New General Manager Tom Telesco has said he would like to take the best player available at a position of need in the upcoming NFL Draft. With so many needs heading into the draft, that means the San Diego Chargers could go in a number of directions with their first-round pick.
One player commonly getting mocked to the Bolts recently is Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who makes a lot of sense for them. The Chargers lack depth along the defensive line, which relies heavily on rotations to keep their linemen fresh. After losing Vaughn Martin, Aubrayo Franklin and Antonio Garay in free agency, the Chargers find themselves with only five defensive linemen on the roster and just Cam Thomas at nose tackle.
Adding Lotulelei to a young group of budding stars that features 23-year-old studs Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes would make San Diego’s defensive line something special for years to come. Thomas will be a free agent next offseason so bringing in Lotulelei will give the Chargers a safety net in case Thomas isn’t retained after the season.
Lotulelei has drawn comparisons to All-Pro defensive lineman Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens. Like Ngata, Lotulelei has the versatility to play both nose tackle and defensive end in John Pagano’s 3-4 defense. Lotulelei’s rare blend of power and agility for a big man would immensely help San Diego’s young defense. His incredible explosion off the line, coupled with his powerful bull rush and ability to beat double teams, should help him constantly disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage at the next level. He is equally as good rushing the passer as he is stuffing the run. In San Diego, he would be a space-eating nose tackle who would constantly take on double teams and free up guys like Liuget, Reyes and the linebackers to make plays.
The question is whether San Diego can make this type of luxury pick with all their other needs. Depth along the defensive line is certainly needed, but there are bigger concerns along the offensive line, at cornerback and even at linebacker. San Diego can get by with Cam Thomas as their starter at nose tackle next season. Also, the Chargers are already young along the line and could instead round out the position with veterans in free agency rather than the draft.
Another concern is Lotulelei’s heart condition. Though he’s been cleared medically to play, no one can be sure that it won’t be an issue moving forward. The Chargers have already seen medical issues prematurely end the careers of Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman and may not think Lotulelei is worth the risk. However, it’s that very medical concern that could drop Lotulelei out of the top 10 and into San Diego’s lap if they like him.
If Lotulelei is the top player on San Diego’s board when they pick 11th in the draft, the Chargers could grab him.