San Diego Chargers  

 

San Diego Chargers: Best and worst draft picks

In the days leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, NFL.com will allow users to determine the best and worst draft picks for every team. We continue the proceedings with the team that owns the No. 11 overall pick in this year's draft, the San Diego Chargers.

Before we begin with the best and worst of the Chargers' draft picks, realize that while most are giving five of the best and five of the worst, Mr. Pick Six will be delivering ... (wait for it) six of the best and worst draft picks in club history.

And really, the extra pick just gives me another chance to be wrong about stuff. So that's good, right?

Best picks

Keith Lincoln and Ernie Ladd -- 1965 AFL Draft (Round 2 Pick 15, Round 15 Pick 7)
The AFL draft was tricky back in the day as the upstart league competed with the NFL for players. The Chargers made some great picks in the 1961 AFL Draft. The team selected Keith Lincoln in the second round. Lincoln went on to gain 329 yards in the Chargers' 51-10 win over the Boston Patriots in the 1963 AFL Championship Game. But the Chargers got a bargain in the 15th round with the "Big Cat," Ernie Ladd, who was a four-time AFL all-star and a key member of the Chargers' championship team. Ladd also went on to have a stellar professional wrestling career, too. He's is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

Rodney Harrison -- 1994 (No. 145 overall)
The Chargers got an absolute steal when they selected Harrison in the fifth round of the 1994 NFL Draft. Harrison was the backbone of the Chargers defense for years and was selected to two Pro Bowls. Harrison was the first player in NFL history to score a touchdown on an interception return, fumble return and kickoff return in one season when he did it in 1997. He also has the most sacks for NFL defensive backs in NFL history. Harrison did go on to win two Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots.
» 1994 NFL Draft | Video: NFL Films on Harrison

Dan Fouts -- 1973 (No. 64)
The Chargers grabbed the former Oregon quarterback in the third round of the 1973 NFL Draft, and he went on to direct one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history under coach Don Coryell. Fouts was selected to six Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. From 1979-1981, Fouts threw for at least 4,000 yards each season, including a career-high 4,802 yards and 33 touchdowns in 1981. Even in today's quarterback-friendly era, those numbers are still impressive.
» 1973 NFL Draft | Photos: Fouts through the years

Kellen Winslow -- 1979 (No. 13)
As previously mentioned, Fouts had the best stretch of his career starting in 1979. And it should be viewed as no coincidence this was also the same year the Chargers drafted Winslow in the first round of the draft. Winslow didn't have much of an impact during his rookie season, but he followed it up with 89 receptions in 1980 and 88 the following year.
» 1979 NFL Draft

Junior Seau -- 1990 (No. 5)
The Chargers were in a pretty interesting position in the 1990 draft, as they just came off a 6-10 season where Jim McMahon made 11 starts. Seriously, Jim McMahon. The Chargers obviously had a need at quarterback, but wisely stayed away from Andre Ware and instead drafted a guy who might be the greatest Charger of all time, Seau. He was the face of the franchise for 13 years and a Pro Bowl player seemingly every year. Seau had his number retired by the team last season.
» 1990 NFL Draft | Photos: Seau through the years

LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees -- 2001 (No. 5, No. 32)
The Chargers had the first overall selection in the 2001 NFL Draft, but traded away the rights to the Atlanta Falcons (who ended taking Michael Vick). The Chargers instead drafted Tomlinson and got their quarterback in the second round in Brees. Since I'm just judging this based on the draft picks, this was a piece of brilliance by then general manager John Butler. You can only wonder what might have been if the Chargers had stuck with Brees and drafted Larry Fitzgerald in 2004 instead.
» 2001 NFL Draft | Photos: Tomlinson through the years | Video: Best of Brees in 2012

Worst picks

Ryan Leaf -- 1998 (No. 2)
The Chargers were 4-4 at one point during the 1997 season, but went on to drop eight consecutive games to finish 4-12 and earned the third pick in the draft. Peyton Manning and Leaf were considered the two best quarterbacks in the draft and there was actually a debate about who should go first overall. Do we have to guess who the Chargers were going to end up with?
» 1998 NFL Draft

Ryan Leaf -- 1998 (No. 2)
According to some, the Colts' scouting staff preferred Leaf over Manning. But Manning knocked it out of the park during the interview process and Leaf did not. When the quarterbacks were asked what they would do if they were drafted first overall, Manning gave a thoughtful answer. Leaf said he would go to Las Vegas.
» 1998 NFL Draft

Ryan Leaf -- 1998 (No. 2)
The Chargers traded draft picks (and return man Eric Metcalf) to move up one spot to draft Leaf. Things started off ominously for Leaf and the Chargers when he blew off the rookie symposium and was fined $10,000. Later, a number of veterans pranked Leaf by charging a huge meal to his credit card. Leaf took it poorly and reported his teammates to management after he refused to pay it. Junior Seau flattened Leaf in practice, much to the delight of his teammates who offered the captain high fives.
» 1998 NFL Draft

Ryan Leaf -- 1998 (No. 2)
The Chargers started well in Leaf's first two games, as the team went 2-0 despite some erratic play from the rookie. But the wheels came off the bus in Week 3 when he went just 1 for 15 passing for four yards and two interceptions in one of the most humiliating losses in club history. Leaf made things worse for himself later in the year when he screamed "knock it off" to a reporter who covered the team, and had to be restrained by Seau. Leaf threw just two touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his rookie season and was replaced by Craig Whelihan.
» 1998 NFL Draft

Ryan Leaf -- 1998 (No. 2)
Leaf got hurt minutes into the Chargers' 1999 training camp and was forced to have surgery to repair a torn labrum, which knocked him out for the entire year. Still, Leaf garnered headlines after he was fined for having a screaming match with general manager Bobby Beathard. He was fined, suspended and later issued an insincere apology. Then he was caught on videotape playing flag football in a San Diego park. No word on how many interceptions he threw in that game.
» 1998 NFL Draft

Ryan Leaf -- 1998 (No. 2)
Leaf started just nine games for the Chargers in 2000, but to limited results. Leaf threw 11 touchdowns with 18 interceptions and had a passer rating for 56.2. Leaf wouldn't play for the Chargers again, and surfaced briefly for the Cowboys in 2001. But the stigma of Leaf continues to haunt the Chargers franchise, long after he threw his final interception for the team. For the record, it should be noted the Chargers would have likely blown it with Andre Wadsworth anyway in the 1998 draft, but still.
» 1998 NFL Draft

Craig Davis -- 2007 (No. 30), Rogers Beckett -- 2000 (No. 43), Sammy Davis -- 2003 (No. 30), Stanley Richard -- 1991 (No. 9), Mossy Cade -- 1984 (No. 6)
All right, my editor wasn't thrilled with my repeated Ryan Leaf mentions (Ed. note: Five times is enough). But it was apt, right? Craig "Buster" Davis should take solace in the fact he might not be the worst Buster Davis ever. Beckett played just three seasons for the Chargers. Same for Sammy Davis, who had just three interceptions in three seasons. The "Sheriff," Stanley Richard, played four seasons in San Diego but not quite good enough for the ninth overall selection. Cade ended up playing in the USFL and flamed out in a brief NFL career.
» 2007 NFL Draft | 2000 NFL Draft | 2003 NFL Draft | 1991 NFL Draft | 1984 NFL Draft

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.

Best and worst draft picks
April 3: Chiefs | Jaguars
April 4: Raiders | Eagles
April 5: Lions | Browns
April 8: Bills | Cardinals
April 9: Jets | Titans
April 10: Chargers | Dolphins
April 11: Bucs | Panthers
April 12: Rams| Saints
April 15: Cowboys | Steelers
April 16: Bears | Giants
April 17: Bengals| Redskins
April 18: Colts | Vikings
April 19: Packers | Seahawks
April 22: Broncos| Texans
April 23: Falcons| Patriots
April 24: 49ers| Ravens

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