The player they covet above all others is Robert Meachem – the Tennessee wideout who may just end up staying in his own state. Without trading Michael Turner, the Bolts and Meachem are out of reach from one another.
So where do they turn?
The problem with this draft is the dearth of safeties available. The position has been glorified over the past several years and several figure to go off the board in round one, leaving little scraps for round two. The choice, therefore, will come down to who is on the board and the drop-off in value.
The gulf is not as apparent at wide receiver, where plenty of speedy wideouts can be found, many with good upside to be solid number two/three receivers in the league.
The question, then, is whether to take a risk or jump at the chance to select a player who may not have as high a grade but would not fall to them in round two.
The Chargers endured many run ins with the law last year and with the commissioner, Roger Goodell, coming down hard on teams who ignore character flaws, the Bolts may not be in the Brandon Meriweather sweepstakes. But – this is a team that can afford to take a chance, right?
Wide receiver Steve Smith would certainly fit as well, but he would be taken 10 to 15 picks early.
In the end, the Chargers will select one from their cluster and end up with:
As stated previously, there simply aren't many good safeties to be had past the first round, and if Griffin is there and others are off the board, as expected, he is the natural fit. Griffin's experience at cornerback and ability to hug the tight end would bode well for a team that is looking for cover safety who can make plays. He is athletic and won't forego his responsibilities to make a play.
Griffin is also a special teams ace and could solidify the safety position for years to come.
The lone problem with this selection will be whether he is still here at the time they pick. Other teams also see that the safety position beyond the first is rather weak.
The cluster here includes:
Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU
Brandon Meriweather, FS, Miami
Steve Smith, WR, USC
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Ohio State
Eric Weddle, SS, Utah
David Harris, LB, Michigan (a darkhorse)
Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC
Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina
Having satisfied the safety issue in round one, the Chargers will be hoping that some coveted receivers' stay on the board for their round two selection.
The Chargers have two tall receivers that can work middle, deep, and in, but lack a true threat that stretches the field and opens up even more underneath routes for the likes of Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson to exploit. They were enamored with size for quite some time but don't need to be at this point – they can play jump ball all day with Gates and Jackson and Malcom Floyd.
They need the kid that can run the skinny post, take the fly route, and make safeties take two steps back before they realize they have been juked, allowing the Bolts the freedom to press the issue when the safety relaxes, thinking he has a beat on Gates only to see a wideout racing by him for a 70-yard touchdown.
In light of that:
Hill has the speed to get behind the safeties and proved to be a clutch receiver for the Cougars. He makes the tough play over the middle of the field and has the girth to stay on the field, unlike the oft-injured Eric Parker.
He is strong off the ball and blew away the competition at the NFL Combine with a 4.32 forty-yard dash. His character is grade-A and his work ethic fits in perfectly to the Chargers plans.
The second round cluster of players looks something like this:
Aundrae Allison, WR, East Carolina
Lamarr Woodley, LB, Michigan
Brandon Siler, LB, Florida
Tanard Jackson, FS, Syracuse
John Wendling, S, Wyoming
Sabby Piscitelli, S, Oregon State
Aaron Rouse, S, Virginia Tech
With safety and wide receiver out of the way with their first two picks, the Chargers can focus on linebacker and the best available player – owning two picks in the span of minutes. The cluster will look similar with an emphasis on finding a middle linebacker to add to the competition.
But, the truth is they can turn any number of directions here.
Pick 93: Justin Durant, LB, Hampton
The Chargers say they want depth at the linebacker position, but it may be closer to the truth to say they would like competition and a potential starter. The Bolts have never been comfortable with Matt Wilhelm starting and adding another option in the middle would bring out the best in everyone.
Durant provides the same type of play that they lost when Donnie Edwards moved on. He may not be a starter right away but has the upside the Chargers crave for the position.
He would move inside from playing weakside in college and is a fundamentally sound tackler that has a nose for shooting the gaps. He is also a very good coverage linebacker.
Pick 96: David Clowney, WR, Virginia Tech
While the Chargers already selected one wide receiver, there is room for two. Clowney is similar to Eric Parker in that he is a little thin for his frame, but he differs in the speed department. This might be early for him but the Chargers, again, can take the chance.
Clowney offers the straight-line speed to be a deep threat out of the gate and could develop nicely under the tutelage of James Lofton as a competent number three receiver that can change games. He is a hard worker who puts forth the effort in the blocking game, although he is not quite effective.
Wide receivers are usually the biggest risks in the NFL Draft and this could be boom or bust – at least they would have two shots at winning out rather than one.
And here is the round three cluster:
Quincy Black, LB, New Mexico
Michael Okwo, LB, Stanford
Marshal Yanda, OT, Iowa Fred Bennett, S, Georgia
Anthony Waters, LB Clemson
Mike Walker, WR, Central Florida
Josh Gattis, S, Wake Forest
Paul Williams, WR, Fresno State
Brian Robison, LB, Texas
Michael Bush, RB, Louisville
Looking into the second day, here are some names to consider:
H.B. Blades, LB, Pittsburgh
Antwan Barnes, LB, Florida-International
Doug Datish, OL, Ohio State
Mansfield Wrotto, OT, Georgia Tech
Lorenzo Booker, RB, Florida State
Ryan McBean, DT, Oklahoma State
Kareem Brown, DT, Miami
Yamon Figurs, WR, Kansas State
Jackie Battle, RB, Houston
Prescott Burgess, LB, Michigan
Brandon Frye, OT, Virginia Tech
Gerald Alexander, S, Boise State
Tim Mixon, CB, California
David Patterson, DT, Ohio State
Dan Santucci, OG, Notre Dame
Jonathan Palmer, OT, Auburn
Kenneth Darby, RB, Alabama
Juwan Simpson, LB, Alabama
Derek Landri, DT, Notre Dame