San Diego Chargers Draft Review

by Tommy Lawlor –


1 – RB Ryan Mathews – Fresno State
3 – ILB Donald Butler – Washington
4 – S Darrell Stuckey – Kansas
5 – NT Cam Thomas – UNC
5 – QB Jonathan Crompton – Tennessee
7 – TE Dedrick Epps – Miami

The Chargers had one glaring need heading into the draft – RB. With LaDaininan Tomlinson gone, San Diego had no true RB. We found out last year that Darren Sproles is a great role player, but isn’t meant to be a workhorse RB. Norv Turner adjusted his offense and threw the ball more in 2009. Still, he is a running coach at heart and had to get a quality runner to build his offense around.

With all that in mind, the Chargers traded up in the 1st round and used pick #12 to select Ryan Mathews, the Junior RB from Fresno State. Great move. Mathews is just what Turner needed for his offense. Mathews led the nation in rushing with 151 yards per game. He was a terrific workhorse for FSU. What made him special was his big play ability. Anyone who saw the Boise/FSU game knows what I’m talking about. Mathews had 3 rushing TDs of 60 or more yards. He went for 234 yards in all. Despite the fact he averaged 23 carries per game, Mathews still had an impressive average of almost 7 yards per carry. I was really impressed with him at the Combine. Mathews looked great in the drills. He was natural and fluid. His game tape is excellent. I felt he should have been a Top 20 pick. You can argue that the Chargers took him a bit early, but I think he was such a good fit for them that they had to make sure they got him. Don’t get too cute. Go get your guy. And that’s just what the Chargers did.  

The next pick came in the 3rd round. San Diego added ILB Donald Butler from Washington. I think he’s a good fit for the 3-4. Butler (6’1, 245) isn’t the most instinctive guy, but he can be outstanding when he’s allowed to attack. He is a physical, aggressive LB that will take on and shed blockers. He runs well and even has some cover skills. I like him for the 3-4 because that lets him spend more time coming upfield than running sideline to sideline. San Diego has some good ILBs in place now, but Butler can play STs and bide his time until he’s able to win a starting job.

In the 4th round the Chargers took S Darrell Stuckey of Kansas. I have mixed feelings on this pick. The talk in scouting circles before the draft was that Stuckey could even sneak into the 3rd round possibly. Apparently some teams/scouts really liked him. I saw him more as a 5th or 6th round type. Stuckey sure has his moments. He can be very impressive in some games. His inconsistency bothered me. In the 4th round he’s okay value. Stuckey was productive for the Jayhawks. He is a high character player. He could develop into a solid starter or be a backup and STer. I do think the Chargers system is a good fit for him. Stuckey isn’t a great athlete or standout man cover guy. If used right, he can be an effective player.

San Diego went for NT Cam Thomas of UNC in the 5th round. Another guy that I had mixed feelings about. Thomas had a so-so Senior season. He then lit up the Senior Bowl and looked terrific. I went back and re-watched his game tape. It just wasn’t impressive. Thomas is massive at 6’4, 330. That is ideal NT size. Even better, the size looks natural. He’s not some huge kid that ate his way to that size. Thomas has some quickness off the ball. He’s strong and powerful. The sky is the limit for him. His pedestrian game tape killed his value. On paper he looked like a 2nd or 3rd rounder. His game tape showed an inconsistent project that was made for the 5th round. I don’t worry about his physical ability or potential. Thomas can be an outstanding starting NT if he wants to. The key is him is exactly that…wanting to. Thomas talked to some people about wishing he could play DE and take advantage of his athleticism. Yikes. Guys that are 330 pounds need to get inside and mash on blockers. Don’t think you’re Dwight Freeney, my man. Thomas is a boom or bust type. If he embraces NT and plays hard, he’ll be a good starter. If he coasts or tries to be a finesse player, he’ll be out of the league in a few years.

San Diego had another 5th round pick and used it on Tennessee QB Jonathan Crompton. With the trade of Charlie Whitehurst, there was room to add another QB to the mix. Crompton was an interesting prospect. He had done virtually nothing in his first 3 years at UT. Lane Kiffin’s offense fit Crompton well and he had a strong Senior season. Jonathan threw for 2800 yards. He had 27 TDs and only 13 picks. Crompton has the kind of build I like at 6’3, 222. His arm strength is fine. Mechanically he’s solid. The problem is that he doesn’t stand out in any way and doesn’t have ideal experience. He’s a project that might or might not work out. I have no problem with the Chargers nabbing him in the 5th. Crompton does seem like the kind of pocket passer that Norv Turner has done well with over the years.

The final pick came in the 7th round when San Diego added TE Dedrick Epps of Miami. Epps was a late round prospect with some potential. He’s got okay size (6’4, 245). He can catch the ball (41 receptions, 5 TDs over the last two years). Epps is an okay athlete. He ran 4.7 at his Pro Day. I never saw anything special from him, but he could develop into a good backup for Antonio Gates.

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