San Diego Chargers: Grading the Team's First Round of 2012 NFL Draft

Mike Walkusky@mwalkuskyContributor IApril 27, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Melvin Ingram of South Carolina holds up a jersey as he stands on stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was selected #18 overall by the San Diego Chargers in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

With the 18th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers surprisingly had the highly-rated Melvin Ingram out of South Carolina fall right into their lap.

Chargers fans across Southern California held their collective breath as they expected A.J. Smith to flub yet another first-round pick. Luckily, they were allowed to rejoice as Smith decided to pop Ingram with the 18th pick.

The defensive end out of South Carolina was considered by many scouts as the top pass-rusher heading into the draft.

Why the ultra talented Ingram fell to #18 is anyone's guess. One might point to Ingram's tyrannosaurus-rex arms—which measure in at just 30.5 inches—or his short 6'2" frame as the primary reasons for falling to the Chargers at No. 18. However, there's little doubt that Ingram's pros on the field far outweigh his cons.

Despite weighing in at a sturdy 262 pounds, Ingram is a fantastic athlete. College football fans may remember his impressive 68-yard touchdown run on a fake punt against the Georgia Bulldogs.

Ingram's combine numbers confirm the freakish athleticism he flashed on his fake punt touchdown run.

At the combine, Ingram ran a 4.79 40-yard dash, 4.18 in the 20-yard shuttle and a 6.83 in the three cone drill. Additionally, Ingram recorded a 34.5 inch vertical leap.

Also, Ingram appeared on Sport Science, where he further demonstrated that he is an athletic freak of nature for his size.

In order to make up for his short arms, Ingram uses both quick hands and fantastic leverage to get past opposing blockers. Although Ingram lacks the quick first step of many elite pass-rushers, he possesses an array of efficient pass-rush moves—including fantastic spin and rip moves—that help him get into the backfield. 

Steve Spurrier lined up Ingram all over the field during his career as a Gamecock. Ingram was initially an inside linebacker, then Spurrier switched him over to defensive tackle. Finally, Spurrier let him shine as a defensive end during his final season.

The versatility possessed by Ingram should lead to a seamless transition from a college defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

Ingram's ability to play all over the field also led to him becoming adept in coverage—which is a skill most college defensive ends have a problem with during their transition to a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. Ingram's ball skills are further illustrated by his inclusion on South Carolina's "hands" team.

The Chargers have a pass-rushing specialist in Antwan Barnes and also signed Jarret Johnson in the offseason to help seal the edge against the run. However, Ingram has the potential to be the total package—both a fantastic pass-rusher and great against the run.

The versatility of Ingram is reminiscent of how people talked about Von Miller throughout last year's draft process. However, that does not mean that Ingram compares favorably to Miller's style of play.

Many scouts have compared Ingram to LaMarr Woodley of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two players have very similar styles of play, and the Chargers will be overjoyed if Ingram produces like Woodley has for the Steelers.

The Chargers have to be thanking their lucky stars that the Seattle Seahawks made the bonehead move of the first round by taking Bruce Irvin at No. 15 over Ingram.

Irvin has all of the measurables to be a dominant pass-rusher in the NFL, but he performed so poorly at West Virginia that he was benched. On the other hand, Ingram was the centerpiece of an SEC defense that featured a number of NFL prospects. 

Ingram was an absolute steal for the Chargers at No. 18. It can be argued that David DeCastro might have filled a bigger need for the Chargers due to the huge hole left at guard as a result of Kris Dielman's unfortunate retirement. However, Ingram appeared to be the best player available and also fills a need for San Diego.

Moving forward in the draft, it will be difficult to pinpoint exactly who the Chargers will target. The team still has a number of holes that need to be filled. SS, CB, OG and OT all remain pressing needs. 

Some possible targets that the Chargers could be looking at on Day 2 are: Cordy Glenn, Kelechi Osemele, Mike Adams, Jonathan Martin, Trumaine Johnson, Josh Robinson, George Iloka, Amini Silatolu and Casey Hayward.

Chargers First Round Draft Grade: A

Mike Walkusky is a featured columnist on Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter