The Los Angeles Chargers are among the best when it comes to the NFL draft

NFL Draft News

Can’t decide which player your team should take in the 2022 NFL draft? Then ask yourself this question: What would the Los Angeles Chargers do?

Since 2003, Los Angeles has drafted 134 players in 19 seasons. Of that total, a whopping 124 prospects have played at least one NFL game.

Let that resonate for a moment.

The last three drafts have been more of the same. Out of 21 players drafted since 2019, all but one of those players is still on the team, and all receive some playing time for the Chargers. The lone player no longer with the team? That’s DL Cortez Broughton, a 2019 seventh-rounder who’s now on Kansas City’s practice squad.

The bottom line?

Whoever Los Angeles drafts in 2022 will make the team – and stick around for a long time.

With that said, the team will need to address a few positions with potential free-agent losses looming. Here are five players for Chargers fans to keep an eye on the rest of the season:

Round 1: OT Daniel Faalele, Minnesota

The Chargers are in a tough spot. Los Angeles has needs at defensive line and cornerback, but the team also needs to think about upgrading the right tackle spot, currently manned by Storm Norton. If healthy, Bryan Bulaga would be the starter, but he’s out indefinitely with groin and back injuries, and he’s on the wrong side of 30.

But taking an OT in the first or second round isn’t a slam dunk, either, as the top three OTs – Alabama’s Evan Neal, Ohio State’s Nicholas Petit-Frere and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross – might all be gone by the time the Chargers are on the clock. And while the next-tier group of OTs is solid – including Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning, Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard, Washington’s Jaxson Kirkland, Miami’s Zion Nelson, Penn State’s Rasheed Walker and Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann – there’s no guarantee that any of them would be able to step in as a starter from Day 1.

Faalele, though, could be the exception. Drafting him in the latter portion of Round 1 may be a bit of a reach – he’s currently the No. 40 prospect in the Jake Rigdon-Fanspeak big board – but he most assuredly would immediately step in as the Chargers’ new right tackle. Faalele will likely be the biggest prospect at 6-foot-9, 380-pounds, and he comes with the usual issues plaguing big tackles (mobility, balance, pad level), but he also has tremendous strength and size.

Round 2: Edge Zachary Carter, Florida

Is he a defensive end or a defensive tackle? For Los Angeles, the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Carter would be a bit of both, as he would likely play the 5-tech for the Chargers and comes with positional versatility. The senior has started every game at DT this season for Florida, picking up 21 tackles, 9.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks, giving him a four-year line of 92-24-15 (and counting).

FanNation recently called Carter “a coach’s dream,” adding that Carter is a first-round talent. From FanNation: “What makes Carter such an intriguing prospect is that he not only has been highly productive, he has a tremendous amount of upside. Carter hasn’t played the same position for four years but has instead excelled at many. A smart defensive coordinator will utilize all the tools Carter brings to the table as both a pass rusher and a run defender. What also separates Carter is that he is pro-ready. He’ll be able to contribute early on and could be counted on for meaningful snaps.”

Carter would step in right away as the replacement for free-agent-to-be Justin Jones.

Round 3: DL John Ridgeway, Arkansas

If your team needs a nose tackle, then you won’t find many as big or as menacing as Ridgeway. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound senior won’t give you much in the way of a pass rush, but he commands double teams and is very disruptive.

Ridgeway was very productive after redshirting his freshman season at Illinois State, where he played from 2017 to 2021. In fact, Ridgeway already played a football season this year, as Illinois State was one of the teams that played during the spring due to Covid. He’s been just as impactful in his lone season at Arkansas, picking up 30 tackles so far along with 3 TFLs and 1 sack.

And, like Carter, Ridgeway would potentially fill an immediate need, as current nose tackle Linval Joseph is also set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Jerry Tillery (1st round, 2019)-Ridgeway-Carter trio would be one of the youngest in the league – if not also one of the top DL units.

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