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A.J. Smith talks draft

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Apr 21, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By: Jamaal LaFrance

    A.J. Smith is gearing up for his eighth NFL Draft as Chargers General Manager. He took some time amid pre-draft meetings to share his insight and approach to one of the most anticipated events of the year. Check out his responses:

    Q: How would you describe your overall draft philosophy?
    A.J.: “Our philosophy is to get the best football players you can and line them up three-deep behind the players that you already have. We’re always looking to upgrade on a year-to-year basis. I believe in the Draft. It’s the lifeblood of our organization as far as building a championship team. There are other ways we can fill in players around that. It’s very important to get good football players.”
    Q: Explain how you approach the draft each year, beginning with your staff’s preparation? Take us through the final week leading up to draft day.
    A.J.: “It really begins in May when we go to scouting combines in Florida. The National Scouting Combine and the BLESTO Scouting Combine come up with the senior prospects, in their opinion. That’s just an indicator. It’s a head start on the process. After that, in the summer during training camp, our directors (Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye and Director of College Scouting John Spanos) will coordinate with our area scouts and we’ll blanket the country. We divide up how we are going to cover it in the fall when we go out in August, all the way through (the season), watching these senior prospects. We track their entire senior year. Then we take it all the way through the All-Star games, Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the pro testing days, and then it comes right down into meetings here for the draft where we get together for two weeks and break all that down.
    “Evaluating senior prospects is a whole year’s worth of effort and it leads up to right now. I’m leaving out underclassmen that declare much later. When they declare, we do our checks at that time. We’re aware of the names because we’ve seen them play. You evaluate more than 2,000 players and literally whittle that down to seven young men, more or less, depending on wheeling and dealings on draft day. But right now, as it stands, it’s seven (draft selections).
    “It’s pretty remarkable when you think of the process for the kids that get drafted. It’s quite an honor. We know the percentage of all the college kids who play football that want this to happen, and only a small number actually have that dream. And of course, a larger number are free agents. But it boils down to finding really good football players.”
    Q: When you grade a player, which of these qualities are most important to you: athletic ability or on-field production and why?
    A.J.: “It’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s what we call ‘measurables.’ You always hear about height, weight and speed for certain positions. If you’re a linebacker, hypothetically speaking, you have to be 6-4, 250 pounds, run a 4.65-second 40-yard dash and have a 40-inch vertical jump. You typically hear all these ‘measurables’ come out of the NFL Combine.
    “What we’re looking for, bottom line, is a football player. How does he play the game? How productive is he? How consistent is he? Was he a one-year guy? Did he play at a high level in college for two or three years? How about his high school; which we do a little checking, not evaluation. How were they in high school as players before they got to college? You have a huge body of work to evaluate. The odds are that they’re probably going to continue that at the NFL level if they have that work habit and if they’re grounded, solid human beings with great character and want to be pro football players. Those are intangibles. We lean pretty heavily on that because when players have those qualities and they get an opportunity to be a pro – in this case, a Charger, they are going to take full advantage of that and be the best pro they can be. That’s the makeup of our team (now), and I think that’s part of the reason why we’ve had some success here in San Diego.”
    Q: You’re known to prefer great football players over great athletes. Tell us why that is.
    A.J.: “It’s a philosophy I’ve had for a long time; since I was in the USFL with George Allen. Marv Levy, Bill Polian, John Butler and others engrained that in me. I guess it’s the different stops I’ve been along the way. I believe it. I believe it even more now because we’ve incorporated that philosophy since I was hired by Dean Spanos in 2003, and we are moving in the right direction. We have a good football team. I am reinforced more not to abandon that philosophy. I believe it in as much now as I did years ago.”
    Q: Can you explain how you and your staff evaluate players in the draft? Can you use last year’s top selection, linebacker Larry English[​IMG], as an example and describe some of the criteria and language used to evaluate him?
    A.J.: “We use a lot of clichés in our business. We almost speak another language in scouting. All scouts and coaches know it’s a jargon that we use. With Larry English, for example, obviously he has the measurables—the height, weight and speed that are good for the position. But what stood out to us about him was that he has pass-rush ability. What is that? That’s a great first step. That’s great explosion. He has the ability to bend the corner and get in on a pass rush, which is an athletic move and an athletic gift. Those are some of the qualities we saw in him. Also he has a relentless pursuit. He will not give up from sideline to sideline. He doesn’t coast if he doesn’t have an angle on a quarterback or a running back. It’s full-blown pursuit. How does he tackle? Is he technically sound? Does his head go down into the ground or is his head up when tackling? Is he disciplined in tackling? We think all of these things are in place for Larry, which is why we highly coveted him and went after him in the first round. Now his future is unfolding. He’s only had one year in San Diego. We expect great things from him. To top it all off for him, he has great desire to be the best. He has a great work ethic; a year-round work ethic. When you have that, it’s going to draw attention. What we’ve seen in the year that he has been here is exactly that. He wants to be very good and he works on it year-round. He works here and he takes care of his body. That’s another thing; are they going to take care of their body through strength and conditioning? He does all those things. So we are very pleased.”
    Q: Of all of the criteria you have to evaluate about each player, how important is a player’s persona and character off the field?
    A.J.: “It’s very important. They have to have great character. Not only is it important to get very good football players, but very productive players. They have to have great work ethic, love the game and be good people. It’s a combination that comes together. We tend to really stick with that for the most part. I think we do a good job of it. If you do all the right things to remain a Charger, we’re going to hang with you. And if not, good luck to you.”
    Q: How do you measure the success of a draft?
    A.J: “You have to wait a few years until you can actually see it unfold. You may have an impactful player in his first year. You may have a player make an impact in the middle of his contract or the last year of the contract. It’s okay if you don’t have an immediate impact. Maybe you’re behind somebody on the depth chart. Maybe it comes in year two or three. Bottom line, you can’t really evaluate the players until the end of their rookie contract. What has he done during that rookie contract to make an impact before he gets a second contract; hopefully with your team rather than moving on to another.
    “I know that people would like players to make an immediate impact. Sometimes that’s not the case. Expectations are higher with first and second-round players than they are with those selected toward the back-end of the draft, which is traditionally your sixth or seventh rounders. Some early choices don’t do much and some late-round choices and free agents have Pro Bowl careers. How does that happen? It happens because of the attributes we try to stick to with our football team. Give a guy an opportunity, and then let his work habits, character, desire and competiveness overtake others.
    “We’ve had a lot of success here and I hope we continue with that in our mid-round, late-round and free agents. It’s all on (the players) and all the credit should go to them when they make a name for themselves. They did it in high school. They did it in college, which is why we were attracted to their work ethic. And we gave them an opportunity. It’s very satisfying to see someone come in here from the back end of the draft or as a free agent and do wonderful things. Yes, we want the impactful guys to be in the first, second and third rounds, and we’ve had some. We are patient. Would I be disappointed if somebody was drafted and went the entire five years and never had an impact? Sure. We strive to be a team with a high-percentage success rate and I think we’ve done that. If you have a high-percentage rate, it usually means you’re pretty successful.”
    Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received that has helped you in this business?
    A.J: “Do the very best job that you can. Believe in your abilities. Have a plan. Have a philosophy and stick to it. Be aware of this fact: no matter what you do, there will be people who will think you are not very good and will not like you, and will think you are not very successful. And no matter what you do, there will be people who will think you are doing a good job, you’re heading in the right direction, just keep going and one day you’ll make it. That has been so true each and every year that I’ve been on the job. I spend all of my time and energy trying to work with good people to get that done. Nothing will ever change. Some will disagree and it’s their right to say whatever they want, but I certainly don’t have to engage them.”
    Q: How do you measure your performance as a general manager?
    A.J.: “I leave that for others. Success to me is winning a world championship. That’s all I think about. That’s all I care about. Only one team does that per year. We have not achieved that. So as far as I’m concerned we’re just building a championship-level team on a yearly basis, but we’re not successful until we hoist the trophy. I’d like us to have a playoff-caliber team every year. I’d like for us to always be in postseason play and have a chance to win a championship. I take pride in the fact that we’ve been doing that and have had many opportunities in the postseason. We’ve won many Western Division championships, which is a goal of ours because it means we’re in the playoffs, which is the sole purpose. We’re going to keep banging away and hopefully we’ll have a successful 2010. I hope at the end of 2010, the Chargers are in postseason again. The chase for the championship will begin again.”
  2. ntman68

    ntman68 Well-Known Member

    Aug 16, 2006
    I'm so fired up for the draft. Let's get to some frickin' football!
  3. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    2 close picks raise Bolts' expectations

    Chargers haven’t drafted in 2nd round since 2007

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    The prospects for this draft, the expectations of what could be done to make the Chargers better, increased last month when the Chargers moved up 20 spots in the second round.
    Mostly, it was in General Manager A.J. Smith’s voice as he talked about the trade with Seattle that included the Chargers getting the eighth pick in the second round. Rarely does Smith give away excitement like that.
    Head coach Norv Turner, too, was uncharacteristically ebullient.
    “It was really good for us,” Turner said. “It’s like having another first-round pick.”
    The Chargers’ regular-season success has again stuck them near the bottom of the first round on Thursday, where they will pick 28th for the second time in six Aprils and 27th or lower for the fourth time in the seven first-round picks they’ve exercised since 2005. But this time they get to pick again just 12 spots later.
    The Chargers haven’t even had a second-round pick since 2007, having traded their ’08 selection to Miami for Chris Chambers and their ’09 second-round spot to New England for the right to move up to select Jacob Hester.
    For this year’s draft, which several league observers and personnel people say has “first-round talent” well beyond the first round, the trade opened up several possibilities for the Chargers.
    There are running backs that will be available at 40 that would not be at 60. There are nose tackles and safeties, too, that likely won’t be sticking around the extra 20 spots.
    Each draft has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it is a dubious proposition to attempt to predict what the Chargers will get at No. 28 and then at No. 40.
    However, they don’t have to look far for some historical perspective. They spent the 28th pick in 2005 on defensive end Luis Castillo, who has provided them with promising moments interrupted by injuries.
    Smith was a scout with the Buffalo Bills in 1988 when that organization used the 40th pick to take running back Thurman Thomas, who played 13 seasons and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.
    Tampa Bay took Derrick Brooks 28th in 1998. Michael Strahan was selected 40th by the New York Giants in 1993. That’s about it for big names.
    The Patriots selected linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer 28th in 1999 and he was out of the league in 2001 with a neck injury. The Titans selected Andre Woolfolk 28th in 2003 and let him go after the ’07 season. He has not played since.
    The Saints appear to have a good cornerback in Tracy Porter, who was the 40th pick in 2008. The Dolphins got quarterback John Beck with that pick the previous year.
    What all that history means is nebulous.
    Smith wants to make his own history by filling some holes. He has said he doesn’t need a Hall of Fame running back for the Chargers to be successful. The Chargers like their defensive line rotation but would like to get a top-flight player who could play inside. They would like a safety with elite speed.
    These two picks at least afford them a better chance to get some of that done.
  4. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    I'll give AJ some serious love if he follows through on this. :yes:
  5. foober

    foober BoltTalker

    Aug 17, 2006
    Thats what I'm thinking. WE need 3 early picks. WE've got two of them now. We need one more 2nd round pick.

    Needs and wants,a good rb, d-L, and a fast play making saftey. Get those three guys in this draft and we scored big.
  6. Chavez

    Chavez Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Guess that means we're not drafting cody! :lol:


    Oct 4, 2009

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