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Ranking the Chargers’ rookie class by how soon they’ll see the field

Which rookie has the smoothest path to the field in their first year?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 09 CFP National Championship Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rookie NFL players don’t always see the field sooner than their new teammates who were drafted behind them. Sometimes, it’s all about the right place at the right time.

Below, I went ahead and ranked the Chargers’ 2023 draft class in order from most likely to least likely in terms of how soon I believe they’ll see the field as rookies.

Let’s get into it.

1.) WR/RS Derius Davis

The selection of Davis in the fourth round was arguably the most-polarizing of the Chargers’ 2023 draft haul. Many analysts had him with a late day-three grade as a return specialist with little upside as a starting receiver at the next level.

However, the Chargers wanted to land a starter in the fourth and return specialist was the only real opening left on the roster. Davis’ 4.37 speed will be a refreshing change of pace in that phase of the game and with any luck, he’ll also grow into a potential gadget player to be used on offense.

2.) WR Quentin Johnston

Normally, I’d always place the first-round pick at the top of this list unless it was a quarterback that’s being forced to sit a year behind an incumbent starter. But here, Johnston comes in just under the top spot due to him being — at the most — WR3 on this team as a rookie. While that’s likely the case, Josh Palmer is still here and has been more than capable in his first two years with the Chargers. I don’t think the job is immediately handed to Johnston, but it shouldn’t take long for the coaching staff to convince themselves he’s ready to go after using such a high pick for his services.

3.) LB Daiyan Henley

Henley and Johnston are roughly in the same place but I have the latter the nod as the Chargers are much more likely to play offensive snaps with three wideouts on a week-to-week basis as opposed to the defense trotting out three off-ball linebackers. But with Kenneth Murray’s job still far from locked down, Henley has a chance to become a starter by the end of the season. But from the jump, he’ll be an athletic rotational piece who will spend some time on special teams, as well.

4.) EDGE Tuli Tuipulotu

Tuipulotu has a chance to rocket up this list were anything to happen to either Khalil Mack or Joey Bosa. He’ll immediately be the first edge rusher off the bench for the Chargers and could very well find himself on the field alongside Bosa and Mack in certain defensive packages.

The Chargers have always loved their ‘tweeners and Tuipulotu is the next in line to hopefully play a myriad of roles on defense. It’ll be interesting see where on the scale they believe he’s at his best, but after supposedly playing at 290 during the season and showing up at the combine at 266, there’s a lot of wiggle room there for whatever the final decision is.

5.) DT Scott Matlock

While the production wasn’t there for Matlock during his career, both his coaches and scouts still raved about his ability to wreak havoc in backfields, regardless if he’s the one making the final stop. After the injuries that hit the group in 2022, the Chargers will look to him as a rotational piece alongside 2022 fifth-round pick Otito Ogbonnia.

Matlock had the quote of the weekend among the Chargers’ draft picks when he told reporters we was “coming for souls” after being asked what type of player the team was getting in him.

6.) OL Jordan McFadden

If Jamaree Salyer did not exist, McFadden would have the inside track as one of the team’s starting guards spots this season. He’s that talented. However, he unsurprisingly got docked in his draft grade for being an undersized offensive tackle despite doing a tremendous job of keeping his quarterback clean over his career. In just under 1,600 career pass block snaps, McFadden allowed just TWO quarterback hits. That’s it.

Should either Salyer or Zion Johnson succumb to injury at any point this season, the Chargers should feel just fine playing McFadden in the meantime.

7.) QB Max Duggan

Duggan joins the Chargers as their third quarterback but the coaching staff believes he can immediately challenge Easton Stick for the backup role to Justin Herbert. Regardless of how that battle ends in training camp, just the simple fact that he plays quarterback means he’s going to be at the bottom of this list.

Despite other players at bigger positions of need still being available in the seventh, the Chargers felt strongly enough to use their final draft pick on Duggan, especially after they already took two of his receivers in the first and fourth rounds.