San Diego Chargers: 4 Bold Predictions for 2014 NFL Draft
Predicting the NFL draft may seem like a fool's errand at times. The first few picks can be fleshed out fairly easily, but the further you dive into the draft, the more your next pick depends on the accuracy of the one before it. In addition, trades, nagging injuries and the interview prowess are difficult to factor in for those outside of NFL war rooms.
The San Diego Chargers begin their draft journey with the 25th overall selection, but considering their surprise playoff run last season, general manager Tom Telesco may find good reason to buck current trends in the media landscape and take a few chances in this year's draft.
He demonstrated last year that he wouldn't fall victim to external influence by trading up to land linebacker Manti Te'o in the second round. You could argue that in his second year Telesco has every reason to stick to the formula that landed him three starters in the first three rounds.
However, there are always surprises on draft day. He has been scouting players and making draft notes since 1995 and knows when fortune may smile on a bold Bolt. If he decides to shake things up, it will most likely start with the first round, where the Chargers have been touted to draft anything from a wide receiver to a defensive tackle.
If Telesco is to mock the mock drafts with an alternate battle plan, there are a few daring moves he could make that might pay huge dividends for the Chargers down the road.
Tom Telesco Trades out of the First Round
The majority of mock drafters leave out trades in their predictions for simplicity's sake. For that reason, mock drafts can reflect a pundit's big board more than the potential outcome. Until Mel Kiper Jr. finds a way to start bugging NFL war rooms by dumping mic'd-up cans of hairspray in the corner trash bin, this facet of the draft will always remain a mystery until the teams are on the clock.
Tom Telesco has plenty of holes to fill on defense. At the 25th pick, the bona fides at each position of need are highly unlikely to still be on the board. Premier cornerback prospects like Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard will likely be gone, as well as the ferocious Aaron Donald at defensive tackle. If Telesco can find a partner, he should trade into the early second round and pick up another mid-round or future draft pick on the way.
Two second-rounders would give the Chargers much more flexibility. As Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com notes, Telesco has ties with the Jacksonville front office, and an appealing swap scenario laid out by Williams would land the Chargers four total picks in the second and third round of this draft.
No matter the trade partner, the Chargers could address their defensive needs and find quality at multiple positions. Prospects like Kyle Van Noy, Ra'Shede Hageman and Pierre Desir are all potentially available in this range. Stockpiling young defensive players after the first round would be a bold choice for Telesco, but the chance to fill multiple needs early in the draft may be too good to pass up.
Chargers Select Pierre Desir with Their First Choice
Now with the hypothetical trading out of the first round, whom do the Chargers select? They need a corner, and in this scenario, they would be highly unlikely to go through two picks in the second round without drafting a defensive back. As a result, they could do a lot worse than selecting the Pierre Desir out of Division II Linwood College.
If this were last week, Bradley Roby would be in this spot, considering his recent comments to Daniel Kim of NFL.com regarding his potential to be a great corner for the Chargers.
Unfortunately for Roby, perception is a prospect's reality in the lead-up to the draft, and he was cited for driving a vehicle while impaired, according to Michael Gehlken of UT-San Diego. This is by no means a death knell for Roby and may be an aberration rather than a reflection of his character, but this report combined with his subpar 2013 season for Ohio State means the Chargers will pass on his services and go for the exciting Desir.
Desir stacks up well physically: He's 6'1" (taller than Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall), ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the combine and showed some excellent lower body explosiveness with a 133" broad jump, per NFL.com. That was four inches farther than the next closest cornerback, Keith McGill out of Utah.
In the above highlight tape, Desir shows an excellent ability to break on the ball once it's thrown. In college, he broke up numerous passes playing off the receiver in coverage, which would translate well against a Peyton Manning offense that relies on plenty of short timing routes to keep the chains moving and set up bigger passing plays downfield.
Desir is a bit of a mystery due to the fact that he played at a very small college, but his combination of size, speed and ball skills makes him a great prospect for Telesco to pick up in the second round.
Chargers Don't Select a Wide Receiver
It's no secret that the Chargers could use an additional wide receiver on the roster now that Danario Alexander is officially gone and Malcom Floyd is questionable to return to form after his neck injury last season.
For example, Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN, according to Michael Gehlken of UT-San Diego, has the Chargers as a potential landing spot for Indiana WR Cody Latimer in the first round:
Mel Kiper Jr. says he'd be "shocked" if ex-Indiana WR Cody Latimer doesn't go in first round. Lists Chargers among possible landing spots.— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) April 23, 2014
The Chargers have bigger needs, as no one will let their porous defense from last season off the hook. The talk involving them taking a wide receiver early may jibe with gathering extra picks, but Telesco has the luxury of waiting on a wide receiver and mining the draft for a specialist rather than a stud.
Vincent Brown is 25 and can build upon his season from last year (41 receptions and 472 yards). Floyd is questionable, but if fortune smiles upon the man who wouldn't hesitate to smile back, the Chargers would have the deep threat they missed last season. Eddie Royal threw in eight touchdowns last year, and Seyi Ajirotutu has another season to try and impress in San Diego.
Philip Rivers recently told Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com that the Chargers need to improve in the red zone: "You look at the red-zone and goal-line situations, we weren't very good." Comments like this mean that Telesco may be looking for more of a specialist, and he could grab an extra offensive lineman or a tight end in the middle rounds to bolster Rivers' comfort and security in the red zone.
Chargers Select an Interior Offensive LIneman with Their Second Pick
With Desir as the Chargers' first bold selection to address at least one woeful position in San Diego, Telesco may find the freedom to select an offensive lineman in the second round rather than continue working on the defense.
Sean Lissemore was good enough to come out of relative obscurity and unseat Cam Thomas as the Chargers' starting nose tackle in 2013. Despite the lack of bodies—Kwame Geathers is the only backup—Telesco could focus on this position and outside linebacker in the later rounds of the draft, snagging an interior offensive lineman to beef up San Diego's front.
Jeromey Clary's contract is due to expire in 2015, and though he has been solid for the Chargers and playing multiple positions on the line over years, he has never stood out in the way that Kris Dielman or Louis Vasquez once did.
Nick Hardwick's contract is up as well in 2015, so Telesco could be looking to find the replacement for these battle-worn vets with a combined 17 years of experience between them.
A potential gem for the Chargers in the second round comes in the form of Gabe Jackson, a guard out of Mississippi State. A mammoth blocker at 6'3" and 336 pounds, he would instantly become the Chargers largest offensive lineman. Rivers would be happy to see him casting his formidable shadow on the goal line in 2014.
If Telesco favors adding grit over flash in this year's draft, Jackson would be a surprising but potentially excellent choice. This would works out especially well if the Chargers ramp up their rushing game with Ryan Mathews and the newly acquired Donald Brown in the mix.