5 Best Rookie Seasons In Chargers History

Credit: Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Chargers have a rich history of finding top-notch talent in the draft. They have drafted several top quarterbacks, playmakers, and elite defenders. Several players who donned the Bolts in their first season have won the coveted Rookie of the Year award. Let’s take a look at the best of the best rookie seasons

Best Chargers Rookie Seasons of All-Time

Don Woods 1974

In a Cinderella story for the ages, Don Woods, a late-round draft pick who initially served as a backup, defied expectations to become a star in his 1974 rookie season with San Diego. He was actually a dual-threat QB before becoming a running back in the NFL. Woods exploded onto the scene in Week 3, racking up over 100 rushing yards.

This ignited a then-rookie record streak of seven consecutive 100-yard games. He finished the year with 1,162 rushing yards, second most in the league that year. Woods’ dominant rookie campaign not only earned him the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award but also cemented his place as a legend in Chargers lore.

Joey Bosa 2016

NFL: 2016 NFL Draft
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Bosa‘s arrival in 2016 as the third overall pick by San Diego instantly bolstered their defensive line. Despite missing four games due to injury, Bosa’s impact was undeniable. He terrorized opposing quarterbacks, registering a staggering 10.5 sacks, the most by a Chargers rookie in franchise history. His relentless pressure and ability to disrupt plays earned him the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Though the Chargers fell short of the playoffs, Bosa’s dominant rookie season solidified him as a cornerstone of the defense and a future star in the league.

Keenan Allen 2013

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers
Stan Liu-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Stan Liu-USA TODAY Sports

Keenan Allen entered the NFL in 2013 as a third-round pick for the San Diego Chargers. While the team already had established receivers, Allen quickly impressed. He started 15 games, setting franchise rookie records for receptions (71) and receiving yards (1,046). Allen’s consistent route running and ability to create separation made him a reliable target for Philip Rivers, the Chargers’ veteran quarterback. Although the Chargers missed the playoffs that year, Allen’s strong rookie campaign signaled his potential as a future star, paving the way for a successful career that would see him become a multiple Pro Bowl selection.

Leslie O’Neal 1986

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RVR Photos-USA TODAY SportsCredit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

In 1986, Leslie O’Neal burst onto the scene for the San Diego Chargers as the eighth overall pick in the draft. The rookie defensive lineman wasted no time making his presence felt, racking up a team-record 12.5 sacks on the season. This accomplishment not only solidified his role as a defensive force, but it also broke the Chargers’ single-season sack record. However, O’Neal’s impactful rookie campaign was cut short by a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the following two seasons. Despite this setback, his early success foreshadowed a dominant career that would see him become a six-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame.

Justin Herbert 2020

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In his surprising rookie year of 2020, Justin Herbert defied expectations by taking the starting quarterback job for the Los Angeles Chargers in just the second game. He threw for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns while leading the Chargers on a four-game winning streak to close out the season. Despite not making the playoffs, Herbert’s impressive play earned him the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, solidifying his position as the Chargers’ franchise quarterback for years to come.