Recapping the Draft

Before the Chargers were even on the clock, a name was listed under their team's draft board: John Butler. <br><br> In a nod to his best friend, general manager A.J. Smith slid Butler's card on the board Friday morning, to honor the man he succeeded.

"It was a good moment," said Smith, of the smiles his idea produced when the team's scouts held their final draft meeting.

The grins have been few and far between at Chargers Park. Butler succumbed to cancer on April 11, just missing what was his favorite time of the year: the NFL draft.

Smith was Butler's right-hand man for 21 years, then officially replaced him a week before the draft. It was with a heavy heart in which Smith prepared for the draft, but he knew his old friend wouldn't want Smith compromising the draft mourning about him.

Still, the thoughts of what was and what has become in the Chargers' executive offices were difficult to push into the background.

"I would think about John, sitting in his chair when I used to sit beside him," Smith said. "And he would coordinate everything, and now I was coordinating.

"But when the draft started, to be honest with you, it was an escape and then, boom, you just kick into gear and start going."

Smith has big plans to get the Chargers going in the right direction. But not before giving Butler credit for building the foundation -- running back LaDainian Tomlinson, quarterback Drew Brees, right guard Toniu Fonoti -- through his first two Chargers drafts.

And what would have Butler thought of Smith's first draft by himself? "He would have liked it," Smith said. "We got to get better on defense."

DRAFT REVIEW -- The Chargers' mindset heading into their annual dip into the college pool of prospects was pretty simple: fix the NFL's worst pass defense.

They tried to shore up that dismal unit immediately, by drafting three defensive backs with their first three picks.

"With our situation, obviously, we are looking for help," general manager A.J. Smith said.

From there, they added an offensive lineman, inside linebacker, punter, free safety and fullback/running back.

But some wonder if the Chargers did the right thing by moving down 15 spots in the first round. They had the No. 15 pick, and could have had, among others, defensive end Jerome McDougle, safety Troy Polamalu, defensive tackle William Joseph or cornerback Andre Woolfolk.

The Chargers swear they had Sammy Davis, their top pick, targeted all along. OK. But one can also make a case that to have an impact on a bad defense, the Chargers needed a player more capable of doing just that right away.

They counter that they picked up another second-round player, by only giving up 15 spots in the first round. But the drop-off was such in this draft, that possibly, that wasn't the wisest thing to do.

"All I know is I'm glad they called," Smith said. "If I have a chance to get the player I want and I get a No. 2. ... obviously Philadelphia got a targeted guy and they are thrilled to death, too. It's a win-win."

In any case, the Chargers were determined to shore up the NFL's worst pass defense. And they will attack that shortcoming with a group of players that dominated their draft.

It's possible Sammy Davis could win a job, and start opposite Quentin Jammer. It's possible Terrence Kiel could secure the starting free safety's job. It's possible the Chargers will sacrifice being young in the secondary to shine later on down the road.

"Quentin Jammer is young; this crew is young," Smith said. "And we know we are going to be young and probably going to have some growing pains along the way.

"What we are trying to do is to get some football player in here we can grow with."

Those seeds were planted over the weekend

A closer look at the Chargers' picks:

Round 1/30 -- Sammy Davis, CB, 5-11, 186, Texas A&M

The Chargers were confident they could snag Davis later in the first round, so they traded down with Philadelphia, picked up another second-round selection, and got their man, Davis. Coach Marty Schottenheimer is determined to get defensive backs that can play aggressive, bump-and-run coverages and he thinks the team got one of those in Davis.

Round 2/46 -- Drayton Florence, CB, 6-0, 198, Tuskegee

One look at the school, and some thought ex-general manager Bobby Beathard had resurfaced. Some think the Chargers reached here, in tapping Florence, a star at a Division II school. Florence has a solid build, but some aren't sold on his technique. While performing well on the field -- 161 tackles, 13 interceptions in college -- he was convicted for aggravated assault at Tennessee-Chattanooga before transferring to Tuskegee. The Chargers are confident he has matured and could challenge for nickel role.

Round 2/62 -- Terrence Kiel, S, 5-11, 204, Texas A&M

The Chargers made it three defensive backs in three picks with Kiel, a teammate of Davis. The Chargers' situation at safety is in flux after the departure of Rodney Harrison, so Kiel could challenge for his starting spot in a battle with converted free safety Rogers Beckett. Kiel led the Aggies in tackles the last two years. He is a strong, physical player who's not shy about supplying help in run support. There are questions, though, whether his speed being enough at the NFL level.

Round 3/80 -- Courtney Van Buren, OL, 6-6, 353, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Toniu Fonoti -- 349 pounds and a wink -- has some company for a Charger weighing in close to 400 pounds. Van Buren is a project, but general manager A.J. Smith said not much of one. Van Buren has an impressive burst after the snap, and often knocks players off-balance before they can establish their foundation. There's no question how big his body is. Some wonder, though, if his heart is very big.

Round 4/112 -- Matt Wilhelm, LB, 6-4, 245, Ohio State

Wilhelm plays the inside position, a spot the Chargers are thin at after trading Junior Seau. Wilhelm gets it done as much with his brain as his brawn, as this heady player is keen at sniffing out screens and draws. Wilhelm was responsible to call out defensive plays for the national champion Buckeyes. There are red flags about his speed and his ability to show a quick burst to blitz.

Round 5/149 -- Mike Scifres, P, 6-2, 236, Western Illinois

Is considered among the top players at his position. The Chargers are counting on punter Darren Bennett for one more year and are always searching for a kickoff specialist. He left Western Illinois as the school's all-time leader with a 43.45-yard average. Was the only Division I-AA punter to be a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. Only 116 of his 209 kickoffs were returned.

Round 6/188 -- Hanik Milligan, FS, 6-2, 201, Houston

No one questions his leadership abilities or knack for delivering punishing hits. He left Houston with 408 tackles and nine forced fumbles in 34 games. Is solid in his plant and drive, and comes out of breaks under control. Some wonder if he has the speed to chase down NFL receivers. Others think his good range and ability to recover quickly compensates for his lack of speed.

Round 7/229 -- Andrew Pinnock, FB/RB, 5-10, 265, South Carolina

By signing Lorenzo Neal as a free agent, the Chargers have little use for a fullback. Pinnock, though, can play some running back -- he left South Carolina as the school's fourth-best, all-time rusher with 1,852 yards. But he fumbled five times last year, which got him benched at one point. Pinnock, when he does get the ball, is more of a pile-mover than a dance-and-wiggle guy.

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