Los Angeles Chargers NFL Draft Picks & Grades 2022: Zion Johnson is a Plug-and-Play Pro Bowl Guard in an Elite Chargers Offense
The Chargers’ roster is loaded after a supercharged offseason that saw the arrivals of J.C. Jackson and Khalil Mack on defense, joining one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. However, you can never have enough talent in an AFC West arms race, and the Chargers did well to keep building their roster through the 2022 NFL Draft. This article will include a full draft recap with grades and analysis for each selection that the Chargers made this year.
Los Angeles Chargers Draft Picks 2022
Round 1 No. 17 OG Zion Johnson
Round 3 No. 79 S JT Woods
Round 4 No. 123 RB Isaiah Spiller
Round 5 No. 160 DT Otito Ogbonnia
Round 6 No. 195 OT Jamaree Salyer
Round 6 No. 214 CB Ja’Sir Taylor
Round 7 No. 236 CB Deane Leonard
Round 7 No. 260 FB Zander Horvath
Overall Draft Grade: B-
The Chargers had a bit of a feast-or-famine draft that was difficult for me to pin a grade on. I loved the Zion Johnson, Jamaree Salyer, and Zander Horvath picks, but I have some questions about the rest of their selections. In his rookie season, Johnson could be a Pro Bowl-level guard, and I have high confidence in him as a prospect. Despite his poor athletic testing, Salyer was a Day 2 prospect for me due to his high-level collegiate production. Horvath is a fun, highly athletic prospect the Chargers’ offense still uses at a fullback position.
However, I have some questions about the rest of the draft. JT Woods will be pigeonholed into a specific role early in his career due to certain attributes, and I don’t love that idea with Derwin James being such a jack-of-all-trades at safety. Isaiah Spiller’s poor athletic testing made him a questionable pick, especially with the Chargers’ lack of need at running back. I also saw Otito Ogbonnia as a reach. Still, this draft class will provide some solid talent for the Chargers’ roster.
Los Angeles Chargers Draft Grades 2022
Round: 1 Pick: 17 / Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
Zion Johnson checks so many boxes as a draft prospect with his elite athleticism, high level of collegiate productivity, and upward trajectory. In 2021, he put together his best season at Boston College as he allowed just six total pressures on 364 pass-blocking snaps per Pro Football Focus (1.6%). In the season prior, Johnson started at left tackle full time, and he can play tackle in the NFL. Johnson’s 9.75 Relative Athletic Score (RAS) was incredible due to his 89th percentile or better score in the 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, bench press, vertical jump, and broad jump. Johnson may not be a particularly flashy player, but he can be a Pro Bowl offensive guard as soon as this season. The Chargers had a significant need at the position, and they filled it with one of the highest-floor players in the draft.
The Los Angeles Chargers pick Boston College Guard Zion Johnson at No. 17 overall.
84.4 PFF grade in 2021 (2nd among ACC Guards) 💢 pic.twitter.com/vZDc2VAxJA
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 29, 2022
Round: 3 Pick: 79 / JT Woods, S, Baylor
JT Woods is an excellent athlete with a 9.43 RAS and a unique blend of a 97th-percentile 4.36-second 40-yard dash and a 92nd-percentile 40-inch vertical. Those attributes boost his ball production, and he had six interceptions and four pass breakups in 2021. However, Woods struggles in run defense with a concerning 20% career missed tackle rate, and he will struggle if asked to play in the box, especially at just 195 pounds and with a limited strength element. Without the versatility to play multiple roles at safety, I saw Woods as more of an early Day 3 pick, and I assume this selection will lead to Derwin James playing in the box much more often this season. It will be interesting to see Brandon Staley’s plans for his safety group.
Round: 4 Pick: 123 / Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
The dichotomy between Austin Ekeler and Isaiah Spiller in the Chargers’ backfield is quite interesting. Ekeler is one of the most undersized running backs in the NFL, but he’s possibly the strongest pound-for-pound player in the NFL and an excellent athlete. Spiller, meanwhile, has a typical running back size at 6’0”, 217 lbs, but he tested with a RAS of 5.73 with some highly concerning results. His vertical jump was in just the 7th percentile, his broad jump was in the 22nd percentile, and he ran a painfully slow 4.64-second 40-yard dash at the Texas A&M Pro Day. Athleticism is arguably more critical at running back than at any other position, and I don’t understand spending this pick on an unathletic running back, given Ekeler is entrenched as their top back.
let's. get. SPIIIILLLLYYYY
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) April 30, 2022
Round: 5 Pick: 160 / Otito Ogbonnia, DT, UCLA
Los Angeles added Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson to shore up their defensive front over the offseason, but they felt compelled to continue to add to it here. Ogbonnia is a local kid they undoubtedly had plenty of opportunities to watch, which makes it all the more confusing to pick him here. Ogbonnia is theoretically an ideal 4-3 one-gap defensive tackle, but he’s an odd fit for the Chargers’ base 3-4 defense. Ogbonnia’s limited motor and heavy feet hurt his ability to anchor as a run-stopper, and his lack of explosion off the line hurts his pass-rushing productivity. With a brutally slow 1.85-second 10-yard split, I expected Ogbonnia to go off the board later in the draft.
Round: 6 Pick: 195 / Jamaree Salyer, OT, Georgia
After a few rough mid-round picks, the Chargers finally made up for it with an offensive lineman in Salyer, who I saw as a fringe Day 2 prospect. Salyer is still 21 years old, but he had extensive starting experience in the SEC for two years at left tackle. His pass-blocking production at the position was very impressive – he only allowed four total pressures in 2021 and just one pressure against Alabama in the national championship. However, Salyer will be a better fit at guard in the NFL due to his limited athleticism. His 4.15 RAS was brutal, but the strength is impressive as he threw up 31 bench reps at the combine, which was just one behind Johnson for the most among all players.
Zion Johnson and Jamaree Salyer combined to allowed only 10 pressures in 2021…
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 3, 2022
Round: 6 Pick: 214 / Ja’Sir Taylor, CB, Wake Forest
You can never have enough defensive backs in a division with Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Derek Carr, and there’s plenty to like about Taylor’s game. His 8.31 RAS stands out, especially with a 6.84-second 3-cone and a 1.54-second 10-yard split. Taylor is undersized at 5’11”, 188 lbs, and he needs to bulk up to play against the more physical receivers in the NFL. However, he was the first player in Wake Forest to return a kick for a touchdown and an interception in the same game, and he has clear special teams utility while he refines his game and finds his best role as a defensive back.
Round: 7 Pick: 236 / Deane Leonard, CB, Mississippi
A former University of Calgary player drafted 18th overall in the 2021 CFL draft, Leonard will give it a shot in the NFL with the CFL as a great fallback option. Leonard is very raw and has a lot of technique refining and strength training to do. His instincts also need work after failing to log an interception at Ole Miss. However, his footwork is solid, and his 4.39-second 40-yard dash is enticing, so there are some intriguing traits as a practice squad developmental defensive back.
Round: 7 Pick: 260 / Zander Horvath, FB, Purdue
I love this pick. The Chargers are one of the few teams in the NFL that still finds value in the fullback position, and Horvath is one of the most athletic fullbacks I’ve seen. He was the most athletic fullback in combine history with a 10.0 RAS for the position. Horvath had a better 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, and short shuttle than Isaiah Spiller. At 6’2”, 228 lbs, it’s easy to see Horvath getting some work on short-area carries, and he may even have some long-term viability as a receiver.
— Jacob Wayne (@wayne_sports_) May 7, 2022