This Chargers defensive player is set for a breakout year

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

Head coach Jim Harbaugh is most likely evaluating his players during the voluntary offseason program to start figuring out their roles in 2024. One of the weakest position groups is linebacker, as Drue Tranquill, Eric Kendricks and Kenneth Murray have left in the last two years. Despite signing starting LB Denzel Perryman in free agency, the Chargers have not committed to the other starting spot. The rest of the linebackers on the depth chart are Nick Niemann, Troy Dye and Daiyan Henley.

In fact, I consider Daiyan Henley to have the most potential to start alongside Perryman, and have a breakout year. Despite barely playing last season, Henley could play more in 2024 and show the potential we all saw coming out of college.

Daiyan Henley's expectations after being drafted by the Chargers

Just as with Isaiah Spiller, Chargers fans and media expected Henley to make an immediate impact after showcasing his skills with Nevada and Washington State.

After playing several positions in high school, and beginning his collegiate career at Nevada as a WR, he settled as a linebacker in 2020. He was selected to the All-Mountain West Conference Second-Team in 2021. After transferring to Washington State in 2022, he finished second in tackles in the Pac-12, earning First-Team honors in that conference. Henley had such a prominent season that he was a finalist for the Butkus Award as the top linebacker.

Prior to last year's draft, Bleacher Report and NFL's Lance Zierlein agreed that Henley has the speed and physicality of an NFL player. He is actually at his best when defending the run, and loves to chase down and tackle running backs after passing the o-line.

Daiyan Henley's first year with the Chargers and 2024 outlook

Henley didn't see much action in 2023. He didn't start a single game as a linebacker (he played much more on special teams), and only played in nine games. Despite being injured the first two weeks of the regular season, it was still surprising that Staley didn't give him more opportunities. Henley had an exceptional preseason. Not only was he the top rookie LB, but he also had 11 solo tackles and an interception.

On the other hand, Henley took advantage of his very few regular-season snaps. Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave him a tackling grade of 83.1, which would be the highest grade for rookie LBs and seventh-best in the NFL if he had been part of enough plays to qualify.

Henley displayed tremendous skills in college, and has exploited every single chance with the Chargers. He should be competing with Nick Niemann–who has also made the most of his limited opportunities – and a potential draft pick (who could be Edgerrin Cooper) for the other starting LB spot. If victorious, Henley could become one of the NFL's most fascinating linebackers given his multi-position background.