By Loren S. Casuto
BoltTalk Staff Writer
First round: Corey Liuget DE/DT Illinois
I said both on the podcast and in my draft picks that I thought the Chargers would be in a position where they didn’t have to move to pick up a great defensive tackle. I thought that teams would overdraft, especially in the top 13, quarterbacks out of desperation. I’m proud to see I was right, though my fingernails would attest to the fact I was nervous with the last three picks. With the 18th pick on the board and with Cameron Jordan on the board, I thought it was a slam dunk. AJ Smith on the other hand threw us all a curveball and selected a guy I had researched but disregarded on the grounds that he would be gone by this point. In fact I forgot he was even on the board until the Chargers selected him. Ranked as the third best defensive tackle in the draft, he was seen as being more consistent and giving more effort then Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus do.
Liuget is a great combination of quickness and strength who was a top notch penetrator for the fighting Illini. He has a very strong punch and uses his hands extremely well to break away from offensive linemen quickly, though he’s also very effective as a bull rusher. He’s a very good tackler who routinely lays people out and never gives up on plays no matter where the ball goes. His motor, his nastiness and his penetration ability are his calling cards which made him an outstanding under tackle, but a solid fit as a defensive end. The few negatives that have been said about him is that he needs some more time in the weight room, specifically on his lower body, and needs to find a comfortable weight to play at (he played very effectively at under 300 but rose above that before the draft). I’ve heard reports of a quick first step and while I see some short area quickness, I don’t see the first step in the highlights I’ve seen. In addition he needs to remember to stay low consistently to better use his leverage, though with his height that’s less of a problem.
This is a curve ball thrown by AJ Smith but not at all to the level of a Sammy Davis/Buster Davis/Larry English. Liuget was ranked very high on all draft boards coming in and was considered to be a potential 3-4 Defensive end. He has very few negative qualities and a great deal of positive ones. He shows the potential to be a good 3-4 while also sliding inside on nickel passing downs with Luis Castillo. While many, myself included for now, wonder how he was ranked higher than Cameron Jordan, it’s clear AJ went for the player ranked on many boards higher then Jordan who could be better than the guy we all wanted. I would just say to Charger fans upset about not getting Jordan to read the reports, to look at the tape, and realize that this isn’t a massive reach but the selection of a good player who was ranked higher on the GM’s board.
Second Round: Marcus Gilchrist DB Clemson
I had very high hopes for the Chargers coming into the second and third day, the days that AJ Smith had to make or break the future of the San Diego Chargers. What we got was a bunch of very confusing picks that left Charger fans infuriated. And the scariest part of all is that Gilchrist is vaguely one of the more sane selections.
A versatile defender who has played all over the secondary, Gilchrist’s versatility and speed are his calling cards. He shows very good speed and mobility and can cover slot receivers with ease. He’s a willing and aggressive run defender with good size and athleticism. He reads the ball fairly well and was known to be a defensive leader; Gilchrist was usually the person making pre-snap checks and adjustments for the defense. Gilchrist is also an experienced and very effective kick and punt returner. He also has a sterling character with impressive football smarts and work ethic. On the negative he doesn’t have great hands or ball hawking skills (only one INT) and is a little stiff in the hips so he’s a half second slow transitioning in coverage.
Selecting Gilchrist makes sense to a degree; our nickel cornerback (Donald Strickland) is a free agent along with our primary kick and punt returner (Darren Sproles). Gilchrist can be a nickel and be the backup free safety and be a returner. He also can play special teams, a massive need for the Chargers. Having said that, he is a defensive back selected with the first pick in the second round and it’s a player who would have likely been available in the third rounder. To take him with the second pick in your draft at a position that really wasn’t a priority is odd. If the Chargers resign Eric Weddle, it is doubtful that Gilchrist will see the field except on special teams. And if that’s the case, Smith wasted a high draft pick on a back up. Only thing that explains it is that AJ Smith fell in love with him and grabbed him when he would’ve made sense in the third round.
Second Round: Jonas Mouton OLB Michigan
I don’t doubt the need for another inside linebacker, in fact I said so multiple times throughout the draft shows and my article. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that Jonas Mouton, a UDFA from the worst defensive team in the United States, would not only be the Chargers selection but also be the first inside linebacker off the board.
The Big Ten’s leading tackler and nicknamed “The Assassin”, he has shown good ability to drop into coverage, especially zone coverage, and has a good hitting ability as well as tackling ability in the flats. He shows some skill at using his hands to shift through blockers and also has experience in special teams. The negatives are too many to list; little to no athleticism, very slow, short, too heavy, reputation of being immature (punched a Notre Dame player during a game this year), will not be able to cover anyone in man-to-man and has very poor instincts.
This pick makes Gilchrist look like grabbing a top five pick late in the third. I have seen nothing that would make me believe he was anything but a late draft pick if that. Questionable instincts, little production, limited physicality, immature attitude and poor footwork. This is the biggest reach since the Chargers traded a first to get a second to draft Mikhail Ricks in 1998. I wouldn’t care if he was picked in the 7th round or something like that, but to use a coveted late second round pick on a guy who most people hadn’t ever heard with such a poor body of work is absurd. The only way this pick avoids being one of the biggest calamities in Charger history is if somehow this scrub turns into Lofa Tatupu but I don’t have any faith in that. In the end the only thing the “Assassin” might kill are the Chargers future playoff hopes and AJ Smith’s job after he passed on his pick of the inside linebacker crop.
Third Round: Vincent Brown WR San Diego State
In what may be the most cheered of AJ Smith’s selections in this draft, the Chargers actually selected someone from a need position and one they had been looking at for a while. At 5’11 184lbs Brown is the shrimp among the current crop of Chargers wide receivers. With decent but not great speed, Brown’s calling cards are his hands and his outstanding route running. While many receivers need a lot of work on their running from the get go, Brown has a great understanding of his routes and runs them far more precisely then many receivers at his age. He shows outstanding hands especially at the senior bowl where it looked like he had glue on his finger trips. He also plays intensely, and willingly goes over the middle, into traffic and up into the air to catch a ball. The negatives are his lack of height, his injury history (numerous throughout three years) and his lack of breakaway speed (though he does break away without it).
This pick at least makes some sense – the Chargers needed a wide receiver and frankly I trust WR Coach Charlie Joiner who not only fell in love with this guy but said he saw a lot of himself in Vincent Brown. I don’t have to rely on AJ Smith’s instincts here, I’ll take the word of one of the best wide receivers ever. But considering that Jerrel Jernigan, who fills the need for a downfield burner, was taken one spot after him it seems this was a pick because the team liked him instead of to fill a need. Brown will provide some good depth in the slot and can learn from Patrick Crayton. One of the few good picks made by AJ in the second day.
Third Round Shareece Wright CB USC
Yet another defensive back though this one was selected at a more realistic spot. At 5’11 185lbs Wright has very good speed, very good instincts and an aggressive style of play both in pass coverage and run support. For a smaller guy he plays with a long mean streak and is more then willing to knock someone out. He shows good ability to mirror his receiver and runs with them in an almost effortless fashion. He also shows talent on special teams with a blocked kick to his credit. However he has only one interception in his entire career, has had a hairline neck fracture and has major character problems; including missing the entire 2009 season because he was academically ineligible and was charged with resisting arrest in 2008.
I will admit this; Wright has a ton of untapped potential and has supposedly matured a great deal since 2009. I could see this pick being someone that the Chargers will groom to eventually take the place of Quentin Jammer. But having said that I fail to see how a dimeback was more pressing or important then a right tackle or an outside linebacker or a proper inside linebacker. Wright’s pick would be fine had it not been for Gilchrist and for Mouton, I could see it as a decent risk to take. But considering the failure to meet immediate needs with good players on the board at immediate need positions, as well as the amount of development Wright will require to turn him into a good player, this is a questionable pick at a position we do not need.
Sixth Rounder: Jordan Todman RB Connecticut
With their first pick on day three, the Chargers still had needs to fill, more so considering their selections the previous day. But in the sixth round they decided to fill a potential free agent need at third running back.
A workhorse back at UConn (631 touches in two years), Todman is an odd but productive player who looks like one thing but acts like another. At 5’8 203lbs he routinely runs like he’s 6’0 230lbs, while that shows heart and determination in college, it’s likely to get you killed in the NFL at his size. Todman shows very good speed and quickness especially through the hole where he prefers to charge headlong into the line. Even with that determination he does show patience and willingness to wait and let plays develop before breaking it. Todman also has the potential to be a kick returner though he’s never done that before. On the negative his frame and strength suggest, and experience show, he’s not a good blocker (though not through lack of effort) and though he’s a little dog who acts like a big one, that again won’t work well in the NFL. He also has little experience in the passing game, something required of third down backs. He also doesn’t show consistent ability to break tackles.
Todman is a good value here and should fill the third running back spot well, if he can develop well Todman could even become a real steal. While a third running back was something of a need considering the impending free agency of Darren Sproles, I question the need for such a back now. I also don’t buy the return ability for two reasons; lack of experience and the fact we drafted one in the second round for that reason. In addition with Norv Turner wanting to get Tolbert and Mathews much more playing time, its doubtful Todman will see the field much. While a good value pick, the need was not as pressing.
Sixth Rounder Stephen Schilling OL Michigan
I figured at some point the Chargers would address the offensive line as they currently run the risk of losing their right tackle to free agency. Because of it’s importance and the quality of good tackles in the first few rounds, I thought they would address it earlier. The Chargers made their only offensive line pick late in the sixth selecting their second Wolverine, making us all wonder why the Chargers were so interested in a team that was one of the worst in college football.
A three year starter and team leader at two different position (right tackle and guard), Schilling played and did well in both Lloyd Carr’s run based offense and Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense. Schilling shows good intangibles and is a sturdy durable player who missed only one game as a starter. At 6’4 302lbs he shows good athleticism and balance for his size with solid hand placement. He is decent as both a run and pass defender maintaining a good base and not letting players get around him. He also shows very good downfield mobility and often gets into the second level to hit linebackers. However there’s little upside in Schilling, what you see is basically what you get. He isn’t a mauler or a finesse player, instead is something in the middle and is better suited inside in a zone blocking scheme. He also has to work doubly hard to defeat talented defensive linemen due to his physical limitations, thus he has a lot of extra motion in every move.
Schilling was announced at the draft as an offensive tackle, thus suggesting the Chargers consider him a possible replacement should Jeromey Clary leave. Unfortunately based on scouting reports he’d have to work hard to equal Clary, and even that’s a stretch. As a backup he provides good versatility to play all along the line, something the Chargers like in their backups (see Dombrowski, Mrzucowski and Green). And as a backup Schilling could become a very useful player who will push Tyronne Green immediately. But if chosen to start, it’s doubtful he will be able to better or replace Clary.
Seventh Round: Andrew Gachkar LB Missouri
In a draft full of head scratchers, AJ Smith used his final selection on a person that many people had not heard of and whose draft guides couldn’t provide much information. As if amusing himself, Smith pulled out a player that did not attend the combine and had very limited production and success in the blitzing Tiger defense.
A two year starter, Gachkar shows very good speed and acceleration. At his pro day he was timed at 4.58 seconds in the 40 yard dash and 9 ft 10 ins in the long jump, enough to put him in the top 5 of all linebackers. The 6’2 224 linebacker has a good nose for the football and is a solid tackler with good hitting ability and aggression. With his speed he also covers fairly well even in man to man but primarily in zone. And like other draft picks he plays with an almost non stop motor. On the negative he has a great deal of trouble diagnosing and recognizing plays and routinely bites on play action. He also gets engulfed frequently by big offensive linemen though he’s shown better arm and hand use to break away. He also needs a lot of work on his angles as that frequently puts him in a position to not make a play.
As a special teamer Gachkar has some value and this deep in the draft it’s difficult to be nit picky. He show some potential as another inside linebacker but needs to make his impact primarily on special teams. He’s a project who shouldn’t be asked to help anyone but Rich Bisaccia.
Final Grade: C-
Initially and publically I called this the worst draft since the 1998 draft that gave us Ryan Leaf, Mikhail Ricks and a host of problem. While I have a very hard time seeing this as anything but a disaster for the San Diego Chargers, I do not know if it will be quite that bad. I maintain that with five picks in the first two days, carefully hoarded just for this draft, the Chargers reached on players with questionable talent in areas they did not necessarily need all while claiming this was a draft about special teams. I also believe that while second and third rounders can play special teams that should not be the primary reason they are drafted. The Chargers used second rounders on a late round pick and an undrafted free agent while avoiding players at real needs like outside linebacker and right tackle.
On it’s surface the Chargers did fill some of their needs; two inside linebackers, a backup safety, a wide receiver and a defensive end. There’s potential for Liuget, Wright and Brown to become valuable contributors to the Chargers, assuming they can overcome their limitations and learn the system well. But if this draft is seen as anything other then a complete failure for AJ Smith I will be stunned. This is the kind of draft full of obscene reaches that sets a franchise back for years, and for the sake of AJ Smith’s gainful employment he better hope he was right where every other expert was wrong.