It’s always dangerous to talk about “can’t-miss” players. There are no guarantees in the NFL draft, despite our attempts to label them as such. The safest player in the draft can still end up being a bust, while a risky pick can become an All-Pro.
There is, however, such a thing as a “can’t-miss” prospect. These are prospects that are almost universally liked, even if people can’t agree exactly where to place them on the draft board. In theory, these players wouldn’t be busts, but there are a lot of factors that go into being a successful NFL player.
A whole host of different things can make an otherwise perfect prospect fail. The player may lose the desire to work hard once getting a big pay day, they might get hurt, the scheme might not fit their strengths or their personality might clash with coaches. Teams try their hardest to anticipate these issues, but it doesn’t always work out.
There is great news for the Chargers, which is that the best players available in the middle of the first round could also fit their needs. There are several of these “can’t-miss” prospects for the Chargers to choose from, and one of those players should be available when they pick 11th overall.
Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are free agents, so the Chargers will be closely monitoring the cornerback prospects. There are several good cornerback prospects in the draft, many of which should be solid starters in the NFL.
With the 11th pick, San Diego could have only one tackle option available to them, but still have all the top cornerbacks on their board. Despite their need for a defensive tackle, you can’t fault them for taking a higher-rated CB.
There’s a lot to like about Milliner, including being the top cornerback on the best college team in the country. Milliner also proved to be fast, running a 4.37-second 40-yard dash. There are no concerns about his size, since he weighs over 200 pounds at 6’1”.
It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Chargers went with Milliner over the third-best offensive tackle in the draft. That’s just what Russ Lande, director of scouting at the National Football Post, did in a mock draft last week.
Milliner’s specialty is zone coverage, which might make him a perfect fit in John Pagano’s 3-4 defense.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Chargers liked Rhodes more than Milliner. Rhodes is a bigger, physical cornerback with long arms and outstanding measurable athleticism. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, had a vertical jump of 40.5” and a broad jump of 11’. He clearly has excess athleticism to go with his size.
Unlike Milliner, Rhodes is strictly an outside cornerback and didn’t play in the slot. Although Rhodes is going to have to develop his zone skills, he is still an extremely intriguing prospect because of his versatility.
According to secondroundstats.com, Rhodes lined up about equally 1-5 yards off the line of scrimmage, 6-10 yards off the line of scrimmage, in press coverage and in press-bail coverage. Milliner lined up 1-5 yards off the line 55.65 percent of the time and otherwise usually played press-bail (22.6 percent). Rhodes was also only targeted 14.5 percent of the time, compared with 20.9 percent of the time for Milliner.
Some people think Desmond Trufant is a Top 20 prospect. If Milliner or Rhodes are off the table, the Chargers could consider drafting Trufant. The Chargers might even be able to move down a few spots and still get him.
Right off the bat you have to like the bloodlines, as both his brothers Marcus and Isaiah play in the NFL. Trufant was impressive at the Senior Bowl and helped himself by running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the combine. Most people didn’t expect Trufant had that much speed.
NFL.com compared Trufant to Cason, which probably don’t make anyone jump for joy. As a prospect though, that’s not a horrible comparison. If Trufant can clean up some of his technique, he could have a nice career like his brother Marcus.
Until the Chargers sign a left tackle or draft one, there’s no getting around this huge need. Of course, not every team is going to let their need drive their decisions. The Chargers might get themselves into trouble taking a lower-rated left tackle instead of a higher-rated cornerback.
Of course, there are still three very good left-tackle prospects that should solve the Chargers' problem for the next 10 years, even if one isn't at the top of their draft board. Although few believe the top two tackles will fall to 11, it’s entirely possible depending on what happens with the quarterbacks. A trade for a quarterback could ignite a frenzy of teams trying to move up for their guy.
Joeckel certainly didn’t do anything to hurt himself at the combine, but athletically he didn't wow anybody. If the Chargers had Fisher and Joeckel equal coming into the draft, Fisher might have separated himself as the top tackle.
It seems insane since he’s considered the best player in the draft by so many scouts, including our resident draft expert Matt Miller. The Chargers would probably jump at the chance to get Joeckel and he might even be worth moving up to get if he gets past the Arizona Cardinals, who have the seventh-overall pick.
No one has helped himself more since the end of the season than Fisher. After his impressive performances at the Senior Bowl and combine, Fisher’s stock remains high.
Fisher dominated the Senior Bowl practices, only getting beat by Datone Jones a couple times on an inside counter move. He followed that impressive performance in Mobile, Ala. by showing off amazing athleticism at the combine. Only the former tight end Lane Johnson was more impressive, and it wasn't by much.
Fisher combines the best traits of Joeckel and Johnson, which could make him the top tackle off the board. If Fisher falls, the Chargers should be elated. His weaknesses are all considered correctable, which means he has a higher ceiling than a lot of other prospects. Fisher also might display more aggressiveness than the other two tackles, which is something several teams value.
Most mock drafts have Johnson going to the Chargers. It makes sense if Joeckel and Fisher are off the board considering the huge need at the position. However, Johnson has started just one year at left tackle.
There is no doubting Johnson’s athleticism, but to say he’s the best player available when the Chargers draft might be a stretch. This is especially true if a top cornerback is available. So the Bolts are faced with a tough choice of taking the best available cornerback or a left tackle that they so desperately need.
The Chargers could go in another direction, but they can’t go wrong drafting one of these six players. There are obviously no guarantees when it comes to draft picks, but their combination of skills, talent, playing time and being handpicked by a new regime gives them the best possible chance at success.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.