After a stellar 2013 draft class, it’s completely relevant to expect some big things from the six players the Chargers drafted in 2014. Last season, assuming D.J. Fluker or Manti Te’o would have been the biggest rookie play-maker was a valid thought. However, it ended up being the third round pick, Keenan Allen, who was the high-impact rookie the Bolts needed at wide receiver. So which one of the draft picks will be the difference maker this season? We will make a case for each and then allow you to tell us in our poll question.
The case for Jason Verrett
Verrett should have the easiest time of all rookies cracking the starting lineup. With Shareece Wright the only corner looking like a lock to start, Verrett will be given the opportunity to earn the first-team position opposite of Wright. Brandon Ghee, Richard Marshall, and Marcus Gilchrist (nickel) will certainly be in contention, but outside of Gilchrist, none of these players have the athleticism and physicality as Verrett. The former TCU Horned Frog can fly, and while his height is a concern, his big-time vertical leap and surprising strength allow him to play on the outside. The Chargers first round pick should play more snaps than any other rookie, and is the early leader in the clubhouse to make the biggest difference on the San Diego defense.
The case for Jeremiah Attaochu
The good news for Attaochu? He will be able to learn from veterans Dwight Freeney, Jarrett Johnson, and Melvin Ingram. The bad news for Attaochu? He will need to prove he deserves reps amongst the strong point of the Chargers defense: the 3-4 outside linebacker position. Attaochu could make an enormous impact as a pass-rush specialist. While he learns to stop the run and stay true in coverage, I could see the second round pick used in third-and-long situations, and put some heat on the quarterback. His natural pass-rushing ability and speed is on a different level, and if he learns from his teammates, it’s not unreasonable to think the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket could tally a double-digit sack season.
The case for Chris Watt
Watt will have some work to do in order to crack the starting lineup, but he has enough experience to transfer into the starting lineup right away as a rookie. The Chargers offensive line was stabalized by the strong play of D.J. Fluker and King Dunlap at tackle last season. Nick Hardwick is the staple and leader of the line, but the guard play could definitely improve. Expect Watt to challenge Jeromey Clary for the starting job, and Clary’s big cap hit could help Watt secure a position in front of Philip Rivers.
The case for Ryan Carrethers
Here is the guy I like. While he is a fifth round pick from a smaller conference, Carrethers is a shear specimen. There are not many human beings that weigh over 330 pounds and have less that 16 percent body fat. This kid is an absolute workout warrior, and he will be given the chance to earn a lot of playing time next to Sean Lissemore. I think it will all come down to the mental game for Carrethers. If he can learn the zero-tech, arguably the most important position in the 3-4, he could be our next Jamal Williams. I am looking for big things out of Carrethers.
The case for Marion Grice
It’s going to be extremely difficult for Grice to get reps with the first team offense, but the former Sun Devil is a player. He will likely be given a chance to make an impact in the return game, and it’s never a bad idea to have depth at running back. Backs are one of the most frequently injured players on the field, and if Ryan Matthews, Danny Woodhead, or Donald Brown go down, Grice could step in and make a difference. Grice is a fantastic receiver out of the backfield, but also has the ability to run between the tackles. These skills make him a prime candidate to replace any of the three backs in front of him.
The case for Tevin Reese
Reese can fly, and as we mentioned under reasons the Bolts should pursue Desean Jackson, the only thing this offense was missing was a burner to take the top off the defense. If San Diego wants to keep the safeties honest, and they are stacking the box to defend the prevalent run game, I could see Reese making a play for the slot receiver position. However, for now, he has the veteran presences of Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal in front of him, and will likely need a year to beef up before he could make an impact for San Diego.
Tell us what you think!