Charger fans have hope after a good 2021 NFL Draft

In the 1994 movie, “The Shawshank Redemption,” a constant theme throughout the movie was hope. As Andy Dufresne said to his good friend Red, “hope is a good thing, maybe even the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” That is true as well with the NFL Draft each spring, where hope never dies. For the Los Angeles Chargers and thirty-one other NFL teams, every spring is full of hope.

The Chargers came into the 2021 NFL draft needing help on the offensive line and at cornerback, as well as an edge rusher and improved roster depth. It was a good draft for the team, with the offensive line and the cornerback position getting immediate help in the first two rounds. Here is a synopsis of all nine Charger draft picks from the 2021 NFL draft held on April 29th through May 1st:

Round 1 – Rashaan Slater, Offensive Tackle, Northwestern, 6-foot-4, 304 pounds – The Chargers were thrilled to see Slater fall to them at No. 13. Slater is a very athletic offensive tackle that may need to move inside at the NFL level. He can start anywhere and will likely start at left tackle for the Chargers. Slater is not that big, and he has shorter arms than ideal for the tackle position.

Ourlads Scouting Services compares Slater to Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin, who played left tackle at Notre Dame and switched to right guard with the Cowboys, where he has made six Pro Bowls and been selected to six All-Pro teams. Ourlads describes Slater as “technically sound, plays smart and has the athletic ability to handle the speed of the NFL right away.” Like Martin, Slater could end up being moved inside down the road. No matter where he plays on the line, he will be a good player.

Round 2 – Asante Samuel Jr., Cornerback, Florida State 5-foot-10, 184 pounds – This was a steal for the Chargers at No. 47 in the 2nd round. Samuel is a first round talent with second round size. He is the same size as his father, Asante Samuel Sr., the former NFL great who also played cornerback. Samuel Sr. had 51 career interceptions, two Super Bowl Rings and was a three-time All-Pro.

While Samuel lacks great size, he is not afraid to mix it up with bigger receivers. A first team All-ACC selection at cornerback, Samuel can also play in the slot and has the speed and quickness that NFL teams want in a cover corner. Samuel has the versatility to play in almost any defense the Chargers decide to deploy.

Samuel played his high school football at St. Thomas Aquinas high school and his college ball at Florida State, where he met Charger’s safety Derwin James, who also played at Florida State. While they did not play on the same team together, they have become friends. After the draft, General Manager Tom Telesco mentioned to Samuel that, “Derwin James has been lobbying for you for weeks.”

Round 3A – Josh Palmer, Wide Receiver, Tennessee 6-foot-1, 210 pounds – The Chargers used their first pick in the third round, No.77, to grab Palmer and to add depth at wide receiver. Palmer was a teammate of Samuel’s in high school at St. Thomas Aquinas. Palmer’s pro day time in the forty was 4.51 and his vertical jump was 34 inches, neither of which is exceptional.

Ourlads Scouting Services described Palmer this way: “He is tougher and more physical than the guy he is matched up against at all times. He plays such a physical brand of football that it makes up for some skill set shortcomings.” Charger wide receiver Mike Williams is playing under his 5th year option and will be a free agent in 2022, so adding Palmer could be insurance in case the Chargers are unable to re-sign Williams.

Round 3B – Tre' McKitty, Tight End, Georgia, 6-foot-4, 247 pounds – McKitty started his career at Florida State before transferring as a graduate to Georgia in 2020. McKitty was a teammate of Samuel’s at Florida State and played one season with Derwin James as well. At Georgia, McKitty improved his blocking. He has a large catch radius, with strong hands, is a reliable receiver and runs hard after the catch. What he lacks in speed, he makes up with desire.

McKitty will fight for playing time with Jared Cook, Donald Parham, and Stephon Anderson. The Chargers also signed undrafted free agent Hunter Kampmoyer, tight end from Oregon and a teammate of quarterback Justin Herbert at Oregon. The Chargers will likely be running a variety of two and three tight end sets on offense.

Round 4 – Chris Rumph II, Defensive End, Duke, 6-foot-3, 244 pounds – The Chargers needed pass rushing help and the hope is that Rumph can provide that. Pro Football Focus described Rumph as having a “Pass-rushing toolbox that can stand up with NFL veterans. Very polished. You won’t find a more skilled pass rusher in the draft class.”

Rumph’s father is the current defensive line coach for the Chicago Bears, so it can be assumed that he learned a thing or two from Dad. Rumph is undersized at defensive end in the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how the Chargers use and develop him.

Round 5 – Brenden Jaimes, Offensive Tackle, Nebraska, 6-foot-5, 300 pounds – Jaimes was a four-year starter at Nebraska. He set a school record with 40 consecutive starts on the offensive line and was the team’s offensive MVP in 2019. He is athletic, but he will need to get stronger in the NFL. He has the versatility to play multiple position on the line and he may be better suited inside in the NFL. Jaimes played his high school ball at Austin Lake Travis in Austin Texas, where he led his team to a state championship his senior year.

Round 6A - Nick Niemann, Outside Linebacker, Iowa 6-foot-3, 237 pounds – 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 will be a solid backup and special teams’ player for the Chargers.

An interesting note about Niemann and the Chargers 4th round pick Chris Rumph II, they are both the same size, although they are listed at different positions. Niemann is faster than Rumph. Expect both rookies to be moved around a lot on defense.

Round 6B- Larry Roundtree, Running Back, Missouri, 5-foot-10, 216 pounds – Roundtree brings a specific skillset to the Chargers. He runs hard and gets the tough yardage. Roundtree rushed for 3,720 yards and had 40 rushing touchdowns in his four seasons at Missouri. He is not fast, and he was not much of a receiver in college, but he will get the tough yardage, an area the Chargers have struggled with for many years.

Round 7 – Mark Webb, Safety, Georgia, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds – Has nice size at safety and ran a 4.50 forty at his pro day. Webb was a four-star wide receiver out of Pennsylvania, who was switched to safety at Georgia. He will be a backup on defense and will help on special teams. Who knows, maybe the Chargers will use his versatility on offense as well.


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