Smith looks to the draft to fill holes

Much to the ire of San Diego Charger fans, A.J. Smith is looking to the NFL Draft to fill the various holes his team has. With cap space to burn, they remain steadfast in their desire to spend smart - but if it does not pan out big...

The Chargers have more holes to fill than one would think for a team recording 21 victories the past two seasons. But filling them might require general manager A. J. Smith to do some wheeling and dealing.

"We want guys that are very talented, work ethic, passion for the game – tough, physical, competitive, committed guys," said Smith. "Team oriented players; if you get that mix then you are going to be in good shape. San Diego Chargers type players."

What stood out down the stretch -- when the team went 1-3 -- was the inconsistency of the offensive line. When you have a stud like running back LaDainian Tomlinson, it's imperative the front line is topnotch. The Chargers' unit wasn't last year, especially late.

So the thinking is the Chargers' first two picks at Nos. 19 and 50 -- should be burnt to address that need. First, the new bodies might be able to provide Tomlinson with some open running lanes. Too often last year he was met at the hole by defenders -- and while he often still got his yards -- that made the running difficult.

Secondly, the Chargers might have to rely on the running game more than in the past with first-year starting quarterback Philip Rivers. Smith's plan is that Rivers' learning curve won't be as steep because he can lean on Tomlinson and Co.

Thirdly, it's imperative Rivers doesn't get an early case of happy feet because of shoddy pass-protection. If he gets rocked, whatever confidence he's gained in 30 NFL passes could be quickly lost.

Fourth, left tackle Roman Oben will not only turn 34 this season but is coming off two foot surgeries and is not participating in the offseason workouts. Trusting journeyman Leander Jordan with that position again isn't a solid option.

But to get a ready-for-the-field player, Smith might have to peddle some lower round picks to move up the board in the first round. He likely won't go high enough to snag left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, but he could settle in a spot which produces tackle Winston Justice or tackle Eric Winston.

"We may end up with less or more depending on the activity," Smith confirmed.

The Chargers, though, could also look at cornerback. Smith has invested heavily here in the past, and it hasn't panned out. That's why he must address it again, especially with his lack of acquisitions in the free-agent market.

The Chargers' corners last year -- and this is no misprint -- totaled three interceptions. Consider the entire team had as many (10) as Ty Law.

There are also concerns regarding depth at the wide receiver and linebacker spots, especially at the inside position.

But what jumps out is what the team needs up front. After last season, it replaced offensive line coach Carl Mauck. After the draft, it could replace his former charges.

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