The Chargers turned seven picks in the 2020 NFL Draft into six players. Tom Telesco made a very uncharacteristic move to trade back into the first round which cost the team their third-round pick on Friday. For TT and Anthony Lynn, the move was made to secure a future leader on defense after the team had just drafted their quarterback of the future earlier at #6.
Before I get into the meat of this thing, here is the entire draft class and the initial grade I gave each pick right after they were selected:
Round 1, Pick 6: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon - C+
Round 1, Pick 23: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma - B-
Round 4, Pick 112: RB Joshua Kelley, UCLA - C+
Round 5, Pick 151: WR/KR Joe Reed, Virginia - B+
Round 6, Pick 186: S Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame - D+
Round 7, Pick 220: WR K.J. Hill, Ohio State - A-
Why I gave the Herbert pick a C+
I came into this draft wanting three players at #6: Tua Tagovailoa, Isaiah Simmons, or a top offensive tackle. The Chargers got neither of them, so of course from the get-go I wasn’t stoked. However, I also said going into Thursday night that I would be “content” if they drafted Herbert and that’s truly what I am. It’s fine. They needed to get a quarterback for the sake of building around his rookie contract.
While I want to completely lean into the upside of Hebert and relish in all his God-given, un-coachable intangibles, the numbers that paint the picture of where he falls short is too unnerving to ignore. PFF has him just behind Jordan Love with the second-highest rate of incompletions deemed the QB’s fault. His numbers were inflated by an extremely high amount of passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, otherwise categorized as “high-percentage throws.” His accuracy on throws in front of the LOS was 47.6. Tua sits at 59% and Joe Burrow finished at 65%. His uncatchable ball rate was over 28% in each of his final two seasons. Also, this stat is literally terrifying:
The one stat that would terrify me if I'm considering draft Justin Herbert or Jordan Love is this...— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) April 13, 2020
% of uncatchably off-target throws targeting when an OPEN receiver 5-18 yards downfield in 2019:
Just from personally watching his tape myself, it’s evident he’s a step behind where I would want a top-10 quarterback to be. He’s not a natural thrower of the football. The ball doesn’t come out smooth consistently between the litany of different throws a QB must make. He guides his short throws a little too much for my liking instead of trusting his arm and just letting it rip.
I get the reasoning behind it all. I think this is, in the end, the right pick if you want to have the clearest path to success in the short-term but Hebert absolutely has to work out. He cannot simply be what Tyrod Taylor was going to be. He cannot be good enough not to lose, he’s got to be great enough to win. Everything negative being said about Herbert is justified. It’s in the film. It’s in the numbers that were calculated out of hours upon hours of work from multiple analytics departments.
In just start number ✌️ inside Autzen Stadium, Justin Herbert set the program record for total offense (512 yards) and tied the single-game passing record (489 yards) against Arizona State in 2016. #TBT x #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/q3nGsQsARS— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) April 23, 2020
But I think my final opinion is similar to something I heard over the last few days regarding Herbrert’s ceiling: He’s similar to the Rams’ Jared Goff in that, if given the right system and coaching around him, you should be able to find the gem hidden inside.
Herbert is a Charger now. I want him to succeed in the NFL with every fiber of my being. But facts are facts. I’m just here to present them and let everyone else decide for themselves.
My new grade after some marination: B-
Why I gave the Murray pick a B-
I have personally been a fan of Murray since the very beginning of his 2018 season. I saw him running around the field against UCLA with that neck roll and wearing a single-digit at middle linebacker and I was just sold. Holy moly, could he just fly around and cause havoc. At a casual glance, who wouldn’t want this guy on their team?
I gave the pick a B- over a stronger B mostly due to the price paid to go up and get him. Anyone who spent time studying this draft class came away understanding the depth and value across a number of position, including middle linebacker, in this class. Guys who were seen to be comparable and have better value were Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks, Wyoming’s Logan Wilson, App State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither.
After taking a closer look at his film in 2019, I saw everything that made him garner such pre-draft hype. What obviously rubs me the wrong way is his over-aggresion which leads to missed tackles. While it’s an easier coaching point to fix, the thought of more missed tackles out of a brand new first-round pick is enough to send me into a PTSD-fueled stupor.
But damn it if he doesn’t look amazing in the new uniforms. I’ve wanted a linebacker built like Murray for about four or five years now. No more watching 5’11 linebackers try to take cover tight ends and try to corral shiftier running backs. Murray has the physical skill-set you kill for and this is a guy I’ll be rooting for the second he hits the practice field.
My new grade: B
Why I gave the Kelley pick a C+
This pick would have had a higher if it was as at least one round later. The Chargers still hadn’t found help at offensive tackle and there were some decent players still on the board at the time. Lastly, and this all depends how you view the value of running backs in this current age of the NFL, but when you see the Bolts’ current backfield consisting of a former UDFA and a seventh-rounder, it really takes away some shine to this pick.
Kelley is 212 pounds so he’s technically the biggest back on the roster at the moment. He ran a sub-4.5 at the combine back in late February, so the ideal speed is also there. He’s also set to compete fight for snaps along with Justin Jackson to see who gets to complement Austin Ekeler in 2020. He runs with power and is a decisive one-cut back who will thrive in the Chargers’ new zone-run scheme. Add in that he’s a local talent and that makes him that much easier to root for.
My new grade: B-
Why I gave the Reed pick a B+
While I wanted other receivers who were on the board at the time, Reed was a very surprising and refreshing draft pick in the fifth. I personally hadn’t watched a ton of film on the guy but boy was I elated to turn it on and see that he was the exact typer of player I wanted the Chargers to go after in this draft. Like the team’s defense, versatility is the new name of the game on offense. After committing long-term to a running back who makes his money in the passing game, the Chargers have shown they can find success with utilizing players’ skill set instead of pigeonholing them based on their listed position.
Reed also can come in an solidify the team’s kick return specialist role immediately. He was PFF’s highest-rated returner in the country last season and became the only player in FBS history to amass 3,000 kick return yards in a career. We finally got a good one, people.
Per Daniel Popper, Reed is was told by the Chargers that they plan to use him in the same manner as Ekeler, which means in and out of the backfield and at a variety of alignments. This pick rocked. I stay put with my original grade based on him not being a pure wide receiver which is what the team needed at this point in the draft. Still, it’s a good grade.
Why I gave the Gilman pick a D+
I think we all knew what the Chargers meant to do with this pick and your initial feelings on it likely depend on how much value you a sixth round pick and whether or not you can get this same type of player as an undrafted free agent.
Gilman is listed as a safety but he’s almost 100% going to compete for a role as the team’s sixth defensive back in Dime packages. He’s only 5’11 and 200 pounds, which is a little lighter than Adrian Phillips was.
Truthfully, this team lost three core special teams contributors in Nick Dzubnar, Derek Watt, and Phillips in free agency and it looks like Lynn wants to put a premium on filling and/or improving on those spots. We all know how aggravating bad special teams coverage is to watch so, again, I understand why they did this. However, there was still a good offensive tackle prospect left one the board in Prince Tega Wanogho so of course I didn’t like the pick very much. With Gilman, my grade stays the same.
Why I have the Hill pick a A-
I didn’t get the chance to go to Mobile for this year’s Senior Bowl which meant I didn’t get to witness Hill’s phenomenal performance throughout the week. But from what I was told and what I could find to watch, he was a killer out there. After he told the media yesterday that he watched a lot of Keenan Allen during his time in Columbus, it became readily apparent when you watched him.
The KJ hill thing is puzzling. After what Terry McLaurin did last year I didn’t think the NFL would be this dumb again.— Mekka Don (@MekkaDonMusic) April 25, 2020
I saw Hill ranked somewhere between the 11th and 15th best wide receiver in the draft by most analysts. To get him in the seventh round goes without saying as one of, if not, the biggest steal of the entire 2020 NFL Draft. He’s going to slot right in at WR3 barring Reed being competitive enough to make it hard on the coaching staff. I think both guys should see the field in 2020, but there’s only so many balls to go around, and Herbert will not be throwing it anymore than he has to as a rookie.
My final pick: A
After allowing myself to sleep on what happened and giving myself more time to watch additional film, I feel better about this draft now than I did yesterday. Outside of one pick, they’re all exciting due to varying amounts of upside combined with good ole fashioned hope. I hope Herbert proves everyone wrong. That would glorious for the fan base. I hope Murray is here for 10+ years and wins the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award multiple times. I hope K.J. Hill gets looked back on as the steal of this draft when it’s re-visited five years down the road. I truly and honestly hope so.
My final grade for this entire draft is a B-. At the end of the day, it’s more or less due to the other positions of need that weren’t address combined with what we all saw the rest of the division do over the last three days. For comparison, here are a handful of other grades given to the Chargers’ draft class by various media outlets:
- ESPN’s Mel Kiper: B
- NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: A
- Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit: B-
- Pro Football Focus: C-
- SB Nation’s Dan Kadar: B-
- The Athletic’s Daniel Popper: B