Grading the Chargers First Day

The San Diego Chargers had four first day picks after a first round trade that netted the team Philip Rivers and an extra third in 2004. The management turned a terrible situation into a river of gold, Philip "Rivers". The team added Igor Olshansky in the second and Nate Kaeding and Nick Hardwick with consecutive picks in the third.

The Chargers opened the 2004 NFL Draft with a bit of a shocker. They picked Eli Manning, despite his pleas for the team to pass on him. Manning reluctantly walked the plank to take pictures with the Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

It was called a classy move. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was Manning attempting to save face in case he stayed with the team. He never made a move to don the Chargers cap he held in his left hand, a customary move on the stage.

Luckily, the Chargers were able to make a deal with the New York Giants less than an hour later. The Giants selected Philip Rivers and it led to trade talks.

"When the New York Giants selected Philip Rivers, some dialogue took place," A.J. Smith said. "Let's just leave it at that and we know how it materialized."

Philip Rivers became a San Diego Charger. The team also gained a third round pick in this year's draft, 65th overall, a 1st round pick in '05 and a fifth round pick in '05.

Rivers was the pick the Chargers wanted all along. While the team did not get the second round pick they coveted this year, a number one next year and a third rounder is a nice haul.

In light of what transpired before the draft and the comments of the Manning family, is was the haul of a lifetime.

Grade: A

Igor Olshansky was taken in the second round with the 35th pick overall. Olshansky is a raw defensive lineman with immense potential and known strength. He decided to leave school after his junior year, despite only playing organized ball since he was a junior in high school.

Olshansky wowed scouts at the combine with 41 reps on the bench press and followed that up with 43 at his Pro Day.

Besides his obvious strength, he also plays hard on the field. He is a typical blue collar worker known as the "Pain from Ukraine". Pain is what he is capable of dishing out as he bulls opponents over. And he still has room for growth.

Olshansky will move to the outside in the Chargers new 3-4 and will likely start.

The other option here would have been offensive tackle and wide receiver, but the team defense last year was horrible and new blood was needed.

Grade: B+

Nate Kaeding was picked in the third round, 65th overall. Kaeding, a placekicker, is a clutch performer that was 20-of-21 as a senior. An All-American at his position, the Chargers were in desperate need of a kicker with enough range to convert from outside 40 yards. They have not had that since letting John Carney go.

Kaeding was very high on their draft board after they visited with him when scouting his former teammate Robert Gallery at Iowa.

Kaeding also has enough leg to kickoff and will allow the team to hold just two special teams performers on the roster – as opposed to last year. Mike Scifres will also be allowed to focus solely on punting duties after having to perform kickoff duties in 2003.

Placekicker is not often seen as high priority, but Kaeding could prove to be the difference between several wins each season. That makes him a bargain in the third round.

Grade: A

Nick Hardwick was taken with their second choice in the third round, 66th overall. Hardwick is a center who played guard during his junior season and is considered a bit of a project.

He has a motor that will not quit and a solid work ethic, but is considered undersized. The Chargers selected Hardwick because there was no backup on the roster for Jason Ball, the team's current center. They also believe he can add weight to his 6-3 frame and become dominant, given his work ethic.

The problem is Hardwick does not play offensive tackle, a desperate need in San Diego. With several other projects at the tackle position make this pick curious. Taking nothing away from Hardwick as a player, there were simply other needs that could have been addressed with hopes of getting a starter. It is, after all, only the third round here – a round where starters are often found.

Grade: C-

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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