Consider the Giants of the early 1980's when they took Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks in the first rounds in 1981 and 1984, despite the fact it was the only competent unit on the team at the time.
It is possible to create a super unit that make all other units on the team better simply because opponents have to invest so much in stopping the good unit that the weaker ones "raise their play" or are freed up to make plays.
The same goes for a team such as the Oakland Raiders who invested in Jerry Porter while Jerry Rice and Tim Brown sit ahead of them on the depth chart. Teams in the AFC West now are scrambling to find enough competent cornerbacks to defend the stellar unit. It has proven to be quite effective as guys like Doug Jolley and Roland Williams are free to make plays making the unit that much stronger.
OK, so get to the point you say.
When you speak of the San Diego Chargers there are only two positions that can be called strengths. One is strength in numbers if nothing else and the other is dominated by All-World LaDainian Tomlinson.
When you consider the needs along the offensive line, wide receiver, quarterback and at defensive tackle, the need for a linebacker is not even in the same league. The Chargers have made fixing their defense a priority, and a speedy linebacker is a must as the team transitions to the 3-4 defense.
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 242
Forty Time: 4.63/4.58
Body Fat: 10.9%
Bench Reps of 225: 26
Vertical Jump: 38.5
Broad Jump: 10-8
|"Thomas could develop into a very good strongside linebacker at the next level and should be a relatively high pick. He's a tremendous athlete and hard worker yet must pick up the details of his position and vastly improve his pass cover skills." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview|
Thomas has great lateral speed and is a solid tackler. In 2002, Thomas played the season with a sprained knee, which hampered him all season.
Thomas ended his Auburn career with 346 tackles, 28.5 for a loss and 15 passes defensed. He was an impressive run defender and spent time working on his pass coverage as a senior.
Thomas cited Shawn Andrews amongst his toughest competitors to face, and there was a reason. In a game against Arkansas, Andrews flattened him on a touchdown run by an Arkansas running back. He was limited to just three tackles that day.
The Chargers have been eyeing the Auburn standout since coaching him at the Senior Bowl.
"It was a good experience for me," Thomas said of working with the Chargers staff. "I really enjoyed working with those guys, especially my linebackers' coach (Greg Manusky), he taught me a lot. It was just a good staff. They put us in key situations and told us some inside things in the NFL. Coach Schottenheimer told us, ‘no matter where you get drafted, the thing is it matters how you finish. It doesn't matter how you started, but what is most important is how you finish.'
"He was giving us examples of guys who were drafted late, but that second contract they played well and some big things happened so it was key insight. It was just a nice experience for us."
One of the knocks against him was his playing weight. Since the Senior Bowl, Thomas has put on seven pounds from his 235 playing days. The Chargers could be eyeing him as they seek to add more playmakers to the linebacking corps and a defense that needs to be upgraded in a major way.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com