San Diego Chargers 10 Best NFL Draft Picks

    Who are the San Diego Chargers' best NFL draft picks? Here are the top 10 in franchise history.

    February 21, 2016

    Who are the San Diego Chargers’ best NFL draft picks? Here are the top 10 in franchise history.

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    The San Diego Chargers are known for their amazing offense and for only getting to – and losing – one Super Bowl, but they still have as strong a collection of individual stars as any team in the NFL.

    What’s most interesting about San Diego is that it didn’t draft some of its greatest talent. Lance Alworth was drafted by San Francisco, and Wes Chandler and Charlie Joiner weren’t drafted by the franchise, either.

    So, for this exercise with rare exception, the player had to have been drafted by the franchise. There’s one massive call being made on this list with Phil Rivers, but he’ll count as a Charger.

    Second, longevity with the franchise means just about everything. High-end production for a long time matters more than a short burst – which is why Kellen Winslow isn’t higher – especially if that player spends a key portion of his career with someone else.

    And finally, this isn’t a list of the best players in San Diego Charger history. This is a list of the best draft picks whose career was mostly spent with that team.

    1. LB Junior Seau, USC

    1990, 1st round, 5th pick overall
    Pick Before: LB Keith McCants, Alabama by Tampa Bay
    Pick After: S Mark Carrier, USC by Chicago

    While he’ll forever be remembered for his tragic death, on the field he turned in a Hall of Fame career as one of the most productive linebackers in NFL history. He was good for Miami and New England, but he was the San Diego Charger defense in the 1990s finishing with 1,286 tackles in his 13-yard career with the franchise along with 47 sacks. From 1991 to 2002 he went to 12 straight Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro six times.

    2. QB Dan Fouts, Oregon

    1973, 3rd round, 64th pick overall
    Pick Before: RB Terry Metcalf, Long Beach State by St. Louis
    Pick After: WR Jim Lash, Northwestern by Minnesota

    If Dan Marino is the greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl, Fouts is probably the greatest quarterback to never play in one. The Hall of Fame bomber spent all 15 years in San Diego throwing for 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns highlighted by a run from 1979 to 1981 of three straight 4,000-yard campaigns. He was named All-Pro twice and went to six Pro Bowls, still slinging for over 3,000 yards at 35.

    3. RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU

    2001, 1st round, 5th pick overall
    Pick Before: DE Justin Smith, Missouri by Cincinnati
    Pick After: DT Richard Seymour, Georgia by New England

    The next great back after the Emmitt Smith/Barry Sanders era closed out, Tomlinson proved he wasn’t just a good runner who put up mega numbers at TCU. The Hall of Famer ran for 12,490 yards and 138 touchdowns for the Chargers, to go along with 530 catches for 3,955 yards and 15 scores as one of the most durable and consistent all-around backs of all-time. He was named All-Pro three times and went to five Pro Bowls, but the big highlight was a 2006 MVP after running for 1,815 yards and scoring 28 touchdowns with 56 catches for 508 yards and three scores.

    4. QB Phil Rivers, NC State

    2004, 1st round, 4th pick overall
    Pick Before: WR Larry Fitzgerald, Pitt by Arizona
    Pick After: S Sean Taylor, Miami by Washington

    Okay, fine, so New York actually drafted Rivers, but just like Eli Manning is being considered a Giant because of the draft day trade, Rivers is being counted as a Charger draft pick. Before he’s done he’s going to end up with a Hall of Fame career after breaking just about every San Diego passing record – think about that considering the Air Coryell offenses. While he suffered from playing in the same era as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers – all Super Bowl winners – his numbers stack up against any quarterback over the last decade throwing for over 41,000 yards with 281 touchdowns on the way to five Pro Bowls.

    5. DE Leslie O’Neal, Oklahoma State

    1986, 1st round, 8th pick overall
    Pick Before: T Brian Jozwiak, West Virginia by Kansas City
    Pick After: OG John Rienstra, Temple by Pittsburgh

    The six-time Pro Bowl pass rusher worked both as a defensive end and a massive outside linebacker, turning into one of the most dangerous defensive forces of the late 1980s and early 1990s. He played nine years for the Chargers coming up with 105 sacks and 572 tackles before going off to St. Louis.

    6. TE Kellen Winslow, Missouri

    1979, 1st round, 13th pick overall
    Pick Before: RB Charles Alexander, LSU by Cincinnati
    Pick After: DE Marty Lyons, Alabama by New York Jets

    Shouldn’t he be higher? After all, he all but set the standard for the position on the way to the Hall of Fame with 541 catches for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns. However, most of his work came in a short burst, cranking out two 88-catch seasons and a career high 89 over a four-year span – those were his three 1,000-yard campaigns. He was still very, very good, but his four Pro Bowls and three All-Pro nods came from 1980 to 1983. Even so, considering he’s type of receiving tight end everyone is still looking for, it was still a special nine-year career.

    7. QB John Hadl, Kansas

    1962, 1st round, 10th pick overall
    Pick Before: HB Wendell Harris, LSU by Baltimore
    Pick After: HB Leroy Jackson, Western Illinois by Cleveland

    Before big-time passing games became the norm, Hadl put up terrific numbers over his 11-year turn with the Chargers throwing for close to 27,000 yards with 201 touchdowns. Yeah, he also threw 211 interceptions, but that was sort of the time – the air attacks weren’t as precise. The He went to five Pro Bowls while also becoming a pillar of the community, but his 1973 All-Pro season came with the Los Angeles Rams. The Chargers kept all the fun going without him by drafting Dan Fouts.

    8. OT Russ Washington, Missouri

    1968, 1st round, 4th pick overall
    Pick Before: DE Claude Humphrey, Tennessee State by Atlanta
    Pick After: LB Fred Carr, UTEP by Green Bay

    A 15-year Charger, he proved to be more than worth the fourth overall pick starting out steady and growing into a Pro Bowl talent. It took six years, and then it all kicked in going to five Pro Bowls in his next six seasons serving as a key right tackle blocker for the phenomenal Charger attack. After 196 starts and closing out stronger than he started, San Diego hit the jackpot.

    9. S Eric Weddle, Utah

    2007, 2nd round, 37th pick overall
    Pick Before: QB Kevin Kolb, Houston by Philadelphia
    Pick After: TE Zach Miller, Arizona State by Oakland

    The Chargers had to make a big move to trade for him, and it all worked out with 680 tackles in his nine years. With the NFL always looking for playmaking safeties, Weddle became a force with 105 tackles in his second year and seven picks in his fifth, earning All-Pro recognition twice and with three Pro Bowl appearances.

    10. DT Gary Johnson, Grambling State

    1975, 1st round, 8th pick overall
    Pick Before: WR Larry Burton, Purdue by New Orleans
    Pick After: DT Mike Fanning, Notre Dame by Los Angeles Rams

    Part of the epic draft class that included Fred Dean and Louie Kelcher for the defensive line – either one could’ve easily have made the list – Johnson turned in the longer, stronger career for the Chargers with four Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro nods over a four-year span from 1979 to 1982. Big Hands grew into a dominant pass rushing force as both a tackle and an end, even at just 6-2 and 255 pounds.

    MORE: San Diego Chargers All-Time NFL Draft Team


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