Los Angeles Chargers: Top 10 choices in the 2018 NFL Draft

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 27: Commissioner of the National Football League Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on April 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 27: Commissioner of the National Football League Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on April 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Chargers hold the No. 17 selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. Who should they pick? Here are my top 10 choices.

I’m no scout. I just do a ton of research. And I have a ton of fun doing it.

I also get hunches. You know, that gut feeling telling me this player is going to be very good. Last year, the Chargers had a ton of options to choose from being in the top 10 (No. 7 overall), but I narrowed it down to four players based on talent and need: Safety Jamal Adams, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and edge rusher Derek Barnett. Adams was taken one pick before the Chargers were on the clock, but the rest were still available. All of those players went on to have very good rookie seasons (Allen played well prior to a season-ending injury). As for wide receiver Mike Williams, the Chargers’ first-round pick, I wasn’t surprised. Despite not being a bad player, I just didn’t think he was the right choice.

The Chargers now sit in the middle of the pack in the 2018 draft. Because of that, I’m going to give you my top 10 choices. These players were chosen based on talent and need, but some of them AREN’T going to be available (I already wrote realistic options in separate articles). However, the draft is so unpredictable that it doesn’t hurt putting them on this list. And it’s all for fun and games, right?

Let’s dive in!

1. TREMAINE EDMUNDS, LB, VIRGINIA TECH: Edmunds is my favorite player in the draft. The 6-foot-5, 253-pound freak of nature is only 19 years old and has the potential to become one of the best defenders in football. Yeah, I’m that high on him. He also happens to fill a huge hole on defense. I have seen him outside the top 10 in a few mocks, even going to the Chargers in one. It’d be great if he fell, but I highly doubt it’ll happen. A guy can dream.

2. ROQUAN SMITH, LB, GEORGIA: Smith, who is my second favorite defender in the draft, is a playmaker. He has the speed and range to cover sideline to sideline, is great in coverage and will stop you in your tracks in the run game. He’s a tad undersized (6-foot-1, 236 pounds) for the position, but like Edmunds, I don’t think he makes it to 17. Depending on how much it’d cost, trading up for Edmunds or Smith could be on the table.

3. DERWIN JAMES, S, FLORIDA STATE: How can James be this high on here AND one of my realistic choices for the Bolts at the same time? For starters, he’s my favorite safety prospect in this class. And secondly, his draft stock is all over the place. He’s been slotted to go in the top 10 in some mock drafts and slid to the mid-to-late teens in others. I don’t get it. What I do get is that the athletic James can do it all and play multiple roles on defense. He’d instantly become the team’s defensive leader.

4. MINKAH FITZPATRICK, DB, ALABAMA: I’m a big fan of Fitzpatrick’s, I just like James more. That said, Fitzpatrick is usually taken before James in almost every mock. He’s a versatile and talented playmaker who comes with a ton of production and a high IQ. It’s worth noting that he only had one interception last season after having six the year before. Also, scouts are concerned about what position he’d play. I’d start him at free safety, a position that is currently vacant for the Chargers.

5. VITA VEA, DT, WASHINGTON: Now we’re getting to the more realistic choices for the Chargers. The 6-foot-4, 347-pound Vea has a rare combination of size and athleticism. He would make his teammates around him that much better. Teams don’t value nose tackles, which is why there’s a good chance he’d be on the board. However, he’s the one big-bodied defensive tackle I am not hesitant about taking early, especially when your team can’t stop the run to save its life.

6. RASHAAN EVANS, LB, ALABAMA: Honestly, it’s a toss up between Vea and Evans for me. I’d be stoked with either one of them. Evans is so versatile (would start him at the SAM but can play all three linebacker spots). He’s a hard-hitting, three-down linebacker who has a knack for getting after the quarterback. He’s dealt with a nagging groin injury at Bama, which is a bit of a concern.

7. DA’RON PAYNE, DT, ALABAMA: Payne was a beast in the playoffs and showed off his athleticism at the combine. While his job was to command double teams, his three career sacks is  a bit underwhelming. Also, scouts say he didn’t play at a consistent level during the regular season. Still, I think he’d be a solid pick for the Chargers, especially because you can play him at the 1-tech (Brandon Mebane is on the wrong side of 30) and 3-tech (Corey Liuget is suspended the first four games of the season).

8. LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE: “But, but win-now mode!” Sorry, but I despise that phrase. You know there’s six other rounds, right? And you can draft starters outside of the first round, right? I haven’t been one for taking a QB early, especially with the way Philip Rivers has been playing. But I really like the crop of quarterbacks this year (excluding Josh Allen), and I think drafting an electrifying playmaker like Jackson and having him sit behind Rivers for the next two or three years isn’t a bad idea whatsoever. Plus, it’s not like he’s my first option on this list.

9. MIKE MCGLINCHEY, OT, NOTRE DAME: Just because the Chargers got better up front a year ago doesn’t mean they should be satisfied with what they have, especially when it comes to an area that has let them down the previous three years. An offensive lineman isn’t a sexy pick, but McGlinchey is arguably the top tackle in this draft. The Chargers need a replacement on the right side of the line, where he would start Day 1. He’d also be the future at left tackle. Unlike this weak offensive line class, the draft is deep for linebackers, defensive tackles and safeties, so it’s not a bad idea to take him.

10. TAVEN BRYAN, DT, FLORIDA: Bryan is a bit raw, but he has arguably the highest upside of all defensive tackles in his class. The reason why I feel good about the Chargers taking a player like Bryan: DC Gus Bradley. Coaching is everything, and I believe Bradley can turn Bryan, a penetrating 3-tech DT, into a monster. The thought of having Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Bryan wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks is just so enticing.

JUST MISSED THE CUT: MAURICE HURST, DT, MICHIGAN: There are so many different takes on Hurst. Pro Football Focus loves him, ranking him as their No. 1 interior defender; NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock doesn’t even have him listed in his final positional rankings. In my opinion, I’m not super high on him, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think he’ll be a good player. He’d be a good fit at the 3-tech in Bradley’s scheme. He’s undersized, but it’s his heart issue that scares me a bit. However, I wouldn’t be upset if he was the pick.

If you haven’t had the chance to read my in-depth draft-related articles, go ahead and check them out below!

*Running backs to target in the draft

*5 linebackers to target after the first round

*5 defensive tackles to target after the first round

*5 safeties to target after the first round

*Most unpredictable pick at 17

*Most predictable pick at 17

*Why OT Mike McGlinchey should be the pick at 17

*Why S Derwin James should be the pick at 17

*Why LB Rashaan Evans should be the pick at 17

*Why DT Vita Vea should be the pick at 17