With every draft comes some hits and misses. Some of those will come as expected, with first-rounders having great careers and seventh-rounders maybe ending up on the practice squad. Sometimes those things get reversed though. For the Los Angeles Chargers, that’s no exception. Through the 2010s, they fortunately did not have many straight-up busts – most of the higher drafted players that washed out sooner than expected did so more because of injuries than poor play (Jason Verrett, namely). They have had a few steals, however. Let’s go look and see who those steals are.
Los Angeles Chargers Draft Steals From the 2010s
Keenan Allen (76th overall)
If one were to just look at the draft position and the stats, it probably seems pretty absurd right now that Keenan Allen wasn’t a first-round pick. In fairness, at the time he was coming off an injury which slowed down his combine and pro day stats. Even then, look at some of the receivers who were taken over him: Tavon Austin, Justin Hunter, Aaron Dobson, and Terrance Williams (taken just two picks before Allen). A few years ago, Allen’s career seemed to be headed in the wrong direction too for different reasons. He could not stay healthy. After an excellent rookie season in 2013, he only played nine games from 2015 to 2016 and tore his ACL in the opening game of the latter season. But… since 2016, he has not missed a game.
Particularly in the last three years, Allen’s become one of the biggest centerpieces of the Chargers team. He’s had two 100+ catch seasons and is currently at 6,405 yards and 34 touchdowns. He has excellent route running ability and is a great runner after the catch as well. DeAndre Hopkins is the only receiver drafted higher than him who has turned out better. Given all of this, it’s hard not to see Allen as a massive steal for the Chargers now, and possibly one of Tom Telesco’s best draft picks ever.
Desmond King (151st overall)
Despite some nice accolades with the University of Iowa – including going All-American and being Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year – King slipped to the fifth round and was the 21st cornerback taken in the 2017 Draft. He quickly shot up onto the depth chart thanks in part to strong preseason play. He became the starting nickel/slot cornerback, where he’s remained for three years.
King’s proven to be quite strong at that position – and in special teams, too. He’s had four interceptions including two pick-sixes. He’s also had two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and six and a half sacks. King’s also had two punt returns for touchdowns. In 2018, he was voted as First-Team All-Pro. While there are rumors that he could be traded due to the arrival of another slot corner (Chris Harris), he’s still been an important member of the Chargers defense. And it only took a fifth-rounder to get him.
Jatavis Brown (175th overall)
While Brown definitely doesn’t stand out the way Allen or King does, he was still a nice pickup for the Chargers late in the fifth round in 2016. During most of the late 2010s he was one of the few consistent pieces at linebacker that was both decent and healthy most of the time, during an era when virtually none of the linebackers could stay healthy. He got at least 75 tackles each season from 2016 to 2018, peaking at 97 in 2018. He led the team in 2016 in tackles and was second on the team in 2018.
Brown eventually got effectively pushed out of the depth chart in 2019 for reasons unknown and is now with the Philadelphia Eagles. But he was a solid player at linebacker for a few years. And given that he was a late draft pick, he was still a bit of a steal for the Chargers.
Rayshawn Jenkins (113th overall)
Rayshawn Jenkins has technically been a backup for most of his career. But 2019 forced him into the starting role when almost all the other safeties went down with injuries. And despite the secondary being so decimated, he actually played pretty well. He pulled in three interceptions, including an excellent rare interception of Patrick Mahomes on Monday Night Football.
Jenkins isn’t as high on the depth chart of safeties for a reason, but it’s good to know that even if Derwin James and Nasir Adderley and others get hurt again, Jenkins will be able to do a reasonably good job and even get a few interceptions. The Chargers got a backup safety in the fourth round and he turned out to possibly be starter quality. That’s a pretty good deal.
There’s a couple of more recently drafted players where either it’s too early (Drue Tranquill) or the jury’s still out as to whether they’ll make enough of an impact to be considered a steal (Justin Jackson). But there’s been a couple of huge steals for the Chargers and a couple of more low-key ones that were still good. There will most likely be more in the 2020s… it’s just a matter of when.
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