Chargers aren't only AFC West team fixing offensive line ahead of NFL draft

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jeff Miller
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
New Chargers center Corey Linsely is pictured during his introductory news conference Friday.
Signing center Corey Linsely was the key to rebuilding the Chargers' offensive line for next season. (Mike Nowak, Los Angeles Chargers)

The Chargers entered draft week Monday with the 13th overall selection and eight more.

The nine picks represent a career high for Tom Telesco, who is preparing for his ninth draft as Chargers general manager and clearly understands the math.

“The more picks you have, the more at-bats you have,” Telesco said, “the better your chances of getting a hit.”

A swing and miss at No. 13 on Thursday would be particularly significant, given the screaming needs the Chargers have at left tackle and cornerback. Telesco has rebuilt the offensive line, with only right tackle Bryan Bulaga returning. The center (Corey Linsley) and guard spots (Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi) were filled in free agency.

That leaves left tackle. Telesco said the team remains “very bullish” on Trey Pipkins, a third-round selection in 2019, but he appears to be more in line to fill the backup swing tackle position.

The Chargers need a cornerback to play on the outside opposite Michael Davis. That spot was filled by Casey Hayward the last five seasons before he was released in March.

A look at the other teams in the AFC West:

Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock takes part in drills during a camp practice.
Big question in Denver this offseason is whether the Broncos are committed to sticking with Drew Lock at quarterback. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Denver Broncos

2020 record: 5-11. 2021 draft picks: 9 (1st), 40 (2nd), 71 (3rd), 114 (4th), 152 (5th), 191 (6th), 237 (7th)

The first real mystery involving the Broncos this week isn’t who they’ll draft but rather will they move up to draft him. A trade up from No. 9 would mean they almost certainly are taking a quarterback and planning for a future without Drew Lock. Entering his third season, Lock has been decidedly uneven in 18 career starts.

Two of his top eight games in terms of passer rating have come in victories over the Chargers, but he also lost to the Chargers in December with a two-interception performance in which he barely completed half of his 47 attempts.

The Broncos bolstered their secondary this offseason by re-signing safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson and adding free-agent cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller. They also picked up Von Miller’s contract option and re-signed Shelby Harris, two more moves to help the defense.

Still, several mock drafts have the Broncos thinking defensively in the first round. Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is the most popular projection.

Rams center Austin Blythe gets ready to snap the football against the Arizona Cardinals in January.
Former Rams center Austin Blythe should be the starting center for the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs in 2021. (Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Kansas City Chiefs

2020 record: 14-2. 2021 draft picks: 58 (2nd), 144 (4th), 175 (fifth), 181 (fifth), 207 (6th)

The Chiefs won twice as many regular-season games as the Chargers last year and advanced to a second consecutive Super Bowl. Still, as with the Chargers, Kansas City is going through an offensive line overhaul, one that began with the releases of veteran tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz.

The Chiefs signed guard Joe Thuney to a five-year deal worth up to $80 million and also added guard Kyle Long, who sat out last season in retirement, and center Austin Blythe, formerly of the Rams. After re-signing tackle Mike Remmers, they traded for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., giving up their first-round pick (No. 31 overall) and three other selections over the next two years.

These moves have marginalized Kansas City’s draft position — Miami and Jacksonville pick four times before the Chiefs’ first selection — but were done in response to a dreadful offensive performance in a 31-9 Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay.

Rams cornerback Darious Williams makes a tackle on Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake.
Although costly, the addition of running back Kenyan Drake, shown being tackled by Rams cornerback Darious Williams, should help the Raiders' offense. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Las Vegas Raiders

2020 record: 8-8. 2021 draft picks: 17 (1st), 48 (2nd), 79 (3rd), 80 (3rd), 121 (4th), 162 (5th), 167 (5th), 200 (6th)

The Raiders also have had an active offseason in regards to the offensive line. In an attempt to get younger, Las Vegas traded three starters up front: Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson. The moves initially were met with massive criticism, though the tumult has quieted.

The Raiders also lost No. 1 wide receiver Nelson Agholor in free agency as the former USC Trojan signed with New England, but added wide receiver John Brown and running back Kenyan Drake, even if Drake’s two-year deal (worth up to $14.5 million) also was roundly criticized.

Of particular importance to the Chargers, the Raiders added pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who soon will be chasing Justin Herbert. Las Vegas still needs a starting right tackle and free safety but also has a few other potential openings, most notably at cornerback and along the defensive front.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.