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How have the Chargers’ draft needs changed?

After a quiet free agency, how is the draft board shaping up just a few weeks from the big night?

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Following the end of the Chargers’ 2022 season, the immediate list of needs they had entering the offseason was lengthy. At the time, you could have argued a handful of positions as a the team’s biggest need and the following four or five could have been in any order with it still making a ton of sense.

Once free agency hit, that list began to clear up a bit. But just how much did it change?

For a starting place, here’s a list of team needs (in no order) that I would have used following the season:

  • Wide Receiver (Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are not long to remain together on the team at their cap hits past 2023)
  • Linebacker (Kenneth Murray the best returning starter and Drue Tranquill future uncertain as a FA)
  • Edge Rusher (Needed depth badly after Joey Bosa missed 12 games)
  • Tight End (Jared Cook and Gerald Everett were always just bridge tight ends)
  • Cornerback (J.C. Jackson wasn’t great prior to the severe injury and he may not be ready for start of season)
  • Free Safety (Nasir Adderley was a free agent at the time and depth was horrid behind him)
  • Right Tackle (Trey Pipkins was a free agent and there was a chance he priced himself out of the team’s range at a premium position)

Now let’s take a look at how the team has fared so far in free agency:

Players added:

  • LB Eric Kendricks

Player Re-signed:

  • OT Trey Pipkins
  • DT Morgan Fox
  • TE Donald Parham Jr.
  • K Cameron Dicker
  • OT Foster Sarell
  • C Will Clapp
  • CB Kemon Hall
  • P JK Scott

Players lost:

  • LB Drue Tranquill (Chiefs)
  • OT Storm Norton (Saints)
  • S Nasir Adderley (Retired)
  • OG Matt Feiler (Cut)
  • WR DeAndre Carter (Raiders)
  • DT Breiden Fehoko (Steelers)
  • LB Troy Reeder (Vikings)
  • DL Joe Gaziano (Falcons)
  • WR Michael Bandy (XFL)

After three weeks, I think it’s safe to say the overall picture has become much clearer.

We can check off right tackle off the bat following the re-signing of Pipkins. The swap of Tranquill for Kendricks doesn’t really move the needle much but at least they don’t have to come away from the draft with another starter there.

Adderley was always going to be gone as the team hopes 2022 third-round pick JT Woods can step into that spot in his sophomore season. However, after seeing him perform in limited snaps as a rookie, I’m not so sure he’s even close to being a starter in the NFL.

As mentioned above, I don’t think the cornerback position will be nearly as strong as others want to think. Last year’s starter in the slot, Bryce Callahan, is still on the market and it’s looking more and more like the team is willing to trust Ja’Sir Taylor there despite an up-and-down rookie season.

So now, if I had to list the team’s top four draft needs as of right now, here’s where I’d land:

  • Wide Receiver
  • Edge Rusher
  • Cornerback
  • Tight end

I think wide receiver is just too important to overlook in the first two rounds. Everything needs to be centered on Justin Herbert because this team goes the way he does. The Chargers need to add a long-term starter in this draft to make the transitions and changes of the next two years as smooth as possible.

The Chargers don’t look like they’re bringing back Kyle Van Noy and Chris Rumph II isn’t progressing the way the team would want. After a year where the position was lackluster throughout most of the season, adding an influx of juice that can realistically spell both Khalil Mack and Bosa will only raise the floor of the defense as a whole.

I already talked extensively about the cornerback situation and just like edge, this is a position that feels awfully shallow behind the top two guys. I think they can afford to wait until the third or fourth this year to grab another corner.

Lastly, this team just needs to find a long-term starter at tight end. Two years of a bridge tight end with drop issues is enough and not what Herbert or this fan base deserves. Luckily this class of tight ends is one of the best in almost a decade.