Analyzing Smith's Draft Tendencies

A.J. Smith will conduct his ninth draft as GM of the San Diego Chargers this weekend. Over the course of his tenure, some definite trends have emerged that foreshadow his plan for the upcoming draft. Here is a detailed look at Smith's methodology.

1. Identify and Land the Right Players

Smith believes in identifying impact players and aggressively moving to obtain them. He has assembled costly trade packages in recent years to move up for Eric Weddle, Jacob Hester and Ryan Mathews. Last year, three of his first four picks were landed via trade-up (Mathews, Donald Butler and Cam Thomas).

Smith has plenty of ammunition to move around again this year, owning three of the top 89 selections in the draft. This may be used to make a splash -- such as Georgia WR A.J. Green -- or possibly to snag an extra selection at the end of the first round.

2. Location Doesn't Matter

WR Vincent Jackson
Harry How/Getty
Smith is not afraid to gamble on small-school players. He has plucked players from Western Ontario (Vaughn Martin), Northern Colorado (Vincent Jackson) and Western Illinois (Mike Scifres), among other nondescript places. Don't be surprised if another non-D-I player gets picked up this weekend.

Keep an eye on Muhammad Wilkerson, the powerful yet athletic defensive lineman from Temple. The Owls have rarely made an impact on the D-I level but Wilkerson is a beast that could tempt the Chargers in the first round.

3. Not All Positions Created Equal

Smith places a premium on players who get their hands on the ball … guys who can change a game in a single play. Given the team's needs going into this draft, that would seem to push Smith in the direction of receivers, safeties and outside linebackers, three areas in need of more impact players.

San Diego may have starting spots up for grabs at right defensive end and right offensive tackle, but Smith prefers to groom linemen rather than pay highly for them. Of course, that goes out the window when the value is too high, as was the case with Luis Castillo (first round, 2005) and Marcus McNeill (second round, 2006).

4. Nothing is Off the Table

The only two positions Smith has ruled out are kicker and punter. Other than that, every spot is fair game. Even areas of strength (quarterback, running back, tight end, cornerback, etc.) are likely to be addressed at some point.

Smith has stated that he will draft under the assumption that all of his pending free agents will not be coming back. That leaves quite a few holes to fill. It will also give Smith some pause when pondering one of his patented trade-ups. He has eight picks to work with and may need all of them just to cover his bases; any maneuvering that costs more than two draft picks may be considered too pricey.

Will A.J. Smith's draft tendencies hold true? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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