The good and (mostly) bad of Chargers drafts BY NICK CANEPA TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2011 AT 4:55 P.M. As the Chargers prepare for their 53rd participation in The Draft, what better time is there to look back on their, shall we say, colorfully erratic, history in these things? Conclusion: Man, they have stunk at drafting. In fact, there have been many, many more bad drafts than even average ones, let alone good. And this lottery ineptitude has directly led to their low points — from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s, and from the late 1990s to the mid 2000s. Sid Gillman was a great coach and innovator, but a lousy talent evaluator. He was in charge of Chargers personnel ops from 1960-69 and again in 1971, and drafted but a handful of terrific players, zero Hall of Famers. Lance Alworth? He was picked by the Raiders and his rights were traded to San Diego, where Gillman at least had the good sense to make a receiver out of him. In 1967, Sir Sidney passed on Hall of Fame tackle Alan Page for another defensive lineman, Ron “The Beast” Billingsley, who became “The Bust.” Other noteworthy Gillman first-rounders included Bob Ferguson, Ted Davis, Howard Kindig, Don Davis, Marty Domres and Leon Burns. And people get on A.J. Smith? Anyway, here are my choices for the team’s best and worst drafts, from the AFL to NFL. The Best 1975: Tommy Prothro’s draft. One of the best in NFL history. Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, Mike Williams, Louie Kelcher, Fred Dean (Hall of Fame), Mike Fuller, Billy Shields, Ralph Perretta and Rickey Young, a fine running back eventually traded to Minnesota for Ed White. Just sensational. 2004: Famous. Smith, drafting first, defied the Mannings by taking quarterback/Jughead Eli first overall, then trading him to the Giants for Philip Rivers and getting an extra No. 3 in ’04 that got him Nate Kaeding and a No. 1 in ’05 that brought in Shawne Merriman. Igor Olshansky, Nick Hardwick, Shaun Phillips, Michael Turner and Ryon Bingham followed. 2001: John Butler’s first draft. LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. That’s plenty. 2005: Merriman, Luis Castillo, Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles. Pretty good. 2006: Antonio Cromartie, Marcus McNeill, Charlie Whitehurst, Tim Dobbins and Jeromey Clary. More than serviceable. 1973: Johnny Rodgers went in the first round and proved more flash than dash as a pro. But they got Dan Fouts with a third. A great draft. 1983: The Chargers had three No. 1s, and if they had done things right (conflicting reports as to what happened), they could have used them to acquire John Elway and been a playoff contender for 15 years. Instead they used the three firsts on Billy Ray Smith, Gary Anderson and Gill Byrd. Good players. They also drafted Tim Spencer in the 11th round. The Worst 1986: The Chargers had 17 picks in 12 rounds (two 1s, two 3s, two 4s, three 5s, two 11s and two 12s). They scored with their first pick, terrific defensive end Leslie O’Neal, and flopped with their other No. 1, offensive tackle James FitzPatrick (Fouts called him “FatsPatrick”). Only two of the other 15 lasted more than one season, and neither made it to a third year. This fiasco affected the team for years to come. 2000: Brutal. Bobby Beathard had three picks in the sixth round. Coach Mike Riley begged the GM to use the first of his 6s on Tom Brady. Beathard refused. He took linebacker Shannon Taylor. The rest is Super Bowl history — for the Patriots. Beathard did use another 6 on a quarterback, JaJuan Seider out of Florida A&M, who didn’t make the club. One of the great blunder drafts in history. 1998: Beathard took Ryan Leaf, Mikhael Ricks (who’d had surgery on both knees), Cedric Harden, Clifford Ivory, Jon Haskins and Kio Sanford. What? 1996: Beathard took Bryan Still, Patrick Sapp, Brian Roche, Charlie Jones (would have been better off with the legendary broadcaster), Junior Solie, Jim Mills, Brian Stoltenberg and Freddie Bradley. What? 2003: Coach Marty Schottenheimer still had clout on personnel decisions. He didn’t want Troy Polamalu (Too short? Too many concussions?), and Smith, conducting his first draft, listened (probably for the final time). So the fledgling GM traded down and took cornerback Sammy Davis, a monumental bust, in the first round. Fortunately, he got punter Mike Scifres out of this thing. 1960s: Gillman did draft some fine players over the years — Earl Faison, Keith Lincoln, Ernie Ladd, Walt Sweeney, John Hadl, Gary Garrison and Russ Washington (Doug Wilkerson came by way of Houston). And he did select some greats who chose the NFL over the AFL. But there was no depth to any of his drafts, and he had a shot at hundreds of players. Pending induction 2009: Oft-injured Larry English has had but a few moments at outside linebacker. He has one more season to show up. Louis Vasquez has started at right guard from day one. Vaughn Martin was a project and now it’s about time for him to project. 2007: Buster Davis is a talented receiver who gets hurt while sleeping. Safety Eric Weddle made second team All-Pro, but it would be nice if he made more plays. Linebacker Brandon Siler is one of the great goal-line defenders of his generation. Safety Paul Oliver was acquired in the supplemental draft and he’s man enough to play in The League. 2011: Come see me in three years.