The fine folks over at Pro Football Focus recently released their Top 50 NFL Players for the 2019 season and the Chargers (unsurprisingly) are tied for 2nd with four players named to the list. It’s also no surprise to hear that three of the four players listed are members of the JackBoyz, the team’s confidence-oozing group of defensive backs.
For your viewing pleasure, I went ahead and compiled the four selections, along with what PFF had to say about each, below:
(Note: The rankings are not in order of grades, i.e., lowest to highest.)
44. Desmond King
“Like (Ryan) Ramczyk, (Desmond) King entered the NFL with outstanding collegiate production. He earned 85.0-plus coverage grades in each of his last three seasons with Iowa, including a career-high 89.9 coverage grade in 2016.”
The inclusion of King on this list is something they could have easily messed up. After being a fifth-round selection back in 2017, King has gone on to be one of the most impactful players on the Chargers’ defense while solidifying his standing as one of the top slot corners in the entire NFL. As a rookie, King called it on Twitter that his first career interception would be a pick-6. He later took that first takeaway 90 yards to the house against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving of that season.
Just this past year, King collected a trio of interceptions, with two coming against the Browns and his third coming at Seattle in a pivotal moment in the game. He also happened to make a house-call with that one, as well. Pair his big-time defensive plays with his prowess as a return specialist and it’s easy to see why King belongs on this list.
An All-Pro in 2018, Desmond King on elevating his play in year three:— Chris Hayre (@chrishayre) June 12, 2019
“Just contribute in every aspect that I can — special teams, defense, hopefully offense one day.”
King has four INTs (two pick-sixes) and a 73-yard punt return for a TD in two seasons.
38. Derwin James
“Like (Saquon) Barkley, (Derwin) James only needed one season in the NFL to prove he’s worth a spot on the 2019 PFF50. The do-it-all Chargers safety could do no wrong as a rookie, earning high grades against the run, in coverage and rushing the passer all from an array of pre-snap alignments. His 88.3 overall grade a year ago ranks third among all qualifying rookie Safeties in the PFF era (2006-18), which made him a no-brainer decision for PFF Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2018.”
Right now, I’m in more favor of the guys at PFF than the NFL because at least these guys voted James as the Defensive Rookie of the Year instead of the Colts’ Darius Leonard. I feel like a broken record when I talk about James since everyone and their mother at ESPN, Bleacher Report, and all the other prominent publications can’t seem to get enough of the Bolts’ 2018 first-round pick.
We’ve all heard the stats. We’ve heard the numbers that illustrate just how impactful James was at the plethora of different alignments he played at. He was essentially God’s personal gift to the Chargers and to think they’ve potentially got him, King, and Joey Bosa for the foreseeable future. I. Am. Giddy.
34. Keenan Allen
“(Keenan) Allen’s two-year receiving grade (91.2) ranks fourth among the 53 NFL wideouts with 150 or more targets since 2017. Only Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones rank ahead of the Chargers phenom. He also ranks third in yards per route run (2.43) and seventh in passer rating when targeted (111.6) among the same group of qualifiers”
Who could have possibly imagined the success that Allen’s had over the last two seasons after his insane rash of injuries from 2015-2016? Me, that’s who.
Going into the 2017 season, it seemed like the whole fan base was pessimistic about Allen’s chances to return to top form following his back-to-back season-ending injuries that included a lacerated kidney (what?) and a torn ACL. I still remember all the people telling me I was crazy for selecting Allen that high in fantasy football. When he went on that streak of three-straight games of 10 catches with 100+ yards and a touchdown? PHEW. I was a little hot potato.
Allen has averaged just below 100 catches each of the past two seasons with 12 total touchdowns. Yes he can stand to score a few more times but he’s been the most consistent offensive player since the start of Anthony Lynn’s coaching tenure. He’s also still in the prime of his career. We should all expect a lot more Slayer in the coming years.
Keenan Allen claimed the No. 34 spot on the #PFF50!@PFF_AustinGayle details why the Chargers' WR is unfairly overlooked with the NFL loaded with elite receiving talent: https://t.co/bbV8Yc6n4m pic.twitter.com/FxoSrzdgbX— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 15, 2019
30. Casey Hayward
“No NFL cornerback has earned a higher coverage grade over the last three seasons than (Casey) Hayward (91.9). Since joining the Bolts in 2016, Hayward has allowed just 125 receptions from 236 targets for 1,782 yards, 80 first downs and nine touchdowns, while he’s also logged 56 forced incompletions —the third-most of any cornerback in that period. Among the 111 cornerbacks targeted 100 or more times since 2016, Hayward ranks third in forced incompletion percentage (23.7%), ninth in passer rating allowed (71.0) and eighth in completion percentage allowed (53.0%).”
Hayward took a big step back in the turnover category after posting zero interceptions in 2018. This was after posting 11 total picks across the 2016 and 2017 season. Yet, Hayward finds himself as the Chargers’ highest-ranked player on this list anyway.
Collecting interceptions is obviously the easiest way to thrust yourself into the limelight, but Hayward missed that memo last year. Even without a takeaway, Hayward was still one of the top corners in the context of success rate. He still managed to limit yards and touchdowns with the best of them. Just take a look at the PFF blurb above. He’s still #good.
If you’re a believer in regression to the mean, than you probably believe there are some interceptions in the future for Hayward since, you know, that’s the only direction to go from zero.