While the Las Vegas Raiders certainly improved in the 2022 NFL Draft, they were not the only team to do so. Their AFC West rivals also made some key additions to their rosters. Here, we’ll take a look at the Los Angeles Chargers’ 2022 draft class.
Chargers’ 2022 Draft: Day 1
1st round: Selected guard Zion Johnson from Boston College 17th overall
Los Angeles spent most of free agency beefing up their defense, allowing them to focus on the offensive side of the ball in the draft. Obviously, when you have someone like Justin Herbert at quarterback, you can’t put a price on protection. After securing Herbert’s blindside last season by selecting Rashawn Slater, it makes sense to focus on the interior this year.
Watching Johnson’s tape, it is pretty clear that the Chargers got a guy who can be a quality starter in this league for a decade plus. The only issue is the value of the position. Taking a guard in the first round isn’t much better than getting a safety or a running back. It’s really only good value if the player you take winds up being in the top 10 in the league at the position. Johnson has a good shot at being that, but it’s far from a guarantee.
The one truly questionable thing about this pick is the fact that they passed on cornerback Trent McDuffie out of Washington. Taking a corner is a much higher value pick. Yes, the Bolts already invested a lot in defense, but the secondary was still an area that could use help, and McDuffie is an animal and might even turn out to be the best corner in the draft. The Johnson pick was good but unspectacular.
Day 1 Grade: B+
Chargers’ 2022 Draft: Day 2
2nd Round: Traded to Chicago for Khalil Mack
3rd Round: Selected safety J.T. Woods from Baylor 79th overall
One could argue that the Chargers made the best pick in the draft by “selecting” Mack in the second round. He will immediately increase their defense by forming a horrifying duo with Joey Bosa. Raider Nation will hate him for pursuing Derek Carr twice a year. It is hard to find anything negative about what they did with this pick.
The Woods selection is another solid pick. The Chargers have a big and athletic box safety who can do it all. He can play in the box as a de facto extra linebacker, or cover the slot, or he can use his size to match up with a tight end. In a division full of great quarterbacks, slot receivers, and tight ends, this pick makes a ton of sense.
Day 2 Grade: A+
Chargers’ 2022 Draft: Day 3
4th Round: Selected running back Isaiah Spiller of Texas A&M 123rd overall
5th Round: Selected defensive tackle Otito Ogbonnia from UCLA 160th overall
6th Round: Selected guard Jamaree Salyer of Georgia 195th overall and cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor of Wake Forest 214 overall
7th Round: Selected cornerback Deane Leonard of Ole Miss 236th overall and fullback Zander Horvath from Purdue 260th overall
The Spiller pick has a lot of interest, especially looking at it from a more Raiders focused perspective. The Silver and Black moved up four spots from 126 to take Georgia running back Zamir White right before the Chargers were poised to take a tailback themselves. This presents a question: Did Los Angeles settle? Compared to White, possibly. Spiller does not have the bell cow potential of the former Bulldog, but that isn’t what he will be asked to do. The Chargers were clearly looking for someone to compliment Austin Ekeler. Spiller’s ‘one cut and go’ style, coupled with competent receiving skills make him a solid change-of-pace option.
As far as the rest of this group goes, it is mostly a lot of quality depth pieces. Ogbonnia should get a fair amount of work in the interior defensive line rotation, primarily on run downs. Salyer played a lot at tackle in college but projects more as a guard at the next level. He can be a good sixth offensive lineman with the potential to blossom into a starting guard opposite Zion Johnson. Corners Taylor and Leonard will likely round out the bottom of the Chargers’ depth chart and contribute on special teams. Speaking of special teams, Los Angeles may have finally found a replacement for Derek Watt. Horvath has the potential to be a “core four” staple and can help out the offense in short yardage situations.
Day 3 Grade: B
In summary, the Chargers’ draft haul looks like this: Three good starters at low-value positions; an elite player at a high-value position, albeit one where they already have an elite player; and about four or five depth pieces, depending on how many of them make the roster. The Chargers got better in the draft. That much is certain. However, I think that a lot of their most pressing needs heading into the draft still remain. Offensively, right tackle is still a huge question mark. They lack a true number one tight end and have very little at wide receiver beyond Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
Defensively, they will be heavily reliant upon the emergence of Kenneth Walker and Drue Tranquill at linebacker, and they have a gaping hole at corner opposite J.C. Jackson. Los Angeles prioritized getting the best player available over addressing their biggest needs in this draft. That is fine until those needs come back to haunt you.
Overall Grade: A-
*Top Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today Sports