3 underrated draft prospects
Myself along with countless others have spoken endlessly of how deep the 2020 draft is. The draw back to that is of course that some players won’t get nearly as much spotlight as they might deserve otherwise. This is a great thing for teams looking to build a roster because they can snag talented players in the middle rounds of a draft to not only add depth but also build a cohesive unit. This helps to build a healthy and functional roster with depth when a team can hit on several mid to late round prospects. As for the prospects themselves of course it will cost them a bit of pocket change if they aren’t as hyped as they should be. The difference between being drafted in the 3rd round compared to the 5th is millions of dollars. The average salary of a 3rd round pick is between 3.3 – 4.2 million depending on if they were drafted early or late in the round. This amount is spread out over a 4 year contract. Where as if they fall to the 5th round the average salary is 2.7 – 2.8 million, again spread out over 4 years. This is great news from the organization’s perspective and not so much from the individuals themselves. Currently the Chargers have gone through a mini rebuild on the offensive side of the ball with the departures of long time quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon. Not to mention they started a complete re hauling of the offensive line. I’m sure Tom Telesco is salivating at the idea of acquiring players of high value in the mid to late rounds. Here are three players I believe would have higher projections by at least 2 rounds most other years.
First player i think of would help with the re haul of the offensive line and that’s Calvin Throckmorton. In his 4 years he at Oregon he was a constant main stay along the offensive line. An offensive line that may have very well of been arguably the best in the country but most certainly top 5. Throckmorton was mainly the right tackle in his final season at Oregon logging 739 snaps at right tackle along with 189 snaps at center. He has at least 850 snaps each of his four years at Oregon which points to his durability. Not only that but he has logged over 200 snaps at each position along the offensive line. Not only is that a rare accomplishment it speaks to his adaptability because never did he grade low or look out of place at any of the positions. Throckmorton earned a pass blocking grade of 90.2 for the season and a run blocking grade of 78.3. This was not only against the likes of Pac 12 teams but also against nationally ranked Wisconsin and Auburn where he was tested against some of the 2020 drafts top defensive lineman. The Chargers biggest problem area along the offensive line was in the pass blocking department and not only did Throckmorton have a score of 90 in that department this past season, it is also of note that he never scored lower than a 87 in that department in the last three seasons. Now since Anthony Lynn has taken over as the head coach one thing that is very apparent is he likes his lineman to be able to play multiple positions along the offensive line in case of emergencies. During training camps its normal to see guards playing center and tackles at guard and so and so. So for Throckmorton to possess this type of versatility already he seems like a player that has the Chargers written all over him, especially if the Chargers end up selecting Justin Herbert in the first. I say this because Telesco has shown in the past that he likes to bring in teammates to provide comfortability and familiarity in order to make the transition more smoothly. He is projected to go in the 6th round however would be a 4th or 5th almost any other year.
The second player who isn’t getting as much hype as they would because of the depth at his position is nose tackle Leki Fotu. There are several other defensive tackles I almost went with here who are probably more polished as far as prospects go, such as Raekwon Davis from Alabama or Jordan Elliot from Missouri. However despite them not having a high consensus ranking as they maybe should have they are still familiar names being from the SEC and bigger programs. Instead I went with Fotu from Utah who has actually already had a meeting with the Chargers via facetime. Fotu won’t offer anything near what the top 6 or 7 defensive tackles will in terms of pass rush but would give a big boost to the run stuffing department. He garnered a 84.3 run stuffing grade along with a 61.0 pass rush grade. Given the current way the Chargers roster is now along with the scheme, Fotu could come in and be the rotational 1 tech tackle behind Joseph Linval. Really all the team would need him to do in this role would be to fill a gap between the center and guard while occupying two blockers usually leading to freeing up the middle linebacker. Gus Bradley typically likes rotate his interior lineman often as to keep his big men fresh all year. If Tillery were to struggle again this yet people could be wishing for another defensive tackle to go with Justin Jones and Linval. The team does have Cortez Broughton on the team but it is unknown yet as to what type of progression he has had thus far. For a guy who is 6’5” 335 pounds he sure has a nack to get after the ball carrier and should be regarded as much more than just a gap filler.
Lastly is linebacker Justin Strnad from Wake Forrest. While a cover linebacker may not be the biggest need he could end up being the best player available in round 4 or 5. This could be a good fall back plan if the team does indeed feel the need to add a linebacker and they miss out on Simmons. Strnad doesn’t excel in the run stopping department but recorded a coverage grade of 80.5. He appears to play much faster than his 40 yard time would suggest. He came in at a disappointing 4.7. With the top of the depth chart linebackers already on the roster having health concerns Strnad could be a player to look at. Worst case scenario he could a special teamer.
As a bonus prize I will throw in one more and that’s Clay Johnston linebacker from Baylor. Now Johnston is the opposite of Strnad in that he is a monster in the run defense but lacks the desirables in the coverage side of things. He projects as more of an early down linebacker and his 90.2 run defense grade speaks to that. Unfortunately that is paired with a 65.4 coverage grade. Johnston has suffered from injuries two years in a row now but Pro football focus compared him to a much harder hitting Drue Tranquill and I know that will be tempting for Charger fans. Much like Strnad if he doesn’t work out well then he has a lot of potential as a special teams ace. Johnston may be worth a 6th or 7th round flyer. If not then I would definitely be calling his agent as soon as the draft is over to try to bring him in as an undrafted free agent.