Shooting For The Top Pick:
When your team has the #1 pick, you are coming off of an awful season. Your team is the worst of 32 teams in the league, and you probably have more leaks in the boat than you can plug in one year. No matter what anyone says, there are few teams that deliberately tried to win the honor of the #1 pick, and I’m sure that even those situations are debatable.
The Indianapolis Colts striking gold on a “Suck For Luck” campaign, after letting hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning walk the previous year, is an example of where “tanking” may make sense. Andrew Luck has already led his team to three playoff appearances, and as many Pro Bowl appearances. He will also be sticking around for a while, presumably. A season removed from losing one of the best players to wear a Colts jersey, followed by a lackluster season of back-up QB Curtis Painter… Let’s just say that they probably aren’t second guessing the decision. But, not every team has a lucky horseshoe on their helmet, to say the least. Picking first in the draft holds no guarantee of immediate or long-term success.
Another example of a first overall pick doing well is Cam Newton, who also has two Pro Bowls under his belt, and is currently heading up the only undefeated team in the NFL. He also made Rookie of the Year, and was a Heisman Trophy winner. It’s safe to say they got their money’s worth there. In fact, over the last 25 years, 15 quarterbacks have been drafted. The Manning brothers & Drew Bledsoe jump off of the page immediately as successful picks, with rings to prove it. Other notables are Michael Vick, Carson Palmer, Matthew Stafford, and Alex Smith. It depends on your point of view whether these players were worth the first pick, or not. Three of the four no longer play with the team that drafted them, and arguments can be made on either side of whether they brought success to the teams they play for. There are also some QB’s who didn’t make a Pro Bowl, or a Super Bowl, like Tim Couch, Jeff George, and Sam Bradford. JaMarcus Russell was just a stinker. David Carr gets an asterisk, because he DID earn a Super Bowl ring, but I wouldn’t say he was worth the first overall pick. In Jameis Winston’s case, it’s just too early to tell, as he was just drafted last season, and the Bucs are still working on being playoff contenders in an a division that has been below average, up until the Panthers went on their recent streak. It’s to be noted that both the Panthers & Bucs have had some pretty high round picks themselves.
As for the other 10 players selected, 3 were offensive tackles. Orlando Pace was absolutely worth it, making seven Pro Bowl appearances, and winning a Super Bowl ring with the St. Louis Rams in 1999. Jake Long was a good choice, making the Pro Bowl in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Eric Fischer is TBD, not making the Pro Bowl yet, but he has only been in the league since 2013. There is still time for him to make a statement, and he has played better this season. However, he is injured, and is still considered a below average tackle. Keyshawn Johnson was the only wide receiver that was chosen in the last 25 years, and paid off pretty well. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 3 times, and won a Super Bowl with the Bucs in 2002. There has also only been one running back, Ka-Jana Carter in 95’. He was drafted by Cincinnati, then played for Washington & New Orleans. He suffered a career ending ACL injury, and never lived up to his first overall pick status.
There were 3 defensive tackles chosen during this time period. In 1991 Russell Maryland was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys as the first overall pick, and he helped lead his team to a whopping 3 Super Bowl titles! However, he only made the Pro Bowl once in his ten year career, and but was a known as a relentless run-stuffer with a high motor. He was later picked up as a free agent by the Oakland Raiders in 1996, where he played for three years before being waived. Green Bay picked him up for his final year, until he retired after the 2000 season. Despite only having one Pro Bowl appearance, you can’t really knock a guy with three rings. The other two DT’s were Steve Emtman (1992), and Dan Wilkinson, neither of whom saw the Pro Bowl, or a Super Bowl.
There have been two defensive ends chosen as the number one pick during this span. Mario Williams was drafted by Houston in 2006, and has been one of the top defensive ends in recent history. He made the 2008 & 2009 Pro Bowl with the Texans, before signing with the Buffalo. He made the Pro Bowl last year with the Bills. So, not a total waste, as when he was playing at a high level, he was almost unstoppable, and he still continues to earn his contract.
The other defensive end is Jadeveon Clowney, also drafted by Houston in 2014. Clowney did not appear in the Pro Bowl in his first year, as he didn’t really get a chance to see the field much. After a head-to-head collision in preseason, he was experiencing concussion-like symptoms, and spent time on the sideline. He would return to the field later in the season, until he was put on IR to have surgery on a torn meniscus. He also hurt his knee, which also required surgery. In 2015, he skipped preseason recovering from these injuries, but hasn’t been able to make the impact that the draft experts were hoping for. He has just one sack to his name, and one forced fumble. To make things worse, he has missed two games this season due to yet another injury to his back, making it a total of 14 games that he has not played. After earning a 22 million dollar contract, with 14 million guaranteed, I’m sure the Texans are disappointed that Clowney has not been the third head of the monster, along with teammates J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus. Obviously, this is only his second year, and there is plenty of time for him to live up to his pre-draft expectations. As Charger fans, we understand, having seen our own players struggle with injuries. Melvin Ingram, D.J. Fluker, Manti Te’O, and Jerry Attouchu all came with high expectations, but have spent considerable time on the sidelines nursing injuries.
This leads us to the topic at hand. There are many fans calling for the team to lose out the season on purpose. The rationale behind this is that the higher the draft pick we obtain the better chance we have of landing a Hall of Fame caliber player, or at least a perennial Pro Bowler. In fact, some are pretty adamant that the Chargers should be shooting for the first pick of the draft. I only went back 25 years into the first overall picks of the draft, as the NFL has changed so much, and going back to the dawn of the draft seemed like overkill. Quite honestly, I only wanted to go back 20 years, but there were 3 defensive tackles picked between the years of 1990-1994, which I figured that was worth mentioning. But, it would seem that the trend has been to draft a quarterback with the first overall pick. This brings up many questions. What exactly would the Chargers do with the first overall pick? Let’s take a look at the facts.
The Chargers just signed Philip Rivers to a pretty nice contract, with a “no-trade clause”, which Philip asked to have put in there. I assume he could waive this clause, if he wants to, but it’s in there now. It would appear that the Chargers are not in the market for a new quarterback, barring a career ending injury this season, which we all hope does not happen. We must also consider the fact that the future of the team is up in the air. If the Chargers go to L.A., I am assuming that Philip Rivers and the team have come to the arrangement that Philip is going with them. I don’t like to assume, as Rivers could always decide to retire, or maybe even ask to be traded. You can’t ignore the fact that Floyd is retiring, Weddle looks like a goner, and who knows what Gate’s future is with the team? I think he plays another year with PR, but we’ll see. If all three leave, Rivers will be the last man standing of the “old school vets”. This has to have crossed his mind, and probably has been on his mind since Hardwick & Clary retired.
The good news is that Rivers is breaking his hero’s records left & right, and does not have a ring yet. I think he is far from retiring, unless something awful happens. Now that Mariota is starting for the Titans, and Whisenhunt is no longer in Tennessee, I am guessing that we won’t be seeing Rivers flying home for a family reunion. Perhaps Whisenhunt could bring Rivers over to whatever team he ends up on next, but Rivers already didn’t like uprooting his family to go to Los Angeles. Unless it’s in his own back yard, I don’t think he will be going to Whisenhunt’s next destination. So, it would appear that Rivers is in for the long haul, no matter what city name goes before the word “Chargers”.
The next question is, what would Telesco do with the #1 overall pick? It’s not like this situation comes around all the time. Would he pass up the chance to choose a quarterback? The stats show that out of 15 QB’s chosen over the last 25 years, 8 have made the Pro Bowl multiple times, or at least once. 3 have Super Bowl rings. 6 have led & are still helping lead their teams to playoff contention, and 10 out of 15 have started games this season. With all of backlash of choosing a running back in the first round, trading picks away to do it, and Gordon’s struggles this season, would he go against the flow? Would he pick another position with the first pick?
Obviously, Telesco (and his committee) don’t seem to care what anyone thinks when it comes to drafting, and do their own thing. So, would he pick a tackle, a defensive lineman, a wide receiver? Knowing that Tom Telesco LOVES value picks, it’s hard to see him taking a defensive lineman, unless he was absolutely sure that they were going to be the quarterback of the defense. After looking at the Mario Williams situation, it’s tough to think that TT would pick a defensive lineman with the first overall pick, even if a player was presented by draft pundits as “a rare talent, basically to the defensive end spot what Andrew Luck and RG3 were to the quarterback position”, like Clowney was.
RG3 isn’t even a factor anymore, and Luck has had his fair share of struggles this season in a weak division. So, that statement from the draft “experts” is flawed, especially since Clowney is looking like a bad pick right now. I bet Telesco would take a left tackle, in light of the Dunlap concussion situation, and have him play right guard for a while, and drop Barksdale. I would like to say that he would orchestrate a trade-down for extra picks, but I just don’t see him giving away (hopefully) his only first overall pick to some other team for extra picks. If it didn’t work out, Charger fans would hold his feet to the fire for a long time, and it might cost him his job.
Quite honestly, it’s looking like the Chargers will be picking in the top ten, and maybe the top five. Unless they suddenly get MUCH better in all three phases of the game, the Oakland Raiders & the Miami Dolphins are the only two teams I see them beating. That puts them at 5-11, at best. And, neither of those games is a guaranteed win. I don’t think the Chargers liked losing to the Raiders like they did, so I expect them to have a chip on their shoulder about that game. Also, Pagano will be coaching defense for his life in the NFL.
The Miami game is possibly the last game to be played at Qualcomm. I have my tickets, and I’m certain a lot of other people do too. So, in honor of Malcom Floyd’s last game as a Charger, and in response to that shutout in Miami last season… I hope we whip them into submission, and the stadium is thunderous. We’ll be hosting a Bolt Beat BBQ in the parking lot, and you should drop by.