NFL Draft 2011: A.J. Smith Drafting for His Job as Chargers GM?

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IApril 28, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: A.J. Smith Drafting for His Job as Chargers GM?

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    SAN DIEGO - JULY 31:  General Manager A.J. Smith of the San Diego Chargers looks on during the San Diego Chargers' Training Camp on July 31, 2006 at Charger Park in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

     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.

6) Toniu Fonoti: 2002 2nd Round Pick

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    DENVER - OCTOBER 6:  Guard Toniu Fonoti #71 of the San Diego Chargers and defensive end Trevor Pryce #93 of the Denver Broncos struggle for ground in the second quarter of their NFL game on October 6, 2002, at Mile High in Denver, Colorado.  The Broncos w
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    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.

5) Larry English: 2009 1st Round Pick

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 3:  Larry English #52 of the San Diego Chargers enters the game against the Washington Redskins during the Washington Redskins  v San Diego Chargers NFL Game on January 3, 2010 at Quolcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Char
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    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.

4) Antonio Cromartie: 2006 1st Round Pick

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    SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17:  Running back Shonn Greene #23 of the New York Jets scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter in front of cornerback Antonio Cromartie #31 of the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 1
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    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.

3) Buster Davis: 2007 1st Round Pick

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    OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Stanford Routt #26 of the Oakland Raiders breaks up a pass intended for Buster Davis #84 of the San Diego Chargers late in the fourth quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 10, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    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.

2) Sammy Davis: 2003 1st Round Pick

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 21:  Cornerback Sammy Davis #22 of the San Diego Chargers walks on the field during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Network Associates Coliseum on November 21, 2004 in Oakland, California. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 2
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    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.

1) Ryan Mathews: 2010 1st Round Pick

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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers fumbles the ball as he is tackled by Brian Dawkins #20 of the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The ball was recovered by Kris
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    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.