With the season all but over after next week’s finale against Kansas City, I thought I’d jump the gun here and look at some promising prospects the San Diego Chargers should seriously consider taking should they be available while they are on the clock.
The framework of this article will consist of me individually naming off the top five prospects that should be on the Chargers big board, followed by individual analysis of each player’s fit within the organization, and completed with the odds that said player is actually selected. (Author’s note: This projection system is my own, I have no sources and you can bet your bottom dollar I have no clue who San Diego will actually select. This is simply who I’d consider taking if the power was in my hands.) I’ve also decided to leave both Myles Garrett and Jonathan Allen off of this list because the only scenario in which either of them fall is if the Browns, 49ers, Jaguars, and Jets all select offensive players in the top five. In other words, not likely. Without further delay, let’s begin.
1. Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
It was a toss up between Jamal Adams and the next player on this list, but ultimately need decided this argument. The Bolts need nothing more than a versatile safety who can earn his paycheck in the box and play cover 2 correctly (looking at you Dwight Lowery). Adams does both superbly as he is a ballhawk in the secondary and a formed tackler who can come downhill in a hurry.
However, I believe the two most important aspects of Jamal’s game are two intangibles that cannot be taught. First off, Adams’ motor is always running hot. He never takes a play off and most definitely never gives up on a play before he hears a whistle. The Chargers for far too long have been labeled as a “soft” team, and similar to Denzel Perryman and Joey Bosa in the previous two drafts, Jamal Adams will help rid San Diego of that label sooner rather than later.
Secondly, he is a smart, disciplined athlete on the field. He diagnoses plays before they occur and rarely bites on fakes. For comparison, think of Melvin Ingram defending the read-option against the Browns. That’s what a low football IQ looks like in a world class athlete’s body. Adams on the other hand, has both things going for him. Once we get closer to the draft I hope to do an in-depth film study of each player named on this list but for now I will end each analysis with a highlight video.
Odds Of Selection: 7/10, Adams’ Draft Range Between 8-12, Should Be Available/Fills Biggest Team Need
2. Derek Barnett, Edge Rusher, Tennessee
If both Garrett and Allen are off the board already, fear not, as Derek Barnett is an awesome consolation prize. The defensive end from the University of Tennessee is a polished pass rusher who holds his own against the run and would fit seamlessly into a 4-3 scheme if the team’s new head coach chose to go that direction. That’s assuming the inevitable occurs to Mike McCoy on black Monday.
His signature move is his extreme bend he creates rushing around the tackle. A man weighing as much as he does shouldn’t get that low to the ground with a 300-pound behemoth climbing on his back. If anything, his move shows off some intense core strength and impressive balance. The concern with depending on a bend move so much is the inability to keep contain on your rushing lanes. However, Barnett has consistently shown that he is a viable run-stuffer with sound tackling fundamentals on both the running backs and quarterbacks he meets in the backfield.
Couple his signature move with an impressive array of counter rush moves including an arm chop and spin move and you have yourself a blue chip prospect worthy of a top ten selection. Making this pick also allows San Diego to move on from Corey Liuget and the two-year, 20+ million dollar remaining contract attached to him should he sputter through the 2017 season.
Odds of Selection: 5/10, Barnett’s Draft Range 4-12, Most Likely Available/Fills Secondary Team Need
3. Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
This scenario involves San Diego trading down, as I feel like selecting Tim Williams in the top ten would be a reach. You see, Williams is a one-trick pony type of player, but man is that one trick something to marvel at. He is a pass-rusher through and through, miraculously outpacing his teammates in sacks and pressures in half the snaps while being Jonathan Allen’s partner in crime on a vaunted Alabama D. He is a freak athlete who beats linemen around the edge with a blistering first step off the snap. Additionally, he sometimes utilizes a spin move and good hand technique to beat his blockers.
In some ways his game is reminiscent of Ingram’s so if nothing else you are getting a similar player in Williams for 5-8 million dollars less than what it would cost to retain Ingram. On top of this, trading down say, five spots, would allow the team to accumulate extra draft picks as well. All in all, this scenario could prove to be the most beneficial as Tom Telesco has proven time and time again that he can draft effectively on Day 2 and Day 3 of the draft.
Odds of Selection: 3/10 Williams’ Draft Range 5-18, Most Likely Available, Chargers Probably Don’t Trade Down, Fills Secondary Team Need
4. Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
Regardless of how bad Michigan State has played this year know this, Malik McDowell is still a first-round talent. The DT/DE hybrid lineman was causing as much mayhem as ever, using his 6’6″ frame to disrupt opposing blockers. What’s ever more amazing is how he used his body to win on a consistent basis.
The most common problem associated with tall linemen is their inability to maintain good pad level. Too often tall lineman get “stood up”, causing them to pop out of their stance and lose their balance. However, McDowell’s pad level is low to the ground, as a result allowing him to use his legs more in his drive which in turn generates more power on his bullrush. It’s this move that knocks opposing offensive linemen off balance, leading to shed blocks aplenty by McDowell.
He is similar to DeForest Buckner from last year’s draft in that he is tall, rangy, and wins with nice pad level combined with impressive short burst agility for a man his size. McDowell would be a welcome addition to our front seven, and most definitely would help solidify a new 4-3 front should San Diego choose to go that route. I’ve always been a firm believer that teams should build from the trenches out and McDowell, much like Barnett, would certainly help matters a lot.
Odds of Selection: 3/10 McDowell’s Draft Range 7-15, Available, Better Talent Should Be On The Board, Still Fills Secondary Team Need
5. Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Clemson
The final player on this list also happens to be the only offensive player I’ll openly campaign for. Personally, I don’t see wide receiver as a need on the team. Sure, you can never have enough wide receivers on a roster, but I think that safety and defensive line both supersede wide receiver at this juncture. However, if there was a player worthy of San Diego’s pick on the offensive side of the ball, it would be Mike Williams.
He has all the tools you could want in a future number one wide out. Size, speed, hands, and route running are all plus abilities for Williams already. At 6’4″, Williams is expected to run a sub 4.5 forty at the combine. He’d be another weapon to give Philip Rivers before his play begins to inevitably decline. While the need may not be there necessarily, it is always nice to have insurance options at the wide receiver position. Keenan Allen has only appeared in nine games the past two seasons, leaving the Chargers without a true number one threat.
With the recent emergence of Melvin Gordon, Williams would help solidify an already deadly offensive arsenal. While he is most definitely my least favorite selection of the five, I’d still rather see the team go with Williams at wide receiver than reach heavily (no pun intended) on an offensive lineman in the top ten.
Odds of Selection: 5/10 Williams’ Draft Range 5-14, Team Could Look to Further Support Rivers’, Most Talented Receiver In a Respectable Class of Wideouts, Fills Secondary Team Need
All in all, I feel as if San Diego should go defense in the first round. With no worthy offensive lineman worth taking, the biggest needs on the team are safety and a pass rusher. Luckily for Telesco and Co. this is a strong safety class and a relatively deep DL/OLB class as well. The front office could mix and match the first two rounds however they like. Although one thing is clear, come April, San Diego should be looking to replace Lowery and Liuget with younger, cheaper options.