Oct 26, 2013; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers quarterback David Watford (5) scrambles as Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive lineman Adam Gotsis (96) and defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu (45) defend in the third quarter. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 35-25 at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
When you see something you like, you do whatever you can to make it yours. That’s what Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy did in the 2014 draft by trading up seven spots to select Georgia Tech OLB Jeremiah Attaochu. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock considered Attaochu to be the last true 3-4 outside linebacker on the board, and the Chargers pounced on him. From 2007-2013, the Chargers have held only five second-round picks, taking a defensive player with each one. Let’s take a look at the success of each player and how they’ve faired early on.
Weddle has gone on to have a superb career after the Chargers traded up to get him in the second round. He has held down the free safety position since the 2008 season and hasn’t looked back (until Derek Cox was signed to the team). He’s a dynamic player who lives up to the slogan “Fear the Beard.” Weddle has been selected to two Pro Bowls (2011, 2013) and was named first-team all-pro in 2011. In an article entitled “The 2007 Draft: Six Years Later,” Football Outsiders wrote: “In the safety class, the best player was found not in the first round but early in the second, where the Chargers took Utah’s Eric Weddle.”
ROOKIE YEAR (2007): Weddle played in 15 games and was part of a secondary that led the NFL in interceptions with 30 (the good ‘ol days where we didn’t have a panic attack each time the opposing quarterback threw the ball). The Chargers only allowed 20 passing touchdowns (T-11) and ranked No. 5 overall in total team defense.
Weddle moved into the starting lineup in 2008 and finished the year leading the team in tackles with 127, second in the NFL to SS Gibril Wilson (129), per Pro Football Reference. He recorded one interception, five pass deflections and one sack. Weddle also returned a 86-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons, which set a team-record.
It did not bode too well from a team standpoint. The Chargers ranked 15th in total defense, holding the league’s second-worst ranked pass defense and allowing opposing QB’s to complete 67.9 percent of their passes (247.4 yards per game). The team did turn it around a year later, ranking 11th in total team defense as well as pass defense (only allowed a 61.0 percent completion rate/209.3 yards per game).
Weddle has developed into an elite NFL safety, and it’s because of his versatility. He can play in the box and blitz the QB/stop the run (according to Pro Football Focus, Weddle had the highest stop percentage of any safety against the run in 2012); he can mirror an opposing team’s top tight end at 5’11; and he has incredible instincts and athleticism (see clip below).
The year he led the league in interceptions (7) was the last year the Chargers had a defender with 10-plus sacks (Antwan Barnes with 11)..I know sack numbers are overrated, but with a solid, consistent pass rush from one player (we’re looking at you Attaochu) or as a team, Weddle will have more freedom to do what he does best.