Apparently ESPN pundits don’t think too highly of the San Diego Chargers.
Well, they never did, even after free agency. ESPN released its post-draft power rankings, and the Chargers dropped two spots to No. 28.
No. 28? Really? This Chargers team is way better than their No. 28 ranking. I get it, though. The Chargers were 4-12 last season including 0-6 in the AFC West. That being said, health was a big reason why they were one of the worst teams in football. With the additions they made through free agency and the draft, along with the team getting healthy again, they should be a serious contender in the AFC.
Tom Telesco arguably had his best offseason since becoming general manager in 2013. Whether it be re-signing key players, making the right moves in free agency and getting impact players in the draft, this team should take a big leap forward in 2016.
Let’s take a look at the Chargers’ key losses and additions:
Re-signed – TE Antonio Gates, OT Joe Barksdale, OT Chris Hairston, S Jahleel Addae, WR Dontrelle Inman, G Kenny Wiggins, DT Damion Square, QB Kellen Clemens
Key Losses – S Eric Weddle, TE Ladarius Green, DE Kendall Reyes, CB Patrick Robinson
Key Additions – WR Travis Benjamin, NT Brandon Mebane, CB Casey Hayward, S Dwight Lowery, C/G Matt Slauson, TE Jeff Cumberland
Draft Picks – DE Joey Bosa, TE Hunter Henry, C Max Tuerk, LB Joshua Perry, LB Jatavis Brown, P Drew Kaser, FB Derek Watt, OT Donavon Clark
Released – LB Donald Butler, LB Kavell Conner, RB Donald Brown, P Mike Scifres
That is a pretty solid job by Telesco. He made smart moves in every portion of the offseason, getting impact players as well as filling big holes on the roster. The signing of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt may be the biggest addition to this team as he took the Bolts to the playoffs in 2013. Unlike former coordinator Frank Reich, Whisenhunt has a good chance to fix the team’s porous running game.
Now, let’s take a look at the rest of the AFC West and see where they ranked on ESPN’s power rankings.
Denver Broncos – No. 8 (post-free agency ranking – No. 7)
Kansas City Chiefs – No. 10 (post-free agency ranking – No. 9)
Oakland Raiders – No. 13 (post-free agency ranking – No. 16)
The AFC West is one of best divisions in football, which is one of the biggest reasons why the Chargers are ranked where they are. Again, they were 0-6 last season in the division, and if you don’t go at least 3-3 against divisional opponents, it will be difficult to make the playoffs.
But that’s where I expect an improvement. The Chargers have the personnel, health, coaching experience, and most importantly the quarterback to go at least 3-3 in the division this season. Add that with a favorable schedule, and we should see the Chargers make ESPN look silly for ranking them No. 28.
You could argue that on paper the Chargers are a playoff team. They could easily flip their record from 4-12 to 12-4. That may seem optimistic, but the 2016 Chargers are primed to be better than what ESPN and the rest of the outsiders think.