How the Chargers free agent signings affect their 2022 NFL Draft strategy

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The LA Chargers kicked off the week with a massive statement on the first day of the legal tampering period. The Chargers front office has already overhauled the defense in one day, and Brandon Staley has his fingerprints all over it. Multiple positions of need were addressed, and the Bolts secured the services of some star players that fans were hoping for.

Tom Telesco did impressive work bringing in new key players without overpaying, and it now feels as though the sky is the limit for the Chargers in 2022. Monday confirmed that this is a team adopting an “all-in” approach this offseason, leveraging Justin Herbert’s rookie contract to build a very scary roster.

The Khalil Mack trade still felt surreal, but the Chargers found a way to outdo themselves on Monday. All-pro cornerback JC Jackson was signed to a 5 year, $82.5 million dollar deal, counting only $8 million against the cap in 2022. They then followed that up by addressing their most glaring positional need at defensive tackle.

Austin Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day joined the Chargers on multi-year deals to sure up a defensive line that was nothing short of abysmal in 2021. These are two signings that immediately raise the floor of a unit that was in need of a change in personnel. By the end of Monday night, the Chargers had already addressed three crucial positional needs, at EDGE (Khalil Mack), cornerback, and defensive tackle. The significance of this is that the Chargers will not be pigeonholed into certain selections at the draft, and will be freer to select their best player available regardless of position.

Mock drafts and draft predictions are always fun, but until free agency starts and trades start materializing, it’s impossible to get a clear idea of how a team may really approach a draft. Now that we’ve seen the first moves, we can take a look at some different directions the Chargers can go in at the 2022 NFL Draft.

LA Chargers round 1 strategy:

Positions to watch: OT, WR

The moves made by the Chargers this week have already opened up the draft and allow for some more freedom. Positional value plays a role in the process, and paired with the glaring hole at right tackle, it makes the offensive line the most likely position to be addressed. Charles Cross and Trevor Penning are two prospects that could be available at pick 17, with Cross being the better pass protector boasting SEC experience.

Cross is an interesting name, as he is apparently viewed very differently around the league and expected to fall in the draft. Bernhard Raimann could be another option if the Chargers opt to trade down and acquire more draft capital. With Morgan Moses being signed by the Ravens, and cap space starting to shrink despite the Bulaga cut, it may come down to a rookie for the right tackle spot.

That is unless the team opts to make a play for a Cornelius Lucas, or even La’el Collins who was just released by the Cowboys this afternoon. Wide receiver can not be ruled out though, despite the Mike Williams extension there is still a need for a home run threat that can create after the catch. Jameson Williams is a player that can turn a game on its head and has the raw un-coachable speed to be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Especially with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on the field.

Garrett Wilson has a strong chance to be the first receiver taken, and there seem to be varying opinions on how high Chris Olave can go. In terms of speed and skillset, Olave could be a second option to Williams if the medicals don’t check out following his ACL injury.

Ultimately, the team is not in a position where it is desperate for an interior defender at the moment so it would not be a surprise to see them shy away from a Jordan Davis pick if he is even available to them at pick 17. He does remain the most mocked player to the Chargers though and obviously is still in play as a potential option unless we see another notable addition to the interior of the defensive front before the draft.