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Chargers draft LB, DT in 2018 NFL draft re-do

With no Derwin James on the board at No. 17, the Chargers pivot to the former Pepsi Defensive Rookie of the Year in Shaquille Leonard.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back at past drafts and wondering what could have been is always a fun exercise amongst the football community. It’s why you’ll catch a lot of “redraft” articles circling about during the offseason.

Today is no different.

ESPN’s Matt Miller recently went about redrafting the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL draft. You know, the one where the Chargers somehow landed Derwin James? Yeah, that one.

But of course in these re-dos, it’s not often the original result remains. So how did the Chargers fair in this exercise? Let’s take a look.

LB Shaquille Leonard - Round 1, Pick 17

In this re-do, the 49ers end up grabbing Derwin James with the ninth-overall pick. With the defensive side of the ball still lacking, the Chargers end up taking Shaquille Leonard who easily out-played his original second-round draft slot over his first few seasons in the NFL. In fact, it was Leonard who beat out James to win that year’s Pepsi Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Here’s what Miller had to say about the pick:

“Leonard — the first FCS player selected in the 2018 draft — going even in the second round surprised many. But he has already outplayed that draft slot and quickly become one of the highest-paid off-ball linebackers in the league. His length, leadership and run defense would have all served as an immediate boost for the Chargers’ defense. Leonard has 30 tackles for loss in his career.”

DT Bilal Nichols - Round 2, Pick 48

The Chargers miss out on drafting Uchenna Nwosu for a second time as the Cardinals snatched him up right in front of them with the 47th pick. Instead, they reinforced the interior with Bilal Nichols who is coming off a 17-start season. The Chargers drafted defensive tackle Justin Jones in the third round of the draft but decide to pivot to that position earlier in this exercise.

“The Chargers would love to have a chance at Nwosu again — even if he’s found his best fit since moving to the Seahawks — but will happily fill a huge need in the middle of the defensive line with Nichols,” said Nichols. “The fifth-round pick has bounced around the defensive line in his career but found a home at defensive tackle in 2022 and thrived. He started all 17 games last season, posting 44 tackles, 7.5 run stuffs and 21 quarterback pressures.”