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Monday, December 26, 2011
Early draft look: Chargers

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

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.