The Los Angeles Chargers have something very few teams in the league have: a young superstar franchise quarterback. That is something every general manager in the league wishes to obtain. Figuring out the quarterback position is the hardest thing to do for NFL front offices, and often the inability to get the quarterback right will lead to firings. With Justin Herbert at the helm, the Chargers are set at the most important position for years to come, and the best thing about it is that he is on his rookie contract, meaning he won’t take up a large percentage of the salary cap for at least four more seasons. As Pete Carroll and John Schneider showed us with Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom, and Andy Reid and Brett Veach showed us with Patrick Mahomes & Co., the easiest way to win a Super Bowl is to have a star quarterback on a rookie deal and build a stacked team around him before he gets to the second contract.
The Chargers may not be close to a serious Super Bowl run like the Seahawks or Chiefs were when they had Wilson and Mahomes on rookie deals, but with a strong offseason, they could make some serious ground in a competitive AFC West. Last year, the team finished 7-9 and won four in a row to end the season. New head coach Brandon Staley inherits a team that has strong talent at some key positions which include Herbert, but also the likes of Joey Bosa, Keenan Allen, and Derwin James. General manager Tom Telesco and Staley will work hand in hand in adding talent through the draft and free agency to fill the holes on this roster, so they are in the best possible position to maximize their chances at a Super Bowl run while Herbert is on his rookie deal.
Below is a seven-round mock draft for the Chargers that could serve as a blueprint for how this team can address their needs through the 2021 NFL Draft.
Round 1 (No. 13 overall): CHRISTIAN DARRISAW, OT, VIRGINIA TECH
As is discussed in nearly every topic revolving around the Chargers' offseason plans, the team must address an offensive line that has struggled greatly in recent seasons. Last year’s starting left tackle Sam Tevi is not the answer at the position. While he has the feet and movement skills you like, his inconsistent hands and anchor make him a liability at Herbert’s blindside. Additionally, Tevi is a free agent, so adding a starter is even more crucial. Christain Darrisaw is a player who I’m beginning to really come around on. I love his athletic ability and size for the position, but I did have some questions about his temperament and urgency as it pertains to finishing every play. That being said, his physical traits and upside are outstanding, and he projects as a top left tackle at the next level.
Round 2 (No. 47 overall): JOE TRYON, EDGE, WASHINGTON
The Chargers surprisingly were 25th in the league in sacks with just 27 on the season and will need to add some more edge-rushing talent to help get to the quarterback. Melvin Ingram—who, when healthy, is an excellent player—is set to be a free agent and I expect the team to move on from him as he has slowly become an injury-prone player. Adding a versatile edge defender like Washington’s Joe Tyron makes a lot of sense here as Staley may want to incorporate a multiple front scheme with him having utilized a 3-4 scheme in his prior stops. Tyron is an explosive edge rusher with good length and body control. He would be a nice addition to this Chargers defensive front.
Round 3 (No. 77 overall): JOSH MYERS, C, OHIO STATE
With Mike Pouncey announcing his retirement earlier this offseason, the Chargers now have a hole at their starting center position. Dan Feeney stepped in for Pouncey after he suffered a season-ending hip injury early in the season, but is just an average-caliber player and is also set to be a free agent. Even if the team decides to bring Feeney back, it would be wise to add some competition through the draft or free agency. Josh Myers is a very good center prospect with good size and above-average agility to reach the second level. He can be a solid player to have in front of Herbert for years to come.
Round 3 (No. 97 overall): KEITH TAYLOR, CB, WASHINGTON
As an Oregon alum, it pains me to give my past team so many Washington Huskies, but this is an absolute steal here. Keith Taylor is a long corner who has excellent size and straight-line speed. The Chargers will need to add a corner or two if Michael Davis walks in free agency, but also just to continue to add depth as starters Casey Hayward and Chris Harris are getting up there in age. Taylor gives the team a toolsy player to develop into a high-end starter.
Round 4 (No. 118 overall): SETH WILLIAMS, WR, AUBURN
The Chargers have one of the best receiver duos in the league with Allen and Mike Williams but can still add more talent at the position. When healthy, Williams is a big-play receiver with outstanding hands and ball skills. He is a great weapon for Herbert in 50/50 and contested situations. The issue however is that Williams is often injured and hasn’t proven to be able to stay on the field. Because of this, the team may need to think long and hard about picking up Williams' fifth-year option. Seth Williams is a player who has a lot of similar qualities as Mike Williams. Both are big bodies with good speed down the field. They both are outstanding at playing the ball in the air and running after the catch. Seth Williams would make a ton of sense as a mid-round receiver.
Round 5 (No. 160 overall): TRE' MCKITTY, TE, GEORGIA
Hunter Henry has been a very good player with the Chargers over his five-year career. So good in fact that he has likely played his way out of a return to Los Angeles and will likely land a big contract in free agency. While Donald Parham was a nice find from the Chargers' scouting staff, the team will still need to add talent at the tight end position. Georgia’s Tre’ McKitty is excellent as a receiving tight end and has the speed and ball skills to stress the defense vertically down the seam. He had a strong week at the Senior Bowl and would be a good option to add to this tight end room.
ROUND 6 (No. 200 Overall): JERMAR JEFFERSON, RB, OREGON STATE
This is an absolute steal here for the Chargers in the sixth round. Jefferson is one of my favorite backs in this class and offers good speed, vision, and instincts. I fully expect him to be taken higher than the sixth round, but in this mock simulation, he falls—much to the delight of the Chargers. Los Angeles needs more depth behind Austin Ekeler and adding Jefferson to battle with Joshua Kelley for the backup running back job would make for competitive competition.
Round 6 (No. 206 overall): PATRICK JOHNSON, EDGE, TULANE
The late rounds are for high-upside players that you think have a shot to develop into a starter down the line and contribute on special teams in the near future. Tulane’s Patrick Jonson has been one of the most productive defenders in all of college football in recent seasons. He is an excellent athlete with very good size who can play multiple positions for this Chargers defense. I like his ability as an edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme who also has the versatility to drop in coverage.
Round 7 (No. 235 overall): DARREN HALL, S, SAN DIEGO STATE
The Chargers have one of the best young safeties in the NFL in James, but outside of him, there are questions surrounding the position. Nasir Adderley has failed to live up to his stats as a high draft pick, and Rayshawn Jenkins is going to be a free agent. The team should look to invest in defenders who can cover the deep parts of the field, and Darren Hall can do just that. Hall played primarily corner while at San Diego State but could find his NFL role at free safety due to his instincts, range, and ball skills.