The LA Chargers have the 13th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, putting them in an interesting position. With several different roster needs, getting a pick in the top 10 would have essentially guaranteed that the Chargers would get an elite prospect in an area of need.
However, there is a lot that can happen in the 12 picks before 13 and the Chargers may not get to pick their first, second, or even third option. We actually broke down what the team should do in this ‘worst-case scenario’.
However, if there is one thing that Chargers fans can be happy about it is the team’s history with the 13th overall pick. The Chargers have selected with the 13th overall pick three times before (after the NFL-AFL merger); twice the players selected were not great. However, once, the Chargers landed a Hall of Famer who is one of the most revolutionary players in NFL history.
The LA Chargers history of the 13th overall selection:
First, we have to get the two stinkers out of the way.
Leon Burns, 1971
The Chargers selected running back Leon Burns with the 13th overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft. At the time of the draft, Burns was the ripe age of 28 years old.
That is really old in football years and that is the age that we see running backs start to regress in the NFL. That is exactly what happened to Burns as well, as he regressed as soon as he got into the league.
Burns spent just one season with the Chargers. He carried the ball 61 times for 223 yards and one touchdown. He lasted one more year in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he carried the ball 26 times for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
Burns still had a great success story despite his limited success in the NFL. Burns served a prison sentence earlier in his life, which is the reason why he was so old coming into the league. Burns got a chance with Laney College, who he played against as an inmate, once he was released from San Quentin.
James FitzPatrick, 1986
James FitzPatrick, an offensive lineman out of USC, lasted longer on the Chargers than Burns but still was not that impactful. FitzPatrick spent four seasons with the Chargers, getting a handful of starts throughout his tenure but never sticking as a starting-caliber offensive lineman.
Hopefully, the LA Chargers get much more out of the 13th overall pick in 2021 if they select another offensive lineman.
And now time for the home run.
Kellen Winslow, 1979
With the 13th overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft the LA Chargers drafted a future Hall of Famer who is one of the greatest tight ends of all-time who also set the trail for all of the future tight ends that would come and pass him on the all-time lists.
Winslow was the greatest tight end in NFL history at the time of his retirement and was the first truly vertical passing threat that the league saw at the position. Sure, there were guys who had good seasons, but nothing like the run that Winslow put together.
All of his all-time numbers have since been surpassed but Winslow still gets immense credit for being the guy to set the bar for future all-time greats such as Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski and so many others.
Winslow’s 1,290 receiving yards in 1980 is still the sixth-most by a tight end in NFL history and was not bested until the 2011 season, when both Gronk and Jimy Graham did so. Travis Kelce has surpassed 1,290 yards twice and George Kittle once.
It does not matter if there are two other stinkers in the record books The 13th overall pick has a great track record for the LA Chargers for Kellen Winslow alone.