The San Diego Chargers had a nice bounce-back season in 2013, reaching the divisional round of the playoffs and displaying that they are still a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. They joined divisional rivals Kansas City and Denver in the postseason, and in order to build on that achievement, bringing in a fresh crop of talent from the 2014 NFL Draft was essential. 2nd year coach Mike McCoy and GM Tom Telesco looked to take a flexible approach heading into the draft, focusing on the best available talent and not just team-specific needs. Here's how we graded the Chargers' draft class...
In 2013, Philip Rivers showed there is still plenty of juice left in both himself and the Chargers.
1st Round - Jason Verrett
Our favorite corner prospect in this draft, we had Verrett mocked 27th overall to New Orleans, and San Diego ended up taking him at 25. Verrett is not the biggest, but his tape tells you all you need to know about his game and how it will translate to the pros. His athleticism and explosiveness complement his skills as a cover man. Verrett played in an aggressive scheme at TCU, often shadowing the opponent's best receiving threat. He should contribute right off the bat as a slot corner. Verrett was likely not only San Diego's top prospect on the board, but also fit a need as the Chargers looked to upgrade their talent at the position.
2nd Round - Jeremiah Attaochu
A favorite of many draftniks, Attaochu's stock soared in the build-up to the draft, and the Chargers were enamored enough to trade up with the Miami Dolphins in order to get him. The former Georgia Tech LB is just 21 and offers plenty of upside as an outside 'backer in the 3-4 or a 4-3 rush end. He holds the Yellow Jackets' school record for sacks (31.5) and figures to get after many a passer in the NFL. At 6-3 252, his size and athleticism should take him to the field early and often. Look for Attaochu to make a notable impact for San Diego as a rookie. A player worth moving up for.
Grade - A-
3rd Round -Chris Watt
The former Notre Dame interior lineman started 37 games for the Irish at both Guard spots. Has some injury red flags and a lower ceiling due to limited athleticism. Nevertheless, comes from a pro-style system playing under Brian Kelly in South Bend, and should provide insurance behind Jeromey Clary.
5th Round -Ryan Carrethers
The 6-1 337 run-stuffer out of Arkansas State offers a lot of size and a space-occupying presence on the defensive line. The Chargers will hope to see him develop into an early down force inside. Carrethers was often double-teamed by smaller offensive linemen in college, but also held his own when the Red Wolves played up in competition. Good 5th round value pick.
Grade - B+
The Remaining Picks...
6th Round- Marion Grice (RB Arizona St.) Played in a high-powered attack in the desert and has a chance to develop into a solid backup. Trouble is, he joins a crowded backfield in San Diego. C+
7th Round- Tevin Reese (WR Baylor) Like Grice, played in a potent offense in college. Undersized but with plus athleticism, Reese will have to develop as an all-around threat at receiver and may have to prove he can help in the return game in order to stick. C+
Auburn CB Chris Davis, North Texas WR Brelan Chancellor and Utah DT Tenny Palepoi headlined the Bolts' undrafted free agent crop. These three players somewhat surprisingly went undrafted, so the team did well to reel them in. All three should have a strong chance to challenge for meaningful preseason snaps and an outside shot at a roster spot.
Overall Grade- B-
The Chargers did their best work with their first two picks. Verrett and Attaochu figure to make an instant impact, while the rest of the picks should supply depth and developmental projects for McCoy and his staff to work with. All in all, a solid haul for San Diego. A classy draft class, if you will.
While catching up to the defending AFC Champion Denver Broncos may present a tall order, the San Diego Chargers should be firmly in the mix for another playoff berth, thanks in part to their 2014 draft class.