The LA Chargers go into this year’s NFL Draft in a bit of a predicament. Last year, they were one of the best all-round teams in the whole of the NFL. After starting the season 1-2, they put together win streaks of six and four games. They ended the regular season 12-4, put the fancied Baltimore Ravens to the sword in the Wild Card Round before finally succumbing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.
During this spell, veteran quarterback Philip Rivers displayed some of the best football of his career. He finished the year with 4308 yards passing and 32 touchdowns (as per espn.co.uk). Whilst rumour had flown that Rivers didn’t want to leave San Diego when the team relocated, he flourished in his new surroundings. Retirement seems further from his view than ever before, despite the off season addition of his NINTH child.
Here in lies the problem for the LA Chargers.
Seven Steps To Heaven…
In this years draft they only have a small number of picks, seven, and a number of roads in which they could travel.
There is no denying that the Chargers defence are just a piece or two away from being a premier unit in the league for years to come. Currently, you have Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa amongst the best edge defenders in the league in my opinion. You have a next level safety in Derwin James. Desmond King had a fine, and underrated, campaign at corner last year. If they could add a high level defensive tackle, such as Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery or Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence they would be set.
However, there’s no escaping father time. Who knows how wide the Super Bowl window for Rivers is? How long can he keep producing at a high level?
He deserves a Super Bowl right now, and below I give the LA Chargers the pieces to allow him to deliver it for him whilst still addressing some needs for the future.
Round 1 – Pick 28: Dalton Risner – OT – Kansas State
As I mentioned above, in another world they would probably take a DT such as Lawrence or Tillery here. However, keeping Rivers upright is going to be key to the success of the LA Chargers. Dalton Risner is the guy to do it. He has been a highly successful pass blocker at the college level, in one of the best conferences. He’s a strong, aggressive tackle who uses impressive hand technique to devastating effect. He is also very strong in creating holes for the run game, which will benefit Melvin Gordon. In his college career he has played in all positions on the offensive line, and that versatility will be invaluable at the NFL level. Chargers fans, you’re looking at the franchise right tackle for years to come.
Round 2 – Pick 60: Deebo Samuel – WR – South Carolina
With Tyrell Williams hopping across conference to the Oakland Raiders, Rivers needs targets! Here, they get a player who has made the most of his opportunity through the draft process. Samuel has had an up and down college career, beset with injuries. When he is healthy, however, he is a game changing threat at wide receiver. Had undoubtedly his best season in his final season at South Carolina, wracking up 11 touchdowns. Three of these came against eventual National Champions, Clemson. He then went on to shine in the Senior Bowl and put in a strong performance at the combine. With his route running and ball skills, he very much reminds me of a Stefon Diggs type player. He would make an excellent target for Rivers.
Round 3 – Pick 91: Khalen Saunders – DL – Western Illinois
Khalen Saunders, for me, has been one of THE stories of the 2019 NFL Draft. Come for the 320lbs of man doing a back flip, stay for the story of how he competed at the Senior Bowl whilst his girlfriend went in to labour with their first child. It was a decision that is about to pay off late in April. Saunders put on a show in Mobile, and the heart warming story only added to his profile.
Coming from a small school in the FCS, he needs every piece of exposure he can get. On the field, he is a strong, aggressive presence on the defensive line. He is able to cast off blockers to get to the quarterback or he can be stout in the run game. By no means is he the finished article, otherwise he wouldn’t be available here in round 3, but with some work on his technique he can be a very good player in the league for years to come.
Round 4 – Pick 130: Kris Boyd – CB – Texas
Back in our “Way Too Early Mock Draft” in late November, Boyd was heralded as a potential first round pick for the Steelers! How the mighty have fallen! He has very much fallen out of the question of the top 5 corners in this class, in what isn’t a classic year for the position. That being said, he can figure very strongly in the run game which will be extremely useful when you face Philip Lindsay for the Broncos twice a year. He is also a very strong tackler with a very competitive edge. With a recorded 4.45 in the 40 yard dash, expect to him to make plays in the return game too.
Round 5 – Pick 166: Tre Watson – LB – Maryland
Despite signing Thomas Davis and resigning Denzel Perryman, linebacker is still a position of need. With a little bit of coaching, Watson could easily be a starter in the league. You could even say he is somewhat of a bargain in round five. As with Boyd before him, he is a tough tackler. Puts in the sideline to sideline effort even if he isn’t the fastest linebacker in the draft. Plays well in coverage as evidenced by his five interceptions in his final year at Maryland.
Round 6 – Pick 200: Brett Rypien – QB – Boise State
Having spent the opening gambit to this draft discussing the need to give Rivers the tools he needs to win now, Chargers fans here is his replacement. Brett Rypien can play football in this league for a long time, I’m convinced of the matter.
I think he has been drastically overlooked in this whole draft process. Consider that he leaves Boise as the all time leader in Mountain West conference passing yards, completions and 300 yard passing games. He has played in a bowl game in every year of his college career. For me, he was one of the stars of the East-West Shrine game. In that game he went 10-14, 134 yards and a touchdown. A true pocket passer, who can make almost all the throws. If you want to go searching for a downside, although he has a quick release he is prone to be hit or sacked rather than get rid of the ball or escape the pressure.
Round 7 – Pick 242: Hjalte Froholdt – IOL – Arkansas
With their final pick of the draft, the Chargers add a further protective piece for Rivers (or Rypien). What a journey Hjalte has made to the NFL Draft. Born in Svendborg, Denmark, he arrived in America as a foreign exchange student. He was a four star recruit out of high school, and a three year starter on the offensive line at Arkansas. Has seen time at left guard and centre. That flexibility will prove invaluable at the NFL level. A very athletic player who put on a show at the NFL Combine. I have seen mock drafts where he has been taken in the second round. However, those seem fanciful to me and he should still be available here. A solid, late round addition.
With that, the LA Chargers 2019 NFL Draft class is complete. Next week, in my final mock draft, the Oakland Raiders are on the clock. They are by far the most compelling team in this years draft. You won’t want to miss it. As always, feel free to leave any feedback at @ojhodgkinson on Twitter.
Photo Credit: LA Chargers Facebook