The LA Chargers are set to pick sixth overall in the draft this year, and given GM Tom Telesco’s high level of risk aversion and unlikelihood of trading out, we can assume this is likely where they’ll stay. The Chargers haven’t picked this high since selecting Joey Bosa third overall in 2016, though they came close with Mike Williams at seventh overall in 2017, and prior to that they hadn’t been in the top-5 since picking Eli Manning* first in 2004.
Given the circumstances — that Telesco and Anthony Lynn are on the hot seat should the team falter again in 2020, that they’re moving into a $5 billion stadium this year, that they are looking to replace a QB for the first time in 15 years — this is the most important Chargers draft in a very long time. It would be a major coup for them to snag a player at just about any position who is successful.
The scary part is that Telesco’s overall track record is sketchy, as shown in the fact that LA is picking in the top-10 for the third time in the last five years.
The good news is that a lot of great players have come off the board at six and this appears to be a talented draft class. Here are some notes about the last 20 sixth overall picks, beginning in the year 2000 with the Philadelphia Eagles and Corey Simon:
- 13 of the 20 picks have made at least one Pro Bowl, with Daniel Jones (2019) still having plenty of opportunities left to become #14.
- Jones is the only quarterback on the list. Jones was highly productive as a rookie last year, in both good ways and terrible ways. Over 12 starts, Jones threw 24 touchdowns (pace of 32 for a full season) despite playing with a receiving corps led by Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, and Bennie Fowler. Not that some of those players aren’t talented, but compared around the league, it can’t rank very highly.
But Jones also threw 12 interceptions, averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt, and most infamously fumbled the ball 18 (18!) times. No QB was comparable to that fumble rate, the closest being Kyle Allen or Gardner Minshew. Jones was only a rookie and not playing in the best environment though. As QB prospects at six go, there could be worse.
Most PPR points, rookie QBs:— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) January 26, 2020
1. Kyler Murray 294.9
2. Daniel Jones 245.7
3. Gardner Minshew 243.2 pic.twitter.com/YS9tpz8QXE
- The six other non-Pro Bowl picks at six are Barkevious Mingo (2013), Morris Claiborne (2012), Andre Smith (2009), Vernon Gholston (2008), Johnathan Sullivan (2003), and Ryan Sims (2002), all of whom could fairly be labeled as “busts.” Mingo, Claiborne, and Smith all settled in as role players or guys who could string together a few nice starts in a row, at most. Sims had a decent career, similar to Mingo. The fact that only two guys really fell off, out of 20, is fairly encouraging if you’re picking sixth.
- Some middle of the road selections at six include LaRon Landry (2007), Kellen Winslow (2004), and Simon. Landry played five seasons at safety for Washington, then moved to the Jets and made his one and only Pro Bowl. He played two more seasons with the Colts and then retired. And when I say retired, I mean that he was kicked out of the league for multiple failed PED tests. (Or maybe “successful” PED tests depending on how you look at it.)
Winslow played in two games over the first two years of his career, then was a highly productive tight end for the next two, followed by moderately good games here and there for six seasons. He’s also a horrible person and we’ll leave it at that.
A player like Simon actually would be a notable coup. Though he only made one Pro Bowl, Simon was a fairly big monster for the Eagles at defensive tackle for five seasons. His career was derailed after a knee injury in 2006, when he would have been a part of the Colts Super Bowl championship that year.
- Up next would be Leonard Williams (2015), Jake Matthews (2014), and Adam “Pacman” Jones (2005), all of whom are really talented players, though a step below greatness. Williams made the Pro Bowl with the Jets in year two, but the mismanagement of their defensive line and some coaching changes led to his trade to the Giants last season. Where his career goes now will be worth monitoring. Matthews is a very solid left tackle, making his one Pro Bowl thus far in 2018. Jones had four punt return touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Titans, and he recorded 17 career interceptions over 12 seasons with Tennessee, Dallas, Cincinnati, and Denver. He’s been an elite special teamer, a good corner, and a real distraction in the wrong organization.
(It’s maybe hard to be a distraction with the Bengals because they have so many.)
- The last seven guys to talk about are the one who you’d really like to see the Chargers come away with probably. Maybe you’d prefer one of the guys I talked about already (Matthews over Okung maybe?) but it is probably splitting hairs in most cases.
- Ronnie Stanley (2016) was the first tackle off the board in a class with Jack Conklin, Laremy Tunsil, and Taylor Decker, with the assumption being that Tunsil would go first if not for the gas mask. While Tunsil’s value seems to have skyrocketed into the “best tackle” conversation, I think Stanley has a better case. He was just named as the Pass Blocker of the Year by PFF and the Ravens ran out the NFL’s best offense in 2019. Unlike Tunsil, he’s spent no time anywhere else besides left tackle.
- Russell Okung (2010) never hit the ceiling that Stanley seems to have hit and he was constantly plagued by some injury with Seattle and then most recently with LA. He did make the Pro Bowl in both the NFC (2012) and the AFC (2017), negotiating his own deals in free agency and making out quite well for himself. It’s a matter of health, but finding the next Okung to replace Okung (minus the 36 career missed games) would be a good hit for Telesco. Maybe he could look into Wakanda Tech for his replacement.
- Vernon Davis (2006) was not the revolutionary tight end that many expected him to be coming out of Maryland as arguably the best combine athlete of his generation, but he’s had an impact and was often a very valuable weapon. David led the NFL in touchdowns in 2009 and made the Pro Bowl, then again in 2013 scored 13 times with a trip to the Pro Bowl. He helped the 49ers make the Super Bowl in 2012, then won it all with the Denver Broncos in 2015.
- We talked about Gholston and Williams, but the Jets best hit at pick six is easily safety Jamal Adams (2017). In only three seasons, Adams is a two-time Pro Bowl, one-time All-Pro at his position, with 6.5 sacks, an interception for a TD, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 2019. He’s an elite safety already and surely headed out of New York any day now.
- Quenton Nelson (2018) was the guard prospect two years ago who was such a “lock” to not fail that I was instantly worried that was exactly what would happen to him. What me worry? Nelson has made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams in both of his two campaigns thus far. If the Chargers find a Nelson in this draft, that goes a long way towards making the whole 2020 class a success.
- Only two players here have made more than two Pro Bowls (though Nelson, Adams, and Stanley all seem destined to keep racking those up) and they’ve both made it seven times. Richard Seymour (2001) helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls in his first four years, making All-Pro in 2003, 2004, and 2005. He doesn’t have the elite pass rushing numbers you might expect (career-high is 8 sacks) but he played all over the line and was dominant in many ways. He even returned a first round pick when he was traded to the Raiders in 2009, which turned into premier left tackle Nate Solder.
- The Atlanta Falcons were picking 26th overall in 2011 and it seems like only a sucker would drop 20 spots in a draft like 2011. Thankfully for Atlanta, the league has the Cleveland Browns. The Falcons traded picks 26, 59, 118, 124, and a 2012 first in order to go up to six for receiver Julio Jones. The Browns ended up moving up for Phil Taylor (decent for a minute, but not great and short-lived — not to mention they packed a third to move up, which turned into Justin Houston) and then using the 2012 first rounder on Brandon Weeden. Atlanta got a wideout who had 959 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie, made the Pro Bowl in year two, missed most of year three, and has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last six seasons.
Jones led the NFL in receiving yards in 2015 and 2018, and is the league’s leading receiver since 2014. In fact, Jones has almost 1,600 more yards than second-place DeAndre Hopkins in that time, and Hopkins has played in two more games than him. Only Antonio Brown is near him in yards per game since 2014. By moving down 20 spots, not only did the Browns missed out on Jones, they passed on Aldon Smith, Tyron Smith, J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, Mike Pouncey, Ryan Kerrigan, Solder, Corey Liuget, and Cam Jordan.
Like I said going into the 2019 hype, it’s irresponsible to let your kids root for the Browns.
And that’s it, the last 20 players to go sixth overall. It’s harder to find a player who doesn’t help than one who does, and it should leave any team a decent shot at finding a Pro Bowl-caliber starter. Maybe not if you’re Cleveland, but potentially still if you’re the Jets, who at least came away with Williams and Adams. This class seems to have plenty in the top-6 to be hopeful for, so even if Telesco doesn’t trade up, there’s a good chance he can get a star.