I’m not usually a fan for hyperbole, but I don’t think it’s too far off to say that the Chargers’ first two picks of the 2021 NFL draft are the best one-two selections for Tom Telesco since he became the team’s general manager in 2013.
The Bolts NEEDED a left tackle after revamping all three interior positions along the line and they managed to land Rashawn Slater, an elite blindside protector with the rare versatility to play every position up front. To begin day two, the Chargers stayed put once again and saw cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., not only the best man corner available but also the draft’s best-overall player left on the board, fall to them at No. 47.
So, going two-for-two on the team’s biggest needs coming into the draft is a heck of a way for any franchise to begin the three-day event. But let’s not stop there. Why not keep nailing your picks and maximizing that balance between team need and value? Plenty of talented players were falling through the third round and the Chargers had every opportunity to continue their stellar draft.
Positions like guard were very strong at that point, and after all, Staley did tell Slater after he was selected that they wanted to be a “line of scrimmage” team. Why not continue adding bodies to an offensive line that currently holds three players that will be at least 30 years old when the 2021 season begins?
Instead, Telesco and company decided to give Justin Herbert, the NFL’s 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year, a pair of new weapons to utilize on offense.
Did they give Herbert the much-needed YAC threat that the offense has been missing since Tyrell Williams donned the bolt? Did they find a dynamic new tight end that could eventually replace Hunter Henry?
The answer, to both questions, is an unfortunate “No.”
With the 77th-overall pick, the Chargers selected wide receiver Josh Palmer out of Tennessee. At 6’1 and 210 pounds, Palmer has decent size and offers notable ball-tracking skills but doesn’t necessarily provide anything the team doesn’t already have on the roster. He’s got average speed (4.51 40) and agilities (4.24 short shuttle) but posted a poor vertical at 34 inches. If the goal was to find another jump-ball specialist, they certainly missed the mark.
It also should be noted that Palmer failed to reach the 500-yard receiving mark during any of his four seasons for the Volunteers. This is worrisome, but we also have to acknowledge that he suffered from a horrendously inconsistent quarterback situation. In 2020, he caught passes from three different players and totaled just 475 yards and a career-high four scores. While that number’s low, it’s still roughly 20% of his team’s yardage through the air. I believe that number paints a better picture of his production than just the raw number, alone.
While NFL.com Lance Zierlein had Palmer as a fourth-round pick, the folks at Pro Football Focus had him as an early day-three pick and #71 on their overall big board. So according to PFF, Palmer was perfect value for where they Chargers landed him.
Time will tell, as it always does, if Palmer can become a more productive pro than what he was on college. I’m going to differ to the front office’s evaluations and hope for the best with this pick, but I would have liked to see them go for someone like Michigan’s Nico Collins (6’4 215 lbs.) if they wanted a receiver with this skillset.
If the Palmer pick initially threw you for a loop, the Chargers’ second third-round pick likely sent you into next week.
With the 97th-overall pick, the Bolts selected Tre’ McKitty, a 6’4, 246-pound tight end that was wildly underutilized as a pass-catcher with both Florida State and Georgia. If you thought Palmer had a lack of production, wait until you get a load of this.
Through his first three seasons with the Seminoles (19 starts), McKitty recorded 560 yards and two touchdowns on 50 total receptions. He went on to start seven games for the Bulldogs after returning from a preseason knee injury to record six receptions on just 10 total targets for 108 yards and a lone score.
Despite not putting up numbers, McKitty was still invited to this year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl where he put on a respectable performance. In fact, he surprised enough that he was named the practice player of the week for a tight end from the American team.
Georgia’s Tré McKitty was named top TE on the American team in a vote from the safety and LB groups at practice player-of-the-week awards ceremony tonight at 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. #TheDraftStartsInMobile pic.twitter.com/Bq7NRJaIeu— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) January 30, 2021
Looking back, it’s pretty clear that both of these players likely earned their selections by the Chargers through their impressive performances at the all-star showcase. Palmer was viewed as having a fairly dominant outing throughout the week’s one-on-one drills and McKitty wowed with a few difficult catches, including this one-handed snag with a defender draped over him.
Beautiful throw from Mac Jones and even better catch from Georgia’s Tre’ McKitty.— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) January 27, 2021
Mac Jones has stood out today, shown what we already knew, he’s the best QB in Mobile. pic.twitter.com/xVLvdPTNio
At the end of the day, the Chargers went out and got the players they valued. They got the guys they believe will have an impact on this team sooner rather than later, regardless of draft value. I could hammer home just how irresponsible I think the picks were with the wealth of other talent still on the board, but I’d be no better than the old man yelling at a cloud. Even though I’m completely justified in saying that Telesco has had horrendous luck with his third-round picks (outside of Keenan Allen), maybe this is the year they finally hit on one (or both).
Like I’ve seen a lot of you say over the past few months: In Staley We Trust.