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It's now or never for AJ Smith

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Blue Bolt, Apr 25, 2012.

  1. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

    Oct 28, 2009
    CHARGERS ANALYSIS: Smith needs successful draft to right ship
    April 24, 2012 5:44 pm • By SCOTT BAIR sbair@nctimes.com

    SAN DIEGO ---- A.J. Smith can draft. His track record speaks to that.

    It also says that nobody's perfect.

    The Chargers general manager is chiefly responsible for the Chargers' run of success, and he has had a huge hand in the team's recent bout of mediocrity.

    Personnel evaluators like to have their picks reach their draft potential in their third and sometimes fourth season, with a few quick studies making faster contributions.

    So it's no surprise that weak drafts from 2007 to 2009 have caught up to Smith and his Chargers ---- just five starters in 21 picks and only seven remain on the roster ---- and forced them to take a different tack this offseason.

    The Chargers were uncharacteristically aggressive during free agency, loading up on offense and special teams with 17 unrestricted free-agent signings that added veteran talent to further the team's most pressing needs.

    The Chargers must win right now. While Dean Spanos' decision to retain Smith and head coach Norv Turner after the 2011 season seemed like a commitment to the status quo, it was anything but. Spanos gave his charges one more chance to get it right.

    Another year like the last two and both are on the way out. The message was clear. Right the ship or walk the plank.

    That inferred ultimatum will impact most everything the Chargers do, including how they act this draft. A.J. Smith needs to find an immediate impact player in the early rounds, and he can't be afraid to move up to get him.

    If they believe in the value of either strong safety Mark Barron or Harrison Smith, the Chargers must make a move to go get that player in the first or second round, respectively. The Chargers can survive next season without a top-flight offensive guard or nose tackle. They can't live without a safety. They could certainly use another quality pass rusher.

    In a perfect world, a quality linebacker like USC linebacker Nick Perry falls to the Chargers at No. 18 and then the Chargers do what is necessary to move up in the second round to draft Harrison Smith.

    A.J. Smith is comfortable being aggressive in draft-day trades, making bold moves to acquire running back Ryan Mathews and free safety Eric Weddle.

    A.J. Smith has hit home runs before. Consider the 2005 draft, where he took linebacker Shawne Merriman, defensive lineman Luis Castillo, receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Darren Sproles with consecutive picks. That draft was near perfect, with two immediate starters and two players who developed into stars.

    The Chargers' general manager has proven he knows what to do with a second-round pick. He's taken Jackson, Weddle and tackle Marcus McNeill in that round. He has one at his disposal this season, and it could prove invaluable to facilitate an ascent in the first round or a strong selection in the second.

    The Chargers didn't have a second-round pick from 2008-10 ---- some of those helped Smith acquire Weddle and running back Jacob Hester ---- but the aftereffects are being felt today.

    So has recent weakness in first-round picks. Receiver Buster Davis never panned out after being taken in 2007, cornerback Antoine Cason (No. 27 in 2008) has had struggles in recent seasons and 2009 first-rounder Larry English has never been a contributor. Mathews has been strong but is oft-injured a remains inconsistent. 2011 first-rounder Corey Liuget was a rookie starter but didn't make a huge impact. 2006 first-rounder Antonio Cromartie is talented but is no longer with the organization.

    In 2012, A.J. Smith needs a redux of 2005, when Merriman and Castillo were first-rounders who able to make an instant impact.

    There's no time for mistakes, or even slow development. A home run in the early rounds, especially with a starting safety in the mix, will put the Chargers right back on track. Another early miss will curb development and keep the Chargers from reclaiming a throne lost following two seasons of mediocrity.
  2. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    I'm thinking Hightower around 22 is looking good.

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