NFLDraftScout.com’s Ric Serritella was a guest on the latest episode of Chargers Weekly, the official podcast of the team.
Serritella is the founder of the “NFL Draft Bible,” an annual draft guide that has ranked 1,000 prospects and contains over 400 profiles. Download the full episode this Thursday on Apple Podcasts. Below are five pre-draft takeaways from the conversation:
1. Twenty defensive linemen have first- or second-round grades – The strength of the 2019 NFL Draft is undoubtedly the defensive line. Whether it’s tackle or edge rusher, Serritella thinks that over 30 percent of players selected in the first two rounds could come from those two positions. In order, he lists Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Florida State defensive end Brian Burns as the top four overall prospects entering April.
“I think [the top four] are all tremendously gifted, special, rare kind of players across the defensive line,” Serritella said. “Now, we saw maybe a decade ago Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy – that was a heck of a class. I think this class is even more talented.”
2. Four quarterbacks have first-round grades – Last season saw five quarterbacks selected in the first round. All five started at least seven games and combined for 57 starts as a group.
According to Serritella, the 2019 quarterback class is more of a developmental crop, though specific teams will likely select their future starter on Day 1.
“There are four first-round grades, and I think that’s because guys like [Missouri’s] Drew Lock and [Duke’s] Daniel Jones get pushed up the board due to the need, the necessity and lack of quality signal callers to go around the league,” he said.
Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray are Serritella’s top-two quarterback prospects.
3. Tight end talent is strong – Teams with a need at tight end will have several options to choose from. The Draft Bible has six prospects projected to go in the first three rounds. At the top sit a pair of Iowa Hawkeyes: T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant.
“This is my 18th year covering the draft,” Serritella said. “T.J. Hockenson is as good as any tight end I’ve ever evaluated.”
Serritella added that there hasn’t been a tight end class as strong as this one in “quite a long time,” noting the depth at the position in all seven rounds. Other top prospects include Alabama’s Irv Smith and Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger.
4. Several special players could be available at No. 28 overall – When the Chargers make their first selection at the end of the first round, perhaps a future All-Pro like Derwin James will still be on the board.
The defensive line talent coupled with as many as four quarterbacks being selected before pick No. 28 mean several possibilities for the Bolts. Serritella mentioned five names:
-DT Jeffery Simmons (Mississippi State): “A lot of people think just because of that [offseason] injury that you’re probably going to have to redshirt him now, his rookie season. But, without that injury he’s probably a top 10 – maybe even a top five – pick in this year’s draft.”
-TE Noah Fant (Iowa): “I don’t think [Hockenson’s] on the board, but maybe a Noah Fant is.”
-DT Christian Wilkins (Clemson): “Is he inside? Is he outside? We know he’s explosive. We know he’s an athlete. Let’s find a home for this guy at the next level.”
-WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (Oklahoma): “Can you get the top receiver at 28? Hey, maybe it’s not necessarily a position of need, but you got to weigh that kind of value.”
-G Chris Lindstrom (Boston College): “If you tell me Chris Lindstrom – when it’s all said and done – is a top 10 player from this year’s draft class 20 years from now when we look back at it, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
5. Don’t forget about the UDFAs – From Austin Ekeler to Adrian Phillips, the Chargers have a proven track record of identifying undrafted free agents that can be difference makers on Sundays.
“There [are] more undrafted free agents in the NFL than fourth-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks combined,” Serritella said. “A third of every NFL roster consists of undrafted free agents.”
Success after the draft is critical, but so is hitting on draft picks. Over the last two seasons, Los Angeles has made 14 selections. All 14 players are still on the roster, 13 have appeared in a game and 11 have started at least one game.