A Look at Past Charger Drafts

As this herky-jerky off-season drunkenly stumbles along, we are left with one beacon of stability: The NFL Draft. For all we know, there may not be football for a long time. The owners hate the players and the players hate the owners. They are suing each other and trading barbs in the press. Our familiar rhythm of free agency, draft, mini-camps and OTAs has been reduced to one thing: The NFL Draft. The Chargers are one of the teams in The League that relies heavily on the draft for their players. Luckily for me, this fits my philosophical bent of how an NFL team should be built. Deep down in our hearts, I think we would all rather be on the side of the team that is built through the draft for the long haul rather than the free agent frenzy the seems to doom the likes of the Redskins every year. If you've been a Charger fan for long enough, you remember David Boston and Marcellus Wiley and how they failed to deliver on their promise. If you're like me you would rather live in a world where there is no way we will get a Julius Peppers than one where we risk reliving that dark history.

That being said, if we are a team that builds through the draft, we need to be good at it. Too many mistakes and you become the Bills. A lot of reactionary fans tend to either blindly claim that A.J. Smith is either the biggest genius or the biggest idiot they have ever seen assemble an NFL football team. The only way to really be objective about this is to take a look at past drafts. A.J. admitted as recently as the 2009 off-season that he had to do better, so let's take a look back as see how he has done.

Keep in mind that you typically need three years to evaluate a draft. A.J. is on record saying he won't judge a draft pick as being a success or failure until they get to the point of needing their second contract, which is after 3 or 4 years in the league. Usually by the third year, a player can be accurately evaluated as to their NFL potential. For some players it comes earlier, but typically we need to give a player three years. I've looked at every player we've drafted since 2001, plus any draft slots we traded away and what we got for them. I've also included Undrafted Free Agents (UDFA) who we picked up after the draft and made an impact.

We're going to try and look at this as objectively as possible. We are going to track how many years each player spent with the team, how much they contributed in terms of starting and pro-bowls. And lastly we are going to look at if they got a second contract, which essentially is A.J. saying they were a good draft pick. With the craziness of the CBA over the last two years, we are going to count any RFA who would not have been an RFA under the normal CBA who was then tendered as having received a second contract (they are marked with an *). Tendering an RFA who would have been an RFA anyways will not count as a second contract.

So, let's get to it!

 

2011
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(18)                    
2(50)                    
2(61)   from NY Jets for Antonio Cromartie
3(82)                    
3(89)   traded 2010-2(60) and Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle for 2010-2(40) and 2011-3(89)
4(115)   traded 2010-3(91), 2010-6(173), and 2011-4(115) to San Fransisco for 2010-3(79)
5(149)   traded 2010-5(159) and a 2011-5(149) to Philadelphia for 2010-5(146)
6(183)                    
6(201)   compensatory for Osgood and Manumaleuna
7(220)   traded 7(220) to Dallas for Patrick Crayton
7(234)   compensatory for Osgood and Manumaleuna
2010
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(12) Ryan Mathews traded 1(28), 2(40), 4(126), and Tim Dobbins to Miami for 1(12), 4(110), and 6(173) Y Y Y       1 --
1(28)   traded 1(28), 2(40), 4(126), and Tim Dobbins to Miami for 1(12), 4(110), and 6(173)
2(40)  

traded 2(60) and Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle for 2(40) and 2011 3rd rounder

THEN

traded 1(28), 2(40), 4(126), and Tim Dobbins to Miami for 1(12), 4(110), and 6(173)

2(60)   traded 2(60) and Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle for 2(40) and 2011 3rd rounder
3(79) Donald Butler traded 3(91), 6(173), and 2011 4th rounder to San Fransisco for 3(79) Y           1 --
3(91)   traded 3(91), 6(173), and 2011 4th rounder to San Fransisco for 3(79)
4(110) Darrell Stuckey traded 1(28), 2(40), 4(126), and Tim Dobbins to Miami for 1(12), 4(110), and 6(173) Y Y         1 --
4(126)   traded 1(28), 2(40), 4(126), and Tim Dobbins to Miami for 1(12), 4(110), and 6(173)
5(146) Cam Thomas traded 5(159) and a 2011 5th rounder to Philadelphia for 5(146) Y Y         1 --
5(159)   traded 5(159) and a 2011 5th rounder to Philadelphia for 5(146)
5(168) Jonathan Crompton compensatory pick for Goff and Olshansky             0 N
6(173)  

traded 1(28), 2(40), 4(126), and Tim Dobbins to Miami for 1(12), 4(110), and 6(173)

THEN

traded 3(91), 6(173), and 2011 4th rounder to San Fransisco for 3(79)

6(197)   traded to Houston for Travis Johnson
7(235) Dedrick Epps               0 N
UDFA Seyi Ajirotutu   Y Y Y       1 --
UDFA Brandon Lang   Y Y         1 --
UDFA Kion Wilson   Y Y         1 --
2009
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(16) Larry English   Y Y Y       2 --
2(47)   traded to NE for Hester pick (2008)
3(78) Louis Vasquez   Y Y Y Y     2 --
4(113) Vaughn Martin   Y Y         2 --
4(133) Tyronne Green compensatory pick (Michael Turner) Y Y Y       2 --
4(134) Gartrell Johnson compensatory pick (Drayton Florence).             0 N
5(148) Brandon Hughes Y Y         1+ N
6(189) Kevin Ellison   Y Y Y Y     1 N
7(224) Demetrius Byrd Y           1 N
UDFA C.J. Spillman Y Y         1+ N
UDFA James Holt Y Y         2 --
2008
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(27) Antoine Cason   Y Y Y Y     3 --
2(57)   traded to miami for Chris Chambers
3(69) Jacob Hester Traded 5th rounder and 2009 2nd rounder to NE to move up Y Y Y Y     3 --
3(90)   traded in 2007 to move up to pick Weddle
4(125)   Used in 2007 Supplemental Draft - Oliver
5(160)   traded to NE to move up to pick Hester
5(166) Marcus Thomas compensatory pick (Donnie Edwards)             0 N
6(192) DeJuan Tribble   Y           1 N
7(234) Corey Clark   Y           2 N
UDFA Mike Tolbert   Y Y Y       3 --
UDFA Brandyn Dombrowski   Y Y Y       3 --
UDFA Ogemdi Nwagbuo   Y Y Y       3 --
2007
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(30) Buster Davis   Y Y         4 --
2(37) Eric Weddle Moved up, trading our 62 overall pick plus 93rd, plus 167th, plus 2008 3rd rounder Y Y Y Y     4 Y*
2(62)   traded for Weddle pick
3(93)   traded for Weddle pick
3(96) Anthony Waters compensatory (Drew Brees, Reche Caldwell, Ben Leber, Justin Peelle) Y Y         1 N
4(129) Scott Chandler   Y           2 N
4 (S) Paul Oliver 4th Round Supplemental Pick Y Y Y (nickel)       4 Y*
5(167)   traded for Weddle pick
5(172) Legedu Naanee compensatory (Drew Brees, Reche Caldwell, Ben Leber, Justin Peelle) Y Y Y       4 N
6(204)   traded to Nashville for Volek
7(240) Brandon Siler   Y Y Y       4 Y*
UDFA Jyles Tucker   Y Y Y       4 Y
UDFA Antwan Applewhite   Y Y         4 --
2006
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played occasional starter full time starter pro bowl repeat pro bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(19) Antonio Cromartie   Y Y Y Y Y Y 4 N
2(50) Marcus McNeill   Y Y Y Y Y Y 5 Y
3(81) Charlie Whitehurst   Y           4 Y*
4(113)   traded to StLouis for Manumaleuna
5(151) Tim Dobbins   Y Y Y       4 N
6(187) Jeromey Clary   Y Y Y Y     5 Y*
6(188) Kurt Smith from miami (for Cleo Lemon, we also got AJ Feeley)             0 N
7(225) Chase Page               0 N
7(227) Jimmy Martin from minnestota (for Fonoti)             0 N
UDFA Steve Gregory   Y Y Y Y (nickel)     5 Y
2005
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(12) Shawne Merriman from NYG in Manning Trade 2004 Y Y Y Y Y Y 5+ Y*
1(28) Luis Castillo   Y Y Y Y     6 Y
2(61) Vincent Jackson   Y Y Y Y Y   6 Y*
3(91)   traded to bucs in McCardell Deal
4(130) Darren Sproles   Y Y Y       6 Y
5(144)   from NYG in Manning Deal, traded to Bucs for Roman Oben
5(164) Wesley Britt               0 N
6(177) Wes Sims from Miami (for David Boston)             0 N
6(203)   traded to bucs in McCardell Deal
7(242) Scott Mruczkowski   Y Y Y       6 Y
2004
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(1)   drafted Eli Manning then traded for Rivers, 3rd round pick (65), and 2005 1st and 5th rounder
1(4) Philip Rivers From NYG in Manning Trade Y Y Y Y Y Y 7 Y
2(35) Igor Olshansky   Y Y Y Y     5 N
3(65) Nate Kaeding From NYG in Manning Trade Y Y Y Y Y Y 7 Y
3(66) Nick Hardwick   Y Y Y Y Y   7 Y
4(98) Shaun Phillips   Y Y Y Y Y   7 Y
5(133) Dave Ball   Y Y         1 N
5(154) Michael Turner from miami (for Seau). Full time starter andPro Bowler with Atlanta Y Y Y       4 N
6(169) Ryan Krause   Y Y         2 N
7(204) Ryon Bingham   Y Y Y       4 N
7(209) Shane Olivea from atlanta (for Trevor Gaylor) Y Y Y Y     4 N
7(254) Carlos Joseph compensatory pick             0 N
UDFA Wes Welker Didn't make it out of camp, eventual repeat pro bowler w/ NE             0 N
2003
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(15)   trade to Philly for Philly's 1st and 2nd
1(30) Sammy Davis from philly for #15 Y Y Y (nickel)       3 N
2(46) Drayton Florence   Y Y Y Y     5 N
2(62) Terrence Kiel from philly for #15 Y Y Y Y     4 N
3(80) Courtney Van Buren   Y Y         2 N
4(112) Matt Wilhelm   Y Y Y Y     6 Y
5(149) Mike Scifres   Y Y Y Y Y Y 7 Y
6(188) Hanik Milligan   Y Y     Y (special teams)   2 N
7(229) Andrew Pinnock   Y Y Y       5 N
UDFA Kassim Osgood   Y Y     Y (special teams) Y (special teams) 6 Y
UDFA Kris Dielman   Y Y Y Y Y Y 7 Y
UDFA Antonio Gates   Y Y Y Y Y Y 7 Y
UDFA Jacques Cesaire   Y Y Y Y     7 Y
UDFA Stephen Cooper   Y Y Y Y     7 Y
2002 - Butler
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(5) Quentin Jammer   Y Y Y Y     8 Y
2(39) Toniu Fonoti   Y Y Y Y     2 N
2(48) Reche Caldwell from 2001 vick trade Y Y Y       4 N
3(71) Ben Leber   Y Y Y Y     4 N
4(103) Justin Peelle   Y Y Y       4 N
5(142) Terry Charles   Y           1 N
6(178) Matt Anderle               0 N
7(216) Seth Burford   Y           1 N
2001 - Butler
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(1)   traded with Falcons for #5, #67, 2002 2nd rounder and Tim Dwight (for Michael Vick pick)
1(5) LaDainian Tomlinson from vick trade Y Y Y Y Y Y 8 Y
2(32) Drew Brees went on to make additional Pro Bowls with the saints Y Y Y Y Y   5 Y
3(63)   trade for trevor Gaylor
4(96)   traded to NE for 4th and 5th rounder
3(67) Tay Cody from vick trade Y Y Y       3 N
4(112) Carlos Polk from NE trade Y Y         6 N
5(132) Elliot Silvers   Y           1 N
5(139) Zeke Moreno from NE trade Y Y         4 N
6(164)   trade to dolphins for Nate Jacquet
7(201) Brandon Gorin   Y           2 N
7(244) Robert Carswell compensatory Y           2 N

Let's start by assuming the last two drafts still need some maturing before they can be evaluated. One thing that jumps out is the sheer number of pro bowlers picked in 2003-2006, 3 per year if you count the special teamers. Across the NFL, teams average about 0.8 pro bowlers picked per year, so 3/year is astounding. However, 2007-2008 hasn't been nearly as good. Some of this has been due to the drafts not maturing yet, and some has to do with the Chargers having better records and not drafting as high. But I think part of it has been A.J. trading away too many of his potential impact picks. Impact picks typically come in the first three rounds and A.J. has traded at least one of those away every one of those years.

Also, AJ's rate of success with his top picks is very good. Ignoring 2010, 15 of his 21 picks in the first three rounds have become full time starters and 7 of them are pro bowlers.

Looking at third day picks (rounds 4-7) 6 of 33 have become full time starters, with an additional 3 making the pro bowl.

AJ has also done a really good job of picking up quality Undrafted Free Agents (college guys who weren't drafted in the 7 round draft). 2003 was just ridiculous picking up Dielman, Gates, and Osgood (pro bowlers) and Cooper and Cesaire. Through AJ's 7 drafts, he has picked up 11 UDFAs who have spent some time as starters and 3 of which were pro bowlers.

Most of us can agree that AJ's drafts have been well above average and have been one of the primary ingredients in turning the Chargers into the powerhouse they are today. For those of us who witnessed some of those late career Beathard stinkers, AJ seems almost infallible in comparison. That being said, many of his recent drafts have been less productive and the tendency to trade future picks to move up in rounds to pick guys like Hester and Weddle worries me. I think part of it is a subtle shift in AJ's strategy from stocking an empty cupboard (2003-2006) to fine tuning a championship caliber roster, but I still don't like it. Overall, I am not worried yet, since most of my criticism of him has been in the last four years of drafting. Those guys have yet to really mature and there might still be some diamonds in the rough (English) who will come through big with a little more seasoning and opportunity, and some guys like Mathews, Weddle, and Cason who stand an excellent chance of getting pro bowl consideration before their time is done.

 
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