The Chargers’ first three draft picks of 2013 — offensive tackle D.J. Fluker (Round One), inside linebacker Manti Te’o (Round Two) and wide receiver Keenan Allen (Round Three) — all started for a San Diego team that won a playoff game last season.
Fluker, Te’o and Allen are key parts of the Chargers’ changing core. As detailed below, the Chargers enter the 2014 draft with some positions in need of youth. Cornerback especially looks to be a spot where a rookie could come in and start right off the bat.
Longer-term, an offensive lineman or outside linebacker selected next week could perhaps vie for a starting role in 2015.
Here are the Chargers’ biggest needs entering the draft:
Cornerback: After sitting out the cornerback market in free agency, the club seems likely to bolster the position in the draft, especially after parting ways with Derek Cox and Johnny Patrick, who combined to play more than 1,000 snaps a season ago, according to Pro Football Focus statistics. Also, starting cornerback Shareece Wright can test unrestricted free agency after the season. The Chargers need more depth and talent here.
Offensive line: The Chargers did well to add Fluker with the No. 11 overall pick last April. One year later, the Chargers again may have to consider adding O-line help early in the draft. The club has three starters (center Nick Hardwick, right guard Jeromey Clary, left tackle King Dunlap) entering the final year of their deals.
Outside linebacker: The Chargers figure to have some significant turnover at this position in the years ahead. Dwight Freeney, 34, is in the final year of his contract. Jarret Johnson, 33 in August, had his deal restructured in the offseason. The Chargers have one potential building block at outside linebacker in 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram, who will be more than a year removed from an ACL injury at the start of the season.
Wide receiver: Last year, the Chargers found a top-caliber wideout on the second day of the draft in Allen, who hauled in 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. And in this draft, the Chargers probably need to bring in at least one more pass catcher, especially with Malcom Floyd’s playing future murky because of a neck injury suffered a season ago. Also, key receivers Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown are both in the final year of their contracts.
Nose tackle: After Cam Thomas’ departure in free agency, the Chargers could look to add some more bulk in the middle to compete with Sean Lissemore and Kwame Geathers. Thomas played 547 snaps last season, per PFF, so bringing another lineman capable of taking some reps would help.