Kendall Reyes, Melvin Ingram, Brandon Taylor
A.J. Smith and crew can finally start to rest. The job of the scouting department and general manager is all but over for this off-season. The 2012 NFL Draft concluded Saturday evening after 3 days and 7 rounds. San Diego had 7 picks in the Draft, one in each of the first 5 rounds and 2 in the 7th round. With those 7 picks the Chargers addressed specific needs but were also in position to take the BPA, or “Best Player Available.” Then imediately following the 253rd and final pick of the Draft, teams were allowed to start signing players that were not drafted. The front office staff got to work quickly signing 21 UDFA in all.
The Chargers, who are usually very active with draft day trades, only completed one trade in the draft, sending their 3rd round pick and their 6h round pick to the Dolphins to move up ahead of the Chiefs to draft Brandon Taylor with the 73rd overall pick. Other than this trade, A.J. Smith displayed patience and commitment to his draft board, waiting for the chips to fall and selecting one of “his guys.”
This strategy by Smith allowed the Chargers to have one of the better drafts in the NFL. The Bolts got great value with almost all of their picks. Ingram was projected to go in the top 10, Smith got him at 18. Reyes was projected by some to be a 1st rounder, Smith grabbed him with the 17th pick in the 2nd round. David Molk, the strongest O-lineman at the combine, was on many top 100 prospect boards, Smith was able to pick him 226th overall.
Most of the players San Diego picked will be able to help right away, however the Chargers also drafted well for the future. Molk, Reyes, and Taylor were all team captains in college which adds great young leadership to the team. Ingram was added at a position, OLB, where the Chargers only have 2 players under contract after this season. Green looks like he has all the physical tools to be Antonio Gates’ eventual replacement down the line.
The only pick that seemed like it might be a stretch was the 5th round selection of Johnnie Troutman. Not only were there other guards still available that were ranked higher by analysts and media, but Troutman had pectoral surgery last week and was convicted of a DUI in 2011. With how hard of a line the Chargers take on DUI’s they must see something in Troutman they really like to have used this pick on him here.
So without further delay, lets take a look at the picks made by they San Diego Super Chargers:
1st round – Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina 6’1″ 264lbs
Ingram was the top rated pass rusher in the draft. After sliding to the Chargers A.J. Smith made this no-brainer pick. Ingram has outstanding explosiveness and motor and will likely be moved around a lot and put in the best position to make a play. In being selected by the Chargers, who already have a pretty good defense, Ingram will be in the pre-season talks for Defensive Rookie of the Year and will be given every opportunity to succeed in San Diego’s scheme.
2nd round – Kendall Reyes, DE, Connecticut 6’4″ 299lbs
Reyes was the 2nd great value pick in a row. Projected by some experts to go in the 1st round, the Chargers were more than happy to take him with the 17th pick in the 2nd round. Reyes was a team captain at Connecticut and is a great leader. He has a non-stop motor and is relentless from snap to whistle. For his career at Connecticut Reyes had 142 tackles, including 11.5 sacks and 32.5 TFL. Reyes was also effective using his long frame and arms grabbing 2 interceptions and knocking down 12 passes at the line of scrimmage. While Reyes doesn’t fill an immediate need, he does add another very good, large body to the Chargers D-line rotation. Norv Turner and new defensive coordinator John Pagano are hoping that rotating players along the defensive front and keeping them fresh will increase productivity this season.
3rd round – Brandon Taylor, SS, LSU 5’11″ 209lbs
Taylor has probably the most pressure on him out of any of San Diego’s picks this year. SS is the position on defense that had no true starter on the roster heading into the draft. Having a big hitter patrolling the middle of the field waiting to make receivers pay for catching the ball in his domain, is something the Chargers have not had since Rodney Harrison. Taylor is the guy A.J. Smith has picked to fill those shoes. As a team captain and “quarterback” of the defense, Taylor brings great leadership with him to the Bolts. A good hard tackler, Taylor has 156 tackles to show for his time as a 3 year starter on LSU’s very powerful defense. Taylor is not a ball-hawk by any means, but he is also not too much of a liability in pass coverage, grabbing 4 interceptions and 19 passes defended. Smith had to trade up a few spots to grab Taylor ahead of the Chiefs who were reportedly eyeing Taylor with the 74th overall pick.
4th round – Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana – Lafayette 6’6″ 238lbs
Ladarius Green blew up the combine. After measuring in at 6’6″ and 238lbs, Green posted a blazing 4.53 official 40 (4.47 unofficial) and turned in a 34.5″ vertical jump. Green is not a great blocker, but that isn’t why he was drafted. Green was brought in to be groomed behind Gates to be his successor. Green has elite pass catching abilities as a TE, hauling in 148 receptions for 2202 yards (a 14.9 ypc average) and 22 TD’s in his collage career. Green is a physical freak and with the chance to learn behind future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, Green could turn into something special for the Chargers.
5th round – Johnnie Troutman, OG, Penn State 6’4″ 325lbs
Troutman was the first big question mark pick. With OT Bobbie Massie and a few other higher rated O-linemen on the board Troutman’s name came as a surprise to probably everyone besides A.J. Smith and crew. Troutman is a big, very strong body from Penn State. He is a mauling run blocker who handles his man with amazing upper body strength. His weakness is his feet. Troutman does not move his feet as well as you’d like and therefore gets beat by faster d-linemen rushing the passer. He is also pretty slow, running a 5.67 40 at the combine, and does not change direction well, 7.96 in the 3-cone. Troutman will not be starting at either G position but if he can clean up his footwork will be a solid backup. As mentioned above the big surprise here is that Smith took a chance on a guy that has both of the Chargers biggest turn offs: Injury history and a DUI. Lets hope that Smith saw something the rest of us didn’t.
7th round – David Molk, C, Michigan 6’0″ 298lbs
Molk is great value in the 7th round. Leading up to the draft Molk was on many top 100 boards and had been mocked as high as the 3rd and 4th rounds. Molk put up the most reps of 225lbs at the combine of any offensive lineman with 41. He was a team captain for Michigan and the signal caller for the offensive line. Molk is a bit undersized but with his above average strength and great footwork he more than makes up for it. Molk won the Rimington Trophy as a senior in 2011, given to the nation’s top center. Molk will likely surpass Colin Baxter as the Chargers backup center, and after picking up a few things from Nick Hardwick could be a great replacement down the road.
7th round – Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State 5’8″ 204lbs
Baker will compete with Curtis Brinkley to back up Ryan Mathews at RB. A short but stout running back, Baker is a decent pass blocker in the backfield coming out of college. Baker does not have blinding speed or great moves but is a hard nosed runner who is tough to bring down and very patient in following his blockers and allowing holes to develop. He had a promising 2010 season, but lost his starting job this past season. With the flashes Brinkley has shown in his limited opportunities, Baker will have an uphill battle to make the roster.
All in all A.J. Smith, along with his staff, put together a great draft plan and executed it. This draft along with what Smith did in free agency did a great job of getting this team the talent it lost, or was already missing. Now that Smith has done his job, the focus shifts to Norv Turner and his coaching staff to see what they can do with what Smith has given them. A.J. Smith came through with his back against the wall and his seat red hot, will Norv Turner do the same? Only time will tell.
One thing Turner and his staff have going for them this year is no lockout. Norv will have the full compliment of OTAs, training sessions, and mini camps to get all the new additions up to speed and ready to go. With full preparation , minimal injuries, and a little luck, the San Diego Chargers could be set to make a run to the playoffs and hopefully, the Super Bowl.