It's hard to grade a draft just 1 year after it actually happens, because players tend to have the lightbulb come on for them (Corey Liuget) or are able to bounce back from injury and be a major contributor (Donald Butler).
It's even harder to grade a draft the weekend after because we don't know how these players will fit in. We don't know their roles yet, or if they're truly ready to take the next step and come in and be an effective football player on the highest playing fields of them all. That being said, I'm going to break down each pick based on how that player fits, and what his impact will be immediately with the Chargers.
11th Selection Overall: D.J. Fluker
The backlash on this site and on Twitter when new General Manager Tom Telesco took a good 37 seconds to figure out Fluker was the pick, wow. I'm not going to touch on that, he's a member of the Chargers now, end of story. He's a massive man that is one of the — if not the — best run blocking linemen in the draft. I firmly believe Offensive Line coach Joe-D will be able to fix Fluker when it comes to his issues in the pass game.
Watching him versus a speed–rusher, Fluker looks about a half–second too slow getting out of his stance. He has heavy feet and he's not a knee–bender at all. He pops up in his stance at times and that's what allows him to get beat. That flexibility kind of limits to what he can do when it comes to making effective blocks in the open field.
But that's not to say he can't be effective against speed rushers, he's proven he can. During the LSU game, the Alabama coaching staff didn't trust Fluker blocking Mingo in a 3-point stance. So they made him the only Alabama lineman playing in a 2-point stance. Mingo lined up in a "wide 9 technique" throughout the game, Fluker used that to his advantage all game by sliding and letting Mingo run himself out of the play. Fluker ended up having a good game against Mingo thanks to this adjustment.
It's important to note that he doesn't move his feet well, not that he can't move his feet well. This why I think with Coach Joe-D we can see an improved Fluker with proper coaching, and he can be a standout right tackle for the Chargers for years to come.
It's also important to note that in Denver, McCoy had Manning getting rid of the ball quickly with several crossing routes. And in Arizona under Whisenhunt, the Cardinals had a similar approach to the passing game where many think Arizona had one of the few offensive lines that were worse than the Chargers.
Although he failed to improve as a pass protector from the 2011 to 2012, Fluker is a very sound and smart football player. One scout noted he only missed 11 assignments on 728 snaps this year, very impressive.
Even with the defensive talent on the board, the Chargers upgrade their line and Telesco solidified his stance of after the going best player available here. Comparisons to Clary are off, he's more of a dominant player than Clary. Pro Football Focus examined whether the left tackle position is overvalued and explains why exactly you need 2 tackles to be effective.
There are also thoughts out there that now that we have Fluker, there will be NO zone blocking schemes implemented into the offense, another assumption that couldn't be further from the truth. Here is an in depth look at some of the zone schemes ran at Alabama, Fluker has plenty of experience playing.
The old adage that you put your best pass protector at left tackle (the blind side) and your mauling run blocker at right tackle (teams used to run to the right more often) is outdated.
- Pro Football Focus
38th Selection Overall: Manti Te'o
Every media members dream. Here though, we'll keep it strictly to what he does on the field. We know the BCS game was a nightmare, Te'o was in numerous positions to make plays, and he just didn't make them. Te'o isn't a flashy player, but he gets the job done. The main concern when he was drafted was how were they going to use him? The "Mike" position that is the strongside inside linebacker position is a position where your take on skills have to be top-notch, and from memory that isn't his strength. I wondered if they thought moving Butler to "Mike" and Te'o to "Mo" would be the best move for the defense. In the press conference Telesco was clear that the positions were interchangeable. However, Te'o will need to do a better job of shedding blocks and wrapping up and making the tackle in order to play "Mike."
"I think he recognizes things quickly and sees things quickly, but you would never call him explosive. At the end of the day, there are a lot of guys like Manti Te'o."
- Greg Cosell
Many question Te'o and his straight line speed, his 4.8 didn't help, that's not case with me, if anything he gets himself out of position by overrunning plays. Scout's don't take into account "football speed" and 40 yard dash speed. For example, one of the fastest linebackers at the combine was Jon Bostic, he ran a 4.59, when you watch him on film he looks like he runs a 4.99. Watching Te'o you don't see that 4.8 speed, his instincts are among the best in the draft and allow him to diagnose plays quickly. Linebackers are more in the box players so it's better to judge their 3 cone and short shuttle times, and Te'o was one of the top performers at each of those drills, including faster times than "freak athlete" Alec Ogletree. The knock was he wasn't great in coverage either, the TE's he guarded this year he actually did an admirable job against, again, good instincts and route recognition help hide any physical limitations. Yes, the Chargers have 5 players at inside linebacker, none of whom have shown the ability to be a long term starter whether it was in real game times, or training camp. The job is Te'o's to lose, you don't trade up in the draft to get a player that's going to ride the pine. Te'o should be a solid player in the 3-4 defense for years to come, no, Mel Kiper Jr, he's not Junior Seau, nobody is. The Donnie Edwards comparison is better, undercutting routes and reading the quarterback make Te'o more of a fit in today's pass happy league.
Telesco traded up sacrificing a potential starter in the 4th round, his grade takes a hit here for that, especially with the number of inside linebackers still on the board. But Te'o was his guy and when you want a player you go get him, especially if it's a plug and play player that is the best overall player on your board.
76th Selection Overall: Keenan Allen
The selection of Allen justified the thought process of the prior two picks, take the best player on your board, no matter the position and fit, and make it work. When arguably the second best WR falls to you in the third round, you take him. Some argue why, when the depth chart reads 5 receivers in front of him, it's not a position of need. Each of those WR's have question marks, and Allen provides another big body for Rivers who should be able to come in and add a playmaker to this offense. Despite his size, he's very good after the catch, he caught a lot of screens last year and was also a punt returner. His game speed is above average, he was hurt when he ran a 4.7 at his pro day, he also has surprisingly good elusiveness for a guy 6'2 200+.
There's a lot to like about Allen's game, another true football player that has no problem making catches in traffic or going over the middle, Allen fights for extra yards and doesn't shy away from contact. He has missed games due to injury, so there is minor concern there, especially coming off this knee injury one has to wonder will he lose any of his suddenness? I don't think that's the case and I think Telesco did a great job taking the best player avaiable here. Allen is the future of the recving corps and will be an immediate threat in whatever passing game offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt installs because of his ability to work all over the field and not be limited in his route tree. Every route Allen runs looks the same, which makes him such a difficult cover for corners. He's a great fit and should be able to step in and contribute immediately. He also brings toughness, and a willingness to block. Allen has the everything you need to be a starter in the NFL.
145th Selection Overall: Steve Williams
Telesco stated that he wanted to add speed, and Williams is just that, speed. He unofficially ran a 4.25 at the combine with a 40.5 inch vertical leap as well as a 4.10 short shuttle. He's very quick and explosive, as his 1.48 10 yard split indicates. His size hurts him and will likely limit him to being a nickel cornerback, but that's not a bad thing. Gilchrist last year out of the slot gave up 42 catches in 51 targets, that's allowing your man to catch the ball over 82% of the time, that's atrocious. Allowing your man to catch the ball at that high of a rate is just unacceptable, not to mention once he does catch it you allow just under 4.5 yards after the catch. Gilchrist always seemed a step behind, and out of position to make a play on the ball, enter, Steve Williams.
"He's my favorite player at the specific position, he's shorter than ideal but surprisingly stout, a spectacular athlete and possesses the physicality needed to play inside. He ranks among the most underappreciated players in the entire draft, regardless of position."
- Rob Rang
When they first made this pick I thought Jordan Poyer was the better player here, but after watching Williams he might be better suited for what Pagano likes to do out of the slot. If I had to make a comparison, I'd say Antoine Winfield but a much better athlete. Williams is the ideal slot corner, at 5'9 181 you would think he would shy away from being physical, that's just not the case. He had had tackles last year, more impressively, 7 of those were tackles for loss. He started 28 games and broke up 31 passes and 6 career interceptions. He can effortlessly change directions, and turns and runs with WR's very well, not to mention being a sure tackler. I think Williams will help a Chargers defense that really struggled on 3rd down last year as well in the pass game as a whole. I count Williams as a starter because in today's NFL, the 5th defensive back is on the field equally or more than the base linebackers. Williams is a great fit because his play in the run game and his ability to stay with WR's.
179th Selection Overall: Tourek Williams
When the Chargers drafted Williams, I had no idea who he was, and still don't. My first thought was that he would be the pass rusher we bring in for Johnson on 3rd downs. Johnson played 4-3 DE in college but was worked out as a 3-4 OLB and apparently showed well doing so at his pro day, running a 4.7. He'll have an opportunity to earn snaps there as well as being a backup to one of the DE positions, you can never have enough depth as Charger fans have found out the hardway the last few years. If he is to play on the line he'll need to add more weight, he's 250lbs with short arms, so being able to control his gaps might be a concern.
The one thing I learned about Williams? He plays water polo, he said it's helped him with conditioning and techniques to use against offensive lineman. Here is an a good article on Williams and his experiences at FIU. Williams won't be a starter right away, but with limited depth at OLB and DE he should get a chance to see the field as a rookie in passing situations.
Verdict: Situational Player
221st Selection Overall: Brad Sorenson
Is this the end of Clipboard Jesus? Does a draft pick finally kick him to the curb? Who knows, time will tell. Financially, it would help save some money, and Whitehurst is a free agent at the end of this year. Much discussion has gone into what the role of the backup QB plays to Rivers, whether we need a veteran like Billy Volek, how they had great chemistry or just a "guy" back there because the Chargers are likely screwed no matter who it is if Rivers were to go down to injury. We'll see exactly what Telesco thinks of the situation come game 1 of the ‘13 season.
As for Sorenson the player, never seen him. He's 6'4, 229, so he looks the part. Scouting report says he doesn't step up in the pocket well when dealing with pressure and trusts his arm too much. Playing in Southern Utah you have to wonder about his competition. McCoy is a quarterbacks coach, he had to see something he liked in him in order to use a draft pick, albeit a late one on him.
Verdict: Backup Player
Undrafted Free Agents
This might be the most impressive group. In years past 1-2 undrafted free agents would make the team, I think this year we could see anywhere between 4-5. Nose Tackle Kwame Geathers out of Georgia will have a great opportunity to earn snaps, his main concerns were his laziness and coming off the ball high. Hard to imagine an UDFA who has to earn a spot being lazy, I think it's the perfect fit and he would make our linebacking core that much better. Excellent signing, depth was a need at NT.
Marcus Cromartie is another player who has a chance to make the roster. Telesco wants to add speed and he ran a 4.35 at his pro day. If Derek Cox is any indication that is the way the Chargers want to go with their perimeter corners, Cromartie fits the bill at 6'1 with long arms and loves press man.
Devan Walker is a pass rushing OLB, I interviewed the starting DT from his team and that can be found Here. Walker
has a solid chance to make the team because his pass rushing ability, his high motor, and the lack of depth at the position.
Oh wow, he's absolutely ridiculous, just never had grades, some guys just aren't cut out for school
- Bud Elliot
Finally, my new favorite player in the draft. The quote above is from SB Nation's recruiting director Bud Elliot when I asked him about Courtney Gardner. He's a 6'3 220 lb WR that was a man amongst boys at the Junior College level. He was expected to transfer to Oklahoma last year and be able to do a lot of the things 1st rounder Cordarrelle Patterson was able to do. His reasons for not transferring to Oklahoma for his final 2 years of eligibility were because many of his credits won't transfer over, that it would have been an extremely long process and a long haul that just wasn't worth it.
The Chargers brought him in for a visit before the draft, so there has always been interest. Gardner, the player, has a highlight film that drops your jaw. The sky is truly the limit for Gardner. Talking to a couple college guys, they believe physically he's ready for the next level. It's incredible how explosive he is for a man his size. I don't think there was a time watching him where the first guy tackled him, does a great job of making people miss. He can make the highlight catches, as well as doing a good job of high pointing the ball. I understand we're talking about the JUCO level, but I haven't seen a guy like this in some time, he's also outrunning players that played for BCS teams. He'd also bring a toughness to the roster. Watching the film notice his blocks, he blocks you like you owe him money, he's ruthless, and I love it. His off the field baggage and level of competition likely made him go undrafted, but if he's able to grasp the playbook, I expect him to take the route Victor Cruz did just a few years ago. Cruz absolutely killed the offseason and preseason process forcing the Giants to play him, and look how that turned out.
It's hard to judge a draft right away, but Telesco did a good job addressing needs. I know, there is still not a left tackle other than King Dunlap capable of starting. I don't doubt for one second that he has a plan to sign one of the veterans out there. Telesco came in with a plan to address holes on the roster, and he came away with 4 starters, and added depth. Not a lot of teams can walk away from the draft with 4 starters. Not to mention the chance that a few of the UDFA's have at making the 53 man roster. It'll be interesting to see how things shape up , but after his first draft, Telesco gets a gold star from me. It's clear he believes in production over potential, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.