As the NFL Draft quickly approaches we will focus on cornerback and edge pass rusher — two positions where the Chargers need to add depth. With the release of veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers and needing to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, some draft prognosticators now have the Chargers selecting a player from one of those positions with its first round pick.
Although General Manager Tom Telesco struck gold in the first round last year by selecting defensive end Joey Bosa (Rookie of the Year/10.5 sacks), he needs to replenish both the cornerback and pass rush positions after the defense gave up 24.6 points per game — the fourth-most points in the NFL last season (Eric Williams/ ESPN).
In Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward the Chargers have two of the most talented starting cornerback duos in the league. However, as good as he is, Verrett has played in just 24 games in three seasons — including just four last season before undergoing season-ending surgery on a torn left ACL. In his first year as a Charger, Hayward led the league with seven interceptions and helped the team finish tied for the league lead in interceptions (18).
Despite franchise tagging linebacker Melvin Ingram (8 sacks/ 18.5 the past two seasons), the reason they need to upgrade the pass rush is twofold: First, as insurance in case they can’t ink a long-term contract with Ingram, and second, the defense finished last season ranked 14th in the league with just 35 sacks — tied with the NY Giants.
The re-signing of safety Jahleel Addae makes it look as if Malik Hooker, whom many analysts have the Chargers taking with the pick, might not be the guy. With Addae’s signing and Verrett’s injury history, a couple of cornerbacks and edge rushers have now shown up as the Chargers’ first pick in a few updated mock drafts.
Here is a closer look at a few prospects.
Marshon Lattimore 6-0, 193, CB, Ohio St.
Lattimore is the No. 1 cornerback in the draft according to Ourlads’, Scouts Inc., ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay and most NFL analysts. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock ranks Lattimore No. 2 amongst his top cornerbacks. Most draftniks have Lattimore being taken in the top five selections, however, Will Brinson (CBS Sports) and Matt Miller (Bleacher Report) have the former Buckeye sliding down to the Chargers.
Brinson: “The Chargers add another cornerback, giving them a ridiculous trio as they combine Lattimore with Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett. That’s a stacked secondary.”
Miller: “Of late, many feel that the Chargers are going to address their secondary by adding another cornerback. The Chargers have two talented players at that position, but with Jason Verrett’s health concerns, it may not be a bad idea. The Chargers have clearly showed they don’t value the safety position and if they are going to select a defensive back, it would likely be corner.”
Marlon Humphrey 6-0, 198, CB, Alabama
Humphrey is an interesting prospect in that Ourlads’ ranks him No. 18 overall and No. 4 amongst cornerbacks and Mayock has Humphrey as his No. 3 cornerback. Scouts Inc., Kiper and McShay don’t have Humphrey ranked in the top 32 prospects on their big boards. Despite the discrepancy of those analysts, O.J. Howard (CBS Sports.com) and Dan Kadar (SB Nation) both have Humphrey going to the Chargers at No. 7.
White: “Here’s the first spot where I think an offensive lineman can come off the board, as the Chargers could use another tackle even after signing Russell Okung. However, I think they’ll benefit most from adding Humphrey to the secondary to replace Brandon Flowers and give themselves insurance at the position with Jason Verrett recovering from a torn ACL. Casey Hayward is plenty capable of lining up in the slot if everyone is healthy, giving the Chargers secondary the ability to stack up with any passing attack.”
Kadar: “The Chargers have the pieces necessary on the line and at linebacker to fit Gus Bradley’s defense. But what they don’t have is the type of big cornerback he prefers. At just over 6’0, Humphrey is a solid fit who plays physical.”
Solomon Thomas 6-3, 273, OLB/DE, Stanford
With Texas A&M’s DE Myles Garrett the consensus No. 1 pick overall, many analysts believe Thomas could be the second edge rusher off the board. Ranked No. 6 overall by Ourlads’, No. 4 by Scouts Inc., No. 3 by Kiper, No. 4 by McShay and the fourth-best edge rusher by Mayock, it appears that Thomas will be picked in the top 10. Tony Iosso (Cover 32) have the Chargers taking Thomas in his latest mock draft.
Iosso: “Los Angeles was able to retain pass rusher Melvin Ingram by way of the franchise tag, as well as keeping safety Jahleel Addae, both filling areas of need. Corner could be a consideration here as the team recently parted ways with Brandon Flowers. However I opted to give them Solomon Thomas who could play across from Ingram to form a devastating pass rush.”
The Endzone: It is no secret that new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley likes tall, physical cornerbacks manning his secondary. There are a number of talented cornerbacks in this draft that both fit the mold that Bradley likes and could still be on the board in the second round should Telesco go in a different direction at No. 7.
Washington Huskies’ cornerback Kevin King could be one such player. At 6-3, 200-pounds King has the size, speed and talent that Bradley likes. Although two draftniks picked Humphrey to go the Chargers in the first round, with all the talent at cornerback he might just be available when they pick at No. 38 in the second round.