Comparing Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins
The LA Chargers headed into the 2019 NFL Draft coming off the best season in more than a decade. Philip Rivers had a career season, Derwin James had a truly breakout season as a rookie, Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen proved that they were elite weapons in the NFL, and yet the season ended in disappointing fashion at the hands of Tom Brady (again).
While many fans were clamoring for the team to select an offensive tackle to solidify the opposite side of Russell Okung, the offensive line wasn’t the primary reason the team lost to the Patriots that fateful day. The offense started slow, but the defense could not get off the field as Brady and the running game sliced and diced that unit in blowout fashion.
The draft decision of Jerry Tillery ultimately came down to the team expressing its faith in the development of Tevi. After losing Joe Barksdale to injury early on in the 2018 season, Tevi took over for the Chargers at right tackle and flashed some potential. The problem is that the flashes of potential also came with some major struggles, particularly down the stretch.
The Chargers did not have an environment that was conducive to offensive line development in 2019, so it wasn’t really a surprise that Tevi’s struggles with consistency were exacerbated last season. The good news is that he did take a step forward.
His best efforts actually were very good, but they just were not commonplace efforts. The highest overall grade, per Pro Football Focus, in his career was the 76.6 that he earned in the game against the Detroit Lions last season, although he also earned a 75 overall grade in the first game against the Denver Broncos.
After missing four games later on in the season, he actually posted decent grades in the mid-60s and averaged 64.02 over the last five weeks. Sandwiched in between those, however, were quite a few games where he was graded in the 40s.
At his best, Tevi is an athletic left tackle who the team can do some creative things with out on the edges. At his worst, he’s not even a top 60 offensive tackle in the league. It’s always going to be a matter of putting it all together on a consistent basis for him. If he were capable of taking what he did down the stretch, and consistently put out those kinds of efforts, the Chargers would be in much better shape.
On the other hand, is Pipkins. I know that there’s this perception that Pipkins really struggled in the game action he did see. But if you really go back and watch those three games, I think you’ll see that he actually played pretty well.
His best Pro Football Focus grade, was the game in Oakland, which is also the one people think he struggled the most in. He earned a 69 overall grade against the Raiders that day. In his other two starts, he earned a 60.8 grade in Mexico City against the Chiefs and a 63 in the season finale.
Considering he was a developmental project who wasn’t supposed to play at all in 2019, I think those grades are actually pretty good. The context there matters, especially when you take into consideration just how bad he looked in the preseason.
He actually did improve a lot throughout the season, and that reportedly continued into the offseason. He trimmed down a bit and has looked spry in practice.
The thing with Pipkins is his upside. He has all the physical traits necessary to succeed in the NFL. He’s taller and longer than Tevi, and he’s even more athletic if you look at their pro day results. While Tevi struggles with consistency, I think Pipkins’ biggest challenge is tenacity. I do think that Tevi, particularly in run blocking, has more of that dog mentality in him.
Apparently Pipkins was a little banged up early on in training camp and I have to wonder if that was all the space Tevi needed to win the job.