The 2008 Chargers season ended with a playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional Round. This came after a highly entertaining win over the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card Round, in which Darren Sproles stole my heart. However the Chargers were only in the playoffs due to ending the season on a four game winning streak, which culminated with thrashing the Denver Broncos at home on national television - good times. While the Chargers had won their third consecutive AFC West division title, they also became the only team to win a division at 8-8. The team needed a strong draft to provide for the next five years of the Philip Rivers Era.
A couple notes before we get started, the Chargers were missing a second round selection in the 2009 draft due to trading up for Jacob Hester in the 2008 draft. However, the Chargers received two fourth round compensatory picks due to the departure of Michael Turner and Drayton Florence via free agency. Here's BFTB's draft grades from back in 2009. Here we go!
The Pick: Larry English, LB, Round 1 Pick 16
Notable Selections Later in Round 1: Clay Matthews, Percy Harvin, Alex Mack, Ziggy Hood
Larry English has posted 8.5 career sacks along with 42 tackles in four years as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. Those are disappointing numbers. They are largely due to his inability to stay on the field, with English only appearing in 43 games over his first four seasons in the NFL. However, he is still on the team and has the opportunity to play a large role in the 2013 season due to the preseason in jury suffered by Melvin Ingram.
2013 Grade: D-
At this point, it's hard to view the Larry English pick as anything better than a dumpster fire. NFL rosters are built through the draft, and the first round selections are the most important. They are supposed to be your impact starters, your can't-miss picks. When using a first round pick on a priority position (OLB in a 3-4 defense) you can't miss. A.J. Smith missed badly. The only reason I didn't give this an F grade is because English is still on the team. So, you're saying there's a chance...
The Pick: Louis Vasquez, Round 3 Pick 78
Notable Selections Later in Round 3: Mike Wallace, Ladarius Webb
Vasquez came into Chargers training camp and won the battle for the starting right guard job against Kynan Forney. Vasquez performed admirably during his time as a starter for the Chargers, though I don't think he'll want to relive his four game stretch to close out the 2011 season any time soon. Though primarily excelling in run blocking during his first three years, Vasquez rebounded strong in 2012 by greatly improving his pass blocking. He parlayed that performance into a shiny four year contract received from the Denver Broncos during 2013 free agency.
2013 Grade: A-
A.J. Smith found a solid-if-not-spectacular four year starter for the offensive in the third round. That's a pretty great pick. I was surprised he wasn't pursued more heavily by the new Chargers brass during free agency, and the fact that a division rival and Super Bowl contender acted quickly and paid him handsomely may suggest that his best years are still to come. Let's just hope he doesn't start taking lessons from Tom Nalen.
The Pick: Vaughn Martin, Round 4 Pick 113
Vaughn Martin was drafted to considerably more hype in Chargers circles than most fourth rounders due to being Jamaican/Canadian and incredibly athletic. In pre-draft workouts, Martin ran a sub-5 second 40 yard dash while also performing 44 reps on the bench press. Martin's role on the Chargers grew slowly, with him participating in 24%, 30%, 62%, and 58% of defensive snaps for the Chargers from 2009-2012 respectively. Though he showed occasional flashes of brilliance, Martin's performance as a Charger was largely lackluster. He signed with the Miami Dolphins as a free agent in the Spring of 2013.
2013 Grade: C-
This was a high reward, low risk pick for A.J. Smith that just didn't pan out. He took a chance on a physical specimen that didn't have a lot of football experience. It will be interesting to see if he can turn things around with a new team in Miami.
The Pick: Tyronne Green, Round 4 Pick 133
Green made appearances at left tackle, left guard, right guard, and right tackle throughout his first three years with the Chargers before permanently taking over at left guard halfway through the 2011 season. Though 2012 was his best season as a pro, it still wasn't good relative to the rest of the guards around the league. Green was not re-signed by the Chargers following the 2012 season. At the time of this writing he is a free agent, though he had a brief stint with the New England Patriots in the Spring of 2013.
2013 Grade: C
Once again, A.J. used a late round selection on a player who ended up starting on the offensive line. However, the argument could be made that Green only started due to the inability to acquire any suitable offensive line replacement via the draft or otherwise. He's never had a season that graded out positively according to Pro Football Focus.
The Pick: Gartrell Johnson, Round 4 Pick 134
Johnson never played a snap for the Chargers and was waived after the first game of the 2009 season. He's had a total of 23 carries in his career split between the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons and is currently a free agent. A Google News search for "Gartrell Johnson" turns up a preview for a play called The Haunting of Daniel Gartrell which claims that "audiences are sure to experience a journey that stretches their senses, hits their funny bone and delivers a poignant message for all." Sadly the same cannot be said for the experience of watching Gartrell Johnson.
2013 Grade: F
Never played a snap for the Chargers.
The Pick: Brandon Hughes, Round 5 Pick 148
Brandon Hughes spent his first season as a Charger on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury in a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. He was released before the 2010 season. He is now a Philadelphia Eagle.
2013 Grade: F
Never played a snap for the Chargers.
The Pick: Kevin Ellison, Round 6 Pick 189
Though Ellison received some playing time for the Chargers before being released in 2010, he is most known for his off field issues. He was arrested in 2010 on illegal possession of controlled substance (the charges were dropped) and again in 2012 for arson after God talked him into setting his bed on fire. No, really.
2013 Grade: D-
I mean, he started a few games.
The Pick: Demetrius Byrd, Round 7 Pick 224
Byrd was an exciting player during his time at LSU but was sadly involved in a serious car accident a week before the draft. He recovered from his accident but was never able to take the field.
2013 Grade: N/A
A.J. Smith got some decent PR for once upon making this pick, and had Byrd been able to recover it could have been a nice find in the 7th round.