The 2018 NFL Draft is a wrap and the Los Angeles Chargers placed a premium on defense. With a little help from a wild early first round, General Manager Tom Telesco and second-year Head Coach Anthony Lynn added to an already formidable defense that ranked in the top three in points allowed per game.
Best Pick: Derwin James, S, Florida State
The best pick in the 2018 draft could also be described as the best “gift.” James projected as a top ten selection but incredibly fell to pick number 17. He will be an instant contributor to one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Perhaps James’ most valuable ability could be stopping the run.
Best Value/Sleeper: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
For a pick in the last round of the draft, Jackson was a great addition to the Chargers backfield. Jackson is the anti-Melvin Gordon only because Jackson is unpredictable and elusive around the point of attack. Despite not being a particularly imposing back, Jackson has enough size and ability to run between the tackles. Defenses will be less likely to cheat on play calls as easily as when Austin Ekeler lines up.
Biggest Reach/Head-scratcher: Uchenna Nwosu, LB, USC
Nwosu will be a dangerous third-down pass rusher on the edge, benefitting from the attention that LA’s star defensive line commands. That said, taking Mason Rudolph here would have been a great move. Philip Rivers will turn 37 this season and now would have been a great time to find that quarterback prospect of the future.
Biggest Need Filled: Justin Jones, DT, North Carolina State
The Chargers ranked last in the AFC in rushing yards allowed per game (131.1) which is tragic given how well the defense performed in all other aspects. Jones gives the interior line some depth and another big body up front on early downs to help get the defense off the field.
Projected Day One Starters:
Overall Grade: B+
Although the Chargers walked away with a first-round steal, they missed on an A grade because they completely ignored the future of the QB position. Los Angeles squandered a chance for Rivers to mentor a young quarterback in one of his few remaining years.
Beyond that, the commitment to building the defense should be applauded. On paper, the Chargers do not face a significant offensive threat within the AFC West and could contend for the division if only on the back of its defense.