Chargers 2021 NFL Mock Draft
April 22, 2021
Unlike last season, the Los Angeles Chargers will not be entering the 2021 NFL draft with the need for a quarterback of the future, due to the selection of quarterback Justin Herbert in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. Herbert, the offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL in 2020, had a successful rookie campaign and with his backups in place, there is no need to address this position in the 2021 NFL draft.
This draft will be focused on the offensive line, the defensive secondary and replacing edge rusher Melvin Ingram and tight end Hunter Henry. The Chargers were able to take care of some of their needs in free agency, particularly the offensive line, but it will still be important to address that area of the offense in the draft. Pro Football Focus rated the Chargers offensive line in 2020 the worst in the NFL. The Chargers need to do a better job of protecting their franchise quarterback.
The Chargers enter the draft with nine draft picks, one for each of the seven rounds plus an extra third round compensatory pick for the loss of Philip Rivers and an extra sixth round pick acquired in the trade with the Titans for defensive back Desmond King. This is my prediction for the Chargers seven-round draft selections to be held in Cleveland, on April 29th through May 1st.
Round 1 – Jaelen Phillips, Edge Rusher, Miami, 6'5", 260 pounds – With the 13th pick in the first round, the Chargers select Phillips, who is from Redlands. Phillips played his high school football at East Redlands high school, where he had 21 sacks his senior season and was ranked the top high school football player in America. Phillips decided to attend UCLA, where he played ten games in two seasons while struggling with injuries.
After a short retirement from football, Phillips returned to Miami to continue his career. In the 2020 season, Phillips was named a second-team All-American, with 45 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks and one interception. At his pro day workout, Phillips ran a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, had a 36-inch vertical jumps, 4.12 shuttle time and 21 bench press reps of 225 pounds.
Louis Riddick od ESPN called Phillips, "best edge rusher in this draft easily as far as pass rush package" and "an athletic freak show." NBC Sports Sunday Night Football and Pro Football Focus analyst Cris Collinsworth called Phillips, "the best defensive player in the draft. I don't even think it is close." Joey Bosa is the only consistent pass rushing threat on the Chargers and he could use some help.
Round 2 – Jevon Holland, Safety, Oregon, 6'1", 200 pounds – A two-year starter at Oregon, Holland played cornerback, safety, and nickel back in college and played all three positions well. That is the kind of versatility that new head coach Brandon Staley will appreciate. Holland ran a 4.46 forty at his pro day, with a 35.5" vertical jump and added 19 bench press reps of 225 pounds.
Holland, a teammate of Herbert's at Oregon, is a playmaker in the secondary, with nine interceptions in two seasons, returning one for a touchdown. As Matt Miller of ESPN stated, Holland has, "a skill set that should beautifully transition to the pros."
Round 3A – Walker Little, Offensive Tackle, Stanford, 6'7", 313 pounds – Little is an enigma at offensive tackle. He opted out of the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic and missed the 2019 season to a knee injury. He hurt his knee in the first game of the 2019 season. He has not played in a game in two years and his pro day workout was not outstanding.
When he has been on the field, he has been an exceptionally good player. A five-star recruit out of Bellaire, Texas, Little was the co-recipient of the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year Award in 2017, and he was first team All-Pac-12 in 2018. He looks like a prototypical left tackle in the NFL and someone that could start immediately in the NFL. But the layoff from football has people concerned and will likely move him down in the draft.
Round 3B – Hunter Long, Tight End, Boston College, 6'5", 253 pounds – The Chargers lost tight end Hunter Henry in free agency and decided to not bring back Virgil Green, so they need a long-term answer at tight end. Long caught 57 passes for 685 yards and five touchdowns in 2020 at Boston College. Long has decent speed at 4.7 in the forty and an 83" wingspan. He is considered a solid in-line blocker who will need to get stronger in the NFL.
Round 4– Robert Hainsey, offensive line, Notre Dame, 6'4", 302 pounds – Hainsey had a good Senior Bowl game and week of practice. He started at right tackle for Notre Dame, but will likely move inside in the NFL. He has the versatility to play anywhere on the line and is considered athletic and an effective run blocker as well as solid in pass protection.
Round 5 – Tre Brown, Cornerback, Oklahoma, 5'9", 188 pounds – Brown would bring blazing speed to the Chargers. Brown ran a 4.40 forty at his pro day and added a 38" vertical jump. Looked good in practice at the Senior Bowl and has experience returning kicks. At this point, he projects as a backup cornerback and special teams' player for the Chargers.
Round 6A – Cade Johnson, Wide Receiver, South Dakota State, 5'11", 185 pounds – Another player who looked good in the Senior Bowl. Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade of any receiver in the one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl. In the game, Johnson made a big play as a gunner on the punt team, which will be important for him with the Chargers. Johnson ran a 4.49 in the forty at his pro day.
Round 6B – Nick Niemann, Linebacker, Iowa, 6'3", 237 pounds – Niemann is a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection. As Ourlads Scouting Services described him, "He is smart and tough. A good combination for an NFL job." Niemann tested well at his pro day, running a 4.45 forty. Niemann's brother Ben plays linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs and his father is a long-time college football coach. He would be a solid backup and special teams' player for the Chargers.
Round 7 – Jermar Jefferson, Running Back, Oregon State, 5',10", 208 pounds – Jefferson was freshman of the year in the Pac-12 in 2018 and first team All-Pac-12 in 2020. He was a three-year starter at Oregon State. A three-star running back from Narbonne high school in Harbor City, Jefferson was a very productive running back at Oregon State, rushing for 2,923 yards and 27 touchdowns in 27 games.
He averaged 5.7 yards per carry in his three seasons at Oregon State. He ran a 4.55 forty, which was not as fast as expected. While the Chargers do not need help at running back, Jefferson will add depth at the position and with the wear-and-tear that running backs take during the NFL season, he would be a smart pickup in the 7th round.