With the 2019 NFL Draft just over a week away, the stars are starting to align for some NFL teams. The Los Angeles Chargers will have their choice of a few of the college football’s brightest stars in the draft’s first round.
Unequivocally, the Los Angeles Chargers will be faced with a daunting decision at twenty-eighth overall during the first day of the draft. While many quality prospects are projected to be available at this spot, it is important to examine those who fit well with the Chargers.
1. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
First up is former Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. I mentioned Wilkins as a possible target for the Chargers in my team mock draft back in March.
Wilkins is an exceedingly intelligent player, as evidenced by him being the recipient of the 2018 William V. Campbell Trophy. The award recognizes an individual as the best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance, and exemplary community leadership. He also earned his undergraduate degree in 2.5 years and was a three-year starter for the Tigers. Moreover, Wilkins has been a sheer disruptive force in the middle of one of college football’s most talented defenses for four years.
Wilkins plays with a non-stop motor and endless energy. He also plays with great quickness when getting off the line. This quickness allows him to beat blockers into the running lanes to take down ball carriers consistently behind the line of scrimmage. On a similar note, Wilkins knocks down a ton of passes by getting his hands into the throwing lanes frequently. This playstyle speaks to his intelligence and the passion he brings on a play-to-play basis. With Brandon Mebane entering his age-32 season and Corey Liuget leaving via free agency, Wilkins would step in and start right away for the Chargers.
2. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Another direction the team could look in the first round is a quarterback. One logical fit that could be available is former Duke passer, Daniel Jones. Phillip Rivers continues to play his best football going into his late thirties. However, the Chargers will eventually need to plan for the future. Jones is a prospect that has many of the tools sought after in a franchise QB and would be a great candidate to sit behind Rivers until the veteran’s reign is over. He very well could take over as the team makes a move to the new stadium in Los Angeles.
Furthermore, Jones will need to work on his pocket awareness and being able to stand up under pressure and deliver throws downfield. On the other hand, he does give you great athleticism outside the pocket and can make plays with his legs to pick up first downs. That running ability should help Jones acclimate to the NFL early in his career as he adjusts and allows himself to flaunt his intangibles.
3. Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State
The Chargers have had issues with the offensive line for as far back as anyone can remember. The team has spent premium resources in recent years on guys like Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in the second round, as well as D.J. Fluker in the first frame of 2013. Los Angeles also signed long-time Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung before the 2017 season. Regardless of all these moves, the offensive line still appears to be one of the weaker spots of the roster going into the season.
Dalton Risner could be of interest to the Chargers in the first round as a versatile lineman. Risner has played all over the line at Kansas State, but his original and most prominent position has been at right tackle. Risner was a four-year starter for the Wildcats, bringing a ton of experience and grit to the position. He would be a great option in the first round to bookend Okung and provide stability to the offensive line. Okung, 31, could also be replaced following this year and Risner could slide right into that blind spot for Los Angeles. He is incredibly consistent in both pass and run-protection. While he may not be an elite athlete, he has the size and technique to fit on the right or left side for the Chargers.
4. Nassir Adderley, DB, Delaware
Los Angeles hit a home run with its 2018 draft selection of safety Derwin James. James was arguably the top safety in the league as a rookie and showed some extreme versatility for the team, as they moved him all around the field on defense. The team is deciding to move on from former starter Jahleel Addae at safety two years after signing him to a four-year, $22 million extension. His play regressed in 2018, and the team will look to give Derwin James a running mate on the back end with a little more range to compliment him and his skill set better.
Adderley is another versatile player that could catch the eye of the Chargers in Round 1. He can fill multiple spots for Los Angeles, as he did at Delaware during the 2018 season. Adderley is comfortable as an outside corner and would compliment Derwin James well in the secondary. James likes to play closer to the line and act as a pass rusher in some distinct passing situations. Adderley would allow him to do that, as he would act as a defined center fielder on passing downs. He is comfortable covering receivers and tight ends one on one and would help take away seam routes and curls to take this defense to a whole different level of efficiency.
5. Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
On the surface, the wide receiver position does not appear to be an essential need for the Chargers. However, the team is fortunate to be in a position to add the best player available, and Butler could be that guy. The addition of Butler would give the Chargers another red zone threat as Hunter Henry works his way back from his torn ACL, suffered in minicamp before the 2018 season. The addition of Butler could also supplement the offseason loss of Tyrell Williams to the Chargers. The team took steps to protect themselves at the position already by re-signing Travis Benjamin on Tuesday to a 1-year extension through 2020.
Butler is an athletic marvel, who was a man amongst boys in the BIG12 this past season. The former Cyclone was used in a variety of ways, including more of a jumbo tight end/slot receiver role where he could best utilize his size. The Chargers could continue to use Butler in this way and create mismatches for him all over the field. He has drawn early comparisons to Plaxico Burress as he stands 6’5″ and weighs in at 227lbs, with over 35-inch arms. He also blazed a 4.48 forty-yard dash at the combine. Butler is a long strider with a tremendous leaping ability that should go in the latter portion of the first round.