Brian Billick’s thoughts for March 11

Billick examines what the Chargers could do in the draft and possible draft steals at linebacker.


Chargers looking for depth in draft


If ever a team was the poster child of “statistics lie and liars use statistics”, it’s the San Diego Chargers. Finishing first in the NFL in both offense and defense, the Chargers failed to make the playoffs this past season, finishing with a 9-7 record.

When a team ranks this high on offense and defense and loses, you usually don’t have to look much past the turnover differential. The Chargers were 23rd in the NFL at minus 6.

Special teams were the main reason for the Chargers shortcoming, particularly early in the season. This means they need more depth at linebacker and in the secondary and that they will build that via the draft.

Most teams say the draft is their lifeblood, but no team has built more exclusively through the draft than the Chargers. Until the recent signing of safety Bob Sanders formerly of Indianapolis, only two of the Chargers starters began their careers elsewhere.

This bodes well for the Chargers who have five picks in the first 90 selections in this years draft; picking up the Jets second-rounder for Antonio Cromartie and the Seahawks third-rounder for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

The Chargers top priority is probably an edge rushers as 2009 first-round pick Larry English has been disappointing. An elite pass rusher will allow new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky to get pressure on the quarterback without having to heavily rely on blitzing.

The Chargers are going to be tested with one of the toughest schedules in the league. As I noted earlier, West Coast teams fair poorly when they have to travel east. The Chargers will do that three times as they face Jacksonville, New England and the New York Jets all on the road.

They also have to face the NFC North as their out of conference opponents and you can throw in Baltimore just for good measure.


Herzlich could be draft steal


By this time, most of you have heard the wonderful story of Mark Herzlich and his tremendous overcoming of cancer.

What you may not remember is the dominating season he had in 2008 for Boston College. Just listen to this stat line: 110 tackles (13 for loss), three sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, six interceptions, two defensive touchdowns and a partridge in a pear tree.

As you can imagine, Mark shows an ability to read his keys and process his responsibility quickly. Similarly, he reads run and differentiates play-action fakes and regularly puts himself in the right position on the field. From an athletic perspective, he stays balanced and shows great footwork, especially in his pass coverage, ready to break in any direction as the ball is released.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Herzlich measured in at 6-foot-4, 244 pounds. He competed 29 reps on the bench and ran a 4.96 40-yard dash.

While some may raise concern on his lack of overall speed, I believe that his elite instincts and rare effort more than make up for it. After being considered by many as a top-10 pick after his 2008 season, Mark won’t even be drafted in the first two days this year, but he will give you his full effort on every single play. I wouldn’t be surprised if we look back and consider him to be the steal of the 2011 draft.


Be cautious on ‘workout warrior’


Dontay Moch out of Nevada was one of the “workout warriors” of this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. He measured in at 6-foot-1 3/8 and 248 pounds, but what set him apart was his 4.44 40-yard dash and his astonishing 42-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-8 broad jump.

Those are eye-popping numbers! Those numbers have encouraged NFL scouts, GMs, and talent evaluators to go back and review his tape in further detail.

What they will find is a defensive end turned outside linebacker who holds every Nevada pass-rushing record that is still very raw is his overall technique. He doesn’t show elite change of direction and backed that up at this years East-West game.

I believe he will need to further develop his hip movement and hand punch to take full advantage of his speed rush off the edge. One major concern is how he will hold up in the run game. When matched up against one of this year’s best offensive lineman Anthony Castanzo he struggled mightily.

There is no denying that Dontay Moch is an outstanding athlete, but I would encourage teams not to make the easy mistake of falling in love with his workout numbers. He is a raw talent that will need a lot of positional coaching. Will he be the next Vernon Gholston, or will he be able to translate his athleticism into a productive NFL player?