Grading Ancient History: The 2006 Chargers Draft

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After two great drafts, did San Diego Chargers GM A.J. Smith have another one in him? Apparently so, because this is the one that put the team over the top in terms of talent.

You can take a bad team and make them good with two consecutive great draft classes. A.J. Smith had done that already with the 2004 draft class and the 2005 draft class. There were those who thought he had just gotten lucky and others who thought Smith had a magic touch, something that made him a better drafting GM than any other in the league. The 2006 draft would help to decide which side was right, at least for a few years.

Let's go pick-by-pick:

Antonio Cromartie

Rd.Pick Position Player School

1.19

CB

Antonio Cromartie

Florida State

Heading into this draft pick, the common thought was that the San Diego Chargers didn't have any glaring needs. Sports Illustrated said that the team "could always use more talent" at Cornerback and along the offensive line, and pointed out that the team was lacking a star WR (at this point, Eric Parker and Keenan McCardell were the starters and Vincent Jackson was unknown). A.J. Smith felt like he had filled the team's one need, at Free Safety, when he signed Marlon McCree a month before the draft began.

This was a luxury pick, and it was used on a luxury player. Antonio Cromartie was seen as a player with a ton of potential, but he had missed the entire 2005 season with an injury. Nobody had seem him play football in 15 months when Smith selected him in the first round and groomed him to eventually take over for Drayton Florence.

Cromartie eventually did win the starting job away from Florence in 2007, and was the league's best defensive back that season. He played two more seasons for San Diego, struggling with consistency along the way, and was eventually traded to the New York Jets for a draft pick (that ended up being Jonas Mouton).

Grade: B+

Marcus McNeill

Rd.Pick Position Player School

2.50

T

Marcus McNeill

Auburn

Do the draft over again and McNeill may have gone in the Top 10 picks, even with concerns about his neck.

Marcus made the Pro Bowl in his rookie and sophomore seasons, and was arguably the most important player in the transformation of the offense. Suddenly, LaDainian Tomlinson couldn't be stopped when running behind the left side of the offensive line and Philip Rivers spent his entire "rookie" season not having to worry about his blindside.

Leander Jordan, who was the Chargers' starting Left Tackle up until McNeill was drafted, never played another down of NFL football. Marcus started at Left Tackle for the Chargers for five seasons before his neck finally gave out.

Grade: A+

Charlie Whitehurst

Rd.Pick Position Player School

3.81

QB

Charlie Whitehurst

Clemson

A.J. Smith really made the most of this pick, didn't he?

Charlie spent four years backing up Philip Rivers and Billy Volek before being sent to Seattle for a third-round pick that was used to help the Chargers move up and select Ryan Mathews in the first round. After becoming a free agent, Charlie resumed his position backing up Philip Rivers.

Grade: B

Tim Dobbins

Rd.Pick Position Player School

5.151

LB

Tim Dobbins

Iowa State

I mean this with all due respect: Tim Dobbins looks like a murderer. Every time I see him on a football field, I'm immediately terrified. That's what I like most about him, and I like a lot of things about him.

Dobbins worked up the depth chart by being a Special Teams beast for two seasons. When he finally got his chance to start, he was good but not great. He was used as a "throw-in" in a draft-day trade between the Chargers and Dolphins, when San Diego was moving up to get Ryan Mathews.

Dobbins eventually found a home with the Houston Texans, where he gets a few snaps each game and is their first backup off the bench when an injury occurs.

Grade: B+

Jeromey Clary

Rd.Pick Position Player School

6.187

T

Jeromey Clary

Kansas State

Anyone else ever notice that Clary spent a lot of his college career blocking for Darren Sproles? Funny how that works out.

All things considered, Clary has been an incredible value for a sixth-round pick. He took over the starter's job when Shane Olivea couldn't handle his personal demons and has been an average, consistent Right Tackle for four seasons. I know a lot of people hate him for not being a top-flight Tackle, but those players don't exist in the sixth round.

Grade: A

Kurt Smith

Rd.Pick Position Player School

6.188

K

Kurt Smith

Virginia

See? These are the players are usually exist in the sixth round. Kurt Smith never made the Chargers, or any other NFL team.

Why did A.J. pick a Kicker a year after picking Nate Kaeding? I have no idea.

Grade: F

Chase Page

Rd.Pick Position Player School

7.225

DT

Chase Page

North Carolina

Yeah, I don't know either. Chase apparently was active for six games with the Dolphins in 2007. Never did anything for the Chargers. At 285 lbs, I can't imagine he was a great fit for Wade Philips' 3-4 defense.

Grade: F

Jimmy Martin

Rd.Pick Position Player School

7.227

C

Jimmy Martin

Virginia Tech

Jimmy didn't make the Chargers in 2006, but apparently ended up on the Vikings' practice squad at some point and was even signed by the Patriots in 2008. However, he never made it on to an NFL field. Not for a single snap. Poor Jimmy.

Grade: F

The beginning of this draft showed a lot of the A.J. Smith flair of his previous two drafts. He was snagging big-time talent and finding capable players in later rounds as well. Those last three picks could've been a sign of things to come, Smith taking players that had no chance of making the team and were bad fits for the scheme, or it could've just been what happens with late round picks. Sometimes you hit on some of them, sometimes none of them.

Overall, this was still a very solid draft. The selections of Clary, Dobbins and Whitehurst provided depth on the team for years. Cromartie and McNeill were the ones that put both the defense and offense over the top, taking them from solid to spectacular.

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