2:02 p.m. – The 2011 version of the draft, long anticipated by the Chargers, starts in less than three hours. Carolina, and former San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, will be on the clock approximately 5 p.m. PT, with their choice of every eligible player. If they select Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, as many expect, the Panthers may begin a first-round run of signal-callers that would carry a pool of defensive players later into the first round.
The Chargers, currently at No. 18 overall, aren’t required to stay there and may not. If media reports are any indication, General Manager A.J. Smith has managed to keep his strategy private. Chargers President Dean Spanos and Head Coach Norv Turner both acknowledged during the pre-draft buildup that last year’s No. 1-ranked defense can stand to add a piece or two, and it’s almost certain San Diego will go defense with one or more of its five picks in the first three rounds. It remains to be seen what San Diego’s first-round strategy is, but Carolina’s decision will knock over the first domino and affect which players are still available by the time the Chargers pick.
2:33 p.m. – Just saw Smith and Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye in the hall. Smith looked focused and intense.
3:05 p.m. – Here’s your last chance to say who you’d like the Chargers to take in the first round or offer your predictions. Otherwise your card-carrying right to say “I called it” after every pick will be revoked in less than two hours.
4:03 p.m. – The buzz around the draft is a reminder of how many people in the United States and around the world share a passion for NFL football. These next three days are the most fun for teams since the season ended.
4:38 p.m. – Alabama and Auburn coaches and players, along with Commissioner Rodger Goodell, taking a moment of silence for the people affected by yesterday’s tragic outbreak of tornados in the South. A Birmingham native myself, this message hits home. My thoughts go out to all those back home devastated by the violent outbreak Wednesday.
5:00 p.m. – The Panthers are on the clock. If San Diego stays at No. 18, expect the Chargers to be on the clock a bit after 7:30 p.m. PT. Trades are possible, but remember, teams cannot trade players this year, only draft picks.
5:06 p.m. – It’s official: Rivera and the Panthers have made Auburn QB Cam Newton the No. 1 overall pick of 2011.
5:07 p.m. – The first AFC West team is on the clock in Denver. Lots of folks expecting them to go defense. New head coach John Fox is a defensive guy.
5:14 p.m. – The Broncos select Texas A&M OLB Von Miller, as many expected. Head Coach Norv Turner has expressed his view that the Raiders and Chiefs have improved their teams with several high draft choices in recent years. Miller’s development will be something to monitor for Chargers fans.
5:24 p.m. – The Bengals make it three SEC players in the first four overall picks with Newton, Alabama DT-DE Marchell Dareus and Georgia WR A.J. Green secured by teams.
5:45 p.m. – The Titans have selected Washington QB Jake Locker, making him the second QB taken in the draft. The first round is clipping along. We’re on pick nine 40 minutes in.
6:09 p.m. – Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt is off the board, going to the Texans at No. 11. He’ll play under former Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
6:32 p.m. – The Chargers’ pick is approaching fast. For those hoping for a defensive player, among those available are Cal DE Cameron Jordan, Purdue OLB/DE Ryan Kerrigan, Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, Temple DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Illinois DT CoreyLiuget and Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara. Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo and Colorado OT Nate Solder also are available. Washington and New England pick ahead of the Chargers.
7:15 p.m. – The post-pick frenzy is at full strength here at Chargers Park. San Diego targeted Liuget and, thanks to a run of QBs, selected their guy at No. 18 overall.
Smith says Liuget will play defensive end for San Diego.
“We just think he’s going to bring physical play to it,” Smith said. “(He’s got) a nasty mean streak. We think he’s going to add that to it. He’s so willing to learn. So willing to absorb everything. He’s got an attacking style to him. So we’re going to add him. Put him in Greg Manusky’s wagon and turn him loose.”
9:25 p.m. – The first round went faster than many of us anticipated. The Chargers hold two second-round picks and two third-round picks, so Friday should be a busy day. Liuget also will visit San Diego for the first time in his life. We’ll see how SoCal compares to South Beach, as Liuget is a Miami native.
Stay true and keep pounding,
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