Last week, I threw together my first seven-round mock draft of the season. The Chargers started out by filling a huge need at offensive tackle with Kansas State’s Dalton Risner and then following that up with a handful of picks at the other needy positions like free safety, middle linebacker, and defensive tackle. For good measure, I even threw them a massive wide receiver from another small school in hopes giving fans another Tyrell Williams to latch on to.
In this week’s mock, I decided to really lean into the concept of “double-dipping” by drafting two players at the same position, several times. With the biggest pressing need being the defensive tackle spot, I started strong and grabbed a pair with two of the first four picks.
How did the rest of the mock turn out and which other position got the double-dip treatment?
Get to scrollin’ to find out.
Round 1 - Pick #28: DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
One of the easiest ways to try and fix a leaky run defense is plug it up with as much mass as possible and hope for the best. That’s what the Chargers attempt to do here by drafting the monolithic Lawrence. At 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds, Lawrence led all performers at the NFL combine with 36 reps on the bench press and his 5.05 forty time was all the more impressive when you understand just how much junk he is hauling in his trunk.
Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence, who weighs 342 pounds, ran a 5.05 40-yard dash today pic.twitter.com/GMbJmrKsvo— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 3, 2019
One of the biggest drawbacks to Lawrence’s game is his lack of pass-rushing prowess. As a freshman, he showed tremendous upside when he put up 6.5 sacks
With the recent signing of Brandon Mebane to a deal that was essentially the same in value to the one Darius Philon got from the Cardinals, it makes it seem like the team may covet the space-eater type tackle over a more athletic mover. If the former is true, then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team use their first pick on a guy who can barely fit into one gap, as it is.
Round 2 - Pick #60: S Juan Thornhill, Virginia
Being able to grab Thornhill this late in the second round would be one of the biggest steals of the entire draft. The rangy safety from Virginia would be a match made in heaven with Derwin James on the back end as his play-making ability in single high would allow James to continue to thrive up near and around the line of scrimmage.
Over his final three collegiate seasons, Thornhill accounted for 13 interceptions, six of those coming in 2018, alone.
If Byron Jones can go 27th overall.. So can Juan Thornhill! At LCB here in 2017. Both long, explosive CB/S hybrid players..— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 7, 2019
Byron Jones - 6’1 199
Juan Thornhill - 6’0 205
11’9 Broad#2019NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/T0JnqAQeGW
Oh yeah, he also obliterated the NFL combine. His 4.43 forty obviously checked that box but it was his explosion numbers that got all the attention. Thornhill posted a ridiculous 44-inch vertical leap and then followed that up with an 11’ 9” broad jump, which ended up tying for the best mark of 2019.
Realistically, if the Chargers could snag Thornhill or another top free safety in the draft, like Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, they will be far ahead of the 8-ball.
Round 3 - Pick #92: OT Tytus Howard, Alabama State
Howard is likely a name that, if you are anywhere near a casual fan of college football, you probably haven’t heard of until now.
The small-school tackle was a 6-foot-2, 235-pound quarterback at the prep level that was recruited to Alabama State as a tight end before his position coach approached him about change to the offensive line. As some understandable hesitancy, Howard dove head-first into the new position and never looked back. All that focus and determination eventually culminated into his now 6-foot-5, 322-pound frame and a recent invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
After starting all 10 games at left tackle in 2017, Howard moved back to right tackle, which he played in 2016, and started all 11 games before being named the team’s only First-Team All-SWAC selection.
At the combine, Howard ran an excellent 5.05 forty, showing that athleticism from his QB days. He ended up with 34-inch arms and massive 10 5/8-inch hands which certainly play into his ability to snatch defenders and keep them under wraps.
Like most small-school prospects, there is a bit of fundamental work that needs to get polished-up but Howard is still much further along than past tackles who were deemed “developmental guys” with upside, like Chukwuma Okorafor from a year ago.
If Howard is still available in the third, it should be a layup of a pick for Tom Telesco as he grabs the guy whom I believe could step right in and take over the right tackle spot for years to come.
Round 4 - Pick #131: DT Chris Slayton, Syracuse
Slayton is a guy that I only heard of recently via my friend Michael Kist over at Bleeding Green Nation.
Syracuse iDL Chris Slayton (#95) had a good Shrine week & parlayed that into a Combine invite. Strong dude that moves better than expected - pic.twitter.com/E8bir66RCu— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) February 24, 2019
What I saw was a perfect example of what the Chargers need at the 3-tech, coveting a penetrating presence to help get pressure on the quarterback alongside their edge duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Slayton’s favorite move is split between the classic swim move and the club-and-rip. Both are just as effective as he can create pressure from both the edge and the interior. He displayed impressive upper-body strength by benching 225 pounds 28 times at the combine earlier this month and recording a 5.13 forty at 307 pounds. He was invited to the East-West Shrine game where he parlayed an impressive week into that combine invite but failed to snag a invitation to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.
Slayton would provide some depth behind current (and only signed 3-tech at this time) Justin Jones and give the Chargers enough confidence to not backtrack and re-sign COrey Liuget out of fear of not carrying enough bodies at the position.
Round 5 - Pick #167: LB Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii
Like me, you probably don’t recall the last time the University of Hawaii had a player that was worth drafting anywhere in the mid rounds. Well. enter Jahlani Tavai, a surprisingly agile and instinctive linebacker that could be the next fifth-round gem for Telesco and Co.
If you’re looking for pure production at the linebacker spot, Tavai is your guy. As a sophomore in 2016, Tavai was named a First-Team All-Mountain West selection after he compiled 128 tackles, a whopping 19.5 tackles-for-loss, six sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and an interception.
Without knowing, I asked @dpbrugler if it was just me noticing similarities between Hawaii LB Jahlani Tavai and Leighton Vander Esch. Come to find out he’s pegged him as the ‘Day 2 version of LVE’.— Gavino Borquez (@GavinoBorquez) February 6, 2019
Tavai possesses lateral quickness, range, pursuit speed and functional strength. pic.twitter.com/oswaeTsFYz
In his junior season, Tavai went over the 120-tackle mark again with 124 total stops. He added 11 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, and another interception as he was named to the All-Mountain West team once again, but this time as a second team nomination.
Due to some unfortunate injuries, Tavai lost the final four games of his 2018 season, starting and finishing just eight games. He still did his best to stuff the stat sheet though, racking up 82 total tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, and a pair of sacks.
At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Tavai is a long, natural mover in space. He’s built well to play in the middle of a defense and his motor is apparent. While watching him, the guy plays with some real enthusiasm and it’s almost infectious. If I was a NFL GM, this is the type of guy I would want on my team, no questions asked.
Round 6 - Pick #202: OT Tyler Roemer, San Diego State
The left tackle out of nearby San Diego State is not a name I expect anyone to know but the guy has the talent of someone who could be a household name at the position. The one thing that is holding Roemer back the most is his plethora of off the field issues that lead to him being suspended indefinitely from the team. This, in turn, caused him to declare early for the draft instead of waiting in hopes he would be reinstated by the Aztecs.
At 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds, Roemer has all the measurements a team would want at the position. His 34-inch arms are right at the desired cut-off line for the position and his 10.25-inch hands are more than enough.
Nice communication and mental processing displayed by Tyler Roemer here. Notices the DE signal the blitz, communicates it with the LG and once the ball is snapped, he easily picks up the blitz. pic.twitter.com/QKqYJxgah6— John Owning (@JohnOwning) February 14, 2019
One of the most notable areas of Roemer’s game is the amount of torque he can create at the point of attack. If Roemer lacks the raw strength to drive a man out of a running lane, he can utilize his functional strength and turn defenders out of holes to make his life a whole lot easier.
Beginning my study on San Diego State LT Tyler Roemer, who @BruceFeldmanCFB has been touting since last spring. He’s long, is a natural bender and can displace defenders 1-on-1 with impressive power. Intrigued with what I’ve seen so far #Aztecs pic.twitter.com/lrP811hRFz— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) January 31, 2019
Like Sam Tevi in the sixth round of the 2017 draft, Roemer would be another developmental guy who starred on a team known for running the hell out of the ball and doing it successfully for a number of years.
Round 7 - Pick #244: LB Jamal Davis, Akron
When things get down to the seventh round, most teams are just going to be throwing darts in hopes of getting some value in the area where most picks are usually deemed irrelevant. But in the last two years, the Chargers have done a magnificent job of getting some serious real production of their seventh-round picks.
Two years ago, they drafted Isaac Rochell out of Notre Dame. After looking like a bit of a ‘tweener in year 1, Rochell went about a physical transformation and changed his body in order to play more defensive end than tackle. He went on to record five sacks in 2018 while filling in for Joey Bosa.
Last year, the Chargers drafted running back Justin Jackson from Northwestern with a pick just a handful of slots above Mr. Irrelevant. He went on to rush for 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while playing a key role in the team’s comeback win at Pittsburgh.
In the seventh round of the 2019 draft, why not go after a position of need with some real athletic upside who already has some connections to a current Charger?
Linebacker Jamal Davis II is an uber-athletic defender that played mostly defensive end but could easily slide in as depth behind Melvin Ingram. Davis wins almost exclusively with his athleticism, mostly relying on a spin move to create pressure, but he will have to gather a few more tricks up his sleeve to take his game to the next level.