Recapping the Los Angeles Chargers 2021 NFL Draft

2020 record (pick number): 7-9 (13th selection)

The Los Angeles Chargers had one of the best drafts in the NFL this offseason, addressing a majority of team needs including offensive protection. This was the first draft under new head coach Brandon Staley as he and Tom Telesco attempt to build a winning culture in Los Angeles around young star Justin Herbert. 

Round 1 pick 13: Rashawn Slater, LT, Northwestern

With their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers selected the standout tackle from Northwestern Rashawn Slater, to help protect the future of the franchise Justin Herbert. Slater listed at 6-foot 4-inches, 304 pounds ran a 4.88 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, the second fastest of any offensive lineman in this year’s draft class. Slater has proved he can stand up to NFL talent, when facing off against Ohio State his junior season, he was charged with blocking future NFL defensive rookie of the year Chase Young. Slater did not give up a single sack during that game and dominated Young on the edge. Slater was named an honorable mention to the All-Big Ten team after giving up zero sacks in 11 games as a starter. Slater opted out of the 2020-2021 College Football Season due to COVID-19. Slater is from Sugar Land, Texas and was a three-star recruit coming out of Clements High School, who only won three games during Slater’s career. Slater will only continue to improve as he knocks the dust off and gets acclimated to the speed of the NFL in his rookie season as starting left tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Round 2, pick 47: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State

Named after his father, an NFL legend who recorded 51 interceptions during his 11 year NFL career, Asante Samuel Jr. now looks to begin his own legacy in Los Angeles. In his three-year career at Florida State, Samuel registered four interceptions, a forced fumble, 97 total tackles, and 29 pass deflections. His sophomore season, Samuel was named to the third team All-ACC and as a junior he received first team All-ACC honors before declaring for the draft. Samuel was heavily recruited as a four star corner out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In his high-school senior season, they went on a run in the state playoffs before being knocked out in the 7A state semifinals by eventual champion Venice High School. Samuel looks to bolster a Chargers secondary that suffered the loss of Casey Hayward this offseason. Michael Davis will most likely get the starting nod over Samuel early on in the season, but expect to see Samuel plenty as a nickelback on passing downs in his rookie year.

Round 3, pick 77: Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee

Josh Palmer is another player from St. Thomas Aquinas high school and reunites with his former teammate Asante Samuel Jr. in Los Angeles. Palmer appeared in every game with the Volunteers in college and started every game from his sophomore season on. In four years with the program Palmer pulled in 99 receptions going for over 1500 yards and seven touchdowns. Palmer, originally from Brampton, Ontario in Canada, moved to the US his junior year of high school after attending football camps in the US over summer and receiving interest from some division one schools. While Palmer is not expected to be a starter early in his career, he has a great opportunity in the back up role behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to learn the game and keep developing as a football player. Down the stretch with injuries, Palmer could be called upon and prove himself as a huge upgrade for depth in the receiver room.

Round 3, pick 97: Tre’ McKitty, TE, Georgia

Tre McKitty was an outstanding playmaker during his first three years of college at Florida State, totaling 50 catches for 520 yards and two touchdowns. After transferring to Georgia for his senior year, McKitty missed some time with a knee injury after undergoing a minor operation before the 2020 fall-COVID season. After his return, he started the final seven games of the season for the Bulldogs but saw a massive drop in production from his Florida State days. McKitty only caught 6 passes in 2020 for 108 yards and a touchdown. McKitty did show blocking ability throughout the season but wasn’t consistent enough to be known as a “blocking tight end”. McKitty attended IMG Academy in Florida for high school where he earned multiple Division one offers as a three-star recruit. With the loss of Hunter Henry and a weak tight end room, McKitty will most likely enter the season as the number-two guy behind recently acquired Jared Cook, and could see more field time as a rookie than would be expected out of a developmental draft pick. 

Round 4, pick 118 Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke

Chris Rumph was a highly decorated vet for Duke in 2020, receiving the honor of team captain for his redshirt junior season. Rumph finished his collegiate career with the third-most sacks in school history, racking up 17.5 sacks in just three seasons playing at Duke. Rumph is one of the smaller edge rushers in this year’s draft weighing in at only 244 pounds, and he struggled against some bigger offensive lineman while in college. The Chargers are switching to a 3-4 defense this season with the arrival of new head coach Brandon Staley and losing Melvin Ingram really hurt the defensive line. Rumph won’t be expected to come in and contribute on day one he adds much needed depth at the outside-rusher position. His father Chris Rumph is entering his 20th year coaching as he was recently hired as a defensive line coach for the Chicago Bears. 

Round 5, pick 159: Brenden Jaimes, OT, Nebraska

Brenden Jaimes started 40 consecutive games for Nebraska on the offensive line after receiving the starting nod in his freshman season that he was planning to redshirt. According to the University of Nebraska “Jaimes was arguably the most productive true freshman offensive lineman in school history.” A three-star recruit from Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, Jaimes was able to make an impact early on in his collegiate career. In his time at Nebraska, Jaimes received three honorable mentions to the All-Big 10 team as well as being named 2019 Nebraska offensive MVP after the Cornhuskers put up the third-best rush offense in the Big 10. The Chargers lack depth on the offensive line and picking up Jaimes addressed that need perfectly. Although he was a tackle in college, we will most likely see Jaimes moved inside to backup the guard positions, making his transition to the NFL a little easier than an offensive tackle.

Round 6, pick 185: Nick Niemann, LB, Iowa

Totaling 77 tackles in his senior season, Niemann led the Hawkeyes defensively in that category while starting all eight games and receiving a coaches nod to the All-Big 10 third team. After five years at Iowa, Niemann was selected to the Academic All-Big 10 in each of his final four seasons after he redshirted his freshman year. Niemann was a three star recruit out of Sycamore High School in Illinois after being named first-team All-State. A little small in stature for the NFL game at 234 pounds, Niemann will need to add some weight to his frame if he wants to make the successful transition to the NFL. But as a sure-fire tackler in college, Niemann will find a role on the Chargers. They need more linebackers now that they are switching to a 3-4 scheme, and Niemann offers a solid option for depth at the position. He will most likely transition inside for the Chargers, where he started one game as a senior, totaling a career-high eight solo tackles against Purdue. 

Round 6, pick 198: Larry Rountree III, RB, Missouri

Larry Rountree is an explosive runner who finished his college career as the second all-time leading rusher for Missouri while totaling 40 rushing touchdowns in four seasons. Rountree was a three-star recruit out of Millbrook High School in Raleigh, North Carolina and made an immediate impact in his freshman season, putting up 703 yards on the ground and six scores. He is the prototype size for the running back position at 5-foot-11 inches, 211 pounds and a hard runner, his decision making finding holes hurt his draft stock as he was sometimes faster than his blockers at Mizzou getting ahead of the play and not waiting for those holes to open naturally. If he can find patience in the NFL, he could be a decent backup, but for now Rountree remains the fourth back on the roster with Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson, and Ekeler all still in LA and receiving reps last season.

Round 7, pick 241: Mark Webb, S, Georgia

Mark Webb was originally recruited as a four-star wide receiver out of Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pennsylvania. With a few injuries to key players in the defensive backfield his freshman year and having played DB in High School, he made the switch and that’s where he stayed for all four years starting games in his final two seasons. However he only had 13 starts. In his time with Georgia, Webb totaled 82 tackles, nine pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and an interception.  Webb will be coming into backup Nassir Adderly in the secondary and most likely will be featured on special teams, where he will be given a chance to prove his worth as a later-round draft pick that hasn’t had that much production in college.

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