When I was filling out my mock draft this morning, I didn’t have a WR going off the board until the 16th overall pick, with the Ravens taking Mike Williams. The first round shook out quite differently from how I expected, though. This is why I think the Chargers probably weren’t too happy with their draft position and had to make do.
Before the draft, there were murmurs that the Browns were going to look to trade back up (most likely packaging their 2nd first round pick (12) along with a second round to select Mitch Trubisky. A great place for them to look was the Chargers, who were more than likely looking to trade down, as it seemed that the players who were more valuable to them would be available later in the first round.
When the Bears traded an awful lot of picks to move up one spot to select Mitch Trubisky, the Browns most likely pulled out of the trade, not liking any of the other quarterbacks enough to select them at 7. This left the Chargers with a relatively worthless high pick because no teams were willing to give up enough to move up for someone who would only be marginally better than who they’d be looking at later in the round. I don’t believe any team valued McCaffrey more than the Panthers, and the Chiefs knew that there was little likelihood that anyone would take Mahomes higher than 10. There was no one looking to trade up because none of the players left (outside of Hooker, who fell quite far) were worth it.
This left the Chargers in a tough position, and they had to make do with what they had. They ended up picking who was probably one of the top few offensive players on their board as best player available and decided to send it in. Mike Williams is by no means a bad player, but the Chargers had to reach (despite knowing he’d most likely be available later) because there were no trade partners. This shows that the Chargers obviously had no interest in Malik Hooker (which ties into the theory that Tom Telesco feels better about his safeties than most), and picked someone who will be a good, reliable target for Rivers for years to come. The Chargers were not going to pick a player who other people considered to be better. They were going to pick the best player left on their board, and that’s exactly what they did, regardless of “value.”
This gives the Chargers options in the WR corps. It gives the Chargers a big bodied guy across from the nuanced and polished route runner, Keenan Allen. It gives the Chargers a viable #1 option should Keenan Allen go down with an injury, because despite Tyrell William’s thousand yard season, he still dropped way too many balls, and is not a reliable target in contested situations. I think with this pick, the Chargers are building towards the future, not necessarily looking at the upcoming season.
Mike Williams more than likely starts the season as the #4 guy. Behind Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, and their expensive free-agent pickup Travis Benjamin. Why I think the Chargers are looking towards the future, is because Tyrell Williams will most likely demand much more money than he is really worth (remember, Philip Rivers makes scrubs look like studs) and be gone after next season, and even if he signs for a reasonable amount, the Chargers have an out in the disappointing contract of Travis Benjamin, which would only cost them 2.5 million in dead money, as opposed to paying him 7 million for the 2018 season.
To put it into better terms, let’s break it down this way.
The Chargers have two expensive WRs on their roster. Both have underperformed. Both have outs written into their contract after next season. They have performed at a less than stellar level for different reasons.
For Keenan Allen, it is that he has played in 9 games total the last 2 seasons. He is phenomenal while on the field, as evidenced by his 725 yards in only 8 games in 2015, his 1046 yards in only 14 games his rookie season. He’s freaking unstoppable when he’s on the field, but considering he has played in about a fourth of the games he could have played in, he may not play out his contract should this trend continue. I love Keenan Allen, and I think he has all the talent in the world, and no one works harder. I’m just hoping he doesn’t turn into another Danario Alexander.
For Travis Benjamin, he was in a new system with an unfamiliar quarterback. The Chargers wanted to pigeonhole him as a slot receiver (where he doesn’t have the route-running ability to thrive), and that didn’t work out too well. There was also no reason to put him outside with the emergence of Tyrell Williams as a burner (and bigger body), and the dual threat of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. This and Benjamin’s fumbles on special teams led him to be underutilized. It looks as if the Chargers don’t expect him to play a bigger role this season, and won’t want to pay him $7 million for the 2018 season.
For the heck of it, we can also look at Tyrell Williams. He dropped the ball around 5 percent of the time last season, which ranks in the 40s. He caught about 58% of passes thrown his way. To put it into perspective, Keenan Allen catches close to 70% of balls thrown his way, and 14 receivers (who all had more than 50 targets) caught 70% of balls thrown their way last season. He is a solid target but should be used more as a burner down the sideline(much like Travis Benjamin), not a sure handed #1 (like Keenan Allen).
So if you look at it from the Chargers perspective, they got the best player available (in their opinion) at a position that may have some openings very shortly. Remember in 2013 when Keenan Allen was drafted into a position that was considered a strength for the Chargers? Let’s try to take a look at the big picture and not the immediate future.
Telesco says there was "a lot of activity on phone" about trading back when on the clock, but they weren't going to give up Mike Williams.— Ricky Henne (@ChargersRHenne) April 28, 2017
I bet you there were calls, but I guarantee the value that other teams were offering did not offset the potential loss of a big WR. With the other sizeable guy already gone, and the other 1st round graded WR being very similar in stature to Travis Benjamin, the Chargers felt as if the value of trading back was not worth the risk of losing out on a good WR prospect. My guess is that most of these calls included a much later first round pick coupled with a third or a fourth round pick.