2013 Chargers Draft Review
By: Loren S. Casuto
1st Round: D.J. Fluker Right Tackle Alabama
The Chargers went into the draft with a desperate need at offensive tackle, and the collective groan from Charger fans and the front office could be felt on the Richter scale as the top five OL went off the board in the first ten picks. Instead of trading back though the Chargers stayed in position and took the sixth best lineman and the consensus fourth tackle on the board.
You know someone is large when veteran scouts and players look at someone and say that he’s massive. At 6’4 340lbs with a three foot wingspan and 10.5 inch hands, Fluker is a mountain with exceptional strength and power. If he latches onto someone it’s game over in either the pass or run game. His work ethic, desire and passion for the game are fantastic, and he will fight hard even when exhausted. On the negative he doesn’t have great foot speed and has been beaten by double moves, though he held up well enough against some of the best the SEC had to offer.
While not what many expected, Fluker will immediately replace one of the weakest links over the last five years. Even with Nick Hardwick the current Chargers offensive line averages 320 with the right side consisting of the 325lb RG Chad Rhinehart and the 340lb Fluker. What is equally interesting is what Fluker’s drafting suggests about the direction of the line, not so much a zone blocking scheme many were expecting. Regardless of the scheme this pick will help the Chargers improve their run game and should keep Rivers upright for a little longer. The Chargers had to walk out of this draft with their line improved and, though it wasn’t how many fans believed it would be, the Chargers improved their line.
2nd Round: Manti Te’o Inside Linebacker Notre Dame
When the Chargers brought Te’o for a private workout before the draft, it was seen as Tom Telesco performing due diligence. Few fans seriously considered drafting him, but some debated what if he fell to us. I had almost put him in my mock draft because I thought he’d tumble into the second round. What I never thought was that after selecting a mammoth right tackle the Chargers would trade up and select the biggest media circus to hit San Diego since Ron Burgundy.
In the history of the draft it’s doubtful any prospect had a bigger fall from grace in the off-season than Manti Te’o. It started with the worst performances of his career in the biggest and last game of his college career. That was followed up by a media circus of unbridled proportions involving a fake girlfriend and a new verb (catfishing), and finally concluded with a horrible performance at the Combine. Prior to that Te’o was the heart and soul of the #2 team in college football who won seven major awards in 2012 alone. He has elite instincts, reacts lightning fast to anything on the field, is a very good and fundamentally sound tackler and has greatly improved in his pass protection, especially when the ball is in the air. He also runs and plays faster than his time would suggest. He must work on breaking free of blockers and doesn’t have the pure speed of other linebackers.
With this pick the Chargers now have a pair of three down inside linebacker in Donald Butler and Manti Te’o. This also means the Jonas Mouton experiment ends before it starts, something Charger fans are grateful for. The Chargers are getting a marvelous player who could be something very special with a little more work, but the organization has to weather the incoming hurricane.
3rd Round – Keenan Allen Wide Receiver California
I believe that had New Orleans not grabbed him a single pick before the Chargers, this selection would have been Terron Armstead. Instead the Chargers grabbed another guy who was originally rated a first round selection but fell due to a questionable drug claim and the dreaded word “Combine”.
At 6’3 210 Allen is a big receiver who has long arms, quick feet and impressive route tree already. More impressive are his hands and his jump ball ability; he is unafraid of going over the middle and holds onto the ball no matter what. He times his jumps perfectly and is aggressive in getting the ball. To some degree he reminds scouts of Vincent Jackson in terms of his jump ball skills and his ferocity in fighting for the ball. He doesn’t have great time speed but he eats up ground quickly, and needs to improve his blocking ability. Allen is still recovering from knee injury but should be healthy by training camp.
The Chargers have an incredibly deep group of receivers that includes Malcolm Floyd, Vincent Brown, Danario Alexander, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Mike Willie, Richard Goodman and more. But out of this group only Floyd has established themselves while Alexander and Brown have talent but are not proven. Add Allen, whose skill set matches Rivers perfectly, and the Chargers have an impressive group of veterans and young talent. While it might not be a need, you can’t deny the value and that Rivers gets another fantastic talent to play with. The team gets a player who had a first round grade on him, and to do it this late is very impressive.
5th Round – Steve Williams Cornerback California
The Chargers go back-to-back Golden Bears and add a player to a secondary that has young unproven talent that is waiting to bloom. To that group the Chargers add a player that, if he were two inches taller, would be a much higher pick. At 5’8 181 Williams is undersized with smaller hands and shorter arms than a prototypical corner. He makes up for it though with fantastic top speed and great instincts; Williams has an advanced understanding of how to bait a QB into throwing towards him, and has the speed to catch up or jump routes with ease. He also has a 40-inch vertical jump and will fight hard for every ball. Williams is also a good tackler who fights hard and won’t give an inch regardless of how undersized he is.
Derek Cox has solidified the #1 corner spot with Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright, both unproven, will compete for the #2 and nickel spots. Williams will likely be the dime back and a special teamer while he furthers his craft in the NFL. Alternatively the Chargers might move Gilchrist to safety while Brandon Taylor recovers from ACL surgery, pushing Williams into the nickel role immediately. Depth was needed regardless because of Cox’s injury history and the lack of track record for both Gilchrist and Wright. Williams is someone who could potentially move to nickel or even start in a few years, if he can continue to develop past his lack of height.
6th Round – Tourek Williams Outside Linebacker Florida International
If going back to back in college wasn’t enough, how about going back to back on last names? The Chargers select a player from the same college as former Charger Antwaan Barnes who is the best pass rusher to emerge from FIU since Barnes was there. At 6’2 260 Williams is a traditional 4-3 DE who will be asked to move to OLB. He has shorter than average arms, small hands and doesn’t have great height or speed. He does have good explosiveness off the line of scrimmage with a very powerful initial punch, is as good using his hands to shed blockers and a great combination of pass rush moves. He has a sterling work ethic and fights hard all game long, chasing down plays long after they’ve passed him by and showing very good tackling. He will need to learn how to play in a 3-4 and how to react in coverage.
Williams provides good depth to a group that has basically none and only one pass rusher. Tenacity and a good mix of pass rush moves and powerful hands are a fantastic addition and will likely let him rotate in with Jarrett Johnson on passing downs.
7th Round – Brad Sorensen Quarterback Southern Utah
With their last pick the Chargers went with a developmental prospect from the same school that produced the back-flipping fan favorite Marquis Harris. A 25yr old graduate and former walk on, at 6’4 229 Sorensen has good size and a quick effortless release. He shows impressive accuracy both standing and on the move, and when he needs to run he has light feet and good speed. In addition Sorensen is a good student of the game who understands strategy and tactics easily. He was also the unquestioned leader who never missed a game and fought through pain. Negatives include that he throws off his back foot too much, took too many snaps in the shotgun, and somehow holds onto the ball too long while at the same time having happy feet. He also performed poorly when he went to the NFLPA Collegiate All-Star Game.
It’s not surprising that the team would bring in someone to groom and interestingly enough Sorensen has all the qualities you’d look for in a back up. In two or three years he could potentially take over for Rivers but I am concerned that if Sorensen had trouble against college all-stars, he will for sure struggle in the NFL. Still he has the mindset and the tools to be a good quarterback.
The Chargers signed 20 undrafted free agents and have a few gems in the group that could have an impact. They signed two players with well-known names; Luke Tasker WR Cornell who is the son of former Bills WR and current broadcaster Steve Tasker, and Marcus Cromartie CB from Wisconsin, the cousin of former Charger Antonio Cromartie. Michael Hill had an impressive career at Missouri Western and performed well at numerous all-star games, showing fantastic speed and power. Kwame Geathers and Byron Jerideau are both large imposing men who will compete for a backup nose tackle position. Keep an eye on Nick Becton who was a starter for only one year but was blocked for two years at Virginia Tech. He’s a fantastic talent with the size and quickness you can’t teach who could be a better pro than college player.
Thoughts on the Draft:
1) The Chargers must be more confident in their talent than the fans are, even though this is a team with a lot of holes. Even though there are only three guaranteed starting left tackles in the draft, the fact that the team walked out with a right tackle is problematic.
2) The happiest person should be Phillip Rivers; he has a real right tackle and a new receiver to wash out the bad taste of Royal/Meachem.
3) Having said the above, seeing King Dunlap as the starting left tackle won’t help matters. I wonder if Becton is ready to start….
4) Bryant McKinnie, please pick up the red courtesy phone. Fans of the Chargers would like to sign you.
5) The AFC West as a whole had a very good draft, even the Raiders. This isn’t the NFC West but this won’t be a cakewalk for any team.
6) I think the Chargers have one of the best inside linebacker groups around.
7) I’m very worried that the pass rush will apparently come from Kendall Reyes, Corey Liuget and Melvin Ingram, unless Tourek Williams or a UDFA develops quickly. Losing Shaun Phillips didn’t help either.
8) Mike McCoy & John Pagano want to see what they have in Wright & Gilchrist, that’s the only reason to explain why they drafted Williams as opposed to someone earlier.
9) While I like the selection of Te’o and the fact that Telesco identified and got his guy, the lack of a fourth round selection in a class this deep was a big problem.
Overall Grade: B-
Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy should be happy with their first draft in charge. The team never really reached on any of their selections, found good value throughout, especially in rounds 2 & 3. My concern is that this team has too many needs for any individual draft to fix. Ironically what could save this team are a group of very impressive undrafted free agents, many of whom could be big scores for a team without real success in this area for years. Still the team acquired some very good talent that will fill a number of needs. If not for the pure number of holes this would be a better draft.