NFL San Diego Chargers

2014 NFL Draft: 6 Players Who Could Slip Like Keenan Allen Last Year For San Diego Chargers To Target

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6 Slipping Players San Diego Chargers Could Turn Into 2014 NFL Draft's Keenan Allen

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes NFL teams miss when projecting players from the college ranks to the next level. Dan Marino wasn’t picked until the end of round one, Joe Montana was a third-round pick and even Tom Brady lasted until the sixth-round. But it’s not just quarterbacks who go overlooked throughout the draft process as teams can get so caught up in potential and what guys look like in shorts and a t-shirt that they forget to actually examine what a player puts on film.

The San Diego Chargers were prime beneficiaries of this practice just last offseason when they managed to land wide receiver Keenan Allen with pick No. 76 overall midway through the third-round of last year’s draft. There’s no doubt Chargers general manager Tom Telesco will be looking to snag another undervalued prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft, and there will likely be plenty to choose from.

After a renaissance season from top to bottom with a young and hungry roster reaching the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs this past season, the Chargers will be looking to build on that success in 2014. This past season was their first trip to the postseason since way back in 2009, and the Bolts are hoping to make January football a more regular occurrence than leap years in the future.

Whether it’s because a team doesn’t like the testing results of a player or if said athlete comes from a lower level of competition, there are a number of reasons some hidden gems will inevitably slip through cracks again this year in the NFL Draft. These six players would all be fantastic fits with the Chargers if they somehow got lucky enough to snag them after an unwarranted fall in the draft order.

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6. Chidera Uzo-Diribe - DE/OLB - Colorado

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At 6-foot-2, 252-pounds there’s no question Chidera Uzo-Diribe fits the mold of an elite edge rusher at the next level. After a standout performance at the East-West Shrine Game, most projections still have this productive sack artist in the seventh round to undrafted area. His seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in 2012 saw a slight regression in 2013 with just seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, but his skills certainly didn’t diminish with the Colorado Buffaloes this past season. The ceiling is still very high on this pass rushing project, and he is definitely worth the roll of the dice in the draft’s final round.

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5. Brett Smith - QB - Wyoming

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The reality of this is that Brett Smith will likely be drafted before his projection says based solely on the constant search in the NFL for the next franchise QB. As an early entry junior, Smith is a projected fourth-round pick currently with plenty of upside given his skill-set. At 6-foot-2, 206-pounds he fits more into the modern day quarterback mold than current San Diego starter Philip Rivers. What he does share in common with Rivers is his fiery, competitive nature that will get his teammates to rally around him much like the current man under center. The Bolts know Rivers won’t last forever so maybe drafting a signal-caller like Smith and grooming him for a year or two would be a wise investment.

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4. Michael Sam - DE/OLB - Missouri

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There’s no way to predict how a player familiar lining up with his hand in the dirt will transition to a 3-4 alignment as a standup outside linebacker. Missouri’s Michael Sam tried to assimilate at the Senior Bowl but looked awkward in coverage and really lacked any fluidity to his movement in space. This is to be expected for a player who spent his time at Mizzou lined up in the 4-3, but Sam has pass rushing skills at 6-foot-2, 255-pounds are difficult to ignore. The Chargers could potentially snag him in the third-round and use him solely on passing downs in his rookie year.

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3. Trent Murphy - DE/OLB - Stanford

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It’s difficult to explain why teams may decide to pass on Trent Murphy and allow him to slide down draft boards, but a lack of elite measurables could prove to be one reason. At 6-foot-6, 252-pounds he is currently projected as a second-round pick, but Murphy doesn’t possess the type of athleticism that many teams become enamored with in the pre-draft run-up. That may allow him to passed up by some guys at his position with more athletic ability and a perceived higher ceiling, but the film doesn’t lie. This Stanford kid is an absolute beast on the field whose play diagnosing skills are second to none in this class. There’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be able to thrive in a standup outside linebacker role and use his smarts to make up for any lack of athleticism. If he somehow gets near the Chargers’ second-round selection, don’t be surprised if the Bolts make landing him a priority much like they did with Manti Te’o in last year’s draft.

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2. Cyril Richardson - OG - Baylor

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Senior Bowl struggles may push Cyril Richardson down some draft boards after many commented that his physique looked sloppy at the weigh-ins and he struggled mightily against Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald on the practice field. Once tabbed as a sure first-round pick, Richardson is now pegged for the middle of round two with the potential to slip even further if the trend of piling on continues throughout the pre-draft process. What hasn’t changed since the massive 6-foot-5, 348-pound beast was on the field for Baylor this season, however, is what he put on film. Just looking at the raw power Richardson possesses should allow the Bolts to see another potential Louis Vasquez in the making to immediately plug and play at one of the guard spots.

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1. Taylor Lewan - OT - Michigan

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There’s no doubt Taylor Lewan’s fall won’t take him as far down the draft order as Keenan Allen with the Chargers a year ago, but this talented left tackle would have been a top 10 pick had he entered draft last year when he was mentioned in same breath as Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher by most analysts. Not much has changed with Lewan aside from the success of the Michigan team he played on which has regressed year after year. At 6-foot-7, 315-pounds, it’s hard not to compare Lewan to another former Wolverine in Jake Long who went No. 1 overall back in the 2008 NFL Draft. An alleged assault incident has cast a cloud over Lewan’s character heading into the draft process which never bodes well for a prospect heading into the most important job interviews of their life. If somehow Lewan is still available at No. 25 overall and the Chargers pull another heist, general manager Tom Telesco will be in line for an executive of the year award post-haste.

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