I recently wrote about the 21 players I believe are worth a 1st round pick. Since the draft is more than 1 round, it's important to hit on more than just the "main" guys that we all hear about. This years draft is specifically loaded with players that will have great value in the 2nd round. The Chargers haven't exactly hit on a 2nd round pick since 2007, so any one of these next 23 players you'll see here will work. Remember, this isn't where they will likely go, but this is where I have these players graded out to. Everyone you read on this list I believe you can count on being a very solid starter, with upsides obviously varying. This could also be read as my rankings from 22-43.
These four just missed getting a 1st round grade from me.
Dante Fowler, Edge Rusher, Florida
I love the energy Fowler plays with and the fact that he can win up and down the line of scrimmage. Though he did show a couple exposures, I would've liked to see him bend the edge more consistently. But what prevented him from being a 1st round pick was likely his play strength. He was exposed against Alabama and LSU at the point of attack. That said, he'll make for a good defensive piece at the next level.
Daryl Williams, Right Tackle, Oklahoma
I gushed about Williams when I ranked the offensive tackles, so I don't need to say much more about him. It may not be pretty, but Williams understands angles and keeps the QB clean. In 4 games, he didn't allow a QB hit or sack. He did generate 12 drive blocks and 11 knockdowns.
Laken Tomlinson, Guard, Duke
This is a learning point from last year. Tomlinson may lack in athleticism, and it shows with his inconsistency in space, but overall, he just doesn't make mistakes. Combine that with his A+ hand usage, and it's easy to see him being a very good guard early on in the league. He's a true power player, and I'd have no issues with the Chargers taking him and keeping Fluker at tackle.
Kwon Alexander, Linebacker, LSU
The first curveball. Alexander plays bigger than listed and unlike the other off-ball linebackers can make plays where he has to disengage. I saw him beat blocks and finish more times than the bigger names ahead of him combined. I imagine he's going to go late 2nd or in the 3rd round, but some team is going to get a steal with Alexander and the athleticism he brings.
These next seven players are guys I expect to be strong, stable starters for their teams for a long time.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
One thing I do not agree with about Green-Beckham is that he is a transcendent talent. Off field aside, watch him against Justin Gilbert or Florida, and you will see a player that struggles to get separation on in breaking routes against tight coverage. That said, he has the type of acceleration that is really rare for his size and is 1 of the top deep threats in the class. Those two traits alone are good enough to propel him into the 2nd round.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
Good news: No running back I charted broke more tackles than Ajayi. He just refused to go down. He's also a very valuable receiving back that will thrive in a zone blocking scheme. Bad news: He doesn't run with the power you'd expect from a 220 plus pound back. Worse news: Over the weekend there were medical rechecks for injured players, and there are strong concerns about the long-term durability for Ajayi's knee.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
This is right around the area I expect Waynes to go in the draft. It's neve good when you run a faster 40 than you do a shuttle time. Waynes really struggles with in-breaking routes. This will lead him to getting beat early on as a pro as he cannot plant and change directions quick enough. Waynes has good feet, is a willing tackler, and his patience will allow him to fix these issues and last in the league.
Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
It doesn't really matter what you label Funchess as. His role is clear. Put him in the slot or as a detached player from the line of scrimmage and allow him to dominate the middle of the field. Yes, he ran a 4.7 40. He was also 10/15 on contested catches and can use his frame very well. I don't see why he wouldn't catch 65+ passes year in and year out.
Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Strong is an interesting watch. His lack of suddenness stands out, but he's also an obvious threat in the red zone and is a back shoulder throw nightmare for DBs. He's also produced some big plays out of the slot and could be even more valuable there.
Henry Anderson, DT, Stanford
He'll be a 3-4 DE on base downs, and then kick inside and give guards hell on passing downs. Please read why Anderson will be the steal of the draft on defense. Please listen to me interview Anderson as he gives great insight to football as a whole.
These next six players will likely need to be put in the right situation to be a stud, but have the talent to excel.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
Nothing new here. Just please do not pigeonhole him into being a 3rd down back.
Listen to this logic. Would scary change of direction and lateral quicks not be something that you value on 1st or 2nd down? Come on. Just give Abdullah the ball. Quietly, he runs with better functional power than a certain Wisconsin running back.
P.J. Williams, CB, FSU
This was before his recent incident, which will likely push Williams into the latter half of the 2nd at best. He does have the size/physicality that the NFL seems to covet. Williams will be in a position to make a play on the pass, the question is will he make said play? His ball skills are iffy. Williams is also a willing tackler, but his technique is embarrassing for his size. He's not a sound tackler.
Cedrick Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Ogbuehi has played every position except center and has the type of athleticism an offensive coach would drool over. He would be much higher if he had any idea of when to shoot his hands correctly. His punch timing sucks. That allows defenders to walk him back into the quarterback. If you fix that, you have a star. If not, well, hello Eric Fisher.
Bud Dupree, Edge Rusher, Kentucky
He's going to go in the top 13 when it's all said and done. I can see why. Dupree has arguably the most explosive 1st step in the draft. The production just isn't there, though. Whether the reason is because he hasn't been able to focus on 1 role remains to be seen. I have no doubt in the right role he'll be a star. He has too many good traits not to be.
Eddie Goldman, DT, FSU
Goldman was forced to play nose tackle this year when the starter went down for an injury. No one seems to really bring that part up but I don't believe that's his true position, regardless of weight. Like Dupree, his production was inconsistent. In the right role, where he can get in a gap and penetrate, he will be a terror. Goldman is already a dominant run defender.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Future San Diego quarterback Mariota is actually a good fit for what the Chargers do on offense, believe it or not. I will be the 1st one to tell you that his accuracy over the middle of the field isn't where it needs to be. Mariota's ball placement and anticipation leave a lot to be desired. The fact that no one thinks throwing only 2 interceptions in a season isn't a red flag is baffling to me. However, he's been set up to excel in an offense where you make progression reads and get rid of the ball quickly. Because he can win from within the pocket he has a chance to succeed in the NFL. I imagine Mike McCoy will become more hands on and tailor the offense to more of a 2013 look with more run and play action wrinkles.
Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
Devin Smith on contested catches in 7 games(mostly over 25 yards) brought down 11 of 12 attempts. Eleven of twelve. Ridiculous
— Kyle Posey (@The_KP_Show) February 11, 2015
Matt Harmon broke down Devin Smith in detail and revealed that the Ohio State receiver is much more than just a deep threat. He just wasn't asked to run underneath routes as much. He has the speed to separate on in breaking routes and corners are going to have to respect him so you'd think that will open up the shorter routes. With an expanded role, Smith will flourish in the NFL.
The Run defenders
In a pass happy league it's easy to forget just how important stopping the run is. These are 2 of the 3 best run defenders in the draft.
Trey Flowers, Edge rusher, Arkansas
I'd draft him if I ran a 3-4 because 80% of the time he'd have his hand in the dirt. He might drop in coverage 3 times a game. Flowers has uncanny power. He not only can control lineman but does little things like gets heel depth so he doesn't take himself out of the play. I'm a huge fan. Oh, and he's no slouch as a pass rusher. He can win inside or out as well. I'll regret having him too low a year from now.
Danielle Hunter, Edge Rusher, LSU
Hunter is very, very good against the run. Once of the few players who understands how to take on pulling blockers and execute the "wrong arm" technique. He's a very good tackler that plays with a high motor and it results in a lot of run stops. As a pass rusher? He has a ways to go. The athletic traits are there and you hope he develops.
Size Doesn't Matter
These next 2 defensive backs will slide, but shouldn't.
Kevin White, CB, TCU
The other Kevin White is a very good player that will likely be a slot corner, but that's not a bad thing. He's not Jason Verrett, but that was a tough act to follow. White didn't test well but he is a natural cover corner with good route recognition. Against WVU's Kevin White he showed he had the play speed to run with him vertical and did not allow a catch. Good: Versus Ole Miss, Oklahoma, & West Virginia White allowed 4 catches on 19 targets with 5 PBU's and only 3 1st downs. Bad: He followed Lockett all game and gave up 7 catches, had 5 blown coverages, 2 1st downs, 2 missed tackles, 1 touchdown, and a defensive pass interference.
Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State
I've had some good conversations about Randall recently with some smart folks and his tackling and concerns in zone coverage are fair. But boy it doesn't take long to for his athleticism to jump out at you. He can close in a hurry going in any direction and playing the Kam Chancellor "robber" role he's a flat out playmaker. I also think he can guard any slot receiver with ease. Randall is a fun player that I can see making a lot of plays as a rookie.
Just go play
The last player on this list is a guy that you don't want thinking too much, just put him on the field and let him make plays.
Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
I'm higher on Anthony because he is more of my type, the off ball linebacker that plays with a reckless athleticism mentality. This leads to missed tackles and some over aggression but I'd prefer that then timid play
looking at you Donald Butler. He has the speed to beat blockers to the point as well as the range to excel in coverage and chase running backs down. He can be a factor rushing the passer up the middle as well.
Tomorrow I will preview the final half of players I would take in the 2nd half, but aren't as "safe" as today's group.