The San Diego Chargers finished the season with a dismal 4-12 record and now have the third overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. To give a little background, the Chargers have not picked in the top 5 since 2004, which netted them quarterback Philip Rivers. This years draft is deep with high-potential defensive players, in addition to two outstanding offensive tackles – Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss and Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame. This will be a huge opportunity for general manager Tom Telesco to land an impact player.
Offensive tackle is a huge need for the Chargers, but their budget for this area may be stretched thin. After re-signing right tackle Joe Barksdale to a four-year $22.2 million deal, and with left tackle King Dunlap adding $6.5 million to the 2016 cap, it seems highly unlikely that they draft either of the top two offensive tackle prospects with their number 3 pick.
Elsewhere on the team, the Bolts have a need at wide receiver, defensive line, free safety, and corner back.
Telesco has done a fine job thus far addressing some of these needs during the free-agency period, which is still ongoing. Thus far, he has added free safety Dwight Lowery from the Indianapolis Colts, who should do a good job filling the hole left by Eric Weddle’s departure. He brought in top notch defensive tackle Brandon Mebane from the Seattle Seahawks, a veteran who has proven to be solid on the front line. Finally, the addition of wide receiver Travis Benjamin from the Cleveland Browns will be another explosive weapon in Phillip Rivers’ arsenal.
Even after these big moves, The Chargers will need a second corner back to play opposite of Jason Verrett, as well as a defensive end to fill the void left by Kendall Reyes.
A number of analysts, including Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, have predicted that the Chargers will select Florida State corner back Jalen Ramsey with their number three pick. I don’t agree with this pick simply because the Chargers no longer require a player that can play a hybrid safety/cornerback role. I believe corner backs such as Vernon Hargreaves from Florida or Mackensie Alexander out of Clemson are just as good and can be had later in the first round.
Having said that, let’s draw up a few scenarios that the Chargers could execute in this years draft. Both scenarios will have the Chargers trading down, as Telesco is known to be a bargain hunter.
In this scenario the Chargers will make a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jags hold the fifth pick and they are looking to improve a defense that has to face Andrew Luck twice a year. They have already added defensive tackle Malik Jackson to a lucrative deal, as well as running back Chris Ivory and safety Tashaun Gipson. Despite these additions, the Jags still lack a true number one corner. This is where Ramsey falls into place.
The Jags are in a great position to trade up and swap picks with the Chargers and have the opportunity to grab the corner of their dreams. Meanwhile the Chargers could gain an extra second round pick to address other areas of need.
With the Jags appearing to be going all out to compete in 2016, the scenario doesn’t sound all that far-fetched. Jalen Ramsey would be the last major piece to complete the defense on an otherwise solid team.
Next, we’ll move on to the Ravens. They are in a different situation where they have not addressed many needs during free-agency. At this point, Baltimore needs help at just about every position on defense and the offensive line. It seems unlikely they would swap picks with the Chargers due to the variety of positions to fill, but we can add them here because draft day is unpredictable and you never know who teams actually value higher.
The only way to really stir this pot is to see who the Tennessee Titans and the Cleveland Browns take. If the Titans take Tunsil and the Browns take Carson Wentz as projected, there would be added pressure on the Ravens to pull the trigger on Stanley at offensive line or Joey Bosa on the defensive side.
In a perfect world, the Chargers would get to move down a few places and add another second round pick. This would allow them to draft a few players that can make an immediate impact on the team. With the fifth or sixth pick they could grab Oregon defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who recorded 83 total tackles, including an outstanding 17 for a loss, as well as 10.5 sacks during his senior campaign. Compared to Bosa, Buckner makes a better fit for the Chargers as he has come from a system that runs a 3-4 defense, and his huge frame and ferocious style of play would be a great complement to Corey Liugit. This defensive line would be a force to reckoned within the AFC.
Next, an added second round pick gives Telesco an opportunity to address the need for a corner back opposite Verrett. With the gained asset the Chargers could possibly trade back into the first round and pick up Clemson corner Alexander. Right now, CBSsports.com lists him as the third best corner in the draft but he could drop to the fifth corner taken in the first round. It isn’t because he is not as talented as the others, but simply because he is not the prototypical size for a corner in today’s NFL, not to mention the impact of a hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of the year. It’s important to remember he was a part of the Clemson secondary that was arguably the best in college football last year.
Why should the Chargers take a chance on him? Doesn’t this year’s draft seem kind of familiar? In 2014, the Chargers took a chance on a corner that descended down the boards because of injuries and lack of prototypical size. Yes, you guessed it: Jason Verrett. Telesco could take a chance on Alexander because, like Verrett, he is a smart player with a lot of potential and is great in man to man coverage.
What would it take to trade back into the first round? It would probably cost the Chargers their second round 35 pick and a fourth round pick. That seems like a steep price to pay, but the Chargers already have another second round pick in this scenario, and Telesco has traded away their fourth round pick every year to move up in the draft during his tenure. In 2013, he traded it to snag starting middle linebacker Manti Te’o, in 2014 traded to pick outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, and in 2015 he trade up to get starting running back Melvin Gordon. As you can see Telesco does not mind trading up as long the value is there.
This is all calculated guesswork, and it remains to be seen how the draft will play out. But based on how aggressive the Chargers have been this off season and Telesco’s track record of finding great value in the draft, this could be a realistic scenario for the Chargers come draft day.
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