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Chargers 2023 Draft Report Card: Bolts Get Strong Marks for 7-Man Class

Buzz 05.01

The 2023 NFL Draft is over as the Chargers came away from the weekend adding seven players over the three days.

The Bolts let their draft board play out as they didn't draft for need and instead took players they had high grades on.

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

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley echoed Telesco's sentiment, as he mentioned how the team was able to add players who had proven production in their collegiate careers.

"What I liked about this draft is I felt like, going into the draft, that we have a really good team," Staley said. "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. 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."

And while it's going to take some time to fully assess this draft class, NFL experts and analysts have their grades out on how they think the Chargers did in this year's draft.

Best Overall Pick: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU (No. 21)

Grade: A+

"The Los Angeles Chargers needed to add speed on offense, and Quentin Johnston plays even faster than his timed speed (4.49 40-yard dash at TCU's Pro Day). He has been a polarizing prospect throughout the process, but he is incredibly explosive and is a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. He has some head-scratching plays but even more that make you say "wow." The Chargers get the top receiver on our board. They are adding size to an already big room and a rare prospect with a high ceiling."

Grade: A-

"The Chargers got some much-needed help for quarterback Justin Herbert in Round 1, selecting TCU playmaker Quentin Johnston at No. 21 overall. Johnston isn't exactly the type of receiver I was thinking L.A. would add—he's more of a yards-after-the-catch creator than a true deep threat—but his twitchy athleticism and creativity in space should be a boon for the team's sluggish offense nonetheless. USC edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu was one of my favorite Day 2 picks, giving the Chargers a versatile and relentless defensive lineman who can be deployed all over the front. Daiyan Henley is rough around the edges at the linebacker spot, but adds some juice to the team's second level. And I liked the addition of Johnston's former TCU teammate, receiver Derius Davis, who does give the team a lid-lifting speedster who can stretch the field. All in all, a solid draft for L.A."

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

Best Value Pick: Daiyan Henley, ILB, Washington State (Round 3, No. 85)

"He's small for the position at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, but Henley has really good instincts and burst. He can make plays in the backfield (nine tackles for loss last season) and has the range to run down ball carriers. Once he gets in their neighborhood, he's a wrap-up tackler who uses his 33-inch arm length to lasso opponents. Watching the tape, Henley can hang with running backs and tight ends in coverage, but the pass-rush element of his game isn't quite there yet.

Drue Tranquill signed in Kansas City, leaving Kenneth Murray Jr. and 31-year-old Eric Kendricks up the middle. Henley should provide immediate depth and has the chance to develop into a solid off-ball linebacker in short order.

One more name for Los Angeles -- a specialist: TCU receiver Derius Davis is the most dangerous return man in this class and could be taking kicks back as a rookie."

"Favorite pick: Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State

I was fine with the Chargers' first two picks — both were a little earlier than I would have liked, but they make logical sense in terms of fit. My favorite pick, however, was Henley, who will push to see the field from the get-go. A former quarterback, wide receiver and safety, he made the transition to linebacker and surpassed 100 tackles each of the last two seasons while putting positive plays on tape in coverage.

Day 3 pick who could surprise: Derius Davis, WR, TCU

With his return skills, it wouldn't be a surprise if Davis makes more of an immediate impact for the Chargers than his TCU teammate, Quentin Johnston, who was drafted in the first round. Davis has remarkable speed (4.36 40 and 1.46 10-yard split) and was responsible for five punt-return touchdowns in college, averaging 15.0 yards per return in his career. He also added a kick-return touchdown and seven career special-teams tackles for good measure."

The scene is set!! Check out where the Chargers front office will be based for night one of the 2023 NFL Draft!

Grade: A-

"Day 1: The Chargers land the third-ranked wide receiver on the PFF big board, and a player who can make people miss in space in TCU's Quentin Johnston. He forced 19 missed tackles on just 60 receptions and averaged 17.8 yards per catch. He did drop 11.8 percent of the catchable passes thrown his way this past season, though.

Day 2: Tuipulotu is one of the youngest players in the class at 20 years old and earned an 81.0 pass-rush grade in 2022 with a 19.1 percent pass-rush win rate. The Chargers are very smart to add a third edge beyond Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. They can move him around as well, as the USC product has the size to play as a three-technique defensive tackle or on the edge.

Henley is as explosive as can be with a big tackle radius and elite tackling numbers. He missed a mere five tackles on 97 attempts in 2022, his first year at the Power Five level after transferring from Nevada. Henley's coverage skills are very much a work in progress, but he has the traits to develop into a quality off-ball linebacker for the Chargers."

Grade: B+

"The Chargers got involved in the unprecedented receiver run in the first round and picked my WR1 in this class, Johnston, at 21 overall. Fun vertical and, vitally, YAC weapon for Justin Herbert. Tuipulotu has inside-out flexibility and understands how to win at the point of attack with his hands. Many young rushers don't. Henley is exactly the type of off-ball linebacker the Chargers needed, and his athleticism and spatial awareness indicate he'll hit the ground running in the NFL."

Grade: B

"On Day 2, L.A. went for a couple of defensive tweeners in Tuli Tuipulotu (54) and Daiyan Henley (85). Tuipulotu had 13.5 sacks last season, but if he bulks up, he could play some tackle too. Henley stuffed the stat sheet in one season at Washington State, and he has the ability to cover tight ends and running backs in the pass game. He could make an immediate impact. When I studied Derius Davis (125), a college teammate of Johnston, I saw a better return man than route runner, though Davis is super fast. I don't mind spending a seventh-rounder on TCU quarterback Max Duggan (239), though I have questions about his ceiling. In L.A., he'll get reunited with two of his former wide receivers in Johnston and Davis."

Grade: B

Cincy-esque, the typically talented Bolts in position to enlist quality players who can likely contribute in 2023 even if they're not starting until 2024 – first-round WR Quentin Johnston, second-round OLB Tuli Tuipulotu and third-round LB Daiyan Henley all in that boat.

Grade: B-

"Johnston has potential as an outside threat but must improve his hands and routes to maximize his potential. Tuipulotu's relentless nature will help him overcome a lack of twitch outside. Henley's going to be the new Drue Tranquill/Kyzir White special-teamer/linebacker type for the Chargers.

Davis reunites with Johnston to use his speed in the slot and can take over return duties immediately. I projected Matlock to be picked by the Chargers in the seventh round of my mock draft, as he fits at the 5-technique position for the Bolts. McFadden is a similar player to Jamaree Salyer. Duggan will compete with Easton Stick for the backup spot."

Grade: B-

"The Bolts drafted another big-bodied receiver in the first round, TCU product Quentin Johnston. He's got good short area quickness and should provide an ability to make plays after the catch. USC pass-rusher Tuli Tuipulotu led the nation in sacks last year and offers versatility, with the ability to play defensive tackle and defensive end. A converted receiver, Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley brings athleticism and energy to the defense while TCU product Max Duggan should compete for a backup job behind Justin Herbert. The Bolts drafted three TCU products overall, including electric receiver/returner Derius Davis."

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