Safety has been a weak point for the San Diego Chargers for the past several years. Following Marlon McCree’s departure from San Diego after the 2007 season, the position went from weak to downright awful behind Clinton Hart and an inexperienced Eric Weddle.
Shortly into the 2009 season the team stabilized the safety position by jettisoning Hart in favor of sixth round draft pick Kevin Ellison.
Ellison lacks the physical tools to ever become a dominating presence at safety, but he brought a toughness and fundamental game that was lacking.
With Ellison and Weddle starting, the team has a unit that is both young and solid, albeit in a very blue-collar fashion. Steve Gregory, Paul Oliver, and C.J. Spillman fill out great depth at the position, while also possessing coverage skills enough to fill in as extra DB’s in nickel or dime packages.
As a collective they bear a great resemblance to several other positions along the Chargers' defense: great depth, decent versatility, no true impact guy.
With more pressing needs elsewhere it would be logical for San Diego to let the position rest as it stands for this draft. The oldest member of the unit is 27 and they will hopefully continue to develop and grow as a collective within a defense that doesn’t ask for a true roving center-fielder.
But a few possibilities are out there, and A.J. Smith’s ability to pull off a surprise means no position can be ignored when contemplating the draft.
The assumption is that a running back and nose tackle will occupy the first two picks in the draft. Yet this draft is exceedingly deep when it comes to second-tier running backs, and so a second round may just still eke out into another position.
Safety Nate Allen is a first round talent lost amidst the Eric Berry/Earl Thomas/Taylor Mays discussion. Weddle is perhaps more secure at free safety than Ellison at strong, but an elite upgrade may just be too much for Smith to pass up, and the wide range of Allen's talents would be a great compliment to Ellison’s slower, more physical game.
Chad Jones out of LSU makes a more logical possibility. He has similar size to Ellison which will continue that physical play while bringing more athleticism to the strong safety position.
The primary knock on Jones is inexperience, yet that is easily assuaged by a team that can afford to wait an extra year before inserting him into the starting lineup.
The final option among this list could be Myron Rolle. Given that the team already has solid starters in place as well as good depth, it would make little sense to draft at the position unless the team feels it can find an impact upgrade.
Rolle could be that player. His forgoing football for academics will cost him dearly in both draft position and his rookie salary. But the team that elects to draft him could find itself an intelligent, hard-working steal in the late fourth to early fifth round.
San Diego has many positions similar to safety in which they have solid blue-collar players already in place. It could be just as easily argued to ignore such a position in the draft as to attempt to find an upgrade.
But regardless of which route taken, if San Diego is to pursue a safety, it will only make sense to do so if they feel the draftee will be able to supplant Eric Weddle or Kevin Ellison while leaving space in the draft to fill other more pressing concerns.
Chad Jones in the third or Myron Rolle in the fourth may just be possibilities that can translate into the hard-hitting dynamic strong safety San Diego has lacked since Rodney Harrison last donned a Chargers uniform.
See the rest of the ongoing Chargers Positional Needs series: