Draft Review: Class of 2009

NFL executives often say it takes three years to fully evaluate a draft class. That makes this the ideal time to take a look back at the class of 2009. Although that draft started with a dud, as A.J. Smith opted for Larry English ahead of Clay Matthews, the Chargers still came away with a trio of productive players.

1. OLB Larry English (Round 1, Pick 16)

English has been a Buster Davis-level bust. He has missed 19 games over the last two years due to his oft-injured left foot. He has shown flashes of productivity when healthy enough to play, such as his two-sack game against the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 last season, but seven sacks in 29 career games in not enough for a former first-round pick.

English will be given another chance, but the Chargers will add at least one more outside 'backer to the mix (Robert Mathis?) in case English lands on injured-reserve again. He needs to demonstrate he can stay on the field and produce while there or he will be looking for a new team in 2013.

2. OG Louis Vasquez (Round 3, Pick 14)

Vasquez is the best player from this class. He moved into the starting lineup at right guard as a rookie and has been entrenched there ever since. He has been slowed by knee, neck and ankle injuries -- he has missed games each year -- but unlike English, he is able to get back on the field relatively quickly.

Vasquez is a terrific pass blocker, key since he plays beside Jeromey Clary, who often struggles in pass pro. He has also improved in the running game; he has the strength and athleticism to make blocks on the second level. Because of his strong play, the right guard position is the only spot on the offensive line with no question marks as free agency approaches.

3. DL Vaughn Martin (Round 4, Pick 13)

DE Vaughn Martin
Scott Boehm/Getty
The Chargers knew Martin was a project when they picked him from Western Ontario (Canada). The plan was for him to essentially red-shirt his rookie season, but injuries on the defensive line forced him into the rotation at nose tackle, where he was in way over his head. He moved to defensive end in 2010 and has been growing into that role ever since. He started 15 games last year after Luis Castillo broke his leg in the season-opener and accounted himself well.

Martin still has room to improve. He needs to become more aggressive and use his highly touted athleticism to make more plays in the backfield. This will be a pivotal year, as he should benefit from his forced ascension in 2011. Ideally, he can play fewer snaps and stay fresh enough to emerge as a playmaker. If not, the Chargers will lose hope he can hit the high ceiling they feel he possesses.

4. OL Tyronne Green (Round 4, Pick 33)

Green is a more gifted version of Scott Mruczkowski, a versatile swingman who can provide depth across the line. Although 14 of his 15 career starts have come at guard (the other being at left tackle), he has spent ample practice time at center and could be an option there if Nick Hardwick leaves as a free agent.

Green is arguably the best run-blocking guard on San Diego's roster and is the heir apparent to Kris Dielman on the left side of the line (we're working on the assumption Dielman will return in 2012). When Green is finally allowed to move into the starting lineup and focus on one position, he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl player.

5. RB Gartrell Johnson (Round 4, Pick 34)

Backup running backs are never safe in San Diego. Johnson showed well in the preseason as a rookie, running 48 times for 184 yards and catching seven balls for 57 yards. He made the opening-day roster but was released before Week 2. He has since spent time with the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.

6. CB Brandon Hughes (Round 5, Pick 12)

CB Brandon Hughes
Drew Hallowell/Getty
Hughes spent his rookie season on injured-reserve with a knee injury. He came back in 2010 and had a strong camp but fell victim to a numbers game in a crowded defensive backfield. He spent the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played in 13 games in 2011, finishing with 16 tackles.

7. SS Kevin Ellison (Round 6, Pick 16)

Ellison played in 13 games as a rookie, starting nine, and posted 52 tackles, a sack and three pass breakups. He was seen as an ascending player and a possible long-term answer at strong safety until he was arrested when found in possession of 100 Vicodin pills. The off-the-field incident doomed him, as the Chargers were working to clean up their public image at the time. Ellison was released after the 2010 preseason.

8. WR Demetrius Byrd (Round 7, Pick 15)

This pick was more ceremonial than anything else. Byrd was in a devastating car accident the week before the draft and no one knew if he would be able to play again. The Chargers took a chance on him, knowing if he fully recovered he would be a steal, and if not at least he could always say he was drafted. Unfortunately, the latter scenario came to pass and Byrd never made it onto the field.

What are your thoughts on the class of 2009? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com 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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