A.J. Smith loves to fortify his pass defense early in the draft. He has executed seven first-round picks since becoming general manager in 2003 and five addressed the pass defense: CBs Sammy Davis, Antonio Cromartie and Antoine Cason and pass-rushers Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo.
Look for that emphasis to continue. For one thing, San Diego ranked No. 31 against the pass last season. Secondly, San Diego's division figures to be a lot more pass-happy in 2009 with the Denver Broncos (Josh McDaniels) and Kansas City Chiefs (Todd Haley) bringing in head coaches who love to attack through the air.
OT Corey Clark
Smith believes O-linemen can be found later in the draft. In the last five drafts, Smith has selected eight offensive linemen in the fifth round or later. The results have been mixed; three of those players went on to start at least one game for the Chargers while four of them were released before ever playing a snap.
The Chargers will look to add offensive line depth on the second day of the draft, especially on the interior. The Chargers let Mike Goff and Jeremy Newberry leave as free agents and have yet to bring in anyone from outside the organization to take their place.
3. Made to Move
Smith is not afraid to pay a steep price to get the man he wants. In 2007, he traded away four draft picks to acquire FS Eric Weddle. In 2008, the team traded a pair picks, including this year's second-rounder, for FB Jacob Hester. The Chargers paid more than market value in both deals, but Smith was more concerned about the players he obtained than the draft picks he gave away.
The Chargers could be on the move again in 2009. The team could trade up into the second round, given that San Diego currently has just one selection in the top-75. Another option is trading down in the first round. Prior to this season, San Diego's first-round pick has fallen in the top half of the first round four times since 2001; the team traded down on three of those occasions.
WR Vincent Jackson
What do Northern Colorado, Northern Illinois, Arkansas- Pine Bluff and Nebraska- Omaha have in common? The Chargers have drafted players from each of those programs during Smith's tenure as GM. Smith has often explained his philosophy this way: "It doesn't matter where you play, we'll find you."
There are several small-school players the Chargers have already met with at least once this offseason, including Richmond DE Lawrence Sidbury, Liberty RB Rashad Jennings and Southern Mississippi TE Shawn Nelson, among others.
5. Line 'Em Up Three-Deep
Smith often speaks of his desire to line players up three-deep and let them compete for playing time. His draft record shows he is serious about that belief. He is unafraid to spend a significant draft pick to fill the No. 3 spot on the depth chart, such as QB Charlie Whitehurst (third round, 2005) and TE Scott Chandler (fourth round, 2007).
There are a few positions on San Diego's roster in need of another body for the back end of the depth chart. Among them are center, outside linebacker and nose tackle. Look for the team to address these needs in the middle rounds, as San Diego has four selections between rounds three and four.
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.