LA Chargers: Trading down is still the best first-round option

Rashawn Slater #70 of the Northwestern Wildcats (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
Rashawn Slater #70 of the Northwestern Wildcats (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images) /

Despite the LA Chargers falling in draft position after their win against the Raiders, trading down is still the right thing to do.

The LA Chargers fell from the fourth pick to the ninth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after their overtime win vs. Las Vegas. A few remaining Week 15 games will be important to determine the exact draft position. Barring unexpected wins by Carolina, Philadelphia, Dallas, or Atlanta, they’ll be slotted in near the back of the top 10.

Losing a few draft spots might seem like it takes away trade possibilities at face value.  After thinking about it in more detail though, the Chargers having a worse draft position may make them more likely to trade down.

The ease of trading up to nine as opposed to a top-five pick for other teams is a big factor here. Take the Washington Football Team for example. If they win the NFC East, it’s much easier for them to trade from around #19 in the draft to the ninth spot than it is to go all the way from 19 to four.

Quarterbacks will also still be there for the teams that want them. Sure, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields will be gone, but those guys were going to be off the board at the Chargers’ selection no matter what.

Maybe BYU’s Zach Wilson is off the board, but Trey Lance is an athletic quarterback out of North Dakota State that certainly has top 10 potential in the draft. Other potential quarterback risers in the draft include Kyle Trask and Mac Jones.

Teams will always trade up for quarterbacks if they have to do so. Detroit, San Francisco, Chicago, New England, and Washington are just a few of the teams within 10 picks of the Chargers’ ninth that could have a significant need there.

The Chargers also open up the draft to themselves by trading down as well. Taking someone like Rashawn Slater in the top 10 seems like a misuse of value. He is the second-best tackle in this draft, but he simply isn’t near Penei Sewell’s top tier as of now.

If San Francisco, Detroit, or Chicago trade up to nine for a quarterback, the Chargers can still likely take Slater between 11-15. The same value concept applies for other first-round offensive tackles such as Samuel Cosmi and Christian Darrisaw.

Another position of need could be cornerback in the first round. By the time the first round rolls around to the Chargers at nine, Patrick Surtain and Caleb Farley could very well both be off the board. Potential targets, in this case, could be trading down to take Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina or Shaun Wade from Ohio State.

The Chargers can still take a cornerback or offensive tackle in the top 10 if they want to, but Tom Telesco has always prioritized value at the top of the draft.  Justin Herbert went where he was projected to go last year, as did Jerry Tillery, Derwin James, and Joey Bosa. Telesco has almost always gone best player available that fits a need in the first round.

EDGE is the only scenario where I could see the Chargers keeping the pick and taking whoever is left between Gregory Rousseau and Kwity Paye. What becomes problematic there is if Telesco and the scouting team are really high on one, but not the other. Like with Farley and Surtain, I think it’s also unlikely, but not impossible that both EDGEs are gone by nine.

It’s worth noting that draft value fluctuates so much between the start of the offseason and April. Plus, it’s also a little early to say what the Chargers should do with a pick they don’t have yet. We won’t know exactly where the Chargers are picking in the first round until January.

Analyzing the situation at the moment though, it seems like trading down is in fact the best option. Plenty of teams might want to jump up to the Chargers’ spot for quarterbacks and trading up to nine is easier than trading up to four or five.

Next. Team grades for Chargers' win over Las Vegas

Penei Sewell, Patrick Surtain, and a few other top players at the positions the Chargers need will be off the board. If you’re trying to maximize the value of the pick and get the best talent, trading down becomes almost imperative. Overdrafting Slater, Cosmi, or Horn would be a mistake in their current position.