Chargers general manager showed shrewdness in drafting Keenan Allen in the third round, even though receiver was not an obvious need. So don't be surprised if San Diego does the same thing in this year's draft, taking a tight end in the middle rounds, even though depth-wise the position appears settled.
With San Diego's reliance on running two, tight-end sets, having a deep and talented group of tight ends is important for quarterback Philip Rivers to maintain balance offensively. The Chargers could be looking for an in-line, blocking tight end, adding a thumper in the run game to a talented group of pass catchers.
Best TE drafted since 2004: Selected in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, Scott Chandler developed into a frontline starter for the Buffalo Bills, finishing with 53 catches for 655 yards and two touchdowns last season. But Chandler got his NFL start with San Diego, seeing action in only one game before getting his release after two seasons in 2009. Chandler spent time with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants before finding a home in Buffalo.
Worst TE drafted since 2004: With Gates on the roster, tight end has not been a major need for the franchise. The Chargers drafted just four tight ends in the past decade. But we'll go with Dedrick Epps, a seventh-round selection in the 2010 draft. Epps did not make the final roster in 2010, and saw limited action in six NFL regular-season games during a three-year career.
TE depth chart: Starters -- Gates ($5 million in total compensation in 2014). Reserves -- John Phillips ($1.175 million), David Johnson ($970,000), Ladarius Green ($570,000), Jake Byrne ($495,000), Ryan Otten ($420,000).
A review of tight ends San Diego might select in each round of this year's draft:
First round, No. 25 pick: Jace Amaro, 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, Ohio State
Eric's rationale: He'll likely go early in the second round, but Amaro has speed to stretch the middle of the field.
Second round, No. 57 pick: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, 6-6, 262 pounds, Washington
Eric's rationale: He has the athleticism and build to develop into an all-round tight end, but lacks toughness.
Third round, No. 89 pick: C.J. Fiedorowicz, 6-6, 265 pounds, Iowa
Eric's rationale: Fiedorowicz is big, physical and a decent run blocker.
Fourth round, No. 125 pick: Arthur Lynch, 6-5, 258 pounds, Georgia
Eric's rationale: Lynch has a good overall skill set and produced his senior season, finishing with 30 catches for 459 yards and five touchdown catches.
Fifth round, No. 165 pick: Crockett Gillmore, 6-6, 260 pounds, Colorado State
Eric's rationale: Gillmore is a good red zone target who can post up defenders near the goal line.
Sixth round, No. 201 pick: Colt Lyerla, 6-4, 242 pounds, Oregon
Eric's rationale: Lyerla has elite athleticism (4.56-second, 40-yard time), but lacks size to serve as an in-line tight end. Lyerla also has some off-the-field issues.
Seventh round, No. 240 pick: Brian Wozniak, 6-4, 257 pounds, Wisconsin
Eric's rationale: Wozniak finished with just 15 career receptions for the Badgers, but can set the edge in the run game.