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Predicting the Chargers first round pick

Here’s who the Chargers will take in day one.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is upon us so let’s get this prediction off before the Chargers make their first round selection. Last year, I predicted the Chargers would draft one of three players at 17. As you can tell I’m really good at this so for those of you who don’t like the player selected you can consider this the kiss of death.

Needs

Safety: After taking Safety Derwin James last year in the first round and the depth of this class I don’t see the Chargers taking a Safety in back-to back years so I think they pass on it in the first.

Defensive Tackle: Defensive Tackle is the team’s biggest need because they currently stand with only three DTs on the roster: Brandon Mebane, Justin Jones and T.Y. McGill. Drafting at the end of the first round the presumably next best interior Defensive Lineman when the Chargers are on the clock will be Dexter Lawrence. While Lawrence is a very good run defender he lacks any pass rush moves. Lawrence does some work in the backfield but mostly by drive and leverage. Telesco has said in the past they value DTs who they don’t have to take off the field, guys with versatility to both stop the run and get after the quarterback. Lawrence only does one of those things, they’ll pass.

Offensive Tackle: So that leaves Offensive Line. While Tom Telesco said he’s “comfortable” where they are at with their Offensive Line there is no doubt they need to get better at Right Tackle. Sam Tevi was a weak link on the outside and while Forrest Lamp could help out, the team has been set on letting Lamp slowly get back into the lineup and he’s only been in the mix at Guard. The top four Offensive Tackles should be off the board at 28: Jonah Williams, Jawaan Taylor, Cody Ford and Andre Dillard. The next best Offensive Lineman when the Chargers are set to make their pick would be Dalton Risner. The team will grab the last plug-and-play starter left on the board and draft Risner.

The Pick

OT Dalton Risner, Kansas St.

Versatility

If there is one thing the Chargers look for in their offensive lineman it’s their positional versatility. Dalton Risner checks that box. At Kansas State Risner played some Center early in college but played his best ball at Right Tackle for the Wildcats. With some questions about his pass protection on an island some are projecting Risner as a Guard in the NFL. Risner can theoretically play all five Offensive Line spots.

Tom Telesco has a history of picking players with positional versatility. Let’s look at the Offensive Lineman the Chargers had drafted under Telesco’s tenure:

2013: OT DJ Fluker – 1st round

D.J. Fluker played Right Tackle at Alabama but concerns about his footwork projected him more as a Guard. While Fluker didn’t have any college experience in the interior the move inside was anticipated and eventually he wound up at Guard a few years into his career.

2014: C/G Chris Watt – 3rd round

Chris Watt played both Guard spots at Notre Dame and with the Chargers he played both Guard and Center before eventually being released.

2016: C/G Max Tuerk – 3rd round

2016: OT/G Donavon Clark – 7th round

Max Tuerk never stuck with the Chargers but in college he played Left Tackle, Left Guard, Center and Right Tackle. Donavon Clark also didn’t hang around with the team long but at Michigan State Clark played 3 out of the 5 O-Line spots: Left Tackle, Right Tackle and Right Guard.

2017: OT/G Forrest Lamp – 2nd round

2017: OT/G Dan Feeney – 3rd round

2017: OT Sam Tevi – 6th round

Both Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney had experience at both Tackle and Guard in college, Lamp played both spots on the left side and Feeney played both spots on the right side. Sam Tevi manned both Tackle spots for Utah throughout his college career.

2018: G/C Scott Quessenberry – 6th round

At UCLA Scott Quessenberry began his career at Left Guard, moved inside to Center before eventually landing at Left Guard. Tom Telesco has even praised his interior versatility during his press conference this offseason.

Health

Quite a few Offensive Lineman the Chargers have drafted have been stung by injuries. The O-Lineman from the ’16 draft class, Max Tuerk and Donavon Clark, never stayed healthy enough to play a game for the team. Chris Watt started 8 games his entire career, DJ Fluker had his troubles with concussions and Forrest Lamp suffered an ACL injury, had knee surgery and has still not played a meaningful snap for the Chargers.

Dalton Risner started 50 of 51 games he played in. Consistency is heavily valued in the Chargers organization and Risner is as steady as they come.

Character

This is where it seals it for me. Telesco & co. have never taken a chance on a draft prospect with character concerns. For that reason that’s why I think they are out on popular DTs at #28: Jeffrey Simmons and Jerry Tillery. Not only was Risner a three-year captain but while in college he got heavily involved in an organization called the Rise Up Foundation. Take a look at this heart-warming piece on Risner and his contributions:

My take

Drafting Dalton Risner makes sense when you take into account the depth along the Defensive Line and Safety in this 2019 draft class. Since the Chargers are drafting at the end of each round grabbing the best Tackle early before the depth falls off a cliff at your next pick at #60 is a way to take care of a need without having to reach for a major developmental project later on. From that standpoint I understand.

I have Risner graded as a second round player and the fifth best Tackle prospect. The pick would not excite me but I would understand drafting for need. I have my concerns about Risner’s footwork in pass protection. He had his issues with speed rushers and I think his kick slide is inconsistent sometimes giving pass rushers an easy path off the edge. If things don’t work out at Right Tackle, Risner could kick inside and be a good Guard as well which is going to be a need for the Chargers in the future.

For what it’s worth, PFF likes Dalton Risner a lot: