With the Chargers season officially in the tank, and getting progressively worse by the minute, I decided to shift gears and write my first seven-round mock draft of the season. The draft order is still completely up in the air with four games to go, but the Chargers are almost guaranteed to be picking within the top five. They currently sit behind the Cowboys and Bengals in the draft order, which will put them in a good spot in terms of finding a top tier prospect.
The 2021 NFL Draft order as of Week 14:
1. Jets: 0-12
2. Jaguars: 1-11
3. Bengals: 2-9-1
4. Cowboys: 3-9
5. Chargers: 3-9
6. Eagles: 3-8-1
7. Panthers: 4-8
8. Falcons: 4-8
9. Dolphins (Via Texans): 8-4
10. Broncos: 4-8
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 9, 2020
The best-case scenario for the Chargers would be to jump one of those two teams, though. The Bengals currently have the Penei Sewell pick on lockdown. Sewell is the crown jewel of this draft class, outside of Trevor Lawrence. He’s a generational offensive tackle that we have not seen in quite some time. He brings a unique blend of power, technique, and athleticism to the position and would instantly be a top-five left tackle in the league. You just don’t see many offensive linemen with his kind of physical tools, and perhaps the best part about him is that he’s only twenty years old. There is a huge upside there for an NFL team to tap into.
"Is Penei Sewell really that good?"
He's better. pic.twitter.com/tCJvhIy1dT
— Steven Haglund (@StevenIHaglund) November 16, 2020
If the Chargers end up with the third overall pick and get Sewell that would be amazing. However, it seems unlikely that the Bengals win another game the rest of the season. The good news there is that the Cowboys, currently sitting at the fourth pick, will get the chance to beat them next week. If they do, that would mean the Chargers could end up with the fourth pick.
Losing out on Sewell would hurt, but getting the fourth overall pick means they are in a prime position to trade back and gain extra picks. Trading back with a team who needs a new franchise quarterback like BYU’s Zach Wilson or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, and gaining more picks would be a great consolation prize for losing out on Sewell. The Bears and 49ers stand out to me as teams picking around the top 10 that could stand to trade up for one of those two quarterbacks.
Trading back is the way to go at pick number four. I think whoever has that pick, be it the Cowboys, Chargers, or Bengals, would be wise to do that. Since the Chargers currently sit at number five, I will be doing this mock draft with the intention of staying put. Let’s get started.
LAFB Mock Draft 1.0: Los Angeles Chargers
Round One, Pick 5 – Jaycee Horn, Cornerback, South Carolina
In this simulation, the Bengals took Sewell at three and the Cowboys took Miami’s Gregory Rousseau at four. With the best offensive linemen off the board, I think the value here dictates a shift to cornerback. There are several other offensive tackles I like in this class, including USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, and Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg, but as it currently stands I don’t believe any of those three are worth a top-five pick. Telesco lives and dies, which he has been doing a lot of lately, by his “best player available mantra”, which is why I think in this scenario he would shift to cornerback.
There will be a lot of heated debates in the offseason about who the best cornerback in this class is, but for me, it is South Carolina’s, Jaycee Horn. Horn is a sticky, feisty, and physical corner that the Chargers haven’t had in a long time. Jason Verrett’s one standout season is about it. They just saw what having that kind of corner can do when they went up against Stephon Gilmore on Sunday, and I think they need that kind of tenacious mentality in the secondary. Derwin James provides that but he has not been able to stay on the field. Horn can start from day one opposite of Michael Davis and instantly provide a big upgrade in the secondary and get them back to the “Jack Boys” days of old.
South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn is impressive on tape! Big time quicks and ball skills. Love his his feisty play style too! Here’s an example of that 👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/9PzWPjNXSb
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) December 10, 2020
Round Two, Pick 37 – Creed Humphrey, Center, Oklahoma
The challenge presented to the Chargers in this upcoming draft is if you take the best player on the board regardless of position, then you risk potentially losing out on a top tier offensive tackle, and that’s what happened in this simulation. Eichenberg, Slater, Vera-Tucker, North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz, and Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood all went before this second-round pick. If that scenario pans out, I would pivot towards an interior offensive line pick. There are some other tackle prospects down the road that I would be interested in but, not in the second round.
Instead, I opted for Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey. Humphrey is a very experienced center, who has started a lot of games for the Sooners. He’s one of the bigger centers in college football, listed at 6’5 and 315 pounds. He possesses the mobility and power that suggest he could play any of the three interior spots. He’s a former wrestler and is a master of leverage at the point of attack as well. The Chargers have been searching and searching for the heir apparent to Nick Hardwick at the center position. After twelve games, it is clear that it is not Dan Feeney. He’s a serviceable and durable player, but he really should be a backup at this point.
Toughness is a mindset.
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) October 22, 2020
Round Three, Pick 69 – Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami
At some point in this draft, the Chargers need to add a complementary edge rusher to their current rotation. Melvin Ingram should not return to the team unless he signs for the veteran’s minimum and as a backup. Uchenna Nwosu is a nice player who took a positive step forward in his development while Ingram was hurt the first time around. He can be the starter opposite of Joey Bosa in 2021, but the Chargers pass rush has dealt with so many injuries this season that they need to stack up on depth.
Enter Jaelan Phillips from Miami, who frankly might not even be a third-round pick by the time April rolls around. He’s battled through some injuries, a transfer from UCLA, and not a lot of playing time at Miami until 2020, so it is possible he might end up stuck with his current evaluation. But he has been dominating games for the Hurricanes over the last couple of months and is gaining a lot of buzz.
He possesses great size at the position, coming in at 6’5 and 260 pounds, making him a perfect fit in terms of physical profile for the Chargers LEO position. Phillips has a great get-off that gives him an edge over opposing offensive tackles. He also employs a couple of counters, including a nasty swim move and even a nice spin move. Getting him in the third round would be a great value.
Jaelen Phillips (bottom of the screen #15) has my attention. He's been gaining a lot of buzz recently, and rightfully so. Ideal size and length at the position, good motor and most importantly is good vs the pass AND the run. pic.twitter.com/CJWYVcnqTE
— Steven Haglund (@StevenIHaglund) December 9, 2020
Round Three, Pick 97 – Myron Cunningham, Offensive Tackle, Arkansas
With the third-round compensatory pick the Chargers received for Philip Rivers’ departure, they finally get an offensive tackle in this simulation. Arkansas’ Myron Cunningham is a late riser, having gone the junior college route before his arrival in Little Rock. At 6’7 and 325 pounds, he possesses great size and length to play the position at the next level. He’s a very raw prospect but he only allowed one sack in 2019 for the Razorbacks and has built off that momentum in the 2020 season allowing one of the lowest pressure rates in all of college football. Similar to Phillips, he might not be there in the third round come April but he was there in this simulation.
(Regardless of the players, the Chargers absolutely have to grab at least two offensive linemen with these first four picks)
Round four, pick 106 – Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Wide Receiver, Iowa
The Chargers should eventually get Justin Herbert another weapon in this upcoming draft, and they get that here with their three biggest positional needs already taken care of. They will have a very tough decision to make with Mike Williams down the road, whether that be an extension in the offseason or simply letting him play out his current rookie contract and then re-evaluating after the 2021 season.
Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette would be a great fit alongside Keenan Allen and Williams for 2021 and beyond, given his explosiveness down the field and yards after the catch ability. The Chargers have some intriguing developmental pieces beyond their two best receivers, but that shouldn’t deter them from trying to upgrade the talent in the wide receiver room next April.
Some analysts are suggesting that they might be wise to spend that first-round pick on a Ja’Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle type, but they have other more glaring needs at more valuable positions to justify taking another receiver in the top 10.
Round Five, Pick 145 – Alaric Jackson, Offensive Linemen, Iowa
Day three picks are generally dart throws; if they pan out your team looks like geniuses, if not, no harm, no foul. This is the first dart throw of this particular simulation.
Iowa’s Alaric Jackson is a very intriguing prospect, he returned to school this year to boost his draft stock and it hasn’t really worked out. He was considered a mid-round prospect last year and that seems to be the case for him in this upcoming draft. He’s got very good size and mobility but his awareness isn’t the greatest, which has led to a lot of mental lapses. Some project he might be better suited to play guard in the league where his mistakes can be minimized. Either way, the upside is worth the fifth-round pick for the Chargers.
Round Six, Pick 182 – Master Teague, Running Back, Ohio State
When it comes to the running back position, the Chargers are in an interesting spot. Austin Ekeler is clearly a great player, but he’s not a workhorse type back and needs a physically imposing complimentary back that can take care of the dirty work. Kalen Ballage fits the mold, but he is a pending free agent and hasn’t exactly been super efficient with his touches. They drafted Joshua Kelley last year but he has been wildly underwhelming ever since he fumbled in back-to-back games earlier in the season. Justin Jackson has been a very efficient runner in his career, but he can’t seem to stay healthy.
The Chargers could look to add a back to the rotation in order to provide some insurance and competition in case Ballage prices himself out of Los Angeles and Kelley doesn’t develop how they hope. Master Teague is a big, physical, downhill type runner that would compliment Ekeler well.
Round Six, Pick 201 – Khyiris Tonga, Defensive Tackle, BYU
Khyiris Tonga is the biggest dart throw of dart throws, pun intended. He is a massive human being, checking in at 6’5 and 320 pounds. His physical prowess is outstanding, but he gets overwhelmed by double teams and technically sound offensive linemen far too often. He’s an incredibly raw prospect who shows flashes of dominance, but he also just got pushed around by the “mighty mites” of Coastal Carolina. The Chargers’ interior defensive line needs help, but not enough to take a defensive tackle much earlier than this. As a sixth-round prospect, Tonga fits the profile of high risk, high reward that merits this kind of selection.
Round Seven, Pick 225 – Cole Fotheringham, Tight End, Utah
Yes, this is a University of Utah alumni selecting a University of Utah player, sue me. The Chargers tight end situation behind Hunter Henry is quite murky. And it could get even murkier if Henry decides to take his talents elsewhere, which would obviously warrant a tight end selection much earlier than the seventh round. With the assumption in mind that Henry will be back for the long term with the Chargers, they can afford to take a swing on a tight end later in the draft.
Utah’s Cole Fotheringham is a relatively unknown talent, overshadowed by a more explosive counterpart in Brant Kuithe. But Fotheringham has the physical profile of someone that could be worth taking a chance on late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent. Coming in at 6’4 and 250 pounds, he is a bruising tight end as a blocker and shows good enough hands to inspire confidence that he could become a well-rounded player.
Let me know what you thought of this mock draft in the comments below!