The San Diego Chargers have not had long term success with first round picks after the 2004 NFL Draft. Shawne Merriman was the 12th pick in round one of the 2005 NFL Draft. Merriman burst onto the scene as a monster making the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons, was an All-Pro linebacker in 2006 and led the NFL with 17 sacks while only appearing in 12 games during the 2006 season. Merriman missed 15 games during the 2008 season due to surgery. When he came back in 2009, Merriman suffered with a foot injury and lingering knee pains from the surgery in 2008. This led to just four sacks in 14 games during the 2009 season. Merriman was eventually placed on waivers and claimed by the Buffalo Bills in 2010.
Luis Castillo was also a first round pick for San Diego in 2005. Castillo’s best season came in 2006 when he had seven sacks and an interception in 10 games. Unfortunately, Castillo had to battle injuries as well and missed 30 games in seven seasons with the Chargers. Antonio Cromartie was San Diego’s first round pick in 2006. Cromartie went on to be an All-Pro cornerback in 2007 as he led the NFL with 10 interceptions. Cromartie played the entire 2008 season with a broken hip, his effort was questioned in a playoff loss during the 2009 season and he was traded to the New York Jets on March 4, 2010 for a 2011 third round pick.
Craig Davis was the first round pick in 2007 for the Lightning Bolts. Davis spent four seasons with San Diego, missed 12 games in 2008 due to an injury and caught 51 passes for 558 yards and two touchdowns from 2007-2010. Davis was released by San Diego on July 28, 2011. Antoine Cason was the first round pick in 2008 for San Diego. Cason had four interceptions and 17 pass deflections in 2010. Cason struggled in the beginning of 2011 as he was benched for two games after allowing three touchdowns in a loss against New York, but only allowed two touchdowns with two interceptions and 10 pass deflections after week 10 in 2011.
Larry English was the first round pick in 2009 for San Diego. English only had two sacks in 16 games as a rookie, was on pace for six sacks in 2010 and six sacks in 2011, but missed 19 games the last two seasons. Ryan Mathews was the first round pick for San Diego in 2010. Mathews had 158 attempts for 678 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie, while he had 222 attempts for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns last season. Mathews finished 10th in the NFL in rushing yards while he was 16th in attempts last season. Corey Liuget was the first round pick in 2011 for San Diego. Liuget only had one sack and a forced fumble in 15 games last season, but he was a rookie, so there is room for improvement. Melvin Ingram was the first round pick in this year’s draft, so only time will tell if Cason, English, Mathews, Liuget or Ingram will have long term success with the Chargers. As of now, Mathews has the best chance to have long term success if he stays healthy.