Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers were in a fantastic position. They have identified a bright young star in 2020 in quarterback Justin Herbert. They had various weapons already around him, and talent all over their defense… when healthy. For the Chargers, it simply was about finding a strong balance in their 2021 draft class that would be key. And as the 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, it is time to review how the Los Angeles Chargers did…
- Round 1 (13th Overall): OT Rashawn Slater – Northwestern
- Round 2 (47th Overall): CB Asante Samuel Jr. – Florida State
- Round 3 (77th Overall): WR Josh Palmer – Tennessee
- Round 3 (97th Overall): TE Tre’ McKitty – Georgia
- Round 4 (118th Overall): EDGE Chris Rumph II – Duke
- Round 5 (159th Overall): OT Brenden Jaimes – Nebraska
- Round 6 (185th Overall): LB Nick Niemann – Iowa
- Round 6 (198th Overall): RB Larry Rountree III – Missouri
- Round 7 (241st Overall): S Mark Webb – Georgia
Overall Chargers 2021 NFL Draft Class Grade: A-
Los Angeles Chargers 2021 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Rashawn Slater
This was a no-brainer. Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater was among the top players in the 2021 NFL Draft, and arguably the best offensive tackle. One of the Chargers biggest needs going into the drat was a left tackle, and Slater just fell into their lap at 13th overall. He may only be 6’4” and 310-pounds, but Slater plays with phenomenal mobility and amazing hand usage. With Pro Bowl potential right out of the gate, Slater is the perfect player to protect Herbert’s blindside for the next decade.
The Head-Scratcher: Josh Palmer
Again, the Chargers want to surround Herbert with the tools necessary to succeed. However, there are other needs on the team on the defensive side of the football. Tennessee’s wide receiver is a fantastic athlete who can make a difference on this team. But he may not have been the best option, as the third round may have been a reach for him. Players such as linebacker Chazz Surratt, receiver Dyami Brown, tight end Tommy Tremble, or receiver Nico Collins are other players taken after Palmer that could have been better selections.
The Surprise: Larry Rountree III
Yes, Joshua Kelley was taken by the previous regime. Yet, he showed flashes of his fourth-round talent in his rookie year despite his uneven play. Running back is not the Chargers biggest need by any means, with Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Darius Bradwell, and Kelley on the roster. Nevertheless, the Chargers selected power back Larry Rountree III in round six of the draft. Rountree offers more of a power back, but the running back room is now rather crowded. And chances are that they are not suddenly going to switch to a committee approach either.
The Steal: Asante Samuel Jr.
Like “Best Player”, this award was an easy one. Asante Samuel Jr. was an absolute steal with the 15th pick in the second round of the draft. The son of four-time Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel Sr., the Florida State product had a decent case to be a late first-round pick. Even at 5’10” and 184-pounds, Samuel has the physicality to remain on the boundary. In a Chargers secondary with Derwin James and Chris Harris Jr., expect Samuel to line up all over and make an impact from day one.
Most Likely to Turn Heads During Training Camp: Josh Palmer
What better player to prove himself during training camp than “The Head-Scratcher”. Josh Palmer is a crisp route runner to wins with his ball tracking skills and body control. At 6’1” and 210-pounds, he has a solid frame and will look to earn Herbert’s trust in training camp. At the very least, with his vertical numbers, he should impress with his jump ball ability.
In the fourth round, the Los Angeles Chargers addressed their need for another young pass rusher with Chris Rumph II. The Duke pass rusher has a diverse set of tools to get off blocks and plays with a very high football IQ. He slid to this point due to his size and strength, yet Rumph could wind up being another steal for the Chargers.
Two more defenders that the Chargers drafted were linebacker Nick Niemann and safety Mark Webb. Niemann is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who needs to bulk up more before becoming anything more than a special team ace. As for Webb, the Georgia safety brings versatility, great box instincts, and special teams ability too.
The Chargers also took a second offensive tackle in the fifth round in Nebraska’s Brenden Jaimes. The former Cornhusker is a sound pass blocker with reliable hands. His struggles as a run blocker leave Jaimes destined to be utilized as a swing tackle for the Chargers. Los Angeles also invested in tight end Tre’ McKitty. This past season at Georgia McKitty was underused but has upside both as a blocker and receiver.
In the end, the Los Angeles Chargers had a very productive draft to build a competitive team. They gave quarterback Justin Herbert more weapons and blockers while improving on the defensive side of the ball. And to think, they may end up with multiple steals given how many players slid to their selections.
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