ESPN Senior NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper might as well be the godfather of the modern draft analysts movement that has swept social media over the past decade. He’s been in this game longer than anyone which is why whenever he speaks, people always tend to listen.
On Tuesday morning, Kiper dropped his first 2024 first-round mock draft over at ESPN and he’s got the Chargers staying put in the fifth-overall slot and taking the best player available (regardless of position) in Georgia tight end Brock Bowers.
*insert rheotric positional value not being ideal
Bowers is not like every other tight end in recent memory. There have been some good ones at the college level, but it’s hard to find a good comparison for the type of playmaker he is at the position. In fact, he became the first tight end to ever win the John Mackey Award twice. That’s not something to just shrug your shoulders at.
Kiper believes the Chargers could go in a number of directions. Edge rusher, cornerback, and wide receiver were all named as options at No. 5. The former two are likely much further down the priority list in my opinion while wide receiver could be an option with names like Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze available there.
Every analyst worth their salt knows that tight end positional value is too low for a top-five pick. But, they also know Bowers is the exception, not the rule. Kiper likes what Bowers could bring to a team that needs more playmakers at all the skill positions.
“Gerald Everett caught 51 passes in 2023, but he averaged just 8.1 yards per reception,” says Kiper. “L.A. really has to add a playmaker at the tight end position. With Everett hitting free agency, there’s a hole for Bowers, who is spectacular after the catch, to fill. He had 26 touchdown catches over three college seasons, showing a stellar ability to stretch the seams. Justin Herbert hasn’t had a pass-catcher like Bowers since he entered the league in 2020.”
Many of the most successful seasons in Chargers franchise history came when they employed a top-notch tight end. Kellen Winslow and Antonio Gates have done a lot of the heavy lifting in the regard. The 2018 season was a bit of an outlier with Hunter Henry missing the entire season with a torn ACL but it helps when Mike Williams and Melvin Gordon each have a breakout season (11 and 14 total touchdowns, respectively.)
More players other than Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler have to be able to step up for this team to have consistent and sustained success. With Ekeler likely not returning in 2024, the Chargers must replace at least a fraction of his 44 total touchdowns over the past three seasons. Bowers would help in that regard, but so would another elite receiver prospect.
Until the Chargers officially hire their head coach/general manager duo, we just don’t have any clues as to where they may lean in the coming months. But I still think it’s safe to say a playmaker for Justin Herbert is at the top of the list.
If you thought the Kyle Pitts hype was insane, meet Brock Bowers— Davis Mattek (@DavisMattek) January 19, 2024
-25% of UGA's rec yards & a record 14 TDs as a true freshmen
-Led UGA in receiving 3 straight years
-31 TDs in 40 college games
-Ran a 4.5 in high school
Not sure there is a "too high" for his high-end outcomes pic.twitter.com/LcLJA90rDM