Now that the draft is over, and the dust has settled on the UDFA signings, you would think that all of the speculative posts and team commentary would dissipate. Not so, as it's now time to start trying to guess as to who will make the 53 man roster for the Chargers in 2014.
This post will contain only a listing of the players, as well as where I think their place on the depth chart will be, that I think will make the team to start the year. Unlike Max Schultz's earlier article speculating on the team's make-up, I will not be including salary cap figures (though I think Max might have peeked into the future about one pick in particular, but I'll get to that in a moment).
As for how I'm going to base my choices for who I think will make the team at this time (and, just to make it clear, I harbor no illusions that I will get all of these predictions right, because training camp and OTAs and what-not don't always go to plan *cough*MelvinIngram'sACL*cough*), I am going to draw from a number of team-building guides, but largely will rely on my own intuition (and last year's roster as well) to figure out where the players will go. Rookies will be denoted by italics, starters will be denoted with a "~".
With that being said, let's kick things off with my REALLY early prediction for the 53 man (and others) roster for the Chargers in 2014 with arguably the most important position group, the Quarterbacks.
1. Philip Rivers ~
2. Kellen Clemens
3. Brad Sorensen
Not really much to say here, eh? If anything, we could choose to ditch Brad Sorensen as a third QB, as we signed Clemens this offseason, but whatever.
Running Backs (4)
For all intents and purposes, you could look at the positioning of 2 and 3 as virtually on the same tier. Because of how we will need to preserve Ryan Mathews' incredibly fragile health throughout the season, I expect to see the amount of caries shared between this group get even more evenly distributed than in 2013. As for Grice squeaking in as the final back on the starting roster, the only real surprise I could see would be 2013 signing Kerwynn Williams taking that final spot, as he made the Colts' 53 man roster in 2013 before being cut during the season. Either way, it would be an easy swap for Grice and Williams in that case, with Grice getting cut and maybe re-signed to the practice squad or something.
Strange, right? It makes me long for the days of Lorenzo Neal, to be honest, but I just don't see us carrying a fullback this year. I'm not convinced that David Johnson is good enough to make the 53-man roster, much less fully convert over to playing FB. I also have no reason to believe any of our other Tight Ends (including ELITE rookie UDFA Mike Flacco) will make the conversion either. So, yeah, no fullbacks.
Tight Ends (3)
1. Antonio Gates ~
2. Ladarius Green
3. David Johnson
It's really that third TE slot that I'm not comfortable with. Neither Phillips nor Johnson are particularly impressive, and Telesco just signed Johnson this year so I imagine he isn't particularly pleased with Phillips' dismal 2013 performance. That being said, it's cheaper to keep Johnson than Phillips, so adios Phillips. Either way, it's nice to have a situation where you have two starting-level quality TEs to top your depth chart, so why complain about the third spot being less than ideal?
Wide Receivers (6)
1. Malcom Floyd ~
2. Keenan Allen ~
3. Eddie Royal ~
4. Vincent Brown
5. Tevin Reese
6. Seyi Ajirotutu
Nothing particularly controversial about this list. You could argue that leaving Dontrelle Inman off the 53 man roster is a mistake, but I would counter that Seyi Ajirotutu's contributions on special teams cannot be ignored. I think the one thing that will get people's heads scratching is why I have Floyd on top of the depth chart for WRs and not Allen. Well, my reasoning is this: Floyd was one of PR17's favorite targets and the defacto WR1 of the team heading into last season. While Allen had a monstrous breakout season, I think, just like how I have Gates on top of Green for the TE depth chart, the offense will be designed around the receivers that Rivers is the most comfortable with. Additionally, I feel like 1 and 2 for the WR depth chart matters far less than, say, RB because Allen is still going to have the most snaps in our receiving corps. I also really like moving Reese up onto the roster because it gives us a viable slot receiver option if/when Royal's turf toe issues resurface.
Offensive Linemen (8)
Yeah, I know, another season with Clary entering as a starter on the offensive line. Awful, right? And where's the rookie lineman we spent a 3rd round pick on!? I'll get to that in a little bit. Anyway, the offensive line looks pretty much identical to how it shook out last season. The only big difference, IMO, is how Johnnie Troutman is getting close to taking over that RG position from Clary. Still, Clary's irascible mojo keeps him as the starter to start the year (at least). The rest of the line makes sense, and Telesco moved the only other offensive lineman I'd consider as depth guys, in Nick Becton and Willie Smith, around via the practice squad, so I imagine they aren't particularly crucial pieces to be kept on the 53-man roster.
We're now at the halfway point, right where I start adding defensive players to the 53 man roster. So far we are at 24 players total.
Defensive Linemen (6)
1. Corey Liuget ~
2. Ryan Carrethers ~
3. Kendall Reyes ~
4. Sean Lissemore
5. Lawrence Guy
6. Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe
This is a particularly low number of defensive linemen to carry on the team, even for a 3-4 defense, but given how much nickel coverage (2-4-5) we run, I don't think we need to carry more than 6. Additionally, Lissemore and Guy are serviceable backups that (particularly in Lissemore's case) can play all over the defensive line. The big surprise is that I think 5th round pick Ryan Carrethers will win the starting job from Sean Lissemore at NT. Granted, it isn't a huge surprise if you've seen how much love I've shown for the guy all over BFTB in light of our draft choice, but I mean, I had a 3rd/4th round grade on the guy as somebody who could come in and start at NT instantly. As for why Tjong-A-Tjoe makes the roster over Tenny Palepoi? Just a hunch, really. It could go either way.
This was the toughest position group to figure out so far. There could arguably be room for up to 12 guys from our current signings to make the roster as a linebacker. The three main guys I left off were Thomas Keiser, Andrew Gachkar and Cordarro Law. I feel that Keiser will either be offered a spot on the practice squad or will be cut because of both the Gaslamp incident and the fact that his contract this year includes $0 guaranteed money (according to Max's post), while Gachkar is simply more expensive to keep around than Reggie Walker. Law is interesting, and I feel like I've been unfair to the CFL guys we've signed, as I've pretty much consigned both of them to being cut, but I think this is the best linebacking corps we can field. Well, not completely, as Larry English is still there, but everyone else keeps on telling me that keeping this injury-prone bust at $1.5 million is "good value" so whatever.
The only controversial move here is having Kavell Connor wind up as the starting ILB instead of Manti Te'o, but you should know that I think Manti Te'o's best chance for success on this team is as a third down specialist, coming in to spell the team on passing downs, whereas Connor excels in the run game, which is something we need help at desperately given that both Te'o and Butler fared poorly against the run last year.
Defensive Backs (10)
If you're looking for Brandon Taylor, I'll address that one below, so keep reading. Otherwise, I think this shakes out pretty well. Don't fret for Jahleel Addae not being considered a "starter". San Diego runs enough nickel and dime formations to where Addae should see the field quite frequently this year. The secondary is kind of the position group that, given the immense turn over, you look at guys like Steve Williams and Brandon Ghee and just HOPE that they're able to be at least DECENT at playing football, because there are a lot of names here but not a lot of hope that things will turn out alright this year. Still, Verrett is going to be a marked improvement over Derek Cox (eventually if not immediately) and Stuckey, aside from being our special teams ace, demonstrated that he can be a competent defender on dime packages. Davis makes the squad purely on the basis of his kick return skills (and the fact that, while you don't want him in charge of defending the opponent's #1 receiver, he isn't terrible in coverage).
So that's 26 players on defense, making 50 players overall. So...
Special Teams (3)
Pretty simple. Starting punter, starting field goal kicker and the long snapper.
Now for the last thing:
1. Brandon Taylor
2. Chris Watt
Lately, the Chargers have either REALLY nailed it in the third (Keenan Allen) or... Drafted guys with issues getting onto the field. I'm not sure if we'll ever see Brandon Taylor make it onto the field in a Chargers jersey, but I'm not convinced that the team is willing to let him go quite yet. As for Watt, John's recent post with his draft grades made the point that it might be more worthwhile to have Watt sit out a year to get healthy, train, and then join the team for his "rookie" season in 2014. Given the number of offensive linemen we have on the roster (and likely the practice squad), as well as having 2 serviceable interior linemen backups in Troutman and Ohrnberger, I just don't see reason to rush Watt onto the active roster. Also, this makes one of the predictions in Max's article come true (that our third round pick would wind up on the injured list).
Notable cuts/Practice Squad demotions*
* I'm not quite 100% sure how the practice squad signings work, or even if you CAN demote players to it, but I figured I would leave that "option" here in case we wouldn't have to out-right cut some guys (particularly all of the UDFAs we just signed).
There you have it, my way-too-early-to-be-close-to-correct predictions for how the Chargers 53-man roster will shake out. Feel free to share your thoughts and criticism below. What UDFA that you think is a shoe-in to make the roster do you think I left off? What veteran do you think will lose his starting job in training camp to a rookie? Do you think 6 defensive linemen is far too few for our team's roster? Let me know below!