Los Angeles Chargers 2022 NFL Draft Review

Chargers NFL Draft

The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books. For the Los Angeles Chargers, it was not an overly eventful Draft as they had already done the bulk of their off-season work in free agency. The fact that they traded their second-round pick for Khalil Mack (which was worthwhile, of course) meant they only had two picks in the first three rounds. That said, they did continue to work on bulking up the offensive line for Justin Herbert. Most of the rest of their picks were depth-related. The Chargers added the following players for their 2022 NFL Draft class:

  • First Round, 17th overall: Zion Johnson, offensive guard, Boston College
  • Third Round, 79th overall: JT Woods, safety, Baylor
  • Fourth Round, 123rd overall: Isaiah Spiller, running back, Texas A&M
  • Fifth Round, 160th overall: Otito Ogbonnia, defensive tackle, UCLA
  • Sixth Round, 195th overall: Jamaree Salyer, offensive guard, Georgia
  • Sixth Round, 214th overall: Ja’Sir Taylor, cornerback, Wake Forest
  • Seventh Round, 236th overall: Deane Leonard, cornerback, Ole Miss
  • Seventh Round, 260th overall: Zander Horvath, fullback, Purdue

Los Angeles Chargers 2022 NFL Draft Grade: 8/10

Breaking Down the Los Angeles Chargers 2022 NFL Draft Class

The Best Player: Zion Johnson

Much like last year, the Chargers made a splash at offensive line in the first round. This time it was Zion Johnson. Despite having a lower pick than last year, this was a historically deep class for offensive linemen, which allowed the Chargers to have a good selection even after the top picks were already gone.

Johnson may not end up being on the level of Rashawn Slater, who went All-Pro in his rookie year at left tackle, but he still is expected to be a Day One starter. He has versatility as a lineman, being able to play guard or center (and maybe even potentially tackle). Reportedly, the Chargers will put him at right guard – a position that was open since Oday Aboushi had not been re-signed. Johnson should be another strong starter for what is evolving into one of the better offensive lines in the league – thus showing they care about protecting their young franchise quarterback, Justin Herbert.

The Head-Scratcher: Remaining Uncertainties at Right Tackle

While no one should be upset at the selection of Zion Johnson in the first round, it has frankly been head-scratching that the Chargers have now finished the Draft and still do not have a clear starter at right tackle, not even taking one during the third round. They did select the versatile Jamaree Salyer in the sixth round who could potentially compete for the spot (more on him later), but he has not been told yet where he’s expected to fit in.

The problem is, Salyer is not guaranteed to be a Day One starter the way Johnson is. If he is not ready yet come Week 1, that more than likely leaves Trey Pipkins or Storm Norton instead at right tackle. There has been some noise recently that Pipkins has improved, but given how poorly he has played in the past, it seems risky to chance the right tackle spot entirely on him. Perhaps Salyer is intended to be that competition for Pipkins, but given how they have filled the other four spots of the offensive line with more obvious high-grade talent, the fact that the same cannot be said for the right tackle spot when that was their greatest weakness on offense last year remains head-scratching.

The Surprise: JT Woods

While safety depth was a low-key need for the Chargers, it did come as a surprise to see them take one as early as the third round – and with their second pick of the draft, no less. While Woods did receive some higher projections from draft pundits than others, it did feel like a slight reach for a non-critical position in the third round – given that while Woods does have ballhawk abilities (six interceptions last year), he does reportedly have issues with tackling and poor angles – something that has plagued too many Chargers defensive backs in the last several years, and thus something one would think they would be wary of.

Woods is reportedly expected to be a more rotational piece that would be used in more defensive-back-heavy sets, and could potentially allow Derwin James to do more elsewhere on the field instead of having to play in the secondary constantly. The potential there in the right scheme is good given his ballhawk abilities. The concern will be if he can improve his tackling.

The Steal: Jamaree Salyer

Jamaree Salyer was projected to go as early as the third round or even second round. Instead, he slid all the way to the sixth round. It would seem that the most likely reason for this is his injury history, as he’s missed a few games each year. He also may be a slightly more raw prospect that would not end up starting right away but should develop into one.

Working in his favor is his versatility (something the Chargers greatly value); he has played all five positions on the offensive line at different points. He was told that he was projected as either an interior lineman or right tackle. It is unknown right now where the Chargers will try to place him, but having him compete for the right tackle spot feels like the obvious choice. He might not be ready right away, but when he is, he is expected to be a strong offensive line starter. As noted earlier, it is odd that the Chargers waited this long to take a possible right tackle and one that might not even be ready by Week 1, which means the position is still up for grabs. Nevertheless, getting a possible future starter in the sixth round that was projected to go into the third round is excellent value.

Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: Isaiah Spiller

This was one of the only non-defense or non-offensive line draft picks the Chargers made this year. Isaiah Spiller is yet another attempt by the Chargers to find a dependable running back in the Draft to back up/complement Austin Ekeler, which was all the more critical now with them not re-signing Justin Jackson – plus the fact that they have whiffed so far on both Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree.

It is anybody’s guess as to whether Spiller will pan out better than their previous two attempts. However, he does look to have better pass-catching ability than those two, which will give him some versatility. Given that there will likely not be a lot of competition for the RB2 spot (unless Kelley or Rountree suddenly has a big breakout), Spiller should get opportunities to contribute right away in training camp and preseason – and show what he is capable of.

The Rest

The rest of the Chargers NFL Draft rookie class for 2022 were essentially depth additions. The most notable of that bunch was fifth-rounder defensive tackle Otito Ogbonnia. He’s expected to be a rotational piece on the defensive line, but he has shown some run-stuffing ability – which shows the continued commitment by the Chargers to fixing their run defense, which was their weakest point last year.

They also took two cornerbacks late – Ja’Sir Taylor in the sixth round and Deane Leonard in the seventh round. At that point in the Draft, it’s essentially just throwing darts. That said, this will provide some competition for backup cornerback spots – which consisted of Tevaughn Campbell and Kemon Hall prior to the Draft. At worst, at least one of these two rookies should probably end up on the practice squad.

The team’s final selection was Zander Horvath in the seventh round – a fullback. Perhaps this is intended to provide some competition for Gabe Nabers, but aside from him taking Nabers’ spot, it’s difficult to see him making the final roster.

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