On ESPN Insider, Mel Kiper went back and re-graded the 2011 draft (subscription required) for every team including the San Diego Chargers. According to the network's long time resident draft guru, the Chargers don't look as good in hindsight as they did at the time of the draft. Part of this has to do with some of the relative optimism that Kiper had for the Chargers draft compared to his colleagues. He liked a lot of the players that others thought were reaches. It also has to do with liking long term potential over short term impact. In any case the grade went from a B+ to a C+.
I can understand this assessment, but I can also note some flaws in its approach. If I'm trying to grade the Chargers draft and I only use the 2011 season, then I'd probably give the Chargers a C. If I start to think that I still like some of the upside of the players, then I'll bump it up to a C+, giving extra weight to the performances we've already seen. However, how many players were thought to actually make an impact this season? I'd argue that most, including Mel Kiper, didn't really think that many of the draft picks would come in a contribute at a high level in 2011. Sure, there was a chance, but it wasn't the expectation. So, if you're trying to grade a draft, that was mostly based on post-2011 potential then why drop the team a letter grade?
A lot of the decision involving Chargers draft grades revolves down to 1st round Corey Liuget. Here's what was said about Corey in the re-grade article:
The prize of this class was Corey Liuget early, but, although he had his moments this season, I expected a little more from him in terms of overall production. He jumped off the tape in preseason... If Liuget develops -- and he has a lot of talent -- this class will look better.
I'll give my take on these comments as well as a look at some of the Chargers other picks, after the jump.
Corey Liuget, 1st round, 18th overall, DE
That's a lot to put on a guy who wasn't even a top 15 pick, plays a position known for not getting a lot of glory and held down a starting job the entire season. I do agree with Kiper's assessment of the 1st rounder's overall production in 2011 though. You saw flashes of a star player and then we went to the regular season, where he became about as visible as Igor Olshanksy was in all his years playing the same position with the Chargers. Which is to say, not very visible. Given though that Liuget came out early, created no liability at his position and even Mel Kiper still believes that the kid has upside, I don't think it should change the grade. He went from unproven college player with potential to NFL starter with potential. That seems more like status quo than a drop in the grade.
Marcus Gilchrist, 2nd round, 50th overall, CB
Mel doesn't say much about Gilchrist other than his number of games played and that he "finished the season atop the depth chart". Not sure what that means. Gilchrist seemed to be mishandled by the coaching staff. Known for his kick and punt returns he didn't get a chance to do either. He was behind Dante Hughes on the depth chart as a nickel corner even though that seemed like his best position. He struggled replacing Antoine Cason in a role he's not really suited for (or at least not yet). He now looks to be the nickel corner in 2012. A strange year for Gilchrist, but he still seems on track to make an impact similar to what was expected.
Jonas Mouton, 2nd round, 61st overall, LB
Mouton never saw the field in 2011, but had the reputation of being a bad pick from the moment he was drafted. Losing a year is never a positive, but we've seen how a player can bounce back from that before (see: Donald Butler) and Jonas was never expected to start in 2011 anyway.
Vincent Brown, 3rd round, 82nd overall, WR
When talking about the 3rd round, you aren't talking about a lot of players that make big rookie impacts. By my count maybe 3 of the 3rd rounders taken in 2011 made big impacts and all were taken before Brown was drafted. Given that criteria and seeing some performances from Vincent that show that he's a potential offensive threat in the NFL, I'd have to say the Chargers did pretty well for themselves. Kiper's comment of "Vincent Brown had some moments but isn't ready to start." seems a little too critical.
Shareece Wright, 3rd round, 89th overall, CB
Wright was always an upside pick. He missed time in college, but had shown some talent that could project him to being an NFL starting CB. He spent most of this year being inactive for games, as you would expect of a player who is a project. What I'm getting at is there is almost no way as an outsider to say whether he's on schedule or behind. He's certainly not ahead of schedule though.
Jordan Todman, 6th round, 183rd overall, RB
This is definitely a busted pick. I still think Todman can produce in the NFL, but the Chargers let him get picked up by the Vikings midseason for reasons only known by them.
Stephen Schilling, 6th round, 201st overall, OG
Schilling spent time on the PS and stepped up to the big boys squad when injuries plagued the offensive line. I'd still give him at least a year to see if he can become a solid backup. It's not a standout pick but, like Shareece Wright, it's hard to know if he's on track or already a bust. 6th rounders are kind of a crap shoot anyway.
Andrew Gachkar, 7th round, 234th, ST
You can probably make a defensible claim that Gachkar made an impact in almost every game this season. Special teamers get overlooked, but Andrew was out there doing his best to make sure the Chargers weren't the horrendous unit that took the field in 2010. I'd say that's a pretty big impact for a pick this late in the draft. He's probably the one player the Chargers took that we know met expectations and possibly exceeded them.
When reassessed you see a bunch of guys that seemingly are on track with where they could reasonably expect them to be. You also have one guy who was lost to another team and a 7th rounder who is making an impact. However, you could start to quibble that Liuget should have started to show a little more in 2011, that Gilchrist should have looked better when thrust into a starting role and Mouton won't be helped by his lost season. Given all that it makes sense to downgrade the Chargers draft. Maybe a half a letter grade, but I won't get too mad at Mel for taking it down a full one. Especially since he admitted that maybe the grade was too optimistic to begin with.