By now Bolts fans are accustomed to General Manager A.J. Smith’s affinity for building the team via the draft rather than extravagant overspending on the free agent market. In his post on Saturday, Rob mentioned the players that the Chargers met with at the Senior Bowl and certainly the team’s scouts have their eyes on plenty of other draft eligible prospects as the process only deepens further from now until late April.
Aside from Allen Bailey of Miami and Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue as cited in the piece, the majority of the names on the Bolts visit list are mid to late round prospects.
Smith has made a habit out of finding that diamond in the rough in the past and will certainly look to continue that trend in 2011. The Bolts’ GM explained his thoughts on the entire Senior Bowl process saying: “I’ll have anywhere from 15 to 20 players that I will zero in on during the course of my time there and really focus on that. It’s kind of the way I’ve handled it before rather than have a roster full of both teams. The number is too great. You’re going around and not really accomplishing all that much. I’ll narrow it down to some players that are of great interest to me and I’ll zoom in on that. Most of the top players in the country are in that particular game, so it’s very intriguing. We go down there and we pretty much know who they are before we get there, but it gives you a chance to see them up front, up close, and going against some other people. So we think it’s very, very beneficial.”
Clearly the draft is a point of emphasis this offseason for the 9-7 Bolts who missed the playoffs for the first time in the last five years in 2010. Smith’s peculiar behavior in the draft could in part be to blame for the team’s difficulties in recent years as the Chargers haven’t actually used a second round pick since 2007 when they selected safety Eric Weddle.
Having five picks in the top 92 of this year’s draft is definitely a positive for a team looking to retool and iron out a wide variety of contractual issues. When asked to comment about his club’s wealth of picks in the upcoming draft, Smith wasn’t shy in addressing the issue. The Bolts GM said: “It’s pretty exciting. Now what do we do with them?”
Ah, yes. The infamous $100,000 question of just how do the Chargers handle their abundance of selections in the 2011 NFL Draft.
As mentioned above, trades have been a big part of the team’s draft strategy in recent years and most of those moves have been upward. Smith isn’t gun-shy about doing just that again in 2011 as he said: “Hypothetically, your marquee players are in the first, second or third round. That’s why you took them there. There’s a lot of value to move up. I’m very excited, because the opportunity is there to have five players. It could be less, could be more.”
As things currently stand, the Bolts are without a fourth or fifth round selection due to draft day trades from a year ago, but the team is hopeful that they can gain two additional late round choices when the compensatory picks are announced. San Diego lost both tight end Brandon Manumaleuna and wide receiver Kassim Osgood last offseason and each signed lucrative deals with their new clubs.
Regardless of compensatory picks, the Chargers need to take a step back and model themselves after one of the most effective player personnel departments in the NFL. The New England Patriots continue to retool their team and perennially field a young squad with very few holes because of their attraction to trading down rather than up in the draft.
Despite trading back twice in the first round last year, the Patriots were able to land the player they coveted most in defensive back Devin McCourty who led all rookies in interceptions. In the previous year the Pats bypassed the opening round altogether and positioned themselves at the top of round two to land a safety they desperately needed in Patrick Chung.
It is not by accident that New England is able to trade down over and over yet still land a quality player in an area of need. In a final word on the upcoming draft, Smith said: “We could see a lot of young ones play right away, which we haven’t had in the past.” If Smith’s final statement on the 2011 draft class for the Bolts is in fact true and the team is fielding multiple first year players as starters that cannot be accomplished by moving up in the draft.
The blueprint for a successful draft this time around needs to include trading down rather than reaching for players in less than ideal situations. Clearly hindsight is 20-20 when it comes to the draft, but the Bolts need to use misses like Buster Davis as an illustration of why discretion is the better part of valor nine times out of ten in the NFL Draft.
Now it’s your turn. Which of the Chargers’ two first round caliber visits at the Senior Bowl do you believe is most needed on defense, Ryan Kerrigan or Allen Bailey? Do you expect the Bolts to be active in maneuvering the draft this year or will they pretty much stand pat with the picks that they are given? Are the New England Patriots the ideal team to model a franchise after in using the draft to your advantage or are the Bolts doing just fine on their own? Given the uncertain free agent climate and the staggering number of rookies who could be starters next year in San Diego, will 2011 be a rebuilding season? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
Labels: NFL Draft 2011
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