There were 9 wide receivers taken in the first two rounds. 6 of those receivers came off the board in the first round alone. At pick 30, Craig Davis was the highest rated receiver left on the Chargers' board, so they pulled the trigger. Two picks later, the Super Bowl Champs Indianapolis Colts took Anthony Gonzalez to wrap up the first round.
Both the Colts and Chargers are renown around the league for being excellent drafters; their rosters are stacked with Pro Bowl caliber players, a majority of which were drafted onto their respective teams, not brought in as free agents.
So why is it that 'experts' feel it necessary to harp on the Chargers' pick of Craig Davis 30th overall? Some claim that the Chargers reached, and I'm here to set the record straight.
Lets look at some things which support AJ Smith's decision was the right one for the team, both in value and need:
First, we can see that it wasn't just the Chargers that passed on Dwayne Jarrett and Sidney Rice (I would have loved Rice, but that has already been talked about).
The Colts passed on those players and took Anthony Gonzalez instead. It would be safe to assume that the Colts would have taken Craig Davis over Gonzalez if he was available, and here is why I can confidently make the claim that Craig 'Buster' Davis is a better player than Anthony Gonzalez:
Level of Competition
There was only one defensive back taken in the first three rounds out of the Big 10 conference. That player was local product Leon Hall - Cornerback, Michigan (by way of Vista, CA). An elite player certainly, he was the long representative of Big 10 secondary on day one of the draft.
On the other hand, SEC defensive backs were well represented in the first three rounds.
Two Safeties went in round 1; LSU's LaRon Landry and Florida's Reggie Nelson. In round 2, Chris Houston - Cornerback, Arkansas came off the board. And in round 3, Corner Johnathan Wade of Tennessee was taken.
Reflecting on the first three rounds of the draft, you can make a strong argument that Craig Davis faced far better competition in the Southeastern Conference than Anthony Gonzalez did in the Big 10 Conference.
Looking at both player's final two seasons, Davis was more productive in less games. While Gonzalez had a big touchdown year last season, Davis was more consistent and improved every season.
91 Catches, 1395 Yards, 6 Touchdowns, 23 Games
79 Catches, 1107 Yards, 11 Touchdowns, 25 Games
Keep in mind that it has already been established that Davis faced tougher secondaries, and both Gonzalez and Davis were on teams with higher-profile receivers. Both Davis and Gonzalez had a teammate taken above them in the first (Tedd Ginn & Dwayne Bowe).
Craig Davis (LSU Pro Day)-
6'1", 207 lbs, 4.44, 36.5 inch vertical, 10-1 broad jump
Anthony Gonzalez (NFL Combine)-
6'0", 193 lbs, 4.44, 38 inch vertical, 10-3 broad jump
While Gonzalez is a slightly better leaper, Davis is bigger and stronger and just as athletic. And as an added bonus, he will be an immediate contributor on Special Teams as Punt Returner.
There is a number of factors involved in the drafting of NFL prospects, and things like character, versatility, pro-readiness, and upside are all extremely important when ranking players. In all categories mentioned, including team need, Craig 'Buster' Davis was the perfect pick for the Chargers. So now that that's been settled lets move on people!
+cough+ Todd McShay +cough+
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