In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Chargers aced their selection with the pick of Rashawn Slater from Northwestern. As we all know by now, Slater was the clear correct choice for the Bolts following a stellar All-Pro rookie season at left tackle and the best-case decision for them. In this year’s edition of the Draft, many pundits have penciled in another big man to join Slater on the opposite side of the offensive line as the Bolts’ top choice.
Most draft gurus have Northern Iowa offensive lineman Trevor Penning as the top selection while the legendary Mel Kiper Jr. has the Chargers taking mammoth defensive tackle Jordan Davis from Georgia. Regardless of selection, this article takes a look at how a best-case scenario selection could help the Bolts reach new heights in 2022.
Offense ascends to next level behind fortified offensive line
In years past, the Chargers' offensive line has been under siege due to a litany of issues from injuries to poor performances. However, this next year’s team features a slew of stars at each position group. Thanks to their third straight (!) Pro Bowl quarterback under center, the Chargers (knock on wood) should be set for years to come with Justin Herbert at the helm. Even for a snake-bitten franchise like the Bolts, having a young, elite quarterback on a rookie contract is a huge blessing. With Los Angeles clearly going all-in during free agency this offseason, the Bolts are trying to make the most of Herbo’s rookie deal.
If the Chargers do in fact ace their first-round selection on a tackle like Penning or perhaps Mississippi State’s Charles Cross if he falls to them, then they would have one of the best young lines in the AFC. With multiple Pro Bowlers on the offense, fortifying an offensive line that has shown growth, but still has holes, would be the missing piece if they were to crush the Draft again this year.
Much easier said than done, with the Draft being such an inexact science, but other teams in the past have shown how far they can go with elite offensive lines with a stellar quarterback. In fact, the Chargers do not have to look far for an analogy as the Chiefs used this blueprint to build the league’s most explosive offense around a young Patrick Mahomes en route to a Super Bowl title.
If Chargers take a defensive player, their run defense will be stellar
On the flip side of the equation, were the Chargers to take a defensive player a la Davis, then their issues regarding the defensive line will potentially be a thing of the past. Having essentially a younger/more explosive Linval Joseph as the new anchor on the line would help free up edge rushers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa to feast on opposing quarterbacks. In a perfect world, the Bolts’ defense essentially be the second coming of the 2020 Rams where all the pieces fall into place. This is especially enticing given the arms race going on in the AFC West on both sides of the football.
With the Chargers acquiring a host of new players on defense, a new young nose tackle would give the Bolts a fearsome rotation upfront and suddenly make their biggest weakness last season a huge advantage.
With a revamped front seven that features the services of new additions Austin Johnson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Troy Reeder and Mack along with former first-round picks with a chip on their shoulder like Jerry Tillery and Kenneth Murray, the future is enticing. Is this the key piece to a top-tier defense given the presence of two All-Pros in the secondary? Maybe, but in a dream scenario, the Chargers already have a lot of pieces to play with anyone in the league.
Staley ascends to upper-echelon of NFL head coaches
Is it perhaps a little foolish to be counting the Chargers’ chickens this early? Perhaps, but what fun would a best-case scenario article written at the end of April be without lofty dreams. With head coach Brandon Staley entering his sophomore season at the helm, the Chargers have one of the bigger mavericks in football when it comes to analytics. Staley certainly has more of his preferred personnel in place to make these kinds of daring decisions, which is bad news for teams in the AFC.
As the offseason progresses though, goals regarding this team should be lofty. While I am all for having a realistic expectation of what a team is capable of, especially for a jittery squad like the Bolts, the proof is already there that the Chargers have some of the best talent in the league (six Pro Bowlers last year).
If Los Angeles can ace another first-round pick and fill out the rest of their roster with serviceable younger players, then the only team that can beat them next season would be themselves. That, or the injury grim reaper knocking at their door once again. The NFL is an interesting sport, but like Dr. Jerry Buss (aka John C. Reilly) said on a recent episode of “Winning Time” the Chargers good luck is due.