Most projections for the 2020 NFL Draft see the Los Angeles Chargers targeting one of the top rookie quarterbacks or a transformational defensive prospect like Clemson's Isaiah Simmons. However, another plausible scenario exists where the Chargers invest their top pick in another position entirely.
One such scenario played out in the latest mock draft by NBC Sports' Peter King, who sees the Chargers using the No. 6 overall selection on an offensive tackle they "love."
6. Los Angeles Chargers -- Andrew Thomas, tackle, Georgia
For four days, until 4 p.m. Sunday, I had Tua Tagovailoa in this spot. I truly don't know if GM Tom Telesco loves the well-scarred Tagovailoa enough to take him. He might, and it would make sense. The Chargers are in a megastar market, and they do not have one on the roster, and Tua would immediately become the billboard on the 405 owner Dean Spanos would love.
But I made the switch for a couple of reasons. Anthony Lynn doesn't view--at least now--Tyrod Taylor as a bridge quarterback. He thinks he can be a good NFL starter. And with the business side of football so up in the air in 2020 because of the pandemic, I think it's more important to build the best football team rather than have the best marketing plan. The Chargers have 31-year-old Bryan Bulaga--who has missed 13 games in the last three years--at one of the tackles, and no other solid guy on the roster. I hear the Chargers are planning to use Bulaga at right tackle. So they're absolutely denuded on the left side of the line, and here's the first-team all-American left tackle from the SEC sitting there for them. A Telesco team to be so bereft of building blocks at tackle is not good. And the Chargers have loved Thomas, a legit two-year left tackle at Georgia against the highest level of competition in the college game, throughout the fall and winter.
If it goes this way, this is the kind of decision that defines careers--Telesco and Thomas . . . and even Tua.
As King notes, the Chargers have already invested heavily in rebuilding the offensive line. In addition to signing veteran tackle Bryan Bulaga in free agency, the team traded for Trai Turner from the Carolina Panthers. That tandem should secure the right side of the line, but it leaves Los Angeles potentially weak on the other side. General manager Tom Telesco and head coach Anthony Lynn have expressed optimism for 2019 third-round pick Trey Pipkins in the past, but the second-year tackle has more work to do before he can reliably start at left tackle. Trent Scott, who started a handful of games in the post last year, might move into guard, further reducing the options.
All of which could help explains the Chargers' interest in adding one of the draft's top tackles. While some teams will favor one over the other due to scheme fit and size preferences, Andrew Thomas' athletic traits would make sense in Los Angeles' offense. Though he has room to improve as a pass protector, Thomas would step in and open up holes in the run game. Given Lynn's background as an NFL running back, those skills could weigh heavily in Thomas' favor.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH