Finding undrafted diamonds in the rough is an old pastime for the San Diego Chargers. Former general manager A.J. Smith unearthed guys like tight end Antonio Gates and wide receiver Malcom Floyd are lifelong members of the Bolts who were passed over in the NFL Draft once upon a time. Now one is a surefire Hall of Famer one day and the other has been a really productive pass catcher for nearly a decade.
Needless to say, quality players can be found places other than just the yearly April selection festivity formally known as the NFL Draft. New GM Tom Telesco is putting that to the test this year with a couple of players who figure to be serious contributors to the team of the undrafted variety.
The first and most obvious gem is nose tackle Kwame Geathers who I have been high on for quite some time now. He is a massive human being at 6-foot-6, 335-pounds, and he has proven to be difficult to block with just one man in the preseason. That’s exactly what teams want from the nose tackle spot in a 3-4 defense to draw linemen away from oncoming linebackers and ends who are then left free to make tackles. Geathers will likely see some serious action this season in a rotation with Cam Thomas, and if he performs well enough he could be the future of the position after Thomas’ contract runs out following this season.
The other diamond GM Telesco hopes to have found this year is safety Jahleel Addae from Central Michigan. The Chippewas had the first overall pick go to the Bolts’ AFC West rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs, in offensive tackle Eric Fisher, but Addae was overlooked by all 32 teams multiple times in April. He has proven to be valuable thus far with 14 tackles and two passes defended. At 5-foot-10, 195-pounds he is a small package that packs a punch. Where he will likely find his niche early on is special teams, but it never hurts to have young, quality depth on the roster as the Chargers have learned the hard way already this year.
Only time will tell if either Geathers or Addae can stick with the Chargers the way Gates and Floyd have for the better part of the past decade. They really are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to undrafted free agents, but there is certainly plenty of potential with both players. Look for the Chargers to utilize these guys mainly on special teams early on and perhaps integrate them into the rotation defensively should the need arise.