To put it in plain English, San Diego Chargers General Manager A. J. Smith has a lot of work to do in the 2011 NFL Draft. Last year, his team missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons and since playing in the 2007 AFC Championship Game, the Chargers have won only one playoff game.
Smith has five picks in the first 89 selections, so he must select at least two impact players to have this mess turn around. His past three drafts has only produce four starters (CB Antoine Cason, LB Larry English, G Louis Vasquez and RB Ryan Mathews).
Let’s take a look at some of Smith’s poor decisions on draft day.
The Chargers drafted Toniu Fonoti because they felt he had the size and strength (6’4” and 350 lbs) to dominate opponents at the line of scrimmage for years to come.
He made an impact immediately, as Fonoti started 14 games in his rookie season. He spent the next year on injured-reserved (IR) and did very little to rehabilitate his injury. Fonoti came into training camp over-weight and out of shape and Smith wasted little time in shipping him out of San Diego.
Larry English has been a major disappointment since the Chargers drafted him in 2009. He hasn't shown any of the pass-rushing skills he possessed in college, and some scouts have suggested that English might be better suited for the inside linebacker position.
In the end, Antonio Cromartie’s ego abruptly ended his Charger career.
His rookie season was an endless highlight reel—who could forget his interceptions against Peyton Manning or his touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings. But he became too consumed with trying to make the big play and was burnt consistently on coverage mistakes. The final straw came in the 2009 playoff game against the New York Jets when Cromartie’s poor tackling allowed the go-ahead touchdown to score in a disappointing home loss.
All throughout his career, Buster Davis has never been able to stay on the field, as he only played 26 games in four seasons.
Davis has shown signs of promise, but key drops on pass attempts have forced the coaching staff to take him off the field during crucial downs. It was fitting that last season ended with him on the IR list with a leg injury.
The Chargers were enamored with Sammy Davis’ speed, as he ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
But speed couldn’t help him cover the taller receivers. Davis was only 5’11” and quarterbacks challenged him all game long to defend the pass. Four games into the 2005 season, he lost his job to Drayton Florence and was released at the end of the season.
Ryan Mathews was brought into a difficult situation as he was asked to replace the greatest Charger running back in team history.
The pressure got to him.
Early on, Mathews developed a case of fumbles—losing posession in three of his first five miscarries. Ankle and leg injuries plagued him all last season and hindered his playing time. Smith feels the fans are way too critical of Mathews’ play and fully expects him to make a significant contribution next season.