Two blockbuster trades were made in the course of one week.
The Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles both gave away their life savings to move up to the first and the second spots in the
The San Diego Chargers, who hold the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, will likely have the chance to select the top player on their board if two quarterbacks are taken back-to-back.
Before these trades, many analysts mocked Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Tennessee Titans. He’s arguably the best tackle in the draft with all the tools to become a cornerstone at left tackle.
But it’s not always a safe pick, especially in recent years. We’ve seen Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Matt Kalil fail to live up to expectations.
Fisher was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. He was compared to Joe Staley and was NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock’s favorite player.
“When I put my Top 100 out there, he (Fisher) was the first name on the list, which tells you how strongly I feel about him,” Mayock said in his draft analysis. “He’s a Pro Bowl left tackle.”
Well, Mayock, Fisher has yet to make the Pro Bowl or grade positively in any of his three seasons in Kansas City, according to Pro Football Focus.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Joeckel’s career got off to a rough start after missing majority of the 2013 season with a high-ankle fracture. He’s played in all but two games since his rookie year, but he has been inconsistent to say the least. The Jaguars will likely decline his fifth-year option.
Kalil might be the biggest disappointment of them all. In NFL.com’s draft overview of Kalil, it was stated that he was the “undisputed top tackle prospect in this year’s (2012) draft after two successful years starting on the left side for USC.” The No. 4 overall pick that year, Kalil was considered great value for the Vikings. He proved he was one of the best left tackles by making the Pro Bowl his rookie year. But since then, Kalil has become one of the worst tackles in the game.
According to PFF, Kalil allowed a season-worst 55 pressures in 2014 and gave up the most sacks (12) among tackles that year, too. In 2015, he finished as the Vikings’ second-worst starting offensive lineman with a 47.1 overall grade (the line finished 31st in the league in pass-blocking efficiency), per PFF. And while he’s started and played every game over his four-year career, he’s been pretty banged up.
On the other hand, you could make the argument for the players who have succeeded thus far, like Washington Redskins’ Trent Williams and Dallas Cowboys’ Tyron Smith, both of whom were selected in the top 10 in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Whether or not Tunsil is a safe pick, he’s not the right pick for the Chargers. He could be a future All-Pro, but the Chargers need to fix the center position more than anything. Going in another direction with their first pick would be wise.
With that said, here is my seven-round mock draft (no trades) for the Chargers.
Round 1: No. 3 overall –
All of that banter above was so I don’t get berated for not going with Tunsil here. The Chargers need help at safety more than they need help at tackle, and many view Ramsey as the best prospect in the entire draft. He will likely replace Eric Weddle at free safety, but he has the versatility to play on the outside at corner or man the slot. Ramsey is the game-changer the Chargers need on defense, and he will help form a young, dynamic secondary alongside corners Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward.
Round 2: No. 35 overall –
One of the most talented defensive lineman in the draft, nobody knows how far Nkemdiche will fall because of off-the-field issues. In December, he fell approximately 15 feet from a hotel room window and was charged with marijuana (though he claimed that alcohol was the only substance in his system). Quite frankly, I don’t think he’s a bad person. He may be different–purchasing a panther right after the draft type of different–but he doesn’t seem like the type of villain people are making him out to be. What I am concerned with is whether or not he’ll be roomies with his brother Denzel, who comes off more as the trouble maker.
Let’s hope Nkemdiche doesn’t fall into that trap. The 6-foot-3, 294-pounder is an athletic player who will bring a violent and disruptive pass-rush presence to the Chargers. He’s an explosive player who wins at the point of attack and will pair nicely with defensive end Corey Liuget (finally!) and newly-acquired defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. He posted a solid 40-yard dash time (right behind edge rusher Joey Bosa, who is 25 pounds lighter than him) at the combine, too. For as much as he’s known for getting into the backfield, his production disappoints (only 6.5 sacks over three years). Also, he will have to work out the kinks as a run defender if he’s going to be an every-down player, but that’s what coaches are for. Overall, Nkemdiche is a steal in the second round for the Chargers.
Round 3: No. 66 overall –
The Chargers’ biggest weakness on the offensive line is fixed with this pick. Martin’s older brother Zack has become a dominant blocker for the Cowboys, and we will see the same with Martin. He’s a strong and intelligent player whose strength is in the passing game. He allowed just five pressures in 438 pass-blockings snaps, per PFF. His technique also makes him an effective run blocker. Martin’s alleged lack of athleticism has him falling, but that’s great for the Chargers who sit at the top of all but one round. He’ll fit perfectly in Ken Whisenhunt’s scheme, and he has the versatility to fill in at guard if needed.
Round 4: No. 102 overall –
The Chargers need to find tight end Antonio Gates’ replacement along with adding depth at the position. Vannett is one of the better run-blocking tight ends in the draft, and having played in a “pro-ready” offense at Ohio State stands out. He doesn’t have the production to show for in the passing game because he was rarely used in that department, but he has solid hands and can help the Chargers in the red zone. While Vannett shows great size (6-foot-6, 257 pounds), he’s not fast, which is the reason why he ends up here; but he has the athleticism and intelligence to make an impact right away.
Round 5: No. 175 overall (compensatory) – Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB, West Virginia
To cap off the “Nick” train, the Chargers find a hard-working gem with the last pick in the fifth round. A former safety who transitioned to linebacker, Kwiatkoski adds much-needed depth at the linebacker position behind Denzel Perryman and Manti Te’o. He’s a workout warrior with phenomenal instincts and great tackling ability, and he also has experience rushing off the edge. Kwiatkoski is the definition of a Tom Telesco guy.
Round 6: No. 179 overall –
If you guessed this Mike Thomas and not the Ohio State Mike Thomas, give yourself a pat on the back. Yes, the Chargers picked up dynamic wide receiver Travis Benjamin in free agency, but he’s not exactly the replacement for Malcom Floyd. Floyd was a lanky receiver who made spectacular catches and averaged at least 15 yards per catch in eight of the 11 seasons with the Chargers. Thomas can be that guy, so why not add another playmaker?
Thomas had the highest yards per reception (19.6) of any FBS receiver in 2015 (a minimum of 65 catches), per PFF. He’s not tall (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), but he’s tough as nails and plays bigger than his size by showing off incredible leaping ability that goes along with smooth route running. He’s a passionate and underrated prospect, but is also one who could struggle against NFL competition. Thomas might not last this long, but the Chargers should snatch him up if he does.
Round 6: No. 198 overall (from Minnesota) –
Carson Wentz is a well-known prospect expected to go in the top five, but where’s the love for the guy who protected him over the last two years!? Actually, keeping Haeg a secret is okay with me. A walk-on in 2011, the durable Haeg started all but one game over four years (2012-15). He played right tackle his first two seasons and protected Wentz’s blind side the last two while earning All-American honors. He doesn’t have scheme versatility, but he should develop quickly in Whisenhunt’s offense. While he has incredible length (6-foot-6), long arms (33 3/4-inches) and good agility, he doesn’t have the strength scouts like to see. He also doesn’t have experience taking on elite edge rushers, which will be a problem in the AFC West. Haeg does have the upside, so if he can gain weight and perfect his technique he’ll be a future replacement at the tackle position. But it’s a big if, and a big reason why he’s going late.
Round 7: No. 224 overall – Glenn Gronkowski, FB, Kansas State
Another player with family ties, “little” Gronk played 304 snaps at fullback for the Wildcats. He’s a strong blocker who helped pave the way for Kansas State’s four-man committee (including quarterbacks) and their 22 rushing touchdowns in 2015. Eight fullbacks have been drafted over the last three years—Jalston Fowler and Kyle Juszczyk are a couple to name–but they are still a dying breed. The days of bull-dozing lead blockers like Lorenzo Neal and Vonta Leach are likely over, but a player like Gronkowski will help 2015 first-round pick Melvin Gordon and the running game. Also, he can be a factor in the passing game.