Initial Chargers 2003 NFL Draft Grade

Over the next week we will detail the specifics of the players selected in the 2003 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers and why each was selected, detailed scouting reports not found on the web, dissect team needs versus value and so much more. For now we take a look at our initial grades regarding the picks and the overall draft.

The Trade:

On one side you look at what the Chiefs got from Pittsburgh who moved up 11 spots swapping firsts and gave up a third rounder and a sixth rounder, not exactly awe inspiring, yet the other side of the coin shows the Patriots getting a 2004 #1 pick from Baltimore for the 19th overall pick. Of course Baltimore did move up 22 spots, but then the Chargers dropped 15 spots and only got a second rounder, and a very late second rounder, the 62nd pick overall.

So who wins?

The Chargers say the same players they targeted were on the board at 30 that were on the board at 15. That may be true, it may not, we may never know. My initial thoughts say the Chargers win by getting three potential impact players when most of the people said this drafts talent of picks 15-50 was about the same. They may have been able to do better but I doubt it.

Grade: B+

1st Round, Pick 30: One thing that is certain is Sammy Davis was no worse than the 4th rated cornerback in the draft and many draft experts had him rated 3rd. I personally had him rated third and did not consider him in my final round one profile despite the Draft Prospectus I did on him. In the article I booked him as a pick if he fell to the Bolts in the second round, knowing it would not happen. Like the Chargers, I too have clusters of players for different scenarios.

With the Chargers needing a starting quality cornerback the pick is a no brainer. The value is high; he was rated 24th on my overall board.

Grade: A

2nd Round, Pick 46:

When a prospect tells us before the Draft that he spent two hours with the director of pro personnel, Buddy Nix, it is not feigned interest. In the second round it became obvious that there would be a run on defensive backs when four went before the Chargers picked at 46. The Chargers felt that Drayton Florence would not be there at pick 62 after those developments and they may have been right. I had Florence on my board as a late second early third, but knew of the Bolts interest and had him targeted as a bolt in my Second Draft Prospectus, and sometimes board must be readjusted on the fly.

The Chargers did need two starting quality cornerbacks in this draft. They got them quickly. In the AFC West, teams can throw the ball well and the receivers are no slouches. Two bump-and-run style corners provide depth for those frequent three and four receiver sets. While he was rated slightly lower on my board, there is value in the pick.

Grade: B+

2nd Round Pick 62:

Having shored up the cornerback spot the Chargers took another turn in the secondary when they selected Terrence Kiel. The key here is getting players to fit the scheme the Chargers employ. Year one of a new coaching regimen is about evaluation. Evaluate the players, and then discard those who have little use and bring in quality athletes that fit the need. The need for the Chargers here is coverage safeties. That is the reason behind moving McNeil to one safety spot. Kiel is an exceptional cover safety, while still being solid in run defense. I had him rated as a third rounder, and he went three picks before the third round.

The Chargers came in with needs and addressed them quickly leaving the rest of their draft open, while still getting quality players tailor-made for their defense. Tough to argue the value with that.

Grade: B+

3rd Round, Pick 80:

Entering the third round the Chargers had a number of ways they could have gone. They chose Courtney Van Buren with the 80th pick overall. Van Buren was a fifth rounder on my board. When I look at the list of available players and Derrick Dockery who has played against top notch competition goes on the next pick I am a little leery and critical of the choice. Van Buren may turn out to be something special and I see as backup material that has tremendous upside if he can keep his weight under control. Dockery could have been an immediate starter.

AJ Smith said it himself, "That first and second round and third round have to be real good football players. You want to get out of the gate."

Sounds like a reference to that player starting in some capacity. I don't think Van Buren can at this point. Smith also said he was a "project". A project in the third round?

When a player is rated two rounds lower on my board and checking around see that he is not rated at all on others, I say the pick was not wise. There are no surprises in the draft like there are in baseball. Every team has a scouting department that is solid. You can't find a player in Vietnam that no one has heard of. The value here was not very good at all.

I really hope this kid proves my draft day grade wrong.

Grade: D-

4th Round, Pick 112: In the fourth round the Chargers went back to the defensive side of the ball nabbing Matt Wilhelm with the 112th overall selection. With the loss of Junior Seau and Orlando Ruff the need for a linebacker became apparent. Wilhelm was the best linebacker left on my draft board although he was rated slightly lower. A little slow and similar to Carlos Polk. He is a solid backup to middle linebacker and will see significant time on special teams.

At this spot he has value as the Chargers fill a need and get a solid player. His time on the field will be similar to the time Zeke Moreno and Carlos Polk saw early in their careers, limited.

Grade: B+

5th Round, Pick 149:

In the fifth round the Chargers selected punter Mike Scifres. You did not read that wrong, a punter. Considering not many kickers went the rest of the draft, this move was puzzling. Steve Christie has trouble kicking balls outside of 40 yards and Scifres has only kicked five field goals in his career, going 2-5. He is a kickoff specialist, an attribute dearly coveted in San Diego and around the league. Yet other options remained. Players who can kick outside of 40 yards were available and ultimately went undrafted. That has to say something.

If this move was made at the expense of Darren Bennet I see the logic. It does not make me like the move any more. I had Scifres rated as a 7th round pick and with needs at placekicker being higher as were other positions I find it hard to believe he was their top rated guy, still he fills a need with his kickoff expertise.

Grade: D

6th Round, Pick 188:

In the sixth round the Chargers took a flier on Hanik Milligan, another safety. Milligan is built in the mold of Rodney Harrison. He hits like a truck but is not fundamentally sound in pass coverage. Another speedy secondary guy who I had rated appropriately in the sixth round. He fills the role once occupied by Vernon Fox as a run defender. He will see time on special teams and could see some duty on the field during rushing downs.

There was no reach and the Chargers are serious about rebuilding their secondary. Next year I don't expect more than one pick to be used on the defensive backfield and Rogers Beckett will be gone. The value of Milligan is just right, not great but he has his role.

Grade: C+

7th Round, Pick 229:

In the seventh round the Chargers selected Andrew Pinnock, a big bodied fullback/halfback to compliment LaDainian Tomlinson. Pinnock will be expected to perform in short yardage situations and spell Tomlinson here and there while performing some duties as a lead blocker.

The value with this pick is high. The Chargers fill a void as they had trouble converting short yardage situations a year ago and this pick could mean the difference between fourth down and a new set of downs. That alone makes this pick a find in round seven.

Grade: A

Overall Grade: B- This grade can be bumped a notch with solid undrafted free agent pickups.

Denis Savage can be reached at or via the following link: Denis Savage

Got something to say? Talk about it on the Chargers Message Boards

SD Super Chargers Top Stories