The Los Angeles Chargers’ offensive line has held the team back in recent years. Like we’ve seen with the Dallas Cowboys, a solid O-line will play a major role in winning.
Most Chargers fans could tell you the biggest weakness on the entire team is the offensive line. LT King Dunlap has had trouble finishing a full season since signing with the Chargers back in 2013, and his play has been average at best. LG Orlando Franklin has underwhelmed since signing his five-year, $35.5 million contract back in 2015. RG D.J. Fluker was Tom Telesco’s first draft pick as general manager in 2013. Fluker has not lived up to what he was hyped up to be coming out of Alabama. RT Joe Barksdale was beat around the edge frequently last season and led the team in penalties.
Meanwhile, C Matt Slauson was the lone bright spot for the offensive line in 2016. Slauson was signed in May 2016 after he was a surprise cut by the Bears last offseason.
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But overall, the Chargers had the second-worst offensive line in football last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
With the new coaching staff taking over, expect some major changes. Head coach Anthony Lynn was a running backs coach for the previous 13 seasons, and it’s safe to say he will not settle for lackluster play up front. Slauson and Barksdale potentially could be the only starters from 2016 to make the roster in 2017. Slauson is under contract for 2017 with an inexpensive cap hit of $1.8 million. Even with his lackluster play in 2016, Barksdale is in just his second year of his four-year, $22 million deal. Cutting Barksdale does not make sense financially.
As for Dunlap, Franklin and Fluker, they could potentially all be cut this offseason.
According to San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee, the Chargers would save a combined $21.57 million in cash in 2017 should they release Dunlap, Franklin and Fluker. San Diego would free up $16.74 million in cap space, per Acee.
Can the O-line be fixed via the draft?
The Chargers need to address the offensive line this offseason. The problem is there is not one offensive lineman in the 2017 draft worthy of the seventh overall selection.
The first lineman taken in 2017 will likely be an offensive tackle. Ryan Ramczyk from Wisconsin, Cam Robinson from Alabama and Garett Boles from Utah will look to separate from one another this draft season. Either of the three may be a target for the Chargers in a trade-down scenario.
Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) in action during the game against the Western Michigan Broncos in the 2017 Cotton Bowl game at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers defeat the Broncos 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Ramczyk OT, Wisconsin
Ramczyk was a one-year starter at left tackle for Wisconsin and has the tools to be a future left tackle in the NFL. Ramczyk is listed at 6-6, 314 lbs.. When watching Ramczyk on tape, you’ll notice his ability to get to the second level. He bullies defenders off the ball with ease. Also, he has the combination of speed and power you look for in a left tackle.
However, there are risks to consider when selecting Ramczyk. Ramczyk is inexperienced and also needs hip surgery this offseason. With that said, he was a first-team All-American in 2016.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) against Clemson Tigers defensive end Austin Bryant (91) in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Robinson OT, Alabama
Robinson played left tackle for Alabama but projects as a right tackle or guard in the NFL, according to some scouts. Robinson is a mauler in the run game but his pass protection needs work.
Robinson is listed at 6-6, 326 lbs. and has the power to be a dominating run blocker in the NFL. Robinson should not be in consideration for the Chargers at pick No. 7. The Chargers need to find a future left tackle. They do not need another Fluker, and that’s what Robinson looks to be.
Oct 29, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes offensive lineman Garett Bolles (72) celebrates a touchdown by Utah Utes tight end Evan Moeai (not pictured) during the second half against the Washington Huskies at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Washington won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Garett Bolles OT, Utah
Bolles was one-year starter at left tackle for the Utes. Bolles is listed at 6-5, 300 lbs.. He is an underrated prospect and is as athletic as they come for an offensive lineman. He has limited experience due to a troubled past.
That said, Boles has a high ceiling but a low floor. He’s also not worthy of a high first-round pick and will likely go in the back half of Round 1. In a trade- down scenario Bolles is a name to remember for the Chargers, and you never know as he could possibly fall to Round 2.
Dec 3, 2016; Bowling Green, KY, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers offensive lineman Forrest Lamp (76) celebrates his teams victory following the CUSA championship game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. Western Kentucky won 58-44. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Even though the offensive line class is weak up top, there are mid-tier prospects to keep an eye on that the Chargers could go after if they go a different direction in Round 1 (safety and wide receiver are notable positions of need for the Bolts that could be addressed with their first pick).
Offensive Tackles: Antonio Garcia from Troy, Taylor Moton from Western Michigan and Roderick Johnson from Florida State are names to keep an eye on in Rounds 2 and 3.
Guards: Forrest Lamp from Western Kentucky, Dan Feeney from Indiana, Dorian Johnson from Pittsburgh and Dion Dawkins from Temple are all worthy of a second-round selection. Don’t be surprised if Lamp and or Feeney is selected in Round 1. With that said, I would be thrilled if the Chargers selected any of these guards in Round 2.
Centers: Ethan Pocic from LSU and Pat Elfin from Ohio State are the two best centers in this draft class.
Mocking the draft is very difficult. However, they are a good tool to garner the range where prospects are likely to go in the draft. Let’s take a look at some draft gurus latest mock drafts:
Jeremiah has Lamp as his first offensive lineman off the board to the Redskins at pick No. 17, Ramczyk goes to the Broncos at pick No. 20 and Bolles goes to the Texans at pick No. 25. Robinson is not in his first round.
McShay has Ramczyk as the first offensive lineman off the board to the Denver Broncos at pick No. 20, Bolles goes to the Texans at pick No. 25 and Robinson goes to the Seahawks at pick No. 26.
Chargers trade down?
If the Chargers traded down and picked up an extra pick or two, I would expect the target to be Ramczyk from Wisconsin in Round 1. He is the best lineman in the class and would be worthy of a selection in the middle of Round 1. I would not be surprised if this did in fact happen. If RB Leonard Fournette slides on draft day, I could see a running back-needy team trade with the Chargers to jump the Panthers. An example of said team would be the Colts.
What I think Chargers will do
As mentioned above, there is not one offensive lineman in this year’s class worthy of the seventh overall selection. I would expect the Chargers to target the best player on their board in Round 1 and go from there. The Bolts should draft an offensive lineman in the draft, and I would expect them to go after one of the linemen I mentioned above.
Whether it is Garcia from Troy or one of the other guards, the Chargers need help across the offensive line and will likely address this need in Rounds 2 or 3.