Chargers hope to find gold with Cromartie

The debate was simple, go cornerback or offensive tackle with their first round selection. "We could have gone either way," general manager A.J. Smith admitted. So they went cornerback in round one with a potential steal and got their tackle in round two.

"This guy we believe is going to be a special player so we're excited," Smith added. "We really think he's got everything you're looking for."

It was more than just "either way" for San Diego. With receivers like Randy Moss and the newly acquired Javon Walker in Denver, Antonio Cromartie became a need pick.

He possesses the physical attributes that his coach, Marty Schottenheimer loves, and gives them more options with maximizing their blitzing up front while leaving Cromartie in coverage with some of the elite in the NFL.

Is that too tall a task for a rookie?

"We think the young man is going to give us an opportunity to match up with the bigger receivers in our division," said Schottenheimer. ""We are all familiar with the fact from a personal standpoint that I like big corners. This young man definitely fits the criteria."

But playing against players like Moss and Walker can be a nightmare for the most seasoned veterans.

But he comes in with a chip on his shoulder, especially when he was dogged on air by ESPN analysts and turned away by other teams who considered him to big a risk.

Although he went through a torn ACL injury, Cromartie showed quick recovery ability and called himself ready to play when the Florida State bowl game came along but the doctors would not allow him to play.

And the Chargers found no lingering affects, especially after watching him run a 4.38 forty-yard dash, top 42-inches on the vertical and test out with the best broad jump among cornerbacks.

The proof will be in the 2006 season.

"I come into any season with a chip on my shoulder," Cromartie said. "For me, I just want to prove everybody wrong. My game is just as good as anybody in the draft now. I got the mental part down just from this past season, being more of a coach this past season instead of a player, just had to sit back and watch a lot more film."

And Cromartie is a former receiver that some scouts had as the top receiver in this year's draft. So he knows tendencies and route running, making him an asset on the field.

Cromartie will not be handed a job. He still has to earn it. Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence currently occupy the starting positions but that hasn't deterred their new cornerback.

"My goal is to be starting by the end of the season or before the end of the season."

Even if he isn't starting, Cromartie will see plenty of time on the football field. Whether he is covering Moss or Walker will depend on how he progresses in training camp.

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