[From the FanPosts. Nice read.]
Welcome to the long drought that is the true NFL off-season. With nothing better to do I thought it'd be a fun exercise to look at the AFC West draft history for the last 10 years. Partially cause it's not work...but mainly to crystalize the excitement I have for this KC team and the near future.
I haven't felt this good about the Chiefs in a long time. And instead of waxing kool-aid-etic about it, I wanted to bring hard facts to the party.
To better correlate the draft to wins/losses, I've matched each draft class with the record of the team two years after the fact. For example; 2001 Draft > 2003 Regular Season record. It's not perfect, but hey, write your own piece if you don't like it.
Over the next five days we'll review the last 10 years of drafting in the AFC West. Each day a different AFC West team will be tackled. On Friday I'll try to make sense of everything in a conclusion post. Hope you enjoy.
On with the show.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
A funny thing happened on the way to the 2011 playoffs. The perennial favorite San Diego Chargers somehow fell apart. Many blamed Rivers and a non-disclosed injury. Undoubtedly Rivers’ uncharacteristic play had a lot to do with San Diego’s downfall, but I would argue that it was just the final straw. The decline of the Chargers was not Phillip Rivers fault. The decline of the Chargers can be directly attributed to AJ Smith and his recent draft history.
During this year's draft I looked over the last few years of San Diego's draft history. In the early part of the decade San Diego crushed the draft. As we'll see later, they had a 3 year stretch where the Chargers drafted so well that it is no surprise they captured the division 5 out of 10 years. But what about recently? Could there be a correlation to San Diego's recent loss of division supremacy and their recent drafts?
I decided to take a deeper look to see if I was imagining things or if this correlation could be clearly seen.
What happened to the cute and cuddley Chargers of the 90's that were good for at least a two win season? The draft happened.
Since 2001 the Chargers have had three head coaches: Mike Riley, Marty Shottenheimer and Norv Turner. They've also had two General Managers: John Butler and AJ Smith.
John Butler was named the General Manager of the Chargers in 2001. His tenure only lasted 2 years when he lost a battle with cancer. Prior to his death, Butler was responsible for the drafting of LT, Brees and Jammer. The Chargers began to build a young nucleus off these draft hits. Beginning in 2003 AJ Smith took over the personnel decisions and has been running the show ever since.
Successful doesn't even begin to describe Smith's early drafts. Between the Butler and Smith drafts of 2001-2006 the Sand Diego Chargers didn't draft one, but two potential Hall of Fame QB's as well as a Hall of Fame Running Back in LT. Part luck, part genius Butler and Smith gave San Diego the tools to put a stranglehold on the AFC West.
But it's not all roses in Chargerland anymore. The success that Smith enjoyed in the early years has not been replicated the last few years. The Chargers are still relying on their success from those early AJ Smith draft classes.
Don't take my word for it, the draft history and regular season records below tell the tale.
To clarify things a bit, I've correlated the team's record from two years after the corresponding draft class. I've also limited the players on the list to those who played in at least 16 games for the team that drafted them. Starter also means 16 starts over their career with the team.
Draft History Legend:
- * = Starter (Must have started 16 games with team to qualify)
- + = Pro Bowler
- # = All Pro
S = Players are still with the team /
players in BOLD are still with the team
San Diego Draft History (2001-2010) and Regular Season Records (2003-2011)
2001 Draft Class / 2003 Record 4-12
2003 3rd in AFC West
- LaDainian Tomlinson, RB * + #
- Drew Brees, QB * + (Never made All Pro while with SD)
- Tay Cody. CB
- Carlos Polk, LB
- Zeke Moreno, LB *
- Robert Carswell, DB
2002 Draft Class / 2004 Record 12-4
2004 AFC West Champions, Wildcard round loss
2003 Draft Class / 2005 Record 9-7
2005 3rd in AFC West
- Sammy Davis, DB *
- Drayton Florence, DB *
- Terence Kiel, S *
- Matt Wilhelm, LB *
- Mike Scifres, P * S
- Hanik Milligan, DB +
- Andrew Pinnock, FB
- Antonio Gates, TE (UDFA) * + #
2004 Draft Class / 2006 Record 14-2
2006 AFC West Champion, Wildcard round loss
- Eli Manning/ Phillys Rivers * + S
- Igor Olshansky, DE *
- Nate Kaeding, K * + # S
- Nick Hardwick, C * + S
- Shaun Phillips, DE/LB * + S
- Michael Turner, RB
- Shane Olivea, RT *
2005 Draft Class / 2007 Record 11-5
2007 AFC West Champion, Conference Championship loss
- Shawne Merriman, LB * + #
- Luis Castillo, DE * S
- Vincent Jackson, WR *+
- Darren Sproles, RB
- Scott Mruczkowski, C *
2006 Draft Class / 2008 Record 8-8
2008 AFC West Champion, Divisional Round loss
2007 Draft Class / 2009 Record 13-3
2009 AFC West Champion, Wildcard Round loss
2008 Draft Class / 2010 Record 9-7
2010 2nd in AFC West
2009 Draft Class / 2011 Record 8-8
2011 2nd in AFC West
2010 Draft Class / 2012 Record ????
- Ryan Matthews, RB * S
- Cam Thomas, DT S
Looking at the San Diego draft history it seems a no brainer to connect their drafting history to the team's performance on the field.
Between 2001-2006, the San Diego Chargers drafted 26 starters. Among those starters they had 12 Pro Bowlers and 5 All Pros. From 2003-2008 the team had a combined record of 50-30 (625% winning pct) in the regular season.
Of the 23 starters drafted by San Diego between 2001-2006, nine players still with the team. Jammer, Scrifes, Gates, Rivers, Kaeding, Hadrwick, Phillips, Castillo and Clary.
To put that in perspective; Kansas City has 3 players still on the team (Hali, Derrick Johnson, Colquitt), Denver has two players still on the team (Dumerville and Kuper), while Oakland has one (Huff).
San Diego is still living fat from those early Smith/Butler drafts.
Over the next four drafts (2007-2010) the Chargers drafted just 5 starters. Among the starters they had 1 Pro Bowler and 1 All Pro Team members. Hmmm....
So for those at home keeping score:
2001-2010 draft classes brought San Diego:
- 75 total draft picks
- 30 Starters
- 13 Pro Bowlers
- 6 All Pros
- 5 AFC West Divisional Crowns
- 18 of the 75 picks are still with the team
What does it all mean though? We'll you'll just have to wait for that post once we slog through all the teams in the division won't you.
Up tomorrow, the Oakland Raiders