NFL Draft Update: Vaughn, Brinkley, Johnson

The San Diego Chargers have made no secret of their desire to get stronger and deeper at safety and linebacker. With that in mind,'s Ed Thompson serves up the latest updates on three prospects who fit the bill: Wake Forest SS Chip Vaughn, South Carolina linebacker Jasper Brinkley and Alabama safety Rashad Johnson.

The Oakland Raiders and the Falcons are among the teams who appear to have safety Chip Vaughn high on their list of draft prospects.

The Wake Forest defensive back told that he had already completed a private workout for Oakland and is now scheduled to visit the Raiders on Tuesday, April 14. And the 6-foot-1, 221-pound defensive back worked out on April 7 in front of a heavy-duty group of representatives from the Atlanta Falcons that he said included General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, Head Coach Mike Smith and Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder. 

Should Vaughn get drafted by the Raiders, he'd end up playing on the team of one of his NFL idols, a hard-hitting safety who bore the nickname "Assassin" and who had retired from the game five years before Vaughn was born.

"I first saw Jack Tatum play when I was watching old games on the NFL Network," Vaughn said during his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine. "And his one hit when they were playing the Minnesota Vikings, a guy ran a deep-dig route and Jack Tatum came out of nowhere, knocked his helmet off and everything. And I said, 'oh my God, who is this guy?'. And after that, I looked him up on Google, YouTube and everything to learn about Jack Tatum." 

The highly versatile and speedy safety says that he models his game after Tatum and former Redskins safety Sean Taylor.

"I feel that those are two guys who brought it, every play. I think they kind of changed the game in their respective eras," he said.

In addition to the recent interest from those two teams, Vaughn has previously worked out for the New England Patriots and visited the Buffalo Bills. And he reported that the Bills, the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, and the New York Giants showed strong interest in him at Wake Forest's Pro Day. In fact, Vaughn even had lunch with the Browns that day, and he spent a long time talking with the Jaguars staff since they had coached him during the Senior Bowl.

South Carolina linebacker Jasper Brinkley distinguished himself on the football field with his bruising hits on opposing players, and then followed that up by placing sixth in the 40-yard dash, fourth in the vertical jump, seventh in the bench press and eighth in both the 20-yard shuttle and the three-cone drill at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

LB Jasper Brinkley at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

"I went into the Combine flying under the radar a bit, and I knew I had some questions going in there about whether or not my knee was back to 100 percent," he said during a phone interview. "I feel like I answered all of those questions at the Combine."

Those questions were lingering because after a brilliant 2006 season that put Brinkley into the national spotlight due to his 107 tackles, his 2007 season ended prematurely due to a knee injury just four games into the Gamecocks' season. He had surgery on the knee and then battled his way back into shape so that he'd be ready for the 2008 season.

"The thing I'm most proud of is the way I came back from the injury, how I came back and played at an optimal level, and being able to perform at a high level against my opponents," he said. "Sometimes people have that type of injury and never return, so that was a blessing."

At the Combine, Brinkley had formal interviews with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cowboys, Dolphins, Vikings, and Bengals. At his Pro Day, the linebackers coaches from the Dolphins and the Bengals were there to run the linebackers through their paces. And this week, the Cowboys are scheduled to bring him in for a visit on the 13th, followed by the Cleveland Browns on the 15th.

Brinkley's excited about the opportunities—and about what he'll be able to provide to his new team.

"I'm definitely a student of the game. I'm a downhill player, a hard-nosed, blue-collar guy who comes ready to work every day," he said. "I've got great character. I'm the kind of guy where you can go home at night and rest your head on the pillow knowing that you won't have to worry about me at night.

"I feel I'm definitely the kind of person you can build your team around. I want to be one of the best players in the league who has ever played my position, and that's going to take a lot of hard work. But I'm the kind of person who's willing to do that. I'm the kind of guy who wants to do whatever I can to help my team win a championship."

Ask Alabam's Rashad Johnson what he thinks NFL coaches notice about his play when they watch his game film, and he'll point out two aspects of his game that he believes are readily evident.

Rashad Johnson at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

"You can tell I have the instincts, you can see that I put myself in position to make a lot of plays," he said.

Does he ever.

Johnson picked-off a team-leading five passes during his senior season, pushing his career total to 11 interceptions. He also forced four fumbles and made 216 tackles for the Crimson Tide over the course of his 38 game appearances.

After making the decision to let his performance numbers from the Combine stand, the former walk-on headed into his team's Pro Day with three main goals.

"I just wanted to show them that I can open my hips, I can break well, and as a DB they want to see that you can catch the ball. And I showed them that I can do that as well," he said.

Something else that NFL coaches and talent evaluators have undoubtedly noticed about Johnson as they've talked with him over the last few months is the energy level that he brings to every interaction with people, both on and off the field.

"I think it was during my meeting with the Texans, and when it was over the coach said, 'man, you had fire in your eyes during the entire conversation. We haven't had anyone come in here with that kind of fire while they've been talking to us,'" Johnson recalled. "But I just get excited about it, it's something I love to do and I want to do it for a long time. So why wouldn't I get excited about it?"

Johnson told that a few of the other teams he sat down with at the Combine were the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints. The Falcons and the Broncos are among the teams he's worked out for already, and two of the teams that he's visited are the Eagles and the Broncos.

Click the player names to learn more about Chip Vaughn, Jasper Brinkley, Rashad Johnson.

Click here for more coverage of your favorite NFL team.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and at You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Or contact him by email through this link.

BoltsReport Top Stories