Although the draft is seven rounds long, it feels like 99 percent of the work and effort put into scouting and watching film all goes towards the team’s first pick on day one of the NFL Draft. Obviously the first round has all of the hoopla and pageantry that you could ask for and it even gets its’ own entire night of coverage which sometimes makes the casual viewer forget there are six more rounds to come over the next two days.
When the first day of the draft comes and goes, we all need to find a way to reinvigorate ourselves and bring that “hype-ness” back to keep the party going straight through Friday and Saturday night.
With this idea in mind, I thought I’d gather up a handful of names to get Chargers fans excited about once the glitz and glamour of day one comes to an end.
Khalen Saunders - DT - Western Illionois
Height: 6-0 3/8
Hand: 9 1/8
Arm: 32 2/8
Wingspan: 78 3/8
Saunders created waves throughout the week at the Senior Bowl and on social media when the stout defender showed off his athleticism by performing several back-flips for coaches and teammates following practices. He also caught some publicity when it was made public that his first child was being born in the middle of the all-star showcase and his significant other told him to stay there instead of rushing back for the birth.
For those who haven’t watched Saunders, the guy oozes natural athleticism. You’re not going to see it in his forty time, but the guy has the quickness and power to overwhelm anyone who would dare take him lightly for playing at FCS-level Western Illinois.
Khalen Saunders really out here looking like a receiver. pic.twitter.com/yvq2YBcTXH— Carter Donnick (@CDonScouting) March 3, 2019
There were several moments in games during 2018 that fans got to see Saunders stand up on the outside in passing situations and he actually looked good as he shook the offensive tackle before laying a blow on the opposing quarterback. If the Chargers do no go with a defensive tackle in the first, Saunders would be an outstanding selection on day two as a player that can cause havoc at any position along the interior of the defense.
Tytus Howard - OT - Alabama State
Hand: 10 5/8
Wingspan: 81 5/8
Howard had plenty of eyes on him during his time in Mobile as a standout tackle from well-known HBCU Alabama State. Like Saunders, Howard is a small-school standout that took advantage of the all-star showcase to show evaluators that he can hang with the best of them and, at times, dominate them.
At 320+ pounds, Howard ran one of the faster 40’s of the day for an offensive linemen with a 5.05. The rest of his athletic testing was around the middle of the pack but it’s his film that you should take with the most weight.
Tytus Howard pulling and driving.— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) March 1, 2019
Solari gives him a "Great hand power" pic.twitter.com/fd7oWJ6fO2
Howard possesses solid movement skills with a surprising strong anchor when going up against power rushers. His massive 10 5/8-inch hands allow him to clamp down on defenders and settle them down before they have a chance to get anywhere near the quarterback.
At least once mock draft I’ve seen has put Howard in the first round, which is enough to tell me that some people are really high on the guy. I likely wouldn’t take him until the third round, but the Chargers pick being so late may be too far off to snag Howard in that sweet spot. Either way, Howard should be viewed as much more than just a raw-product with athletic upside (he was recruited as a tight end to Alabama State.)
David Long - LB - West Virginia
Height: 5-11 2/8
Arm: 30 6/8
Wingspan: 75 4/8
Like recent linebackers drafted in the Telesco Era, Long is slightly shorter than most would prefer but his ~230 pounds are well-packed on his frame. Coincidentally, former fifth-round pick Jatavis Brown is the player comp for Long.
The thing analysts love most about Long’s game is his mental-processing speed which allows him to play at a faster speed than most. The guy is lightning-quick to react and comes like a bat out of hell.
Although his downhill demeanor can occasionally lead to the the missed assignment/tackle, I have to agree with Lance Zierlein on this note about Long:
“Long plays with a “scared money don’t make money” approach that hit jackpots but pulled him out of position more than NFL coaches will be comfortable, with, but teams would rather dial back aggression than try and coach it up.”
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson - S - Florida
Hand: 9 1/4
Arm: 30 7/8
Gardner-Johnson has been a player flying under the radar over the last month that’s finally gaining the well-deserved traction.
The 5-11, 210-pound defender is well-built and possesses a versatile skill-set that ranges from locking down receivers in the slot to playing over the top in single-high looks.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson! pic.twitter.com/ux7bJKb1AT— WeAreDBnation (@WeAreDBNation1) December 29, 2018
Everyone knows that the clock on Jahleel Addae’s time as a starter in the Chargers defense is rapidly coming to an end and the team needs to find a rangy safety to pair with Derwin James for the foreseeable future. Gardner-Johnson may just be that prospect. The instincts are there, the desire to lay the lumber is there, the range is there. You can’t ask for much more than that from a safety in today’s game.