If you consider Sunday the start of the new week, then here we are.
IT’S DRAFT WEEK!
This segment of the series breaks into day two as we look at another four prospects that should be targets for Tom Telesco and his staff once round three rolls around. Last year, the Chargers took defensive tackle Justin Jones in the third. The year before, they took offensive guard Dan Feeney. Both players saw significant playing-time in their rookie seasons and Feeney went on to secure a starting position heading into last year.
This is a round that Telesco has found success in over the last few years and this draft sets up for the middle rounds to be absolutely chalk-full of talent.
Here’s to hoping the trend continues.
DT Khalen Saunders - Western Illinois
Every year, there is always one or two players from the FCS that skyrockets up draft boards from the end of the season right up to the NFL Draft. This year, one of those players is Saunders who started to really catch the eye of scouts once a video of the 320-pound defender doing a back-flip went viral.
You can’t teach the movement skills that Khalen Saunders brings to the IDL position. If a team can develop him with the size and athleticism then he could be big time. pic.twitter.com/8WdObljAw5— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) April 21, 2019
The four-year contributor for the Leathernecks enjoyed a solid career that was topped off with an All-America nod following his senior season, where he also received an invite to this year’s Senior Bowl.
In his final two seasons, Saunders combined for 99 tackles and 12 sacks. He was used all over the place in WIU’s 3-4 front, and I mean everywhere. Against North Dakota State, a.k.a the Alabama of the FCS, Saunders was used as a stand-up edge rusher on one particular third-down. At first, you’d think this this was a joke, until Saunders blows right by the offensive tackle and brings down their quarterback in the blink of an eye.
You don’t see those types of movements skills from a guy who is 320+ pounds. He also showed that athleticism at the combine, posting a 5.01 forty with a 30.5-inch vertical and respectable 4.62 seconds in the short shuttle.
The biggest knock on Saunders is his “squatty” frame and lack of arm length. Scouts have him docked for a lack of anchor at the point of attack which likely keeps him from playing a lot of nose tackle at the next level. His quickness and athleticism should keep him in a heavy rotation around the 3-technique where he just needs to focus on causing havoc in a single gap.
CB Lonnie Johnson, Jr. - Kentucky
The University of Kentucky had all four of it’s starting defensive backs at the Senior Bowl this past January. Out of all four, Johnson has been able to do the most for his draft stock as he’s firmly placed himself into the day two conversation after being fairly quiet prospect prior to March.
CB Lonnie Johnson, Kentucky:— #12s Germany (@seahawks_ger) April 20, 2019
Langer Corner wie die Seahawks ihn mögen. Als ehemaliger Leichtathlet physisch stark. Guter Special Teamer. Die Seahawks haben ihn schon zum Staring Contest geladen - wie Michael Dickson 2018. pic.twitter.com/QDFSdgrjrk
Johnson went the JUCO route out of high-school where he enjoyed an impressive 2015 season for Garden City Community College (Kansas). He totaled 35 tackles, five interceptions and a fumble recovery. The following year, he actively chose to sit out of football to focus on academics. That didn’t stop him from being named the No. 2 overall safety at the JUCO level and No. 43 overall player.
Arriving at Kentucky, he made the switch to cornerback where his 6-foot-3 range made him a tough draw in the SEC. In his first year on campus, he amassed 41 tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss, one sacks, five pass break-ups, and even blocked two kicks. In his final season, Johnson had just 21 total stops, four pass-break-ups, his lone career interception, and a forced fumble.
When looking at the numbers, Johnson doesn’t look like the other top cornerback prospects from a production standpoint, but that just tells you how much he has impressed this offseason. His height, combined with his lean 206-pound frame, makes it easy to believe that Johnson may be on the Charger’s radar as they do have a thing for taller, rangier cornerbacks.
LB Blake Cashman - Minnesota
Some guys shoot up draft boards due to all-star game performances, some impress in interviews and private workouts, but some make themselves bunch of money by blowing up the NFL Combine in March. This year, Cashman is one of those guys.
At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Cashman ran a 4.50 forty yard dash, placing him third behind top prospects Devin White and Devin Bush. He excelled through the rest of gauntlet of tests, posting a 37.5-inch vertical, a 121-inch broad, a 6.95 3-cone, and a 4.12 short shuttle.
Two blockers. One Blake Cashman.— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) March 4, 2019
Winner: Blake Cashman pic.twitter.com/CeF9yuGITc
As a former walk-on, it took two years for Cashman to earn his scholarship and that chip on his shoulder has stayed massive throughout his entire career. After being a key reserve for the first three years at Minnesota, Cashman quieted all the doubters as he was name thirs team All-Big 10 after collecting 104 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks and a touchdown off a fumble recovery.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had Cashman as a projected fifth or sixth-round pick prior to the combine. After recent events, I wouldn’t be surprised if the former Golden Gopher was off the board before the Chargers pick in the third round.
OT Tytus Howard - Alabama State
It feels like every guy on this list was a fast riser at some point or another this offseason and Howard is no different.
After starting his 2018 season with a game against Auburn, Howard was able to showcase his abilities against some of the top talent in the toughest conference in the country. His play the rest of season kept him within the eyes of scouts which eventually led to his invitation to the Senior Bowl.
Coming from an HBCU to the top all-star showcase, skeptics had every right to still be wary of the right tackle who went into college as a 225-pound tight end prospect.
He did more than enough to prove he belonged which has coincided with Howard being mocked as high as the late first round.
The former prep quarterback transformed himself into a now daunting 6-foot-5, 325-pound right tackle with the athleticism to match his position switch. His 5.05 forty was among the tops at his position which is really moving for someone carrying around all that mass.
Howard may not be a starter in year one, especially if Coach Lynn continues to prefer Tevi over guys with more upside at the position. At any rate, he isn’t so raw as to consider him a “project” but he is a prospect with the kind of potential any offensive line coach would want in a young tackle.