The San Diego Chargers finally saw a changing of the guard this offseason when Norv Turner was fired and a new regime was brought in to try and revive the franchise. Former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was brought in to revive a team that has always been overflowing with talent, but was never able to execute when it mattered most.
San Diego’s first mission in this draft was to look to protect Philip Rivers, and they did just that. They have a lot more needs than they are given credit for, so this was an important draft for them. Here is my reaction as well as some analysis to each pick the Chargers made in 2013.
1. First Round, 11th overall: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Fluker just missed being the first Alabama big man to hear his name called on draft night, but I don’t think that’s going to matter a whole heck of a lot to the Chargers. San Diego signed King Dunlap, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, and he is expected to take the left tackle spot while Fluker should be penciled in immediately as the starting right tackle. Though he can occasionally get hammered by a speed rush, the massive Fluker is a pretty solid athlete and an absolute beast in the running game. The Chargers should look to establish more of that this year with an improved offensive line to free things up for Philip Rivers in the passing game. Fluker is the type of player who can help them do that. This was a reach per my final draft board, but I think when you look at what happened to the Chargers last year, they really had no choice but to go after the top offensive lineman available with this pick. Fluker has been a stud for Alabama for a couple of years now, and he should be able to step in and start immediately for San Diego.
2. Second Round, 38th overall: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Te’o is a guy we’ve done a lot more work on than most players, and I have to tell you, I have a much more optimistic view of his future than a lot of analysts out there who think he is only a two-down player. I saw Te’o single handedly dominate last year at Notre Dame, who played arguably their toughest schedule in years. Is he physically limited in certain areas of his game, such as straight line speed? Yes, but he makes up for that with his ability to dissect offenses, study game tape off the field, and his instincts from the LB position are second to none. What you will get here in San Diego is a guy who will come in with a chip on his shoulder, work his tail off, and he is going to give you a leader and playmaker up the middle of your defense. His physical limitations will occasionally come back to bite him, but for the most part, the sure-tackler and Heisman finalist is going to be an instant starter next to Donald Butler in San Diego’s defense.
3. Third Round, 76th overall: Keenan Allen, WR, California
To me, this pick solidified the Chargers as one of the top drafts in the NFL this year, regardless of how the later rounds worked out. I think they got three guys with their first three picks who I had graded as a first round pick, or a very early second round pick. The reason Keenan Allen fell were questions likely about his health, but at this juncture, he is a major steal. Allen is one of the best route runners in the draft, who many have compared to Anquan Boldin for his physical style of play. I think he is capable of being a better big play guy than Boldin, and this is a guy with really good size and hands, and really is the total package at the WR position. When you look at his sophomore production, when healthy, this guy is nearly unstoppable. I think San Diego–hurting for receivers–could use this guy right away. In terms of what they could have at WR this year, I think with Allen coming in and Vincent Brown coming back off of injury, that position will see a major upgrade.
4. Fifth Round, 145th overall: Steve Williams, CB, California
This is another home run pick for the Chargers. I think teams will soon catch on in terms of draft value, but looking at where Tyrann Mathieu and Steve Williams were drafted, it’s clear that the league hasn’t placed an appropriate draft value on a position as important as the nickel cornerback. Steve Williams would be considered an ‘elite’ prospect at that position, if we were grading that specifically. As an outside corner, it’s no question that he should have been a fifth round pick probably just due to size alone, but when you look at how physical this kid plays at 5’9″ 181 pounds, I think he is going to step in and be that nickel corner for the Chargers right away. You want to talk about freakish athletic ability? Look no further than this guy. He ran a 4.34 in the 40, had a 40.5-inch vertical jump, a 10’8″ broad jump, and showed that he’s pretty strong for a smaller guy by putting up 12 bench press reps. I love this pickup, and I think if you’re looking for a nickel corner, there’s only one guy in this draft who I project to be better than Williams, and that is Tyrann Mathieu.
5. Sixth Round, 179th overall: Tourek Williams, DE, Florida International
This is an athletic big man with good burst off the snap who in the sixth round actually fills a big need for the Chargers. He will be a hybrid DE/OLB in their scheme, and I like his athletic ability as a whole. He’s improving as a pass rusher, and showed last year that with 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks that he can make some plays off the edge. San Diego has virtually no depth at OLB, so they are putting their eggs in the basket of former first rounder Larry English, who has been a disappointment to this point. This is a decent pickup with some upside as a rotational player.
6. Seventh Round, 221st overall: Brad Sorensen, QB, Southern Utah
Big quarterback at 6’5″ 230 pounds who has solid mobility and I think can push Charlie Whitehurst for the backup QB position. He will be the #3 quarterback in San Diego, but you have to have one of those on your roster and a guy who can bring some upside. Sorensen is a former BYU transfer who gives the Bolts someone to sit behind Rivers and let him soak in the NFL, and see if he can become a decent backup for them. A decent pick to round out the Chargers draft.
The Chargers hit home runs with their first four picks, and they added some solid depth with the other two. I think this is one of the best drafts in the league for that reason, but the Chargers should be proud of what they accomplished on draft night. They addressed some of their biggest needs with very good value.