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Chargers zero in on offensive line in Mel Kiper’s latest mock

I think the Bolts run this pick to the podium if he’s there.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Leading up to free agency, the Chargers looked to be seesawing on either taking a defensive tackle or right tackle in the first round of this year’s draft. After they spent resources on a pair of new interior defenders this past week, it seems like a foregone conclusion that a right tackle will be the pick at #17.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper reflected this line of thinking as he has the Chargers selecting Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning in his latest mock draft.

Here’s what Kiper had to say about the pairing:

“You’ve heard by now how bad the Chargers’ run defense was in 2021, and they’ve already taken steps to improve it, bringing in two defensive tackles via free agency in Sebastian Joseph-Day, whom coach Brandon Staley is familiar with from his time with the Rams, and Austin Johnson. That probably takes defensive tackle off the list of holes to fill in the draft.”

“So let’s turn the attention over to right tackle where Bryan Bulaga was just released. I don’t see Storm Norton as the answer there, but Penning can be. He’s fantastic as a run blocker, and offensive line coaches love him because he’s just plain mean and plays through the whistle. This would make back-to-back drafts with first-round tackles for the Chargers, and left tackle Rashawn Slater looked like a star as a rookie.”

The 6’7 Penning is a prototypical tackle prospect with excellent intangibles that go a long way in making him the total package. Aside from the valued height/weight/athleticism, he’s got the type of finisher mentality that offensive line coaches drool over, and it’s not just during games. While running through drill at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Penning probably didn’t make a ton of friends as he was constantly tossing around defenders. It didn’t matter if they were in team drills or one-on-ones, friend or foe, he was working overtime to put people in the dirt.

With the sudden surge of pass-rushing talent injected into the AFC West, the Chargers need to have a trustworthy presence opposite Rashawn Slater. While finding a veteran might sound like the more ideal option, the Chargers may be forced to get one of the top players at the position in this year’s class and hope they hit the ground running similar to their 2021 first-round pick.

Penning, a 2021 FCS All-American, may be the team’s best chance of landing such a player when they select at #17 late next month.