Smith was credited for resurrecting the Chargers franchise with strong draft classes in his early years as general manager. Ultimately, recent draft disappointments and free-agency failures led to his dismissal after the 2012 season.
The 2013 draft was significant for a number of reasons. For Smith's replacement, Tom Telesco, the draft was the first opportunity to show the Chargers they made the right choice in hiring him. For the fans and analysts, it was the first opportunity to see the direction of the Chargers' new regime. And for the team, it was an opportunity to rebuild a roster that has missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.
After all the speculation and anticipation, the 2013 draft is in the books and the Chargers didn't disappoint. Here's a look at how the three-day draft unfolded for the Chargers.
As many draft analysts predicted, there was a run on offensive linemen to start the draft. The Chargers went on the clock with the 11th pick, having just watched the top five offensive line prospects come off the board. With an obvious need to bolster the offensive line, the Chargers selected Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker.
While it's debatable whether Fluker was the "best player available" when the Chargers selected, they were certainly justified in adding the 6'5", 340-pound tackle to their roster.
Fluker is a significant upgrade over incumbent right tackle Jeremy Clary and allows the Chargers to either reposition Clary to guard or free up cap space by releasing him.
On the second day of the draft, the Chargers added two players who had at times been considered first-round talents. In the second round, the Chargers traded a pick to move up seven spots to secure enigmatic linebacker Manti Te'o. In the third round, the Chargers selected playmaking wide receiver Keenan Allen.
Te'o, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, was thought to be a top-10 pick before a strange sequence of events off the field lowered his draft stock. Te'o's girlfriend hoax was bizarre, to say the least, but his genuine performance on the field at Notre Dame makes him an exciting addition to the Chargers defense.
The departure of veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes left a talent and leadership void that the Chargers hope Te'o can fill.
Allen was projected to be a late-first-round pick before injury concerns pushed him down the draft boards. Assuming he's fully recovered from a knee injury that ended his 2012 season, Allen should be a welcome addition to an injury-prone receiving group.
The addition of Allen is a also a great move for the future considering starters Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander will be free agents in 2014.
While the selection of Manti Te'o in the second round was a solid addition to the Chargers defense, it came at a price. That price was a fourth-round selection in this year's draft.
The Chargers' new regime inherited a roster filled with holes and an unfavorable salary-cap situation. With that being the case, the draft was an excellent opportunity to fill those holes without breaking the bank.
I'm not convinced the Chargers needed to trade up to get Te'o, and I'm less convinced that Te'o will represent better value than if the Chargers had selected someone else at their scheduled pick and then drafted another player in the fourth round. In my mind, two players are better than one.
After forfeiting their selection in the fourth round, the Chargers selected cornerback Steve Williams in the fifth round. At 5'9", Williams lacks the size to cover the prototypical wideout in the NFL. The Chargers needed to add a corner who could compete for one of the spots vacated by former starters Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason. Williams is more likely to compete for a spot in dime coverage and on special teams.
The Chargers closed out the draft with a couple of head-scratching picks by selecting defensive end/linebacker Tourek Williams and quarterback Brad Sorenson in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively.
Both players are from smaller schools with questionable competition and don't figure to be on the opening day roster when the Chargers break camp.
Williams is a defensive end who was projected to be a situational pass-rusher in a 4-3 defensive scheme. The Chargers run a 3-4 defensive scheme and Williams lacks the size to play defensive end and the speed to play linebacker in the NFL. At best, he'll contribute on special teams.
Sorenson will be a camp QB who will keep the ball in the air while Rivers and Whitehurst take water breaks. At best, he'll be chucking passes to receivers and tight ends on the practice squad come September.
The worst part of the Chargers' draft is who they didn't select. The Chargers' biggest need before entering the draft was finding a left tackle to protect their franchise quarterback. Seventy-two hours later, that need still exists.
The Chargers also needed to add a defensive tackle. The departures of Aubrayo Franklin and Antonio Garay leave the Chargers with Cam Thomas as the only defensive tackle on the roster. In a 3-4 defense, the defensive tackle is essential to clog up the middle and anchor the defensive line.
The Bottom Line
The Chargers added talent in the early rounds with the selections of Fluker, Te'o and Allen, but the loss of a fourth-round pick and a disappointing third day make this draft mediocre at best.
Telesco failed to address the team's biggest needs and will now have to rely on thrift-shop veterans in the second phase of free agency.
The Chargers needed to have a very productive draft and add seven players who could contribute right away. They walk away with four players who should make the team and only two (Fluker and Te'o) who make an immediate impact.