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2012 NFL Draft - Scouting for Future Chargers Week 10

Huge, huge, huge, massive game this weekend in college football. Until there is a playoff system at that level, this is the sport's version of a playoffs. When two top teams show up on each others' schedules and come game time both have unblemished records, then it is effectively a playoff game. It will have a playoff atmosphere, playoff hype and most importantly, for scouting purposes, playoff talent. Before getting to the game let's quickly review where the Chargers might need some of that talent with our team needs chart.

Team Needs
Starter Starter Competition Depth Projects
Current starter is FA next year and has no surefire understudy Current starter is FA next year and has understudy or current starter is inexperienced One or more backups are FAs next year May need a new starter or backup after 2012 season

You'll happen to notice that Safety is a pretty big team need and that's good because this game offers some options at that position. This game also features the best RB in the country, which is not a priority now, but it could be. You also have to be wary of what the Chargers rivals might do with one of these players. Perhaps the Broncos might be in a position to take the best RB in the draft. The LBs in this game are also a big deal. Alabama plays a version of a 3-4 and you can envision some of those players playing similar positions for the Chargers. Nothing is certain for the Chargers going forward at the WR position and there a number of intriguing prospects who will catch passes on Saturday. It's funny in a game of this magnitude that the QBs won't be a big story, but that is the case. Neither QB is much of an NFL prospect at this point and the teams look to them to be game managers in this big tilt. If you were to focus on one though, LSU's Jarrett Lee is a guy that could deserve a late round flyer if he continues looking as good as he has.

(8-0) vs Alabama
(8-0) Saturday 10/29 5:00 PM PT (CBS)

I've already spilled the beans about much of what we want to look for in this game. It's Alabama's safeties, linebackers and RBs. Both teams WRs, with Alabama having a couple sleeper seniors and LSU with a talented junior. And LSU's QB is worth watching. There are also some good CBs in this game, but I'm not sure how much focus the Chargers will put on that position in this draft. That being said, a key matchup will be LSU Jr 6'4 WR Rueben Randle facing off against Alabama Jr CB Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick will look to cement his stock as a 1st round pick and Randle will look to raise his even further perhaps to the point where he'd considering declaring for the draft a year earlier. You might be wondering why there's so many players to watch for Alabama and not as many for LSU when most pundits are going to predict victory for the Bayou Bengals. The answer is that the teeth of the Tiger defense is in the front 7 and that front 7's most talented players are sophomores and not draft eligible. We'll come back to them in future years, but for now they are game changers that don't have a shot at year Chargers blue and gold in the next couple of years.

Just in case you haven't read this before, I'll go over the individual players after the jump.

BFTB Scouting Targets:
Player School Pos. Class Height Weight
Courtney Upshaw Alabama OLB Sr. 6'1 271 lbs
Impressive size for a guy that play some 3-4 OLB in Alabama's defense. Or more precisely impressive bulk considering his range and speed, while his height is a little below the OLB prototype (although that usually doesn't scare the Chargers off). He gets good grades for that bulk as well as for his good hands he uses to fight blockers, his willingness to be a hard hitter that forces fumbles and his play in coverage. However his highest grade is for his instincts on the field. He doesn't get caught out of position and can sniff out those screens and running play trickeries as good or better than any college player. Head coach Nick Saban praises his character even though Upshaw was arrested in 2009 for domestic violence. (1st round)
Mark Barron Alabama S Sr. 6'1 223 lbs
For those that read these scouting articles last year, they might remember Barron. Many had him projected to come out for the 2011 draft especially back when he was still considered a 1st round pick. It takes a lot these days to be a 1st round prospect at safety. Two of the last three drafts had no safeties taken in the first round. So, in my mind, saying that someone is a 2nd round pick at safety really means that they are one of the best (possibly top 1 or 2) safeties prospects in the college game. Personally, having seen a lot of Barron, I think the guy is a playmaker and I expressed that last year. The knocks on him are his stiffness (a common knock on non-elite saftey prospects), his injury last year (torn patellar tendon that caused him to miss the team's bowl game) and an incident involving a single car accident where he was arrested. He's fully recovered from that injury and showing people again this year how much of a difference maker he can be. It should be noted that he's definitely a SS and needs to be free to move into the box and make plays closer to the line of scrimmage. (1st or 2nd round)
Josh Chapman Alabama DT Sr. 6'0 316 lbs
Chapman is the next in line in the Alabama DT factory. Terrence Cody played that position and was drafted by the Ravens in 2010 and then this year Marcell Darius got draft #3 overall by the Buffalo Bills. He carries a lot of weight (although not as much as the infamous Cody), but is short and squat. That sort of build is well thought of for the 3-4 nose tackle position. He needs some work taking on double teams and he struggles as a pass rusher, but he's got good recognition skills, a lit of toughness and physicality, he's conditioned well enough for his size to not need heavy rotation and he's good at using his size and leverage. (2nd round)
Barkevious Mingo LSU DE/OLB So. 6'5 240 lbs
Draft eligible, but only a Sophomore and still one of the better Tiger prospects. He's a college DE, but seems a perfect fit to move to OLB. He's fast, he's long and he has range. Could be compared to someone like "The Freak" Jevon Kearse. Plus, his name is awesome. (2nd round)
Rueben Randle LSU WR Jr. 6'4 208 lbs
At this point you'd be a fool not to be a little wary of LSU WRs. There has been plenty of hype around a number of them and only Dwayne Bowe stands out. But, each player is their own and you can't let that wariness stand in the way of evaluating a top prospect. Randle was a little off the radar going into this year but his polished route running and some improved catching skills have put him back on. He still could go back to school, but if LSU picks up a title then he's probably NFL-bound. As I mentioned earlier, he's involved in a key matchup in this game and will get a chance to prove his worth in this game. The thing scouts will be looking especially hard at is how well he gets off the jam. (2nd or 3rd round)
Dont'a Hightower Alabama ILB Jr. 6'3 260 lbs
Hightower has been on the team since 2008, but in 2009 he blew out his knee and was unable to participate in most of that team's National Championship run. He returned last year, but was probably still trying to get back to full strength from the major operation he had on his injured knee. He got a medical redshirt in 2009, so even though he's participated in 3 previous college seasons, he's still a junior. He's got great instincts, excellent character, he's a good tackler, as well being a "thumper" and he's an ideal fit for the 3-4. (3rd round)
Robert Lester Alabama S Jr. 6'2 210 lbs
Since Mark Barron is more of the SS type, you would figure that Lester plays the FS role and you'd be right. He can play the deep zone and use his burst to provide over-the-top help in the secondary. He's also got excellent ball skills and will make you pay for bad throws. He's durable, has size, decent speed and works hard. (4th round)
Nico Johnson Alabama ILB Jr. 6'2 245 lbs
He's not quite the athlete and not quite as football smart as his partner in crime Dont'a Hightower. However, he's still a strong tackler with good technique and some pop. He's also a little better in coverage than his teammate. Still, he's more of a run defender and perhaps a 2 down ILB in the NFL. (4th round)
Marquis Maze Alabama WR Sr. 5'8 192 lbs
Undersized WR, but he's shown that he's durable enough to handle being one of the smaller players on the field. He's versatile and you can line him up as a playmaker almost anywhere. He's not a burner, but he's quick and can get separation on short, timing routes. He's a situation WR at the next, but a useful one. (5th round)
NFL Prospects:
Player School Pos. Class Height Weight
Trent Richardson Alabama RB Jr. 5'11 224 lbs
In recent years Richardson has provided the "2" in the 1-2 punch that was the Alabama RB corps. The other was 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, 2011 first round pick and current New Orleans Saint Mark Ingram. However, there were many times that scouts wondered if Richardson was the better running back. Last year he disappointed many with a low yardage total, but he did reach the end zone multiple times. He's got that prototypical running back size (i.e. same size as former Charger great LaDainian Tomlinson) and the speed, power and balance to go with it. He's a bruiser who can move the chains and he's a home run threat. A complete back and very worth of his 1st round projection. (1st round)
Morris Claiborne LSU CB Jr. 6'0 173 lbs
A former WR, so his ball skills are better than most. Picked up 5 INTs while playing in the shadow of Arizona Cardinals 2011 1st round pick Patrick Peterson. He's lean, but can add bulk, which he'll need to do at the next level. He currently can't help much in run support. In coverage, he shows fluid hips, above average speed and can turn and run with the best the SEC has to offer. (1st round)
Dre Kirkpatrick Alabama CB Jr. 6'2 190 lbs
He's got a lot of length, which comes in handing when defending his position. He's also a bigger, stronger precense at CB and that aids him in keeping recievers off their routes. He's still developing his read-and-react abilities and can be late to recognize things like turning back for the ball over his shoulder or diagnosing routes. His physical abilities and projection make him a 1st round prospect. He's also shown a lot of improvement already this season. (1st round)
Tyrann Mathieu LSU CB So. 5'9 175 lbs
The new Patrick Peterson. He even wears the same. He also returns kicks, plays the same position and is a playmaker extraordinaire. His size is his limiting factor and will make teams shy away in the first round. He makes up for that lack of size with speed and athleticism. The SEC is full of size mismatches for him, but he still makes plays. He's shown the ability to get to the QB when asked to blitz as well. (1st round?)
De'quan Menzie Alabama CB Sr. 5'10 201 lbs
A tough physcial CB who can play in run support, which means that he could be a good nickel DB in the NFL. He's got speed too, but it's not blazing. Has had injury and academic woes over the years, so it could be a challenge keeping him on the field. Nevertheless, he's a hard worker and has room to grow since his playing time has been limited. (4th round)
Player School Pos. Class Height Weight
Ryan Baker LSU ILB Sr. 5'11 232 lbs
A little bit of an oddity in that he's a sub 6 foot LB. Still, has NFL talent and he's the leader of this top defense. (late rounds)
Deangelo Peterson LSU TE Sr. 6'4 235 lbs
Provides a big target, but his experience is in a run heavy scheme. He can play some H-back so there's versatility there. (later rounds/UDFA)
Jarrett Lee LSU QB Sr. 6'2 208 lbs
Struggled when given opportunities in previous, but is making the most of his senior season. (late rounds/UDFA)
T-bob Hebert LSU OC/OG Sr. 6'2 296 lbs
Has played both the center and guard positions over the last couple of years. DWI arrest last year. (UDFA)
Ken Adams LSU DE/OLB Sr. 6'4 248 lbs
Pass rushing threat that could become a 3-4 OLB. (UDFA)
William Vlachos Alabama OC Sr. 6'1 301 lbs
Center with good technique if not the greatest athlete. (late rounds/UDFA)
Jerrell Harris Alabama OLB Sr. 6'2 231 lbs
He's a 3-4 OLB, but lacks the bulk you look for in the NFL at that position. (UDFA)
Darius Hanks Alabama WR Sr. 6'0 182 lbs
Lean WR who has been on the fringes of the 'Bama offense, but could be a situational guy in the NFL. (UDFA)