Early draft look: Chargers

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
3:15
PM ET
Now that the San Diego Chargers have been eliminated from playoff contention, it’s time to look ahead. Let’s take an early look at the Chargers’ draft needs:

Likely drafting range: 15-20

Top draft needs: Linebacker, tackle, safety, guard, tight end, cornerback.

Possible first-round picks: Alabama safety Mark Barron, Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw, Stanford guard David DeCastro.

Intangibles: The offensive line could become a major priority, even over pressing needs on defense. There is a chance guard Kris Dielman (concussion) and left tackle Marcus McNeill (neck) may not return. Also, standout center Nick Hardwick is a free agent. Star receiver Vincent Jackson is a free agent. If he isn’t given a new deal or if he is not given the franchise tag, receiver could be on the early-round radar. Also, there is a chance the team’s drafting philosophy could change if general manager A.J. Smith is fired.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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