Do L.A. Chargers take BPA in 2022 NFL draft, or do they fill major need at OL?
The backdrop: The Los Angeles Chargers just fell short of the postseason with a 9-8 record. They’re led by one of the most dynamic, young quarterbacks in the league and feature one of the most feared pass rushers on defense. And they will have the second-best cap situation in the league next season, meaning they can afford to keep most or all of its own free agents.
Then this happens:
Which direction should the team go?
Best Player Available: LB and DL
If you’re going strictly by best player available, then Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean is the choice. Former 2020 first-round pick Kenneth Murray has yet to impress, while former-safety-turned linebacker Kyzir White is an unrestricted free agent. Will Dean still be there at pick No. 17? Dean is the No. 14 overall prospect in the latest Fanpseak-Jake Rigdon big board, but ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has Dean going to Denver with pick No. 9 in his latest mock draft. Pro Football Focus’ latest mock draft has Dean going to New England at pick No. 21.
From PFF: “My eyes tell me Nakobe Dean should go a lot higher than this. As PFF’s highest-graded off-ball linebacker, he was one of the best defenders in college football in 2021. His instincts and explosiveness when blitzing were second to none for players at his position. His tracking speed and pursuit ability were also impactful all season long. Where teams might have questions is with his overall size and arm length.”
Right behind Dean in the Fanspeak-Rigdon big board is his Georgia teammate, defensive lineman Jordan Davis, ranked No. 17. At 6-foot-6, 340-pounds, Davis would step in as the new defensive tackle in Los Angeles’ 3-4 defense. Current starter Linval Joseph is a solid player, but he’s now a 33-year-old UFA. However, Davis will likely only receive about 20 to 25 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, as he’s seen as more of a two-down player, unlike Dean at linebacker.
Luxury picks: CB, Edge, WR
Is cornerback atop of the Chargers needs list? Do they need another outside pass-rushing linebacker or receiver?
The answer is no on both, but CBs Roger McCreary of Auburn and Kaiir Elam of Florida present interesting options. Asante Samuels Jr.’s rookie year was up-and-down but mostly positive, and Michael Davis had an above-average season, but McCreary or Elam would likely walk in as starters.
The Chargers aren’t necessarily in need of a new outside linebacker to bookend with Joey Bosa, either – even if free agent Uchenna Nwosu leaves in free agency. Chris Rumph II didn’t see a ton of time this season as a fourth-round rookie, but he still managed to see the field in 15 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. But it sure would be interesting to add Purdue Edge George Karlaftis. The Bosa-Karlaftis duo would give the Chargers one of the most feared pass-rushing duos in the league.
Los Angeles should also have its pick of several top receivers, including Drake London of USC, Wan’Dale Robsinson of Kentucky, Jameson Williams of Alabama, Treylon Burks of Arkansas and Chris Olave of Ohio State. Of the five, Olave is probably the most pro-ready, plus there’s a dropoff at receiver after that. Keep in mind, too, that there’s no guarantee Los Angeles can re-sign UFA Mike Williams.
Need: OT and OG
Storm Norton is the most likely candidate to be replaced in the starting lineup after giving up nine sacks and allowing 60 QB pressures this season, second-most in the league, according to PFF. He’s also a restricted free agent.
Luckily, as many as six OTs with Day 1 starter ability could be available. Start with Ohio State’s Nicholas Petit-Frere and Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning. Petit-Frere (No. 30) and Penning (32) are the fourth- and fifth-ranked players at their position, and both have played on the right side.
The Chargers still have plenty of options if both are gone due to a run on OTs. Some analysts rank Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann higher than both, while Tulsa redshirt sophomore Tyler Smith (No. 44) is another option. A dark-horse candidate is massive, 6-foot-9, 380-pound Minnesota senior Daniel Faalele (No. 60), a natural right tackle. Max Mitchell of Louisiana (No. 71) has also received some first-round buzz.
There’s no guarantee any of the aforementioned tackles are still available when the team picks in the second round. So, if Los Angeles wants a rookie starter at RT, then the Chargers will likely have to take him in the first round
But, for argument’s sake, say the Chargers wait to the second round to draft a tackle. You could make a strong argument that guard, or, specifically right guard, is also a big need – and the dropoff from the top guard to the next-best is fairly sizeable. Kenyon Green of Texas A&M would be tempting if he’s still available, as the 6-foot-4, 325-pound junior brings more value to the team than players like Petit-Frere or Faalele, because Green can also play tackle.