The Los Angeles Chargers filled several of their short- and long-term holes during the 2020 NFL Draft, acquiring a quarterback of the future (Justin Herbert), a play-making off-ball linebacker (Kenneth Murray), depth in the backfield (Joshua Kelley), and more.
However, those additions have yet to make a convincing argument to some that the Chargers deserve a spot among the top half of the NFL. In the latest ESPN power rankings, the team came in 24th, behind all three other teams in the AFC West.
24. Los Angeles Chargers
Post-free-agency ranking: 24
Players who benefited: OTs Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins. It was widely predicted that the Chargers would look for their future left tackle in the draft. However, they did not select an offensive lineman, despite trading up to make a second first-round pick (linebacker Kenneth Murray). Their decision not to draft an offensive lineman must point to their confidence that an internal candidate is ready to take over. Tevi's and Pipkins' names have been the two most often mentioned by Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco.
The Chargers currently lack a proven commodity at left tackle, the result of an offseason trade that sent Pro Bowl veteran Russell Okung to the Carolina Panthers for guard Trai Turner. That deal, along with the free-agent signing of Bryan Bulaga, secured the right side of Los Angeles' offensive line. However, it left Trey Pipkins, Trent Scott, Sam Tevi, and Forrest Lamp as the remaining options for the team for Okung's vacated spot.
How that competition plays out could well determine who quickly the revamp of the Chargers' offensive system unfolds. The team has high hopes for Pipkins, a third-round pick from a year ago. But his play in 2019 suggests he'll have to improve significantly to become a full-time starter, and the lack of a traditional offseason due to COVID-19 will make that growth more difficult. Scott and Tevi project better as swing tackles while Lamp has played most of his career along the interior.
Perhaps if Pipkins falters and the Chargers don't feel comfortable with one of the other options, general manager Tom Telesco could pursue a veteran option on the open market. Jason Peters, the former All-Pro with a wealth of experience, remains unsigned and could potentially fill in at left tackle for one more season. Adding Peters could provide a bridge to a future starter, whether someone already on the roster or a player acquired next offseason.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH