Los Angeles Chargers: Draft Preview

It’s late April, which means it’s time for the NFL Draft. If you haven’t been keeping up with the latest draft news and prospects, I’m here to help. Below I’ve provided a broad analysis on the top 11 guys that I believe the Chargers are considering picking with their 1st round pick (13th pick). With the top 3 picks being nearly guaranteed to be quarterbacks, and at least 1-2 more picks before the Chargers that will likely be quarterbacks, they will have plenty of talent to choose from when their pick rolls around. The biggest needs for the Chargers to address in the draft are as follows: LT, CB, S, Edge, TE. LB, WR. Left tackle and cornerback will most likely be the Chargers first two selections, but with a General Manager like Tom Telesco who has a history of taking the “best player available” over the biggest need, who knows what’s going to go down. Along with the descriptions of each of the top prospects, I have created a rating scale to determine just how likely it is for the Chargers to end up with each of these guys. It is separated into two different categories. One is the likelihood that the draftee is still available for the Chargers to select without having to make any trades. The 2nd is the likelihood that the Chargers actually draft that specific player if they have yet to be drafted by another team. The five tiers in the rating system follow: Very low, Unlikely, Average, Likely, Very high
OT Penei Sewell – Oregon

According to nearly everyone, Penei Sewell is the top offensive tackle prospect in the class, and one of the highest rated offensive line prospects we’ve seen in recent memory. Justin Herbert’s former Oregon teammate would be an absolute dream selection for both Herbert and the Chargers. Throughout their time at Oregon, the quarterback and tackle developed an unbreakable bond. Both have publicly said numerous times that they would absolutely love to play together in the NFL. But there is one small problem. Unless some extravagant event happens between now and the draft, Sewell is a near lock to be taken well before the Chargers’ 13th pick. This means that trading up would probably be necessary in order to acquire him, most likely costing multiple early picks within the next few years. Many NFL draft experts believe that Sewell will be drafted 5th overall by the Bengals, meaning the Chargers would have to trade up with the Falcons for the 4th overall pick to have a chance at him. However if Sewell slips past the Bengals, the Chargers could have a clear lane to trade with Detroit for the 7th overall pick for a much cheaper cost and snatch him up there.

Odds Penei Sewell is available when picking: Very low
Odds Chargers draft Penei Sewell if able to: Very high
OL Rashawn Slater – Northwestern

As the consensus #2 offensive lineman in the NFL draft, Rashawn Slater would be a great addition to any NFL offense. Slater has great versatility, allowing him to play both guard and tackle. Some scouts and draft experts have questioned his ability to play tackle at a high level in the NFL due to his arm length being on the short side, but his speed, strength, and technique should make up for this. Slater is another guy the Chargers would probably have to trade up into the draft to acquire, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him fall into the Chargers lap. The highlight of Slater’s career came in the prior season against Ohio State, when he dominated now NFL superstar DE Chase Young for the entire duration of the game.

Odds Rashawn Slater is available when picking: Average
Odds Chargers draft Rashawn Slater if able to: Very high
OT Christian Darrisaw – Virginia Tech

No prospect has a better chance of winding up a Charger than Virginia Tech’s 6’5” 313 pound left tackle Christian Darrisaw. This dude is a complete monster when it comes to blocking for the Quarterback. He did not allow a single sack the entire season and only allowed 6 pressures. Per PFF he was the highest rated power 5 offensive lineman, with the 3rd best pass block grade in all of college football. Darrisaw is rarely ever called for penalties, a major problem for Chargers offensive linemen in the past. Darrisaw’s speed is cause for concern. The Chargers love to run screens, and a slower offensive tackle isn’t ideal for screen type plays. However, Darrisaw has shown the ability to get down field and make blocks, but he may struggle to do so in the NFL. It’s not something that’s too damaging, but it is something to keep an eye on. 

Odds Christian Darrisaw is available when picking: Very high
Odds Chargers draft Christian Darrisaw if able to: Likely
CB Jaycee Horn – South Carolina

If the Chargers don’t select an offensive tackle in round 1, it will likely be because they selected cornerback Jaycee Horn instead. Horn is a perfect match for Brandon Staley’s, the Chargers’ new head coach, defensive scheme. There’s a little bit of Jalen Ramsey in Horn, a guy who established himself as the top cornerback in the NFL under Staley. Horn has earned praise from many NFL defensive backs, including Jalen Ramsey, but he’s not all perfect. Horn does have a holding problem and his movements look stiff at times. He also allowed Alabama WR Devonta Smith to run all over him totaling 7 receptions for over 170 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the bright side his problems are fixable, and he locked down every other target he faced this year, including the likes of Seth Williams, Kyle Pitts, Jaylen Waddle, Justyn Ross, and Elijah Moore. Horn is a very safe pick for the Chargers, and should boom in a secondary with Derwin James, Chris Harris Jr, and Michael Davis.

Odds Jayce Horn is available when picking: Likely
Odds Chargers draft Jaycee Horn if able to: Likely
CB Patrick Surtain II – Alabama

Patrick Surtain is another very high level CB, just like Horn. The problem with him is that he doesn’t fit the Chargers scheme as well, as he is more of a zone coverage type of guy. With that being said, if Surtain does slip past the Cowboys and to the Chargers, don’t be surprised if Tom Telesco pulls the trigger on him. Surtain is a tremendous tackler after the catch, and forced quite a bit of fumbles in past years, although he did not force a single one in his most recent year. Surtain would be the safest pick of all the corners, but his ceiling under Staley would not be as high as someone like Horn who fits into the system better. 

Odds Patrick Surtain II is available when picking: Unlikely
Odds Chargers draft Patrick Surtain II if able to: Likely
WR Jaylen Waddle – Alabama

Speed. Fast. Zoom. Probably the first three things that come to mind when you think about Alabama’s speedster Jaylen Waddle. If any receiver in this draft class has the potential to be the next Tyreek Hill, it’s him. Waddle could be a great deep threat for Herbert, and would be utilized in a similar way to Tyron Johnson and Jalen Guyton were last year. Waddle has potential to be a great receiver and would be an awesome, new, flashy piece for Herbert to utilize, but it would severely limit the development and roles of Johnson and Guyton. It’ll also mean that either a cornerback or tackle wouldn’t be getting added until the 3rd round of the draft, and that’s pretty late to find an immediate starting caliber player.

Odds Jaylen Waddle is available when picking: Average
Odds Chargers draft Jaylen Waddle if able to: Unlikely
WR Devonta Smith – Alabama

The Heisman winning receiver out of Alabama is certainly quite talented, but his size brings a lot of questions about his ability to perform and stay healthy at the next level. Smith weighs in right around 170 lbs. For reference, Tyreek Hill, one of the smallest receivers in today’s NFL weighs about 185. Smith has all the tools needed to make the jump, giving him one of the highest ceilings in the draft, but his size is a risk I am not wanting to risk if I am the Chargers, especially with much bigger holes to fill.

Odds Devonta Smith is available when picking: Average
Odds Chargers draft Devonta Smith if able to: Unlikely
TE Kyle Pitts – Florida

You’ve probably heard talks about Kyle Pitts being one of the best prospects we’ve seen all time, at any position. Standing 6’6”, 240 lbs, his size grants him a mismatch against nearly any defensive back in the NFL. His blazing speed (4.4 40 time) grants him a mismatch against nearly any linebacker in the NFL. Due to his freakish athletic ability and receiving skills, his blocking ability isn’t mentioned enough. Pitts is a very good blocking tight end, allowing teams to be able to play him on all 4 downs, and line up nearly anywhere on the field. The Chargers aren’t in dire need of a tight end after the Jared Cook signing, but if the opportunity presents itself, Kyle Pitts should be their #2 target in the draft, only behind Penei Sewell.

Odds Kyle Pitts is available when picking: Very low
Odds Chargers draft Kyle Pitts if able to: Very high
Edge Kwity Paye – Michigan

Edge is far from the Chargers biggest need, but it is a much bigger need than many seem to think. Joey Bosa has played in 12 or less games in 3 of his 5 years in the NFL, and when playing he rarely ever topped 60% of snaps in a single game. With the loss of Melvin Ingram, the Chargers only have two true edge rushers, Bosa and Nwosu, and neither will be able to play full time. Failing to find a quality edge rusher in the draft will result in Jerry Tillery and Joe Gaziano playing a large portion of snaps. Of all the non offensive linemen and defensive backs, I believe that Kwity Paye has the best chance to be the Chargers 1st round selection.

Odds Kwity Paye is available when picking: Very high
Odds Chargers draft Kwity Paye if able to: Average
OT Teven Jenkins – Oklahoma State

Teven Jenkins is a guy that the Chargers will probably only end up with if they trade down in the draft, or there is a crazy and unexpected tackle push ahead of them in the draft. Standing at 6’6” 320 lbs, Jenkins is an absolute beast. He plays with a lot of efforts, and is great at getting downfield to make blocks for ball carriers. He’s the type of player that tries to (and often does) block his guy out of bounds on every play. Jenkins would be a great addition for the Chargers, but due to Tom Telesco’s draft history it’s unlikely they trade back and select him.

Odds Teven Jenkins is available when picking: Very high
Odds Chargers draft Teven Jenkins if able to: Unlikely
OL Alijah Vera-Tucker – USC

Alijah Vera-Tucker (AVT) is real similar to Rashawn Slater in the way that he has great versatility to play both guard and tackle. He’s also got real short “t-rex” arms, which could severely limit his ability to perform at a high level as a tackle. He’s got very good technique, but his footwork needs work. Another worry with AVT is if he will be able to maintain his high level of play against high level rushers. He faced weak matchups night in and out, so we haven’t truly seen him tested yet. In my opinion AVT is one of the biggest boom-bust guys in this draft. Most mock drafts seem to have AVT going within a few picks after the Chargers selection, which means they’d most likely have to draft him at 13 if he’s their guy.

Odds AVT is available when picking: Very high
Odds Chargers draft AVT if able to: Average

Los Angeles Chargers: Draft Preview

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