The Chargers announced yesterday that they've signed 15 UDFAs to the roster, making it 22 rookies currently on the team. I knew nothing about any of them, so I decided to try and watch as much as I could on all of them. Most of these players don't have any full game tape but instead only highlight reels (if that), so it's hard to get a full picture, but you can at least get a general sense of what they can potentially bring to the table. So, who are the newest additions to the Chargers offense?
TE Sean Culkin - Missouri
Culkin certainly has the size of an NFL TE at 6'6, 250 lbs. He also has exceptionally long hair which makes me a fan right away. However, his numbers are less than impressive - he had just 61 catches and 2 TDs in a four-year career.
As those numbers suggest, Culkin isn't the best receiver. Lots of his catches come within 5 yards from the LOS as a safety blanket. He has good hands when the ball does come his way, but he's definitely below par as a receiver - something his 1.3 catches per game in college attest to.
Culkin is a decent blocker - he had a really nice cut block where he took out two DBs at once - but he's not good enough in that area to make up for offering so little in the receiving game. He also probably isn't fast or strong enough to have a huge impact on Special Teams. He has a chance to stick on the Practice Squad for a bit, but there's little chance he ever plays in a game for the Chargers.
Chances of making the 53: 2/10
C Dillon Deboer - Florida Atlantic
Deboer is listed at 6'4, 302 lbs, which is pretty good size for an NFL Center. He also had some experience at LT last season, benched 25 reps at his pro day, and was named FAU's offensive MVP in 2016, which is pretty impressive for an OL. Unfortunately, there's no tape out there of him. From what I've read on him, he sounds like a pretty good addition. The interior OL is suddenly a very crowded group, but Deboer definitely has a chance to stick on the Practice Squad.
Chances of making the 53: 3/10
RB Austin Ekeler - Western State
Apparently, Western State is an actual school. Who knew? Ekeler is 5'9, 199 lbs, which is slightly small for an HB in the modern NFL, but not significantly. His athleticism is exciting - he ran a 4.43 40 yard dash at his pro day, had a vertical leap of 40.5 inches and a broad jump of 10 foot 8. If he was at the combine, he'd have been the 4th fastest RB, he'd have had the best vertical jump out of any RB prospect and the 3rd best broad jump.
The Chargers didn't take a Danny Woodhead replacement in the draft, but it's possible Ekeler could be that guy - according to Ekeler, the Chargers organization have twice told him that he reminds them of Woodhead.
After watching the tape, I really like Ekeler. He's a shifty back with breakaway speed who's very comfortable with catching out of the backfield. The only question is the level of competition - I doubt I watched him compete against a single player even close to having NFL ability, so the tape needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt. The Chargers have a lot of bodies in the backfield, but I think Ekeler offers them something they don't have, and he's got every chance of coming in and stealing a roster spot with a good preseason.
Chances of making the 53: 5/10
QB Eli Jenkins - Jacksonville State
The only rookie QB on the roster is Eli Jenkins. He's 6'2 and ran a 4.72 at his pro day, which means he could run three 40 yard dashes before Philip Rivers had even finished one. He won the OVC Conference Offensive Player of the Year back to back and was a 3x First Team All-Conference QB - both feats that were last accomplished by Tony Romo. Jenkins had 3,796 rushing yards in his career, seventh-most for a QB in FCS history.
As you'd expect from his stats, Jenkins' rushing ability shows up on tape. However, his offense was almost entirely based around the read-option, and so his rushing numbers are inflated purely by the number of carries he had. He's a good runner, but his 4.72 speed shows that nobody's confusing him for the next Russell Wilson.
As you'd expect, Jenkins is extremely raw. His pocket presence is poor and his mechanics are awful, but there's definitely some arm talent to work with there. I think this is a really nice UDFA pickup. The Chargers usually stick with a veteran to be the backup QB, but there's a chance Jenkins shows the team enough to not risk stashing him on the Practice Squad and give him the job over Kellen Clemens outright.
Chances of making the 53: 3.5/10
WR Artavis Scott - Clemson
Statistically, Artavis Scott has a pretty impressive pedigree. The Clemson wideout finished college as Clemson's all-time leader in receptions (and fifth all-time in ACC history) with 245 - above DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and his new teammate, Mike Williams. Those 245 catches went for 2,458 yards and 19 TDs in his 43 game career. He also had success as a kick and punt returner. So... why was he undrafted?
The answer is likely his athleticism. At just 5'10, 193 lbs you'd expect Scott to be a flier - but that's far from the case, as he ran a 4.61 at the combine, and wasn't in the top 15 WRs in any drill at the combine. A 4.61 isn't awful, but when you're a 5'10 receiver who's not great at making contested catches, your chances of being drafted probably aren't that high.
Scott does have some nice tools, however. He's a pretty good route runner who makes sharp cuts out of his breaks. He's a very willing blocker, and he's a pretty good one, too. He's also got Special Teams value - probably not as a returner, but he'd definitely make a nice impact on coverage teams. His skills as a receiver aren't going to be enough to crack a deep Chargers WR core (although he could definitely stick on the Practice Squad), so the only real chance he has of making the 53 is with some standout performances on Special Teams.
Chances of making the 53: 2/10
WR Andre Patton - Rutgers
Another WR the Chargers have bought in, the 6'3, 198 lbs Patton is - in my eyes, at least - a much more intriguing prospect than Artavis Scott, who you pretty much know what you're going to get with. At his Pro Day, Patton ran a 4.40 40 yard dash (which would have been tied 3rd with WRs at the combine) and had scores that would have seen him tie for 7th in the 20-yard shuttle and tie for 4th in the 60-yard shuttle. Considering he's 6'3, those are some impressive numbers.
In 2016, Patton had 33 receptions for 460 yards and 5 TDs, bringing his career totals to 90 catches for 1164 yards and 10 TDs. Not huge numbers, but not bad, either.
If you're looking for Patton to be the next Tyrell Williams, you're going to be disappointed. Patton doesn't look anywhere near as fast as Williams does on tape. However, he definitely has some speed to his game, and he does a really nice job of holding onto passes in traffic. He also adjusts his body well to passes and tracks the ball well in the air.
Patton is another raw project who'd likely be best served spending a year on the Practice Squad to develop his game (his route running needs a lot of work). I just think the WR group is too crowded for someone this raw to make the 53 this year.
Chances of making the 53: 3/10
WR Dontre Wilson - Ohio State
The third WR signed by the Chargers as an UDFA, Wilson is undersized at just 5'10 and 183 lbs. He also may not be a WR for long - he carried the ball 65 times in his college career, and the Chargers may want to have a look at him as an HB. He also adds value as a return man, having been both a kick and punt returner at points for Ohio State.
Wilson flashed an explosiveness throughout his career, but competing against such a talented roster for playing time combined with injury problems (he's a natural Charger!) meant that he was never quite able to break through into a meaningful role.
Wilson was only able to run a 4.59 40 yard dash at his pro day, but that was allegedly after he tweaked his hamstring and ran anyway. He definitely plays faster than a 4.59 on tape, so I wouldn't be too concerned with that time. As soon as you switch on the tape, you can tell that Wilson is an athlete. There aren't too many people out there who could keep pace with him downfield. He's got superb agility and pretty good hands, too.
The concerns are pretty obvious. If Wilson is as good an athlete as he is, why couldn't he find his way onto the field more? Appearing so infrequently in college doesn't bode well for his chances at the higher level. Wilson definitely has some tools that are worth looking at, and he's a nice UDFA pickup, but it's hard to know just how good a football player he actually is.
The fact that he could offer value at three different positions (RB, WR, KR/PR) - of which the Chargers could do with some help at two of - means that he's going to have a great opportunity to impress in camp and attempt to tie down a roster spot. One or two explosive plays could swing the decision in his favor - especially because the Chargers may not want to risk losing somebody as athletically gifted as Wilson by trying to stash him on the PS.
Chances of making the 53: 4/10
OT Mason Zandi - South Carolina
The first thing you need to know about Mason Zandi - he is big. At 6'9, 315 lbs, he may actually be so big that his technique suffers. The giant started at LT for South Carolina in every game last season and made 24 starts in his college career.
As soon as I put on the tape, my suspicions were confirmed - Zandi's size works against him. This is not an NFL caliber athlete. He's slow to react to the snap, sluggish at all times in pass protection and poor in space. He's not as strong as you'd like him to be, and definitely not strong enough to make up for his lack of athleticism. He overreaches a lot when trying to make contact with a defender, and has poor first contact in pass protection, slightly redirecting the rusher but rarely stopping him in his tracks.
There's not a lot to like about Zandi, and a whole lot to dislike. I wish the guy the best, but I'm firmly expecting his name to be amongst the list of first cuts.
Chances of making the 53: 1/10