Go Inside A.J. Smith's Draft Tendencies

A.J. Smith isn't afraid to gamble on draft day, but his methodology is hardly a roll of the dice. As he preps for his eighth draft as the general manager of the Chargers, some glaring trends have arisen that shed light on what Smith will do in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The first thing to know about Smith's mind-set is he targets players, not positions. He is not afraid to trade up or reach for a player if he feels that individual will be a dynamic contributor.

In '07, Smith gave the Chicago Bears a package of four draft picks so that he could move up in the second round and select safety Eric Weddle. A year later, he shipped a future second-round pick to the New England Patriots for a third-round selection that became fullback Jacob Hester.

Then there are the players deemed reaches at the time of their selection, such as Buster Davis in '07 and Vaughn Martin in '09. The jury is still out on both picks, but the lesson is already clear -- if Smith identifies a player he feels can contribute, he'll find a way to put that player in lightning bolts.

That may come into play in this year's draft. Smith could reach for a player with his No. 40 overall selection -- such as RB Ben Tate -- if he feels that player can help the Chargers win ball games.

CB Devin McCourty
Rutgers Athletics
It is also important to realize how Smith evaluates positions. For example, he sees his No. 3 cornerback as a de facto starter. He has never entered a season without three players he considers starting-caliber corners, a trend unlikely to end in 2010. So, unless he's completely sold on Donald Strickland, look for Smith to draft another corner high in the draft.

In our latest Chargers Draft Projections, we had him selecting CB Devin McCourty in the first round.

On the other end of the spectrum, Smith routinely puts off addressing the offensive line until late in the draft. In his seven drafts as GM, he's picked eight offensive linemen in the fifth round or later. In fact, the Chargers haven't selected an offensive lineman in the first round since 1986.

Regardless of position, another Smith philosophy is to always be three-deep at every spot on the depth chart. That may seem simple, but it will have a significant impact on the second day of San Diego's draft. The Chargers will look at quarterbacks and tight ends to replace Charlie Whitehurst and Brandon Manumaleuna, respectively.

Finally, keep in mind Smith's mantra: It's not where they play, but how they play. Smith's tenure as GM has seen him draft players from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Nebraska-Omaha, Northern Colorado and Western Ontario. So keep an eye on the small-school players in this year's draft, such as Wayne State RB Joique Bell and Arkansas State DL Alex Carrington.

For more of A.J. Smith's draft tendencies, check out the Insider Draft Talk Forum.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and 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 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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