LB Anthony Waters (Desiree Hunt/Scout.com)
Anthony Waters plans to take the Antonio Cromartie path to stardom. Cromartie had an unspectacular rookie season as he fought through the lingering effects of an ACL injury, only to bounce back in his second year and intercept 12 passes in his final 14 games. Waters was forced to redshirt his rookie season in San Diego, but hopes to make a Cromartie-like impact in 2008.
Anthony Waters would have been a first-round pick if not for the ACL injury that wiped out his final season at Clemson. As a junior, he was an honorable mention All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection after leading his team with 109 tackles and pacing the ACC with 74 solo stops.
The Chargers tabbed Waters in the third round with the No. 96 selection in the 2007 draft. Waters never escaped the inactive list as a rookie, although he could have played if needed. He was healthy enough to log heavy minutes in the preseason finale, when he led the team with eight tackles.
Norv Turner & Co. decided to take the cautious route with Waters, a luxury the team could afford because of the solid depth provided by Tim Dobbins and Brandon Siler. Rather than sulk about not playing, Waters was grateful for the coaching staff’s foresight.
“I’m just thankful that my coaches here with the Chargers think more of me than to just throw me out there,” Waters said. “They want to make sure that everything is OK with my knee before they do anything with me. I’m just thankful for that.”
Waters has the skills to make that patience pay off in 2008. He is blessed with incredible athleticism that has drawn comparisons to Shawne Merriman. As a run stopper, Waters has the size (6-foot-3, 238 pounds) and aggressive demeanor to be an enforcer. Against the pass, he has the instincts to drop into zone coverage and the burst to net multiple sacks.
It will help that Waters has a friend in the locker room who is preparing to make a similar move up the depth chart, as Charlie Whitehurst and Waters were teammates at Clemson. Whitehurst will take over as the No. 2 quarterback once Billy Volek leaves in free agency. In fact, Whitehurst will run first-string for most of the offseason as Philip Rivers recovers from knee surgery.
“Charlie and I had a good relationship at Clemson and that just continued when I got (to San Diego),” Waters said. “We get together and hang out every now and then. We have a friendship that will last for a lifetime.”
Waters is used to overcoming long odds. In December 2006, he became the first member of his family to graduate college. In April 2007, he achieved his goal of being taken on the first day of the draft despite being only eight months removed from ACL surgery.
In 2008, he hopes to overcome long odds once again. He hopes to become an impact player on defense and special teams. He hopes to become the next Antonio Cromartie.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.