Where national outlets rank Chargers’ roster ahead of 2021 season

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Heading into the 2021 season, on paper, the Chargers have a well-rounded roster on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, Los Angeles will be led by rookie sensation Justin Herbert. Herbert will have a slew of weapons around him; Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, Tyron Johnson, Josh Palmer and Jared Cook.

In addition, the offensive line should offer stability for the first time in a long time, as general manager Tom Telesco made the point to upgrade the unit, signing Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi and drafting Rashawn Slater.

Defensively, head coach Brandon Staley will have a solid group of pieces to work with, led by Derwin James, Joey Bosa, Michael Davis, Kenneth Murray, Drue Tranquill, Linval Joseph, Chris Harris Jr., Asante Samuel Jr., among others.

I’d say the Bolts’ roster ranks among the top-12 in the NFL, but what about the other big-name outlets? Let’s take a look.

ESPN/Pro Football Focus: 20

“Biggest strength: First-year head coach Brandon Staley was able to work with two of the best defenders in the NFL last season. He won’t have Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey with the Chargers, but Joey Bosa and a healthy Derwin James Jr. are about as close as Staley could have gotten in terms of elite defensive line and secondary talent. Bosa’s 22.0% pass rush win rate since entering the league in 2016 is second in the NFL to Donald, and James earned 80-plus PFF grades as a run defender, pass-rusher and coverage defender across multiple alignments as a rookie in 2018. (James was limited to five games across 2019 and 2020.)

Biggest weakness: For as good as the high-end talent is on this defense, Los Angeles does have some question marks behind the likes of Bosa and James on the depth chart. Can Uchenna Nwosu fill the shoes of Melvin Ingram III after playing fewer than 400 defensive snaps in each of his first three seasons? Can Jerry Tillery, who was the third-lowest-graded edge defender in the NFL in 2020, take a step forward? Can Chris Harris Jr. stay healthy and regain his earlier career form? The Chargers are banking on a lot of those answers being yes.”

CBS Sports: 21

“It’s very possible I have the Chargers too low on this list. It’s just hard to gauge this team because they have dealt with so many injuries over the past few years. Am I overrating this roster or underrating them when looking on paper? The football gods have done a disservice to fans by keeping Derwin James sidelined for so long. In his rookie season in 2018, he was named First Team All-Pro and earned a Pro Bowl appearance as well. He and Nasir Adderley could be a dynamic duo at safety and the Chargers have an interesting talent in rookie cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. as well. I expect linebacker Kenneth Murray to take a big step forward in 2021, and Joey Bosa is a star. The Chargers also did a great job this offseason adding help along the offensive line for Justin Herbert. Corey Linsley is one of the best centers in the game and then Rashawn Slater should start from Day 1. Another facet of the Chargers I like is the talent and depth they possess at both wide receiver and running back.”

Pro Football Network: 21

“The arrival of Justin Herbert has immediately breathed life into the Chargers’ organization. The departure of Philip Rivers could have signaled a period of struggles, but the second half of the 2020 NFL season will have provided much optimism.

The Chargers’ roster has a lot of talent, but can they put it all together and challenge in the AFC? The 2021 season may be a touch early for any Super Bowl conversations, but the playoffs are certainly within reach this season.”