Recently I was presented with a conundrum, would I redo the Chargers first-round draft picks if I could? The specific scenario was whether I would swap Herbert and Murray, and grab LB/S Isaiah Simmons (CLEM) and QB Jordan Love (USU) with the 6th and 23rd picks of the first round. Simmons was still available at 6, and when the Chargers traded up to 23 to take Murray, Love was still sitting there. The short answer is no.
With that out of the way, we have to look at why of course. This means we really have to take a deeper look into Isaiah Simmons and Jordan Love. Not only what they consist of as draft picks, but how they might fit into the Chargers schematically. How the coaching staff chooses to deploy these young men is quite a bit more critical to their success in the league, over what they can bring to the football field physically or mentally. You can look back at my analysis of Herbert and Murray, but let’s discuss what we might be getting in return for those two instead: Simmons and Love.
The big-name ticket prize here if the Chargers were to have the ability to redo their draft would be Isaiah Simmons. Simmons had a huge combine day, but he’s had a contentious post-draft analysis. A lot of experts say that he could be the next Derwin James and that his versatility is exactly what is needed in this modern NFL. After looking into it, the kid is clearly special.
He has an athletic talent that few prospects will ever possess; he’s rangy, fast, tall, and explosive coming into tackles; there is nothing he can’t do. Which is incidentally where my issue with this pick comes in, with coach Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim emphatically saying he is going to play inside linebacker. He never played true linebacker at Clemson, and where he excels physically is also where he struggles on the field. He can get lost in run coverage because he isn’t great at getting off of blocks on the inside. Which of course we all understand because he didn’t do it much at Clemson.
While I like Isaiah Simmons, and he clearly has the tools to be a star in at the next level, I don’t see it working super well with the Cardinals. With the Chargers already having Derwin James it definitely wouldn’t make sense. It’s a lot easier for me to see Simmons as a Brian Dawkins type, rather than a Kyle Van Noy. Lots of guys have come into the last 6-7 drafts labeled as a “versatile” prospect, and after seeing the experiment a few times it only works one way. Giving those guys a defined role and then allowing them to flourish creatively is how they can be successful. Rather than simply asking them to be two or three different positions on the field that they are not because too many of these versatile guys have gone awry.
The trade-off for Herbert would be Utah State’s, Jordan Love. Personally, I don’t see how that’s a fair trade. There just isn’t anything on the NFL field that Jordan Love does as well as Herbert. At best, he has shown break-even qualities with the Oregon standout.
Love came into the national spotlight after an electric 2018 in which they dominated a weak Mountain West Conference, and then turned around and really struggled after the team was gutted in 2019. Coincidentally, Love actually showed more NFL promise his senior season when he struggled than his 2018 season. That being due to the fact that the coaching staff threw more on his plate and asked him to be more of a pocket passer and read the field. Which like Simmons, baffles me, because you’re using them in a way that doesn’t highlight how they could be successful.
It’s clear that Jordan Love can play in the league, he’s got elite arm strength and he’s a dual-threat. He also has maddeningly inconsistent accuracy from the pocket, can look to scramble out preemptively awaiting pressure, and just flat out takes too many gambles in bad coverage. Love could be a Pro-Bowl type guy one day, but that’s clearly going to take years to develop. Time that the Green Bay Packers might have with a future HOF behind center. But the Chargers are not that team and while Tyrod is a good bridge guy, they were not looking for a multi-year project. They wanted someone who could come and step in next season as the starter and be that guy for the next decade. The only way Love is going to be successful is, say if he has three seasons to sit and learn from a superstar.
After thinking about this question and looking into the alternatives the Chargers might have gotten, it’s clear to me that would have been a bum swap. The Chargers drafted a far more polished quarterback prospect, who has all the physical tools Jordan Love does and played in a big-time program. If we’re worried about Herbert’s decision making in the pocket, then we should be going nuclear about Love. Herbert’s issues with decision making to me were an issue of quality around him and coaches using him poorly. Versus with Love we just simply have no idea what we could be getting, as he tried to be two different quarterbacks at Utah State. He’s going to need to develop into an elite level pocket passer, and not take as many hits behind center before if he has any chance at being an athletic passer like Aaron Rodgers or Steve Young.
Isaiah Simmons could be a monster in the NFL, I just don’t think he would have any room to develop into one as a Charger. They needed a traditional inside linebacker who could play three downs, and Kenneth Murray gives them that. Taking in a guy who fits the same mold as a star you already have doesn’t really make sense to me. The only way Simmons is going to be successful is if he is allowed to overachieve as a safety, rather than lost in the trenches as a linebacker. This was a no brainer for me, I’m staying with Telesco and the guys they already drafted.
What would you do?