Chargers' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 27, 2022

Chargers' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

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    Jeff Bottari/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers set sky-high expectations for themselves going into the 2022 NFL draft based on their last two draft classes. 

    Los Angeles landed its quarterback of the future in 2020 in the form of Justin Herbert, and then it added protection for a decade with 2021 first-round pick Rashawn Slater.

    The Chargers need to use that eye for talent to land another star in Thursday's first round to keep up with all of the high-profile signings in the AFC West. 

    Brandon Staley's team enters 2022 in the most competitive division in the NFL, and it needs to make a splash with the 17th overall pick. 

    A few different avenues could be explored by Staley and his staff. They could land another anchor to the offensive line to partner with Slater and protect Herbert, they may land another wide receiver for the young quarterback, or a defensive improvement can be added. 

    Los Angeles' direction will likely be dictated by what happens in front of it in the first round. The pressure is on to land an immediate impact player because of the last two years and the lack of a second-round pick in 2022. 

Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Trevor Penning is one of the few players the Chargers staff should watch closely as the first round develops. 

    The Northern Iowa offensive tackle will likely be the best player at his position on the board when the first round reaches the teens. 

    Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal and Charles Cross could all land in the top 10. The Chargers should expect that to happen, and they likely have not spent much time on those prospects for that reason. 

    Los Angeles has to worry about the direction of the New Orleans Saints, who traded up to No. 16 in a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles

    New Orleans could have made the trade to move ahead of the Chargers and make sure it gets protection for Jameis Winston.

    Penning should be on the Saints' wish list for the same reasons why the Chargers covet his skill set. 

    The FCS product could be Los Angeles' anchor on the right side of the offensive line for years to come, and his selection would provide stability in front of Justin Herbert. 

    If New Orleans is set on Penning, Los Angeles could call Philadelphia or the Baltimore Ravens to jump ahead of the Saints. The Chargers could also pivot to another position at No. 17 and then find an offensive lineman in the third round. 

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The first-round selection of Jordan Davis would fit in line with Los Angeles' offseason acquisitions. 

    The Chargers upgraded two layers of their defense by trading for Khalil Mack and signing J.C. Jackson in free agency. 

    Los Angeles would love to have a massive run stopper in the form of Davis patrolling its interior for years to come. 

    Davis was one of the most impactful defensive tackles in college in quite some time. He even received some Heisman Trophy buzz for his play on the dominant Georgia defense. 

    Davis would add some girth to the defensive interior, and that would give the Chargers a few solid run stoppers in him, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Jerry Tillery.

    A combination of those players alongside Joey Bosa and Mack would make the Chargers defense look much more imposing on paper. 

    There is a strong possibility of Davis falling to No. 17, especially if the runs at other positions take place. 

    The run on wide receivers should be monitored by the Chargers. It never hurts to have an abundance of players at that position in a division with the Kansas City Chiefs

    Los Angeles may be in the wide receiver market if the right player falls to it and the front office staff believes it can pass on Penning or Davis. 

Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

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    Rebecca S. Gratz/Associated Press

    Los Angeles needs to have contingency plans in place in case all of the top offensive lineman are off the board and they do not rate the defensive prospects available. 

    The worst-case scenario, if you want to call it that, is to give Herbert another weapon to work with in the passing game. 

    The run on wide receivers will most likely occur in the picks ahead of the Chargers. A handful of teams from No. 6-No. 16 could land one of the top wideouts. 

    Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams should be off the board, and Drake London could join them in the top 15. 

    That would leave Chris Olave as the best wide receiver on the board at No. 17, and he may be hard for the Chargers to pass up. 

    Olave would not have the pressure of being the first or second option in the Chargers offense, and he could learn from Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. 

    Pro Football Focus' Austin Gayle projected Olave would land with the Chargers in his mock draft. Davis and Penning were off the board at No. 17 in that mock. 

    Wide receiver is not the Chargers' No. 1 need, but if the interior prospects they want are not there at No. 17, Olave or the best available wide out could be the selection.