LAFB Chargers Mock Draft 1.0: Chargers Add To Herberts Weapons
Free agency is in full swing right now on social media, but there’s no better time to get my first Chargers-centric mock draft up than the week during the Scouting Combine. There is going to be some serious movement up and down the perceived draft boards as prospects raise, solidify, or tank their stock’s in Indianapolis over the next 10 days.
I decided to use Pro Football Focus mock draft simulator for this particular three-round exercise. I tried to blend my own opinion of these players with team needs here as best as I could but in the end, pre-free agency mocks are really just meant to be fun. I generally think the Chargers just need to add more good players to the team anyway, kind of regardless of position. If Tom Telesco really is a “best player available” GM, this is a great draft to put that in practice. Let’s dive in.
Round 1 – Pick 17
Chris Olave – Wide Receiver – Ohio State
I’m sure this will catch some heat, but there weren’t any quarterbacks taken in front of me in this simulation. This is a lousy quarterback class and this is a scenario that seems to be gaining steam around the draft media. This scenario would of course push some of the top-tier players up the board, much to our dismay as Chargers fans.
My current preference is for the Chargers to add one of the better edge rushers in this class, but Michigan’s David Ojabo, Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, and Purdue’s George Karlaftis all went before this selection. Georgia’s Travon Walker was on the board here, but I don’t really view him as a scheme fit right now and he is supposedly viewed as the draft’s third-best edge rusher and likely a top 12 pick. Cornerback would be my next preferred option, but the top two were long gone and Clemson’s Andrew Booth and Washington’s Trent McDuffie went 14 and 16 in this scenario.
So this left me looking at the two smaller school tackles that I don’t really believe in or giving Justin Herbert another weapon to open up a whole other gear on offense. Reaching for an offensive tackle that I doubt has day one starter capability is not really an idea that I can get behind right now so the position choice was really made for me.
Olave’s teammate, Garrett Wilson, was the first wide receiver taken in this simulation. Then the Eagles used their first of three picks on Arkansas’ Treylon Burks. (As I said, a lot of really good players were off the board before the Chargers were set to pick in this scenario.) Ultimately, the decision came down to Olave and Alabama’s Jameson Williams. The Chargers are in a win-now position, so until we get some clarity on the latter’s ACL tear I have him off my board. Choosing Olave was the best decision available to me.
General manager Tom Telesco said today that they are still trying to ensure that the offense can continue to evolve and grow along with Herbert. In order to do that they need a certified burner to take the top off of the offense. Olave fits that to a tee and would be a massive upgrade over Jalen Guyton. He is a pristine route runner and is supposedly going to run in the low 4.3’s later this week. His speed would legitimately threaten defenses deep and take attention away from Keenan Allen, Mike Williams (who I expect to be back next season), and Josh Palmer. Olave is coming off a season where he accumulated 65 catches for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns.
This selection would also afford the Chargers flexibility in case Williams’ 2021 season proves to be an aberration and/or Allen starts to show signs of a decline. If neither thing happens, then the Chargers could have one of the best receiving corps in the league for the next two to three years.
Round 2 – Pick 49
Jalen Pitre – Defensive Back – Baylor
After taking a receiver in the first round, I was really hoping to be able to invest this pick in the trenches somehow but I did not love how the board fell to me in that regard. One of my favorite players in this class, Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones went at pick #48, which was a big bummer. Minnesota edge rusher Boye Mafe went a few picks earlier. There was a run on offensive tackles in the early parts of the second round that left that cupboard pretty bare too. USC’s Drake Jackson and Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders were on the board here but I’m generally looking to invest top 50 picks in instant impact players and I think those two players are closer to the project side of things.
As it currently stands, the Chargers secondary needs more playmakers. I believe that Brandon Staley wants to have the flexibility to play the dime package (6 defensive backs) as much as possible. Due to last year’s roster construction and injuries he was not able to do that. Chris Harris will likely not return this year, nor should he, so the team also has a need at slot corner. Pitre is one of my favorite players in this class and would cover both of those spots. Baylor used him all over their defense, and would even use him to play as a weak side on-ball linebacker to set the edge and rush the passer. He’s the kind of versatile playmaker that Staley would love to pair alongside Derwin James, Asante Samuel Jr, and Nasir Adderley and would make an immediate impact as a starter, unlike the other players that were still on the board. He forced two fumbles, two interceptions, and six pass breakups last season.
Round 3 – Pick 81
Max Mitchell – Offensive Tackle – Louisiana
Obviously, to this point, I have chosen to value the available talent over position of need, but the Chargers do need to address the long-term future of the right tackle position through the draft at some point. Bryan Bulaga is going to get cut in the next few weeks to help the Chargers clear some more cap space. I am ok with Storm Norton being the team’s primary swing tackle/starter in pinch, and while Trey Pipkins certainly displayed some much-needed growth in 2021 I remain skeptical of his long-term future in the NFL.
Based on the way this offensive tackle draft class is shaking out, I am hoping they address the short term future of the position with a veteran free agent such as Morgan Moses or Riley Reiff – both of whom have connections to the coaching staff and fit the scheme/prototype that the team seems to be wanting. Then I’d like to see them supplement the tackle depth chart through the depth chart to challenge Pipkins’ spot as the fourth tackle and be that developmental option.
Washington State’s Abraham Lucas is my preferred option in that regard, but he was off the board in this instance so I went with Mitchell. He is another small school tackle and will need time to adjust to the speed and power of the NFL but I think his athletic traits are tailor-made for the offense the Chargers want to run. He also has the utility that they seem to value and made starts at four of the five spots for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Obviously, I did not address the edge position in this simulation in the manner that I wanted but when there aren’t any quarterbacks taken in front of the Chargers that can change things. I do believe that this is a valuable exercise because Mitchell Trubisky is currently getting starter-level buzz, which truly indicates how low the league values this incoming quarterback draft class. Still, I would feel really good about adding two impact players like Olave and Pitre to the Chargers if they were able to cover up some of the other needs, such as the edge rusher spot behind Uchenna Nwosu (who I also expect back) and Joey Bosa, in free agency.