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BFTB 3-Round Mock 3.0: Early free agency edition

The Bolts land defensive fits for their expected scheme changes.

Washington State v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

With the first week of free agency in the books, it’s time to give the mock draft machine at The Draft Network another go now that the draft strategy for the Bolts is starting to take some shape.

There’s several new faces in there after round one that I believe have some serious talent. They also fit into the presumed changes that will be taking place on the defensive side of the ball.

Let’s go ahead and dive right in.

Round 1, Pick #13: OT/OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

The Chargers made a pair offensive line signings when they inked the NFL’s top center in Corey Linsley and former Steelers guard/tackle Matt Feiler earlier this week. The move solidifies two more spots along the offensive line, leaving left tackle and, presumably, right guard still open as Feiler is expected to play left guard like he did in 2020.

Enter the 13th-overall pick and the decision of whether to go with the draft’s top guard or a new blindside protector.

Rashawn Slater is the dream here. Ultimate versatility and the best left tackle this year outside of Penei Sewell. Should Slater be taken ahead of the Bolts — which he was in this mock —, that leaves them with USC’s Vera-Tucker or Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw. As much as I like Darrisaw, the value is in Vera-Tucker, who is also the more talented and valuable player.

Although Vera-Tucker is likely better suited for guard, his play at left tackle in 2020 was enough to sell to NFL teams that he has the capability to handle blindside duties. His pro day is later today, so hopefully we’ll have a better idea of his athleticism here soon, but my bet is he’s up there with some of the top offensive lineman from last year.

Round 2, Pick #47: CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State

At the moment, the idea of Samuel falling to the second round may not be as realistic as we once thought. With many free agent cornerbacks yet to be signed, it makes one wonder if NFL teams believe this cornerback group to be a lot more talented than they initially expected. If that’s the case, a talent like Samuel could be gone before the Bolts pick at #47.

However, if he does last to this point, then he’s a no-brainer. The Chargers and Samuel have met multiple times so far this offseason and the idea of the former Seminole getting mentored by Chris Harris Jr. sounds very ideal.

Samuel fits best on the outside where his exceptional man coverage can be utilized in helping the Chargers defense transition from a heavy Cover 3 scheme to more of a Cover 2 game plan. That inherently means more man-to-man and the Bolts currently don’t have those types of defenders in their corner room.

He also shows no fear in coming up to stop the run.

Samuel has seen a recent surge of popularity in the media over the past few weeks and it’s now being said that he may not make it out of the first round, which puts the potential of him being available at #47 in question. Should the Chargers covet him enough, maybe they trade one of their third-round picks to go up and get him. If not, there are some other notable corners that could slide to this pick, as well.

Round 3, Pick #77: EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington

Now Tryon is a prospect I have just come around on recently. He opted out of the 2020 Pac-12 season to focus on the draft after only truly productive season for the Huskies.

At 6’5 and a solid 260 pounds, Tryon fits the image of a thicker Leonard Floyd with his length and explosive power. In his first season of action at UW, Tryon started two games out of 12 played, recording just 20 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, and one sack. He proceeded to breakout as a redshirt sophomore in 2019, finishing with 12.5 TFLS and 8.5 sacks in 12 starts en route to earning Second-Team All-Pac 12 honors.

Even if the Chargers didn’t lean into a heavy usage of traditional 3-4 fronts, Tryon’s current size is passable as a 4-3 end and he still has plenty of room to pack on another 10-15 pounds to truly fill out his frame to be a hand-in-dirt defensive lineman. At the end of the day, he’s an athletic, versatile defensive standout who could fill multiple roles in Staley’s defense and adding to the team’s group of movable chess pieces on that side of the ball.

Round 3, Pick #97: OT Walker Little, Stanford

Prior to the 2019 college football season, you would have been hard-pressed to find a single mock draft that didn’t include Little in the first 10 picks. As a true freshman in 2018 starting at left tackle for the Cardinal, Little was named the Pac-12’s Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year.

In his sophomore season, he unfortunately succumbed to a lower-body injury in the first week of the season that cost him the rest of the season. For what it’s worth, he didn’t allow a pressure in those limited snaps.

Ahead of the 2020 season, Little was one of the first players to opt-out, following the lead of Oregon’s Penei Sewell. With just one real college football season under his belt due to his 2019 campaign being taken from him, draft evaluators have to wonder how much Little could have developed with almost no meaningful snaps in the past two years.

At Stanford’s recent pro day, Littler performed the gauntlet of combine testing and saw some relative success where it matters the most for offensive lineman.

He’s got elite size at 6’7 and 313 pounds and his explosive-testing numbers ranked highly for his position. His short-area athleticism is incredibly important so it was huge to see him run a 80th-percentile short shuttle (4.59) and notch a 89th-percentile broad jump (9’03”). his 7.44 three-cone drill (89th-percentile) was also better than 2020 first-round pick Tristan Wirfs.

His lack of experience in college will likely cause him to fall further than expected and I believe some team is going to get a really good player for cheap. Adding Little offers the Chargers an opportunity to have him compete at left tackle with Vera-Tucker. If Vera-Tucker wins, then the team has their starting tackle. If newly-signed Oday Aboushi struggles, VT can kick inside and Little can start at left tackle. It just offers the Bolts more flexibility at a position group that may not have its’ forever-starting five out there in Week 1.