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I Feel a Draft: Larry English

A few weeks ago, Stephen posted an excellent article that took a look at A.J. Smith’s past Chargers drafts and objectively ranked the success of each draft pick through the years.  Well, we’re going to take things a step further and look at a specific draft pick and compare him to the players selected around him.  Then we’ll be able to take that information, and determine if A.J. Smith and the Chargers got the best bang for their Draft–Selection–Buck.

First up: Larry English.  How far did the Chargers’ draft (and real-life) dollars go in his first year as a player?  Well, you’ll have to read on to find out.

The Draft

In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Chargers had the 16th–overall pick despite making the playoffs, thanks to their 8-8 record.  Many people cried foul; how could a playoff team have such a high pick, especially one that beat the Colts in the Wild Card Round?  Well, the NFL moved quickly to plug that loophole, and now playoff teams are guaranteed a 21st–overall pick or lower.

So, it seems the Chargers were given a gift in the draft, considering their late season success.  Since this was the last time they would have such a good draft pick and still have a relatively successful season, they needed to spend that draft selection wisely.

With their first–round pick, the Chargers selected a Defensive End out of Northern Illinois by the name of Larry English.  The Chargers announced right away that he would be moved to Outside Linebacker.

At the time, this left many people scratching their heads.  What hole would he fill? Why did the Chargers need to select a linebacker in the first round?  The explanation most-often given was that the Chargers were unsure of how good Shawne Merriman would be following his knee surgery, and that they were laying the groundwork for a Merriman's departure.  Even then, selecting English in the first round was considered a stretch as he was he was labeled a second-round pick by many.

Larry English

So how well did Larry English do in his first season?  He did okay.  He wasn't horrible, but he also wasn't good enough to warrant his status as the Chargers first-overall pick.  This year he has shown he is definitely better at pass rushing than he is at run-stopping.  Even then though, he has been relatively ineffective this year.  We heard a lot about the "Three-headed monster" that would be Merriman-Phillips-English, unfortunately though, that never really panned out.

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hit QP Pressure Batted Passes Tackles Assists Missed Tackles Stops
Larry English 561 2 9 14 1 19 4 1 10

Who Else Was Available

Now let's take a look at who else was available for the Chargers to select in the 2009 draft.  For this, I'm only going to focus on other Linebackers and Defensive Ends that were selected after Larry English.

Player Team Draft Pick Snaps Sacks QB Hit QP Pressure Batted Passes Tackles Assists Missed Tackles Stops
Larry English SD 16 561 2 9 14 1 19 4 1 10
Robert Ayers Den 18 426 0 5 17 1 19 0 2 12
Clay Matthews GB 26 921 11 14 26 0 30 9 7 31


It looks like Green Bay got the best bang for their draft buck as Clay Matthews has turned out to be a solid and disruptive linebacker in his rookie season. Even Robert Ayers has proven to be more effective this year than Larry English, despite playing 135 fewer snaps than English.

Green Bay actually traded up in the draft to be able to get Clay Matthews in the first round, and it's looking like that trade was worth it.

It's still a little early to make the decision on whether or not Larry English is a bust, but usually linebackers are one of those positions in the NFL that a rookie can make an immediate impact. The learning curve isn't as steep for a linebacker as it is for, say, a quarterback or wide receiver.  The bar was set pretty high for Larry English this year, being selected 16th-overall carries its own expectations, but it was compounded with the comparisons to Shawne Merriman; that's a lot to live up to.