Chargers Draft

Los Angeles Chargers: 5 linebackers to target after the first round

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Lorenzo Carter
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Lorenzo Carter
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5 of 5

Memphis LB Genard Avery

Don’t sleep on Genard Avery.

Avery played in all but two games (50 games/34 starts) in four years for the Memphis Tigers. After leading his team in sacks (five) as a true freshman, he went on to fill up the stat sheet. In 2015, he made 53 total tackles, including 6.5 for loss, and three sacks. He started all 13 games in back-to-back seasons his final two years. In 2016, he had 81 total tackles, including a team-leading 11 for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and two pick-sixes. In 2017, he earned first-team All-American honors after finishing with 80 total tackles, including 22 for loss (ranked 10th in the FBS), 8.5 sacks, two pass deflections and two forced fumbles.

He’s stocky (6-foot-1 and 255 pounds) but very athletic for a man his size. He plays violent and produces at a consistent level. He has a thick, powerful lower body to go along with great speed and good short-area burst. Scouts say he uses that quickness to get away from blockers. They also say he’s very decisive, has great pursuit and doesn’t give up on plays.

He can do it all. Here’s a good thread showcasing his run-stopping ability in the 2017 AAC Championship game vs UCF. Scouts say he looks natural in coverage, too. He also shined off the edge; PFF notes that he had the most pressures among draft-eligible FBS inside linebackers.

This is one of the best plays I've seen all year from a prospect. Play speed on display as he chases down the receiver, forces the fumble, and recovers the fumble. Absolutely ridiculous play by Genard Avery. pic.twitter.com/qkIHbqapyt

— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) March 6, 2018

He’s also versatile, as he saw snaps at multiple positions (OLB/ILB/EDGE) at Memphis. It helps when you’re a freak athlete. He killed it at the combine and looked smooth in on-field drills at his pro day. And according to NFL draft analyst Jonah Tuls, everything matches the tape.

Measurables match the tape. Undersized, but is a blur with his burst and pursuit to the football. Reactionary quickness is off the charts. I need to rearrange my top 50 because there weren’t 50 players I watched that were better than Memphis LB Genard Avery. Think Haason Reddick. pic.twitter.com/HtBijF1wt2

— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) March 6, 2018

Scouts say he’s still a bit raw. Also, he’ll struggle if he tries to disengage from bigger linemen when using his hands. Overall, here’s what Zierlein had to say about Avery:

“Avery is a big, athletic linebacker with a history of production whether he’s playing inside or outside linebacker. While he’s a little tight-hipped, his movement in the open field is generally unencumbered. Avery offers versatility and teams may choose to build on some of the rush talent he showed this season, but his best spot appears to be as a 4-3 strong-side linebacker with plus special teams ability.”

Where would he play for the Chargers? Like Zierlein noted, Avery is another play who’d fit well at the SAM and can play edge in sub-packages. Unlike some of the others, he also comes with experience at inside linebacker. He’s a bit undersized length-wise for the SAM, but he has the skill set and physical prowess to overcome that flaw.

I’d love for the Chargers to come away with this guy.

Round Prediction: Round 3-5

BYU LB Fred Warner

Fred Warner is another player who’s starting to some exposure as of late.

Warner had 240 total tackles, including 32 for loss, 13 pass deflections, sevens interceptions, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns in four years at BYU. He was a back-to-back, 13-game starter his last two years, and a senior captain who led his team in total tackles in 2017.

Scouts say Warner is one of the best linebackers in coverage–and he has a ton of experience dropping back as an outside LB in the BYU defense. They say he can play man or zone, as well as match up with tight ends and running backs. He had four picks and 11 passes batted in his last two seasons. Look at this play against QB Josh Rosen and the UCLA Bruins and tell me that’s not impressive.

Here’s Warner’s player overview on NFL.com:

“Warner’s future success could largely depend on who takes him and how they use him. While most will view him as an outside linebacker, Warner moves around like a big safety. With his instincts and cover skills in space, finding a hybrid role in sub-packages might be where he is best utilized. Warner’s size, speed and workout at the Combine may play into his draft value more heavily than many other prospects. Warner should find immediate work as a backup who can help on special teams.”

He’s lighter than all the guys listed above, weighing in at 227 pounds. But at 6-foot-3, he has good length. He’s also versatile. He played the MIKE and WILL linebacker positions at the Senior Bowl and did one heck of a job as an off-ball linebacker

And he did test very well at the combine. His 40-yard dash time (4.64 seconds) was average, but he ranked in the top 10 among linebackers in everything else, including the bench press (21 reps, tied for eighth), three-cone drill (3.69 seconds, tied for sixth with Avery), 20-yard shuttle (4.28 seconds, tied for ninth), vertical (38.5 inches, tied for fourth) and broad jump (9’11”, tied for ninth).

While he’ll add athleticism to any team, he’s not a thumper. Scouts say he’s great in space but needs to improve as a tackler. He likes to go for the big hit, but that doesn’t always pan out.

Where would he line up? At this very moment, I’m not exactly sure. He’s better in space and could thrive at the WILL, but I think that if he gets stronger and puts on a bit more muscle, he could be a good SAM linebacker, with his length and athleticism leading the way. Regardless, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. stated that Warner is an underrated player who would be a plug-and-play, every-down linebacker. With his above-average coverage skills and turnover ability, Warner could be a valuable chess piece for Bradley.

On another note, Clemson’s Dorian O’Daniel and Ohio State’s Jerome Baker would also be solid options at WILL linebacker. Chargers Wire’s Gavino Borquez makes a solid case for Baker here.

Round Prediction: Round 3-5

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