10 NFL Combine Prospects That San Diego Chargers Must Closely Watch

Marcelo Villa@@_marcelovillaFeatured Columnist IIIFebruary 20, 2013

10 NFL Combine Prospects That San Diego Chargers Must Closely Watch

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    The NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis takes place on Feb. 23, marking a significant moment for the San Diego Chargers and the 31 other teams in the NFL.

    For four days, organizations and their scouts will have the opportunity to watch more than 300 top prospects audition during the toughest job interviews of their lives. Every second, every measurement and every mistake will be up for judgement.

    You've heard what the experts have said and seen on all the mock drafts, but the results of the combine will change everything.

    Up until this point you've probably seen the same familiar names linked to the Chargers in mock drafts, but more names are beginning to surface slowly. Here are 10 prospects the Chargers must closely watch at the scouting combine.

10. John Cyprien

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    Position: DB

    School: Florida International

    Height: 6'0"  Weight: 210 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 84.65 (third-ranked S) 

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    Cyprien is a name I've been seeing pop up a lot on the message boards among Charger fans. Because he played at a smaller school, it's pretty easy to overlook him. 

    However, Cyprien had a solid 2012, earning him an invitation to this year's Senior Bowl. According to NFL.com, Cyprien is "One of the hardest-hitting safeties in the 2013 draft class" and a versatile defender capable of playing either slot in the secondary's backfield.

    Safety isn't a top priority for the Chargers, but after Atari Bigby and Brandon Taylor were unable to finish the season on their own power due to injuries, that position is looking a bit thin.

9. Star Lotulelei

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    Position: DL

    School: Utah

    Height: 6'4"  Weight: 320 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 92 (second-ranked DL)

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    Lotulelei is ranked considerably high on mock drafts and for good reason. The big nose tackle put up some monster numbers over the last two seasons (20.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks).

    You've heard analysts preach that the Chargers have to take an offensive lineman in the first round, but things can change over the course of a week. The middle of the defense hasn't been a strong point in recent years despite a top-ranked run defense in 2012.

    NFL.com is comparing Lotulelei to Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl DT Haloti Ngata in its breakdown. I'm sure John Pagano would love to have a player like that solidifying his defense.

8. Johnthan Banks

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    Position: CB

    School: Mississippi State

    Height: 6'2"  Weight: 185 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 84.4 (third-ranked CB)

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    CB is quickly becoming a need for San Diego after a recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune hinted at the possibility that San Diego was only interested in re-signing Antoine Cason (not Quentin Jammer).

    I wouldn't blame the Chargers for passing on Jammer. At 33, Jammer doesn't have too much football left to play. He had a great season last year, but his career has been inconsistent as a whole.

    At 6'2", Banks has the size advantage to cover some of the league's bigger receivers as teams continue to stress the passing game.

7. Desmond Trufant

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    Position: CB

    School: Washington

    Height: 6'0"  Weight: 185 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 84.1 (fourth-ranked CB)

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    Desmond is set to become the youngest of the Trufants in the NFL (his brothers are Isaiah and Marcus Trufant) and if his family bloodlines aren't enough to sell you on him, then watch footage of his performance against USC last season. 

    Trufant kept the nation's top receiver (Marquise Lee) under wraps on an island by himself at times. It was a stellar performance for the Husky and the perfect highlight to show scouts.

    I have Trufant ranked a little higher among the CBs, but both Banks and Trufant are solid pickups.

6. Xavier Rhodes

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    Position: CB

    School: Florida State

    Height: 6'1"  Weight: 215 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 86.2 (second-ranked CB)

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    Rhodes is another big corner the Chargers should keep their eyes on. He has the height and the strength to hold his own with bigger receivers.

    NFL.com also highlights his ability to jam up receivers in press coverage, "Rhodes thrives in physical press coverage, something very few college players can put on their resume."

    The Chargers benefited from a physical corner like Jammer in the run game as he was able to come up and wrap up ball-carriers on countless occasions, but they need a physical guy who can cover receivers deep as well. Rhodes looks like he can be that type of player in the long run.

5. D.J. Fluker

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    Position: OT

    School: Alabama

    Height: 6'6"  Weight: 335 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 85.5 (sixth-ranked OL)

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    Offensive linemen coming out of Alabama have been getting high marks for years, and this year's draft is no different. Fluker is just one of three Alabama O-linemen projected to be taken early.

    I know the Chargers have their eyes on some higher-ranked offensive tackles at the moment, but Fluker could be an absolute steal if he's still around in the second round.

4. Jonathan Cooper

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    Position: OG

    School: North Carolina

    Height: 6'3"  Weight: 310 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 86.9 (fifth-ranked OL)

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    Cooper is a new name that's actually surprised me recently. Mel Kiper Jr. revealed Cooper as his pick for the Chargers in his recent mock draft and I agree that the inside of the offensive line is a need just as much as the outside.

    Cooper, a natural left guard, had NFL.com raving about his athleticism, "He has the athleticism to play in a number of different schemes. Due to his ability to lead the way on runs and outstanding pass protection skills, he projects to be one of the first guards selected in the draft."

    Both of San Diego's starters are free agents this year, prompting the need for a possible immediate starter.

3. Chance Warmack

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    Position: OG

    School: Alabama

    Height: 6'3"  Weight: 320 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 95.9 (top-ranked OL) 

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    Surprisingly enough, Warmack is the top-ranked OL (not Luke Joeckel). The Alabama guard helped pave the way for some of the Crimson Tide's best backs in Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and now Eddie Lacy.

    Ryan Mathews hasn't benefited from having the best offensive line, and it's about time the Chargers give him some help by adding some talent to this struggling unit. Warmack is an immediate starter with Pro Bowl potential written all over him. 

2. Lane Johnson

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    Position: OT

    School: Oklahoma

    Height: 6'7"  Weight: 303 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 86.9 (fourth-ranked OL)

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    Lane Johnson or Eric Fisher? That's been the debate so far. I know Fisher is the higher ranked prospect but Johnson isn't far behind in my opinion. There are some people saying he's a first-rounder, and then there are some who believe he'll fall to the second round. Either way, San Diego wins.

    Johnson may lack in experience at the position, but I like his athleticism for his size. Pack some more weight on him and you have your franchise left tackle waiting.

1. Eric Fisher

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    Position: OT

    School: Central Michigan

    Height: 6'8"  Weight: 305 lbs

    NFL.com Rating: 91.3 (third-ranked OL)

    Why He's a Must-Watch for San Diego

    He's on all the mock drafts, so far, headed to San Diego. Don't get me wrong, I would love this pick, but I don't realistically see it happening.

    Ever since the Senior Bowl, Fisher has been grabbing a ton of attention from teams. It's going to come down to the wire when draft day comes to see if he lasts until pick 11. Regardless of where he's projected to go, San Diego still needs to watch him at the combine and make sure he's what it wants in a building block for the franchise.