Los Angeles Chargers Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Tuli Tuipulotu, DE, USC – Round 2
The Chargers were in the market for more edge-rush talent, and Tuipulotu was an excellent value for them in the second round. He was all over the field for the Trojans in 2022, ripping off 13.5 sacks, 46 tackles, two forced fumbles and two passes defended. Tuipulotu had some injury issues that caused him to go under the radar in the pre-draft process, but he possesses serious upside for the NFL.

Tuipulotu is quick off the edge in the pass rush, using a good first-step to fire upfield. He fires off the ball and uses his quickness to get upfield. With active hands, Tuipulotu chops blockers off of him using speed to power to shed blocks before closing on the quarterback. On top of alsohis speed, Tuipulotu has a strong bull rush and can ride tackles backward into the quarterback. Tuipulotu will give a second effort, and he rushes hard through the whistle.

Tuipulotu has some stiffness and can struggle to dip his hips to redirect to the quarterback. As a rusher, he possesses the versatility to move inside and go against guards. Tuipulotu can play end on base downs and slide inside to tackle in the sub package.

In the ground game, Tuipulotu is a physical defender at the point of attack. He is tough and difficult to move in the ground game. He holds his gap well and possesses the strength to work off blocks. With a quality lateral anchor and good leverage, offensive linemen struggle to move Tuipulotu. He routinely takes on and shed blocks to get in on tackles that help produce quality down-and-distance situations.

Immediately, Tuipulotu could rotate with Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack to give the Chargers a trio of skilled edge rushers. Tuipulotu can also slide inside in the sub package to rush over guards so all three can be on the field together. In time, I think Tuipulotu could be the franchise’s replacement for Mack and Tuipulotu could be a solid starter to pair with Bosa.

2022: Zion Johnson, G
2021: Rashawn Slater, OT
2020: Justin Herbert, QB
2019: Nasir Adderley, S
2018: Justin Jones, DT
2017: Forrest Lamp, G
2016: Hunter Henry, TE
2015: Denzel Perryman, LB
2014: Jason Verrett, CB
2013: Manti Te’o, LB

Most Likely To Bust

Derius Davis, WR, TCU – Round 4
I think the Chargers had one of the better 2023 drafts in the league, as they landed very good value picks at each spot on Days 1 and 2. I really do not see a likely possibility for Quentin Johnston, Tuli Tuipulotu or Daiyan Henley turning out as a bust. The vast majority of fourth-round picks don’t pan out, so Davis really won’t be a true bust if he does not stick in the NFL.

Davis has some limitations for the next level, and I think that could lead to him not turning into a steady contributor for Los Angeles. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Davis is extremely undersized. While he is fast, he is a one-trick pony as a vertical wideout. I think defenses could be ready for that and limit how many times he’s able to get open vertically. Los Angeles might get some quality backup play out of Davis, but of their first four selections, he is the one who stands out as most likely to not pan out.

2022: None
2021: Asante Samuel Jr., CB
2020: Joe Reed, WR
2019: Trey Pipkins, OT
2018: Uchenna Nwosu, LB
2017: Dan Feeney, G
2016: Max Tuerk, center
2015: Craig Mager, CB
2014: Chris Watt, G
2013: D.J. Fluker, OT

Potential Boom Pick

Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU – Round 1
There were a lot of rumors about the Chargers taking a wide receiver in the first round, with a lot of projections of having them adding a speed receiver. Thus, it was somewhat surprising when they passed on some speed options for a bigger wideout in Johnston. While Johnston is not slow, he is a well-rounded wide receiver with a ton of upside.

For the NFL, Johnston (6-3, 215) is a tall, strong, and has surprising speed for a big receiver. Johnston is a red-zone weapon with mismatch size for the NFL. However, he retians enough speed to generate separation and shows some surprising twitch for a tall, thick receiver. Johnston can run well to work on defenses downfield and threaten them at all levels. He is a long-strider with a second gear who can explode in the open field thanks to the sheer speed to run away from defenders. That differential will be diminished somewhat in the pros, but there is no doubt that Johnston has above-average speed for big wide out of his scale.

With his size and speed, Johnston is a dangerous yards-after-the-catch receiver, and he showed that over the past two seasons. On end arounds and short receptions, Johnston displays good vision and cutting ability to weave his way through the defense with a burst to accelerate into the open field. Johnston is dangerous red-zone threat given his length, leaping ability, and wingspan. Similarly, he is very tough to cover along the sideline given his size and body control. Johnston needs to work on his hands and avoid body catching so much, but those are issues that can be improved at the pro level.

“He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and can win on all three levels,” said an AFC area scout to WalterFootball.com during 2022. “He puts up 20 yards per catch, runs great routes, is super smart, an alpha, and the hardest worker on the team.”

Johnston could be a real boom pick for Los Angeles across from Mike Williams. Keenan Allen is aging, but in the short-term, the three of them could form a dynamic trio. With a superb quarterback in Justin Herbert going into his prime, Johnston could become an effective No. 1 receiver thanks to his special skill set.

2022: None
2021: Tre’ McKitty, TE
2020: Kenneth Murray, LB
2019: Jerry Tillery, DT
2018: Derwin James, S
2017: Mike Williams, WR
2016: Joey Bosa, DE
2015: Melvin Gordon, RB
2014: Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB
2013: Keenan Allen, WR

Future Depth Player

Max Duggan, QB, TCU – Round 7
The Chargers don’t need a starting quarterback, as they should have Justin Herbert in place for a long time. However, the organization could use some backup talent, and landing Duggan in the seventh round was a good value. He led TCU to the National Championship in 2022 and played really well for the Horned Frogs. While Duggan may not have the natural passing instincts and field vision to be a pro starter, he definitely could be a solid backup for Herbert. Duggan may not have the accuracy, instincts, and pocket presence to be a starting quarterback, but he has the potential to be a capable No. 2.

2022: Isaiah Spiller, RB
2021: Josh Palmer, WR
2020: Joshua Kelley, RB
2019: Drue Tranquill, LB
2018: Kyzir White, S
2017: Desmond King, S
2016: Joshua Perry, LB
2015: Darius Philon, DT
2014: Marion Grice, RB
2013: Steve Williams, CB

Walt’s 2023 NFL Draft Grades:

21. Quentin Johnson, WR, TCU – A- Grade
The Chargers, like the Seahawks, have two talented receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to stay healthy, and Allen is nearing the end of his tenure with the team. The Chargers had to find another weapon for Justin Herbert, and Johnson has drawn comparisons to Julio Jones from some around the NFL.

54. Tuli Tuipulotu, DE, USC – A Grade
Tuli Tuipulotu is an explosive player who could have gone earlier than this. The Chargers already have two stud edge rushers, but you can never have enough players to rush the passer, especially in the AFC. Besides, Khalil Mack won’t be around for very long, so Tuipulotu will start a couple of seasons.

85. Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State – A Grade
The Chargers have had issues at linebacker for years, but perhaps they’ve finally solved that problem. Daiyan Henley has great sideline-to-sideline speed, and I thought he could easily be chosen in the second round. I love this value.

125. Derius Davis, WR, TCU – B Grade
The Chargers apparently were big fans of the TCU receiving corps. Derius Davis is extremely fast and should be used in the slot at the next level. The Chargers needed to revamp the receiving corps, so this pick makes sense.

156. Jordan McFadden, OT/G, Clemson – A- Grade
I had Jordan McFadden in the fourth round, so I like this value. The need also makes sense, as the Chargers had to find better interior line depth. Jordan McFadden played tackle at Clemson, but will probably have to move inside due to athleticism limitations.

200. Scott Matlock, DT, Boise State – C Grade
The Chargers needed help at defensive tackle, but that’s not anything new. Scott Matlock has some upside as a pass rusher, but he’s going to get pushed around in run support. I didn’t have him in any of my mocks.

239. Max Duggan, QB, TCU – A Grade
Max Duggan is another prospect who easily could have gone much earlier than this. Max Duggan has no elite traits, but he’s an accurate quarterback who can scramble. He has good potential to be a career No. 2 quarterback.

2023 NFL Draft Team Grade: A. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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