The Los Angeles Chargers have been on a roll when it comes to drafting top-end talent. From 2015-2018 the Chargers have added the likes of: Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, Desmond King, Denzell Perryman, and Derwin James. In addition to those stars, twelve other players will either start or will be regular contributors this season. Hitting regularly in the draft has taken this team from one of the worst in the league to a legitimate Super Bowl threat in just a couple years.
Every year around this time, fans and analysts take a close look at incoming rookies - trying to get an early read on how valuable they will be. The Chargers recent draft day success makes the excitement over their rookie class even greater.
Here are my grades for each member of the Charger rookie class through training camp and three pre-season games. The grades will be given on a curve - taking into account the draft position and relative expectations of the player.
We haven't seen too much from Tillery since he was rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder. The coaching staff did a great job of easing him into practice participation rather than rushing him back.
Even after Tillery was cleared to play and made his way into the last two pre-season games, he didn't log a lot of snaps - 21 and 24 respectively. However, in his first game against the Saints he did flash the pass-rush ability that convinced the Chargers to draft him and looked solid the rest of the way.
The pick of Nasir Adderley was a bit of a surprising one considering it was a rather deep position for the Chargers. Now, in light of the injury to Derwin James, having another high-quality safety on the roster is a big plus.
We have yet to see Adderley as he has been hampered by injuries, but we should get a first look at him Thursday during the final pre-season game. He should add back some of the playmaking ability that is lost with the Derwin James injury, but with that playmaking ability may come mental lapses that are common with rookies.
The pick of Trey Pipkins was surprising for two reasons - first that the Chargers waited until the third round to address the offensive line, and second that the pick was a little-known player out of Sioux Falls. The scouting profile on Pipkins was that he has plenty of athleticism but lacks refinement and will need development.
So far, he certainly has looked like a project as he struggled mightily throughout the pre-season. However, since we're giving grades, if the pre-season were a college class Pipkins would be the student who failed all semester, but crammed for the final and pulled out a passing grade. Pipkins looked MUCH better in the last game. So much so that there is now talk that he may crack the starting lineup. That's not saying too much considering the problems the Chargers have at tackle, but it still puts him well above schedule developmentally.
I was not in love with the pick of Drue Tranquill in the fourth round. I thought he was decent value, but questioned if he really added anything to the linebacker corp.
So far, in my opinion, Tranquill has been the top-performing rookie. He's shown solid tackling, and flashed some coverage skills - picking up an interception in the first pre-season game. Given the fact that he can learn behind Thomas Davis as he provides depth at the position, I'm suddenly encouraged by Tranquill's career potential.
Easton Stick is a polarizing player. Some love his Tebow-esque ability to make plays, while others question if he's enough of a passer to play quarterback in this league. I'm somewhere in the middle. Despite some struggles, Stick has actually looked better throwing the ball than I expected him to at this point in his career.
Stick's pre-season has been as polarizing as his profile. He looked dynamic in game one, awful in game two, and good (but not great) in game three.
While he is not lighting the world on fire, he is a fifth-round rookie playing the toughest position on the field. So adjust your expectations accordingly. I have him winning the third quarterback spot.
Egbule is a player I expected would find a way to make the team. He is somewhere between a pass-rushing end and linebacker, and I thought that versatility would lend itself well into today's game where those hybrid players are more in demand.
Unfortunately, Egbule has just not been noticeable through three pre-season games. I expect Egbule to be one of the players cut prior to the August 31 deadline and will end up on the practice squad.
Cortez is one of those guys where the cliche term of "football player" applies. He doesn't have great traits, he's got a very underwhelming profile, he's just a...football player.
Broughton has looked better as the pre-season has gone on, and I think he's currently on the outside-looking-in when it comes to a roster spot. I thought he's been a little better in each game he's played. So, with one game left, he's one of those players with the most to gain on Thursday when the pre-season wraps up.
The video below contains my thoughts post-draft on how the rookie class will impact this season. My opinion has obviously changed on Egbule, but overall I feel pretty good about my early predictions.
Start a conversation: Feel free to let me know which grades you agree/disagree on in the comments section below.