This year's draft was particularly exciting for Chargers fans for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that, probably for the first time since 2005, the team was drafting almost entire out of need instead of depth. Need either for 2010 or 2011. The second reason is we got to see A.J. Smith and the Chargers front office work the phones, pull off trades and go after the guys that they really like to be successful in San Diego. This draft, and these players, will be tied to A.J. and his scouts more than any other going forward.
After the jump, my personal grade on each draft pick the Chargers made.
Round 1, Pick 12 Overall - Ryan Mathews, RB
I love this pick. I'm giddy about this pick. The more I see and hear about Mathews, the more I see a star. The more I think about the thunder-and-lightning combo he could make with Darren Sproles, the more I think our running game is going to turn around immediately (to at least become "average") and make Philip Rivers one of the odds-on favorites for the MVP award. There's really nothing better than taking one of the league's best offenses and possibly making it twice as dangerous.
You Should Know: All we heard about before the draft was that Matthews was a "power running back", but had the skills to be an all-around running back. Did you know Mathews led all of college football in 50+ yard rushes last season? He did. Does that sound like a sluggish power-back to you, or somebody that's been restricted only by the talent around him? Yeah, me too. I think this kid's a star.
Round 3, Pick 79 Overall - Donald Butler, ILB
I went into this draft a little more worried about our Inside Linebackers than a lot of other people. Stephen Cooper looks like he needs to be replaced soon (I believe it's his last year under contract), Kevin Burnett can't stay healthy (I believe it's his last year under contract) and Brandon Siler can't play both positions (or can he?). The 3-4 defense I always look at as the prototype is the one the Chargers had under Wade Phillips. In that defense, there was the run-stopping force that was Randall Godfrey lined up next to quite possibly the best coverage LB in the league in Donnie Edwards. Siler reminds me a lot of Godfrey, and what I'm reading/seeing in Butler reminds me of Donnie Edwards. Butler is "instinctive", "smart", "disciplined" and has "fluid hips". If he's as good of a player as the Chargers think he is (since they traded up to get him), I think him and Siler are the 2011 starting ILBs.
You Should Know: In 12 games last season, Butler had 91 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. That projects to at least 100 tackles in 16 games, and without having to fight at the line so much there's a chance he'll get even more. Donnie Edwards without the experience. Kevin Burnett without the injury problems.
Round 4, Pick 110 Overall - Darrell Stuckey, SS
What's funny is that after this pick was taken, somebody in the open thread said something about Stuckey reminding them of Clinton Hart. It's hard to disagree, but that may not be a bad thing. The Chargers got Hart when he was 31 and managed a couple of productive years out of him until he started breaking down and showing major flaws. They're getting Stuckey as a rookie, and have time to mold him more. Also, Stuckey has better speed. An "in-the-box" Safety with very good speed, good instincts and a workman's-like approach to the game. Probably not the 2010 starter, and I worry about the size disadvantage both of our Safeties would have against TEs when he's out there with Eric Weddle, but a good project pick.
You Should Know: Stuckey had 90+ tackles in each of his last two seasons with Kansas. The Jayhawks' big year in 2008 was partially do to him grabbing 5 interceptions that season. Like with most Chargers' picks, Stuckey is a smart player who is better than his physical tools would lead you to believe.
Round 5, Pick 146 Overall - Cam Thomas, DT
This could be the steal of the draft right here. Many analysts had Cam Thomas as a 2nd round draft pick, and we saw more than a few mocks that were hoping the Chargers could get Mathews and Thomas with their #28 and #40 picks. Getting him in the 5th round lowers expectations, lowers his hit against the cap and yet still fills the hole with potentially top-flight talent. Look at this scouting report on Thomas to see how he's thought of:
Thomas is a space eater in the middle of the line and a defender who is seemingly impossible to move off the point. More of a straight-line defender with minimal skills rushing the passer, he is a two-gap lineman whose greatest asset is the ability to free things up for the linebackers who play behind him.
You Should Know: I can't seem to figure out why Thomas dropped so much. The only negative thing I can find in any scouting report on him is that he "wears down" during games. Perhaps the Chargers are just in a better position than others to deal with that, with a plan to have a deep rotation along the defensive line instead of 4-5 guys, and if so they should consider themselves lucky. They found themselves a gem.
Round 5, Pick 168 Overall - Jonathan Crompton, QB
Project pick. Consider this one like we did Vaughn Martin last year. You won't see much of Crompton this year, because he'll be locked in the film room with Norv Turner, Philip Rivers and Billy Volek. The scouting reports, and the stats, say that Crompton is capable of being a solid #2 QB in the NFL if he can get smarter about his game (doesn't read defenses well, doesn't look off Safeties) and more consistent with his decision-making. If there's anybody better than Norv Turner to teach this kid how to fix those problems, I don't believe I know their name.
You Should Know: I have yet to find any details about Jonathan's ability to grow a beard, grow long hair, hold a clipboard or make the ladies swoon. If we are still looking for answers come training camp, I will make sure these questions get asked.
Oh right, stats. Crompton's 2009 was quite impressive. 27 TDs against 13 Interceptions, and that includes a couple of early hiccups (0 TDs, 3 INT vs UCLA. 0 TDs, 2 INT @ FLA). Ask any QB in college or in the pros, doing that your first year in a new system is hard. Especially in the SEC. He's got some talent.
Round 7, Pick 235 Overall - Dedrick Epps, TE
Epps is a Tight End out of the University of Miami. Based off his fairly pedestrian numbers, I'm going to imagine he was second string on the team. Scouting reports say that what he lacks in strength as a blocker, he makes up for with nearly-perfect technique. He has great instinctual skills for a receiver (such as using his body to shield defenders away from the ball) and could turn into a very good red zone target with some coaching. The Chargers needed a Tight End to replace the departed Brandon Manumaleuna, and it looks like they've found themselves a all-around TE with good potential. Yippee.
You Should Know: Ummm, I don't know. Epps had a pretty consistent career of getting 1-3 catches a game for roughly 12 yards a catch. Occasionally one of those catches would be for a touchdown.