With the offseason in full swing for the Chargers, it's time to start thinking about the 2023 NFL Draft.
To help kickstart your draft crush research, we've compiled the latest mock drafts from around the internet to familiarize you with some potential Chargers.
WR Josh Downs, North Carolina
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Ian Cummings, Pro Football Network
Personally, I love this one. Downs is one of my favorite players in the draft because of how often he wins contested catch situations as an undersized player. A Biletnikoff semifinalist this season, Downs was, at times, the only source of offense for North Carolina. How he handles press coverage at the next level will be the big question: the Tar Heels used him on the outside and in the slot with equal effectiveness, but his frame suggests he's more of a slot-only player in the NFL. How that meshes with the Chargers current corps is an open question given Keenan Allen's contract status; the veteran's future with the team continues to hang in the balance as the Chargers try to manufacture cap space.
WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Oliver Hodgkinson, Pro Football Network
Billed as the primary attraction of the East-West Shrine Bowl, Flowers' stock has skyrocketed in recent weeks and days as more and more people look past his stats in a poor Boston College offense and find the traits that make him special. Now being talked about as a fringe first rounder, Flowers looks to be moving at a different speed than just about everyone in Las Vegas during practice. He will be a hot commodity, and I'm not 100% sure that he'll still be available by the time the Chargers are on the clock.
WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports
This one is interesting to me, because Smith-Njigba reminds me a bit of one Keenan Allen, who we established earlier is no guarantee to remain on the roster going into next season. If Allen departs, either via trade or release, I could see Smith-Njigba entering the picture quickly for LA. If you're drafting Smith-Njigba and keeping Allen, that feels redundant. Much like Allen, the Buckeye wins primarily through his instinctual knowledge of body position and savvy route running than premium athletic traits. As a slot weapon over the middle, I like Smith-Nijgba, but replacing Allen would be huge shoes to fill as a rookie.
IDL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Doug Farrar, Touchdown Wire
I don't necessarily see defensive tackle as a big enough need to be worth spending a first round pick on unless a top-tier talent slides to 21, similar to the way Derwin James slid to 17 in 2018. A few weeks ago, it seemed like Bresee was in that pantheon, but recent rankings have pretty consistently adjusted to push him down the board in favor of powerful EDGE rushers like Tyree Wilson and Lukas Van Ness.
The Chargers are not devoid of talent on the defensive line, despite their struggles in run defense. It's difficult to play consistently when three defensive tackles suffer season-ending injuries and another misses a game with an injury of their own. Austin Johnson looked fantastic beforing tearing his MCL and fracturing his kneecap, and his return should immediately solve some issues up front. Same for Christian Covington, who found success in his limited role, and rookie Otito Ogbonnia, who showed plenty of flashes this season.
All that to say: I don't really think the Chargers think that the Chargers need a defensive tackle in the first round, unless they're an elite prospect.
IDL Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Same general idea as the Bresee pick here, except that Tuipulotu also has top-end pass rush upside from both the interior or on the perimeter. With Morgan Fox a pending free agent, the Chargers could potentially use an interior pass rushing presence. In 2022, the majority of their interior pressure came from Sebastian Joseph-Day or Khalil Mack when the latter flexed inside on passing downs. Adding the 290 lb Tuipulotu as another option there would improve the flexibility of the defense.
My issue with this pick, however, lies mostly with the valuation. I don't necessarily agree with the notion that Tuipulotu is a first round player. He's a stiff player bending around the edge, which is why he'll likely move to the inside in the pros. Despite a 13.5 sack performance in 2022, he's a pretty linear athlete; his ability to redirect and pursue is questionable at best. He's a much better fit as an interior defender for the Chargers, which brings us back to the notion that LA will (in my opinion) only take an interior defender that early if they think he's an exceptional value add.
WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Johnston is fascinating to me because he's a bigger receiver who does not play to his size on the boundary. Unlike Mike Williams, who maximizes his frame to win contested catches downfield and outmuscle defenders, Johnston is much more of a short area receiver with run after catch upside. It makes for a weird profile that reads like a description of a much smaller receiver. That's not necessarily a bad thing for the Chargers, who would love to snag anyone that has that sort of upside.
Johnston has been batted around higher than this, depending on your opinions on this wide receiver class. However, I think that 21 is a much more reasonable range for him, and his ability after the catch necessitates monitoring from LA's perspective.
The next few players are ones who were linked to the Chargers in previous roundups, so I did not provide analysis for them this time around. You can see the previous edition here.
TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Joe Broback, Pro Football Network
Damian Parson, The Draft Network
WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Luke Easterling, Draft Wire
RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire