San Diego Chargers' 8 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways
The San Diego Chargers had plenty to take away from observations made at the NFL Scouting Combine, which will undoubtedly factor into the decisions made during draft week.
As most teams witnessed, there were prospects who stood out and surprised while others seemingly disappointed. For general manager Tom Telesco, a successful follow-up to his first draft with San Diego is all fans can ask for.
Here's a look at what the Chargers took away from the NFL combine.
Combine results courtesy of NFL.com's tracker.
1. Speed Available in the Draft
Telesco told reporters in his season-ending press conference that he'd like to "infuse some speed offensively" during the offseason, and a trip to the combine may have provided him with options for acquiring that speed.
Oregon State's Brandin Cooks ran the fastest 40-yard dash among receivers with a time of 4.33 seconds, and Kent State's Dri Archer nearly set a combine record with a blazing 4.26 among the running backs. Division II standout John Brown of Pittsburgh State wasn't far behind with a 4.34.
There was clearly no shortage of speed in Indy, but it will be Telesco's decision if he chooses to pursue that need through the draft.
2. Is Sam Still a Fit for the Chargers?
Joe Barkett, who represents Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, told Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego that his client would be a "great fit" with the Chargers, but the front office may need more convincing after a forgettable performance at the combine.
Sam, who plans to become the first openly gay player in the NFL, ran a 4.91 in the 40-yard dash and put up 17 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, which tied for second worst among defensive linemen. The 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year will now have to really wow critics at his pro day in hopes of being drafted in May.
The Chargers have a need for a pass-rusher, but a better effort will need to be put forth if Sam is to fill that need.
3. Deep Receiver Class Is Good News for San Diego
The futures of Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander are still uncertain as they continue to recover from career-threatening injuries, but a deep receiver class presents an opportunity to draft an insurance policy.
The combine showcased a number of intriguing receiver prospects, including six whom NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt considers overlooked. As Keenan Allen demonstrated last year, there's value to be found in the middle rounds.
With a full draft and an obvious need at the position, the Chargers should heavily consider taking a receiver.
4. Combine Does Gilbert and Dennard Justice
If scouts weren't raving enough about Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard, the combine only made them more desirable as first-round selections.
Gilbert and Dennard tested well across the board in Indy, but their respective 40-yard dash times are what really did them justice as the two most highly coveted corner prospects. Gilbert recorded the fastest time among defensive backs with a 4.37 while Dennard posted a better-than-expected 4.51.
The Chargers have a definite need for help in the secondary, but Gilbert and Dennard may be out of reach at pick 25 following the combine.
5. Roby and Verrett Climbing Up Draft Boards
Bradley Roby and Jason Verrett, who were initially thought to be borderline first-rounders, used the combine to climb up draft boards.
Verrett tied for the second-fastest 40 time among defensive backs with a 4.38, while Roby ran a 4.39. Both ranked in the top four for cornerbacks. Their respective performances were so impressive that NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah was forced to feature both in his most recent post-combine mock draft of the first round.
Assuming Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard aren't available when the Chargers go on the clock, Verrett and Roby could be the next best things.
6. Replacement Will Come into Play for Aging Hardwick
Nick Hardwick informed the Chargers over the weekend that he will return for an 11th season as the team's anchor of the offensive line after briefly contemplating retirement, per Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, but the clock is ticking on finding his eventual replacement.
This was the second time Hardwick weighed retirement, and his contract will be up following the 2014 season. The chances of him prolonging the end of his career a third time doesn't seem likely, which should prompt the Chargers to act accordingly by bringing in a young center through the draft.
At the very least, a backup should be in place for Hardwick, who struggled with a neck injury last season.
7. Chargers Continue to Meet with Pass-Rushers
The Chargers reportedly met with linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dee Ford at the Senior Bowl, per WalterFootball.com, and the team continued to meet with pass-rushers at the combine.
Jeremiah Attaochu, who leaves Georgia Tech as the career leader in sacks with 31.5, formally met with San Diego's representatives in Indy, per Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego. Team representatives also met with Utah's Trevor Reilly, who had an impressive 2013 following surgery to repair a torn ACL, per Marty Caswell of The Mighty 1090 Sports Radio.
Meetings don't guarantee a player's future with a team, but it is worth noting that the Chargers are looking at pass-rushers very closely.
8. Time to Start Grooming a Quarterback?
Philip Rivers is in the prime of his career at the ripe age of 32, but how many more years can the Pro Bowl quarterback continue to play at such an efficient level as the franchise quarterback for the Chargers?
Eric D. Williams of ESPN brought up an interesting point regarding San Diego's outlook at quarterback. Citing the philosophy of Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, Williams points out that it isn't so outlandish to pursue a quarterback in the draft even if you're set at the position.
The Chargers drafted Brad Sorensen in the seventh round last year, and he surprisingly made the team despite the presence of longtime backup Charlie Whitehurst. Assuming the top priorities are taken care of beforehand in the earlier rounds, why not bring in another arm to groom behind Rivers?