3 draft needs for the Los Angeles Chargers
The San Diego Chargers are no more, long live the Los Angeles Chargers. Other than a move up the 405 this offseason, the Chargers still have the business of repairing their roster to manage, and in one of the toughest divisions in football, it needs all of their attention. Added to which, the clock is ticking on Philip Rivers, as it is for all the QBs from the fabled 2004 draft class, so the Chargers have a closing window of opportunity to contend with as well as everything else.
Need: Offensive line – all of it
The Chargers offensive line has been the team’s biggest weakness for years. Last season, as a unit, it allowed 59 fewer total pressures than the season before, and still gave up 238 – good for the third-worst figure in football. Matt Slauson is a capable guard or center, and gives them some position flexibility there to plug a hole at either spot, but they could comfortably upgrade at four of their five starting spots, even given the contract they just handed Russell Okung in free agency. Only three players allowed more than the 57 total pressures that Okung gave up in 2016, and the Chargers are schematically less of an ideal fit for him in the run game based on his previous grading.
Early-round target: Taylor Moton, G/T, Western Michigan
Moton’s position versatility may be a negative for some teams who need to decide if he is a tackle or guard at the next level, but for the Chargers, who could stand the upgrade at either spot, it is a big plus. Moton didn’t allow a single sack and surrendered just eight total pressures in 2016, his first playing tackle, and should have at least earned the chance to prove he can play outside at the next level.
Mid- or late-round target: Isaac Asiata, G, Utah
There are few linemen as powerful as Asiata, who has the ability to move bodies at the point of attack and fits well in the Chargers offensive scheme up front because of that. His ability to play on the move is questionable, but the Chargers do less of that than many teams around the league, and they could play to his strengths more than most.
Need: Interior defender
Joey Bosa addressed this need to a degree a season ago, but Bosa plays defensive end for the Chargers only in base, kicking out to the edge when the team goes to sub-packages. Corey Liuget remains underachieving the majority of the time, and while Brandon Mebane is a stout defender, he is really a two-down player now and not the youngest guy on the roster. The team definitely has need of an upgrade along that interior line to complement what they get from Bosa.
Early-round target: Jonathan Allen, DI, Alabama
Allen is a classic example of a player whose stock seems to be slipping for everything that doesn’t have to do with his play on the field. If he falls as far as the Chargers at number seven, they may have one of the steals of the draft, because his play on the field was dominant. He has the ability to play both the run and pass exceptionally, and do it anywhere along the defensive front, giving the Chargers a pair of moveable chess pieces when combined with last year’s top pick, Bosa. Allen would be a major upgrade over Liuget and could give this team a scary-looking front for years to come.
Mid- or late-round target: Ryan Glasgow, DI, Michigan
Glasgow played nose tackle at Michigan, but he has a three-down skill set in the NFL, making him a perfect fit for the Chargers inside. He has an impressive anchor against the run, but also the quickness and ability to diagnose plays that makes him a factor on any play. In 2016 he notched 37 total pressures and 24 defensive stops for the Wolverines.
Need: Wide receiver
Losing Keenan Allen a season ago was a body blow for this offense, but even with his return to the lineup, they could stand another option at the position. This Chargers roster is actually in good shape outside of two major needs, and they would certainly be OK if they didn’t find a player at receiver, but it is likely their next-biggest need after the two we have already addressed. In truth, their first three needs are likely all on the offensive line.
Early-round target: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Allen returning is a big boost for the Chargers, but the team could still use a replacement for Malcom Floyd, and Williams represents potentially an even better version of Floyd in the NFL. He is a big-bodied receiver who still separates well and is very good at the catch point, providing a very nice balance to the speed of Travis Benjamin and the run-after-the-catch skills of Allen.
Mid- or late-round target: Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
Kupp’s measurables are poor and his level of competition questionable, but he is a receiver who just knows how to play the position and make plays. His playing speed is markedly better than his timed speed thanks to the smoothness with which he runs routes, and every time he faced a step-up in competition – including the all-star surroundings of the Senior Bowl – he continued to dominate.