Training camp is still months away, but it’s never too early to look at what the Los Angeles Chargers roster could look like when the regular season gets underway.
With a draft class that is loaded with talent and a few free agent acquisitions that are going to push for starting spots, there isn’t much room to maneuver up the depth chart.
Quick note, the positions are based on the Chargers.com roster.
Quarterback: Philip Rivers, Kellen Clemens (2)
Nothing out of the ordinary here. People have been screaming for a different backup quarterback for years, but Clemens has been able to keep his job up to this point.
That trend should continue with little competition behind him. Mike Bercovici and Eli Jenkins are the only other quarterbacks on the roster and aren’t backup material.
Clemens may be a boring backup, but let’s be honest, if Philip Rivers gets hurt the Chargers have no chance at competing.
Running backs: Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver, Kenjon Barner, Andre Williams, Derek Watt (5)
After taking a glance at this group, it’s easy to see there isn’t much talent behind Melvin Gordon.
After letting Danny Woodhead walk, the Chargers are betting on Branden Oliver to become the primary backup. When healthy, Oliver has been a good option as a spell back, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field.
With the injury history of Oliver, and the uncertainty of the other backs on the roster, it could lead the Chargers to keep four running backs on their 53.
Fullback Derek Watt won’t excite anyone, but even with a new head coach, the Chargers are still going to keep him around from another year.
Wide Receivers: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman (5)
This is probably the deepest position group on the roster, assuming that Keenan Allen is healthy.
Drafting Mike Williams was a head scratching move at first, but with further thought, it’s easy to see what the Chargers were thinking.
Allen’s health is always an issue and Travis Benjamin wasn’t consistent as the number two. Plus, Tyrell Williams showed flashes, but still needs to work on his rapport with Rivers. Adding Mike Williams to the mix could be the reliable target Rivers needs on the outside.
There are other receivers on the roster including undrafted free agents Mitchell Paige and Andre Patton, but they would need a perfect camp to break into this group. Paige and Patton are top-tier practice squad candidates, but they won’t crack the final 53.
Tight Ends: Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Jeff Cumberland (3)
Last season, the duo of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry were tremendous. In his rookie year, Henry led the league in touchdowns for tight ends. While Gates still showed that he can still produce even as his career winds down.
Behind those two, the tight end position is wide open. Jeff Cumberland is returning from a torn achilles he suffered last season but should still be considered the favorite.
With a three year span with the New York Jets, he caught 78 passes for 1,004 yards. He may not be a great option, but he is good depth and has the size to be a blocker in heavy sets.
Offensive Tackles: Russell Okung, Joe Barksdale, Chris Hairston, (3)
With Russell Okung signing a massive 4-year, $53 million deal with the Chargers, Philip Rivers may finally have the blindside protection he has needed for years.
At right tackle, the Chargers are going to hope that Joe Barksdale has a bounce back season. If not, Chris Hairston is probably the next best option.
For the past few seasons, Hairston has been the primary backup tackle and should continue to play that role in 2017.
Sixth-round pick Sam Tevi could force the Chargers hand in training camp and land a spot on the 53, but he could use a developmental year on the practice squad.
Offensive Guards/Centers: Matt Slauson, Forrest Lamp, Dan Feeney, Spencer Pulley, Max Tuerk (5)
The Chargers should expect a major boost along the interior of the offensive line with their selections of Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in the 2017 draft.
Both rookies could be starting come week one alongside veteran Matt Slauson, who in just one season has seemed to grow a strong bond with Rivers.
Don’t forget about 2016 third-round pick Max Tuerk and second-year player Spencer Pulley. Tuerk should be fully healthy and ready to compete for the center position and Pulley is quality depth if an injury were to occur.
Defensive Ends: Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Jeremiah Attaochu, Darius Philon (4)
Obviously, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are going to be the primary pass rushers but there is some questions regarding the depth at defensive end.
The 2014 second-round pick Jeremiah Attaochu has yet to prove himself. He has shown flashes, but he hasn’t proved to be a reliable pass rusher. He should make the roster, but time is running out for him.
The final member of this group is Darius Philon. This isn’t the most likely scenario, but he spent time as a starter last season and Chris Landrum and Isaac Rochell aren’t exciting options either.
Rochell, Landrum, and Chris McCain are going to be strong competition for Philon.
Defensive Tackles: Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane, Damion Square, Caraun Reid, Tenny Palepoi (5)
If Brandon Mebane can return this season fully healthy, the defensive line looks to be one of the stronger units for Los Angeles.
The depth behind Corey Liuget and Mebane also have the ability to shine. Damion Square, Caraun Reid, and Tenny Palepoi all played well for stretches last season.
It will be interesting to see which players will get the majority of the playing time behind the starters, but it should lead to fun position battles in camp.
Inside Linebackers: Korey Toomer, Denzel Perryman (2)
Obviously, Jatavis Brown also can be thrown into the mix here, but on the Chargers team website he is listed as an OLB.
Last season, Korey Toomer exploded onto the scene as he was inserted into the starting lineup after a plethora of injuries hit the Chargers linebacking corps.
Perryman is a former second-round pick and his ability to help in the run game is his biggest asset.
The trio of Brown, Perryman, and Toomer were very successful last season. Look for the Chargers to build on it.
Outside Linebackers: Jatavis Brown, Joshua Perry, Kyle Emanuel, James Onwualu, Nigel Harris (5)
With some of the top talent at outside linebacker listed as defensive ends, this position looks weak on paper. However, throw Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu into the mix and things start to look brighter.
Kyle Emanuel will continue to see plenty of snaps but there are snaps open for the rest of the group. 2016 fifth-round selection Joshua Perry has a chance to move up the depth chart.
James Onwualu and Nigel Harris, a pair of UDFAs, also have a good chance to make the team.
Cornerbacks: Casey Hayward, Jason Verrett, Desmond King, Craig Mager, Trovon Reed, Mike Lee (6)
After his career year in 2016, Casey Hayward looks to work alongside Jason Verrett to make a lockdown tandem for Los Angeles.
In the slot, rookie Desmond King could replace Brandon Flowers. There is also the possibility that King could see time at safety, but there is little depth at cornerback.
The final roster spots at corner will be close battles in training camp.
The favorite to land the fourth corner spot is 2015 thrid-round pick Craig Mager. Although he hasn’t lived up to his third round selection, he still can show the new coaching staff that he is worth keeping around for another year.
Then comes Trovon Reed. When the injuries piled up for the Bolts last season, Reed stepped in and played pretty well. He deserves to be in the discussion for one of the last spots on the roster.
A shocking move would be giving UDFA Mike Lee a roster spot. Six cornerbacks is a lot to have on the roster, but with Verrett’s injury history, having extra depth at corner isn’t a bad idea. If Lee can impress in camp, he could sneak his way onto the team.
Safety: Jahleel Addae, Tre Boston, Rayshawn Jenkins, Dwight Lowery, Adrian Phillips (5)
One of the worst position groups for the Chargers last season was at safety. They let Eric Weddle walk and did little to replace him.
The Chargers began to address the hole at safety in 2017 by drafting Rayshawn Jenkins and signing Tre Boston. Jenkins looks to be a backup while Boston could start opposite Jahleel Addae.
Dwight Lowery started last season but left a lot to be desired. While Adrian Phillips has gotten praise from new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley early in OTAs.
Special Teams (3)
Long Snapper: Mike Windt
Mike Windt has been the long snapper for a long time now. The Chargers haven’t brought in any competition for him yet.
Kicker: Josh Lambo
The Chargers did sign UDFA Younghoe Koo, but Josh Lambo will keep his job for the time being.
Punter: Drew Kaser
Drew Kaser had his struggles last season, but improved as the season progressed. Hopefully Kaser doesn’t have to use his powerful leg too often in 2017.
G Donavon Clark, RB Kenneth Farrow, TE Sean Culkin, OT Sam Tevi, WR Andre Patton, OLB Chris Landrum, CB Brandon Stewart, WR Mitchell Paige, S Adrian McDonald, DE Isaac Rochell