The San Diego Chargers are a team that brought in 20 undrafted free agents following the NFL draft earlier this month. With a roster that presents quite of bit of opportunity, we are going to look at which of these players will not only impress during training camp and preseason games, but will earn a spot on the team’s final 53-man roster.
This year, five—yes five—undrafted rookies will make the team. That would be remarkable for one team to have that happen, but the Chargers will be the team it happens for. Here is a look at the five undrafted rookies who will make the squad.
Sep 26, 2015; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks long snapper Devin Melendez (66) and Oregon Ducks offensive lineman Tyler Johnstone (64) and Oregon Ducks long snapper Tanner Carew (58) at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Johnstone, Offensive Lineman
This should be seen as a surprising pick.
Tyler Johnstone went undrafted out of Oregon despite having a promising career in front of him when he came to the school. A torn ACL in 2013 hampered his draft stock, particularly because he doesn’t seem to have as much athleticism as he did prior to the injury.
There is opportunity along San Diego’s offensive line and though the team does have two veterans starting at the tackle spots in King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale, neither player is irreplaceable.
Johnstone will be able to take advantage of this by using his technique and work ethic throughout training camp to claim a roster spot, adding depth to the line.
As a lineman that can move, he is a player that offensive line coaches Jeff Davidson and Dave DeGuglielmo will be able to mold into a solid, productive offensive lineman. These coaches will also love the effort that Johnstone gives and his ability to get to the second level and block more than one player on a given play.
Johnstone will end up making the team while guys like Tyreek Burwell and Kenny Wiggins will be cut.
Nov 21, 2015; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver Dom Williams (80) scores a touchdown against the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Dom Williams, Wide Receiver
Say what you want about Dom Williams being a product of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offensive attack at Washington State University, but he is an intriguing prospect because of his physical gifts.
Williams is 6’3″ and 200 pounds with a 40.5 inch vertical leap. Yes, he may have caught 192 receptions for 2,889 yards and 30 touchdowns in his college career—all within the top three in school history—because the Cougars threw the ball a lot, but why can’t he do some of the same things in San Diego?
Williams will need to run better routes at the professional level, but he has explosive speed and the ability to stretch the field vertically. What NFL team doesn’t want a 6’3″ guy that can do that?
And let’s be honest, it’s not like the Chargers have a bunch of world-beaters at wide receiver.
Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin and Stevie Johnson will all make the team, but those are the only locks. You can throw Dontrelle Inman’s name out there, and he’ll likely make the roster, but it’s not like he’s been impressive. Far from it.
Tyrell Williams showed promise toward the end of last season, but it’s still unclear if he can be a productive long-term option. Aside from that, give me Dom Williams over every other wide receiver on the team, including Javontee Herndon.
Nov 14, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Cougars running back Kenneth Farrow (35) carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the Memphis Tigers at TDECU Stadium. The Cougars won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Kenneth Farrow, Running Back
This is an interesting choice, because it assumes that the Chargers will keep five running backs. After the recent news that Melvin Gordon just went through microfracture surgery, it might be wise to keep more options around.
Gordon, Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver and Derek Watt will all make the team, but Kenneth Farrow deserves a solid look as well.
Former Houston RB Kenneth Farrow agreed to terms with Chargers, source said. Three-year captain in college.
— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) April 30, 2016
Farrow is a tough runner who averaged 5.3 yards per carry during his college career at the University of Houston. He ran for 2,980 yards during his career to go with 34 touchdowns. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield and play special teams, something he did plenty of in college.
Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is going to want a strong stable of running backs, which will lead the Chargers to keep five on the roster this year. Farrow will beat out Dreamius Smith and Chris Swain for that last spot.
Sep 26, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Cougars safety Adrian McDonald (16) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the second quarter against the Texas State Bobcats at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Adrian McDonald, Safety
If only one undrafted rookie makes the final roster for the Chargers this year, it’s going to be this guy.
The Chargers don’t have great depth at the safety position, especially after not using a draft pick on one. Instead, Jahleel Addae and Dwight Lowery are your likely day one starters. Behind them is Darrell Stuckey and a bunch of question marks.
McDonald has a nose for the football and as a center fielder-type of safety, he can make plays on the ball. He finished his college career with 299 tackles and 17 interceptions.
He’ll need to show what he can do against the run to be more than a nickel defender early in his career, but he was also a productive special teams player at Houston. He will find a role and make this squad.
Nov 21, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) prepares to pass during the second quarter of the territorial cup against the Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Bercovici, Quarterback
An undrafted quarterback makes the team? How does that happen? It happens because the guys in front of Mike Bercovici are Kellen Clemens and Bryn Renner.
If Bercovici were three inches taller, he would have been a mid-round draft pick. But the Chargers weren’t afraid to use a high pick on Drew Brees several years ago, and at 6’0″, Bercovici plays much bigger than his height suggests.
No other QB in this draft class suffered more drops from their receivers than reported Chargers UDFA Mike Bercovici with 40
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 1, 2016
Don’t let his undrafted status fool you. This kid can play. As they say in the NFL, he can really “spin it”. His arm talent is evident and he can make plays by being mobile in the pocket. While at Arizona State last season, Bercovici threw for over 3,800 yards and 30 touchdowns in just 13 games.
At the next level, he’ll need to improve is accuracy on the deep ball and make better decisions, but learning behind a proven starter like Philip Rivers will give him the opportunity to do that.
As stated, the two guys above Bercovici aren’t guaranteed anything. Don’t be surprised if Bercovici not only makes the team, but wins the No. 2 quarterback job.