Chargers get stronger and faster through the draft
May 5, 2022
After being unable to consistently establish a running game and being unable to stop the run on the defensive side of the ball in 2021, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley and General Manager Tom Telesco were determined to address the issue in both free agency and in the 2022 NFL draft, which started last Thursday, April 28, and ended on Saturday, April 30. The running game was a real concern for Charger management.
"What I think that the running game does for a quarterback is it gives you some breathers," Staley said at a press conference last season. “You don’t need a good running game to be a good play-action team, but what you need the running game for is the physical element of the game. If you’re just a passing team, there is a physical element to the game that the defense doesn’t have to respect. The running game forces the defense to play blocks and to tackle.”
The Chargers needed to get more physical on both sides of the line of scrimmage. They added some help in free agency with the addition of two starting defensive tackles, Sebastian Joseph-Day from the Los Angeles Rams, and Austin Johnson from the New York Giants. They still needed additional help at defensive tackle and help on the offensive line to address Staley’s concerns from last season’s press conference.
The Chargers were also going to want to add speed and depth in the secondary, an edge rusher and speed at wide receiver. Below are the results of the 2022 Chargers draft, which consisted of eight draft picks:
Round 1 – Zion Johnson, Offensive Guard, Boston College, 6-foot-2, 312 pounds – Getting more physical at the line of scrimmage will start with an upgrade at right guard. Johnson brings a blue-collar mentality to the job. He was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2021 at guard and a third-team All-ACC selection at left tackle in 2020. He also took snaps at center during Senior Bowl week.
Johnson is described by Ourlads Scouting Services as having, “elite power and strength that shows up most often in the running game. He should be a year one starter at any of the inside positions, preferably guard.” Johnson has a bachelor's degree in computer science and a master’s degree in cybersecurity policy and governance. Johnson is a two-time team captain.
Round 2 – Pick traded to the Chicago Bears for Khalil Mack.
Round 3 – JT Woods, Safety, Baylor, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds – Woods brings speed to the free safety position and the ability to cover deep. He ran a 4.36 forty and had a vertical leap of 39.5” at his pro day. He has long arms and good ball skills. Woods is a playmaker, with nine interceptions over the past two seasons, including six in 2021.
Woods also ran track at Baylor, competing in the 110m hurdles on the Baylor track and field team in 2019. Woods graduated from Baylor with a degree in Sociology.
Round 4 – Isaiah Spiller, Running Back, Texas A&M, 6-foot-0, 217 pounds – Spiller was a first team All-SEC running back in 2020 and a second-team All-SEC running back in 2021. Spiller is a physical back who can run between the tackles. In three seasons at Texas A&M, Spiller rushed for 2,993 yards, averaged 5.5 yards per carry and caught 74 passes. He scored 26 touchdowns in his college career.
Ourlads Scouting Services describes Spiller as “an ideal number two back. A do-it-all back who can factor on every down in any situation. Can be a fit in any role out of the backfield with his blend of size and athleticism.” A perfect fit for the Chargers.
Round 5 – Otito Ogbonnia, Defensive Tackle, UCLA, 6-foot-3, 324 pounds – The UCLA Bruins ranked 2nd in rushing yards allowed per game in the Pac-12 and 23rd in the nation. Ogbonnia was a big reason for the stout run defense. He does not bring a lot of pressure in passing situations, but in running situations he is difficult to move.
Ogbonnia attended James E. Taylor high school in Katy, Texas. He won state titles in both the shot put and discus in track & field. Ogbonnia has immense power, good length, and the toughness to excel at defensive tackle in the NFL. He also has a degree in Geography/Environmental Studies and plans to go to Law School after his football career has ended.
Round 6A - Jamaree Salyer, Offensive Guard, Georgia, 6-foot-2, 321 pounds – Salyer was a 2021 second-team All-SEC guard for the Georgia Bulldogs, the national champions of the 2021 season. Salyer will add depth and will give the coaching staff additional flexibility because he took snaps at all five positions along the offensive line during his career.
Ourlads Scouting Services describes Salyer as a “powerful bruiser who gets tremendous movement off the ball when he has everything lined up.” Salyer graduated with a bachelor's degree in Sport Management. Salyer won the Dick Copas Leadership Award, given to given to a male student-athlete who is an outstanding leader.
Round 6B- Ja'Sir Taylor, Cornerback, Wake Forest, 5-foot-11, 188 pounds – The addition of Taylor brings more speed to the secondary. At his Pro Day, Taylor ran a 4.39-second forty, a vertical leap of 37.5” and ran a 1.54-second 10-yard split. Taylor had a total of 185 career tackles with 153 solo tackles including a career-best 60 in 2021.
Taylor had six career interceptions, returning an interception 45 yards for a touchdown against North Carolina State in 2020. Taylor was the first player in Wake Forest history to have a kick return touchdown and an interception in the same game. Taylor earned an undergraduate degree in Communications. He will need to contribute on special teams to make the 53-man roster.
Round 7A – Deane Leonard, Cornerback, Ole Miss, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds - The Chargers were not finished adding speed in the secondary, with the selection of Leonard in the 7th round. Leonard ran a 4.39 forty at his pro day and has good size.
Leonard started 11 games at cornerback for the Ole Miss Rebels, with his best game against the then 11th ranked Texas A&M Aggies, collecting nine tackles, and adding three pass-breakups in a victory over the Aggies. Leonard will add depth to the Chargers secondary and will help on special teams. Leonard graduated with a degree in business.
Round 7B – Zander Horvath, Fullback, Purdue, 6-foot-2, 234 pounds – The Chargers continued to add toughness between the tackles with the addition of Horvath. At Purdue, Horvath played special teams, fullback and running back. He should fit in well with the Chargers, who will probably use him the same way he was used at Purdue.
Horvath ran a 4.6 forty at his pro day, he had a vertical leap of 35.5”, and bench pressed 225 pounds an impressive 31 times. Ourlads Scouting Services describes Horvath as “a physically imposing runner with elite ball skills and sure hands.” In his four-year career at Purdue, Horvath rushed for 1,181 yards and 8 touchdowns, while also catching 68 passes. Horvath has been a perennial member of the Big Ten All-Academic team in his four years at Purdue.
The Chargers were able to address Staley’s running game concerns and add more depth at defensive tackle, but they did not add another edge rusher through the draft or find that speed receiver in the draft. With Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa coming off the edge, the Chargers just needed depth at the edge, in case of an injury.
The need for speed at wide receiver was more about stretching the defense and taking advantage of quarterback Justin Herbert’s laser arm. Right tackle may also need to be addressed unless the Chargers can sign a free agent tackle or move Trey Pipkins III to right tackle. But overall, the 2022 Chargers will be a stronger and faster team with the additions through free agency and the draft.