Who Are the Experts Predicting to Chargers in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft?
The experts have been hard at work in pumping out mock drafts to satisfy the people, and the most recent versions explore a wide variety of prospects for the San Diego Chargers.
With the 25th pick overall, the Chargers can go in a number of directions with their first-round selection, but defense seems to be the consensus choice among the experts.
Here are the latest picks for San Diego in the first round.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
San Diego’s defense was a disaster from front to back in 2013. The good news? General manager Tom Telesco can go in a lot of directions when it comes to the inevitable quest for improvement. The team will hope that Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram can be the pass rushers needed in 2014, but between Freeney’s age and Ingram’s injury issues, that’s a hot potato. One of Ealy’s greatest strengths is that he plays well in different packages — he can rush from the edge as well as he holds up against the run, and he has a special knack for deflecting passes at the line. Though Ealy doesn’t always flash on tape, his versatility and consistency would help a lot.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com says:
The Chargers are intent on adding a big, athletic corner to the lineup to match up with the big-bodied receivers terrorizing the AFC. Fuller has flown under the radar for most of the process, but coaches and scouts are starting to fall in love with his athleticism, length and competitiveness on the perimeter.
The Chargers need help in the secondary and Fuller should be able to assist them from Day 1 as a fast, physical cornerback.
Even with the addition of former Cincinnati Bengal Brandon Ghee, the Chargers' secondary is littered with question marks, especially at cornerback. Fuller may lack the size and flashy athleticism of some of his peers but he's an instinctive, physical player who would fit in well in defensive coordinator John Pagano's scheme.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Todd McShay of ESPN.com (h/t Ricky Henne of Chargers.com) says:
The Chargers are another team in need of 3-4 outside linebackers, but the supply is not there at this point in the first round. Cornerback is another need, and Verrett would be a great fit here, with his excellent speed, quickness and ball skills. He is lacking in size, but he plays big enough that I don't think it should be that big of a concern. San Diego can grab a pass-rusher and offensive guard in middle rounds.
This is close to a no-brainer for me. San Diego has to find more capable bodies at cornerback, particularly in a division that features Denver’s wide-open attack. Verrett’s size (5-foot-10) has kept him from the Gilbert/Dennard conversation as the top CB in this class. His performance at TCU tells a different story. Verrett matched wits with the opposition’s best receivers regularly, no matter the height, and often came away with the upper hand.
San Diego will also look at a guard, OLB, and a tight end. Jason Verrett is a quick-footed nickel corner who can play outside. Confident and disciplined in his play. A good athlete with timing, quickness, and hip flexibility. A fearless competitor with the ball in the air or in run support.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN.com (h/t to Ricky Henne of Chargers.com) says:
The Chargers have talent up front on the defensive side of the ball, but they were exploited in the secondary for most of 2013. They simply have to upgrade the talent level. Roby does that. He gets in trouble for coverage tactics on occasion, but I'm not sure there's a more naturally gifted player at the position in the draft. He has speed, change of direction quickness, plenty of strength and a willingness to make hits. It's about consistency at this point for Roby, but I suspect this learning curve will be impressive.
Much like the Cincinnati Bengals, the San Diego Chargers have a strong, young defense in place. Their needs in the secondary, though, are becoming bigger. The Chargers lack a true No. 1 cornerback, and there's no one on the roster with that type of developmental potential either.
Enter Bradley Roby. The Big Ten standout did struggle at times in 2013 after posting an All-American season in 2012, but he has all the tools (footwork, strength, speed) to be a top-tier outside cornerback.
The OSU product needs some coaching but has demonstrated the skill set to develop into a No. 1 shutdown cornerback at the next level. The Chargers desperately need to add playmakers to their secondary, and there may not be a better one in this year’s draft than Roby.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Nix was an inconsistent player on tape, but he has the size and quickness to develop into a disruptive three-down player.
Matt Smith of NFL.com says:
Cam Thomas departed, and they need help all over that defense. Nix is higher on the board than CBs Verrett or Fuller at this point.
Mike Huguenin of NFL.com says:
He's strictly a nose tackle -- and Chargers could use one for their 3-4.
With Cam Thomas signing with the Steelers, San Diego can add some depth in the middle of their defensive line. Not sure they'll anticipate Nix still being on the board, but if he is, the pick would make sense.
They have to get stronger in the middle of their defense.
The Chargers have a void at nose tackle and Nix is the best in the draft. He will not put up big numbers in a 3-4 scheme but he will keep his old Notre Dame teammate Manti Te'o free to make plays.
Analysis of Picks
There's an overwhelming love for Nix with San Diego at pick No. 25. Seven of the experts project the Notre Dame product as a perfect fit in the Chargers defensive scheme, and it's hard to argue against that notion.
Roby, Fuller and Verrett come in at second place with three picks apiece, and the rest are scattered among receivers and pass-rushers. It seemed clear to the experts that Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard would be gone by the time San Diego went on the clock.
The receiver picks aren't that surprising, given the team's need at the position, but the defense has too many holes to fill to pass on a defensive playmaker. We'll see how the picks change as we get closer to draft week.