Unless They Trade Back, Chargers Won’t Draft Ronnie Stanley
By Matt Pagels
NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock made some commotion on Wednesday when he picked offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley to go to the San Diego Chargers at No. 3 overall in his final mock draft.
This is what Mayock had to say:
“The Chargers get the opportunity to take the best position player in this draft. His protection skills are almost as good as Laremy Tunsil’s, but right now Stanley is a better run blocker. This helps both Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon.”
That’s funny. Just the other day, Mayock stated that he believed defensive back Jalen Ramsey was the right choice for the Chargers.
Mayock is all over the place like the writers from the TV series “Lost.” The Chargers aren’t drafting Stanley with their first pick.
Bold statement, isn’t it? It’s the truth. Ramsey, defensive end DeForest Buckner and even tackle Laremy Tunsil will likely be on the board, and unless they can find a trade partner, Stanley won’t be the pick.
Frankly, there’s only three good choices for the Chargers: draft Ramsey, draft Buckner or trade back.
Before I get berated for not including Tunsil in that group, hear me out. Tackle is not a huge need. Yes, the Chargers’ offensive line was a big problem last season after giving up 40 sacks, eighth-most in the league, and averaging 3.5 yards per carry, which ranked dead last; but injury was more a factor than poor play. Also, they’ve recently invested a ton of money in the position, inking deals with King Dunlap last offseason and Joe Barksdale this offseason.
If the Chargers really want to fix the line, they need to draft a quality center. 2014 third-round pick Chris Watt, who the Chargers deemed as their center, has proven to be a backup player at best. A good center will make the entire line play better, and that is an understatement. The Bolts can find a true starting center (hey there Ryan Kelly, Nick Martin and Austin Blythe) in the second or third round, and then find a developmental tackle in the later rounds.
Now that I can breathe, Ramsey should be No. 1 on the Chargers’ draft board. Even with the acquisition of journeyman Dwight Lowery, safety is still a need. Ramsey is arguably the best player in the draft and he’ll be the game-changer the Chargers need on defense. Think of a Tyrann Mathieu-like player but with even more potential because of his size, athleticism and all-around football skills. What his actual position will be remains a question, but that shouldn’t scare you off. Ramsey will add talent to an already young and dynamic secondary.
If not Ramsey, then who? We talked about how bad the offensive line was, but the defensive line may have been worse. In 2015, they allowed the fourth-most rushing touchdowns (17), sixth-most rushing yards (2,005) and gave up 4.8 yards per carry, third-worst in the NFL. They also ranked in the bottom-20 in rushing defense over the last two years. Free-agent acquisition Brandon Mebane will help fix the problem, but Corey Liuget is still desperate for a friend on the other side. Buckner could be that guy.
Buckner is a big boy at 6-foot-7 and 291 pounds. For the Chargers, it would be unusual seeing a defensive end with length, as Liuget, ex-Charger Kendall Reyes and even former end Luis Castillo are all listed under 6-foot-4. Buckner finished with 18 sacks and 36 tackles for a loss during his four-year career at Oregon. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished last season as the highest-graded interior defender in the nation while leading his position with 67 total quarterback pressures. He also graded out as the ninth-best interior lineman against the run. Overall, Buckner is a perfect fit in defensive coordinator John Pagano’s 3-4 scheme.
The last option is trading back. The Chargers are still in a good position to make a trade, but the price has to be right. The best-case scenario would be to swap picks with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars need help on defense and could make a play for Ramsey. The Chargers won’t get a ton back since they would be moving two spots down, but they could get an extra pick or two AND still have a good chance of drafting Buckner. The San Francisco 49ers are rumored to be in love with Buckner, and the Miami Dolphins might jump on Ezekiel Elliott like they did with Dion Jordan, so those are two possible trades. The Tennessee Titans, who traded their first pick to the Los Angeles Rams, could also move back into the first round for Tunsil.
Anything can happen in the draft, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how it plays out.