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Chargers 2019 NFL draft needs: Defensive tackles should be top priority

The Chargers have gotten it right in recent years when it comes to drafting defensive players.They had the no-brainer selection of Joey Bosa in 2016 and had the good fortune of Derwin James landing in their laps last year. But the Chargers’ scouting team deserves credit for finding Desmond King in the fifth round in 2017 and Denzel Perryman in the second round in 2015.
With the home-run picks, the Chargers have become one of the better defenses in the NFL. They have talent in all three areas of the defense, but that doesn’t make them perfect.
RELATED: Chargers offensive draft needs
The Chargers are thin at defensive tackle and could use help in the secondary with the departures of cornerback Jason Verrett and safety Jahleel Addae. Here’s a look at what they Chargers could do during the draft to fill needs on defense:
DEFENSIVE TACKLE
The Chargers have arguably the best crop of pass rushers in the NFL, but they’re in desperate need of interior linemen. In a surprising move, the Chargers let Darius Philon walk in free agency and seem content with letting Corey Liuget and Damion Square sign elsewhere. As of now, their top two defensive tackles are 34-year-old Brandon Mebane and second-year player Justin Jones, with not much behind them. This position might be at the top for the Chargers’ draft needs.
Possible targets: Ed Oliver, 6-2, 287, DT, Houston. Round: 1-2; Jeffery Simmons, 6-4, 301, DT, Mississippi State. Round: 1-2; Dexter Lawrence, 6-4, 342, DT, Clemson. Round: 1-2; Christian Wilkins, 6-3, 315, DT, Clemson. Round: 1-2; Jerry Tillery, 6-6, 295, DT, Notre Dame. Round: 1-2.
Analysis: This year’s draft is loaded with talented defensive tackles, which might be why the Chargers didn’t address this position during free agency. Oliver has drawn comparisons to Rams star Aaron Donald, but some teams are concerned with his lack of size. It’s almost certain the Chargers will have a chance to select one of the better defensive tackles when they’re on the clock at 28th overall.
LINEBACKER
With the addition of Thomas Davis and the re-signing of Perryman, the linebacker position isn’t as big of a need, but after what the Chargers endured last season, it might be wise to add a linebacker in the draft. The Chargers were forced to play seven defensive backs for long stretches during the final month of the season because of numerous injuries at linebacker.
Possible targets: Devin Bush, 5-11, 234, LB, Michigan. Round: 1-2; Mack Wilson, 6-1, 240, LB, Alabama. Round: 2-3; Vosean Joseph, 6-1, 230, LB, Florida. Round: 3-4; T.J. Edwards, 6-0, 230, LB, Wisconsin. Round: 5-6; Ty Summers, 6-1, 241, LB, Texas Christian. Round: 5-6.
Analysis: With most of the Chargers’ linebackers expected to be healthy for the start of training camp, they can afford to wait on a linebacker for the later rounds in the draft. Edwards was a productive four-year starter at Wisconsin, the type of player the Chargers tend to look for in drafts.
CORNERBACK
The Chargers have two reliable cornerbacks in Casey Hayward and King, who primarily serves in the nickel defense. But they have uncertainty at the No. 2 position behind Hayward. The Chargers could look for an upgrade with them having to face Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs twice a year, and now former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who joined the Oakland Raiders last month.
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Possible targets: Deandre Baker, 5-11, 193, CB, Georgia. Round: 1-2; Rock Ya-Sin, 6-0, 190, CB, Temple. Round: 1-2; Lonnie Johnson, 6-2, 213, CB, Kentucky. Round: 2-3; Joejuan Williams, 6-4, 211, CB, Vanderbilt. Round: 3-4.
Analysis: Many mock drafts have the Chargers selecting Ya-Sin in the first round. He only has one year of experience at the Division I level, but draft experts are enamored with his size and ability to contribute in multiple areas.
SAFETY
The Chargers are in need of a specific type of safety, one who could play center field to allow James to roam near the line of scrimmage. The Chargers played two strong safeties a year ago, but they won’t go that route again after releasing Addae. Expect them to take a serious look at free safety in the draft.
Possible targets: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, 5-11, 210, FS, Florida. Round: 2-3; Deionte Thompson, 6-1, 195, FS, Alabama. Round: 2-3; Nasir Adderley, 6-0, 206, FS, Delaware. Round: 2-3; Marvell Tell, 6-2, 198, FS, USC. Round: 4-5.
Analysis: After defensive tackle and offensive tackle, finding a partner in crime for James could be next on the priority list for the Chargers. If they wait for the third round to address this need, Adderley could be an option. He has solid speed and recognition to defend the deep ball, and has experience playing at corner.

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