A Look at Past Chargers' Drafts

The draft is a funny thing. While it is critically important for the long term health of a team, and it's pretty easy to evaluate after 3 years or so, it does seem pretty hard to get a consensus on how good a team is at it. History tends to get revised based on someone's point of view. Remember how we traded sooooo much to get Ryan Mathews? (Really we gave up the #28 and #60 pick plus Charlie Whitehurst and Tim Dobbins and some lower round swaps for the #12 pick, not too bad). Remember what an absolute pile of crap the 2008 draft was? (actually we did manage to get two very good starters out of that draft, but otherwise it did stink). While both sides of those type of arguments have merit, the best way to evaluate a team's drafting is by looking at the whole landscape over the course of the years.

For better or worse, we have been a team that builds through the draft, so 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 back in the 2009 off-season that he had to do better, so let's take a look back as see if his drafts have gotten better.

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 (made the pro-bowl or actually played). And lastly we are going to look at if they got a second contract, which is A.J. saying they were a good draft pick. With the craziness of the CBA over the last two years, I engaged in some subjectivity with some of the weird unrestricted free agent rules over the last two off-seasons. I sometimes count an RFA tender as a second contract if they would have been unrestricted under the normal CBA (they are marked with an *). Tendering an RFA who would have been an RFA anyways will not count as a second contract. A Franchise tag counts as a second contract.

So, let's get to it!

2012
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(18)
2(49)
3(78)
4(110)
5(149)
6(183)
7(226)
7(250) compensatory for Sproles/Burnet/Siler/Naanee - Spikes/LaBoy

2011
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played Occasional Starter Full Time Starter Pro Bowl Repeat Pro Bowl Years 2nd Contract
1(18) Corey Liuget Y Y Y Y 1 --
2(50) Marcus Gilchrist Y Y Y 1 --
2(61) Jonas Mouton from NY Jets for Antonio Cromartie Y 1 --
3(82) Vincent Brown Y Y 1 --
3(89) Shareece Wright traded 2010-2(60) and Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle for 2010-2(40) and 2011-3(89) Y Y 1 --
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) Jordan Todman Y 0+ N
6(201) Stephen Schilling compensatory for Osgood and Manumaleuna Y Y 1 --
7(220) traded 7(220) to Dallas for Patrick Crayton
7(234) Andrew Gachkar compensatory for Osgood and Manumaleuna Y Y 1 --
UDFA Colin Baxter Y Y 1 --
UDFA Bront Bird Y Y 1 --
UDFA Darryl Gamble Y Y 1 --
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 Y Y 2 --
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 Y Y Y 2 --
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 2 --
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 Y 2 --
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 N
UDFA Brandon Lang Y Y 1 N
UDFA Kion Wilson Y Y 1 N
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 3 --
2(47) traded to NE for Hester pick (2008)
3(78) Louis Vasquez Y Y Y Y 3 --
4(113) Vaughn Martin Y Y Y Y 3 --
4(133) Tyronne Green compensatory pick (Michael Turner) Y Y Y 3 --
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 N
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 4 --
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 4 --
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 4 --
UDFA Brandyn Dombrowski Y Y Y 4 --
UDFA Ogemdi Nwagbuo Y Y Y 4 Y*
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 N
2(37) Eric Weddle Moved up, trading our 62 overall pick plus 93rd, plus 167th, plus 2008 3rd rounder Y Y Y Y Y 5 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) 5 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 N
UDFA Jyles Tucker Y Y Y 4 Y
UDFA Antwan Applewhite Y Y 4 N
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 6 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 6 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) 6 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 7 Y
2(61) Vincent Jackson Y Y Y Y Y Y 7 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 7 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 8 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 8 Y
3(66) Nick Hardwick Y Y Y Y Y 8 Y
4(98) Shaun Phillips Y Y Y Y Y 8 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 Malcom Floyd Y Y Y Y 8 Y
UDFA Wes Welker Didn't make it out of camp Played one game before being cut, eventual repeat pro bowler w/ NE Y 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 9 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 9 Y
UDFA Antonio Gates Y Y Y Y Y Y 9 Y
UDFA Jacques Cesaire Y Y Y Y 9 Y
UDFA Stephen Cooper Y Y Y Y 9 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 10 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, with at least two repeat pro bowlers each year. Across the NFL, teams average about 0.8 pro bowlers picked per year, so 3/year is astounding. However, 2007-2009 hasn't been nearly as good. Some of that 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. Another thing that I believe got inside A.J.'s head was some of the problem children who he had brought into the team and the NFL's crackdown on character problems. Between Kiel, Foley, Merriman, and Cromartie, A.J. saw some guys whose talent was made ineffective due to their off-field issues. I think A.J. started putting too much a premium on "character" guys. Specifically, I think A.J.'s growing file on guys like Merriman and even Shaun Phillips led him to overvalue English.

Also, AJ's rate of success with his top picks is very good. Ignoring 2011, 17 of his 25 picks in the first three rounds have become full time starters and 9 of them are pro bowlers.

Looking at third day picks (rounds 4-7) 7 of 40 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 were well above average early on and were one of the primary ingredients in turning the Chargers into the powerhouse they were. That being said, even his most staunch supporters have to admit that the 2007 through 2009 drafts were pretty bad and have been a major cause of the last two seasons' disappointments. Even so, for those of us who witnessed some of those late career Beathard stinkers, A.J. seems almost infallible in comparison. Just when it seems like we've got A.J pegged on a downward trend, he gives us 2010 and 2011, with impact first rounders, several early starters, and a pro bowler. One thing I like about A.J. is that he really seems to learn from his mistakes: he has stopped trading away early picks, he has stopped acting like he is just fine-tuning a championship roster, and he has stopped over valuing character guys at the expense of talent. While I am no longer an "In A.J. we trust" guy, I do think his track record has earned him another year.

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