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The Los Angeles Chargers are coming off a hot finish as they went 8-2 to close out the 2017 season. After a second place AFC West finish last year, Philip Rivers and the Bolts are looking to break through and win the division for the first time since 2009.

The defense is really talented with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Casey Hayward leading the charge. The offense actually has a formidable line which bodes well for Rivers and fourth-year running back Melvin Gordon.

Without too many holes the Chargers don’t have a ton of needs in the draft. If they can land a couple of impact players they could be a contender in the AFC.

Round 1, Pick 17: Da’Ron Payne – DT – Alabama

The Chargers are transitioning to a 4-3 defense under second-year defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. With an aging Brandon Mebane at 33 years old, they need some young blood to pair with Corey Liuget in the middle. Imagine a front four of Ingram, Bosa, Liuget, and Payne disrupting offensive backfields. Hard to pass that up.

Round 2, Pick 48: Malik Jefferson – LB – Texas

Los Angeles seems pretty set at the outside linebacker spots but needs an upgrade in the middle. Jefferson is a rare athlete for the linebacker spot. His style of play is infectious and he will be a great asset for the defense.

Round 3, Pick 84: Chukwuma Okorafor – OT – Western Michigan

Free agent center Mike Pouncey was signed from Miami while a pair of 2017 rookies in Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp should hold down the guard spots for the foreseeable future. Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale are decent tackles but are on the back nine of their careers. Okorafor could push either veteran for playing time and should be the future franchise left tackle.

Round 4, Pick 119: Quenton Meeks – S – Stanford

Meeks played corner for the Cardinal but should convert to safety in the pros. Adrian Phillips and Jahleel Addae are capable starters but depth and competition should be added. Meeks is a California kid and would fit in well in Los Angeles.

Round 5, Pick 155: Keke Coutee – WR – Texas Tech

Keenan Allen proved what he can do when he stays healthy. The entire Chargers organization is keeping its fingers crossed that last year’s first rounder Mike Williams pans out. Coutee could provide a threat in the slot and in the return game.

Round 6, Pick 191: Kurt Benkert – QB – Virginia

Rivers still has a few good years left and both Geno Smith and Cardale Jones are serviceable backups. Benkert has an arm suitable for Sundays but is a project at best. If quarterback coach Shane Steichen can groom him then Benkert may be able to make his way onto the field. He can be a reliable career backup nonetheless.

Round 7, Pick 251: Nick Gates – OL – Nebraska

Gates left Lincoln with a year of eligibility left. Staying may have moved his projection up but with the new coaching regime coming to town he decided to declare. He has experience as a tackle in college but projects as a guard. His versatility along the offensive line is attractive at this stage of the draft.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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