- Eric D. Williams, ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter
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The final groups finished working out at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, with the defensive backs wrapping things up at Lucas Oil Field on Tuesday. Several players helped themselves by posting strong numbers in front of NFL scouts.
Chargers secondary coach Ron Milus was among a handful of NFL coaches on the field helping to run the defensive back drills, so he got an up-close look at some of the secondary prospects available in this year’s draft.
Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert solidified spots in the first round by running fast in the 40-yard dash. Dennard ran an official time of 4.51 seconds, while Gilbert clocked the fastest time among defensive backs at 4.37 seconds.
I do not believe either of those players will be around when San Diego selects at No. 25. However, defensive back remains a need position for the Chargers, so here are a handful of players who had good days and might make sense for the Chargers on draft day.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama: At 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds, Clinton-Dix is a rangy center fielder who can cover a tight end or a slot receiver, but also come down and be physical as a run defender. Clinton-Dix proved he’s fast enough, running a 4.58-second 40-yard time. And he was productive at Alabama (five interceptions in 2012).
Phillip Gaines, Rice: Projected as a late-round prospect, Gaines raised a few eyebrows with his impressive performance, including a 4.38-second 40-yard time, a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump, and a 36-inch vertical jump. At 6-foot and 193 pounds, Gaines also looked fluid in defensive back drills and could rise up the draft board with the success the Seattle Seahawks had with bigger cornerbacks the past two seasons.
Bennett Jackson, Notre Dame: A former receiver and team caption for the Fighting Irish, Jackson looked fluid in positional drills and showed good ball skills. At 6-foot and 195 pounds, Jackson is fast enough (4.51-second 40-yard dash). Jackson also jumped well (38-inch vertical; 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump). Bennett played special teams at Notre Dame and could be a developmental prospect.
Calvin Pryor, Louisville: At 5-11 and 207 pounds, he’s a thumper. Pryor gets to the football quickly and can deliver a blow. With teams playing five defensive back nearly 60 percent of the time to match up with passing offenses, the fifth defensive back is essentially a starter. So Pryor could see the field a lot in San Diego’s system. He can play close to the line of scrimmage or back as a deep safety, so Pryor would give the Chargers some scheme versatility. Pryor ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash.
Bradley Roby, Ohio State: According to NFL talent evaluators, Roby had an uneven performance in his final season for the Buckeyes. But at 5-11 and 194 pounds, there’s no denying Roby’s athletic prowess. He ran an official 40-yard time of 4.39 seconds and looked athletic and fluid during defensive back drills.
Jason Verrett, TCU: Verrett told reporters in Indianapolis that the Chargers are one of the teams he was scheduled to meet with at the scouting combine. At 5-9 and 189 pounds, he’s smaller than the ideal size an NFL team looks for in a corner, but Verrett handled his business during the workout. He ran an official 4.38-second 40-yard dash, catching the eye of Deion Sanders, one of the best corners to ever play the game. What’s more impressive about Verrett is that his production matches his athleticism. Since the start of the 2012 season, Verrett is tops in the Big 12 with 38 passes defensed, including eight interceptions. He’s a playmaker and he’s versatile. Verrett can play inside on the slot or outside on the perimeter, and is effective as a blitz guy on passing downs.
The final groups finished working out at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, with the defensive backs wrapping things up at Lucas Oil Field on Tuesday.