The Los Angeles Chargers entered the 2021 NFL Draft with many holes to fill. With question marks on both sides of the ball, LA managed to draft the players needed to round out the depth chart. The offensive line and secondary were the top two positions of need, and the Chargers were able to stay put at pick 13 and select offensive lineman Rashawn Slater, then cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. with the 47th pick. One could say that Slater and Samuel landed in the Chargers’ laps, but the front office knew they didn’t need to sacrifice future picks to trade up.
LA finished off the rest of the draft selecting players of need with a few surprises. Let’s take a look at the Chargers draft grades.
Chargers Draft Grades | 2021 NFL Draft
Round 1, Pick 13 — Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
What is there not to love about this pick? The left tackle position was the biggest position of need on the entire roster and the Chargers are getting a stud to round out the offensive line. Slater will be the fourth new addition to the starting core in 2021, and it was clear protecting franchise quarterback Justin Herbert was LA’s top priority. Many have said that Slater’s footwork is the best in his draft class, even over No. 7 overall pick Penei Sewell. Size may be his only weakness as he also produces elite speed for the tackle position. The Northwestern product should start day one and serve as a key factor moving forward. Herbert is grinning from cheek-to-cheek knowing he has his blindside protected for the future.
Round 2, Pick 47 — Asante Samuel Jr, CB, Florida State
The son of a former football star is once again in the NFL. The Chargers hit a home run with their second pick. Samuel Jr. survived to the middle of the second round and there was no way the Chargers were going to pass on him. Samuel Jr. was projected to be a second rounder on many boards, but was also seen in many first round boards due to the lack of elite cornerback talent in this year’s class. LA is getting a ball hawk with speed and can play outside as well as the slot. His height will be a factor but he produces good instincts and ball skills. He joins Chris Harris Jr. and Michael Davis as the top corners on the roster. Samuel Jr. will get a chance to start play alongside fellow Florida State Seminole Derwin James.
Round 3, Pick 77 — Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee
This selection is the biggest shocker of the draft for the Chargers. Receiver certainly wasn’t in any trouble as Herbert has many weapons to choose from between Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jaylen Guyton, and Tyron Johnson. The front office decided adding more depth to the core was the move to make and they selected a potential breakout star in Palmer. The Tennessee alum only caught 33 passes and scored four touchdowns last season, but elevated his game against the top teams like Alabama and Georgia and played his best in those moments. Palmer can play outside as well as the slot and there isn’t a route he can’t run to perfection. His route running is already elite and has a chance to get even better alongside Keenan Allen. Palmer will compete for the third spot on the depth chart with Guyton and Johnson.
Round 3, Pick 97 — Tre’ McKitty, TE, Georgia
The Chargers lost tight end Hunter Henry to the Patriots during NFL Free Agency. They then went after former Saint Jared Cook and signed him to a one-year contract to replace Henry. Cook will serve as a great short-term replacement but the Chargers knew adding another TE was necessary. McKitty is primarily a blocking tight end which is exactly what the Chargers needed. He produces an upside when it comes to routes and catching as well. With Cook utilized as a pass-catcher, McKitty will help protect Herbert and the run game primarily. The former Bulldog will compete for the backup TE position and be utilized in most run-game situations.
Round 4, Pick 118 — Chris Rumph II, LB, Duke
Los Angeles filled another position of need in the fourth round. Rumph II is one of the most underrated outside linebackers in the draft and produced great pass-rushing skills at Duke. Rumph II can get to the quarterback before you know it and is an above average tackler. He’ll join a crowded linebacker room but shouldn’t have a problem standing out when he’s on his game. The former Blue Devil will compete with Uchenna Nwosu, Kazir White and Kyler Fackrell.
Round 5, Pick 159 — Brenden Jaimes, OT, Nebraska
The Chargers needed offensive line depth after drafting Slater with their first choice. Though, it seemed as if there were better options than Jaimes with the decision. LA is short on depth guards but selected another tackle with the pick. Jaimes can slide over to guard if needed but played a majority of his college career at both tackle positions. He’ll provide much-needed depth to this new offensive line.
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Round 6, Pick 185 — Nick Niemann, LB, Iowa
After selecting a linebacker a few picks earlier, this selection didn’t excite anyone. Saftey or defensive line was the bigger need at the time but the Chargers decided to take another linebacker. Niemann produces great speed for the position and can run sideline to sideline. His coverage skills need improving though if he wants to see any playing time in the NFL. He could very well make his mark in special teams right off the bat, similar to Drue Tranquill a few seasons ago.
Round 6, Pick 198 — Larry Rountree III, RB, Missouri
Rountree can be one of the biggest steals of the entire 2021 draft, especially at running back. The position was not a serious position of need, but they may have struck gold landing Rountree III in the sixth round. Rountree III is a north and south, downhill running back that is not afraid of contact. He’ll be utilized more in the red zone and short down plays, with a chance to excel behind starter Austin Ekeler.
Round 7, Pick 241 — Mark Webb, S, Georgia
Ending the chargers 2021 draft, they took a safety which was another position of need. Derwin James missed the last two seasons with gruesome injuries and Nasir Adderley has yet to really prove himself in his two seasons. Webb will serve as depth for the secondary and can earn playing time on special teams. Webb didn’t make much of an serious impact for the Bulldogs during his career but finished with 74 tackles and one interception.