Chargers stare down versatillity

Despite returning all of their starters from last season's division winning squad, the Chargers have their share of needs to address in this year's draft. They need a big-time talent at wide receiver, youth at left tackle, and help at defensive end and outside linebacker in order to aid their annually abysmal pass rush. With four glaring needs and only three picks on day one of the draft, finding a player who could fill multiple holes would be a coup.

Jonathan Babineaux is one of the most versatile players available in this upcoming draft. He started his career at Iowa as a fullback before moving over to defensive end and eventually defensive tackle. Back in high school, he played each of those positions as well, in addition to playing linebacker and even punter. With the dawn of his professional career on the horizon, it is finally time for that versatility to pay off.

"Whatever a team needs me to do," Babineaux said. "Tackle, defensive end...It doesn't matter to me."

The idea of returning to linebacker has been brought up as well.

"I've had a few coaches tell me that they want to work me out at linebacker too," according to Babineaux.

Babineaux's size has his projected position varying by team, as he fits differently into each defensive system. He has the quickness and burst to excel as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense that utilizes the one-gap technique. In a 4-3 that relies on bigger linemen, he has the size and speed to hold up at end. In a 3-4, he could add ten pounds and play end or drop ten pounds and play linebacker.

When he first arrived at Iowa, he weighed 230 lbs. Last season, he played at about 276. This off-season, he has been putting on even more bulk.

"I've been doing a lot of speed training and a lot of weight training and a lot of eating," said Babineaux of his off-season regimen.

Now Babineaux is up to 286 lbs., and most NFL coaches are pretty satisfied with that weight for him. Some however, would like to see him add even more weight.

"Some do," responded Babineaux when asked if teams wanted to see him bigger. "Some want me to stay the same weight."

The Chargers would likely request Babineaux stay right around his current weight. This would provide him with bulk enough to play end, and yet would not compromise his speed coming around the corner. This would also allow him to stay light enough to play linebacker on occasion, if only to provide some complicated looks for opposing offenses.

His ideal weight is not the only thing left to be determined. His draft status is still very much up in the air as well. While his versatility will help him make a football team, it may actually hurt his draft status. While his unique blend of size and athleticism allow him to play several positions, he does not have the ideal measurements for any one spot. Despite those concerns, he has not been sweating where he will be drafted.

"I'm not really paying attention to that," said Babineaux of his where he is expected to be selected in the draft.

While he may not be paying attention to his draft status, there is no doubt that general managers league wide are. AJ Smith is surely watching, and come April 23rd we will find out if Smith feels that Babineaux is the answer to the problems with his team‘s questionable pass rush.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at

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