Chargers First Round Options in the NFL Draft

The 2018 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away (April 26th through the 28th). The Los Angeles Chargers have a very good roster and really need to use this draft to build depth and to find replacements for players that they could lose in free agency in the future.

The Chargers have addressed the offense with the addition of free agent Center Mike Pouncey. Forrest Lamp, the Chargers 2nd round pick from 2017, will be back after missing his entire rookie season with an ACL injury. He will start at left guard.

The Chargers will have the #17 pick in the first round. The Chargers ranked 31st out of 32 teams against the run in 2017 and have not acquired help though free agency to address these concerns. The feeling is the Chargers will address either the defensive tackle or linebacker position in the first round.

The Chargers' best options at these positions:

Defensive Tackle:

Vita Vea – The top rated Defensive Tackle in the NFL draft. Vea is 6"4", 347 pounds. Vea played for the University of Washington Huskies and was voted the PAC-12 Conference Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year. He also won the Morris Trophy as the top defensive lineman of the year as voted on by the offensive lineman of the conference.

The Huskies had the #1 rated rushing defense in college football.

Vea is considered a classic nose tackle by many scouts. But at Washington, Huskies defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski used Vea everywhere on the line. He played nose. He played on the inside and outside eye of the guard. He lined up at defensive end.

In high school at Milpitas high school in Milpitas, California, Vea played running back and rushed for 578 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is a late bloomer that the Chargers will probably need to trade up for in the draft, but he would be well worth it.

Da'Ron Payne – A two-year starter for the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Payne was the Defensive Player of the Game in the national championship win. Payne is 6'1", 311 pounds with a good combination of speed and strength.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock had this to say about Payne: "Da'Ron Payne's ability to rush the quarterback is what's going to get him paid. He gets into the offensive line extremely quick off the snap, that get-off and explosion.

He's unbelievable in the run game and got better and better against the pass. When the guard pulls, the center has no chance at blocking him." Payne would be a very good fit for Charger defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's 4-3 defense.

Taven Bryan – A 2nd team All-SEC selection at Florida. Bryan only started 14 games in three-year career at Florida. He is the son of a former Navy Seal. His size and athletic ability are very impressive: 6'5", 291 pounds. He ran a 4.98 forty, had a 35" vertical jump and a 1.68 10-yard split.

Bryan has been compared Derek Wolfe of Denver and JJ Watt of Houston. His athleticism should fit in well with the Chargers defense. Bryan is a player that the Chargers could trade back for and collect an extra draft pick. He is considered more of a late first round draft pick.


Roquan Smith – A junior entry from Georgia. Smith was a two-year starter at Georgia. Smith is 6"1", 236 pounds and was timed in the forty at 4.51. Smith has excellent closing speed and is a terrific tackler.

He is a sideline-to-sideline type of linebacker who can play inside or outside. Very good in both man-to-man pass coverage. The Chargers need help at linebacker and Smith could be an immediate impact player on the defensive side.

Leighton Vander Esch – A junior entry from Boise State. Vander Esch grew up in Riggins, Idaho, (population of about 400) and was a three-sport star at Salmon River high school, helping lead the team to 1A Division-II state titles in both football and basketball his junior and senior years.

He received no FBS college football offers and was a walk-on at Boise State. He played eight-man football in high school. Vander Esch is 6'4", 256 pounds. At the NFL combine, he ran a 4.65 forty and had a vertical leap of 39.5". He was 5th in the nation with 141 tackles.

He is a hard worker with a lot of upside and looks like an every down linebacker in the NFL. He has the ability to play inside or outside at the linebacker position. Is a player that should be available at #17 and the Chargers might be able to still obtain if they decide to trade back in the first round.

Tremaine Edmunds – The top-rated linebacker in this year's class. A two-year starter out of Virginia Tech. Edmunds is 6'5", 253 pounds. At the NFL combine, Edmunds ran a 4.54 forty. His size and speed are very impressive. Edmunds can play in any linebacker position in any defensive scheme. A good blitzar and good in pass coverage. He can be an All-Pro in any defense.

Edmunds comes from a family of athletes. His father played in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. He has a brother who is currently with the New Orleans Saints. With a linebacker like Edmunds, the Chargers would need to hope that he falls in the draft far enough to make a trade up worthwhile. He is projected to go in the top ten.

Next week we will come out with a seven-round mock draft for the Chargers.


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