COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Chargers filled several position needs in free agency, including strengthening their offensive line and adding star power to their secondary, but they have yet to be determined who will succeed Philip Rivers at quarterback.
The answer might not be known until the season is closer. The Chargers have emphasized their confidence in quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is returning for the second season of his two-year contract, but Cam Newton remains available as a free agent, and the Chargers also own the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL draft.
The last time the Chargers selected a quarterback with a first-round pick was 2004, when they made Eli Manning the top overall selection, then traded him to the New York Giants in exchange for Rivers, who was selected with the No. 4 overall pick. Rivers played 16 seasons for the Chargers and was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, though he never won an AFC championship.
Prior to Manning, the Chargers selected Ryan Leaf in 1998 with the No. 2 overall pick. Leaf played three seasons and has been widely considered among the worst selections in NFL history. The opportunity to select a quarterback in the first round gives Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, who has been on the job since 2013, a chance to set the organization’s course for years to come.
In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay projected the Chargers will select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the No. 6 overall pick and Wisconsin outside linebacker Zack Baun with the No. 37 overall selection.
Love, who turns 22 in November, started 32 games at Utah State before departing with a season of eligibility remaining. He passed for 8,600 yards and 60 touchdowns, with 29 interceptions and a 61.2 completion percentage. Love experienced a drop-off in production in his final season at Utah State, throwing nearly three times as many interceptions (17) as he did the season before (6).
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Love has plenty of upside, including his size and arm strength, and would have plenty of sure-handed targets in L.A. with receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, tight end Hunter Henry and running back Austin Ekeler.
However, questions remain about Love’s ball-security issues and whether he is ready to start immediately. But the Chargers have the luxury of Taylor, a nine-year pro with three seasons of starting experience, in whom Telesco has said he has plenty of confidence. This could be a great opportunity for Taylor to start again and for Love to learn from the sideline for a season.
Baun could provide immediate depth on a defense that includes ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III, though it remains uncertain exactly what his fit would be given a lack of size at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds. Baun’s draft stock has been rising since having an outstanding senior season at Wisconsin, where he had 12.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss and returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown.