Even though wide receiver isn’t one of the San Diego Chargers’ biggest needs, it’s a position they should be keeping an eye on. The 2014 NFL draft is loaded with quality receivers, so there could be a lot more value on the board.
General manager Tom Telesco knows a thing or two about finding value at wide receiver in the draft. Last year, Telesco drafted rookie of the year Keenan Allen in the third round and was instrumental in helping the Indianapolis Colts find T.Y. Hilton in the third round and Pierre Garcon in the sixth round.
Which wide receiver the Chargers should target in the 2014 NFL draft to pair with Allen is debatable, but Telesco’s history has left us a few clues. Telesco has been directly involved in drafting seven wide receivers in five different years that can tell us quite a bit about the players he typically likes.
The ideal wide receiver is former LSU star Jarvis Landry, who, like Allen, ran a 40-yard dash in the 4.7-second range. Allen was still recovering from knee surgery, and Landry pulled his hamstring on his first attempt, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
Landry has a chance to improve his time at LSU’s pro day today, which could restore his draft stock. Bill Polian, who was Telesco’s boss in Indianapolis for many years, seems to be a fan of Landry.
“It’d be hard for me to believe that’s his real time, having seen him play,” said Polian, now an ESPN analyst, via TheAdvocate.com. “That aside, it’s only important if he doesn’t come back and do a lot better at his pro day.”
Like Allen, the slow 40-yard dash time is suppressing Landry’s true value. Polian expects him to improve his time, which should catapult him back into consideration in the second round.
“A 4.77 is not going to cut it, but I am presuming Jarvis is going to do better at his pro day," Polian said.
|Jarvis Landry vs. Telesco Draftees|
|High Telesco Draftee||6'3" (Roy Hall)||240 (Roy Hall)||4.71 (Keenan Allen)|
|Average Telesco Draftee||6'0"||205||4.5|
|Low Telesco Draftee (All T.Y. Hilton)||5'9"||178||4.34|
Let’s put the speed aside for a second, assuming he improves his time. Telesco is also looking for a wide receiver of a certain size.
Landry is 6’0” and 205 pounds—an exact match for Telesco’s size profile based on the seven wide receivers he was directly involved in drafting. Landry was also the only perfect match, even though there are plenty of prospects who are close to those numbers.
The other thing we need to look at is Landry’s fit in the offense. In Telesco’s first draft in a powerful role in Indianapolis, they selected Anthony Gonzalez because they didn’t have a good slot receiver. A year later, the Colts drafted Pierre Garcon, a wide receiver out of a small school who needed time to acclimate to the pro game. This was perfect because they were anticipating the end of Marvin Harrison’s career.
|Year||Overall Pick||Player||Height (Inches)||Weight (Pounds)||40 Time||No. 1 WR on Roster||No. 2 WR on Roster||Slot WR on Roster|
|2007||32||Anthony Gonzalez||72||193||4.44||Reggie Wayne||Marvin Harrison||None|
|2007||169||Roy Hall||75||240||4.46||Reggie Wayne||Marvin Harrison||None|
|2008||205||Pierre Garcon||72||212||4.48||Reggie Wayne||Marvin Harrison||Anthony Gonzalez|
|2009||127||Austin Collie||72||204||4.63||Reggie Wayne||Pierre Garcon||None|
|2012||92||T.Y. Hilton||69||178||4.34||Reggie Wayne||Donnie Avery||None|
|2012||206||LaVon Brazill||71||194||4.48||Reggie Wayne||Donnie Avery||None|
|2013||76||Keenan Allen||74||211||4.71||Malcom Floyd||Vincent Brown/Danario Alexander||Eddie Royal|
In 2009, the Colts were without a slot receiver again and drafted Austin Collie. The same thing happened in 2012 when the team selected Hilton. It appears as though the Colts were very much steered by their needs when drafting receivers in the past.
Some people think the Chargers are looking for a deep threat to pair with Allen. This makes some sense because Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked him 78th out of 80 qualifying receivers in deep target percentage.
Landry never had a reception over 45 yards at LSU, so he’s clearly not a big deep threat. Landry is a savvy route-runner who can thrive in a short-passing offense like the one the Chargers used last season. Landry can play outside or in the slot, which buys the Chargers time to replace Eddie Royal.
Maybe Landry isn’t a deep threat by the standard definition, but no one will care if he’s productive in the short and intermediate areas playing multiple positions as a rookie. There’s a lot more to being a good wide receiver than the ability to run fast in a straight line.
Bleacher Report featured columnist Ryan McCrystal called Landry “a willing blocker who looks to deliver big hits to unsuspecting defensive backs and linebackers.” Blocking is a skill that will come in handy in the Chargers’ run-heavy offensive scheme.
Of the receivers Telesco has been directly involved in drafting, only one was in the first round. On average, Telesco selects receivers in the fourth round around pick 130. The Chargers’ pick in the fourth round is 125, but it’s hard to see Landry falling that far unless he’s unable to improve upon his 40-yard dash.
If the Chargers aren’t willing to use an early pick on Landry, they’ll have to turn to some other receivers they can get later like Ryan Grant, Mike Campanaro, Matt Hazel and Jeff Janis. Instead, the Chargers should be willing to double up on draft-day steals by going with Landry.