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2012 NFL Draft - Scouting for Future Chargers: BCS National Championship

(11-1) vs Louisiana State
(13-0) Monday 1/9 5:30 PM PT (ESPN)
Allstate BCS National Championship (New Orleans, LA)

People love to create some sort of controversy about this game. Even the people that came up with the idea of the game love the controversy. People want to debate sports and the talking point for this game is "rematch". Sports are full of rematches. Boxing loves rematches and people pay big money to watch those. Most professional team sports are built around rematching teams over and over again. Baseball, basketball and hockey play playoff series' which are basically a set of rematches. Football doesn't plan out rematches like that, but even the NFL doesn't avoid playoff rematches. Next week, all 4 NFL playoff games are rematches of earlier contests. The Super Bowl has had it's share of rematches, the most recent being XLII where the New England Patriots lost to the New York Giants after beating them in the regular season. Even our own Chargers played in a Super Bowl that was a rematch, although in that year the Bolts lost to the San Francisco 49ers twice. The "Greatest Game Ever Played", the 1958 NFL Championship game, was a rematch between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. This is not something new to sport, just something new to the BCS Championship. The bottom line (from an entertainment aspect) is that you have the consensus top team (LSU) playing a team that you know can compete with them (Alabama) and, arguably, should have won the previous engagement if not for a kicker having a bad day.

The other talking point is the quality of the previous tilt. It was a bit of snoozer with the two teams a little afraid to expose their offenses against each other's talented defenses. With all the time given to prepare for this game, I fully expect the offenses to be ready to roll in this one. Neither has an elite QB and only one has an elite NFL prospect (Alabama Jr. RB Trent Richardson), but they can do enough to make sure the same offensive sluggishness doesn't reappear.

However, all that talk isn't important to the scouting department at Bolts From the Blue. What you do have here is a number of players that will be in this year's draft, a few others that will be top prospects in future drafts and a number of good matchups to test all these prospects. Charger fans looking for immediate help for next year should focus on two players. Both play for the Crimson Tide. One is Senior OLB Courtney Upshaw and the other is Senior S Mark Barron. Both are in the first round mix and both play positions of great need for the Chargers. Alabama's 3-4 defense makes a number of other prospects interesting for the Chargers. They have two draft eligible ILBs in Dont'a Hightower and Nico Johnson that could address the depth issues at that position. They have a good Nose Tackle in Josh Chapman. They also have two CBs that will play in the NFL in 1st round prospect Dre Kirkpatrick and 4th round prospect De'quan Menzie. Their second safety, Robert Lester, could be a guy the Chargers look at for Safety depth if both Gregory and Oliver leave and the Chargers find a starter in Free Agency.

The Louisiana State Tigers are a much younger team as far as starters go. There are Seniors on the team that are expected to hear their names called before day 3. However, that doesn't mean the Bayou Bengals don't have other elite talent. Jr. CB Morris Claiborne is a sure fire top 5 pick and will be coming out. Three defensive players have decisions to make about whether to stay or go, but would hear their names called early if they did declare. Sophomores DT Michael Brockers, DE Sam Montgomery and DE Barkevious Mingo are that trio and are a big reason why the LSU defense is so good. Montgomery has stated he's not coming out, but nothing's official until the deadline passes. 6'4 Jr. WR Rueben Randle is a 3rd round prospect. And then there's the "Honey Badger" CB/KR Tyrann Mathieu who emulates 2011 1st pick and current Arizona Cardinals CB/KR Patrick Peterson, but is not draft eligible. Their best Sr. prospect is TE Deangelo Peterson, who could be an interesting pick for the Chargers.

I'll cover the detailed scouting reports for the prospects in this game after the jump. after the jump. First let's take a look at our team needs chart. I justified the most recent updates to the team needs list a few weeks ago when I scouted the last week of the college football regular season.

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

BFTB Scouting Targets:
Player School Pos. Class Height Weight
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 presence at CB and that aids him in keeping receivers 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)
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 round)
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)
Michael Brockers LSU DT So. 6'6 306 lbs
The key man in the Tigers' run defense. He is seen as dominant versus the run. He's a redshirt sophomore and therefore draft eligible. He has a big body, but also has quick feet which allow him to move that body into positions of leverage or positions to tackle. Very strong. He plays the same position as 2011 3rd pick by the Colts Drake Nevis and yet stands out more than his more experienced ex-teammate. He has not made a statement about his 2012 draft intentions. (1st round)
Sam Montgomery LSU DE So. 6'4 245 lbs
Elite first step quickness. Very productive in just his redshirt sophomore with 13 TFL and 9 sacks. His athletic ability is off the charts and still has room to grow as a pass rusher. There's no questioning his motor as he flies around the field for the entire play. A team drafting him would not only get someone with the skills and ability to be one of the top rookie pass rushers, but also one with upside. However, he's stated that he will not enter the 2012 draft. (1st round)
Barkevious Mingo LSU DE/OLB So. 6'5 240 lbs
Draft eligible, but only a Sophomore yet still one of the better Tigers 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. Like his teammate Montgomery he has a lot of upside, however he's not quite the player yet as his fellow Bayou Bengal. (2nd 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. (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. (3rd 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. (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)
De'quan Menzie Alabama CB Sr. 5'10 201 lbs
A tough physical 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)
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)
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. (4th 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)
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?)
Sleeper Prospects:
Player School Pos. Class Height Weight
William Vlachos Alabama OC Sr. 6'1 301 lbs
Center with good technique if not the greatest athlete. (Late rounds)
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. (Late rounds)
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)
Brad Smelley Alabama TE Sr. 6'3 229 lbs
Blocking TE with some passing utility. (UDFA)
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)
Jordan Jefferson LSU QB Sr. 6'3 216 lbs
Athletic QB that can make plays with his arm and his legs. Has had a very inconsistent college career, but has shown improvement this season after getting the starting QB job back. He originally lost the job because a suspension following a felony arrest warrant that resulted from a bar fight. Charges were reduced to a misdemeanor. (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. Has lost his starting job to Jordan Jefferson, but sometimes gets snaps. (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)
Brandon Taylor LSU S Sr. 6'0 194 lbs
Experienced whose contributions get lost in the shuffle in that talented LSU defense. (UDFA)
Will Blackwell LSU OG Sr. 6'4 290 lbs
Ron Brooks LSU CB Sr. 6'0 177 lbs
Experienced player, but loses out at CB to the super-talented Claiborne and Mathieu. Plays more nickle and still has playmaking ability. Gunner on punt coverages. (UDFA)
Karnell Hatcher LSU S/LB Sr. 6'2 223 lbs
Moved to LB this year, but is safety sized. Splits time at the Mike linebacker position. (UDFA)