I waited for awhile before I have my say in what the Chargers should draft. Some Charger fans on BleacherReport suggested that the Chargers should go after Gabe Camiri, Nate Solder, AJ Green, and Cameron Heyward. Don't get me wrong, those are all great players. Those would be all great additions to the Chargers squad. My thing is, they aren't the greatest need for the Chargers as of right now. The biggest need that the Chargers have as of right now on the roster (as of Sunday, January 30, 2011) is at cornerback (CB). That's the absolute truth.
Players like Nate Solder, AJ Green, and other great college names are nice to have. The problem is, as of right now, they are luxury picks compared to the need at CB and in the next couple of slides, you'll see why.
The Chargers have depth at nearly every position except CB.
The Chargers have Brandyn Dombrowski, Tyronne Green, and Scott "Mooch" Mruczkowski backing up the offensive line. Green started 7 games out of 15 games on the active roster in two seasons. Dombrowski started 13 games out of 32 games on the active roster in two seasons. "Mooch" started 13 games out of 29 games in the last two seasons. They are quality players so the need for a first round offensive line isn't great.
The Chargers have Antonio Garay, Luis Castillo, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Cam Thomas, and Vaughn Martin are all under contract. Travis Johnson and Jacques Cesaire aren't. The likelihood of one those those players coming back is good and it's likely to be Cesaire since he has experience in Greg Manuksy's scheme under past DC Wade Phillips. Seeing the Chargers bring in a top talent in the first round isn't likely.
Now to my point, who does the Chargers have in experience to back-up Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer? The Chargers only have Dante Hughes, Traye Simmons, and Donald Strickland to look at thus far. Donald Strickland is looking at being a free agent this season. That leaves the Chargers very thin at the CB position.
Depth is a huge problem at this position versus any other position on the depth chart.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Antoine Cason won't make the transition here. What I'm saying is the Chargers must draft a CB also in order to protect themselves in any case that Cason struggles.
The greatest example the Chargers can learn from is Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie excelled in Ted Crottell's defense which places a huge emphasis on pressure and playing a three deep zone which puts a CB on a island to protect against the pass. When Cottrell got fired then Ron Rivera taken over, Rivera ran a zone scheme defense. The Chargers learned that Cromartie can't play zone at all under Rivera's defense where he excelled in the past in a aggressive defensive scheme.
Antoine Cason without a doubt is a zone base CB often using his smarts to beat receivers which is the best quality to look for in a CB to fit that scheme. The question now remains whether or not Cason can take the responsibility of playing on a island in a ultra aggressive defense where blitzing the QB to force bad throws is the philosophy. Such a defense throws the kitchen at the QB to force bad throws so players with great athletic ability is often preferred than smarts. Players like Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Darrell Revis fit this type of defense.
So the Chargers may have to find a ball hawk CB to ensure themselves the right type of player to fit the scheme just in case Cason struggles in the new defense.
One thing is evident, Cason is a great CB and he didn't give any indication last season as a starter that he might not fit in Manusky's defense but like I said, insurance policy at this position is a must considering the drastic change in scheme and philosophy.
The nickelback is one of the most important positions in a ultra-aggressive 3-4 defensive scheme. The reason is simple as just like the cornerbacks, they'll be left on a island.
Back in 2006, the Chargers had one of the most greatest group of cornerbacks as they had Drayton Florence and Quentin Jammer on the outside while rookie Antonio Cromartie played the nickelback position.
With Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer starting, there is no proven talent to compete for the nickelback position. With the likes of Traye Simmons and Dante Hughes left on the roster with current contracts, it's not a really comfortable position for the Chargers to be in.
It would be ideal for the Chargers to bring back Donald Strickland as he is a great man-to-man defender that can play against opposing slotbacks. Strickland's age ain't going to help the Chargers in the long term and neither is the fact that the Chargers are going to be comfortable with him playing CB behind Jammer and Cason on the depth chart.
All in all, bringing in a top talent at CB in the first round will not only ensure all the things I've already covered thus far in this article, but it will allow the Chargers to get a better feel for who is going to start at nickelback as the top rookie CB will compete with Hughes and Simmons for the starting position.
Competition at this position will give the Chargers a better feel for the quality of players they do have.
There has been a rumor going around that Quentin Jammer might find himself at strong safety. If this move is going to happen, the need for a CB will outweigh any other position of "need" in the draft.
The move is a possibility as the Chargers will like to keep Jammer playing at a high level. The fact that Jammer understands DC Greg Manusky's defensive scheme as he played in it under Wade Phillips, is a huge plus. The Chargers do have a bit of a weakness at the strong safety position so seeing Jammer go to strong safety would be a common sense move.
Jammer didn't show a decline in his speed but if there is one thing about the strong safety position, speed isn't a huge need as football smarts is more important. The strong safety position in this defense usually have to be a player that can tackle and play close to the line of scrimmage. Jammer may not have the experience of a strong safety at the NFL level but he does know the role of that player in Manusky's defensive scheme.
All in all, if Jammer does go strong safety, the Chargers will need a CB in the first round.
The 2010 Chargers were able to replace LaDainian Tomlinson with Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews. Replaced Jamal Williams with Antonio Garay. Replaced Antonio Cromartie with Antoine Cason. Replaced Shawne Merriman's presence with Shaun Phillips big year. Of all the players the Chargers lost during the off-season and so on, no one thought that Kassim Osgood would be the hardest player to replace.
Special teams killed the Chargers season. Special teams hurt the Chargers in five games.
Kassim Osgood was the gunner on special teams. A gunner is the player on the outside of the special teams coverage team that gets downfield effectively and either attempt the tackle, they are usually good at it, or get to the ball and down it without a return. The Chargers have given up the most yards on returns in NFL history this past season. That has a lot to do with not having a capable gunner getting downfield.
The Chargers tried bringing in Quinton Teal, Kelly Washington, Pat Watkins, and Tyrone Carter to help on special teams and it worked. The problem I have with this is that the Chargers had four players brought unto the team just to play special teams and weren't familiar with the Chargers defensive scheme (excluding Kelly Washington as he's a WR).
Bringing in a top talent through the draft that can contribute on special teams as a gunner would be a huge plus, especially if it's a CB that can do it. This is a position that a top DE, OLB, or OL can't fulfill.
You can easily see why a CB is the most logical choice as the pros outweigh the cons in getting a CB. This is a absolute need at this position. The only way I see the Chargers getting a top DE, OL, or OLB before a CB is if they trade two or three out of their top five picks in the first three rounds to move up in the draft to also take a top talented CB. That I don't really see happening as the Chargers need every pick in the first three rounds to replace many players that the Chargers won't retain due to losses of personnel to the free agency.
Taking a CB is the obvious choice. Here is a quick recap of the reasons to take a CB again:
1. Provide depth behind Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason.
2. Give Chargers insurance policy in case Cason doesn't make transition to Greg Manusky's defense.
3. Need for a capable nickelback player in ultra-aggressive scheme.
4. Possible move of Quentin Jammer to strong safety.
5. Punt team need a capable "gunner" on special teams.
I'm sure after reading this article, you can see why I believe this is a move the Chargers should make. Are they going to make this move? I can't say for sure but if there is one thing I do know, AJ Smith have already have thought about this since he hired Manusky as the defensive coordinator as he now have to curb the roster to fit his defense. As far as I can see, the Chargers only have questions at strong safety, nose tackle, and cornerback in this new scheme. Of those three, CB is the biggest need as the strong safety and nose tackle will be given chances to prove they can play in the new scheme and they have depth at those positions.