Dec 8, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers center Nick Hardwick (61) before the Chargers game against the New York Giants at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Center: The Elephant In The Room

Tom Telesco has his work cut out for him in the upcoming draft. The Chargers need all kinds of help on the defensive side of the ball. They need to fill holes in the secondary, at nose tackle, at outside linebacker, and they could also use some middle linebacker & defensive end depth. On the offensive side of the ball, they could use another wide receiver, a back-up running back, a right guard, and a future left tackle. We also need to find a kick returner, as we haven’t had a reliable option for years. That’s a whole lot of holes to fill with just 7 picks (Maybe 8). We will definitely pick up some undrafted rookie free agents, and some players in free agency. But, our salary cap situation isn’t looking good at the moment, so picking up any big names in free agency seems unlikely.  Cuts will have to be made, and may create even more holes.

Then there is the elephant in the room. What about center? What is our plan for that? Right now, we only have Nick Hardwick and Rich Ohrnberger on the roster that can play the position. Last season, we all got a big scare when Hardwick pondered retirement. Thankfully, Hardwick returned, and will likely finish out the last year of his contract. But, what if he doesn’t? Are we ready to crown Rich Ohrnberger the new center? We saw Nick Hardwick get taken out of the game with a concussion this season, and Ohrnberger stepped in. Hardwick made a seemingly miraculous recovery and came back in the following week, but I don’t remember one person that wasn’t concerned. Also, people were concerned that Rich Ohrnberger would be our guy heading into the playoffs.

Back in 2012, AJ Smith drafted David Molk, and we kind of figured he would be the guy to eventually replace Hardwick. He was drafted with an injury, and sat out the entire 2012 season. He was drafted out of the University of Michigan, was a consensus All-American, and won the 2011 Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football. He stayed with the Chargers through preseason last season, but didn’t make it past final cuts. He signed a contract with the Philidelphia Eagles on January 9th. So, there went that plan.

I have seen a ton of projections for who the San Diego Chargers should draft this season, and what positions they need to fill. Almost none of them are listing center as an “immediate need”. Center will never be the “popular” pick, or be considered a first round target. In fact, the Dallas Cowboys took some heat from their fans when they drafted Wisconsin center Travis Frederick with the 31st pick of the 2013 draft.  Is that where we are headed? Are they going to wait until Hardwick retires, and hope that a starting caliber rookie center is sitting there for us in round two or three of the 2015 draft? Are we hoping to try to score an inexpensive free agent center? I’m not sure that is a very solid plan.

If that is the plan, we might be in big trouble. Something tells me that Tom Telesco must also know this. If so, you might want to pencil in a guy like Travis Swanson, Weston Richburg, Bryan Stork, or Hroniss Grasu somewhere on your mock draft boards around the 3rd or 4th round. I would imagine that you want to have a rookie develop for a year behind one of the best centers in the league, rather than give him a “trial by fire”. Or, perhaps TT will wait another year, and hope for the best.. or more likely.. pray that the worst doesn’t happen.

What do you think? Are we playing with fire if we don’t draft a center this season? Do you feel comfortable waiting until 2015 to figure it out? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

 

Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!

Peter Thompson

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