The Los Angeles Chargers came into the first day of the 2020 NFL Draft needing a couple of things: a potential franchise quarterback and a player who could also help on the defensive side of the ball. They got both.
The defensive tag came by way of the Chargers trading away their second and third draft selections to the New England Patriots in exchange to snag the AFC East champs’ slot in the first round. As it was, the Chargers got bang for their buck.
With longtime Philip Rivers out and Tyrod Taylor currently filling the bill as the penciled-in starter, the Chargers went out and landed a bigger Rivers’ prototype in Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 6 overall pick in the first round. After trading up, the Chargers then picked Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray with selection No. 23.
The last time Herbert was seen on a public stage as a college football player, he was busy running for three touchdowns in leading the Ducks to a 28-27 come-from-behind win against Wisconsin in the 2020 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual.
Like the young gunslinger Rivers, Herbert can throw the ball with fire. The difference between the future Hall of Famer and Herbert is that the former Oregon star has wheels which we proudly displayed in his team’s Rose Bowl victory. In this age of the mobile quarterback, the day of the statue signal-caller is all but over.
In Herbert, the Chargers got a quarterback who is comfortable in operating the read option as well as throwing darts all over the football field.
“He brings us a lot,” Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said during a video conference call. “I think the combination of his physical skills, his style of how he plays, and his makeup. It’s just really intriguing to us. He’s a big, fast, dual-threat quarterback with plenty of room to grow. We really love his quarterback potential, his quarterback makeup, his leadership skills, his toughness, his mental toughness, being able to handle adversity — especially as a quarterback.”
“He’d have some games where — and all players have this and teams have this — where we have a bad first quarter, we have a bad series, we have a bad half and come back in the second half and put the team on his back and won some games that way,” Telesco continued. “That just shows the resolve that he has. Obviously, being on the West Coast and a Pac-12 player, he’s someone that we’ve had a lot of exposure to especially being a four-year starter. We’ve seen a lot of him. We like his skills, like his traits, like his makeup so these are players you’d like to work with.”
As a four-year starter, Herbert threw for 95 touchdowns and committed only 23 picks and ended his collegiate career completing 64 percent of his passes. Herbert, who sat at home with his parents as the draft unfolded, is excited about being a member of the Chargers.
“It’s an incredible, incredible opportunity,” Herbert said via video conference. ” It’s something that I’ve waited for for so long. To be able to join such an incredible franchise, words can’t describe it enough. I want to get down there as quickly as I can and I want to get back to throwing, running, lifting, and doing all of these things — and playing football. That’s what I miss most. To be able to go down there, it’s awesome.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers needed a player who could help solve their rush defense issues. They have found that player in Murray, who is nothing short of a smasher out on the field. In 2019, the Chargers gave up over 112 yards per game on the ground. Murray, a rangy-type athlete, is expected to be a key plug to shore up that area on the defense.
“I think he could play any of the spots that we would ask him to,” Telesco said. “Whenever we get on the field, hopefully as soon as possible, we’ll see where everything shakes out.”
Murray said he had no idea the Chargers were going to draft him.
“To be honest, I was completely surprised,” Murray said. “ I met with them at the combine and put my best foot forward. I feel like we connected well. I saw one of their scouts at the pro day, and he asked me if I was healthy and if I would be doing any drills. I told him I was healthy. Two or three weeks after that, I got another call from a scout just seeing if I was healthy and confirming my number.”
“Tonight, I got a call from the general manager,” he continued. “ His phone number was an Indianapolis number, and I thought it was somebody else. When I answered the phone, he said it was the Chargers, it just really took me all by surprise. So definitely it was something that was surprising, and it’s definitely something I’m extremely grateful for.”