|National Football League|
Chargers load up on backups on offense
By BERNIE WILSON
SAN DIEGO (AP) After spending their first three picks on players expected to help address their defensive shortcomings, the San Diego Chargers spent the last day of the NFL draft loading up on offensive backups.
The Chargers took tight end Ladarius Green of Louisiana-Lafayette in the fourth round Saturday, Penn State guard Johnnie Troutman in the fifth round, All-American center David Molk of Michigan in the seventh round and Michigan State running back Edwin Baker with a compensatory pick.
"All those guys can compete to add depth on the roster," said player personnel director Jimmy Raye.
The Chargers, who had a big free agent haul, needed a strong draft as they look to end a slide that's left them out of the playoffs two straight seasons. They have only one playoff win in four seasons.
They spent their first three picks on outside linebacker Melvin Ingram of South Carolina, defensive end Kendall Reyes of Connecticut and LSU strong safety Brandon Taylor. They are expected to add some impact to a defense that was the NFL's worst on third down.
"I can honestly say we've been excited the last couple of years, but we have a great feeling coming out of this draft particularly," said Raye, who becomes the public face of the front office during the draft. "We feel like we've gotten better. We've added some speed, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Guys will make a push for playing time, and we've added great depth. All the guys have a legitimate chance of coming in and making our football team."
Team president Dean Spanos brought back coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith despite an 8-8 finish last season and 9-7 the previous year.
"We're improved as a football team," Turner said Saturday. "We've missed the playoffs by a game each of the last two years. The starting point is to get back and win the division. I know the mindset is, `Oh, get back to the playoffs,' but I want to get in the playoffs and be a team that has great success in the playoffs."
Smith, who stopped holding news conferences during the draft several years ago, didn't return a call seeking comment.
Green was the most intriguing pick of the day for the Chargers. Whether he eventually replaces star tight end Antonio Gates remains to be seen, but he'll get a chance to compete for a backup spot.
Green was a three-year starter for the Ragin' Cajuns.
In his final game, he caught five passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in a 32-30 victory against San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl.
Raye played at San Diego State, so he got some razzing in the draft room.
"We think he's a guy that has a lot of ability and a lot of potential," Raye said of Green. "It will be interesting to see how he develops into whatever role he eventually takes over. He's a talented, athletic guy. He can run and has great ball skills. I think the versatility he possesses in terms of matchup problems for the defense is advantageous for him."
Troutman was a three-year starter at Penn State. The Chargers need depth on the offensive line, where four-time Pro Bowl left guard Kris Dielman retired due to a concussion. Tyronne Green is penciled in as Dielman's replacement.
Troutman had a DUI while at Penn State.
"Obviously we take those things very seriously," said John Spanos, the Chargers' director of college scouting. "People make mistakes. People learn from their mistakes. ... We feel he has learned from his mistakes."
Molk won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center. He was a four-year starter, although his 2009 season was interrupted first by a broken foot and then a season-ending knee injury.
Baker will compete for a backup spot behind running back Ryan Mathews.
"We're going to have a lot of guys competing for spots, and that's a good thing," Spanos said. "So we feel really good about the group we have."
Updated April 28, 2012