The 2019 NFL Draft has come and gone. The Chargers selected seven players across seven rounds with five of them on the defensive side of the ball including their top two picks. Tom Telesco added a ton of athleticism with this year’s draft haul.
Expert grades of the Chargers’ selections range from Mel Kiper Jr.’s C+ to an Excellent from Pro Football Focus.
The Chargers went in with one of the NFL’s most talented defenses. They exited with an even more talented defense. In the first round, Los Angeles got Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, a big body with impressive movement skills. One of the best value and system fit picks in the entire draft was the Chargers getting Delaware safety Nasir Adderley with the No. 60 pick. They like versatile defensive backs, and he’s the perfect foil for budding superstar Derwin James.
The odd move was waiting on an offensive tackle. At No. 91, the Chargers took Trey Pipkins, a developmental prospect. The Chargers needed a sure thing.
Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill has good range and gives them a nice backup and special teams player. Easton Stick is a decent backup quarterback.
Los Angeles Chargers: C+
Top needs: Offensive tackle, defensive tackle, defensive back
The Chargers made the playoffs last season, their first appearance since 2013, and a big part of their defensive resurgence can be traced back to 2018 first-round pick Derwin James. He solidified all areas of the defense, as L.A. ranked ninth in the league against both the run (105.8 YPG allowed) and pass (227.9). GM Tom Telesco -- who has had a really good run of first-round picks, with four of his last five making Pro Bowl teams -- obviously hopes his first pick in 2019 does the same.
The Chargers were gashed up the middle in the playoff loss to New England, and defensive tackle was a clear need this weekend. So while I see exactly why they took Jerry Tillery at No. 28, my only objection is over the value of where it took him. He is the very definition of a boom-or-bust prospect. I watched every one of his games at Notre Dame, and there was a lot of up-and-down play. He had eight sacks last season, yes, but four came in a dominant performance at Stanford. Why can’t he dominate on a consistent basis? I ranked him No. 56 overall on my board.
I did like Telesco’s second pick, safety Nasir Adderley (No. 60). He complements James’ skill set well as a ball hawk who can play the deep middle of the field as well as any safety in this class. Trey Pipkins (No. 91) was a reach on my board at the end of the third round; he snuck onto my final top 300 at No. 299. The Chargers were decimated at linebacker at the end of the last season, so Drue Tranquill (No. 130) is a decent depth option. Easton Stick (No. 166) isn’t going to be Carson Wentz, but if he’s a serviceable backup, that’s fine in Round 5.
Adderley should be an immediate starter, and Telesco will hope that Tillery doesn’t miss time due to his torn labrum. If Tillery plugs the leaky middle of the defense, the Chargers will be thrilled.
Three of L.A.’s top defensive tackles, Darius Philon, Corey Liuget and Damion Square, departed this offseason, and one of the remaining two, Brandon Mebane, is 34 and likely to depart after next season. Adding Jerry Tillery, who can step in at 3-technique and force last year’s third-rounder, Justin Jones, to compete in Mebane’s nose-shade spot, solves a lot of problems up front.
While Tillery was the boring but responsible pick, second-rounder Nasir Adderley could prove to be the snazzy one. He will likely be cast in the centerfield role of coordinator Gus Bradley’s straightforward single-high scheme, allowing Derwin James to play the box. But given that Adderley is, like every high-drafted safety these days, versatile—and given that James is immensely versatile—it could be time for the Chargers to diversify their scheme.
L.A.’s only other need was at linebacker, which they addressed with Tillery’s Notre Dame teammate, Drue Tranquill, in Round 4, and again with Houston’s Emeke Egbule in Round 6. That Egbule pick was, like all of the Chargers’ last five picks (including offensive tackle Trey Pipkins at the end of Round 3) primarily about adding depth.
No man loved Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery as much as our very own Mike Renner. The long, athletic defensive interior was knocked in the pre-draft process because he has interests outside of football – which still doesn’t make a ton of sense – but Renner didn’t factor in Tillery’s love for reading or traveling into his evaluation. Shocking some, he kept his eyes on the film, advanced statistical production and the grading.
The Bolts got another PFF favorite for a very cheap price, stealing Derwin James at pick No. 17 a year ago and Tillery at No. 28 this year.
Delaware safety Nasir Adderley received a first-round grade from PFF this offseason. The small-school product lit up the Senior Bowl. He also earned a 90.3 overall grade with Delaware a year ago, and his 89.9 2018 coverage grades led all draft-eligible safeties.
Sioux Falls’ Trey Pipkins didn’t make his way onto PFF’s final top-250 list for this year’s draft.
Scooping up former Notre Dame off-ball linebacker Drue Tranquill at pick No. 130, Los Angeles made yet another value pick at the top of Day 3. Tranquill is a former safety turned linebacker with great athleticism and all the intangibles teams normally fall in love with when scouting linebackers. He has been one of the best coverage linebackers in college football over the past couple seasons after earning an 83.3 coverage grade in 2018 and 90.1 in 2017.
Emeke Egbule, PFF’s No. 212 overall player in the class, is a solid pass-rushing off-ball linebacker coming out of Houston. He earned an impressive 76.4 pass-rush grade and totaled 22 total pressures this past season.
Cincinnati’s Cortez Broughton, a favorite of PFF’s Andrew Russell, is a sneaky good pick to take before the frenzy for undrafted free agents starts. During his career at Cincinnati (2014-2018), Broughton racked up 94 quarterback pressures and 98 defensive stops by putting all of his power into a vicious first step. He can apply interior pressure on any down, and he can clear lanes in an instant. Against the run, Broughton was just as efficient. He never fell outside of the top 10 among qualified AAC interior defenders during his final three seasons, posting a run-defense grade over 80.0 each year.
DRAFT GRADE: EXCELLENT
Draft analysis: The Chargers ignored needs at offensive tackle and in the secondary to address the need at DT in Round 1. Tillery is a load when allowed to get upfield, especially when he keeps his hips low to push through blocks. They were apparently not as worried as some teams about the shoulder surgery the tackle had before the draft.
Adderley is a versatile cover free-safety prospect who can replace the released Jahleel Addae and will complement Derwin James quite well. Pipkins is a project player who has potential as an offensive tackle but was picked a round or two early because they felt the need to find one before Day 3.
I projected Stick to go to the Chargers in the sixth round, but they jumped on him a round earlier to compete with Tyrod Taylor and Cardale Jones for a roster spot. Tranquill meets a need at linebacker, and Broughton is an active interior defender.
Los Angeles Chargers: B
No bells, whistles or trades, just steady Eddie right down the fairway. First-round DT Jerry Tillery and second-round S Nasir Adderley have huge opportunities to flourish as they parachute into a defense with the potential to be exceptionally good.