LA Chargers Joe Reed grade: Team brings in a versatile playmaker

The LA Chargers were in serious need of wide receiver depth, and that prompted them to draft Joe Reed in the fifth round.

Joe Reed is a speedy wide receiver/gadget/kick returner from the University of Virginia, and now the newest member of the LA Chargers who selected him with the 151st overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.

It was an intriguing selection, with players like Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tyler Johnson still on the board, as well as cornerback and fellow Cavalier Bryce Hall. However, the Chargers still added a player who should be a solid contributor in a lot of different ways in the offense.

He can run the ball in jet sweeps and other gadget plays, so he brings playmaking ability to a wide receiver corps lacking in his skills. He improved every year in his four-year career for the Virginia Cavaliers and led the team in receptions in his senior season.

He will be an instant contributor in the return game, as he was one of the best returners in the nation during his college career. He amassed 3,042 kick return yards in four years, averaging a whopping 28.7 yards per kick return. He is the only player in FBS history to average 28+ yards per kick return with more than 2700 kick return yards.

That 28.7 was achieved thanks to a senior season in which he led the nation with a 33.2 kick return average. He is a player that excels at advancing through the field once he has the ball in his hands, as his return ability highlights how good he is at getting North/South.

All this would lead you to believe he has blazing speed, but in fact, he ran just a 4.47 40-yard dash at the combine. It’s not a slow mark by any means, but he is not exactly a speedster.  He is one of those players that is quicker than fast, and whose play speed is faster than his timed speed.

Anthony Lynn and his coaching staff will have a lot of fun designing plays and manufacturing touches for such a versatile player, and he could quickly become a favorite target of new LA Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert due to his run-after-the-catch ability.

How quickly and efficiently he turns into a runner when he gets the ball in his hands is my favorite quality of him, as he produces many explosive plays in that situation. However, you don’t find many explosive plays in conventional deep routes, which highlights his lack of a vertical threat and pedestrian route-running. He could still develop into a more complete receiver and eventually gets some reps on the outside.

For now, he is projected to man the slot almost exclusively, and look for him to be used as a gadget player, not unlike Curtis Samuel in his first few seasons for the Carolina Panthers, but not to the extent of Cordarelle Patterson of the Chicago Bears. He is also projected to handle kick returns, spelling Desmond King from that role so he can focus on defense. Reed has Pro Bowl potential as a returner, so that will be something to watch out for when the 2020 NFL season comes.

The pick was a solid pick, but I believe there was better value at the position, or at other positions of need. Cornerback could have been addressed instead of Reed and then try to snag a speedster like John Hightower in the 6th. That prevents the pick from being graded A.

Next: Fan reaction to the Joseph Reed selection

Grade: B+