Eyes on the Competition : San Diego Chargers

I am of the belief Phillip Rivers & Co. will reign supreme in the AFC West this season.

I am of the belief Phillip Rivers & Co. will reign supreme in the AFC West this season.

NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa

 

In recent years, everybody has been focused on the Denver Broncos as the lone legitimate AFC Super Bowl threat from out west. The Chiefs have even gotten’ some love in recent years as a potential sleeper as well. Oakland.. eh, no need to mention.

However the way I see it, based on a nightmare cap situation in Denver combined with a (in my opinion) vastly overrated roster in Kansas City (losing Eric Berry is a killer), I believe San Diego will rise up as the AFC West Champs this year.

San Diego is in quite the unique situation. For one, they don’t know precisely where on earth they will be residing in the next few years.   Are they moving to L.A.? Did the Rams beat them to the punch by announcing stadium plans in Inglewood? Will they be sharing a stadium with their in division bitter rival being the Oakland Raiders?

What about their future plans at quarterback? Phillip Rivers’ contract is up after this season. Yikes.

Not exactly saying Ben Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers are on the same level here. They have won two combined Super Bowls, both of which belonging to Big Ben. However, who’s the better quarterback?

Wherever you fall into that argument, the separation between the two isn’t major – and Big Ben just signed a massive 4 year deal averaging $21.85M per year. Can the Chargers afford to keep Rivers? Or a better question, can they afford to let him go? Two major question marks surround this potential 2015 Super Bowl contender like a dark rain cloud in that perfect San Diego weather.

Since the Super Bowl

The Chargers – overall – have slightly improved their roster since Free Agency in my eyes. The Chargers were able to do something New England could not : sign their top priority UFA who happened to be a cornerback – Brandon Flowers.

Flowers was a steal for the Chargers from in division rival Kansas City, and will prove to be a key cog on the team going forward. They paid fair market value for his talents as well in my eyes, giving the #1 cornerback a 4 year $36.4M deal. Per comparison, he is the 13th highest paid cornerback in the league right now in per year average money, behind the likes of Leon Hall, Johnathon Joseph, and Byron Maxwell.

Phillip Rivers may also have a shot of standing upright this year for once, as San Diego resigned OT King Dunlap as well as poaching OG Orlando Franklin from the Broncos.

Offensively, there will be some new toys to play with. Ryan Mathews and Eddie Royal, both relative contributors last year signed with Philadelphia and Chicago, respectively. Enter Jacoby Jones and one of my favorite signings of the off season, former Bills stand-out Stevie Johnson.

Patriots’ fans were up in arms about Johnson. Simply put, San Diego made the better financial offer. I have a few thoughts on this situation.

To compare, Stevie Johnson got slightly more money compared to Brandon Lafell last season. Johnson received a 3 year $10.5M offer, compared to Lafell’s 3 year $9M deal. I’m not sure of the exact numbers of the Patriots’ offer, but I would be surprised if it surpassed Lafell’s 2014 deal.

 

Gasp.  Could Aaron Dobson help Patriots' fans forget about losing Stevie Johnson to S.D.?

Gasp. Could Aaron Dobson help Patriots’ fans forget about losing Stevie Johnson to S.D.?

Another thought: Aaron Dobson. *Ducks for cover to avoid the fruit thrown my way.

But seriously, I am not closing the book on Dobson – yet. The 23 year old 6’3 200 lbs former 59th pick in the draft has been lost in the shuffle of recent years. When Dobson finally saw the field in Green Bay last year (6 weeks after BUF, his last appearance), the former Marshall stand-out was already hurt and done for the year by the time I returned from the cooler getting a beer after kickoff.

Still, he provides that “big body receiver” Patriots’ fans have screamed for since Randy Moss, and could make the offense devastating to opposing defenses. We all talk about how next year is a make-or-break year for Dobson. Trust me people, he knows that too.

Last thought on Stevie Johnson – an insanely deep draft class at wide receiver. Last year may have produced more stars than this one will, maybe, but there is no question this is the deepest receiver class I have ever graded.

I currently have a first round grade on eight receivers. In order, I have White, Cooper, Green-Beckham, Parker, Agholor, Perriman, Strong, and Smith (Funchess is a TE in my book). There are also many talented receivers post the top eight, so sit tight Patriots’ fans. A receiver will come eventually.

Some other losses for the Chargers include LB Andrew Gachkar (DAL), CB Shareece Wright (SF) and S Marcus Gilchrist (NYJ). Seyi Ajirotutu, Ronnie Brown, Jeromey Clary, and Dwight Freeney all remained unsigned.

A key addition not yet talked about to help combat the loss of some of the defensive backs (Wright, Gilchrist) , up and down but ultra-talented former New Orleans Saints’ cornerback Patrick Robinson. Robinson is the classic low risk high reward signing (just a 1 year, $2M deal).

Draft Needs : Offensive play makers at any position, OT, C, DL

Kind of kidding when I say offensive play makers at any position, but not really. Lucky for San Diego this class is littered with receivers who could help from day one, as well as some solid running backs in the middle rounds to help combat the loss of Ryan Mathews.

The Chargers only have 6 picks in the 2015 draft, 0 of which are compensatory.

At pick 17, I’ve seen a lot of buzz about an OT of some sort. I also salivate every time I watch Todd Gurley game film. I do remember the last time the Chargers used a first round pick on a running back. It didn’t exactly work out so well.

That running back may have been very frustrating to Chargers’ fans, but even more so to Fantasy Football owners such as myself. He may go down as the most frustrating fantasy football player of all time, costing me a few winners’ pools along the way. I’m sure he (Ryan Mathews) will now run for 1,200 yards somehow for Chip Kelly. At the worst, he is now playing mainly 1 o’clock games and won’t hold us owners captive for 3 hours. Thank goodness.

OT is more of the pressing need, especially if Phillip Rivers has any aspirations of making it through his next contract. Therefore, no fault at all if the Chargers go the La’El Collins, Ereck Flowers or T.J. Clemmings route. I don’t really think Andrus Peat would be the best play here, as S.D. will be looking for a guy who can play right away.

But boy…I would have a difficult time passing up on Gurley, who is my highest rated running back since Adrian Peterson. I’m happy to see his draft buzz start up again, as if not for the injury I think would be a lock for the top 15.

Other first round options could even be Texas standout DT Malcom Brown or Florida State’s DT Eddie Goldman. I’ll get into the lack of pass rush in a second, but the Chargers per-rush defense was an abysmal 29th in the league last season. Brown or Goldman could help change that, and quick.

No secret here, the Chargers need some edge rush help in a big way. It has been the kryptonite that hasn’t allowed them to get over the hump of Peyton and Brady.

Did you know – The Chargers leader in sacks last year tallied 4.5 sacks. Wowza.

Could Arik Armstead from Oregon still be on the board in round two? What about former Virginia Cavalier Eli Harold. Could LSU’s Danielle Hunter fit? Possibly. I could go on and name all the versatile potential 3-4 guys, but you get the point.

I’d add a receiver or two if I was running the show. If you haven’t heard the name by now than you haven’t truly followed the draft that closely. ECU’s Justin Hardy could be a real nice middle round fit. What about a Phillip Dorsett (The U) or Tyler Lockett (KSU) to add some BOOM explosion to the offense.

And don’t forget about my guy, Vince Mayle!

Finally, If Gurley isn’t the play in round 1 (which he probably won’t be) a middle round running back will be crucial. There is no guarantee Donald Brown will be around too much longer, so the Chargers need bodies in the backfield – fast. I would consider a double-dip here. What about a David Cobb (Minn) or a Tevin Coleman (Ind), and then comeback with my second favorite underrated player in the draft behind Mayle, Josh Robinson! Now we’re doing big things.

The Chargers are talented. They have their quarterback (for now at least), and seem poised to make a run at the AFC West which has been dominated by John Elway’s crew of late.

Depending on how they play the draft combined with their nice free agency period thus far, I expect the Chargers in the playoffs next year – hosting a playoff game.

Next time on Eyes on the Competition, we will check out Vince Wilfork’s new stomping grounds : the Houston Texans.

 

 

Previously highlighted in ‘Eyes on the Competition’ : Colts , Bills

 

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23 Responses to “Eyes on the Competition : San Diego Chargers”

  1. J H TARBORO says:

    Patriots RB coach Ivan Fears workout 4 LSU Tigers at their pro day. Scouts were buzzing about RB Terrence Magee 5’8 216lbs. RB Kenny Hillard,FB Connor Neighbors, and FB JC Copeland the 2014 NFLPA Bowl MVP who spent time with the Cowboys last season before being cut. In my first mocks Terrence Magee was a RB that had some of the best value as a late round pick, former team captain, 3 down back with good hands and blocking skills. We need competition at the FB position on the Patriots during camp, please bring in JC Copeland, he’s lost weight, down from 280lbs. to 260lbs.

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    RB Zach Zenner-S.Dakota is fun to watch on tape, a bit underrated, but i like this kid a lot!

  3. J H TARBORO says:

    Patriots at Utah Utes pro day to see LB Nate Orchard, CB Eric Rowe, and WR Dres Anderson. Patriots met with OG Junior Salt 6’2 325lbs.

  4. Russell says:

    My mock up-dated NO trades;
    #32- OLB Eli Harold
    #64- OG Laken Tomlinson
    #96- S/CB Adrian Amos
    #97- DT Xavier Williams
    #101- OLB Davis Tull
    #131- DT Kristjan Sokoli
    #177- OT Rober Myers
    #219- QB/WR Devon Gardner
    #253- OT/G Brey Cook

    I think Harold is a future “Jamie Collins” and to talented to pass on. If BB trades out of the 1st round this will change who maybe on the board.
    I think Amos maybe a hinden gem, nice size at 6’+ 215 lbs, 4.4 40yd, 32 5/8 ” arms.

    • J H TARBORO says:

      Nice job with your mock Russell.

    • acm says:

      A lot of players I like there but think Eli Harold is being overrated in the pre-draft process. He had a very good combine, not freakish but very good, but his tape is more on the average side. One of those athletes who are jumping up draft boards due to the “combine numbers” factor, imo. For me, he’s a reach in the first and taking Tull later dedicates two good picks to virtually the same type of player.
      At the same time, the CB position is not improved at all (Amos is an interesting player but not a CB in the NFL) and Pats may well look for their next LT if Solder doesn’t extend before the draft.

      • Russell says:

        I think any CB BB may draft will see less than 30% of the snaps. Amos played some CB , as well as S and I see him as a developemental prospect. I like CB Steve Nelson and maybe he could be in the mix. Solder is a hard call, but Cannon has proven to be a solid RT, and Flemming is better at OT then OG. Robert Myers could go at OT,or OG I think, but I also like Devon Smith alot as well as a future LT. The LB depth is a real question, Hightower,and Mayo are a question day one of the season. I see Tull more as a speical teams guy yr. one. Harold as I said, IMO is a “Jamie Collins” type prospect, and BB likes guys at this position.

  5. J H TARBORO says:

    Donte’ Hightower is set to miss 6-7 months due to recent shoulder surgery as reported by the NFL Network.

    • acm says:

      He had that surgery immediately after the SB, so that’s nfl.com rehashing 1.5 months old news. Slow day, I guess … either that or one of their writers just woke from a coma.

  6. Ryan says:

    Latest Fanspeak Mock (now with compensatory picks)

    Pick 32: OG A.J. Cann
    Pick 64: CB Alex Carter
    Pick 96: DT Marcus Hardison
    Pick 97: SS Ibraheim Campbell
    Pick 101: DE Corey Crawford
    Pick 131: OT Austin Shepherd
    Pick 178: ILB Trey Depriest
    Pick 219: CB Justin Coleman
    Pick 253: DT Deon Simon

    9 picks seem like more than enough for the Patriots to succeed with in the draft. With a draft like that above they would definitely be ready for next season.

    I think that the Pats need to make at least 6 picks: 2 offensive linemen, 2 defensive backs, 1 linebacker and 1 defensive tackle. If they make all 9 picks, they could have a great deal of new depth on defense, where the roster is still a bit fluid. However, the #96 and #101 picks seem like great spots to trade out of because of our 3rd-round comp pick. If we could get back into the second-round with those picks I’m sure that we could find some sinking talent.

  7. Ryan says:

    Latest Fanspeak Mock (now with compensatory picks)

    Pick 32: OG A.J. Cann
    Pick 64: CB Alex Carter
    Pick 96: DT Marcus Hardison
    Pick 97: SS Ibraheim Campbell
    Pick 101: DE Corey Crawford
    Pick 131: OT Austin Shepherd
    Pick 178: ILB Trey Depriest
    Pick 219: CB Justin Coleman
    Pick 253: DT Deon Simon

    9 picks seem like more than enough for the Patriots to succeed with in the draft. With a draft like that above they would definitely be ready for next season.

    I think that the Pats need to make at least 6 picks: 2 offensive linemen, 2 defensive backs, 1 linebacker and 1 defensive tackle. If they make all 9 picks, they could have a great deal of new depth on defense, where the roster is still a bit fluid. However, the #96 and #101 picks seem like great spots to trade out of because of our 3rd-round comp pick. If we could get back into the second-round with those picks I’m sure that we could find some sinking talent.

  8. J H TARBORO says:

    1) CB Byron Jones-UConn ( pre pro day )
    2) OG Tre Jackson-Florida St.
    3)DT Marcus Hardison-ASU
    3)RB David Johnson-N.Iowa
    4)WR/CB Tony Lippett-Michigan ( Convert back to CB, his natural position)
    4)WR Tyrell Williams-W.Oregon
    6) LB Reshad Cliett-USF
    7) DT Kristjan Sokoli-Buffalo
    7)OC/OL David Andrews-UGA

    • Jim R says:

      Lippett is an interesting one. Jack of all trades type of guy. I like his versatility.

    • acm says:

      I very like Byron Jones although I didn’t have him anywhere near a 1st rounder at the beginning of the draft process and that makes me uneasy about possibly letting combine/track numbers result in overdrafting him. I have a hard time nailing down a “window” in which he may get drafted – can see anything between mid 1st to mid 3rd round – but his great numbers may well force the Pats to take him in the 1st if they really like him.

      This being said, I like Hardison, Johnson and Sokoli too. Not sure about the rest – not a fan of OG Jackson as he is not what the pats go for at the position, generally, and you can get a mauler later in the draft at a lower cost.
      Don’t feel you are improving the OL – even if Connolly comes back it’d still be a top need considering the defensive fronts in the division.
      At the same time, you may be over-emphasizing on WR and particularly over-drafting Williams, who is more an athlete than a football player at this point (a lot of question marks about him, which I think the article covers well). Ailliams needs a lot of work in terms of route running, catching the ball, etc and I can see him struggle hold down a spot as a long-term developmental prospect as he may well not have a secondary role (which is what kept Edelman around for several years before he was finally ready).

      • J H TARBORO says:

        I appreciate your feedback, thanks!

      • MM-II says:

        Darius Butler.

        Speaking of freakishly athletic UConn cornerbacks taken with a high draft pick by the Pats.

        • acm says:

          Butler had mostly good to very good combine numbers, nothing I’d call freakish tbh, especially considering the difference in size between Butler and Jones.
          Either way, I wasn’t too high on Butler – very good numbers but just didn’t impress me with the rest (had him as a 3rd-4th rounder iirc).
          As for Jones, I very much like him and that was before he blew up the combine – smarts, instincts, scheme versatility, physicality, size, etc. If anything, I hated he did so well at the combine as I was hoping he’d stay under the radar and fall to the Pats later in the draft.
          Before the combine, I don’t remember much noise about him at all, iirc. Now, after he posted those numbers, all of a sudden every scout is saying they had him as a 1-2 fringe player all along :rolleyes: … ironically, it’s this newly found stardom that makes me question my initial instinct about Jones because people are so prone to overrating prospects based on pure numbers alone.

        • MM-II says:

          acm –

          I was kinda making a joke there. However, Butler posted a 43″ vertical and a 134″ broad jump which were, IIRC, the best of the 2009 Combine. His 40 was a paltry 4.53, but his agility numbers were good – 4.18 shuttle, 6.92 3-cone. So, overall, *fairly* freakish, at least at the time.

          I remember him as being a very good perimeter corner and returner at UConn whose pre-draft projections were mostly late-1st/early-2nd, so BB getting him at #41 was touted as being a good deal at the time. I wasn’t 100% sold though.

          I also remember some analysts projecting him as a slot corner in the NFL because of his size mostly (5103/187), so it’s kind of ironic that he’s turned out to be at least an adequate slot guy for the Colts after the Pats tried relentlessly to mold him into a perimeter guy for a couple seasons (he wasn’t sufficiently solid as a run defender to fit the Pats scheme in the slot). I don’t recall him being used much by the Pats as a returner, either, or on the special teams coverage units.

          However, I think he failed with the Pats because he just didn’t have the football smarts to master their zone-read concepts, had real trouble staying with his assignment in man coverage, and wasn’t very coachable.

          Anyway, I also had heard some praise for Jones’ football smarts prior to his Combine performance, so that’s encouraging. But, UConn + athletic cornerback still brings up bad memories.

    • Russell says:

      Great to see your Mock! I’m not sure about OL Jackson, or CB Jones. Watching tape on CB Jones in Nov. left me not sure if he was a 4th round prospect, so not sure the Combine should change him that much. You could say the same about my pick of LB Harnold, as I had him as a late 2nd round prospect, before the Combine, and I’ve moved him to 1st round. I like RB/TE Johnson but not sure where he fits into the roster.

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