Everyone and their dog has a mock draft out these days. The Greg One is not one to be left out of the fun, so here it is, people. I’ll be adding one more to the ever growing list of seven-round educated (and not-so educated) guesses called a mock draft. I have been keeping an eye on prospects and listening to the talking heads on tv and radio for some perspective. Mind you, these are the same pundits who predicted the Chargers would finish at the bottom of the AFC West last season while your friend The Greg One correctly predicted the Chargers record within one game (my guess was 10-6) and the Chargers making the playoffs when none of the ‘experts’ would. Sometimes the best information comes from someone close, passionate about their team but also sees their team realistically. Suck on that ESPN!
Also keep in mind that in my 2013 Chargers mock draft I was one pick away from being dead on. I had the Chargers choosing Alabama guard Chance Warmack as the Chargers selection and he was chosen one pick before the Chargers selected, going to Tennessee with the 10th pick right before the Chargers picked at 11. The Chargers took Alabama right tackle DJ Fluker and had a great season. Still, I had the position (offensive line) and even the school (Alabama) correct, which is more than Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay did. Now that I’ve built my pundit resume to impossible, only a dead on pick will do kind of level, here is my Chargers seven round mock draft!
Round One: Louis Nix III, DT Notre Dame. The Chargers have a gaping hole at defensive tackle after the departure of Cam Thomas this offseason. The Chargers are left with Sean Lissemore and the injured Kwame Geathers as the only nose tackles on the roster. There is no one of note left on the free agent market which makes this the biggest priority to fill through the draft, slightly ahead of the secondary. CB’s Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard and Bradley Roby will be long gone as will safeties Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Calvin Pryor. Nix is the best pure nose tackle in the draft and will be reunited with teammate Manti Te’o, easing his transition to the team. Renewing the chemistry they had in college will be an added benefit on the field.
Round Two: Kyle Van Noy DE/OLB BYU. The Chargers are keeping a close eye on Van Noy, who has had a visit with the team and has said he would love to play for the Chargers. Van Noy is a high motor, disruptive force blitzing from the edge. His specialty is rushing the passer but drops into coverage very well and is solid against the run. Van Noy will be a great addition from a depth standpoint and has outstanding veterans around him to learn from. Even with offenses designing plays to go away from him, Van Noy logged 68 tackles with 17.5 for loss, four sacks, two interceptions and seven batted balls.
Round Three: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama. Kouandjio stock is dropping after a sub-par showing at the combine including a failed physical. His surgically repaired knee has received a clean bill of health from the esteemed Dr. James Andrews. The Chargers will most likely trade up, sacrificing a late round pick (6 or 7) to get high enough in the order to make the selection, but taking advantage of another first round grade talent will be too impossible to ignore. The Chargers again reunite teammates as Kouandjio becomes the bookend on the left side to D.J. Fluker on the right side of the offensive line.
Round Four: The Chargers trade their pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the rights to wide receiver Justin Blackmon. The troubled wide receiver was the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft after two seasons as an All-American receiver for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Blackmon is currently suspended following his second violation of the league’s substance abuse policy and was recently cited for a one-car incident when he ran his SUV into a guard rail and landed in a ditch last month. Fortunately, there was no alcohol involved which would’ve lengthened his suspension. Blackmon can apply to be reinstated before the start of the 2014 season but chances are the Jaguars may be looking to rid the locker room of his presence.
A change of scenery and a fresh start with a new, contending team can be the perfect scenario for the 24-year old Blackmon. A bona fide deep threat, he will provide the perfect complement to Keenan Allen. Blackmon was only making 1.2 million so a new contract will be easy for GM Tom Telesco to negotiate. If the opportunity is there, Telesco should make the deal.
Round Five: De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon. Telesco wants to improve team speed and you won’t find many in this draft faster than De’Anthony Thomas. At Oregon’s pro day Thomas posted a 4.34 and 4.35 40 yard dash times. Thomas is electric in the return game as he had four return touchdowns for Oregon in his three-year career. Thomas was a standout member of Oregon’s track and field team anchoring the 4×100 relay for the team that made it to the 2012 NCAA Championships. Thomas is a great 10-15 carries per game running back but does not have the body to be an every down back. He can be a specialty back in the vein of Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead as he is a great receiver out of the backfield and operates best in space. Speaking of whom, Woodhead is on the second year of his two-year contract with the Chargers. Thomas would be a great insurance policy/heir apparent if Woodhead gets injured or leaves in free agency next season.
Round Six: Terrance Mitchell, DB Oregon. Mitchell’s stock dropped at the draft combine when he ran a 4.69 40-yard dash time. Mitchell is a little undersized at 5’11 but makes up for it with impressive ball skills and instincts. Mitchell stared 38 games for the Ducks and played in high-profile games against the best receivers the Pac-12 had to offer. Mitchell had five interceptions last season as a season-long starter. Mitchell’s excels in press coverage and knows how to use his hands and body in coverage. Mitchell is a playmaker who will also be a valuable contributor on special teams.
Round Seven: Michael Sam, DE Missouri. Sam was the story of the day for about a week when he came out, making him the first openly gay player to take the field in the NFL. However, the story didn’t do anything to his draft stock and he has been forgotten amidst all the draft hoopla. Sam would be a fantastic bargain here as the Chargers are woefully thin all across the defensive line. Like Te’o the year before him, San Diego will provide shelter from the harsh media scrutiny of other NFL cities and allow Sam to thrive.
The Chargers most likely won’t have a seventh round pick. I expect the seventh round pick to be used in a trade up scenario or in the Blackmon trade. Similarly, a team like the Ravens or Steelers will take Sam in an earlier round. However, he will be a late day three pick if he gets chosen at all. If he’s there the Chargers will take him but if he’s gone and the pick is not traded the Chargers will more than likely stash a quarterback like they did last season with Brad Sorensen.
I only took one defensive back because the Chargers will also gain the services of defensive back Stevie Williams, who was chosen with a fifth round pick in last season’s draft. Williams missed all season with a torn pectoral muscle.
The (mostly) unintentional coupling of past teammates will only serve to improve team chemistry and provide a mentor-like relationship in the cases of Fluker and Kouandjio; Te’o and Nix. The team adds valued speed with Blackmon and Thomas and the defense gets much-needed depth with a handful of blue chip prospects.
What do you think Boltfam?
The Greg One
This is the time of year all the prognosticators and talking heads start rolling out their mock drafts. Opinions on where the Chargers should draft will vary from fan to fan, from pundit to pundit. Would love to get some discussion going here on your thoughts on where Tom Telesco should focus.
Should he draft a Corner Back? A good argument could be made. Returning we have Shareece Wright, who I think has a bright future. Also returning are Richard Marshall, Marcus Gilchrist (who split time between CB and SS), Marcus Cromartie and Crezdon Butler. Steve Williams, who missed his rookie season should compete for a starting spot. The team was very high on him going into the draft last year. If you look at headcount and talent, the talent is there barring injury.
What about the front three? NT is by far the weak link on the defensive side. Recently departed Cam Thomas got thrown around like a rag doll, giving opposing OL clean shots at Donald Butler and Mantei Te’o. Sean Lissemore did an adequate job, but the Chargers haven’t had a legitimate, space eating NT since Jamal Williams.
At OLB, Melvin Ingram came back from injury with a vengeance. Look for him to be a force in 2014. Dwight Freeney and Larry English are coming back from season-ending injuries, so there’s no way to know at this point how effective they’ll be. Jarret Johnson is a run stuffer by trade. His impact as a pass rusher was minimal. Thomas Keiser, Reggie Walker and Tourek Williams round out the OLB depth chart.
Personally, I think the front seven is where Telesco should focus. A space eating NT is a must. He can free up Butler and Te’o, along with DEs like Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget to bring inside pressure. The benefit to the inside pressure is that it frees up the pass rushing OLBs. An impact player at NT will make the entire front seven better. The pass rush will automatically improve. The secondary will immediately improve if the opposing quarterback has less time to find the open receiver.
If I were Tom Telesco, NT is where I’d look in the first round of the draft next month. Where would you look?
After somewhat of a writing hiatus, I am now back to the grindstone after the Chargers were ousted from the playoffs by the Denver Broncos. This season provided many ups and downs. Considering what Tom Telesco, Mike McCoy and company had to work with the 2013 season can definitely be considered a success.
As you all know, the Bolts advanced past the first round of the playoffs and eventually fell to Denver. During that game, and many others throughout the year, San Diego’s flaws became quite obvious. In this post I’ll breakdown the team’s needs all over the defensive side of the roster.
Despite improved play in the secondary, it is clear that the cornerback position must be addressed during the offseason. The Chargers finished with the 29th ranked passing defense. That is not going to get it done. Shareece Wright played hard and was tough during certain stretches of the year. But he was a bit inconsistent. Richard Marshall played admirably but was not a guy that you want starting in your defensive backfield. I am very interested to see what this year’s fifth round pick, Steve Williams can do next season after tearing a pectoral muscle prior to the season. The Chargers may look to address this need in both free agency and the draft depending on how the feel the play of Wright progressed as a starter on the outside. Wright had his share of plays and he was also exploited by some of the better quarterbacks in the league.
Sticking with the cornerback spot, the addition of Derek Cox was, without a doubt, a serious disappointment to say the least. After multiple benchings due to poor play, Cox was relegated to special teams play or occasionally coming in when another corner was injured. It has been said by Telesco that the team will try to work with Cox. But it would not be a surprise at all to see him cut in an effort to save a little bit of cash toward the salary cap.
On a high note regarding the secondary, the emergence of strong safety Jahleel Addae just might have eliminated the need to fill that spot in the upcoming draft or free agency. It is also seemed that Darrell Stuckey, who began to see the most defensive snaps of his entire career, is a solid backup. Oh, and there’s that one guy Eric Weddle. He’s pretty damn good. Adding a little depth to the safety spots wouldn’t hurt but the future there seems to be bright.
Sticking with the defensive side of the ball, we’ll work our way to the linebacking spots. Beginning with the inside backers, it is paramount that the team re-sign Donald Butler. He is a leader on this team and, despite a dip in play this year, he is a top 7 inside linebacker in this league.
Next to Butler is the highly talked about Manti Te’o; who it turns out has a real girlfriend, by the way. After missing the first three games due to injury, Te’o had a rough beginning to his rookie campaign. He had some issues adjusting to the speed of the NFL game and his inability to shed blocks was still the same issue he had in college. All of that being said, his play did improve over the season.
The Bolts have Reggie Walker, who plays both the inside and outside spots, Andrew Gachkar – special teams standout – and Bront Bird for depth at the inside linebacker position. Walker had a good year making plays when called upon. It might be necessary to upgrade over either Gachkar, Bird or both.
The outside linebacker position was hoped to be one of the strengths of the defense with Melvin Ingram entering his sophomore season and the addition of Dwight Freeney in free agency. The team already had a dominant edge-setter in Jarret Johnson as well. Then on May 2nd, the team’s second day of OTAs, Ingram tore his ACL.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Freeney was lost for the year during the week 4 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. The Chargers were then starting Johnson and rookie sixth round draft pick Tourek Williams. As mentioned above, Johnson is solid against the run and constantly disrupting running lanes to the edge, but he is not what one would consider to be a threat as a pass rusher. Despite the high-motor play of Williams, he was a rookie making the transition for collegiate defensive end in a 4-3 to an NFL outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The learning curve appeared to be steep at times for the former Florida International product.
Without being certain what the future will hold for Freeney, the Chargers could look to add a future stud to the outside linebacking corps. Although Freeney is under contract through the 2014 season, there is no guarantee that he won’t retire or the team could even decide to part ways with him due to age and injury concerns.
Now on to the final portion of the Charger defense. Going into the 2013 season the defensive line was thought to be the strongest segment of the entire team. Although this would be the first year that Cam Thomas would be used as a starting nose tackle, he had the benefit of being flanked by both Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes.
The defensive line was a bit of a let down, as a whole, for a good portion of the year. Liuget had a good year and seemed to be playing through injury in the first few games of the season. He did begin to turn out it on and wreak havoc in the opposing team’s backfields as the season wore on. He put up respectable numbers for a 3-4 defensive end but 2013 showed that he needs better support from his linemates.
Thomas had a tough time making his mark and was bullied at the point of attack at times. The 2013 season could have been the last year that Thomas will be in lightning bolts. Michael Gehlken of UT San Diego has already been on record saying that he doesn’t anticipate Thomas will be re-signed by the Chargers.
The importance of a dominant nose tackle in a 3-4 cannot be overstated enough. For the 3-4 to be successful, you must have a space-eater that can take on double teams and win while collapsing the pocket. At this point, San Diego does not have anyone on the roster capable of doing a sufficient job at the position.
Then comes the play of Kendall Reyes. After seeing his outstanding play in 2012, this season was a let down of sorts for Reyes. He didn’t seem nearly as explosive and I didn’t see the same tenacity when engaging at the point of attack. He was able to make some plays but much more was expected of him. Again, this could be the lack of an impact made by Thomas in the middle. The hope is that we’ll see a rejuvenated Reyes in 2014.
In conclusion, the needs on the defensive side of the football seem to be obvious and the most prominent of those are at nose tackle and cornerback. There are some depth needs at inside and outside linebacker. The team may also need to look at adding another safety to the mix for depth purposes as well.
Thanks a lot for reading and in the next day or so I’ll be breaking down the needs for the Charger offense going into the 2014 offseason. This team overachieved in 2013 but it has a solid foundation to build upon for the future. I have complete faith in Telesco to do what it takes to bring the Chargers back into the upper echelon of the NFL. Hopefully he can get the Chargers back to the promised land and San Diego may bolt into the Super bowl and bring back the Vince Lombardi trophy to America’s finest city.
Only time will tell.
I recently had an opportunity to visit Murphy Canyon to watch the Chargers in Training Camp. I wanted to share a few thoughts regarding a few players that stood out that afternoon.
Philip Rivers: Rivers looked in mid-season form. Being only a few feet away from the field. You can hear the tight spirals he delivered 25 yards down the field, as you heard the snap of the pads off of Eddie Royal making a tip toe catch on the sideline.
Rivers showed good accuracy and a powerful arm throughout the day.
The Chargers offense worked on the 2-minute drill throughout the day. Rivers had a nice deep pass over the right side of the field as he found Antonio Gates open for a gorgeous over the shoulder-catch.
Ronnie Brown: What can Brown do for you? A lot! I never realized how big Brown is. Watching the individual running back drills, I really appreciated the size and power of Ronnie Brown. He has the best hands of the group and is extremely powerful and agile for a man his size. If I didn’t know any better, I thought I was watching a 25-year-old running back. Brown definitely has a lot of tread left on the tires. I anticipate him having a big year for the Bolts. I’m still hoping we can run a bit of Wildcat with him close to the goal line. Having Gates, Mathews, Woodhead as weapons, Brown can make the Wildcat work in San Diego.
Danny Woodhead: Woodhead is built a little thicker than I realized after only watching him on video. His quickness reminds me a lot of Darren Sproles. Woodhead made a number of plays out of the backfield. Woodhead caught multiple Rivers’ short passes, consistently juking out the first defender and running to daylight. Woodhead has a great burst and is difficult to contain. He should be a key playmaker on this offense as linebackers will have a difficult time covering him out of the backfield.
Danario Alexander: Without a doubt, Rivers targets Alexander. He did it consistently throughout the afternoon practice. On a 3rd and 14 play during the 2-minute drill, Rivers found Alexander at the left seam for a successful 1st down conversion. Alexander was open all day long as he ran sharp routes, and consistently found the soft spot in the coverage. Alexander caught everything thrown his way. You can tell that Rivers has full confidence in him and will be targeting him.
Dark horse roster spot: I absolutely love receiver Mike Willie. Big number 10 is tall, thick, fast and has hands like glue. He made multiple one-handed catches of Charlie Whitehurst’s passes, raising ooh’s and ahh’s from the spectators. The kid likes to talk and backs his plate up. He is too athletic and too good of a talent to hide away on the practice squad. I’m pushing for Willie to make it on the 53-man active roster.
Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green: The veteran and the 2nd year player are dominant. A perfect balance of a wise veteran who has plenty of juice left in Gates, and an up and coming athletic Tight End in Green, that has the soft hands of a receiver. I am looking forward to seeing Green’s contribution to the offense this year. Love to see both of these guys on the field at the same time. Match up nightmare for defenses. Rivers is smiling ear to ear.
Dwight Freeney: Utilizing his patented spin move. Freeney was a menace to the offensive line, disrupting rookie right tackle DJ Fluker, as he ended up in the face of Rivers consistently. Freeney looks good playing the outside backer role, as he continues to rush the passer and disrupt the offensive backfield.
Corey Liuget & Kendall Reyes: These two anchors on the D-Line are young, strong and bring athleticism from the heart of the defense. They are very active up front and a combination of their speed and strength placed a lot of pressure on the Chargers offensive line throughout the afternoon. I’m anticipating a great year from the front 3 this year. Don’t sleep on NT Kwame Geathers. He is all of the 6’6, 335 pound mountain of a man. He is country strong and athletic for his large frame. The rotation of Geathers and big Cam Thomas on the nose will keep this front fresh and vibrant throughout the game.
Eric Weddle and Donald Butler: Definitely the two leaders of the defense and arguably the most talented defensive playmakers on the Charger squad. They made their presence known as they flew to the ball and showcased the aggressive mentality needed to play that side of the ball.
Manti Te’o: Te’o was tested a few times as he covered tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. Te’o did a pretty good job of defending passes directed his way. He did not see him make any spectacular plays, but pretty much had a steady afternoon.
It was an incredible opportunity to watch Chargers practice. The speed of the game can only be appreciated when you are that close to the action. If you ever get an opportunity to make the trek to San Diego, visit Murphy Canyon with the family and make sure to stay until the end in order grab a few autographs.
With training camp rapidly approaching, I began thinking about the story lines that will be intriguing at the start of camp, through the pre-season and heading into the regular season. I’m going to omit the new coaches and GM but obviously what they are able to do during the season is of huge intrigue. If you are a glass half full person (like me) these will excite you. In no particular order, I give you the stories to watch:
- Can Philip Rivers get his swagger back (a story featured on BoltBlitz on this topic)?
- Will Dwight Freeney resemble the potential future HOF player he was with the Colts?
- To that point, how many 4-3 looks will we see this year?
- Vincent Brown showed great promise last year before the ankle injury, can he pick up where he left off?
- Who are the best 5 to start on the O-Line?
- What do we have in Johnnie Troutman?
- Can Max Starks lock down the left side?
- Will Clary transition well to guard?
- Fluker…experts think he’s better suited for Guard…prove ’em wrong big man.
- How will Te’o and Butler mesh?
- Can Wright and Cox replace Jammer and Cason?
- Who will be the starting nickel?
- Who will start next to Eric Weddle?
- Liuget and Reyes both broke out last year, will they continue their rise to greatness?
- Ryan Mathews…I’m a believer…but now’s the time
- How will Danny Woodhead fit in with the offense…can he have a Sproles like impact (blocking too)?
- Can Danario and Rivers continue the magic?
- Meachem and Royal…Royal and Meachem
- Keenan Allen felt like a steal in the draft…how much of a steal…let’s see
- Tony Gonzalez has perfected the 10 yard hook…is it time to stop having Gates run down the field like a receiver?
- Ladarius Green…I saw you with that smooth catch and run last year?
- Cam Thomas…time to shine.
- But who will provide depth at the nose?
- Injuries have bitten us a bit the last few years…with new training staff and doctors, will that change?
Think I missed any? Leave a comment below with your story to watch this summer.
Simply put: most likely and that’s a good thing. Being married to a particular style or playbook is what gets you in trouble if it doesn’t fit the talent you have on the field. The Chargers have built their defense around the 3-4. But a revolving door at OLB due to injuries and players leaving, has overshadowed a bit the development of their young defensive line. It’s been well documented on this site as well as here and here, that Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes and Cam Thomas are a young and impressive group on the verge of a breakout year. The signs were there last December, when this front ate up a very mediocre Jets offensive line. Good players win matchups with players they should beat, great players go above that and are a threat to beat anyone on any given play.
This year should tell us how close Liuget and Co are to being good or great. Given Mike McCoys’ approach to doing what his players do best, the focus should shift to creating favorable matchups for his best players. While Dwight Freeney played OLB last year and had some success, it makes sense to build looks into this defense to put him in a position where he’s been a Hall of Fame caliber player. The one thing that keeps coming to mind is the New York Giants infamous “NASCAR package”. Putting their fastest players on the D-line and allowing them to pin their ears back and go, helped drive them to two Super Bowl victories. Let’s put our 4 best D-Lineman on the field and see what happens. With the size of Liuget and Reyes, Pagano has the flexibility to run a 4 man front moving either inside with Cam Thomas.
Of course the Chargers will need a nickname for this look. For the sake of throwing something out there and seeing if it sticks, let’s call it the thunder and lightning package. Might not be as clean, but the speed, size and tenacity of this group seems to blend well with that name.