It is clear that another backup linebacker is in need as Junior Seau is not certain to return, and if he does it will surely be his last season in Blue and Gold. The best scenario is drafting a player who can make an impact in the future, as any day two pick hopes to achieve. Most day two picks will spend the majority of the time on special teams learning the trade and learning valuable technique taught by the coaching staff. Occasionally they may even start if a player ahead of them on the depth chart goes down with injury.
The Chargers are in need of at least one backup and depending on what happens to Seau, they may need more than one. Orlando Ruff was allowed unrestricted free agency status and signed elsewhere. That leaves four linebackers certain to return, and one in limbo.
Donnie Edwards, Ben Leber, Zeke Moreno, and Carlos Polk are certain to return. Beyond that the mystery remains. Four players filling a potential six spots, need is created.
Enter Mike Nattiel, a linebacker out of Florida.
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 220
40 times: 4.57/4.63
Vertical Jump: 36
On a particular day during Senior Bowl week, Tony Pualine had this to say:
|"Nattiel looked good today; outstanding in pass coverage and broke up a lot of throws in all areas of the field. Really gave me the idea today that he had a good understanding for what was happening. Definitely helped himself." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview|
Nattiel played in 35 regular season games with 16 starts. For his career, he had 162 total career tackles (93 solo) with 16 "Big Plays" (5 stuffs, 3 forced hurries, 3 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions and 3 pass deflections). 66 tackles on the season with six "Big Plays" (one stuff, one INT, one forced hurry, one fumble recovery and two pass deflections) in 2001.
Nattiel is a playmaker, while lacking top notch speed and size, thus making him a second day selection; he has great vision and instincts. He has made huge strides in his pass coverage technique, something that is continuing to gain steam among NFL scouts looking at linebackers. Nattiel does have some trouble covering running backs out of the backfield. He plays the outside backer spot and has made a living on blitzes, usually on running downs.
Nattiel has trimmed down some to add more speed to his game. He will bulk up now that he has had his Pro Day and get ready for the rigors of the NFL. He is rising up some Draft boards and is considered a value pick in the fifth round, where previously he was rated as a 6th rounder.
The Chargers have eyes on the linebacker spot after letting Orlando Ruff move into unrestricted free agency and the tenuous situation that is Junior Seau. Seau may stick around for another year, or he could be traded, although not many suitors are lining up, or he could be released after June 1st. Either way another linebacker is needed.
Nattiel would begin to pay his dues as a special teamer as Carlos Polk and Zeke Moreno would stand in front of him on the depth charts. Much like them, he would have to bide his time and perform when called upon to gain a starters role sometime down the road. Nattiel may turn out to be a late round gem for the team that gets him.
The Chargers have been interested in Nattiel since Senior Bowl week and have continued to monitor his progress through his Pro Day. Nattiel elected not to work out during the Senior Bowl, and was 10 pounds heavier then when he worked out at his Pro Day.
Special thanks to Tony Pauline who contributed to this report.
Denis Savage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the following link: Denis Savage
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