Kevin Hanson over at Sports Illustrated released his latest three-round mock draft which is one of the first new mocks to be published since the start of the new league year.
The Chargers were fairly active this first wave of free agency, signing three players that will immediately be slotted-in as starters for the 2020 season. Their first move was signing former Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga to solidify the right side of the offensive line alongside newly-acquired guard Trai Turner.
The Chargers then went after difference-makers on the defense, snagging former Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph and the Broncos cornerback Chris Harris. Joseph is a run-stopping tackle with size and length that has been needed desperately along the interior and he should be an awesome veteran presence to mentor the young guys in Jerry Tillery and Justin Jones. Harris is the league’s best slot corner and the Chargers are going to have to find a way to use him at his best position while still incorporating Desmond King, another top slot defender.
Since the Chargers filled two of the three biggest needs on the defensive side of the ball, Hanson decided to go all offense in this three-round mock. The first two selections are not going to surprise anyone. He selected a pair of players that have consistently been paired with the Chargers but it’s his third-round pick that might grab your interest the most.
Let’s take a look at what Hanson would do if he was in charge of the Bolts.
1.) Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
From January to late February, draft analysts seemingly paired Herbert with the Chargers in 90% of mocks. Occasionally they’d throw in a tackle or maybe even Isaiah Simmon but it was almost always the Oregon quarterback. Lately, it’s been a lot of Tua Tagovailoa at #6 or at #3. The Chargers have been one of the most popular teams linked to a possible trade-up with the Detroit Lions who are predicted to trade-out of the third slot due to their lack of needing a quarterback and since there will be plenty of blue-chip players available in the back half of the top-10.
Here’s what Hanson had to say about the Herbert selection:
“As the Chargers move into the post-Philip Rivers era, Tyrod Taylor and Easton Stick are the only quarterbacks under contract for 2020 and they are not expected to sign or trade for a veteran quarterback. While Herbert needs to improve his consistency, he has across-the-board plus traits—size, arm strength, mobility and intelligence. Meanwhile, the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy called concerns about his quiet leadership style a “false narrative” and said Herbert has “far more charisma than many NFL starters we’ve been around.”
I think Herbert has sky-high potential but the lowest floor of the top-three quarterbacks. Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa look like the most natural passers of the trio and I take a lot of that into consideration. Sometimes you can just watch a player and see immediately how comfortable they are when they are successful.
When Patrick Mahomes makes big plays, it looks like he’s playing a game of two-hand touch in the backyard. Same thing when it comes to Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. Herbert looks like he’s guiding passes in a careful manner than simply trusting his arm and letting it rip. I wouldn’t be upset with Herbert, but I’d also be content going elsewhere with the sixth-overall pick.
2.) Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Jackson is one of the top prospects at offensive tackle and he happens to be in the backyard of the Chargers. Jackson has excellent size and length at 6’5 and 322 pounds. He tested well across the board at the combine which sets him up to have one of the higher floors at the position. He handled most of the guys that lined up in front of him but did struggle against elite talent, including potential first-round pick AJ Epenesa in the Bowl game against Iowa.
With the 58th pick in Lockdown Coverage’s LIVE 2020 NFL Mock Draft, @WillRagatz selects Austin Jackson, OT, USC for the Minnesota Vikings.— Lockdown Coverage (@LDCoverage) March 22, 2020
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Jackson is also a guy who is easy to root for. Besides being a local kid, the story of him taking some time away from football to donate bone marrow to his sister in the summer of 2019. The procedure had the chance to really set him back during his junior season but he was incredibly self-less and did it anyway. Those are the types of players that Anthony Lynn and Tom Telesco want on their team.
3.) Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
The Chargers filled a couple holes on the roster with free agents that could have all been filled with a day two pick. With right tackle, cornerback, and defensive tackle all solidified, it frees up this pick be used on a luxury position like running back. The Chargers signed Austin Ekeler to a long-term deal and Lynn has made it clear he wants another running back to rotate in with him. The team has Justin Jackson and he’s shown plenty of promise despite missing time in 2017 and ‘19 due to injury. If the coaching staff believes Jackson can’t be relied on, this is a stellar pick with a ton of upside.
Akers is a 5’10, 217-pound back with 4.47 speed. He totaled 18 touchdowns (14 rushing, four receiving) in 2019 and amassed 1,369 total yards behind a dismal Florida State offensive line. He’s got similar elusiveness to former Seminole and current Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and can catch the ball just as well. NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein suggests that Akers could be an excellent back to pair with another strong presence in a backfield and if that doesn’t coincide with what the Chargers want then I don’t know what does.