Chargers pay steep price for versatile safety

No one can fault A.J. Smith for not being aggressive. With just one starting-caliber safety left on the board and the San Diego Chargers' next selection still 25 picks away, Smith traded away second-, third- and fifth-round picks in this year's draft -- as well as a third-round pick in 2008 -- to move up and select Eric Weddle, a safety with terrific range and versatility.

Weddle (5-foot-11, 205 lbs.) is the ultimate jack of all trades, having played offense, defense and special teams during his time at Utah. No matter where he lined up, he always seemed to make big plays. His career totals include 18 interceptions, two fumble recoveries, five sacks and 13 pass break-ups. He returned four of those turnovers for scores.

"The Chargers stole him," said David Canter, Weddle's agent. "Eric is the most versatile player in the draft and can help them at safety and cornerback, and on special teams, too."

What stands out about Weddle is his high football IQ. He is a student of the game who understands what opposing offenses are trying to do against him. That helps him be in the right place at the right time, and should make his transition to the pro game a smooth one.

As a rookie, Weddle will challenge Bhawoh Jue for the starting safety position opposite Marlon McCree. Because Weddle thrives in coverage and is comfortable playing in space, he should be considered the early favorite in that competition.

He will also contribute on special teams, further enhancing his value.

Weddle is incredibly excited about returning to Southern California, as he grew up just 90 minutes from San Diego. During his draft-day party, the majority of his family and friends were adorning Chargers jerseys.

He is also excited about joining the Chargers organization.

"The fact that he was drafted by A.J. Smith says a lot, because he and Buddy Nix have had great success in the draft," Canter said. "Also, the Spanos family is one of the classiest in sports. The Chargers were one play away from possibly going to the Super Bowl last year and I think Eric can help them."

Although the cost of obtaining Weddle was high, the Chargers have to be ecstatic with their first two draft picks. After coming in with glaring holes at wide receiver and safety, the team was able to quickly fill both voids in spectacular fashion.

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