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San Diego lands LSU safety
SAN DIEGO – The longest trade drought in franchise history is over.
The Chargers gave a sixth-round pick (183 overall) to the Dolphins, moving up five spots in the third round to take LSU safety Brandon Taylor at No. 73 overall on Friday.
“Taylor was a guy we targeted that we just didn’t want to take any more chances on. We had somebody that was a trade partner in Miami and now he’s a San Diego Charger,” Smith said.
“He’s physical. Very aggressive in run support and has some coverage ability. We really like his instincts for the game.”
A team captain on the SEC Championship team, Taylor made 71 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, intercepted two passes and deflected five others in 2011. Taylor began his college career as a cornerback and converted to safety as a junior.
“He has some good coverage skills. He has good straight-line speed,” Director of College Scouting John Spanos said. “But I would say where he excels is in run support. He’s a real willing tackler, a physical player, and he plays with a lot of emotion.”
The Chargers hope Taylor can develop into a strong back-end partner for All-Pro free safety Eric Weddle.
“I’ve just got to do what has to be done to hold the spot down,” Taylor said.
Said Smith: “Of course we have (free agent signee) Atari Bigby. So right now we’re going to pencil Taylor in behind him. We’ll line them up three deep if we can and let it unfold naturally. Coach (Norv) Turner will determine his role along with Coach (John) Pagano.”
The third safety taken in the draft, Taylor converted to the coveted No. 18 jersey last season.
The jersey is reserved for the player that best exemplifies the university and is chosen by the coaching staff and the few players who have worn it since the tradition began, including Chargers fullback Jacob Hester. Taylor became the first defensive player to wear No. 18.
Another LSU teammate, Stephen Rivers, is the brother of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
“I love the way the offense plays, the way they put up points and the attitude that Philip Rivers brings to the offense,” Taylor said. “He doesn’t shy away from anybody. His younger brother has the same mentality.”
Taylor prides himself on run support and can cover tight ends as well.
“I just love to hit. I’ll tackle anybody,” Taylor said. “I’ve got to work on adjusting to the ball, taking better angles and cleaning my footwork up. There’s a lot of room for improvement.”
The selection marked the third defensive player taken by the Bolts in this draft. Including last year, San Diego went defense with seven of its eight selections in the draft’s first two days.
“We said before the draft there was a defensive emphasis,” Smith said.
“I know that’s an old tune that I’ve been saying. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to shore up and fix our defense. It’s carried over into the first three rounds of the 2012 draft.”
The Chargers, who completed a trade in each of their first 41 NFL seasons, and made four draft pick-related trades just two seasons ago, had not made a swap since shipping a seventh-round pick to Dallas for receiver Patrick Crayton on Sept. 3, 2010.