With an opening at free safety, expect the Chargers to address the position early.
The Chargers are a young and talented team. However, they are far from perfect.
Looking at the current roster, Los Angeles has three positions to fill (in no particular order): Free safety, defensive tackle and right tackle. Jahleel Addae, last year’s starting FS, was cut in March. Adrian Phillips was re-signed to a one-year deal, but he’s best suited to play in the hybrid role in Gus Bradley’s defense. Phillips shined there, so why move him? DTs Darius Philon and Corey Liuget split reps at the 3-tech, and now both players are no longer on the team. Sam Tevi was the team’s starting RT, but he proved to be the weakest part on the offensive line. Former second-rounder Forrest Lamp, who is finally healthy, will likely compete for a starting role at right guard and/or right tackle.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has hit on his last four first-round picks by selecting Melvin Gordon (2015), Joey Bosa (2016), Mike Williams (2017) and Derwin James (2018). Ironically, all but the selection of James were questioned by Chargers fans.
Telesco has a plan, so what will he do in 2019?
Let’s start here.. Clemson’s Christian Wilkins and Houston’s Ed Oliver, two players that are likely on the Chargers’ radar, are unlikely to fall to No. 28 overall, the pick the team currently holds. Should a super talented and versatile defensive tackle with high character and a national championship to his name like Wilkins somehow slide in the draft, I wouldn’t put it past Telesco trading up for him–Wilkins IS a “Telesco guy.”
Expect an early run on the elite offensive tackles, too; Washington State’s Andre Dillard, Alabama’s Jonah Williams, Florida’s Jawaan Taylor and Oklahoma’s Cody Ford have been projected to get drafted within the first 25 picks. The versatile Ford is the only one of those four who I could see fall, and it’d be great if he was available when the Chargers are on the clock.
If all of the above aren’t there, what then? Trading back is something to think about, but it’s easier said than done. Kansas State OT Dalton Risner and Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence are names that have been brought up on a daily basis. Even though I’d wait until the second or third round for a tackle at this point (hey Greg Little, Tytus Howard and Yodny Cajuste!), I’d be content with Risner, who is versatile and strong in the passing game. Lawrence, however, is not someone the Chargers should target strictly because they don’t need a two-down run stuffer. Brandon Mebane, who just signed a two-year deal, is the starter at the 1-tech and Justin Jones, last year’s third-round pick, is behind him. Again, I’m not knocking the player, I just don’t see the value (give me Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery, but we’ll talk about him later..)
That said, if I’m Telesco, I’m really taking a hard look at Delaware safety Nasir Adderley and Maryland safety Darnell Savage. Adderley is considered one of the best, if not the best safety in this class, and Savage has quickly climbed up draft boards and is reportedly getting a ton of buzz.
Pro Football Focus ranks Adderley and Savage as their No. 1 and No. 2 safeties, respectively. Adderley is a small-school prospect, but the 2018 FCS All-American has everything you want in an NFL free safety and will start right away. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah applauds Adderley’s instincts, range and ball skills in his top 100 rankings. He’s an aggressive tackler, too. He racked up nine interceptions and 165 tackles over the past two seasons. He’s also a threat in the return game and has versatility to play corner. We know Telesco likes a player who can play multiple positions.
Savage, a second-team all-Big Ten selection in 2018, also had a knack for finding the ball. He picked off seven passes over his last two seasons at Maryland. He’s a playmaker with the ball in his hands, turning two of those interceptions into touchdowns. Jeremiah says he is a hard hitter who takes excellent angles, too. He’s extremely athletic and finished with great numbers at the combine, including running a 4.36 40-yard dash.
Not only do Adderley and Savage have the stats to back them up, but they really stand out when you watch the film. They play fast and are all over the field. They would complement 2018 first-round safety Derwin James extremely well, making this secondary dangerous.
But here’s the thing: If the Chargers have their eyes on one of these guys and trading back is not an option, they’re going to have to pull the trigger at No. 28 because they will not be around when the Chargers pick again.
And I’d be more than thrilled to take one of the top three safeties, especially over Risner, arguably the fifth-best tackle in this class, and Lawrence, a two-down player. In my opinion, Adderley and Savage are the better prospects, fill a huge need and will start Day 1. What more can you ask for?