How did the Chargers' rookie class fare during the 2022 season?
The Chargers' 2022 season has come to a close with the team finishing the regular season with a 10-7 record, reaching the playoffs for the first time in four years. However, the Chargers were unable to close out a 27-point lead over the Jaguars, ultimately dropping the game 31-30 after once holding a commanding lead.
With the season in the books, here's a look at the Chargers' draft class report card based on how each rookie performed in year one:
Round 1, Pick 17: RG Zion Johnson
Johnson, the team's first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, made all 17 starts at right guard, playing 1,184 offensive snaps. Johnson experienced his ups and downs as most rookies do, but his potential is abundantly clear. Johnson thrived in run blocking, posting a PFF grade of 69.5. As a pass blocker, he did't fare as well, logging a 52.6 PFF grade. By the season's end, he allowed five sacks, seven quarterback hits and 40 pressures to cap off his rookie year. The Chargers have expressed their satisfaction for Johnson's ability in what they ultimately believe he can develop into in the near future.
Round 3, Pick 79: S JT Woods
Woods was a project when the Chargers selected him with their first pick on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, and he still remains a development. Woods has blazing speed, whose calling card is operating in the deep part of the field. However, his tackling ability has caused him troubles, limiting the time he saw on the field as a rookie. Woods played just 31 defensive snaps, primarily serving as a special teams contributor this past season. Adding strength to his frame and working on tackling fundamentals will be key factors in Woods taking the next step in his development.
Round 4, Pick 123: RB Isaiah Spiller
Spiller's evaluation of his rookie season isn’t an easy one. When given an opportunity, he showed encouraging signs as a rusher. It also appeared he took positive strides as a pass blocker, something he struggled doing at Texas A&M. However, he had a difficult time seeing snaps on a regular occasion, being buried on the depth chart and often was a healthy scratch on game days. Spiller appeared in six games, handling 16 carries for 41 yards and three receptions for 13 receiving yards.
Round 5, Pick 160: DL Otito Ogbonnia
Ogbonnia's rookie season was cut short following a patella tendon rupture in Week 10. Prior to his devastating blow, Ogbonnia's snap count on a per game basis had started to increase and he began really coming on strong. He finished the year playing seven games, logging 14 tackles and one quarterback hit, but Ogbonnia showed why the coaching staff was so optimistic about him, particularly in what he offers as a run-stuffer.
Round 6, Pick 195: OL Jamaree Salyer
Salyer, given his draft slot and how much he contributed as a rookie, was tremendous this season. Initially drafted as a guard, Salyer switched to tackle, the position he played in college, following Rashawn Slater's torn biceps injury. Salyer took over the starting role at left tackle in Week 4 and didn’t look back, exceeding any prior notions that led to him being a Day 3 selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. In totality, he logged 989 offensive snaps, allowing five sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 46 pressures. Salyer didn’t commit his first sack until the seventh start he made, keeping Herbert upright in the pocket for the first month and a half. General manager Tom Telesco said at his end-of-season press conference that Salyer has earned the opportunity to start in the NFL, but was noncommittal regarding the position he would line up at in 2023.
Round 6, Pick 214: CB Ja'Sir Taylor
Taylor began the year exclusively as a special teams player, but as the season went on, he carved out a role for himself. His first defensive snap didn't come until Week 11, but he finished the year with 188 on the season. Down the back-half of the schedule, Taylor made three starts and split time with Asante Samuel Jr. when the Chargers wanted stronger support against the run on the field. Taylor is a fundamentally sound tackler, but did have his breakdowns at times when dropping back in coverage. Taylor also offers position versatility, having the ability to play along the boundary and inside at nickel cornerback.
Round 7, Pick 236: CB Deane Leonard
Leonard's rookie campaign is a difficult one to grade since he played just four defensive snaps. His main contributions came on special teams in which he totaled five tackles and one forced fumble.
Round 7, Pick 260: FB Zander Horvath
Horvath, the Chargers' final pick, initially looked to have a role in the receiving game early on, before his production declined. Horvath caught a touchdown pass in each of his first two NFL games of his rookie campaign, but caught just two additional passes from Week 3 to the end of the season. Horvath is a versatile player, offering steady support as a blocker and core special teams player in addition to his pass-catching ability.
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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.
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