San Diego Chargers: Latest Combine News and Rumors
The most important job interview of a young player's life begins Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium, where participants will demonstrate their physical and mental abilities for the league's 32 franchises at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The seven-day event will allow the San Diego Chargers to get an up-close look at the players they may be targeting in the upcoming draft and rookie free agents they can sign afterward. Those who succeed in scheduled drills and workouts will get that much closer to realizing their dream of becoming a pro.
The following is a collection of headlines, rumors and facts to consider leading up to the combine.
Melvin Gordon a Must-Watch for San Diego
The running back class of 2015 is deep, but for those few teams willing to draft one early, the resulting player could be worth the risk. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon tore it up at the college level, achieving the second-most rushing yards in FBS history with 2,587 last season. It doesn't take years of scouting experience to determine that Gordon is special, but will that carry over into his pro career?
I only ask because the great Mel Kiper Jr. has tabbed Gordon to the Chargers (h/t Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com) in his latest mock draft on ESPN. San Diego had one of the least efficient running games in 2014, as injuries displaced the team's top three backs for much of the year. In addition, former 2010 first-rounder Ryan Mathews will become a free agent in March. Depending on what the Bolts decide with Mathews, it could affect how high or low they value a running back in the draft.
Gordon's every move will be under heavy scrutiny at the combine. Teams will be looking for any excuse not to take him in the first round, but a compelling performance could validate him as a top pick.
Heavy Focus on Offensive Line Prospects
The offensive line is in need of a lot of work this offseason. Philip Rivers came out of 2014 with a bad back as a result of all the hits he took, and ball-carriers often found themselves cornered by defenders within a few seconds of the snap. The Chargers could address this in free agency, but shelling out big money for a veteran is never a surefire move these days.
Figuring out which spot is the most troublesome may be the hardest part. Nick Hardwick's recent retirement leaves San Diego with the difficult task of replacing Rivers' longtime center sooner rather than later. Five different players started at the position last season, and only one of them is under contract for 2015: Chris Watt. The Notre Dame product tested the waters at center in his rookie season, but his future may still be at guard.
Second-year man D.J. Fluker could be moving from his right tackle spot next season. The former 2011 first-rounder is flourishing as a run-blocker, but pass protection is still one of the weaker parts in his game. Sliding Fluker inside could cover up that weakness and fill the team's need for a new right guard.
If that were to happen, though, a replacement right tackle would be added to San Diego's list of needs. The impending free agency of left tackle King Dunlap also has to be considered.
One potential first-rounder who has plenty to prove at the combine is Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi. NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein lists Ogbuehi as one of 10 prospects with the most to prove in Indianapolis; he's coming off a torn ACL and won't be able to do much. NFL teams will get an idea of his strength, however, as he plans to participate in the bench press.
The answer to San Diego's problems on the offensive line could be in Indy this week.
Goldman a Repeat Choice for Chargers in Mock Drafts
Florida State defensive lineman Eddie Goldman has been popping up on a few mock drafts going to San Diego with the 17th overall pick. ESPN's Todd McShay is one of the analysts making that prediction along with Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com. At 300-plus pounds, Goldman is well equipped in stopping the run, but what scouts really admire about him is his agility and quickness despite being that heavy.
If Goldman can still promise that same athleticism in some tight workout clothes, then he should be a shoo-in for the first round. The Chargers lacked a run-stuffing presence up front last season, and Goldman's forte was wrapping up ball-carriers. I think we have a match here.
Time to Look at a Quarterback?
It's difficult to picture a Chargers offense without Rivers at the helm, but that day will come eventually. The 33-year-old has one year left on his contract, which San Diego's brass may try to restructure this offseason, and durability could be a concern as he nears his 12th season. The good news is that Rivers will not need back surgery after the punishment he took in 2014, but could this be a warning sign that his body is starting to break down?
Prepping a quarterback for the future wouldn't hurt. By no means is this year's group one of the best, but seeing what's out there could lead to bringing in another arm for training camp. The combine allows San Diego to take a gander at the talent and see if there's anything worth bidding on. I'm not saying use a draft pick on a quarterback, but see if there's one worth considering as a free agent.