Before all you readers lose your cool about the idea of bringing Vontaze Burfict and all his baggage to San Diego, let me first explain why such an irrational decision ironically makes sense.
With general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner on the hot seat after narrowly escaping being fired in the offseason, the time to take big risks is coincidentally right now. If Smith and Turner do end up being fired after next season, then why not go out with a bang taking a chance on a player most teams would normally overlook?
All the draft experts will tell you that the Chargers need help on the offensive line, and while that may be true the Bolts defense needs just as much help. Looking at the front seven of the Chargers, the only bright spot is at linebacker. Shaun Phillips is in the prime of his career with San Diego, and Takeo Spikes was a huge pick-up last year, but at 35 years old the 13-year veteran won't be productive much longer. However, the most important aspect missing from the Chargers defense is attitude.
Having an imposing player with a high motor and nastiness to anchor your defense adds character to a team. Guys like Ray Lewis, James Harrison and Ndamukong Suh make your defense a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. Not only are they playmakers, but they play with the type of attitude that makes guys on offense just a little bit paranoid.
In no way am I saying that Burfict is at that level yet, but I think he has the potential to give the Chargers defense a much-needed attitude adjustment. During his time at Arizona State, Burfict struggled on and off the field, but when he did play well it was with intense physicality. Love or hate the guy, you can't deny the fact that he's not intimidated by anyone and plays all over the field. Even former Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson compared Burfict's play style to Lewis'.
With the right coaching and mentoring Burfict could be a monster at middle linebacker. As far as the off-field issues are concerned, Turner is not the type of head coach afraid to give his players an earful on the sidelines. Playing alongside Phillips and Spikes wouldn't hurt his development either.
Burfict is definitely a risk at the 18th spot in the draft with so many other polished players available for the Bolts, but none of them have the attitude that the Chargers so desperately need.
When Smith took over as general manager for the Chargers in 2004 he had immediate success his first two years in the draft with selections like Philip Rivers, Shaun Phillips, Michael Turner, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles and Shawne Merriman, all of whom have seen their share of success and even a few Pro Bowl recognitions.
But when 2006 rolled around, Smith started developing a habit of taking chances on players who were either relatively unknown or ranked lower than their actual draft slot.
First-round gambles like Larry English, Craig Davis and Antonio Cromartie either failed to meet expectations or lacked consistency during the season. Last year's first-round selection Corey Liuget did not have a big season his first year in the NFL, but it's too early to tell whether he fits in with that list of failed risks.
If Smith was willing to take a chance on other high-risk players in past drafts, then making a gamble on Burfict shouldn't be something new.
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