Ever since Jamal Williams left the team in 2009, the San Diego Chargers have been searching for a defensive tackle to fill the massive void he left behind. There are four potential first round defensive tackles in the NFL Draft this year.
Aaron Donald from Pittsburgh and Timmy Jernigan from Florida State should go in the top half of the first round. Louis Nix III from Notre Dame and Ra’Shede Hageman from Minnesota are the next two best and should be available when the Chargers are on the clock at 25. Most believe the Chargers should select a cornerback in the first round, but I think otherwise. Corner is a big area of need, but I believe the Chargers are better suited to draft a defensive tackle in the first round and then address their secondary in the second.
The Chargers lost defensive tackle Cam Thomas to the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency and recently waived Byron Jerideau. This leaves only one true defensive tackle on their depth chart, Kwame Geathers. He was an undrafted rookie last season and recorded four tackles in limited time over seven games as a rotational player. Geathers has great size, but lacks the work ethic and mindset to be a constant force in the middle. Lawrence Guy and Sean Lissemore have the versatility to play defensive tackle, but are better suited on the outside. This leaves a giant hole on the Chargers’ defense.
When assessing a team’s defense, it always starts and ends with the defensive line. All of the top defenses in the league have playmakers littered over their front line. Anytime a team is able to get pressure on an opposing quarterback by rushing three or four, it allows them to drop the rest into coverage. This would take a tremendous amount of pressure off a weak Chargers secondary. This year’s draft is deep with cornerback talent and the Chargers could address the position with Lamarcus Joyner from Florida State, Marcus Roberson from Florida or Keith McGill from Utah in the second round.
Nix would be a great fit in defensive coordinator John Pagano‘s 3-4 defense. With Nix, Manti Te’o and Donald Butler solidifying the run defense up the middle, this will allow Pagano to focus on coverage schemes to help the secondary. Nix has great size and strength, while also having a good change of direction in pursuing ball carriers. This would reunite Nix with former Notre Dame teammate Te’o. Both were the driving force behind Notre Dame’s stifling defense in 2012 that carried the Fighting Irish to the National Title game. The Chargers should also add to their defensive line depth later in the draft. Kyrhi Thornton from Southern Mississippi would be a good selection in the fifth round. Thornton has great quickness and strength that would complement Nix very well. If Nix is available when the Chargers pick at No. 25 they will be hard-pressed to pass him up. He could be the type of player who anchors their defense for the foreseeable future.
Grant Waller is a San Diego Chargers writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Grant_J_Waller, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.