Predictions for the Chargers’ final 55-man roster are some of my favorite exercises to do as a football writer. I like to put some extra effort into it. At least more than most predictions because as we know with this team, they could keep anybody they want from that group of 19 UDFAs and we would just be like “yep, that’s the Chargers for ya.”
For an example, I don’t think many thought the team was going to keep Roderic Teamer last year, and he ended up starting some games due to injuries in front of him. Before him, the team kept both Brandon Facyson and Michael Davis each of the prior two seasons. This tea, just loves their undrafted guys, especially when they’re defensive backs.
This year, I have three UDFAs making the final roster, one on offense and two on defense.
Of the entire 55 players included, the first 52 are split evenly between offense and defense and then capped off by the final three special teams positions. Besides the undrafted guys, I thought it was pretty straight-forward who the team should keep but, again, you never know sometimes with this team if they believe someone is especially underperforming for the team.
First up, here’s the 26 I predict to make the team on the offensive side of the ball.
|QB||Tyrod Taylor||Justin Herbert||Easton Stick|
|RB||Austin Ekeler||Justin Jackson||Joshua Kelley|
|FB||Bobby Holly||Gabe Nabers|
|WR||Keenan Allen||K.J. Hill||Andre Patton|
|TE||Hunter Henry||Virgil Green||Donald Parham|
|LT||Trey Pipkins||Storm Norton|
|LG||Dann Feeney||Forrest Lamp|
|C||Mike Pouncey||Scott Quessenberry|
|RT||Bryan Bulaga||Sam Tevi|
|WR||Mike Williams||Joe Reed||Darius Jennings|
I have the team keeping three quarterbacks on the initial final roster due to their love of Easton Stick as a developmental player and they likely won’t risk another team scooping him off off waivers. Running backs are an unsurprising group but the fullback spot is where I have the first two UDFAs making the team. TE/FB Gabe Nabers from Florida State is a versatile blocker with decent receiving ability and an acumen for special teams. Bobby Holly is a old-school, run-through-your-face blocking-type fullback that hasn’t been seen on this team since Le’Ron McClain or Lorenzo Neal. With an expanded roster, I could see Lynn keeping both initially to have more time deciding which one fits best in the new offense.
I believe the max capacity will be six for the wide receivers and I have included the three new guys in Joe Reed, K.J. Hill, and Darius Jennings. I believe Patton makes the final spot because I can’t see Anthony going in with a completely new WR room behind his top two guys. Patton knows the system and could still fight for the WR3 spot.
Barring a late cut of Green to alleviate some cap room, I think they go with three, including the former XFL star in Parham. The Chargers don’t normally keep more than a couple bodies past their starting five on the active roster. Here, I have them keeping nine so they have plenty of versatility across all five spots in case of injuries. Obviously the left tackle spot is up for grabs but I don’t expect them to make a splashy choice there. I think they give it to Pipkins to justify their selection of him last season.
Now on to the defense.
|3T||Justin Jones||Jerry Tillery||Cortez Broughton|
|DE||Joey Bosa||Isaac Rochell||Joe Gaziano|
|LEO||Melvin Ingram||Uchenna Nwosu||Jessie Lemonier|
|MIKE||Denzel Perryman||Kenneth Murray||Malik Jefferson|
|WILL||Drue Tranquill||Nick Vigil|
|CB||Casey Hayward||Michael Davis||Brandon Facyson|
|Slot||Chris Harris||Desmond King|
|SS||Derwin James||Alohi Gilman||Roderic Teamer|
|FS||Rayshawn Jenkins||Nasir Adderley|
As of right now, the team doesn’t have a back-up for the nose tackle spot but I think they’ll rotate the other three in there on passing downs so I don’t expect to see depth added. While I think Joseph still has enough to get after the QB, the Chargers may do exactly what the Vikings did and limit his snaps on third-and-long. All three of Jones, Tillery, and Broughton fit what the Chargers need at 3-technique and like I said earlier, they’ll all probably rotate at both interior spots.
On the edges, this is where I have my final two undrafted players making this team. The top four guys - Bosa, Ingram, Nwosu, and Rochell - are all good. But keeping some extra developmental depth at both the base end and LEO spots wouldn’t be a surprise to me. Northwestern’s Gaziano found plenty of success rushing the passer, winning with his power and instincts. Liberty’s Lemonier is tailor-made to play Gus Bradley’s LEO role at 6’3, 240 pounds. He finished his final season with double-digit sacks while showing off a quick get-off and speed off the corner. Both are easily worth stashing on the practice squad, if not.
This linebacker group might be the best it’s been in a long time, especially in terms of versatility and pure athleticism. In fact, the lone veteran in Perryman might be the worst athlete of the bunch. That’s good news, though. Before long, I think Tranquil and Murray will be the starters for the most part by midseason. Vigil will see snaps at WILL but they’ll most likely be in obvious passing situations. White’s snaps will be predicated on how often they run their base defense and Jefferson was highly-rated by the Chargers coming out of Texas just a few years ago.
This secondary is a no-brainer while still holding it’s own share of question marks within the group. How much is Harris going to play in the secondary? How many are they going to be able to give to King? Is Michael Davis going to be the out-right starter opposite Hayward? These are all realistic questions to ask right now. As for the players on the back end, it’s going to be James, the ELITE Jenkins, our darling Adderley, the team’s recent sixth-round pick, and Teamer whom I believe wins a final spot due to his experience with the system after being forced to start a couple games last season.
The specials teams guys will no doubt be Badgley, Long, and Mazza since the team did not bring in a single ounce of competition.
As an added bonus, I think the team’s new studs on special teams coverages will be Gilman, Holly, Vigil, Teamer, and Jefferson
So there you have it. Those are my super early predictions for the team’s initial 55-man roster.
What players did I leave out? Did I include any that you disagree with? It’s early, but let’s discuss.