Really no shocker to me what happened to the San Diego Chargers in 2008. With the unfortunate injury to Shawne Merriman, nearly everything fell apart. But leave it up to the pathetic Denver Broncos defense to choke away a divisional title.
Philip Rivers, one of the toughest players in the NFL (much less a quarterback), never gave up and lead his team to the playoffs. Fortunately for Chargers fans, they have a great front office that should keep their team as contenders for the next decade or so. The Chargers love to shake things up in the NFL Draft on occasion. They drafted Rivers after giving up on Drew Brees. They shocked everybody in taking Antonio Cromartie in 2006. Could they pull a huge shocker in 2009?
On to the classy San Diego Chargers' draft range at No. 16 overall:
Evander Hood: I could seriously see this reach being made in the first round. Tyson Jackson will be long gone with Green Bay, Buffalo and Denver all needing defensive ends. If he falls to the Chargers, consider it a blessing from the draft gods. Hood has tested well in the offseason and has a lot of great tools as a 5-technique projecting to the next level. Look out for this potential reach, though I think it has a small chance of happening.
Knowshon Moreno/Chris Wells: Darren Sproles was franchised and LaDanian Tomlinson was extended another three years for about $18 million. There is no way San Diego goes running back in the first three rounds, especially after spending a future second-round pick on Jacob Hester in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Rey Maualuga: If the Chargers want to go inside linebacker, I think they will most likely target Maualuga. His size, athleticism and ability to blitz fit best in the 3-4.
Right Tackle: Everybody saw Jeromey Clary flopping as a starter in 2008. A severe upgrade is needed in the draft, and the Chargers have a few options in the first round whether they want to stay at 16 or trade down. A.J. Smith does not mind taking chances. Buster Davis was a huge reach in 2007. Davis selected Antonio Cromartie in 2006 with durability and experience concerns. Marcus McNeil was said to have back problems. He drafted Luis Castillo after he tested positive for steroids at the Combine (albeit to repair an injury, which he was honest about).
Smith clearly doesn't mind rolling the dice, so look out for Alabama's Andre Smith at this pick. He has serious character concerns, but a high upside as a right tackle. Eben Britton and Michael Oher are also possibilities in the first round.
I am 75-percent certain the Chargers go right tackle in the first round.
However, if they don't go tackle in the first, Phil Loadholt is a solid option in the second round. Loadholt could also be had in the third round along with Fenuki Tupou and Gerald Cadogan. I feel like all could start at right tackle Week 1.
Nose tackle is a need because Jamal Williams is getting up there in years. Sen'Derrick Marks, Chris Baker and Terrence Taylor are mid-round options. Keep an eye on Kentucky's Myron Pryor in the fifth or sixth rounds.
If the Chargers don't pull a shocker with Evander Hood at 16, Jarron Gilbert and Fili Moala might still be on the board in the third round if A.J. Smith is lucky at the 5-technique slot on the defensive line.
Strong safety is a huge need on this defense because Clinton Hart isn't making All-Pro teams anytime soon. Patrick Chung, Chip Vaughn and Michael Hamlin could be had in the third or fourth rounds, though Chung won't be on the board in the fourth.
San Diego looks like the clear favorite in the AFC West, and I fully expect them to come out with a great draft in 2009.