The Los Angeles Chargers are primed and ready to begin their chase towards the playoffs following another victory during the team’s five-game win streak. With the Bolts traveling to Oakland one last time before Jon Gruden and the franchise picks up and moves to Viva Las Vegas, Los Angeles is looking to make a statement as one of the best teams heading down the stretch.
No matter if the Chargers win by 30 or three, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco should keep an eye on his players this week. If one position struggles to find any success against a horrendous Raiders team, that could be a position to address down the line in next season’s draft. With areas such as cornerback, offensive line, defensive line and linebacker in need of potential upgrades, it’s another chance for future NFL stars to show the Bolts what they can do on Saturday.
As several teams continue to fight for their chance to make the College Football Playoff, several key potential first-round draft picks will be front and center Saturday, preparing for battle against in conference foes. From offensive tackles to tackling machine linebackers, expect to see some premier talent on for full display.
Some positions will have a chance to outshine others but all could be players the Bolts suggest to fix when the team is on the clock this coming April. Check out several names on either side of the ball to keep an eye out for come Saturday morning. If there’s a name you perhaps didn’t see, check out our list from week’s 9 and 10. Oh and brace yourself, we’re giving you a quarterback prospect the rest of the season. Leave the hate mail in the comment section below.
Alabama LB Mack Wilson vs. #18 Mississippi State
Even if Denzel Perryman does resign with the team in the off season, the Chargers need a linebacker for the long-term future. Perryman is in a contract year but is playing much better in recent weeks and could be signed to perhaps a short-term extension. Outside of Kyzir White, there’s little promise for a second thumper on the Chargers defense. Plus, with the former Mountaineer defender on the IR for the rest of the season, there’s no telling what he will be like when he returns.
Last week, we said to keep an eye out for LSU’s Devin White against the top ranked team down in the Bayou. This week, head on over to Tuscaloosa, Ala. where you will have a chance to see the next great NFL linebacker work his magic against the Bulldogs offense. A pure form-tackler with the ability to collect near triple digit numbers on total hits, Wilson is a hard-hitting tackler up the middle who can make offenses pay both against the run and in coverage.
An aggressive playing style, Wilson has one speed and uses his motor to go non-stop every play. Using his blazing speed and quick reaction, Wilson flies into the backfield and creates limited room for running backs to squeeze by. In coverage, the junior linebacker has the range and ability to cover backs out of the break and tight ends across the middle of the field. With the success of linebackers such as San Francisco’s Reuben Foster, New England’s Donta Hightower and Baltimore’s C.J. Mosley, the Bolts could use a versatile linebacker in the front seven to help fix their run defense.
Keep a close eye on Wilson as he tries to match the speed of Nick Fitzgerald on the ground inside of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
West Virginia OT Yodney Cajuste vs. TCU
Let’s be real for a second; Alabama’s Jonah Williams is an ideal long-term tackle prospect but he’ll be long gone before the Chargers are on the clock. With one year left on his current contract following the season, oft-injured Joe Barksdale could be let go this offseason to clear cap space for a massive free agent signing. Right tackle will become a glaring need to address early on if the team elects to go that pattern. Heck, even left tackle could if Chargers coach Anthony Lynn decides to move Rusell Okung over to the right side.
The Chargers need a technician on their offensive line and Cajuste pretty much is the definition of that. A clean form pass protector. Cajuste has done a fantastic job protecting Will Grier in the Mountaineers high-tempo offense this season. Solid footwork along with the ability to be a lead blocker downfield, the 6-5, 315 pound tackle has the ability to play on either side of the ball and contribute day 1. While his run blocking is a tad slow, his overall speed off the ball is great. The Bolts could target him on the first day of the draft if they feel comfortable with their defensive line and secondary moving forward.
Ole Miss OT Greg Little vs. Texas A&M
Let’s double down on the offensive line issues. Even if the Bolts feel comfortable with both Okung and Barksdale at offensive tackle, Forrest Lamp is going to be in a “prove it” season next year. Following a torn ACL during his rookie campaign, the former Western Kentucky star has yet to even take a NFL snap during his second season. Perhaps finding a short-term guard to turn into an eventual tackle might be the best thing for the franchise moving forward. It’s similar to what the Miami Dolphins did with Larmey Tunsil.
Why not just follow the Dolphins plan and take the guy who replaced Tunsil out on The Grove. Little has the size to be a top caliber offensive tackle in the league but still has some things to improve on before protecting the blind side. His stance is too wide in pass protection sets while his footwork is slow. Still, Little does have some good qualities such as explosion, physicality and great mental processing.
Similar to Tunsil, a move to guard during the rookie season could be beneficial for the long-term option. Should he be on the clock and Lamp still hasn’t figured it out, Little could be a day 1 option for Telesco and company.
Georgia WR Riley Ridley vs. #24 Auburn
The Bolts should bring back Tyrell Williams but following another big performance against the Seahawks last Sunday, he could be up for a big pay day. A pay day that, knowing Telesco’s track record, probably isn’t going to come in L.A.. We can all just admit that Travis Benjamin is a bust that that’s not the receiver worth mentioning. He should be gone by next season. With Keenan Allen being the solid possession receiver and Mike Williams turning into a potential red zone threat, the Bolts could consider using a mid-round pick on a speed receiver on the outside.
The younger brother of Calvin, Riley has been one of the more underrated receivers in the SEC during the past six games for the Bulldogs offense. Averaging 13.7 yards per catch, the 6-2 receiver is stronger and larger than his brother and does a better job creating separation against defenders in man coverage. Known for his superb route running skills along with his solid speed, the Bulldog-product could come in and help become the Bolts vertical threat on the outside. It’s not a major area of need but if the Chargers lose Williams, Ridley would be an excellent day 2 selection for the team’s offense.
Ohio State DL Dre’Mont Jones vs. #18 Michigan State
It’s quite obvious that the Chargers’ defensive line is in need of a tune-up. Rookie Justin Jones is likely never going to be a three-down lineman and more than likely could be turning into a rotational player than a full-time starter. Meanwhile, Brandon Mebane is in a contract year while staring down his 34th birthday. At a position that’s becoming more and more important in modern NFL defense’s, it’s time to get serious about someone who can make a lasting impact from the nose tackle position. Finding a solid running mate with Corey Liuget should pretty much be on top of the Chargers day 1 and 2 list.
With defensive lineman flying off the boards in today’s day and age, the Bolts might have to wait until the second-round to address this need. That being said, Jones might be one of the best available players when Telesco is on the clock on day 2. A superb athlete with great football knowledge, Jones excels in 4-3 defense. A perfect three-tech in today’s NFL, Jones has solid speed as a pass rusher and closes gaps in the running lane. He’ll need to get better at wrapping up at the line of scrimmage but overall, it’ll be hard to pass on Jones should the Bolts have him in their sights on day 2. Face it, you can never have too many defensive linemen.
Washington State QB Gardner Minshew vs. Colorado
Let’s meet half way Chargers fans. Philip Rivers is destined to play at least another two years following his MVP caliber season that has brought life back into the Chargers offense. The fact is, however, that you still have to look at Rivers and his soon to be 37-year-old body and wonder if maybe, just maybe, it’s time to look at life past him. Even if you don’t want to pass on Rivers just yet, the fact of the matter is that Geno Smith is a short-term option as the team’s backup quarterback and the Bolts could use a more reliable option. While maybe a first, second or third round pick is a bit too rich, a day 3 selection should be, at least, an area where Los Angeles could consider drafting a quarterback.
With the great comedian Mike Leach calling the shots, Minshew has been one of the better quarterbacks in college football this season. The East Carolina transfer has a solid arm, great accuracy and the ability to carry the team down the field while keeping drives alive. Great pocket footwork and the ability to throw under pressure, Minshew has put together a solid season for the Cougars offense with 3,517 passing yards and 27 touchdowns in the PAC 12. While his throws will need some more power underneath them, Minshew could at least be a solid backup at the next level.
Yes, Rivers still has a few years left in him but Minshew could be an option for the long-term under Rivers’ guidance. He’s likely a day 3 pickup as well so no harm, no foul if he doesn’t pan out as the team’s eventual successor either.