Yesterday, began the start of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis. The Coaches, Scouts, and General Managers of all 32 NFL teams arrived today for workouts that will start on Saturday morning.
Some of the players that will be heavily scrutinized starting on Saturday began some of the medical evaluations this morning, including physical measurements.
All of the players invited to this year's combine are going to be put through rigorous on and off the field workouts, physical and psychological tests/evaluations, and finally an interview process with prospective NFL teams.
Essentially, over the next seven days all of the invitees will be under a microscope in the hopes of ultimately raising their "draft stock" high enough to become a top draft pick and receive the money that comes along with it.
After coming off a season in which the San Diego Chargers missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, the Chargers will be looking to add some depth, as well as fill holes cause by players potentially lost to free agency.
While the combine workouts won't officially start until Saturday morning, this slideshow represents players the Chargers should be looking at to use their first-round and possibly second-round draft pick on come draft day. (*Remember a player's draft stock could rise or slide based on their combine performance.)
A number of mock drafts are predicting Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo to still be available when the Chargers select with the 18th pick in April's draft, however a solid performance during the combine might elevate Castonzo enough to be taken in the top ten.
The Chargers need to find an anchor on the right side of the offensive line, and while Castonzo naturally plays on the left, I believe that he could convert to cover the right and provide a solid back-up should anything happen to Marcus McNeill.
Castonzo is a highly-productive and incredibly durable player. His college football resume speaks volumes for that. He is smart, a very hard worker, and posses solid run blocking skills. A talent that the Chargers could heavily rely upon with the increased running workload of Ryan Mathews.
As of recent, some mock drafts have Carimi projected as a late first-round selection, and as of now he is rated as one of the Top 5 offensive linemen available in the draft.
The Chargers should keep a close eye on Carimi during the combine, and should they draft him in April, the Chargers may be getting one heck of a deal.
Carimi is a massive offensive tackle that plays with intensity. He has the ability to pick up blitzes and adjust quickly, which would make him a perfect fit for Norv Tuner's aerial offense, and he is also able to deliver a powerful shot to push pass rushers beyond the pocket. For being as large as he is, Carimi also moves extremely well and possesses great strengths creating holes for the running game.
University of Colorado's Nate Solder came off an impressive display at the Senior Bowl in which he was pitted against top rated defensive linemen and able to keep them in check. In some mock drafts, Solder has been projected as a mid to late first-round draft pick, and should still be available when the Chargers draft 18th overall.
Solder is the tallest player invited to this year's combine at a towering 6'8". Not only does he boast impressive height, but also a massive wingspan. His large frame and long arms make it difficult for opposing pass rushers to get around. Solder does get off the ball very quickly and exhibits great power in the run game.
Solder would be a great addition to a Chargers offensive line that needs improvement not only in pass protection, but in run blocking as well. The Chargers will definitely be keeping an eye on Solder.
Sherrod possesses a nice combination of height and mobility. He gets set quickly and can push rushers past the pocket using his length and reach. He uses good positioning to wall-off defenders when run blocking and has enough athleticism to get out and block in space. He's also effective when combo blocking.
Conversely, he needs to add bulk to his frame and is susceptible to the bull rush and violent moves. He also struggles at times against stunts and twists and can be baited out of position. He's not a road-graded and won't get too much movement off the line. Doesn't play with a lot of nastiness.
J.J. Watt showcased his skills and athleticism against a tough TCU offense in what was one of the best Rose Bowl's in a number of years. Watt was the anchor of that amazing Wisconsin defense.
Watt possesses the perfect combination of size and speed, and has the uncanny ability of taking those direct routes to the quarterback. Besides his ability of getting in the face of the opposing quarterback, Watt can knock down his fair share of passes, disrupting a quarterbacks rhythm. Not only is Watt a potent pass rusher, he is also an effective run stopper. He can locate the ball-carrier, and bring them down very well.
Watt is poised to be a top ten draft pick, however that all can change come draft day. While I don't believe he will still be available when the Chargers draft with the 18th pick, it wouldn't hurt to keep an eye on him during the combine, especially if the Chargers get lucky and Watt falls to them when they are scheduled to pick.
NFL.com's Mike Mayock currently has University of Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn rated No.4 (out of 5) of best available outside linebackers in the draft. Clayborn, however, doesn't seem to be on the radar of many analysts out there posting mock drafts. He should be available when the Chargers are ready to pick in the first round.
Clayborn uses his size and power to get past offensive lineman and get in the face of opposing quarterbacks. He does possess great football intelligence. There are some downsides to Adrian Clayborn, which might keep him out of a Chargers uniform.
Clayborn does have some off-field issues, and most everyone knows that doesn't bode well with Chargers general manager A.J. Smith. Case in point—Antonio Cromartie, and Vincent Jackson. If Clayborn can get his act together the Chargers may take a chance on him.
According to the consensus of a number of mock drafts, Cameron Jordan could find himself wearing lightning bolts come April's draft
Jordan possesses a great combination of skills for a 3-4 defensive end prospect—size, strength and speed. He is at his best against the run with his ability to shake blockers and make plays. While he is impressive against the run, the Chargers should be looking for increased production out of pass rushers.
Should Jordan have a good combine, and show strength as a pass rusher the Chargers could end up selecting him in April's draft.
After a stellar performance at the Senior Bowl, it is highly unlikely that Von Miller will still be available when the Chargers are scheduled to select in April's draft.
Miller's draft stock has been constantly on the rise, however it would be in the best interest of the Chargers should they keep an eye on him during the combine. It would be a shot in the dark if Miller lands at the 18th pick, but hey, stranger things have happened on draft day.
Miller exhibits prototypical size and has plenty of speed. He has an explosive first step and closing burst that makes him an amazing pass rusher off the edge. He has the ability to quickly read the running game, filling holes and finishing by delivering violent shots. Miller has an incredible work ethic and a motor that doesn't quit.
As with Von Miller, Akeem Ayers is projected as an early to mid-first round draft pick. So, by the time the Chargers select (that is if they haven't traded up already) he will probably be out of the reach.
Ayers is a player that is bursting with talent. He possesses incredible bursts of speed, especially in closing and the ability to make plays from sideline-to-sideline. Ayers exhibits flashes of amazing athletic and play-making ability. Along with being able to make interceptions, Ayers can also deliver violent tackling blows and make plays even if he is out of position.
If by the grace of the football gods on draft day the Chargers find themselves with the chance to take Ayers in the draft, they shouldn't think twice. Ayers could help bring back the intensity to a Chargers linebacker corps' that hasn't been seen since Shawne Merriman's first full season in the NFL (when he was using the juice).
I don't forsee Casey Matthews going in the first round of the NFL draft, but stranger things have happened. NFL.com's Mike Mayock currently has Matthew's rated No.4 (out of 5) of his best available inside linebackers at the combine.
In some of the mock drafts that are out by analysts, Matthews is projected to go in the 3rd or 4th rounds. If he has a solid combine, he could definitely move up to a early to mid-second round or possibly even a late first.
I'll be honest, I am a fan of Matthews. He comes from a football pedigree that isn't seen often nowadays. His work ethic is outstanding (as can be seen from his brother Clay Matthews, his father Clay Jr., his grandfather Clay Sr., his uncle Bruce, and cousin Kevin) and his football instincts are quite impressive.
Matthews isn't afraid to hit or get hit.
It would be in the best interest of the Chargers to keep a very close eye on Casey Matthews during the combine because his draft stock could rise significantly. Chargers general manager A.J. Smith may not want to pass on Casey the way he passed on his older brother Clay.