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Which prospects should Chargers fans be watching in the New Year’s Day bowl games?

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers are headed to the postseason! While the franchise might have to travel on the road for perhaps the entire playoffs, the Bolts have punched their ticket to a date in January and a chance to head to Atlanta for Super Bowl 53.

Los Angeles’ 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.

The New Year Six games might not feature all the top talent due to some declaring for the NFL Draft early but still, they’re the most exciting games everyone can enjoy on New Year’s day while nursing a bad hangover. With more players looking to make their NFL mark, Jake Hefner comes out strong to help with the final bowl addition of Blooming Bolts. Here’s hoping you enjoy these players as much as Jake and myself did covering them.

Fiesta Bowl

UCF: DT Trysten Hill

Draft Analyst Tony Pauline listed Hill as the top draft prospect for the Knights heading into 2018. Undersized at 6-foot-2, Hill has a large frame for his size weighing 325 pounds. He is deceptively quick and has great power to penetrate gaps up the middle. This season, Hill produced a career-high 35 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and three sacks. He uses his height well to his advantage, keeping low to the ground, forcing offensive lineman back on their heels when he rushes.

Hill takes up a lot of space in the middle and has scheme versatility as he has played in both 4-3 and 3-4 formations. At the next level, he will need add strength and hand improvement to stay productive in the NFL. Has yet to decide on whether he will return to school for his senior season but if Hill declares, he is likely slated to be an early Day 3 selection.

LSU: LB Devin White

Should Denzel Perryman walk towards the free agent market, Alabama’s Mack Wilson should be the top option at replacing him. If he’s off the board, White might be the best consolation prize of all-time. A thumper for the Bayou Bengal defense, White has the speed and tackling ability to play multiple positions for the Chargers defense. A consistent wrap-up tackler, White finished his junior campaign with back to back 100+ tackle seasons and took home the Dick Butkus Award for top linebacker last December.

What’s even more impressive about White’s skills is his ability in coverage. Known for his quick speed and smooth transitions, the linebacker can play in both man and zone coverage. With one interception and seven career pass deflections, White could do it all. If he’s even close to falling towards the Charger, Telseco needs to package a deal together to grab this linebacker and find stability at the position.

Rose Bowl

Ohio State: OT Isaiah Prince

Ohio State Defensive Tackle, Dre’mont Jones should be a top 10 pick in the NFL draft and won’t be on the board by the time The Chargers make their selection. But Prince is a player that could interest Los Angeles in the mid rounds. As a three-year starter for the Buckeyes, Prince has gradually made improvements in his game, becoming more technical and showing better footwork. At 6-foot-7, 310 pounds, he has the prototypical size for a starting tackle and has the necessary length to play on the outside. Prince shows good athleticism and is surprisingly mobile, as he can redirect with smooth footwork.

He has been an effective run blocker, using his leverage to overpower defenders, but still has inconsistencies when framing up blocks. Prince has struggled at times with defenders on inside rushes and needs to use his length better to his advantage. He has garnered mixed opinions from draft analysts as some wonder if Prince would be a better fit at the guard position. His performance in the Rose Bowl along with his combine testing will be critical if determining where Prince will land in the draft.

Washington: CB Byron Murphy

Washington has quietly been producing quality defensive backs since the Atlanta Falcons drafted Desmond Trufant back in 2013. With defenders such as the Pro Bowl defenders, Sidney Jones, Kevin King, Budda Baker, and Marcus Peters already becoming quality players in the NFL, any team in need of secondary help could be headed towards Seattle for Pro Days come March. While Taylor Rapp might be an option for the Bolts to look at day 2, Murphy could be an excellent outside cornerback Los Angeles grabs later in the first round.

Murphy’s 5’11, 185-pound frame won’t wow scouts, but his game tape should certainly make fans notice. Quick feet with the ability to change direction on the fly, Murphy does a great job mirroring receivers and eliminating blown coverage. Against the run, the Husky cornerback is a willing and able tackler that will scrap his way until the whistle is blown. With six career interceptions and 20 career pass deflections, Murphy’s arm length and ability to create turnovers is prevalent. Telesco should be running to the podium if Murphy falls to into the late 20s come April.

Sugar Bowl

Texas: CB Kris Boyd

A significant piece of the Longhorns defense, Boyd is a physical corner who thrives in press coverage, possessing good ball skills. He has plenty of experience with 32 starts where he registered 168 total tackles 5.5 for loss, 35 passed defended and three interceptions. Boyd has decent size for the corner position at 6’0, 195 pounds and plays the game with a tough and competitive mentality.

His skills in run support and route recognition in press coverage are some of his best traits. However, Boyd will need to refine his technique and be more consistent in his play. He is not extremely athletic as he has questionable speed and can get beat on deep throws. Boyd projects as a mid-round prospect and could be a good selection for the Chargers to rebuild their depth at the corner position.

Georgia: CB DeAndre Baker

The 2019 cornerback class isn’t loaded with premium talent but does have several high profile defenders that could be in play for Los Angeles in the first round. With Casey Hayward slowly beginning to decline in his game and Trevor Williams and Jason Verrett potentially heading for the free agent market, cornerback will likely be a primary option. If the Bolts miss out on someone in free agency, it should be on Telesco’s short list for day one players.

Baker checks off all the initial checkmarks to be a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. With his stocky frame, massive hands and excellent footwork, Baker does a fantastic job attack a team’s top target and limiting them to minimal catches in a game. The 2018 Jim Thorpe winner might be best known for his ability in man coverage, but his run support skills are also quite impressive. At the line of scrimmage, the bulldog defender has a great first punch to throw his target off balanced and win before the play begins. Should the Bolts feel comfortable waiting to draft a defensive tackle, Baker should be in the final round for the team’s top selection.