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Coach drops big hint on Los Angeles Chargers’ draft strategy

The Los Angeles Chargers' first-round strategy in the 2021 NFL Draft has become all the more apparent. Who will the Bolts target at 13th overall?

Matt Fitzgerald

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The Los Angeles Chargers have some clear needs entering the 2021 NFL Draft, and new head coach Brandon Staley didn’t mince any words when recently discussing the areas of the roster he wants to see improved.

Sports Illustrated‘s Fernando Ramirez documented what Staley said about how high of a priority it is for the Chargers to upgrade their offensive line and protect young star quarterback Justin Herbert:

With several strong prospects to fill in and start right away at left tackle for the Bolts, let’s take a look at how the Chargers can best ensure they get their man in the 2021 NFL Draft to do the all-important job of watching Herbert’s blind side.

Related: NFL mock draft 2023 – CJ Stroud, Bryce Young headline outstanding 2023 NFL Draft class

3 best 1st-round left tackle options for Los Angeles Chargers

Go all-in to reunite Justin Herbert with Penei Sewell

1st-round left tackle options for Los Angeles Chargers: Penei Sewell
Apr 20, 2019; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks offensive lineman Penei Sewell (58) points the scoreboard after the Oregon spring game at Autzen Stadium. Mighty Oregon beat Fighting Ducks 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Penei Sewell is arguably the best offensive lineman to enter the draft since Tyron Smith. That’s the type of proven ability and high ceiling we’re talking about when it comes to the former Oregon star.

What’s great about Sewell is he’s already been teammates with Herbert as a member of the Ducks. You can imagine how much of a dream scenario it’d be for both players to play together at the pro level.

Sewell seems about as sure of a thing at left tackle as any prospect in recent memory. His freakish athleticism, tenacity and still-existent upside all make him someone Los Angeles should consider selling the farm for.

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco may be reticent to part with a future first-rounder to make it happen, though. There’s also the possibility that if the Bolts are patient, a great player will fall into their lap with the 13th pick. Trading up from there to, say, the top five could even cost two future No. 1 selections.

Stay at 13th overall and draft Christian Darrisaw

1st-round left tackle options for Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw
Sep 7, 2019; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies running back Keshawn King 935) celebrates his first touchdown with Christian Darrisaw (77) in the first period against the Old Dominion Monarchs at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw is similar to Sewell in the sense that he has the quickness and finesse to be a premium pass protector, but is perhaps better known for how he gets after it in the running game. Darrisaw is a wrecking ball who gets to the second level of the defense with ease, and would help bolster the Bolts’ rushing attack.

Due to the early run of quarterbacks and offensive playmakers expected in the draft, a quality left tackle like Darrisaw, in just about any mock draft, should definitely still be on the board at No. 13.

Over the final 23 games of his career with the Hokies, Darrisaw surrendered a grand total of three sacks and four QB hits. On 293 pass blocking snaps in 2020, he posted bagels in those statistical categories.

Sounds like a pretty good prospect to me. Maybe Sewell’s Hall of Fame potential is a little higher, but with an elusive signal-caller in Herbert who’s already proven he’s unfazed by pressure, getting a perennial Pro Bowler in Darrisaw is plenty good enough.

Read More: Los Angeles Chargers mock draft: Full 7-round 2021 NFL Draft projections

Land a second 1st-round pick and take Liam Eichenberg

1st-round left tackle options for Los Angeles Chargers: Liam Eichenberg
Oct 5, 2019; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg (74) douses himself with water during a timeout in the second quarter against the Bowling Green Falcons at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Given that Staley was the coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams’ No. 1 defense last season, he may advocate for a defensive player in the first round. That’d mean the Chargers could be in the market to trade back into the end of the first round for their left tackle of the future.

Liam Eichenberg of Notre Dame specializes in pass protection. Over the past two seasons, on 951 pass blocking snaps, he surrendered zero sacks and four QB hits.

For an offense expected to air it out a lot with Herbert at the controls, Eichenberg is a dream fit. He’s no slouch as a run blocker either, but the most important part of his job description, keeping Herbert upright, is something he can excel in right away.

If the Chargers wanted to roll the dice and see if Eichenberg is there when they’re due on the clock at 45th overall in Round 2, they could go that route. Given the value of the position and their dire need, though, it’s well worth a premium 2022 pick to move up and get Eichenberg near the end of Day 1.

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