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Los Angeles Chargers Draft Grade


After months of build up and anticipation, the 2023 NFL Draft has come to a close. Although some may be quick to already look forward to the 2024 NFL Draft, there is still much excitement related to how those recently drafted will fair to NFL competition and fit in with their new teams. Going into the 2023 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers had some gaps that needed to be filled despite constantly being labled as a contender. So, with the draft now over, how does Tom Telesco and the Charger’s draft grade?


Overall Draft Grade: B-

Round 1 (21): Quentin Johnston, WR – TCU

How he fits in…

A big bodied receiver, TCU WR Quentin Johnston gives the Chargers the opportunity to win now while setting up for the future. A body similar to his new teammate Mike Williams, Johnston is a constant mismatch out wide. To go along with this, he’s also faster than what his size would indicate. However, one of the most impressive things about Johnston is his YAC (yards after catch) ability. For a man his size, Johnston should not be able to move as well as he does. Aside from his abilities to regularly run away from defenders or break tackles thanks to his size, Johnston also plays with good short area burst allowing him to get away from defenders with quick and explosive cuts or by quick and tight spin moves. 

With Keenan Allen possibly being a cap casualty next offseason, this selection allows time for Johnston to build chemistry with Justing Herbert while developing to be a potential WR1 for Kellen Moore’s offense. This upcoming season, Johnston will benefit greatly from not only being coached up by Moore, but also by his new teammates Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.


Where he falls short…

Having the most upside of any receiver in this year’s draft, Quentin Johnston also had the most risk associated with him. This stems primarily from him not being the big bodied receiver fans typically think of. Too often does Johnston struggle against press coverage and in jump ball situations. Against press coverage, Johnston leaves his chest exposed allowing for a solid jam. Being in the AFC West, this will pose a problem given the Chargers regularly play experienced CBs such as Patrick Surtain, Nate Hobbs, and L’Jarius Sneed. Additionally, Johnston catches using his body instead of his hands resulting in dropped balls. Combine his inefficiencies catching the football and his struggles versus press coverage, Johnston is a project. He has the size and athletic ability, but in order for him to live to his full potential, he’ll have to get better catching the football and working through contact.


Round 2 (54): Tuli Tuipulotu, DE – USC

How he fits in…

Needing depth along the defensive line, the Chargers opted to stay local with the USC product who’s also from the LA area. He won’t impress you by his speed or strength, but his size and relentlessness offers great versatility in an NFL front. On the edge, Tuipulotu excels in the run game where he stands up defensive tackles and pulling linemen to set the edge and force RBs to cutback. If runners don’t choose to do this, Tuipulotu increases his violence to discard blockers and make tackles. In his pass rush, he’ll perform well on the outside thanks to his technique, but he’ll do more damage on the inside rushing from the 2 to 4i techniques. 


Where he falls short…

When it comes to Tuipulotu’s overall game, there’s a reason why he only excels in certain situations. As I explained previously, he won’t impress you with his speed or strength. On the outside, he doesn’t have the bag of tricks more physically mature pass rushers have. He doesn’t consistently win when bull rushing and he doesn’t regularly gain the edge to get around OTs. On the inside, the reason why he’ll win more there is because he’ll have more agility than most interior linemen to slip through the gaps. However, because of his lack of strength, Tuipulotu is not to be used on the interior in situations that necessitate run defense. 

Although he’ll be a good depth piece who can be groomed over the course of the season to be an option for Khalil Mack’s replacement, this is likely to be the case. With a play caller like Brandon Staley at the helm of a star studded defense, Tuipulotu will make some plays. But, it is more likely that Los Angeles will have to look elsewhere when it comes to finding a replacement for Mack in the future. 


Round 3 (85): Daiyan Henley, LB – Washington State University

How he fits in…

Another LA native, Daiyan Henley began his career at the University of Nevada on offense and returning kicks on special teams. Eventually, he was moved to linebacker where his career would take off. Having great range for a LB, Henley plays his best when he plays downhill as his athleticism keeps his body in control. Henley also performs very well when blitzing as he combines his speed and athleticism to weave in-between gaps to make plays in the backfield. Furthermore, Henley breaks down well going into tackles where he gets a good wrap up to bring down ball carriers. With LBs Kyle van Noy and Drue Tranquil no longer on the roster, Henley will pair up with Kenneth Murray as the team’s starting linebackers. Even if the team decides to tender van Noy, still expect Henley to gain a starting role since he’ll excel on special teams in the meantime.


Where he falls short…

Ranked by Pro Football Focus as this year’s top linebacker prospect, there are instances when Henley doesn’t play like it. For instance, Henley sometimes focusses too much on the backfield where he can be slow to process plays. This is tragic when he plays against the run as he isn’t strong enough to stand up to offensive linemen. Moreso, Henley needs to be more violent going into contact. Going up against offensive linemen, Henley more often creates a wall instead of blowing up a play. Even when going into tackles, he isn’t the type of player who will run through ball carriers. He has the potential, but there is the possibility that he ends up being another Kenneth Murray. 


Round 4 (125): Derius Davis, WR – TCU 

How he fits in…

Probably the most glaring hole the Chargers needed this offseason was their lack of speed. The team needed to add speed not only on the offensive side of the football, but also on special teams. In the fourth round, Tom Telesco decided to select TCU WR Derius Davis and his 4.36 second 40-yard dash. As a rookie, expect Davis become the Charger’s primary returner for punt and kick returns. He was an explosive player for the Horned Frogs this past season who produced two punt returns for touchdowns to become the program’s all time punt return scorer with five throughout his career in Fort Worth. For a player who’s thought of solely as a special teamer, Davis also runs a rather complete route tree and has the possibility of carving out a role for himself from the slot just as DeAndre Carter did for the team last season. 


Where he falls short…

At the very worst, Davis should become a reliable return man. However, selecting a player who only contributes on special teams in the fourth round is a big reach especially when analysts projected him being selected in the seventh round. It’s fine that Tom took him so early if he turns out to be more than a special teamer, but with better players still available that could have filled other holes, this pick might require some explaining. 


Round 5 (156): Jordan McFadden, OG – Clemson

How he fits in…

Having logged just under 3,000 career snaps at Clemson, McFadden comes to the Chargers with a vast amount of experience after playing in one of college football’s best programs of recent memory. Playing offensive tackle for the Tigers, Jordan McFadden offers versatility along the offensive line just as Jamaree Salyer did last year when he was a rookie. He may not be the ideal weight of an offensive guard only being 303 pounds, but his 34 inch arms should be enough to keep rushers at bay while he adds weight and adjusts to NFL competition. 


Where he falls short…

A day three pick seems rather late for someone who won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy this past season – the award for the top blocker in the ACC. However, because of his more than sloppy footwork, patience, and lack of strength and athleticism, this is where McFadden wound up. For the Chargers, he will offer better depth than Foster Sarell would, but fans shouldn’t get their hopes up just because of how Salyer developed last season. McFadden’s overall play should improve with NFL coaching just as he should get stronger as he adds weight, but for someone with arms as long as his, he often gets his hands on his opponents after them. By chance he doesn’t improve his footwork, gain strength, or become more timely with his punch, this will prove to be a more useless pick than if the Derius Davis doesn’t pan out. 


Round 6 (200): Scott Matlock, DL – Boise State University

How he fits in…

A player who wasn’t invited to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, Matlock didn’t play like it throughout his career as a Bronco. He may not be uber athletic, quick, or strong, but after being a multi-sport athlete in high school, Matlock is more athletic than the typical 300 pound day three selection. Along with this, Matlock is very technically sound. He plays with decent pad level and above average hand usage leaving offensive linemen struggling to get a grip on him in pass and run protections. Additionally, Matlock is a reliable player as shown by how he didn’t miss a start over the past three seasons to combine for a total of 1,871 snaps played. For Brandon Staley he’ll be a very good depth piece who should be a key contributor on special teams and on defense as a rotational player.


Where he falls short…

Technique is nice, but when playing against NFL competition, you need to have some strength and quickness to your game if you want to be successful. He creates a wall against the run but when double teamed or stood up in pass protection, Matlock becomes useless. Moreso, Matlock does not have the ideal amount of athleticism or flexibility to make up for his lack of speed and strength. He isn’t the type of player who will slip inbetween gaps, get around the edge with a solid rip, or contort his body to draw a penalty. 


Round 7 (239): Max Duggan, QB – TCU

How he fits in…

After not resigning Chase Daniels this offseason, the Chargers were limited at the quarterback position. Max Duggan started the year for the Horned Frogs as a backup, but after his output this past season, it’s clear he’s capable of producing at a high level with the right pieces around him. I’m not saying he’ll have a productive career reminiscent of this past year at TCU, but he is a tough and gritty player who shows the possibility of developing into a competent backup who could challenge Easton Stick for the backup QB position.


Where he falls short…

The Chargers were in the same boat last year where they ended up going into summer ball with three QBs on the roster. Easton Stick might not give them the best chance of winning if something were to happen to Herbert, but if the plan was to take a QB on day three of the draft, then why even keep Stick around? Afterall, as last year indicated, the Chargers could never have enough WRs. Moreso, the Bolts could have taken either a TE to develop, with Gerald Everett not being contracted past this season, or a RB to provide depth with the uncertainty surrounding Austin Ekeler. Either way, a valuable roster spot is now being taken thanks to there again being three QBs on the roster. 


Bringing things to a close…

For a franchise that’s in win now mode, this draft was not very reassuring of that. The Chargers provided much needed depth all around which is good, but the players they drafted to provide this depth were the second, third, or fourth best available at their position when they heard their names called. There’s always the chance that they breakout, but after this draft, it is difficult to think they improved enough to beat teams like the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals.

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