Pickin’ Bolts: A Comprehensive Review of the Chargers’ 2016 Draft Class

Credit: Chargers
Credit: Chargers

Okay, sorry it took so long, but here is my comprehensive review of the Chargers’ 2016 draft class.

“With the 3rd pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State…”

Joey Bosa has been compared to J.J. Watt and while I have repeatedly said that comparison is unfair to both players. I’ve said that Bosa compares more accurately to Seattle’s Michael Bennett. However, the more I think about it, the more I think the J.J.Watt comparison actually works…and no, one reason won’t be because they’re both white.

Bosa played DE in college at 285 lbs. He slimmed down because there was chatter about his potential as a 3-4 OLB. Now that he’s a 3-4 DE he’ll go right back to 285 and since he’s only 20 years old (he’ll turn 21 in July) he’ll add more weight as his body continues to mature. Within a year or two he’ll be playing at about 290-295 (which coincidence, is about the same as Watt).

But here is where the comparison gets good. What makes J.J. great is his athleticism, work ethic, hand-violence…Bosa’s dad & uncle co-owned a gym. Bosa literally grew up in a weight room. He loves to work. Listen to him talk about his DL coach, Larry Johnson (who by the way, also coached Tambia Hall), and what he (Bosa) learned about hand placement and technique.

Watch the tape and remember that J.J.Watt wasn’t “J.J.Watt” coming out of college. Bosa was a legend before his junior season started.

Another way Bosa and Watt match up. Normally a really good 3-4 DE, such as Corey Luiget, won’t get many sacks. Bosa, however, fits the J.J. Watt & Malik Jackson mold of 3-4 DE, the sort with elite pass-rushing skills. ProFootballFocus.com rates Bosa as the #1 collegiate pass-rushing DE and #1 collegiate run-stopping DE over the past 2 years. How is that not a home run?

One last point. I love the comments out of Chargers’ Park that Bosa was atop their board since last September and it’s never changed. We get too enamored with things happen after the games are finished. Bosa was the consensus #1 or #2 position prospect (with Laremy Tunsil) when the season concluded. I commend the Chargers for sticking to that ranking and not being swayed by workouts, 40 times, or whatever.

In the second round the Chargers, to the chagrin of many fans, passed on star UCLA LB Myles Jack and instead drafted Arkansas TE Hunter Henry.

Henry is a bit of a throwback. Keep in mind Henry went to the University of Arkansas. The Razorbacks, last season, threw the ball 374 times and ran the ball 512 times. So Henry has a lot of experience blocking. Additionally, only two Razorback pass catcher caught the ball more than 30 times. A WR named Drew Morgan led the team 63 receptions and Henry was second on the team with 51. Nobody (except maybe Morgan’s mom) thinks Morgan is a 1st round receiver. Teams were scheming against Henry and he still averaged only one completion fewer per game than the Razorbacks’ top pass-catcher.

Henry will be the heir-apparent to Antonio Gates. Despite just signing a 2-year contract, Gates is likely to retire after this season. And even if not, watch for the Chargers to employ a 2-TE set often. Myles Jack might have more upside, but Henry is much more likely to be a 10 year player. And in today’s game the TE is the hardest guy to scheme for, especially if he can block. This is another great pick.

In the 3rd round most astute Chargers fans knew they needed a new starting Center and expected the Bolts to pick one. And the Chargers didn’t surprise anyone by grabbing USC’s Max Tuerk.

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Credit: NFL.com

Prior to his October 2015 injury, Tuerk was talked about as a likely second round pick that had a chance to sneak into the back of the first. Suddenly after the injury, Tuerk’s draft stock slipped. While I won’t say it shouldn’t slip and I won’t argue that Ryan Kelly and Nick Martin deserved to be the top 2 centers taken, Tuerk absolutely deserves to be discussed in their company as the top group of center-prospects in the 2016 draft class.

Given the Chargers need a Center (arguably the biggest need) this is an astute value pick. If Tuerk can stay relatively healthy he can be a 10+ year starter in the NFL. How many teams can say they drafted 3 10-year starters with their first three picks?

To kick off the 3rd day and the 4th round the Chargers drafted another Ohio State Buckeye in LB Joshua Perry. Perry is another throwback. I don’t remember who said it, but someone said that if Perry played in our fathers’ football era, he would have been a 1st round selection. He’s big 6’3” 250+. He’s a sure tackler. He’s a stout run-defender and a good blitzer. He’s not elite at dropping into coverage but he’s better than average at it and fast enough to matter.

Perry will almost certainly begin the season as a backup to Te’o and Perryman and as a special teams player. However, with his sure tackling abilities, bigger build, and superior speed many expect him to wrench the starting job from Te’o at some point in the season. I actually think the Chargers would like Te’o to retain the starting role though the season. Then the Chargers would let him leave via free agency and gain a compensatory pick in the process.

In the fifth round, the Chargers picked Akron linebacker, Jatavis Brown. Brown is a Mighty Mouse of a linebacker. He’s only 5’11” but he’s a stout 227 lbs. and can run a sub-4.5 40. The Chargers plan on using him on special teams, as rotational linebacker and in a safety/linebacker hybrid in sub-packages. Now just because Brown was a smaller player at a small school, don’t overlook him…I’ll just quote his NFL.com scouting report:

Brown was the 2015 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, and was a three-time first-team All-MAC selection. In 2015, Brown set school records with 20 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. He also holds the school record for career tackles for loss with 41.5.

Brown is not a throw-away pick. There is tremendous upside here.

In the 6th round the Chargers had two selections with their first they drafted Drew Kaser, punter, from Texas A&M. This is actually one of my favorite picks. The Chargers punting has not been up to Mike Scifres’ high standards for a couple years now. But a few years ago the Chargers gave Scifres a fairly lucrative contract. Scifres was set to make upwards of $3.5million (nearly $4.2 against the cap). But drafting a punter – one who broke Shane Lechler’s collegiate records – the Chargers got better and cheaper. In a salary cap league this is not small potatoes.

The Chargers cut Scifres immediately after the draft. Which wasn’t a feel-good move but it was the right move with the realities of the NFL salary cap.

With their second 6th round pick the Chargers selected Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt. Watt is the younger brother of Texans’ great, J.J. Watt. Derek was also the collegiate teammate and lead blocker for Chargers’ RB Melvin Gordon. Reuniting the two Wisconsin backs is clearly an attempt to help Gordon as much as the Chargers can.

And with the Chargers 8th and final pick, in the 7th round San Diego selected Michigan State’ O-lineman, Donavon Clark. Clark played tackle for the Spartans but will play Guard in the NFL. This isn’t a throwaway pick either, but Clark really doesn’t project as a starter.

Famed NFL writer Peter King likes to quote Ron Wolf, former Packers GM, who told Peter that if you hit on 33% of your draft picks you’ll be in the Hall of Fame. I am nearly 100% certain the Wolf was sandbagging a little bit and being modest. But when I look at the Chargers’ first 3 picks I see 10 year-starters (barring injury). The same could be said about Kaser. Likewise Perry & Brown could eventually be starters but I wouldn’t expect 10 year careers… Clark is the only draftee here about whom it is hard to envision a starter role in his future.

This was an absolutely epic haul. The Chargers were criticized for passing on Myles Jack in the second round but as much as Jack would be a great member of this roster, the Chargers needed an understudy for Antonio Gates. Passing on Jack allowed the Chargers to get a talented player at a position of need.

Thanks for reading and please, if you’re not already doing so, follow me on Twitter: @PickinBolts

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Peter Friberg
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