About a month ago, I made the first in a series of mock draft posts in response to the Chargers needs and draft position, round by round, before free agency started. Now that the brunt of free agency has gone by, I figured it was about time to update my mock and see who I felt would make the most sense for the team now that the combine and the majority of pro days have passed. I'll try to conclude the series next month in late April as we near the draft because, who knows, maybe we'll sign a Nose Tackle in free agency. Also, this time around, I am only doing 6 rounds.
In order to pool my list, I used Walter Football's breakdown of the team-by-team meetings that each franchise has had with NFL prospects, as well as anything I could find about prospect meetings on twitter and the rest of the internet. I'll include sources as I go along, as well as scouting reports and links to Draft Breakdown's game play videos for your viewing pleasure.
With that being said, here's my second 2014 Chargers Mock Draft:
We're starting off with a choice that I feel is the best compromise between available first round talent the Chargers have already looked at, drafting at a position of need, and drafting talent that is the least amount of a reach. That's not to significantly knock Verrett, as Kyle Posey has put into wayyyyyyyyyyy better detail just how great a prospect he is, but there is always the argument to be made that he probably won't be BPA at 25. After all, in my first mock, I had us taking Dee Ford here as, back injuries aside, I think he would be in the conversation for BPA at our draft slot (Now that he's really made a name for himself, I find it hard to believe he'll last past 20, hence why I didn't include him) and if Louis Nix III didn't give me the sense that he's going to bust hard in the league, I might have gone that route instead.
Still, regardless of the limitations of this mock, I think it's safe to say that drafting Verrett at 25th overall makes a lot of sense, and shouldn't be viewed as merely "settling". The guy has a huge chip on his shoulder pertaining to what many (including, well, me) believe to be the chief detriment to his ability to succeed in the NFL (his size) and I find that to be refreshing, quite honestly. With the majority of top-flight cornerbacks excelling in man coverage, the Chargers best option is to go after a prospect who excels at off-man and zone coverage, with the former being one of Verrett's reported strong suits. Verrett has the kind of speed that Tom Telesco has emphasized as being crucial for the construction of the Chargers franchise moving forward, with nothing of ill repute or any character concerns to match his talent. Here are a few words that help illustrate the kind of prospect Verrett is:
"Verrett is largely NFL ready right now but further development when it comes to gaining strength and becoming a better tackler could help him take another step forward. He is already a dynamic coverage threat as a corner in just about any scheme and could be a great player at the next level. The issues that could potentially hold Verrett back will be his size and questions about how much better he can get in the NFL. Nevertheless, Verrett warrants a first round pick and while he might not be as flashy as some of the other corners in this draft, he could end up being the best." - Peter Smith (With The First Pick)
"Some analysts say Verrett is in the mold of Cortland Finnegan, a standout All Pro with a similar build. A quick twitch athlete with tremendous explosion, he has a knack for making the big play. Instinctive and feisty, he is a pest to deal with. Verrett is extremely aggressive, not afraid to go blow-for-blow against bigger wide receivers, often coming out on top... Clearly, Verrett plays bigger than his 5-9 frame. Thus, based on his production in college and unique skillset, many expect to hear his name called early in May." - Ricky Henne (Chargers.com)
Alternatively 1: Xavier Su'a-Filo [G / T / C] (JR - UCLA) - While I'm not 100% certain we had any formal meetings with the stand-out underclassman, Coach Joe D did (you'll have to click through the gallery) work him out at UCLA's pro day, so I think it counts. I think that Su'a-Filo is probably a better overall prospect than Verrett, but I think that the team would probably rather spend a later pick on developing the offensive line since it is actually intact. I can't rationalize the decision to spend a 1st round pick on a player who could possibly end up sitting on the bench all season. Plus, as you'll see with the following pick, there's a great deal of offensive linemen depth in this draft.
Alternatively 2: Kyle Van Noy [OLB] (SR - BYU) - I love KVN and I think he has the kind of skillset that will make him a success in the NFL, but, I was talking to Kyle Posey about this on twitter recently, I don't see how he would make a lot of sense on our defense going forward due to Melvin Ingram having a very similar skillset, and our need of a pass-rushing OLB threat to take over for Freeney/English after this year.
Previous Choice: Dee Ford [DE / OLB] (SR - Auburn) - Again, don't think he'll make it to 25.
Round 2: Demarcus Lawrence [OLB / DE] (SR - Boise St.) - Met With At: Pro Day
You want a pass-rush? Let me introduce you to the instant Dwight Freeney replacement in 2015 and beyond. I wouldn't be surprised if Lawrence is gone by the time pick #57 rolls along, but a slow 40 time might cause the majority of other teams to pass on this prospect twice over. Kyle Posey has gone into a great detail about Lawrence's strengths and weaknesses, so feel free to read that and gloss over my own thoughts. Lawrence is a versatile defender, capable of lining up all over the field and putting his hands in the dirt as an end rusher. Explosive and willing to make contact en route to a sack, Lawrence has an eye for making plays in the backfield and preventing the opponent from getting beyond the line.
As for the criticisms, Lawrence's size become a non-issue if he were to make the transition to full-time 3-4 OLB, and the idea of having him line across from Melvin Ingram (with Donald Butler in the middle) makes me very excited. If he can actually demonstrate the ability to drop back into coverage, Lawrence will be a threat to reckon with, and even if he can't, taking him in the second presents far less of a risk than taking Dee Ford in the 1st given Lawrence's lack of an injury history. Here are a few words that help illustrate the kind of prospect Lawrence is:
"A loose, explosive, long-limbed athlete, Lawrence consistently pressurizes the edge and harasses quarterbacks. His pass-rushing ability rates among the best in this year’s class, and he holds mass appeal. Lacks ideal stoutness at the point of attack, but could thrive as a 4-3 right end or 3-4 rush linebacker, and should contribute readily on passing downs." - Nolan Nawrocki, NFL.com
"The untapped athletic potential of Demarcus Lawrence will have teams intrigued. He’s a multidimensional athlete with football instincts and surprisingly refined hand usage. What has held him back is a lack of pass-rushing development in terms of moves and a body that still needs to be filled out. The rawness of Lawrence as a prospect is both scary and captivating, but it may be entirely due to lack of experience under high-level coaching." - Darren Page, Bleacher Report
Alternatively 1: Deone Bucannon [S] (SR - Washington St.) - I'm sure that Donald Butler would love to play with this fellow Cougars alum who hits like a goddamn battering ram, but given that safety is one of the positions on the squad where we have relative depth (Weddle, Gilchrist, Addae, Stuckey and maybe Brandon Taylor) I can't justify spending a second rounder here, even if Bucannon is arguably the best SS prospect in the draft.
Alternatively 2: Jeremiah Attaochu [OLB] (SR - Georgia Tech) - Attaochu has the speed and versatility to line up all over the field that I think would appeal to Telesco and John Pagano, but there's no mystery to the way he plays (he's like Flareon in that he has no moves) and bigger linemen will eat him for lunch at the second level. If we took him, he'd be able to learn from Freeney hopefully, but I don't see a tremendous upside to him.
Previously: Look below (though I'll take this moment to clarify that, while the team met with Joel Bitonio [OT] (SR - Nevada) recently, his draft stock has shot up to a fringe-first round status, so I don't think he'll be here)
Round 3: Dakota Dozier [G / T] (SR - Furman) - Met With At: East-West Shrine Game
Sticking to my guns from my previous mock, as this FBS stand-out's stock continues to rise. Dozier probably represents the biggest "I hope to god he falls" pick in this mock (I switched him and Lawrence at the last moment). His performance at the combine and at his recent pro day, in addition to the initial attention he received at the East-West Shrine Game, now has NFL.com's Gil Brandt saying he's slated to go as high as the second round of the draft. This excites me as I no longer need to justify "reaching" for a 303lb monster of a prospect. Everything I've read (which isn't a ton because, again, DII prospect) suggests that Dozier is a mean, road-grader kind of offensive lineman who plays with the kind of mean streak you want out of someone destined to battle it out in the trenches in the NFL. A powerful young man with the kind of lower body strength and the flexibility and experience to move across the line if/when necessary that would make him an asset.
To be quite honest, though, taking Dozier would be one of the only reasons I would be happy that Jeromy Clary will likely be staying with the team next season. There are concerns about Dozier's ability to make his assignment at the second level when in run support, and some various technique and finesse issues that need to be worked out, but nothing too significant that a year sitting behind Clary and RInehart while working with Coach Joe D can't iron out. Plus, if he was to make the permanent transition to Guard, many of the pass protection issues he needs to fix will become less pressing going forward. These are hardly the kind of issues that should prevent the Chargers from drafting a great FBS prospect. Here are a few words that help illustrate the kind of prospect Dozier is:
"A college left tackle, Dozier arrived in St. Petersburg and was moved to guard, but the transition went smooth as if he's been playing inside for years. He looked quick, balanced and controlled in his movements with the base strength and awareness to hold his ground and pick up extra blitzers. Dozier surfaced as the top offensive line prospect this week and is a darkhorse top-100 prospect." - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
"Dozier has good length and foot quickness, but his pass protection technique needs work as he frequently oversets against speed and loses balance when asked to change direction because he gets his weight way too far forward. I understand that he won't face the exact same issues when he kicks inside to guard (and I think he really needs to), but he has to trust his ability to redirect and remain patient while keeping his weight back. I really like Dozier's NFL potential, but I do think there will be a learning curve for him as he works his technique issues out." - Lance Zierlein, The Sideline View
Alternatively 1: E.J. Gaines [CB] (SR - Missouri) - You have no idea how hard it was for me not to just plaster Gaines all over this third round pick. Problem is, if we take Verrett in the first, I find it incredibly difficult to justify taking another CB before the third day of the draft, and Gaines is too good to slip past the third. Aggressive, versatile in that he can line up at virtually every position in the secondary, comfortable in a zone scheme and possibly the best run-defending CB talent in the draft, it sucks to pass on such a talent. Gaines is a day one starter and, with Shareece Wright inevitably holding onto one of the starting CB spots, I don't have a strong enough reason to take Gaines.
Alternatively 2: Kelcy Quarles [DT] (JR - South Carolina) - Quarles (the evidence of him actually meeting with the Chargers is summed up in one twitter comment) probably benefited from lining up next to arguably the greatest NFL prospect in the last decade, and has some issues as a run-stopper. I also think he's a better fit for a 4-3 than as a 3-4 NT.
Previously: Robert Herron [WR] (SR - Wyoming) - I actually had this entire thing written up about how we ought to take Herron with our third round pick (as well as lamenting that we'll probably not trade it for Desean Jackson), but then I found out that we met with Lawrence and changed my mind completely. Herron would still make for a competent Eddie Royal replacement, but he's not #2 WR material.
Round 4: Nevin Lawson [CB] (SR - Utah St.) - Met With At: East-West Shrine Game
I no longer have Rashaad Reynolds here because, with his combine performance, I imagine he'll be gone in the third. With that being said, Nevin Lawson out of Utah St. is an undersized-yet-speedy corner who could develop into quite the gem in Pagano's off-man/zone-heavy system. Lawson demonstrates the ability to flip his hips with ease, and while he doesn't quite have the best hands for making interceptions, he's highly capable of batting the ball away with his long arms. The biggest knocks on Lawson are that he has technique issues when put in man coverage (in other words, he's grabby) but, again, that's not a huge problem since we don't run a lot of press-man. Additionally, I'm fairly positive that he'll never develop into a #1 CB-type corner since Marquise Lee abused him this past season, but I can safely say that he could come in and relieve Shareece Wright or Steve Williams in the slot and probably slip right in without any loss of talent or ability.
Unlike some of the other players I've taken a chance on, Lawson is actually a relatively healthy product, as he has only missed one game during his three year starting stint. Here are a few words that help illustrate the kind of prospect Lawson is:
"More than a couple of times during the week, I had to go to my program in wonder as to "who was No. 2?" That was Lawson. He competed as he always did at Utah State. He'll get too physical in press man coverage, grabbing at times unnecessarily. But, even though he was one of the smallest CBs in Mobile, he showed that he might be one of the toughest as well." - John Harris, The Sideline View (Commenting on Lawson's Senior Bowl performance)
"Lawson possesses a lot of the physical abilities needed to become a dependable NFL defender, but he needs a lot of refinement to get there. He needs to win at the line of scrimmage more consistently and keep playing with his eyes on the quarterback." - Ian Wharton, Bleacher Report
Alternatively 1: Adrian Hubbard [DE / OLB] (JR - Alabama) - To his detriment, I've read that the dude has a huge inflated sense of self and an ego that might derail his draft stock. Aside from that, he flashes good pass-rush skills but that might have been more of a product of Alabama's system (and the play of CJ Mosley) than his talent. Didn't wow scouts at the combine or his pro day, from what I've read. Still, I could understand making the argument for him instead here. I just see "Larry English 2.0" written all over Hubbard.
Alternatively 2: Jon Halapio [G / T] (SR - Florida) - Taking Dozier in the third impacts taking Halapio in the fourth. Halapio has better hand placement than Dozier, and is a little more polished as a pass blocker, but his ceiling is lower and he doesn't have the speed or athleticism I like in Dozier. That, and with Johnnie Troutman still on his rookie contract, I don't think it makes sense to take two rookie linemen, especially with neither projecting to the outside of the line.
Previously: Rashaad Reynolds [CB] (SR - Oregon St.) - I could have listed Reynolds over Gaines in the previous "Alternatively" section for the 3rd round pick because they're both excellent Day 2 candidates and I don't think Reynolds will go unnoticed. He won't make it to the fourth, IMO.
I passed on Louis Nix III earlier (though it could be argued that a team before the Chargers at 25 will take a flyer on him), and NT is a position that's a significant hole to fix, so while this could be looked at as a reach, given that Kerr has been graded out anywhere from a mid-fourth round pick to being undrafted. Nevertheless, it's nice to actually find that we've met with a prospect who has the right build and skillset to play the 3-4 0-tech NT. The big problem with Kerr is that, well, he left Maryland for Delaware, so he didn't really face a level of competition akin to the SEC, if you know what I mean. Granted, I'm going with an FBS school prospect in the first, so it's not going to deter me from choosing the guy that could become a key part of our front seven rotation. The other knock is that he doesn't have the stamina to serve as a three-down NT, but with Geathers and Jerideau serving as completely unknown quantities heading into next year, the worst case scenario is that he winds up as a cheaper Cam Thomas.
What's really hurting his draft stock right now is an apparently bad showing at the East-West Shrine Game, and that he could stand to lose weight, but according to the reports from his pro day, he has already begun losing that bad weight. Nevertheless, I believe he has the physical tools and the ability to excel at the position. Here are a few words that help illustrate the kind of prospect Kerr is:
"However, what makes Kerr stand out from all the other prototypical defensive tackles in this class is his quickness, flexibility, power, closing speed, pursuit, tackling, recognition skills, consistency, football IQ and leadership. With the only knocks on him thus far, is he plays high at times and gives up leverage at the point of attack that he makes up for with his size/athletic ability, but he is more than just a nose tackle." - James Coburn, All Pro Football Source
"Zach Kerr is an explosive defensive tackle prospect who is at his best working up the field as a penetrating force inside. He had a terrific couple of seasons at Delaware and leaves having showcased his ability to take over games. He did not stand out at the Shrine Game, likely as a result of gaining too much weight and will need to get into better shape. Kerr projects best as a one or three technique defensive tackle in the 4-3, and could play five-technique in the 3-4." - Shawn Zobel, Draft Headquarters
Alternatively 1: Dri Archer [OW] (SR - Kent St.) - Yeah, I'm probably the least high on Archer out of many of the people you'll read. I don't think that the Chargers should spend anything more than a 5th round pick on a guy who basically serves as a Kick Returner and possible replacement for Danny Woodhead in a year when the market value for Woodhead and Mathews possibly prices one out of our range and into free agency.
Alternatively 2: Josh Mauro [DT / DE] (SR - Stanford) - This guy draws a lot of comparisons to Brett Keisel, and will be one hell of a presence on NFL defenses. Mauro is slimming down, so I think he's going to try and appeal to teams looking for a run-stopping DE in a 3-4, instead of trying to project as an interior lineman. I feel like we're relatively set, in regards to our DE situation, so that's why I'd pass on him.
Previously: Sean Parker [S] (SR - Washington) - Eh, no real knock on the guy, but I felt that drafting an NT was more important.
So, let me preface this pick in saying, for those who seem to be hellbent on the Chargers drafting a receiver instead of signing a #2 wideout in free agency, here are the WR prospects the Chargers have met with: 5'9 Robert Herron, 5'9 Jalen Saunders, 5'11 Chandler Jones (who wasn't invited to the combine) and 6'0 Ryan Grant. That's it. Granted, maybe they met with WR prospects at the various pro days (they were at BYU to meet with Kyle Van Noy, so maybe they spent time with Malcolm Floyd-esque receiver Cody Hoffman?) but, as of now, it seems really bizarre that the Chargers haven't reportedly been active in meeting with/attending WR prospect pro days, especially given the depth of talent in the WR prospect pool this year.
I'm not particularly hot on Grant, even if I've seen him mocked as high as the fourth round, as I've read multiple accounts that he's somewhat lackadaisical about football and hesitant to make the catch in traffic in terms of putting his body at risk (which is why I like Herron a lot more but he'll be gone by the 4th round). Nevertheless, I don't think we're going to re-sign Eddie Royal next season, so it might make sense to take a flyer on drafting his possible replacement. Grant has the ability to generate the kind of YAC that would make him a valuable slot receiver, and he excels as a route runner. Here are a few words that help illustrate the kind of prospect Grant is:
"He does "receiver things" really well. He sells his routes. He'll work to get open. He gets on a DB in a hurry. He has consistent and mangificent hands. But, he's not a physical freak like Texas A&M's Mike Evans. He doesn't have quite the speed of Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas or the quicks of Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. But, don't sleep on this guy, he's got some explosiveness that could surprise many in Mobile. He's fun to watch." - John Harris, The Sideline View (Commenting on Grant's potential with regards to the Senior Bowl)
"Ryan Grant is a nice prospect whose reliability for Tulane was apparent over the past two years. A smooth, finesse possession type who won't "wow" you with his explosion, Grant uses his quick, savvy route running to separate from defensive backs and owns the skills needed to be a quality receiver in the NFL. He projects as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver or an NFL team." - Shawn Zobel, Draft Headquarters
Alternatively 1: Marqueston Huff [CB / S] (SR - Wyoming) - Let's go, Wyoming Chargers! But seriously, in addition to being teammates with Robert Herron, what I like about Huff is that he's talented and speedy enough for teams and scouts to consider asking him to move back to CB after serving as Wyoming's safety the last season. Huff may not be the biggest guy in the secondary, but he has the speed and ball skills to compete, as well as the flexibility to move all over the secondary. Jack of all trades, master of none-type prospect.
Alternatively 2: Tyler Starr [OLB / DE] (SR - South Dakota) - Starr has incredibly body control and mobility, as he ran the second fasted 3 cone at the Combine in history. He doesn't quite have the technique or straight-line speed to become a pass-rusher, but he could be a valuable coverage OLB (and at the very least, a great special teamer) to rotate in for Melvin Ingram. Plus, he looks like Clay Matthews, how could you not love him?
Previously: Dontae Johnson [CB] (SR - NC State) - This isn't a knock on Johnson, who actually improved his draft stock considerably at the combine, but given that we didn't really repair enough positional holes in free agency to warrant taking three prospects at the same position, I immediately decided not to pick him again.
So there you have it. If I omitted a prospect that you like, chances are I figured that guy would be taken in between the round he's slated to go in, but I might have forgotten about something so please let me know what you think of my mock. Are you glad that I don't have the ability to somehow take control of Tom Telesco and force him to make these choices? What do you agree with? Who have I over/undervalued in terms of what rounds I've slated them to go in? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.