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4 players the Chargers should keep an eye on from Mel Kiper’s early 2023 big board

It’s never too early to get a jump start on future draft prospects.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at BYU Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this morning, fresh off a weekend that likely wasn’t packed with time off, ESPN senior NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper dropped his way-too-early top-25 for next year’s draft along with his initial big board for the class which includes his top 10 players at each position.

With these names, we can also get an early look at some players that the Chargers may be interested in come draft time. Right tackle is still not solved while there also doesn’t seem to be a tangible long-term answer at tight end. Below, I touch on four players I believe are worth keeping an eye on as we head into another season of college football.

OT Blake Freeland, BYU

A versatile athlete in high school as both a quarterback and tight end, Freeland has only been playing the offensive line position for three seasons. Despite that fact, he’s currently the third-ranked offensive tackle on Kiper’s early big board. The only two above him are Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Ohio State’s Parris Johnson Jr.

At 6’8 and 305 pounds, Freeland’s got the elite size and athleticism combination that NFL teams lust for. Add on the versatility and experience to play both tackle spots — he switched from right tackle to left prior to the 2021 season — and you’ve got one of the most interesting prospects at a premium position. With 29 starts under his belt heading into this season, he’ll also have the notable experience to go with an otherwise impressive resume by the time he enters next year’s draft.

OT Ryan Hayes, Michigan

Another monolithic tackle coming out of a school known for its’ strong offensive line play, Hayes is currently rated eighth among his position group by Kiper. The Wolverines enjoyed a stellar 2021 season in which they won the Big Ten Championship over my Iowa Hawkeyes and Hayes played a key role for a ground game that was strong from the very first game until the last. At 6’7 and 307 pounds, Hayes has prototypical size and surprising athleticism stemming from his time as a former high school tight end, similar to that of Freeland whom we touched on above.

Hayes will be a fifth-year senior in 2022 and should have over 30 collegiate starts before heading to the NFL. He screams “Senior Bowl” which automatically makes him a prime Tom Telesco target.

TE Benjamin Yurosek, Stanford

Yurosek comes in as Kiper’s fourth-ranked tight end at this point in the offseason. He’s a bit on the slender side at 231 pounds but his lengthy 6’5 frame leads me to believe he could easily push his weight around the 245-250 range. It would obviously be in his best interest to bulk up as NFL edge players probably salivate at the sight of a 230-pound tight end. Plus, I was pleasantly surprised to see a fairly sound run blocker despite his lack of girth. Yurosek has consistent hand placement at the point of contact and he likes to give a little extra after the whistle if able. Overall I like his temperament while doing the dirty work. He’s also got some fluidity as a route runner and he’s quite keen on finding the open holes in zone, making him a dependable check-down target for his quarterback.

This past season, Yurosek caught 43 passes for 658 yards and three touchdowns en route to earning honorable mention honors from the Pac-12 coaches and first-team honors from Pro Football Focus.

WR Marvin Mims, Oklahoma

I don’t think the Chargers will be in the market for a first-round wide receiver in next year’s draft but grabbing one on day two seems to be just right. Speed is needed, of course, and I think Mims could be a nice fit in the Chargers’ vertical offense.

He’s on the slender side at 5’11 and just a hair under 180, but boy does he know how to churn out the yardage. As a true freshman, Mims caught 37 passes for 610 yards (16.5 average) and nine scores (program record for a freshman). He followed that up with 32 catches in 2021 that he took for 705 yards and another five scores. His yards per reception average also shot up to 22.0, exemplifying a deep-threat skillset that could be utilized by a team that employs a quarterback with a — *ahem — howitzer for an arm.