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Grading Each Draft Pick for the Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers entered the NFL Draft with seven total picks. After trading away their second and third-round picks to the New England Patriots for the 23rd pick, the Bolts finished the draft with only six new players.

Here are my grades by round for each of the six selections by the Chargers:

First Round

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (6th overall)

After Phillip Rivers left for the Colts, the Chargers entered the draft looking for their next franchise quarterback. Justin Herbert may be the perfect fit. 

Herbert’s 64 percent completion percentage over his college career is very low, however he never had great receiving corps at Oregon. He’s not the best passer in the draft, but that is something NFL coaches can help with. 

The past two seasons, Herbert was amazing in the touchdown department. He threw for 61 touchdowns and added six on the ground. Herbert has the strongest arm in this draft class, and is very tough for defenders to bring down. The Chargers have expressed that they want a mobile quarterback, and Herbert checks this box.

There are a lot of similarities between Herbert and Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen. Each have the same 6’ 6”, 240 pound frame, can launch the football down the field, and are great at extending plays by getting outside the pocket.

Herbert’s passing abilities lowered his grade, however, I feel he was the best option for the Chargers. Tyrod Taylor will open the season for the Bolts, but it wouldn’t be surprised if we see the rookie start a few games in 2020. 

Grade: B

Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma (23rd overall) 

Kenneth Murray is an absolute stud. The junior from Oklahoma was a star the minute he stepped onto the field as a freshman. Back in 2018, he was second in the entire NCAA with 155 tackles on the season. Murray’s college dominance earned him ESPN’s second-ranked linebacker status for the draft.

The Chargers are getting a speedy linebacker in Murray, whose 242-pound frame makes him an exceptional tackler in the open field. Murray is also capable of pressuring opposing quarterbacks, and has the leadership trait that very few rookies possess.

After last seasons’ leading tackler, Thomas Davis, left town, the linebacker position became the Chargers’ biggest defensive need heading into the offseason. Therefore, Head Coach Anthony Lynn and General Manager Tom Telesco deserve credit for making an excellent selection in the first round to fill the whole Davis left.

The only reason I’m hesitant to give the Chargers an A+ for Murray is due to how much they gave up to get him.

Grade: A

Fourth Round

Joshua Kelley, RB, UCLA (112th overall)

The Chargers parted ways with their star running back Melvin Gordon last month and have been looking to replace him ever since. This year’s draft class featured a bunch of solid runners. One being Joshua Kelly from UCLA. Kelly had over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in each of his two seasons with the Bruins.

Kelly is very physical, has the burst to break off big runs, and is a great receiver out of the backfield. If he can develop at a quick pace, the Chargers can get the same production they saw from Melvin Gordon, but at a much cheaper price.

The Chargers get held at an A- for this pick only because Kelley most likely won’t see the field too much with running backs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson ahead of him on the depth chart.

Grade: A-

Fifth Round

Joe Reed, WR, Virginia (151st overall)

The Chargers are very thin at wide receiver. They have Pro Bowler Keenan Allen,who is possibly the league’s best slot receiver, and Mike Williams, a big target and deep threat. Aside from these two, there is no one else. The draft was a chance for the Bolts to add some weapons for Tyrod Taylor or new rookie Justin Herbert.

Joe Reed is a jack of all trades. He is officially a wide receiver, yet in his four years at Virginia he lined up in the slot, out wide, and in the backfield. While he isn’t the best route runner, Reed is very dangerous after the catch. To top it all off, Reed was the most lethal kick returner in all of college football. He ended his college career with over 3,000 return yards and five kick return touchdowns.  

I couldn’t be more pleased with the Chargers selection of Reed in the fifth round. The last time a hybrid type player was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL draft was Tyreek Hill back in 2016. That’s going to be tough to live up to, but Joe Reed can be the Chargers’ secret weapon in 2020.

Grade: A+

Sixth Round

Alohi Gilman, S, Notre Dame (186th overall)

With Pro Bowler Derwin James at strong safety, this pick came as a surprise. Alohi Gilman is average size and has average speed but makes up for it with his feisty play. He led the IND conference with three forced fumbles in 2019. 

Gilman probably won’t see the field at all for the Chargers next season but if he can improve his coverage skills over the next few years, he can make something happen in their secondary. 

Grade: C

Seventh Round

K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State (220th overall)

K.J. Hill is a great route-runner with excellent hands. He’s tough for his size, making him hard to bring down in open space. Hill established himself as one of the biggest playmakers for Ohio State last year which may have saved him from going undrafted.

While the Chargers do need to add to their thin receiving corps, I was not a fan of picking Hill in the seventh round of the draft. He isn’t capable of playing vertically, and produced most of his yards off screens and underneath routes. His speed is not good enough to get by defenders down the field which will be a problem in the NFL. 

With Keenan Allen owning the slot in L.A., Hill may not see the field much this year for the Bolts. This pick could have been better used on an offensive tackle.

Grade: D+

Overview

The Chargers came into the draft looking to fill holes in a couple of different positions. That’s exactly what they did. Herbert can become the face of the franchise. Kelley has the potential to replace Melvin Gordon. Murray can jump right into a big defensive role and Reed can give the Bolts the weapon most teams in the league are dying to have.

The one place I feel the Chargers failed to improve during the draft was at offensive tackle. The Bolts traded their best offensive lineman Russell Okung to the Panthers earlier in the offseason, so I expected them to find a replacement come draft time. The Bolts did not take an offensive lineman with any of their six picks which may come back to bite them.

Final Grade: A-

Follow me on Twitter @kyleoconnell23 for more of my content and follow@OT_Heroics!

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