The NFL Draft is finally over. Even though draft week is over, teams will focus on finishing the first phase of offseason workouts.
Before moving on, though, it is time to review the Chargers 2021 draft selections and grade them as the team looked to strengthen numerous areas of the team.
Needs going into the draft: LT, G, WR, CB, S, LB, Edge, ST (in no particular order)
1st round- LT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
When the draft was taking place, it was incredible to see numerous teams pass up on Slater. When Cincinnati passed up on Penei Sewell and landed in Detroit, there was growing optimism that the Bolts may be able to land the left tackle. The Chargers stayed patient, and they selected him at number 13. The addition of Slater solidifies their offensive after that being their plan since the beginning of free agency. Slater has the potential to become an all-pro left tackle and will now have the duty of protecting quarterback Justin Herbert's blindside.
2nd round- CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
Another player that fell to the Chargers in the second round. Samuel spoke to the media, and he said he feels like most teams passed upon him because of his size, and he will prove them wrong. He is coming in with a chip on his shoulder. He plays very similar to his father. He sees the field differently and is able to make opposing quarterbacks pay for their mistakes. He will most likely play outside corner opposite Michael Davis with Chris Harris Jr. in the slot. In Brandon Staley's defense, he could become a pro bowler like his father.
3rd round- WR Josh Palmer, Tennessee
The Chargers surprised a lot when they decided to go wide receiver in the third round, but Palmer could be a solid addition. He could help the Bolts right away, especially with his different abilities. Palmer has down the field ability to make great catches even when bad passes are thrown. He didn't have the best quarterback while at Tennessee, which he will now as a Charger. Palmer told the media he would stick to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams like "loose change in your pocket." Expect him to help on special teams, too.
3rd round- TE Tre' McKitty, Georgia
The Bolts are looking to make up for the contribution that left their building in Hunter Henry. They added McKitty, who can do a little bit of everything. When looking at his film, he looks a lot like a player who was important at times for the Chargers in Virgil Green. He at times would make catches at times when the Bolts needed to move the ball. He was also a very good blocking tight end, which the team needs. He didn't see a lot of passes his senior year but could see more in LA. McKitty also mentioned that he played special teams his first three seasons, so that will come in handy for the Bolts.
4th round- Edge Chris Rumph II, Duke
When this pick was made, Daniel Jeremiah from NFL Network was raving about Rumph's athletic ability. He is very quick off the line and seems to use his athletic ability to get to the quarterback. He said he is excited to learn from Joey Bosa. One knock on Rumph is that he might not be as big as usual edge defenders but expect him to gain a little weight/strength before training camp. Staley must be excited getting a player like this and seeing how he is going to play him.
5th round- OL Brenden Jaimes, Nebraska
At this point, the Bolts needed offensive line depth, and they got a solid player from the Big 10. Jaimes only allowed seven sacks in his collegiate career. He said he is coming to learn but also to compete for a starting spot. Tom Telesco and Staley both mentioned they see him as a combo guard/tackle. At the Senior Bowl, coaches had him play guard, and he looked pretty good. He could be a day one starter, especially with his determination and talent. Jaimes could end up being a steal for the Bolts.
6th round- Nick Niemann, Iowa
Another Niemann is headed to the AFC West. Nick is sneaky athletic and has a chance to help the Chargers on special teams. They were the worst team on special teams in 2020, and adding a solid player like Niemann may improve in 2021. He was a sure tackler in college and has great instincts that could help him see the field on defense. It is still not known which linebacker he will play because while he was a middle linebacker, he also played weakside linebacker. He ran a 4.45, so fans will see him fly down the field on special teams.
Round 6- RB Larry Rountree III, Missouri
This was an interesting pick because even though the Chargers didn't need a running back, they kind of do. Last season, almost every running back on the roster missed a game due to injury. Telesco & CO. don't want this to happen again. Rountree adds a little bit of juice to the offense's needs. He will first need to earn some playing time while on special teams, even though Telesco said he doesn't view him as a returner. He scored 40 touchdowns along with 3,720 rushing yards in four seasons and stated he wants to improve his pass-catching abilities. Telesco said he liked the pass blocking ability from Rountree, so there is a huge plus for a running back entering a crowded back room.
Round 7- DB Mark Webb, Georgia
The Bolts needed a safety and got one in the seventh round…maybe. Staley said he saw Webb as a defensive back, so that means he will probably use him in different ways across the secondary. Webb was very emotional when speaking to the media and said he knows he will have to earn his stripes with special teams. If he does get playing time on defense, expect him to be all over the field. Webb is a ball magnet and is an excellent tackler, so he will be able to make his mark in a Bolts uniform.
This is probably Tom Telesco's strongest draft in recent memory…maybe in his career as a GM. He picks guys that fit a specific need even though they went for the best player available. There was no unheard player from a small school. This was really a strong draft where all nine guys look like they could make the roster and also play a significant role on special teams. This is an A because of the additions of Slater and Samuel. The icing on the cake was the quality of players they drafted.
Final grade: A