LONG BEACH, CA-The Los Angeles Chargers seem to be hitting all the right spots when it comes to appeasing their fan base. After relocating to the Los Angeles market, the Chargers have been all over the Southland trying to make inroads with fans. The NFL Draft is a good example of how the Chargers have stretched themselves to different communities.
The Chargers held draft celebrations at Disney’s ESPN Zone (first round) and StubHub Center last year. This year, the team decided to switch up and do something different for season ticket holders. The Chargers made a splash with their fans on the first day of the NFL Draft, opting to hold their festive first round event aboard the Queen Mary just outside of downtown Long Beach.
“We’re at the beautiful Queen Mary. This is the pendulum of Long Beach and Los Angeles,” said Edward Duran, a retired military serviceman. “It’s a pinnacle point. It’s a focal point. We’re all getting together, we’re all having fun. I think it’s important that the Chargers did this. I would have probably liked to have seen it at StubHub Center, like they had it last year, but the fact that they’re using this monument to bring the fans together, it kind of sets a tone within the fans that the Chargers are here, we’re here to win it, and they’re investing in their fans for us to have a good time.”
The build-up to the Chargers eventually taking Florida State defensive back Derwin James with the No. 17 overall pick was excruciating for some fans. Many fans see the draft as a gateway of what to expect for the upcoming football season. Unlike the other 31 ballclubs around the league, the Chargers are in a unique space in this regard.
By leaving San Diego for the Los Angeles area, the Chargers have had to work overtime to try to secure a fan base more acclimated to the Los Angeles Rams, a team with a history of playing in front of Southland supporters. This was a challenge for the Chargers in 2017.
But with their feet wet with constant appearances in Orange County (team practice facility), Los Angeles, Inglewood, and other locations, the Chargers appear to have started to generate the kind of buzz they enjoyed at their former landing spot. As evident by the jovial atmosphere on the Queen Mary, the enthusiasm is about as robust as it has been.
“Last year, it was a snapshot of what yet is to come this year,” Duran said. “We were strong. We ended (the season) strong. We were a step away from making it into the playoffs. I think this year, with (Forrest) Lamp back, and everybody else coming back, I’m hoping this year…I can see us going. As long as we do things right in the draft, we’re good.”
Before the stir crazy moment of seeing James walking up and greeting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the Chargers made their selection, fans milled about the variety of decks on the Queen Mary, spewing out their football knowledge among each other and clamoring for what player they think would help boost the team into a playoff contender.
“It set the tone for the rest of the year as far as what our outlook is going to be, especially if we go defense this year, which I think,” Jacob Munoz said. “They’re going to set that tone that we’re going to be respected this year from our defense. I think our offense is set. We already have great receivers. We have (Philip) Rivers, we have (Melvin) Gordon. I think we’re set.”
Besides the opine offered up by Munoz, the consensus from fans was that the Chargers needed to get a defensive player. The Chargers would go three steps better, grabbing four defensive players with their first four picks. Besides nabbing James, the Chargers snapped up USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (No. 48), North Carolina State defensive lineman Justin Jones (No. 84), and West Virginia linebacker Kyzir White (No. 119).
For Ricky Bradford, the Chargers bloodline runs deep in his family. His parents are big-time Chargers fans. He’s been a backer of the team for 33 years. Though he would have liked for the Chargers to go after Lousiville mercurial quarterback Lamar Jackson, Bradford said what would make the most sense for the team to do was for the Chargers to go after a defensive player.
“Well, we don’t need a quarterback for another two years,” Bradford said. “A linebacker is good, a noseguard would be good.”
As for what he expects from the Chargers this season, Bradford wasn’t able to contain his excitement.
“We’re ready,” Bradford said. “We finished last year strong. If we had two more games, we would have gotten in the playoffs and anything could have happened. This year, we’re going to kick it off right.”
The Chargers collaborated with the Los Angeles Rams to announce their draft picks in rounds 4-7 at the Los Angeles Stadium & Entertainment District at Hollywood Park in Inglewood on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.