Chargers Roster

LA Chargers: Potential hidden gems on the Chargers roster

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 17: Wide receiver Tyron Johnson #13 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys heads onto the field for a game against the West Virginia Mountaineers on November 17, 2018 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma State won 45-41. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 17: Wide receiver Tyron Johnson #13 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys heads onto the field for a game against the West Virginia Mountaineers on November 17, 2018 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma State won 45-41. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) – LA Chargers
(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) – LA Chargers

LA Chargers hidden gem number three: Malik Jefferson, linebacker

This one might surprise some but the LA Chargers came to terms with linebacker Malik Jefferson on a future/reserve contract back in January. Jefferson did not pan out in Cincinnati after being drafted by the Bengals in 2018 but there is still plenty of upside there.

Jefferson battled for playing time at the University of Texas and only really started for one season but flashed high upside because of his natural athleticism and playmaking ability. His last season as a Longhorn he racked up 110 tackles. Where he really showed potential was a linebacker/pass rusher hybrid type. In his three years in college, he totaled 13 sacks, including six and a half as a sophomore.

NFL scouts were all over the map when it came to grading him, but Matt Miller of Bleacher Report had him graded as a second-round pick. At the time he wrote of him:

“On athleticism and upside, Malik Jefferson is a first-rounder, but every team must evaluate him differently. He isn’t a fit in a scheme that wants him to sit and read, but if he’s freed up to make plays either in space or coming off the edge as a pass-rusher, he could make a huge immediate impact.”

That description sounds a lot like what scouts wrote about Uchenna Nwosu during his draft process as well. Along with that high praise, Miller gave Jefferson a second-round worthy grade.

The Chargers like using their SAM or OTTO linebackers in a role where they can both rush the passer and play more of a traditional role. Kenneth Murray can do that, and I think he will be involved in the pass rush but the team currently views him as a WILL or MIKE backer.

So the Chargers need to have someone who can provide them with some depth should anything happen to Nwosu. They drafted Emeke Egbule out of Houston in the sixth round of last year’s NFL draft, but he rarely got on the field last season so there’s no real clear leader in terms of being Nwosu’s backup.

Between the two, Jefferson showed more versatility and explosiveness in college and that could give him an edge over Egbule.

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