The Los Angeles Chargers entered the 2018 NFL Draft looking to address needs on the defense, the offensive line and potentially find the future replacement for quarterback Philip Rivers. They succeeded in drafting for need and talent on the defensive side and picked up some help for their beleaguered offensive line. They also grabbed the potential steal of the draft. Here is their complete list of selections:
First round, 17th overall: Derwin James, safety, Florida State
Second round, 48th overall: Uchenna Nwosu, edge rusher, USC
Third round, 84th overall: Justin Jones, defensive tackle, N.C. State
Fourth round, 119th overall: Kyzir White, safety, West Virginia
Fifth round, 155th overall: Scott Quessenberry, center, UCLA
Sixth round, 191st overall: Dylan Cantrell, wide receiver, Texas Tech
Seventh round, 251st overall: Justin Jackson, running back, Northwestern
Chargers 2018 Draft Grade: 8/10 B
Los Angeles Chargers 2018 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Derwin James
The Chargers had to be ecstatic when James started falling on draft night. As teams kept trading up and trading out, James continued to slide, and when the Chargers pick came, it was an easy selection. James is an absolute freak. At 6’2”, 215 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 4.47 seconds.
At the safety position, James is an all-around talent. He can blitz, play up against the run, cover receivers at tight end or in the slot, and he tackles very well. With his combination of size and speed, he is an equal match for the new big, fast, tight ends that offenses across the league covet. He also has a reputation as a leader on defense, with an ability to communicate and encourage his teammates. Most draft analysts compare James to All-Pro safety Eric Berry. Undoubtedly, the Chargers will be thrilled if James lives up to that comparison.
The Head-Scratcher: No Quarterback of the Future
The one surprise from the Chargers draft is there was no quarterback selected. As much as Chargers fans love him and as good as he has been over his 13-year career, Rivers is not going to play football forever. The Chargers do need to start thinking about a potential replacement, but that did not happen in this year’s draft.
The Surprise: Justin Jones
Most of the NFL mock drafts had Jones drafted between the fourth and seventh rounds. The Chargers liked what they saw from Jones enough to take him with their third-round selection. Jones showed up with some good practices at the Senior Bowl, which could have precipitated his climb to the third round. He showed agility on the defensive line and a nose for the ball. Jones adds instant depth to a talented defensive line that is a tackle short of being one of the top lines in the league.
The Steal: Justin Jackson
With the Chargers seventh-round selection, they drafted running back Justin Jackson. Jackson is a bit undersized for an every-down running back at 6’ 0”, 199 pounds. He has good breakaway speed, ability to make cuts, and good hands. He also has a nose or the end zone, scoring 40 touchdowns in his four-year career at Northwestern. Jackson has a good chance to be a pivotal player in the Chargers offense alongside Melvin Gordon. A good player comp for him could be Jerick McKinnon.
Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: Uchenna Nwosu
The defensive co-MVP of the 2017 season for USC, Nwosu was not projected as a first-round draft pick. The Chargers selected him in the second round, and that might have been a steal. Nwosu adds value to the Chargers defense because of his versatility. Drafted as an edge rusher, he has shown the ability to drop into coverage as well. He belongs on the field in multiple defensive packages and on any down. He is a second-round draft pick that could have been an unsurprising selection in the late first round.
The Chargers continued to solidify their defensive backfield in the fourth round when they drafted safety Kyzir White. White has a knack for hitting and experience in run support and pass rushing. In the fifth round, the Chargers added to their offensive line by drafting Quessenberry. He is an excellent fit for a line in serious need of improvement and has a good chance to start immediately. In the sixth round, the Chargers drafted wide receiver, Dylan Cantrell. Cantrell has good size and hands, but he does not create separation well. The lack of separation has taught him to catch contested balls, which could turn out to be an asset.
The Chargers had a great defense in 2017. The addition of James will only make it better. With a change of power in Oakland, a still as yet unproven quarterback in Kansas City, and a re-vamped Denver team, this could be the Chargers chance to seize control of the AFC West. The Chargers need to be in win-now mode. Rivers does not have that many years left.