The Los Angeles Chargers witnessed one of the more disappointing seasons in recent team history, finishing the 2019 NFL season with a 5-11 record and continuing attendance problems still plaguing the franchise. With their new stadium close to being completed and Philip Rivers likely moving on to a new franchise, there is no better time than the 2020 NFL Draft for the Chargers to find their new face and begin a new era in L.A.
With plenty of promising prospects participating in the Senior Bowl this week in practices and the game to be played on Saturday, let’s take a look at some of the potential new Chargers that could be joining their roster this spring.
1. Justin Herbert, QB Oregon
As stated before, the Philip Rivers era is likely over for the Chargers bringing a nearly two decade-long stint with the team to a disappointing end. Assuming this is the case, the Chargers will be in the market for a quarterback in a draft class that is absolutely loaded with talent at the position.
While a player like Tua Tagovailoa or Joe Burrow would be the obvious choice to take over as the new signal-caller, it is unlikely either one will be available when the Chargers go on the clock unless they trade up. If they want to stay put, Herbert is the most likely answer.
The Oregon quarterback finished his four-year career in the Pac-12 with career-high numbers in passing yards with 3,471 and touchdowns with 32. He has also never thrown more than eight interceptions in a season in college and has already cemented himself as a first-rounder. Even with that status cemented, he has been impressive so far in practice with good measurables (6’6” 238 lbs.) and showcasing his undeniably good accuracy.
The one big question mark that continues to follow Herbert is his leadership abilities and dedication to the game, something Chargers fans will have to keep an eye on when he commands an in-game huddle on Saturday.
2. Jordan Love, QB Utah State
Love is truly the wild card of this year’s draft when it comes to quarterbacks. At the beginning of the 2019 season, Utah State’s Love was being eyed as a small school quarterback that could catapult himself into the first-round discussion much like Josh Allen did at Wyoming just a few years ago. Unfortunately, Love struggled in a big way in his final season.
He went from 32 passing touchdowns to 20 and threw a career-high 17 interceptions. Some say the mostly new Utah State offensive squad around him was responsible for this but regardless, plenty of question marks still surround the small school QB.
Love has looked good in Senior Bowl practices so far this week but the big question remains to see how he performs against some top college talent in Saturday’s game. If he impresses, he could make for an interesting name to watch out for come draft day, especially for Chargers fans.
3. Darnay Holmes, CB UCLA
Holmes has arguably been the most standout player from this week’s practices. Standing at 5’10” and 192 lbs, size was a concern for the Bruin corner but his ferocity has definitely put him on the map for multiple NFL teams. His performance couldn’t have come sooner for his draft stock, which was slipping into the later rounds after a 2019 season that was at best described as up and down.
While he has shown a lot of good coverage in both press and off-man coverage, he still has to prove that he can handle the route running abilities of NFL receivers especially when it comes to double moves. So far this week, he has proven that he can and is seeing his stock rise as a result. Holmes’ impressive speed and return ability make an appealing mid-round target for Los Angeles.
4. Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR Liberty
This is a pick that would be a dream come true for the Chargers offense but might be too good to actually happen. Gandy-Golden has been steadily climbing up draft boards all season after finishing his senior year with the Flames with 70 catches for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns to the point where some analysts had him going in the late first round.
Despite this, his draft projection was widely disputed from the first round to as late as the fifth going into this week. Now, it will be a surprise if he falls out of the second round. The small school wideout boasts fantastic size, hands, and red zone ability and would make a great understudy under Keenan Allen, whose playstyle is very similar.
Even more so, with Travis Benjamin slated to hit free agency and Mike Williams’ career continuing its slow start, it could never hurt for the Chargers to add more to their receiver corps. While Gandy-Golden may well end up going in the late first, D.K. Metcalf shows how dependable high draft projections can really be.
5. Josh Jones, OT Houston
Unlike Gandy-Golden, this is a rising star that the Chargers are very much in play for in the second round, where he is expected to be taken. Jones has been one of the most impressive if not the best, standout offensive linemen during the week of the Senior Bowl.
Jones’ massive frame at 6’7”, 310 lbs is more than enough to catch the interest of NFL teams but his performance this week absolutely dominating any pass rusher, whether they are power rushers or more technique driven, is what’s more impressive. Jones has done so well this week, many are talking about him in the top-15 conversation now. That’s not necessarily a lock as many players gaining a lot of hype out of the Senior Bowl fall from their mountaintop as the draft process goes on. If Jones is there at pick #37, expect the Chargers to take a real look at him as a possibility.