In what's a very critical season for both he and head coach Norv Turner, Chargers general manager A.J. Smith could very well live up to his reputation for being aggressive on draft day. The overall depth of this year's crop should still allow San Diego to nab a useful player if it stays put at its present first-round slot (No. 18 overall), however, with the offensive line and secondary two areas that stand a good chance of being targeted early on. The left side of the line is a cause for concern due to the forced retirement of four-time Pro Bowl guard Kris Dielman because of concussion complications and tackle Jared Gaither's inability to stay healthy in recent years, so a ready-made prospect such as Stanford guard David DeCastro being available at that spot would certainly be a welcome sight. The Chargers received subpar seasons from cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason a year ago and just lost starting strong safety Steve Gregory through free agency, therefore improving the defense's back line also should be on Smith's agenda in addition to enhancing a pass rush that was often sporadic in 2011. Multi-skilled running back Mike Tolbert's offseason departure creates a need for a third-down specialist to work with former first-round pick Ryan Mathews in the backfield.
2011 Record: 8-8
Top Needs: OL, CB, S
First Three Picks: No. 18, No. 49, No. 78
Number of Selections: 8 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7)
RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2011 - Corey Liuget (DE, Illinois); 2010 - Ryan Mathews (RB, Fresno State); 2009 - Larry English (OLB, Northern Illinois); 2008 - Antoine Cason (CB, Arizona); 2007 - Buster Davis (WR, LSU); 2006 - Antonio Cromartie (CB, Florida State); 2005 - Shawne Merriman (OLB, Maryland), Luis Castillo (DT, Northwestern); 2004 - Philip Rivers* (QB, North Carolina State); 2003 - Sammy Davis (CB, Texas A&M); 2002 - Quentin Jammer (CB, Texas).
*Originally drafted by N.Y. Giants, then traded to Chargers on draft day in exchange for San Diego first-round pick Eli Manning