With all of the additional emphasis placed on round one of the NFL Draft considering its newfound home on primetime television, the later rounds have almost become an afterthought for many NFL fans. Fortunately the Chargers’ front office is thinking well beyond the opening round and looking to bolster this San Diego roster in a number of different areas.
The uncertainty presented by the current labor unrest in the league adds yet another dimension to the draft needs of many teams and the Bolts are no exception. The team currently has two inside linebackers signed who played a snap for them last year and they combined for just three tackles. That really speaks for itself when it comes to a lack of depth at the inside linebacker position.
This year’s draft class presents a number of different possibilities for the Bolts in trying to add some bodies to the middle of their linebacking corps and much of that potential lies in rounds two and three. Martez Wilson of Illinois has the ideal size at 6’4” 250lbs. to be effective in a 3-4 alignment and offers plenty of upside potential with a lanky frame that he has yet to grow into. Most projections view Wilson as a mid to late second rounder at this point and the Bolts have both the 50th and 61st overall selections in round two.
Another option late in the second might be North Carolina’s Quan Sturdivant who made the move to inside linebacker just this past season for the Tar Heels. At 6’1” 241lbs. he is a rangy athlete with the speed to get sideline to sideline and excel in pass coverage with his remarkable instincts. Studivant is just an underclassman coming out, but has instincts well beyond his years which will serve him well in the transition to the professional ranks.
The third of potential targets in the late second to mid third round range at inside linebacker may be Michigan State’s Greg Jones. At 6’0” 242 he led the Spartans in tackles this past season and showed versatility to line up in a number of different positions. Jones works well as a blitzer with natural explosion off of the line of scrimmage while he also possesses the fluid athleticism to be great in coverage. He sees the ball well in the air and has a smooth backpedal covering tight ends down the seam in certain situations.
Any of these three players could be outstanding when immersed in the Bolts system and utilized properly by new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
Although defensive line is considered to be the team’s most prominent need to fill early on in the draft, the Bolts have picked out a potential late round gem that they really like as well. Auburn’s Zach Clayton really showed out at his pro day workout in late March with a 40-yard dash time between 4.79 and 4.85 while doing 27 reps at 225lbs. on the bench and showing solid explosion with a 33.5 inch vertical jump and 10 foot 8 inch broad jump. Clayton was recently brought in by the team for a second look and could be a target with one of the club’s two sixth round picks if he is still available. His size at 6’2” 299 could lend itself to a smooth transition as a 3-4 defensive end as he is strong at the point of attack and has experience at both tackle and end during his collegiate career.
While wide receiver isn’t that high on the Bolts list of needs, they do need to flesh out their depth chart a bit as far as pass catchers are concerned. Some possibilities in the sixth and seventh round areas to keep an eye on are both Central Missouri’s Jamorris Warren and San Diego State’s Vincent Brown.
Warren is a small school prospect who really burst onto the scene with a ridiculous showing at the Mizzou pro day outshining potential number one overall pick Blaine Gabbert in many regards. He was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but did plenty to earn his way into this year’s draft festivities making some circus catches during his workout as well as running a 4.45 time in the 40-yard dash. He put up some gigantic numbers in 2010 with 109 receptions for 1,458 yards and 20 touchdowns. At 6’1” 197lbs. he could be a solid slot option for the Chargers in the future as they look to replenish quarterback Philip Rivers’ weaponry.
The other possible weapon to add to Rivers’ arsenal played at nearby San Diego State this past season in wideout Vincent Brown who measured at 5’11” 187lbs. for his pro day. Brown improved on an underwhelming Combine performance bettering his 4.71 from Indy with a 4.50. He was ultra-productive in college and just showed a knack for getting open when you put on the tape. His ability to play with a mean streak, finish his blocks, and really add some good character to the locker room could be a nice addition from a local school for the team.
The final under the radar possibility is a Darren Sproles 2.0 type of player and could take the reigns as a third down back and return man from the diminutive Sproles expected to depart via free agency. Derrick Locke from Kentucky is 5’8” 188lbs. and has some of the same attributes as Sproles with great hands out of the backfield and the ability to shake tacklers down in the open field. He has crept up draft boards of late, but don’t be surprised if the Chargers target him as their return man of the future.
It never fails that each and every year some unheralded prospect becomes a household name during the next NFL season and the Bolts are hoping to find one of those guys in just a couple of weeks. Getting back to their successful late round drafting could be just what the team needs to return to the top of their division and again be known as one of the league’s most talented squads.
Now let’s hear from you. Do you see the Bolts adding one of these three inside linebackers to fortify their defense at the second level or are there other players that you expect them to target at that position? Is Zach Clayton’s visit to the team something noteworthy or simply a formality for the club to cover all of their bases prior to the draft? Is it more likely for the Bolts to target a slot type receiver like the guys mentioned or will they look for yet another big body ala Vincent Jackson? Could Derrick Locke be the type of back and return specialist that the team needs with Sproles departure now a foregone conclusion or do you see them moving in a different direction? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts!
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