Two prospects that could provide immediate help may be on the board at No. 16: USC LB Rey Maualuga and LSU DE Tyson Jackson . Here's a look at the dilemma the Chargers would face in this scenario.
|LB Rey Maualuga |
The Case against Maualuga: The Chargers have other needs that may priority; namely defensive end, offensive tackle, safety and running back. Maualuga also has some red flags regarding his tendencies to drink and carry his violence off the field. Given A.J. Smith's spotty draft record over the last couple years, he cannot afford to gamble on Maualuga and miss.
|DE Tyson Jackson |
The Case against Jackson: Jackson won't make a lot of impact plays, something that may cause Smith to think twice before calling his name in the first half of the opening round. Jackson lacks great speed off the edge and sometimes struggles in space. He may lack the elite athleticism to be more than a platoon player along with Jacques Cesaire and Ryon Bingham, at least as it pertains to the 2009 season.
The Final Verdict: There's no question San Diego's bigger need is at defensive end after letting Olshansky walk out the door and making no effort to sign a replacement. However, A.J. Smith has learned the perils of drafting for need, overpaying for the likes of Buster Davis and Jacob Hester (both former LSU players, incidentally).
Instead, Smith leans towards an impact player capable of outplaying his draft status and developing into an All Pro. Drafting Maualuga gives Ron Rivera & Co. another difference-maker and allows the Chargers to cut ties with Matt Wilhelm, who is set to cost approximately $2.5 million against the salary cap.
Since Smith arrived in San Diego in 2001, the Chargers have executed five picks in the top-20 selections of the first round: RB LaDainian Tomlinson (No. 5, 2001), CB Quentin Jammer (No. 5, 2002), QB Philip Rivers (No. 4, 2004), LB Shawne Merriman (No. 12, 2005) and CB Antonio Cromartie (No. 19, 2006). Smith will be looking for a player with similar upside with this year's selection, which is why Maualuga gets the nod over Jackson in this particular draft scenario.
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.