2010 Draft Review


Code Monkey
Staff member
Jun 29, 2009
Orange County, CA
By Loren Casuto
<em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>

<div class="alignright"><a href="http://images.sdentertainer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Ryan-Mathews1-400x300.jpg"><img class=" " title="Ryan Mathews" src="http://images.sdentertainer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Ryan-Mathews1-400x300.jpg" alt="" width="252" height="189" /></a></div>

With the 2010 NFL draft behind us, and with six new draft picks coming to San Diego, the next step is the always asked for draft grades. Though you can't accurately grade a draft until at least three years after it has occurred, the Chargers walked away with players at their four major areas of need (running back, safety, inside linebacker and nose tackle). One of the other most noticeable differences between this draft and those of years past is that A.J. Smith was the most aggressive he's ever been. Smith traded up three times for three different players, a surprising statistic given his history for standing pat and hoarding draft picks.

<strong>1. Ryan Matthews, RB Fresno State</strong>

While I had projected Matthews to go to the Chargers I never would have imagined that the Chargers would jump sixteen spots up the board to acquire him. Apparently there were teams that had targeted Matthews in the mid first round, especially with C.J. Spiller going to Buffalo in the top 10. With a specific target in mind and teams coming up that wanted a running back, A.J. Smith jumped up into the middle of the first round and selected the new franchise running back. Now in truth the Chargers really did not give up that much for Matthews, something ignored by many media critics who give the Bolts low grades. To move up sixteen spaces, AJ Smith handed over back up ILB Tim Dobbins and the coveted second round selection along with his first rounder. He received a sixth rounder for the trade and swapped fourth round picks, thus improving his selection. So to move up sixteen spots AJ gave Miami a backup linebacker and a high second, that's really not a lot when you consider some other more exorbitant trades made in the first round of years past.

[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]There really isn't a lot more to say about Matthews that hasn't been said already. I will add that in him the Chargers found the best all around back in the draft and the perfect replacement for Ladanian Tomlinson. While Matthews has to show he can be healthy for a full season and improve some at pass blocking and catching, he has all the talent to be a star. He can run inside and outside effectively with the power to break through tackles and enough speed to go the distance. With all these skills he's the only running back of the top five that could legitimately be considered a three down back. Add to that fantastic character and work ethic and you have the finest all around back available.

The success of this draft will depend heavily on Ryan Matthews; you don't make someone the team's first pick, especially trading up so far, and not expect them to become an impact player. That goes double for a running back, a position normally seen as the easiest to convert from the college game to the pros. Added to it the pressure of replacing a hall of famer and city icon as well as the not-so-subtle dig his selection made to criticisms of the teams' offensive line, and Matthews has a lot on his shoulders. But he's in the position he wants to be in, in the city he dreamed of coming to, and he has all the talent to make it happen.

<strong>3. Donald Butler, ILB Washington</strong>

As the third round continued, the Chargers made their second trade in two days, jumping up to the 49ers spot in the middle of the round. I, and many other Charger fans, was expecting this to be for a nose tackle, especially considering almost all of the top ones were off the board. Instead we were surprised that the Chargers traded up to acquire an inside linebacker from the PAC-10. While I was very critical of the pick at the time, when you consider the individual drafted he is very impressive.

A fast and powerful inside linebacker who looks the part as well, Butler was a team captain on a team that, until last year, was one of the worst in college football. But during Washington's revitalization Butler shined especially in big games against USC and Arizona where it looked like he racked up a hundred tackles in each game. While he is very good at run stopping he also is very solid in pass coverage and has been able to run with tight ends throughout his time in the PAC-10, even in man coverage. He's also a very sure tackler and makes it a point to tackle as opposed to go for knock out hits. Butler is also held in high regards by his teammates and coaches where he is seen as mature, a hard worker and a leader, three things AJ looks very highly at.

While I was criticizing why A.J. didn't go after a nose tackle at the time, inside linebacker was definitely an area of need. Butler was constantly ranked in the top 3 of pure inside linebackers in the draft with skills, especially pass coverage, that have been sorely needed on the Chargers defense. With all his abilities and talent, there's a solid chance that he could force his way into the starting lineup this year. But at the very least he will be a special teams contributor this year and, as of now, the only ILB with the Chargers past 2010.

<strong>4. Darrell Stuckey, S Kansas</strong>

If you thought I was pissed at the Butler selection, imagine how angry I was at this selection. Though it's another area of need, the fact that we passed on nose tackle three rounds in a row nearly sent me off the cliff. Again, AJ Smith chose to acquire a player at another area of need that had been on my board, and even at the same position I had thought AJ would look for a safety.
Stuckey played every game with Kansas for three years and was team captain for two of them. A safety with solid speed (especially in closing/recovery and along a straight line) and size, he has bounced between free and strong safety, though he'd probably be the best fit at strong safety. He's a solid tackler but not a hitter, usually flying into gaps in the run game and wrapping his guy up. He's also very good at stripping the ball away as he's tackling someone, and made some of his biggest plays in big games causing fumbles. If possible Stuckey might have the best character of the entire draft (which is saying something) as he has shown a great deal of involvement with community service and student government work at Kansas. Criticism of him includes that he's not a hitter, that he requires space to gain top speed and isn't very sudden and that he needs work going man to man with receivers. He also needs to learn to keep his head up during tackling, something he didn't do much in college and something savvy NFL players will take advantage of.

Stuckey isn't as aggressive or as much of a powerful hitter as Kevin Ellison, the Chargers current SS, but Stuckey has enough athleticism and intangibles to push Ellison to the limits for the starting job. Just as with Butler, the Chargers got a high character, hard working and athletic player that, at the least, will be a solid special teams player this year. But just as with Butler, don't be surprised if Stuckey beats out Ellison for the job.

<strong>5. Cam Thomas, NT North Carolina.</strong>

Prior to this pick, I had currently rated the Chargers draft as a D. The Bolts had acquired players from one need and two areas of depth, yet they had ignored defensive tackle while stating that they were confident in their rotation of players. After this pick, I moved the grade up to a B; amazing what one player can do. To find a player at a position of need who was predicted to be the second or third nose tackle taken in the draft somewhere in the second round is nothing short of remarkable. And again AJ Smith was aggressive, trading once again to steal a player that the New York Giants were high on at that pick.

Thomas played on a defense that will produce numerous NFL draft picks and as such was never able to get out of the shadow of the talented Tar Heel defense. Scouts debate whether that was the issue behind his lack of numbers and, at times, lack of production and fire. No one questions though that Thomas has the make up of a proper nose tackle. He has great power and mass in both his upper and lower body and has the strength to both beat the double team and to establish position along with a decent first step. He also has a very boisterous personality and is known as the guy who keeps the team loose and laughing. He does need to work on tackling more securely and, as is the case with many big defensive tackles, he must improve his conditioning and be consistent in his performance.

While Ryan Matthews will get the majority of focus, Cam Thomas could make this draft spectacular. He was considered to be one of the biggest steals in the draft that wasn't a quarterback and is going to a team desperate for a proper nose tackle. And on the Chargers, who are deficient in nose tackles, he could start and hopefully contribute immediately. If he turns out to be a constant effective nose tackle, the Chargers will have a major find. Otherwise the Chargers will have a bust and have to explain (baring great success from both Butler and Stuckey) why they passed on nose tackles until the fifth round.

5. Jonathan Crompton QB Tennessee

Meet the guy who will eventually be traded for a second rounder in 2014. After the Chargers traded Charlie Whitehurst, a third quarterback became a need. The quarterback would also have to be one with a decent chance of developing into a good backup as Billy Volek is getting older. With a supplemental pick the Chargers acquired their future clipboard holder. Jonathan "straight out of" Crompton had an up and down career in Tennessee until Lane Kiffin arrived and installed a pro-style offensive scheme. Once that happen, Crompton showed incredible development and became a very good quarterback. He's considered to have one of the strongest arms in the class with enough touch on deep balls to make them very catchable. He has a quick release and is used to taking snaps under center, a big plus in this quarterback class. He does need to work on reading defenses better and continue improving his accuracy, though it did take a big step forward during his senior year.

My only criticism of this pick is that there would have been, and was, numerous decent quarterbacks available that had not been drafted. As such I think this pick would have been better spent on another running back or another defensive player. However I can't fault the Chargers for acquiring a player at a need position and the team had liked Crompton enough to invite him to visit San Diego prior to the draft. Now he has the chance to earn a living working behind Philip Rivers.

7. Dedrick Epps, TE/H-Back Miami (FL)

For their final pick the Chargers once again acquired a player to replace someone they lost in free agency, in this case TE Brandon Manumaleuna. Epps played in the shadow of fellow tight end and former basketball player Jimmy Graham for two years but earned everything he got through hard work and dedication. Considered by many to be one of the best team players and one of the hardest workers at Miami, Epps gives 100% every time on every play. With good hands and a decent release Epps is a solid backup tight end. He shows the ability to sneak away from defenses and move the chains. Epps also fights hard when blocking, playing tenaciously and never giving up. However he doesn't perform any one area very well and lacks both the speed to be a good catching tight end and the power to be a good blocking tight end. In addition Epps tore his ACL at the 2008 emerald bowl, though he rehabbed hard to make it back in time for the 2009 season. If he makes the team Epps would be the third tight end behind Gates and Wilson.

Just as with the Crompton pick, I question whether the last draft pick should not have been saved for another area of importance. But just as with Crompton, you can't fault the Chargers for filling a position that was depleted in free agency with another high character hard working player.

Undrafted Free Agents

The Chargers picked up thirty undrafted free agents after the draft with a few interesting names. Seyi Ajirotutu and Jeremy Williams are two good sized wide receivers, Ajirotutu is seen as a Malcolm Floyd clone and Williams has better speed. Brandon Lang is a defensive end converting to outside linebacker with some good moves. Cory Jackson is an old school blocking fullback known for being tough.

Overall grade – B

This is taking into account the fact that a draft does not get graded accurately until three years or more down the road. The Chargers walked into the draft with set needs at running back, nose tackle, linebacker, safety and a third quarterback. It is hard to fault them for taking players that meet all five of those needs, some of them look like real gems too. The first four players will be looked at as contributors immediately and some of them could start immediately. Nevertheless the draft will truly be graded on the development and success on two players; Ryan Matthews and Cam Thomas. If both succeed then this draft will be a success. If not, then this will go down as a poor draft. Until then, from a ‘fill your need' stand point the Chargers had a solid draft.