Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has been extremely successful in the first round of the draft. He has picked four pro-bowl caliber players in four out of the past five seasons (Mike Williams may get there one day, but he has to stay healthy first). In 2019, he will be asked to do it again.
This year it will become much more difficult after the Bolts 12-win campaign in 2018. As a result, they won’t pick until 28th in the upcoming NFL draft, their latest first-round selection since 2007.
At this point, the Chargers can’t expect more impact players to join via free agency. Any major improvements will have to come from this years draft class. The team has several glaring needs including offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and free safety.
With all of these needs in mind, and what players I believe will be available, I predict that the Chargers will use their first selection on Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.
Predicting The LA Chargers First Round Draft Pick
This may come as a surprise to some, with Tillery recently sliding down many mock drafts into the second round. Frankly, I don’t understand it.
I fully acknowledge that the young defensive tackle is recovering from an early March surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. From what I have seen on tape, I still believe the risk is worth the reward.
If they draft him, Tillery would be converting from a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 defensive tackle in Gus Bradley’s defense. The move would make sense after losing Darius Philon to free agency.
The move is especially enticing to Los Angeles because it would give them a chance to pair Pro-Bowl defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram with one of the best interior pass-rushers in the country.
On tape Tillery shows a variety of pass-rushing moves but he is most effective with his club and chop moves. He uses great length, and violent hands to keep offensive lineman away, and get by them quickly. Sometimes, he just completely throws them onto the turf.
He is a nightmare to guard in 1V1 situations, especially when he lands the first punch, setting lineman up with great leverage and discarding them to get in the quarterbacks face. According to Pro Football Focus, Tillery had the highest pass rushing grade of all interior defenders (92.5) and was credited with 32 pass-rush wins that didn’t result in a pressure. The most amongst his position.
Although he is most notably a pass rusher, Tillery is no slouch in the running game. He shows the ability to stack offensive lineman and control the point of attack while shedding blockers to make stops. On most plays, he can anchor the line and even split double teams to make splash plays.
He can be driven off of the line of scrimmage by double-teams, or due to high pad level. His recognition skills are a work in progress, and can sometimes be manipulated by smaller players create a crease.
The main red flags are inconsistency and character concerns. Tillery has a tendency to disappear in games, mainly prior to 2018, failing to make the impact that his talent should demand. He also has had some notable on-field temper tantrums, once stomping on a USC player, Ndamukong Suh style.
The inconsistencies are not a deal breaker for me because he was still dominant. These issues were never due to a lack of effort, or motor. If anything, his on-field antics show that he may want it too much sometimes. Plus, these flaws were very minor in 2018, for a guy that seems to have put it all together.
This draft class is loaded with talented defensive tackles, but very few have the rare blend of power, productivity, and upside that Tillery has. If the Chargers pull the trigger, the team can get the high-floor, high-ceiling player that every team should covet in the draft.