Chargers

Draft Grades: San Diego Chargers

A.J. Smith and Norv Turner’s jobs are on the line, so this was a critical draft for the San Diego Chargers. Entering the draft, there were rumors about the Chargers trading up, which made sense if Smith and Turner felt they needed to land an impact player to help save their jobs. But they stayed put on draft day, and it payed off.

It was difficult to imagine a scenario in which Melvin Ingram fell the Chargers, but when he did their front office wasted no time snatching him up. Ingram may not technically be a starter in 2012, with Shaun Phillips and Jarret Johnson favored to occupy that role, but he will make a significant impact. He played a hybrid end/linebacker role in South Carolina, so he should be able to make a smooth transition in San Diego.

Kendall Reyes had value in the 2nd round, so I can’t argue with the selection too much. However, it’s tough to see how he fits into their immediate plans. He’ll compete with Vaughn Martin and Luis Castillo for playing time. It’s also possible that he is used as a part of a rotation, coming into the game in passing situations with Martin playing on the majority of run downs.

Brandon Taylor was a reach in the 3rd round, but there was such little depth in this year’s class of safeties that the Chargers likely felt the need to go off the board to fill a need. He may be given an opportunity to compete with Atari Bigby for the starting job at strong safety.

I love the selection of Lararius Green. He’s very raw, but has the potential to be an elite pass-catching tight end. He is now the heir apparent to Antonio Gates at tight end, but could be used in some two tight end sets this upcoming season. He’s a matchup nightmare, and has the potential to be a steal in the 4th round.

Johnnie Troutman was a reach in the 5th round and, on top of that, he is expected to miss the entire 2012 season due to injury. Unless a player has elite upside, which Troutman does not, it’s best to stay away from injured players in the draft.

David Molk fell much further than I expected. He’s a smart, physical interior lineman who could be given an opportunity to take over for Nick Hardwick in a year or two.

Edwin Baker also fell on draft day. The Chargers have limited depth behind Ryan Matthews, which should allow Baker to earn a roster spot.

Overall, the Chargers drafted a nice mix of players who can help immediately and can be groomed for the future. It’s a well-balanced class which should help save the jobs of A.J. Smith and Norv Turner.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chargers, Draft Grades - 2012 1 Comment

Draft Grades: Oakland Raiders

It’s tough to grade a team with no draft picks, so to make it simple I’ll focus solely on how the Oakland Raiders used the picks they had and ignore the questionable trades that got them here.

With their first selection in the 3rd round the Raiders reached to fill a need. Tony Bergstrom will be given an opportunity to compete for a starting job, but he offers only a limited upgrade over their current interior linemen. The Raiders would have been better off settling for the best available player, even if it didn’t fill an immediate need.

Miles Burris will likely compete for the starting job at weak-side linebacker. However, his upside is limited and his role as a rookie may only come by default. His long-term value figures to be limited to special teams duty.

Jack Crawford is an intriguing prospect, but he’s never put it all together on the field. He has all the physical tools necessary to be an elite pass rusher, but he’s just never shown the ability to consistently play at a high level. He’s well worth a gamble in the 5th round, however, and could end up being a player who blossoms in the NFL.

What would Al Davis have to say about the Raiders drafting Juron Criner, who ran a 4.68 in the forty at the combine? The fact that the new Raiders regime would even consider Criner given his poor time shows a considerable shift in philosophy in Oakland. Speed issues aside, this may have been the Raiders best selection. Criner is built like a true No. 1 receiver and has shown that type of play-making ability in the past. He’s inconsistent, but is a nice developmental prospect to add in the 5th round.

Chris Bilukidi will add some much-needed depth to the interior defensive line. He’s needs to improve his overall strength, but has the raw measurables to offer some value as a developmental prospect.

Nathan Stupar projects as a special teams player but, given the lack of depth at linebacker in Oakland, he could see some fairly significant playing time and potentially compete for a starting job if no one else is brought in this offseason.

Considering what limited resources they had to work with, GM Reggie McKenzie and his staff did a nice job. It’s unreaslitic to expect any signficant contributors to come from this class, but the Raiders added enough players with some developmental value that they may find a gem or two.

 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Raiders 2 Comments

Draft Grades: Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs gambled early and often in this class, focusing on players with high upside despite minimal on-field production in college. It’s a bold strategy, and Scott Pioli is putting his job on the line. If these draft classes don’t pan out, he’ll be on the hot seat in a year or two.

Dontari Poe is a classic boom-or-bust prospect. It’s impossible to overlook his measurables, but it’s equally tough to ignore his lack of production at Memphis. The Chiefs could prove to be an ideal landing spot for him though. Romeo Crennel has a strong track record developing nose tackles, working with Vince Wilfork in New England and Shaun Rogers in Cleveland. He’s a true player’s coach, and should be able to keep Poe motivated.

Jeff Allen was considered a 2nd-round pick by many, but it feels like a reach to me. He primarily played tackle at Illinois, rotating between left and right tackle in every game. That type of versatility is intriguing, but his athleticism is limited and he’ll be limited to right tackle or guard at the next level. I’d be more comfortable with the selection of Allen if he filled a need, but the Chiefs don’t appear to have any immediate openings on the offensive.

Donald Stephenson has the measurables to play left tackle in the pros but he, like Poe, showed limited production in college. Given his upside, the Chiefs will likely groom him behind Branden Albert. He may take a year or two to reach his full potential, but he does have a chance to take over a starting job down the road.

Devon Wylie is an elite deep threat, who was a solid value in the 4th round. He’s as fast and explosive as any receiver in this class and has the potential to make an impact in a limited role immediately, and potentially on special teams as well. However, Wylie also has an extensive injury history and has struggled to stay on the field.

De’Quan Menzie played corner at Alabama but is a candidate to shift to free safety in the pros. He lacks the speed to be consistently effective in coverage, but does have the size and ability in run support to play safety. However, the Chiefs secondary is crowded. He’ll need to prove his worth on special teams in order to win a roster spot.

The selection of Cyrus Gray was questionable, even the 6th round. While there’s no denying he was worthy of a 6th-round pick, it’s tough to see how he fits into the Chiefs plan. Peyton Hillis, Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster are guaranteed roster spots, which makes Gray a long shot to make the final roster cut.

Jerome Long is a developmental prospect. He’ll likely be moved to to end in the Chiefs 3-4 defense but he’ll have to fight with Brandon Bair and others for a spot on the roster.

Junior Hemingway is a decent developmental prospect in the 7th round. He has the measurables and turned in some impressive workouts this offseason. He has limited experience in a pro-style offense, however, which limited his growth as a receiver. He’s definitely a candidate to be one of the steals from the 7th round.

Like their 1st-round pick, this was a boom-or-bust draft class for the Chiefs. Poe is the only prospect who will start immediately, and even he is developmental propsect who may struggle early on his career. While this draft class has the potential to produce three or four starters, there are no slam dunks. This could prove to be a critical draft class for Scott Piolo. Either he hits a home run and the Chiefs become serious contenders, or each of these prospects fails to live up their potential and Pioli finds himself on the hot seat.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chiefs, Draft Grades - 2012 1 Comment

Draft Grades: Denver Broncos

By signing Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos gave themselves a three-year window in which they can make a serious run at the Super Bowl. But their selections in this draft class raise some questions about the direction this franchise is headed.

Derek Wolfe was a reach in the early 2nd round. John Fox was clearly looking for a penetrating three-technique tackle but, while Wolfe is a decent athlete for his size, he lacks the consistency to warrant such a high pick. He’ll be plugged into a starting role immediately, but I question his ability to be effective. There were better options, such as Kendall Reyes, on the board.

The Brock Osweiler selection baffles me. For starters, it’s a reach in the 2nd round. He is a purely developmental prospect who needs significant work on this motion and his decision making ability. But what really concerns me is that fact that the Broncos used an early pick on Manning’s replacement when they could have added a playmaker to help Manning in his pursuit of of Super Bowl title.

The selection of Ronnie Hillman has drawn criticism from some, but I’m on board with the pick. Yes, there were better running backs still on the board, but the Broncos weren’t looking for starter here. They’re comfortable with another season of Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno, meaning Hillman will be relied upon as a change-of-pace back, and he’s more than capable of filling that role.

Omar Bolden is an injury risk, but I like the gamble in the 4th round. If healthy, he has an excellent chance to win the nickel corner job and could develop into a quality starter down the road.

Phillip Blake will be given an opportunity to compete with J.D. Walton for the starting job at center. And if Walton’s performance from 2011 continues, Blake will have an excellent chance to win the job. He could prove to be a steal in the 4th round.

Malik Jackson is another prospect who could prove to be a late-round steal. I only had him rated slightly lower than Derek Wolfe, and two prospects are similar in many ways. He primarily played both tackle and end at Tennessee, but is better suited to stay inside in Denver’s 4-3 defense.

Danny Trevathan was a playmaker at Kentucky and an extremely productive collegiate linebacker. However, he’s undersized and lacks the athleticism to make up for it. His upside is limited, but he has a decent chance to make the Broncos roster based on his potential to contribute on special teams.

Overall, this was a disappointing haul for the Broncos. They didn’t make too many extreme reaches, but they also failed to add immediate help for Manning. Even if Osweiler proves to be the heir apparent to Manning, if they won’t win during the Manning era, we’ll have to wonder if they missed an opportunity to upgrade the talent around him with that selection.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012 2 Comments
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