Big takeaways from the Chargers 2021 NFL draft class

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Gavino Borquez
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The 2021 NFL draft is officially a thing of the past for the Chargers.

General manager Tom Telesco brought in talent on both sides of the ball.

With that being said, I wanted to share my takeaways from Los Angeles’ haul.

Justin Herbert is well-protected

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Heading into the draft, the Chargers needed a bonafide starting left tackle, and they were fortunate enough to get one of the cream of the crop fall into their lap in the first-round, with that being Rashawn Slater. Slater is technically sound, very intelligent, physical and consistent which shows both in the pass and run-blocking department. He should be a starter for years to come. The work did not stop there as the team was still in need of depth. Los Angeles got another steal in Brenden Jaimes, who started 40 games at tackle for Nebraska, in the fifth-round. Jaimes offers the ability to play at both tackle and guard spots, and he should be in line to compete inside from Day 1. Overall, with the additions of Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi, Slater and Jaimes, Herbert should be in good hands and the running game should be more efficient moving forward.

Secondary stud

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The Chargers needed a starting cornerback and they got a good one. Slater wasn't the only player that took a surprising which the Chargers took advantage of. Projected to be selected in the top 40 picks, Asante Samuel Jr. got past that point, and Los Angeles couldn't pass up on the shutdown corner. An ideal fit in Brandon Staley's defense, Samuel Jr. makes up for the lack of size with athleticism, aggressiveness, quick instincts and ball skills to be a difference-maker in coverage. He will be the starting outside corner in nickel and dime packages with the flexibility to move into the slot. The cornerback room that consists of Michael Davis, Chris Harris Jr. and Samuel is in good standing.

Thinking about the future in the third

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The Chargers took two skill players with their third-round picks and one those was used on wide receiver Josh Palmer. The decision to go that route may have been head-scratching to most fans considering the team could have taken one of the top guards, edge defenders or safeties. Not to mention, the group is crowded with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, K.J. Hill and Joe Reed, whom Telesco spent Day 3 picks on last year. But the team's vision is not necessarily about making an impact from the get go. "When you build something, it can't be for right now. You have to have a long-term vision and you have to build with young players," Staley said. Mike Williams is set to be a free agent after the season, and if Los Angeles decides to move on from him then Palmer has the upside to be a solid No. 2 option in 2022 and beyond. I believe that Palmer has the ability to make an impact in Year 1. He is a physical pass-catcher who possesses the route-running chops to separate, play strength and great hands, profiling as a solid target for Herbert. In addition, Palmer is the perfect fit as an outside receiver in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system, with the versatility to move into the slot to exploit matchups.

More pressure, more diamonds

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I figured that the Chargers would take an edge defender in either the third or fourth-round, and they found their guy to open up Day 3, drafting Chris Rumph II, the former Duke product. Rumph is an "all gas, no brakes" type of pass rusher, with an excellent first step and great ability to get up the arc and out-leverage tackles. However, due to his lack of size, Rumph can be controlled in the run game. Rumph should see the field early on in his career as a pass-rush specialist in sub-packages, but he must add more mass and strength. Overall, the sky is the limit for him with his pass rush skillset, mismatch ability, and having the guidance of Staley and outside linebackers coach Jay Rodgers. With a group that consists of Joey Bosa, Uchenna Nwosu, Kyler Fackrell and Rumph on the edge, they're in good shape.

Special teams competency has been established

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After having the worst special teams unit last season, establishing competency in that department this offseason was vital. With that in mind, the Chargers used three of their five Day 3 selections on players who should help immediately, with those being linebacker Nick Niemann, running back Larry Rountree III and safety Mark Webb. Niemann and Webb are both proven tacklers at their perspective positions, which should aide in their coverage unit on kick and punt returns. Meanwhile, Rountree was a returner at Missouri, but Telesco said he won't have those responsibilities with Los Angeles. Instead, his trait as a good pass blocker should be utilized as a punt protector.

Red zone efficiency improvement

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The Chargers ranked No. 20 in red zone scoring efficiency (57.14%) last season, but that should increase with the offensive additions that they made. While he wasn't utilized as a pass-catcher that often in college, tight end Tre McKitty is an ascending asset in that department due to his ability to run solid routes and having a good-sized catch radius. Most importantly, his strength as blocker should help significantly. The combination of Palmer's size, physicality, violent route-running and ball skills, Rountree's toughness as a runner and pass (protection) and blitz pickup skills, the other skill players on the roster and the revamped offensive line should all pay dividends in the red zone.

Seventh-round sleeper

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Entering the draft, the safety position was seen as a glaring need, given the fact the Chargers only had three players in that group and they're vital in Staley's scheme. Eight picks had gone by and Los Angeles still didn't have one. That was until the seventh-round when the team took Webb. A wide receiver convert, Webb is still relatively new to the position. But he does have enticing traits to work with like size, athleticism, toughness and versatility. Staley said he is excited with the selection of Webb, adding he is “a guy who can play anywhere on the secondary.” If there's one coach who can get the most out of their defensive players, it's Staley. Last year, the Rams selected Jordan Fuller in the sixth-round and he went on to start 12 games in his rookie season. Webb has the opportunity to grow into an impactful nickel/safety. Even if he doesn't see the field early on, his athleticism and tackling skills will pay off on special teams from Day 1.

Needs not filled?

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In the draft, with only so many selections, it's difficult to fill out an entire roster. But one group that I thought the Chargers were going to address was the interior part of the defensive line for the sake of additional depth at some point. At his post-draft press conference, Staley did say that the team likes their backups, Breiden Fehoko, Cortez Broughton and Joe Gaziano. But he is not discounting the room being solidified with an undrafted free agent or a veteran via free agency.

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