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Chargers should benefit from deep draft class at linebacker

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Toward the end of his 15 minutes on the podium at the NFL scouting combine on Thursday, Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn cringed at a question.

Has anyone asked you yet about the kicker issue?

“Do you have to?” Lynn quipped.

Of course, fixing the kicker position remains a top priority for the Chargers this offseason. The Bolts used four kickers in 2017 and finished a league-worst 67 percent on field goal tries last season.

That situation leads to the first question from this week’s mailbag.

@eric_d_williams: Good question. Here’s what Lynn had to say when I asked the above question about the kicking position at the combine this week.

“We addressed it right after the season,” Lynn said. “We brought in Roberto [Aguayo]. He’s a young talent. He’s bounced around a little bit. We’re still looking to bring in some competition there for him. We’ll see.

“We can find it in the draft and may address it in the draft. If not, maybe free agency. I’d really like to get a young guy who can grow with the organization and be a part of that locker room.”

Chargers GM Tom Telesco echoed Lynn’s comments when asked about the kicking situation, and said that the Bolts will add another player to the competition through the draft or free agency.

Along with Aguayo, Nick Rose remains on the roster from last season.

However, in my opinion, the Chargers would be better off adding a veteran such as Graham Gano or Matt Bryant via free agency. The Chargers believe they can compete for an AFC West title and need a reliable option at kicker. They should not go through the growing pains with a young kicker for a second straight year.

@eric_d_williams: Along with kicker, linebacker is the team’s most obvious need, so it was fun to watch that position group compete at the combine on Sunday.

The Chargers should benefit from a deep, talented group at linebacker in this year’s draft class.

Here’s a handful of guys that could make sense for the Bolts:

Tremaine Edmunds -- The Virginia Tech product was the most impressive athlete among this group, running a 4.54-second 40 at 6 foot 5 and 253 pounds. Edmunds also looked fluid in coverage and moved well during the position drills. Edmunds would be a great fit for the Chargers, but likely is a top-10 player who will not be around when the Chargers select at No. 17.

Roquan Smith -- The Georgia product was very productive, finishing with 137 tackles -- including 14 for a loss -- and 6.5 sacks in his final season with the Bulldogs. At 6-1 and 236 pounds, Smith ran an impressive, 4.51 in the 40. However, Smith had to shut it down after that because of a calf injury. Smith makes a lot of sense for the Bolts and could be around when they pick at No 17.

Leighton Vander Esch -- At 6-4 and 255 pounds, Vander Esch is a similar athlete to Edmunds. He ran a 4.65 in the 40 and thrives in pass coverage. Vander Esch was the Mountain West defensive player of the year.

Uchenna Nwosu -- I like the USC product’s versatility, with an ability to rush, play in coverage and play off the ball. At 6-3 and 251 pounds, Nwosu ran a 4.65 in the 40 and looked smooth in the movement drills. He could make sense in the second round.

Malik Jefferson -- The University of Texas product finished as the Big 12 co-defensive player of the year. Jefferson tested well, running a 4.52 in the 40, posting a 36-inch vertical jump and pumping out 27 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press. Jefferson had a formal interview with the Chargers at the combine.

Shaquem Griffin -- The star of the combine, the Central Florida product did an amazing 20 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds, using a prosthetic limb attached to the bar for his left arm. Griffin had his hand amputated as a child due to a birth defect. He also ran a blazing 40 at 4:38 at 6-1 and 227 pounds. Griffin should be a productive special teams player at the least in the NFL, and for a team like the Chargers that plays a lot of nickel and dime defenses, he could make some sense.

Lorenzo Carter -- His 4.50 time in the 40 at 6-6 and 252 pounds will have a lot of teams going back to look at his film to figure out how the Georgia product translates to the NFL. For the Chargers, Carter could play a Leo role at defensive end as a pass-rush specialist.