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After ho-hum drafts, Smith needs impact players

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    [​IMG] / AP
    UCLA junior defensive tackle Brian Price announces he will forgo his remaining college eligibility and make himself available for the upcoming NFL draft, at a news conference on the campus in Los Angeles Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    The past three Chargers drafts have brought players picked in the first round who thus far have combined for very little return on an investment of around $36 million.
    The lack of impact by the trio has only been amplified by the fact those three years came on the heels of three years in which Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith scored pretty quickly with his first-round selections. Rivers, Merriman, Castillo and Cromartie all made an impact to varying degrees inside their first three NFL seasons.
    Not so, the most recent three.
    Buster Davis’ body hasn’t cooperated with our timeline or his since he was the 30th pick in 2007. Antoine Cason (27th in ’08) and Larry English (16th in ’09) were drafted with the intent of biding their time as they provided depth.
    “If you had success with players who had an immediate impact … if you don’t have that, the first-rounder tends to get labeled,” Smith said. “I don’t think any first-round draft pick should be evaluated until the course of that first contract is run.”
    Yes, Davis, Cason and English (and the man who drafted them) need more time before a true appraisal can be made. But still, A.J., how about taking an impact player tonight with the 28th pick?
    One thing that could change the immediate perception of tonight’s pick is that the Chargers don’t figure to be taking a player they have the luxury of bringing along relatively slowly — as they have the past three drafts.
    In fact, with a need for a No. 1 running back and the desire to upgrade on the defensive line and at safety, the Chargers’ first three picks should be players they expect to contribute right away.
    With the NFL draft moving to prime time, it will also take its time, lasting three days. Only the first round will be completed tonight.
    Thus, a look at the cluster of players the Chargers could consider when their turn comes at No. 28, sometime after 7 p.m.:
    Brian Price, defensive lineman, UCLA, 6-feet-1, 303 pounds
    Price is referred to here as a defensive lineman — rather than specifying tackle or end — because he can play inside or outside and would fit in well with what the Chargers are doing on the line. Jamal Williams is gone. Stop thinking pure 3-4 with Ron Rivera as the defensive coordinator and line coach Don Johnson mixing up a rotation. Price could provide for many years the kind of disruptive force the Chargers need upfront. He explodes off the line, has no character issues and is super strong.
    (Projections have Price going somewhere in the final few picks of the first round or early in the second. No one has him going this high, which would make him the perfect Smith pick.)
    Taylor Mays, safety, USC, 6-3, 230:
    Mays is a ferocious hitter who is a little bigger and a lot faster than former Trojans teammate Kevin Ellison. That could make him Ellison’s replacement or prompt a move to strong safety by Eric Weddle. The downside is that, as has been the problem of late with the Chargers’ defensive backs, Mays is not a game-changing playmaker. He had just five interceptions in three seasons at USC. But his positives would make him a solid addition as an immediate starter.
    (Most project Mays to be gone by No. 28, but there is also thought he could fall to the second round.)
    Dan Williams, nose tackle, Tennessee, 6-2, 327:
    This is the pick that would have fans immediately declaring Smith’s first-round drought over. Williams is a prototypical run-stopper with a low center of gravity and above-average strength. He dropped 30 pounds from a year ago and is being considered the top “nose” in the draft after a stellar senior season.
    (Williams probably doesn’t make it past Arizona at No. 26, if the Cardinals are fortunate enough to have him fall that far.)
    Ryan Mathews, running back, Fresno State, 6-0, 218:
    Mathews is perhaps the best all-around back in the draft, and his availability could prompt the Chargers to address their running back need first. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he is fast enough and breaks tackles. He has been the most talked about possibility with this pick.
    (It is increasingly believed the Houston Texans will take Mathews at No. 20.)
    Jared Odrick, defensive end, Penn State, 6-5, 304:
    Odrick is listed as a tackle but would play outside for the Chargers. He is strong and quick enough, though he will find tougher matchups in the NFL.
    (This might be a little high for him to be taken. A late bloomer of sorts, he is also an ideal Smith pick.)
    Terrence Cody, nose tackle, Alabama, 6-4, 349:
    There will be times he reminds one of Jamal Williams because of his ability to get off blocks and his size. But Cody isn’t as strong as Williams and there are worries about his weight and durability.
    (This could be a reach, despite Cody’s enormous potential.)

    A look at some players with local ties who might be drafted or signed by NFL teams (in alphabetical order):
    Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State (Carlsbad HS)
    Strengths: Was one of the most efficient passers in the nation last season. Very accurate and has experience in a pro-style offense.
    Weaknesses: Arm strength wasn’t all there at the Combine, but coaches seem to think that a couple of years in the pros will correct that.
    Quotable: “I’m planning to have 40-50 people over on Saturday,” Canfield said. “Either it will be a celebration that I got picked on Friday, or we’ll just be sitting and waiting.”
    Projection: Middle rounds.
    Gabriel Derricks, DB, USD
    Strengths: Has the physical size NFL coaches like in their defensive backs. Likes contact.
    Weaknesses: Like every other USD player before him, small-school stigma will hurt.
    Quotable: “I leave my heart on the field no matter what the score is,” Derricks said. “When you look back at film, even when we’re losing or down 20 against good teams, you’ll see me chasing the tailback down on the other side of the field. I’m never the kind of guy that gives up. Hopefully that’s what they see and will recognize.”
    Projection: Late-round pick or undrafted free agent.
    Luke Laolagi, LB, SDSU
    Strengths: Good motor, hard worker, hard hitter.
    Weaknesses: Probably undersized for the position in the NFL, but could contribute on scout team or special teams.
    Quotable: “When you look at the body of work, activeness on tape, he’s got pretty good skills running and hitting, and I think he’s a special teams guy, or a guy who could develop,” said SDSU coach Brady Hoke.
    Projection: Undrafted free agent.
    J.T. Rogan, RB/KR, USD (Coronado HS)
    Strengths: Solid work ethic with good speed and elusiveness. Could land on a practice squad.
    Weaknesses: Severe knee injury in the 2008 season might scare some teams off.
    Quotable: “I feel as good now as I did before I injured the knee,” Rogan said. “I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in and can really help out a team.”
    Projection: Undrafted free agent.
    Nick Sandford, S, SDSU
    Strengths: Impressed at SDSU’s pro day. Good contact hitter with developing ball instincts.
    Weaknesses: A pectoral muscle injury during pro day limited his upper body workout so he might not have been able to fully showcase himself.
    Quotable: “Nick Sandford should be an outstanding special teams player in the NFL,” writes Gil Brandt of NFL.com.
    Projection: Late-round draft pick or undrafted free agent.
    Roberto Wallace, WR, SDSU (Oceanside HS)
    Strengths: Physically gifted athlete with prototypical size (6-4, 215) and speed.
    Weaknesses: Had some drops in college and, according to scouts, that could haunt him.
    Quotable: “When you have a guy that is 6-4 plus and runs well and is a physical guy, there is always a place for a guy like that on your football team,” Hoke said.
    Projection: Late-round draft pick or undrafted free agent.

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