Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft is in the books.
The Chargers added a pair of defensive players in USC edge Tuli Tuipulotu (second round, No. 54) and Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley (third round, No. 85).
Day 3 of the draft begins Saturday at 9 a.m. (PT). Follow all of the Bolts moves here with the Chargers 2023 Draft Tracker.
Here are five takeaways from Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco, Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley and Tuipulotu:
1. Tuipulotu is a stud
Good luck finding a better college football defender than Tuipulotu in 2022.
The former USC dominated with a nation-best 13.5 sacks and finished second in the country with 22 tackles for loss.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley raved about the chance to add Tuipulotu to the roster.
"One of the top players in the country on defense. He has a lot of the characteristics that we think translate to playing championship defense," Staley said. "He's really tough and rugged at the point of attack. He's versatile. He can rush from the outside and from the inside. He has versatility that way.
"He has the play style that we're really attracted to. He was here at our local pro day, got to know him a little bit even better," Staley added. "He's a guy that just really grew on us in the process. I'm very excited to add him to our group."
Telesco also mentioned Tuipulotu's skillset as something that drew him to the Chargers.
"He's really quick, great hand use. Just has a great ability to get off blocks one way or another, whether it's instincts, slipperiness, hand use, power," Telesco said. "He just is an active, active player. He has big size, is powerful. He can play on the outside. We'll probably use him a lot of different ways."
The 20-year-old Tuipulotu is listed at 6-foot-3 and 266 pounds.
2. Henley offers versatility
It seems Henley has played almost every position on the field in his football career.
He was a quarterback, defensive end, safety and even kicker in high school. He landed at Nevada as a wide receiver before moving to safety and eventually linebacker, where he flourished before transferring to Washington State.
Telesco said Henley has had an "interesting story" of late but said the player has been able to excel no matter where he's been at on the field.
"His journey has been pretty interesting from high school to Washington State," Telesco said. "He's really instinctive. He's extremely fast. He's a violent hitter when he gets there.
"He's played a lot of special teams snaps in his career. That really was a big part of the equation, too. Adding depth, adding special teams players," Telesco added. "He still played a lot of special teams even this past year at Washington State. We got an increase of depth there at linebacker, but potentially a really good special teams player, as well."
Staley, who has placed a strong emphasis on special teams since he arrived in 2021, said Henley fits the mold of what the Bolts and Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken are looking for.
"The special teams value, too. To be a dynamic playmaker, a four-core player, and then a guy that we think eventually at linebacker," Staley said.
Henley's defensive abilities could show up later.
"If you take a look at his last year at Washington State, I think, in the run game and pass coverage," Staley said. "And then he was an outstanding rusher, had five sacks his last year there — any time that you can get a three-down linebacker that can really run, we feel like that's a really tough thing to find nowadays."
3. Learning from key vets
Both Tuipulotu and Henley are entering ideal situations as rookies.
Tuipulotu gets to join a room featuring Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, two of the league's best players at their positions.
"You're talking about a 20-year-old player that's going to walk into a room with Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. That's pretty good, and Chris Rumph [II]. I like those four guys," Telesco said.
Henley, meanwhile, will link up with Eric Kendricks and Kenneth Murray, Jr.
"What a wealth of knowledge," Staley said of both player. "They are two of the type of guys that will be able to soak all of that up from Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, and in Daiyan's case, from an Eric Kendricks. Kenneth Murray is going into his fourth year playing, so there's a lot of wisdom there.
"I know that they'll take full advantage of it. I think that they're going to fit really well with our football team," Staley added.
Tuipulotu, for his part, was fired up for the chance to be around Bosa and Mack on a daily basis.
"I'm blessed. Coming into the league, that's what I wanted," Tuipulotu said. "I wanted the best to learn from, and, man, Joey Bosa and Khalil? That's crazy.
"I'm excited for opportunity. I'm a sponge, so I am going to just absorb all of the info that they give me and just try to get better and make an impact on the team," Tuipulotu added.
Take a look through some photos of the Chargers 2023 third-round Draft pick LB Daiyan Henley, from Washinton State.
4. Local roots
Tuipulotu and Henley won't have to go far to meet their new teammates.
Tuipulotu grew up outside of Los Angeles and went to USC, while Henley is from Crenshaw and is also a local kid.
Telesco and Staley both mentioned the local high school football scene as a hotbed for talent.
"I mean, it's a feather in the cap for high school football in this area to have two kids — one from Crenshaw, one from Lawndale High School," Telesco said. "Two really good programs. These kids are going to be NFL players."
Staley, who is from Ohio, said the talent on the West Coast in on another level.
"I know that Southern California is one of the premier places in the country to play football," Staley said. "Being here three years — I'm from Northeast Ohio, one of the special places in the country for football — but Southern California, that's taking it to a different level."
The Chargers held a local pro day earlier this month, which Tuipulotu and Henley both attended. It was simply another tool for the Bolts to get a closer look at each player.
"Since I've been the head coach here, the local pro day has been really good to us," Staley said. "Last year, [DL] Otito [Obonnia] was here. That was something that was really impressive to us, was spending time with him.
"It's one of those things that's part of the process. These two guys really, I thought, took advantage of their opportunity in that setting," Staley added.
With three NFL teams in California, Tuipulotu figured his chances of staying in his home state were slim. Good thing he was wrong.
"I'm happy, for sure. I haven't left LA for most of my life," Tuipulotu said. "I was kind of preparing myself to like go somewhere far, like all the way to the East Coast or something, but I'm happy to stay home and be close to family."
5. An eye on the future
The draft is a celebrated and hyped event, one that features plenty of hoopla and speculation.
But there's a long-term aspect of it, too, even if the focus is usually on how picks can impact a team right away.
Both Tuipulotu and Henley will have roles as rookies, sure. Yet if you look further down the road, both could be key components on the Chargers defense.
"It's funny because when we talk about these players in the draft room and meetings, we're talking long-term with all of them," Telesco said. "Then, I come in here and everybody wants to know where they're going to play opening day.
"It's always long-term with these players when we're drafting them, from the first round to the sixth or seventh round," Telesco added. "Obviously, there will be a short-term outlook on how they may fit a role early, but after that, as you know, where do we project them three or four years down the road? That's a big part of it."
Telesco said taking a measured approach in the draft is "the whole thing" and why the draft is so valuable.
"You're signing a rookie for four or five years, that's the vision. There are different paths for everybody, in terms of how quickly people play and what their role is," Staley said. "Maybe this is what I thought his role would be, and then some things happen and this is what it becomes.
"You guys have seen it, since I've been the head coach, there are some guys that don't play very much at all, and then, midway through the year after your bye, then they play a whole bunch down the stretch," Staley continued. "I think that light goes on at different points for players.
"This is a developmental game, so we definitely have that long-term path," Staley added. "I think that's why it's important to be connected, personnel and coaching, and really be aligned in your vision for the role and how you're going to utilize them."
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