By Cameron Buford

whatsgoodinsports.com

Even though these players will not get drafted on prime-time television across the country, the lives of many football players will still be changed forever when their names are called in the final rounds of the draft this past Saturday afternoon. Coming into the draft, I wrote the Chargers needed an offensive guard or tackle, a linebacker, and an aggressive, ball-hawking safety, and a running back. They did draft their guard Zion Johnson in the first round and a safety JT Woods in the third round.

Just for reference, I wrote last week, ‘among the positions I feel they need the most attention in this upcoming draft is the offensive guard and/or tackle spot, to improve their protection and run game consistency.’ Drafting Johnson satisfied that need. ‘Additionally, they need to identify a running back that will offer some production in “must-have” situations this season.’ They have yet to draft a running back. ‘By electing not to resign Kyzir White, who led them in tackles last season. Leaving a clear void at the linebacker position.’ Remaining an area of need for the Chargers. ‘Lastly, they need to find an aggressive ballhawk to play next to All-Pro Safety Derwin James.’ It appears Woods, their third-round pick, will have an opportunity to compete for that role.   

Their patience paid off once again this year. Last season they sat and waited for 12 picks to pass before drafting all-pro tackle Rashawn Slater. This year they held steady with the 17th pick in the draft and were able to get their man in Boston College’s 6’3” 312-pound Zion Johnson. Like Slater, Johnson is expected to step into a starting role on this offensive line. 

With the 79th pick of the 2022 NFL draft, the Chargers selected Baylor safety, JT Woods. The rangy safety boasts a 6’ 2” 190-pound frame that ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine last month. He also played in all 50 games in his four years at Baylor. His natural game speed allows him to cover more field, which resulted in his nine interceptions the past couple of seasons. With this, he’s tied for the most interceptions among all FBS players in that same time.

The fourth round saw the Chargers draft Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller to complement the sensational Austin Ekeler. By drafting the 6’0” 217-pound Spiller, the Chargers show they were looking for a game-breaking running back versus someone to only move the chains. Will the talent they already have on this team, the elusive Spiller and his career 5.5 yards per carry average in college, will have some time to grow into his complementary role alongside Austin Ekeler. 

“I would describe myself as an all-around back. I feel like I can do it all; run, catch, and blocking, as well. So, just going in and improving on those things and getting to the next level to showcase what I can do,” Spiller said when asked to describe his running style. “I really model my game after [RB] Adrian Peterson. He’s the reason I started playing. Just watching him grow up a lot. He’s really influenced my game a lot,” Spiller added. 

“You’re seeing him have to navigate some NFL-type runs against NFL-type fronts, being in the SEC West. We’re excited to add him to the group. I think that it’s going to create great competition in that room. I was excited to be able to pick him,” Staley said of having Spiller in his backfield.

The Chargers looked to add depth to the recently depleted defensive line with their 160th pick of round five when they drafted Otito Ogbonnia. The 6’3” 324-pound Ogbonnia is a Houston, TX., native and played his college football right up the 405 from the Chargers facility at UCLA. As a Bruin, Ogbonnia started in 62.7% of the games and averaged over 19 tackles per season. 

The Chargers looked to add depth to the recently depleted defensive line with their 160th pick of round five when they drafted Otito Ogbonnia. The 6’3” 324-pound Ogbonnia is a Houston, TX., native and played his college football right up the 405 from the Chargers facility at UCLA. As a Bruin, Ogbonnia started in 62.7% of the games and averaged over 19 tackles per season. 

“I think a big thing is my abilities at the point of attack; my ability to really knock guys back, get penetration, re-set the line of scrimmage, stop the run. Even in the pass, I’m able to push back the pocket and get vertical pressure up the middle. Those are things that they ended up mentioning and those are my strengths,” Ogbonnia said about why he felt he would fit in with the Chargers.

“Just from a pure size standpoint, that’s what we’re looking for. He’s six-foot-four, 325 [pounds]. He has 10-inch hands, and 34.5-inch arms. He’s a real power player at the point of attack,” Staley said about Ogbonnia. “For a guy his size, what stood out to us is that he’s a guy that can chase the football, too.” Staley further explained what they liked about Ogbonnia. 

With the 195th pick, in the sixth round, the Chargers drafted versatile Georgia offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer from Atlanta, GA. The 6’3”, 321-pound Salyer proved his versatility by playing either of the five positions on the offensive line. This surely adds to his stock, as the Chargers will utilize his versatility at some point this season. 

“I think it did wonders for me. As a young freshman coming in the door, I didn’t exactly understand why [Georgia Head] Coach [Kirby] Smart wanted me to do those things, but for me, now just looking back on it. I’m glad that I did do it and glad that it gave me the versatility to be able to do so.” Salyer said about playing all five positions at Georgia Bulldog. 

“We held this guy in really high regard. He was at the University of Georgia as a National Champion. He started for two years at tackle and inside. You were able to see him against the best in the country. The way he played against Michigan, against those two rushers that were both first-round-caliber rushers — certainly, [Lions DE Aidan] Hutchinson, the second pick in the draft, and [Ravens DE David] Ojabo, he would have been a top-20 pick or something like that.” Staley said, trying to contain his excitement.

As long as Staley is the head coach of this team, they will draft some defensive backs in every draft. So, the pick of 5’11” Ja’Sir Taylor from Wake Forest played in 62 games during his time in college shouldn’t surprise anyone. In the past couple of years, Taylor has finished each season with at least two picks and 24 deflected passes. 

“From a defensive perspective and a kicking game perspective, we just felt like we knew the guy,” Staley said about drafting Taylor. “He’s smooth in transition. He did play some inside. Good in-run support. Probably similar to [DB] Mark Webb [Jr.] last year, just has a lot of traits that we feel like translate to the National Football League,” Staley also added.

They followed their pick of Taylor with another defensive back. They drafted Ole Miss defensive back 5’11” 188-pound Deane Leonard, the Calgary, Alberta, Canada native that played in 19 games in two seasons at Mississippi, after three seasons at the University of Calgary (Canada). Leonard is the sixth current Charger from Canada (Tevaughn Campbell, Christian Covington, Ryan Hunter, Amen Ogbongbemiga, and Joshua Palmer).

With their final pick of the draft, the Chargers selected Zander Horvath, who appeared in 35 career games at Purdue, while earning Academic All-Big Ten honors three times. Horvath averaged a career of 4.4 yards per carry, during his career at Purdue. In 2021, he became the only Purdue running back to have a 100-yard receiving game in over 20 years. 

“He’s an intriguing prospect. He’s a guy that has a lot of versatility; running the football, catching the football, blocking, special teams, he has a pro body, and we’re just going to figure it out,” Staley told the media about Horvath.

After the draft, the Chargers immediately agree to terms with these Undrafted Free Agents; 

Trevon Bradford WR Oregon State

Leddie Brown RB West Virginia

Erik Krommenhoek TE Southern California

Raheem Layne S Indiana

Tyreek Maddox-Williams LB Rutgers

Kevin Marks Jr. RB Buffalo

James McCourt K Illinois

Brandon Peters QB Illinois

Brandon Sebastian CB Boston College

Ty Shelby OLB Louisiana-Monroe

Stone Smartt TE Old Dominion

Skyler Thomas S Liberty

Andrew Trainer T William & Mary

Isaac Weaver C Old Dominion

The Chargers met most of my expectations in this draft. They got everything they needed, except for a run-stuffing linebacker. What are your thoughts on the second draft of the Staley era? Kindly share your thoughts on the draft by reaching out to me using Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email me at voiceofthefans@outlook.com. I also encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles you would like to discuss about this version of the Los Angeles Chargers.

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