The Chargers answered their massive question at quarterback last year when they drafted Justin Herbert , threw him into the fire and came away with a signal-caller made of steel.
Now, they need to find a protector of the same caliber. Chargers coach Brandon Staley admitted his team is well aware of its need at left tackle following the departure of 2020 starter Sam Tevi, and will attempt to address it in the coming weeks -- or months.
"Yeah, there certainly [is] a hole there right now," Staley said Thursday. "We feel like we have some tackle prospects on the roster that can certainly play there. But it's gonna be certainly a position that we need to address you know, before July. As you know, there's a lot different ways to address it within the draft, free agency, trade. So there's a lot of different ways that you can do that. Definitely that's gonna be a piece that we need to fill before July and we're excited to do it. But we really like the way we've started in free agency with the interior of our line."
This draft class includes Herbert's former trusty protector, Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, who said earlier this week it "would be a dream come true" to reunite with Herbert in Los Angeles and resume blocking for the standout quarterback. The problem, though, is Sewell is likely to be off the board by the time the Chargers have an opportunity to make a selection at 13th overall.
Sewell is one of two top-tier and highly coveted tackles in this class, with the other being Northwestern's Rashawn Slater. While many mock drafts have shifted from Sewell as the first tackle off the board to Slater, neither lands with the Chargers by most projections. That means Los Angeles would have to move up to take either of the top tackles, or accept a bronze medal with its pick to address the position.
Los Angeles spent in free agency to shore up its offensive line, luring former Packers center Corey Linsley away from Green Bay and adding former Steelers guard Matt Feiler, but they can't afford to stop there. NFL Network's Peter Schrager released his first mock draft on Thursday, and he had the Chargers taking Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw 13th overall.
Based on pre-draft prospect rankings, this wouldn't be a celebrate-in-the-streets (socially distanced, of course) type of pick for Chargers fans. But it would address a need, with the hopes that Darrisaw or another tackle proves to be a quality starter.
One needn't look further than last year's draft to find a success story at that spot in the draft. The best tackle in the 2020 class after one season, Tristan Wirfs, was selected by the Buccaneers at 13th overall after Tampa Bay traded up one spot to take him. Wirfs was the fourth tackle off the board in the round, following Andrew Thomas (fourth overall to the New York Giants), Jedrick Wills (10th overall to Cleveland), and Mekhi Becton (11th overall to the New York Jets). Wirfs was, at one point in the pre-draft process, seen as potentially the first or second tackle off the board, so his selection came as a bit of a surprise, thanks to the Giants taking Thomas within the top four.
All of this is to say a quality tackle can still be had at 13. It just might not be the one the Chargers covet most, meaning they'd likely have to watch how the draft unfolds before potentially making a move up to take a tackle they want.
And if they don't, they'll likely take what's left. As Staley said, there's a hole at the position, one that needs to be filled in the offseason. With the franchise quarterback in place, there's no better time than the present to pair him with a blocker he can depend on for years to come. His own career might just depend upon it.