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NFL Nation

COSTA MESA, Calif. – The 2023 NFL draft concluded Saturday in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The Los Angeles Chargers made seven of the draft’s 259 picks, beginning with the No. 21 selection of the first round on Thursday night.

ESPN’s pick-by-pick analysis of each of the Chargers’ selections are below.

Analysis of every pick | Updated depth chart

Round 1, No. 21 overall: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

My take: The Chargers have lacked a playmaker who can consistently stretch a defense and provide a deep target for quarterback Justin Herbert. That no longer is the case with the addition of Johnston, known for his ability to get quickly downfield and make over-the-shoulder catches. Johnston should be able to make an immediate impact and rounds out a wide receiver group that includes proven playmakers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Johnston’s addition also proves that the Chargers will continue to invest around Herbert, who is expected this offseason to sign a long-term extension.

Need he’s helping fill: The Chargers last season could not stretch the field consistently and it showed in Herbert’s numbers. Despite superior arm strength, Herbert averaged only 6.8 yards per attempt, which ranked No. 26 in the NFL. Meanwhile, Johnston averaged 3.04 yards per route run, which was the best in the Big 12 and ranked eighth in the FBS. Johnston will not only enable Herbert to air the ball out more often, but his presence also will clear space for Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, who were the Bolts’ only two players last season to average more than two yards per route (Allen 2.22 and Williams 2.0).

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Will he start as a rookie? Yes. It remains to be seen how quickly Johnston can learn offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s playbook, and how quickly he will be able to develop chemistry with Herbert, but Johnston is filling an immediate need for the Chargers, so he will be expected to be able to start.

Round 2, No. 54 overall: Tuli Tuipulotu, EDGE, USC

My take: The Chargers feature edge rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, but a lack of depth at the position grew into a major concern this offseason with the Bolts opting to let veteran Kyle Van Noy depart in free agency and uncertainty regarding the development of 2021 fourth-round pick Chris Rumph II. The selection of Tuipulotu ensures that if the Chargers are without either Bosa or Mack for a single game or an extended period, a playmaker is ready to step in.

Key Stat: Tuipulotu has a proven ability to get after the quarterback. Last season he led the FBS with 13.5 sacks, the most by a USC player since Kenechi Udeze in 2003. Last season, the Chargers were tied for 14th in the NFL with 40 sacks.

Round 3, No. 85 overall: Daiyan Henley, ILB, Washington State

My take: The Chargers have yet to announce an official decision on whether they will exercise the fifth-year option on inside linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr.’s rookie contract, but the addition of Henley seems to signal that the 2020 first-round pick’s time with the Bolts could be limited. Henley will have the opportunity to learn at the elbow of veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks, who the Chargers signed to a two-year deal in free agency, and he could play a key role on special teams.

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Will he start as a rookie? It’s still unclear how the Chargers plan to utilize Henley in the defense given the addition of Kendricks and the scheduled return of Murray at the position.

Round 4, No.125 overall: Derius Davis, WR/KR, TCU

My take: The Chargers were unable to retain returner DeAndre Carter, who also was a key role player on offense, in free agency, so Davis fills an immediate need on special teams. His speed will also contribute another dimension to the Chargers’ offense in a receivers group that includes Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnston, Davis’ TCU teammate who the Chargers selected in the first round.

Round 5, No. 156 overall: Jordan McFadden, G, Clemson

My take: The Chargers have invested over the past few years in their offensive line, which included selecting guard Zion Johnson with a first-round pick and guard Jamaree Salyer with a sixth-round pick in 2022. The Chargers thrust Salyer into a starting role at left tackle when Rashawn Slater was sidelined for most of last season because of a left biceps tear, and he will retain a starting job (though moving inside to guard) this season. That makes it somewhat of a surprise that the Bolts went with another offensive guard with a fifth-round pick. However, depth is always needed in this position group.

Round 6, No. 200 overall: Scott Matlock, DL, Boise State

My take: The Chargers have struggled to stop the run in recent seasons and continue to search for solutions. Known for his run-stopping ability, Matlock adds to a group that includes Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Morgan Fox and Otito Ogbonnia. He will have the opportunity to contribute immediately in a rotation as he fills a position of need for the Bolts.

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Round 7, No. 239 overall: Max Duggan, QB, TCU

My take: The Chargers lack depth at the quarterback position behind starter Justin Herbert. The Bolts re-signed backup Easton Stick to a one-year deal this offseason, but otherwise have no other options in their quarterback room. Duggan adds depth, plus becomes an inexpensive backup to Herbert, who is negotiating a significant long-term extension. Duggan also reunites with two very familiar targets in TCU teammates Quentin Johnston and Derius Davis, who were two of his top three leading receivers for the Horned Frogs last season.