Other needs, such as depth at defensive line and safety, can likely be addressed between rounds five and seven. GM A.J. Smith believes defensive linemen and safeties can be found late: DE Jacques Cesaire, NT Brandon McKinney and FS Steve Gregory all joined the team as undrafted free agents.
That leaves the Chargers in need of immediate contributors at running back, tackle and cornerback. Barring a trade to acquire more picks in rounds one through four, the Chargers will fill one of those holes in the first round and plug the other two with middle-tier free agents. Here are some of the top players available.
RB Anthony Thomas
The player the Chargers really want is Oakland Raiders running back LaMont Jordan. It was widely expected that the Raiders would cut Jordan—Justin Fargas, Dominic Rhodes and Michael Bush are already on the roster—but the ax has yet to fall. The final domino could tumble if the Raiders select Arkansas RB Darren McFadden with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.
The list of other power backs still available includes established veterans Anthony Thomas, Ron Dayne and Mike Anderson, as well as young runners Verron Hayes, Samkon Gado and Musa Smith.
After releasing Shane Olivea and Roman Oben, the Chargers have no backup tackles behind McNeill and Clary. The ideal resolution would be to sign a versatile veteran backup and pair him with a day-two draft pick. The top veterans on the market are Wayne Gandy, Barry Stokes, Barry Sims and Fred Miller.
Another intriguing option is four-year vet Nat Dorsey. After being drafted in the fourth round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2004, Dorsey was traded to the Cleveland Browns for C Melvin Fowler. Dorsey played in 27 games with the Browns, starting two. Despite mixed results in his first four seasons, Dorsey is a versatile player with the quick feet and ample size (6'7", 335 pounds) to play left or right tackle.
Since A.J. Smith came on the scene in 2001, the Chargers have never entered a season without three starting-caliber cornerbacks. That trend is unlikely to change this season. If Smith doesn't land a cornerback in round one, the pickings will be slim when he jumps into the free agent pool.
The most talented player available is Andre Dyson, who has 22 interceptions in his seven seasons in the league. He struggled last year while battling a foot injury, but was seen as a rising star as recently as 2006.
The list of other cornerbacks available includes veterans Terry Cousin, Jerametrius Butler and Hank Poteat. A.J. Smith will keep that undistinguished lineup in mind when he decides whether to draft a cornerback in round one.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.