We all have our own ways we want to see this team built, and this weekend has made very clear that very few of our philosophies line up. The guys that do this for a living also skin the same cat differently. It’s crazy how many of the "draft experts" Top 100 boards fall apart around pick 50 when you are comparing to the GMs whose livelihoods depend on being correct.
I want to start by saying that Draft Saturday last year, I did not see that draft giving us 3 starters by the end of the season, and one (or two) potential Rookie of the Year candidates. Many of us even doubted that Fluker would start based on Clary’s presence, were unhappy with the trade up for Te’o (I still am), and thrilled with the value of Allen, but with minimal expectations for his production in 2013 due to the injury and what most saw as "depth" at WR.
Funny how things worked out, eh?
Potential vs Production
In the 2013 draft, Telesco showed us he values college production highly. Many of us realized this, but were still underwhelmed at the playmaking upside from the 2013 class, as there was a perceived lack of NFL-level speed/athleticism (especially in first two picks).
In the 2014 draft, Telesco has continued to show he values college production, but has stayed true to his word about adding speed and playmaking ability. The first two picks are guys with NFL-level speed, burst, and athleticism. Kid Dynamite was able to land not only two guys with great upside due to their athletic ability, but also guys who have proven they can translate that ability to plays on the football field. You can’t really ask for more.
On trading up
Generally, I’m not a fan of trading up. It is clear, after two years, Telesco and I disagree on this one, and that’s fine…as a matter of fact most NFL GMs disagree with me on that one, which tells me how valid my stance is, but here it goes anyways.
I see there are two times when trading up is worth the "gamble" (note below): when looking for your franchise QB or a pass rusher. There is a reason these two positions have the highest likelihood of "boom or bust." In current times, these two positions can have such an incredible impact on the course of games, much more so than any other positions. With the offense-centric league we have these days, you win when your QB performs better than the other teams’ QB. The two ways to make this happen are to get the best QB you can, and to put the other QB in as much duress as you can.
For this reason, I’m okay with Telesco trading up when he sees his highest rated pass rusher available and he wants to ensure that he gets him.
Note: I refer to trading up as a gamble because the whole draft is largely a gamble. Trading up is giving away the opportunity to draft multiple players instead of one, and decreasing the statistical odds that your pick will work out…as the draft is essentially a crapshoot. Granted there are things teams can do it improve their odds in the crapshoot…history has proven that no teams’ process is infallible .
The top pick
The first round pick was a proven playmaker at the college level, with all the measurables you want in a corner, except for one: height. Sometimes you take what you can when you are picking later in the first round. Frankly, I’m not as big on height as some others. Not every QB likes to throw up jump balls as often as Rivers. In fact, I’d argue many of the best QBs out there rarely do.
If I’m choosing between a corner that can stay in the hip pocket of the other teams’ best receiver versus one that will be able to contest jump balls when he can keep up with that receiver, I’ll take the hip pocket guy every time. Ideally, you want a guy that can do both, but those guys are rare and even more rare at pick 25.
Sure, Verrett may be facing some taller receivers like Bowe and Thomas, but keep in mind, if opposing QBs look out there and Verrett is in position covering their top receiver, they will move onto the next receiver in the progression. There is more than one way to neutralize a receiver, and they rarely involve breaking up passes or getting interceptions. At pick 25, I’m happy with a guy who has all of the measurables but height, and has shown he can translate those into production on the field, over a guy will all the measurables but hasn’t been able to put it all together yet.
The pass rusher
I covered trading up a bit earlier, so I won’t bang that drum again, but I’m okay with this pick. When I consider that the majority of last season was played without the two best pass rushers, Freeney and Ingram, on the field, I have to ask myself how the heck that team made the playoffs? Telesco wanted to ensure that didn’t happen again, and took the pass rusher that he liked in the second round.
Bottom line, Attaochu comes in and day one he replaces the "speed rushing" specialist that the team hasn’t had since Antwaan Barnes. Remember that guy who had 11 sacks for the team in 2011? His knock was he only had one move, the speed rush…but was still damn effective. That is Attaochu’s floor…the worst he will be for the Chargers is the guy that can line up in pass rushing situations and pressure the Offensive Tackle around the outside with his first step and speed around the corner. It’s all gravy from there: if he can learn counter moves from Freeney or Ingram to be able to convert the speed rush to an inside move (spin) or power move (bull rush), he’ll be among the best in the league.
Oh yeah, and if you’re not excited yet, imagine a 3rd down package with Freeney, Ingram, and Attaochu on the field. Freeney and Attaochu line up on the tackles allow the versatility of Ingram to shine, and Pagano could finally get creative with the pass rush. I’m thinking about a DLine on 3rd-and-10 with Freeney, Liuget, Reyes, and Attaochu, with Ingram at LB…and Pagano simply saying "Go get Manning, boys."
The other guy
I’m still not sure who the Chargers drafted in the third round. Is he JJ Watt’s brother? No? Yes? Who cares? He wouldn’t have been my choice, but I also wouldn’t be paying Clary as much as the team is today. Clearly the team and I have different views on O-Linemen. I also wouldn’t have taken Fluker in the first round last year, but Joe D and Teleseco showed me there’s a reason they get paid to do this and I don’t.
My view here, at least we know the RG position won’t be any worse than Clary was last year, right? Either Clary is there again this season (he can’t get worse, right?), or this guy comes in and pushes to compete. The team will now have the two best players of Rinehart, Clary, Troutman, or Watt playing at OG. Something has to improve there.
Oh yeah, and Fluker will be even better with an improved and reliable guy next to him. Is Watt that guy? I don’t know. If Joe D’Allessandris thinks so, that’s good enough for me.
Note: To expect this pick to rival the 3rd round pick from last year isn't fair to anyone
Is the team better?
I’m drinking the Chargers Park Kool-aid. I’m not expecting 3 starters to come out of the first three rounds this year, but I wasn’t last year either. After 3 rounds the team is faster on defense, increased the capabilities to cover and rush in the passing game, and increased depth and competition on the OLine. To me, that’s a helluva start and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the draft and offseason shake out.