Bolts Draft Grade: Late Picks Raise Questions

Following the losses of Michael Turner and Drayton Florence, the Bolts looked to bolster the roster's continuity by quickly replenishing those gaps. A lack of picks limited A.J. Smith's options and the round-one selection of Antoine Cason looks like an intelligent choice…but can the same be said for the remaining four selections?

The Bolts led the NFL in interceptions last year and it seems they are determined to sustain that title. After losing CB Drayton Florence to the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier in the year, the Bolts grabbed Antoine Cason of Arizona in round one to plug the void.

As Cason joins Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer, the Bolts confidently house a dynamite cornerback group. Cason (6'0", 191 pounds) picked off five passes and returned two punts for touchdowns his senior year with the Wildcats. He is ready to impress and the Bolts see the athlete's budding potential itching to be groomed.

Cason is a willing tackler and a perfect complement to Cromartie. Not only does he give the Bolts solid depth at cornerback, but he'll be an unyielding contender against Paul Oliver for the nickel job from the get-go. While Oliver remained glued to the inactive list last season, Cason has the intelligence and the momentum to battle for field time immediately.

After Michael Turner left the Bolts and headed to the Atlanta Falcons in search of a starting role, the Chargers needed to address their running backsneeds early in the draft. With limited pick opportunities, the Bolts were forced to trade into round three for a forceful backup to LaDainian Tomlinson.


FB Jacob Hester
Chris Graythen/Getty

The Bolts grabbed the versatile Jacob Hester (6'0", 225 pounds) of LSU. A top-rated fullback, he is the personification of versatile. Hester is a strong dual threat who can play both fullback and tailback. With "The Burner" gone, the Bolts sought a replacement for the steadfast and burly force that gave Turner his name. Hester shows the right fuel and capability to meet those expectations.

After his successful experience as a kick returner during his time with the Tigers, Hester will also be an excellent addition to the special teams. Furthermore, with the release of Lorenzo Neal earlier in the year and Andrew Pinnock on the mends from microfracture surgery, Hester's potential for field time is broadened. With ample opportunity to make his entry, Hester should be preparing for a stellar rookie season.

Instead of tabbing a safety or offensive tackle with their next pick, the Bolts opted for another running back by snagging Marcus Thomas of UTEP in round five. At 6'2", 215 pounds, Thomas won't be a burner but has good speed for his size. He also shows a booming knack for exploding through holes.

A dependable receiver out of the backfield, Thomas can do more than just run and he shows a steady flair capable of giving L.T. a break every now and then. With both Hester and Thomas, the loss of Turner could go unnoticed.

The Bolts drew in another cornerback in round six, and the jury is still out on this selection. While DeJuan Tribble of Boston College is equipped with solid coverage skills to bolster the secondary, the 5'9", 190-pounder is undersized and lacks top-end speed. What Tribble does possess is a knack for getting his hands on the ball, so hopefully the leadership and charisma of Cromartie will rub off on him.

With their final pick in the draft, the Bolts finally snagged an offensive tackle. Reacting to the release of Shane Olivea, the Chargers pulled in offensive tackle Corey Clark of Texas A&M. Clark's 6'6", 315-pound frame is a solid combination of size and quickness.

Clark's technique needs attention, as he tends to play too high and lacks the drive to finish blocks. Nonetheless, he was productive in college; in his three years starting with the Aggies, he registered 176 knockdowns, 19 which produced Aggies touchdowns.

But even so, Clark lacks the aggression and polish to push for playing time anytime soon. With Marcus McNeill, Jeromey Clary and L.J. Shelton all under contract through 2009, Clark may have to get comfortable on the practice squad.

Final Draft Grade

C+

Although the Bolts made wise and practical selections with their first three picks, their final two selections may have been better spent on a defensive lineman and a safety.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories