Re-Grading San Diego Chargers' Past 5 Drafts

Marcelo Villa@@_marcelovillaFeatured Columnist IIIApril 22, 2014

Re-Grading San Diego Chargers' Past 5 Drafts

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    Jason DeCrow

    The San Diego Chargers have come a long way in the draft since the Ryan Leaf debacle of 1998.

    Some of the better years have produced names like LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers (via trade), Shaun Phillips, Vincent Jackson and Eric Weddle to name a few. But fans of the Bolts remember the bad years just as well with picks like Quentin Jammer, Sammy Davis, Craig Davis and Antoine Cason.

    In the past five years, the Chargers have drafted 35 players under two different regimes. A.J. Smith and Norv Turner handled 2009-12, but a lack of consistency in the draft and poor results on the field forced their exit after the 2012 season. Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy make up San Diego's newest regime, which is off to a good start following a postseason run in 2013.

    The last five drafts have been graded based on how each player fared in a Chargers uniform and he lived up to expectations in his respective draft slot.

2009 Draft

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    Jack Smith
    116Larry EnglishF
    378Louis VasquezB+
    4113Vaughn MartinC+
    4133Tyronne GreenC
    4134Gartrell JohnsonF
    5148Brandon HughesF
    6189Kevin EllisonD
    7224Demetrius ByrdF

    Analysis: The 2009 class may have produced San Diego's biggest draft bust in the last five years when the team selected English with the 16th overall pick, passing over future four-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews, who was selected with the 26th pick by the Green Bay Packers. In five seasons with the Chargers, English has been put on IR twice and tallied just 11 sacks compared to the 31.5 he made at Northern Illinois.

    One bright spot was the team's third-round selection of Vasquez, who ended up winning the starting job at right guard his rookie year. Vasquez started 16 games his last season in San Diego before he signed with the Denver Broncos in 2013 as a free agent. Vasquez went to his first Super Bowl with the Broncos and earned his Pro-Bowl nod.

    Martin and Green were not brought back on second contracts, but they flashed some potential in their third and fourth seasons with the Chargers. Johnson, Hughes and Byrd never suited up for the Bolts during the regular season and we can only wonder what Ellison's future would have held if he didn't run into legal trouble. The former Trojan played in 13 games his rookie season and made 43 tackles.

    Draft Grade: D

2010 Draft

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    Lenny Ignelzi
    112Ryan MathewsC-
    379Donald ButlerB
    4110Darrell StuckeyC-
    5146Cam ThomasC
    5168Jonathan CromptonF
    7235Dedrick EppsF

    Analysis: To move up from the 28th pick to the 12th in the 2010 draft, San Diego traded away its second and fourth-round pick along with linebacker Tim Dobbins to select the injury-prone Ryan Mathews. The Fresno State running back rushed for 1,091 yards in his second year with the Chargers, but his body was unable to hold up over the course of a 16-game season from 2010-12. Mathews had a breakout year in 2013, rushing for 1,255 yards with six touchdowns, but he failed yet again to finish an entire season healthy.

    While Mathews may seem ready to live up to expectations as a first-round pick, his health and fumbling problems contributed to his sub-par grade. Butler is another example of player who struggled with injuries after he missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL. The difference, however, was his value as a third-rounder who was transformed into a cornerstone of the defense. Butler just signed a new deal in the offseason after racking up nearly 200 tackles, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and 10 pass breakups in three seasons with the Chargers.

    Stuckey never managed to fill a starting role on defense, but he established himself as a premier special teams player. Thomas was unable to fill San Diego's need at defensive tackle despite plenty of playing time, and Crompton and Epps bounced around as practice squad players for a number of teams.

    Draft Grade: D+

2011 Draft

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    Lenny Ignelzi
    118Corey LiugetB+
    250Marcus GilchristB-
    261Jonas MoutonF
    382Vincent BrownC
    389Shareece WrightC+
    6183Jordan TodmanF
    6201Stephen SchillingD
    7234Andrew GachkarD

    Analysis: The Chargers went defense with their first three picks in the 2011 draft, and two of those players developed into starters early on. Liuget and Gilchrist were big contributors during the 2013 season while Mouton has been limited to just three games in his career due to injuries.

    Brown showed promise in his rookie season, but missed his sophomore year with a broken ankle that slowed his development. Wright endured a similar situation in his first year when a foot injury in the preseason allowed him to play just seven games. Wright has gotten back on track, however, and looks like a fit as San Diego's No. 1 corner for the time being.

    Todman never played a game for the Chargers, and Schilling and Gachkar managed to fill backup roles on the depth chart. The 2011 class still has some growing to do, but a contract year is approaching for this group.

    Draft Grade: D+

2012 Draft

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    USA TODAY Sports
    118Melvin IngramB
    249Kendall ReyesA
    373Brandon TaylorD
    4110Ladarius GreenC+
    5149Johnnie TroutmanC
    7226David MolkD
    7250Edwin BakerF

    Analysis: The 2012 class was highlighted by the additions of two would-be starters in Ingram and Reyes. Ingram suffered a major setback in his young career when he suffered a torn ACL during OTAs in his second year, but he returned toward the end of last season and looks on pace to be a major contributor in 2014. Reyes, on the other hand, didn't disappoint in his second season after preceding his previous best of five sacks in 2012 with 5.5 in 2013.

    Green was another bright spot last season, and he's well on his way to becoming the successor to Antonio Gates. Troutman has had his moments when the offensive line was hit with injuries, but his playoff start against the Denver Broncos was tough to watch.

    Taylor could be the biggest disappointment of this class, but his progress was slowed by an ACL injury. Jahleel Addae, who was signed as an undrafted free agent last year, may push Taylor out of the running for playing time in the secondary.

    Molk lasted one season in San Diego, and the plans for him to be eventual replacement for Nick Hardwick never came to fruition. Baker didn't even make the roster in 2012, but he saw playing time with Cleveland last season.

    Grade: C+

2013 Draft

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    Denis Poroy
    111D.J. FlukerA
    238Manti Te'oB
    376Keenan AllenA+
    5145Steve WilliamsN/A
    6179Tourek WilliamsC
    7221Brad SorensenC

    Analysis: The 2013 class was the first under new management in the front office, and it was arguably the best all-around in the past five years. With their first three picks, the Chargers found instant contributors in Fluker, Te'o and Allen. Allen was, by far, the most surprising after suffering a major knee injury in his last season at Cal. The wideout put together one of the most impressive rookie seasons in history for the San Diego franchise and was a leading candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    Fluker stepped right in at right tackle from day one and started all 15 games of the game he played in. He was able to fill in at left tackle as well when injuries forced King Dunlap to miss some time. Te'o's regular-season debut took a little time to happen because of an injury, but he jumped right in the fold and contributed from the get-go.

    Williams had a rare opportunity to get playing time because of injuries to Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram, and he did an okay job with 10 tackles and a forced fumble. Sorensen impressed in his first two preseason games and will compete for a backup role with Kellen Clemens this next season. If he continues to excel, he could probably develop into a potential fit as the replacement to Philip Rivers in the near future.

    Draft Grade: B