Three days of madness is over, and the Los Angeles Chargers have seven new faces on their roster. I’m going to analyze the thought process behind the pick and where they can help the team immediately.
Round 1: 17th overall
Derwin James, Safety, Florida State
If you can name a pick of better value than Derwin James on the first day of the draft, be my guest. The majority of ‘experts’ had James going in the top 10 of their mock drafts, and was a popular selection to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They happened to go in a different direction, as did 15 other teams, to the benefit of Los Angeles.
James will be penciled in the play free safety position for the Chargers – to fill in for the departed Tre Boston. But he’s much more than that. The 6’2″, 210 pound product lined up everywhere for the Seminoles. He has the range to play as a deep safety and the coverage ability and closing speed to play as a box safety or nickel linebacker. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is likely to move James all over, making an impact wherever he plays.
Round 2: 48th overall
Uchenna Nwosu, EDGE/Linebacker, USC
Staying with the defense. Nwosu is a similar case to James. A Swiss-army knife of talents, you could say. For the majority of snaps at USC, he lined up on the edge using his speed and agility to beat offensive tackles. He finished with 9.5 sacks in his senior year, and an impressive 13 deflected passes. With the elite pass rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, Nwosu isn’t likely to get too many opportunites there.
Where Nwosu could fit, is as a linebacker. Bradley likes to call the strong-sided ‘backer the ‘OTTO’. That is where Kyle Emanuel currently plays. Nwosu measures at 6’2″, 251 pounds, similar that of Emanuel. Nwosu will be asked to drop in coverage more, but still setting the edge and rushing the passer, as his specialized in at college.
Round 3: 84th overall
Justin Jones, Defensive Tackle, N.C. State
Stopping the run was the biggest issue for the defense in 2017. They ranked 31st in the league and it’s clear that should be an emphasis to improve on. Justin Jones was part of an impressive defensive line in college, lining up next to Bradley Chubb (5th overall) and B.J Hill (69th overall). Jones has very good size (6’3″, 309 pounds) to play tackle at the next level and displays a high-motor, being an active defender. General Manager Tom Telesco said he can fill in at either at the 1 or 3-technique along the line. 9.5 tackle for losses in 10 games within his senior year shows his ability to help stop the run.
With Corey Liuget’s four game suspension, Jones could be an active part of a rotation early on in the season.
Round 4: 119th overall
Kyzir White, Safety/Linebacker, West Virginia
I expected the team to double down at linebacker, or even defensive tackle, but not safety. So, the White selection came as a surprise. However, when the Chargers announced him as linebacker, it made more sense. White is set to play the WILL position in Bradley’s defense. A position he has never played before but is easily projectable. White is a strong tackler and will enhance the physical nature of the linebacking core next to Denzel Perryman.
Not only did the Chargers struggle in the run game, but additionally covering tight ends, and running backs. White has the ability to improve both of those frailties.
Round 5: 155th overall
Scott Quessenberry, Offensive Lineman, UCLA
Some offense! Ken Whisenhunt must have thought Telesco had forgotten about his side of the ball. This isn’t a flashy pick, but you rarely gets those in the 5th round. It’s sensible, and understandable. Chargers signed former Miami center Mike Pouncey in free agency. Pouncey improves the line, but only when he’s on the field. Issues with his hips are on-going, so it’s good to have depth. Telesco likes to have versatility in his lineman and he gets that too with Quessenberry. At the start of his collegiate career, he played multiple games at guard. The lineman isn’t the most agile, but is a stable player, exactly what you need in a back-up.
Round 6: 191st overall
Dylan Cantrell, Wide Receiver, Texas Tech
At 6’3″, 226 pounds, Cantrell could be Philip Rivers’ new big-bodied target. He isn’t blessed with speed, which makes it hard to separate from defenders. However, that’s actually when Cantrell shows his strengths. He excels at contested catches displaying good hands and great body control.
Former first round pick Mike Williams is unproven, Tyrell Williams is in a contract year and Travis Benjamin’s future is uncertain, so it’s not surprising the team looked at taking a receiver.
Round 7: 251st overall
Justin Jackson, Running Back, Northwestern
A production machine. Jackson is Northwestern’s all-time leading rusher with 5,440 yards. He went over 1,000 yards in each of his four years in college, just the second Big Ten player to do so. This is fantastic of course, but can produce questions with his workload, especially as he is not the most physical back. Not missing a game in college is a nice way to put those suggestions to bed, for now.
Running back was a low-key need for the team. Behind Melvin Gordon, and an emerging Austin Ekeler, there are limited options. Jackson has a very good chance to make the roster.
Overall, this is a strong draft. James and White provided good value and could take the defense to the next level. The offensive picks yield competition for roster spots, which can never harm. Nwosu and Jones may have been taken before they were projected, yet still have the chance to create defined roles on the team. You may not always agree with the picks, but seeing the reasoning behind them, is important.
– Thomas Herd is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @chargers_uk.