With that in mind, here is a look at five of the Chargers recent low-round (second day) draft choices who will need to have big years in order for the team to continue its early success late into the year.
Right Tackle Shane Olivea (Seventh round, 2004) - While the Chargers went into the draft seeking to upgrade their talent at tackle, they did not expect they would find it in round seven. But Olivea is a tenacious run-blocker who worked hard this off-season to shed weight and define his figure. His reward was the lowest drafted player to start an NFL game in week one. He lacks ideal height and still needs to work on his footwork in space, but he is a relentless worker and is willing to put in the effort. His development into a difference maker at the position would be a coup for the Chargers. They would then have a young and talented right tackle playing cheap for the next three years.
Punter Mike Scifres (Fifth Round, 2003) - The best thing Scifres did all of last season was listen carefully to everything that Darren Bennett had to say. Because of that, he has learned to harness his incredible leg strength, and has become much more consistent because of it. Scifres floated hang times of approximately 5.2 seconds against the Texans, and has the power to boot it long when the team is trapped deep. Martyball is based off of field position more so than anything else, so this is one punter who may actually be an impact player for his team.
Tight End Justin Peelle (Fourth Round, 2002) - Peelle is the perfect number two tight end for this offense. He is a tenacious and willing blocker, can contribute on special teams, and is willing to play through injuries. Although he may not put up the kind of numbers that Antonio Gates is capable of, he is sure handed and knows how to get up-field with the ball. His consistency is his biggest asset, and his performance will be crucial to the offense's success both on the ground and in the air.
Defensive End Dave Ball (Fifth Round, 2004) - The second defensive end taken by the Chargers in this year's draft, Ball is a competitor who has produced on every level. He was tied for first in the nation with 16.5 sacks as a senior at UCLA, and led the NFL preseason in that category as well with four. Ball has also been working tirelessly on his technique against the run throughout camp in an attempt to become a more complete player. With Adrian Dingle now hurt, he may have a chance to show off the results of that work earlier than expected.
Safety Hanik Milligan (Sixth Round, 2003) - After missing his rookie season due to a pectoral injury, Milligan is primed to make an impact this year. He will cut his teeth on special teams at first, but expect him to be more involved in the nickel and dime defense packages as the season progresses. He is the only backup at both the strong safety and the free safety positions, and so the team does have faith in him. Some may question why the team moved him to free safety this off-season with veterans Jerry Wilson and Kwame Lassiter already there. Now Lassiter is gone, and Wilson is working on a one-year contract. Milligan has speed, range, and is a big-time hitter. He will be the team's starting free safety no later than next season.
Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@Sandiegosports.net
The old football adage spoken frequently by coaches and general managers alike is that teams are built through the draft. However, many do not realize the importance of finding players later in the draft that can step up and make an impact. While selecting a player such as LaDainian Tomlinson is an easy choice, finding players that can make an impact later in the draft is a much taller order.