It’s no secret the San Diego Chargers are in need of a cornerback. For the first half of 2013, San Diego’s secondary struggled mightily. While the latter portion of the season saw improvement with Marcus Gilchrist seeing more time at nickelback and the stabilizing play of Shareece Wright, the Chargers still need a shut-down corner by the start of 2014.
Holding the No. 25 selection in May’s draft, San Diego should look to make the defense better with their first pick. The team’s fifth-ranked offense shouldn’t digress in 2014, and the most clear-cut way to improve a 9-7 record is on the defensive side of the ball. There are four cornerbacks worthy of first round consideration…
Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert
Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard
Ohio State’s Bradley Roby
TCU’s Jason Verrett
Gilbert and Dennard project to play outside in the NFL while Roby and Verrett may be better fits at nickel. With that being said, San Diego knows it can garner strong play from Gilchrist at the inside, nickelback position. Taking all of this into consideration, the Chargers war room should follow this simple rule: If Gilbert or Dennard are available, they must be taken, but if not, take the best player available.
While I really like both Roby and Verrett, I am not sure they will immediately contribute, and this secondary needs immediate help. The Chargers have to get better on defense, but it is possible to make this unit better throughout a very deep draft. There may be a player at a different position of need (WR, OL, OLB) who has fallen to 25 (like a Marqise Lee). It would be a mistake to pass on talent in order to make a need-based selection. This is one of the deeper drafts at the corner position. Past Gilbert and Dennard, there are many players who could end up being great finds like Keenan Allen last year. Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner was the centerpiece of a solid Seminole secondary over the past few years, but has been questioned because of his size. Florida has two corners with first round talent in Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy who need to put it all together on the field. While the state of South Carolina boasts two excellent players with potential to be NFL starters in Bashaud Breeland (Clemson) and Victor Hampton (S. Car).
With the 2014 draft full of depth at cornerback and in general, forcing a need-based pick in the first round may be the wrong choice for San Diego. If Gilbert or Dennard are picked before the Chargers are on the clock, Roby may actually be the best player available, but until that scenario plays out, the hope is one of the two premier corners in the drafts slips into the Bolts’ lap.