The San Diego Chargers didn’t have a ton of picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, but with the few they did have, they made some nice picks, particularly early on. Of the six man draft class, I think there’s a good chance four of them could see serious playing time this fall and help make an impact on the team.
First rounder Jason Verrett (CB, TCU) should nearly be a lock to start. This team hasn’t had anything close to a lockdown corner since Quentin Jammer’s early days, and Verrett has the talent to fill that void. No, he doesn’t offer the size (5-foot 9, 190-pounds) and length for the position that have been increasingly more popular thanks to the Seattle Seahawks, but he plays bigger than that. He’s strong against the run and physical at the line of scrimmage, plus has the elite recovery speed (4.38 40-yard dash) to play man coverage at a high level. This is a secondary starved for playmakers, and that’s exactly what they’re getting in Verrett. It’d be a big surprise if he wasn’t lining up with the one’s by the end of camp.
Jeremiah Attaochu (OLB, Georgia Tech) is another guy who could find himself on the first team defense when week one rolls around. This team has spent a lot of money and draft picks trying to find competent edge rushers who can set the tone for the defense, but have swung and missed nearly every time. Jarrett Johnson is strong against the run and provides a lot of leadership to the unit, but offers little to nothing in terms of pass rush, and Dwight Freeney is more likely to be a situational rusher this fall instead of a regular.
Attaochu has a long way to go in terms of learning how to cover, but he’s a very polished and mature edge rusher with natural hip bend to get around bigger offensive linemen. Even if Attaochu isn’t starting, he’s too good of a pass rusher to not find some snaps for him in nickel and dime sets.
Third rounder Chris Watt (G, Notre Dame) is a very strong run blocker who can play in either man or zone blocking schemes at a high level. Chad Rinehart will almost certainly have one guard spot locked down but Watt has the ability to beat out Johnnie Troutman for the opposite spot. A right side of the line featuring maulers like Watt at guard and D.J. Fluker at RT has to put a big smile on RB Ryan Matthews face.
Finally, seventh rounder Tevin Reese (WR, Baylor) is another guy who could make an impact this fall. Primary reason? He has the deep speed to take the top off a defense. He plays even faster than his already impressive 4.46 40-time and has an outrageous 41-inch vertical leap. He’ll need to put on some good weight to his slight frame (only 163-pounds at nearly 5-foot 11), but I don’t see OC Frank Reich sending him over the middle too often this fall.
If this group even comes close to making the impact last years rookie class produced, the Chargers could be a dark horse candidate to win the tough AFC West.