As many draft experts and pundits have speculated, offensive line is a chief position of need for the Chargers heading into the NFL Draft. Though there are certainly other possibilities for the Bolts at No. 17, like drafting another wide receiver or a new piece on defense, I would say the biggest goal should be protecting quarterback Justin Herbert for as long as possible.
In Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning, they would be able to get a player that has been prized by Pro Football Focus as one of the best in college football last season (97.3 PFF grade at Northern Iowa). Were the Bolts to acquire a notable bookend like Penning to pair with All-Pro left tackle Rashawn Slater, their line would be a formidable one
Trevor Penning has track record of great growth along offensive line
Regarded as the fourth-best offensive tackle in the NFL Draft by Dane Brugler of The Athletic, Penning is a huge specimen at six-foot-seven, 325 pounds. Per Brugler’s report in his 2022 NFL Draft Guide, Penning broke the Northern Iowa squat record at 625 pounds and has grown from a 210-pound high school junior to a stout 325 redshirt senior.
As pointed out in this breakdown, Penning’s fundamentals and on-field discipline do need some help from an NFL coaching staff, but his raw blend of size, power and length makes him an enticing prospect to develop.
As Brugler noted in his report, Penning would need to develop this summer and into training camp, but he does have the ability to compete with Storm Norton right away at right tackle. Though he mainly played left tackle in college under offensive coordinator Ryan Clanton, Penning would slide in at right tackle with the Bolts.
What’s more, Penning only played one year of offensive line for his high school football team and then worked himself into one of the best offensive linemen in college football after three years as a starter for Northern Iowa. With a clear track record of adapting and thriving, Penning should be a great fit if he falls to the Chargers.
Depth still a concern, but Trevor Penning gives the Chargers top-end strength
In the trio of Slater, center Corey Linsley and potentially the Northern Iowa product, the Chargers could feature three robust linemen next season. Throw in the solid production of left guard Matt Feiler and the Chargers will have one of the better starting offensive line groups in the AFC, an area they have coveted for some time.
Though right guard Breiden James is a green prospect, there is still time to round out the rest of the roster and position group as the offseason progresses. Certainly though with the strong foundation the Chargers have in place, there is definitely a lot of optimism that the Bolts can not only hang with their AFC West brethren, but move past them too.
Now all of this is of course contingent on Penning moving into the starting lineup and playing up to his first round talent right away. The Chargers have seen though in recent years that their first round picks are not always a sure thing.
However, the last time the Bolts picked at the No. 17 overall position was the year they drafted All-Pro safety Derwin James out of Florida State. Regarded as one of the biggest playmakers in the league when he is healthy, the Bolts would be over the moon if Penning has a rookie year as James did back in 2018. With great physical measurements and a nasty streak, the Northern Iowa product does not have to be a stud from day one.
Instead, he can rather learn from his All-Pro teammates on how to be an elite offensive lineman at the pro level which will be a huge boost for the Bolts in years to come.