The Los Angeles Chargers have provided quarterback Justin Herbert with a dynamic option in the passing game: Canadian receiver Josh Palmer.
General manager Tom Telesco and head coach Brandon Staley fell in love with Palmer during the NFL Draft process and chose him in the third round, 77th overall. Palmer participated in rookie mini-camp from May 14-16 in Costa Mesa, Calif.
“We love his size, strength, excellent route runner, can really separate at the top of the route very well, strong hands, very good blocker. He has a lot of NFL traits to him as a wide receiver,” Telesco said.
“He’s a complete player, and we’re really excited about him. He really showed up a lot in the evaluation practices. He’s a pro, he takes his craft really seriously, and you can tell by his route detail,” Staley said.
The Chargers did not schedule a Zoom call with Palmer during the draft process, but the team still coveted the six-foot-one, 210-pound pass catcher. Palmer played in the most competitive conference in NCAA football, the vaunted SEC. Despite inconsistent quarterbacking, the Brampton native produced against the top cover men.
“All you gotta do is watch the film in that league against Georgia, against Alabama. You saw all the DBs that got taken off both those teams and how he performed in both those games will tell you a lot about who he is,” Staley said.
Palmer recorded four catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns versus the Bulldogs and four receptions for 57 yards and one touchdown in his match-up with the Crimson Tide and unanimous All-American cornerback Patrick Surtain II, who was selected ninth overall by the Denver Broncos in April.
“I felt like evaluating all these DBs, this guy just kept showing up over, and over, and over, and over again. That’s what I told Josh when I called him — he’s a complete player,” Staley said.
“Great make up as far as work ethic and being a pro while he was in college. Played against really good competition in that conference and stepped up each week. He really stood out through the whole fall, the SEC schedule, they played a lot of games this year, so it was helpful to see him,” Telesco said.
Palmer finished his career as a University of Tennessee Volunteer with 99 catches for 1,514 yards and seven touchdowns — 16 of those receptions went for 25 or more yards. His totals helped earn him an invite to the Senior Bowl in January, the top NCAA showcase event for senior NFL Draft prospects. He created a buzz during practices and capped the week with two receptions for 27 yards and one touchdown in the game televised on NFL Network.
“You get a strong sense of his make up, strong sense of his work ethic, just how talented he is. We felt like we had a really strong sense of Josh as a player, and we felt like we had a very thorough evaluation in the SEC and he was outstanding in the Senior Bowl,” Staley said.
Palmer has NFL-level athleticism backed up by hard numbers. At his pro day, the 21-year-old ran 4.51 and 4.53 times in the 40-yard sprint, laid down a 4.25 shuttle, and 6.98 three-cone, while recording a 34-inch vertical and 10-foot, four-inch broad jump. Long speed, short area quickness, and hops to snatch the football for Herbert.
“We know what we have with Keenan [Allen] and Mike [Williams]. We’ve got two of the premier wide outs in the NFL and we felt like we could add another weapon,” Staley said.
Herbert earned the 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award after completing 66.6 percent of his passes for 4,336 yards with 31 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He can improvise and keep the chains moving with his legs, rushing 55 times for 234 yards and five touchdowns.
“Now I have one of the best quarterbacks to do it,” Palmer said about the face of the franchise.
Palmer will work to develop a rapport with Herbert while learning from a four-time Pro Bowler in Allen, and 2017 first-round, seventh overall pick, Williams. Each of those pro targets have 1,000-yard seasons on their resume and were critical in helping Herbert produce immediately when called upon in his first year in the NFL.
“I’m going to be in their back pocket like some spare change, studying everything they do on and off the field, learning as much as I can, and how they live their lives around football,” Palmer said.
“He has a lot of key attributes we think that can work in this offence. He’s a real NFL — size, strength, route-running, very good hands — receiver in this league,” Telesco said.
Palmer has spent time training at XPE Sports in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. learning from three-time Pro Bowl pass catcher Anquan Boldin in the Sunshine State. Boldin knows how to prepare for the next level and make the jump quickly, which he proved by winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2003.
“You’re going to get everything from me,” Palmer said. “We’re going to win games, and we’re going to win some championships — for real.”