I am not listing the 2019 and 2020 drafts due to not having complete control of those selections. While I may have been GM, my owner made several of the selections on his own, some against my wishes, and had heavy contributions towards those picks that I did make during that time.
After unsuccessfully trying to trade down from #1, I took the best player in the draft, OLB Shane Easley, then decided to rebuild the entire mismatched defense around a 3-4 scheme that he would fit into. It was ripping a bandage off that needed to be done.
OLB Shane Easley 6-4 236 2 Penn State [Blitz] [+1] 89
Already a pro bowler, Easley is one of the best young OLBs in the league.
OT/OG Justin Way 6-2 294 2 Marshall [Pass Blocking]  79
His pro day spoke of his versatility. His listed size told me he was more of a guard than a tackle. I saw Way as my long-term answer at left guard. He got injured early in his rookie season and I think that, combined with a position change, doomed his career. He needed that rookie year to learn. Has mostly started at RG the last two years, though he did rotate a bit to the bench on occasion. Clearly, this pick turned out to be a bust when I see I could have had SS Cameron Riley, for example, or dealt this pick to one of the many teams that had asked for it.
CB Austin Sheppard 6-1 188 2 Penn State [Zone Coverage]  78
I counted down the picks until he came to me. I celebrated that he was still on the board. Of all of the corners in the 2021 draft, Sheppard's coverage stats were the 2nd-best. He had 7 interceptions as a senior, gave up just 45.94 yards per game and 3 TDs all season (in 16 games) to #1 WRs, while playing some tough competition, all the way to the National Championship game. I thought I had a steal at the top of the third round to be my nickle corner and one day develop into a starter. He's been....ok, and certainly has not progressed the way that I would have hoped.
TE Damian Mason 6-7 225 2 Butler [Receiving] [-1] 83
After the 3rd round of the draft had ended, I was slotted to pick second behind the Tennessee Titans for the start of the fourth round. I knew who they wanted, and I wanted the same player, OLB Terrance Plummer, to put another high-octane athlete in my new 3-4 defense, across from Shane Easley. The Titans wouldn't budge. I had to come up with a new plan and look at other needs. At tight end, I had Scott Howard, but Howard was getting older and had missed a game or two, here and there. I saw a 6'7" freak of nature that had just blown up the NFL Combine like a Taco Bell bathroom. This guy was 6'7", had a 39" vertical, ran a 4.72 40 with a 6.98 3-cone drill? AND he had great hands? Who could possibly cover him? I gladly grabbed him, sitting him behind Howard for two seasons before finally moving Howard to make room for him to start. Mason has shown to be a very big threat in our offense, though he was limited with his own injuries a bit this season. Still, he hauled in 55 balls for 660 yards and 5 TDs this season, and I'm very excited for his future.
OLB John Kearns 5-11 229 2 TCU [Blitz] [-1] 82
A panic pick, if I'm being honest. At the same time as the start of the 4th round, I was involved in deep negotiations with the Colts to trade former #3 overall pick, DE Anthony Miller, a player who no longer fit in my 3-4 scheme. We were finalizing talks, and boom, I was on the clock, my focus split between a franchise-changing move and a 4th round pick. Obviously, most of my attention was on the trade talks. I knew I needed an OLB opposite Easley, and just grabbed the top-rated one, despite some big red flags against Kearns concerning his senior year production and his pro day evaluation. Kearns eased into the role, opposite Easley, with the help of signing former Pro Bowler Jason Bryant, and Kearns has developed nicely. He's no star, but he has been solid, making 7 stat sheets in 2023, and even earned "Top Rated Player" in one of our games this season.
ILB Kareem Boykin 6-3 225 2 Western Michigan [Will] [+1] 79
Between #102 and #119, the trade with the Colts had been finalized, bringing us multiple picks and players, including this pick. The team had no "Will" linebackers on the roster for our new 3-4, so I grabbed an intriguing prospect in Boykin, from a very successful Western Michigan program. Boykin did a fine job for us for two seasons as the starter before I fell in love with the skillset of Bradley Rainey in the 2023 draft. No knock against Boykin, but he's just not Rainey. But to get a 2-year starter and now, seasoned backup out of a mid-4th round pick is not a bad outcome.
RB Brannon Austin 5-10 195 2 FIU [Power]  77
5th round running back that has been the starter for us ever since. In 2022, he was named by PFF as the best back in the league at breaking tackles. In 2023, he was listedby PFF as the #8 back as hardest to bring down. He's is not going to rip off 150 yards and lead your team to victory. But he is steady. When we have run the ball, he has been able to give us balance. In games where he has run well, Matty Swift has had his best games. We just have not really emphasized the run that much. Bonus.. Austin, in three seasons, has never fumbled the ball. Not once. For a 5th round pick, I'll take it.
SS Zachary Trotter 5-10 174 2 Illinois [Zone Coverage]  78
A depth player for us. Special teamer. Has not started a game. Illinois has been one of the nations' best defenses and we needed, at the least, a backup strong safety. Wasn't a bad pick. Wasn't a good one. He's still on the roster though.
OG Ousmane Nixon 6-2 307 2 TCU [Pass Blocking]  77
Needed a backup guard. Got a backup guard. Even with drafting Way, and especially after Way got hurt early on, having Nixon on the depth chart was nice. Wasn't a bad pick, wasn't a good one.
#210 OT Ari Kern
Was a depth Tackle for us that [likely] never made the active 46-man roster. I don't remember if I cut him to make space or if someone signed him off my practice squad, and I can't be bothered to check. As you will see reading on, this 7th rounder is the only player drafted since I took over full control of the team that is no longer with the team.
After a dismal 1-15 season (blowing up your entire defense tends to lead to that), I entered the 2022 draft with the #1 overall pick. I LOVED Matt Jones, but I still felt that one player was not going to fix the team's problems. Matty Swift was getting sacked at record rates, and the defense was the 32nd-ranked unit in the league. I dealt the #1 pick (along with a 3rd rounder) to Buffalo, getting back the #4 and #5 picks in the draft.
OG Noah Barney 6-1 336 1 Ohio State [Pass Blocking]  87
Future All-Pro Guard, and there's nothing you can tell me to otherwise change my mind. Guard is not sexy, but this was EXACTLY the player my team needed. The OL was so bad, the run game non-existent, the QB always under pressure. This is the best draft pick I have made, and probably the best match of team need and player in the entire 2022 draft.
CB Kenyon Justice 6-1 177 1 Auburn [Zone Coverage] [-1] 83
I heavily considered RB Trevon Yeldon with this pick. I REALLY liked Yeldon, and he was the best back I have scouted. The reason I did not pick Yeldon was two-fold. For one thing, I thought Brannon Austin did a nice-enough job the season before as the starter and I wanted to see how much more he would develop, especially with an improved line in front of him. But mostly, I had already invested heavily into the offense in the 2022 offseason, not only by drafting Barney at #4, but I had also signed several free agents - all on the offensive side of the ball. Yet, my defense was ranked 32nd in 2022. I decided to split picks 4/5 on each side of the ball, instead of doubling down with another offensive pick. Justice immediately filled a need, stepping into the #2 CB role. He had a quiet rookie season on the stat sheets, but came into his own in 2023, making half of the team's stat sheets, and leading the club in both interceptions and pass breakups while splitting time between the #1 and #2 corner role.
WR Jarvis Ward 5-9 189 1 Texas A&M [Speed]  83
This pick came from the Colts in the Anthony Miller deal. And by the time I was on the clock, my phone was ringing off the hook. Offer after offer came in for the pick, with most teams mentioning Jarvis Ward, the top-rated WR in the class as their target. I had a player in mind for the pick for me, OT Kyle Will, to bolster the offensive line some more, and the more I looked at why teams were after Ward, the more it swayed me toward him. After all, he had 85 catches to just 1 dropped ball in his senior season. As the clock ticked down and I debated the trade offers, I just couldn't quite pull off the deal that I was hoping to make, one that would give me some additional assets while keeping me in position to draft my intial target, Will, who had an eye-popping 9.8 scouting grade on his pro day. I went ahead and took Ward, thinking that it would give me the ability to continue negotiating a deal, or at the very least, give me a quick receiver with great hands to help a receiving corps that had been much maligned over the years. Soon after my pick, a few teams made rapid-fire selections and I was not able to pull off a deal before Will got taken. Still, Ward was a Charger, and I needed another receiver with quickness and great hands. Except Ward, in his rookie season decided that he stopped liking to catch balls, and preferred to drop them. I'm not quite sure why. He was better this year, before getting hurt, but the jury is still out on whether this will be a good pick for me or not. Certainly, if you compare Ward to #51 overall selection, Mike Miller, this pick seems like a bust. I think Ward's best days are still ahead of him, as shown in a Week 9 performance where he caught 7 balls for 128 yards and a touchdown.
FS Khalil Dennis 6-2 219 1 Vanderbilt [Zone Coverage]  82
Coming into the draft with a roster that did not need many bodies, I saw no need to hold onto later picks, and decided to use them to aggressively target players I wanted earlier in the draft. I traded down from #33 to #42 get a veteran starting strong safety in the deal. Then I traded up from #46 to #36 to take the player that I saw as the best free safety in the draft. Dennis sat for most of last season, learning behind a veteran, but started every game this year, making 8 statsheets this year, with 3 interceptions. I think Dennis will continue to develop into a nice player for us. I don't think he is your classic, ball-hawking free safety that will change games with big hits and timely interceptions, but I think he is someone that will have a long career as a solid starter in this league.
OT Anthony Krause 6-4 329 1 Tennessee [Run Blocking]  81
Seen as a "safe" pick, because he had no major weaknesses coming out of college, Krause was drafted as a swing tackle and someone that I hope can develop into a steady starting RT. He played that position, on a rotational basis, in each of his first two seasons, and with Bryan Green's likely retirement, the starting job looks to be Krause's going forward.
"Earning" the #2 overall pick, I traded down (twice) trying to collect as many assets as I could before taking the player that I coveted. I knew #2 would have been too high, and there was a market to get to both 2, and subsequently, 4. I don't think I got great value in return, but something was better than nothing.
ILB Bradley Rainey 5-11 223 R Penn State [Will] [0/C] 83
The best pass coverage linebacker the college game has seen, according to several people, and the stats did not shy away from supporting that. In a division where the pass-happy Raiders and Chiefs have excelled, and a lot of that through use of their tight ends, I saw Rainey as a great weapon to have. He was ranked second among all rookies in tackles (leading my team, ahead of perennial leader, Tunch Richardson) as well as help boost the Chargers defense to 20th in the league in yards allowed - a big step for us. And on a team with a lot of young talent on defense, he was listed as our top-rated player four times in the final seven games of the season. I am expecting a lot of growth from him and our defense as a whole as he matures and starts using that "captaincy" tag as an inherent trait of his.
DE Tyrone Rivers 6-4 258 R LSU [Contain] [-3] 81
With a number of extra picks gathered from trading down earlier, I had the currency to go get a player I wanted, and earmarked Rivers as that man. I loved his college production, in the SEC, his size and his combine and pro day suggested that he could be a capable defender at the next level. His rookie and training camps immediately pointed to otherwise. I'm not sure where I could have seen this coming, but I was certainly surprised to see him struggle individually as much as he apparently did. He was listed as our weakest performer three different times in the first half of the season, but seemingly improved as he adjusted to the pro game, logging his first sack in the team's final game. I drafted him as much to help set the edge in the run game as I did anything else. We have Easley coming off the edge to get after the passer. The rush defense numbers were much better than the year prior. So while I am not expecting Tyler Jones, nor was I ever, I do think Rivers will continue to develop and help our defense improve as this young group gels together.
TE Nate Linsley 6-1 218 R Toledo [Blocking]  82
Perhaps a frivolous pick, I added this selection by trading down earlier, and knew I needed a run blocking tight end. Mason is my pass catcher, and it is clear that is all he does. With the new run-blocking designation, I saw an opportunity to grab a player that could fit that mold, yet be a threat in two TE schemes and give me a solid backup to Mason. Linsley was considered the best blocking tight end in the draft and I liked this pick from the start. He spent the first half of the season out with an injury, but once he came back, Brannon Austin and the run game really took off, improving their yards per carry and overall production.
QB Elijah McManus 5-10 196 R Kentucky [Pocket] [+2/C] 80
[This was Memorial Day Weekend. And I was away all day, having missed the start of the draft. I got home and quickly logged on, to see us at Pick #131. I owned picks #134, #135, #136, and #143, and having 4 rapid-fire picks, several trade offer PMs, and not having seen the draft board in like 40 picks was not something I'd ever recommend.]
Needed not only a backup quarterback, but also perhaps someone to take over the reigns in the future from Matty. I still felt like I had other holes to fill earlier, and didn't want to use a lot of draft capital on QB, but here, in the fifth round? It felt like a perfect fit. McManus was a winner in college, leading an undermanned Kentucky team, and his pro day and combine were quite impressive to still be on the board at this part of the draft. Other than preseason, he has seen no action, but I think I got a good prospect here, cheaply. Future leader too. The guy's a Boy Scout, waiting for his chance.
C Leonard Duckworth 6-2 295 R Navy [Pass Blocking] [+1] 77
I knew that I needed another center. Martin Terry was upset with me, had been tagged, and I knew that I would try to trade him during the season. Even with trading for Mendy Morrow, I needed another guy to be the backup and possible successor behind him for after Terry being gone. Duckworth in the early fifth looked like pretty good value, as hot of a commodity as a decent center can be. He has not played, but we'll see how well he progresses.
OT Benjamin Driver 6-5 266 R Oklahoma State [Pass Blocking] [+1] 77
Needed some depth at tackle Got a guy that I hope can develop into a decent swing tackle. Was OT4 for me this year. With Green retiring, I expect him to move up the ladder behind Hill and Krause.
ILB Tanner Madison 6-4 242 R Georgia Tech [Mike]  74
I said before that I had #136. Well, the Jets traded me #164 and #166 to go get Franklin Riggins at 136.. So I took two guys off my board that I liked as projects. I had no backup MLB to Tunch, and Madison had a pretty productive college career. You never hope to start a 74-rated player at MLB, but I'm hoping he'll develop nicely. If you look back, he was the player that I invited to the combine, and I did like what I saw from him.
DE Noah Urlacher 6-6 259 R Kansas [Contain]  76
Even two drafts after that initial switch to the 3-4, I still was finding parts I needed to replace, as I let the old backups' contracts expire. I had drafted Rivers at #20 overall, but still needed more depth at the position. Urlacher had been decent at Kansas, with 4 sacks and 4 TFL his senior season, playing in the Big XII. He'll be here as a backup for a while, and we'll see how he progresses.
FS Mark Oliver 6-1 180 R Northwestern [Zone Coverage]  73
As with any 7th round pick, unless you are taking a special teams player to fill a need, the player is just a cheap lottery ticket. You're not likely to win, and even if it does, it's probably not the jackpot prize, but a small win. Oliver's senior season, he filled out statsheets at Northwestern to a tune of 33 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 4 PD, 2 FF, 1 FR. That sounds like a football player I want to take a chance on, and I needed a backup free safety.