Chargers hope Naanee is an offensive charm

Since arriving in San Diego back in 2001, General Manager A.J. Smith has been searching for a big, complementary receiver who can make plays over the middle of the field. In 2002, the Bolts drafted Terry Charles with hopes of him filling that role. Two years later, the team tried again with Ryan Krause. Now, Smith is hoping the third time is a charm with the selection of Legedu Naanee.

Smith has always had an affinity for large receivers. Projected starter Vincent Jackson is listed at 6-foot-5, 241 lbs. Two other receivers -- Malcom Floyd and Kassim Osgood -- are listed at 6-foot-5 as well. However, Jackson and Floyd prefer to work the perimeter of the field, while Osgood is now used almost exclusively on special teams.

Of course, the Chargers do have Antonio Gates dominating between the hashes. But Gates faces frequent double-teams and lines up all over the field to create mismatches, which is why the Chargers need another player capable of attacking the middle of defenses.

San Diego hopes Legedu Naanee (6-foot-2, 225 lbs.) can be that player. He has toughness to make difficult catches in traffic and to secure the ball after taking a hit. He also possesses terrific body control, similar to that of Gates, allowing him to box out would-be defenders and make catches in tight quarters.

Additionally, he has stellar leaping ability, allowing him to thrive in the red zone and to knock off-target passes away from defenders.

However, it may be unrealistic to expect a fifth-round rookie from Boise State to make a significant impact so early in his career. Then again, the theme in this year's draft was quality over quantity, so Smith must be convinced that Naanee is a quality player.

In an ideal world, Naanee would begin his career as the team's No. 4 receiver, working in certain packages to exploit smaller nickel backs. He can also contribute as a run blocker, as he and Jackson give the team a pair of receivers with the size to block safeties and even linebackers.

Throw in Craig Davis, the team's first-round pick who boasts admirable size and even better skills, and the team now has a trio of talented youngsters at a position that was talent poor just last week.

Naanee represents Smith's third attempt to find a complementary playmaker who can control the middle of the field. Hopefully, the cliché is right.


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