Credit To GM A.J. Smith For Chargers 2012 NFL Draft

Value is a term thrown around quite liberally at the time of the NFL Draft, but no matter what your definition of the word value is, there’s no denying the fact that the San Diego Chargers made a number of value picks in this year’s selection extravaganza. It’s easy to get caught up in team needs and reach for players of a particular position rather than being patient and waiting out the ebb and flow of the draft. The 2012 draft class is one that could give General Manager A.J. Smith a real opportunity to cement his legacy as the Bolts’ GM and leaves no excuses for Head Coach Norv Turner should he not get the job done again this season in San Diego.

Grading a draft is a difficult task even a few years down the line from the process let alone just days following the event, but determining whether or not a team filled its specific needs while getting the most out of its position in the draft is a much easier assignment. GM Smith has been heavily scrutinized (and rightfully so) in recent years for his lackluster draftees and some extreme reaches (Buster Davis, Larry English). Still, his pedigree as the man who pulled off the Eli Manning deal and landed the team three Pro Bowlers in the process is impossible to forget and he wants to keep it that way.

Brash decisions in free agency with many big names leaving for more money have been a big part of GM Smith’s tenure with the team. This season is a perfect example as wide receiver Vincent Jackson signed a huge deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rather than staying in San Diego. Several of these choices have left the Bolts’ roster a bit strapped for talent over the past two years, but the reload began in free agency this year and has officially culminated with the draft.

As for the GM’s incredible haul in this year’s draft, the discussion has to start in round one with the Melvin Ingram selection. The kid many felt was the best pass rusher in this year’s class somehow fell all the way to the 18th overall pick where it didn’t take the Bolts long to make him a Charger. Both the Seattle Seahawks at 15 and New York Jets at 16 selected pass rushers Bruce Irvin and Quinton Coples respectively before Ingram fell to the Chargers. Each of those teams should be receiving thank you cards from the San Diego front office soon. Ingram is an immediate plug-and-play solution to a lackluster pass rush in recent years and will be able to learn from Shaun Phillips while getting integrated into the rotation with Jarret Johnson and Antwan Barnes. He plays low to the ground, can get around the edge in a heartbeat, and has the versatility to fit into whatever scheme defensive coordinator John Pagano wants to run on any given down and distance.

Round two was much the same with another steal in Kendall Reyes falling further than anyone could’ve imagined for a player with so much upside. With the 49th overall pick, it’s hard to imagine much more value than this choice. Defensive end wasn’t at the top of the to-do list for GM Smith, but when the opportunity to solidify a defensive line that has been a collective revolving door for the last five years presents itself, that chance must be seized. Reyes made some of the best offensive linemen in the country look silly at the Senior Bowl and has a great first step with natural power to hold up at the point of attack. With Luis Castillo not getting any younger and Corey Liuget really the only entrenched starter for the foreseeable future, Reyes will be a valuable addition to the defensive line rotation.

Trading up has been a trademark of GM Smith during his time with the team and he executed a classic deal to move up and land safety Brandon Taylor in the third round. There was no secret that the team had toyed with the idea of moving up for Mark Barron in round one, but jumping into the top ten picks was too rich of a price. Taylor is a box safety with some limitations in coverage, but paired with Eric Weddle, the two will complement one another quite well. In certain packages, Taylor will make an impact in year one with the Bolts and he has the ability to develop into a full-time starter in the not so distant future.

As for the money rounds of the draft, GM Smith may have found his hidden gem again in Ladarius Green. Once upon a time, Michael Turner was drafted in the fifth round by the Bolts and his story is well-known by now. Green is going to learn from one of the game’s best in Antonio Gates and will provide the team with that always valuable second tight end that will give opponents match-up nightmares. Two more late picks that could prove to be winners are offensive linemen in guard Johnnie Troutman and center David Molk. In the very least these two will provide the line much needed depth, but Molk won the Rimington Trophy in 2011 and has plenty of potential to develop behind another Big Ten center, Nick Hardwick.

My opinion of GM A.J. Smith has always been a favorable one as even though he rubs many the wrong way, his decisions have always seemed to be in the franchise’s best interest. Smith tries to be ahead of the curve and his negotiation tactics appear frugal to some while looking downright miserly to others. In spite of his shortcomings as a “people person”, GM Smith has shown that he is a tremendous talent evaluator and has maintained the personnel for a very successful on-field franchise for the better part of a decade. I may be an admitted A.J. Smith apologist, but this time, give the man his due. He’s earned it.

Tell us what you think! How many starters do you ultimately see coming out of the 2012 draft class? Did A.J. Smith finally redeem himself in the eyes of Chargers’ fans or is he still on the hot seat pending the team’s relative success in the 2012 season? Fill up the comments below with your take!

May 1, 2012

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BOLTHYPE said... May 1, 2012, 9:12:00 AM

Agree with you Anthony, I think AJ Smith may have rediscovered his Midas touch. Even though the Chargers have been subpar the past two seasons, perhaps that provided a much-needed wake up call for the team. Pressure is on Norv for sure, but with so many new faces and coaches this year, what can we realistically expect from this team in
'12? Any regular season record or playoff predictions from you? - Rob Z.

Myke said... May 1, 2012, 11:12:00 AM

I think AJ is definitely off the hot seat.  Lets hope we stay healthy!

Anthony M. Blake said... May 1, 2012, 11:30:00 AM

Myke is spot on with health being a major factor, but this team has all of the necessary components to make a serious run in '12. 11-5, AFC West crown, and AFC title game participant.

Antonio Spellman said... May 1, 2012, 11:58:00 AM

I don't think it's a matter of us apologizing for bashing AJ because on one end of the spectrum it shouldn't have gone this far but at the same time he has shown us that he is our GM for a reason. He definitely provided Norv Turner with the talent necessary to move forward and I honestly think he has saved his job if the team underachieves because at this point he has done all that he can. He has earned a reprieve that's for sure 

Triplook said... May 1, 2012, 12:17:00 PM

the 1st 4 rounds of this draft were perfect--period

Bolt Dean said... May 1, 2012, 1:13:00 PM

Before we start praising the "Lord of no
Rings" he still has to sign the draft choice and they still need to play a
game or two hopefully a season. Remember the buzz when AJ drafted English the
next Shawn Merriman with Clay Matthews still available. Temper your enthusiasm
we need to make the playoff and win once we get there!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Triplook said... May 1, 2012, 2:10:00 PM

teh difference is this time there is no head scratching on the 1st 4 picks--the 5th rounder who is hurt prob would not have made the team anyway---we already signed up hadnit to handle that---great offseason for the chargers

Fbhansen said... May 1, 2012, 3:04:00 PM

The funny this to me was hearing the football analyst (I think it was Charley Casserly) who said it best, "when a GM is on the hot seat the last thing he does is take the risk pick" and to me that could have played a big reason why this draft went so well. For the first time in years at the helm AJ picked the players we fans, media and football analysis would have selected if we were the GM. So that's not surprising but he was the person pulling the strings and he did an excellent job. My guess is he'll get some players off the wire to come in and help out as well and all the focus will turn to Norv. Still not drinking the Kool Aid but I think this team did improve provided the players live up to their billings as can't miss players!

Pete Spinning said... May 1, 2012, 4:01:00 PM

"AJ picked the players that we fans, media, and football analyists would have selected... if we were the GM".
You stole the words right out of my mouth, Fbhansen.
I mean... there should have been no reason for me to practically blow a head gasket, hoping that they picked Ingram. I should have been sitting back thinking "AJ has this, no problem"!!!!
Let's be honest... you don't have to be a GM Genius to pick the number one pass rusher who can make an immediate impact, when your main goal is a pass rusher who can make an immediate impact... that pick was a no-brainer. Or, to pick a D-Line force that inexplicably fell to you in the second round, either... or, to pick the last safety on the board who is worth a shite , when you are starting Atari Bigby... lol.... You just have to NOT be a total moron.
However, I will give him credit for not reaching (again), and blowing our whole wad for the next umpteen years on one player. It's very obvious he did a great job, and kudos are very much deserved. If it turns out badly, he only did what most of us wanted, and would have done... if we were the GM.
It's in Norv's hands now.... AND, just to set the record straight.. it's kind of on Philip's shoulders, in my eyes. He rallied for Norv to stay, right when Norv's bags were packed, remember? AJ did too, but he has lived up to his part of that bargain (despite the fact that he never should have let Norv through the front door to begin with).
When Super Bowls are won, they don't show highlights of the draft. They mostly give the credit to the coach, and the QB. People give Belichik & Brady the credit for all those rings.... Not the Pats GM.

It's up to our coach & our QB to lead all this talent to the promise land! That's when you can start calling either of these two "truly" elite.

Fbhansen said... May 1, 2012, 5:17:00 PM

Well said Pete! This draft has put the Chargers back on the radar with a lot of fans (like me) who were so frustrated with the bad decisions being made out at Chargers park as well as media and peers in the NFL. True Denver might be the odds on favorite to win the division but games and championships are won on the field. So come on Dean and AJ let's not drag out any of the player contract negotiations and get these guys on the field so they can learn the play book...the only chance we have is if our players have a shorter learning curve than Peyton. No let up AJ keep the peddle to the metal continue bringing Norv the bodies he needs to compete and let's have everyone talk about us as achievers versus under-achievers!

Triplook said... May 1, 2012, 10:39:00 PM

i think this peyton manning thing is overblown---does anyone think hes gonna stay healthy for 16 games and perform at his top level of expertise??? we should be in the drivers seat in our div this year if we come out blazing mon nite vs the raiders

threecubed said... May 2, 2012, 2:29:00 AM

Wow , chugging the koolaid like that can cause a stomach ache .  AJ has gone from a certain pink slip to cementing his legacy ( I guess what that legacy entails is up to the individual fan )  in the span or 4 months without the benefit of one win . 
 You can like or dislike AJ's draft class but as far as a seal of approval goes , you cannot say that needs have been met other than on paper and it's certainly too early to credit AJ for anything other drafting some prospects that may or may not work out . Penciling in draftees as starters is almost funny , Mel won't start ( rotational snaps at best  ) unless Philips or JJ gets benched .  Reyes can't start , but at least he's a 5-tech guy so that's promising , Taylor was the worst pick of our draft , in a terrible year for safeties AJ decides it time to get one , and one that shouldn't start at that . I'm anxious to see how the safety riddle works out but not optimistic . Green might need some time but he shows promise as well . Troutman was drafted as an IR , odd but maybe there's genius in drafting someone who is unable to take the field for a year . Molk has a better chance of the P/S than "Tank" although both [positions could use depth .  On a lighter note of the 7 new Chargers , 3 suffered a broken foot in college , so they got that going for them .

threecubed said... May 2, 2012, 2:40:00 AM

Not this fan - I have a bit of philosophical difference with AJ in that I don't care to go the cheap route with the OL , so I would of been inclined to take Decastro at 18 due to losing an All-Pro ( pro-bowler is no longer a valid recognition ) at the position and having a higher rated player at his position than Mel .  With 100 million invested on a QB and with him being the total key to any success I think it's way too risky to make Rivers play behind a suspect OL and it's bogus to have him either get rid of the ball sooner than he'd like or get hit often .   I think Decastro would be a plug-n-play guy , just not for us .  If we get some sacks and Rivers get carted off will it of been the move everyone embraced ? Doubt it

Fbhansen said... May 2, 2012, 9:15:00 PM

Really? Half a Manning is probably a set up from Tebow...I do agree he's only one hit from retirement but they said the same thing about Montana and he went on to win a couple more Super Bowls and led the Cheifs deep into the playoffs.

RaiderHater said... May 3, 2012, 7:21:00 AM

Yeah I agree, Manning is a threat...but heck he hasn't played real ball in well over a year, hasn't been the icing of an Oreo between to QB Eating big boys....hasn't played in altitude every game...hasn't played outdoors (weather and grass) unless he traveled...hasn't played for this coach and those players...and while "healed" still a risk and not getting younger.  Add in a tough schedule and then we shall see.  We no longer are the darlings of the West...GREAT!  That means we only need to win and prove ourselves instead of going in thinking we will just win because the media said so.  AJ got us talent - Period!  Norv has no excusses now...well except he's Norv.  He gets a solid potential new D-coach, a full season on mini camps, camps, preseason then the not being prepared is not an excuss we will accept.  I can only hope no issues with holdouts...we gotta sign them all ASAP and get on with training and conditioning. 
  Fbhasen seems to desire Kool-Aid, but not ready to drink....I am still on Coors Light, a little relaxation allows me to sit back and wait to see....but if and when it becomes time to drink the Kool-Aid....i will gladly change up and enjoy a toast along with you Mr. Fbhansen.....Pete can come too!!!

Pete Spinning said... May 3, 2012, 8:56:00 AM

OHHHHHH YEAHHHH!!!!! (That was my Kool-Aid guy impression).

I would love to do that. We should go to a game, or a sports bar sometime. That way we can all say "That's what you look like?!!!!!"

Fbhansen said... May 3, 2012, 10:27:00 PM

Love it RaiderHater and will toast a glass of the Kool-Aid to celebrate a division championship...I don't mind eating crow and will glady BBQ up some if it means this team gets back to the playoffs and wins a game or two in the playoffs! Go Bolts!

Johnny said... Jul 14, 2012, 9:39:00 PM

The pink slip was in AJ haters minds, never a reality voiced by Spanos. You say AJ decides to take a safety in a bad year. Encase you haven't heard he's taken one the last three years. Here's another news flash for you, Phillips will be gone next year and it's not written in stone that he'll start all of this season or if he can stay healthy.

I can see Phillips being benched (not being the starter) as you called it, at some point in the season. Especially if English can stay healthy and/or Ingram plays as projected, then add Barnes to the mix with his improvements at the OLB position. That makes an aging OLB in his last year of his contract, headed out the door.

Johnny said... Jul 14, 2012, 9:45:00 PM

Belichick is the GM

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