Written by Matthew Nereim
I wanted Phillip Rivers back. I will miss his fire and passion as he is one of my favorites. But you can make an argument that if he was going to win a title for the Chargers that it would have happened long ago. So despite personally not wanting to see El Capitan move on, I understand Tom Telesco’s logic. I do suspect that those who were calling for his dismissal will increasingly appreciate his talent (if they are honest with themselves) as it may be some time before we see the handful of “special” throws that he produced nearly every week, even in his off games.
As such, The Bolts head into THE DRAFT with Tyrod Taylor as the starter at this moment.
Sitting at the 6th pick of the draft, most mock drafts have them selecting the towering Justin Herbert, QB from Oregon (who I believe will still be there at #6). I am about to outline the strategy that I think sets this current team up most optimally.
What I would NOT do under any circumstance? Trade up!!! This draft is too deep and stacked to be giving away picks. I have 2 players that would be my primary targets that both fill needs, and have a unique talent.
Dream Scenario (Plan A): Hybrid LB-Safety-Slot CB from Clemson Isaiah Simmons somehow falls to #6...and we pounce on a prospect that there really is nobody to compare him with.
At 6’4, 238 he ran a 4.39 at the combine. Are there words other than “super-freak” to describe that? What he would bring to this defense is a Defensive Coordinators dream. With his skillset, it would allow Gus Bradley to disguise coverages and open up the door to a wide array of different options to attack and confuse opposing offenses. Coupled with Derwin James on 3rd and long at both Safety positions does not seem fair. If it were me I would bring both James & Simmons up close to the line constantly and let the QB try to figure out who is coming & who is going? Adding another potential game-wrecker at the LB position would give them one at each level of the defense (Bosa-Simmons-James) and that is not including Casey Heyward (at CB #1) although he was better last year than most gave him credit for.
I have a habit of comparing players with who they remind me of without even thinking about it...and with Simmons, there are ZERO that come to mind!
My only question on Simmons is can he shed blocks at the line and make plays against NFL athletes? Worst case, he cannot. Ok, fine...let him play Safety and clean up and make plays on the back end. Slide him in the slot where you can blitz him several times a game while you’re at it. This kid has the potential to turn this D into a truly elite unit. The odds of him being at #6 I would peg at 40%. WIll the Giants grab him at #4? I think so. Teams understand that having LB’s who can cover and run sideline to sideline is critical and how few there are!
Plan B: Trade back to somewhere in-between 10-14 and accumulate more draft capital...and then select the unique talent of Henry Ruggs III, WR from Alabama.
The Bolts are well set at WR #1 & #2 with KA13 and Big “Mike Dub” who led the league in yards per reception last year despite regressing in TD catches. But after that, the production was historically horrendous for any of the other WR#3 we trotted out there. Travis Benjamin failed to thrive, and while letting him walk was a no-brainer...we will miss his speed that cleared out the underneath routes for our primary targets (when he was healthy). Ruggs and his 4.27 speed would add a dynamic weapon that would draw attention and strike fear into coaches and players alike! He has great hands and playing with such a deep WR core at Alabama he was under-utilized. He may never be a true #1, but his impact on the field will show up outside of the box score frequently. But the fact that when targeted QB’s posted a 151.4 rating gives evidence that this kid has the upside to be something special. For me the word “upside” is critical when drafting high - I am looking for unique skill/talent...and Ruggs has that in spades!
My knock on Tua Tagovailoa? There is a lot I love about him, especially his ball placement and accuracy. But, at just over 6 feet tall, and already suffering from several injuries, most specifically a serious hip surgery...I just don’t see him holding up over a 17+ game season consistently. I also watched him put his entire body into a throw, and he barely tossed it 55 yards. Safeties would cheat towards the line compacting the field and shrinking the already tight windows. Couple those things together and I just can’t justify trading up to get him. If he is somehow there at #6 despite the knocks that would be enticing even for me, and I am sure that Telesco would snatch him, and I could not find fault with that rationale. The NFL does protect the QB position so much now that a 6’5 240 pound QB is no longer a prerequisite.
Knock on J. Herbert? There is a lot to like about him too. 6’6 and can move. But he had an outstanding line in Oregon and still never managed to take his game “to the next level”. Most troubling for me is his ball placement on short to intermediate throws. The NFL is a tight window league and pin-point accuracy is at a premium. He does possess upside. I mean, how many 6’6 men can move like that at QB?
Plan C: What if the Bolts trade back and Ruggs III is off the board (assuming WR’s Jeudy & Lamb are gone too). There are two OT’s. Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa. A junior who got better each year who became a beast in both run & pass blocking in a stout conference. The knock on him is his short arms. Worst case scenario he kicks inside to guard and mauls people in the run game! I actually get pretty excited to think of a line that looks like Pipkins-Wirfs-Pouncey-Turner-Bulaga! If Wirfs is gone too then I like Josh Jones OT from Houston. He became a man amongst the boys albeit in a weak conference. He lacks elite athleticism but is no pushover and he has the frame to develop into a solid to very good OT in the NFL.
What will Tom Telesco do? Odds are stacked that he will take Herbert unless somehow Tua T is still there. I can even see him trading the farm to go grab Tua. If he were to take Jordan Love I would be shocked just because Love has a couple minor off the field issues which I think will scare them off from an investment with a #6-pick in the draft. I am not sold on Love anyways. GM’s will be looking for the next Mahomes for a long time if you ask me. But no way he should be considered in the top 10 if you ask me.
This Bolts team with a bolstered offensive line, especially if Pipkins can progress upon a promising rookie season has a lot working for it. Anthony Lynn will have a legitimate chance of pounding the ball early and often for the first time in his career with the Powder Blue! Look for them to pick up a short-yardage back in the later rounds. My biggest fear...a Joey Bosa holdout. We’ve seen that movie before!
Random hunch - The Dolphins trade up to #3 to take Tua T. They have plenty of picks and can afford to assure that they get the 2019 preseason consensus #1-pick.
Note: If Jeff Okudah the CB out of Ohio State falls to #6 it would be hard to justify NOT taking the top corner in the draft considering our #1 corner (Heyward) is not getting any younger and our other corners on the outside (M. Davis, B. Facyson) could use an upgrade. Heyward-Okudah on the outside with Chris Harris in the slot with Dez King as Depth or even a SS role...now that looks nice! One other player that interests me if we trade back is Javon Kinlaw DL out of South Carolina. He is a unique athlete but I just don’t see the Bolts taking another interior DL after the selection of Tillery last year - especially after bringing in Linval Joseph from the Vikings.
Can Thursday get here already? Can’t wait!