SDBR Q-A: SD Has Eyes for Another Tomlinson

Chargers coaches and scouts attended the Senior Bowl looking for players who could upgrade an underperforming offensive line. The team may have found one such player in Duke OG Laken Tomlinson, a road-grader oozing with potential.'s Michael Lombardo caught up with Tomlinson to talk about his projections for the NFL.

The Chargers met with Tomlinson during Senior Bowl week, not that it particularly matters. While many sites report these meetings as an indication of team interest (admittedly, we used to do the same a few years back), the truth is every team meets with every player in attendance with few exceptions.

While all the different meetings ran together for Tomlinson, what stood out was the consistently positive feedback he heard from scouts who had dug into his game film.

“I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback, a lot of stuff you would want to hear,” Tomlinson said. “I’ve talked to almost all the teams and heard good things.”

Tomlinson impressed throughout Senior Bowl week. He is a powerful player who delivers a good initial pop and drives opponents off the ball. He is also surprisingly nimble in space, routinely making blocks on the second level.

Playing against the best senior prospects in the country, he more than held his own.

“It felt good to get back out there and knock some of the rust off,” he said.

Tomlinson, who is from Jamaica and only started playing football in high school, still has a lot of untapped ability. But to say he is a raw prospect is unfair at this point. He started 52 games at Duke and is certain he can step in and make an instant impact in the NFL.

“I’m very confident,” he said. “I feel like whenever I’m needed to start I can start. I could come in and be a starter in the NFL right now.”

Tomlinson’s confidence is a good sign for Chargers fans, as San Diego needs immediate guard help. LG Chad Rinehart struggled this season and is entering the final year of his contract. RG Johnnie Troutman struggled in 2014 as well -- he graded out terribly in both run and pass blocking, according to Pro Football Focus -- and is coming off a knee injury that ended his season prematurely.

Jeromey Clary, who missed last season with a hip injury, announced his retirement earlier this offseason. And Chris Watt, who rotated with Troutman at right guard, is expected to play exclusively at center following the retirement of Nick Hardwick.

Tomlinson is confident he could step in and help the Chargers from Day One, but his confidence should not be confused with arrogance. He is a grounded player who is honest with himself about his strengths and weaknesses, openly admitting his run blocking is better than his pass protection at this point. He is doing what he can to close that gap, starting with spending his offseason training at a camp hosted by former NFL center LeCharles Bentley.

“We’ve been working on how I handle the pass rush, getting off the ball quicker and creating space and things like that to make me that much better,” Tomlinson said. “He’s doing great things to sharpen up my technique and keep me grounded.”

His work with Bentley has made him more confident both on the field and in the interview process. That may be as important as anything else, as all NFL draft prospects now have the next three months to try to sell themselves to one of 32 NFL teams. “Being confident plays a big role,” he said. “When a coach asks you a question, you have to fire back at them and be very confident in your answers.”

Tomlinson tries to model his game after two NFL players, Chance Warmack (Tennessee) and Larry Warford (Detroit). He likes the way they play and tries to take the best parts from their games. While he models himself after those two powerful guards, he may have a little more positional versatility than those two. Although he played only at guard at Duke, he has taken some practice reps at center, as well, and feels he can contribute at any of the three interior line positions.

Originally projected as a late-round pick, Tomlinson’s ascension thus far in the pre-draft process could result in his name being called as early as the fourth round. GM Tom Telesco still must determine where Tomlinson fits on his draft board, but if history has taught us anything, it’s you can’t go wrong drafting a guy named Tomlinson.

Is Tomlinson the man to fix San Diego's O-line? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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