Alabama Crimson Tide
For those of you who still care about the fate of the team formerly known as the San Diego Chargers, I bring you my one-and-only mock draft. Yes, I know they are now the Los Angeles Chargers, but like a vast amount of you I hate the sound of it, the look of it and my fingers hurt just typing it. We all cope in our own way and I go forward with solid belief that by the time the two years in the StubHub Center is over, Dean Spanos will have sold the team (by will or force) to an owner who will return the team where they belong in America’s Finest City.
With the draft only a few days away, thankfully, the season of a million mock drafts will also come to an end. I’m throwing a wrinkle into this year’s edition. Since the team never picks the player I want, for the first few rounds I am separating my dream pick (the guy I want) and the actual pick (the guy I believe they will actually take). I’m happy to be wrong on last year’s first round pick (I wanted Jalen Ramsey. Joey Bosa was and will be a home run for the next decade as long as he can stay healthy).
I hope you enjoy my mock. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Round 1: (My pick) QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson. It is that time. Time to pick a quarterback of the future. Like I’ve admitted many times over, I’m the President of the Philip Rivers fan club but even I can see that his run is coming to an end. I’m not saying his skill is declining. He will be among the league leaders in passing as usual this season. However, his body takes a pounding every season from having a suspect offensive line blocking for him. We never see his name on the injury report but we’ve seen him labor during games. Couple that with his disdain for leaving San Diego to play in Los Angeles and I say he’ll bridge the two-year gap leading into the permanent residence in the Taj Mahal Rams owner Stan Kroenke is building.
Hence, the benefit of having a star quarterback on the roster. All the talk is about how none of the quarterbacks in this draft are ready to be day one quarterbacks because none of them came from a pro-style system. Air raid quarterbacks fail at large because they’re thrown into the fire too soon.
Watson would come into a perfect scenario where he would get to sit for two seasons behind Philip Rivers and learn the game from a master of the craft. That would be more than ample time to master the playbook and learn the nuances of a pro-style offense from taking the ball from under center to reading defenses and making calls at the line. This is the perfect time for a top-tier quarterback. Watson brings an undeniable charisma, raw natural talent, athleticism rarely seen in a quarterback, and the swagger that comes with leading his team into the National Championship game two seasons in a row and winning one.
In my opinion, Watson is the best quarterback in this class. Everyone will say taking him at pick seven will be a major reach. They won’t be saying that when he’s torching defenses in 2019. The precedent is as close as the guy he will be replacing. Rivers sat two years behind Drew Brees and I’d say that turned out pretty damn well wouldn’t you?
On to the man I think Telesco will actually pick…
S Jamal Adams, LSU. It seems to be six of one, half a dozen of the other when it comes to the top two safeties in the draft, Adams and Malik Hooker out of Ohio State. Both are big, physical and versatile playmakers who will provide an instant impact when they step on the field. Given the fact that seemingly every year two teams trade up into the top five for a quarterback, I believe this year will be no different. The teams trading up will push both safeties into the Chargers spot and given the choice, I believe Telesco will take Adams. If Adams is gone, the pick will be Hooker.
Round 2: (My pick) S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan. I know what you’re thinking. Two safeties? Not quite. Peppers is listed as a safety because he can play both safety positions exceptionally well. However, he can play slot corner and linebacker, too. Talent that versatile is a steal in the second round. Up until a short while ago, Peppers was considered a top-ten talent. A failed urine test revealed this week has damaged his draft stock and will lead to a precipitous drop. First round talent will drop into the second and this will be the biggest name of them all.
Speaking of steals, the second round pick of the Chargers also managed to fall from grace and into Day 2 for reasons unknown.
OT Cam Robinson, Alabama. The Chargers can’t have enough help on the offensive line and the 6’6″, 322-pound behemoth will be a Godsend if he’s still on the board when the Chargers pick.
Round 3: WR Curtis Samuel, Ohio State. Dual-threat capability as a running back and wide receiver fills a need to find a replacement for the now-departed Danny Woodhead in the backfield and adds depth to the receiving corps. By the way, his 4.3-speed would also come in handy in the return game.
Round 4: DT Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama. More beef in the center of the defensive line is always a good thing and a blue blood at this spot is a great value pick.
Round 5: ILB Ben Boulware, Clemson. Boulware is a bulldog on the field. He is always near the ball, a tackle machine and a defensive leader. Great football IQ.
Round 6: QB Josh Dobbs, Tennessee. This is the point where the Chargers waste a draft pick on a quarterback project. Could be a different QB, but a QB nonetheless.
Round 7: RB Wayne Gallman, Clemson. The Chargers lack depth in the running back room. Gallman is an excellent all-purpose back and powerful rusher.
So concludes my Tigers-heavy, (If I get my way) mock draft. What do you think? It will be fun to see the drama unfold over the next three days — especially since we are here in person, AGAIN!
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers host the Arizona Cardinals for a week of practice leading up to their game Friday. The Cardinals begin practice at Chargers Park on Tuesday after having their home turf taken over by Guns N’ Roses’ massive arena tour on Monday. On Tuesday, practice will be at Qualcomm Stadium, Wednesday at Chargers Park. Both teams will take the day off Thursday to rest before the game Friday.
The joint practice will be a nice change-of-pace for both teams. Undoubtedly, they’re all tired of hitting each other in practice. One could expect the intensity level of practice to heighten with men in different colored jerseys on the opposite sideline. This will be a big week for the players fighting to make the roster.
Living in Phoenix, I have heard plenty of juicy tidbits coming from the Cardinals’ side of the ball. The Arizona Cardinals are a Super Bowl favorite and a great way for the Chargers to test themselves against one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians expressed his respect for Chargers’ head coach Mike McCoy on local radio Monday and talked about the joint practice.
“That’s the one thing, I enjoy working with Mike McCoy because we have the same philosophy.” Arians said. “We wouldn’t practice any different. We wouldn’t hit a guy going over the middle on our team in practice; we won’t hit one of their guys going over the middle. We always stay away from the quarterback.” Arians continued.
“It’s creating competition but it’s practice, and we’ve got 180 guys on the same team for three days. Then we’ll play them in the game and all bets are off.” Arians said on the Doug and Wolf morning radio show Monday.
More interestingly, Cardinals’ General Manager Steve Keim was also on the radio Monday talking about the road trip and made no bones about the fact he was looking to wheel and deal if the opportunity presents itself.
“I reached out to Tom Telesco last night and he and I will get together before practices start and talk about both of our rosters,” Keim started. “See where our deficiencies are you know; in hopes that you can always talk about, hey, is there an area where we can help each other improve?” Keim stated.
This kind of talk goes on behind-the-scenes at every joint practice if the front office is worth their salt. There are two 90-man rosters full of guys playing their hardest to showcase their talents for their current team and whomever else may be watching. What’s curious about this case is that Keim, who does a radio segment every week in Phoenix, has made it no secret over the past two weeks that he will be actively pursuing a healthy exchange of ideas and hopefully players during this trip to San Diego.
Sounds like the Chargers have something the Cardinals want…
Let’s look at the possibilities. The Cardinals have a wealth of depth at their defensive line, wide receiver, secondary and running back positions. They are lacking on their offensive line, especially at right tackle. The Cards are currently starting D.J. Humphries. Humphries was their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Arians listed Humphries as inactive for every game last season because of his inability to grasp the playbook and laziness on the practice field. Humphries earned the unfortunate nickname “knee-deep” referring to Arians’ disposition with Humphries in 2015.
Arizona’s deficiencies at linebacker have been hidden due to the effectiveness of the secondary and defensive line. If the Cardinals plan on carrying a third quarterback, it won’t be NFL journeyman Matt Barkley or Jake Coker, an undrafted free agent signee out of Alabama. Both quarterbacks have been unimpressive in camp and in their first preseason game.
San Diego has an abundance of talent at linebacker where they currently have 15 linebackers on their roster. The Chargers also have better depth at tight end, quarterback and offensive tackle. The possibilities for a talent exchange is endless but I will give you five names to watch.
RB Andre Ellington: The Cardinals drafted Ellington in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Lower leg and foot injuries have derailed what was a phenomenal start to his career. Ellington is finally back to full strength from his injuries but with Chris Johnson (who led the NFL in rushing yards before he went down to injury in 2015), the emergence of David Johnson, Stepfan Taylor (considered the best pass protector of the group) and Kerwynn Williams on board, Ellington may be the odd man out. Ellington would be a great insurance policy for Melvin Gordon and he is an electrifying return man as well. Just how fast is Ellington? He ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 4.51-seconds with a pulled hamstring!
QB Mike Bercovici and G Vi Teofilo: Both of these men played their college ball right down the I-10 at Arizona State University. Bercovici has been the most impressive of the quarterbacks the Chargers have brought in during the offseason. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger are likely to be second and third on the quarterback depth chart unless Telesco sees enough promise in Bercovici to make one of the two expendable. Teofilo is a 6″3′-inch, 315-pound guard who fills a need for depth at that position.
CB Justin Bethel: In a very crowded Cardinals’ secondary room, Bethel has sat on the sidelines with a foot injury and watched as his job is threatened by rookie third-round pick Brandon Williams. Williams has wowed the coaching staff with one head-turning practice after another and is making the most of his quick ascension to the first team.
Bethel was a key piece of the Cardinals’ 2015 secondary as the number two cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. With Peterson locking down his side of the field, lots of balls came Bethels’ way and he was up to the task with 46 combined tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles. Bethel was signed to a three-year, $15-million dollar contract extension in the offseason and made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year in 2015 as a special-teamer. Arians has a reputation for his disdain for players in the trainers’ room. Bethel could be moved if the price is right.
ILB Manti Te’o: Manti isn’t on the bubble but this is a contract year for him. Many stories are afloat about Te’o finally coming into his own as a leader. Foot injuries limited his effectiveness in his first two seasons but he finally showed what he is capable of in 2015 as he led the Chargers in tackles with 107 combined tackles. Te’o had a strong finish to his 2015 season, especially after Denzel Perryman was promoted to starter midway through the season. The two had an unspoken chemistry and played well off each other.
Why would the Chargers let him go now?
Te’o leaves you wanting more and not necessarily in a good way. Every missed tackle, every time a receiver catches a ball right in front of him, every time he’s left behind by a running back we shake our heads in frustration. To his credit, 2015 was hands down the best we’ve seen of him. However, there is a reason Telesco hasn’t offered him an extension when he has been diligently signing the Chargers’ core players to multi-year deals.
A Te’o-for-Bethel deal works for both sides.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One