Defensive Tackle: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
If the Chargers are considering drafting Tillery, they will likely have to do so with their first pick in the draft. No. 99 (something tells me he’ll have to change his number) is a former offensive lineman who switched to defense as a freshman at Notre Dame. His physical gifts and disruptive productivity (30 tackles, eight sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles) give him first-round potential. As a former offensive lineman, though, he needs to work on his hands to truly translate to the NFL.
This is a player the Chargers would be happy to have at 28. However, Telesco and company need to gauge the “character” behind the player. In his first year, Tillery was suspended from the Fiesta Bowl for violating team rules, and had two incidents of appearing to take dirty shots at USC players.
I’m not sure how much this deters the organization from considering Tillery, and it’s worth noting the team has not currently brought in Ndamukong Suh as a free agent, another “dirty” player. However, given the maturation of the player on and off the field, the Chargers could feel that Tillery has grown enough to warrant a selection. His sack total from 2018 is also inflated by a four-sack game against Stanford, which amounts for half his season total.
Draft Projection: First Round (if the Chargers want him)
Offensive Tackle: Tytus Howard, Alabama State
Howard is an offensive lineman with an increasing stock, being mocked higher and higher in draft simulations. A former high school quarterback, the tackle out of Alabama State has shown a surprisingly quick ability to pick up the ins and outs of playing the position, and looks rather comfortable doing it with his 6’5″, 322-pound frame. Watching him is a bit of a surprise, as I didn’t expect him to have the technical skills that some of the guys drafted in “later” rounds with similar size are knocked for.
Alabama State OT Tytus Howard is a small-school prospect that will rise up boards within the next couple months. His tape against Auburn was stellar. Outstanding arm length to keep space between defenders at the POA. Upper body strength to latch and steer edge rushers away. pic.twitter.com/neDrp9MX25
— Gavino Borquez (@GavinoBorquez) January 11, 2019
What Howard will ultimately be pushed down the board for is his level of competition, though his appearance against Auburn in September shows he can mostly handle edge rushers with more potential.
Draft Projection: Third round to early Day Three
Defensive Tackle: Gerald Willis III, Miami (Florida)
Willis III is at least a third round prospect with ability to harass pass rushers and ball-carriers. With 18 tackles for loss in 2018, and a Pro Football Focus run-stop percentage that ranks third among defensive tackles, he shows he can be disruptive.
Gerald Willis. Great swim move and nice burst for a big man. pic.twitter.com/qmHcR8yJhu
— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) November 25, 2018
As is the status quo for most third round-to-later prospects, there are athletic traits galore, but technical refinement is needed. The Chargers have quietly had good defensive line improvement in individual players like Isaac Rochell and Darius Philon, so Willis III will be in good hands if brought on to the team.
Draft Projection: Third round
Offensive Tackle: Dalton Risner, Kansas State
Though the last member of this list, Risner may actually be the pick when the Chargers make their first round selection. If they’re going to replace Tevi on the offensive line, they may have to make their move early. Risner is not the athletic standout that Tytus Howard is, for example, but he comes with more technical refinement at a higher competition level. And for the Chargers, that could be enough to warrant selecting him at No. 28.
Kansas State right tackle Dalton Risner's hand strength and power at the point of attack show up every single rep. Elite run blocker. Look at the upper body strength here to latch onto Montez Sweat and turn him out of the gap. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/VPQknCSscu
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) March 21, 2019
The Chargers will likely watch at least four tackle prospects fall before their selection, but it is likely that Risner is there for them to take. I’ve been saying all along that they will take a tackle in the first round and if I were to put money on who they will take based on need and draft projections of players in front of them, I’d put it on Risner.