Re-Grading Chargers' 2018-2020 NFL Drafts

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hindsight is always 2020. In our newest series at The Draft Network, we will be choosing some teams and grading their drafts from 2018 to 2020 based on the information we have about the players that were chosen. This exercise will be helpful in evaluating a team's overall ability to construct a roster and evaluate prospects. 

The Los Angeles Chargers have always had a bunch of talent littered throughout the roster but have somewhat underperformed relative to that talent. With key players such as defensive end Joey Bosa, wide receiver Keenan Allen, and safety Derwin James as building blocks, this team should be in contention for a wild card spot in a loaded AFC. Missing the playoffs the last two years with as talented of a roster that the Chargers have had could in most part be blamed on the ineffectiveness of the past coaching staff which has since been let go. Now with a new head coach in Brandon Staley, a young franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert, and a host of playmakers at their disposal, the time is now for the Chargers to make some noise. 

Let’s take a look at how general manager Tom Telesco has drafted over the last three years and see if we can get a feel for this front office’s ability as team builders. 

2020 Draft Class

  • Round 1: Justin Herbert, QB
  • Round 1: Kenneth Murray Jr., LB
  • Round 4: Josh Kelly, RB
  • Round 5: Joe Reed, WR
  • Round 6: Alohi Gilman, S
  • Round 7: K.J. Hill, WR

Well, this is an easy one off the bat. The Chargers struck gold with their first pick as Herbert has the makings of a future MVP caliber player. Herbert enjoyed the best statistical season a rookie quarterback has ever had and gives Los Angeles a franchise quarterback it can build around for the next decade-plus. Anytime a team secures a franchise quarterback in a draft, the draft is going to get a high grade. 

The Chargers were also aggressive in trading up for Murray in the first round. He started his rookie season off slowly, but by the end of the year, Murray was the team’s best linebacker and showed flashes of that playmaking ability and athleticism he displayed at Oklahoma. While the rest of this class leaves a lot to be desired, the fact that the Chargers hit on a quarterback and potentially hit on a playmaking middle linebacker earns them an A. 

Draft grade: A

2019 Draft Class

  • Round 1: Jerry Tillery, EDGE
  • Round 2: Nasir Adderley, S
  • Round 3: Trey Pipkins, OT
  • Round 4: Drue Tranquill, LB
  • Round 5: Easton Stick, QB
  • Round 6: Emeke Egbule, LB
  • Round 7: Cortez Broughton, DT

This is one class Telesco probably wishes he could have back. The Chargers were coming off a 12-4 season, won a road playoff game, and really just a few pieces away from having a Super Bowl-caliber roster in Philip Rivers' last few years. This draft was supposed to be that added influx of talent that pushes the Chargers over the hump, but unfortunately, that’s not the way it shook out. Tillery has failed to live up to his first-round selection; while he is a serviceable defender who has improved each year, he certainly isn’t an impact player by any means. 

Adderly had a ton of hype coming out of Deleware and was supposed to be the perfect fit playing free safety alongside James, but Adderly has failed to stay healthy early in his career. Even when he is on the field, he hasn’t made the plays the Chargers were expecting him to make. Pipkins was a wildcard pick that hasn’t panned out and any hope of him being the left tackle of the future went out the door when Los Angeles selected Rashawn Slater in the first round of the 2021 draft. The best player in this class is Tranquil; the team had high hopes for him entering the 2020 season as the starting WILL linebacker, but he was injured in the first game of the year missing the entire season. 

Overall, this class has set the team back for a few years and while there is still hope that Tillery, Adderly, and Tranquil can be impact players, this class is one to forget. 

Draft grade: D

2018 Draft Class

  • Round 1: Derwin James, S
  • Round 2: Uchenna Nwosu, EDGE
  • Round 3: Justin Jones, DT
  • Round 4: Kyzir White, LB
  • Round 5: Scott Quessenberry, IOL
  • Round 6: Dylan Cantrell, WR
  • Round 7: Justin Jackson, RB

Judging the success of the 2018 draft class will ultimately come down to the health of James. He burst onto the scene as a rookie quickly establishing himself as arguably the best safety in the NFL and captain of the team. James’ athleticism and playmaking ability both as a run defender and in coverage are rare, and the energy and passion he plays with are contagious for the rest of the defense. Unfortunately, injuries have derailed what appeared to be a Hall of Fame-caliber career. James missed all but four games in his sophomore season as he dealt with a foot injury, and he missed the entire 2020 season with a torn meniscus. His talent, when on the field, is undeniable; James needs to stay healthy this season to consider him a successful draft pick.

Nwosu is a nice player who provides some pass rush ability on third downs but was an odd fit in the last coaching staff’s scheme. He projects as a much better fit in Staley’s 3-4 base scheme and could be in store for a breakout season. Jones, White, Quessenberry, and Jackson are all quality depth pieces who contribute, but this class lacks a major impact player outside of James. 

Draft grade: C+

Overall, the Chargers front office hit on some high picks, but there are quite a few misses along the way that have derailed this team. Hitting on Herbert obviously gives the Chargers’ brass some room for comfort, but they will need to do a much better job building around him through the draft if they hope to challenge Kansas City in the AFC West. 

Written By:

Brentley Weissman

NFL Draft Analyst

Experienced Recruiting and Scouting professional with past stops with the University of Oregon, UCLA, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers.

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