Los Angeles Chargers 2017 Draft Priorities
As the Chargers enter the 2017 season, there is a lot of pressure building for LA’s newest professional franchise as management tries to piece together a playoff caliber team. With only one playoff appearance over the past 7 years in the best division in football (the AFC West), the Chargers understand how important this draft is to fill the needs of both their offense and defense. At age 35, star quarterback Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger, and if the Chargers want to compete for a Super Bowl with Rivers at the helm as their quarterback, it is essential that the Chargers address the three most outstanding positional needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Line and Cornerback.
As mentioned earlier, Rivers isn’t getting younger and the best thing that the Chargers can do to protect their mobile-challenged QB is drafting a couple of bruising offensive lineman. Under new Head Coach Anthony Lynn, the Chargers will rely more on establishing the running game early in the game as they try to dictate to opponents their style of play. With the Buffalo Bills averaging the 2nd most rushing attempts per game last season with Anthony Lynn as the offensive coordinator, the Chargers will look to have a more balanced approach to their offense which will help protect Philip Rivers as teams won’t be able to send pass rushers most of the game as was typically the strategy versus a pass heavy team from a year ago. Drafting an offensive lineman that has more of a run blocking skill set will be key for the Chargers as Melvin Gordon looks to improve upon his breakout second season.
Ranking 4th in the league in 2016 for most points given up per game and the 3rd most rushing touchdowns, the Chargers should look to target an interior defensive lineman to help plug the middle in a run heavy AFC West. With Marshawn Lynch coming back to the NFL with Oakland, Spencer Ware in Kansas City and the run first style of offense in Denver, the middle of the defense will be tested early and often. Luckily, the Chargers picked up one of the top defensive coordinators available this offseason in Gus Bradley as he transforms the Chargers defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme. In such a scheme, the Chargers will need more defensive linemen to fill the interior role. By drafting a defensive lineman that can control the interior gaps, the Chargers can put more pressure on the quarterback on passing downs by freeing up linebackers on inside blitzes and helping Joey Bosa get more one on one matchups on the edge. While the defensive interior might not be getting as much praise as the edge rushers in this years draft, it’s the interiors that often sacrifice their bodies to take on double teams and free up teammates. Hopefully the Chargers take a defensive lineman early in the draft.
The last outstanding position that the Chargers must fill is the cornerback position. After Brandon Flowers was released in the offseason for cap room purposes, the Chargers have not signed anyone notable in free agency to fill his role. While Casey Hayward filled in nicely with 7 interceptions and his 1st Pro-Bowl appearance, the Chargers could benefit from added depth at this position as teams spread defenses thin with five-receiver sets. In a pass first, second and third down league, it is imperative that the Chargers are able to find plug and play defensive back that can make plays on the football. In what analysts are describing as one of the deepest defensive back draft classes in recent years, the Chargers should look to take a couple cracks at drafting a cornerback in the mid-late rounds of the draft.