Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: San Diego Chargers

Despite their inconsistency and underachieving, the Chargers made the playoffs in 2008. They started to show their true colors at the end of the season, winning three straight to win the AFC West and then bouncing the Colts in the Wild Card round. They were brought back to Earth by the eventual Super Bowl champions but showed that they aren't a team to take lightly at any time. The question is now if the Chargers can duplicate their recent success and play more consistently. They are undoubtedly the best team, on paper, in the West once again.

The Chargers defense has been considered one of the premiere units in the league for some time now. However, they were exposed last season. Their secondary was atrocious, giving up almost 250 yards per game and ranked second-to-last in The League. The problem was teams almost had to throw on them; the rush defense was pretty good (11th; just over 100 yards allowed per game). They were about average in giving up close to 22 points per game. If the secondary can overcome its shortcomings then the 'D' certainly will be one of the NFLs best. On the flip side the offense, well, flipped. Once considered a rushing team the Chargers finished the 2008 season ranked 20th in yards per game on the ground. Philip Rivers took over the 'O' from LaDainian Tomlinsom and averaged 241.1 yards per game through the air (7th in The League). The aerial attack, and key runs, helped make the Chargers offense the second best in the NFL averaging nearly four TDs per game.

Norv Turner's shortcomings are well documented. Is he the coach to lead this talent-rich franchise to glory? He's failed elsewhere but has never had a team quite as talented as this one. Shawne Merriman returns from injury and the secondary looks to rebound. If the coaching staff and players reach their potential then this team should challenge the other AFC front runners. In the draft San Diego didn't need too much immediate help; depth was key. Did they get it?

1/16/16 - Larry English, DE/OLB, Northern Illinois
3/14/78 - Louis Vasquez, OG, Texas Tech
4/13/113 - Vaughn Martin, DT, Western Ontario
4/33/133 - Tyronne Greene, OG, Auburn
4/34/134 - Gartrell Johnson, RB, Colorado State
5/12/148 -
Brandon Hughes, CB, Oregon State
6/16/189 - Kevin Ellison, S, USC
7/15/224 - Demetrius Byrd, WR, LSU

  • DL - Check!
  • OL - Check!
  • S - Check!
  • RB - Check!
The Chargers are the first team to fill every need listed on NFL.com since the Packers were graded (the Lions did, too). They could have used a DE to go with their Canadian bacon DT as well as an OT with their OGs. But they did fill the four areas in desperate need of depth. See how each individual pick grades out below.

GRADE: 90/100

Pick 1 - This is one of the first round picks that took everyone by surprise, up there with Heyward-Bey to the Raiders and Moreno to the Broncos. Was this needed? Should the Chargers be using a first round pick on an OLB when they have Shaun Phillips, Jyles Tucker and, oh yeah, Shawne Merriman? Well perhaps Merriman isn't 100% healthy? Or maybe they're prepared to let him walk when he is a free agent? Who knows, but, though I liked English, I think the Chargers had many other needs they should have addressed like OT and DE that this was a luxury pick they couldn't afford now. It's still a better pick than Heyward-Bey and Moreno though. Grade: 7

Pick 2 - Despite a need position, Vasquez was not the wisest choice by the Chargers. Kraig Urbik, taken one pick later, should have been the selection. Vasquez needs some mobility work as he appears stiff and has mediocre footwork on the move, meaning he isn't the best run blocker. He is tenacious, however, and with a year or two of development behind Kris Dielman and Kynan Forney he could develop into am above average guard. Instead of Vasquez I would have gone Urbik or OT T.J. Lang. OT was a bigger need than OG. Grade: 5

Pick 3 - Sammie Lee Hill. Terrance Taylor. Myron Pryor. Those are all DTs that could play NT in a 3-4 that were available at the time Canadian prospect Vaughn Martin was selected. Martin, who was way under the radar of many teams, worked out at the Michigan Pro Day. He was actually drafted before any Michigan (or Miami-FL) players. The Canadian faced very weak competition, most likely on par with Division 2 or 3 schools. He is incredibly raw but, given two or so years, he may become serviceable. He is not ready now. Grade: 4

Pick 4 - Yep, another guard despite the glaring need for - and availability of - OTs. The selections of Vasquez and now Greene are not awful picks. They drastically improved their depth which was a tad suspect. But they need an OT, someone to backup and eventually supplant Jeromey Clary. At 133 the Chargers could have grabbed Troy Kropog, Xavier Fulton, Fenuki Tupou, Andrew Gardner, or Lydon Murtha. Greene was actually considered a drastically better prospect than Vasquez. So they got value but exhibited positional overkill instead of grabbing any of those OTs - who also would have been a nice value. Grade: 6

Pick 5 - Johnson in the fourth round, in front of Javon Ringer, Cedric Peerman, James Davis, and Rashad Jennings? I know the Chargers have had success with mid and late round RBs but there appears to be a lot more value in someone more ready - for at least a role position - in these others I listed. Johnson has time to develop, sitting behind Tomlinson and Sproles for at least a year. But for him to be the next Darren Sproles (who was the next Michael Turner) he needs to learn to read defenses and hit the hole better. Grade: 5

Pick 6 - There were some better options - Victor Harris, Cary Harris, Don Carey, Coye Francies, Mike Mickens - but overall this wasn't a terrible pick. As I stated earlier, the Chargers had an awful secondary which was a big reason they had such an inconsistent regular season. Getting some help from a rookie is always a plus, though I don't think he'll beat out Jammer, Cromartie, Cason, or Gordon. At least not in 2009. Grade: 5

Pick 7 - Hopefully this pick came down to Ellison or Courtney Greene, the two best safeties left. San Diego made the wise move in going with Ellison who is in the mold of Roy Williams but better in coverage. He doesn't read defenses all that great but that can be taught by a good coach. He is extremely smart which bodes well for rapid development. Given time he could push aside Clinton Hart, something Chargers fans may love. Grade: 7

Pick 8 - Good to see Byrd get a shot after his accident a few days before the draft. Anyway, Byrd was seen as a mid round pick prior to the incident so, as long as he makes a full recovery, which is expected, Byrd was a steal. He'll be more of a flanker or slot guy but has good top end speed. He must be committed to football to make an impact, something that has been questioned in the past. Hopefully he'll prove the Chargers right in giving him a chance. Grade: 6

GRADE: 45/80


I think the Chargers were attempting to go with BPA - best player available. All big boards are different so there is a likelihood that all these players were at (or near) the top of San Diego's board when their pick came up. They seem to be thinking two or three years down the road. That's when English, the guards, Martin, and Ellison could all be starters. I have to stress could. If that's the case then this is a fantastic draft that would be regraded an A for sure.


WHY: Too much development needed and not enough instant impact. It says a lot when your instant impact guy is English, who won't start as a rookie. At least not with Phillips and a healthy Merriman. Again, this could prove to be a great class - in two or three years. Based on perceived value at hand, they made some reaches and overlooked a position or two which hurts their grade.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Greene
Worst Pick: Johnson
Sleeper: Byrd
Instant Impact: English
Developmental: Martin

OTHER DRAFT GRADES - San Diego Chargers
CBS Sports (Prisco): C-
CBS Sports (Rang): C+
ESPN (Kiper): C+
NFL.com (Brooks): N/A (as of May 11)
NFL.com (Fan's): B
Walter: B



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