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5 Final Takeaways From the Chargers 2023 Draft 

AP Photo/Stephen Spillman
AP Photo/Stephen Spillman

The Chargers 2023 draft haul included seven players, featuring four on offense and three on defense.

All of the Bolts moves can be found at the Chargers 2023 Draft Tracker.

Here are five final takeaways from the Chargers 2023 draft:

1. Following the board

Unlike previous years, the Chargers entered the draft without a need for a starter at a particular spot on offense or defense.

The Bolts feature plenty of star power and big names on both sides of the ball, and there wasn't need to add a Day 1 starter in the first round.

When all was said and done, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said the team simply let their draft board play out over the three days and took players they had high grades on at that time.

"We don't really go in trying to fill positions. We kind of draft what the board presents us," Telesco said. "We're pretty happy with how it turned out, though."

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley echoed Telesco's comments.

In 2021, Staley's first draft, the Bolts had an opening in the lineup and took Rashawn Slater. And a need at right guard in 2022 led to the selection of Zion Johnson.

This year? The Chargers could simply look to add depth and talent all across the roster over seven rounds.

"I really think, going into this draft, I know that we had a really good football team," Staley said. "Going into this draft, I felt that it was a little bit different than our first two drafts where you felt like there are still some starting positions that are up for grabs or there may be some things that we need to address, where I really feel good about our starting 22. There's probably a little bit more than that when you count sub roles.

"We have a lot of people coming back that are really, really good. Now, what we can do is just add to the depth of the team, keep taking good players. I felt like this is the draft where you can start getting into rhythm of just picking the best players on the board that fit your team and your culture," Staley added.

Take Quentin Johnston for example.

The Chargers already have a strong trio of wide receivers but the addition of Johnston gives the Bolts yet another playmaker for Justin Herbert.

Johnston doesn't need to come in and light the world on fire as a rookie. But if he can carve out a role for himself and make plays when the ball comes his way, he'll contribute a good amount as a rookie.

"We love his run-after-catch skills," Telesco said. "He's a big receiver, but he has really quick feet to change directions — so he can not only try and make somebody miss to make yards but also, he's big and strong to pull through some tackles.

"I think that's one element to our offense that he can add that would really help us," Telesco added. "Skillful receivers on the outside — this is a passing league. The more receivers we can have, the better for our quarterback. We're happy to have him."

2. Plenty of proven players

The Chargers certainly had a type when it came to players they added in the draft.

Each of the seven selections played plenty — and produced heavily — during their college careers.

Wide receiver Quentin Johnston, the Bolts first-round pick, was a two-time First-Team All-Big 12 selection and was the best player on the field in TCU's College Football Playoff Semifinal win over Michigan.

USC's Tuli Tuipulotu was the 2022 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and led the nation with 13.5 sacks in 2022. Linebacker Daiyan Henley was a First-Team All-Pac 12 selection after finishing second in the conference in tackles.

TCU's Derius Davis was the 2022 Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. Clemson's Jordan McFadden won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the ACC's top blocker.

Scott Matlock was a team captain and two-time Second-Team All-Mountain West honoree at Boise State. And TCU quarterback Max Duggan was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2022 while leading the Horned Frogs to the national title game.

All of that is to say that the Chargers didn't draft player who could be projects in the NFL. They will have have to learn and improve, yes, but each comes into the league with a baseline of talent and expectations.

"I thought we were able to just draft players that we felt like fit what we're trying to join up with, create depth and competition at other positions," Staley said. "We didn't take any projections, these guys that we drafted, all seven of them, have proven college production.

"The production was there, the intangibles were there. I think, from a culture standpoint, they all have toughness, I think that these guys are all football players," Staley added. "It's going to create a lot within our locker room that, I think, is going to be really healthy, in terms of competition and fitting into a team that's already really good."

3. An instant impact?

Looking for a draft pick who could make an impact right away?

Davis, the Chargers fourth-round pick, might see the field the most early on because of his projected role on special teams.

Staley said Saturday that Davis, who has 4.36 speed, is in line to be the kick and punt returner right away.

"Definitely comfortable with him. We drafted him in the fourth round because we really feel like he was one of the top returners in the country," Staley said. "Then, looking at the landscape of both pro and college football, we really felt like this guy is special with the ball in his hands."

Davis had six total touchdowns on special teams in his college career, including five on punt returns.

Give him some time under Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Ryann Ficken, who revamped the Bolts special teams group in 2022, and Davis could provide a jolt right away in an important phase.

"He has vision, good instincts first. Acceleration and then home-run speed," Telesco said.

4. Assessing the TE group

With seven picks, the Chargers weren't going to be able to add to every position group in the draft.

And while they hit on most of them, the Bolts did not draft a running back, tight end or defensive back.

Telesco praised the tight end group as a deep one before the draft, and Staley agreed with him Saturday night. But the Bolts were never going to reach for such a player and, once again, stayed true to their board.

"I think that it's fair to say that it was definitely a deep tight end class. The way the board fell, the timing wasn't right for us," Staley said. "Where we were picking in the rounds, it just didn't quite match up with the value that we had at certain players, where I think that a lot were picked ahead of us in all of the rounds and stuff like that.

"You can't get everything that you want. I thought what we were able to do with our seven picks was take quality players that, I think, our personnel department and coaches really had conviction on," Staley added.

The Bolts will now go forward with Gerald Everett as the starter, with Donald Parham, Jr., Tre' McKitty, Stone Smartt and Hunter Kampoyer on the roster. Michael Ezeike was added as an undrafted free agent Saturday night.

Both Staley and Telesco expressed confidence in that group, beginning with Everett.

"I think that with Gerald Everett, we know that what we're getting. That guy was a weapon for us," Staley said. "That was a tremendous signing for us last year. As you saw in the playoff game, that guy may have been one of the best players on the field. I thought that he had his best season as a pro for us last year."

Parham battled injuries and McKitty battled inconsistencies in 2022, but the Chargers hope both players can bounce back this season.

Smartt saw some action as a rookie and Kampmoyer was on the practice squad.

"We like our tight end room. We draft what the board presents us," Telesco said. "You really can't manufacture anything. I think it's a really good group of players. We have some depth there at that position. We're ready to go."

Telesco later added: "Where we are now, that might not be where we are starting out for the first game. We like those guys. We've played a lot of winning football with that group. We'll be excited to keep adding to it as we get closer to the to the season."

5. Keeping time in mind

That last quote from Telesco is an important one.

With Organized Team Activities set to start later this month, the Chargers do not have a full 90-man roster yet.

Remember that a year ago, the team signed veterans such as Morgan Fox, Bryce Callahan and Kyle Van Noy — all of whom were key players last season.

Telesco was asked if the Bolts could take a similar approach again.

"After the draft, we're always kind of looking to see what's out there," Telesco said. "We'll continue to do that. Nothing imminent right now."

Staley said the front office is always looking to add talent to the roster no matter the time of year.

"After today, take a deep breath, and then you're going to evaluate the landscape of pro football," Staley said. "As you know, last year, this was a productive period for us. There are going to be a lot of players like that that are available, we just need to make sure that it's the right fit for us.

"Again, there's a long time between now and our first game," Staley added. "There's going to be a window here now, but then, training camp and before we play, there's a big window, too. That's going to be part of the process of filling out our team."

Get a behind-the-scenes look at 2023 first-round pick Quentin Johnston's first day with the Bolts!

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