After the countless mock drafts, rumors, and speculations, the 2020 NFL Draft is upon us. On Thursday night dreams will be imagined, and NFL fan bases will be overcome with hope.
Today, I’m more worried about Friday, Day 2 of the draft where impactful players are still abundant. In the previous iterations of this article I covered potential 1st and 2nd-round players the Chargers would likely target. Now I am looking at the 71st overall selection in the third round.
Without further ado, these are three players that the General Manager Tom Telesco and company could try to target based on the teams’ needs and philosophies. And make sure to choose your favorite option in the poll at the end of the article!
Who To Draft At 71? Predicting The Chargers 3rd Round Pick
Cameron Dantzler – CB – Mississippi State
I fully expect the Chargers to draft a cornerback in this draft and Dantzler could be the one. Even with Chris Harris Jr., Desmond King, and Casey Hayward on the roster, the team still needs help on the outside.
Dantzler has seen his draft stock fall dramatically since running a 4.64 40-yard dash at the combine. Speed is one of the most important parts of a corners’ game, making his scheme-fit limited. Fortunately, the Chargers run a heavy Cover-3 scheme that could help some.
Another important part of being a cornerback is not allowing opposing receivers to catch the football, duh. Dantzler is good at that. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just 42.7% of his targets to be completed and in the Red Zone, he held receivers to just one reception and no touchdowns on 15 targets in his career. This was done in the SEC and going up against the likes of LSU and Alabama. Dantzler is a dog and does a great job raking at footballs to force incompletions.
One of the other big concerns is his size. Dantzler has great height and length but weighed in at the combine at a diminutive 188 lbs. This raises some big durability concerns. Whatever team drafts him will have to try and bulk him up a bit, while not sapping his athleticism.
This is a pick that I would like for the Chargers and I think he would fit well in this defense. Dantzler is an ultra-competitor that has the instincts to be a really good player. There’s a good chance Dantzler doesn’t make it to 71, but if he does, the Chargers should pounce.
Jalen Hurts – QB – Oklahoma
This is one I think the Chargers would think very hard about if they decide to skip quarterback with the sixth overall pick. There is a growing sentiment that the team must come away from this draft with a quarterback. Outside of the big names at the top of the draft, there’s an argument that Hurts could be the next best fit.
Anthony Lynn has been outspoken about wanting a mobile quarterback. They don’t make them much more mobile than Hurts. Last season he rushed for 1,298 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. In the NFL he will have to scale down his rushing attempts, but he is true dual-threat.
As a passer, Hurts is fairly accurate. He is above average throwing short and intermediate passes and his deep ball runs hot-and-cold. He could do a much better job of giving his receivers yards-after-catch opportunities with better ball placement. One thing he does well is improvising. When the play breaks down, Hurts is more than able to buy himself time and manufacture conversions.
I’m not as worried about Hurts’ arm strength as some others, but I have other objections. At Oklahoma, Hurts had a tendency to panic and scramble when his first read wasn’t open. He also didn’t have to make many highly contested throws in Lincoln Riley’s wide-open offense.
Wherever Hurts has gone, he has won. He earned a 38-4 record between Alabama and Oklahoma, that doesn’t happen if you’re not a great football player. Hurts isn’t ready to be an NFL quarterback, but for the Chargers, he wouldn’t have to start year one. If this is the pick, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen would need to build an offense around Hurts’ strengths. Leaning on play-action, RPO’s, and designed runs will be key.
Akeem Davis-Gaither – LB – Appalachian State
The linebacker position for the Chargers seemed like it was solid only a couple of years ago. Denzel Perryman was a healthy season away from being a solid foundational piece and Jatavis Brown was a steal of a fifth-round pick. Well, things have changed and the team finds itself needing to dip into the well again.
The Chargers need to get better and faster at the position, and Davis-Gaither could check both of those boxes. Over the past two seasons, he has dominated the Sun Belt competition, even taking home the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year award in his conference. In two seasons as a starter, he recorded over 200 total tackles including 24.0 tackles for loss. The Appalachian State linebacker also affected the passing game as well with 6.5 sacks and 15 passes defended.
Davis-Gaither has some really exciting tape. He’s super-athletic and noses into plays he has no business being a part of. He plays extremely hard with a motor that runs hot. As a run defender, he makes up for his lack of size with great instincts and beating run-blockers to their spot. He is hard to get a hand on and combined with his explosiveness led to a ton of tackles for loss. His twitchy first-step should also help him remain an effective Blitzer, which the Chargers sorely lack. In coverage, AGD is a work in progress but should have a chance to improve with his instincts and overall athletic ability.
There are two big concerns that I have. Davis-Gatiher has decent size for the position (6’1, 224 lbs), but he didn’t play with great functional strength. His strength combined with short arms hurt his ability to shed blockers in college. The other thing that could be an issue is occasionally being too aggressive. He can be reckless trying to get to the ball-carrier leading to him lose his gap responsibility and create cut-back lanes.
Davis-Gaither is an intriguing prospect that could flourish in the right system. If the team does select him, don’t expect him to be the starter right away. The good news is he should be an excellent special teams player right away, with the opportunity to get stronger and earn a larger role.
None of the picks on this list would be considered luxury selections. If the Chargers pulled the trigger on any of these players, they would be attacking needs. Dantzler would be at least great depth at the position, with a realistic shot at taking Michael Davis’ job.
The Jalen Hurts pick would give the team a chance at finding their quarterback at the end of the Tyrod Taylor bridge.
Davis-Gaither would give the Chargers a much-needed infusion of athleticism to the linebacker room, and immediate special teams value.
Quarantine has sucked, but I find some relief in thinking about how much damn time the Chargers front office has had to review these players. For a few days this weekend, we can forget about wanting to leave the house, as we digest 24-hour draft coverage. Stay safe, have fun and pray that Telesco hits this thing out of the park.