Making a case for the team to take a safety in this year’s draft.
Seems like I’m making a case for this team to take a safety every year. Eric Weedle has been gone for two season’s now, and the team has yet to draft any replacements. Hell, truth be told this team needed a safety even when they still the All-pro Weedle. Most Charger fan’s wanted to see a stud strong safety to pair with Weedle but never got a chance to see such a duo before the former All-pro left with a bad taste in his mouth. Just to be clear I have no problem with Jahleel Addae, as a matter of fact I actually like him. I like the mentality he has. He brings a tough mind set along with tenacity that is contagious. Unfortunately the fact remains that he is just too inconsistent. He is capable of delivering knock out blows and yet seems to miss to many tackle trying arm tackle. Tre Boston was brought in to fill the free safety roll after being cut by Carolina just before training camp. Yet another inconsistent saftey. Boston tends to be more physical with his tackles on a regular basis which proved to be much needed early in the year. All throughout training camp I could tell that at the very least he would be a great locker room presence as he seemed to have great chemistry with everyone. He always seems to be hyping people up or dancing around. The only real knock against him is the fact he is slow into his coverage rotations. A very important trait to lack when a single high safety is constantly utilized. I touch more on this subject in my piece about how too shuffle Jason verrett back in the mix for the upcoming season. Insert link. After missing out on a few top notch safeties in the draft the last few years I think it time to address it. Too often those safties they have passed on the last few years have ended up being big game changers who were able to contribute from day one. Malik Hooker, Jammal Adams, Karl Joseph, Keanue Neal etc. This year will probably be no different as this year’s safety class is shaping up to be deep.
Ill stat with the most physically imposing safety, and that’s Derwin James of Florida State. At 6’3’ 220 pounds’ he is basically a linebacker. Someone like this could be more than valuable in the team’s new defensive scheme. This could be Gus Bradley’s Los Angeles version of kam Chancellor. Acquiring a guy of this stature and caliber would help keep options open and create more flexibility. He could easily be the “in the box” safety, which would move Addae to free safety. If not he could easily take over the coverage linebacker role in nickel packages. This would be a huge upgrade over Adrian Phillips. Tre Boston would even be better in this role in my opinion. Although best case scenario is that Jatavious Brown can secure this role moving forward so that the roles don’t have to mix and match as much. James will no doubt go in the top 15 but is this team willing to take a safety in the first round? He also possess deceptive speed for a guy his size allowing him to be a force in the run game as his first break forward is a notch above the rest. He ran a 4.4 second 40 yard dash. He is a physical freak and even put up a 40 inch vertical and 21 reps on bench which is a lot for a safety. What makes me love this guy regardless of size is he knows how to bring the boom! His height makes him a good zone coverage guy especially while playing down in the box. This would help to eliminate short passing routes. If somehow he manages to fall to the 17th pick (unlikely) then the team needs to pull the trigger. He essentially fills two different needs of both safety and linebacker. Remember the McCoy regime tried to bring in Dexter McCoil from the CFL to be that big bodied versatile safety, yet it never panned out. Could the organization try again with a more talented version? Especially since the defensive coordinator we have now is the Defensive backs whisperer. He made a similar player a superstar up in Seattle.
Someone who could turn out to be a second round steal would Justin Reid out of Stanford. Reid is the little brother of San Francisco 49er safety Eric Reid. More than likely he will fall in the draft because some scouts can’t tell if he is a better fit at free or strong safety. So by their logic it devalues them, which isn’t necessarily fair but what can you do. Nothing they do seem to makes sense. Reid doesn’t necessarily possess any one standout trait but seems to do well at everything. An all-around player. He played nearly 400 snaps as the nickel corner, over 200 as deep safety, and over 100 close to the line of scrimmage. He was the only safety in the pac-12 who ranked in the top 5 in both run stop’s and passer rating when targeted. Theoretically being from Stanford he should be intelligent enough to understand coverage’s and offensive concepts, right!?1?….right? It’s also of note that he had a good combine with a 4.4 second 40 yard dash and 36.5 inch vertical and 128 inch broad jump.
My favorite sleeper safety in this year’s draft is Deshon Elliot from Texas. And no its not because of his nickname “the joker”. Just to be clear he is not my favorite safety because I think he will be the best in this year’s class, even though it could turn out to be the case. However he is my favorite due to the value he presents as far as where he could be had in the draft. As I have mentioned this year is heavy on safeties and due to the talent of Derwin James and both Alabama safeties, Elliot will likely be a mid-second round to even possibly falling to the 4th round pick. Making it not only theoretical to picture him in a charger uniform but also very rational and more likely compared to his first round counter parts. Measuring in at 6’2’’ 210 pounds. My favorite part of Elliot’s game though is his ability to deliver hard hits. The types that make a receiver wince when running in the middle of the field. I do love myself some hard hitting safeties. Most free safeties don’t possess the ability to hit quit like that with a few exceptions. Earl Thomas comes to mind and coincidently he is also a former longhorn himself. He also had a good combine however in a single high safety role that the chargers love, he could be a risk.
Next up we have Terrell Edmunds from Virginia Tech. Not to be confused with his brother Tremaine who I listed in my linebackers section. 6’2’’ 220 pounds. Edmunds has good physicality and good but not great coverage. He actually reminds me of a more athletic Tre Boston. Someone who is a bit slow in his rotations at times but size and physicality help to make up for it. I will be the first to admit that I didn’t watch a lot of Virginia Tech football this year. However a red flag for me would be that he had season ending surgery on his shoulder ¾ of the way through the season. Seeing as how this past season was the first in a number of year that the team didn’t sustain a numerous amount of injuries, I might avoid players coming off surgery to avoid such a trend going forward. I would take a long look at his medical charts if he is going to be considered.
Ronnie Harrison from Alabama would be a more plausible first round option with the first choice since his draft projection is in the mid-teens to mid 30’s which could make him a early second rounder. So a trade back could be possible to gain a extra pick if he is in fact on the team’s radar. stop me if you have heard this before but Harrison is yet another big bodied safety. 6’3’’ 215 pounds. Seeing a trend here? Probably this will be more prevalent moving forward as the league is becoming more accepting of hybrid players, or “tweeners” as they say. Hard hitting safeties being used at linebacker and coverage specializing linebackers at safety. His size would suggest that he is very similar to Derwin James, however he is not nearly the cover saefey that James is. He was also unwilling to run the 40 at the combine. The run stopping ability is on par though. I believe that defensive coordinator Gus Bradley could shore up the coverage issues. He seems to work magic when it comes to developing Defensive backs. Trevor Williams was evidence of that as he proved to be a pleasant surprise this year.
As some would notice I have left a few names out such as Minkah Fitzpatrick, also an Alabama product. Not that I wouldn’t love the team to pick him I just don’t see him falling out of the top 10 picks. There were also some others who will be later round pick’s such as Armani Watts from Texas A&M who could turn out to be a good mid to late round pick. There is also some talk of Marcus Allen of Penn State, however I am not a fan of Allen at all. He has the capability of delivering a big hit but should not be asked to cove anyone zone or man. The need for a safety really depends on what the front office wants to do with Rayshawn Jenkins who was last year’s fourth round pick. He started to work his way into the rotation at the end of the season. Do they believe he can be a starter? Could be, as I’ve mentioned the ability to develop DB’s. All of the players mentioned above probably have a higher ceiling. Much depends on whether or not Tre Boston is brought back. The flexibility with the defensive backs is greatly valuable in Bradley’s system.