The LA Chargers started off the 2021 NFL Draft with two universally loved picks. In the third round, the Chargers strayed a bit from the opinions of the majority by picking Josh Palmer, a wide receiver out of Tennessee.
With the history that Tom Telesco has in the third round, it is not at all that surprising that he selected a player that was not on the radar for most when the 77th pick came up. Let’s take a look at the player before we write this pick off as another third-round reach.
At the University of Tennessee, Palmer was primarily tasked with deep routes. Palmer has the per reception stats to back that up, ranking 3rd in the SEC in yards per reception in 2018 with 21.0, but his total yardage production does not look great.
In college, Palmer never had a season with more than 500 yards receiving in his career. That number is a bit shocking for a receiver drafted in the third round, but those numbers are largely due to his role in an offense hampered by lackluster quarterback play in recent years.
However, the reason that Palmer was frequently tasked with deep routes is apparent. There are shades of Mike Williams in Palmer’s game – Palmer is fantastic at tracking the ball and making a contested catch.
While Palmer does not have the elite speed to break away down the field, he has a decent all-around athletic profile. Palmer’s combine testing numbers were enough to give him an 8.22 relative athletic score, ranking him at 439 of 2,462 wide receivers from 1987 to 2021.
Although Palmer’s lack of elite speed may prevent him from being a breakaway downfield threat, he has the ability to make tough downfield catches.
Furthermore, Josh Palmer has some untapped potential as a route-runner that the LA Chargers could unlock.
While route-running and creating separation was not Palmer’s biggest strength in college, he occasionally demonstrated the ability to get open with slick routes. Palmer is a violent route runner, and he runs hard into his cuts to get open on routes. He has the physical profile to grow in this area, which he should be able to do under the tutelage of Keenan Allen.
The main arguments against this pick are based on the other options available to the Chargers at pick 77 and the perception that the Chargers reached to get Palmer at 77.
To list a few, other players available at positions of need at 77 included guards Quinn Meinerz and Wyatt Davis, EDGE Rashad Weaver, tight ends Hunter Long and Tommy Tremble, and safety Jamar Johnson. Players also available at wide receiver included Dyami Brown, Amari Rodgers, and Tylan Wallace.
While a few of these players may have a higher ceiling (Dyami Brown) or may have played at bigger positions of need (guard, edge, and safety), this move is a reasonable one when you consider that Telesco addressed the most important positions of need in the first two rounds.
Additionally, the selection of Josh Palmer addresses a future potential position of need. If you were looking for a player in this range that is most similar to Mike Williams’ skillset, Palmer is that player.
While this Palmer may have been selected a bit earlier than expected, it is reasonable to predict that he may have been gone by the Chargers’ next pick.
Palmer’s stock has risen recently considering his good performance against top-level SEC corners such as Patrick Surtain and his good showing at the Senior Bowl.
The pick of Palmer was earlier than it perhaps should have been, but the Chargers are getting a good player that can contribute on a limited basis immediately. He also has a good chance to take on a larger role next year when the Chargers will have a need at that role.
Other selections may have had better value, but Josh Palmer is a good football player at a position with some need. This selection has the potential to break the trend of poor third-round selections from Tom Telesco, and that is all we could ask for in what has been a great draft to this point.