Published April 30, 2012
| Sports Network
1 - Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina (6-1, 264); 2 - Kendall Reyes, DE, Connecticut (6-4, 299); 3 - Brandon Taylor, S, Louisiana State (5-11, 209); 4 - Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6, 238); 5 - Johnnie Troutman, OG, Penn State (6-4, 325); 7 - David Molk, C, Michigan (6-1, 298); 7 - Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State (5-8, 204)
Top Picks Analysis: A.J. Smith normally isn't gun-shy about moving up in the first round and snaring a player he covets, but the embattled general manager benefited from holding his ground this year. In desperate need of a dangerous pass rusher to give the defense more bite, the Chargers had the good fortune of having one of this year's best in Ingram fall to them at the 18th overall choice. The squatty college lineman can quickly get to the edge with an explosive first step, plus he's stout enough to hold up against the run and displayed excellent lateral agility at the combine that will aid him in coverage. Another possible starter at a thin position was plucked with the second-round selection of Reyes, a powerful and hard-working prospect with the frame to work as a five-technique end in San Diego's 3-4 alignment. Smith's only trade of the draft came in the third round, when he vaulted five spots to claim Taylor, one of the steadying forces on a dominant LSU defense. He's a good tackler with some range and adequate speed, but his best asset may be in the leadership category.
Best Value Pick: Green is essentially an oversized receiver with minimal blocking ability, but he's fast with soft hands and may be able to make an impact as a move player at a position where Antonio Gates has missed a lot of time the past two seasons.
Questionable Calls: The one defensive position Smith neglected was cornerback, where returning starters Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are coming off subpar seasons and are entering the final year of their contracts. Though depth was added to the offensive line, Troutman and Molk are basically backup types and a swing tackle may have been of greater importance.
Summary: Shoddy defense helped lead to San Diego's failure to reach the playoffs last year, so the addition of three players that could wind up as starters ranks as a fine haul for a team that doesn't usually have much trouble scoring points. All of the other picks stand a good chance of making the roster and contributing in some form, which leads to a top grade.
FINAL GRADE: A-