With only a couple weeks away from the Chargers being on the clock with the 17th overall pick in the 1st round they will seemingly have three players available to them that will sit atop their big board. This isn’t based on any inside sources or information relayed from agents but rather the draft philosophy, tendencies and habits of the Chargers and their General Manager Tom Telesco. Let’s get to who the “Big 3” will be and then explain while others were left off.
LB Rashaan Evans – Alabama
Why He’s a Need: The Linebacker spot was a big need going into Free Agency, not only did the Chargers do nothing to address that they let Korey Toomer, one of their depth guys, go and sign with the 49ers. If you project past this season, the team’s SAM (or Gus Bradley's OTTO) Kyle Emanuel has one more year left on his deal, so does Nick Dzubnar who’s really only a Special Teams player and Hayes Pullard’s contract is up in 2019 too which couldn’t come quick enough plus add on top of that that the coaches seem to not trust Jatavis Brown to be on the field last year. Denzel Perryman is the lone Linebacker on this team that is locked in as a starter but even he has his injury issues.
Why the Chargers Will Draft Him: Tom Telesco views Linebacker as one of the most important positions on his roster, especially when approaching the draft. Since becoming GM Telesco has drafted a Linebacker at least once in every draft class except in last year’s draft. In his first two years with the organization, Telesco traded up in the 2nd round to get both Linebackers Manti Te’o and Jerry Attaochu. The following year he spent another 2nd round pick on Denzel Perryman and in ’16 he doubled down on LBs on Day 3 for Joshua Perry and Jatavis Brown. In 5 years Tom Telesco has selected 7 total Linebackers in the draft (Tourek Williams and Kyle Emanuel the others that weren’t mentioned.) Last year Chargers.com did an article where they interviewed unnamed Wide Receivers for a behind-the-scenes look at how the team does Combine Interviews and they ended up selecting WR Mike Williams. This year? They interviewed Linebackers.
Why He Fits: With all the question marks heading into not only the draft but projecting to the 2019 offseason the Chargers will need to fill a few Linebackers holes on the roster. Rashaan Evans would do that. While Evans ideal spot might be at the SAM/OTTO he played in multiple Linebacker spots at Alabama not only in coverage and stopping the run but added a wrinkle as a blitzer. His speed/size combo is ideal for the NFL and is a very good wrap-up tackler. Roquan Smith is probably off the board so Telesco and Bradley could do a lot with a versatile piece like Rashaan Evans.
OT Mike McGlinchey – Notre Dame
Why He’s a Need: The short answer is that the team needs a replacement for Joe Barksdale at Right Tackle. While Michael Schofield filled in nicely in spot duty, the sample size is too small to crown him Right Tackle quite yet. The Chargers 6th round pick last year Sam Tevi also did good in spurts but again you can’t feel comfortable to start either Schofield or Tevi at Right Tackle Week 1. The other order of business is Joe Barksdale could be cut this offseason. The team would have to pay him $2M to save $3.7M. Barksdale also couldn’t stay healthy last year starting in only 11 games in 2017. This would be both a financial and personnel move. While it’s commendable that he’s publicly acknowledged his battle with depression, he’s now 30 years old and will need to be replaced on the football field.
Why the Chargers Will Draft Him: Much like Linebacker, Tom Telesco puts a lot of weight into drafting young Offensive Line for the future while sprinkling in some veterans like Matt Slauson, Joe Barksdale and most recently Mike Pouncey through Free Agency to help with the younger guys. In Tom Telesco’s drafts, he’s used a high pick in the first 3 rounds on an Offensive Lineman every year outside of his ’15 draft. He selected OT DJ Fluker in the 1st in 2013, C/G Chris Watt in the 3rd in 2014, C/G Max Tuerk in the 3rd in 2016 and this past draft doubled-down on Guards Forrest Lamp in the 2nd and Dan Feeney in the 3rd. Mike McGlinchey is the consensus top Tackle in this draft class and the drop-off in Tackles between the Chargers pick at #17 and when they come back up in the 2nd round at 48th overall is a steep one. This Tackle class is considerably thin at the top and the Chargers could grab a Tackle early and get ahead of the curve like they did with Hunter Henry in 2016. Henry was the best Tight End in another thin class and while taking him 35th overall was a little steep at the time, they addressed their need and grabbed the best one early rather than waiting on which Tight End fell in the 3rd. Drafting Mike McGlinchey makes Joe Barksdale expendable and would be 1 of maybe 2 (Mike McGlinchey and Connor Williams) plug-and-play starting Tackles in this class.
Why He Fits: The team needs a new Right Tackle, it’s simple. Mike McGlinchey played Right Tackle before flipping over to Left Tackle and his best fit right away would be on the right side. McGlinchey is an athletic Tackle at his size and the Chargers Offensive Line is being asked to get out and run more and more so he’d be a good system fit. He was actually a former Tight End. He’s technically refined enough to hold up on the edge. McGlinchey is a better run blocker than pass blocker and would upgrade the Chargers run game right away which is an obvious area that needs to be improved in the draft.
QB Lamar Jackson – Louisville
Why He’s a Need: Of the three choices, Quarterback is the least pressing need because the Chargers have Philip Rivers but at some point, they will need to find Rivers’ successor. Rivers is under contract for two more seasons but there is an out in his contract next offseason. The odds they use that rip chord is slim but it is something to consider, its long shot but it’s there. If we’re to assume Rivers will play out his contract, there have been no talks of extending him past 2019. So right now the Chargers would be quarterback-less in 2020. Chargers have to get ahead of the curve on this one.
Why the Chargers Will Draft Him: Tom Telesco has mentioned that the draft is about projecting the roster years ahead and that it’s not a one year proposition. If teams don’t grab a quarterback in the 1st round it greatly diminishes your chance of finding a starting caliber quarterback later. The sit and wait approach for a quarterback doesn’t work. We’ve already heard why we shouldn’t be shocked if the Chargers take Lamar Jackson at #17 and one of the more telling quotes was one from Anthony Lynn regarding his views on quarterbacks:
“The days of the one-dimensional pocket-passing quarterback in the NFL are over...I know coaches and experts say and want to think otherwise, but the fact is, if you don’t have a quarterback who can give you some kind of effective movement, you’ve got a dead offense.”
The Chargers check-out QB prospects each offseason leading into the draft but they are doing a little bit more homework this year than years past:
Chargers HC Anthony Lynn praised Louisville QB Lamar Jackson at the Combine. Today, Chargers OC Ken Whisenhunt met with Jackson after his pro day, as @jjones9 just tweeted.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 29, 2018
While with the Bills Anthony Lynn raved about Tyrod Taylor, another athletic quarterback, and once Lynn took over as Offensive Coordinator for Buffalo in Week 3 Tyrod Taylor was a much better QB for it. Lynn seems to gravitate toward dual-threat quarterbacks and Lamar Jackson is one like we’ve never seen before coming out of college.
Why He Fits: Lamar Jackson is not a perfect prospect; in fact, he’d be best suited sitting a year or two before being thrown out as a starter right away. Jackson’s biggest issue is his mechanics; sitting behind Rivers so he can work out the kinks with his footwork would do him wonders. The Chargers drafting a Quarterback in the first round is not a wasted pick, they can improve in the other 6 rounds while getting better both short and long-term with a developmental quarterback like Lamar Jackson.
Why Not Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne
Tom Telesco does not value Defensive Tackles. He’s only drafted a 0/1 technique or even just a DT over 300 pounds once in 5 years, that was Ryan Carrethers in the 5th round in 2014. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Free Agent market right now there is a Top 5 run-stuffing Defensive Tackle in Johnathan Hankins and the Chargers have zero interest in him.
Who I’d want the Chargers to draft of the “Big 3”: QB Lamar Jackson
You can’t pass on a possible once in a generation dual-threat QB talent who can take time to improve the mechanics and makes the transition easy once Philip Rivers retires. Lamar would be fun.
Who I least want the Chargers to draft of the “Big 3”: OT Mike McGlinchey
I don’t think there is a Tackle in this class worth taking in the 1st round. Personally, I’d wait.
Who I think the Chargers will draft of the “Big 3”: LB Rashaan Evans
It all adds up, makes too much sense and I’d honestly be happy with it too.