If you were like me and thought AJ Smith was one of the best general managers in the NFL, you and I were both dead wrong. In fact, since the Chargers’ 2004 and 2005 draft classes, they have not had a single draft that yielded even mediocre results, at least as it has to do with the long term, which is what you do in the draft–build for the long term.
The Chargers and their fans hope the 2011 class of players bucks that trend, as they look to rebound from their first non-AFC West championship season in what seems like forever. The Chargers have Philip Rivers, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, which always makes them a threat to win games. And somehow, some way, they found themselves tops in the NFL last year in yards allowed defensively. That is a huge testament to the coaching staff in San Diego, but how long can they keep it up if they can’t keep talented players around?
1. First Round, 18th overall: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Liuget is a guy that I really liked in the pre-draft process, and I think he has solid potential in the NFL, but I thought it would be as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Is Liuget the type of guy that is going to hold the edge down? One area the Chargers needed to upgrade up front was their pass rush, and I think Liuget accomplishes that. In a draft that overall didn’t really impress me, I thought this was an okay pick. I have been lukewarm on it to this point, but I think Liuget has a fantastic skill set, and if the Chargers can get production out of their nose tackle position, Liuget could be the type of guy with his power, strength, and athleticism that could make a serious impact.
Pick Grade: B+
2. Second Round, 50th overall: Marcus Gilchrist, DB, Clemson
Gilchrist was kind enough to talk to NFL Mocks before the draft, and he turned out to be the highest picked player from our pre-draft interviews, I believe. Gilchrist is a versatile cornerback/safety who was productive for the Tigers, and the Chargers will find a place to use him. My question here is what position does Gilchrist play? My guess is he is taking over for Eric Weddle, who appears to be leaving via free agency.
Pick Grade: B
3. Second Round, 61st overall: Jonas Mouton, LB, Michigan
I could bash this pick, but it seems like the more critical the masses are of a pick, the more wrong they are. Mouton was probably one of the better players on arguably the worst defensive units in Michigan history, and my good Michigan friend Nick Hlebichuk of Big Ten Nation thought this was a very questionable pick. I tend to agree with him, because Mouton will be a special teams player who could be forced into a role at inside linebacker because of a lack of depth. We will see how this turns out, but Mouton is an undersized athletic linebacker who I felt was better suited as a special teams player, probably a 6th or 7th round pick.
Pick Grade: C- (my lowest grade)
4. Third Round, 82nd overall: Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State
The Chargers needed some targets in the passing game for Philip Rivers to throw to, and Brown was one of the guys who really impressed me at the Senior Bowl practices. He has good hands, and while he isn’t the fastest receiver, he knows how to get open. I thought this was solid value for the Chargers, who picked up a local guy and someone who can help them on offense right away.
Pick Grade: B
5. Third Round, 89th overall: Shareece Wright, CB, USC
So far, this pick was my favorite of the Chargers’ draft other than the Corey Liuget selection. Wright is a big, fast, physical corner who could step into a nickel or dime role immediately. He is a gamble because of injury history, but he could turn out to be a shrewd selection at this juncture of the draft.
Pick Grade: A
6. Sixth Round, 183rd overall: Jordan Todman, RB, Connecticut
This selection isn’t going to ease the pain of potentially losing Darren Sproles to free agency, but Todman is a solid pick at this point in the draft who has a chance of making the team out of camp. Aside from Ryan Mathews last year, the Chargers have done a terrible job of trying to find a complimentary back in the draft. Mike Tolbert might legitimately be the best back on the entire roster right now. Todman is a quick runner who can make plays, and I think it’s a decent pick.
Pick Grade: B-
7. Sixth Round, 201st overall: Steve Schilling, OL, Michigan
Schilling has the potential to be a starting guard in the NFL, and the Chargers really need the depth on the offensive line. Schilling is the type of blue-collar player that could make the roster out of camp (whenever that is) and compete for a starting job down the road. I thought he was Michigan’s best professional prospect coming into the draft.
Pick Grade: B+
8. Seventh Round, 234th overall: Andrew Gachkar, LB, Missouri
Played four years for the Tigers defense and is regarded as one of the more physical linebackers in the later portion of the draft. The scouting report on Gachkar says he is relentless and was a leader of the Missouri defense, and those are the types of players who can come in and make an impact on special teams right away and eventually crack the rotation. Gachkar was a nice pick by the Chargers in the late rounds, and I like what he brings to the table overall.
Pick Grade: B
Overall Draft Grade: C+
I wasn’t overly impressed with this draft, especially given what the Chargers are losing in free agency. They have not been drafting well at all over the last few years, and I don’t think this draft was much different at least on paper. They got some athletic and talented players, but as has been the case, the Chargers really reached for a lot of guys and didn’t get good value with hardly any of their picks. This was one of my worst grades for 2011, but I refuse to believe any draft class does not have potential without seeing it on the field.
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