Inside Scouting Report: Johnnie Troutman

Though San Diego's 2012 draft class earned rave reviews, one selection that raised eyebrows was fifth-rounder Johnnie Troutman, who will likely miss his rookie year with knee and pectoral injuries. Why did the Chargers, who knew about the ailments, feel compelled to pull the trigger anyway? To find out, read this inside scouting report from the publisher of Fight on State, Mark Brennan.

San Diego picked Johnnie Troutman with its fifth-round selection (No. 149 overall). He started 32 games over his final three seasons at Penn State, thriving as a run blocker while never yielding a full sack. He had his best year as a senior, as he was not penalized and did not permit any QB pressures.

He may be the future at guard, where the Chargers lost All Pro Kris Dielman to retirement earlier this offseason. Starters Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green will both be free agents after the season. However, that future will not be until 2013 at the earliest, as Troutman will likely miss his rookie season with injuries endured prior to the NFL Draft.

Why did the Chargers draft Troutman anyway? To find out, we solicited this inside scouting report from Mark Brennan, the publisher of Fight on State.

Johnnie Troutman signed with Penn State in February of 2006 but delayed enrolling at the school full-time until the following year while recovering from a torn ACL sustained during his senior season of high school. Why does that matter now?

Well, after six years at Penn State (the first semester as a part-time student), the 24-year-old offensive lineman is hardly a prototypical developmental NFL prospect. He'll be 25 by the time the 2012 season ends.

On the positive front, Troutman was essentially a three-year starting guard at Penn State. At 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, he was the strongest player on the team and was at his best while run blocking. He was rarely overpowered.

On the negative front, he lacked the polished footwork necessary to play tackle for the Nittany Lions, as the staff instead used much smaller linemen to handle the edges. If he could not play tackle in the Big Ten, that does not bode well for his versatility at the next level. And with many NFL teams activating only seven or eight O-linemen for games, versatility would seem to be a key trait for any lineman hoping to make a roster as a backup. Troutman never played center at PSU, either.

There was a bit of a wild card in play for Troutman at Penn State though, and it may help explain why the Chargers were willing to take a fifth-round chance on him. Former Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno was constantly harping about Troutman's weight, even though his size — by NFL standards — seemed pretty normal.

Paterno wanted Troutman closer to 300 pounds. Try as he might, Troutman could never quite get there. In the offseason, he would often pack on more pounds, and he'd have to cut significant weight when preseason camp started.

It was sort of a vicious cycle.

In retrospect, it is fair to ask how much better Troutman might have been had Paterno and the Penn State staff spent more time developing his skills as the natural 325-pounder he was and less time trying to transform him into a sleek, athletic guard — like former PSU teammate and 2011 Oakland Raiders rookie starter Stefen Wisniewski. The two have completely different body types. Wisniewski will walk around at 250 pounds when his playing career is complete. It is difficult to envision Troutman ever dipping below 300. He's just a big man.

The Chargers could well be betting that, even in his mid-20s, Troutman can be developed into an NFL starter if he can focus on improving his skills instead of counting calories.

In that regard, missing the 2012 season while recovering from pectoral and knee injuries probably is not all that big of a deal. As noted earlier, right now he does not have the versatility to serve as a backup on NFL game days. And, given his raw skills, the odds of him winning a starting job in 2012 would have been slim.

As things stand, Troutman will be able to attend meetings, watch film and generally learn until he rounds back into top health. And that should put him in a much better position to make a run at an active roster spot in 2013.

Off the field, Troutman is an easygoing type with a good sense of humor. He handles himself well in interview situations. Those who have a chance to interact with him — whether teammates, coaches, media types or fans — will find him to be a likable guy.



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