Sam Schneider | April 10th, 2020
The Los Angeles Chargers started off free agency with a bang, establishing a defense and couple offensive line pieces that should help them transition into the post Philip Rivers era. After shoring up the right side of the line with Bryan Bulaga and trading for Trai Turner, the left side was largely untouched. That lends itself to taking the first southpaw drafted since Tim Tebow ten years ago.
That said, general manager Tom Telesco is notoriously averse to trades and it would take movement at the top in order to snag Tua Tagovailoa in 2020. The good news here is that there are two other options to replace Rivers at number six, and (spoiler alert) the Chargers will take one. Los Angeles has created a defense that is already being touted as top ten in the NFL by adding Linval Joseph to plug up the middle and Chris Harris Jr. to create a brand new “No Fly Zone” with Casey Hayward and Derwin James.
With a pair of shifty backs in Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson combined with passing threats Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry the offense has potency. What’s missing? We’ll start there and note that there are no trades available for this mock draft… not that Telesco would do ‘em anyway. Let’s roll!
I used the Fanspeak mock draft simulator to help with this mock draft.
Make sure to check out all of our other NFL team mock drafts here.
Round 1, Pick 6: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
There are no decent free agent quarterbacks in 2021 as it’s assumed Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott will re-sign with their current teams. In this mock draft, Tua is a Dolphin so Herbert is the pick. He is a great “consolation prize”; 6’6” and 240lbs of constant college production including one of the best arms we have seen in recent draft history. He might not be quite as vocal as Rivers at this stage, but physically he has a far better cannon and the legs to escape the pocket where Rivers couldn’t. The guy can throw the ball a country mile and his numbers will be gaudy for Los Angeles.
Round 2, Pick 37: Lloyd Cushenberry III, IOL, LSU
With no trades, the Chargers look for offensive line help here, and they get more “‘cushion for the pushin’” in Cushenberry. Although he came through LSU as a center, his football acumen and sheer attitude make a move to left guard a slam-dunk. It’s also worth noting that Mike Pouncey is 30 years old; in a draft desperately lacking in guard talent Cushenberry would be moved to guard but could eventually move over to center if Pouncey’s injuries stack up. Regardless, he’s a day-one starter on the left side of an offensive line that went largely ignored in free agency. At this point, Los Angeles can no longer bank on Forrest Lamp to conquer his bad luck injury-wise in his fourth year.
Round 3, Pick 71: Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal
It’s the best player available here. When round three rolls in there are no players at the top of the big board that fills a need, so the Chargers continue what they started in free agency by deferring to the defense. In a league that is quickly moving to an “all-nickel-all-the-time” mindset, Los Angeles drafts a hometown California guy who is versatile enough to play both safety and cornerback in the NFL. Davis was a track star in high school and hasn’t lost a lick of that speed, which he uses to close on ball carriers and receivers. With reasonable coaching time, he’ll be on the field from day one. With limited time (likely at this point) he’ll be on the field plenty by week four.
Round 4, Pick 112: Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
In a draft where nearly every team is looking for a linebacker, Davis-Gaither slips down to the Chargers as a fourth-round day one starter. This is your star in the making, Los Angeles. Davis-Gaither is a playmaker that doesn’t over pursue and has a nose for the ball. In his career, he demonstrated an innate ability to defend against the pass (top ten in 2018 and 2019) and can get past blocks on a blitz. The ranking might read on the page as “appropriate”, but this is my steal of 2020. Check the tape!
Round 5, Pick 151: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
Considering the wide receiver talent in the 2020 draft, getting Gandy-Golden in the fifth round is solid. Listed at 6’4” with a 36” vertical and a lot of strength to go with it, he’s ready to win some jump ball competitions. With the presence of Allen and Williams, Gandy-Golden can take time to work himself into the conversation for more opportunities on offense.
Round 6, Pick 186: Michael Warren II, RB, Cincinnati
As you know from my first mock draft, Warren was taken by Los Angeles in round seven. Since then, his draft stock has improved and if I went through one hundred draft scenarios, he was sitting right here about ninety-five percent of the time. And why not? He fits the need perfectly. Every team would like to have a bulldozer; the guy that gets you third-and-one at midfield or gets you to paydirt on fourth down from a yard out. Warren is that guy. Toss in the fact that he’s built like a fullback and he can lead block a la vintage Lorenzo Neal for whichever back is behind him.
Round 7, Pick 220: Michael Divinity Jr., LB, LSU
The Chargers go back to the well in round seven and another physical talent at linebacker in Divinity is right there. They added Nick Vigil (tackle machine, not much else) and drafted Davis-Gaither but they have to build some depth at the position. Divinity missed part of his senior year for “violation of team rules” but had shown good promise up to that point. He’s not a fit for a rushing linebacker, but he’s rangy and can play the middle of the field. He’ll need to start on the practice squad (or special teams, should he make the roster) for a year but is a talented player that could step into a role if an injury should occur.
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