Breaking down Chargers' first-round pick Zion Johnson and the draft implications

NFL Combine
NFL Combine / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The Chargers played it safe with their first-round pick on Thursday night, selecting Zion Johnson 17th overall. Johnson was widely viewed as the best guard in the 2022 class, and a plug and play starter. He will offer the Bolts positional versatility and brings a very polished skillset in both pass protection and the run game.

After repeating the dominant performances he displayed in his Boston College career at the 2022 Senior Bowl, he also went on to score a 9.75 RAS (Relative Athletic Score) out of a potential 10.00 with a great showing at the NFL Combine. 

Zion Johnson has an ideal guard frame and stands at 6-foot-3, 312 pounds and even boasts 34-inch arms. This is a player that spent the entirety of 2020 playing left tackle, before switching to left guard this past season where he earned an 84.4 run-blocking grade, and an 81.6 pass-blocking grade, per PFF.  It is easy to see why he was viewed as a high-end first-round caliber player.

With Tom Telesco mentioning that he views Zion Johnson as a right guard while speaking to the media post-draft, he also went on to say he wanted Matt Feiler at left guard. This would come as a surprise to most fans, as there was a growing assumption that Matt Feiler would be kicked out to right tackle. This was a selection that solidified that belief to many at first glance.

So how does this affect the remaining picks for the Chargers in this draft?

As of now, the Chargers do not hold any picks in the second round, with their next selection coming at 79th overall in the third round. Barring a trade-up, it is unlikely that a tackle prospect with “starter potential” comes within striking distance of the Bolts.

Players like Abraham Lucas of Washington State and Bernhard Raimann of Central Michigan are expected to be taken in the second round, which could easily leave the Chargers turning their attention elsewhere when they are on the clock at pick 79. It would be a scenario that could open the door to options outside of the draft to address the vacant tackle spot.

The Chargers have built a very formidable star-studded team, but still have holes to fill outside of the final starting offensive line spot and could go in many different directions with their remaining picks. Defensive backs are always a need in today’s NFL, but the Chargers also do not have a third pass rusher off the edge, and a clear RB2 to pair with Austin Ekeler.

They could also use some speed in the wide receiver room, which has been a big talking point among the fans this offseason. When it’s all said and done though, we may see the Bolts lean a bit more to the defensive side of the ball and bolster roster depth to round out this year’s draft class.

Brandon Staley has been adamant in his position on defensive backs, and has made it no secret that they will target cornerbacks as long as he is the head coach of the Chargers. With depth at the position still being a legitimate issue, and Michael Davis still struggling to put together consistent performances, day two could be a viable area of the draft to grab a good prospect and give themselves some breathing room.

There are still good corners on the board entering day two of the draft, and it would make sense to address the position group early. A couple of potential names to watch would be Coby Bryant of Cincinnati, or late riser Jalyn Armour-Davis of Alabama should they opt to stay put at 79 and do in fact decide to address cornerback.

The third round could still have some very nice options for the secondary and with the depth at edge, running back, and safety, these may be some position groups that are addressed with later picks. As we know though, anything can happen on draft day and we should be in store for another entertaining night.