NFL Draft

Rams-Titans Trade Shakes Up Chargers’ Draft Plans


The draft is still a couple weeks away, but already the board is breaking in San Diego’s favor.

On Thursday morning, the Titans and Rams announced they have agreed to a trade that involving the No. 1 overall pick. Now, St. Louis will lead off the 2016 draft instead of Tennessee, with the assumption the Rams will take one of the top quarterbacks available (either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff).

The Browns, who pick No. 2, are likely to select whichever top QB prospect the Rams bypass.

For the Chargers, who pick No. 3 and have no intentions of taking a quarterback that early, what this means is simple: they are free to select whichever prospect is on top of their draft board.

The real game-changer here is San Diego now has a shot at Laremy Tunsil, the Ole Miss left tackle who was long considered a shoe-in to go No. 1 to Tennessee. Tunsil visited Chargers Park on Monday and is familiar with the area after doing his pre-Combine training at the EXOS facility in Carlsbad.

Tunsil is not the cleanest prospect. He suffered a dislocated ankle, broken leg and partially torn bicep during his college career. He also had some off-the-field issues, including a charge of domestic assault against his stepfather and a seven-game suspension for receiving “impermissible benefits.”

However, on the field Tunsil performs like the top player in this draft class. He demonstrates elite foot quickness, balance and hand usage. He gets out to the second level and makes blocks in space better than any other player in this draft class … by a wide margin, at that.

There is the belief in some circles that the Chargers are more likely to go defense at No. 3, if only because the top defensive prospects fit seamlessly into San Diego’s starting lineup.

DeForest Bucker, who has also visited Chargers Park, would slide in at left defensive end in place of Kendall Reyes. Jalen Ramsey, whose Pro Day was attended by secondary coach Ron Miles, would replace Eric Weddle at free safety (with Dwight Lowery moving to strong safety).

If the Chargers go with Tunsil, some pieces will have to move around.

Tunsil would take over for King Dunlap at left tackle, forcing Dunlap (who will earn a guaranteed $3.3 million this season after restructuring his contract) to revert to the role of swing tackle. Backup lineman Chris Hairston, who signed a new two-year deal this offseason, would move full-time to guard, where depth is non-existent.

All that hypothetical shuffling has some believing Tunsil is a luxury the Chargers cannot afford. In reality, that logic is more flawed than a Joakim Noah jump shot.

The Chargers earned high mark in free agency, but failed to bring in a single offensive lineman from outside the organization. Tom Telesco cannot in good conscious return the same offensive line as last season, which ranked No. 31 in adjusted line yards, according to Football Outsiders.

Philip Rivers (40 sacks) and Melvin Gordon (3.5 ypc, zero touchdowns) would love nothing more than for the Chargers to add the most dominant blocker available this offseason.

It’s not yet certain if that’s what the Chargers will do. But, thanks to Thursday’s Rams-Titans trade, that option is suddenly on the table.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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