Q&A with Draft Analyst Chris Steuber, Part II

LaDainian Tomlinson and Gartrell Johnson (Getty)

Scout.com Draft Analyst Chris Steuber wraps up his Q&A on the San Diego Chargers' 2009 draft class. Can Gartrell Johnson emerge as the next Michael Turner? Is Brandon Hughes an upgrade over DeJuan Tribble? Will Kevin Ellison prove he can run with the big boys?

Editor's Note: To read Part I of this Q&A, where Steuber talks about Larry English, Louis Vasquez, Vaughn Martin and Tyronne Green, click here.

Michael Lombardo: Chargers fans are optimistic that Gartrell Johnson can replace Michael Turner as San Diego's power back. Do you see that happening?

Chris Steuber: They have similar games, but physically and athletically, Turner is above Johnson. During the draft process in 2004, the 5-foot-10, 237-pound Turner ran a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. That was impressive speed for a bulldozer-type runner like Turner, although he was still a fifth-round pick. Johnson has a similar frame, but is about 15 pounds lighter and two-tenths of a second slower than Turner.

Johnson flew under the radar during his career at Colorado State and it wasn't until his performance at the New Mexico Bowl -- where he had 27 carries for 285 yards and two touchdowns, as well as five receptions for 90 yards -- that scouts finally realized his potential.

Turner and Johnson are similar in the sense that they're big backs who run hard and can contribute in the passing game. It's unfair to compare Johnson to Turner at this time, but two years from now I wouldn't be surprised to see Johnson emerge the way Turner had in San Diego.


CB Brandon Hughes
Kevin Terrell/Getty

ML: The Bolts drafted Brandon Hughes and promptly released last year's sixth-round pick, DeJuan Tribble. Do you see Hughes as an upgrade over Tribble? How would you compare the two?

CS: They're similar in stature, but their games are different. Hughes is a physical corner who challenges receivers at the line of scrimmage, while Tribble is a playmaker who likes to play off the line and use his anticipation skills. Personally, I'd favor Tribble even though he's a touch smaller, because he's smoother as a defender and possesses better ball skills. Hughes has ability, but during his career at Oregon State he only had three interceptions out of 36 passes defended. If that ratio continues in the NFL, he's going to be frustrating to watch.

ML: The big knock on Kevin Ellison is his lack of speed. Will that be enough to keep him off the field?

CS: When you see a player who's had knee and leg problems during his collegiate career line up at a crucial position like safety and run a 4.81 in the 40 at the Scouting Combine – that usually draws a red flag.

But what I really appreciate about Ellison is his overall preparation for the game. He's one of the hardest working players you will ever encounter and has a true passion for the game. Even though he doesn't have elite speed, Ellison is a heavy hitter who could be an effective strong safety in the NFL. He's a solid blitzer and defends well against the run. If he doesn't work out at safety, the Chargers could try him at linebacker. At worst, he will be a quality special teams player.

ML: What did you think of the decision to draft Demetrius Byrd just one week after his car accident? Is it worth the gamble at that point?

CS: If he was never in the car accident, he would have been a fourth-round pick. I think Byrd was worth the gamble, because if he's able to recover, become the same kind of receiver he was at LSU and continue to develop – the Chargers made out nicely. When you're drafting in the seventh round, you're looking for guys with potential, and even though there may have been "safer" alternatives on the board at the time, Byrd was a value pick who we'll know more about in a year or two.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber's features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com.

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