Wednesday, July 6, 2011

KD's NFL Draft Grades - San Diego Chargers

For years most NFL pundits have lauded the Chargers for having the most talent-rich roster in the NFL. I highly disagree. Their offensive line isn't as good as it was when LaDainian Tomlinson was running in San Diego. The defense, even before Shawne Merriman's injuries before left town, wasn't that great. Last year, they put together the 1st overall ranked offense notching 395 yards per game; they were second in points scored with a 27.6 average. They also fielded the top defensive unit surrendering just 271.6 total yards a game while giving up just 20.1 points per game, good for 10th in the league. Yet, another slow start doomed the Chargers and they missed the playoffs. GM A.J. Smith's moves have come under a lot more scrutiny in recent years and he pulled some more questionable moves in the 2011 Draft.

1st round, 18th overall) Corey Liuget - DE - Illinois
A lot people, myself included, were a little puzzled by this pick initially, but upon further review, I think the Chargers made a nice move. Liuget profiled as more of a 3-technique player in the 4-3 defense, as opposed to the 5-technique 3-4 DE spot that he'll play for the Chargers. He simply lacks the ideal height teams are used to. However, we've seen several good 3-4 DEs emerge with less than adequate height over the past few seasons. The Chargers own Luis Castillo, Miami's Randy Starks, and Kansas City's Glenn Dorsey are all 6'3" or under. Liuget is 6'2" and brings adequate bulk at 298lbs. He comes off a superb season for the Illini with 63 tackles, 12.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks.

How he fits in: The Chargers front line is pretty serviceable, but it's not as dominant as you'd want it to be; especially in a division that features the top two rushing offenses in the NFL in Kansas City and Oakland respectively. Luis Castillo will hold down one DE spot for sure while Liuget and savvy veteran Jacques Cesaire will likely battle for the other spot. The Chargers have a few guys capable of playing 3-4 DE and sliding inside in nickel and dime packages in Travis Johnson and Ogemdi Nwagbuo, and Liuget should challenge to take snaps away from either of those players in those situations. While he might not "start", Liuget will certainly be in the rotation and will receive plenty of snaps as a rookie.

Outlook: Really, looking back on this pick, I think the Chargers made a great choice. My only question would be, why not Cal's Cameron Jordan at this juncture? Jordan had experience in the 3-4, is a better pass-rusher, more athletic, and has the prototypical size you look for. It will be interesting to watch Liuget and Jordan as each was drafted by a team that uses a defense that was thought to be the opposite of where each would go (Jordan went to the Saints 4-3 scheme). Liuget should hold his own, and he'll be a starter for a long time, even if it's not right away. I like this pick for them as I think he helps stop some of the AFC West's rushing attacks.

2nd round, 50th overall) Marcus Gilchrist - CB - Clemson
The Chargers had a bit of an under-the-radar pick here in the 2nd round, but they landed a solid player. Gilchrist, who formed a nice tandem at S for Clemson alongside Deandre McDaniel, will be used primarily as a CB by the Chargers. Quentin Jammer is a solid veteran presence, but he's starting to slow down. After Antonine Cason, there's very little depth to speak of. The Chargers also have FS Eric Weddle set to become an unrestricted free agent in the new CBA, and he'll command top dollar on the open market. So, Gilchrist will likely be a nickel corner to start with, but the Chargers may have some plans for him at FS depending on what happens with Eric Weddle.

2nd round, 61st overall) Jonas Mouton - LB - Michigan
Much like trading multiple picks for LSU FB Jacob Hester a few years ago, this pick is mildly absurd. Now, let's start by prefacing this pick that the Chargers had some of, if not the worst special teams in the NFL last year, and it probably cost them 2 or 3 games at least. Mouton had a ho-hum career in Ann Arbor until his senior season, but is a special teams linebacker really worth the 61st overall pick (am I one to judge as my own team drafed Pat White 44th overall in 2009?)? Mouton goes 6'1" 239lbs, so he's undersized for the base 3-4 scheme, where he'd have to play inside. However, he probably fills the role that Tim Dobbins left vacant by leaving in free agency a year ago, and Mouton can probably be that special teams ace and 3rd ILB, just, was it necessary to spend a 2nd round pick on him?

3rd round, 82nd overall) Vincent Brown - WR - San Diego State
After Vincent Jackson, whose contract situation remains unresolved, though it's expected he'll stay with the Chargers, Malcolm Floyd, and Legadu Nanee, the Chargers lack depth at receiver. Buster Davis has been a disappointment, Patrick Crayton is a role player, and the rest are simply bodies competing for a special teams job. Vincent Brown gives the Chargers a legitimate slot receiver option. At 5'11" 187lbs and running a 4.57 40, Brown's not flashy, but gets the job done. His stock rose after a solid showing at the Senior Bowl. However, it remains to be seen if he's simply that good (69 catches, 1,300+ yards, 10TDs in 2010) or if super San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley should start getting more credit.

3rd round, 89th overall) Shareece Wright - CB - USC
The lack of depth in the Chargers secondary was not lost on A.J. Smith as he doubled-up at CB early on. Wright's career was marred by off-field incidents at USC, but he finally came on strong in 2010. At 5'10" 185lbs, he's a smaller corner who can run and play some tight man-to-man coverage. However, he's a gambler and will take a lot of unnecessary chances, or just flat out get caught looking in the backfield. He's not a reliable tackler either, but it's hard to judge his overall ability as his best football might still be ahead of him. A hairline fracture in his neck limited him to 2 games in 2008. Was arrested in 2008 for a misdemeanor of disturbing the peace and was ruled academically ineligible for the 2009 season, only playing in USC's bowl game. Buyer beware here, but he definitely fits the Chargers scheme and what they like to do with their corners.

6th round, 183rd overall) Jordan Todman - RB - Connecticut
This pick should clearly indicate that the Chargers either have no plans to try and re-sign Darren Sproles, or that they simply know they won't be able to and are moving on accordingly. Todman, who reminds some of the Giants Ahmad Bradshaw, is a smaller, quick back who has more size than Sproles. At 5'8" 203lbs and running a 4.40 flat 40, Todman gives them a nice sized complement to Ryan Williams. A two year starter for the Huskies, he posted back-to-back seasons of at least 1,100 yards and 14 TDs. He's also versatile enough to catch passes out of the backfield, hauling in 42 for 283 yards during his career. He might even be able to return kicks, effectively filling all of the roles that Darren Sproles had filled.

6th round, 201st overall) Stephen Schilling - G - Michigan
A rare 4-year starter for the Wolverines, Schilling's come a long way since being abused by Vernon Gholston of all people way back in 2007. Schilling saw time at RG and RT as a freshman and sophomore before starting every game the last two years at LG. At 6'4" 308lbs he carries nice size, and is a solid technician. However, he simply lacks the core strength you see in guards at the NFL level and his footwork is merely average. Schilling should at the very least become a swing guard on the inside - one of the two linemen that dress for the game that don't start but are active - and he's got the chance to learn from one of the best guards in the business in Kris Dielman.

7th round, 234th overall) Andrew Gachkar - LB - Missouri
Another potential special teams pick here. Gachkar had the unenviable task of trying to replace Sean Weatherspoon last year in Columbia playing the weakside linebacker spot for the Tigers. He did a decent job, but it's still somewhat surprising he was drafted. He's undersized at 6'3" 228lbs and despite being a two-year starter for the Tigers, he'll have a very uphill battle just to make the Chargers roster as a special teams player.

Overall Grade: C+
The Chargers addressed a few needs in this draft, filling spots at DE, CB, and replacing, or at least attempting to replace Darren Sproles. They didn't get any better at pass-rusher, as Larry English has disappointed across from Shaun Phillips ever since he was drafted. They also didn't account for the possiblity of having to replace Eric Weddle should he leave in free agency, and the special teams guys they drafted, were both over drafted - Mouton by a ton. Vincent Brown and Stephen Schilling provide nice depth at the respective positions, as does Jordan Todman. All things considered though, the Chargers had a lot of talent they didn't choose left on the board with a lot of their picks and overdrafted to fill niche roles - not what you'd want to do if you're A.J. Smith and potentially facing a move to Los Angeles.

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