The Los Angeles Chargers used their third-round pick in the 2019 draft on offensive lineman Trey Pipkins, a player most figured would need at least a year to develop.
Trey Pipkins was drafted with the No. 91 overall pick in the draft, a pick that some felt was a reach as Pipkins was out of Sioux Falls, a school in Division II. He wasn’t going to be ready this season and many analysts felt that he likely could have been obtained in a later round.
An early-season health scare with starting left tackle Russell Okung forced the Chargers to make some alterations to the offensive line. Pipkins, who was likely looking at limited snaps before the season started, was closer to being used in a more prominent role.
But the team turned to Trent Scott to fill in for Okung, rather than to let the rookie take his lumps. But then Sam Tevi was forced to miss some games and Pipkins was thrust into action.
That came with some ups and downs, as would be expected. He was completely smoked on a few reps, but he also put some really good tape out there. There is no doubt that with more experience and reps under his belt, he has the ability to be a good offensive lineman.
Draft grade: C+
Clearly I was not a big fan of this pick when it was made, but looking back, I didn’t dislike it as much as I thought I would have.
The Chargers needed an offensive tackle in the draft and waiting until the third round to take a developmental prospect out of a Division II school seemed like a strange move to put it nicely. But Pipkins has the raw skills. He has the size and with some good coaching and attention spent to detail, he is a player the team and its fans should be excited about.
It’s easy to look back at some of his play in 2019 and say “this guy is horrible”. But that’s not really accurate.
When you take everything into account, the fact that he is an unrefined player combined with the fact that he was put into real-game action earlier than the team likely wanted him to be, he played pretty well.
What does the future hold?
In terms of long-term prospects among Chargers offensive tackles, Pipkins might have the most promise. Detractors may say that’s not saying much, but he has only played one full season and he played sparingly at that, making three starts.
Okung’s health could force him to call it a career and guys like Tevi and Scott are nothing more than rotational backups when a team has a good, fully healthy offensive line.
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Year two will be an important one for Pipkins. Can he crack the starting lineup next season? He should be able to do that, depending on what the Chargers do in free agency and the draft.
But if the competition ahead of him is the likes of Tevi and Scott, he should be able to leap them.
As for an overall grade for the rookie season of Pipkins, it’s not going to be stellar but it’s also not going to be bad. It’s going to match the draft he was given following the draft, just with a much more positive spin.
The Chargers did draft a developmental Division II guy, but the potential the team saw in him clearly exists and he could absolutely live up to being a third-round pick in the not-too-distant future.