SD Focuses on Unheralded D-Lineman

San Diego recently visited with a blue-collar defensive end that could help beef up the team's defensive front seven. Comparable to former Chargers player Ryon Bingham, this SEC product figures to be available late in the NFL Draft.

The Chargers recently visited with Auburn defensive lineman Zach Clayton. It was more than just a cursory visit, too, as sources tell that San Diego is one of the teams showing the most serious interest in the 6-foot-2, 299-pound lineman.

A key member of the Tigers' vaunted defensive line -- a unit that may produce the top overall pick in this year's draft, DT Nick Fairley -- Clayton produced 55 tackles and five sacks during his final three seasons. Those numbers would have been even better had he not missed seven games during an injury-plagued junior season.

DL Zach Clayton
San Diego is in the market for help at defensive end, as Jacques Cesaire and Travis Johnson are both set to become unrestricted free agents. Vaughn Martin will likely move up the ladder and take a good chunk of those snaps, but more help will be needed to fill out the back end of the rotation.

Clayton may have worked his way onto San Diego's radar with a strong effort at his Pro Day, where he ran in the high 4.6s and recorded a 10-foot broad jump. He also posted the most reps on the bench press of any player in attendance, including Fairely, finishing with 27.

"I really wanted 30, but I guess you can't get too greedy, so I am happy with 27 reps," Clayton said. "Hopefully, it will help me out."

During his workout, Clayton was pulled aside by Denver Broncos coach John Fox, who had some encouraging words for the less heralded of Auburn's starting tackles. As we now know, the Broncos are not the only AFC West team looking at Clayton.

"I talked to some scouts from other NFL teams and the feedback was positive," Clayton added.

The Chargers make schematic sense for Clayton, who could be an ideal five-technique player in Greg Manusky's three-man front. A former shot-putter, he has the lower-body strength to occupy multiple blockers and anchor against the run. He also has the quickness to make plays in the backfield; he recorded 7.5 tackles for loss in 2008 and eight more in 2010.

If the Chargers target Clayton, they may pluck him with one of their two selections in the sixth round.

How should the Bolts re-tool their defensive line? Discuss in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His work has been published by NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.

BoltsReport Top Stories