Chargers hurt by Senior Bowl performances

Every year the best college seniors collect in Mobile hoping to make an impression on NFL coaches and scouts. With Charger coaches handling the South squad for the 55th annual Senior Bowl, this appeared to be a great an opportunity for Marty Schottenheimer and staff to evaluate potential draft picks first hand. Unfortunately, Eli Manning (QB, Ole Miss) and Robert Gallery (OT, Iowa) chose not to attend the game, so the endless debate about whom to draft first would not rear its ugly head.

Instead, Philip Rivers (QB, North Carolina State) showed why he was the best college QB last year and led Marty Schottenheimer's South squad to a 28-10 victory. With a dominant defensive performance and an efficient QB, you have to wonder if Marty actually remembered what it was like to have those two factors in place.

Instead of focusing on which players did not play up to their potential, I am going to look at the players that stood out in this game in detail for the South team. Since Marty's staff worked them out, I think you will see several players from that roster on the Chargers next year. Keep in mind; these games are geared for a QB to have a better performance based on vanilla coverages and lack of blitzing. LB's generally do not look that good because of this as well.

Darnell Dockett, DT, Florida State

Sometimes you watch players in a bowl game with coaches and you get the feeling that the coaches have taken a special interest in that player. It looked like Darnell Dockett was that player for the Chargers coaches. Unfortunately, he may have played himself above the Chargers pick. While he would not fit Dale Lindsay's defense, Dockett appears to be an ideal one gap DT with tremendous explosion off the ball. In fact, his sack was very impressive as he blew off the ball through the gap and grabbed Cody Pickett before Cody was done with his drop. The kid put on a clinic and would be an outstanding 2nd round pick. Based on the play of him and Chad Lavalais, I might take a flyer of a free agent middle linebacker and try to get one of these two kids at the top of the 2nd round.

Philip Rivers, QB, North Carolina State

Philip Rivers is one of the most scrutinized prospects in this year's draft. At first glance, you wonder why. He is a shade less than 6'5", weighs 225 pounds, has a good arm and is one of the most prolific passers in college football history. Despite these positives, scouts have questioned his funky delivery with multiple release points and his lack of athleticism. On Saturday, the scrutinized one dominated the Senior Bowl on his way to an MVP performance. He ended the day going 12-of-19 for 213 yards with 2 TD's. While he may not have the pure physical skills of Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, Rivers displayed quite a bit on Saturday. He displayed a quick release, solid decision making skills, phenomenal timing, a sense of poise, and a willingness to go through his progressions during his performance against the vanilla defenses. Rivers answered his critics and probably cemented himself as a first round pick. While JP Losman may have more physical skills, Philip Rivers has the mental and instinctive things that differentiate the good from the great. I do not think he is the prospect than Manning or Roethlisberger can be, but I do think he is a guy who could develop into what Dan Marino would have been with an average arm rather than a cannon. I could see this kid go anywhere from 11 (Pittsburgh) to 20 (Miami) right now. Unfortunately, I think it breaks down some of the Charger's trade possibilities. Teams in the mid first round probably will have less of a reason to move up.

Devery Henderson, WR, Louisiana State

Lost in the shadow of Michael Clayton, the former RB displayed explosive talent in the Senior Bowl. He beat cornerbacks of all ratings on his way to a 5 catch, 120 yard performance. He might not be the most physical player on the planet, but his speed and athleticism definitely put him as a top of the second round pick. It's kind of hard to judge him solely off of this performance. He was very explosive, but he has also been highly inconsistent in college.

Ernest Wilford, WR, Virginia Tech

The big, physical WR needs a lot of work on his basic routes, but it was obvious that he took to James Lofton's coaching. He displayed a lot of tools to work with as an intermediate possession receiver. Cam Cameron took advantage of his size and used him on a lot of WR screens and quick outs. While he should not be among the top half dozen wide receivers taken, Wilford is a guy with the tools to develop.

Greg Jones, RB, Florida State

This is not a great RB draft and Jones has a lot of warts: a serious knee injury, inconsistency, bad hands, an unwillingness to block, and perceived attitude issues. Despite all those flaws, the 250 pound Jones looked like a machine. He has power, speed, and moves that will remind some of a combination between Marion Butts and Natrone Means. He ran over people and around players making Stuart Schweigert and Brandon Everage look very bad. As a runner, he displayed tremendous talent. The top 3 RB's are pretty much cemented in Stephen Jackson (Oregon State), Kevin Jones (Virginia Tech), and Chris Perry (Michigan); but Jones should battle it out for the fourth position and might give Perry a run for his money with a great combine.

Max Starks, OT, Florida

6'7", 360 pounds with a huge wingspan and pretty good athleticism, Starks has never been the player he was projected to be. On Saturday, he looked better than he ever has with Florida. He played the left side and actually did an admirable job. He made some footwork mistakes and his hand punch needs to be refined, but he did show the athleticism to mirror most strong side DE's. If some coach can get him to do the little things, Starks projects as a complete RT with the ability to be a pretty good player.

Daryl Smith, LB, Georgia Tech

The game really does not play itself to LBs and most of the top guys struggled. Dontarrio Thomas was a step behind. Teddy Lehman played average ball. The guy that stood out was Daryl Smith out of Georgia Tech. While he had a good game, he really distinguished himself on special teams. He is undersized, but he made good reads, shed blockers, and made plays from sideline to sideline.

Madeiu Williams, S, Maryland

He is a little undersized, but the guy can flat out hit and made a lot of great breaks on the ball. While he was not as heralded as a lot of other safeties, the Maryland standout easily displayed the best pure centerfield skills by a wide margin. He also threw his body around sticking a couple of the North's RB's. Like Terrance Kiel, I could see this kid making a big time rise in the draft standings.

Alan Reuber, OT, Texas A&M

Struggled against movement against Shaun Phillips, however he did dominate Phillips and the other DE's in the run game. He will never be a great pass protector, but he plays the position intelligently and his strength makes him a very good run blocker. He is a guy to take a look at once the top guys are off the board.

Other Thoughts

The corners for the South played pretty well with Bruce Thornton (Georgia), Keiwan Ratliff (Florida), Greg Brooks (Southern Miss), and Keith Smith (McNeese State) all look to have some skill level at the CB position Brooks's teammate, S Etric Pruitt, made a lot of plays. David Ball (UCLA) and Bobby McCray (Florida) are long, linear athletes. Ball has the better motor, but McCray has more overall talent. Neither appears to be solid players against the run, but both appear to have pass rush potential. Ball made one real good play by staying at home and sniffing out a misdirection play for a big loss. The OL has some interesting interior players in Stephen Peterman (Louisiana State), Sean Locklear (NC State) and Jake Grove (Virginia Tech).

Rob Curtis can be reached at rcurtis3355@yahoo.com

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