Chargers perfect 2021 draft: Protecting Justin Herbert at the top of Los Angeles’ wish list

Luck was certainly on the Chargers‘ side during the 2020 draft. Without having to move up, the Chargers were about to select Justin Herbert, who was a landslide pick as the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. With their franchise quarterback in tow, the Chargers can spend the 2021 draft building around Herbert. 

Like last season, the Chargers are set up to have success in the 2021 draft. This year’s draft has a bevy of talent at offensive line and cornerback, the two positions the Chargers most need to address. And while their 13th pick will likely not allow them to take the best-available player at either position, the Chargers will surely be able to get one of the top linemen or cornerbacks in the draft. 

The Chargers have a whopping nine picks in the 2021 draft, Bradon Staley’s first as head coach. With the draft just around the corner, let’s take a look at how the Chargers can pull off the perfect draft. 

Grab the best-available OL/CB with their first two picks 

Rest assured that Los Angeles will address offensive line and cornerback with the 13th and 47th overall picks. While they may use the pick on a cornerback (especially if Jaycee Horn is still on the board), the safe bet is that the Chargers will use the pick to help bolster their offensive line. It will likely come down to either Rashawn Slater or Christian Darrisaw. One of college football‘s best linemen over the past several years, Slater has the versatility to play either tackle (his natural position) or guard at the next level. A three-year starter at Virginia Tech, Darrisaw should flourish in the Chargers’ zone blocking scheme. Either player would be an ideal pick at No. 13. 

There should still be several strong cornerback options with the 47th pick. Those options may include Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph and Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. An aggressive defender, Joseph picked off four passes in just nine games in 2020. Samuel, despite being a tad undersized, excelled in man coverage during his time at Florida State. During his final two years with the Seminoles, Samuel picked off four passes (including three during the 2020 season) to go with 20 passes defensed.

Get Herbert more weapons 

The Chargers would be wise to use some of their picks on their skill positions. Mike Williams is entering the final year of his contract, while tight end Jared Cook is a temporary replacement for Hunter Henry. Los Angeles should also draft a new running back who can help complement starter Austin Ekeler, who is coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season. Expect the Chargers to draft a tight end with one of their two Day 2 picks while using at least two of their five Day 3 picks on running back and receiver. 

Two possible Day 2 receivers include Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace and North Carolina’s Dyami Brown. Wallace caught 26 touchdowns during his final 32 games at Oklahoma State, while Brown caught 20 passes during his final two years with the Tar Heels while averaging over 20 yards per catch. A nice Day 3 option at tight end is former Florida State/Georgia tight end Tre’ McKitty, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound target who made the most of his limited opportunities to make plays in college. A possible Day 3 steal at running back is Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill, who had a breakout 2019 season before opting out three games into the 2020 season. Before opting out, Hill tallied a school position record 158 receiving yards against LSU. 

Invest in defense 

Along with drafting another offensive lineman on Day 2 or Day 3, the Chargers should also spend at least half of their eight non-first round picks on a defense that finished 23rd in the league in points allowed in 2020. Look for the Chargers to spend a third-round pick on a safety before spending late Day 3 picks on cornerback and interior defensive line. Two safeties that should be available on Day 2 are Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen and Oregon’s Javon Holland. Nasirildeen’s versatility and physical tools (He’s 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds) makes him an ideal sub-package defender. And while he isn’t as big as Nasirildeen, Holland also showcased above-average versatility at Oregon while showing promise as a possible starting safety at the next level. 

Texas A&M’s Bobby Brown III would be solid late Day 3 options on the defensive line. While his pass rush needs improvement, Brown was a dominant run-stuffer during his time with the Aggies. A possible Day 3 sleeper at cornerback is BYU’s Chris Wilcox, who has the experience and athleticism to play both zone and man coverage at the next level. Another possible Day 3 cornerback candidate is Bryan Mills, who picked off five passes during his final season at North Carolina Central. 

Here’s who CBS Sports NFL draft analyst Josh Edwards has the Chargers taking with each of their 2021 picks. As you can see, Edwards has the Chargers going in a slightly different direction with the 13th overall pick. 

1 (13) 

Jaycee Horn (CB)

South Carolina

2 (47) 

Sam Cosmi (OL) 


3 (77) 

D’Wayne Eskridge (WR)

Western Michigan

3 (96) 

Hamilcar Rashed Jr. (EDGE)

Oregon State

4 (118) 

Bryce Hargrove (OG)


5 (159)

Chauncey Golston (EDGE)


6 (185)

Jamien Sherwood (S)


6 (198)

Trey Hill (C)


7 (241) 

 Josh Imatorbhebhe (WR)


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