The San Diego Chargers, your (soon to be) 2014 AFC West Champions!
Okay football fans, draft 2012 has come and gone but it's time for YOU to sound off on the Charger picks.
I'll start on my own review once I go grab some coffee.
Until I finish mine there are some good pieces on the subject:
A rather revealing interview of AJ Smith about the draft. (when compared to how very closed he normally is)
Forward: This little…whatever it is has been sitting in my “to do” folder since about a week after the draft. I do not consider it complete. I have never posted this because I’ve never been happy with it. I’ve picked through this thing so many times it probably lacks any sense of cohesion. So there dear reader, you have been warned. All “grades” given are on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being awesome and 1 being Buster Davis. Don’t ask how they are calculated, it’s pretty much a whim/gut feeling. I encourage you to reply with your thoughts and/or own grades.
Melvin Ingram - I need to preface this by saying that I thought the only way the Chargers would nab Ingram would be by trading up. However he will now always be linked to DeCastro in my mind. To me DeCastro was a "sure-thing" as far as value for the pick went. I've always been a rather cautious person and I'm hoping that would explain my affinity for DeCastro at 18. Regardless the Chargers did the smart if riskier thing, and that was taking Ingram. We need help on defense, big time. Ever since Shawne Merriman was hurt by the Titans we've had major pass rush issues. Ingram, if successful as an OLB can completely change the way our defense operates (see Miller, Von). People have been comparing him to Larry English. Noting that Both he and English had injury histories (It's football, who doesn't get hurt at some point) and both had 8 games with 0 sacks (heard on local sports radio could not find evidence through google). They are also both a bit short of the mold for DE/OLB because God forbid anyone remember that Elvis Dumervil is only 5’11’’. I cannot put too much stock into these comparisons, mostly because I STILL think English might impress if he can stay healthy. Regardless just watching the combine workout of Ingram is proof enough that the kid can move and is athletic enough to be a 3-4 OLB. His athleticism is actually one of the most...comforting things about the selection. Versatility is always a plus and this kid has it in spades.
Seeing as Jarret Johnson is a patch at best and that this is the last year of the respective deal for: Barnes, Phillips and English I’d expect Ingram to see a fair amount of playing time as they will be prepping him for a starting role next year. I don’t expect him to be solely for sack-duty this year, and look forward to seeing him in coverage. When it comes to rebuilding the defense, another young OLB is still needed.
In the end I have to give the Ingram selection an 7. It’s nothing personal, I just think the bust factor is quite high on pass rushers when we needed a “sure-thing” to keep the Chargers competitive.
Kendall Reyes - This guy has shaped up to be, possibly my favorite selection the Chargers made. Truth be told I was certainly NOT thrilled with the Liuget pick as a 3-4 DE but Reyes certainly fits that mold. The more I hear about the kid the more I am reminded a bit of J.J. Watt whom I was a fan of (even if I thought he was a bit light for a 3-4 DE). I'm not saying he IS Watt but many of the descriptions put on Watt were used on Reyes. "Productive team captain" is a phrase I'll never get tired of hearing. SoundsOfSuccess was the Fantasy GM in charge of the Chargers draft this year (hope you did well if you're reading this) and he wondered positions the Chargers would be grabbing. I was very confident the Chargers would be going with OLB or SS but when he brought up the DL he actually convinced me it was a very real possibility. Liuget and Martin looked great in pre-season but disappeared against starter competition. Martin was a project who is on the last year of his rookie deal. Castillo (meh) is back on a 1 year contract (edit: and has since been cut). Garay is essentially on a 1 year contract (it says 2 but look at the $ attached to it). Cesaire is also on the last year of his deal. So of the 3 spots on the DL only Liuget at DE and Thomas at NT will be back next year (and they both look raw). Reyes will at least give us a complete starting line next year. Picking him up was great value at a position of need, filled by an heralded and exciting prospect. Hard to be unhappy with that. (edit: Aubrayo Franklin has since signed with the Chargers to fill another spot on the DL) I believe he played NT for the 49’ers not too long ago but in my opinion he’s a bit light for a NT. Not that the previous statement is fair because if you play NT for the Chargers, the bar is Jamal Williams)
The timing of this pickup is impeccable as well. With the group of linemen around him, he will hopefully be a rotational guy only and quite frankly probably “suck” as most rookie 3-4 DE’s do (see Liuget, Corey). Then with a little luck he’ll be ready to step in next year. I’m going to give Mr. Reyes an 8. I think we got good value in a position of need.
Brandon Taylor - I will admit I've been fighting it...but Brandon Taylor is growing on me. I was for the Chargers picking up Harrison Smith. I liked the idea of a 6'2" SS that moved like a CB to help combat the top shelf TE's of the NFL (a glaring weakness of the Chargers ever since another Harrison took off). I STILL think that if top tier players had NOT fallen to the Chargers they would have nabbed Smith with their 1st rounder. In the end however, the Vikings didn't want Smith to make it out of the first round. Darrel Stuckey was drafted to be a safety but apparently the Bolt brass thinks he's more FS than SS and with Steve Gregory (who will not be missed) off to NE outside of Atari Bigby the Chargers had nothing at SS. Some would have you believe the Chargers ended up with the 3rd best safety in the draft in the 3rd round. Me? Well, lets start with what he did in college: Began starting in his sophomore year (at LSU that's saying something) is a high character team leader with a productive college career. Amassed 71 tackles and 6 TFL his senior year. Was allowed to wear the #18 jersey for embodying everything it means to be a LSU tiger. I'm hoping he can put on some weight (he’s about 210 lbs right now) but still maintain his speed. Apparently has issues in man coverage but if he's as capable as his bio reads I'm hoping he can be coached up rather well. In the end, the Chargers nab a productive player in a tough conference at a position of need. My biggest knock on Taylor and certain other players isn't really about physical traits but the guy played in a top program and had other top prospects on his defense. I personally prefer small school standouts because I think you just get a clearer perspective of their abilities. Maybe I’m alone in that, but it is how I feel.
I suffer from the delusion that Taylor has the largest opportunity of everyone on this draft outside of maybe Ladarius Green. There is no entrenched starter at SS. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Bigby will put it all on the line but how long can he stay healthy etc. Taylor has a golden opportunity to work his way into the starting lineup and then collect a real paycheck once his rookie deal is done. If he understands that, Taylor will certainly be someone to watch for in the coming months. The selection gets a 7 from me mostly based on filling a need with a player who has a legitimate chance at being a starter in the NFL.
Ladarius Green – When you look at Ladarius being a quarter of an inch shy of 6’6” and 238 pounds, you might think the same thing I did “He’s playing the wrong sport.” Don’t get me wrong if his highlight reel is any indication, he can play, he just doesn’t look like a TE. He looks like a basketball player or WR, but NOT a TE.
Most Charger fans will gladly tell you that the Chargers have been running one of the most potent offenses in the league the last 5 years or so. The problem is that about the last 3 years, we’ve been rather impotent when it comes to the red zone. This is due to having O-line injuries/holdouts AND missing Antonio Gates. Sure Antonio was at the game, but he was not healthy and the Charger red-zone offense suffered greatly for it. If you look over some of the games that the Chargers blew on missed opportunities in the red zone (specifically 1st KC game of 2010 and 2nd KC game of 2011, and one of the Oakland games in 2010) if we had a healthy Gates I truly believe we in all likelihood would have won those games and gone on to the playoffs (Where in all honesty we’d get slapped around because that’s what happens when you have Norv Turner as your coach).
This is where Ladarius comes in. Gates has been hurting, McMichael isn’t producing, and Kory Sperry isn’t stepping up. We’ve essentially been playing with zeroes at TE and it has shown in the red zone. McMichael is on a 1 year deal, Sperry is on a 1 year deal and Gates is possibly the biggest question mark on the team it’s no surprise the Chargers took a flier on Green. A “flier” is the best word for it too. Even watching his game tape Green is being pushed around by CB’s MUCH smaller than he is and I’m not sure he was 238 lbs, he plays lighter. He needs to add serious bulk, and to be honest I’m not sure how good his odds are to even make the team.
AJ has realized TE is a problem and has brought in a flotilla to see who rises to the top. Gates, McMichael, Kory Sperry and Dante Rosario (I know there are 1 or 2 UDFA’s floating around as well). The competition is stiff and it will be interesting to see what happens to Green. I’m a fan of Sperry and Roasario (would love to hear some Bronco opinions of his play last year). I think he’ll make the team out of sheer potential but if he goes to the PS he will be poached.
I can see the “vision” and the value in the 4th round but this one gets a 6 from me. I can’t help but wonder what other prospects were on the board still, more help is needed on defense. It also doesn’t help that reasonably good TE’s seem to be bought and sold for a song these days (see Olsen, Greg)
Johnnie Troutman – To me far and away the most “interesting” of the Chargers’ picks. If only because it seems rather out of step with what AJ has been saying. Yes I know April is “liar’s month” but this doesn’t really add up. The Charger organization has been laying some of the blame for the past 2 seasons at the feet of an injury plagued offensive line (which is true, there have been quite a few injuries) however they decide to draft a G in the fifth round (and I believe there were other more hyped/higher rated prospects available at G when the selection was made) whom they KNEW had suffered a knee injury at the senior bowl (which apparently has been an off and on again problem throughout his time at Penn state) and then tore a pec at his hometown gym. The Chargers apparently knew all these things when they drafted him which is odd considering they had been professing that “health” was going to be part of their draft philosophy. Don’t get me wrong, he is a 5th round pick. How much can you really expect? Troutman is expected to miss his rookie year. Couple this with a DUI and his selection by the Chargers doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. Unless the Chargers know stuff we don’t. Which they do, and they must really like the kid. I hope he gets his career back but a young kid who and keeping the DUI in mind, might not have the greatest amount of self-control for rehabbing from 2 injuries. It just doesn’t sound like a recipe for success to me.
It is my opinion that Troutman is the worst pick in the Charger draft by a wide-margin. He has the physical tools, but is unpolished and I don’t think he has the maturity necessary to make it through this situation successfully. I hope I’m wrong but I find myself grudgingly giving a 4. (Edit: There has been talk that Troutman may actually be healthy enough to play this year. However, with the Charger doc being chased by the board with licensure removal being a real possibility, do we really want to risk his health?)
David Molk – I’m sorry I love rooting for the underdogs in the draft, and Molk is one of these people. Believed to be the 2nd or 3rd best center in the draft he fell to the Chargers in the 7th round for 3 reasons. 1st he’s only 6’1”, 2nd he only weighs 288 Lbs, and 3rd he has a significant injury history. He was recognized with an award his senior year for excellence as a center after starting for all 4 years for Michigan. He suffered 4 right leg injuries during his time at Michigan and most recently severed a tendon in the sugar bowl but played through the pain but was not able to run for scouts at the combine. A team leader that plays through the pain is always a good thing. He put up the highest number for O-linemen at the bench press with 41 during the combine (the Chargers sure do seem to like bench press stars). I believe Mel Kiper expects him to have a similar career path as Jeff Saturday who is about the same height. He will need to put on some weight, but I’m rooting for the kid. When asked what he will change about his lifestyle with the monetary windfall he got signing with the Chargers he said:
"Not going to buy a house, especially in this housing market, I don’t need any more room than I have now. I don’t need a big townhouse. Just give me a little crappy apartment and a TV and a nice chair, and I won’t know the difference. I get it from my dad. We spend nothing. My dad's got money, but he still buys generic brand ketchup. I'm talking about the crappiest, crappiest ketchup. And I'm not much different."
Seems to have a good head on his shoulders and I think it will be worth watching what happens to the kid. Nick Hardwick did sign a new deal but I don’t believe he is long for the team. Colin Baxter is the only other center on the roster.
The kid is packed with potential, though that injury history is...terrifying. I got to give the kid an 8 based on value and said potential.
Edwin Baker- This is an interesting pick, did San Diego truly want him or did they not want to let him get to UDFA? Normally I’d say it’s preventing him from reaching UDFA when it’s the seventh round but like Molk there had been some noise around Baker 5’8” 208 lbs who ran a 4.45 second 40. Apparently had a great 2010 campaign but lost carries to a younger back in 2011 and decided to declare and head to the draft as a junior. He is regarded as having questionable hands which is a problem if you play in San Diego. Was a team leader and is also considered a “high character guy.”
San Diego’s backfield is looking mighty crowded these days with Mathews, McClain, Hester, Brinkley, Brown and Baker. I’m hoping we move on from Hester, it’s not that he’s bad at anything. He’s just not good at anything either. Everyone who claimed the Chargers made a bad decision when they moved up to draft Hester were correct.
He’s a flier pick and will likely make the practice squad, so he gets a 5 from me. (Edit: A young UDFA by the name of Michael Hayes has been impressing in camp if Twitter can be believed. Good play from him in the 1st preseason game could show Baker the door.)