We are 72 hours away from the portion of the NFL offseason we football junkies look forward to the most, the NFL draft. That is, unless you’re a Chargers fan. To say the least, the Chargers last five first round selections have been underwhelming. Lets recap:
2011- Corey Liuget
2010- Ryan Mathews
2009- Larry English
2008- Antoine Cason
2007- Craig Davis
Every year, like a kid at Christmas, I get excited at the prospect of a big time baller being called upon by the Chargers war room. This kid will be a stalwart, a name to count on for a good solid decade. Every year for the last half decade, when Commissioner Goodell says ‘The San Diego Chargers select…’ The Greg One balloons with anticipation, looking for a reason to fist pump at the selection like Tiger Woods after winning a tournament. Every year, I, like a vast majority of Charger fans nationwide, hear the name of the selection and have the same resounding thought.
Admittedly, I am not an avid NCAA football follower. It would be too much work keeping tabs on the best players from among 160 division one schools. Still, who outside Illinois knew Corey Liuget? Exactly. In 2010, the Chargers traded up to the 12th spot. Not expecting the Chargers pick for another hour I came sprinting from one end of the house to the other in time to hear the name of Ryan Mathews from Fresno State.
Of course, to be drafted in the first round you have to have mad game but these names didn’t pop. These names didn’t move the excitement meter. Liuget had the disadvantage of the strike abbreviated offseason. Mathews cashed in on the strength of a junior year where he led the nation in rushing and could turn into a force if he can ever stay healthy an entire season, something he wasn’t able to do even in college. Larry English came in 2009 from Northern Illinois, Cason the year before from Arizona, Davis came from the one name school among them all, LSU. English has been an underachiever to put it nicely. Cason gives up too many big plays on the corners. Davis is somewhere in witness protection if he’s still in the league at all.
The Chargers have done a great job of drafting underachievers with the first pick. Not coincidentally, the Chargers have underachieved as a whole. We all know AJ Smith loves to shop from the bargain bin when it comes to free agency but it doesn’t mean he has to do it in the draft. The Greg One proposes this: If you ask who I want the Chargers to draft thursday, I will give you one word. ALABAMA. Who doesn’t matter. Fact is this year’s crop of defensive players out of Alabama are ballers of the highest degree. Give me ball hawking safety Mark Barron. I’ll take playmaking cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are tenacious and bring the nastiness level needed to survive and thrive at the NFL level. At Alabama, they have been playing at NFL tempo against the highest ranked teams in the land and dominated. They are regularly playing for the National Championship and playing in the highest pressure games each season. These guys are NFL ready and the Chargers will serve themselves well to snag one of these guys with the 18th pick. Then I want Lamichael James from OREGON in the second round.
I want to FINALLY fist pump. I want a player from Alabama.
There are signs the winds of change are blowing. In free agency, AJ Smith made wise moves in bring in players from teams with winning pedigrees like Baltimore and New Orleans. Time to do the same in the draft. Big names from big schools. Forget scheme. The best players from the best schools can learn a new position. They can learn to go from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. Time to bring nasty, big time players to San Diego, starting with free agency and ending with the draft. No more underachievers. No more big fish in small ponds. Leave the MAC and the WAC alone. No more Illinois States or Fresno States. I want USC’s, Notre Dame’s, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska’s, Ohio State, LSU’s…power players from power conferences. We want players baptized by fire in the biggest football hotbeds this country has to offer every week of their playing careers. We want winners. We have suffered long enough.
We ALL want to fist pump!