It’s hard to believe what a solid draft class can provide.
For fans of the San Diego Chargers it had been quite awhile since they had witnessed the impact of a successful incoming rookie crop. Prior to the regime change showing former general manager A.J. Smith the door, the Bolts had been mired in a torrent of mediocre to substandard rookies failing to produce any worthwhile results. For every Eric Weddle there was a Buster Davis, Ryan Mathews, and Larry English. While Smith does deserve his due for some of the gems currently coming into their own on the defense like Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes, his best years were clearly behind him as the man in charge.
The same can’t be said for new GM Tom Telesco who was lauded for his selections immediately following the draft and has only continued to deserve the praise since. Many believed the Bolts got serious steals in each of the first three rounds, and that has proven to be true throughout the course of the season’s first half.
First rounder D.J. Fluker has been a starter from day one and been super impressive in that role. In the most recent tilt with the Jacksonville Jaguars, injuries along the offensive line forced Fluker to switch over to left tackle from his natural right tackle spot. The change went along without a hitch as his presence has been a big part of the team’s transformation in the trenches. For a squad that allowed quarterback Philip Rivers to be sacked an astounding 49 sacks a year ago, their paltry 11 sacks allowed through seven games thus far is awfully impressive.
With all of the jokes around Manti Te’o before the draft it seems like the joke is on every GM who passed on the former Notre Dame linebacker now. Te’o missed the first three games after an injury in the preseason, but since returning he has really added a jolt to the San Diego defense. The Chargers have been super stingy in recent weeks allowing just five field goals total and no touchdowns in their last 10 quarters of action. His stats may not be off the charts, but Te’o definitely adds a much-needed instinctual presence to the linebacking corps.
And finally the most impactful rookie in terms of statistics has been wide receiver Keenan Allen. The third rounder was thought of as a potential first round pick in the fall until injury derailed his pre-draft buildup and led to a slide down the order. Allen’s 26 catches for 399 yards and two touchdowns have been vitally important to a receiving group ravaged by injuries this year. His flawless route-running combined with reliable hands have led to quite a rapport with Rivers in the San Diego offense.
All of these achievements have led Gil Brandt of NFL.com to proclaim the Bolts’ rookie crop as the most impactful of the 2013 class at the halfway point. And it’s really hard to disagree with that assessment given the serious turnaround the team as a whole has experience thanks to the youth movement.
These first-year guys have been stellar up to this point, but look for their contributions to only continue to grow as the season moves along. The Chargers are going to be depending on these youngsters as they stage a playoff push in the season’s second half. Look for this trio to continue making their mark on a league that has been steadily trending in a younger and younger direction.