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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft: What Should Chargers Do If Penei Sewell Is Gone?

  • The Draft Network
  • December 16, 2020
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By Brentley Weissman

This season has been one to forget for the Los Angeles Chargers and their fans. Entering the season with the excitement of playing in their new stadium, and playoff expectations with what seemed to be a talented roster with a good mix of veterans and youth, the Chargers have been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL. 

Now, there have definitely been some bright spots for the Chargers this season, and some of these bright spots leave room for optimism moving forward. The play of 2020 first-round quarterback Justin Herbert has been nothing short of sensational. Herbert is on pace to shatter just about every rookie passing record and has clearly proved himself to be the quarterback of the future for Los Angeles. Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa has continued to stake his claim as one of the premier edge rushers in the entire NFL, and currently, his 7.5 sacks rank 14th in the NFL while missing two games due to injury. Keenan Allen is having a career year as Herbert has wisely made it a priority to feed him the football. Allen ranks second in the NFL in receptions with 99 and is tied for ninth in touchdown receptions with eight. A few other bright spots for the Bolts have been the play of two young secondary members in corner Michael Davis and safety Rayshawn Jenkins. Both are having career years, but both are also set to be free agents in 2021.

With the Chargers already eliminated from playoff contention, it is time to begin to shift our focus away from the 2020 season and move on to the offseason. The Chargers have a terrific opportunity to improve this roster and build around Herbert through the draft and free agency, hoping to turn things around in 2021.

As it stands now, the Chargers are set to pick fourth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft and are in a prime position to select an impact player. Throughout most of the season, most mock drafts had the Chargers selecting Oregon’s left tackle Penei Sewell—and by all accounts that pick would be an absolute slam dunk. Sewell has the size, lateral mobility, and balance to project to be a Pro Bowl left tackle in this league and he would be great to have to protect Herbert’s blind slide for the next decade. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the chances Sewell falls to their pick diminished greatly once Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow went down with an ACL injury, all but assuring the Bengals would lose their remaining games and prioritize finding Burrow more help on the offensive line. The Bengals are projected to have the third overall pick, and at this point, it would be a shock to hear any other name but Sewell called when the pick is turned in.

The question then for Chargers fans is: If Sewell is gone, what does Los Angeles do?

Here's what I would do, ranked in order, if I were selecting for the Chargers in the 2021 NFL Draft and Sewell was not available. 

1. Select Best EDGE Rusher Available

Outside of the offensive line, the Chargers' biggest need is adding another edge rusher to play opposite Bosa. Melvin Ingram is set to be a free agent and will be coming off a knee injury that ended his season in Week 11. At 31 years old and now dealing with injury issues, I highly doubt the Chargers bring Ingram back, thus leaving a big void at the LEO position in this Chargers defense. The depth behind Ingram isn’t great either, and the Chargers really struggle to pressure the quarterback outside of Bosa.

If Sewell is gone at four, I would think long and hard about selecting one of either Miami’s Gregory Rousseau or Michigan’s Kwity Paye. Both of these players would provide a huge spark off the edge and give the Chargers an outstanding young pass-rushing duo that you need in a division that has Patrick Mahomes. I’d probably lean Rousseau here over Paye as I like the upside of Rousseau more, and he has the length that the Chargers value at the LEO position, but either player would be a great selection.

2. Select Best Available Corner

I could easily flip flop corner and defensive end in terms of which need is bigger for the Chargers and feel good about it. Many folks on the outside believe the Chargers' corner room is one of the best in the NFL, but that is simply not the case. Veterans Casey Hayward and Chris Harris have shown this season that they have both clearly lost a step or two athletically, and neither player was especially fast to begin with. The Chargers' best corner this season has been Michael Davis, who has the length and athletic ability the team loves, but he is set to be a free agent in 2021. Even if the team is able to re-sign Davis, which I am sure they would love to do at the right price, there is no doubt that they need to add more young talent to this corner room.

If Sewell is gone at four and I decide to prioritize corner over edge, then I would select either Virginia tech’s Caleb Farley or Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II. Both corners have the size and length to line up and be able to play man coverage against the bigger, more physical receivers in the NFL. Surtain is more technically sound and more physical than Farley, but Farley offers more raw athletic upside. For the Chargers I’d learn Farley here, but both make a ton of sense. 

3. Trade Back

One option the Chargers could consider if Sewell is off the board is to trade back with a team that would likely want to move up for a quarterback. Trading back and acquiring extra picks would make a ton of sense for the Chargers as this roster is certainly not a top-five player away from seriously competing in 2021. This team has many needs to be addressed and gaining an extra first- or second-round pick would set them up very nicely. Additionally, if they do trade back to somewhere in the 12-16 range, then the team will find themselves in position to select an offensive lineman, which is far and away their biggest need. Players like Texas’ Samuel Cosmi, Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, and Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw all could make a ton of sense in this range, whereas they would be a bit rich at No. 4 overall.

4. Select the Best Offensive Skill Player Available

The Chargers could decide to go off script a bit and bypass EDGE, corner, and trading back if they have an offensive skill player ranked as their highest-graded player. The thinking here is that they can take a page out of Kansas City’s playbook and surround their young star quarterback with as many talented playmakers as possible to ensure that Herbert can live up to his enormous potential. Another thing to consider is that the Chargers have decisions to make on both wide receiver Mike Williams and tight end Hunter Henry this offseason. Williams will be entering the final year of his rookie deal and the Chargers will need to decide if they’ll pick up his fifth-year option, while Henry is an unrestricted free agent who will be looking to be paid like a top-five tight end.

If the Chargers decide to go this route, names such as LSU’s receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith, and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts all could make some sense. I know Chase has been a trendy pick for the Chargers as of late, but I would have this option as a clear fourth behind EDGE, corner, and trading back. In terms of player fits, I’d go Waddle, Chase, Pitts, and then Smith for the Bolts. 

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