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Do the San Diego Chargers Need to Draft a TE in 2013?

Many playmakers are available at Tight End in the draft this year, do the San Diego Chargers need to draft one of them?

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Last year I broke down some of the pass rushers in the 2012 combine class and I'll do the same this year, but the results came out for the Tight Ends first so I'll go through those first. I'm going to use the same "Explosiveness number" as I did for the pass rushers, as well as adding in another factor called the speed score to account for the size/speed relationship.

Ranking these TE's this way is the best way I can think of because these days you are looking for a TE that provides a mismatch. This mismatch can come from raw explosiveness off the line and in and out of cuts, or just from pure size speed, so I think these two scores will do a pretty good job.

Some of you may recall that the Chargers drafted a raw, developmental TE prospect in the 4th round last year: Ladarius Green. That's why I'm putting together this post: to see if the Bolts have a need to draft another TE if this years class has better options. For that reason, I will be ranking Green's combines results from 2012 with this year's class. So let's dive into the numbers...

Explosion Number

Name Broad Jump (ft) Vertical Jump (in) Bench Press Total
Vance McDonald 9.92 33.5 31 74.42
Jimmy Graham 10.00 38.5 20 68.50
Tyler Eifert 9.92 35.5 22 67.42
Dion Sims 9.33 35 22 66.33
Chris Gragg 10.42 37.5 18 65.92
Zach Ertz 9.25 30.5 24 63.75
Matt Furstenberg 9.58 35.5 18 63.08
Nick Kasa 9.42 31.5 22 62.92
Jake Stoneburner 9.67 34.5 18 62.17
Ladarius Green 10.33 34.5 16 60.83
Mychal Rivera 9.33 31 17 57.33
Gavin Escobar 9.50 32 N/A 41.50
Justice Cunningham 9.67 31.5 N/A 41.17

You may see another name in there that isn't in the draft this year, but I threw Jimmy Graham's numbers in there for reference on what an elite TE's numbers should look like (Gronkowski and Hernandez didn't participate in all combine events).

I'm focusing on the top three prospects this year (Eifert, Ertz, and Escobar) and how they match up with Green. Green falls out at towards the bottom of this years class using these numbers.

I struggled with including the Bench Press numbers in there for explosion number. It is included in measuring a pass rusher to include upper body strength and the ability to disengage from a block. Upper body strength could be important for a TE if you are considering using them as blockers quite a bit or just a well-rounded prospect, but I'm largely looking for a receiving threat so I decided to post the numbers both with and without the bench press results. The ranking disregarding the bench press are below.

Name Broad Jump (ft) Vertical Jump (in) Total
Jimmy Graham 10.00 38.5 48.50
Chris Gragg 10.42 37.5 47.92
Tyler Eifert 9.92 35.5 45.42
Matt Furstenberg 9.58 35.5 45.08
Ladarius Green 10.33 34.5 44.83
Dion Sims 9.33 35 44.33
Jake Stoneburner 9.67 34.5 44.17
Vance McDonald 9.92 33.5 43.42
Gavin Escobar 9.50 32 41.50
Justice Cunningham 9.67 31.5 41.17
Nick Kasa 9.42 31.5 40.92
Mychal Rivera 9.33 31 40.33
Zach Ertz 9.25 30.5 39.75

No surprises here, Ladarius Green fares better when you take away the bench press results, and he's closer to the top. Eifert still breaks out at the top, Ertz drops to the bottom, and Escobar is still hanging out below Green.

Now, let's take a look at the Speed Scores (source):

Name Height Weight 40-time Speed Score
Jimmy Graham 6'6" 260 4.56 120.27
Chris Gragg 6'3" 244 4.5 119.01
Ladarius Green 6'5" 238 4.53 113.04
Vance McDonald 6'4" 267 4.69 110.37
Nick Kasa 6'6" 269 4.71 109.32
Jake Stoneburner 6'3" 252 4.65 107.80
Matt Furstenberg 6'3" 242 4.62 106.24
Tyler Eifert 6'5" 250 4.68 104.23
Dion Sims 6'4" 262 4.75 102.93
Zach Ertz 6'5" 249 4.76 97.01
Jordan Reed 6'2" 236 4.72 95.10
Gavin Escobar 6'5" 254 4.84 92.57
Mychal Rivera 6'3" 242 4.81 90.42
Justice Cunningham 6'3" 258 4.94 86.64

Now you can see where Ladarius Green stands out: straight line speed. Only Chris Gragg had a faster 40 time (and he cleaned up in the Vertical Jump and Broad Jump as well). But you need more than straight line speed. Looking at a guy like Antonio Gates, he stands out in his ability to gain separation coming out of his cuts because of his quick change of direction. The 3-cone drill is a combine drill aimed at identifying the guys who can do that, so lets look at those results?

3-cone drill

Name 3-cone
Jimmy Graham 6.9
Tyler Eifert 6.92
Gavin Escobar 7.07
Chris Gragg 7.08
Vance McDonald 7.08
Zach ertz 7.08
Matt Furstenberg 7.09
Ladarius Green 7.12
Jake Stoneburner 7.12
Justice Cunningham 7.12
Mychal Rivera 7.17
Dion Sims 7.36

We can see Ladarius Green drop towards the bottom again in this event, and once again Jimmy Graham is at the top. Eifert, Ertz, and Escobar all break out above Green here.

So where does Ladarius Green stand in comparison to this year's draft class? When looking at "mismatch" receiving TE's I want them to be tall (at least 6'4"), explosive (Broad Jump and Vertical jump), and fast. Green does not stand out above all others in this class, but I also don't see anyone that clearly outclasses everyone else (like Jimmy Graham). Eifert appears to break out in the majority of categories, and appears to be the top TE in this class as most pundits anticipated.

Would I give up a 1st/2nd rounder to take Eifert in this years draft?

Definitely not a 1st rounder, not when he doesn't appear to have the raw athleticism as a guy like Jimmy Graham. Not when I already have Green on the roster, and at this point, a 4th rounder last season is looking like a pretty good deal for a prospect with the athleticism of Green. He is clearly lacking in the blocking category, but he still looks to me to provide enough of an athletic mismatch to have upside (Gates seemed to have made an okay career without offering much in the blocking side of things). Also, keep in mind, even if the Chargers spent a 1st/2nd rounder on a TE like Eifert, he's going to be second on the depth chart behind Gates.

In short, the Chargers have much larger needs at other positions, and while athletic receiving TE's are always tempting, the 4th rounder in 2012 spent on Green allows the Bolts to fill needs at other positions in this years draft.