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NFL Draft Preview: Chargers on QB trail?

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The Sports Xchange

SAN DIEGO — There is some focus on what the San Diego Chargers will do with their six draft picks, including their first selection at No. 17, but another No. 17 is driving the conversation at Chargers Park: Philip Rivers.

The team’s standout quarterback remains smack-dab in the middle of trade rumors and, until he talks or finds a way to clear it up, the chatter won’t die about the Chargers sending Rivers, the team’s most decorated quarterback other than Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, to the Tennessee Titans.

In return, the Chargers would receive the Titans’ No. 2 pick overall, where it’s believed they would select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“I’ve been crystal clear with what our plans and intentions are,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said.

Hopefully the Chargers’ defensive backs can backpedal as well as Telesco.

When asked flatly if he had trade talks with the Titans, Telesco replied: “I’m going to leave that go.”

So instead of saying there was no truth to the rumors, Telesco likely fueled them.

Here’s the rub: With the Chargers eyeing a move to the Los Angeles area, Rivers has made it clear he doesn’t want to uproot his family, which includes seven children, to the north. So when the Chargers approached him about an extension this offseason, he declined.

The Chargers, certainly, could franchise Rivers and keep him in the fold. Or he could retire, which seems unlikely considering how competitive Rivers remains. But the scenario just adds another level of intrigue to the upcoming draft.

And don’t forget the Chargers’ top brass, including head coach Mike McCoy, traveled to Eugene last week to have dinner with Mariota and to work him out.

Something is going on and Chargers fans won’t know just what until the Titans are off the clock in the first round.

“Philip’s our quarterback,” Telesco added. “It’s our plan and intent that he’s quarterback well into future.”

It’s “Liars Month” for NFL general managers, so be careful what you hold sacred.

The thought of shipping Rivers away is almost sacrilegious to many Chargers followers. And Telesco wasn’t firm in shooting down the notion, even invoking his religion.

“I’m Catholic,” he said. “I tell the truth.”

Maybe that’s why, when asked point-blank about Rivers, Telesco was ambiguous.

It’s just another offseason tidbit for the Chargers.

They did retain cornerback Brandon Flowers and left tackle King Dunlap. They signed guard Orlando Franklin, wide receiver Stevie Johnson and added depth with cornerback Patrick Robinson.

Still, the team enters the draft bent on getting a running back, finding a pass rusher and possibly adding more bodies along an offensive line that is the midst of an overall.

But the talk of moving the team, and Rivers, trumps everything.

2014 Record: 9-7, 3rd in AFC West

First Draft Pick: #17 Overall

BEST FIT: RB Todd Gurley, Georgia

The Chargers buck the trend of the last two drafts when a running back wasn’t selected in the first round. But with the loss of Ryan Mathews as a free agent, the team needs to give the running game a boost. Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown and Branden Oliver remain on the roster, but the offense needs a reliable back, especially on early downs.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Running back: Want to keep Philip Rivers upright? Give the quarterback a running game, something the Chargers didn’t possess last year. The team finished near the bottom of most significant running categories. After not dipping their toes into the free-agency market, the team needs to draft a running back.

2. Outside linebacker: The Chargers were dreadful in sacking the quarterback last year — a whopping 26 sacks on the season. With Dwight Freeney retiring, Melvin Ingram’s reliability because of health concerns and Jerry Attaochu remaining a project, the Chargers need help in getting to the pocket — especially in a division that includes Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.

3. Defensive tackle: The Chargers’ 3-4 alignment has been in need of a beefy anchor in the middle since Jamal Williams retired. Undersized tackles have tried to fill the void, but so far, none have stood out. If the Chargers can add some girth in the middle, that should make ends Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes more effective. No doubt, it would help the inside linebackers as they often struggled against the run.


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