Written by: Barry Lewis on April 23, 2011
While many teams failed to execute on making good picks after making in-draft trades, the San Diego Chargers were not one of them.
The Chargers failed to make the playoffs last year in part because their team was decimated with injuries and holdouts. In one way, shape of form, RB Ryan Matthews, TE Antonio Gates, WR Vincent Jackson, and RB/FB Mike Tolbert all dealt with injury and in the case of Jackson, he dealt with injury as well as holding out for nearly 3 months.
Despite the number of offensive starters dealing with injury, the Chargers battled back from a 2-5 start which is typical head coach Norv Turner-style to finish the year at 9-7. Turner still has a job. Their season was essentially lost in weeks 5 and 6 after losses to the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams and with losses to the Raiders and Bengals in weeks 13 and 16 after defeating the Colts, Chiefs, Broncos and Niners.
The Chargers are in need of an infusion of talent. They need to ensure that they have a quality tight end if Antonio Gates gets hurt again. They appear to have two solid running backs in Matthews and Tolbert. They have franchised Vincent Jackson once again with no end in sight if he is going to get a long-term contract.
They also need a rush linebacker if OLB Larry English does not break through. They need a defensive end as Jacques Cesaire is a free agent. They could use an upgrade at right tackle. Additionally, linebackers Kevin Burnett, Stephen Cooper, Brandon Siler and safety Eric Weddle are all free agents.
The Chargers made two draft day deals with the Redskins and the Bills.
The Chargers trade with the Redskins enabled them to move up and grab DE JJ Watt at pick 10. They just found their replacement with Cesaire at this pick who should provide immediate relief on the defensive line. With their 2nd round pick, they grabbed ILB/OLB Martez Wilson who will fit on the inside or outside depending on which one of three linebackers are not resigned. In the early 3rd round, WR Titus Young, who is graded out in the 2nd round, was selected and can provide relief as a #2/#3 wideout for QB Philip Rivers, especially if WR Malcolm Floyd is not retained.
The Chargers continued to reload its defensive middle by selection ILB Quan Sturdivant, who did not participate in the combine, but is still considered a 3rd round grade and is well-known as a quality 2-down interior linebacker. The final three picks for the Chargers in this draft were: OT Derek Newton, TE Lee Smith, and C Alex Linnenkohl.
Newton will immediately challenge for a starting job on the right side of the line and graded out as a 5th/6th round draft pick so he should be considered a bit of a reach at pick 122. Smith is a hulking tight end who should provide some good depth and is regarded as a pretty good inline blocker. Linnenkohl is a 7th round grade who may be a long term project as a solution for the interior line including center, his natural position.
The Chargers draft was just overall solid. Watt, Wilson, Young, Sturdivant and Newton should all be solid pros and make a positive impact for the Chargers in year one. While many pundits will say that this group of draftees are not overall “studs”, this group of draftees should be important contributors to the Chargers if this is the direction that the team decided to go for in this weekends’ NFL Draft. The Chargers will still have a lot of issues that need to be addressed with their other pending free agents, like Weddle and their inside linebackers. This draft gave them some wiggle room to make some of those key decisions.
I give this draft a solid B/B+.