Six new Chargers were added to the team over the weekend highlighted by the team’s first-round selections of quarterback Justin Herbert and linebacker Kenneth Murray. Both of those players are slated to start fairly soon right out of the gate but the day three selections should have a few more obstacles to pass to see the field in any significant capacity.
With new faces comes new obstacles for some of the current players, as well. Competition at any position usually breeds good things so hopefully every player on the roster is excited for that fight.
After the completion of this year’s NFL Draft, here are the biggest Risers and Fallers for the Chargers.
Prior to the draft, many felt that if the team drafted Herbert at #6 he would be walking into one of the best situations in the NFL in comparison to the one’s Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow would be entering with Miami and Cincinnati. Herbert officially became a Charger on day one but the Bolts weren’t done making the situation better for the young passer.
On day three, the Chargers drafted a pair of wide receivers in Virginia’s Joe Reed and Ohio State’s K.J. Hill. Hill already looks like someone who is going to be Herbert’s best friend in the years to come while Reed seems like the type of player who will benefit the QB in a plethora of ways, including setting the offense up with shorter fields on lengthy kickoff returns and someone who has a knack for YAC.
The Chargers have assembled plenty of players who are good at getting the job done in their own way, now they just need him to consistently get them the ball.
Herbert looks to be in good hands.
Aside from offensive tackle, the other need the Chargers chose to pass on in this year’s draft was another cornerback to compete for the outside spot opposite Casey Hayward. The group in general looks to be the strongest on the team with three former all-pros in the fold but when two of those guys earned the honor based on their play in the slot, the shine of the situation loses a little bit of it’s luster. Both Desmond King and Chris Harris can’t play the slot at the same time and neither truly should be outside, either. So after all this, the spot seems to be Davis’ to lose in 2020.
Apart from Davis, Brandon Facyson is the only other guy who saw real snaps there in 2019. Both offer upside. Davis is the better coverage guy while Facyson showed admirable support in run support. Both will now compete for the spot without much outside competition although Davis surely has the inside track.
Left tackles options
Everyone connected to the Chargers predicted the team to address offensive tackle in the draft. If not with the #6 pick, maybe in the second or the third. Once the team packaged their day two picks to trade back into the first for linebacker Kenneth Murray, that prediction dissipated quickly.
The players named as potential options to play left tackle in 2020 - Sam Tevi, Forrest Lamp, Trey Pipkins, and Storm Norton - all can breathe a sigh of relief after the team refused to add a new body during any of the three days of the draft. Sam Tevi has played right tackle for the majority of his time in L.A. and has never truly been “good” in pass protection. Lamp was a four-year starter at left tackle while at Western Kentucky and was one of the best in the country. Norton was most recently graded as the best offensive lineman from the XFL per PFF as he started every game for the L.A. Wildcats at left tackle. Lastly, Pipkins made some obvious strides by the end of his rookie season. He took some lumps, that’s for sure, but the progression was evident.
One of these things is not like the other, but Tom Telesco and Anthony Lynn have made it clear that Tevi is an option nonetheless and they believe they can “hide” Tevi within the structure of the new offense. This essentially means they’ll utilize sprint-outs away from his side and incorporate different types of bootlegs to the right.
Patton finished the 2019 season with the third-most receiving yards for a wide receiver on the Chargers. However, he finished as the seventh-leading receiver at the same time. In front of him were the top two receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, top two running back in Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon, and the team’s top two tight ends in Hunter Henry and Virgil Green.
I understand the Chargers are not the normal NFL team where the third wide receiver is usually around that fourth or fifth spot in receiving production but when the third wideout catches only six passes the entire season, there’s an apparent talent drop-off that needs to be addressed.
I was really hoping this would be the year that Jackson got his deserved increase in snaps while working in tandem with Ekeler in the backfield. Unfortunately, the Chargers felt the need to add depth at the position by way of UCLA’s Joshua Kelley. There’s honestly a real chance that both Jackson and Kelley see significant snaps in 2020 since the team is likely to run the ball more with a new quarterback under center.
In this draft class, Kelley was seen as one of, if not, the best pass protector at the position. That’s a fast pass to meaningful snaps at the next level. I still think Jackson is too talented not see work early and often but the path to success isn’t nearly as clear anymore for the third-year back.
Denzel Perryman/Nick Vigil/Malik Jefferson
If the Chargers were going to select a linebacker in the 2020 draft, the expectation was to snag one on day three for depth and special teams purposes. The Chargers flipped those expectations on their head and drafted one in the first round after trading back into the opening round. The team putting that much work and value into Kenneth Murray’s selection tells us he is meant for much more than a rotational piece who covers kicks.
Sooner rather than later, Murray will be the mainstay in the middle of the defense. When we consider that, combined with the team’s propensity to play a lot of Nickel compared to their normal Base look, the snaps for true linebackers are minimal and just got smaller for the other guys on the roster.
Perryman will be the initial starter at MIKE but don’t expect that to last longer than five or six games, depending on how Murray performs. With Drue Tranquill also demanding more snaps with his play in 2019, it’s hard to see how the other guys — Vigil, White, and Jefferson - fit into the equation. As I mentioned before, the team doesn’t play a lot of Base, which means the starter at SAM (White) will not see the field in that role often. Vigil was a former starter at WILL in Cincy and Jefferson was said to get more snaps at MIKE over any other spot. Both now have one more guy to worry about who can play both spots and will get the chance more often than not to secure the position over them.
Nick Vigil ladies and gents pic.twitter.com/CQGXs9K4K3— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 2, 2016
To put this all simply, there’s really only two linebacker spots on this defense with starting-level snaps. Tranquill and Murray are the future of those two spots. Unless there is a heavy, HEAVY rotation, everyone else is expected to be on the outside looking in this season and beyond.