Chargers send a message they’re ready to compete now with draft picks
Philip Rivers, who in the eyes of so many people, himself probably included, is the quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, took the stage at his team’s new home Saturday morning to a massive amount of adoration.
Chants of “Hall of Fame” faded in time for Rivers and two of his children to announce the team’s fourth-round selection at the StubHub Center.
But before Rivers or either of his kids uttered a word, the NFL veteran looked out at the concourse full of lightning bolt paraphernalia and took a deep breath.
“I always try and toe the line, and make sure my love for San Diego is known,” Rivers said. “But at the same time, I think you hear about the negative stuff — ‘Nobody wants you up here.’ But any time I’ve ever been around, everybody seems to be pretty excited.”
Rivers has reasons to be excited with how the Los Angeles Chargers approached the 2017 NFL draft, making his time in his new home a little easier.
The Chargers continued to target experienced players who, seemingly, will be able to compete for immediate playing time.
The message got sent with the picks of receiver Mike Williams and linemen Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in the first three rounds, and it got sent again early Saturday when the team took defensive backs Rayshawn Jenkins and Desmond King.
In total, Rivers and the offense got a receiver and two of the top-rated interior linemen in the draft while King also could be on the field early on in multiple-corner packages.
The team passed on selecting the quarterback of the future, favoring experienced, seemingly NFL-ready prospects at most every turn.
“This draft tells — it wasn’t about telling me — but I think it tells our team, which is something we already believe. And I think it tells the fans, ‘Hey, we think we’ve got a chance to compete for a championship right now,’” Rivers said. “I know the guys in the locker room believe that. I think these pieces we’ve added can help us get that.”
That wasn’t the message general manager Tom Telesco was trying to send, at least not a message that specific. A firm believer in his trusted draft process and spreadsheets, Telesco and the Chargers took players t they felt would help the team most — both now and in the future.
“All these players we’ve taken, they all have upside to us,” Telesco said. “A lot of these guys have a long way to go still. …We’re excited about all these guys, and I think a lot of these guys have a lot in front of them still.”
Jenkins, a safety at Miami, was the team’s first defensive selection of the draft, and said Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has a spot in mind for him up near the line of scrimmage.
“I’ll play like a Kam Chancellor role,” Jenkins said about Seattle’s Pro Bowl safety. “I’m just ready to get started there.”
Jenkins said he thought the Chargers got a “steal” by taking him in the fourth round.
The team followed that pick by selecting King, who won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015 as college football’s top defensive back. He returned for his senior season, and while some project him to eventually be a safety, King said he thinks he’ll start as the team’s nickel cornerback.
“I’m going in with a focused mind-set, a chip on my shoulder,” King said. “They’re going to get a guy that’s going to go 110% each and every day. That’s how I make those plays.”
King was projected to be drafted prior to the Chargers’ fifth-round pick, but he slid because of concerns over his height and arm length.
“The draft’s a funny thing sometimes,” Telesco said. “…At the end of the day, he’s a really good football player.”
In rounds six and seven, the Chargers went with bulk, taking Utah offensive tackle Sam Tevi before finishing the weekend by taking Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaac Rochell.
Tevi could end up being a backup tackle on both the right and left side, and Rochell could eventually be a pass-rushing defensive tackle.
The team also began assembling undrafted free agents, agreeing to deals with a Missouri tight end Sean Culkin, Wake Forrest defensive back Brad Watson, Ohio State running back/receiver Dontre Wilson, Western State Colorado running back Austin Ekeler, Rutgers receiver Andre Patton, South Carolina offensive lineman Mason Zandi, Florida Atlantic offensive lineman Dillon DeBoer, Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins, Notre Dame linebacker James Onwualu, Clemson receiver Artavis Scott, South Florida linebacker Nigel Harris, Brigham Young defensive back Michael Davis, Kansas State linebacker Mike Moore, and Georgia State kicker Younghoe Koo.
The team will hold their rookie minicamp May 12-14 in San Diego.
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