As the LA Chargers Draft war room prepares to use the nine selections to usher in the future of the Bolts with recently hired Head Coach Brandon Staley, the 2021 NFL Draft draws ever closer, scheduled for April 29th – 31st in Cleveland Ohio. While Tom Telesco has done an admirable job in free agency to plug up holes in the roster, there are still several glaring needs that, if filled with the correct selections, could push the team over the top in the AFC Playoff race.
With three weeks left until the 2021 NFL Draft, there are still a few moves the Chargers could make to fill vacancies. In this exercise, I will be acting as if none of those positions will be filled in free agency, and the LA Chargers draft is the only way to replace the talent that has departed. With the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs in the same division, the Chargers are hard-pressed to improve drastically and quickly or be relegated to another off-season of playoff-less football. I’ll be listing them from which position needs the most consideration to the least, not a prediction for which draft pick will go first on the board!
For any prospect I name in this article, you can go to the NFL 2021 Draft Prospect Profile page to see a general scouting synopsis for that player.
The 3 Most Important Positions to Fill in the LA Chargers Draft
While there are a multitude of positions that could use an upgrade, there are three that stand out as vacancies imperative to be occupied by a newly drafted player. Along the offensive line, left tackle is a giant red flashing light with third-year Sioux Falls product Trey Pipkins III. He’s made a total of six starts in his short career, and those games haven’t been beacons of peak performance either.
Cornerback is also a position of need in the LA Chargers draft plans. With the departure of Casey Hayward, the best pass defender other than safety Derwin James would be Chris Harris Jr., the slot cornerback in his 11th year in the league. While the Chargers did re-sign Michael Davis, there is a glaring need for a shutdown corner if the Bolts are to compete against the extremely speedy AFC West receivers.
The third and possibly most impactful position on the field is edge-rusher. With Melvin Ingram still unsigned, and not returning due to the nature of this exercise, I think it would be wise if the LA Chargers draft a “tweener” of an outside linebacker/defensive end earlier rather than later to keep the pass-rushing potency of the defense filled with potential.
Why Should the LA Chargers Draft a Left Tackle?
Have you ever heard of Justin Herbert? The number six overall pick last year? The 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the literal beating heart of the Chargers’ future? He needs to stay upright and healthy for the entirety of the season if the Bolts are to return to the playoffs. As we saw with Joe Burrow for the Cincinnati Bengals, not having your blind side protected can completely de-rail a season and quite possibly a career. Whether an elite left tackle is available at the 13th pick this year remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that position has some very viable candidates to take the role.
Three players stand out to me that look like they possess the attributes, statistics, and game film to be the 13th overall pick in the LA Chargers draft: Penei Sewell from Oregon, Rashawn Slater from Northwestern, and Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC. With a few tackle-needy teams ahead of them in the draft, including the Bengals, those players may or may not be there. Should any one of those players fall, it would be an absolute draft steal to acquire one at 13.
Sewell in particular would be my personal opinion of a dream fit, as he was Herbert’s left tackle in college for two seasons. Familiarity and rapport only go so far, as many believe that Rashawn Slater may actually be the best pure left tackle prospect in the draft. Alijah Vera-Tucker is as versatile as they come, being rated as a top-10 player at his position as a guard in 2019, and in 2020 as a left tackle. Having the ability to plug and play in any position on the line is a coveted asset, and one the Chargers could really use when you familiarize yourself with their injury history.
Who Should the LA Chargers Draft if the Tackles Are Gone?
It’s currently a very real possibility that none of the top tackle prospects are available at No. 13 overall, and there could be very real game-changing defenders left on the board. Should the LA Chargers draft the best player available? I personally think so, and the players most likely to “fall” to us, should there be a run-on offensive lineman, are Caleb Farley, Micah Parsons, Greggory Rousseau, Jaycee Horn, and Jayson Oweh.
Farley and Horn are outstanding corner prospects with explosive traits and ideal size for the position (both 6-1) with extremely long arms. Either one would be a worthy choice at pick 13 to take over the right cornerback position in the defense recently vacated by Casey Hayward. If I was on the spot for the decision, I would pick Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina. Caleb Farley has recently undergone his second back surgery, and with the Bolts’ injury history not looking too pretty, I would rather we pick the cleaner medical bill.
Should the top corners also be gone, the next best pick for the LA Chargers draft that would fill a need would be a defensive end/outside linebacker. There are only 12 picks ahead of the Bolts and, with a whopping four to five quarterbacks projected to be selected in the top 10 choices in the draft, one of the top edge rushers could fall to them. Rousseau is one of the top scouted players at the position with top-shelf coaching in his back pocket. Jayson Oweh is a flashy height/weight/speed prospect that with the proper coaching, and playing opposite Joey Bosa, could become a monster to give Patrick Mahomes fits.
I Want Some Excitement! Which Receivers Could the LA Chargers Draft?
If the posturing by teams and recent trades are completely fallacious, and there only turns out to be two to three quarterbacks taken, the draft could provide one of the top pass catchers available. Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, and Ja’Marr Chase are the top wideouts available and one of them theoretically could endure a CeeDee Lamb-like fall out of the top 10 selections. Should any one of those receivers fall, the Chargers would in be a rich-get-richer situation. While giving Justin Herbert more weapons can’t hurt the offense’s chances of being dominant, I just don’t think that selection is warranted at No. 13 for the LA Chargers draft. I would trade to acquire more draft capital.
Unless that player happens to be Kyle Pitts. Should he somehow make it through the gamut of teams in the hunt for a prolific passing option, it could wind up being a draft steal that would be reminiscent of the Derwin James selection. He would immediately be a threatening pass-catcher, inside or outside the numbers, and give the Chargers their long-term answer to tight-end after Jared Cook.
Crazier things have happened on draft night. A few teams will inherently select a player who they shouldn’t every year. I can only hope that the LA Chargers draft ends up being a capitalization off of the situation at hand, and we select the players that fill our team needs.
Thank you for reading my article about the LA Chargers Draft!
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