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Chargers shouldn’t take quarterback in first round of NFL draft

Former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa could be available for the Chargers at No. 6. That doesn't mean they should select him, or any other quarterback, in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday.
(Todd Kirkland / Getty Images)

Young quarterbacks are lousy life preservers.

The Chargers shouldn’t use the No. 6 pick on a quarterback.

Some of those young talents pan out — more frequently they don’t — but if you’re looking to draft a prolific college passer to save your skin, good luck.

In the past five drafts, 16 quarterbacks have gone in the opening round. Unquestionably, there have been success stories, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz among them. But those players were taken by coaches who were safe in their jobs.

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The Rams’ Jared Goff couldn’t rescue the coach who drafted him (Jeff Fisher). Neither could fellow first-rounders Jameis Winston (Lovie Smith), Marcus Mariota (Mike Mularkey), Mitch Trubisky (John Fox), Baker Mayfield (Hue Jackson), Sam Darnold (Todd Bowles), Josh Rosen (Steve Wilks) or Dwayne Haskins (Jay Gruden).

The 2020 NFL draft is on Thursday, and NFL team beat writers have made their first-round picks in The Times’ annual reporters mock draft.

Granted, quarterback is your most essential puzzle piece. Your team has to be at least functional at the position. The Chargers have that in Tyrod Taylor, who played for his current coach, Anthony Lynn, in Buffalo, is particularly strong when it comes to protecting the football, and can throw a pinpoint deep ball.

Lynn wants to be able to move the pocket better than the Chargers did with Philip Rivers, and Taylor can do that. And, yes, the franchise needs to find a young quarterback to develop for the future.

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But no one knows what this season is going to look like. Training camp appears to be a goner, and there might not even be games amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This team will need every spare minute to bring a young quarterback up to speed. Why rush it in a season that figures to be truncated at best?

The Chargers are in prime position to grab one of the best offensive tackles in the draft, maybe a defensive tackle such as Auburn’s Derrick Brown or South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw, or maybe Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson. All of those guys could contribute right away.

Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown runs a drill during the NFL Combine on Feb. 29 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

Three of the top six teams are looking for quarterbacks. That’s Cincinnati, likely to make Louisiana State’s Joe Burrow the top pick; Miami at five, with the Dolphins mulling Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, and maybe Utah State’s Jordan Love, and the Chargers.

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Dolphins coach Brian Flores is on firmer ground than Lynn; Miami clearly tanked last season, accumulating draft picks with an eye toward the future. That team probably will take Tagovailoa, and might even trade up to No. 3 (Detroit) to make sure no one else does.

With the Chargers, the cupboard isn’t bare. They have the players to be much better than the 5-11 they finished last season, and Lynn can get them there.

If they were to pass on a quarterback at six, they could circle back for one at 37, where they might be able to get Love and certainly could scoop up Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts.

Of course, there are other factors to consider. With the team preparing to move into SoFi Stadium, whenever that is completed, and spark some kind of interest in Los Angeles, grabbing a dazzling quarterback is enticing.

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The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

Tagovailoa has an electric personality. He also has a surgically repaired hip, and that’s a concern for teams that haven’t been able to have their doctors look at him, or bring him in for a visit to their facilities. The Chargers have a history of injuries sidelining key young players, including high draft picks Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, and Forrest Lamp in the Lynn/general manager Tom Telesco era.

In the right situation, young quarterbacks are great. They can sit back, watch and learn. That’s how Rivers got up to speed in San Diego.

These Chargers don’t have that luxury.

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