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The Chargers took their fans on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster as they watched their team start the season with an 0-4 record, only to watch the team win nine of the next 12 before narrowly missing the playoffs. After going 5-11 in 2016, the Chargers drafted an impressive haul that saw several players receive extensive playing time, including offensive guard Dan Feeney and defensive back Desmond King.
In their latest draft haul, the Bolts did another phenomenal job of selecting players who will contribute in some way, shape, or form during their rookie years, and maybe more than one will be a starter by the end of the season.
Derwin James, Safety, Florida State: Round 1, Pick 17th Overall
James should already be penciled in as the starting safety opposite Jahleel Addae and was the perfect selection for the Chargers and Gus Bradley’s system. Some argued that James was the top defensive prospect in the entire draft class. He is a chess piece if I’ve ever seen one at his position and the Bolts should be able to use him in a plethora of ways.
With Addae also being a box safety that does most of his work closer to the line of scrimmage, I can imagine James spending a good amount of his time as the roaming center fielder in single-high looks while also being asked to utilize his blitzing abilities in certain situations.
Immediate Role Player
Uchenna Nwosu, Outside Linebacker, USC: Round 2, Pick 48
Nwosu was selected based on the need for a new player to come in and challenge linebacker Kyle Emanuel for the OTTO position in Bradley’s defense. For those of you who aren’t aware of this unique position, it is basically a hybrid player that has the capabilities of a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker. They have got to be able to rush the passer, stop the run, and drop into coverage, if necessary.
Emanuel has been inconsistent during his time as the OTTO, finding success in stopping the run while also being a complete liability in coverage. Specifically, Andy Reid and the Chiefs have been one of many teams to gash the Chargers with passes to the running backs out of the backfield while making sure the match-up is against Emanuel. This is not the case with the former Trojan.
Nwosu combines top-notch pass-rush ability while also displaying a stickiness in his tackles. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, he compares favorably to Cliff Avril during his time in Seattle while playing the OTTO position for Pete Carroll. If Nwosu does not start the season as the starter, I expect him to work his way into the lineup around midseason.
Justin Jones, Defensive Tackle, North Carolina State: Round 3, Pick 84
With an aging Brandon Mebane, and Corey Liuget starting off 2018 with a 4-game suspension, I expect Jones to be in rotation across both spots along the interior defensive line with the rest of the rotation being filled out by guys like Darius Philon, Damion Square, and Isaac Rochell. At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, Jones offers the mass to help clog up running lanes while also being able to collapse the pocket with his aggressive style of play.
While Mebane will retain his role as a two-gapping nose tackle, Jones can focus on being that penetrating 3-technique that has been sorely lacking from this defense. Can you imagine if the interior pass rush could bring anything close to the table like what Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa bring on the outside? It’d be spectacular.
Kyzir White, Outside Linebacker, West Virginia: Round 4, Pick 119
Kyzir White was listed as a safety while at West Virginia but he spent most of his time in the box playing their “Spur” position, a safety/linebacker hybrid. White was another selection, similar to the Nwosu selection, where the team opted to become more athletic and versatile at important positions on the defensive side.
Last year, safety Adrian Phillips played a ton of linebacker in nickel/dime packages. However, at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, he isn’t exactly someone to be terribly confident in when he has to go up against guys like Travis Kelce and other top tight ends in the AFC. Head coach Anthony Lynn already stated that they plan to pack some pounds on White before the season and view him as an outside linebacker going forward. Already at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, White is already an instant upgrade at the “run and chase” weakside linebacker position that will also add some of the surest tackling you’ve probably seen from a Chargers linebacker in some time.
Scott Quessenberry, Offensive Guard/Center, UCLA: Round 5, Pick 155
Quessenberry, or rather “Q-Berry” as I like to call him, was a surprise pick in the fifth round as it was believed that if there was a position along the line to invest in it was going to be a right tackle to come in and challenge incumbent Joe Barksdale. Even after the team invested back-to-back picks last year in Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp, plus the signing of center Mike Pouncey, the decision-makers felt they still needed some additional help along the interior. If anything, I believe this selection is more of an insurance plan for Lamp and Pouncey as the former missed his entire rookie season due to a torn ACL while the latter played all 16 games last year for the first time in years. Quessenberry is a versatile linemen who could step in and play either center or guard in a pinch.
After finding out he and his family were life-long Chargers fan, it’s also pretty neat to see him get the opportunity to wear #61, which was made popular by former center and fan-favorite Nick Hardwick.
Justin Jackson, Running Back, Northwestern: Round 7, Pick 251
Jackson was one of the last picks of the entire NFL draft but I do not believe he will wind up being anywhere near irrelevant. Even with Austin Ekeler ahead of him on the depth chart, I believe Jackson will see some action sooner than later as he is too talented of a player to ride the pine. As a 4-time 1000-yard rusher in college, Jackson has the experience you covet in any player, as it shows he has the tools be successful early and often.
After the horrendous news of tight end Hunter Henry’s season-ending injury, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chargers use more 2-back sets involving a mixture of Gordon, Ekeler, and Jackson. After all, finding an excuse to get more dynamic players on the field is never a bad thing.
Dylan Cantrell, Wide Receiver, Texas Tech: Round 6, Pick 191
Cantrell was obviously a surprising pick as the wide receiver room in Costa Mesa is already packed to the brim with veterans and promising young talent. However, the former Red Raider is quite different than any receiver the Chargers have had in recent years. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Cantrell is a big-bodied target with sneaky straight-line speed and jump ball skills that pop while watching his film.
Even with the WR room being as full as it is, I believe the coaches and Tom Telesco chose Cantrell with an idea in mind of how they plan to use him. At his size, he could easily gain 10-15 pounds and find his way into an H-Back role, moving all around the formation in order to take advantage of mismatches in the passing game. It also helps that he was already one of the best blocking wide receivers in the entire draft.
Undrafted Free Agents
The Chargers signed 21 undrafted free agents to get the roster to 90 players total. Here is the complete list of the prospects that they added:
QB Nic Shimonek – Texas Tech
RB Detrez Newsome – Western Carolina
FB Anthony Manzo-Lewis – Albany
T Chris Durant – William & Mary
T Zachary Crabtree – Oklahoma State
G Zach Golditch- Colorado State
G Trenton Scott – Grambling State
TE Ben Johnson – Kansas
TE Cole Hunt – TCU
WR J.J. Jones – West Georgia
WR Kent Shelby – McNeese State
DT Steven Richardson – Minnesota
DT Bijohn Jackson – Arkansas
DE Albert Havili – Eastern Washington
DE Tevin Lawson – Nicholls State
LB D’Juan Hines – Houston
CB Marcus Edmund – Clemson
CB B.J. Clay – Georgia State
CB Brandon Facyson – Virgina Tech
CB Tony Brown – Alabama
P Shane Tripucka – Texas A&M