As Philip Rivers struggled through the 2012 season, so did the Chargers. Placing the blame on Rivers is shortsighted though, as his offensive line struggled to keep him upright, his receivers disappointed or got hurt and the San Diego running game couldn’t get going all season. The Chargers did their best to fix those issues in April’s draft but will it be enough to bring them back to the playoffs in 2013? Chris Tripodi is back to break down San Diego’s draft.
D.J. Fluker/T/Alabama (Round 1/Pick #11): With the top left tackle prospects coming off the board in the draft’s top four picks, San Diego had to settle for the draft’s best right tackle prospect in Fluker. The Chargers may still struggle to protect Philip Rivers’ blind side, but Fluker is a huge prospect (6-4, 339) with the strength and agility to be a dominant force on the offensive line. He will need to work on finishing blocks in the NFL and containing speed rushers off the edge, but his talent level is impressive and Fluker has the upside to be one of the league’s best on the right side. The Chargers would be wise to leave him there and not toy with the idea of moving him to left tackle, despite a gaping hole at the position.
Manti Te’o/LB/Notre Dame (Round 2/Pick #38): A horrible performance in the BCS Championship Game is being partially blamed for Te’o’s fall into the second round, but it’s possible that was just a national display of the weaknesses that NFL evaluators already knew existed in his game. Nonetheless, the Charges jumped at the opportunity to trade up for Te’o, giving Arizona their fourth-round pick to move up from pick 45 to take the Heisman Trophy finalist. Te’o’s lack of speed should be masked in San Diego’s 3-4 defense and playing next to Donald Butler should help him adjust to the NFL. His ball skills earned him plenty of accolades in college and the former Irish star has a good chance to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL as long as his speed doesn’t hurt him in coverage. He’s a better tackler than he showed against Alabama and landed in a good spot for his talent to be utilized.
Keenan Allen/WR/California (Round 3/Pick #76): A lingering knee injury cost Allen dearly in the draft process, as he was once considered the top receiver available but fell all the way to the 3rd round. The Chargers were more than happy to stop Allen’s fall and while his slow recovery brought on questions about his work ethic, quieting those doubters will make Allen one of the draft’s best value picks. With Robert Meachem proving to be a free agent bust and only injury-prone receivers Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown entrenched on the depth chart, Allen could emerge as Philip Rivers’ favorite target if he proves healthy. A very solid possession receiver with good size (6-2, 206) and playmaking ability after the catch, Allen would be a great complement to a big-play threat like Alexander on the outside.
Steve Williams/CB/California (Round 5/Pick #145): Standing just 5-9 and 181 pounds, Williams’ greatest asset is his sub-4.4 speed but he is more of an athlete at this stage of his career than a football player. He plays strong against the run despite his small stature but is unlikely to be much of a contributor to San Diego’s defensive backfield in 2013 and will need time to develop better coverage instincts. If he does, Williams can be an effective nickel or dime back for San Diego down the line.
Tourek Williams/DE/Florida International (Round 6/Pick #179): A defensive end in college, Williams will transition to outside linebacker in the NFL and is faster and more athletic than his 4.92 40-yard dash at the combine would lead you to believe. Williams is quick off the snap and around the edge, shows good ability in pursuit and can drop into coverage as well. His size (6-3, 260) makes it difficult for him to shed blocks quickly, but he should be a solid backup in San Diego if his talents translate quickly to the NFL from the small-school level
Brad Sorensen/QB/Southern Utah (Round 7/Pick #221): Sorensen has the size (6-4, 229) and arm strength to be an intriguing NFL prospect but while his college production was consistent, he was essentially the same player as a senior that he was as a sophomore. He saw his completion percentage drop from 68% to 62% in his final year at Southern Utah and has consistent issues overthrowing receivers and making them adjust for passes. His footwork and ability to read the field also need a lot of work for Sorensen to stick as an NFL quarterback. He can be a productive backup if he puts it all together, but Sorensen’s lack of development at the college level makes that scenario unlikely.
Grade: B+. What San Diego’s draft lacked in depth it more than made up for in top-shelf talent. The Chargers got three players who were in first-round consideration at one point and took advantage of red flags from the pre-draft process to get good value on Manti Te’o and Keenan Allen, both of whom should be important contributors now and in the future. This draft was a step in the right direction for a team looking to finally move on from the A.J. Smith and Norv Turner era.