Here are five top lessons learned from the Chargers 2019 Draft:
1. "Gus Beat Whiz" – That's what Head Coach Anthony Lynn joked about late Saturday afternoon after the Bolts ended up selecting five defensive plays to two on offense. The Chargers ended up taking a safety (Nasir Adderley – Round 2) plus a pair of defensive linemen (Jerry Tillery – Round 1; Cortez Broughton – Round 7) and a pair of linebackers (Drue Tranquill – Round 4; Emeke Egbule – Round 6) to bolster the defense while adding an offensive lineman (Trey Pipkins – Round 3) and quarterback (Easton Stick – Round 5) on offense. However, Lynn stressed that it was simply a result of how the draft played out as the team didn't go into it determined to address one side of the ball over the other:
"Gus beat Whiz five to two today. Nah, those guys want what's best for the football team. That's just kind of the way the board fell, where we had the guys ranked."
General Manager Tom Telesco echoed Lynn's sentiments.
"It's just the way the board fell. It was a great effort by everybody. I probably say it every year — it doesn't work out 100 percent the way that you want it — but it was darn good. It was really good. We had players in the right places to get them. The amount of work, preparation all worked out. Everybody works really well together. The coaches are happy, so it worked well. I will say, I've never been part of a draft that didn't work well either. We all think it's great today. Looks great today, but we'll find out in training camp about some of these guys. As far as where we are right now, yes we are very pleased."
2. Taking Tillery a No Brainer– As we noted Thursday night, the Bolts got the last player they had with a first round grade when they took Tillery with the 28th overall pick. Entering the draft, Telesco told the media that on average, the Bolts only have about 15-18 plays graded as first round talent. Thus, with Tillery still available when the Chargers were on the clock, it didn't take very long for Telesco to pull the trigger on a player they targeted:
"He was (the last one). He was it, which I give our scouts credit. They saw him, they liked him. They had him in the right spot for us. Everybody's board is a little bit different, but also, knowing with the 28th pick that we got a guy that we feel is a solid first round player. You don't always get that at the 28th pick. I told everybody, 'We may have to (select) a guy on our board that is (a) top of the second round player with the first pick if we can't trade out.' I had no problem with that at all, but it worked out that Jerry was there — and we took him…I kind of felt like he'd be right in our area. I kind of felt like that. He's a gifted man at that size. It's hard to move. His change of direction, his foot speed, for a guy at that height and that size — we're lucky to have him."
3. A Perfect Pairing – The Chargers took a safety in the first round, and it proved to be a home run as Derwin James emerged as one of the best strong safeties in the NFL. He earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors after wreaking havoc in the box throughout a dynamic rookie campaign. This year, the team added a safety once again, but this time it's one whose skillset is a perfect pairing to what James brings to the table. With the 60th overall selection, the Chargers added ball-hawking Nasir Adderley, a range centerfield whose talents appeared tailormade as the single-high safety in Bradley's system. Now, it's not fair to expect the type of production James made right off the bat as a rookie. Telesco and the coaching staff each stressed Adderley will have to go out and earn playing time. However, pundits coast-to-coast have universally praised the pick, noting how the Delaware product's game is the ideal complement to what James brings to the table. It certainly sounds as if the Bolts agree based on what Bradley said about his newest safety:
"That's what shows up on tape. He has a lot of range. You see him make plays from red line to red line, sideline to sideline. He'll come up and tackle. Back there in that middle third, you need that type of athlete. He's got really good ball skills. They also played him close to the line of scrimmage at times where you saw him come up and make tackles in the open field. At that safety spot how we play it, he's got to be able to have that skillset. He's very aggressive, but plays the game very well. So he has a great chance in this defense."
4. Pipkins' Pure Talent Pops Out – Sioux Falls is not a school you often see players drafted from, but talent finds a way. To that end, while the general public may not have known Pipkins' name, he's someone that's been on NFL teams' radars throughout the entire draft process. After dominating in college, he showed out during the East-West Shrine Game and the practices leading up to it, solidifying his status. Pipkins had heard he could go on day two, and as it was winding down, to take his mind off things decided to go for a drive to get dinner with his family. Well, those Friday night predictions proved to be spot on, and now the Bolts get to mold the highly-talented yet raw prospect. Just listen to what Telesco had to say about Pipkins to see how excited the Chargers are about his upside:
"He was a known prospect. Our scouts, every year, they go to a lot of schools that you guys probably haven't heard of before. They're just not on the radar for most people, but he's a known prospect at Sioux Falls. He did what he had to do at that level and he dominated his level of Division-II. He's 6-6, 305 or 310, but has really good feet. He has long arms, good feet, change of direction and he's very smart. He's another player that went to an all-star game with Division-I players and really stood out there. Tackles are really hard to find. It's hard to find tackles that are tall, long and have really good feet that can work and are smart and have awareness. He has a lot of traits that we can develop. It's going to take some time. We have a good group for him to learn from, too…. There are some players at Division-II and Division-III who can dominate, but still don't have athletic traits — or not athletic traits that play at this level. With Trey [Pipkins], he has NFL size, NFL feet, athletic ability. He has to get a little bit stronger and just get used to playing against the type and caliber of player that he'll play against every day here. There's just a lot to work with and his makeup is excellent. We think he's a guy that's really going to work at it. It'll probably take a little bit of time, but tackles are so hard to find, and he has NFL-type traits — and that's really what you have to scout."
5. Golden Domers Bolt Up – It's always notable when players from the same school get drafted to the same team. Well, that's what happened to Jerry Tillery and Drue Tranquill as the Bolts drafted the Notre Dame defenders in the first and fourth rounds, respectively. The news was music to Tillery's ears, who beamed about getting to play with Tranquil again in the pros. Meanwhile, the fourth-round linebacker is equally as excited, pointing out what a different it will make to go through this experience together:
"Oh, it's incredible. Jerry is there. We also have Isaac Rochell there. So just to have two former teammates of mine there, just to learn and grow with them, it's going to be a special, special time. I can't wait to get after it and get one of these Super Bowls."