Last week I tried to quickly summarize some the needs of the Chargers by listing the 2012 free agents and some notes on pending 2013 free agencies. Since then we learned that Mike Scifres will no longer be a 2012 free agent because he signed an extension. There's also a rumor that the Chargers are working on extending Nick Hardwick as well as Mike Tolbert (who I actually forgot to mention last week). To try to better visualize some of these needs I thought a chart might help. If things change through the season the chart can be updated.
|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|
|S, FB, C, DT||S, ILB, WR, C, DT||S, ILB, WR, RB||QB, K, OG, OLB, DT, DE|
In the "Starter" column, I referring to the impending free agencies for Bob Sanders, Jacob Hester, Nick Hardwick and Antonio Garay. In the "Starter Competition" column, I referring mostly to the same free agencies, but Darrell Stuckey, Vincent Brown (or other WRs on roster), Scott Mruczkowski and Cam Thomas could compete with someone for the starting job. Also, Donald Butler and Jonas Mouton are unproven and could possibly use some competition next year. In the "Depth" column, I'm referring to the impending free agencies of Steve Gregory, Stephen Cooper, Patrick Crayton and Mike Tolbert. In the "Projects" column the following players could become free agents by 2013: Billy Volek, Nate Kaeding, Kris Dielman, Louis Vazquez, Tyronne Green, Travis LaBoy, Antwan Barnes, Shaun Phillips, Cam Thomas and Vaughn Martin.
Alright, that's a lot of information to process, but on the plus side you have all season to think about it. Onto our game of the week followed by the scouting reports after the jump.
This is a rematch of a game played last year in Alabama back when Alabama was ranked #1 in the country and embarrassed Penn St. 24-3. This time the game is in Pennsylvania and, as is often the case in college sports, both teams are replacing key players, but moreso for Alabama (1st draft picks at WR, DT, OT and RB and 7th round pick QB). However, last year's MVP of the game was Alabama RB Trent Richardson who is still on the team and is projected to go in the first round of next year's draft (should he leave after his junior year). Alabama also has at least 5 other players that could go in the 1st three round of either the 2012 or 2013 drafts. Penn State is not quite that NFL talent rich, but they have a few players that will be in next year's draft that play positions that are on the Chargers Team Needs chart.
Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB, Junior, 5'11, 224 lbs (1st round) - 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 probably off the Chargers radar with Ryan Mathews and Jordan Todman already rostered beyond this season, Mike Tolbert likely to get his contract extended and hopefully no high first round pick in the Chargers future, but he's a top college talent and worth watching.
Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, OLB, Senior, 6'1, 271 lbs (1st round) - 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.
Josh Chapman, Alabama, DT, Senior, 6'0, 316 lbs (2nd round) - 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.
Mark Barron, Alabama, S, Senior, 6'1, 223 lbs (2nd round) - 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.
Dont'a Hightower, Alabama, ILB, Junior, 6'3, 260 lbs (3rd round) - 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 and he's an ideal fit for the 3-4. We'll see how the knee progresses this year and if he decides to come out early.
Other Alabama Prospects: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (2nd round), Chargers wouldn't be considering a CB that early in the draft; Robert Lester, S (4th round) just a junior, but a good season could see his stock soar high enough that he'd enter the draft; Nico Johnson, ILB (4th round) like Hightower he's a good fit for a 3-4 ILB, but also like Hightower he's a junior; De'quan Menzie, CB (late rounds) smallish corner, not a major need for Bolts; Marquis Maze, WR/KR (late rounds) playmaker at college level, too small (5'8") to play WR in pros; William Vlachos, C (late rounds) a position that the Chargers will interested be interested, playing for a top school and against top competition could help him rise up draft boards with good season; Darius Hanks, WR (UDFA) will get opportunities to prove himself this season and has shown hints of promise in the past.
Devon Still, Penn State, DT, Senior, 6'5, 307 lbs (3rd round) - Tall, bulky, athletic and not a good pass rusher. A nice fit for a 3-4 DE. He's good at stopping the run and has a strong motor. That motor carries over to his work ethic as he's had to battle back from two major injuries. Both those are behind him now (occurred in 2007 and 2008) and he's ready to prove something in his final season. Had a run in with a teammate where a knife got pulled on him and had run in with the law when he investigated and later dismissed of marijuana charges when items were found in his apartment he shared. Two of his cousins played in the NFL.
Jack Crawford, Penn State, DE, Senior, 6'5, 267 lbs (mid rounds) - Crawford got mentioned a couple of times in last year's scouting reports. He was born in England and picked up football his junior year of high school. Could possibly project to 3-4 OLB, but early returns were not great and scouts doubt he has the athleticism for that role. If he can improve his coverage abilities to go along with his decent pass rush abilities then he could be a decent depth acquisition as an OLB.
Nathan Stupor, Penn State, OLB, Senior, 6'1, 240 lbs (mid rounds) - Could be a candidate to move to the ILB position with the Chargers like Jonas Mouton did. His best skills come when he's stopping the run, but he's not a liability in coverage either. Good at reading plays and recognizing what the QB and the offense are doing. He's got an excellent aptitude for special teams and would be an immediate contributor in that area. Blocked 2 punts last season.
Derek Moye, Penn State, WR, Senior, 6'5, 202 lbs (mid rounds) - Moye is physical, tall, has above average speed and isn't afraid of contact. Needs some work on technique so he can get good releases and be in position when the QB is ready to throw. Inconsistent as a blocker, but there is potential in that area. Could be a good fit for the Chargers system even if only as project.
Other Penn State Prospects: D'anton Lynn, S (late rounds) has range, needs better skils; Stephon Green, RB (late rounds); Joe Suhey, FB (UDFA) not a prospect right now, but maybe his senior season will put him on the map; Johnnie Troutman, OG (UDFA); Quinn Barham, OT (UDFA); Eric Latimore, DE/OLB (DE).