Sunday, April 30, 2023

Los Angeles Chargers 2023 NFL Draft Grades Roundup

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror, and we have compiled a consensus ranking using NFL draft grades from a variety of sites.

What draft grades have the media given to the Los Angeles Chargers? What are they saying about the Chargers' 2023 draft haul?

MORE: 2023 NFL Strength of Schedule - Grade: B-

Johnston has potential as an outside threat but must improve his hands and routes to maximize his potential. Tuipulotu's relentless nature will help him overcome a lack of twitch outside. Henley's going to be the new Drue Tranquill/Kyzir White special-teamer/linebacker type for the Chargers.

Davis reunites with Johnston to use his speed in the slot and can take over return duties immediately. I projected Matlock to be picked by the Chargers in the seventh round of my mock draft, as he fits at the 5-technique position for the Bolts. McFadden is a similar player to Jamaree Salyer. Duggan will compete with Easton Stick for the backup spot.

ESPN - Grade: B

When the Chargers got on the clock in Round 1, I thought they'd take Zay Flowers or Jordan Addison. That would have been a spectacular start. Both of the small, quick wide receivers would have fit perfectly around Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. So when they went for wideout Quentin Johnston (21) instead, I was surprised. Not necessarily about the value -- Johnston is No. 29 overall on my board -- but because he has similar size and traits as Williams. They're both over 6-foot-3 and love vertical routes.

Johnston is going to come down with his fair share of 50-50 balls, but Flowers or Addison would have made Justin Herbert's life a little bit easier, because they can run crossers and help in the quick game, which just isn't Johnston's strength. This is a case of liking the player but not loving the fit.

On Day 2, L.A. went for a couple of defensive tweeners in Tuli Tuipulotu (54) and Daiyan Henley (85). Tuipulotu had 13.5 sacks last season, but if he bulks up, he could play some tackle too. Henley stuffed the stat sheet in one season at Washington State, and he has the ability to cover tight ends and running backs in the pass game. He could make an immediate impact. When I studied Derius Davis (125), a college teammate of Johnston, I saw a better return man than route runner, though Davis is super fast. I don't mind spending a seventh-rounder on TCU quarterback Max Duggan (239), though I have questions about his ceiling. In L.A., he'll get reunited with two of his former wide receivers in Johnston and Davis.

The Chargers passed on running backs, so I guess that means they won't give in to Austin Ekeler's trade demand. Overall, there are some early contributors in their class, even though I would have gone in different directions at a couple of spots.

SI - Grade: C

With a looming cap crunch in 2024, the Chargers got ahead of their issues at receiver by taking Johnston, who is an intriguing combination of size and speed coming out of TCU. He should play immediately while becoming a key contributor in the future once Keenan Allen and/or Mike Williams are moved on from. In the third round, Henley is a nice prospect who can learn from linebacker newly acquired linebacker Eric Kendricks before taking a bigger role in his second year. Meanwhile, he and Davis should contribute to special teams for the Chargers right away.

PFF - Grade: A-

Day 1: The Chargers land the third-ranked wide receiver on the PFF big board, and a player who can make people miss in space in TCU's Quentin Johnston. He forced 19 missed tackles on just 60 receptions and averaged 17.8 yards per catch. He did drop 11.8% of the catchable passes thrown his way this past season, though.

Day 2: Tuipulotu is one of the youngest players in the class at 20 years old and earned an 81.0 pass-rush grade in 2022 with a 19.1% pass-rush win rate. The Chargers are very smart to add a third edge beyond Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. They can move him around as well, as the USC product has the size to play as a three-technique defensive tackle or on the edge.

Henley is as explosive as can be with a big tackle radius and elite tackling numbers. He missed a mere five tackles on 97 attempts in 2022, his first year at the Power Five level after transferring from Nevada. Henley's coverage skills are very much a work in progress, but he has the traits to develop into a quality off-ball linebacker for the Chargers.

Day 3: Davis ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash and can be explosive with the ball in his hands. He lacks route-running polish and was generally at his best when running crossing routes. The speedster offers immediate value in the return game but is likely more of a gadget player than a consistent contributor on offense — think Year 1 and 2 Mecole Hardman.

McFadden started at tackle in each of the past three seasons for Clemson (right tackle in 2020 and left tackle in 2021-22), but he'll likely kick inside in the NFL at 6-foot-2. He graded out in the 88th percentile of all qualifying college tackles in zone run-blocking grade over his Clemson career and should add nice depth to a Chargers' offensive line whose depth was tested last year.

A rugged run-stopper out of Boise State, Matlock has little pass-rush ability. He does add beef to a Chargers defense that has long had issues against the run. His 78.3 run-defense grade was the best among Boise State's defense.

Duggan joins the Chargers as a developmental prospect who can comfortably sit behind Justin Herbert. He has tremendous intangibles and a solid ability to improvise. He needs to clean up his throwing mechanics and processing from the pocket.

Fox Sports - Grade: B-

The Bolts drafted another big-bodied receiver in the first round, TCU product Quentin Johnston. He's got good short area quickness and should provide an ability to make plays after the catch. USC pass-rusher Tuli Tuipulotu led the nation in sacks last year and offers versatility, with the ability to play defensive tackle and defensive end. A converted receiver, Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley brings athleticism and energy to the defense while TCU product Max Duggan should compete for a backup job behind Justin Herbert. The Bolts drafted three TCU products overall, including electric receiver/returner Derius Davis. However, the Chargers surprisingly did not draft a running back despite Austin Ekeler requesting a trade and entering the final year of his contract.

USA Today - Grade: B

Cincy-esque, the typically talented Bolts in position to enlist quality players who can likely contribute in 2023 even if they're not starting until 2024 — first-round WR Quentin Johnston, second-round OLB Tuli Tuipulotu and third-round LB Daiyan Henley all in that boat. And given no trade or replacement materialized, worth wondering if GM Tom Telesco can now find rapprochement with RB Austin Ekeler.

The Ringer - Grade: A-

The Chargers got some much-needed help for quarterback Justin Herbert in Round 1, selecting TCU playmaker Quentin Johnston at no. 21 overall. Johnston isn't exactly the type of receiver I was thinking L.A. would add—he's more of a yards-after-the-catch creator than a true deep threat—but his twitchy athleticism and creativity in space should be a boon for the team's sluggish offense nonetheless. USC edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu was one of my favorite day-two picks, giving the Chargers a versatile and relentless defensive lineman who can be deployed all over the front. Daiyan Henley is rough around the edges at the linebacker spot, but adds some juice to the team's second level. And I liked the addition of Johnston's former TCU teammate, receiver Derius Davis, who does give the team a lid-lifting speedster who can stretch the field. All in all, a solid draft for L.A.

Sporting News - Grade: C-

This draft didn't make a ton of sense for Tom Telesco outside of the best pick, Tuipulotu and the highest-upside pick, Henley. Johnston was the wrong type of wideout to add in the mix for Justin Herbert, and then they doubled down on TCU types with Davis. Getting the Horned Frogs undraftable QB, Duggan, also was ridiculous. This wasn't the needed draft for a playoff contender, which also missed a running back given the concerns with Austin Ekeler.

Touchdown Wire - Grade: B-

This draft didn't start out entirely positively in my mind — while Quentin Johnston is a big, fast receiver who can blow defenses up after the catch, he needs to expand his route palette and cut out the drops. However, head coach Brandon Staley got two great guys in the second and third rounds. Tuipulotu is a bigger (6-foot-3, 266-pound) edge-rusher who had 13 sacks and 56 total pressures for the Trojans last season, and he has the toolkit to win in Staley's concepts right away. Staley's concepts need athletic linebackers, and Daiyan Henley absolutely fits that profile. What you'd like to see here is more to solve the Chargers' seemingly endless issues stopping the run, and the Johnston pick up top is a bit iffy, so that takes the grade down a bit.

More: 2023 NFL Draft Grade Roundups

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