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Who Should the Chargers Target With the 21st Overall Pick?

03.08 Buzz

With the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror and college Pro Days on the horizon, the draft process continues to heat up.

The Chargers sit with the 21st overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, their latest initial pick since 2019. Their two most-recent first-round picks have come on the offensive line with Pro Bowler Rashawn Slater and All-Rookie Team selection Zion Johnson both coming in and immediately having an impact.

What direction the Bolts go this year? That remains to be seen. But caught up with NFL Draft analysts at the Combine in Indianapolis to get their thoughts on what direction the Bolts could do in the first round.

The Athletic's Dane Brugler opined that, despite the number of factors between now and when the Chargers are on the clock, they are well-positioned for whatever direction they go.

"I think that obviously you have to wait and see how the first 20 picks go and then look at, we'll see what happens in free agency, we'll see what happens, what direction they go with wide receiver, if they make any changes," Brugler said. "Always looking to get more explosive, always looking to add playmakers and so, do any of these tight ends stand out.

"You look at the defensive side of the ball, you're always looking to get stronger up front," Brugler later added. "Pass rushers, in the middle, so which pass rushers are there for them if they want to try and bolster that, if they want to get better at defensive tackle. I think that obviously we have to wait and see how free agency plays out and what directions they go before the draft, but I think it shapes up pretty well who's going to be there at 21 and what direction they can go."

Take a look back at the best photos of the Chargers getting ready for kickoff during the 2022 season

One of the most popular picks, according to experts and mock drafts, would be at wide receiver. In the latest Chargers Mock Draft Tracker, half of the mock drafts had the Bolts selecting a wide receiver at No. 21.

Charles Davis, who is an analyst for NFL Network, said that if there was one player he would choose for the Chargers, it would be based off one trait that would compliment the current core of wide receivers perfectly.

"Who's the fastest receiver we can find?" Davis said. "When we see the track meet of receivers, who's the fastest, most accomplished receiver that comes out of this thing, that's who I would say.

"Because you've got everything else with Keenan Allen, you've got Mike Williams, you've got Josh Palmer, you've got big, strong, physical guys," Davis added. "I'm not saying they can't run, but I'm talking about a dart, a flyer because with Justin Herbert's arm, that ball should be downfield. Or the threat of it to open things up more for Keenan running his digs and everything else."

Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner tends to agree about wide receiver at No. 21, as he has one specific name for the Chargers at their spot.

"There's a lot of great options I think in this class because I think the wide receivers will be plentiful once you get to that point," Renner said. "I think that's where you got to look.

"A guy that would be hoping and praying falls to them is TCU's Quentin Johnston. Needing a high-end vertical threat is kind of what that offense has been missing," Renner continued. "You just don't have the speed of any of those top three guys to challenge deep. You really don't need all three guys to be fast, but you just need one.

"You get a guy like Quentin Johnston, all of a sudden, I think it opens up a lot of the other stuff that Keenan Allen does, that Mike Williams does, that Josh Palmer does. I think that's kind of the missing piece to it all," Renner added.

Take a look back at photos of the Chargers offense from the 2022 season

If the Bolts were to select a wide receiver, it would be the seventh time in franchise history the team chose one in the first round. But there's another position on offense that has also been mocked to the Chargers — tight end.

Many experts, including NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, have praised this tight end class and its depth. It's another position that the Bolts could go at No. 21, but even then, Renner believes it's a position they can address later in the draft as well.

"I do think it is," Renner said. "I rarely go to bat for first-round tight ends, it's just a position that if you look at the historical hit rate in the first round, it's very low, it's one of the lowest in the NFL. So, there's a guy in Michael Mayer from Notre Dame, there's a guy in Dalton Kincaid from Utah, that I have first-round grades on, which is the first since Kyle Pitts. I think I've only given out a few over the nine years of doing this at PFF.

"It's a special class not only at the top with those two guys, but then there's depth," Renner added. "There's guys that are probably going to fall to the third, fourth round that are probably better than a lot of starters in the NFL right now. It's a good class to be a need or want a tight end."

A lot will depend on how free agency plays out for the Chargers, as that can reshape what areas they choose to attack in the draft. Regardless, the 21st overall pick has the Bolts slotted in a prime position to select another impact player for 2023 and beyond.

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