It’s been nearly half a decade since this happened but as of now, the Los Angeles Chargers are drafting in the playoff realm once again. Currently sitting with the 28th overall pick, Los Angeles is still in a prime spot to draft a top end starter that could make a lasting impact on their roster for years to come.
As things sit right now, the Chargers have four main needs for the long-term future; defensive line, linebacker, cornerback and free safety. With players such as Denzel Perryman, Trevor Williams, Jason Verrett and Jahleel Addae all potentially up for new contracts next season, the Chargers defense could be in for a major overhaul next draft season.
While not every player can be round 1 material, nailing your first pick in the draft is crucial for teams who need players now to contribute. As it stands for the Bolts defense, they need to nail their first round pick.
If you’re a college football fan and want to know who you should be watching this week, here are a handful of talented defensive players that could end up playing a pivotal role come Sundays in 2019. (Also one offensive player just for fun!)
Clemson DL Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins vs Florida State
It might be cheating to put two players that happen to be teammates in the same article, but if the Chargers miss out on one, they should at least consider the other. At one point, both players were ranked among the league’s top defensive prospects. In recent months, the hype has begun to cool on Lawrence and rapidly chilled on Wilkins after he elected to return to school. While both might not be top-10 selections anymore, they still can flirt with the first round and be available when the Chargers are on the clock.
Members of perhaps the most-feared front line in college football, Wilkins and Lawrence are solid run stoppers that can fill holes quick and limit the run. At 6’4 and 351 pounds, Lawrence is quick off the line and can add pressure to any quarterback up the middle. Wilkins is more of a gap filler but has solid size that allows him to bull rush up the middle to stop running backs in their tracks. Imagine a defensive line with Joey Bosa, Corey Liuget, Melvin Ingram and one of these guys attacking the AFC West. A big game against a poor Florida State offensive line could be just the key needed for them to keep their day 1 status.
Georgia CB DeAndre Baker vs. Florida
Trevor Williams is a restricted free agent and could be signed to an offer the Chargers can’t match. Jason Verrett would be great to have around but trusting him to remain healthy is like trusting Jahleel Addae in single high coverage…we’ll get to that later. With Desmond King the team’s top nickel cornerback, the other outside cornerback position should be considered in the first round. LSU’s Greedy Williams will be long gone before the Chargers are on the clock but perhaps Baker could be the next Derwin James and fall.
While only listed at 5’11, Baker has elite shutdown skills in man coverage to make him a top-caliber cover man at the next level. In 2017, the Miami native was targeted 62 times and allowed just 15 receptions for 295 yards and zero touchdowns. While his tackling skills will need some work, Baker’s man coverage ability is one of the best in college football as he’s collected eight pass break ups and two interceptions. If an early run on defensive lineman happens, Baker would be a nice pairing with Casey Heyward long-term.
Mississippi State DL Jeffery Simmons vs. Texas A&M
It’s quite obvious that the Chargers’ defensive line is in need of a tune-up. DT Justin Jones hasn’t reached his maximum potential this season and more than likely could be turning into a rotational player than a full-time starter. Meanwhile, Brandon Mebane is in a contract year while staring down his 34th birthday. At a position that’s becoming more and more important in modern NFL defense’s, it’s time to get serious about someone who can make a lasting impact from the nose tackle position.
Perhaps it’s because of his team’s status but Simmons is all but deserving to be at the top of the list of eligible defensive linemen in the coming draft. At 6’4 and weighing in just over 300 pounds, Simmons carries his weight perfectly and is quick off the line of scrimmage. Fast and a bit reckless as a pass rusher, the Bulldog has the skills to be a mismatch nightmare for offensive linemen.
Texas CB Kris Boyd vs. Oklahoma State
Sometimes it only takes a season for a player to become noticed. That would be the case for Boyd as he enters this season as one of the up-and-coming cornerbacks in all of college football. Granted, most of the talk last season was about his teammate Holton Hill but Boyd still made an impact in coverage last season.
At an even 6-feet, Boyd is the ideal size for today’s outside cornerback in the NFL. Excellent in open field tackling, Boyd does a fantastic job in run support and wrapping up ball carriers near the line of scrimmage. In coverage, the Longhorn product excels in man coverage and does a sound job with his physical playing style to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. While Oklahoma State isn’t a team to truly worry about anymore, they’re still going to let it fly all game, and Boyd could solidify his round status with a great game in coverage.
Duke QB Daniel Jones vs. Pittsburgh
I already can hear the Chargers fans in the comments section below telling me how Philip Rivers is destined to play another four years and that his MVP caliber season has brought life back into the Chargers offense. While that’s true, you still have to look at Rivers and his soon to be 37-year-old body and wonder if maybe, just maybe, it’s time to think of finding his heir. With players such as Missouri’s Drew Lock and Oregon’s Justin Herbert likely off the board, Telesco could go the safe route and draft a well rounded overall quarterback. If so, Jones would be the perfect fit.
Perhaps the most River-esque quarterback in the draft, Jones has been one, if not the only, reason the Blue Devils have a chance at going 6-2 so far this season. At 6’5, Jones fits the mold of what many call the “prototypical quarterback”, but he also has the arm strength and ability to take matters into his own hands by running on bust plays. While his accuracy will need some work, as will his decision making, Jones is possibly the most gritty quarterback in the class. A week after fracturing his clavicle, the Duke senior returned to play and picked up a win.
Sure, Rivers still has a few years left in him but with Jones under his wing, the Chargers offense could be in solid hands for the long-term future.