Making a case for the chargers to draft a defensive tackle to shore up the run defense
As I’ve mentioned before, this team is only a few pieces away from being dominate. The run defense needs to be shored up as they got gashed up the middle to often while Denzel Perryman wasn’t there to man the middle linebacker spot. It’s my opinion they should add a linebacker in the first round to add with Denzel for depth in case Perryman gets hurt again. Too often this team had backup linebackers on the field. Even if Perryman stays healthy, whats better than one badass linebacker? That’s 2 Badass linebackers. However it’s also very logical to add another defensive tackle to prevent the opposing running back to even make it to the linebackers level. Brandon Mebane has been decent but hardly the player he once was in Seattle. Darious Philon has been a pleasant surprise considering he was a fifth round pick. However Philon doesn’t necessarily bring that dominate force this line needs, but is a great rotational piece. Also on the roster is the often injured Corey Liuget. I have never really been a big fan of Liuget, but that’s probably because I don’t trust and or like many players from Illinois. My grandfather is an alum so I’m aware of this school producing underachiever’s. He has really only had two good seasons at the beginning of his career. This guy makes entirely way too much money and since signing his big contract he has underachieved to say the least. I wouldn’t mind the team cutting him to save money and a roster spot, or trade him for what you can. If they need to absorb some of his salary to convince a team to take him on then so be it. This year’s draft will have plenty of options at the D tackle position in the first and second round. There are many options that would make charger fans happy to pick high. Could any of these options be one of the missing links?
While there is plenty of top notch options at defensive tackle this year, my first option would be Da’Ron Payne out of Alabama. Payne is the most athletic tackle in this year’s crop. Running a 4.9 40 yard dash at the combine with 29 inch vertical. While other people would argue that Payne would be their second or third option I point to the fact that he was the most consistent run stuffer. Seeing as how the run defense is what needs to be shored up, he seems like the most logical option. His athleticism also presents flexibility in usage. While at Alabama he was used in heavy offensive sets as a blocking tight end and also a fullback. In Gus Bradley’s system the chargers often use 3 defensive ends and one tackle on later downs. Payne would more likely than not end up with this role as its important for this position in this formation to be the anchor of the line. Executing this role successfully would mean the anchor occupies a gap and 2 blockers himself allowing the 3 ends to wreak havoc on quarterbacks. This would be Mebane’s role however he has struggled to shed blockers when needed. He also proved to be very clutch on the big stage. His tenacity would seem to be a chemistry matchup made in heaven with this young defense.
The next option is one that many would argue should be first, and that’s Vita Vea out of Washington. 6’5’’ 330 pounds. While Payne would be the more athletic option, Vea is much more the bigger bodied guy. His height should be a big factor as he was able to bat down 6 passes in the last 2 seasons. I have heard many compare him to Haloti Ngata. That might be an unfair comparison because not many humans are as strong as Ngata. Vea put up an impressive eye popping 41 reps on bench press. While Vea looks more fat then strong, yet very rarely gets pushed back so I guess looks are often times deceiving. He also played in a 3-4 defense so is more of a nose tackle. However this would mean he would be more used to anchoring a gap as the chargers need that as I mentioned before. Coming from a program using just 3 down lineman, the team could ease him in on designated packages before they feel he is ready to contribute full time. I could be wrong as he could be ready to contribute more often than I’m giving him credit for. I would have no doubt that he could very well become a force for years to come. Yet he seems to remind some people of Danny Shelton who has his moments but is underwhelming for the most part. Let me remind you that Shelton is not as strong as Vita Vea.
Third option here is really more of an option 2A. Maurice Hurst out of Michigan. The knock on Hurst is that he is too light for a defensive lineman in the pros (282), but he is probably trying to gain weight as much as possible as we speak. His first step this guy has off the line is so fast that often times offensive lineman are just getting out of their stance before trying to catch him already in the gap. His 13 tackles for a loss along with 5 sack’s point towards how quick he really is off the line. As it stands now he might fall to the second round or possibly the third as crazy things happen at draft time. He is a similar size to the Chargers very own Damion Square . If he manages to gain 10-20 pounds he could find himself in the top 20. My only question would be if the extra weight affects that quick first step. The chargers don’t really need another pass rusher (even though you can never have enough) but rather a consistent run stuffer and gap filler. When selecting in the second round often times you are getting / aiming for the most value as possible seeing as how most 2nd round picks just barely missed out on being first rounder’s. Hurst could present some of the best second round value in all of the draft. Him and safety Deshon Elliot.
Taven Bryan out of Florida will be a nice development project. At 6’4’’ 295 pounds Bryan is the son of a former navy seal so it would be safe to say he will get high grades in the discipline department. I don’t have Bryan ranked nearly as high as most do. There are a lot of misconceptions about Bryan out there. Some are calling Bryan the next J.J. Watt but let’s be real people. Not every big white guy who play’s on the defensive line is the next j.j. watt. Hell not even his blood siblings are worthy of comparison. Our very own Joey Bosa is really the only thing on that level. Taven Bryan is more TJ watt rather than JJ. I say this because both are really good pass rushers yet very limited at stopping the run. Not saying Bryan couldn’t develop to do so just that he isn’t quite there yet. I would take a flyer on him if he could be had in the 4th round.
One who would have been a top 3 choice at the position is Christian Wilkins from Clemson. Wilkens opted to stay in school and bet on himself as he will likely be the top defensive tackle in next year’s draft. Probably a smart move seeing as how he would be devalued a bit considering the depth at the position. It would probably be the smarter move for the chargers to target more of a run stuffing tackle rather than another pass rush specialist. If there was ever a year to shore up that interior line it would be this year as not only is it a deep position in the draft its also a deep free agent class as well for the position.