By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

We already knew the NFL is big business in the United States. If you needed further evidence to understand this, think back to when the NFL draft was on Saturday and Sunday. Once the league announced that the first round of the draft, would be aired prime time, on Thursday nights. After that, the NFL draft format, was changed forever. They now have their first round of the draft on Thursday night, and the second and third rounds on Friday night. With the remainder of the draft rounds being on Saturday.

Just for reference, I’ve felt the Chargers’ most critical need in this upcoming draft is in the offensive guard or tackle spot to improve their protection and run game consistency. Additionally, they need to identify a running back that will offer some production in “got-to-have-it,” situations. By not resigning the guy who led the team in tackles last season, they need to address that linebacker role. Lastly, I think they need to find an aggressive ballhawk to line up next to All-Pro Safety Derwin James to limit the deep ball, simultaneously allowing James to roam the field a bit more.   

After selecting the 6’3” 312-pound, Bowie, MD. native, guard Zion Johnson with their first pick in this year’s NFL draft. The Chargers would have plenty of time to ponder who to take with their lone pick in the third round. Going into the draft, a lineman on either side of the ball was among the immediate needs, based on last season’s production. Now that they have gotten Herbert some better protection, do they now focus on the defensive side of the line, or do they add some much-needed depth to their secondary?

With the 79th pick of the 2022 NFL draft, the Chargers selected Baylor safety, JT Woods. The rangy safety boasts a 6’2” 190-pound frame that ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine last month. He also played in all 50 games in his four years at Baylor. His natural game speed allows him to cover more field, which resulted in his nine interceptions the past couple of seasons. With this, he’s tied for the most interceptions among all FBS players in that same time.

“JT has a lot of rare DB stuff. He’s six-foot-two-plus, 195 [pounds]. He runs 4.3 [40-yard-dash]. He had a 10’8” broad [jump], 39.5” vertical [jump]. Those are rare DB numbers,” an excited Staley said of the third-round pick. “He was sharp in the interview process. He can run the show, he has a really good pedigree. We’re excited to get him in our DB environment and get him going,” Staley added.

The San Antonio, Texas native and former high school track star set personal best in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash at 10.64 seconds and 21.87 seconds, respectively. One of the fastest players in college football, Woods ran the 110-meter hurdles for the Bears track team in 2019. 

“He’s a safety with a lot of cover abilit with his length and his speed. He shows a little bit of corner movement, so we kind of see him as a defensive back. As you guys know, when we’re in five DB [personnel], six DB, it can be any combination,” Telesco says about Woods. “JT, he’s long, and he is fast — like, legitimately fast, football fast. He has good ball skills, turns the ball over, plays aggressive and has a good feel for the game,” Tom also expressed. 

“I think that this guy has real speed to get there. I think that on his finish, he just has to use those 32-inch arms to wrap up. This guy is making really good contact,” Staley said. “I think his best football is ahead of him. I think that this guy is a guy that throughout his college career, really, really improved, so we think that he can hit another gear in our environment,” Staley insisted.

“I was playing a lot of five and six DBs to everything and then moving guys around. I think we’ve had good success doing that, especially when you have the players with the flexibility to do it, because I think you can get really specific with the matchup and really put your guys in premium spots.” Staley says about the system he’s implementing on the Chargers and how a versatile defensive back like Woods fits in his scheme.

“He is aggressive, tough. The rest of the test will come along a little bit, but he’s certainly more than willing to the point where he probably has to pace himself down a little bit,” GM Tom Telesco said of JT Woods. “He can cover a lot of ground. Part of tackling too, is getting into a position to get there, and he covers a lot of ground to the perimeter. He can erase some big runs that come out,” Telesco would add. 

“I think that this guy has real speed to get there. I think that on his finish, he has to use those 32-inch arms to wrap up. This guy is making good contact. His tracking, his pace is excellent. I think his best football is ahead of him,” Staley said about Woods’ future. “So, we think that he can definitely hit another gear in our environment.”

“Tackling is the utmost important thing, I think, especially when you play free safety like I did in college. My philosophy is that I’m the eraser of the defense,”Woods said when asked of his tackling prowess. “So, it doesn’t matter what mistakes the ten people in front of me and next to me had, it’s my job to get the ball down so that we can live to fight another day.” 

“I think we’re going to have great competition in our secondary, but I would expect him to come in here and compete for a role. I think that all of that is going to express itself when the pads come on training camp when there’s live tackling.” Staley said peering into the future. “I think so much of playing in the secondary is that you have to remember that you’re tackling these big runners, receivers, and tight ends,” he added. 

“Somebody that I think I’m close to is [Bengals CB] Tre Flowers,” Woods said when asked who his game compares to, “I don’t think a lot of safeties in the league now kind of match my prototype, being 6-foot-2, 195 [pounds] and having the speed that I have. It’s a little bit rare, I’d say.”

I am confident they needed another ball-hawking safety to play alongside Derwin James. Woods appears to have the range to be the deep man we shall see how his tackling and ball skills show up on the game day at this level. Share your thoughts on this part of the Charger’s draft, and if you think Woods can be that dominant safety playing next to James? Reach out to me using Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email me at voiceofthefans@outlook.com. I also encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles you would like to discuss about this version of the Los Angeles Chargers.

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