After having a conversation with a fellow poster about Robert Quinn, I was inspired to write a post that a comment just did not seem to afford the proper justice.
The Chargers are in dire need of a difference maker. Shaun Phillips is a great talent, but he needs help in the front seven. I still have faith in Larry English because he showed promise near the season's close. Coupled with his work ethic, I think he has a chance to succeed. Mounting injuries have so far stunted his progress, and have plagued him since college though.
This draft, as most, has a dearth of players who project as true impact talents on defense. The list include Patrick Peterson CB, Nick Fairly DT, Marcell Dareus DL, Da'Quan Bowers DE, Von Miller OLB and Robert Quinn DE/OLB. The Chargers will reasonably have no chance at selecting all but one of these players, Robert Quinn.
The odds that he falls to their first pick at 18 are slim, but seemingly rising. Ordinarily they would have absolutely no chance at a player of his caliber, but he comes with an inordinate amount of baggage. Some of these issues could actually cause him, though it is not probable, to slip all the way down. It would be eerily similar to the manner in which they drafted their last impact player up front in Shawne Merriman.
The first big issue is regarding his character. Something this team does not take lightly and if it does not check out, this post would have been moot as he will not even be considered. Quinn was a part of the North Carolina improper benefits scandal that resulted in the NCAA banning him from play.
I do not believe that Quinn's mistake necessarily makes him a character risk. As a young, likely susceptible, man he made a mistake. He is certainly not alone in making a poor decision at a young age and a lone bad decision does not mean he is a bad person. On the contrary, if he demonstrates some admirable qualities by understanding that he made a mistake, being remorseful but owning it, he could be seen as having high character. AJ has stated before that he understands young players make mistakes and he judges them based on history, holding that the mistake wasn't huge obviously.
The next issue stems from his health as he has a benign brain tumor. This is clearly a large is issue that needs to be addressed. It has reportedly completely dropped him in the eyes of some teams.
Also, the NCAA ban withheld him from play. That obviously means that rust will be a factor. There were questions regarding his physical shape due to this that he answered, presumably, well at the combine as well.
The last point is in part a product of the previous point. He has really only had one truly productive season. He has two seasons worth of game tape. There are questions regarding his status as a possible one year wonder. Opposing teams were not affording the chance to adjust to his play after a year's worth of tape, thus he was not given the opportunity to improve upon his performance and adjust to their changes.
All of these likely add up to a big risk, and this is a year AJ cannot afford to miss with a 1st on. Especially if it means we have to trade up, possibly losing a 2nd and 3rd, or maybe more likely a future 2nd, in a draft we absolutely need to get several impact players from. But we are missing that one difference maker, and Quinn is really the one guy who seems most likely to fill that void. Players of this caliber are worth that pricetag.
AJ also has some tendencies. Namely, when he sets his target on a player, he goes after them despite how much it will take. If Quinn is that guy then AJ will be relentless in his pursuit of him. He moved up to 12 last year with much less firepower than he currently has at his disposal so there is the distinct possibility a trade up will occur.
He has also taken a chance on a similar rare talent who would not have fallen if not for unique extenuating circumstances when he took Antonio Cromartie. He similarly was inexperienced and missed the entire previous season. The risk at one time seemed to have paid off, but the luster has since dissipated. Cromartie did leave us with a nice parting gift in a late 2nd this year though so some thanks are in order. The point, however, is there is a relative track-record to this type of move with Smith.
There is a virtual mountain of questions that need to be answered for teams looking at selecting Quinn. Assuming that these drop him into a manageable range for the Chargers to move up, and assuming he passes the Chargers' tests, he could be the one dynamic player that catapults this defense back into the rank of the elite. That is a veritable heap of questions and hypotheticals though. Quinn is arguably the premier talent in this entire draft. He is one that comes with a plethora of risk, but one who may be well worth the chance.