Welcome to Part 5 of our 2023 draft preview series, which will be a position-by-position look at key prospects and where the Chargers roster stands ahead of the NFL Draft. This series will include a look at which prospects could be options for the Chargers later this month.
We chatted with NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger to break down the offensive tackles in this draft class. Baldinger, one of the top trenches experts around the league, can be found on Twitter @BaldyNFL for his analysis.
Chargers status at OT
The Bolts are in good shape on the outside of their offensive line in terms of starters. Rashawn Slater, who missed nearly all of last season with a torn biceps, is set to return and anchor the left side of the line at tackle.
Although he played just two-plus games in 2022, don't forget that Slater was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler as a rookie. Baldinger called him "the gold standard" among players at his position.
The Bolts brought back Trey Pipkins III as their starting right tackle on a multi-year deal this offseason. Pipkins, a 2019 third-round pick, showed progression over the years before winning the starting job in training camp last summer.
He started 14 games and showed strong growth, but the Bolts are banking on him to ascend even more in the coming years.
"Usually when you sign a UFA [unrestricted free agent], typically at that point in their career, they've probably hitting where they're going to be," Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said at the Annual League Meeting in late March. "We just think Trey's a little bit different. We still think there's still more there.
"He was a really good player for us last year at a premium position, and it's just nice when you can sign your own," Telesco added. "That position is really hard to find, there's not a lot of options out there. When one of your best options is in-house, that's the way to go if you can. I know he's happy about it, I know he wanted to stay."
Behind the two starters, the Chargers have Foster Sarell, Zack Bailey and Andrew Trainer as tackles on the roster.
Sarell made his NFL debut last season by starting three games in place of Pipkins when he was out with a knee injury. Bailey appeared in one game while Trainer missed the entire 2022 season with an injury.
Is OT a position of need?
The Chargers are in good shape in terms of starters, and could have one of the top tackle duos in the league if Pipkins continues to get better.
But Baldinger wondered aloud about the depth behind them and said taking a tackle in the latter half of the draft could be an option.
That player doesn't need to start, Baldinger noted, but simply develop and provide the ability to play in a pinch if called upon.
"It's tough to think you can go 17 games with your [starting] five right now, so you better start developing guys," Baldinger said. "They don't really have anybody behind your five. You don't have to take someone at the top of the draft but that's what I would think. Who's their third tackle?
"You look at some teams and they have really addressed offensive line depth in free agency," Baldinger added. "They need to start developing people and the way to do that is to draft them."
Key draft questions
1. What did you think of the Chargers bringing back Trey Pipkins III?
"They had a battle at right tackle last year. Trey has gotten better, so that's OK. Some guys find ways to improve. We've seen him go in and out of the lineup but I'd like to see more consistency."
2. What do you expect from a healthy Rashawn Slater?
"He's just so steady. His cutoff angles, the second level, how he gets his hands on guys in the run game and moves them … he's just an excellent technician. He's the gold standard in this business right now."
3. Who is your top OT prospect this year?
"My top guy is Broderick Jones from Georgia. I think he is as every bit as good as Andrew Thomas coming out where the Giants took him with the fourth pick three years ago. He might not be as physically strong as you want right now but I think he can come in and start right away. His sets are elite, his footwork is very good. Got incredible length. He's my No. 1 guy."
Potential Chargers options
Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on NFL.com (linked for each player's name).
School: BYU | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-8 | Wt: 302 pounds
2022 stats: 13 games; 860 offensive snaps at left tackle (398 run blocking; 462 pass blocking); PFF overall grade of 91.0
Quick fact: A four-year starter, Freeland appeared in 44 games and made 41 straight starts to cap his career.
School: Maryland | Year: Redshirt senior | Ht: 6-foot-6 | Wt: 306 pounds
2022 stats: 12 games; 803 offensive snaps at right tackle (327 run blocking; 476 pass blocking); PFF overall grade of 61.6
Quick fact: Duncan was a three-time All-Honorable Mention in the Big Ten. He didn't begin playing football until he was 14 but was among the top testers at the Combine.
School: Old Dominion | Year: Redshirt senior | Ht: 6-foot-6 | Wt: 318 pounds
2022 stats: 11 games; 691 offensive snaps at right tackle (236 run blocking; 455 pass blocking); PFF overall grade of 72.2
Quick fact: Saldiveri is looking to become just the third player ever drafted from Old Dominion.
School: Pittsburgh | Year: Redshirt senior | Ht: 6-foot-5 | Wt: 311 pounds
2022 stats: 4 games; 234 offensive snaps at left tackle (128 run blocking; 106 pass blocking); PFF overall grade of 66.4
Quick fact: Warren played in just four games in 2022 before suffering a season-ending injury. But he was a Second-Team All-ACC recognition in 2021.
School: Baylor | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-7 | Wt: 293 pounds
2022 stats: 13 games; 935 offensive snaps at left tackle (472 run blocking; 463 pass blocking); PFF overall grade of 77.7
Quick fact: Galvin played in 57 career games at Baylor, making 46 total starts at left tackle over five seasons.
Take a look at the best photos from the Chargers 2022 campaign through the lens of team photographer, Mike Nowak, manager of photography, Ty Nowell, seasonal photographer, Mackenzie Hudson, and gameday photographer, Noel Vasquez.
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