Draft content is saturated to the brim. Endless mock drafts, prospect rankings, trade rumors, etc. We've all found ourselves talking in circles, and until Jacksonville is officially on the clock, plenty of discourse could be put to rest.
Now is a great time, however, to shift our mindsets back towards fundamentals and not let last-minute buzz have influence on the process up to this point (unless you "know a guy", of course).
Here are some ways the Chargers can adapt this mentality heading into Thursday's NFL Draft:
1. Positional value matters
The draft is a key pipeline NFL front offices extract from to replenish their 53-man roster. Nobody suggests drafting a punter in the first round if your special teams unit lacked one, for example. You can, however, work your way outward from the extremes to identify positions that inherit a greater impact on the outcome of a game, relative to others.
Those with analytics backgrounds like myself research this concept extensively, and one conclusion (we) find aligns with a core value of Brandon Staley's defensive ideology; prioritizing coverage and defensive backs. Devin Lloyd (Utah) is the hot name among linebacker prospects, and his position happens to be a missing piece on the Bolts' defense following Kyzir White's departure in free agency. Because of this, speculation around Lloyd and the Chargers being a potential match has risen substantially.
Linebacker must be addressed by the Bolts this offseason. It's also true that the position isn't as valuable as it once was in today's pass-heavy league, on top of its low burden specifically within Staley's defense. Burning a premium resource like a first-round draft pick isn't necessary to sufficiently address the position. This Devin Lloyd scenario is a great example of how weighing team needs with positional value is critical for an efficient selection process.
2. Objective assumptions
It's absolutely okay to want a specific player to fall right into your team's lap on draft day. It's also okay to envision the connection between a prospect and your favorite team if it were to pan out — that's one of the best parts of being a fan. However, if avoiding severe disappointment reigns as a top priority, some form of expectations are needed beforehand.
LSU Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. put on a clinic at his pro day, leaving an imprint with many Bolts fans after his interaction with Brandon Staley. Adding defensive back depth appears to be a key component of a successful draft, so should we consider Stingley Jr. as a real possibility to facilitate this?
Through our partners at WynnBET sportsbook, analyzing draft props can give us a sense of a player's availability for the Chargers at pick seventeen. Stingley Jr. currently has -700 odds to be a top ten pick (implied probability of 87.5%), along with an over/under draft position at 7.5.
It would be a stretch to consider him available by the time the Chargers are on the clock at seventeen. This simple, yet practical gauging of how it could all play out becomes useful if the goal is to shorten a list of players to keep an eye on as the draft progresses, especially if you have a position group in mind (Washington CB Trent McDuffie's availability for this example).
3. Force multipliers
Sebastian Joseph-Day was an ideal signing in free agency this offseason. The Chargers were in desperate need of a run-stuffer from the interior after a poor 2021 campaign against opposing rushing attacks. Joseph-Day, who had success in this role under Brandon Staley (Defensive Coordinator) with the Rams, directly acknowledges this area on run defense.
Even when you acknowledge this addition to the Bolts' defensive front, I believe it's vital to consider a force multiplier like Georgia Defensive Tackle Jordan Davis if he's available at pick seventeen. His presence in the box improves the unit against opposing rushing attacks on early downs, as well as benefits the secondary by allowing a numbers advantage in coverage.
This numbers advantage in the secondary, without sacrificing gaps and big rush plays in the trenches, is incredibly valuable to an entire defense. He's the quintessential notion of a "gift that keeps on giving", and is exactly the role that Staley needs in order to consistently deploy his two-high shell. Force multipliers like Jordan Davis must always be considered if they're available, regardless if the position is or isn't a current need.