Need for Speed  


San Diego Chargers' draft needs: Brandin Cooks brings speed


Roster weaknesses: Every team has them, and the draft is often the best way to address them. With the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaching, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah will be taking an up-close look at the main areas of weakness -- and the prospects who could fix them -- for all 32 squads in the league. Be sure to catch "Path to the Draft" on NFL Network at 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday for more in-depth analysis.

The San Diego Chargers' playoff win against the Cincinnati Bengals last season was the team's first postseason victory since the 2008 campaign. The progress is especially noteworthy when you consider the Chargers play in the AFC's toughest division.

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If they want to overtake the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos for supremacy in the West, they'll have to improve a defensive unit that ranked in the bottom third of the NFL. There are holes throughout the side, so I expect general manager Tom Telesco to focus on adding defensive playmakers in the 2014 NFL Draft.

That said, the offense is missing a legitimate deep threat who can take the top off of defenses. Keenan Allen played outstanding last year, but teams will be able to plan against the second-year pro if Philip Rivers doesn't have a solid alternative lining up on the opposite side of the field.

Here are four positions of need for San Diego -- and some prospects who could fill them.

1) Cornerback

After ranking 29th against the pass last season, the Chargers need to upgrade their secondary. With so much talent at the position in this year's class, I think San Diego will be able to land a quality player with the No. 25 overall pick.

I could see at least four corners going in the first round, with Ohio State's Bradley Roby and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller among that group. Both defenders have the versatility to cover slot and perimeter pass-catchers, and both are very good against the run. If the Bolts pass on taking a corner in the first round, they could use their second-round pick (No. 57 overall) on a player like Phillip Gaines. The former Rice corner has great size (6-foot, 193 pounds), speed (4.38-second 40-yard time) and toughness; the buzz around him continues to increase as the draft nears.

2) Nose tackle

Louis Nix is a polarizing player when you talk to people around the NFL. The Notre Dame product has the size (6-2, 331 pounds) and frame to play nose tackle, but he prefers to rely more on his quickness than his strength. He reminds me a little bit of Green Bay Packers lineman B.J. Raji when he was coming out of Boston College.

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Justin Ellis, though not a Day 1 or 2 guy, is someone who could fit well with San Diego. The defender caught everyone's attention in practices before the East-West Shrine Game. The 6-1, 334-pounder has the strength to hold up at the point of attack but can rush the passer as well. 

3) Outside linebacker

Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson, at 32 and 34, respectively, are not the Chargers' long-term answers at outside linebacker. I'm a believer in third-year pro Melvin Ingram -- who missed 12 regular-season games last season due to an offseason knee injury -- but he's going to need a partner to pair with. Dee Ford could be a solid option to line up opposite Ingram, but I'm not sure he's worthy of the 25th overall pick. If they trade down to later in Round 1 or early in Round 2, however, Ford and Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence could both come into play. The former Bronco has heavy hands and is a polished pass rusher, as evidenced by his 10.5 sacks last season.

4) Wide receiver

One of the best picks in last year's draft, Keenan Allen, has the talent to be a No. 1 wide receiver for a long time. However, the Chargers don't have a playmaking wideout behind him. If either USC's Marqise Lee or Oregon State's Brandin Cooks are available at No. 25, I think both would give the Chargers' offense a speed element it doesn't currently have. Paul Richardson from Colorado is another speedster who could contribute right away. He should be there for the taking in Round 2.


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So what will the Chargers do with their first-round pick (No. 25 overall)? Here's what NFL Media's analysts see happening, according to their mock draft projections (click here for full mock drafts):

Daniel Jeremiah: Kyle Fuller
Bucky Brooks: Kyle Fuller
Charles Davis: Kyle Fuller
Matt Smith: Louis Nix
Chase Goodbread: Ryan Shazier

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.



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