Safety at Last: Chargers Land Kevin Ellison

The San Diego Chargers finally drafted a safety, although much later than most analysts expected. The Bolts landed Kevin Ellison, a hard-hitting safety from USC, in the sixth round. Ellison could have a better chance to make the team's final roster than fifth-round pick Brandon Hughes.

Kevin Ellison (6-foot-1, 227 pounds) is a classic in-the-box strong safety, something the Chargers were sorely missing last season. He is a punishing tackler who attacks the line of scrimmage and thrives in run support.

The biggest reason Ellison was available in the sixth round is his medical history. He missed the bulk of the 2005 season with a torn ACL and a broken left leg. He underwent knee surgery again prior to the 2007 season. In 2008, he missed five games with a torn meniscus that also sent him under the knife.

SS Kevin Ellison

When he was on the field, Ellison was extremely productive. He showed terrific instincts and the ability to make plays in space. He also served as an enforcer between the hashes, able to separate receivers from the football.

In 38 games played, he posted 174 tackles, 18 pass breakups and five picks.

Ellison earned mix reviews during the offseason thanks to a polarizing performance at the NFL Combine. He posted 32 reps of the 225-pound bench press, tops among all safety prospects, yet ran the 40-yard dash in a pedestrian 4.82 seconds.

Nonetheless, Ellison appears to be an excellent fit for the Chargers. The team's current strong safety, Clinton Hart, is a huge liability in pass coverage and only average against the run.

The Chargers' other safeties -- Eric Weddle, Paul Oliver and Steve Gregory -- lack the bulk to be effective in-the-box defenders. In fact, Oliver and Gregory are both safety-corner hybrids, which gives Norv Turner flexibility when setting his roster.

It's likely that only one rookie D-back, either Ellison or fifth-round pick Brandon Hughes, will make the active roster. Ellison may have the early edge because his skill-set is so different than anything the Chargers currently have on their roster.

What are your thoughts on this selection? Talk about it in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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