The Chargers shocked a lot of people by picking Larry English in the first round of last year's draft. But San Diego liked what it saw from English both at NIU -- where he averaged more than 10 sacks per season over his final three years -- and at the Senior Bowl, where he wowed scouts with his pass-rushing skills and football IQ.
Three rounds after selecting English, the Chargers drafted another player from the 2009 Senior Bowl, Auburn OL Tyronne Green.
It's too early to tell who the Chargers will fall in love with at this year's Senior Bowl, but here's what we'll be watching:
1. Who can fill the glaring needs?
San Diego's two biggest needs are at defensive line and running back; there will be plenty of talent at both positions. On the D-line, Tennessee's Dan Williams and Alabama's Terrence Cody are both first-round possibilities for the Chargers. And at running back, Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon, Tennessee's Montario Hardesty and Auburn's Ben Tate will each try to prove he's the next LaDainian Tomlinson.
Another player we'll watch is USC OT Charles Brown, who was projected to be the Chargers' first-round pick in Chris Steuber's latest mock draft.
2. Who fits San Diego's schemes?
With the help of Brent Sobieski of the Orange and Brown Report, we'll analyze the players on the practice fields and let you know who fits the Chargers' schemes. We already know some types of players that interest A.J. Smith: tall receivers who can run; massive offensive linemen with attitudes; defensive linemen who can occupy multiple blockers; and pretty much anybody who lines up at cornerback.
And even though the Chargers' coaching staff will be getting ready for the Pro Bowl, San Diego will still have plenty of scouts in attendance in Mobile. We'll find out which players pique their interests and pass that information along.
3. Who are the Chargers talking to?
One of the things we track every offseason is who the Chargers are talking to at the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine and pre-draft workouts. However, the Senior Bowl list has become less valuable in recent years as the Chargers look to talk (at least briefly) with nearly every player in attendance.
To counter that, we'll dig deeper by asking the players about their interviews and letting them gauge the interest of the various NFL teams.
Of course, this doesn't always work. Last season, we talked to English the week before the draft and he denied having met with the Chargers at the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine or via a private workout. In fact, the only interaction we saw firsthand between English and the Chargers came when one of the team's scouts pulled him aside…following one of last year's Senior Bowl practices.
Learn more about this year's Senior Bowl coverage inside our message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.
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