Welcome to draft week, Chargers fans.
Just a couple more nights of sleep remain between us and the greatest three-day stretch of the entire NFL offseason.
This week, I’ll be giving you my favorite prospects from each day of the draft for each of the three days leading up to Thursday night. We start with my favorite first-round picks today and we’ll conclude with my favorite day-three targets on Wednesday.
Of course you’re all likely well-versed on the players listed below, but this is me officially staking my claim on “my guys” in the opening round, as well as the other six.
Let’s get to it.
1.) OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
Depending on which analyst you ask, the top offensive lineman in this entire draft comes down to either Sewell or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. Sewell has the immense upside and looks to be the next elite NFL left tackle. The same goes for Slater, but I’d argue his floor is a bit higher. During 90 percent of the offseason, Sewell was viewed as the consensus OT1 but recent weeks have seen Slater make a push for that mantle.
At the end of the day, I gotta give my nod to Sewell as this draft’s most-coveted lineman, on either side of the ball. Elite movement skills and a tenacity to brutally demoralize the defenders in front of him give him that extra “oomph” that I like to see in a trench player.
Consider him my “dream” pick.
This Penei Sewell & Shane Lemieux combo from hell pic.twitter.com/E2nMgrfuTO— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) April 21, 2021
2.) OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
The Chargers looked to have a strong chance of drafting Slater at #13 for the majority of the this draft season. It wasn’t until he tested out in elite fashion at his pro day that he started potentially inching his way out of the Bolts’ reach at No. 13. It also didn’t help that the Panthers, who own the eighth pick, filled their need for a quarterback by trading for Sam Darnold. Now, they’re the top candidate to select Slater before he gets a chance to get to the Chargers.
Slater has been docked for having arms shorter than 34 inches, but plenty of recent tackles with similar arm lengths have found success at the next level, including 2020 first-round pick, Tristan Wirfs. The former Wildcat put on a clinic against Ohio State in 2019 (his last season played) and 2020 second-overall pick, Chase Young. His elite combination of movement skills and vice grip-like paws make him a terror for any defensive lineman unfortunate enough to line up across from him.
He also happens to be one of the only offensive lineman with the capability to playing all five positions across the offensive line. He has the ultimate versatility. Stick him anywhere and you can rest assure he will get the the job done.
3.) CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
The draft’s best corner, in my humble opinion. He’s got swagger oozing out of every orifice and he’s got the numbers to back it all up.
When Brandon Staley told us in his most-recent presser what he coveted most in the cornerback position, the first thing he mentioned was the ability to play man coverage. We’ve already heard that the team will be shifting to more of a Cover 2 heavy defense, which means more man.
At 6’1 and 205 pounds, Horn ran a 4.39 40 with 41.5 inches in the vertical and 11’1” in the broad. Overall, it was one of the best all-time testing performances in recent memory.
Horn is the whole package and if offensive line doesn’t end up being the move at No. 13, it needs to be cornerback.
Only WR to ever record 50+ yards in a game against Jaycee Horn— PFF (@PFF) April 19, 2021
DeVonta Smith (60) pic.twitter.com/VpEMJ4cnX6
4.) CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
We started the list with two offensive lineman, of course we’re going to go with two cornerbacks as the team’s next most-pressing need.
Surtain was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 and is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father, former Dolphins and Chiefs cornerback, Patrick Surtain. He’s another elite man-coverage defender that the Chargers would be lucky to see available at No. 13. One of the other notable traits of a Brandon Staley corner include excellent ball skills at the third level and fluid movement when playing off-man.
He also a sure-tackler. That’s something the Chargers have needed in recent years as they’ve subjected fans to far too many long touchdowns in recent years that started with one or two broken tackles. Surtain is a set it and forget it corner.
5.) WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
I have Waddle on this list above Smith but honestly, either one of them could equally hold this spot. I chose Waddle because I believe the Bolts have missed an elite yards-after-catch threat ever since Tyrell Williams left in free agency in 2019. I’m talking about the type of threat that can be snuck underneath your two prominent wideouts (Keenan Allen/Mike Williams) who then runs unimpeded and cancels out all attempts at a pursuit angle.
This is the type of player I believe Waddle to be. He finally gives the Chargers a “always know where he is at all times”-type of player. Allen and Williams are good at what they do, but the threat of housing one over the top of the defense just isn’t there.
Lastly, Waddle could offer some value as a return threat, something else the Bolts really need as they attempt to fix the league’s worst special teams unit.