Gilchrist Addition Fits on Many Levels

The Chargers stayed on defense with their second selection in the draft, plucking DB Marcus Gilchrist from Clemson. A physical, versatile player, Gilchrist is the frontrunner for the nickel-back job and may take over on kick returns, as well.

Marcus Gilchrist (5-foot-10, 193 pounds) averaged more than 75 tackles over his final two seasons at Clemson. He is a physical defensive back who has spent time at cornerback and safety, an ideal mix the Chargers look for in their sub-package defenders (Steve Gregory and Paul Oliver are also corner-safety hybrids).

Last season's primary nickel back, Dante Hughes, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent. That will likely leave Gilchrist to jockey with Donald Strickland for the nickel-back spot, although Gregory could also be in the mix (Oliver, like Hughes, is set to become a free agent).

DB Marcus Gilchrist
Gilchrist is one of the draft's most aggressive defensive backs. He will do well to study under another physical cornerback, Quentin Jammer, to learn how to refine his game. It is possible Gilchrist will supplant Jammer, 31, in the not-too-distant future.

Gilchrist plugs a hole not just in the secondary, but on special teams as well. He averaged 25.3 yards per kickoff return and 10.1 yards per punt return, making him a strong candidate to take over for Darren Sproles, who will not be back.

The selection of Gilchrist is not surprising given how much value A.J. Smith puts in the cornerback position. He views his third cornerback as a starter (the nickel back often plays upwards of 60 percent of the snaps) and insists on being three-deep at that position. The Chargers have spent four first-round picks on cornerbacks in the last 10 years alone.

Smith held off until Round Two this time around, but the fact he took Gilchrist ahead of players like LB Martez Wilson (Illinois) and and WR Leonard Hankerson (Miami) shows how high he is on Gilchrist and how serious he is about fixing his defense.

What do you think of the selection of Gilchrist? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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