The Chargers have a long rich history of finding hidden gems in the form of undrafted free agents. This year might be much more difficult for the undrafted players to make the final roster due to the lack of pre-season. Yet againit also might not be any different as the team still has positions of need. Plus you have to factor in the team didn’t have the opportunity to select in the second of third round of the draft, even though i would argue that Kenneth Murray WAS essentially the second round pick essentially. However having one less draft pick means one less much needed position of need that was addressed. A lot of people don’t put much thought or weight into the undrafted free agents however the Chargers are so successful at not only finding a good one every year but also making them legitimate stars. I mean the future hall of famer and top 5 tight end of all time Antonio Gates was undrafted. More recently fan favorite, running back Austin Ekeler was also undrafted. Others on the roster include Roderick Teamer, Michael Davis, Brandon Facyson, Tent Scott, and even the recently departed Jahleel Addae. The point is that the team may still elect players to make the final roster based solely on need and possibly a hunch even given the lack of chance to really evaluate these guys in game situations.
Out of the 19 that the team has signed, here are the 5 that have the best chance to make the roster.
Full Back Gabe Nabers Florida State:
After the departure of fan favorite dereck Watt the team has ZERO fullbacks on the roster other than the two UDFA the team signed. Nabers was loyal to his scholarship commitment to FSU even after a new coaching regime completely got rid of the fullback position all together. Nabers decided to stay on and convert to a tight end knowing and trusting his athletic ability was enough to make the transition. While Nabers had some decent success at the tight end position he wasn’t exactly asked to run an extravagant route tree and often still used as a blocking tight end while running the occasional seem route up the inside hash. While Nabers isn’t exactly considered excellent at any one particular thing he has proven that he is well rounded as both a blocker and occasional receiving weapon. With more seasoning and work I could see him as a poor mans Kyle Juszczyk. This type of versatility would be more than appealing for head coach Anthony Lynn who wants to incorporate a mixture of several different offensive schemes. Wheather it’s a traditional style two back formation, a run pass option (RPO), or straight shotgun a versatile fullback would fit in much easier than a traditional fullback. The fact that there are not any veterans in his way could make it very well a reality that he can make the roster even without a pre-season.
Nabers highlights will show a mixture of his contributions in the passing game as well as a blocker. Remember he was only a true fullback for 2 years before the program got rid of the position.
Defensive end Joe Gaziano Northwestern:
Much like the 49ers showed and reminded the football world this past season, you can never have too many pass rushers. Often times the Chargers like utilizing 3 defensive ends at a time and while they have been doing so with Issac Rochelle the past two seasons he has yet show he can be a consistent difference maker. While Rochelle can still keep improving upon his young career it never hurts to bring in more competition. Not to mention if you can manage to find a gem at the position it will serve as a good safety net in the case that the team loses either Bosa or Ingram in free agency. It was a bit surprising that Gaziano went undrafted but it was bound to happen to a handful of guys considering the depth of this year’s draft class. In Gaziano’s last season at Northwestern he racked up 49 tackles, 17 of them for a loss of yardage and 9 sacks. It doesn’t stop there as he also had 5 pass deflections, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. He totaled 30 career sacks during his time in school which turns out is a school record. He measures in at 6’4” 280 pounds and I like that he has shown improvement every season which bodes well with the company he will have in the position group at the next level. He isn’t super athletic and will likely be more of a power technique guy who will rely on bull rush and swim moves.
Cornerback Donte Vaughn Notre dame:
Vaughn will have more of an uphill battle to make the roster and impression on the coaching staff than the previously mentioned players. There is plenty to like about Vaughn as he has the typical big frame that made defensive coordinator Gus Bradley notorious for. Vaughn is 6’3” 212 pounds. He didn’t have nearly the same success as his former counterpart and teammate Troy Pride JR who I was very high on in the evaluation process. It is notable that Vaughn and Pride are from the same class along with Julian Love, both of whom were 4th round selections. During their freshman year together at Notre Dame many people in the press and coaching staff alike agreed that Vaughn preformed the best out of the three players. Vaughn then unfortunately then suffered a string of injuries that buried him on the depth chart. When he did receive player time he was then very inconsistent with his play. This could be because of a lack of consistent reps due to his injuries and being passed up due to this. Many evaluators agree that he could benefit from a shallow cover 2 or 3 type of defense. Well it just so happens that Gus Bradley not only loves to run such type defenses but also seems to have the magic touch for developing defensive backs. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner were never highly sought after but were big bodied corners that Bradley developed into great players. The same can be said for Casey Hayward who was always a good corner but really came into his own under Bradley. While it will still be an uphill battle for Vaughn it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Bradley works his magic yet again.