Chaz Powell: DB//KR/WR?
Career Stats: 18 carries, 147 yards rushing, 3 rush TD, 33 receptions, 414 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD, 52 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 9 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, 73 kick returns, 1866 return yards, 2 return TD
Workouts and Measurables:
Powell was invited to the NFL Combine, where he measured in at 6'0 and 203 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, put up 17 reps on the bench press, and had a 33-inch vertical jump with a 121-inch broad jump. He improved on that first number at Penn State's Pro Day, where he said he ran in the "4.4 range."
College Career: Typically, players who are recruited as an "athlete" will settle into one position for the majority of their playing career. Not Chaz Powell. Right from the outset of his Penn State career, it was clear that Penn State would utilize Powell in a number of roles, using his versatility to the team's advantage. In that respect, it was assumed that Powell would follow in the footsteps of Derrick Williams who, during Powell's freshman season in 2008, became the first Nittany Lion to score touchdowns rushing, receiving, and on a kick return. When Powell donned Williams' #2 the next year, it seemed to be a symbolic passing of the torch.
But, of course, the best laid plans of mice and man often go awry. Where Williams seemed to excel in an offense that at times appeared designed just to get him touches, Powell failed to stand out in one that prioritized other playmakers. It's not that Powell struggled, it's just that in becoming a jack of all trades, he mastered none, and found himself passed over by other players who'd settled into a more specific role.
And so, by his junior year, necessitated as much by a stunning lack of secondary depth as an effort to find Powell a permanent home, the Gadget Player Experiment was scrapped, with Powell taking his athleticism to the other side of the ball. Powell was a quick study--playing cornerback for the first time in his college career, he immediately became the team's nickel, and found himself the starter during the second half of the season, a job he did not relinquish during his senior season.
Admittedly, it's hard for corners to stand out in the soft cover-3 zone that Penn State employed under Joe Paterno and Tom Bradley, but Powell rarely seemed out of position, and proved himself a capable tackler. All the while, Powell remained Penn State's premier kick returner, and was, at the least, extremely capable in that role. Coupling his speed with top-notch vision, the vast majority of Powell's struggles as a return man were due to the annoyingly common breakdowns among the blocking team rather than any fault of his own.
Powell is a tremendous athlete, but he's still very raw in the secondary--though he's got two years of experience now, he still hasn't shown much scheme diversity. I'm not sure he's ever played any bump-and-run, for instance, and he'll need to be groomed into an NFL corner. The benefit to any interested team, though, is that Powell isn't a guy who'll have to be stashed on special teams or be inactive while he learns and grows as a defensive back. Immediately, he can step in and return kicks for a team that's deficient in that area. And, should the entire wide receiver corps come down with the flu, Powell is uniquely able to provide some emergency depth at that position, too--kind of like a bizarro Mike Furrey.
Long story short, Powell is too athletic and versatile not to make at least some impact in the NFL, and though he likely won't be more than a late-round draft pick, odds are better that he's a diamond in the rough than a wasted selection.