Being one of the playoff teams that drafts on the back end of the first round can be sort of a gift and a curse. On one hand, there’s no expectation to swing for the fences, and the franchise can go purely best player available. On the other hand, the litter has been picked over and impact players can be few and far between. It’s rare to see the scenario that late where the best player available is also an impact starter at a position of drastic need. It’s even more rare to see it play out twice in the same draft — in the way the board fell for the Los Angeles Chargers over the weekend where Los Angeles got not one but two immediate starters on a defense that was already one of the league’s best in 2018.
The Chargers are one of the few teams in the draft where, if we were tapped in as GMs, we wouldn’t have changed either of their first two picks. Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery (the No. 7 overall player on PFF’s draft board) would have been our pick at 28 and Delaware safety Nasir Adderley (No. 27 on our board) would have been our pick at 60. The crazy thing is that Adderley would have legitimately been in the conversation for the first-round selection had Tillery been off the board.
The amazing thing is how big of a need each was. The interior of the Chargers' defensive line had the fifth-lowest pass-rushing grade of any team in the NFL last season. They racked up 83 total pressures as a group in 2018 – fewer than Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox had on their own. They also lost one of the few in that group that was capable of disrupting opposing passers in former first-rounder Corey Liuget. Tillery, on the other hand, tied Quinnen Williams for the highest pass-rushing grade among defensive tackles in college football last year. He’s got the size, length, and athleticism to think it will translate nicely to the Chargers' interior.
At safety, the Chargers struggled to replace Tre Boston on the back end last season. Adrian Phillips allowed the most yards of any player on the Chargers (564) and the third-most of any safety in the NFL. Adderley should be an upgrade out the gate, as he combines the coverage skills of a former cornerback with absurd range and ball skills – the Delaware safety notched four picks and six pass breakups last season.
All of a sudden the unit that got shredded up the middle against the New England Patriots looks a lot more formidable. Add in Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill at pick 130 — a player we had 90th on our draft board — and you’ve got the makings of something special on the Chargers defense. The Chargers had PFF’s favorite draft of any team that made the playoffs last year as the needle continues to point upwards in Los Angeles.