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Joshua Kelley lands with LA’s “B-graded” draft

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. assigned grades to all 32 NFL teams and Kelley’s Chargers received a solid B

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 NFL Draft is over. But we’re still talking about it plenty.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. assigned his draft grades for all 32 NFL teams on your standard school-grading system. He gave the Los Angeles Chargers a ‘B’ for their total haul of six players including RB Joshua Kelley in the fourth round with the 112th pick overall.

Kelley is likely to play the counterpart to Austin Ekeler in the backfield with the Chargers and should see snaps immediately this fall. That being said, the rest of their draft class was assigned the draft grade of a B, and here’s why:

Coach Anthony Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco have said all the right things about the quarterback position since they decided to part ways with Philip Rivers, who started 224 consecutive games for the Chargers from 2006 through 2019. They were happy with Tyrod Taylor, and Taylor was the front-runner to be the 2020 starter. No one really was quite sure whether they would take a quarterback at No. 6. They needed an offensive tackle, but would they really pass on Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa there?

The answer turned out to be no, and the 6-foot-6 Herbert can now become the face of the franchise, though it might not be immediately. After an inconsistent 2019 season, Herbert nailed the pre-draft process, and there were several teams that had him rated above Tagovailoa. He’s a big-time physical talent who could flourish in an L.A. offense that already has solid weapons. I’m a fan of what he can do when he gets coached up, and so I like this pick for the long term.

The Chargers also chose to move up in the first round, trading away both of their Day 2 picks to get Kenneth Murray (23), a run-and-hit middle linebacker who should slot right in as the starter. They also added help at running back on Day 3, taking Joshua Kelley (112), who could play the Melvin Gordon role next to Austin Ekeler, who is likely to get more snaps this season. I had down safety Alohi Gilman (186) as more likely to be a special-teams contributor, but he could play in sub packages. K.J. Hill (220) is a dart throw on a potential slot target.

For a team that went 5-11, the Chargers acted like a team that was only two players away from a title on Thursday, but I really like both of their first-rounders. L.A. has some talent on both sides of the ball, and it could challenge in the AFC wild-card race in 2020. There’s still a hole at left tackle, but maybe the Chargers can find a veteran free agent to plug in there for a year.

I’m less enthused with the selection of Murray and so I’d like to think that he drags the grade down. I like Kelley in this role with Ekeler as it pits both players to their strengths.

Chalk me down as a fan of this backfield in 2020.