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Which prospects should Chargers fans be watching December 28 & 29?

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NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers are headed to the postseason! While the franchise might be out of the race for the AFC West division, the Bolts have punched their ticket to a date in January and a chance to head to Atlanta for Super Bowl 53.

The Bolts offseason, however, will be one to keep an eye on. With multiple stars heading towards the free agent market, Tom Telesco and his staff will have to do a good job making the draft and free agent market a memorable one. One way the Chargers can start their homework is by watching the bowl games heading into the holidays.

Week 3 of Bowlmania is about to begin and Week’s one and two did not disappoint. With more players looking to make their NFL mark, Jake Hefner comes out strong to help with another addition of Blooming Bolts. This time is a bit different than last. With more teams playing this week, we don’t want you reading and missing out on prospects that could help turn Los Angeles into a powerhouse moving forward.

We just finished part one of our Week 3 preview, and now we’re on part two. Relax if you don’t see the College Football Playoff teams on this list, that’s for another article coming out later. Hopefully, these prospects make the final cut of the Chargers big board. Also, sorry in advance, but some quarterbacks could be at least backups behind the future Hall of Fame signal-caller.

Music City Bowl

Auburn: QB Jarrett Stidham

The Auburn signal caller registered 209 completions for 2,421 yards for 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. His completion rate (60.1%) and YPA (7.0) were career lows of his college career. However, some draft analysts believe that Stidham’s down year was due more to the lack of playmakers that were around him, rather than Stidham himself. In a November report from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, an NFL Scout told Brugler that the Auburn offense was holding Stidham back. The 4th year junior will get an opportunity to prove some analyst wrong when he participates in the Senior Bowl next month. Statistics aside, Stidham shows good ball placement and nice footwork in the pocket.

He possesses a quick release to hit receivers in stride and can extend plays with his mobility. However, Stidham will try to take risks and force throws to make things happen. Additionally, he needs to learn to go through his progressions faster. As of now, Stidham is listed as a Day 2 /Day 3 prospect that The Chargers could take a look at as a developmental backup and potential successor for Philip Rivers.

Purdue: DE Conor Sweeney

Again, the pass rush is fine. A late-round pick could add some depth to a talented unit. If there’s a name to look for on the lackluster group that is Purdue, Sweeney might make the most sense.

As a larger defensive end prospect, Sweeney’s 280-pound frame might be best suited inside as a three or four technique. With pass rushing ability, Sweeney would fit nicely as a bull rusher or stop filler to make running backs cut away from the line of scrimmage and to the outside. A productive player for the Boilermaker defense, Sweeney is a late-round prospect who could end up being a valuable defender in a limited role at the next level.

Camping World Bowl

West Virginia: LB David Long Jr.

If The Chargers decide not to bring back Denzel Perryman the team may be in the market to improve their linebacker depth. Long is undersized (5’11, 220 pounds) but highly productive. In three years he compiled 232 total tackles, 39 for loss and 12 sacks. Long is a disruptive force for The Mountaineers as he is always around the ball.

Long is the only player to record a tackle for loss in every game in the Power Five conference. Long will decide on his NFL future following the bowl game. But should he declare, he could turn out to be a highly productive linebacker at the next level.

Syracuse: DL Brandon Berry

The Bolts need to address their interior line more than their outside unit. Brandon Mebane is in a contract year while Corey Liuget could be cut this offseason to save the team some money. Damion Square has played better inside and could be the future three-technique along with Justin Jones and Darius Philon.

Berry isn’t exactly a “wow” me type player, but he gets the job done. An excellent run stopper up the middle, Berry’s best used as a situational gap filler that can force running backs and quarterbacks to extend the play towards the sideline. His stat line is low, but he does his job up the middle eliminating the run. Should he declare, he’s a late-round draft choice.

Alamo Bowl

Washington State: QB Gardner Minshew

Ok Chargers fans. Philip Rivers is destined to play at least another two years following his MVP caliber season that has brought life back into the Chargers offense. Bolts could use a more reliable option that could learn under Rivers and at least be a solid backup at the next level... While maybe a first, second or third round pick is a bit too rich, a day three selection should be at least an area where Los Angeles could consider drafting a quarterback.

Minshew has been one of the better quarterbacks in college football this season even with a bad final outing against Washington. The East Carolina transfer has a solid arm, great accuracy and the ability to carry the team down the field while keeping drives alive. Great pocket footwork and the ability to throw under pressure, Minshew has put together a solid season for the Cougars offense with 3,517 passing yards and 27 touchdowns in the PAC 12. He’s likely a day three pickup as well so no harm, no foul if he doesn’t pan out as the team’s eventual successor either.

Iowa State: WR Hakeem Butler

The Chargers could be without both Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin next season. If that happens, the team could be looking to add another receiver. Butler enjoyed a breakout season, recording 51 catches for 1,126 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018. The redshirt junior has outstanding size for a wideout. Standing 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, he uses his frame well against defenders.

Butler’s size also allows him the capability to catch the ball at the high point, no matter where the ball is thrown. Though his route running will need to be refined and perfected at the next level, Butler has rare physical traits that team’s favor in a big bodied receiver. Butler is still undecided on his NFL future, but earlier this month he sought feedback regarding his draft ranking.

Belk Bowl

Virginia- S Juan Thornhill

Even with the outstanding play that Derwin James has given The Chargers defense, the safety position will still need to be improved. Thornhill has turned in an exceptional 2018 campaign after switching from corner to safety before the beginning of the year. At 6’0, 210 pounds, he is a disciplined tackler showing good anticipation and great coverage ability.

Thornhill’s skills have progressively improved over the past three years, and he finishes his college career with the Cavaliers with 202 total tackles, eleven for loss, twelve interceptions and 25 passes defended. Projected as a day three pick, Thornhill has been rising up draft boards in certain circles, and his versatility will be a trait that scouts will hold in high regard during draft evaluations.

South Carolina- WR Bryan Edwards

The Chargers aren’t in significant need of a wide receiver, but they should keep their options open heading into the offseason. Benjamin is out, but Williams could re-sign. The biggest issue, however, is the contract dispute. The 6-4 receiver could make much more with a less established team while the Chargers could elect to let him walk after the season.

If Deebo Samuel were playing, that would be the easy read. Instead, Edwards would be a late-round prospect if he declares, but he offers something into the red zone. Pure size and an excellent downfield blocker, Edwards would be a nice pairing opposite the former Clemson receiver and complimenting Allen in the slot. Known for shorter routes instead of a vertical threat Edwards picks up a ton of first downs and keeps the chains moving. He’s limited after the catch, but for a fifth or sixth round pick, Edwards would fit nicely for Rivers as another weapon in the arsenal.

Arizona Bowl

Nevada: Edge Malik Reed

A versatile defensive lineman, Reed was one of the few standouts among the Nevada defense. At 6’1 251 pounds, Reed is undersized but productive. In his four years with the Wolf Pack, he totaled 198 total tackles 38.5 for loss and 22 sacks. Reed transitioned from defensive end to linebacker before the beginning of his senior year. The young defensive lineman led the Mountain West in tackles for loss (15.5) and forced fumbles (four) this year.

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman listed Reed as one of his “freaks” for the 2018 season. Reed’s size will be a concern, but his ability to get after the quarterback will intrigue teams. Whether as an end or linebacker, Reed’s abilities should garner the attention of many NFL scouts.

Arkansas State: WR Justin Ennis

If Williams walks towards the free agent pool, wide receiver will become a more significant need. Mike and Kennan do a great job in the red zone, and short routes but the team will need to find a replacement for Williams’ pure vertical threat potential.

Ennis is a larger receiver with the ability to fly down the field. Back to back 12 plus yards after the catch seasons, the 6-6 receiver can be a mismatch in coverage and win contested catches. While a limited route runner, Ennis’ size will allow him to win in man coverage and have the ability to force defenders to double team, allowing another receiver to get open downfield. He’s raw but worth a look at a late-round pickup should he declare.

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

Michigan: DE Chase Winovich

The Chargers will need to address their situation at defensive end as Darius Philon and Damion Square are both poised to hit the market in March. If one or both of them leave in free agency, the team will need to find replacements and Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich could be a start. Arguably the most consistent defender for The Wolverines, Winovich finishes his college career with 159 total tackles, 40,5 for loss and 17.5 sacks.

At 6’3, 255 pounds, he displays good burst off the snap with solid hand technique. Strong against the run, Winovich has a high motor and plays with grit and tenacity. Pro Football Focus gave Winovich the highest overall grade for an EDGE defender in the Big 10 conference. His size will be the determining factor of where he will fit best in the NFL, but his physical traits and high football IQ will surely warrant a Day 1/Day 2 selection.

Florida: OG Martez Ivey

Is it too soon to give up on Dan Feeny? Yes. Is it time to see what Forest Lamp can finally produce? 100%. The former second-round pick has only been active for a slew of games and hasn’t produced much in them. It’s starting to get me to wonder if Lamp even is a real person or just what Brick Tamland and fellow BTFB writer Michael Peterson loves.

Ivey has seen his fair share of rough outings but is an overall strong option to help fix the middle. Best as a run blocker, Ivey’s frame allows him to handle single man blocking sets and set up a nice run up the middle. Protecting the quarterback has been a weak point with the Gators during his two-year stint as a starter. His aggressive playing style, however, should merit a fourth-round grade and would allow the Bolts to have more options at a position that could be a need soon.