- The biggest need, the hidden need and what else the Chargers should be looking for in the 2019 draft.
Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling are breaking down draft needs for all 32 teams. You can also see every team in a single post here.
Biggest Need: Defensive Tackle
Nose-shade tackle Brandon Mebane still plays at a high level, but next year he’ll be 35 and on a contract that could be nullified for a $4.25 million cap savings. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have depth, especially after losing Damion Square, Corey Liuget and Darius Philon this offseason. Ideally, the Chargers would find a nimble 320-pounder who could replace Mebane on base downs and rush the passer from Liuget’s and Philon’s old 3-technique spots on passing downs. That type of specimen, however, is rare and would have to be plucked with a first-or maybe—maybe, if the Chargers are lucky—second-round pick.
Hidden Need: Guard
Left guard Dan Feeney and right guard Michael Schofield are both suitable for the man-to-man run-blocking designs that fit Melvin Gordon, but they struggled mightily against quality pass rushers last season.
Also Looking For: Linebacker
This offseason Denzel Perryman was re-signed to a new two-year, $12 million deal and longtime Panther Thomas Davis was signed for two years, $10.5 million. Add in Jatavis Brown and the Chargers have three linebackers who can compete in nickel (Davis and Brown would be the leading contenders to play third downs). And remember, last year this team in passing situations almost always played dime with safety Adrian Phillips in the box. That, however, could have been due to a lack of comfort with their linebacker situation. That lack of comfort should remain, at least in GM Tom Telesco’s mind. Good as Perryman and Davis are, neither is the perfect stabilizer. Perryman has missed 16 games over the last two years and, overall, 22 games in his four-year career. Davis is 36. Finding a reliable long-term source for fast, decisive linebacking is crucial in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s pure Cover 3 scheme.
Who They Can Get
There is a nimble 300-pounder who could probably hold his own on base downs and potentially dominate on passing downs, a top-five talent in this draft. And Mississippi State DT Jeffery Simmons could very well be available late in the first—but, of course, the team drafting him won't get a contribution in 2019 after Simmons tore his ACL in February. If they're looking solely for a Mebane heir apparent, that would be Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence, a 340-pound dominating run defender and someone who has flashed potential as a pass-rusher, but not a player you would confidently project into that role. They could solidify the interior of the offensive line with someone like Kansas State's Dalton Risner or, if one of them slips, Alabama's Jonah Williams or Oklahoma's Cody Ford.
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