Combine Surprises: San Diego Edition

The Chargers made headway at the combines. The combines are the NFL version of Christmas as executives, coaches and staff takes notes and checks them twice (two 40 yard dashes). San Diego was no different than any other team in that regard, but they did hone in on a few players, and some surprises along the way, including a running back.

It is known that General Manager John Butler likes solid character guys, but he is willing to take a roll of the dice on a player he thinks has turned the corner of maturity. Hey even Tamarick Vanover was allowed back.

So it comes as no surprise that a few sleeper picks enter into the Chargers minds. The guy someone else passes up and turns out to be solid in the NFL. Think a Laveranues Coles type of player, a guy who is mad at the rest of the NFL for passing him up. Now imagine that player lasts even longer into the Draft and believes he is worthy of first day consideration.

Enter South Carolina State RB Derek Watson who the Chargers talked to and scouted at the combine. A running back? Well yeah, running backs do get dinged, tweaked and outright hurt during the season. The Chargers do not have great depth at the position and are looking to upgrade. Fans take LaDainian Tomlinson for granted. He is a fantastic back, but what happens if he goes down for any period of time?

Even Priest Holmes missed some action last season and Marcus Cloud came in to gain 19 yards on 16 carries against this Charger team. Not exactly anyone's idea of a solid backup.

Butler and staff must make the decision on whether Watson has turned his career around. Trouble has followed Watson ever since his breakout year in 2000 when he gained 1,066 yards to lead a previously 0-11 Gamecock team to the Outback Bowl.

Watson never made it to that bowl game. Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz suspended the state's former "Mr. Football" from Palmetto High after Watson admitted to wrecking a teammate's car while driving with a suspended license.

The following February, Watson had a run-in with a student referee at an intramural basketball game. He was charged in May with punching a woman and that brought another suspension.

In January, a drug arrest led to Holtz dismissing Watson permanently. He was convicted on that charge in March and sentenced to 240 hours of community service.

Now at a crossroads Watson is trying to right the ship. Is it worth a San Diego Chargers Draft pick is the question. He has the skills but what abut the attitude?

Derek Watson
South Carolina St
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 210
Running back

Ran a pair of 40's at the combine in the 4.5 range and caught the ball well.

Projected as a late sixth/early seventh round pick before the combines.

Watson is a versatile ball handler with an array of skills. Watson does not take hits head on but rather has more of a slashing style of running which enables him to slide off defenders. He runs with forward lean, quick through the hole and displays a burst of speed in a straight line. Plays with vision, balance and works to avoid defenders or piles.

Watson is also an outstanding receiver out of the backfield, which he showed again at the combines, and effectively lines up in the slot. Times and anticipates his receptions well, adjusts nicely to the errant throw and possesses soft hands. Makes a lot of catches into the defensive secondary and this versatility creates serious mismatches in coverage.

Watson does not pick up much yardage off initial contact and goes down rather easily at times, nor is he fast enough to get outside, around the corner.

"A lot of skills to be a complete player but with the checkered past no one is going to expend anything other than a late round choice for his services." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview

They say no one has a clean past, and that may be true. What indications tell Butler that this man he is scouting has changed and is ready to make an impact? No one knows, everyone has their own idea of when and why someone has changed for the better. The only facts that are know… is Butler has taken a flier on "risky" picks before and some have prospered.

Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Preview contributed to this report.

Denis Savage can be reached at: or via the following link:Denis Savage

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