Round 1 Pick 17. Zion Johnson IOL (A-)
The Chargers decided to take a chance on LG Zion Johnson from Boston College with their first pick, showing once again they want to prioritize protecting their star QB, Justin Herbert. Coming out of Boston College, Zion Johnson allowed only 3 sacks in his three-year career. Johnson allowed also 20 QB hurries including only 3 this past year and 2 QB hits. Zion provides not only versatility for the Chargers but with a great senior bowl showed he could handle some of the best seniors.
While this was a great pick, time will tell as Zion allowed 14 QB hurries in a COVID year and only got going his 5th year. Zion according to PFF has some awareness issues where it related to blitzes and showcased average quickness for the guard position which is why I can’t justify giving it an A+. Should Zion develop like last year’s rookie Rashawn Slater, the Chargers’ offensive line will be great for years to come.
Round 3 Pick 79. JT Woods S (B+)
To many, this was a confusing pick. Why take a safety when you have Nasir Adderly and Derwin James? Well when you look at the safety depth for the Chargers, it’s not great. Derwin played a mostly healthy season last year, and with him eligible for an extension this year (The Chargers have made it clear they want to bring him back and have a deal done by the end of August), it is important to keep in mind his injury history.
Woods had a 74.5 coverage grade last year at Baylor where he lined up in the box, deep safety position and slot. For the Chargers, this will be very valuable as he is also a ball hawk with 6 interceptions last season and only giving up 1 TD. Woods dropped zero interceptions as well. He might’ve looked like a bad pick on draft day but, clearly, this was a depth pick, and it was a good one.
Round 4 123. Isaiah Spiller HB (A-)
The Chargers nailed this pick. On draft day it was confusing as you already had HB Austin Ekeler but after that, you didn’t have a great power back. The Chargers need an HB who can help ease the load on Ekeler. That’s what Spiller gives them. A standout HB at Texas A&M, Spiller gives the Chargers a good combo with him and Ekeler. A great pick for the Chargers as Spiller is going to be 21 years old during his rookie year and 24 when he enters his contract year.
He does need to improve on long speed, as linebackers can easily catch him. Spiller might be tall for his position but he still gets tackled way too easily. Improving his ability to stay up could make him a dangerous RB2 behind Austin Ekeler or RB1 if Ekeler ever leaves LA.
Round 5 Pick 160. Otito Ogbonnia IDL (B)
Ogbonnia doesn’t put up the type of stats that are flashy (3 sacks), but he had 21 QB pressures at UCLA. He had a 77.8 true set pass-rush grade and a 78.3 in total for an 8.4% pass rush win rate. He provides depth for a weak IDL last season. With the recent signing of Morgan Fox and the signing of Sebastian Joesph Day, Otito is going to eventually be a great rotational and depth piece for the Chargers this season.
He’s going to take some time to develop as he needs to work on his first step. However, it’s expected that Otito will be a key piece against the run for the Chargers.
Round 6 195. Jamaree Salyer G (A+)
Salyer was originally supposed to be an early day 2 pick but an unknown injury reemerged causing him to fall all the way to the 6th round. Salyer possesses what you want in an LG, as he has shown to have a ton of power and balance at the position. In case an injury ever happens, Salyer can also easily fit in at any position on the o-line. He posted a 99.2 pass-blocking efficiency rating which was 3rd in the entire NCAA.
Salyer however fell because of many factors. One possible reason was because, while he was a great LT at Georgia, PFF noted that Georgia’s scheme made him look better than he was and that he struggled in space (Draft Day). He also had a foot injury since the game vs Auburn this past year which teams might’ve seen and taken him off their board as a result. Moreover, Salyer’s footwork at LT showed he was still raw and would be better at guard after watching film. His consistency last year was a huge weakness too, so working on that will be a priority. To explain further, Salyer would perform very well against top competition (for example Aidan Hutchinson) but then perform poorly against someone worse than Hutchinson.
The rest of the league will soon regret passing on Slayer however, as he was originally slated to be an early day two pick and the Chargers getting him late day three is a steal. He will have the opportunity to win the starting left guard spot. Doing so would kick current left guard Matt Feiler to right tackle position. It is worth noting that Salyer made 2nd-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson fall to the ground so he has proven himself against good competition.
Round 6 Pick 214. Ja’sir Taylor CB (B-)
Taylor played 5 years at Wake Forest, taking advantage of the extra year because of COVID. During his true senior year he posted a total of six interceptions, 24 passes defended and 184 tackles with 8 of those for loss. It is worth noting that Taylor’s PFF coverage grade dropped from a pretty good 72.9 to a very bad 48.6 looks bad.
Taylor’s strengths are that he is very coordinated with good footwork and balance, can change directions fast, has quick feet, and can come off the edge with speed. He was likely not taken for his cornerback skills but more for his return ability. While only returning a total of 10 times in his career at Wake Forest, he returned one 99 yards to the house this past season. Clearly, Taylor demonstrated that he can one day become a great returner for the Chargers. Also, with the loss of returner Andre Roberts and the signing of DeAndre Carter, this was another selection meant for depth.
Round 7 Pick 236. Deane Leonard CB (B)
Leonard played only two seasons while at Ole Miss, recording no interventions, a stat many people obviously look for in a corner. However, he had 11 passes defended, not bad for a guy who played in Canada previously and in the SEC. At his pro day, Leonard ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and measured at 6’0, 194 pounds.
Leonard recorded a 67.9 PFF coverage grade his first year and a 62.9 this previous year. One of traits he has that could make him a good cornerback for the Chargers, according to PFF. For the record, one of the Bolts’ current backup cornerbacks, Trevaughn Campbell, had a 52.4 coverage grade last season, and a 50.3 in coverage in 2020.
Leonard needs to improve his hands, but other than that he could be very useful for the Chargers on special teams and provide depth at cornerback.
Round 7 Pick 260. Zander Horvath HB/ FB (B)
Horvath in my eyes is a future fullback for the Chargers, as he looked good on tape blocking. Also the guy can make space in open field. While the NFL has mostly stopped using fullbacks in recent years, Horvath can be used in third and one or fourth and one situations. This is especially notable given head coach Brandon Staley’s tendencies to go for it on 4th down. Per StatMuse, the Chargers went for it 34 times and converted 22 of them. That conversion rate was good enough for first in the NFL last year and only trailed the Lions by nine attempts.
However, late last season this high rate came at a cost. In a pivotal game vs the Chiefs, the Chargers failed to convert on three fourth downs which later helped the Chiefs to win the game.
Horvath will significantly limit the need to use Herbert, Ekeler or Spiller on the block, so they won’t get hurt. If the Chargers had Horvath last year, they likely would have converted on the fourth downs they failed to get previously.
Overall Grade: A-
The Chargers nailed this draft, and, despite the fans wanting a wide receiver (myself included) in rounds 3-7, it is clear they went into the draft wanting to help solidify the offensive line around Herbert. They also worked on bolstering their defense, which ranked 23rd in yards allowed and tied the Falcons in points allowed per game at 27. With the offensive additions of Isaiah Spiller, and, hopefully, Zander Horvath, the Chargers look to have a top-five offense as well as a top-five defense this year.