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Draft countdown at one month

Posted Mar 26, 2012

The NFL awarded the Chargers a seventh-round compensatory pick Monday.

SAN DIEGO – One month before the 2012 NFL Draft, the league awarded the Chargers a seventh-round compensatory draft pick Monday.

As a result, San Diego currently holds eight picks in the draft, including the 18th slot in each round as well as the 250th overall selection, the 43rd draft choice in the seventh and final round.

Compensatory selections are determined by a complex NFL Management Council formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors.

Pro football’s version of Christmas, the draft gives every team a chance to improve their roster in a frenzied grab of college football’s best players.

For Super Bowl champions of the last decade, the draft, not free agency, was the primary means of roster construction. Teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers have won Lombardi Trophies not by chasing high-profile signings, but by selecting the right players at the end of April.

San Diego has executed a plan during free agency, signing what’s expected to be two starting offensive linemen, a starting receiver, another versatile receiver and punt returner, a starting fullback, three tight ends, a backup quarterback, a starting outside linebacker, a nickel linebacker and a proven safety.

The Chargers likely aren’t done acquiring free agents, with running back and defensive tackle remaining obvious possibilities. But General Manager A.J. Smith has whittled the list of San Diego’s needs and made his draft agenda, often hard to forecast, less predictable. Even with some speculating Smith will seek a pass rusher and a strong safety at some point in the draft – sentiments Chargers President Dean Spanos echoed last week – the Bolts could begin camp tomorrow with several capable players competing at every position.

Smith now can target certain areas for improvement, select the highest-rated available player regardless of position or a combination of the two. He can trade up, trade down, or stand pat. Simply put, he can decide which strategy will give the Chargers the biggest edge and execute it.

Smith acknowledged Friday in a conference call with season ticket holders a few recent top picks haven’t produced like the team hoped, mainly due to injuries. But Spanos and the organization maintains perspective on the role Smith played in bringing five AFC West championships to San Diego from 2004-09 and believes Smith can construct a playoff roster again this year.

Next month’s draft decisions will be a major factor in the 2012 season as well as the future direction of the organization.

“However many draft picks you have, just make the right choices,” Smith said. “Let’s just keep at this thing and make the right selections. If we continue to make the right selections, then we’re going to be OK.

“We feel there are strengths and weaknesses (to this draft). But whether it’s strong in one area or weak in another area, our job is to go out and get the best players we can.

“All drafts are good. There are players there and it’s up to you and your organization to find the best young men, football players that you can.”

For the next month, Chargers.com will take an up-close look by position at some players expecting to get drafted as well as a few of their stories. Check back to get to know more about the 2012 draft class.

RIVERS OF HOPE: Philip Rivers and San Diego’s CBS affiliate KFMB-8 teamed to film a public service announcement Monday at Chargers Park.

The TV station is a partner of the Rivers of Hope Foundation. Reporter Marcella Lee introduces the public to local children waiting to be adopted at 5 p.m. on Sundays and between 5 and 7 a.m. on Mondays in a segment called “Adopt 8.”

You can also visit the KFMB-8 website to view the stories.

GATES LAUNCHES SITE: Antonio Gates launched a website Monday afternoon.

Fans can visit the site to buy Gates memorabilia, read about his community appearances and get exclusive content and interaction from No. 85.

Gates also is facing Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney in the Round of 32, a bracket-style fan vote that will determine the cover subject of the popular football video game franchise Madden 13.

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