Every year, each team brings in a new batch of players that must adjust to the size, speed and competitiveness of the NFL; this year is no different.
For the San Diego Chargers, rookie talent has been few and far between the last couple years because of injuries (Ryan Mathews, Larry English and Buster "Bust" Davis) and a loaded starting lineup that hasn't allowed for rookies to get much playing time.
Now that some of the older Chargers have phased out of the system, a definite youth movement on the horizon in San Diego, as the Chargers try to stay relevant in the competitive AFC.
Let's take an in-depth look at the Chargers 2011 draft class, where these players came from and why they are the future of the organization.
College Career: During his three-year Illinois career, Liuget had 125 tackles, 25.5 TFLs and 8.5 sacks. Liuget had a career year in 2010, earning Second-Team All-Big Ten accolades after recording 63 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and three passes broken up.
Preseason Statistics: 8 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 TFL, 2 FF
Corey Liuget (6'2", 298) has be everything the Chargers have hoped for in their first-round pick. The converted defensive tackle has been a constant force in opponents' backfields, and, while his stats do not reflect anything special, Liuget has constantly been in the quarterback's face. Liuget has been the penetrating, harassing force the Chargers had hoped he would be at defensive end.
Look for Liuget to challenge Jacque Cesaire for the starting job right off the bat in 2011. He will a be a rotational player 2011, but look for him to anchor this defensive line for years to come.
Player Comparison: All-Pro Jay Ratcliff of the Dallas Cowboys. Both are big (Liuget at 298 pounds, Ratliff at 285 pounds) DEs in the 3-4 scheme that wreak havoc in opponents' passing games. Liuget's upside may surpass Ratliff's upside in the long run, but for now they look very similar.
Corey Liuget Videos:
Liuget is Legit - Forced Fumble - Arizona/Chargers Preseason Game
Liuget on Being a Charger - After first day of practicing in camp
College Career: "Had 211 tackles, five tackles for loss, a sack, an interception, 19 pass breakups, three caused fumbles, two recovered fumbles, 804 yards on 32 kickoff returns, and 261 yards on 27 punt returns in 2,103 snaps over a school-record-tying 53 games (28 starts) in his career; his 804 kickoff return yards were eighth-most in school history...first on the team in the power index with a 7.42 figure, meaning he was Clemson's strongest player pound for pound."
Marcus Gilchrist (5'10", 193, 50th Overall) flew under the radar in this years draft. He was not as highly touted as corners such as Prince Amukamara, Jimmy Smith or Patrick Peterson, but has shown just as much, if not more, promise in this preseason. Marcus Gilchrist has also been praised as being the hardest hitter in camp this year by the Chargers coaching staff.
Gilchrist is one of those guys you want on your team. As can be heard in the video below, Gilchrist has played just about every position that a defensive back can play. In college he returned punts and kickoffs; he ran down on kickoff and punt; he has played both safety spots, cornerback, and nickleback. Not to mention that Gilchrist was the second strongest DB at the combine with 26 bench reps.
This is the special teams demon we have been looking for in the short run.
It is obvious that Gilchrist is a future star with the San Diego Chargers, who seem to have a talent for drafting top end cornerbacks (OK, lets forget about Sammy Davis). Coupled with Antonie Cason, the Chargers seem to have a lockdown combination for years to come. For now, look for him to learn from Quentin Jammer as he plays nickleback on a consistent basis in 2011.
Player Comparison: Champ Bailey of the Denver Broncos. Though he does not yet have the cover skills that Bailey now possesses, Gilchrist is just as good, if not better, at tackling. His aggressive, physical, nature also reminds you a lot of Bailey, who continues beat up opposing wide receivers in the NFL.
Videos of Marcus Gilchrist:
Gilchrist on being a Chargers - His roles in college and why he will be effective in the NFL.
College Career: Posted 264 tackles, 18 TFLs, three sacks, four interceptions, seven pass breakups, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries during his career at Michigan. Led Big Ten with 117 stops in 2010.
Preseason Statistics: 13 Tackles, one FF
Jonas Mouton (6'2", 240, 61st Overall) came out of Michigan being evaluated as an outside linebacker. This caused him to fall on some draft boards to a fourth- or fifth-round grade. What people didn't realize is that other teams, including the Chargers, had him pegged as a middle linebacker, which significantly raised his value in thier eyes.
Mouton has the athleticism of a safety (was a safety coming into college and was later converted to a weak ILB) and a nose for the ball, which can't be taught.
So far this preseason, Mouton has not disappointed the Chargers for reaching for him in the second round. He leads the team in tackles through three preseason games and looks to make his impact on special teams and as the Chargers, rotational, weak inside backer. He effectively replaces Kevin Burnett, who was extremely effective against the pass game as the smaller ILB. Mouton's safety skills should come quite in handy in that regard.
Player Comparison: Why not...Kevin Burnett of the Miami Dolphins. About the same exact size and upside that Burnett has. As I mention, before they both have exceptional cover skills and will be a special teams threat early on in their career. Special teams is how Burnett got his start in Dallas.
Jonas Mouton Videos:
Jonas Mouton on being a Charger - One day after being drafted
Jonas Mouton Feature - Senior Year at Michigan
College Career: In four seasons at San Diego State, Brown caught 209 passes for 3,110 yards and 23 touchdowns. In 2010, Brown caught 69 passes for 1,352 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also led the MWC in receptions and receiving yards this past season and was sixth nationally in receiving yards per game (104.00)
NFL Preseason: two catches for 23 yards (1 game)
Vincent Brown (5'11", 183, 82nd Overall) was one of the more underrated wide receivers coming into this draft given that he played for the Mountain West Conference. He is the prototypical slot receiver that the Chargers had hoped Buster Davis was going to be. Vincent Brown has glue for hands which will prove valuable for the tight windows that Philip Rivers will be throwing into over the middle.
So far this preseason Brown has not gotten a lot of looks due to an leg injury. Finally, this past week, he is back getting his reps and looked as quick as ever on the field against the Cardinals in the first game of his NFL career.
Look for Brown to be in on four wide receiver packages in 2011, as Patrick Crayton has the third wide receiver spot locked up. Down the road, Brown is a sure fire slot option and possibly a No. two guy.
Player Comparison: Donald Driver of the Green Bay Packers. Driver, like Brown, has sure-fire hands and runs great, crisp, routes. I see Vincent Brown's upside equal with that of Donald Driver, who has been a staple name in the NFL for the past five season.
Vincent Brown Videos:
Vincent Brown In the NFL - After first week of practice
Getting to Know Vincent Brown - On the lockout and Philip Rivers
College Career: "Wright started all 13 games for the Trojans in 2010 at cornerback. He finished the year with 73 tackles, including seven for a loss and a team-high 10 pass deflections and two fumble recoveries. For his career, Wright totaled 127 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 15 pass deflections and four fumble recoveries," according to NFL Draft Scout.
NFL Preseason: three tackles (two games)
Shareece Wright (5'11", 183, 89th Overall) draft stock took a hit because he missed the majority of the 2008 season with a hairline fracture in his neck and all of the 2009 season after being ruled academically ineligible. Usually, the Chargers do not take players with attitude and/or academic issues, but Wright proved that he could be a steal in the 2011 draft after posting up gaudy numbers in his 2010 campaign.
What helped his stock in the eyes of the Chargers is that he was seen as a leader of the 2010 Trojan defense, and backed it up with his play.
Look for Wright to come in as a nickle and dime packages in 2011 as he competes with, fellow 2011 draftee, Marcus Gilchrist, Dante Hughes and Steve Gregory.
Down the line I see Wright as a solid back up to Gilchrist and Cason.
Player Comparison: Tracy Porter of the New Orleans Saints. Like Porter, Wright possess average ball skills and above average speed. They were also praised fro their leadership qualities coming out of college.
Videos of Shareece Wright:
Wright at the NFL combine - His mindset and goals at the combine