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The first year of the Brandon Staley era begins in Los Angeles this coming season. Staley has nine picks this coming draft, giving the new regime plenty of ammo. The Chargers already have franchise cornerstones Joey Bosa and Justin Herbert in place. Now the organization turns its focus to filling out a roster capable of challenging Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City for the AFC West.
The Chargers dove into free agency determined to aid their young quarterback. Los Angeles reached deals with All-Pro center Corey Linsley and versatile guard Matt Feiler. The team also brought in former Pro Bowl tight end Jared Cook. However, Staley’s team still needs a left tackle, and the young head coach inherits a questionable defense.
Overall, the Chargers have a strong roster that could push for ten wins in 2021 if Herbert plays on par with his rookie season. Los Angeles faces an uphill battle against Kansas City. Staley needs some new defensive personnel to keep Mahomes in check and give his new team a shot at the division title.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to justify each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed picks over several simulations. I didn’t project any trades and included an “ideal pick” after every selection for optimistic fans.
While the Chargers could take the draft’s best pass rusher with their first pick, I think they’ll take Darrisaw if the Virginia product is available. The left tackle ranked 16th on my latest big board and could jump a few more spots before all is said and done. Darrisaw showed consistent growth in college, and Los Angeles can expect his game to continue improving at the next level.
Trey Pipkins is currently the top left tackle on Los Angeles’ depth chart. After riding with Sam Tevi last year, the Chargers can’t continue accepting below-average play from the line’s cornerstone position.
Rousseau could go down as one of the 15 best players in this draft class. He could also only be worth a third-round pick. The one-year wonder is truly a mystery as far as his NFL projection. Analysts agree that he’s a project and needs to add muscle mass to hold up against superior competition.
The Chargers are switching to a 3-4 scheme under Staley. Rousseau lacks the bend and burst to get pressure by beating tackles outside consistently. He could see some interior rushing attempts in Staley’s defense. Los Angeles only has several half-baked options on the interior anyway.
The Chargers could also look at taking a guard here and completing their offensive line rebuild. However, Staley is a defensive-minded coach that worked with plenty of stars on the Rams. He wants to upgrade this defense, and that starts with finding a running mate for Bosa. If the Chargers don’t take an edge early in the 2021 NFL Draft, they might re-sign free agent Melvin Ingram.
Ideal pick: Eric Stokes, CB Georgia
Staley could have his choice of Paulson Adebo, Campbell, and Ifeatu Melifonwu in the third-round. The young coach employed various looks while working with the Rams, including a lot of Cover 3 and Cover 1. Campbell is extremely fast, and he’s built for success in predominantly press and zone schemes. He’s a project, but the Georgia product has the physical tools to round into a complete player.
Unlike Stokes, Campbell didn’t have much production at Georgia. His only interception came in 2020, and the 6-1 corner never had more than five passes defensed in a season. Luckily, Campbell has 32-inch arms and runs a 4.37 40-time.
Ideal pick: Joseph Ossai, EDGE Texas
Rochell blew away scouts at his pro day. The senior ran a 4.39 40-yard dash, 4.08 short shuttle, and a 6.83 three-cone. He also ranked in the 99th percentile among corners with a 43-inch vertical. Rochell possesses above-average length and should thrive in press coverage opportunities.
In his four years at Central Arkansas, Rochell intercepted ten passes. He has a background as a wide receiver, and it shows on tape. He’s a ball hawk blessed with tremendous physical traits that could entice a team late on Day 2.
If the Chargers pick back-to-back corners, expect Syracuse’s Trill Williams to toss his name into the debate.
While fixing the secondary is a priority, a defensive coach couldn’t pass on Milton Williams this late in the draft. Williams is an athletic monster, but he has short arms and is only 284 lbs. He wasn’t available in either the PFF or TDN simulations at 97.
Ideal pick: Milton Williams, IDL Louisiana Tech
Green is the final piece of Los Angeles’ offensive line rebuild. He has experience at guard and center, which could come in handy if Linsley misses time for the second straight season. However, Green should slot in at left guard immediately, pushing Oday Aboushi into a backup role.
If you haven’t seen Green play, I advise taking some time to educate yourself. He’s fun to watch and has the height (6-4), weight (315 lbs.), speed (4.85 40-yard dash) combination NFL teams love in offensive linemen.
Kendrick Green = twitched up w/excellent center of gravity & core strength at 6'2" 305. Dude is a ball of lighting with an iron head to jolt/stun defenders at the point & strong hands to latch/control. Former super HS athlete & high level wrestling background shows up on tape. pic.twitter.com/sFlRMa8DSP
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) April 10, 2021
Some analysts view Green primarily as a developmental center, but it’s worth taking a risk on players with his ceiling in the mid-round.
Ideal pick: Andre Cisco, S Syracuse
Los Angeles heavily invested in the safety position over the past several drafts. The franchise drafted Derwin James at 17th overall in 2018 and used a second-round pick on Nasir Adderley the following year. Unfortunately, the two young safeties haven’t started a single game together. Adderley missed most of 2019, while James only played in five games over the past two seasons.
The Chargers need some insurance at safety. Sterns is far from the ideal man to take over if James misses time again, but he’s an exceptional athlete that plays an aggressive brand of football. His functional athleticism and impressive freshman campaign at Texas could inspire a team to add him as a developmental prospect.
Ideal pick: Kylin Hill, RB Mississippi St.
I’ve picked Powell frequently in this mock draft series. He’s a tremendous value option in the sixth-round. After barely contributing early in his collegiate career, Powell broke out as a senior with 882 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s not an exceptional athlete or elite route runner, but Powell finds ways to create separation and rarely makes mistakes.
The Chargers only had two wide receivers top 600 yards in 2020. Powell could join the receiver room and challenge Jalen Guyton, K.J. Hill, and Tyron Johnson for snaps immediately.
Ideal pick: Sadarius Hutcherson, IOL South Carolina
Lenoir was productive during his four years at Oregon, intercepting six passes and defending 21 more. The former Duck didn’t separate himself from other Day 3 corners at Oregon’s pro day. Lenoir is almost purely a zone corner because of his athletic limitations.
The analysis isn’t all bad for Lenoir. He flashes solid instincts that shine best in zone. Very few wide receivers challenged Lenoir during his collegiate career. While he won’t contribute right away, Lenoir could begin seeing rotational action by the mid-way point of his rookie season as a slot corner.
Ideal pick: Josh Imatorbhebhe, WR Illinois
The Chargers have a decent stable of running backs with Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, and Joshua Kelley. However, Los Angeles finished with a below-average rushing attack once Ekeler got hurt last season. As a highly productive college back with 4.38 speed, Mitchell adds a new layer of depth to a young backfield.
Ideal pick: Malcolm Koonce, EDGE Buffalo
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