The way-too-early 2021 NFL mock drafts continue to come fast and furious in the aftermath of last week's rookie selections. As before, these projections say more about what a particular pundit believes each team still needs and where it stands at this point in the offseason.
The latest mock draft from SB Nation's Dan Kadar follows that trend. In it, he sees the Los Angeles Chargers tackling the biggest area of weakness they didn't address in the actual 2020 draft: offensive tackle.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
The Chargers didn’t take an offensive lineman in the draft, and could be in need of one at this time next year. Leatherwood has played guard and tackle for Alabama, and done both well.
The idea that the Chargers need another offensive tackle heading into the 2020 season has gained traction since the draft. While they added former Green Bay Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga in free agency, general manager Tom Telesco traded left tackle Russell Okung earlier in the offseason to acquire right guard Trai Turner. In doing so, he traded one need for another and did not add another veteran nor draft a rookie at the position last week.
But that doesn't necessarily mean the Chargers don't have Okung's successor already on the roster. Trey Pipkins, a talented third-round pick from a year ago, received some starting experience last season and will have a full offseason to add strength and prepare for an open competition in training camp. The team also remains high on Sam Tevi, a starter at right tackle in 2019, as well as backups Forrest Lamp and Trent Scott. Los Angeles believes that someone from that group can emerge as a viable starter opposite Bulaga.
But if that doesn't happen, the Chargers could find themselves hunting for a long-term answer next offseason. A tackle like Alabama's Alex Leatherwood would offer experience, talent, and size, all traits the front office looks for in prospects along the offensive line. A player like Leatherwood could even make sense if the team opts to add a veteran like Jason Peters this offseason give the latter's age (39 in January).
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH