Chargers' Draft-Day Targets Come into Focus

A.J. Smith offered his offseason press conference at Chargers Park today, deftly dodging all questions about his team's needs. Luckily, SDBoltReport.com has been tracking the Chargers interests though the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. Here is an inside look at the team's top-five needs, along with a list of players the team met with at each position.

Running back

A.J. Smith expects Michael Turner to net a massive deal in the first week of free agency. Although the Chargers will leave the light on for Turner, the chances of him returning are slim to none. The void at running back grew even larger on Thursday when Smith announced that the team would not offer a contract to running back Tyronne Gross.

The Chargers are all but forced to take a running back early in the draft. San Diego has met with several intriguing prospects so far this offseason, including Chris Johnson (East Carolina), Tashard Choice (Georgia Tech), Justin Forsett (California) and Rafael Little (Kentucky).

Offensive Tackle

After releasing Roman Oben late last season and cutting Shane Olivea earlier today, the Chargers are down to two tackles on their roster. A.J. Smith prefers to target tackles in the later rounds of the draft and that trend should continue this year.

"The tackles are deep," Smith said. "I've heard everybody around the league talk about the tackles so I'll join in with the GMs and scouts. They're very deep."

The Chargers have met with many tackles between the Senior Bowl and the Combine, including Kirk Barton (Ohio State), Heath Benedict (Newberry College), Carl Nicks (Nebraska), Roy Schuening (Oregon State), King Dunlap (Auburn) and Tony Hills (Texas).

Safety

After releasing Marlon McCree, the Chargers are left with only two true safeties on their roster. Paul Oliver and Steve Gregory could see some time at the position, but the team needs a legitimate safety who shows range in coverage and physicality against the run.

The Bolts have met with a pair of safeties who would look good in Blue and Gold next season: Jamar Adams (Michigan) and Wesley Woodyard (Kentucky).

Cornerback

The pending departure of Drayton Florence leaves the Bolts thin at cornerback. Oliver is ready for an increased role in the secondary, but it appears he is not quite ready to step in as the nickel back. The Chargers will have to find a corner in the draft and it could happen in round one if Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is still on the board.

The Chargers met with "Ro-Cro" during Senior Bowl week. The team has also met with Zack Bowman (Nebraska), Jonathan Zenon (LSU) and Terrell Thomas (USC).

Nose Tackle

The Chargers do not have an immediate opening at nose tackle, as both Jamal Williams and Brandon McKinney will be back next season. However, Williams recently underwent ankle surgery and McKinney found himself on the inactive list during the postseason. The Chargers need to replace McKinney with someone who can step in if Williams, 31, gets dinged again.

The Bolts have met with a hoard of defensive linemen this offseason, with DeMario Pressley (N.C. State) and Trevor Laws (Notre Dame) the top two candidates.

Lightning Quicks

The Chargers also have an opening at fullback after releasing Lorenzo Neal. Andrew Pinnock slides into the starting lineup but a new backup is in order. Because Norv Turner does not rely heavily on his fullbacks, expect the Chargers to fill this need in the undrafted free agent market.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.


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