It’s that time of year again when draft nuts (like myself) shift into overdrive with the NFL Scouting Combine getting underway over the next week in Indianapolis featuring some of college football’s best athletes from this past season. Unfortunately for some, the measurables put under the microscope by scouts during this five day period don’t always paint a surefire picture of just what a player may look like at the next level.
The gauntlet of drills and tests that these players endure as well as the poking and prodding (otherwise known as ‘due-diligence’) that is done during this event make for great topics of conversation, but don’t always produce great players.
Of course the physical testing includes the 40-yard dash, the bench press at 225lbs., the shuttle drill, the three cone drill, the vertical jump, the broad jump, and also the broad jump, but it is the interview process that can make or break some prospects. This time spent in Indianapolis is where teams have the opportunity to sit down with players and grill them with a number of questions testing anything from their football acumen to their true desire to play the game.
As expected, the San Diego Chargers have their fair share of representation attending these festivities in Indy and General Manager A.J. Smith has to be the main character in focus. Last year it became painfully obvious to those who follow the Bolts on a 24/7/365 basis that Smith had become infatuated with running back Ryan Mathews of nearby Fresno State fame after attending his workouts.
All eyes should be on Smith during this process observing just which players he is taking an interest in and what particular positions they play.
Everyone is well aware of just how much Smith fancies his own guys and pursues them to the bitter end no matter the cost. Since the season has come to an end, Smith has already admitted that with five picks among the top 89 in this year’s draft, the Chargers are in the prime position to make a real impact on their roster looking forward to 2011. Regrettably he also said that the team is in the perfect situation to trade up if necessary and that should worry fans who are looking for sound, rational decision making from those in charge this offseason.
With players like Darren Sproles and Legedu Naanee likely on their way out of town this offseason, the Chargers have plenty of holes to address in addition to their glaring needs at safety and defensive end. The team could also use another pass rusher given the fact that Larry English has been woefully underwhelming thus far during his stay with the Bolts.
Another position that has been mentioned with the Bolts is a tight end which may seem foolish given the fact that the team has All-Pro Antonio Gates, but the injury issues have to be a cause for long-term concern at this point. There aren’t many tight ends worthy of first round consideration this year, but certainly that position doesn’t rank anywhere near the top of the team’s list of needs either.
Finding a value player with some upside value at any of these positions in the middle rounds of the draft would be a great move if the team had not already frivolously traded away their 4th, 5th, and 7th round selections for this year. Instead the Chargers will either be forced to manufacture picks by trading down from earlier rounds preferring quantity over quality or hope for some help from the league when the compensatory selections are announced some time in the next month or so.
With fingers crossed for the next five days, let’s hope that Smith doesn’t get obsessed with any one player and finally realizes that (especially this year with free agency not having nearly as large of an impact) the Chargers really need to add several quality pieces to their roster puzzle via the draft. What the front office should focus on during this year’s draft is maximizing its potential rather than diminishing it by carelessly trading picks away.
The look of the draft will begin to take on a more definitive shape once the Combine comes to a conclusion and there will likely be some signs pointing to just which direction Smith and company may be leaning with their early picks this year. Hopefully those leanings are in the direction of landing several solid starters rather than pushing all of the chips in on one player and giving the roulette wheel a spin.
Now it’s your turn. What kind of stock do you put in the numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine? Do you think GM A.J. Smith will again fall in love with one player and pursue him with reckless abandon or will the team actually use a rational approach to this year’s draft? Do you feel that tight end is an area that the Chargers need to look at improving and getting younger this offseason or are they just fine at that position? Which players do you expect will see a huge jump on draft boards after the Combine comes to a conclusion? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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