NFL Draft

Chargers Round Out Draft with Depth, Specialists

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In what was one of the most exciting Charger drafts in recent memory, the Chargers added some depth on both sides of the ball and picked up a couple specialists who should meaningful roles from the get-go.

While these players aren’t the sexiest picks available, they all should contribute early and directly to the improvement of the special teams and the running game, both considered to be the worst in the league last season.

Round 5, 175th overall:

OLB Jatavis Brown, Akron

The Chargers have certainly upgraded their linebacking core in a big way with the selection of Brown.

Despite playing at the small school of Akron, Brown put up incredible numbers for the Zips, recording 12 sacks and 20 tackles for loss on his way to being named the 2015 MAC Defensive Player of the Year.

“I play with a huge chip on my shoulder. Being drafted in the fifth round will add to that chip,” Brown said.

At 227 lbs., Brown isn’t the biggest linebacker, but has great speed and range.

The three-time first-team All-MAC selection ran a 4.47 at his regional combine, demonstrating the speed to immediately contribute on special teams and in dime formation, and hopefully in a larger role down the line.

Brown joins Ohio State’s Joshua Perry as the second linebacker drafted this year, and will likely compete for playing time as a reserve and on special teams with Perry, Nick Dzubnar and Dexter McCoil.

Round 6, 179th overall:

P Drew Kaser, Texas A&M

The selection of Kaser with the first of the Chargers’ two sixth-round picks marked the end of Mike Scifres’ 13-year era. The Chargers called Scifres shortly before making this selection to inform him he was being released.

What stands out most about Kaser is power. Kaser has a booming leg, which he used with great success at Texas A&M. Not only did he post a SEC-leading 47.4-yard average, beating perennial Pro Bowler Shane Lechler’s school record, but he has also had punts in excess of 64 yards in five games.

His longest punt was an astonishing 76 yards.

Kaser will immediately spark San Diego’s sagging special teams. Last year, Kaser  boomed 21 of 60 punts inside the 20-yard line. For comparison, Scifres only managed to get 15 of his 72 punts within the 20-yard line — tied for fewest in the league.

The addition of Kaser should bring a close to a two-year makeover of the kicking position, starting with kicker Josh Lambo — Kaser’s former teammate — beating out incumbent Nick Novak last season.

“Josh Lambo and I are such good friends. It’s a blessing to be in the NFL to being with one my former teammates and friends,” Kaser said.

Round 6, 198th overall:

FB Derek Watt, Wisconsin

The Chargers have reunited running back Melvin Gordon with his college blocker at Wisconsin, fullback Derek Watt.

“Melvin has already texted me a few times today,” Watt said. “We gel tremendously on the field. We’re going to pick up where we left off.”

If they do, it’ll be well worth the pick.

In 2014, Watt helped Gordon run for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns at Wisconsin, plowing through defenders and opening up lanes for Gordon to become a Heisman runner-up.

Even without Gordon, Wisconsin running backs last season were still able to manage 1,954 rushing yards with Watt paving the way.

Weighing in at 236 lbs., Watt is a tough blocker and comes from a football family. Houston All Pro defensive end JJ Watt is his older brother.

“It will be a special day to play J.J. We’ve never had that opportunity. It’ll be interesting,” said the younger Watt.

In addition, Watt is athletic and versatile enough to contribute to the passing game. Last year at Wisconsin, Watt caught 15 passes for 139 yards without a single drop.

The Chargers had ignored the position this offseason after allowing FB/TE David Johnson to hit free agency, but should solidify the position with Watt, who many considered to be the top fullback in this draft.

The Chargers can only hope the Badgers backfield of Gordon and Watt can help improve the league’s most anemic running “attack” that managed only four touchdowns and a 3.5 yards per carry in 2015.

Round 7, 224th overall:

G Donavan Clark, Michigan State

The Bolts already addressed the interior offensive line in third round with center Max Tuerk, but decided to bolster it even further with the selection of guard Donavan Clark.

Clark’s best attribute is versatility,  something Tom Telesco and the Chargers value very much in their offensive linemen. In three years at Michigan State, Clark started at least six games at left tackle, right tackle and right guard, often changing positions within the flow of a single game.

At 6’4″ and 315 lbs., the new Charger boasts a stout build, and despite his size, is athletic enough to pull in the running game. He ran a solid 5.17 40-yard dash and a 4.6 short shuttle at his Pro Day, which would have made him one of the more athletic linemen at the Combine.

That’s not to say Clark is a polished or starting-caliber guard at this point in his career, but any added depth along the offensive line is a good thing.

Clark should have a decent chance to make the roster competing against fellow guards Kenny Wiggins and Michael Huey.

About Trenton Villanueva

A San Diego native, Trenton Villanueva graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a minor in the hydraulic principles of the keg. Prior to writing for SDBR, he covered sports news for FanSided and wrote music reviews for the San Diego State Daily Aztec.

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