Predicting The Pick: AJ Smith's Draft History

Since becoming the San Diego Chargers GM in 2003, AJ Smith has had a great deal of success rebuilding the team through the NFL Draft. Indeed, Smith has become a respected figure in NFL circles based on his keen ability to scout talent. AJ is not one to discuss his football business publicly, and you would hardly expect him to divulge in detail his plans for the upcoming draft. But with six drafts under his belt here in San Diego, we begin to get a better grasp on his approach. Whether we come to conclusions based on coincidence or trend, there are a few "certainties" we can expect come draft day...

AJ Smith will probably spend his late round picks on an offensive tackle or two. In the middle rounds, he'll likely get a player who can contribute on special teams first and work his way into the starting lineup later. And in the first two round, Smith will select players who will have a very good opportunity to start early in their career.


1 CB Sammy Davis - Texas AM
2 CB Drayton Florence Tuskegee
2 SS Terrence Kiel - Texas AM
3 OT Courtney Van Buren - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
4 LB Matt Wilhelm - Ohio State
5 PP Mike Scifres - Western Ilinois
6 FS Hanik Milligan - Houston
7 FB Andrew Pinnock - South Carolina

1 QB Philip Rivers - NC State
2 DT Igor Olshansky - Oregon
3 KK Nate Kaeding - Iowa
3 OC Nick Hardwick - Purdue
4 LB Shaun Phillips - Purdue
5 DE Dave Ball - UCLA
5 RB Michael Turner - Northern Illinois
6 TE Ryan Krause - Nebraska-Omaha
7 DT Ryon Bingham - Nebraska
7 OT Shane Olivea - Ohio State
7 OT Carlos Joseph - Miami

1 LB Shawne Merriman - Maryland
1 DT Luis Castillo - Northwestern
2 WR Vincent Jackson - Northern Colorado
4 RB Darren Sproles - Kansas State
5 OT Wesley Britt - Alabama
6 OT Wes Sims - Oklahoma
7 OC Scott Mruczkowski - Bowling Green

1 CB Antonio Cromartie - Florida State
2 OT Marcus McNeill - Auburn
3 QB Charlie Whitehurst - Clemson
5 LB Tim Dobbins - Iowa State
6 OT Jeromey Clary - Kansas State
6 KK Kurt Smith - Virginia
7 DT Case Page - North Carolina
7 OT Jimmy Martin - Virginia Tech

1 WR Craig Buster Davis - LSU
2 SS Eric Weddle - Utah
3 LB Anthony Waters - Clemson
4 TE Scott Chandler - Iowa
5 WR Legedu Naanee - Boise State
7 LB Brandon Siler - Florida

Supplemental Draft
4 DB Paul Oliver - Georgia

1 CB Antoine Cason - Arizona
3 RB Jacob Hester - LSU
5 RB Marcus Thomas - UTEP
6 CB DeJuan Tribble - Boston College
7 OT Corey Clark - Texas A&M

Using the above record as a guide, we can see a few trends in Smith's approach to the draft. In the first two rounds, Smith has spent the premium picks necessary to help build a solid secondary. The creation of that secondary is still a work-in-progress, but the Chargers have certainly acquired some young, talented defensive backs and they have no place to go but up.

Rounds 1/2 (Top Picks)
6 Defensive Backs
2 Defensive Tackles
2 Wide Receivers
1 Linebacker
1 Offensive Tackle
1 Quarterback

In the mid rounds, Smith has gotten some tremendous value drafting lunch pail football players like linebackers and running backs. Smith seems to find talented players from mid-western school in these rounds.

Rounds 3/4/5 (Mid Rounders)
4 Linebackers
4 Runningbacks
3 Offensive Linemen
1 Tight End
1 Kicker
1 Quarterback
1 Wide Receiver

In the late rounds, Smith is all but guaranteed to draft offensive linemen, particularly at offensive tackle. I guess the thinking is that tackle is the more difficult position to play compared to guard. And if a tackle prospect can't play the position in the NFL, then he at least has a chance to be kicked inside and tried at guard. If he doesn't fit at guard then he probably doesn't belong in the NFL in the first place.

Rounds 6/7 Late Rounds
6 Offensive Tackles
1 Offensive Guard
2 Defensive Tackles
2 Defensive Backs
1 Linebacker
1 Tight End
1 Fullback
1 Kickers


(note: as supplemental draft picks have yet to be officially awarded, we've omitted those anticipated picks at this time)

Based both on team needs, and AJ Smith's history and perceived value on particular positions, I put together a few scenarios that we might expect to see come draft day:

Scenario A
(In this scenario, the Chargers place a priority on adding playmakers to the defense)

1 LB Rey Magaluga
3 DT Fili Moala
4 FS Michael Hamlin
5 FB Quinn Johnson
6 RB Kory Sheets
7 OT Robert Brewster

Scenario B
(Here we look to fill the holes left behind by Olshansky and Goff with immediate starters)

1 OT Michael Oher
3 SS Chip Vaughn
4 DT Darryl Richard
5 LB Orion Martin
6 WR Kenny McKinley
7 OG Jaime Thomas

Scenario C
(In this situation, we add two starters to the lines and draft a powerful running back to compliment LT)

1 DT Tyson Jackson
3 OG Kraig Urbik
4 RB Andre Brown
5 LB Zack Follett
6 DT Dorell Scott
7 OT Jose Valdez

February 17, 2009

Join our team:


Bill said... Feb 17, 2009, 9:49:00 AM

Interesting observations! I wonder if AJ is content to stick with with his late round tackle selections considering the somewhat shaky play we've had on the right side over the years...

Anonymous said... Feb 17, 2009, 1:58:00 PM

Well thought out post. Good work. People seem to be obsessed with Malauga...problem is, he is one dimensional and can only stop the run, awful in coverage. You can't take a guy that one dimensional that high, unless I am missing something. I think he is a popular choice here locally due to SD/LA ties. So much depends on what happens with their 2 main RBS right now. If they both leave, then the draft could largely be shaped by them taking an RB talent like Moreno very high. If they stay, then I see OT or LB as a likely choice.
The Rake

Anonymous said... Feb 17, 2009, 3:35:00 PM

I thought that 2003 draft was Butler who infamously traded down instead of getting Polamalu so he could get Kiel and Davis more bang for his buck? I got to admit 2004-2007 produced a lot of impact players for us. Jury is still out on Buster Davis and Anthony Waters who can't stay healthy. The 2008 draft was weak. I don't think Tribble will develop and Clark is a pansy, Hester is a FB/RB tweener when Slaton was there, Cason was a good pick although I knew we needed a safety not Florence's replacement. Hopefully AJ goes 2004-06 on us then 2008.

Anonymous said... Feb 17, 2009, 4:32:00 PM

Butler passed away before the 03 draft. One season in the NFL is not enough time for anybody to bust on Hester. Beside the whole page is crap.
You retards will never get it right. Quit pretending to know everything.

Anonymous said... Feb 17, 2009, 7:22:00 PM

What planet are you from?

Terry Williams said... Feb 18, 2009, 1:35:00 AM

MLB Magaluga makes the defense a dominating force. I can't see anybody believing Cooper did a fair job last year. If you remember we got rid of Donnie Edwards because although he always led the team in tackles, they were six yards behind our line of scrimmage. Same with Cooper. To me, three tackles on our side of the line is equal to one good stuff the dude on his side of the line. Merriman, Magaluga and Phillips plus whoever. Gotta luv it.

Anonymous said... Feb 18, 2009, 9:46:00 AM

I'd love to get Maualauga for the Bolts, but frankly I don't see him dropping that far. I'm not sure why one poster seems to think he's "awful" in coverage. He's definitely a stronger against the run than the pass, but he's hardly lost when asked to cover. The more pressing thing with him is that his biggest strength, his hard hitting aggressiveness, may also be his biggest weakness, as it causes him to over pursue at times.

Nevertheless, I'd be thrilled if he fell to 16 and the Bolts got him, though I think that the O and D lines are of bigger concern and are more likely to be addressed with the top pick.

Anonymous said... Feb 18, 2009, 9:51:00 AM

How about Jarron Gilbert out of San jose state. He's the one in the Youtube video jumping out of pool. Sounds like real beast and could be a decent 3 or 4th round risk. Better than Moala who's vastly overrated because of where he played and whom he played with in that D line.

Height: 6-5 Weight: 287
4.8 40 for his size? wow
squat 635 and deadlift 655

Anonymous said... Feb 18, 2009, 11:59:00 AM

Tell me how Moala is overrated and Gilbert is not? OR is it because he comes from USC and reminds people of his cousin Ngata? To Terry Williams you are an idiot. Edwards can cover TEs and Godfrey blitzed thats why our defense was so sick at that time with Merriman and Phillips/Foley on the outside. Donnie was brought in for his awesome cover skills no shit he drops into coverage mostly hence his 28 career ints. Your saying their tackles are after the line of scrimmage? Hardly that is Wilhelm. Sorry they can't get 100 TFLs and no passes caught on them. Now who is this behemoth of a LB who can get 100 TFLs and 20 Pass defended? Exactly idiot. Edwards was old and AJ made the mistake thinking Wilhelm can replace him but Wilhelm sucks in coverage and in the run. Edwards actually was able to make plays when he blitzed and against the run or why was our run defense so good at the time and it sucks now. 11th ranked now cause our pass D gets shredded so there is no need to run. So why don't you actually find that godly LB you speak of or stfu cause you don't know anything about football.

Anonymous said... Feb 18, 2009, 11:59:00 AM

We need to draft a DE or ILB in the 1st draft worry about RB in later rounds. Need to build our defense up 1st.

Anonymous said... Feb 20, 2009, 8:18:00 AM

The 1st pick this year will HAVE to be a player on the Offensive of Defensive Line... We need those holes addressed ASAP otherwise we wont be able to run or stop the run. We have teh playmakers but no one solid on the right sides of both lines worth wild. 1st round pick will be an OT or RE!!! Go AJ!!!

Anonymous said... Feb 20, 2009, 1:35:00 PM

Everyone keeps talking about if Maualuga will fall or not, and that he would be amazing for us in the middle. But it seems alot of people also have their doubts on him and his agressive play style. Why is no one thinking Laurinaitis? He is smart, agressive, talented, and can smash pepole in the middle. He could fall farther than Rey will (probably) and I think could make immediate impact.

Anonymous said... Feb 21, 2009, 2:10:00 AM

Cause Lauranaitis is no Edwards. His coverage is not that great. Smash people? Is this the one from Ohio St. here? I haven't seen him lay the wood on anyone. Every Charger fan doesn't like Lauranaitis cause Wilhelm is from Ohio St and he sucked. I don't like Lauranaitis cause he reminds me of Bobby Carpenter(what a waste of a pick) of the Cowboys. Overrated to an extent is Lauranaitis. If Maualuga doesn't fall big deal, Tyson Jackson is still there or Oher or Andre Smith could be there or we could trade down and pick up a late 1st and early 2nd rounder. A lot of scenarios.

Anonymous said... Feb 26, 2009, 12:29:00 PM

Hello bolt fanz, It would be very smart for the Chargers to draft a good OT if one is available in the 1st round. If not we should look at ILB or DE. Would be wise for us to sign a veteran safety from the free agentcy like Jermaine phillips. Hart is too small and I never thought much of the guy. Weddle is improving and will be a very solid Safety. Having a guy like Phillips from a defensive team like Tampa will make the transition for the Chargers very easy. I guarantee we would improve in our passing "D" with someone like Phillips. Rey Maualuga will be a great addition for the Chargers if he's available. It might seem we struggle on the passing "D" but we also struggle on the stopping the run. Having someone like Maualuga as the mike back will help us shut the run down better. With Merriman healthy, will help our team out greatly to getting to the passer. Also realeasing Olshansky and replacing him with Jacquice Cesair will improve our D-line. I think Cesaire should of been our starter. He's much quicker at breaking away and getting to the QB than Olshansky. We have the #16 pick in the 1st round. A smart pick is needed. My 1st choice would be a solid OT Like Smith from Bama to open up lanes for LT and SPROLES and to give Rivers time 2 throw. If we control the line we will control the game. Merriman will be dominant for us again and if we have Maualuga along side of Merriman, it will create night mares for he QB and running backs. Maualuga is like a Polamalu and Tatupu and will be a great fit. But I hope we pick up a OT if one is around. GO CHARGERS...HAWAII CHARGER FAN

Anonymous said... Feb 26, 2009, 4:18:00 PM

What happene to Knoshown or Casey Peirce at #1?

Anonymous said... Feb 28, 2009, 10:20:00 PM

the san diego chargers select
#1. Rey Maualuga
i'd even possibly,just maybe trade up to make sure that we'd get mr."Sting Rey".
other than that, i believe the Chargers can afford to wait another year on drafting a DT to be the successor too the great Jamal Williams. So that leaves probably the biggest need which is of course an OT where we go with r next pick unless there is a better Safety is available. and as for the runnings backs, we take one in the 4th round or from one of the comp picks and go with a POWER BACK.
Anyways, whatever A.J. Smith does is good for me. GO BOLTS!!!

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