Lessons Learned from San Diego Chargers' AJ Smith's 2012 Draft Strategy

Sigmund BloomNFL Draft Lead WriterJuly 18, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 18:  San Diego Chargers Gerneral Manager A.J. Smith attends LaDainian Tomlinson's announcement of his retirement from professional football, after signing a one-day contract with the San Diego Chargers and being immediately released by the club, on June 18, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)
Kent Horner/Getty Images

Few general managers give us more to chew on as draft analysts than the San Diego Chargers' A.J. Smith. The team missed the playoffs for the second straight season in 2011 after winning five of the last six AFC West championships.

What would Smith do to stop bleeding, and how can we use it learn about his strategy and philosophy?


A.J. Smith Can Admit He Made a Mistake

The choice of Larry English at No. 16 in 2009 was supposed to give the Chargers the extra pass-rush punch needed to keep their defense elite well into the next decade. English has been either hurt, on the bench or ineffective for most of his first three seasons.

When Bruce Irvin became the first pass rusher off of the board and the New York Jets opted for Quinton Coples, a window opened for the Chargers to get a unique prospect who can rush the passer as an outside linebacker but also line up as a defensive tackle and drop into coverage. By investing in Melvin Ingram, Smith is signalling that barring a major turnaround this year, English's shot to become a long-term piece of the Chargers defense is over.


The Chargers Don't Think Their Offense is the Problem

For the second straight year, the team used its first three picks on the defensive side of the ball. Going back to 2009, 10 of the Chargers' top 12 picks have been on defense. The picks have included three defensive linemen, two strong safeties, two outside linebackers and two inside linebackers—a complete front seven. 

If the front seven doesn't gel this year and start to get the Chargers back among the top defenses in the league, it will be hard to give A.J. Smith a pass since he has spent so many resources on the defensive side of the ball.