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My pick for the Chargers: Isaiah Simmons

Why the Clemson Tigers hybrid defensive playmaker would be the right choice for Tom Telesco

Clemson v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

If I were running the LA Chargers and had the number one pick, I would select quarterback Joe Burrow. I should also note that if I was running the Chargers, I’d probably be a completely different person. I would have likely played a lot more football, or at least started actually studying it in high school. I would have attempted to get involved with a college program and after graduating uni (maybe in this scenario I’m also British) I would have tried to get a job with an NFL team. And then maybe 20 to 30 years later, I would be in Telesco’s position and my brain chemistry would be very different. If I were running the Chargers, maybe I’d be married to a woman named Jill and we’d have four kids, the oldest of whom is attending Drexel University in the fall. But I’m single and don’t even know where Drexel is.

But Burrow seems like the right choice to me at one.

If I were running the Chargers and had the number two pick, and Burrow was gone, I would select pass rusher Chase Young. And maybe my eldest, Griffin, would develop a drug habit because of all the pressure I put on him to get into Drexel and he’d lose his acting scholarship.

But Young seems like another Joey Bosa type, an elite pass rushing prospect who may only fall past one or two because of the hype around a quarterback or two-a, and I don’t think he’s going to be available to L.A. without a trade up from six.

And if I were running the Chargers and had the number three pick, I might select cornerback Jeffrey Okudah. I think that the cornerback position is such that while it will never carry the same economical benefit of a rookie quarterback under the current-and-future CBA, it may be just as valuable on the field to have. A stud young cornerback. Sounds fantastic. For L.A. to potentially have Casey Hayward and Okudah and Chris Harris ... wow.

But I don’t think that Okudah will fall out of the top five and if I were running the Chargers, I would not trade up unless the cost was extraordinarily low.

Therefore I think that the ideal candidate to come away with in the draft, perhaps with or without Okudah on the board, is Clemson linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons, who I’m calling “The Most 2020 Player” in the class. If you had to describe the type of defensive player that virtually any team would want to add to their defense next season, I think Simmons would fit that bill completely.

So I’m putting in my endorsement for the Chargers to pick Simmons, if they can.

While I’ve made it well known that I am not a fan of drafting Tua Tagovailoa early, I understand that there is a chance of him proving me wrong. Maybe a good chance. But for me, looking at the top of the first round only, Tua would not be on my board. Neither would Justin Herbert or Jordan Love. I don’t think LA needs to focus this pick, in this draft, for this team, on absolutely finding a quarterback. I may not believe they can win a lot next season with Tyrod Taylor but I also don’t think the goals are necessarily just for next season. Nor do I know that they can’t win a lot with Taylor.

There are also four offensive linemen of note being discussed: Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas, and Jedrick Wills. Given how difficult it is to find quality tackles, how important the position is, and the Chargers’ immediate need for a good one, taking one of these four players is sensible. Look back to 2016, when Telesco picked Joey Bosa, and you’ll see that he could have also had Ronnie Stanley, Laremy Tunsil, or Jack Conklin. Those three, especially Stanley or Tunsil, would have been really good players to build around. Instead they eventually landed Russell Okung and proved you don’t have to draft a good left tackle to find one. I won’t find it to be appalling if the Chargers draft one of these players. Any of them make sense. It’s just not what I would do.

There’s also defensive tackle Derrick Brown. In the sense of most defensive tackles, I wouldn’t even stress the possibility of taking him over a player at a more premium position. But if Brown plays like Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Geno Atkins, or the like, how can we completely ignore it? Still, I wouldn’t take him over Simmons.

Regardless of where you think your needs are on defense, Simmons probably fits in somewhere. He could play linebacker. He could play safety. He could play in the slot. He could rush the passer. If Tyrann Mathieu is just a regular old mutant dog of an NFL player, then Isaiah Simmons is the Rahzar version of that. He’s a beast — but much larger.

The Chargers could play Simmons opposite of Melvin Ingram. They could even look about moving Ingram, saving some money, and placing Simmons where he used to be.

They could try him next to Derwin James.

They could spend the next year allowing him to learn cornerback from the 2010s best slot cornerback, Chris Harris.

Or they could just create new positions for him and let him get out there and get after it. Gus Bradley has worked with Kam Chancellor before. He’s worked with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons, Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler, Telvin Smith, Yannick Ngakoue, Myles Jack, Bosa, Ingram, James, Casey Hayward, and many other talented defensive players who had gifts like Simmons. Simmons feels like a culmination of what many of those players have done and continue to do, an evolution and advancement of it, and perhaps Bradley would have a whole new vision for Simmons.

And maybe that’s just what I want to see above a project at quarterback, a tackle expected to get out there and immediately anchor the offensive line, a defensive tackle of little need one year after selecting Jerry Tillery and not having much to show for it yet, a receiver in a loaded class of receivers, or a cornerback who frankly I just don’t think is available or necessary enough to move up for.

Instead, how about a pass rusher. And a safety. And a corner. And a linebacker.

My vote: Isaiah Simmons, Clemson.