One of the most surprising and unexpected picks from Tom Telesco in recent history has got to be the selection of Trey Pipkins III in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft. The team had, and still is, in the market for a franchise left tackle and at the time Pipkins was the highest-rated tackle prospect left on the Chargers board at the time, despite guys like Yodney Cajuste and Bobby Evans still available.
Of course, when making the commitment towards a “project” player, fans would expect to have that prospect still come from a FBS school or Power 5 member. But not the Chargers. Pipkins was coming out of Division II Sioux Falls in South Dakota.
Before we go any further, let’s turn the clock back and learn how Pipkins got here in the first place.
A native of Apple Valley, Minesota, Pipkins starred on the offensive line for Apple Valley High School. As a junior, he helped lead his team to a 8-3 record and the school’s first appearance in the state playoffs in over 19 years. As a senior, he blocked for a quarterback that set school records in single-season passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Pipkins stayed fairly close to home by committing to play at USF where he was a three-year starter for the Cougars. After redshirting in 2014, Pipkins saw time in 10 games while playing mainly on special teams and sparingly on the line. In those limited snaps, he managed to allow zero sacks.
As a first time starter in 2016, he got the nod for all 10 games the team played and earned his first All-NSIC honor with the second team. He repeated the postseason accolade after starting 12 games the following year, as well. In 2018, Pipkins put the cherry on top of his lengthy college career by earning not only a First-Team All-NSIC selection, but he was also voted to the AP’s Division II All-American First Team. This was the season that helped him catch the eye of NFL scouts and it earned him an invite to the East-West Shrine Game to play against some of the best talent in the country.
Derek Roberson v Trey Pipkins pic.twitter.com/lCvsyy1OE8— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) January 15, 2019
In March of 2019, Pipkins also became the first player from Sioux Falls to be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and he certainly did not disappoint. At 309 pounds, he ran a 5.12 forty-yard dash and jumped 33.5 inches in the vertical which was a top mark among all offensive linemen at the event.
Following Pipkins’ selection with the 91st pick, the Chargers had no intentions of having him seeing the field as a rookie. However, thanks a to a string of injuries, Pipkins was called upon to start three games, including the final two of the season.
Now, with Russell Okung on the Panthers, the Chargers are looking at Pipkins and Sam Tevi to be their new left tackle in 2020.
College: Sioux Falls
Years with team: 1
“Trey Pipkins signed a 4 year, $3,607,576 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including a $877,076 signing bonus, $877,076 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $901,894. In 2020, Pipkins will earn a base salary of $675,000, while carrying a cap hit of $894,269 and a dead cap value of $657,807.” - Spotrac.com
Pipkins has all the God-given traits that you would want in an NFL offensive tackle. He’s a solid 6’6 and possesses great explosive strength while offering the ideal length and size (310 pounds) for an edge protector. Telesco mentioned he has the feet and football IQ that you want in an OT prospect and with just a year under his belt, we’re still hoping that TT was right about this one.
He also thrives much more as a run blocker than in the pass game. His athleticism helps put him in the right places to cut off defenders while limiting the need to be perfect with his hands and upper-body placement.
First big spot for Trey Pipkins. Clearly better in run support than pass protection this game (the half I watched).— Tyler Schoon (@tylerjschoon) March 12, 2020
For a head coach that ran it 30x/game (2nd in NFL) when he was the OC at BUF in '16, that could work.
Below is about half a game + the final drive. pic.twitter.com/olwnWtz8OK
After enough injuries piled up in front of him on the depth chart, Pipkins was forced into the starting lineup for three games, including the final two against the Raiders and Chiefs. It was certainly a trial by fire as he was matched up with both Maxx Crosby and Frank Clark for most of those games. It was a humbling experience and Pipkins might just be better for it in the long run.
Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2020?
Pipkins will not only make this team, he could very well earn the starting left tackle should he successfully fend off the attempts by Tevi to stake his claim as the team’s blindside protector. Both are athletic tackles with who excel at blocking in space but each of them are going to have to improve drastically in pass protection if they’re going to be serviceable in 2020.