I am sure that it will surprise most of you when I remind you that the Chargers were the best team in the NFL to miss the Play-Offs last season. But most NFL pundits would agree with me. This has become the “lost franchise” with their move to L.A., without really having a home there, or more importantly the lack of a fan base to care about them. But had they not gotten cute with their K situation coming out of pre-season, which cost them at least two W’s in September, they might have been an AFC Wild Card. They also had a roster that looked like a MASH unit much of the year. So it was important for them to rehab their wounded forces, and of course to nail the 2018 Draft. I think they accomplished the latter with their 7 solid Picks.
They needed some impact players for their Defense, as well as some quality depth for their Offense. They look to have gotten both, especially when in Round 1 DERWIN JAMES/S/FSU fell through the cracks and all the way to them at Pick 17. Not only does JAMES give them their most impressive athletic S in a long time, but he is also big enough (6’3/215) to be used in hybrid LB/SS roles, which are still gaining in popularity around the League. Everything about JAMES is impressive from 33″ long arms, to 9 1/2″ hands, 4.45/40-speed, 40″ vertical jump explosion, and on and on. Me missed most of the 2016 season after a knee injury. Was not 100% recovered last September, but got better and better as the season progressed. He finished the 2017 season with 84 T, 5.5 TFL, 11 PBU, 2 INT. He’s the kind of player you build your secondary around. Here’s the scary part to opposing teams, most feel he still has considerable upside if coached properly. Yes, it’s a Franchise value Pick.
The team got DC GUS BRADLEY another productive, athletic young player in UCHENNA NWOSU/ER/Southern Cal in Round 2. NWOSU is a bit small for DE, and a bit stiff for OLB, but by moving him around and making Defenses play Where’s Waldo locating him he can be a very disruptive force. His long arms (33 5/8″) allow him to keep blockers off of his body and run free to the pocket. Like JAMES you get an idea of his athleticism and versatility when you peruse his stats from 2017. NWOSU recorded 75 T, 9.5 Sacks, 13 PBU, 9 QBH, 1 INT. May not start right away, but will contribute on passing downs immediately, IMO.
They kept helping the D in Round 3 by selecting JUSTIN JONES/DT from NC State’s all senior starting DL. And he’s a good one. His 6’2, and a stout 312 lbs.+ In fact he could just as important to their D as their first two picks, because the Chargers absolutely stunk on Run-D last season. JONES can collapse the pocket for them, but more important may be his stoutness at the line-of-scrimmage, which should help clog up the middle and keep blockers off the Chargers LB group. All too often the Chargers had all 3 or 4 of their DL rushing pell-mell upfield to sack the QB while a RB burst right past them up the middle. JONES will be asked to stay at home and watch for delays up the middle.
With their final defensive Pick the team took KYZIR WHITE of West Virginia with Pick 119. I had him ranked at 117, so of course I consider it another value Pick. Like JAMES he may well split his time between S and Nickel-LB. Another productive player who BRADLEY should be able to mold into a multi-purpose weapon, not to mention his ability to play Special Teams. I think if I had to pick a specific position for him I’d call him an OLB, but that will take some time to develop him, especially when it comes to coverage drops.
Most of Draft Saturday was spent adding to the depth chart on Offense. But I do think that 5th Rounder SCOTT QUESSENBERRY/OC/UCLA may have potential as a starter eventually. With his recent hip issues I can’t see VFA MIKE POUNCEY being more than a short term solution at OC. I felt QUESSENBERRY was very impressive at the Senior Bowl with his work both on the field and off. Looks like a natural leader, who works his tail off and possesses more than adequate athleticism.He should back up the entire INT OL this season. DYLAN CANTRELL/WR/TX TECH has nice size at 6’3/226, and should provide some young WR depth with Red Zone potential. Much to the surprise of most personnel people (me included) DYLAN really posted some good numbers at the Combine. Our friends at Ourlads had him ranked as the 3rd most athletic out of 45 WR when all the testing was complete in Indy. Should be able to make his mark on Special Teams to earn his initial roster spot in. 2018. And finally all-purpose RB JUSTIN JACKSON of Northwestern was selected at Pick 251 in Round 7. I had him ranked as a 5th rounder, at 179. He’s a decent blocker in pass-pro and has shown good hands catching out of the backfield. Played all 4 seasons at Northwestern and left school with 6298 total yards. He came out of the Combine as second ranked RB out of 29 total based on overall testing. Great value as a backup to MELVIN GORDON.
This was a great effort by the Chargers, who will also add another 4-5 potential guys to their roster from their URFA signings, per usual. If anyone in the L.A. area cares this team could be ready to roll when they move in as tenants at the RAMS new digs in a couple of seasons, assuming Mr. Rivers stays around that long. But for now the key to 2018 is good health for this seemingly snake-bitten team, when it comes to injuries. That and a new Kicker named CALEB STURGIS!