The Chargers could then use the Redskin's pick on OLB Shawne Merriman, which is the player they should be targeting. Merriman is a pass rushing terror that represents the Chargers' best opportunity to help out their struggling pass defense. Also, the addition of Gardner would be tremendous, as he has the size and work ethic that Coach Schottenheimer prefers in his wide receivers.

However, if the Chargers are feeling offensive, they might be inclined to make a run Mike Williams. This would likely require a trade with the Titans, as the Vikings may consider taking Williams if he is available. The Titans have multiple needs, and so would welcome the opportunity to acquire more draft picks. It would probably cost the Chargers both of their first-round picks to make such a deal, but it may just be worth it. Williams would represent the legitimate go-to receiver the team has been missing, and would form the league's most talented quartet of receivers alongside Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker and Reche Caldwell.

Other than by making a blockbuster trade, the Chargers will have other means of making noise on draft day as well. After last season's success, they are bringing back all their core players. This gives them the freedom to draft the best player available, even if it is not at a perceived position of need. With this in mind, the Chargers could use their first pick on someone like Pacman Jones, and let him battle Quentin Jammer, Drayton Florence and Sammy Davis for playing time, with the loser of that battle possible moving to free safety.

The team can also afford to draft some risky players, as they will not be pressured to contribute as heavily or as quickly as in years past. With their second pick in round one, they could steal a player like Erasmus James, and hope that he can stay healthy and make the transition to outside linebacker. If he can, he would be a steal that late.

Finally, the Chargers could utilize one of my favorite maneuvers by drafting at an area of strength instead of one of need. This is only a good idea if the draft board falls a certain way, but if done well it can put a good team over the top. The Chargers could consider someone like Carnell Williams with their first pick, or someone like Heath Miller with their second selection. While these are not need picks, they do provide two things: insurance and possible dominance. If LaDainian Tomlinson or Antonio Gates were to go down, there would be another star player there to pick up the slack. If not, the team could run against literally anyone with Tomlinson and Williams in the back field, and could expose many a linebacker with a one-two punch of Gates and Miller.

The draft will be the means by which the Chargers define their off-season. It is high time they took some chances, and provided themselves the opportunity to take their game to the next level. It has been said that in football, it is better to be lucky than good. But you can't get lucky, unless you roll the dice.

Lightning Quicks:

It is sometimes the little blips across the transactions wire that can make a big difference in a team's season. One such blip recently passed by, when the Chargers re-singed linebacker Carlos Polk to a one-year contract. Last year the Chargers gave up two touchdowns on kick returns, and would have allowed a third score if Dante Hall had not dropped the ball. The bet here is that won't be a reoccurring problem with Polk making a healthy return. He is a physical player with good size and versatility, and is a valuable contributor not only on special teams, but on the team's goal-line defense packages as well. He still has a terrific upside, and it is a great thing that he is back.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@sandiegosports.net

SD Super Chargers Top Stories