2023 NFL draft: 3 offensive tackles for Chargers to watch at combine
The on-field portion of the NFL Combine begins on Thursday, marking the start of the testing circuit that propels some prospects into the stratosphere while ruining the stock of others. To prepare, we at Chargers Wire are previewing players from every position.
Offensive tackle isn’t a position of need for Los Angeles…as of now. With Trey Pipkins set to become a free agent, the Chargers have a number of decisions to make about the future in front of Justin Herbert. Bringing Pipkins back would add continuity. Letting him walk and plugging in Jamaree Salyer would lighten the salary cap bill. Starting Salyer at guard, cutting Matt Feiler for the cap relief, and starting a rookie at right tackle would lighten it even further.
Dawand Jones, Ohio State
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If you only have an hour and a half and can’t watch every snap of Jones’ 2022 season with Ohio State, just buy a ticket to Cocaine Bear instead and watch the bear. You’ll get the idea.
The 6’8″, 375 lbs Jones was the story of the Senior Bowl in early February after shutting down all comers in the first day of practice before sitting out the rest of the week. His tape is littered with mauling reps in the run game, no surprise given his mammoth size.
Jones does struggle with speedier rushers who have counter moves, a skillset he managed to avoid in Mobile. His agility numbers at the combine will therefore be something to watch: does he have the movement skills to reset his feet and keep rushers at bay? If that checks out, expect him to rise to an early Day 2 or even late Day 1 selection, where the Chargers could be poised to take him if Pipkins is not retained.
Warren McClendon, Georgia
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We know Tom Telesco loves to draft players from the Senior Bowl. We also know Brandon Staley is close with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, which has led the Chargers to draft three Bulldogs in Staley’s two seasons as head coach.
So, when there’s a player who fits both categories who will also be available on Day 2 and fills a potential position of need, alarm bells should be going off.
At 6’4″ and 290 lbs, McClendon much more closely fits the size of linemen the Chargers have historically drafted under Telesco. An advanced technician, McClendon works with precise hands and fine-tuned awareness in both the run and pass games. He’s a bit of a heavy stepper, which leaves him vulnerable to quicker defenders, but the combine will present an opportunity for him to quell those concerns.
Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, Oregon
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As you get further into the draft, the importance for the Chargers becomes much more about versatile depth than a player who can start right away. Of course, sometimes that process nets you a player like Salyer, who is both versatile and starter quality.
A hulking 6’6″ and 330 lbs, Aumavae-Laulu has played both right tackle and guard for Oregon and spent the majority of the week at the Shrine Bowl playing on the inside. While in Vegas, he’s confirmed to have had a meeting with the Chargers. (Nearly every player meets with nearly every team at such events, but it’s still worth noting.)
With elite length and adequate movement skills to block on the outside, the major cleanup point for Aumavae-Laulu will be technique. As a pure athlete, however, he’s NFL-ready, and players like that tend to shine in the combine format.