The NFL Draft may now be in the proverbial rearview mirror, but the San Diego Chargers are definitely looking forward to seeing what their first round pick Melvin Ingram can provide for their pass rush on the field this coming season. Once thought to be a potential top ten pick, Ingram was somehow still on the board when the Bolts picked at number 18 overall.
The story of the 2012 draft seemed to be the issue of arm length for several pass rushers in this year’s class. Ingram’s arms measured in at just 31.5 inches which is somewhat short for the typical sack artist at the NFL level. Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw slid the whole way out of the first round due to similar concerns about his less than ideal length.
Short arms or not, Bolts’ General Manager A.J. Smith was thrilled to see a player of Ingram’s caliber still on the board when his team selected. He offered some of his patented snarky commentary to U-T San Diego when he said: "I think Melvin will have the same problem Tyrannosaurus rex had millions of years ago.”
Having length doesn’t always dictate whether or not a player will have success rushing the passer however as two of the league’s most accomplished sack machines, Tamba Hali and Jared Allen, both have arm lengths similar to Ingram. The ability to make plays on film and excel against the best competition is certainly much more important than any physical attributes and Ingram was a powerhouse doing those things in the SEC while at South Carolina.
GM Smith took part in an interview with CBS Sports and revealed his ultimate strategy surrounding the team’s top selection Ingram. According to Smith: "In our realistic cluster, there was no way Ingram would be there. I thought if there was any activity for pass rushers he surely would be in the mix. I noticed there were a couple of pass rushers that went, and they weren't Ingram, and I would say the excitement started to come at about 16, where the Jets picked. You're thinking with the Jets making a move here, it's got to be Ingram ... or somebody else ... but I think they're going pass rusher. We don't know. We guess like everybody else. But then when they pick the other guy (Quinton Coples), we got awfully excited because we thought there may be a chance.”
It seemed almost too good to be true for most Chargers fans and for the guys in the front office. The fact that the Bolts could land a player of Ingram’s prowess by staying put was beyond the realm of conception heading into the draft, but the team isn’t complaining. GM Smith also said that: "We had a cluster of nine players we were looking at, including three we didn't think would be there, but they weren't mixed. It was all defense.”
What this really says is that the Chargers felt that their main deficiencies and reasons for not performing better in 2011 were on the defensive side of the football. The fact that the team also selected defensive players in rounds two and three only further solidified that thinking.
The pick of Kendall Reyes in the second round was interesting as well with Smith explaining his pick saying: "Again, it was defense, and, when it came our time, here he comes. And now we're looking around the draft room, and saying, 'OK, that's the first guy (Ingram), and now we have Reyes. It's like we're on a roll here. This is the greatest feeling in the world to start off a draft."
Fans had to be feeling the same way watching the draft unfold and even though many expected the Chargers to target a safety early in the draft order, the team had yet to land a partner for Eric Weddle. GM Smith offered his thoughts on that as well saying: "There were some rumors out there that we were prepared to go off after (Alabama safety Mark) Barron and that we had a package -- because I have a history of that going after certain players. But the second part of it was that, if we weren't successful there, that I was going to go down 10 picks and go after (Harrison) Smith of Notre Dame. But that was not the game plan. I wouldn't pay the price for Barron, and I felt Smith would be gone at the end of the first. And, if he didn't, he would be at the top of the second, and you'd have to go up to the second and pay a price to participate in that. So we targeted another safety as the third-best option, and somebody we really liked who was probably not a first rounder.”
This insight led the Chargers to their third straight defensive selection in safety Brandon Taylor who was the consensus third-best safety in the 2012 class. The fact that GM Smith was level-headed about filling a position of need and weighed all of his options carefully has to be encouraging for fans still skeptical of his sometimes brash decision making. Taylor will likely play situationally to begin his career and hopefully develop into a full-time starter by the end of 2012. If he can manage to fulfill those expectations, the Chargers draft class of this year will be one to remember.
Now it’s your turn! What do you think about the questions concerning Melvin Ingram’s lack of length? Do you believe Ingram was a steal for the Chargers or will his less than ideal measurements be a difficult hurdle to overcome in the NFL? How do A.J. Smith’s insights change your perception of the 2012 draft class? Do you see each of the team’s top three picks being major contributors in the coming season or will someone not live up to expectations? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts!
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