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Senior Bowl could be key to Chargers’ draft plans

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Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Every year, as the clock ticks away and the NFL Draft gets closer and closer, fans and pundits alike try to find the themes, hints, and clues that could lead to predicting a team’s motives once they’re on the clock in late April.

Many look to athletic thresholds and measurments. This is one of the simpler ways to draw some conclusions.

“Is this guy at least this tall?”

“Does he weigh at least X pounds?”

It’s sometimes fun and people like numbers. No surprise on the popularity of this one.

Some look at the number of players drafted at certain positions and make statements like, “This general manager doesn’t value position X as much as position Y and that’s why they’re more likely to draft one over the other.”

This idea makes some sense, as well. After all, heading into last year’s draft, it was well-known that Tom Telesco hasn’t valued the safety position all that much and, even though it was a significant team need, the plan wasn’t to draft one in the first....until Derwin James fell all the way to 17.

In the last two years, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Mobile, Alabama to take in the Reese’s Senior Bowl with the rest of the football world. Both trips have been enlightening while maintaining a level of top-tier talent that only the top all-star showcase could gather.

After last year’s draft class, I noticed that four of the seven players drafted had participated in the Senior Bowl. Those players were LB Uchenna Nwosu (2nd), DT Justin Jones (3rd), LB Kyzir White (4th), and C Scott Quessenberry (5th).

That made me check out the roster from the prior year and see if they had done something similar in Anthony Lynn’s first year as head coach.

It was more of the same.

The Chargers had drafted another four players who participated in that year’s showcase, including picking up another as an undrafted free agent. They were OG Dan Feeney (3rd), S Rayshawn Jenkins (4th), CB Desmond King (5th), DE Isaac Rochell (7th), and WR Artavis Scott (UDFA).

It’s got to be more of a coincidence, right? Two years is a small sample size, I know, but let’s take a look at the numbers in the previous four years of Telesco’s tenure prior to the hiring of Lynn in January of 2017.

In 2013, Telesco’s first year at the helm, the Chargers drafted Alabama offensive tackle DJ Fluker in the first round of the draft. He was the only selection that played in that year’s Senior Bowl.

In 2014 and ‘15, the team only selected one participant each year with those two being OLB Jeremiah Attaochu (2nd) and LB Denzel Perryman (2nd), respectively. Then, in 2016, they didn’t select anyone from the annual showcase.

So taking a step back, we can see there was a potential shift in philosophy between 2016 and ‘17. One major change that obviously happened around the same time was the hire of Lynn.

So yeah, there might be something to this crack-pot theory.

It’s not a big surprise to see a team covet the players invited to such a prestigious event. After all, the selection committee for the event are good at their jobs and put in a ton of work to find the right players. Traits such as character, leadership, and experience are big when it comes to receiving an invitation. When it comes to Lynn, you just know those types of players get his juices flowing.

Now that we’ve gone over all of that, we can take this mindset and direct it towards the most recent group of prospects to have played in Mobile.

With positions of need still being the offensive tackle, defensive tackle, linebacker and safety (maybe a WR3?), we can start to narrow in on some potential targets in this year’s draft class.

Here are a handful of players at each position that I think should be on everyone’s radar come April:

Offensive Tackle

Andre Dillard - Washington State (Might go before #28)
Kaleb McGary - Washington
Tytus Howard - Alabama State
Chuma Edoga - USC
Dalton Risner - Kansas State (Might go before #28)

Defensive Tackle

Khalen Saunders - Western Illinois
Daylon Mack - Texas A&M
Renell Wren - Arizona State

Linebacker

Te’Von Coney - Notre Dame
Germaine Pratt - North Carolina State
Bobby Okereke - Stanford
Terrill Hanks - New Mexico State

Safety

Nasir Adderley - Delaware
Juan Thornhill - Virginia
Marvell Tell - USC
Mike Edwards - Kentucky
Darnell Savage - Maryland
Marquise Blair - Utah