Grading the draft: San Diego Chargers

San Diego entered the 2005 draft with a pair of first round selections and an opportunity to improve a team that won the AFC West last year. The Chargers had needs in the defensive front seven, offensive tackle as well as wide receiver and were in a position to fill all three with solid prospects.

When the Charger saw Shawne Merriman on the board in the 12th slot, they wasted no time selecting him. The former Maryland prospect can play either defensive end or outside linebacker and should excel standing up over tight end in the Chargers 3-4 defense. Merriman should be an impact player early on but the team must be aware of the character issues that continue to surround him. If they get him to play on all cylinders, Merriman will make teams regret passing on him.  Despite admitting he took steroids in college Northwestern defensive tackle Luis Castillo found himself being selected by the Chargers at the end of the first round. Castillo can play the nose tackle spot or also line up as a 3-4 end and should help ease the double teams opponents throw at Jamal Williams. He is a solid athlete and also a very good football player.  At the end of the second round the Chargers selected Northern Colorado receiver Vincent Jackson. Blessed with excellent size, Jackson could be effective as a possession receiver early in his career.  And should he develop the Charger offense will have a lethal pair of third down/red zone targets with Jackson and Antonio Gates. Kansas State tailback Darren Sproles offers a change-of-pace ball handler to LaDainian Tomlinson and impact as a return specialist. Slight of size, Sproles should excel in a limited role which has him touching the ball eight-to-ten times a game.  Wesley Britt from Alabama was great value in the fifth round. Considered by many to be first round talent, Britt must stay healthy and could find a home as a starting tackle for the Chargers as early as 2006. Guard Wes Sims offers the team interior line depth as does seventh round selection Scott Mruczkowski. A center from Bowling Green, Mruczkowski was the teams final selection, and third offensive lineman taken in 2005.

San Diego was not done and may have filled roster spots with several solid free agent signings.  Both Jonathan Pollard and Marques Harris project nicely to the teams 3-4 defense.  For his part, Harris offers a good upside and showed a lot of skill last season, his first at linebacker. Abraham Elimimian was pushed out of the draft after poor forty times yet could make it as the teams fourth cornerback.  If he can stay healthy Matthew Tant offers an offensive presence at the fullback position. Cody McCarty could be a good fit as the third tight end.

The Chargers got a great deal of help for their defensive front seven with their two first round picks and added another weapon for Drew Brees with Vincent Jackson in round two. By using their final three selections on the offensive line, San Diego again addressed a potential weakness and at the same time, set themselves up for the future.  Overall the franchise filled holes with quality players and many of their late round selections offer terrific upside.  Thanks in part to last's year's trade of Eli Manning, the champions of the AFC West were able to significantly improve the team and should be congratulated for adding talent through all seven rounds.

Rd  Pick Player Pos School
1   12 (12)   Shawne Merriman *   DE   Maryland  
1   28 (28)   Luis Castillo *   DT   Northwestern  
2   29 (61)   Vincent Jackson *   WR   Northern Colorado  
4   29 (130)   Darren Sproles *   RB   Kansas State  
5   28 (164)   Wesley Britt *   OT   Alabama  
6   3 (177)   Wes Sims *   OT   Oklahoma  
7   28 (242)   Scott Mruczkowski *   C   Bowling Green  

UDFA Signings: QB Craig Ochs, FB Matt Pagel, CB Gabe Franklin, LB Justin Burks, LB Marques Harris, LB Jonathan Pollard, CB Marcus Curry, CB Abraham Elimimian, DE Adell Duckett, DT Derreck Robinson, DT Lui Fuga, DB Jason Leach, FB Matthew Tant, TE Cody McCarty, TE Kelly Griffeth, OT Cory Lekkerkerker, RB Ray Perkins, RB Maurice Hall, WR Kenny Higgins.

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