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5 offensive players to watch at the 2023 Senior Bowl

Ohio State has got a monolithic offensive tackle you just need to see to believe.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Semifinal Game Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since Tom Telesco took over as the general manager of the Chargers in January of 2013, there’s one offseason scouting event that he seems to value above all else: The Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Last year, Telesco drafted four players who performed in Mobile. The year before, he draft five, the highest number in 10 years at the helm of the franchise.

With that in mind, there’s just no way we can causally inch closer to the draft without acknowledging just how important the senior bowl is when it comes to the Chargers’ upcoming draft class.

History says that a handful of players in this all-star game will don the powder blue later this season. So let’s start getting to know some of these guys, huh?

Here are

1.) WR Elijah Higgins, Stanford

At 6’3 and 235 pounds, Higgins is built much more like an H-back as opposed to an NFL wide receiver. As a member of the Cardinal, Higgins specialized as a big slot presence that was always willing and able to make the tough catch over the middle.

He’ll enter the NFL as a developmental prospect with upside who will likely come off the board early on day three for a team that can best utilize his size mismatch potential. His physicality can only take him so far and he’ll need to develop his route tree a bit more before he sees meaningful snaps at the next level. Adding some twitch and nuance to his game will also go a long way in expediting his progression.

2.) RB Roschon Johnson, Texas

For a backup running back, Johnson is earning quite a bit of attention this early in the draft process. All eyes are have been on Texas starter Bijan Robinson as a sure first-round pick, but Johnson did plenty playing second fiddle that some analysts have him going as high as the third round.

At 6’2 and 220 pounds, he’s built for today’s NFL with a rare blend of size, athleticism, and a willingness to take on contact. Scouts at The Draft Network note that Johnson’s skillset will be be used in a gap run scheme. Luckily, this is what the Chargers were best at in 2022.

When you turn on the tape, it’s easy to see how Johnson could fit in a backfield with Austin Ekeler, but will the Chargers use a fourth pick on a rusher in as many years?

3.) OG/C Jarrett Patterson, Notre Dame

Playing in the Senior Bowl is just one way to get the attention of Telesco as a draft prospect. If you also happened to wear a golden dome in college and play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, then consider your chances of being drafted to the Chargers doubled.

This is the case for Patterson, a four-year starter in South Bend.

For the first three seasons at Notre Dame, Patterson played center before transitioning to left guard as a senior. At 6’4 and 310 pounds, he’s got good size for an interior lineman and the versatility NFL teams like in their mid to late-round selections. As a run blocker, he’s a natural knee bender that rarely gets out-leveraged. In pass pro, his stocky lower body helps him keep him base wide and sturdy.

This one just screams like a Telesco pick so keep an extra eye on Patterson through this all-star showcase.

4.) TE Payne Durham, Purdue

The Chargers need to find a long-term starter at tight end.

The franchise was blessed with Antonio Gates for a long time before Hunter Henry was drafted in 2016. Henry seemed like the heir apparent to Gates — and he was for a bit — but injuries took their toll and the Chargers decided it wasn’t in the best interest of the team to re-sign him to a second contract.

Over the past two seasons, journeymen Jared Cook and Gerald Everett have done enough to keep the position afloat, but the team needs a complete player that can also make an impact in the run game.

Enter Purdue’s Payne Durham.

At 6’5 and 255 pounds, Durham exactly the way you want them in the NFL. Aside from being an impact blocker, Durham was a very efficient safety blanket for the Boilermakers who made most of his money working the middle of the field and up the seams. His final 2022 stat line of 56-560-8 helps illustrate that he found a way to win early and often throughout the season, including in the all-important red zone.

5.) OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State

Last year, Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele made himself some money at the Senior Bowl with an excellent showing on top of his elite measureables.

This year, Jones has t he best chance of a similar experience in Mobile. Listed at 6’8 and 358 pounds, the Buckeye senior is exactly what you hope he’d be on the field: A mauler. His elite functional strength and length is where most teams will fall in love with him. Joe Marino of The Draft Network describes Jones as a monolithic blocker who “engulfs opponents as a run blocker and puts them on skates.”

Despite being a surprising mover for someone his size, Marino notes that Jones isn’t all that nimble and will struggle against twitchier pass rushers. But even so, it’s tough not to fall in love with this amount of intangibles that simply can’t be coached.