The 2012 NFL season has shaped up to be a critical one for the San Diego Chargers. Coaching and front office jobs are on the line, and the team's future in San Diego is in doubt. Fans are looking for some reassurance that the team is heading back towards it's winning ways and is making strides towards the fulfillment of a Super Bowl promise. This is why the 2012 NFL draft was so critical for the Bolts; the team simply cannot afford to stumble again, they need to win and win now. The one-time "most talented team in the NFL" has fallen from such grace, and has some major ground to make up before they can reclaim that crown. In order to get back to the post-season, the team needs better players, plain and simple. Luckily for the San Diego faithful, AJ Smith and crew may have had their best draft performance of the past five years.
Podcast - Chattin' Chargers with Mychal Edelman and Josh BretowThe Chargers had well documented needs coming into the draft. According to BOLTHYPE, the Chargers top draft needs were:
1. Outside Linebacker
2. Defensive Back
3. Wide Receiver
4. Offensive Line
The Chargers did an excellent job addressing those needs. Taking Melvin Ingram at 18 was an absolute steal; as the top 3-4 OLB prospect in the draft he was never supposed to fall that far down the draft board. He is a versatile, aggressive pass rusher who is always around the ball making plays. Ingram's personality and temperament reminds me of great leaders such as Takeo Spikes and Ray Lewis, and I think he will quickly become a respected player on this team. Rush Outside Linebacker was the Chargers' top need and they filled it early by taking Ingram.
In the second round the Chargers drafted Kendall Reyes, a Defensive Tackle who will play Defensive End in the Chargers three-man front. While not one of the Chargers most critical positions of need, the Chargers needed to improve the defense as a whole regardless. At pick 49, Reyes fell into the Chargers lap. He was projected as a possible first round pick, and was arguably the best 5-technique prospect in the draft, behind only Fletcher Cox on my board. Again, the Chargers got tremendous value in selecting Reyes and its no shock they took a Defensive Lineman so early. The Chargers have no stalwarts on their D-line since Igor Olshansky and Jamal Williams have left. The possibility for Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes developing into a dominating, athletic young pair of bookends is exciting indeed.
Safety was a clear need for the Chargers, and in trading up in the third round they secured Brandon Taylor, who many felt was the best safety prospect after Mark Barron and Harrison Smith, both gone in the first round. The Chargers obviously needed to come out of this draft with a good Safety, but they didn't reach for one. Taking both Ingram and Reyes without any trades, and taking Taylor after a slight trade up in the third round tells me the Chargers came into the draft with a clear game plan, were well-prepared, and stacked their board appropriately. They executed their picks and got tremendous value while still filling needs. In many ways, the Chargers draft strategy reminded me a lot of the successful drafts Ozzie Newsome, one of the NFL's best GMs, has masterminded for the Baltimore Ravens over the years.
In the fourth round, the Chargers drafted Ladarius Green, a tight end who has some upside. Although not a top need, Tight End could still be considered a position of concern due to Antonio Gates' recent injury history. Green is a blown-up wide receiver converted into a Tight End with eye-popping measurables, but he will likely need time to develop and will sit behind Gates and Randy McMichael. By taking a flier on Green, the Chargers could develop him as a project with low risk, high reward.
In the 5th and 7th rounds, the Chargers loaded up on offensive linemen, filling another draft need. Johnnie Troutman, a Guard from Penn State, and David Molk, a Center from Michigan both bring a ton of experience and come from big time college football programs. Molk lead all Offensive Linemen at the Combine with 41 reps on the benchpress and won the 2011 Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center after starting four years at Michigan. Troutman was tied for 4th place among all Offensive Linemen at the Combine with 31 reps on the benchpress and is a force in the run game who could push Tyronne Greene at Left Guard.
If there was any question mark to the Chargers draft class, it would be the fact that they didn't draft a true Wide Receiver. However to their credit, they signed a whopping six undrafted free agent receivers. With their final selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Chargers take Edwin Baker, an undersized running back who probably best fits a Zone Blocking scheme.
In summary, the Chargers have addressed all of their needs coming into the 2012 NFL Draft, and they did so without reaching and without trading away their future. The found guys who can make an immediate impact and who will see plenty of playing time. While I would have preferred to see them take a wide receiver or even a Quarterback over a tight end, I do recognize the concern at the TE position and understand they probably feel comfortable with what they have in Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem. They entered the draft with a clear objective, a well-researched and prioritized board, and were able to find value with the picks that mattered most.
CHARGERS 2012 NFL DRAFT GRADE: B+
Now it's your turn to grade the Chargers; How successful were the Bolts in addressing their draft needs with quality football players? Has AJ Smith done enough to restore your confidence in him? How would you grade this draft class? Sound off in the comments section below!