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Taking a Look at the Charger's Past Drafts

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AJ Smith has said he needs to improve his results as the GM on the player personnel front.  A big part of that is the draft.  So I thought I would take a look at all his past drafts as the GM of the Chargers and try and find out how he has been doing on that front.  So I took all the draft picks we had including ones we picked up via trade and ones we traded away and evaluated them. 

The categories are pretty straightforward and they are laid out in a simple "Thermometer of Goodness" scale :-).  Keep in mind that you really can't evaluate a draft for 2 years or so.  I've included the most recent few years just for projection purposes, we can't draw any solid conclusions from them yet.  Also keep in mind that the Chargers really sucked until 2004 or so and pretty much anyone you drafted had a decent chance of starting, not so over the last few years.  Also, I have included the 2001 and 2002 drafts, but they were Butler's (although AJ was his right hand man).

 

2008
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played occasional starter full time starter pro bowl repeat pro bowl MVP
1(27) Antoine Cason   Y Y Y (nickel)        
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        
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)              
6(192) DeJuan Tribble   Y            
7(234) Corey Clark   Y            
UDFA Mike Tolbert   Y Y Y        
2007
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played occasional starter full time starter pro bowl repeat pro bowl MVP
1(30) Craig Davis   Y Y          
2(37) Eric Weddle Moved up, trading our 62 overall pick plus 93rd, plus 167th, plus 2008 3rd rounder Y Y Y Y      
2(62)   traded for Weddle pick              
3(3)   traded for Weddle pick              
3(96) Anthony Waters compensatory (Drew Brees, Reche Caldwell, Ben Leber, Justin Peelle) Y Y          
4(129) Scott Chandler   Y            
5(167)   traded for Weddle pick              
5(172) Legedu Naanee compensatory (Drew Brees, Reche Caldwell, Ben Leber, Justin Peelle) Y Y          
6(204)   traded to Nashville for Volek              
7(240) Brandon Siler   Y Y          
4 (S) Paul Oliver 4th Round Supplemental Pick Y Y          
UDFA Jyles Tucker   Y Y Y        
UDFA Antwan Applewhite   Y Y          
2006
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played occasional starter full time starter pro bowl repeat pro bowl MVP
1(19) Antonio Cromartie   Y Y Y Y Y    
2(50) Marcus McNeill   Y Y Y Y Y Y  
3(81) Charlie Whitehurst   Y            
4(113)   traded to StLouis for Manumaleuna              
5(151) Tim Dobbins   Y Y Y        
6(187) Jeromey Clary   Y Y Y Y      
6(188) Kurt Smith from miami (for Cleo Lemon, we also got AJ Feeley)              
7(225) Chase Page                
7(227) Jimmy Martin from minnestota (for Fonoti)              
2005
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played occasional starter full time starter pro bowl repeat pro bowl MVP
1(12) Shawne Merriman from NYG in Manning Trade 2004 Y Y Y Y Y Y  
1(28) Luis Castillo   Y Y Y Y      
2(61) Vincent Jackson   Y Y Y Y      
3(91)   traded to bucs in McCardell Deal              
4(130) Darren Sproles   Y Y Y        
5(144)   from NYG in Manning Deal, traded to Bucs for Roman Oben              
5(164) Wesley Britt                
6(177) Wes Sims from Miami (for David Boston)              
6(203)   traded to bucs in McCardell Deal              
7(242) Scott Mruczkowski   Y Y          
2004
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played occasional starter full time starter pro bowl repeat pro bowl MVP
1(4) Philip Rivers From NYG in Manning Trade (also got 3rd rounder, and 2005 1st and 5th rounder) Y Y Y Y Y Y  
2(35) Igor Olshansky   Y Y Y Y      
3(65) Nate Kaeding From NYG in Manning Trade Y Y Y Y Y    
3(66) Nick Hardwick   Y Y Y Y Y    
4(98) Shaun Phillips   Y Y Y Y      
5(133) Dave Ball   Y Y          
5(154) Michael Turner from miami (for Seau) Y Y Y Y Y    
6(169) Ryan Krause   Y Y          
7(204) Ryon Bingham   Y Y Y        
7(209) Shane Olivea from atlanta (for Trevor Gaylor) Y Y Y Y      
7(254) Carlos Joseph compensatory pick              
UDFA Wes Welker Didn't make it out of camp, eventual pro bowler w/ NE         Y Y  
2003
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played occasional starter full time starter pro bowl repeat pro bowl MVP
1(15)   trade to Philly for Philly's 1st and 2nd              
1(30) Sammy Davis from philly for #15 Y Y Y (nickel)        
2(46) Drayton Florence   Y Y Y Y      
2(62) Terrence Kiel from philly for #15 Y Y Y Y      
3(80) Courtney Van Buren   Y Y          
4(112) Matt Wilhelm   Y Y Y Y      
5(149) Mike Scifres   Y Y Y Y Y Y  
6(188) Hanik Milligan   Y Y     Y (special teams)    
7(229) Andrew Pinnock   Y Y Y        
UDFA Kassim Osgood   Y Y     Y (special teams) Y (special teams)  
UDFA Kris Dielman   Y Y Y Y Y Y  
UDFA Antonio Gates   Y Y Y Y Y Y  
UDFA Jacques Cesaire   Y Y Y        
UDFA Stephen Cooper   Y Y Y Y      
2002 - Butler
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played occasional starter full time starter pro bowl repeat pro bowl MVP
1(5) Quentin Jammer   Y Y Y Y      
2(39) Toniu Fonoti   Y Y Y Y      
2(48) Reche Caldwell from 2001 vick trade Y Y Y        
3(71) Ben Leber   Y Y Y Y      
4(103) Justin Peelle   Y Y Y        
5(142) Terry Charles   Y            
6(178) Matt Anderle                
7(216) Seth Burford   Y            
2001 - Butler
Rnd. Player Notes Made Team Played occasional starter full time starter pro bowl repeat pro bowl MVP
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 Y
2(32) Drew Brees   Y Y Y Y Y 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        
4(112) Carlos Polk from NE trade Y Y          
5(132) Elliot Silvers   Y            
5(139) Zeke Moreno from NE trade Y Y          
6(164)   trade to dolphins for Nate Jacquet              
7(201) Brandon Gorin   Y            
7(244) Robert Carswell compensatory Y            

Sources include wikipedia and this nifty site: http://www.prosportstransactions.com/football/DraftTrades/

In terms of production, let's assume 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.  At least one per year on AJ's watch.  AJ has averaged 2.5 pro bowlers per draft (not counting special team pro bowlers and not counting Wes Welker).

Also, AJ's rate of success with his top picks is very good.  Outside of Sammy Davis all his first and second round picks draft picks have become full time starters and 4 of 10 are pro bowlers.  Of the first day picks (rounds 1-3) 11 of 14 picks became full time starters for the Chargers.

Looking at second day picks (rounds 4-7) 6 of 20 have become full time starters, with an additional 2 being occasional starters (and one of them being Sproles)

Another interesting stat is the quantity of picks.  A GM can stockpile picks via trades or compensatory selections (picks you are given by the league to make up for free agent loses).    The Chargers have averaged 8 picks per draft from 2003-2008, which is probably a bit above average, but not much.  It has been dropping with 6 in 2008 and 7 in 2007.

AJ has also done a really good job of picking up quality Undrafted Free Agents (UDFA, college guys who weren't drafted).  2003 was just ridiculous picking up Dielman, Gates, and Osgood (pro bowlers) and Cooper (future pro bowler?) and Cesaire.  Through AJ's 6 drafts, he has picked up 7 UDFAs who have had a positive impact on the team.

A lot of this evaluation needs to be done relative to other teams.  I did a quick run down on the Colts as well since they seem to be a team that has success in the draft.  They are not a real good comparison since they have been consistently good and therefore have had lower draft picks and fewer opening, but they're pretty close, and the stats are below.

Here is the chart comparing the Chargers drafts (2003+) to the Colts (2004-2006)

SD IND
ProBowlers/draft 2.5 1
1st day pro bowlers 40% 22%
1st day full time starters 79% 50%
2nd day starters 40% 22%
Avg Pick Count 8 8.6
Impact UDFA/draft 6 UDFA in
7 drafts
1 UDFA in
3 drafts

Most of us can agree that AJ's drafts have been excellent and have been one of the primary ingredients in turning the Chargers into the powerhouse they are today.  For those of us who witnessed some of those late career Beathard stinkers, AJ seems almost infalable in comparison.  That being said, his last two drafts (2007, 2008) have been less productive and the tendency to trade future picks to move up in rounds to pick guys like Hester and Weddle worries me.  I think part of it is a subtle shift in AJs strategy from stocking an empty cupboard (2003-2006) to fine tuning a championship caliber roster.  But I still don't like it.