AFC West: Loucheiz Purifoy

Like most other NFL organizations, the San Diego Chargers are a team that builds and maintains its roster through the draft. General manager Tom Telesco doesn’t necessarily put any more value on securing impact players through the draft, versus trade or free agency.

But annually selecting rookies that can make an impact on a team’s roster is important, particularly when you consider the player will be under the team’s control for at least four years, likely at an inexpensive salary.

So getting detailed medical evaluations and vetting players through the intense interviewing process are the most important things for teams this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Of the 53 players that finished the season on San Diego’s roster, 23 were secured through the draft, compared to 27 free agents, two through trades, and one claimed off waivers.

The Chargers have seven original picks in this year’s draft, one in each round beginning with the No. 25 overall pick. So they will be paying close attention to the more than 330 players invited to this year’s combine.

Along with evaluating draft prospects, Telesco will have an opportunity to meet with middle linebacker Donald Butler's representation as the Chargers try to get him signed to a multi-year deal before he hits free agency next month.

Here are five things to keep an eye on regarding the Chargers.

1. Physical cornerbacks who can turn and run: A major area of need for San Diego is improving the overall talent and depth at cornerback. Last year’s top free agent signee Derek Cox likely will not be back after being supplanted in the starting lineup by Richard Marshall. San Diego’s 2013 fifth-round selection Steve Williams could work into the conversation at corner in 2014. The Cal product sat out his rookie year after suffering a torn pectoral muscle during preseason play. But the Chargers need to add a couple physical corners who can cover -- through the draft, free agency or trade. Some names to keep an eye on include Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy. Those players stand out to me because of their length, athleticism and playmaking ability.

2. Edge rushers needed: The Chargers have several veterans at this position, but you can never have enough athletes who can rush the passer. And San Diego struggled at creating consistent pressure, particularly on third down. Three guys potentially available on Day 1 of the draft who could make an impact include Missouri’s Kony Ealy, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, and Auburn’s Dee Ford.

3. A run-stuffing defensive tackle: San Diego gave up an average of 4.59 yards per carry on defense in 2013, No. 29 in the NFL. Cam Thomas started the most games at defensive tackle, but will be a free agent in March. Sean Lissemore finished as the team’s starter at the end of the season, but needs to add some bulk to effectively fill this position. San Diego could certainly use a two-gap defensive tackle to control the middle of the defense, similar to Dontari Poe in Kansas City. Potential candidates in the draft include Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III, Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman, and Penn State’s Daquan Jones.

4. Improved interior offensive line depth: With center Nick Hardwick contemplating retirement and veteran guard Jeromey Clary a potential salary-cap causality, the Chargers need to add some depth to the interior of the offensive line. Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson and Stanford’s David Yankey are the top rated guards in this year’s draft. And USC’s Marcus Martin could be the long-term answer for a team at center.

5. Add a couple explosive playmakers: San Diego could use some help in the return game. Keenan Allen should not be the team’s main punt returner. He’s too valuable on offense. And the Chargers could use someone with some juice in the kick return game. Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, and Oregon’s De'Anthony Thomas makes some sense because of their ability to create explosive plays on offense and in the return game. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers needs a few more weapons on offense to make his job easier, and all three of these players would fit the bill.
SAN DIEGO -- Upgrading the cornerback position for the San Diego Chargers remains the focus in the latest mock drafts published by ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay.

Even though San Diego’s pass defense was much better during the stretch run of the team’s surprise entry into the postseason, the Chargers had just 11 interceptions during the regular season, tied for No. 26 in the league, and allowed an average of 258.7 passing yards a contest (No. 29 in the NFL).

In this ESPN Insider piece Insider, Kiper Jr. selects Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson for the Chargers at No. 25. Roberson makes some sense, particularly because at 6-0 and 195 pounds, he gives San Diego some much-needed size at the position. In his first mock draft Insider, Kiper Jr. had the Chargers taking Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby. Here is what Kiper Jr. had to say about Roberson.

Kiper Jr.: “The Chargers did a pretty good job of scheming their way around some holes at corner during the late-season run, but there's no question they could use another good cornerback (or two), particularly because I think that defensive line and pass rush could take another step forward next season. Roberson can get a little lackadaisical, but it can also look easy for him out there because he has good instincts and a sense of where routes are going. He has long arms and can get his hands on the ball. He simply needs to be more physical against the run and grab a little less in coverage.”

In this ESPN Insider piece Insider, McShay has the Chargers selecting a different cornerback from the University of Florida, Loucheiz Purifoy, at No. 25. In his first mock draft Insider, McShay gave the Chargers Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. Purifoy makes sense because of his athleticism and playmaking ability at 6-foot and 190 pounds. Purifoy also has the ability to return kicks, another high-priority need for San Diego. Here’s what McShay had to say about Purifoy.

McShay: “The Chargers need to upgrade at cornerback and in the return game, and Purifoy could help in both areas. He is raw with his technique but has the potential to develop into a playmaker at corner because of his very good ball skills, and because he's one of the most naturally talented defensive backs in this draft. If the Chargers pass on Purifoy, they could go with a smaller but equally skilled and more polished cover corner in TCU's Jason Verrett. If they take a CB here, they could target a pass-rusher like Auburn's Dee Ford in Round 2 and a guard like Baylor's Cyril Richardson in Round 3.”

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