Los Angeles Chargers draft Ladd McConkey: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

The Los Angeles Chargers selected Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey with the No. 34 pick in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday.

The 5-foot-11, 186-pound prospect redshirted in 2020 before spending three seasons as a starter for the Bulldogs. He missed five games with back and ankle injuries in 2023, but still averaged 15.9 yards per reception in his final season at Georgia.

His best statistical season came in 2022 when he caught 58 passes for 762 yards and seven touchdowns.

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Breakdown of “The Beast”

McConkey ranked No. 31 in Dane Brugler’s Big Board Top 300. Here’s what Brugler had to say about him in his annual NFL Draft guide:

“Even though his lack of length and smaller hands hurt his catch radius, he plays with competitive ball skills and doesn’t force the quarterback to be perfect with the placement. Overall, McConkey’s size and susceptibility to injury aren’t ideal, but he is a sudden, skilled route runner and uses synchronized jolts to tie up defensive backs. He’s a quarterback-friendly target with the inside-outside versatility to be a quality No. 2 option for an NFL offense.

Coach Information

What an anonymous coach had to say about McConkey in Bruce Feldman’s mock draft:

“It’s more of a pure slot, but damn, it’s quick and sudden. In a different offense, or if (Georgia) didn’t have (Brock) Bowers, he probably would have put up big numbers.

Why he is a second round pick

McConkey won the Wuerffel Trophy, which honors a player “who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement” in 2023. Injuries limited him during his senior year at Georgia, but he started the season on the Biletnikoff Prize watch list. He received an invitation to the Senior Bowl and tested well at the NFL combine, running a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash.

Nick Baumgardner notes the choice

Arguably the most QB-friendly WR in the draft, McConkey is all speed and accuracy with reliable hands and squirm after the catch. He’s versatile enough to play multiple positions, he’ll block – McConkey was a first-round WR in my book. Justin Herbert’s new best friend.

Grade: A

Ted Nguyen’s assessment

McConkey is a great route runner who is better against press coverage than people give him credit for. He is so effective during his breaks. This is a profound and legitimate threat. His speed of 4.3 appears on film. He’s not just a slot receiver. He can play outside for the Chargers. He’s exceptional after the catch, and Georgia made plenty of plays to get the ball in his hands. He’s at least a very good number two receiver and he’s going to be very productive. Great pick for the Chargers, and he’s going to make Herbert very happy.

How it fits

The Chargers were pretty thin at receiver after moving on from their top two receivers, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, this offseason. Williams was released. Allen was traded to the Chicago Bears. The Chargers needed both high-end talent and depth in this room. They opted to pass on a receiver at No. 5, with LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze on the board. In the second round, coach Jim Harbaugh and general Joe Hortiz became aggressive, trading with the Patriots to get McConkey. There are injury issues here. Namely, McConkey missed four games last season due to a back injury. Still, he’s a polished route runner who will immediately elevate a play that lacked numbers and juice.

Impact on recruits

McConkey immediately has a path to a No. 2 receiver role. He lacks some size at 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, but he still played more than 70 percent of his snaps on the outside at Georgia. He will bring flexibility to the Chargers’ passing offense, with the ability to play both on the outside and in the slot. McConkey has great speed, running a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine. His skills complement those of Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnson.

Impact on depth map

Before signing McConkey, the Chargers only had four receivers on the roster: Palmer, Johnston, Derius Davis and Simi Fehoko. The Chargers now have a top three of Palmer, McConkey and Johnston. There is a synergy in this group. Palmer also has inside-outside flexibility, and he and McConkey should be relatively interchangeable pieces. Palmer is a bigger body and can win in contested catching situations. McConkey has more speed to spread the field. Johnston is expected to play mostly outside. While this doesn’t sound like a complete group, the addition of McConkey brings the Chargers a lot closer to that goal.

They could also have chosen….

There were some intriguing defensive pieces available at No. 34, particularly at interior defensive line, cornerback and linebacker. Those are two pressing needs for the Chargers. Illinois defensive tackle Johnny Newton, Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean, Alabama cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, Michigan cornerback Mike Sainristil, Michigan defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, Texas A&M linebacker Edgerrin Cooper and Michigan linebacker Junior Colson were options. They had two centers on the board, Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson and West Virginia’s Zach Frazier. Acquiring pass catchers for Herbert is always a good deal, especially considering the depth of the receiver room entering the draft.

Quick assessment

With McConkey, there are some concerns regarding his size and injury history. Will his body hold up? That’s the big question. Strictly from an ability standpoint, the choice makes a lot of sense. This line from The Beast really stood out: “NFL scouts say he was the ‘confidence booster’ of Georgia’s offense, because of the way quarterbacks trusted him.” McConkey should quickly become a favorite of quarterback Justin Herbert because of his refinement, route deception and leverage skills – as long as he can stay on the field.

(Photo: Brandon Sloter / Sports Image / Getty Images)

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