This week I'm taking a break from breaking down the Xs and Os of current and future Chargers, at least by way of looking at game tape. I've noticed a lack of posts and comments regarding the combine, which leads me to believe that I'm the only person on earth with the NFL Network and a job that lets me sit on my couch all day. So today I'm going to share with you what I've managed to pick up from watching almost 3 full days of combine coverage.
Keep in mind that I'm ignoring positions that the Chargers will most likely be ignoring as well. For instance, I did not watch kickers, tight ends and only half-watched the wide receivers. I paid special attention to RBs, Safeties, DTs and LBs. I'm mostly going to be commenting on picks that have a chance be picked with our first round and third round picks. I'm also going to be picking players that interest me in one way or another. If you'd like me to look over a player I've left off, ask nicely in the comments section and I'll respond with what I was able to pick up. Keep in mind that I'm keeping off O-linemen and D-linemen for now because they were really only separated by "who looked good" and "who screwed up", but if you want me to try and go in-depth with them I can try that.
Andre Brown - I need to start here. There's a lot of talk, especially amongst our commentors, that this guy is who we need to pair LT with. Well, I'll start by saying that A.J. Smith is stubborn. For all we know he's going to move Hester back to HB and go with LT/Hester/Sproles with Tolbert leading the way. Now, he probably won't, but it might happen. If he comes out on Thursday and says that we're looking at RBs, Brown will be looked at.
Andre Brown had a very good combine. He ran a 4.49 40 yard dash (4th best among RBs), did 24 bench press reps (10th) and had a 37 inch vertical (5th). What is strange is that what I've watched of him in game situations, he's not very fast. He's LT fast. Once he gets through the hole he has a hard time getting past the corners and safeties. The biggest draw-back for him, and the thing that would keep me from drafting him, is he seems to run scared. When he goes to hit a hole, that hole either has to be wide open or he's going to dance to try and find another one. That's not how NFL running backs run, because those 2 seconds it takes to decide is all it takes for the defense to catch up. I just went searching for a professional opinion to compare to my own and found this, courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com:
Negatives: Runs tall. Lacks elite speed, taking a few steps to get going. Inconsistent hands out of the backfield, body-catches too often. Tends to dance in the hole if there is anyone in his sight. Does not have the quickness to make defenders miss once stopped. Must have more awareness of blitzers off the edge. His left foot must be checked out medically, as he fractured it in 2007 and had another surgery in spring 2008.
Donald Brown - Once again, Donald Brown is somehow looking like a great NFL back and nobody is talking about him. He may not be the power back we crave, coming in at 5'10" and 210 lbs, and by all accounts he's average (average size, average speed, average shoulder width, average leg strength). Then he comes into the combine and runs a 4.51 40 (5th), a 41.5 inch vertical leap (1st), a 10'5" broad jump (2nd) and a 6.93 second time on the 3 cone drill (8th). He also came in with the second fastest time among RBs for the 20 yard shuttle and first for the 60 yard shuttle. All of those tell me that this guy has all the leg strength he needs. He's fast, he's explosive and when the lights were on him brightest he performed. Donald Brown may go in the second round or word may get around on what he did at the combine and he'll go first. Would he be worth our first round pick? Absolutely. Not just because he can help shoulder the load now but because he would have no problem being the number 1 guy down the road.
Rey Maualuga - Why am I commenting on Maualuga? Because everyone else is commenting on him and apparently he's not the player he was just a few days ago. Listen, Rey Maualuga is not Donnie Edwards. Donnie was always in the right position at the right time and never out of position. Donnie also couldn't blitz worth a damn and never put the fear of god in an offensive player. Maualuga is Ray Lewis. He's a carbon-copy of Junior Seau. There's one thing I've noticed in comparing potential first-round LBs in this draft, both at the combine and by looking at some film. Aaron Curry and Rey Maualuga are the only two that have seemingly never been blocked by a RB ever. This is an essential thing to think about in the 3-4. If we send a heavy blitz, a RB is going to have to pick up Maualuga slicing through the middle of the line and I can say with confidence that there's not more than 2 or 3 RBs in the league that could stop him from killing the quarterback or disrupting the play. He's a fiery maniac in a massively strong body and sometimes he plays out of control. So does Ray Lewis, so did Seau. I used to hate that about Seau until I realized that it was a calculated risk that most of the time worked out in our favor. What would you prefer....a LB that drops back and tries to swat the ball away when defending a RB or one that decides that the QB killed his mama (shout out to The Program) and is dead-set on snapping his spine in two as quickly as possible. Personally? I'd prefer the second one. The only thing better than one Merriman on a defense is two Merrimans on a defense.
Malcolm Jenkins - This one makes me excited. This is a Jim Thorpe winner (best CB or S in college football), thought of top be a top 10 pick as a cornerback before the combine. If he runs a 4.5 at the combine he still is. He ran a 4.6 instead and has been labeled as a late first-round safety. After hearing that, I gathered every piece of tape and film I could find on Malcolm Jenkins and drooled over the possibilities. He's big, he's strong, he's fast, he hits hard, he has soft hands and he loves to read a QB, undercut a route and get 6 going the other way. Sounds like a safety to me. Now, imagine we have two safeties that are both adept at playing as cornerbacks and also at blitzing. So when the QB looks out at the defense, ANYONE can be blitzing and anyone can be dropping back for coverage. Let Ron Rivera play with that for a while.
Okay, I know that was only 4 players but these are the players that were getting the most comments about them that I wanted to answer. Like I said, if there's a player out there that interests you put him in the comments and I'll respond with my take on him, after watching some film and seeing them at the combine. I will not respond to requests for Michael Crabtree or anyone who will certainly be a top 10 pick.
So....in summary, my draft board for the Chargers goes Jenkins, Maualuga and then Donald Brown. Any offensive tackles of sane mind and body who are projected to go in the first 10 picks would go above any of these picks. B.J. Raji and maybe Peria Jerry go above them too.