Defense has been a top priority for the San Diego Chargers in the first three rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. They have several key defensive starters eligible for free agency once the collective bargaining agreement is in place. The drafting of these young players will give GM A.J. Smith some leverage in the upcoming negotiations.
His first selection was Clemson’s Marcus Gilchrist, a versatile defensive back who can play either at the corner or safety position. He is an insurance policy in the event that Eric Weddle leaves San Diego as a free agent.
Scouts love his football IQ, as Gilchrist is constantly calling out offensive formations to his teammates prior to the snap of the ball. The one negative against him is being a step slow in reacting to the quarterback, and that’s usually the difference between an interception and a completed pass.
Then, Smith went outside of the box with his second selection in Round 2. He chose Michigan LB Jonas Mouton, a converted safety who needs to shed blocks better to be successful in the NFL.
This was an obvious knee-jerk reaction to fill a need rather than selecting the best available athlete on the draftboard. Potentially, the Chargers could lose three inside linebackers (Kevin Burnett, Stephen Cooper and Brandon Siler) to free agency, and Smith panicked by selecting a player who was at best projected to be a sixth-round draft choice.
In the third round, the Chargers went for offense by selecting hometown hero WR Vincent Brown from San Diego State University. His above-average speed will allow him to stretch the defense and create some separation from the secondary. Brown could become Philip Rivers’ top receiver, as Chargers fans will fall in love with his aggressive play over the middle and Brown’s uncanny ability to catch poorly thrown balls.
Smith’s final selection on Friday night was USC CB Shreece Wright, who could challenge Antoine Cason for his starting cornerback position by season’s end. He loves to mirror opposing receivers in man-to-man coverage and Wright’s athleticism will allow him to develop into a solid cover cornerback in the pros. Nothing seems to rattle him, as Wright has complete confidence in his playmaking ability to overcome any obstacle on the field.
San Diego Chargers Second-Round Grade: C-
San Diego Chargers Third-Round Grade: B