The Los Angeles Chargers2023 NFL draft added seven new players to the team as well as several undrafted rookies. The team’s first two picks of the draft, TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston and Alabama edge rusher Tuli Tuipuloto, are likely to make an impact next season. Who will the Chargers’ rookie sleeper be, though? The player with the best chance to earn that title in 2023 is actually another TCU wideout, the team’s fourth-round pick, Derius Davis.

WR Derius Davis is the Chargers' rookie sleeper to watch in 2023

The Chargers have a generational quarterback in Justin Herbert, and they need to put the right team around him to win games and (they hope) ultimately a title.

The problem is, we’ve seen this show before.

We’ve seen it with Philip Rivers from 2004 to 2019 when the Chargers only made the playoffs seven times in 16 seasons with an elite signal-caller (plus LaDainian Tomlinson) and made it past the Divisional Round just once.

We’ve seen it with Dan Fouts from 1973 to 1987 when the Chargers only made the playoffs four times in 15 seasons with arguably the best passer in the game at the time and never made it past the Divisional Round.

Now, the Chargers have squandered the first three seasons of Herbert’s career, missing the playoffs twice and putting up an epic second-half collapse in their 2022 Wild Card matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The good news is — and there is good news, Chargers fans — that the front office is leaning into the team’s strengths and trying to help their stars on both sides of the ball in this last Chargers draft.

With the team’s first-round pick, the Chargers took a big wideout in TCU’s Quentin Johnston, who is in the Mike Williams mold and should make a fine replacement down the line while also helping right away. And in the second round, they took a young uber-productive pass rusher in Alabama’s Tuli Tuipuloto, who will take some of the pressure off Joey Bosa.

Both these Chargers rookies should have an impact in 2023, despite being similar to pieces the Chargers already have. The Chargers' rookie sleeper this season will bring something to the table that the Bolts don’t have, though, and that could be a game-changer for Herbert.

TCU WR Derius Davis came to the Chargers in the fourth round, 104 picks later than his Horned Frog teammate. And the reason Davis is so intriguing is that he brings speed to the table that no other Chargers skill position player has.

Davis is not a big guy at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, but he can fly. He ran a blazing 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the combine, and you can see his speed on tape as well as he ran past defenders at TCU. Davis had 43 catches for 531 yards last season with five touchdowns and was the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a returner.

The Louisiana native can play in the slot or the backfield, and he will be an immediate impact player as a punt returner.

As Davis works his way toward becoming an every-down player, the Chargers must find a way to get the ball in his hands at least four to five times a game in space to create explosive plays. And even if he turns just one of those plays every other game into a big one, Davis will quickly become the Chargers' rookie sleeper of 2023.

The other interesting thing about Davis from a historical perspective is that the franchise does have a history of getting great production out of small players. The 5-foot-6 Darren Sproles started his improbable career with the Chargers, and the 5-foot-8 (program height) Danny Woodhead had his most productive seasons in San Diego.

Derius Davis has the chance to be a modern Sproles or Woodhead if the team utilizes him right. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has been hailed as a creative play-caller in the past, even though things did get a bit stale at the end of his tenure in Dallas.

The Chargers love big, physical receivers, and that’s fine, but they have neglected to add a major speed component to the WR room in the last few seasons. Davis gives the team the player they need, and his speed in conjunction with the big wideouts blocking for him downfield could lead to some huge plays this season from Herbert and Moore’s crew.

And big plays from a first-year player taken in the middle rounds of the draft usually signal that the player in question will be the Chargers' rookie sleeper when the dust settles, and that’s exactly what Derius Davis will be.