Making a case for the team to draft another offensive lineman
Notice I listed offensive lineman rather than a specific position along the line, as I believe any position up front would be valuable. There was a time when this team had an absolute monster offensive line that consisted of Nick Hardwick, Marcus Mcneill, Mike Goff, and Kris Dielman. This was a huge factor that played into the team and LT’s success. Then there was a time after those guy’s retired that the line was god awful. The front office did hardly anything to address it or replace the departed main stays on the line. Fact is a successful offense starts upfront in the trenches. The team made a huge commitment last offseason to address it. Weather it was the front office acknowledging that they ignored this need far too long or possibly it was the new coaching regime letting it be known that’s what he wanted. Either way they made a huge leap. They signed free agent left tackle Russell Okung who was the best blindside protector the team has had in a long while. Then to add to it Tom Telesco drafted 3 lineman. Forrest lamp was taken in the 2nd and was supposed to be the best tackle in the draft. Unfortunately we never got to see just what he was capable at the pro level as he went down with a torn ACL in training camp. 3rd round pick was spent on Dan Feeney who proved to be a great find for the value of a 3rd rounder. Other than him allowing a guy to get through to block a game tying field goal in week on he played very well once he was thrust into a starting role. I have faith he will only continue to get better. His mean streak seemed to match well playing next to okung as he is known also for having a mean streak. Then in the 7th round they took Sam Tevi as a development project and he seemed to play very well for a 7th rounder. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tevi to eventually turn into a mainstay. At the least he will probably be the permanent swing tackle.
If the team wants to get the most out of running back Melvin Gordon then they should continue to add pieces up front. Gordon was taken in the first round so should be treated like an investment the will do anything to pay off. Gordon has shown vast improvement each of his first 3 years. The fans have mixed feelings on Gordon but he has shown enough flashes of brilliance that with more quality blockers I believe he will prove to be a top 5 running back. It’s very possible that the return of Forrest Lamp who would make his debut this upcoming season could be enough to push this line to the next level. A lot of people have labeled him a guard even though he was drafted as a tackle. I believe the coaching staff wanted to break him in as a guard as he would eventually be bumped outside in place of the inconsistent often injured Joe Barksdale. Head coach Anthony Lynn loves lineman with versatility to play multiple positions up front. In training camp he had lineman constantly shuffling playing guard and tackle and the guards playing center as well. The team will need a long term solution to replace Barksdale and if it’s in the plans for that to be Lamp then they will still need another guard as the average Kenny Wiggins is a free agent. There are great options this year however the lineman class this year is not that deep.
Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame is probably the most polished tackle in this year’s class. Also the cousin of Matt Ryan. Measuring in at 6’7’’ 310 pounds he is built like an ideal left tackle. If the team goes with Mcglinchey it would have to be if he is available at number 17. Labeled as a finesse blocker he is still well polished in the run game. If he ends up with the chargers he would be a right tackle and replacement for Joe Barksdale who would likely then be cut saving the team money. It would also allow the team to keep lamp at the guard position. He showed some inconsistency’s a few times against Georgia and Miami. Although not a finished product yet and still in need of some development, he would still likely be no worse than Barksdale right off the bat and obviously have a way higher ceiling. It will be interesting to see what his reach measures out to be during the combine as he appears to have really long arms which is important for offensive tackles. Even more so when considering the pass rushers within the division are some of the very best in the NFL.
The next guy will be a interior lineman who shows the kind of versatility that coach Lynn loves. Isaiah Wynn of Georgia measuring at 6’2’’ 300 pounds. He has played at basically all positions along the line from tackle to center and guard. His height would indicate that tackle in the NFL is not in the cards. He is probably the most aggressive and meanest lineman in this year’s draft. Adding him to pair with already aggressive Okung and Feeney would create a group of warriors up front. I love the idea of a mean nasty line. Wynn was a mainstay on the line for Georgia and a vocal point in the teams running game, constantly finishing through with his block and mowing guys down putting them on their back. The idea of Wynn at left guard would be a great chemistry match up next to Okung. The option of him at center would also bring an upgrade over Spencer Pulley who started all 16 games at the position. Pulley was only in his second year and first year as a starter, so he could still develop and become better. He was a great pulling center which is rare to see out of a center. Where he struggled was picking up Blitzer’s in his gaps. Either way the more versatile lineman you have the better as you never know when injuries will strike or when an individual will struggle.
A similar type player to Isaiah Wynn is Ohio States Billy Price. At 6’4’’ 315 pounds price also brings versatility to the table with most experience at center, he also has the ability to play guard. While Price has shown signs of aggression I wouldn’t exactly slap the label of “mean streak” on him. It has been noted by several sources that Price has a great work ethic and strive to continue to get better, so theoretically we have yet to see his best. Any team that ends up with Price will more than likely be using him as a full time center. He is probably a better run blocking center than Pulley yet Pulley is probably faster. If they want to continue to pull the center on swing runs the may need to keep an eye on Price’s time on the 3 cone drill.
Quenton Nelson is the second of the fighting Irish to make the list. At 6’5’’ 325 pounds Nelson seemed to be very dominating at both pass protection and run blocking. The buzz around the league is that he may be the best lineman in the draft. He also put up 35 reps on the bench at the combine so the strength only proves this guy is a mauler. The problem is guards usually don’t get much love come draft time. None the less he will still probably be taken in the top 20 if not top 10 to a team looking to bolster the protection. San Francisco for instance. Nelson is more guard specific and doesn’t have the experience at other positions on the line like Wynn and Price. Seeing as how they still have a need at the position, with Lamp being able to move to tackle I don’t have a problem with him only being a guard. Some have even said he could be one of the best interior linemen in the league from day one. Problem is I can’t see him dropping to pick number 17.
Someone is isn’t necessarily being talked about that much , who could prove to be a fly under the radar steal is Connor Williams of Texas. At 6’5’’ 320 pounds Williams has real good athleticism for a lineman. The knock against him is that he has a not so good track record of staying healthy. This always makes me nervous seeing as how this has scared charger fans everywhere the last 3 of 4 years and set this team back a few years. He could be worth taking a flyer on if available in mid rounds. Teams like New England, Minnesota, or Jacksonville could reach on him as they didn’t have many needs other than the protection up front.
One guy who I’m not as high on as some of the gm’s and scouts around the league is Orlando Brown from Oklahoma. He is a huge guy at 6’8’’ 330 pounds. Even though I’m not that high on him as others I will still list him due to the love some have for him. I watched a lot of Oklahoma this season because of my intrigue in Baker Mayfield. I must say brown got Mayfield pummeled more than a few times this season. Sometimes even on back to back plays. Some have even said he should even move inside to guard which implies his ability to handle better pass rushers was apparent. Often times he gets caught ducking his head leaving him helpless in pass protection. Some have said he draws comparisons to D.J. Fluker. This should be enough to scare off all charger fans and hopefully the front office as well.
Early rumors have it the front office wants to look to add an interior lineman. This would Kick Forrest lamp outside to tackle, his natural position. Even though it’s more likely they go defense in the first round they could look for value in the second and or third round.