When you think about great Chargers safeties a few names come to mind. First, there's Rodney Harrison. Next, there's...OK, actually only one name comes to mind unless you're old enough to remember some guys from the 60's. The Chargers' draft history with safeties has been largely filled with disappointment, and some could say the selection of Harrison in the 5th round of the 1994 draft and his subsequent success was as much the result of luck as anything else. Considering that the next best safety in Chargers history may be AFLer Kenny Graham, drafted by the Bolts in 1965, the hope this year is that the Chargers can turn the tide on their inability to consistently fill their safety needs through the draft.
With the Chargers needing a starting safety and, considering who's left in the free agent market, with the draft being their best option for finding one, you have to assume AJ Smith & Company will be looking for a safety in the first two or three rounds. Who might the Chargers select? Who should the Chargers select? Read on, then make your pick in the comments section below.
Projected Round 1
Strengths: Versatile, strong defending the pass or run; good/physical tackler, good hands, solid in coverage against a variety of offensive players.
Weaknesses: Not many, but there have been murmurs of sloppy play on occasion, and there are some health concerns.
Barron may not be a Pro Bowler, but he projects to be a solid starter for years to come. He is quick enough, physical, and the lack of any real flaws in his game suggests he is more than ready to step into an NFL lineup.
Will he be a Charger? There are two questions when it comes to the Chargers and Barron. First, will he be around at #18 in the first round? Possibly, but if he is available for the Chargers, will the Chargers value a strong upgrade in the secondary over the pass rush help they desperately need from the outside linebacker position?
Projected Round 1-2
Strengths: Of the top safeties in the 2012 draft, Harrison Smith has earned the label as the “smart” safety, the type of player who would seem to gravitate toward AJ Smith. Harrison Smith was a four-year starter at Notre Dame who earned a reputation for being involved in every play, never taking a down off.
Weaknesses: Seems to play better in the zone than man-to-man; can improve his technique to be a better all-around defender.
Over the next two weeks, don’t be surprised to see Smith work his way into a bottom of the first round projection, although the top of the 2nd seems to be the most likely slot for the consensus second-rated safety in the draft.
Will he be a Charger? While safety is a top need of the Chargers, improving the pass rush may be the most effective way to improve the team defensively. If the Chargers miss or pass on Barron, Smith becomes the obvious target of the Chargers in the 2nd round. Will Smith be available at pick #49? I don’t think so, and I bet AJ feels the same way. Expect to hear a lot of rumors following round-one regarding a move up by the Chargers in the 2nd round to try to grab Smith.
Projected Round 2-4
Strengths: Physical; Taylor can hit hard and is very effective in defending the run. Solid tackler.
Weaknesses: Unproven against the pass, largely because LSU had better players to match up against opponent’s top receivers. Asking Taylor to play a lot of man coverage early in his career may not be a wise decision.
While Barron and Smith are the consensus top-two safeties in the draft, ranking Taylor is open to debate. I’ve placed him third on my list, but many other draft experts aren’t as high on him.
Will he be a Charger? If AJ can’t make a deal for Harrison Smith, Taylor is not a bad fall-back option. He’s less well-rounded then Barron and Smith, but he would be a big improvement over what the Chargers currently have, and could easily project to follow in the footsteps of one Rodney Harrison- a big hitter who let’s intimidation make up for a lack of coverage skills. It would not surprise me at all to see the Chargers take him "too early" in the 2nd round if Harrison Smith is off the board.
The Chargers need a safety- who will they pick, and where will they pick him?
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