The Los Angeles Chargers are looking to become one of the best teams in football. With the offense finding a consistent identity and several critical defensive playmakers, hopes are high for this season to finally be the year where everything clicks and the Bolts hoist their first ever Lombardi trophy.
But there are still some concerns for the season and long-term future.
With the defense losing several vital playmakers such as linebacker Denzel Perryman, defensive tackle Corey Liuget and cornerback Jason Verrett, a changing of the guard could be in place for the Chargers moving forward. While several key franchise places are intact and should remain at the head of the foreground, other big tame names could be on the move following the 2018 season.
The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching and with that, so is the time for Chargers general manager Tom Telesco to begin his scouting process. Multiple players could fit the Charger mold and be the future of the organization.
Seven rounds of picks could help mold Los Angeles to win now and for the foreseeable future. With plenty of needs for the Bolts on both sides of the ball, Los Angeles will have a chance to push themselves ahead of the pack with a solid draft class. While this is all speculation, this week’s edition of Blooming Bolts will not feature players the Chargers should look for. Instead, it’ll feature names the team should draft if the season ended today.
Yes, there is a quarterback on the list.
Round 1: OT West Virginia Yodny Cajuste
For those wondering why Alabama’s Jonah Williams isn’t the selection, the Chargers would have to trade a hefty number of picks to move up and select him. Perhaps the top offensive lineman in the draft, Williams is a top-15 lock before even declaring. Joe Barksdale was released from the team following Sunday’s outing against the Steelers, leaving a hole on the right side for the long-term future. Right tackle will become a glaring need to address early on if the team elects to go that pattern. If the Chargers are expecting to have Rivers as their quarterback, they have to protect him the same way the Saints did for Drew Brees.
Cajuste’s ceiling might not be as high as several other offensive linemen, but he’s likely the most NFL ready. 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 can play on either side of the ball and contribute day 1.
Perhaps a better option at left tackle, the former Mountaineer could spend time at right tackle and become the long-term option to replace Russel Okung. The Chargers need to build a line for Rivers and whoever replaces him in the future. Cajuste is a plug-and-play starter for the Bolts offense as a rookie.
Round 2: Auburn DL Derrick Brown
The defensive line has always been a need for the Bolts this season. With recent news of injuries and life changes, it becomes a pressing one. With Liuget out for the season, the defensive tackle might be released after the season to save the team some cap space. It’s possible, look at what happened to Barksdale. Brandon Mebane is in a contract year while staring down his 34th birthday and recently had a child that could require more attention than his performance on the field.
Thankfully for Los Angeles, the defensive line class is pretty packed of quality players. If the Chargers are going to wait to address the defensive line need until day 2, Brown could be the pick that makes the most sense. A bull rusher up the middle, Brown’s size, and speed allows him to overpower single-man blocking sets and stuff running backs behind the line. Good quickness off the snap, the Auburn defender possess great hands and the ability to shuck lineman out of his way to find clean openings towards the ball.
The Chargers might not need a starter is Justin Jones can prove his worth and the team elects to keep Liuget one more season. But Liuget will have one more year left on the contract, and any smart general manager knows that battles are won in the trenches.
Round 3: Notre Dame LB Te’Von Coney
There’s a good, a bad, and an ugly when looking at the Bolts options at linebacker. The good; Jatavis Brown has had success as the MIKE backer since the loss of Denzel Perryman. The bad: Brown is inconsistent as a player and could regress once again if the team elects to move him back to his outside linebacker role. The ugly: the Chargers need to address the linebacker position at some point in the draft for their future if Perryman is no longer an option and Brown isn’t the best choice.
Some scouts are higher on Coney than a round-three pick, but his overall skills are very raw. That being said, a round-three selection would be perfect for him and Gus Bradley’s defense. Excellent size and great athletic traits, Coney’s 240-pound frame would allow him to find success as either a MIKE or SAM backer at the next level. A superb tackler who flies to the ball and uses his speed to close outside gaps, Coney is a highly productive tackler that will eliminate the run and produce multiple stops for a defense.
Telesco should have his eyes on the young Irish linebacker somewhere on day 2. Coney’s overall skills would mesh well in Gus Bradley’s defense moving forward.
Round 4: Ohio State CB Kendall Sheffield
With Trevor Williams in a restricted free agent contract this season, a team could sign an offer sheet that the Chargers refuse to pay. Desmond King is looking like a slam dunk pick, but his skills are best suited in the slot against quicker receivers. Casey Hayward is proving to be showing regression in age and could be looking like the best days are behind him. Should the team sign Verrett to a one-year contract, this could give them time to develop a young cornerback for the future.
Ohio State over the past few years has been known to bring top-caliber cornerbacks to the professional level. While perhaps not at the same level of Marshon Lattimore or Denzel Ward, Sheffield has the skills to be a quality cornerback in the NFL. Excellent in man coverage, the former Alabama product has strong ball production and limit receptions to any receiver. A reliable tackler, Sheffield isn’t afraid to play the run and could be an excellent gunner on special teams.
While the Chargers should look to sign a cornerback in the offseason, adding a young cornerback from a prestigious defensive back university makes sense.
Round 5: Notre Dame TE Alize Mack
Hunter Henry is one of the up and coming tight ends in the league. He’s coming off a torn ACL however and could need a year of full-time play to gain back that status. Antonio Gates will retire this season, and Virgil Green is no longer a solid secondary option. The Chargers should find a second man just in case Henry’s progression reaches a screeching halt.
Notre Dame is known for producing excellent tight end in the NFL and Mack could be the next one. Although relatively new in a starting role, the 6-4, 251-pound tight end could be a solid option in the red zone offense similar to how the Houston Texans use Jordan Thomas. A good blocker in space, Mack can help produce quality rushing yards in the open field. A mismatch against linebackers and slot cornerbacks, his route running will need to improve but should win a majority of battles.
A quarterback can never have too many weapons. Mack would be a nice red zone threat.
Round 6: Washington State QB Gardner Minshew
Let the comments come now.
The Chargers are expected to have Rivers still on the roster until the new stadium is built in 2021. That’s all the should expect as of now since the future Hall of Fame gunslinger will be nearing 40 years old and hopefully not on his 10th child. The Chargers need to think about his replacement and drafting a first-round prospect in 2021 isn’t going to save them if they’re still in contention.
Maybe not a sexy pick, 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 4,477 passing yards and 36 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.
Round 7: Baylor WR Jalen Hurd
With Artavis Scott expected to battle for a role next season and Mike Williams already turning into one of the better receiver prospects from the 2017 NFL Draft, Tyrell Williams could be on the move. With glaring needs at other positions, the Chargers could allow Williams to walk and save themselves some money. If they do, they’ll need to look at another option.
Hurd was best known for his time at Tennessee as a running back. Switching positions like switching schools, the 6-4 receiver has made tremendous strides as a route runner for the Bears offense, collecting 64 receptions for 946 yards and four touchdowns. While a work in progress, Hurd offers the ability to mix things up in the Chargers offense and be a potential vertical size threat on the outside. Seventh-round picks sometimes are stars, and Hurd can be just that.