American Football

Chargers go all-in on defense in new two-round mock draft


Georgia v Vanderbilt
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Is the defense still that far away from being a contender?

Now that all the college football all-star events are behind us, we can all now begin to focus on next month’s NFL combine in Indianapolis. Mock drafts are all bound to ramp of, of course, with the first steps being two-round mocks, then three-round mocks, and so on and so forth.

Today, we’ve got one of the first two-round mocks of the offseason from ESPN’s Matt Miller.

The Chargers draft in the 21st slot on day one and the will have the 54th pick on day two. In Miller’s mock, the Chargers continue to put a lot of their chips on the defense by going back-to-back players amid the front seven.

On day one, Miller has the Chargers selecting Georiga edge rusher Nolan Smith over some dynamic skill players, including TCU’s Quentin Johnston who goes to the Ravens with the very next pick.

Here’s what Miller had to say about the pick:

“The Chargers have multiple options here, but the front seven is a big problem. L.A. allowed 5.9 yards per play (29th). A torn pectoral muscle in late October ended Smith’s season, but the 6-3 senior posted 11.5 sacks in his career while, like most Georgia defenders, working in a heavy rotation. He is a versatile linebacker who is comfortable standing up or playing with his hand down and has the first-step quickness to stun blockers while also being agile enough to play in space as an off-ball linebacker. That’s perfect for the Chargers’ base 3-4 scheme and today’s NFL.”

“Smith, just 235 pounds during the season, will need to add strength, but his ability to quickly get into the backfield gives the Chargers a long-term pass-rusher opposite Joey Bosa. And in the meantime, he can help in space at linebacker when Bosa and Khalil Mack drop down to defensive end.”

Smith is enticing, but is he specifically enough to move the needle to where the Chargers need to go after 2022? An undersized edge that may be an upgrade over Chris Rumph II is only so valuable. His talent is undeniable, but is it the best fit for both sides? I just don’t know at this point. His ability to hold the edge would go a long way in persuading me.

In the second round, the Chargers continued to enforce the first level of the defense by selecting Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika.

On Baylor’s roster, Ika is listed at 6’4 and 358 pounds. That’s a mountain of a man and roughly 15 pounds heavier than the Giants’ Dexter Lawrence, a second-team All-Pro in 2022.

Here’s what Miller had to say about Ika’s pairing with the Chargers:

“Los Angeles went edge rusher in Round 1 and tries to fix the run defense with Ika — the draft’s best nose tackle — here. He is massive (6-4 and 358 pounds) and fits the modern nose tackle projection with his size, power, length and surprising quickness when allowed to rush the passer. The Chargers gave up 5.4 yards per rush last season, by far the worst in the NFL.”

A First-Team All-Big 12 selection by both the coaches and Associated Press as a senior, Ika started 11 of 12 games at nose and finished with 24 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and two pass breakups.

Per Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network, Ika fits best as a nose tackle in the middle of an odd front. That is, of course, what the Chargers run under Brandon Staley. Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Otito Ogbonnia, and Bredien Fehoko can all play that role, but Johnson is on the last year of his contract and coming off a season-ending injury. The same goes for Ogbonnia.

Crabbs’ final grade for Ika is as a fourth-round pick, two full rounds later than when Miller has him going to the Chargers. Noting leverage issues against double teams and functional length for the position, I can see why Crabbs wouldn’t be super high on him compared to others. But that’s just how subjective scouting can be from one evaluator to another.

What do you all think of these two picks? Would you be content if something like this plays out over the first two rounds? Let me know all of your thoughts below.

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