The Los Angeles Chargers will have a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new defensive coordinator for 2021. So the excitement to meet the 2021 Chargers is palpable.
But which rookies from the 2020 class will make the biggest impact in 2021?
2020 Rookies/How it Started
- Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Round 1, 6th pick
- Kenneth Murray, Linebacker, Round 1, 23rd pick
- Joshua Kelley, Running Back, Round 4, 112th pick
- Joe Reed, Wide Receiver, Round 5, 151st pick
- Alohi Gilman, Safety, Round 6, 186th pick
- K.J. Hill, Wide Receiver, Round 7, 220th pick
How It Finished
- Herbert: 595 passing attempts, 396 completions, 4,336 passing yards, 7.3 average passing yards, 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions. Set the rookie passing record for touchdowns (31 passing and 5 rushing). He had the second-most passing yards (4,336) of any rookie all-time.
- Murray: While playing on 92% of the Chargers’ defensive snaps, finished the season with 107 total tackles, five tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, and one sack. Set a franchise record for tackles by a Chargers rookie (107). Murray underwent shoulder surgery last week.
- Kelley: Started strong and finished the season with 111 rushing attempts, 354 yards, 3.2 average yards per carry, 23 two touchdowns, 23 targets, 23 receptions for 148 receiving yards. But in two of the final four games, Kelley was a healthy scratch, after having been bested by both Justin Jackson and Kalen Ballage.
- Reed: 1 target, 0 receptions, five rushes, 29 yards, one touchdown.
- Gilman: Finished season with seven total tackles, one quarterback hit; played a rotational role in the final two games.
- Hill: Although Hill had the fifth-most snaps in Chargers wide receivers, he finished with only 11 targets, and seven receptions for 73 yards.
Who Will Make The Biggest Jump?
It is all about opportunities. Herbert and Murray are no-brainers, but there is the possibility of regression for Herbert and maybe some concern for Murray and the shoulder surgery?
New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has been effusive in his praise of Austin Ekeler comparing him to New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara. That doesn’t bode well for Kelley, whose two fumbles and anemic yards per carry put him behind both Jackson and Ballage at the end of the season.
Reed’s skill set gives him the most opportunities in an offense that can be creative. Lombardi coming from New Orleans where the utilization of tight-end/quarterback Taysom Hill required creative game planning.
Reed had 435 kick-return yards in 11 games. He was only on the field for 27 offensive snaps and was eventually placed behind Jalen Guyton for the WR3 position.
Unfortunately, despite the words of then head coach Anthony Lynn, “He [Reed] can line up at receiver, line up in the backfield. He’s a kick returner. We can use Joe in multiple ways,” he was virtually a non-factor.
The potential of the multiple ways in which Reed can be utilized in the offense puts him in the best position to make the biggest jump from 2020 to 2021. What Lynn saw, hopefully, Lombardi can make happen.