The Chargers had a chance to select Malik Hooker at No. 7 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. They may end up regretting that decision, as their safety play isn't very good right now. Perhaps they'll make amends for it this upcoming April.
Derwin James has missed some time in 2016 with a knee injury, but he's a monstrous safety (6-3, 211) who happens to be a terrific athlete. He's still projected to be a top-10 pick.
Rd. 2, Pk. 5
Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
Joseph Barksdale won't be on the roster for much longer if he keeps struggling like he has in the first three weeks of the season.
If the top safeties are gone, I could see the Chargers taking Allen. They hosted him on a visit, and I think he makes sense as a versatile defender for Gus Bradley's 4-3 scheme. On top of that, the organization could save money by moving on from Corey Liuget in 2018, and the veteran had zero sacks last season, which only continued his downward trend of fewer sacks every year over the past four seasons. Allen could play as a five-technique defensive end or a three-technique tackle for Bradley. Allen would give the Chargers an interior pass rush to pair with Joey Bosa for many years to come. Thus, I think Allen is a good fit for the new team in Los Angeles.
In 2016, Allen totaled 62 tackles, 15 for a loss, 9.5 sacks, two passes batted and one interception returned 75 yards for a touchdown. He dominated at the point of attack all year and was very disruptive. Consistently, Allen used his speed and strength to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. He is a tough run defender, yet can also beat guards or tackles in the pass rush.
Allen played really well in 2015 with 36 tackles with 14.5 for a loss, 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and four passes batted. He totaled 33 tackles with 11.5 for a loss and 5.5 sacks the year before.
In a 4-3 scheme, the 6-foot-3, 286-pounder could play three-technique defensive tackle, like Aaron Donald, or be an end who moves inside in passing situations. Allen rushed from the inside for Alabama, yet also could serve as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Allen has some natural pass-rushing skills to him along with quickness and strength. He is very fast at the point of attack with the power to shed blocks.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
The Chargers could use a safety upgrade, and Peppers could be a nice value in the second round.
Peppers had a good 2016 season for Michigan with 72 tackles, 16 for a loss, four sacks, one interception, zero pass breakups and one forced fumble. He was electric on special teams and especially phenomenal on punt returns, taking one for a touchdown. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder was excellent as a sophomore in 2015, recording 45 tackles with 10 passes broken up and zero interceptions.
Sources say they see Peppers (5-11, 213) as a hybrid safety/linebacker in the NFL. He has the athletic skill set to play pass coverage, but often can be caught flat-footed. His ball skills aren't special either, as he made just one interception in his collegiate career, which was from catching a tipped pass. Thus, some sources think Peppers would fit best as a safety in the middle of the field. That would allow him to make plays off his instincts, and he could be a weapon in pass coverage on tight ends, blitzing quarterbacks, playing zone, and defending the run. There is no doubt that Peppers has a ton of athletic upside. He could play safety and dime linebacker, similar to Deone Bucannon. Peppers should also be used on special teams as he is a dangerous weapon there.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
The Chargers could use more offensive line talent. Garcia could compete at guard or tackle.
Garcia (6-6, 302) flashed a good physical skill set at the Senior Bowl, but some team sources say there are some developmental issues with Garcia that cause them to have him as a mid-rounder. He possesses the size to be a left or right tackle in the NFL. Garcia broke into the starting lineup at left tackle as a redshirt freshman and locked down the spot for the rest of his college career, minus an injury-shortened 2013 season.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Carl Lawson, DE/3-4OLB, Auburn
The Chargers could take some defensive end depth with Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu entering free agency next year.
Lawson totaled 30 tackles with 12.5 for a loss, nine sacks and one forced fumble in 2016. In 2015, he seemed to give Laremy Tunsil more trouble than Myles Garrett did. If Lawson hadn't missed half of that season with an injury, he could have had a huge year. He totaled 17 tackles and one sack in his seven games. Lawson missed all of the 2014 season, and as a freshman, he had 20 tackles with four sacks.
Lawson is fast off the edge with some natural strength to fight blockers. The 6-foot-2, 261-pounder has a lot of upside, but his lack of durability is a huge negative. He has the talent to be a first-rounder, but his health is a big question mark.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
The Chargers grab a backup quarterback to develop.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Sean Culkin, TE, Missouri
The Chargers grab a sleeper tight end who could be a steal.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Cameron Tom, C, Southern Mississippi
The Chargers grab some center depth and have demonstrated an interest in Tom.
The Chargers have some big needs on defense. They still haven't adequately replaced Eric Weddle while watching Corey Liuget's sack totals decline over the past four seasons, including zero in 2016. I think Los Angeles may end up regretting passing on Malik Hooker and Jonathan Allen with the seventh pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here's a safety to lead the back end. <br> <br>
Fitzpatrick has 13 tackles and a pass broken up in 2017. In the season opener, he was beaten for a jump ball in the end zone by Florida State wide receiver Auden Tate. The 6-foot-5 wideout jumped above Fitzpatrick to make a short touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone. Otherwise, Fitzpatrick played really well, covering receivers downfield, staying around the ball, and helping out his cornerbacks. He finished the game with five tackles. <br> <br>
In 2016, Fitzpatrick recorded 66 tackles with seven passes broken up and six interceptions. He was dominant at times for Alabama, splitting time between corner and safety. Fitzpatrick had a superb 2015 season for the Crimson Tide. The freshman totaled 45 tackles with two sacks, 11 passes broken up and two interceptions - both returned for a touchdowns. <br> <br>
The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder has excellent size and some natural cover skills. He also has a ton of upside to develop. It sounds as if his preference and natural position is safety. Sources who have looked ahead to the 2018 NFL Draft have said that Fitzpatrick is a prototypical free safety who can cover over the slot or in the middle of the field, yet also be a center fielder. They say he has good size, speed, athletic ability, high football IQ and is a play-maker.
The Chargers have some needs on defense. They still haven't adequately replaced Eric Weddle and have seen Corey Liuget's sack totals decline over the past four seasons, including zero in 2016. I think Los Angeles may end up regretting passing on Malik Hooker and Jonathan Allen with the seventh pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here's a safety to lead the back end. <br> <br>
In 2017, James has 23 tackles with four passes batted. While he didn't have flawless performances against Alabama and N.C. State this season, they were impressive overall. James was healthy and able to display his great instincts and rare combination of great size, speed, physicality and versatility. He played dime linebacker, nickel corner, free safety and strong safety, basically doing everything a coach could ask of him. <br> <br>
James totaled 11 tackles and an interception through two games in 2016 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. He had been playing well for Florida State. Entering last season, there was a lot of hype that James was an elite player and perhaps the best defensive player in college football. As a freshman in 2015, he had a strong debut with 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles, but zero interceptions. <br> <br>
The 6-foot-3, 211-pounder has a great athletic skill set with tremendous speed, instincts, and strength to hit. He shows the ability to do everything an NFL safety is needed to do. James is fast and long with coverage skills in the deep middle of the field. He also is strong enough to be the eighth man in the box and tackle.
The Chargers have seen Corey Liuget's sack totals decline over the past four seasons, including zero in 2016. I think Los Angeles may end up regretting passing on Jonathan Allen with the seventh pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here's an interior disruptor to go next to Joey Bosa. <br> <br>
Wilkins played well for Clemson in 2016 as part of a tough defensive line that controlled the point of attack. As a sophomore, he had 48 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and 10 passes batted. Because of injuries, Wilkins played a lot of defensive end. He showed nice athleticism and versatility, but is at his best on the inside using his mismatch speed against guards. Wilkins made 33 tackles and two sacks as a freshman in 2015. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder has a nice skill set with upside and could also fit as a 3-4 defensive end.
<i> 2017 NFL Mock Draft Pick (as of 9/30): Jabrill Peppers, S </i>
The Chargers loved Carson Wentz, but the time wasn't right for them to draft Philip Rivers' replacement. That time could be before the 2018 season if the team continues to flounder. <br> <br>
In 2016, Rosen has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,165 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has a strong arm with pocket-passing skills, yet could stand to improve his decision-making and accuracy. <br> <br>
Rosen had an impressive debut as a freshman, completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,670 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He showed off a powerful arm and the ability to be an NFL pocket passer. <br> <br>
While Rosen has gotten a ton of hype, the same thing happened with Christian Hackenberg after his freshman season. Thus, Rosen still has more to prove as a sophomore and junior to be a high first-rounder. <br> <br>
<u> <i> Pick change; previously Derwin James, S </i> </u>
The Chargers opted to go with Joey Bosa at #3 over a lineman in the 2016 draft, and at #7 there were no lineman worth taking at that point. At #7 again, I think they are in a good situation to pick Williams, a big body people mover with good foot-work and toughness. He will need time to get his feet wet, but when he does, he will anchor their O-line for years to come.