The 2018 NFL Draft ended up being an important one for the Los Angeles Chargers, especially as it became right before a 12-4 season.
They did not know it then, but the 9-7 Los Angeles Chargers were in for a very fun and very exciting 2018 season. Prior to the year, the team was just looking to build off of narrowly missing the playoffs and utilizing the 2018 NFL Draft as best they could.
Only two years removed from the draft, we can safely say that a majority of the selections were good ones by Tom Telesco, some of which even had an immediate impact on the team and led to them going 12-4 in 2018.
As anticipation for the 2020 NFL Draft, we are taking a look back at the last 10 NFL Drafts for the Los Angeles Chargers and providing a retrospective grade for each selection. Here is how the Chargers did.
2018 NFL Draft Retrospective:
- Draft order location: 17
- Selections: Seven
- Pro Bowls: One
- All-Pros: One
- Trades: Chargers trade 234th overall pick to Buffalo for Cardale Jones
First-round selection: Derwin James, S, Florida State
Derwin James was not supposed to fall to the Los Angeles Chargers. Prior to the draft, most big boards and mock drafts had James in the top-seven, it seemed almost inconceivable that he would fall out of the top-10.
But then he did. And then he kept falling. The Bills traded up to the 15th overall pick and it seemed like the Chargers were going to narrowly miss out on the draft’s bigger faller. They didn’t. The Bills selected Tremaine Edmunds and the Chargers got away with highway robbery.
James went on to be a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in his rookie season, proving to be one of the most talented and versatile safeties in the entire league. After a strong rookie season, James appeared ready for a long career of being at the NFL mountaintop.
Injuries held him back in year two but he was still great while he was on the field. James was a great selection, even if he just fell in the Chargers’ lap. There were other talented players taken shortly after, but James was the right pick.
Second-round selection: Uchenna Nwosu, OLB, USC
Uchenna Nwosu was not someone that many people had on the Chargers’ radar heading into the draft but it is not hard to see why the team liked the hometown linebacker. Nwosu was one of the best outside linebackers in the country with USC and was a promising rotational backer for the Chargers to bring in.
Through three seasons that is exactly what Nwosu has been. He has stayed healthy and played in all 32 games, which is a huge plus, but has only started six. Nwosu has 5.5 career sacks, eight tackles for loss, 17 quarterback hits and 41 solo tackles.
Nwosu has not been tremendous, but there were was only one notable Pro Bowler taken relatively close to Nwosu with no huge standouts, so it is hard to give this a bad grade. For what the team had available, this was a good pick.
- Grade: B-
- Could have drafted: Jessie Bates, D.J. Chark
Third-round selection: Justin Jones, DT, North Carolina State
The Los Angeles Chargers’ Achilles’ Heel on the defensive side of the ball in 2017 was the run defense and one of the biggest needs for the team was a run-stuffing defensive tackle, which is what the team got out of Justin Jones in the third round.
Jones did not play much in his rookie season, playing in 29 percent of the Chargers’ snaps, but played more in 2019. Jones started all 12 games he appeared in and played in 52 percent of the Chargers’ defensive snaps, mostly coming on running downs.
Jones has not been great but he has not been bad, either, and although he is a bit undersized, he does show promise. The only problem is that the Chargers did not end up selecting the best run-stuffing defensive end, at least through two seasons, as Harrison Phillips has been better and was selected just 12 picks later.
- Grade: C
- Could have drafted: Harrison Phillips, Mark Andrews
Fourth-round selection: Kyzir White, LB, West Virginia
Kyzir White was drafted to be a rotational inside linebacker and that is exactly what he has been thus far in his career. However, he may end up getting a bigger test in 2020 without Thomas Davis and with a potentially reduced role for Denzel Perryman.
White has not gotten a ton of playing time through two seasons. He played in 14 percent of defensive snaps in his rookie season and 38 percent in his sophomore year without really playing on special teams.
White has not been bad and you cannot expect the world out of a fourth-round pick, plus, he has more time to blossom into an impact player. There are no misses that jump off the paper.
- Grade: B
- Could have drafted: N/A
Fifth-round selection: Scott Quessenberry, C, UCLA
The Los Angeles Chargers selected another hometown prospect in Scott Quessenberry, who did not play much in his rookie season but had a much bigger role in his second season because of injuries.
Quessenberry started nine games in his second season and was not bad. He was not great, as indicated by his 58.4 Pro-Football Focus grade, but he held his own enough to compete for the center job moving forward.
Again, we cannot expect too much out of a fifth-round pick and outside of one receiver that the Chargers did not need, they did not miss out on any notably better players.
- Grade: B
- Could have drafted: Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Sixth-round selection: Dylan Cantrell, WR, Texas Tech
Dylan Cantrell has not played a single snap for the Los Angeles Chargers. He was on the practice squad his first season and was hurt his second. While it might be a bit harsh, we have to give this a failing grade. Could it turn around? Absolutely, but so far, this pick has been a dud.
Seventh-round selection: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
Justin Jackson is already a household name for the Los Angeles Chargers. That is because of Jackson’s great game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018 while Melvin Gordon was injured. Jackson had an electric second half that helped the Chargers overcome a three-touchdown deficit.
Jackson was set to have a bigger role in year two but only played seven games because of injury. With Melvin Gordon likely leaving the team, Jackson is set to be an even bigger part of the running game in year three and just for what he has done already this is a great selection.
Even if Jackson does not make any other significant impacts, that one performance he gave the fans in the most memorable season of recent memory is worth a seventh-round pick.
- Grade: A
- Could have drafted: Auden Tate
Overall draft grade: B+
The Chargers did what they had to do in this draft and landed one of the best rookies from the class in Derwin James and oftentimes made the right selections in the other rounds.
They do not have any other significant standouts but comparing what the team selected versus what they could have selected in most cases, it is impossible to consider this a bad draft in the slightest.