Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
In August 2013 the San Diego Chargers were in very much the same boat as our beloved birds: a team in flux. Finally rid of long-maligned coach Norv Turner, the franchise also cast their lot with a first-time head coach. Unlike the Eagles, who chose to hitch their wagon to a college prodigy with no NFL experience, the Chargers went the perceived "safer" route and hired former Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. McCoy's track record of success with quarterbacks as diverse as Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow (technically not a quarterback, but listed as one on the depth chart), and Peyton Manning boded well for a team with an entrenched franchise quarterback in need of a badass comeback tour.
So how did that all go? Pretty well, actually. The Chargers posted a 9-7 season record and even though they literally had no business being in the playoffs they made some noise by thrashing playoff-shy Andy Dalton and the Bengals in their own house. Hell, they even made Broncos fans lightly perspire for a couple minutes, until ol' thundernoggin found f***in' Julius on 3rd and 17 and order was restored to the universe. Mike McCoy delivered on his promise of offensive wizardry and then some; he made Philip Rivers feel like it was 2006 again, he got 16 games and over 1200 yards out of Ryan "glass legs" Mathews, and he made on-field comedian King Dunlap into a rock-solid starting left tackle (I know, I still can't believe that last one).
So where to go from here? The Chargers had an Eagles-esque free agency, bringing in a couple depth players and re-upping some of their own impending free agents. This means they still have a lot of holes to patch through the draft. From doing some legwork and talking to friends who pull for the Chargers, I perceive their top needs to be, in no particular order:
Wide Receiver: The Chargers struck gold in the third round of the 2013 draft, reeling in Cal wideout Keenan Allen. Although Allen had one of the most productive rookie WR seasons in recent memory and will be the clear #1 guy going forward, the Chargers would like to add another player across from Allen who has a higher ceiling than Eddie Royal.
Outside Linebacker: The Chargers re-upped on Dwight Freeney's second year option on the contract he signed before last season, meaning the starting duo will likely be Melvin Ingram and Freeney. Ingram is ridiculously talented and clearly in the Chargers' long-term plans, but Freeney is near the end of his career and injury-prone to boot. Drafting a long-term solution to play across from Ingram should be a top priority.
Guard: Jeromey Clary is a sub-par guard and a worse tackle. Re-signing Chad Rinehart won't solve the problem; he's a JAG too. Getting a top-tier RG would both keep an aging Rivers upright and keep Mathews' career on an upward trend.
Secondary: The Chargers' starting defensive backfield if the season began today: FS Eric Weddle, SS Marcus Gilchrist, RCB Shareece Wright, LCB Richard Marshall. Weddle is an all-pro, and the only other guy who should be starting is Shareece Wright. Richard Marshall is an older depth/STs guy and mentioning Gilchrist to Chargers fans elicits a similar reaction as mentioning Pat Chung to Eagles fans. As with the Eagles, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Chargers go safety and cornerback early and often.
So where do the Chargers go with their first and most important pick? I actually feel pretty good about their offense. As we've been constantly reminded, this draft has a stupid amount of excellent wideouts, and the Chargers have had great luck finding diamonds in the rough at that position anyhow. Guard is the easiest hole to fill in the NFL. Some may point to TE as a need, but the Chargers seem to expect their answer is already on the roster in Ladarius Green.
So defense it is, but should they go pass rush or secondary help? Well...remember that 3rd and 17 I mentioned above? During that play, two significant things were happening: Peyton Manning was running for his life from Melvin Ingram, and Julius Thomas was streaking toward the sideline on an out route with nary a DB within 10 yards of him. I look at this play as a microcosm of the Chargers defense. As long as they have a warm body across from Ingram, they will get some pressure; Ingram will be a dominant OLB for a long time. However, the Chargers should be thanking their lucky stars (and Eric Weddle) that they managed to win a playoff game with that bunch of jokers in the secondary. Therefore, with the 26th overall pick, the Chargers select...
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
I know, Darqueze Dennard continues his free-fall! Crazy, isn't it? Although you could make a compelling argument that Dennard is the better player from a raw talent standpoint, Fuller gets tabbed for two important reasons: versatility and scheme fit. By versatility, I don't just mean the oft-quoted fact that Fuller could be converted to a safety, I mean he can freely switch between safety and CB duty in a given game. Chargers DC John Pagano loves using Eric Weddle as a chess piece having him in press coverage on a WR one play and the cover-1 deep safety the next. Fuller played a multitude of positions at V-tech, including FS, CB, and LB. This versatility would further allow Pagano to conceal coverages at the snap, a critical ability when you play Peyton Manning twice a year.
GIF credit: Niners Nation user QuestFor6
The other main reason Fuller is the pick over Dennard is scheme fit. Dennard is an astoundingly good press CB, but he's just that: a press CB. Fuller can proficiently play zone, man, and off-man coverage, again giving Pagano the freedom to optimize coverage based on the opposition. That being said, Fuller particularly excels at off-man coverage, where his awesome football intelligence and short-area burst allow him to diagnose and disrupt plays.
GIF credit: Niners Nation user QuestFor6
Fuller also has all the physical tools to succeed at the next level. His spider graph shows a player with great size for a DB, as well as excellent explosiveness (broad jump and vertical jump) and top-end speed (40).
This is not all to say that Fuller has no holes in his game. From my film study, (h/t to draftbreakdown.com) I concluded his two biggest flaws are he doesn't play up to his 84th percentile 40 speed (read: he gets burned deep occasionally) and he sometimes tackles out of control when he builds up a head of steam. I did like that even when he attempted a reckless tackle, he was usually still trying to wrap up. That translates to less coaching to correct that flaw.
This last point about coaching leads to my final reason Kyle Fuller is the ideal pick for the Chargers in this mock: to put it bluntly, the Chargers suck at developing CBs. Fuller started games his freshman year and played for all 4 years; he's a very polished player who will require minimal "coaching up". If needed, he could start day 1. For an organization that has a 20% success rate on high-pick CBs drafted since 2006, this should be a huge selling point.
For all the above reasons, if the Rog calls Kyle Fuller's name May 8th when the Chargers are on the clock, Chargers fans should crack a cold one and toast Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy for doing the right thing. He's the right guy for the job!
tl;dr: The Chargers need more help on defense than offense, and three of their DB starters suck. Kyle Fuller is a versatile player who can effectively play both CB and safety, so John Pagano should value him over press-limited Darqueze Dennard. The Chargers suck at developing DB talent, so a polished 4-year starter like Fuller is the cure for what ails them.
Sources: CBSsports.com, walterfootball.com, draftbreakdown.com, mockdraftable.com, ninersnation.com, boltsfromtheblue.com, milehighreport.com, chargers.com
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19 Miami Dolphins (HD) - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - [Explanation]
20 Arizona Cardinals (NCeagle) - Kony Ealy, DE, Mizzou - [Explanation]
21 Green Bay Packers (ablesser88) - Jimmie Ward, S, NIU - [Explanation]
22 Philadelphia Eagles (jhn) - Marqise Lee, WR, USC - [Explanation]
23 Kansas City Chiefs (PeaceVT) - Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU - [Explanation]
24 Cincinnati Bengals (deg0ey) - Bradley Roby, CB, OSU - [Explanation]
25 San Diego Chargers (StoneColeKiller58) - Kyle Fuller, CB, VT - [Explanation]
26 Cleveland Browns (P_Roach17) -
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