- San Diego Chargers 2010 NFL Draft needs: Defensive backs
- San Diego Chargers 2010 NFL Draft needs: Offensive lineman
San Diego Chargers 2010 NFL Draft needs: Running backs
- Chargers Examiner Dave Thomas’ thoughts about the 2010 NFL Draft
While many fans may not remember it, Jamal Williams’ injury in the first game of the 2009 season was probably the most important for the Chargers last year.
Gone for the season was the team’s literal anchor in the 3-4 defense. The former Pro Bowler who could clog the lane, take on three offensive lineman, and with a sheer brute force, tackle running backs in the backfield and sack the opposing quarterback left a huge hole to fill.
Last season, with Williams gone, the Chargers finished 20th against the run and gave up an average of 4.5 yards on every rushing attempt.
And with Williams now cut from the team, San Diego needs to find another man to plug into that hole, because while Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Ian Scott and Vaughn Martin all tried their best last season to fill that hole, they still weren’t enough.
Here’s a list of defensive tackles that general manager A.J. Smith should have on his draft board come next weekend.
1) Dan Williams, Tennessee
Like running back C.J. Spiller of Clemson, Williams should not be around when the Chargers draft 28th Thursday night. But if he is, San Diego needs to take him.
Described as big, physical and mean, the 6-foot-2, 327-pound defensive tackle has enough size to play the nose tackle position in the type of 3-4 defense that the Chargers employ.
He was a starter for three years while playing for Tennessee, where he racked up 153 total tackles, including 8.5 tackles for loss in his final year in Knoxville.
He may not have the speed to consistently attack the passer or recover if a play gets past him, but neither did Jamal Williams.
All the Chargers need is a guy that can blow up the opposing offensive line, and Dan Williams can do that.
2) Terrence Cody, Alabama
While Williams may or may not be available at the end of the first round, Cody should be. And the Alabama product would be a perfect fit for a defense that struggled at stopping the run.
Standing at 6-foot-4 and about 354 pounds, just his sheer size is enough to make Cody an effective run stuffer in the NFL. Of course, concerns with Cody include his speed and endurance, but his pure strength should qualify him as a pretty good choice in the late first round.
Cody has the ability to take on two or three offensive lineman and can push the pile back on the point of attack.
Cody’s biggest play in his college career was when he blocked a late field goal in the Crimson Tide’s 12-10 victory over the Volunteers to preserve Bama’s undefeated season.
On the final play, Cody burst through the offensive line and was able to get a hand on Daniel Lincoln’s field goal attempt—his second block of the game.
3) Cam Thomas, North Carolina
If the Chargers don’t draft a defensive tackle in the first round, there really isn’t a need to worry. The position—like at running back—is deep, and someone like Cam Thomas should still be available in the second or third round and should still make an immediate impact on the team.
Thomas is a 6-foot-3, 330-pound beast. He had 31 bench press reps at the NFL Combine, more than Cody or Dan Williams. Like Williams or Cody, Thomas’ sheer size makes him the prototypical nose tackle—almost another perfect fit for the Chargers.
He made not have the stats like Cody or Williams has (just 15 tackles in 2009), but he has all the intangibles. Thomas has good footwork and tends to get low off the snap of the ball, making it almost impossible for opposing offensive lineman to move him.
Like Cody, Thomas’ weakness seems to be in the pass rush. But of Thomas can occupy more than one offensive lineman, then that should create those one-on-one opportunities for edge pass rushers Larry English, Merriman and Phillips.
4) Brian Price, UCLA
Price may not have the size to be a true 3-4 nose tackle, but he certainly has all the skills.
In his junior and final season at UCLA, Price had 22 tackles for loss and five sacks, mostly coming from his array of agile skills moves that he puts to use. He has a quick burst, the spin move and some strength to burst through the hole. His agility would make Price a perfect compliment to San Diego’s pass rush, but from the inside.
Price is undersized to play in the 3-4 (he’s listed as 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds), but so are the other guys that the Chargers currently have.
And Price did prove that he has some strength at the Combine—he had 34 reps, which is pretty impressive for a guy that was seen as a speed defensive tackle.
5) D’Anthony Smith, Louisiana Tech
The later rounds could also prove to be a successful place for the Chargers when it comes to the defensive tackle position and Louisiana Tech’s D’Anthony Smith could be a guy San Diego could take if it doesn’t go nose tackle in the first few rounds.
A guy who has flown mostly under the radar because he plays in the WAC, Smith has made his name by being a workhorse and durable. Smith missed only three games in a four-year career with the Bulldogs and is a defensive tackle that can play all three downs.
He still doesn’t have the size to be a true nose tackle (6-foot-2 and 304 pounds), but like Price, has all the intangibles to make him successful in the 3-4 scheme.
Smith is also extremely quick, accruing 11 sacks in his career at Louisiana Tech.
Still, since he’s a relatively unknown, he may not be selected until the fourth or fifth rounds of the NFL Draft.
The 2010 NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 22 at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time and can be seen live on the NFL Network, ESPN and ESPN3.com.
For more info: Visit our San Diego Chargers Examiner, Dave Thomas. For more on the NFL, visit our NFL Examiners, Jeff Bergen and Reid Kerr. Follow me on Twitter.