COSTA MESA, Calif. – With three weeks left before this year’s draft, ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay participated in a dueling, two-round mock draft on Wednesday.
Kiper has had Payne going to the Chargers in his last three mock drafts, while McShay had the Chargers selecting Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans in his last draft before switching over to Payne on Wednesday.
Analysis of first-round pick: Payne makes sense for the Chargers. Nose tackle Brandon Mebane turned 33 in January and 3-tech Corey Liuget will be out the first four games of the regular season due to a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
The Chargers allowed a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry last season.
However, the Chargers have capable players already on the roster at interior defensive line in Darius Philon, Isaac Rochell and Damion Square. And I still believe the team’s most obvious need in improving a porous run defense is improving the play at the second level of the defense. So for me, that’s Evans.
Analysis of the second-round pick: I like the selection of Bates here by Kiper. The Chargers signed Jayden Watkins to compete for time at free safety in free agency, but they need a long-term solution at the position and Bates could be a player that comes in and plays right away.
However, I don’t think the Chargers will take an offensive linemen this early in the draft. They took two offensive lineman in the first three rounds last year in Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney. And they have four guys on the roster who can play tackle right now in Russell Okung, Joe Barksdale, Michael Schofield and Sam Tevi.
I think the Chargers continue to hammer the defensive side of the football in the second round and take someone like USC outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu.