The 2015 NFL Draft has come and gone, and it’s time to analyze how all 32 teams did in addressing their most pressing needs. San Diego didn’t have many picks, but they attempted to make the most out of their five selections. After all of the talk about trading Philip Rivers for the #2 overall pick and the presumed Marcus Mariota selection, none of that materialized and San Diego stood pat with Rivers. San Diego had holes to fill on their roster, but whether they plugged them or not remains a huge point of contention.
Here are the selections:
First round (15th overall): Melvin Gordon, running back, Wisconsin
Second Round (48th overall): Denzel Perryman, inside linebacker, Miami
Third Round (83rd overall): Craig Mager, cornerback, Texas State
Fifth round (153rd overall): Kyle Emanuel, outside linebacker, North Dakota State
Sixth round (192nd overall): Darius Philon, defensive tackle, Arkansas
San Diego Chargers 2015 NFL Draft Review
Best Player Selected
General manager Tom Telesco used the term “impact player” to describe Melvin Gordon eleven times during his post-first round press conference. San Diego may not have had the most pressing need at running back with three on the roster, but none of them possess the game-breaking ability that Gordon showed at Wisconsin.
There were needs at offensive line, but Gordon’s skill when it comes to setting up blocks should help shore up that problem at least a little bit. Gordon came just 57 yards short of breaking Barry Sanders single-season NCAA rushing record last season, and he comes from a similar power running system that San Diego employs. With Gordon, however, comes the risk that he’s just another good Wisconsin running back who might fizzle out in the pros because the lanes aren’t there.
San Diego traded up two spots to select Gordon out of fear that another team might trade up and snag him. They swapped first-round picks with San Francisco and they gave up their 117th overall (fourth round) pick and a fifth-rounder next year.
The Chargers could have used those picks to fill other needs, but Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy are betting hard on the talent of Melvin Gordon.
This selection is fully and completely questionable. Mager comes out of Texas State and is very raw. He’s described as very physical and a great tackler and competitor, but very little of this pick makes sense. Texas State plays in the Sun Belt and Mager hasn’t faced very much NFL level talent. His bill of “talented but raw” doesn’t bode well, even if he dominated his competition. Picking a guy in the third round with his description just doesn’t make any sense when there were more established corners on the board if they wanted to go in that direction.
The decision to pick a corner in the third round also makes no sense with Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers pencilled in as starters. It would make more sense in the later rounds to take a chance on a guy like Mager and hope he turns out well as a nickel corner, but San Diego had needs at outside linebacker, offensive line, and defensive line that were more pressing.
Perryman’s selection could have fit under head-scratcher as well, and it was surprising because San Diego has three inside linebackers already receiving playing time. Donald Butler is coming off a horrendous season, but he is only one year into a seven-year extension. Manti Te’o was drafted in 2013 and has been a great leader so far into his career, and Kavell Conner was a solid fill-in when he played.
Perryman is regarded as one of the hardest hitters in the draft and for good reason. Perryman is a thumper and an instinctual linebacker who will stuff the run in the 3-4 scheme and won’t have to be exposed in coverage too often. He had a first-round grade on a few boards and the fact that he was still around at 48th overall was another surprise.
Emanuel comes from North Dakota State in the FCS, where he dominated the competition. He had 19.5 sacks in his senior year, and was superior to most of the players he lined up against. Emanuel has great speed and agility and will be a good depth addition to outside linebacker. Emanuel will play on special teams immediately, and his high work ethic and motor should get him playing time on the defense quickly.
Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp
No disrespect to Gordon, whose talent should impress from day one, but Perryman will surprise some of his teammates with his raw strength and hitting ability, especially considering he’s not expected to start right away. A great day at Chargers Park would include Melvin Gordon and Perryman meeting in the hole during camp.
Donald Butler is a leader and was the signal caller for the defense, but that role lies with Eric Weddle now. If Butler doesn’t play at the level he did when he earned his seven-year extension, we could see Perryman take over in the middle sooner rather than later.
It took until the sixth round, but San Diego did address their need on the defensive line with Arkansas product Darius Philon. Philon was an odd selection because he doesn’t fit the 3-4 defense that San Diego runs. Arkansas ran a 4-3 exclusively, and Philon played defensive end in high school. He has a great rip move and is fantastic off the snap, but lacks the size and gap-filling ability needed for a 3-4 defensive tackle.
San Diego will need to develop his strength and add 10-15 pounds to his currently 6’1” 298-pound body if they want Philon to be an every down player.
The Bottom Line
San Diego went after impact players with their draft picks in 2015. Gordon will step on the field from day one and Perryman has definite long-term starting potential. The Chargers valued the talent of players and what they thought they could do for their team much more than their draft stock. They drafted some solid players, but could have done more to fill needs. Therein lays the problem that held San Diego back from having a fantastic draft. They failed to address needs in the trenches in the draft and could have with the players on the board when they were picking.
Final Grade: 7/10