San Diego Chargers: Defending the Buster Davis Draft Selection

Wide Receiver Buster Davis #84 of the San Diego Chargers. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

With the San Diego Chargers 2011 season quickly becoming irrelevant, and rabid fans turning into angry fans, I thought it would be poignant to go back and look at some of the frequently-mentioned "mistakes" of this Bolts regime and see if there might've been another option. Let's start with a weak spot for myself, Buster Davis.

 

Team Need
Coming off of a 14-2 season that ended with a first-round playoff exit, San Diego was losing more starters than they were probably comfortable with. Still, they were bringing back the same offensive line, playmaking TE, hall of fame RB and a QB that looked poised to lead the team to the Super Bowl with the proper grooming. Enter Norv Turner, who was handed a young, raw Vincent Jackson and nothing else as his WR group. Line a speed WR up opposite Jackson, and this offense would be unstoppable.

 

Free Agency
I know what you're saying. They didn't need to get a WR in the draft to start right away, they could've easily just went and picked up the best free agent WR. Right? Well, let's see what was available....

Those are the top 5 WRs available via free agency in 2007. If that doesn't give you an idea of what the market was like, let me throw some more names at you: Tyrone Calico, Justin Gage, David Boston....okay, that's enough. There was next to nothing available for a team lacking in WR. This is probably why 6 of the first 32 picks in the NFL Draft were WRs.



2007 NFL Draft

Here are the WRs that were drafted in front of CBD:
Here are the four WRs drafted after CBD: 
Would I rather have Sidney Rice or Steve Smith? Of course I would. Do I understand why they picked Buster Davis instead of either of those two guys? I guess. Sidney Rice ran slow at the NFL Draft Combine and has had injury issues of his own. Steve Smith ran a good time at the Combine, but was viewed as a possession receiver that couldn't stretch defenses (which has turned out to be true).

At the time of the draft, Davis and Rice weren't too different and Smith was a step below. The difference was that Buster was the fastest of the three and considered the closest thing to a "finished product", which is extra important when you realize that the Chargers needed a starting WR. Here's a scouting report on Davis from before the draft:
Davis is a well-built target who runs precise routes, and many experts consider him to have the best hands of any receiver in the Southeastern Conference. A tireless worker, he spent part of the 2006 summer running routes and catching passes from Peyton and Eli Manning at the annual Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Doesn't that sound like a wonderful WR to land? A very AJ Smith-like pick? Great hands, tireless worker, precise routes....he could start right away! Anthony Gonzalez was also known for running good routes and having good hands, but because of his size he was thought to not be starting WR material.

 

Bad Luck/Injuries

So you understand why the Chargers picked Buster Davis now. They needed a starting WR (when Buster didn't work out immediately they were forced to trade for Chris Chambers, then made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game), there were no good FA WRs and he was the most polished WR where the Chargers picked that had blazing speed and a tireless work ethic. He made perfect sense.

When you ask why it didn't work out, the answer is obvious. Buster Davis couldn't stay healthy in NFL, making it impossible for him to make an impact for San Diego in the way that they had hoped. His hands were good, his speed was always there, he ran great routes and had a good attitude to go along with his strong work ethic. His body just failed him.

So now....the big question.....is this something that AJ Smith should've seen? Well, yes and no. Buster got injured a bit in college, including missing time with a broken elbow in his freshman season. He also missed two games during his junior season with plantar fasciitis and a concussion. However, fully-healthy seasons in his sophomore and senior seasons, not to mention the limited amount of time he missed due to his other injuries, gave signs that he would be a "tough" player that wouldn't be sitting on the sidelines with minor injuries.

 

The reason the Craig "Buster" Davis pick didn't work out for the Chargers is simple: Bad luck. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes a player that should be healthy isn't, and it's not the fault of the GM or even the doctors that inspected the player. Anything can happen in the future, including a body not being able to withstand the beating of the NFL when it was perfectly capable of handling everything college football threw at it.

It could've been worse. We could've had the 9th pick in the draft and picked Ted Ginn Jr. over Dwayne Bowe.

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