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Will Tight Ends Be the Deepest Position in the Draft?

Kincaid

The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine is on the horizon.

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who is also the radio color commentator for Chargers games, held a conference call Friday morning previewing prospects and the event in Indianapolis.

Here are five takeaways from Jeremiah:

1. Chargers options at No. 21

Jeremiah's most-recent mock draft had the Bolts taking TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston in the first route, with Jeremiah adding a note that the Chargers offense needs to inject some speed on that side of the ball.

But Jeremiah said Friday that the first round of the draft isn't the only place where the Bolts can find more explosiveness.

"They can do that in free agency as well. There are guys on that list that can move," Jeremiah said. "I just think it's an element that needs to be added. I'm not beholden to that being the first-round pick.

"If you aren't able to do it in the free-agency period, it's not an ultimatum that your first-round pick has to be a speed receiver," Jeremiah added. "You can find guys throughout the draft that can really run. It just has to show up at some point in the offseason. It is a big need."

Jeremiah, who knows the Bolts roster well, opined that the direction the Chargers go in the draft could be influenced by what happens next month in free agency.

The Bolts have 26 players who are scheduled to be free agents, including the likes of Trey Pipkins III, Drue Tranquill and others.

Jeremiah said that what happens with Pipkins, who started 14 games at right tackle in 2022, could mean that an offensive lineman is a possibility at No. 21.

"When you look at the free agency situation, what happens with Pipkins, I think, will inform a little bit of the direction they need to go in the offseason with the offensive line," Jeremiah said. "But with versatility, that's where Jamaree Salyer's ability to play tackle or play inside at guard is valuable to them."

Jeremiah also noted that an edge rusher could also be in play to help the defense, especially in the run game.

"The run defense has been the bugaboo for a few years now, so continuing to get stronger and stouter at the point of attack," Jeremiah added. "Maybe mix in a younger edge rusher as well."

2. A strong TE group

Jeremiah didn't mince words when hyping up the tight end class.

"I think the tight end group is as best I've seen in the last 10 years," Jeremiah said. "It's outstanding."

Tight ends such as Utah's Dalton Kincaid and Notre Dame's Michael Mayer have also been projected to the Bolts with the 21st pick in various mock drafts.

Jeremiah talked on the overall dept of the group while highlighting a few names at the top of the list.

"In terms of the number of guys, I have 11 tight ends that I have top-three round grades on, which is a ridiculous number," Jeremiah said. "It is just a really, really good group."

Kincaid is the top tight end on Jeremiah's board, as the well-respected draft analyst said he's drawn comparisons to Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz.

"I know he's coming off an injury right now and I know he's kind of a flex tight end, but … I think he's a big-time player. He's one of my favorite players to watch in this draft," Jeremiah said. "I think he's one of the best players in the draft.

"He's just sudden in everything that he does, he separates, he's outstanding after the catch, he can win on contact over the middle of the field," Jeremiah added. "He's really, really good after the catch. As a blocker, he's going to more shield you and wall off.

Jeremiah said Mayer is "an all-around tight end" from Notre Dame.

"He's not going to be real dynamic, but he's kind of the king of the combat catches," Jeremiah said. "He's got a good feel on option routes and keeping guys on his back and kind of walling them off to make plays. A good overall tight end, a good blocker."

Georgia's Darnell Washington, meanwhile, is listed at 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds.

"Massive … he's like playing with a sixth offensive lineman in the run game, and he's still developing and learning in the pass game," Jeremiah said. "I think there's more there … he doesn't get as many balls as he would in another offense."

Jeremiah also had high praise for Luke Musgrave from Oregon State, Iowa's Sam LaPorta, Tucker Kraft from South Dakota State, Clemson's Davis Allen and a handful of others.

"It is a really, really good group," Jeremiah said. 

3. High on a pair of WRs

While Johnston was Jeremiah's pick to the Chargers at No. 21, he had two wide receivers going before then in his latest mock draft.

USC's Jordan Addison was the pick to Houston at No. 12, while Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba went to Seattle with the 20th overall pick.

Jeremiah commented on both players on Friday.

"[In terms of] the best overall guy, in my opinion, that's Jordan Addison," Jeremiah said. "He's a complete  route runner and he gives you burst and explosiveness, makes plays over the top and has outstanding hands."

Jeremiah said of Smith-Njigba: ""If you're looking for high-volume catches and productivity, you can make a case for Jaxon Smith-Njigba because he's got a really good feel and works really good in the middle of the field."

Take a look back at photos of the Chargers celebrating in the locker room following wins during the 2022 season

4. The fascinating case of Bijan Robinson

In the most-recent Chargers Mailbag, a fan asked if the Bolts would consider taking Texas running back Bijan Robinson in the first round.

Jeremiah also tackled the topic Friday on whether or not Robinson will be taken in the first round.

"Everybody says that Bijan Robinson is not only the best running back in this class, he's one of the five best players this class. He's elite," Jeremiah said. "And then you transition to where does he go? And all of them say 'I have no idea'. Does he go in the 20s?"

Jeremiah said he wouldn't criticize a team if they take Robinson in the top-10, even if he does play running back. 

"I just don't know where to put him," Jeremiah said. "My philosophy on the running backs is I don't mind taking a running back in the first round as long as your team is your team is ready to win right now.

"But I don't want to waste carries on a crappy team," Jeremiah later added. "I want to have all of his carries over that five-year period count and help us push towards a championship. To take a big-time running back like that and your team stinks, you're going to waste his prime and it's not going to do anything for you. That's the conundrum there with Bjian Robinson. But he is, no doubt about it to me, one of the premier, premier players in the draft."

5. Some general thoughts

Jeremiah opened his call with some general thoughts, and most notable said that there could be a lot of differences on draft boards around the league.

"I think this is a year where, again, you're going to see some players that are 12 or 13 on one teams board and they might be 53 on another team's board," Jeremiah said. "There's a lot of variance in opinion and there's going to be some fascinating storylines to follow as we go towards the draft.

"In terms of overall strength of the draft, I think it's a really good corner group, I think it's a good edge rusher group," Jeremiah added. "I don't think the wide receiver group is quite what we've seen in the years recently here, but anyways, it's deep at some positions for sure."

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