James Holt was a two-year starter and All-Big 12 honoree at Kansas. But despite his productivity against top competition, he slipped through the cracks and failed to hear his name called on draft day.
Holt certainly posted draft-worthy numbers during his senior campaign. He started 13 games and finished with 105 total tackles, 10 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and an interception.
Unfortunately for Holt, his pre-draft workout numbers were not nearly as sexy. Most damaging was a 4.72 40-time, which raised questions about Holt's ability to adjust to the speed of the NFL.
Kevin Flaherty of Scout.com's Kansas site, PHOG.net, insists Holt plays faster than his timed speed indicates. However, he realizes the NFL is all about measurables, so Holt's limited speed and marginal size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) will be challenging to overcome.
LB James Holt
Measurables are often overrated in the pre-draft process. Flaherty brings up the case of Miami LB Spencer Adkins, who started only five games during his college career yet was drafted in the sixth round by the Atlanta Falcons after running a sub-4.5 40.
"As a player, Holt was absolutely underrated," he said. "There wasn't a skill-set that he didn't demonstrate in his college career. He produced more than several players who were drafted. Two Big 12 linebackers, Cody Glenn and Brad Jones, were drafted ahead of Holt and neither was nearly the player Holt was."
"Even last year, Holt's best, he was stepped over for first-team all-conference honors for players with less complete seasons," Flaherty said.
Flaherty believes Holt's production is what set him apart. He feels that at the very least, San Diego has gained a potential key contributor on special teams. At best, the Bolts picked up a player with pass-rushing prowess and sideline-to-sideline ability.
"I wouldn't want to bet against him," he said. "He reads plays well and can give you everything from a pass rusher to a coverage linebacker. One thing's for sure: he won't give up his football career without a fight."
Holt was originally recruited by Kansas to be a defensive back. But as he hit the gym and filled out his frame, he quickly made the transition from DB to backup linebacker. After excelling on special teams and in spot duty, he soon became a starter.
"The Chargers are gaining a versatile playmaker who, if nothing else, will be a great guy to have in the locker room," Flaherty said. "Holt was known on the KU team as the guy who would crack a joke in the huddle of a close game to lighten the mood. He's a player who elevates his play in big games."
Holt only gained two years starting experience at KU, but he made up for lost time and led Kansas in tackles for loss (19.5), sacks (10) and forced fumbles (six) last season. He also proved invaluable as a leader on Kansas' defense.
Despite being undrafted and underrated, Flaherty likes Holt's chances for longevity.
"He has a chance to be one of those non-draft picks who winds up panning out and playing in the league," he said.