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2007 Draft a Mystery

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Apr 27, 2007.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    By"  Tom Dodge aka Thunderstuck

    <img src="http://img178.imageshack.us/img178/2741/draftdn4.jpg" title="NFL Draft" alt="NFL Draft" align="right" height="177" width="176" />The Oakland Raiders will definitely take Jamarcus Russell with the #1 overall pick in the 2007 draft. That's if they don't take the freakish receiver from Georgia Tech, Calvin Johnson. It will definitely be one of those two guys- unless the guy they really like is Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. Or maybe they'll trade down for additional picks.

    This kind of uncertainty is normal leading up to the NFL combine and in the weeks before the NFL draft. But today, on April 26th, with the NFL draft starting in less than 48 hours, the picture is no less blurry than it was three months ago.

    If one word can sum up the 2007 draft it would have to be "mysterious." Besides ESPN, NFL network, media stalwarts like Sports Illustrated and old-school scouting services like Our Lads, one only need do a Google search to find dozens of draft-day pundits and NFL scouting sites. In a normal year the brain-trust of draft-day experts is able to reach something of a consensus on which players belong in the first round-and while this consensus is rarely accurate it at least provides a foundation for predicting what will happen. If nothing else these prognosticators can tell us a half dozen or so players who are virtual locks to go to a specific team (or at least as close to a "lock" as these things can be) which then allows for more accurate guess-work in charting the rest of the draft.

    No such luck in 2007. Who is the best quarterback? It could be Russell. It could be Quinn. Yet both players seem to have a high bust-factor if you believe what you read from the contrarians. Russell is less experienced, less consistent, and has some mechanical issues. Brady Quinn couldn't win a big game against a top-10 team to save his life at Notre Dame. The Raiders need a QB, but will the bust-factor lead them to another course of action?

    This confusion at the #1 selection seems to translate all the way down the draft board. Will the Lions take yet another receiver at #2 if the Raiders take a QB? Will Cleveland take Brady Quinn? What will the Browns do if the Raiders take Quinn? Everyone knows the Buccaneers covet Calvin Johnson at #4. Will they trade up to get him? What will they do if the Raiders take Johnson? What direction will the Cardinals go if their pick comes up and Joe Thomas, the top offensive tackle in this draft, is off the board? The Redskins sit at #6, and no one knows if they will stay there. Will they trade down? If they trade down who will take their place? Will the Vikings address their #1 need and take a wide-receiver at #7 even though the value isn't good at that slot?

    Things are no clearer for the San Diego Chargers, sitting all the way down at #30 on the board. It is well-known that the Chargers have two primary needs; receiver and safety. Obviously Calvin Johnson is the top receiver in this draft. Reaching that consensus is about as challenging as reaching the consensus that being eaten alive by sharks is bad. After Johnson, however, trying to find a consensus on how the remaining receivers stack up makes an observer begin to think that taking a bath in barbecue sauce and jumping into the shark-tank at Sea World wouldn't be such a bad way out. Ted Ginn is obviously the #2 receiver in this draft-unless you like Dwayne Bowe. No, it's Robert Meachum. Or maybe it's Sidney Rice. And whatever happened to Dwayne Jarrett, the presumptive #2 receiver prior to his anemic combine performance?
    Perhaps we will find some clarity at safety. In much the same way that Calvin Johnson presides as this year's inarguable #1 receiver, LeRon Landry is this year's top safety. But Landry will be long-gone by the time the Chargers pick. So who is the second-best safety? Nelson? Griffin? Merriweather? Weddle? All were productive in college. None of them stands out physically. All of them are slotted by experts to be picked by any number of teams somewhere in round 1- or maybe round 2.

    If the Chargers decide that none of the wide receivers or safeties still on the board is worth the #30 pick how will they choose? They could use an inside linebacker but the 2007 draft is extremely thin at that position. Do they look to the best-available player at a position that is already adequate, such as offensive line? Do they draft a tackle and move Shane Olivea inside to guard? Or do they draft from among this year's deep pool of guards and replace Mike Goff?

    And don't even get me started on what happens if the Chargers pull off a draft-day trade of Michael Turner. Who wants him? What is his value? Is he a better running-back than the guys available out of college this year? Will the Chargers let him go for a second-rounder? How about a first-round swap with the Titans or Packers? Is Buffalo still in the mix? And if the Chargers are able to engineer a deal for Michael Turner in order to move up, who will they target? One of the safeties or receivers who might be available to them even if they stay put at #30? One of the very few excellent linebacker prospects like Patrick Willis?

    Chargers' GM AJ Smith has built a reputation for being a draft-day guru. His keen eye for talent has landed San Diego such standout athletes as Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo, Marcus McNiell, and Shaun Phillips, just to name a few. If there's any one trend that has become clear when analyzing Smith's draft philosophy it is this; draft players who are physical prototypes. In 2004 Smith drafted the 6'5" Eli Manning, and then traded him for the 6'5" Philip Rivers. He drafted the freakishly strong Igor Olshansky in Round 2. Shaun Phillips, an exceptionally nimble defensive end ideally suited to be an outside-linebacker in a 3-4 defense, came in Round 4. In 2005, Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo, and Vincent Jackson all fell into the category of players with exceptional size / speed quotients. In 2006, Antonio Cromartie, Marcus McNiell, and even Charlie Whitehurst all fit the description of "prototypical" players at their positions.

    Having spotted this trend, does this help us decipher who AJ Smith will target in this draft? Not one bit, and here's why; unlike in prior drafts, the players in this draft who standout in terms of their physical measureables all seem to have a major caveat attached to them-and I'm not just talking about injuries. Smith showed with his selections of Cromartie and McNiell last year that he isn't afraid to take a risk on an exceptional athlete with health concerns. On the other hand Smith has shown that he is hesitant to take a player with questionable character, work-ethic, toughness, or attitude.

    Will AJ go after a player with great tools who might have a bad attitude? Dwayne Jarrett is a huge receiver who was extremely productive at USC. He's also said to be arrogant, a "me-first" guy who doesn't give top effort on every play in every game. It is said that Robert Meachum isn't physical enough. Ted Ginn's frail body and durability have been questioned. Brandon Merriweather may be an ideal free safety candidate, but has serious character concerns. Aaron Rouse has terrific measureables.

    There also are indications that he's not always coachable and that his motor is not always running. Aundrae Allison is a dynamic athlete and playmaker who doesn't always focus and takes plays off. Even if Smith can overlook the caveats attached to some of these players it's very possible the guy he likes won't be on the board when it comes time for the Chargers to select.

    After trying to make sense of this draft crop I think I must understand how the Japanese felt trying to decode American communications in the undocumented Navajo language.

    With all of that said I will stick my neck out and make some predictions for how the first day of the draft will play out for San Diego. These predictions assume that the Chargers are unable to get adequate compensation for Michael Turner and he stays on the team. In other words, my accuracy is contingent upon something not happening that very likely may happen, which could then render this whole thing moot. Anyway-

    Round 1/30: Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina

    To me, Sidney Rice is somewhat comparable to Antonio Cromartie. Coming into the 2006 draft Cromartie was labeled as a kid with elite physical tools but not enough college experience to be a sure-thing. Most scouts believed that if Cromartie stayed in school one more year he would be a top-10 pick in the '07 draft. AJ Smith ignored Antonio's lack of experience and chose instead to focus on his amazing natural abilities and the outstanding production he had displayed in his short college career.
    The same things can be said of Sidney Rice. As a red-shirt sophomore he's not as experienced or polished as some of the receivers ahead of him on the draft board, but he brings and rare blend of height, speed, athleticism, and ball-awareness to the table. Many scouts believe that if Rice had chosen to stay in school one more year he could very well be the top receiver in the '08 draft. All of his documented weaknesses are issues that can be fixed with good coaching. Given the Chargers' tendency to ignore minor injury concerns and draft physical specimens who have shown all the physical tools to play their position at an elite level, Rice will be the pick at #30.

    Round 2/63 Sabby Piscatelli, SS, Oregon State

    As the leader of the Oregaon State defense, Sabby fits the mold of physical specimens who will attract AJ Smith's attention. At 6'2, 223 pounds, with very good speed, Piscatelli has tools to be an elite safety in the NFL. His intangibles are unquestioned; he brings leadership skills, desire, and fire. He is another guy with weaknesses that should be fixable with good coaching. He is a prospect with a ton of upside and the work-ethic to overcome his weaknesses. He also will be able to contribute immediately on special teams.

    Round 3a /93 Manuel Ramirez, OG, Texas Tech

    An incredibly powerful guard with top-notch intangibles, Ramirez is a dominant run-blocker who would fit perfectly at the right-guard position. Putting him on the right side should minimize his weaknesses; he is considered somewhat slow of foot and his pass-protection is questionable. The former translates better to the right-side than the left, and the latter can be coached.

    Round 3b/ 96 Fred Bennett, CB, South Carolina

    WR Mike Walker could also be an option here, but the Chargers will need to address the CB position, and Fred Bennett will likely be the best prospect still on the board when they draft at #96. Bennett brings the kind of size, speed, and upside the Chargers like in their corners along with the ability to play press-coverage, a trait that fits well with San Diego's pressure 3-4 defense. Bennett will need development, but San Diego is in a good position at corner for this season, meaning Bennett won't be thrown into the fire immediately. The problem San Diego has is that they are thin in the depth-department, and Drayton Florence, last year's #2 corner, could leave in free agency next year.

    So there you have it; my best crack at predicting the unpredictable, making sense out of the senseless. For the record, I will be pleasantly surprised if I get even one of my picks right. And if the first day of the draft ends with me successfully predicting exactly none of San Diego's picks, I will be able to take solace in the fact that this draft was predictable in at least one respect.
     

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