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Chargers Draft Redux

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, May 24, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    By Loren S. Casuto

    <img width="159" height="160" align="left" alt="BoltTalk" title="BoltTalk" src="http://www.bolttalk.com/images/bolttalkcontent28rs.jpg" />Hello Charger fans one and all!
    Well the excitement of the NFL Draft has come and gone with plenty of surprises. Before I break down the Chargers draft, here are four things that ran through my mind as the draft unfolded:

    1. Mario Williams has no chance of earning respect from the media. I think the Texans made a smart decision in going for an amazing pass rusher over Bush because the Texans need a defensive end over a running back. The Texans will, at some point, need to leapfrog the Colts and the teams that have beaten Peyton Manning (including the Chargers) had someone in Manning's face almost all day (e.g. Shawne Merriman). And the Texans have good players at special teams (Jerome Mathis) and running back (Vernand Morency & Dominick Davis). But because of Bush's hype coming into the draft, it will never be fair to Williams. If Bush is even mediocre, then Mario Williams will have to break every single sack record ever made to get respect. And that's a damn shame.
    2. I think the Cardinals and the Browns had the best drafts of any team in the NFL. The Cardinals improved their offensive line, got their QB of the future, added another offensive weapon and improved their defense and offensive line all in the first five rounds, without a single trade. The Browns, though they did not go after a defensive end, assembled an impressive linebacking corps and added the backup NT they needed.
    3. I do not think any one team bombed on their picks but the Bills and the Vikings win the award for some of the dumbest picks. I know that a lot of teams will reach on need but both teams made some titan reaches. SS Donte Whitner was an acceptable reach for the Bills but John McCargo was a two round jump. The Bills also picked some very marginal talent in the later rounds, but made good selections with their third, fourth and fifth round picks. The Vikings made a good first pick in LB Chad Greenway and their second pick was good too (CB Cedric Griffin) but from there it went down hill with two enomorous reaches (a 6'7 Center who needs to move to tackle, Ryan Cook, and a extremely small school QB in Tarvaris Jackson who was rated to go in the sixth.
    4. While I admire the passion of Jets and Cowboy fans, they can be a really obnoxious group. At a draft, I am yet to understand why they're acting the same way they do at their home stadium. Maybe this little rant is pushed by jealousy (when's the last time you saw a decent Chargers contingent?) but it still smacks of inappropriateness to do such. Same goes with New York Giant fans.

    Now that I got passing thoughts on the draft off my chest, let's break down the Chargers draft

    First Round: Antonio Cromartie CB Florida State
    I can take some credit for this; I did indeed call it, along with a dozen other mock draft gurus and fans. However I can not take full credit because I had expected Cromartie to be the best choice left on the board. I had no idea that Winston Justice would be there at #19 for us to select and with Justice there I was pulling for the Chargers to select him to solidify the tackle position. General Manager AJ Smith and Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer had other ideas. The vast majority of draft gurus believe Cromartie has the most upside of any player in the draft; 6'2 Cornerbacks with 4.3 speed and ball-hawking ability are a rarity. But because of Cromartie's lack of playing time, established record and his ACL injury, he is also the biggest risk. AJ Smith's last cornerback selection in the first round was Sammy Davis; while there is still the risk, Cromartie is exponentially more talented then Davis and Cromartie should be a staple of the Chargers secondary for a long time.

    Second Round: Marcus McNeil OT Auburn
    This pick took thirty seconds for AJ Smith to make; he really wanted Marcus McNeil. No offensive lineman, even Winston Justice, has a record of accomplishment better then Marcus McNeil. McNeil was the left tackle that led the way for one of the best college running back tandems in the last decade (Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams) as well as not allowing a sack in forty plus games for quarterback Jason Campbell. McNeil has the measurables that make an offensive line coach drool; he's 6'7 330lbs with the wingspan of a 747. If he gets his hands on a defensive lineman, it's game over. He has good pass blocking moves and is a solid run blocker with good speed (at Auburn, he ran sprints with the linebackers) and an ability to get to the second level with ease. McNeil's size is also his disadvantage as he must learn to bend better and must maintain his focus throughout the game. On top of which there's the worry about his back; he does have spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal cord) which is very painful and might limit McNeil's career. The Chargers' medical staff checked McNeil over four times and they found nothing wrong with him; all Charger fans can hope for is that the medical staff is not wrong twice in a row.

    Third Round: Charlie Whitehurst QB Clemson
    Not what most Charger fans had in mind for a third round pick, but the more you think about this pick, the more it makes sense. Whitehurst has great size and intangibles along with good mechanics and an outstanding deep ball. Coming from a family of quarterbacks (his father, David, was quarterback for the Green Bay Packers in the late 70s), Charlie has been groomed for this his entire life. With all that, Whitehurst still needs to be coached and needs to learn to make better decisions. In his career Whitehurst made a lot of dumb mistakes and had great trouble winning important games away; some scouts gloss this over by saying he needs to be coached but if Whitehurst has been groomed to be a QB since day one, how much better can he be? This pick does make sense because the Chargers had only two quarterbacks on their roster prior to the draft, and AJ Feeley is not a quarterback that fans and coaches are confident in. They do need a younger, more effective quarterback to groom as a backup and, if Rivers falters, to push him. Having said that, selecting a quarterback in the third round does not speak highly of the confidence in Rivers' ability. On top of which a third rounder is someone who should make an impact on the team and there was a number of players still available (Ryan O'Callahan, David Pittman) who could help this team immediately. The Chargers passed on them for a quarterback and though the pick makes sense it leaves Charger fans wondering.

    Fourth Round: Brandon Manumaleuna TE Hawaii (St. Louis Rams)
    The Chargers traded their fourth round pick to the St. Louis Rams for a tight end the Rams did not want on their team. Brandon Manumaleuna was a fourth round selection in 2001 and has incredible size and physical talent. He's 6'2 and 288lbs and can run and block well. Charger fans have visions of the second-coming of Alfred Pupunu. But Manumaleuna comes with baggage; the Rams drafted him dreaming of a big tight end that could block, catch and run but were disappointed. In his years in St. Louis he never blocked as well as he could, he never ran with great power and went down very easily for such a big guy. His lack of drive and desire did little to endear himself to the new regime and he was traded. I worry that AJ made the same mistake that the Rams did in falling in love with his measureables and ignoring his personality (very un-like AJ Smith). On top of which, this is a position the Chargers are already strong in. The Chargers have Gates, they acquired Aaron Shea and they still have Ryan Krause; to use a fourth on a tight end seems a bit high to many opinion gurus. In Manumaleuna, Chargers hope they got the perfect jumbo tight end but based on reports I read from the Rams, they got a jumbo shrimp.

    Fifth Round: Tim Dobbins ILB Iowa State
    Like the selection of Charlie Whitehurst, this pick caused a great deal of frustration until you look deeper. Dobbins was a junior college transfer who started his last two years with the Cyclones and made a major impact. He reminds some Charger fans of Steve Foley in attitude and drive; he plays hard every time, every down with great speed and desire and loves to lay the wood on an opposing player. His instincts and pass coverage need work, he lacks range and agility, but these weaknesses can be hidden well as an MLB in a 3-4. At the worst this guy could be a solid special teamer, at best he could be a two down inside linebacker like Randal Godfrey. Now a lot of people, myself included, were angry that we drafted a linebacker, a position that we are incredibly strong at. But every inside linebacker we have is either in the final year of his contract or signed a one year deal. It is conceivable that in 2007 we could lose our entire inside linebacker corps, so depth is needed. Dobbins, at the very least, give the Chargers one linebacker signed past 2007.

    Sixth Round: Jeromey Clary OT Kansas State & Kurt Smith K Virginia
    This started out good and ended with a real "HUH?!?!" moment. Charger fans should be familiar with Jeromey Clary because he helped make Darren Sproles one of the top running backs in the nation. He has great technique, a great attitude, is very experienced and though he does not have the greatest athletic skills, he gets the utmost out of his ability. Clary also brings versatility as he can play both tackle and guard. At the very worst, Clary provides good depth. At his best, Clary could take over at right tackle and become a similar pro to former Charger Vaughn Parker; steady and effective but not spectacular. Clary was the good, and Kurt Smith was the real stunner. Personally speaking, I had never heard of him nor could I find ANYTHING on this guy. No draft website I frequent or guide had any information on him and no draft experts I knew had ever heard of this guy. Finally I consulted a friend in Virginia who told me that Kurt Smith was Virginia's kick off specialist. He is very good at kicking off, over half of his kickoffs were touchbacks, but he was atrocious at kicking field goals. If Dobbins and Whitehurst were head-scratchers, this sent Charger fans straight over the edge. It's 50/50 whether Smith will make the team; all that is known is that Nate Kaeding is confused and angry and so are Charger fans.

    Seventh Round: Chase Page DT North Carolina & Jimmy Martin OL Virginia Tech
    This was the same scenario as the sixth round; one good and one stunner. It was a positive that AJ addressed the defensive tackle area finally, but Chase Page is certainly not what many Charger fans had in mind. Page is 6'4 but only 285lbs, definitely not the nose tackle the Chargers were looking for. Page was a very hard working one gap tackle known for his drive and his positive attitude, but has a real lack of athletic ability. It looks like Page will compete with Derrick Robinson for a backup DE spot. Jimmy Martin was a left tackle at Virginia Tech but will move inside to backup center/guard. Martin has good footwork but is not fast or strong enough to play out at tackle. He looks to be similar to many of the other backup offensive linemen the Chargers have in that he can play multiple positions but will have to beat out Scott Mrzucowski and Wes Sims to earn a roster spot.

    Overall Grade: C
    I had this down to a D+/C- initially but the more I go over the draft, the more there is to like. The selection of Whitehurst and Dobbins do not anger me the way they initially did and both make sense once you think it over. Having said that, there were so many players at need areas that would have been better selections. McNeil and Cromartie have risk but almost unlimited potential. Clary and Martin will help shore up the offensive line, but the selections of Page and Smith still make little sense. The Chargers can not be accurately graded right now because of all the uncertainty, and it is that uncertainty that is the cause of a passing grade only.

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