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San Diego Chargers Draft Rant: White Guys

A detail of  the likeness NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on a video camera's screen as he is interviewed on the red carpet during the NFL Draft.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
A detail of the likeness NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on a video camera's screen as he is interviewed on the red carpet during the NFL Draft. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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I've been harping on this for a while, but somewhere along the line the San Diego Chargers and A.J. Smith got a reputation for liking white football players. I still don't know how it happened. However, come draft time every year we hear about draft prospects being "A.J. Smith-type of guys" and those prospects are almost always white.

I'm going to assume that this has something to do with the Chargers and A.J. Smith looking for high character players, meaning a spotless record and a history of good schooling, good grades and all-around intelligence both on and off the football field. In this country, there is still such a thing as white privilege, so we're still generations away from being equal when it comes to race and class. This means that the white guys are more likely to have been raised in good neighborhood with good schools and good parenting.

Looking for articles on players that the Chargers might be interested in picking in the first few rounds of the 2012 NFL draft, what do we find? Shea McClellin is humble. Harrison Smith is studious and would get along well with Eric Weddle (just like Steve Gregory). The Chargers were supposedly interested in Ryan Kerrigan last year. Are these all talented players that would fit on the team? Sure, but where did A.J. Smith get a reputation as someone who values white skin over athleticism?

Let's look at Smith's drafting history as it pertains to race.

  • 2011: 6 African-American, 2 Caucasian (6th & 7th rounds)
  • 2010: 5 African-American, 1 Caucasian (6th round)
  • 2009: 7 African-American, 1 Hispanic, 0 Caucasian
  • 2008: 3 African-American, 2 Caucasian (3rd & 7th rounds)
  • 2007: 5 African-American, 2 Caucasian (2nd & 4th rounds)
  • 2006: 3 African-American, 5 Caucasian (3rd, 6th & 7th rounds)
  • 2005: 3 African-American, 1 Hispanic, 3 Caucasian (5th, 6th & 7th rounds)
  • 2004: 3 African-American, 8 Caucasian (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th & 7th rounds)

It must be that 2004 draft. Although the white guys he took in that draft were Philip Rivers, Igor Olshansky, Nate Kaeding, Nick Hardwick, Dave Ball, Ryan Krause, Ryon Bingham and Shane Olivea. Not exactly choosing skin tone over talent with that group.

I know this is silly. I know Gehlken writing two articles about white players doesn't mean that he thinks A.J. Smith or the Chargers front office is racist in any way. However, I want to know why A.J. Smith gets slapped with this tag of valuing character over talent or athleticism when he's drafted potential playmakers with poor off-the-field histories in early rounds.

If anything, it looks like A.J. values character and on-the-field awareness more in later rounds than earlier rounds because those are going to be the backup and locker room guys. However, he peppers them in between project picks. This seems like a perfectly fine drafting strategy.

The next time someone says that A.J. Smith will pass up a perfectly good player in the first or second round so that he can instead draft a high character white guy from some no-name school, tell them to check their facts. A.J. Smith, like the rest of the GMs in football, values his job and his pride more than he does the skin color of the players on the San Diego Chargers.