NFL DRAFT: Pressure's on Bolts to improve amid stadium push
SAN DIEGO (AP) The pressure is on for Chargers general manager Tom Telesco going into the NFL draft.
Not only did his team finish 4-12 last year, including going winless in the AFC West, but the Chargers' future in San Diego remains uncertain.
The Chargers have many holes to fill. They hold the third pick overall, which they could use to bolster either their offensive or defensive line, or perhaps to replace safety Eric Weddle.
After angering their fan base and insulting City Hall for the better part of 2015 in their failed attempt to move to Los Angeles, the Chargers are trying to engender some goodwill. They are promoting a citizens' initiative for the Nov. 8 ballot. The measure calls for an increase in the city's hotel tax to help pay for a $1.8 billion stadium and convention center annex downtown, just east of Petco Park, home of baseball's Padres.
Petco Park was approved by voters just weeks after the Padres were swept by the New York Yankees in the 1998 World Series. A trip to the Super Bowl is a bit much to fathom for the Chargers, but they know they have to play well in the nine games before election day to help their chances at the polls.
Here are some things to look for as the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft:
RALLY TIME: On Saturday, the Chargers will hold a rally to begin collecting the more than 67,000 signatures needed to validate their ballot measure. Scheduled to attend are NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, quarterback Philip Rivers and former star running back LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers have yet to release renderings of the complex they want to build, although there's speculation it could have a retractable roof in order to help attract non-football events. The measure is expected to be opposed by the powerful tourism and convention industry. Last week, Mayor Kevin Faulconer sent the Chargers a long list of questions about their initiative. Faulconer's preferred location for a new stadium is at the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley.
KEEP OR TRADE? The Chargers had been open to trading down to stockpile more picks. But after Los Angeles and Philadelphia traded up into the top two spots with the intention of taking quarterbacks, the Chargers will be able to get their top-rated player if they stay put. That could be Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil, Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley, UCLA outside linebacker Myles Jack or Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner.
O LINE: There's no question the Chargers need help on the offensive line. Last year's first-round draft pick, running back Melvin Gordon, didn't score a touchdown or have a 100-yard game, mostly a product of poor play in front of him. The Chargers gave right tackle Joe Barksdale a four-year contract in March. A year ago, they locked up left tackle King Dunlap for four years. Dunlap has had a hard time staying healthy. The Bolts must decide whether they're set at tackle or take a chance with one in the draft.
A QUARTERBACK? Fans are wondering when it'll be time for Telesco to draft Rivers' heir apparent. Rivers is entering his 13th season with the Chargers and 11th as starter. He received a contract extension through 2019 last year.
DEFENSE: The Chargers always seem to need help on defense. They let safety Eric Weddle leave via free agency, thus the interest in Ramsey. They can also use help on the line. They've never truly replaced nose tackle Jamal Williams, who left after the 2009 season.
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