Final Los Angeles Chargers Mock Draft
Well, Bolt Fam, we made it! It is finally draft week. All the budding excitement has turned to burnout, and will now turn to relief as the process ends this Thursday.
Mum has been the word from within the Chargers camp, although Justin Herbert did admit that he has been lobbying for his current team to draft his former teammate and blindside protector Penei Sewell. That of course would require the Chargers to trade up, most likely to the seventh overall pick, but I have a hard time believing that to be a legitimate possibility given the state of the quarterback demand. There could be two of the top five quarterbacks on the board when the Lions get on the clock, which is bad news for a trade-up.
That being said, there have been some other breadcrumbs for us to follow and I will get into some of them with my final mock draft. I will try and be as predictive as possible and not focus so much on what I would do as I have done in the past. Let’s get it started.
Round One, Pick 13
Christian Darrisaw – Offensive Tackle – Virginia Tech
As more information has trickled in about this offensive line class one thing has unfortunately become clear: it is a deep class, but there are a lot of likely guard converts or right tackle-only prospects. I have shared this information previously, but this is a stubby offensive tackle class. There is not a lot of length to go around, in fact, there are only eight of the perceived top 30 that have arms that measure 34 inches or longer. Darrisaw is one of them.
Tom Telesco recently tried to backpedal a little bit from Brandon Staley’s previous comments that implied the team really values length at the position. Despite Telesco’s efforts, the reality is that they do really value length at the position. A different coaching staff was present at the time, but they drafted Forrest Lamp in the second round and he never got a fair shake at either tackle position. He was perceived as the steal of the draft back then, but the reality is that he fell because of his lack of length – he measured in with 32 and ¼ inch arms at the Combine that year. For comparison’s sake, Trey Pipkins and Sam Tevi both surpassed the 34-inch threshold.
The narratives surrounding Darrisaw on social media have gotten out of hand in my opinion. He is not a perfect prospect, but he has absolutely earned the right to have his name thrown into the ring for that third offensive tackle ranking. He brings prototypical left tackle size and length and is one of the best athletes at the position in this class. He wasn’t able to test at his pro day, but I’m fairly confident he would have put up ridiculous numbers. There are several instances on tape where he was running stride for stride 25 yards down the field with his skill position teammates. Darrisaw will have to clean up some things with his technique and prove that he can finish his blocks at a more consistent level but this would be a great pick for the Chargers.
This is a no-brainer selection in this particular scenario where Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Patrick Surtain, Jaylen Waddle, and Jaycee Horn were all off the board. If one of the top two corners is on the board I could see the Chargers going in that direction, but I would be surprised at this point if Darrisaw is not the name that Roger Goodell announces on Thursday night for the Chargers. Darrisaw is my 22nd player overall.
Round Two, Pick 47
Payton Turner – Edge Rusher – Houston
I’ve had this sneaky feeling that the Chargers are going to throw us a bit of a curveball with this selection. If you’ve been following me on Twitter you know that I am a proponent of getting Staley a true secondary chess piece to play with, however, edge rusher is always going to be the more valuable position.
The coaching staff and Telesco have publicly stated their belief in Uchenna Nwosu’s ability to be the Robin to Joey Bosa’s Batman this year. To their credit, Nwosu was one of the most efficient pass rushers in the league when he was healthy last year. That’s the problem, though. He has unfortunately carried on the second-round tradition for the Chargers of struggling with injuries. The team might publicly believe in Nwosu, but they absolutely have to be proactive with this position due to his health issues and the fact that he and Kyler Fackrell will be free agents after the 2021 season.
The Chargers could wait and target someone in the third or fourth round that’s a little more of a longer-term developmental piece, but I don’t believe the Chargers would trust Fackrell enough to the point where he’s guaranteed to be the team’s third edge rusher. He’s closer to the skill level of an Isaac Rochell than he is someone like Nwosu – and the team has highlighted his ability on special teams quite frequently. Generally speaking, teams don’t use their third edge rusher as a core special teams player.
The Chargers will be counting on a lot of young players in the secondary, and the best way to make things easier on them is to have a high-level pass rush. I do believe that Turner could serve as a complementary pass rusher as soon as he steps on the field. He brings incredible effort, length, and versatility to the table and could definitely provide the Chargers a long-term upgrade and stability over Fackrell. Turner is my 60th player overall.
Round Three, Pick 77
Paulson Adebo – Cornerback – Stanford
The Chargers certainly could take a cornerback before this point, especially if they feel like Michael Davis is better suited as a number two option. However, if the coaching staff feels like they have some flexibility with the presence of Davis and Chris Harris, then they can afford to wait. In this scenario, they are able to grab one of my favorite corners in the class in Adebo.
I am fully aware that I seem to be much higher on him than the general public is, but I do believe that Adebo has as high of a ceiling as any corner in this class.
Adebo was arguably the best corner in the country in 2018 as a redshirt sophomore, a season in which he earned first-team All-American honors. Although he was still productive in 2019, it was perceived as a down season for him. He still earned first-team All-Conference honors, but the league was sour enough on him after the season that he decided to return to school for one more season. Then Covid hit and he was one of many Pac-12 players that decided to opt-out. Because of this, I do think it is somewhat realistic that he is on the board when the Chargers are on the clock with the 77th overall selection.
Adebo is a physical and aggressive corner, who brings the best resume of ball production of any corner in this class. His two-year peak netted him 38 pass break-ups and eight interceptions. If a team can fine-tune his technique this could be the steal of the draft. The Chargers could be the perfect situation for him with coach Staley, defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill, and players like Davis, Harris, and Derwin James able to support him.
I feel so strongly about Adebo that I would even take him with the 47th overall pick. He is my 40th player overall.
Round Three, Pick #97
Tyree Gillespie – Safety – Missouri
The Chargers will have to add a starting-caliber safety at some point in the draft, Staley’s defense will require it. His staff appears to be very bullish on Nasir Adderley, so they don’t necessarily have to take one here, but it should be one of their first five picks. If they were to take Richie Grant or Jevon Holland in the second round, I would not be surprised. However, the selection of Turner pushes the other positions down the priority board.
This defense will require their safeties to move around, so they have to target versatile players. Telesco alluded to this in his recent press conference when asked if their process of evaluating the safety position has changed with Staley in-house. Staley will use James like a chess piece, moving him from deep safety, to the slot – aka the STAR role, and in the box when they go to dime packages. This means that the other safeties on the team will have to have the ability to at least do two of those things. Adderley for example can play in the slot and play deep.
This is where someone like Gillespie comes into play. Missouri played him most frequently as a single high deep safety. He brings legitimate 4.4 speed and range to the table so it is understandable why they chose to use him that way. When he’s able to keep things in front of him he processes information well and reacts with aggression. He also has the ability to play in the box and is one of the best tacklers in space of any safety in this class. Turn on their game against Alabama and you’ll see him tackle Waddle in space on a few occasions, which is no easy task.
He really reminded me of Kareem Jackson, someone who this coaching staff knows rather well. The biggest concern with him is that he did not register a single interception in college, but if they’re able to hone that in, he has the kind of physical upside to be a key contributor going forward.
I would have preferred someone like Jamar Johnson from Indiana here, but he was off the board. Gillespie is ninth in my safety rankings.
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Round Four, Pick #118
Robert Hainsey – Offensive Lineman – Notre Dame
It wouldn’t be a true Chargers mock draft without someone from Notre Dame, am I right? If I had to pick one former golden domer to be the pick for the Chargers, it would be Aaron Banks. However, Hainsey would be a great selection as well.
Versatility has become somewhat of a buzzword for the Chargers, something that started off when they signed Matt Feiler. That being said, Hainsey is actually a versatile prospect. He was a three-year starter at right tackle at Notre Dame, but he has been training at all five positions during this offseason and spent the majority of his time at the Senior Bowl taking reps at guard and center.
Hainsey would check a lot of boxes for the Chargers and Telesco who do need to add to the interior depth in this draft. Notre Dame connection – check, captain at Notre Dame – check, participated in the Senior Bowl – check, positional versatility – check. This might seem a little early for him to some, but Hainsey graded out as my 10th highest interior offensive lineman so getting him in the fourth round is good value.
Round Five, Pick #159
Josh Palmer – Wide Receiver – Tennessee
The Chargers seem content with their wide receiver room, at least publicly. It stands to reason that Tyron Johnson takes another step forward as the team’s third receiver. Then the team will have Jalen Guyton and another year of development from Joe Reed and K.J. Hill. It would have been great to see those last two get some more time on the field in 2020 so we could have a bigger grip on where they are in that development. But we didn’t so I personally don’t believe the Chargers would pass on giving Herbert another toy to play with.
Palmer was victim to some really poor quarterback play and really only had this past season as the Volunteers’ top target, so there’s not a lot of production on his resume. However, perhaps my favorite thing about him is that he put out his best tape against the best competition. If you watch his games against Alabama and Georgia, you’ll see a standout player. There weren’t many wide receivers this year that made plays against Surtain, but Palmer did.
A lot of people have pegged the Chargers as a team that needs to add a slot/gadget player to their room, but I think they’re fine in that regard with Reed, and Austin Ekeler. Not to mention the recently added Jared Cook will take a lot of reps from the slot as well. I believe they need to add an outside wide receiver and that’s where someone like Palmer comes into play. He brings a diverse skill set to the table as a route runner and vertical threat. His ball skills are outstanding as well.
Palmer is my 12 highest-graded receiver, getting him in the fifth round would be a steal.
Round Six, Pick #185
Quintin Morris – Tight End – Bowling Green
The Chargers should add a tight end at some point in the draft. Pegging the type of player they’re looking for, and where they might select him has been tricky. With Cook, Donald Parham, and Stephen Anderson in the room already they will need to add someone that brings a blocking presence. But that player still probably has to have some receiving upside. Tommy Tremble fits that mold and obviously checks the Notre Dame box, but they’d probably have to take him with that 77th pick. Boise State’s John Bates would also fit that mold, plus he was a core special teams player for the Broncos. He would be a fantastic day three selection but he went eleven picks after I took Hainsey in this scenario.
Morris doesn’t have the athletic upside that those two do, but he did test at a relatively explosive level and unlike the other two, he does bring a track record of production as a receiver. He led his team in receiving each of the last two years. He also made a strong impact as a blocker, and reportedly improved that aspect of his game every year that he was at Bowling Green.
If they decide to pass on the position and add a blocker as an undrafted free agent, Dylan Soehner from Iowa State or Shaun Beyer from Iowa would make sense. I’m also intrigued about taking former Michigan fullback Ben Mason and converting him to tight end.
Round Six, Pick #198
Justin Hilliard – Linebacker – Ohio State
The Chargers are overhauling their special teams unit, and appear to finally have a coaching staff that really values it. I expect that to be the focus for these last two picks of the draft, similar to last year with the selections of Hill, and Alohi Gilman.
Hilliard was stuck behind quite the logjam over the last few seasons with Pete Werner, and Baron Browning. He flashed good instincts and athleticism in the moments he was on the field, but most of his work was on the special teams. Per Ben Fennell, he logged over 700 career special teams snaps at Ohio State.
His lack of experience and resume will push him down the board. This is absolutely a special teams pick but I do think there is some upside here as an off-the-ball linebacker too.
Round Seven, Pick #241
Shemar Jean-Charles – Cornerback – Appalachian State
Many have pegged this as an Avery Williams draft slot for the Chargers, because of his special teams acumen and potential to replace Harris as the team’s slot corner down the road. Williams went shortly after I picked Hilliard in this simulation so I pivoted to a different player who fits that mold in Jean-Charles.
He developed a strong ability to contribute on special teams and still played on the punt coverage team as a junior when he became a starting cornerback. For good measure, he led the FBS in pass break-ups last year as well. This is another special teams pick, but like Hilliard, I do believe there is legitimate upside here for him to become a starting nickel corner in the NFL.
Well, that will do it, my next article will be after the first round is over. Now, we wait.
Feel free to let me know how I did with this draft by voting and commenting below or on social media!