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NFL Prospects in the Chargers’ backyard

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NCAA Football: Minnesota at Fresno State Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

California

S Ashtyn Davis, Cal

At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Davis plays with linebacker-type aggressiveness while packing the same amount of power in his bat when he makes contact with ball-carriers. With that being said, he isn’t the most naturally-gifted athlete on the field but makes up for it with sheer will and heart which is expected from players who were former walk-ons.

The Draft Network has Davis as their 46th best-overall prospect in the entire 2020 NFL Draft and their #3 safety prospect behind Alabama’s Xavier Mckinney and LSU’s Grant Delpit. His closest comparison to a former Charger would probably be Jahleel Addae but without all the concussions he handed out to his own teammates.

The Chargers aren’t in need of another safety with Nasir Adderley expected to be healthy after taking an unexpected redshirt last year but you can never have too many versatile defensive backs in Gus Bradley’s scheme. Still, Davis is likely not on the Bolts’ radar at this point.

LB Evan Weaver

It’s incredibly hard not to watch Weaver on film and feel like it’s 1968 with the way he’s running around the second level of the defense with the number 89 emblazoned in his jersey.

I mean, when was the last time you saw a player with such an out-of-place number? I thought it was cool in this day and age to have the smallest number possible? I guess Weaver never wanted to adhere to that status quo.

The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Weaver is also a throwback in the more traditional sense at middle linebacker who may be limited by athleticism at the next level. He’s smart, but just smarts in the NFL keeps you from staying on the field as long as you want. He’s a likely 2-down backer or special teams player in the immediate future with some upside as a high motor/effort player.

With the Chargers’ linebacker room still pretty full after adding Thomas Davis and Drue Tranquill this past offseason, I don’t see the team targeting any linebackers in this class.

Notable Alumni:

  • Falcons C Alex Mack
  • Chargers WR Keenan Allen
  • Saints DL Cameron Jordan
  • Chiefs RT Mitchell Schwartz
  • Rams QB Jared Goff
  • Eagles WR Desean Jackson
  • RB Marshawn Lynch

Fresno State

CB Jaron Bryant

Bryant is a lesser-known prospect compared to others on this list and has a good chance of going the entire draft without hearing his name called. He’s got decent length and size at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds but that’s almost all he has going for him. Scouts currently aren’t too high on his abilities in man coverage and think he’s best just playing in deep zones with everything kept in front of him.

He got his hands on the ball a decent amount of times in college, finishing his career with six picks in his final three years in Fresno. He amassed 178 total tackles with 6.5 tackles-for-loss and 26 passes defended, as well.

OG Netane Muti

Throughout the majority of the 2019 college football season, Pro Football Focus has Muti as the highest-graded offensive guard in the country. Some media outlets claimed Muti was the best puller/climber in the entire country, utilizing some eye-popping movement skills at 6-foot-3 and 307 pounds.

Check out the video below from PFF’s Mike Renner. Muti is at left guard and you can see how obvious his play strength is as he methodically takes the defensive lineman for a ride roughly ten yards downfield.

If the Chargers continue to utilize their power/gap run scheme, one that needs mobile/athletic offensive linemen to pull into space, I think Muti would be one of, if not, the more perfect pairings in this year’s draft.

The Chargers double-dipped back in 2017 when they selected offensive guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in back-to-back rounds but neither have become who the teamed hoped they’d be. Feeney started his career on a high note when he made that season’s PFWA All-Rookie Team after replacing Max Slauson in the starting line-up but has regressed each of the past two seasons.

As you all know with Lamp, he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Even in 2018, a year removed from his ACL tear, the team continuously made him inactive in favor of other offensive linemen. This past year, Lamp saw his first career start at left guard once Mike Pouncey injured his neck and Feeney shifted over to center. However, Lamp injured his ankle severely enough to force the team to shut him down for the remainder of the year. That’s now twice in three years that he has finished the year on IR.

So maybe the team decides it’s time again to take from that position group and hope that pick finally sticks.

Notable Alumni:

  • Raiders QB Derek Carr
  • Packers WR Davante Adams
  • Cardinals WR Keesean Johnson
  • RB Ryan Mathews
  • FB Lorenzo Neal
  • OL Logan Mankins

UCLA

CB Darnay Holmes, UCLA

Now here’s a player on this list that could easily be a target for the Chargers late in day two or sometime on day three.

The Chargers are in need of cornerback to solidify himself across from Casey Hayward and Holmes gets some brownie points from this staff for participating in this year’s Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Alabama. With at least three participants drafted from this all-star showcase in each of the last three years, the correlation is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Holmes is on the smaller side, similar to current Chargers slot man Desmond King at 5-10 and 192 pounds. But it’s not just size that the two have in common. Holmes is a sticky tackler, as well. Pundits don’t have Holmes designated to play outside at the next level and it’s likely true, especially when you take into consideration that he lacks some rock-solid fundamentals at the position which will cause you to get humbled real quick in the pros.

If the Chargers don’t want to keep Jaylen Watkins as their nickel corner behind King then I could see them taking a liking to Holmes. If they do, I don’t see them spending too much effort on guys with Holmes physical profile.

Notable Alumni:

  • OLB Anthony Barr
  • LB Eric Kendricks
  • LB Myles Jack
  • LB Jayon Brown
  • DT Kenny Clark
  • RB Maurice Jones-Drew
  • OT Jonathan Ogden
  • QB Troy Aikman

USC

WR Michael Pittman Jr.

As an alumni of the University of Iowa, I was front-and-center for the Holiday Bowl when the Trojans took on my Hawkeyes. That game was absolutely full of talent and future NFL players with Pittman obviously included in that group of talent.

A 6-foot-4, 219-pound pass-catcher, Pittman is insanely smooth for someone of his dimensions. He made it look so easy against Iowa’s defense, which I should say was one of the best in the country in 2019.

As a senior, Pittman hauled in 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers made him an easy selection for this year’s senior bowl when he continued to impress with is route-running savvy and physicality through the catch point.

If the Chargers are eyeing a WR3 in this year’s class, I’d think they would be targeting someone with some serious wheels after sorely missing the speed of Tyrell Williams. Without him keeping defenders on their heels, it was evident that defenses were much more capable of bottling up Keenan Allen and Mike Williams when they needed to.

A connection between the Chargers and Pittman is plausible since he plays a position of need and went down to Mobile, but I’d be surprised to see them draft someone with such a similar play-style to the Williams still with the Bolts.

OT Austin Jackson

The 48th-overall draft prospect by The Draft Network, Jackson was another guy I got to watch closely during the Holiday Bowl. He spent a lot of time dueling with defensive end AJ Epenesa who is a potential top-15 pick in this year’s class. Epenesa had 2.5 sacks in that game both against Jackson, but that hasn’t stopped draft analysts from still considering him a top-5 tackle in this class.

Jackson skill-set is similar to the stereotype of a classic right tackle in the NFL. He is more proficient in the run game than as a pass protector which will make some of the more classical scouts immediately peg him for the right side.

Jackson possesses some of the natural athletic ability that we saw from his former teammate Chuma Edoga who was also named the Practice Player of the Week during last year’s Senior Bowl. As The Draft Network’s Jordan Reid points out in his tweet below, Jackson is a mover with some serious pop behind his punch. That punch is important as it is the first things a defensive linemen is going to feel in a game situation. If that first punch is a wake-up call to the defender, he’s going to be thrown off his groove before the game really begins.

I wouldn’t mind if the Chargers waited on a tackle until day two. There’s a chance Jackson is there when the Bolts pick in the second which would be a steal if he tests well at the combine since he’s already a potential first rounder based on tape alone.

Notable Alumni:

  • Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster
  • Eagles WR Nelson Agholor
  • Titans DT Jurrell Casey
  • Jets QB Sam Darnold
  • Vikings DE Everson Griffen
  • Titans CB A’doree Jackson
  • OT Anthony Munoz

Stanford

TE Colby Parkinson

I’m not going to spend much time telling you guys about Parkinson since Mr. Reuter did most of the heavy lifting in the tweet featured below.

Just know that you can’t teach “6-foot-7” and he’s got upside about as high as his forehead. The Chargers could utilize a red zone target like Parkinson as a pair with Henry which would make it look like they were attempting to field a basketball team on the field.

Notable Alumni:

  • Panthers RB Christian McCafferey
  • QB Andrew Luck
  • Eagles TE Zach Ertz
  • 49ers CB Richard Sherman
  • Steelers OG David Decastro
  • Falcons TE Austin Hooper
  • QB John Elway
  • S John Lynch