While most mock drafts still have the Chargers taking Ohio State free safety Malik Hooker with the seventh pick overall, there are a few draft prognosticators who have the bolts going in a different direction.
In our latest look at possible first round picks for the Chargers, we focus on another position the team needs to upgrade — offensive tackle. According to most analysts, the tackles entering the draft this year are the weakest at the position in years, lacking in both talent and depth.
With the NFL Combine set to begin March 3, analysts project two offensive tackles being selected in the first round — with two other tackles who could join them if there is a run at the position. Last year seven offensive linemen were taken in the first round, five of whom were offensive tackles.
The two tackles projected to be selected in the first round are Alabama’s Cam Robinson and Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk. Two other tackles who could also climb into the first round are Garet Bolles from Utah and Forrest Lamp, a guard out of Western Kentucky, who is projected to make a move to tackle at the next level.
Although Hooker is projected to be the Chargers’ top pick, both Robinson and Ramczyk are the other names listed if the Bolts decide to pull the trigger on an offensive tackle.
Here is a closer look at the two aforementioned tackles and the thoughts of a couple analysts who project them wearing a Chargers uniform.
Cam Robinson, 6-6, 310, Alabama
Ranked No. 22 overall by Scouts Inc., No. 16 and No. 23 by ESPN analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr., respectively, Robinson will forgo his senior year after dominating the position as a three-year starter. The winner of the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman following his sophomore season, Robinson has the size and skills to play both tackle positions and the versatility to move inside to play guard if need be.
Kiper: “This isn’t a great class for top-tier blindside protectors, but Robinson is at the top of the list, though I think his best skill — run-blocking — means he’d be better as a right tackle at the next level. A three-year starter for the Crimson Tide, he’s a known commodity in the NFL. The Chargers ranked in the bottom third of the league in rushing (3.8 yards per carry, 94.4 yards per game) in 2016, and tackles Joe Barksdale and King Dunlap have underwhelmed.”
While Robinson is Kiper’s top-ranked offensive lineman in the draft at No. 10 overall, McShay has the Alabama All-American ranked No. 16 on his top-32 big board. In fact, McShay believes Robinson will fall to the Seahawks at No. 26 making him the third tackle taken right behind Utah’s Garett Bolles’ who McShay says will go to the Texans with the 25th pick.
McShay: “Robinson has some athletic limitations and isn’t an elite pass-blocker, but he has great size and experience in a zone-blocking scheme. The Seahawks are in desperate need of upgrading both offensive tackle spots. Robinson could be a good fit on the right side.”
Others projecting Robinson going to the Chargers in their first mock drafts include the UT’s Eddie Brown, Walter Football and Rotoworld.
Ryan Ramczyk, 6-6, 314, Wisconsin
The top ranked offensive tackle by Scouts Inc. at No. 19, Ramczyk is ranked No. 15 and No. 25 on McShay’s and Kiper’s big boards, respectively. Despite being regarded as one of the top tackles in the draft, concerns about Ramczyk include starting experience at the FBS level and how fast he can recover from hip surgery. Analysts projecting Ramczyk to be the Chargers’ top pick include Chad Reuter (NFL.com), Chris Roling (Bleacherreport) and Pro Football Focus (PFF).
Reuter: “Philip Rivers doesn’t have many seasons left; the team must protect him while it still can. Ramczyk will also help pave the way for fellow Badger Melvin Gordon.”
Scouts Inc: “Ramczyk is a JUCO transfer who redshirted in 2015 so he only has one year of starting experience at the FBS level and the relatively small sample size of work is a concern. Of even greater concern, he’ll reportedly undergo hip surgery to repair a torn labrum following the Cotton Bowl and the recovery time would more than likely prevent him from working out for teams. That said, he projects as a fringe first-round pick based on his tape and he hasn’t reached his potential as he can clean up his technique most notably his footwork and pad level.”
The Endzone: Unlike the 2016 draft, which saw a number of talented offensive linemen taken in the first round, this year’s group could have just two selections taken in round one. “The first offensive lineman comes off the board at No. 20, which would be the lowest ever since the 1970 merger,” McShay said. “This is a weak O-line class. Ramczyk, who’s recovering from hip surgery, has the best tape of the group. He also has just one year of major college experience after transferring from UW-Stevens Point (Division III). Long and well-built, Ramczyk would serve as a much-needed upgrade for the Broncos up front.” Kiper has three tackles listed among his top 32 prospects —Bolles at No. 23; Robinson at No. 24 and Ramczyk at No. 25. McShay has two on his list — Ramczyk at No. 15 and Lamp at No. 22. Scouts Inc. also has three OL on its top 32 list — Ramczyk at No. 19, Lamp at No. 23 and Robinson at No. 26.