During the Video Podcast last night (video here), I brought up the fact that I had seen several recent mock drafts from around the internet that predicted the San Diego Chargers would draft a pass-rusher in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. I thought it was an absurd notion. You, the fans, did not.
As someone who is usually willing to admit when he's wrong, I decided to start digging through the types of pass rushers that the Chargers might be able to land early in the draft to see if that could change my mind:
Barkevious Mingo, LSU - 6'4", 241lbs
Mingo made a name for himself, a really cool name at that, in 2011 when he racked up 8 sacks 14 games while starting only four games with the Tigers. In 2012, he mostly failed to live up to the hype when he recorded just 4.5 sacks in 12 games. Still, his size and speed makes him a tempting prospect.
Barkevious is very skinny, with long arms and long legs. This gives him plenty of potential to grow and add muscle, but also means that he'll struggle as a run defender. He played 4-3 DE in college, but is a better fit for 3-4 OLB in the NFL. However, he has no experience playing coverage and there's concerns about him being able to change directions (important for a Linebacker).
Expected Draft Position: Mid-1st Round
Jarvis Jones, Georgia - 6'3", 245lbs
This former USC Trojan became a well-known name in his first year with the Bulldogs when he recorded 13.5 sacks in 14 games. In 2012, he topped that by sacking opposing QBs 14.5 times in 12 games.
Jones is an elite playmaker and pass-rusher on the same level as Von Miller. He can completely change an NFL defense as soon as he is drafted. So, why is he not a Top 5 pick in the NFL Draft? He has an injury history. Notable, he's been diagnosed with the same spinal stenosis condition that just forced Marcus McNeill into early retirement. He's been cleared by several doctors since that diagnosis, but many teams fear that his neck will become a problem again in the near future.
Expected Draft Position: Mid-1st Round
Jamie Collins, Southern Miss - 6'4", 250lbs
Your token "sleeper" pick right here. Collins has played CB, LB and DE in his four years at Southern Miss. In 2012, he recorded 10 sacks, 92 total tackles, 5 defended passes and forced 4 fumbles in just 12 games. He could possibly be the best athlete in the entire draft.
Collins reminds me a bit of Shaun Phillips. He possesses the ability to do anything on the defensive side of the ball, and do it well. The only thing holding him back is that he sometimes lacks the effort, relying on his physical gifts, and can sometimes lose track of what is happening around him. With the right coaching, Collins could be a dominant 3-4 OLB.
Expected Draft Position: 1st Round (after a great showing at the Combine)
Trevardo Williams, Connecticut - 6'1", 241lbs
An interesting prospect. Williams collected 13.5 sacks in 10 games in 2012, played as a 4-3 DE. His height will keep him from ever playing DE in the NFL, but his natural pass-rushing ability could help him make it as a 3-4 OLB.
Although he's never played Linebacker, and therefore never covered anyone, he could be this year's "Melvin Ingram" pass-rushing specialist that plays only on passing downs. This is the type of player that could be a Rookie of the Year candidate if he's put in the right situation.
Expected Draft Position: 2nd or 3rd Round
Corey Lemonier, Auburn - 6'4", 255lbs
An explosive pass-rusher and a high-motor guy that will wear down opposing offensive linemen over the course of a game. Was downright dominant in 2011 and the first half of 2012 before almost disappearing in the second half of his Junior season.
Lemonier's talents are awesome. Big, strong, fast, powerful, smart....you name it. However, he has just as many flaws. He tends to overpursue plays. If he doesn't beat the first block, he tends to get "hung up". Needs to improve tackling technique. Most important, he needs to be more aware of run plays to stay in position to defend them. He's a project with a lot of upside.
Expected Draft Position: 3rd Round