The NFL Draft will soon be upon us again, thus begging the annually renewed conversation about great and not-so-great draft picks throughout history. For teams like the San Diego Chargers with zero Super Bowl victories and widespread longstanding fan frustration, the conversation tends to turn more toward the disconcerting choices which have plagued the team's attempts at a world championship.
So here it is, boys and girls, the top five draft busts in Chargers' history.
#5: Larry English, LB #16 overall pick, 2009
English, out of Northern Illinois, was drafted by the infamous A.J. Smith (responsible for many poor draft and free-agency signings and player releases) to add depth to a lackluster Chargers defense. When one considers that Clay Matthews, Jr. was also available at the time English was picked and seeing his impressive career, one can't help but wonder whether English will ever be a force with which to be reckoned.
He has been riddled with injuries throughout his career, suffering a season-ending foot fracture in 2010 and missed a whopping 21 games between 2011-2013. He has, in his six-year career thus far, amassed 91 tackles, 11 sacks, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. Yet he remains a Charger with the hopes of finally being a productive member of the team in the 2014 season. Nevertheless, that he was the Chargers' first selection in the 2009 draft and has done little in six years solidifies his present spot on this list.
#4: William "Bo" Matthews, RB, #2 overall pick, 1974
Matthews, out of the University of Colorado at Boulder, wasn't really a RB in the contemporary use of the word like the other Chargers' Matthews, Ryan, who has finally demonstrated why he was such a high draft selection. Bo Matthews, in his six years with the Chargers, managed a paltry 1,372 yards the entire time. He never reached 100 yards in a single game nor did he ever exceed 4.5 yards per carry. His ten career touchdowns were scored in his first three seasons and even when Don Coryell took over head coaching duties with his infamous air attack, Matthews was never a receiving target but relegated to little more than a blocking fullback. By using the second overall pick on Matthews, it is apparent that the Chargers didn't do their homework well enough to draft someone who migh have actually contributed to the team in both the short- and long-run.
#3: Sammy Davis, CB, #30 overall pick, 2003
San Diego had the 15th overall pick in the 2003 draft but, instead, traded down with the Philadelphia Eagles to the 30th pick where they selected the former Texas A&M Aggie. During his three seasons with the Chargers Davis started 30 games, amassed 124 tackles (58 of them during his rookie season), had three interceptions, and one forced fumble. Despite his promising rookie career, Davis slid into relative oblivion with the team before being released in 2006 where he went on to have relatively unproductive single seasons with San Francisco and Tampa Bay.
Of particular note, the Chargers could have drafted Troy Polamalu with their original pick (he was taken at #16 by Pittsburgh) or even Nnamdi Asomugha or Charles Tillman with their #30 pick (Asomugha was taken at #31 by Oakland and Tillman at #35 by Chicago).
#2: Craig "Buster" Davis, WR, #30 overall pick, 2007
With a nickname containing the word "bust", Davis appears to have been destined for this list. Drafting the former LSU player raised a number of inquisitive eyebrows among Chargers' fans considering that Davis only accumulated 2,117 receiving yards in his entire college career yet signed a five-year, $11 million contract with the Chargers. Despite having a decent rookie season with 20 catches for 188 yars and one touchdown, Davis's self-fulfilling prophecy became evident when he played only four games his second season and only one the following year. When he returned in 2010, Davis was on pace to break his rookie season statistics; however, a season-ending injury quashed both expectations and actual performance, thus failing to give the Chargers any type of positive return for their investment.
And number one: drum roll. Oh please, the amount of suspense hinging on this unveiling is akin to wondering whether Peyton Manning would lead the Broncos back in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVIII? Puh-leez.
#1: Ryan Leaf, QB, #2 overall pick, 1998
Not only did the Chargers attach excessive and capricious hype to Leaf in the 1998 draft but they gave up a pretty penny to obtain him. Then-GM Bobby Beathard, in his infinite, yet misguided, wisdom saw fit to trade with Arizona to move up ONE SPOT to select Leaf (behind the aforementioned Manning). Oh yeah, and they gave the Cardinals two first-round and one second-round picks as well as four-time Pro Bowl RB Eric Metcalf for the approbation of selecting him. Compounding the idiocy was the four-year, $31.25 million contract that included an $11.25 signing bonus. All for a "player" who was benched after nine games in his rookie season for tossing 13 interceptions and only two touchdowns, who repeatedly failed to perform, and who acted with supreme idiocy in the public eye.
If you'd like a more in-depth examination about the ultimate boneheadedness of this signing, please see my article devoted exclusively to this foible (http://www.footballnation.com/content/san-diego-chargers-biggest-draft-day-regret-franchise-history/21856/).
There ya go, folks. My take on the top five biggest draft regrets in Chargers' history. Do you agree? Disagree? Comments are most welcome.