The 2021 NFL Draft begins on April 29, which means that The Game Haus will be writing draft profiles for every team. Each NFL team will be evaluated heading into this year’s draft, as our staff recaps their last season, highlights their needs, and pinpoints their potential 2021 NFL Draft targets.
The Los Angeles Chargers are the subject of today’s 2021 NFL Draft profile.
The Chargers 2020 season ended without a playoff berth, but still managed to spark hope among the Charger faithful. In just 15 games, their sixth overall pick, Justin Herbert, set rookie records for passing touchdowns (31), total touchdowns (36), 300-yard games (8) and completions (396) en route to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.
This was the Chargers’ first season since 2003 without Phillip Rivers under center. Head coach Anthony Lynn was insistent that Herbert would sit behind Taylor, but he was rushed into action due to Tyrod Taylor suffering a chest injury after a mistake by the Chargers’ medical staff. Despite Herbert’s heroics, the team went 7-9, leading to the firing of Lynn after the season’s end.
Their Pro Bowl center, Mike Pouncey, retired during the offseason. But the Chargers upgraded at the position, landing PFF’s highest-graded center, Corey Linsley. Other notable departures include tight end Hunter Henry, linebacker Denzel perryman and cornerback Casey Hayward. Los Angeles has made a good effort trying to replace their losses with players like Kyler Fackrell and veteran Jared Cook.
The future is bright for this young team and their rookie head coach, Brandon Staley. Their biggest problem is being in a division with the Kansas City Chiefs, which necessitates they play catch-up constantly. Here is how the Los Angeles Chargers could bolster their roster to dethrone the back-to-back AFC Champion Chiefs in the 2021 NFL Draft.
2021 NFL Picks
Los Angeles will have four picks to use in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
First Round (one pick): No. 13
Second Round (one pick): No. 47
Third Round (one pick): No. 77, 97
Offensive Line- The Chargers have poached two of the best linemen in the entire NFL from the Green Bay Packers, Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga. Apart from them, the team has next to no depth or even serviceable starting option for the rest of the line. They clearly have their next franchise quarterback, so now it’s time to protect him.
Cornerback– Michael Davis and veteran Chris Harris, Jr. are the only two cornerbacks on the roster ready to start a season’s worth of games. Their other veteran corner, Casey Hayward (another former Packer, by the way) was just released, also. Los Angeles needs another option at the cornerback spot in the pass-happy AFC West.
Edge Rusher- New head coach, Brandon Staley, ran a 3-4 scheme during his time as defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. A new scheme may necessitate a new edge rusher/defensive end so the team does not have to rely on every single defensive lineman adjusting to Staley’s way of doing things, at the very least.
2021 Draft Targets
Pick No. 13: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
This pick is extremely flexible for the Chargers, in a good way. Their needs are set and a talented player will fall to them at pick number 13. In fact, they could trade further down in the first round and still get a quality player for one of their most glaring needs.
Cornerbacks like Patrick Surtain out of Alabama and Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech are tempting here. Versatile offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker is looking more and more likely to drop to the 20s if the Chargers want to trade down. But Rashawn Slater is a sure-fire, near can’t-miss tackle prospect.
As had been repeated ad nauseam, Slater handled Chase Young, which is no small feat. With pass rushing becoming more and more prominent in today’s NFL, Los Angeles needs a tackle they know will not crack against pressure. Any of the players listed above are fine at this pick, and Chargers fans should celebrate any of them. But Slater has a bit more of an “it” factor and the resume to back up a top-15 draft selection.
Pick No. 47: Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Campbell is the ideal cornerback for the Chargers, if they wait until the second round to take one. He is a tall, fast corner that is a true defender of the ball. He excels at defending passes and does not try to do too much, which means he does not get burned very often.
His turnover numbers left a lot to be desired during his time at Georgia, but interceptions are not everything when considering whether or not to draft a young defensive back. His athleticism and football IQ are first-round worthy. If he falls to them, which he may not, the Chargers could do a lot worse. Someone like hybrid defensive back Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky may be the backup option here.
Pick No. 77: Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
One of the most underrated edge rushers in the draft, Joe Tryon, is still not moving up many mock drafts less than a month away from the draft. His slide is due in part to not playing during the 2020 season, but that should not erase his 2019 campaign.
Tryon had 27 solo tackles, a pass deflection from the defensive line and eight sacks in 2019. Considering playing time for Tryon was essentially non-existent just the year before, that is a meteoric rise. Odds are he would have been even better in 2020 if it were not for Washington’s season being affected by COVID-19.
Pick No. 97: Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville
With all of their needs filled, Los Angeles can take a bit of a luxury pick with their fourth and final selection in the first three rounds. Mike Williams is not signed long term and Keenan Allen cannot do it all alone, so taking a speedy receiver to learn the system makes sense. If Atwell and Herbert’s chemistry shines, this could be a sneaky dangerous duo very early in their time together.
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