Coming off a highly successful 2013 draft which saw him land three solid starters, all eyes were on Tom Telesco to see if he could possibly duplicate what he did as a first-year general manager. Although one cannot truly grade a draft until the players put on the pads and produce on the field, most of the talking heads in the sports talk field gave a positive ‘thumbs-up’ for Telesco’s choices. Here’s a look at your San Diego Chargers 2014 draft class.
Jason Verrett; CB; TCU
Regarded as one of the top five cornerbacks in the draft, the only real concern regarding Verrett is his size – 5-9, 178-Pounds – which many felt kept him from being the first cornerback taken overall. What the Chargers get in Verrett is a tough, instinctive player who has no reservations about being tasked to shutdown opposing receivers no matter their height or speed.
Growing up a Raiders fan in the Bay area, Verrett said when he got to high school he focused on individual players rather than rooting for a particular team. He says his father gave him some valuable advice as a kid and developing the chip on his shoulder because of his size has played a major key to his success.
“Always to keep my chin up in any situation and always strive to stay motivated and try to be the number one guy,” Verrett said while quoting his father’s advice.
“The chip came from me not being the biggest guy out there,” he continued. “The fact that I can show that I can play against those bigger guys has definitely earned their respect, and at this level I’m definitely going to earn the respect that I need and try to help the Chargers win a championship.”
Sports Illustrated Draft Analyst Chris Burke on Verrett: “Without having to sacrifice any additional picks and trade up, the Chargers scored a cornerback that’s clearly among the top five at his position in this class. Heck, Verrett may turn out to be the best of the bunch, given that he has the versatility to play zone or man and has a knack for finding the football in the air. Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller and Darqueze Dennard were the cornerbacks taken above him. Don’t be surprised if Verrett becomes the pace-setter among the rookies at his position before long.”
Jeremiah Attaochu; OLB; Georgia Tech
Listed as a ‘Sleeper’ pick amongst the outside linebackers in USA Today’s Draft Guide, Telesco wasted little time trading a fourth-round choice in this year’s draft to the Dolphins, to move up from No. 57 to No. 50 in order to select the 6-3, 252-pound Attaochu.
“We didn’t trade up just for an outside linebacker,” Telesco said. “We traded up for Jerry. … He’s a player we had targeted for a long time and actually targeted much higher. We just felt we had to go get him. He brings a lot of energy to our defense.
“He played 3-4 outside linebacker for three years at Georgia Tech. He played some defensive end this year. … He gets to the quarterback. He plays the style of football we love. He’s relentless. He’s got a big motor. We’re thrilled to get him.”
“He (was) the last of the true 3-4 outside linebackers in this draft,” NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock said after he was drafted. “Attaochu can play inside or outside or with his hand in the dirt. I love his motor, and he makes plays everywhere.”
Chris Watt; OG; Notre Dame
A fifth-year senior and three-year starter for the Fighting Irish, the 6-2, 311-pound Watt is known as a tough, solid run blocker who should fit in well within the Chargers’ zone blocking scheme. Watt was part of an offensive line that allowed just eight sacks in 2013, tied for second-fewest in the nation. In 2012, he started all 13 games as Notre Dame went 12-1 and played Alabama in the National Championship game.
“He’s a real tough, nasty, physical player who excels in the run game and is good in pass protection as well,” Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Spanos said. “He’s a technician – good hand use; good hand placement; a physical player like I said and a real good player.
“I think he can be pretty versatile between both guard spots, that’s where he played most of his career is at guard. He’s played at a high level too – you’re talking about a top college program against top level competition and he’s been very productive.”
“He’s one of the smartest, toughest offensive linemen in this draft,” said Mayock, who also calls Notre Dame’s games for NBC.
Ryan Carrethers; DT; Arkansas State
Looking to add depth at nose tackle and hoping to improve upon their 12th ranked run defense, Telesco selected Carrethers to help keep the offensive linemen away from Donald Butler and Manti Te’o. However, in Carrethers the Chargers are getting more than just a big body to occupy blockers, this guy is an athlete. Last season he garnering up some 93 tackles, 8 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. As a sophomore he broke Arkansas State’s squat record – his max is 700 pounds. At his pro day in March he bench pressed 225-pounds 36 times and he is a former two-time state wrestling champion who went undefeated his senior year in high school.
“Ryan is one of those prototypical nose tackles. He’s 6-1, 322 pounds. He’s a powerful, stout player inside,” Telesco said. “He also has some uncommon production for a nose tackle. He had a lot of tackles, TFL’s (tackles for loss) and sacks at Arkansas State. He really played well against the bigger schools.”
“He fits great along our D-Line, he’s a big, strong, physical player; excellent against the run,” Spanos said. “He plays with a high-motor; had a lot of production at Arkansas State and we’re really glad to get him into the fold.
“A lot of times (with) these nose tackles, their primary responsibility is taking on blocks and freeing-up other guys to make plays, but he’s a very productive player who got in on a lot of tackles and has great instincts for the nose tackle position.”
Marion Grice; RB; Arizona State
Sometimes the direction of the draft dictates your decision in selecting a player you might otherwise have passed on, and that could very well be the case here. Seemingly already set at running back, the 39 touchdowns the 6-0, 205-pound Grice put up in two years as a Sun Devil was apparently too good for Telesco to pass up. Despite missing the final three games last season, his 234 points scored is the highest two-season mark in Arizona State’s history. He clocked in at 4.54 in the 40-yard dash.
“The number one thing that jumps out about him is his production,” Spanos said. “He started out in junior college and only spent two years at Arizona State, and in those two years he really was effective both running the ball and catching the ball – they used him a lot out of the backfield.
“He has great hands (as a receiver); as a runner he has really great vision and instincts inside; good plant and cut ability and like I said, the production just really jumps out on tape.”
Round 7: Tevin Reese; WR; Baylor. The 5-10, 172 – pound Reese is a speedster who finished his career with 187 receptions; 3,102 yards; 24 touchdowns; and an average of 16.6 yards a reception. Reese was a three-year starter whose speed and ability to outrun coverage could be a great compliment to both Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates. With question marks surrounding the return of Malcom Floyd and Denario Alexander, Reese brings the much-needed speed the receiver corps desperately needs.
“He’s a guy that can really stretch the field vertically and does a nice job tracking the ball over his shoulder. I wish he was a little more physical and he’s not going to do a whole lot of work over the middle of the field, but you want someone to get over the top of the defense, like I say, take the top off of a defense – Tevin Reese is that type of guy,” NFL Network Analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
“He’s fast enough that you can start back peddling 15 yards and he’ll still run by you. He’s one of the reasons why they didn’t throw to the running backs at all – they just pushed it downfield. A dislocated wrist ended his season early last year; a very slight frame; but as you saw – he can run and go get it,” NFL Network Analyst Charles Davis.
As witnessed by former Chargers Lionel ‘Little Train’ James, Andre Coleman, Doug Flutie, Darren Sproles and current Charger Danny Woodhead – it’s not the physical size or speed of the player that matters. Rather, it’s the size of the player’s heart, along with a big chip on the shoulder that often determines one’s success and longevity in the NFL (see Wes Welker). After viewing his highlight film and listening to him talk confidently about his ability on the football field, it’s going to be exciting watching Verrett battle it out on Sundays with some of the best receivers the NFL has to offer – especially in the AFC West. Telesco and Spanos quotes courtesy of Chargers.com.