Clyde Edwards-Helaire & Anthony McFarland are excellent

February 17th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is special

The Seahawks have a type at running back. Aside from a preferred physical style, size matters. They’ve consistently drafted running backs with a similar profile:

Robert Turbin — 5-10, 222lbs, 36 inch vert, 10-2 broad
Christine Michael — 5-10, 220lbs, 43 inch vert, 10-5 broad
C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs, 35.5 inch vert, 10-1 broad
Chris Carson — 6-0, 218lbs, 37 inch vert, 10-10 broad
Rashaad Penny — 5-11, 220lbs, 32.5 inch vert, 10-0 broad

They like 5-10/6-0 in height, around 220lbs in weight with explosive traits.

For that reason, they might not be interested in the two players I’m going to write about today.

Nevertheless, I’m writing about them anyway. Because they’re really good.

I think Clyde Edwards-Helaire might be the best running back in the class. I believe he and Anthony McFarland are among the top-50 players in terms of pure talent.

I doubt they’ll both go in that range, although it might be possible for Edwards-Helaire. With D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins expected to go early, there might not be room for a fourth running back to go in the first 50 picks. Edwards-Helaire should be considered in that range. Whoever lands either player is unlikely to be disappointed.

Neither fits the Seahawks size profile. McFarland is listed at about 5-9 and 200lbs with Edwards-Helaire at 5-8 and 208lbs. There’s always room for a outlier (see: 5-10 franchise quarterback taken in round three) but for the most part the Seahawks stick to what they know and like.

Ohio State’s Dobbins, for example, is 5-10 and 220lbs and he could be the most explosive player who tests at the combine this year. At SPARQ he jumped a 43 inch vertical, ran a 4.09 short shuttle and finished with an elite score of 146.76. That’s generally the type of player the Seahawks go for at the position.

Jonathan Taylor had fumbling issues at Wisconsin but at SPARQ he ran a 4.42 forty and he could easily get into the 4.3’s in Indianapolis. Combine that with a 4.30 short shuttle and a 35 inch vertical and it’s a NFL phyical profile with ideal size (5-11, 220lbs).

D’Andre Swift (5-9, 215lbs) ran a 4.15 short shuttle at SPARQ and he jumped a 33 inch vertical. Essentially, there’s a lot of very athletic and very talented runners at the top of this draft and overall it’s a class that deserves more attention.

With other needs it’s perhaps unlikely the Seahawks would consider taking any of the names mentioned in this piece so far. While they need to add a runner, they also see Chris Carson as the future of the position and they’re not going to give up on Rashaad Penny due to one injury. They’ll probably look for a C.J. Prosise replacement with a track record of availability and ball security.

That said, with their desire to run frequently and with physicality — replenishing the running back stable with proper, quality talent isn’t a terrible idea. Especially with the need to make a call on Carson’s contract over the next 12 months.

We’ve been talking about McFarland for a couple of years on the blog. He might not be the kind of bludgeoning runner Seattle covets but his quickness, turbo acceleration and electrifying ability with the ball in hand could make him a star at the next level.

He destroyed Ohio State in 2018. Give him any kind of crease and he’ll explode through a lane to break off big gains. He’s patient to allow blocks to develop and his cut-back ability is exhilarating. He accelerates quickly and he’s capable of beating anyone in a foot race. He’s a chunk yardage specialist. McFarland won’t get people out of their seats in the way Marshawn Lynch did by running people over — but they’ll be cheering his dynamism as he rolls off another 35-yarder to launch another scoring drive. He has special qualities and extreme talent.

It’s understandable why the Seahawks prefer bigger, more explosive runners. Yet I’ve always wanted to see a proper compliment to the power and that’s what McFarland brings. Pure electricity.

He’s not just a speed or scat back either. He’s very difficult to tackle and bring down. There’s plenty of evidence of him avoiding first contract or darting through an arm tackle to create an explosive play. He ran a 4.04 short shuttle at SPARQ and you see that sudden change of direction, short-area quickness and agility on show as he escapes defenders to find space.

He’s not going to be the type of player you run up the gut 20 times to wear down an opponent. Given his size, there’s every chance he’ll have some negative plays along the way, especially with the quality of defender at the next level and the sheer level of penetration most defense’s create.

Yet we’ve just seen the 49ers reach the Super Bowl featuring a number of different running backs, including 5-10, 205lbs Raheem Mostert. His ability to provide explosive running plays that shift field position, create cheap scoring opportunities and demand attention was a huge reason why the Niners almost won a Championship.

Mostert’s 2019 impact could force teams to take a serious look at McFarland. It won’t be a surprise if he goes in the same range as Alvin Kamara — another player who really had no business lasting until round three.

I suspect whoever drafts him will get a steal. As long as he can stay healthy (he missed games at Maryland) he’s exactly the type of X-factor talent that can be cost-effective and a vital part of a running back rotation.

Edwards-Helaire was a revelation for LSU. As good as Joe Burrow was in 2019 — he was the best player in college football, he fully deserved the Heisman and he’s the right choice for Cincinnati with the #1 pick — it’s easy to forget just how much talent was on that offense.

They had two excellent receivers in Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. The O-line had quality players like the underrated guard Damien Lewis (one of my favourites on the O-line) and center Lloyd Cushenberry. Thaddeus Moss produced results as a blocker and receiver at tight end. Next to Burrow in the backfield was one of the very best players in the country (at any position) at running back.

Edwards-Helaire was just a joy to watch. He ran with intensity, fire, physicality and left everything on the field. He’d gain extra yards on contact, he was slippery enough to dodge tacklers and break off big gains. You could bounce him outside on a stretch or find the perimeter with a sweep but he was equally adept at getting the tough yards up the gut.

As a receiver he was an underrated mismatch at the second level. Edwards-Helaire did a tremendous job ghosting into coverage, settling down and providing an option for Burrow. He has good hands and he’s a natural catcher. LSU converted several key third downs using Edwards-Helaire as a check-down or final read. His diminutive size and quickness are hard to defend. He’s also a really good route runner. I can’t recall a runner with his ability to deliver crisp routes like he does.

Whenever they needed a play, Edwards-Helaire seemed to deliver. Big runs to finish games and wind the clock, important touchdowns, extending drives at a time of need. He could break off major runs as he showed with an 89-yard score against Arkansas. He provided 453 receiving yards to go with his 1,414 as a runner and 17 total touchdowns. 36% of his carries were for first downs or touchdowns in 2019.

He’s the definition of grit and determination and even though he’s undersized — it doesn’t really matter. You can win with him. He’s so explosive, so tough, so athletic. He plays beyond his frame in the same way Maurice Jones-Drew did. The other name that springs to mind watching him — and I’m deadly serious about this — is Barry Sanders. I’m not for a second suggesting he will get anywhere close to Sanders’ NFL career. However, they do share similar qualities, physical profiles (Sanders played at 5-8 and 203lbs and had similar testing numbers) and there are ‘Sanders-esque’ flashes on tape.

He’s aggressive and tough but also silky smooth in the open-field with loose hips and the ability to pivot, change direction and jump-cut. He can equally be a battering ram and a Rolls Royce. I don’t think I’ve seen a runner take it to Alabama like he did in 2019 and he energised the LSU sideline in numerous games with his running style.

Importantly for the Seahawks he shows excellent ball security. He didn’t have a single fumble in his three years in college. He provides special teams value and played as a kick returner throughout his time at LSU.

Edwards-Helaire is also a tremendous athlete. At SPARQ he ran a 4.04 short shuttle. That’s a quality time. Throw in a 40 inch vertical and a 4.47 forty at 201lbs on a 5-8 body. He is the definition of speed, quickness, agility and explosive power. He also has exceptional character and attitude.

Teams should tap into the talent on the LSU Championship roster. They have the character, attitude, winning mentality and most importantly the talent to succeed.

If Edwards-Helaire was the first running back off the board — nobody should question it. For me he’s right up there. For all the attention D’Andre Swift receives — Edwards-Helaire and Dobbins are arguably just as well placed to come into the league and play to a high standard.

I can’t project the Seahawks to draft Edwards-Helaire or McFarland much in the way I can’t project a cornerback in the first two rounds. When you have ten years of history and evidence to refer to and there are clear preferences — you can’t ignore that.

In the case of Edwards-Helaire in particular, I would love to think the Seahawks might see him as an outlier. He’s everything they want in a runner, just in a smaller package. At the very least he could develop into a Darren Sproles type. I think he can be much more. I think he can lead a rushing attack.

With Seattle’s fumbling issues in 2019, he’s a player who doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s tough and physical. He can be a superb and reliable pass-catcher and he can compete to return kicks. That’s a lot of value and a lot of talent to ignore for the sake of a few pounds or inches in height. He’s worth considering for this team.

Free agency will dictate their ability to consider certain positions early in the draft. If they haven’t fixed the D-line fully, if they haven’t added weapons for Russell Wilson and if holes are not filled on the O-line — they can’t look at running backs, even if Carson and Penny are returning from injury.

If they fill their greatest needs in the market — they have three picks in the first two rounds and the flexibility to consider different options.

I know some fans are allergic to any discussion about running backs these days. I suspect if they were given the opportunity to watch either McFarland or Edwards-Helaire in Seattle, they might come to love them. They’re fun, dynamic playmakers. Wherever they end up in the NFL, I’ll be watching.

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How to build a dynamic four-man pass rush

February 16th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

This is the big question facing the Seahawks this off-season. It’s not the offensive line. They do need more weapons for Russell Wilson but the #1 priority is to create an actual pass rush and significantly upgrade the defense.

We’ve looked at a number of different scenarios — from free agency to the trade market to the (thin) D-line options in the draft.

The Seahawks were given a blue-print to success by the NFC Champion 49ers. Their dynamic four-man rush was central to their Super Bowl run. Kyle Shanahan is always going to produce a productive offense. What really elevated San Francisco in 2019 — along with Jimmy Garoppolo’s return — was the drafting of Nick Bosa and the creation of the leagues best pass rush.

This isn’t anything new to Seattle. The signing of Ziggy Ansah and trading for Jadeveon Clowney looked like a potent double-threat before the season started. Obviously Ansah flamed out and his NFL career appears over. Jarran Reed’s suspension didn’t help and neither did L.J. Collier’s ineffective rookie season. They probably felt, not unfairly, they’d done enough to create the kind of defensive line needed to be successful.

Now, it’s time for another try.

The Seahawks aren’t going to be able to exactly copy the Niners. They don’t own the #2 pick and they haven’t got a #3 pick (Solomon Thomas), #7 pick (DeForest Buckner) and #17 pick (Arik Armstead) already on the roster.

They can make some moves though to create similar production.

First and foremost they have to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney. He’s a different player to Nick Bosa. He doesn’t have the same quickness and bend off the edge. I don’t think people realise how impressive Bosa’s 4.14 short shuttle was at last years combine despite weighing 266lbs. Clowney, at the exact same weight, ran a 4.43.

Nevertheless, he’s the closest thing they can possess to a game-wrecker. People can question his consistency and yet last season he faced countless double-teams and was basically a one-man show in many games. Support him properly and we’ll see the best of Clowney.

Arik Armstead is a free agent so technically the Seahawks could pursue him and steal one of San Francisco’s linemen. However, after a strong 2019 season, his price could be too rich for the Seahawks — especially if they retain Clowney.

As brilliant as Bosa was for the 49ers, the two hulking interior tackles were equally threatening. They weren’t great against the run but paired with Bosa they were a non-stop force against the pass.

Gaining the interior size, intimidation and production to pair with Clowney could elevate the Seahawks to a new level alone.

Recently I pitched the idea of trading for Calais Campbell. I’m still not convinced the Jaguars will let him go. For the last three years he’s produced at a top-five level at his position. Aside from Aaron Donald and Chris Jones, there’s probably not been a better performing defensive tackle in the league.

Yet strangely there are rumours and suggestions of a parting. Jacksonville does need to create cap space but that’s easily achieved by cutting Marcell Dareus and some other fringe players. Even so, Jags owner Shahid Khan was recently asked about Campbell’s future and he merely said he’s ‘hopeful’ he’d be with the team in 2020.

If there’s any chance to acquire Campbell — either via trade or if he’s cut — it must be taken. He would provide the interior rush Seattle needs. He’d upgrade their run-defense. He’d provide toughness, leadership and respect. He would anchor the line and make life so much easier for Clowney.

If a $15-17m cap hit is too high — extend his contract for an extra season. Supply him with guarantees and incentives to lower his number.

Again — who knows how realistic this is? The Seahawks likely wouldn’t be the only suitor either. Even with Campbell aged 33, I can’t think of a better addition for Seattle’s defense this year.

Why stop there though? The Niners line up two tall, sizeable interior linemen. Why not pair Campbell with an heir apparent via the draft?

Raekwon Davis is 6-7 and about 315lbs. For two years he was considered a likely high first round pick. Yet his pass-rush production has fallen off a cliff and he’s only recorded two full sacks in the last two seasons.

I spent some time re-watching Davis this week and there’s still an awful lot to like, especially for the Seahawks.

For starters, he has special traits. The size, the length, the athleticism. The Seahawks love difference-making traits and upside and he has it. Despite being so tall his leverage is excellent. His gap discipline (important in Seattle’s scheme) is good, he can anchor the line and absorb double-teams in the run game. He doesn’t get pushed around but he can equally move down the line to string out plays. Davis can line up as a big power end or at defensive tackle.

Physically, he’s the nearest thing to Campbell to enter the league since Calais was drafted in 2008.

Even if he never develops his pass-rush potential, there’s a lot to like with Davis. If he drops because of a lack of production he could provide terrific value. Campbell lasted until pick #50. Could the same happen to Davis? Either way, the Seahawks would have options — at #27, after trading down, by making a small trade up in round two (as they did for Jarran Reed) or simply with their two late second round picks.

Pairing Campbell with Davis would create a formidable defensive interior. Along with Clowney, the Seahawks would have the biggest and by far the most physical defensive front in the league. If L.J. Collier and/or Rasheem Green take a step forward in 2020, they’d even have a quality rotation to add even more size and power.

The only thing they’d still be lacking is speed.

One way or another they’ve got to add some quickness to their pass rush. Re-signing Clowney and adding Campbell would absorb a lot of their cap space — but they could structure the deals to lessen the year one cap hit. That could enable them to look at the options available. It’s assumed Dante Fowler, for example, will get a big contract. Yet a year ago he had to settle for a one-year prove-it deal worth $12m with incentives. In 2013, nobody expected Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to receive a cold market. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility he could provide the Seahawks with an ideal, productive, cost-effective solution. Let’s see what offers he gets.

Another option of course is Everson Griffen. If he’s released with Minnesota in cap hell, there could be a reasonable deal to be done there too.

If they need cheaper options they could explore the second wave of free agency and the trade market. If you’re lining up Clowney, Campbell and Davis — it’s more palatable to take on a reclamation project like Vic Beasley (a 4.53 runner with a 1.59 split). Emmanuel Ogbah ran a 4.63 (with a 1.58 split). Kyler Fackrell ran a 1.61 split. And there’s always old friend Bruce Irvin. These are not premier options you can rely on to make a big difference but if you’ve already made significant moves across the line, they are more agreeable.

These additions also open up the possibility to the Seahawks drafting someone who could be more of a situational rusher in order to gain that speed element. You can’t rely on Joshua Uche as a full-time LEO because of his size. K’Lavon Chaisson has a superior build but even he is probably best served sitting out early downs. Julian Okwara is more of a speed EDGE than a SAM/LEO and could be another option.

Compliment such a player with the names listed above and you’re creating a strong looking arsenal. Suddenly, rushing with four and creating regular pressure doesn’t seem so unlikely. Although it’s worth noting that Bruce Irvin’s shift to SAM/LEO was likely in order to get Bruce, Bennett and Avril on the field at the same time. They haven’t really gone back to that type of role since Irvin’s departure.

The scenarios pitched here aren’t the be-all and end-all of course. Pairing Clowney with Everson Griffen would immediately improve the D-line — and retaining Jarran Reed to play next to Poona Ford and potentially Raekwon Davis would still look like an overall upgrade. Dante Fowler and Clowney are at a great age to potentially be Bennett and Avril for the near future. They might be able to find cheap talent to play defensive tackle — re-creating the Tony McDaniel signing from 2014.

Whatever happens though, they have to go into the 2020 season believing they can effectively rush with four.

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Bonus podcast: Q&A on draft prospects

February 14th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Brandan and I published a new podcast on Monday but we also did a bonus Q&A running through a variety of different draft prospects. Check it out…

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A Seahawks trade scenario involving Stefon Diggs & a pass rusher

February 13th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

For a while now, things haven’t seemed right between the Minnesota Vikings and Stefon Diggs.

He’s appeared frustrated on the field. There was talk of a possible pre-deadline trade during the 2019 season. Now he’s posting a series of obscure tweets that at least appear directed to the team (although you can never trust anything an athlete posts on Twitter).

Michael Rand in the Star Tribune predicted the following this week:

I like Diggs personally. As an interview subject, he shows you his personality and engages in a playful way. On the field, his production tends to match his high opinion of his own skills.

But the combination of salary cap, offensive direction and last year’s turmoil seem to make this less than a 50-50 proposition. The smart money is on Diggs not being here at the start of the 2020 season.

Forget all the drama for a minute. We can only speculate on that.

The real, legitimate reason why he might be available via trade is quite simple.

Salary cap space.

According to Spotrac, the Vikings are currently at $-12,330,944 for the 2020 season. Overthecap is projecting $-11,366,514. They need to shed anywhere between $12-13m in salary simply to be in the black.

The problem is they don’t have any obvious cuts. The Jaguars can move Marcell Dareus and save an immediate $20m. The Vikings are going to have to chip away at their debt while losing some starters along the way.

Shifting Everson Griffen saves $13m. That’s fine but he had 35 pressures in 2019 — 14th most in the NFL and only one fewer than teammate Danielle Hunter.

They can save $8.1m by cutting or trading Xavier Rhodes. He’s not the same player these days but he has been a long term starter. It’s also worth noting that Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are both free agents. Are they prepared to lose three cornerbacks?

They could cut Linval Joseph and save $10.4m. Do they really want to move one of the better nose tackles in the league?

Shifting Harrison Smith saves $8.75m yet he’s one of their most important defensive players.

On top of all this, Anthony Harris is a free agent. They will be absolutely desperate to keep him but he might need a salary similar to Earl Thomas’ $13.75m a year.

The options for the Vikings are painful cuts, gutting the roster or accepting the situation and being smart.

This is the kind of situation a team like the Seahawks need to exploit.

They’ve done it in the past. Marshawn Lynch was out of favour in Buffalo, so they got him for a bargain price. Percy Harvin wasn’t going to be paid by the Vikings, so they traded for him. Jimmy Graham’s relationship with the Saints had deteriorated due to the way they handled the franchise tag, so he became available. Duane Brown wanted out in Houston and so did Jadeveon Clowney. The Lions wanted a fresh start in their secondary so made Quandre Diggs available.

Some of Seattle’s best and most aggressive work has occurred when a team is resigned to making a trade. Arguably their worst move — paying a second round pick for one year of Sheldon Richardson — came about because the Seahawks were buyers in a sellers market.

In this situation — the Vikings have to do something. So rather than cut 3-4 key players without getting anything in return, they should cut a deal.

The Seahawks and Vikings have been trade partners in the recent past. Aside from the Harvin deal in 2013, Minnesota also traded up from #40 to #32 with Seattle to select Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 draft.

So what kind of a trade makes sense for both teams?

What the Vikings need in return

They need to create some cap space. They also need draft picks to fill some of their holes with cheap talent.

This would be a good year to trade Diggs. The draft is loaded with wide receivers. They would have a good opportunity to draft a legit #2 to play across from Adam Thielen.

At the same time, they’d be giving up a top talent. They might need to create cap space but they’re not going to give up a player of Diggs’ quality on the cheap. He had 4623 receiving yards in five seasons plus 30 touchdowns. Even playing with Thielen, he’s managed back-to-back 1000 yard seasons.

It’s only right that they would receive a high pick as compensation.

What the Seahawks need in return

Although their biggest needs are on defense (clearly) they also need to provide more weapons for Russell Wilson. Patrick Mahomes just won a Super Bowl with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman to throw to. Wilson in 2019 had Tyler Lockett and rookie D.K. Metcalf.

Injuries (Will Dissly) and suspensions (Josh Gordon) took away two key weapons. Yet there’s no guarantee Gordon will play again and Dissly, after two serious injuries, needs to prove he can stay healthy.

Giving Wilson another proven weapon — especially one as dynamic as Diggs at a great age (26) — would set up the offense for years to come.

Thanks to the dead cap hit, it would also be a cost-effective move. His $9m in dead money would provide the Seahawks with a cheap addition in 2020. So while it would be expensive in terms of compensation (a high pick) — the salary cost wouldn’t be prohibitive in year one.

He’s also signed until the end of the 2023 season, so there’s long term security on the investment.

The loaded receiver draft class offers a solution too. Yet with the Seahawks needing to challenge right now, you have to weigh-up adding a proven talent versus mere promise and potential.

So what’s the deal?

The Vikings only save $5m by trading Diggs. Here’s the proposal.

Considering the likelihood of Everson Griffen being cut in order to save $13m, the Seahawks give the Vikings their first round pick (#27) and inherit both Diggs and Griffen.

This would give the Vikings $18m in salary cap relief. They would also gain a valuable first round pick.

By making this deal and cutting or trading Xavier Rhodes, they would potentially have enough money to re-sign Anthony Harris on a structured deal that limits the year-one cap-hit. They might still need to do more. Yet at least this move enables them to acquire a high pick to start re-tooling in a cost-effective way.

For the Seahawks they part with a first round pick but still have two second round picks, a third round pick and two fourth round picks to play with. They would pay Diggs about $5.5m in 2020 and Griffen $13m. They’d still have ample cap space to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney and a tight end, or re-sign Jarran Reed (assuming they were willing to consider some difficult cuts as discussed in detail yesterday).

Vikings fans could argue the price is too cheap. Unfortunately, their team has done a poor job managing the cap. Their need to create cap space impacts their leverage. Unless of course they want to cut a handful of starters for no return and simply become a worse team.

Even if the Seahawks had to throw in one of their fourth rounders for Griffen as part of the trade, is it not one that makes sense for all parties? If Diggs and the Vikings are facing a divorce, they receive proper compensation. Griffen appears set to move on anyway because the Vikings are in cap-hell. The Seahawks simply inherit his contract. They need a proven pass rusher and a weapon for Russell Wilson.

This is going to be an aggressive off-season for Seattle and this is the type of move that would typify that. With their two second round picks they could further improve the defense. Could they make a small move up the board, just as they did for Reed in 2016 and acquire Raekwon Davis to provide some traits and size to the interior? How early is too early for alpha dog Kyle Dugger? And round three could be a sweet-spot to add to the offensive line, with potential strong options such as Logan Stenberg, Damien Lewis, Matt Hennessy, Tyre Phillips, Hakeem Adeniji, John Simpson, Lloyd Cushenberry, Prince Tega Wanogho and Lucas Niang.

It’s hard to project trades but this at least feels somewhat grounded in reality with benefits for both teams.

Seattle’s best moves of 2019 all involved trades — moving up for Metcalf and dealing for Clowney and Diggs. A deal of some description feels likely over the next six weeks.

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Seahawks might have to be ruthless this off-season

February 12th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

K.J. Wright is a Seahawks hero but his cap hit of $10m creates a question mark

If you missed yesterday’s one sentence per prospect scouting reports on 105 different players, click here.

Brock Huard made an interesting suggestion on his podcast with Mike Salk this week.

He thinks the Seahawks’ front office should get together and write down the names on the defense they believe can get them to another Super Bowl.

Huard suggested Bobby Wagner, Quandre Diggs and Shaquill Griffin. After that?

It highlighted the major work that is necessary this off-season.

And that could mean some ruthless decision’s too.

At the moment they have around $50-60m available in cap space. That will go up when they cut Ed Dickson (saving $3m).

If they really want to be fully aggressive and bold they might need even more money to spend.

It’s not just the defense either. They’ll want to add a tight end. What if an appealing opportunity to acquire Stefon Diggs emerges, given his uncertain future in Minnesota and friendship with Russell Wilson? Plus they have to work out what’s going on with Germain Ifedi and George Fant.

Here are the top-15 cap hits for Seattle in 2020 (the dead cap hits are in brackets):

Russell Wilson — $31m ($52m)
Bobby Wagner — $14m (11.25m)
Duane Brown — $12.3 ($4m)
Justin Britt — $11.4m ($2.9m)
Tyler Lockett — $11.35m ($4.5m)
K.J. Wright — $10m ($2.5m)
Bradley McDougald — $5.4m ($1.3m)
Quandre Diggs — $5.1m ($0)
Ed Dickson — $3.8m ($866k)
Jason Myers — $3.6m ($3m)
D.J. Fluker — $3.4m ($500k)
Rashaad Penny — $2.9m ($4.4m)
L.J. Collier — $2.6m ($7.8m)
Shaquill Griffin — $2.3m ($189k)
Tedric Thompson — $2.3m ($168k)

Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Duane Brown and Tyler Lockett — clearly — are very secure. You can probably put Quandre Diggs in that category too.

They need to make a call on whether to extend Shaquill Griffin and Chris Carson (who is 16th on the list) this off-season.

It’d make no sense parting with Jason Myers, Rashaad Penny or L.J. Collier because the cost is prohibitive.

Everyone else though? It’s a discussion to have.

You don’t want to gut the roster. You need a middle class. Younger players — such as Cody Barton and Marquise Blair — haven’t necessarily warranted faith to step up and takeover full-time starting jobs.

When you’re paying a quarterback top-level money, however, you need to make sure the rest of your cap is working.

In an ideal world you’d keep Justin Britt, K.J. Wright and Bradley McDougald. All three are valued, experienced starters. They are leaders too. They are the types of player you want on your roster.

Yet the combined cap hit between the three is $26.8m for the 2020 season.

Cutting (or trading) all three would create $20.1m in extra cap space.

They would be three painful cuts. You’d also be removing three players who lead by example and carry a lot of respect. It’s not easy to ‘buy in’ leadership. Especially from the outside.

Yet this team is at a crossroads. It’s good enough to get to the playoffs — mainly due to the quarterback — but isn’t good enough to make a serious Super Bowl challenge. The re-set from 2018 onwards has been admirable and ideally you draft, develop and sign your own cast of characters without the need for any major re-tooling.

Spending big in free agency can be a gamble. But they’re at a point now where they either act or they run the risk of being 2-3 years down the line having let slip the best years of Wilson’s career.

I don’t think they’ll allow that to happen. Not with this GM or Head Coach. They’ve traded two first round picks for veteran players, made in-season moves galore to acquire talent and practically entertained the idea of signing any big name available over the last decade.

In order to be pro-active though, they might need all the resource they can find. If you’re going to try and create a defensive line that can rush effectively with four men — it’s going to take a bit more than simply re-signing Jadeveon Clowney and adding one other player. If you want to add weapons to the offense, retain your O-line and bring in, as Wilson put it publicly, ‘superstars’ — you need money.

That could mean some extremely tough decisions ahead. It’s possible, of course, that the likes of Wright, Britt and McDougald could return on smaller contracts if they part ways. There’s nothing preventing that from happening. It’s rare though to see players suffer that fate and then feel obliged to return while essentially taking a pay cut.

Add the $20.1m to the existing $50-60m and suddenly the Seahawks would have as much available cap space as any team in the league apart from the Colts and Dolphins. They could cut Tedric Thompson and save another $2m. Cutting Naz Jones saves another $800K.

This would create a situation where they can be as creative as possible and target multiple key additions to give the roster a lift. With six picks in the first four rounds of the draft (and the potential to add more) they could pad out their young depth.

Will it happen? I’m not sure. Cutting Britt seems more likely than not due to his injury situation. They might be able to find a ready-made veteran replacement in Alex Mack, who is a likely cut in Atlanta. McDougald might be considered good value at $5m and they really rate him internally. Wright has been so loyal, so tough and so productive for the Seahawks it’s hard to imagine them just cutting him a year before his contract expires. His potential departure rests on the market — who is available, how much the Seahawks need to get everything done and whether they can extend his deal by a season to lower his 2020 salary.

It’d be a big plus for the team if say Calais Campbell became available. He would fill two big needs — leadership and D-line production. If there was a deal to be done with cap-strapped Minnesota for Stefon Diggs and Everson Griffen — again, you’re acquiring experienced players with proven production.

Freeing up cap space could also provide an opportunity to retain Jarran Reed — someone seen as a blossoming leader on the team. Pete Carroll has already expressed his desire to bring back Mychal Kendricks. Quandre Diggs is likely to develop into the captain of the secondary while Shaquill Griffin is getting to the age where he can be realistically expected to lead. One of the main reasons I think they might target Kyle Dugger in the draft is due to his alpha mentality.

This will be a fascinating off-season when it eventually kicks into gear.

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One sentence per prospect — 2020 version

February 11th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Rashard Lawrence had a fantastic season for LSU in 2019

I did this a few times last year and it seemed to go down well, so here we go — 105 one-sentence scouting reports for the 2020 class…

Joe Burrow (QB, LSU)
The closest thing to Tom Brady we’ve seen.

Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
Love the tools and the improv potential but the erraticism and odd decision making makes Herbert a difficult projection.

Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama)
How can you draft a player early if you won’t know for sure whether he’ll be able to play football again?

Jordan Love (QB, Utah State)
He can flick his wrist and get it downfield and his improvisational skills are strong but he did not have a good 2019 season and that leaves question marks.

Jacob Eason (QB, Washington)
The best arm in the draft but he can’t play off-script and he can’t improvise.

Jalen Hurts (QB, Oklahoma)
Credit to him for the way he competed in college but he doesn’t look like anything more than a useful NFL backup.

Jake Fromm (QB, Georgia)
Despite having the best pass-protecting O-line in college football, Fromm looked incredibly limited in 2019.

Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)
He has the arm talent, the size and the mobility but he never put it all together at Colorado yet there’s something to work with here.

D’Andre Swift (RB, Georgia)
You see little flashes but there aren’t many wow moments so is he worthy of the high grades he often receives?

J.K. Dobbins (RB, Ohio State)
He has mass-production potential with a fantastic combination of burst, explosive athleticism, pass protection and home-run hitting ability.

Jonathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin)
The fumbles are an issue but he’s perfectly sized and has a second-gear that makes him a really exciting ball carrier.

Anthony McFarland (RB, Maryland)
Exciting, explosive, physical, sudden, fast, tough, underrated, brilliant.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB, LSU)
A combination of Michael Turner and Maurice Jones-Drew.

Eno Benjamin (RB, Arizona State)
Tenacious, tough, finishes runs and can catch the ball out of the backfield — but probably lacks the size for Seattle.

Joshua Kelly (RB, UCLA)
Well sized and looked incredibly quick in Mobile with plus running and catching ability — he’s one to watch at the combine.

A.J. Dillon (RB, Boston College)
Big and explosive and he should test well at the combine but he needs to prove he’s quick enough to truly be a threat at the next level.

Zack Moss (RB, Utah)
He doesn’t exactly have a chiselled frame but he loves to be physical, he finishes runs, he’s perfectly sized and we know the Seahawks like all of that.

Jerry Jeudy (WR, Alabama)
Doesn’t have outstanding physical talent but he’s adept at route running and being in the right place at the time.

Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
Lightning fast and incredibly explosive — making him a deep threat on go-routes and a danger in the red zone.

K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State)
Loaded with dynamism and the short-area quickness to get open but also the long-speed and creativity to make big plays (strangely he seems to have long arms).

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Phenomenal acceleration skills — he’s a genuine threat to take the top off a defense or turn a WR-screen into a YAC dream.

Henry Ruggs (WR, Alabama)
This receiving class is all about explicit speed and Ruggs is the fastest of the lot which is really saying something.

Ceedee Lamb (WR, Oklahoma)
He does his best work with the ball in his hands but how he runs at the combine will be important against so many speed demons.

Tee Higgins (WR, Clemson)
Very technically adept as you’d expect from Clemson and could have an early impact but like Ceedee Lamb will need to keep pace with the other receivers at the combine.

Bryan Edwards (WR, South Carolina)
Faster than many people realise and a genuine playmaker on short or deep routes.

Laviska Shenault Jr (WR, Colorado)
Whenever you have to manufacture touches for a player it’s a problem and can be a distraction in your gameplan.

Justin Jefferson (WR, LSU)
Incredibly reliable and consistent in 2019 but teams will need to determine how much of his great year was down to Joe Burrow.

Denzel Mims (WR, Baylor)
He gives off a ‘pissed off for greatness’ vibe and he’s a contested catch specialist but he needs to run in the 4.4’s.

Van Jefferson (WR, Florida)
Flashed strong technical ability with his route running in Mobile but he’ll need to back that up with a good forty time at the combine.

Chase Claypool (WR, Notre Dame)
There’s a lot to like — his competitive nature, his willingness to block and his special teams value — but he needs to run well to be in contention for Seattle.

K.J. Hill (WR, Ohio State)
His short-area quickness and agility is excellent but his hands are inconsistent and there are question marks about his long speed.

Michael Pittman Jr (WR, USC)
I can imagine teams like Pittsburgh having real interest in him due to his size and production but I don’t think he’s fast enough for Seattle.

Lawrence Cager (WR, Georgia)
There are injury issues to check out here but in 2019 he played well, made some big plays and he warrants a closer look.

Benjimen Victor (WR, Ohio State)
Long, skinny receiver with some technical ability to get open but he could do with being more physical and consistent.

Harrison Bryant (TE, Florida Atlantic)
He finds holes in zone quickly and settles into areas where he can make plays — I’m just not convinced he’s a dynamic athlete.

Hunter Bryant (TE, Washington)
He’s essentially a big receiver who can chip in with some blocking but he does it well and his short shuttle will please teams.

Cole Kmet (TE, Notre Dame)
He looks thin and wiry and will need to add weight so the testing will be important for him — but he looks like a natural.

Adam Trautman (TE, Dayton)
He’ll need to learn some blocking skills but as a receiver he looks very fluid and athletic with an obvious basketball background.

Thaddeus Moss (TE, LSU)
He has quite a stocky frame and isn’t a prototype at TE by any stretch but he blocks well and he provided some X-factor moments as a receiver.

Devin Asiasi (TE, UCLA)
He’s a very clean catcher of a football and while he appears heavy there’s no doubting his quickness and athletic elegance.

Colby Parkinson (TE, Stanford)
They just lined him up at receiver all the time so it’s anyone’s guess whether he can block and he’ll need to test well at the combine.

Andrew Thomas (T, Georgia)
I’m not sure what other people saw from Thomas in 2019 but for me he was incredibly consistent, reliable, balanced and he dominated.

Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
A hulking giant of a man who totally looks the part and will probably be rated a lot higher by teams than the media.

Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan)
The ideal center prospect with the athleticism, power, mobility and upside to develop into a long-term starter.

Tyler Biadasz (C, Wisconsin)
Tough and physical but has some technical flaws and you just wonder if he’ll ever be more than average at the next level.

Nick Harris (C, Washington)
Was a bit exposed during 1v1’s at the Senior Bowl but showed well during scrimmages and someone will give him a shot.

Tristan Wirfs (T, Iowa)
An incredible athlete who will blow up the combine but whenever I’ve watched him I’ve thought he looks better suited to guard.

Jedrick Wills (T, Alabama)
Very solid in the running game but doesn’t have the frame teams covet and people are going a bit OTT on his upside.

Mekhi Becton (T, Louisville)
A massive human being but again, people are getting a bit carried away because while there’s a lot to like in terms of toughness — his pass-sets are incredibly raw.

Price Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
I really like him — tall, long, athletic, mobile and a ton of upside to work with.

Logan Stenberg (G, Kentucky)
Tough BAMF who takes no prisoners and finishes blocks like he’s collecting names.

Damien Lewis (G, LSU)
He looked good at the Senior Bowl and his tape matches it — he’s powerful, sturdy and one to watch.

Austin Jackson (T, USC)
Very athletic and has so much teams look for but you’ll probably have to endure two years of growing pains to get the finished article.

Josh Jones (T, Houston)
There is some potential here as he showed on the last day of Senior Bowl practise but he’s also something of a developmental project.

Trey Adams (T, Washington)
Unfortunately the injuries have taken their toll and he’s probably looking at a day three selection at best but he has a puncher’s chance of making it.

Tyre Phillips (G, Mississippi State)
I thought he battled away at the Senior Bowl and he has enormous size, great length and he can play different positions.

Jonah Jackson (G, Ohio State)
Solid at everything and while he lacks any real upside he could turn into a decent starter or backup at the next level.

Ben Bredeson (G, Michigan)
Nice size but lacks arm length — he can mix it up and had a strong year playing alongside the excellent Cesar Ruiz.

Matt Hennessy (C, Temple)
Solid and bigger than expected in Mobile where he had some very positive moments.

Hakeem Adeniji (G, Kansas)
There’s something about Adeniji I like and he could end up being a decent little project for someone kicking inside to guard.

Colt McKivitz (T, West Virginia)
He lacks the major upside of other players but he’s a fighter and will battle away at right tackle (and could even move inside).

John Phillips (G, Clemson)
His footwork is suspect and I think he tries to do too much but there’s talent waiting to be harnessed here.

Solomon Kindley (G, Georgia)
Has a sloppy frame and is on the turf too much but he’s also light on his feet, shows some power in the run game and he had a good 2019 season.

Lloyd Cushenberry (C, LSU)
He just gets the job done — the only problem is Ethan Pocic also ‘just got the job done’ for several years at LSU and he’s done nothing in the NFL.

Lucas Niang (T, TCU)
A forgotten man due to his injury but he can handle right tackle or guard duties and should be a reasonably early starter (health permitting).

Ben Bartch (T, St. John’s)
He was one of the gems of the Senior Bowl and performed as well as any of the tackles so there’s something to work with here.

Chase Young (DE, Ohio State)
A really quality player but not the ‘generational’ talent people have been suggesting (he’s no Bosa brother).

Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
Brown has the movement, aggression, versatility and talent to go in the top-10 of any draft class, any year.

Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
He has the potential to take over games and could dominate as a pass-rusher with Fletcher Cox-like potential.

Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
Yes it would’ve been nice to see more pass rush but there just aren’t many 6-7, 312lbs defensive linemen who look this good. He could be Calais Campbell.

Jordan Elliott (DT, Missouri)
He’s well talked up by PFF but on tape I struggled to find many splash plays or evidence of difference making power or athleticism.

Yetur Gross-Matos (DE, Penn State)
Long, lean and generally good with his hands yet lacks the kind of twitch to be a top-level prospect and struggles with consistency.

Julian Okwara (DE, Notre Dame)
Another inconsistent player but he offers raw speed off the edge and there’s something to be said for that.

A.J. Epenesa (DE, Iowa)
Jumps between plodding and dynamic but lacks speed and is probably better suited to playing power end or five-technique in a 3-4.

Jason Strowbridge (DE, North Carolina)
Plays with fire and is very aggressive and quick but his hand use is poor and he lacks control or arm length.

Curtis Weaver (DE, Boise State)
He got to the QB at Boise State but he’s a 300lbs player who lost weight and it shows because his frame doesn’t scream ‘twitchy NFL EDGE’.

Ross Blacklock (DT, TCU)
Very busy looking for gaps rather than holding down one of his own but does show the occasional blast of quickness to knife through.

Rashard Lawrence (DT, LSU)
Plays his arse off every game and you know what you’re going to get from him every week — so draft him.

Neville Gallimore (DT, Oklahoma)
He’s expected to test well but his tape and production was mediocre and he just doesn’t flash very much.

Leki Fotu (DT, Utah)
He’s big and intimidating to look at but his play is so hot-and-cold and teams will rightly question this.

Marlon Davidson (DE, Auburn)
He was spelled more than I expected watching tape and while he shows flashes he lacks the length to play outside and will probably need to transition to a three-technique.

Bradlee Anae (DE, Utah)
High effort and he has some pass-rushing skill but he also has short arms and isn’t expected to test brilliantly.

Jon Greenard (DE, Florida)
He was fun to watch in 2019 but the expectation is he’ll run a 4.8 or 4.9 at the combine and that limits his value significantly.

Jabari Zuniga (DE, Florida)
Zuniga had injuries in 2019 and his Senior Bowl performance was a big disappointment but there’s a ton of potential here and he could be a bargain for someone if he falls.

Terrell Lewis (DE, Alabama)
The injuries have taken their toll and he just didn’t do much in 2019 so it’s hard to imagine he’ll receive high grades.

Kenny Willekes (DE, Michigan State)
A big name in college football but he’s a try-hard walk-on with minimal athleticism, short arms and limited upside.

Darrell Taylor (DE, Tennessee)
There are a number of athletic DE’s in this class who suffered numerous injuries and lost momentum in college and Taylor fits right into that category.

Isaiah Simmons (LB, Clemson)
Teams will love his leadership and his combine workout and he’ll go very early.

Kenneth Murray (LB, Oklahoma)
Flies around and hits — what’s not to like?

Patrick Queen (LB, LSU)
He flies around and plays like you’d expect the modern day linebacker to play.

Willie Gay Jr (LB, Mississippi State)
He’s a playmaker with superb coverage skills but also an ability to make things happen around the LOS — terrific talent.

K’Lavon Chaisson (LB, LSU)
Like everyone else I can see the frame but where’s the production, how many stunts does he need to produce and can we wait until the combine to crown him an athletic dynamo?

Zack Baun (LB, Wisconsin)
He certainly made a lot of plays for Wisconsin this year but I’m having a hard time working out what exactly his ‘impact’ role is at the next level.

Joshua Uche (LB, Michigan)
He’s a SAM at the next level which is fine but it kind of limits how high he can go.

Jeff Okudah (CB, Ohio State)
Simply put, he looked like a star all year.

Trevon Diggs (CB, Alabama)
Highly athletic, well sized and does a terrific job tracking the football.

C.J. Henderson (CB, Florida)
Incredible short-area quickness and decent size but never quite lived up to expectations in college.

Kristian Fulton (CB, LSU)
Loves to mix-it-up and can play equally well outside or kicking inside to cover the slot.

Damon Arnette (CB, Ohio State)
Should be talked about more with his combination of size, cover skills and willingness to get stuck in and deliver a hit.

Cameron Dantzler (CB, Mississippi State)
Long and lean and looks like a Seahawks corner but has the cover skills to go earlier than they will consider.

Grant Delpit (S, LSU)
Bloody hell, the second guessing over Delpit is maddening because he’s absolutely fantastic in every area except ‘tackling’ and Earl Thomas was a crap tackler.

Kyle Dugger (S, Lenoir-Rhyne)
Plays with an alpha mentality, sounds like an alpha and has major special teams value too so don’t be surprised if he’s high on Seattle’s board.

Xavier McKinney (S, Alabama)
Alabama can afford to blitz their safety all the time and they did which is great — but why is McKinney getting vaulted above Grant Delpit for that?

Antoine Winfield Jr (S, Minnesota)
He might not test well but he’s a playmaker and always seems to be around the ball — I wouldn’t bet against him being a NFL success story.

Ashtyn Davis (S, California)
I just don’t see it — he’s clearly athletic but he’s passive and I thought underwhelming.

Note — I haven’t scouted many of the cornerback’s in this draft. I tend to wait until after the combine so we can identify the players most likely to be on Seattle’s radar in terms of physical profile.

If you missed yesterday’s new podcast discussing the Seahawks and the draft you can check it out here:

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New podcast & priority order for the Seahawks

February 10th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Check out this latest podcast as Brandan and I discuss the draft and the Seahawks in great detail…

Today I wanted to run through what I think the priorities are for the Seahawks leading into the combine and beyond.

1. Establish a connection with Jadeveon Clowney

It makes no sense to launch a defensive line rebuild by letting the best player leave in free agency. Clowney will be expensive but that’ll be the case for any free agent addition. The Seahawks know what they’re getting with Clowney and he deserves the opportunity to play on a Seattle D-line with some actual pass-rushing support.

Although technically not allowed, it’s well known teams and agents talk at the combine and this is where demand and value tends to be established. By the end of the combine and heading into free agency, the Seahawks should have a strong indication of what it’ll cost to keep him. Unless the price is ridiculously high (+$25m a year) that will be the moment to come to an agreement to make sure the Seahawks are adding and not subtracting at their biggest position of need.

2. Find the value in free agency

The combine will also present an opportunity to find out what some of the other free agents are going to be looking for. The Seahawks will have their targets set and ready by now so this is a chance to find out what is realistic when the market opens.

Is a player like Dante Fowler or Arik Armstead going to be reasonably priced? Who are the players open to a prove-it contract? Which players are going to be paid way beyond Seattle’s valuation?

The Seahawks should be able to streamline their priority target list at the combine.

3. Uncover the trade market

This is also an opportunity to speak to teams about who might be available. Trades usually don’t often happen overnight. They are drawn out. The Seahawks can touch base with teams and gather information.

This works hand in hand with the combine workouts, too. For example, if there aren’t many players possessing the traits Seattle needs, it might be more tempting to use pick #27 to add a veteran instead. Equally, if the Seahawks feel they won’t find solutions in free agency, they can compare the value of #27 versus adding a veteran via trade.

This is the type of off-season where the Seahawks are going to look at every option — free agency, trade and draft. They know this is the time to be aggressive and add to what they have. They need to add difference makers, much like they did in 2013 with Harvin, Bennett and Avril.

4. Find the players with traits

The Seahawks like to look for players with special qualities — such as unique size, length, speed, quickness, explosive power or agility. Not every pick works out (Christine Michael, Malik McDowell) but Seattle’s had a lot of success overall picking players with standout athletic qualities (Okung, Thomas, Tate, Irvin, Wagner, Clark, Lockett, Metcalf etc).

This is a year to aim high. To try and replicate the success of D.K. Metcalf’s rookie season. A player with obvious physical talent who, for whatever reason, drops into range.

The combine will provide a clear picture on who those players are. Some early front runners include:

Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
An enormous offensive tackle with fantastic length and physical tools. The NFL will probably be higher on him than the media and he might be off the board by #27 — but if his decision to declare prematurely as a redshirt sophomore makes him available, he’s one to watch.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Like Wilson, he’ll probably be graded higher by the league than the media. Aiyuk is truly dynamic with stunning acceleration and quickness. He’s a playmaker and the type that would really compliment what Seattle already has at receiver. Plus he has major special teams value.

Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
He’s incredibly fast but also has explosive power. He’s capable of running deep on a go-route to make chunk plays but he’s also a genuine threat in the red zone due to his leaping ability. Reagor has special qualities and like all of the receivers in this list will have a terrific combine.

Henry Ruggs (WR, Alabama)
People have been predicting he’ll run a 4.2 since last summer and it shows on tape. Teams are always going to have to account for Ruggs with extra safety attention simply due to his game-breaking speed. There’s every chance he’ll go in the top-15 but if he lasts, he has the game-changing athleticism they need.

K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State)
Hamler is diminutive but seems to have long arms despite his lack of height. He’s a dynamic playmaker with the ball and shows tremendous ability to dart beyond defender’s and turn a good play into a great play. He can also get downfield and provides special teams value.

Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
There simply aren’t many 6-7, 315lbs defensive linemen who look like Davis. He’s a chiselled athlete who has the frame of Calais Campbell. His stats at Alabama have been poor the last two years but there’s just so much potential. If he lasts to #27 you’d be taking a gamble on improved production but his ceiling is elite.

There are others I could mention. J.K. Dobbins will probably have all the traits Seattle loves in a running back but I think it’s unlikely they target that position early.

5. Add good players

Having established what the free agent market will look like, the trade options and received information on the draft prospects at the combine — it’s time to do business. The top priority will be to improve the pass rush and the defensive line. The second priority will be to add a tight end.

Austin Hooper is reliable, consistent and has the size, length and agility testing they like at the position. He could be their big offensive splash in free agency. What they do defensively is less clear. We know who is likely to be available, who will almost certainly be tagged (Chris Jones, Yannick Ngakoue) and who might be available via trade (Calais Campbell? Everson Griffen?).

The key will be to leave the free agency period having addressed the defense and tight end position. The draft is strong at receiver and offensive line but weak for pass rushers and tight ends.

They also can’t rely on re-treads and comeback players. Ziggy Ansah, Luke Joeckel and Eddie Lacy types are not going to cut it. They need to be bold, aggressive and add 2-3 quality players.

6. Make a decision on the O-line

Pete Carroll wants consistency up front and rightly so. The Seahawks need to add, develop and upgrade when possible — not keep blowing up the line and making major changes. There’s unlikely to be big money available for this unit and a line full of rookie’s isn’t ideal either.

If Germain Ifedi is priced out of a return and moves on, the Seahawks could re-sign George Fant to provide some consistency. We’ll see if Mike Iupati has any interest in carrying on. They could sign a similar veteran on a cheap contract to provide a hedge for the draft (where there are strong guard options).

The big question mark remains the future of Justin Britt. His cap hit is very high for a player returning from ACL surgery. They could cut and re-sign him, they could just move on altogether or they could retain his contract (knowing they can still move on down the line). There are good options in the draft (Cesar Ruiz) and it’s very likely that Atlanta will cut Alex Mack to save some cap space.

7. Come out of the draft with upside talent

The Seahawks don’t need a major influx of rookie starter’s but it’d be a big help if they can find dynamic athlete’s who can at least contribute. They especially need to be faster and more physical on defense. On offense, it’d be nice to add even more potency and quickness.

The players identified above include a hulking offensive lineman and several dynamic, sudden receivers. Defensively they need speed and alpha’s. Keep an eye on small-school safety Kyle Dugger as a player they could target quite strongly with his physical style of play, raw speed, dog-mentality and special teams value. LSU defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence plays with great intensity and let’s see how far Damon Arnette falls — because he’s a very talented cornerback with good size and he’s extremely physical.

What they do in free agency and/or the trade market will likely determine their 2020 fate but a good, high-upside draft class can still make a big difference.

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Lance Zierlein publishes his scouting reports

February 7th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

One of the best days of the NFL Draft season is Lance Zierlein publishing his draft reports. For the full list, click here. Whether you agree or disagree with Lance’s grades and analysis, it’s a tireless effort to put so many reports together.

Better yet, there’s no paywall.

I’d recommend reading the reports in full. There are some I strongly agree with (and others I would disagree equally strongly with). However, I wanted to post Lance’s top grades per position below.

Here’s how Lance distinguishes his grades:

7.3-7.5 — perennial pro-bowler
7.0-7.1 — pro-bowl talent
6.7-6.8 — year-one quality starter
6.5 — boom or bust prospect
6.3-6.4 — will be a starter within two seasons
6.1-6.2 — good backup who could become a starter
6.0 — developmental prospects

If a player isn’t listed below, it’s because he didn’t receive a high enough grade.

One thing to look for is any player praised for their toughness and/or leadership. The Seahawks appeared to focus on that quite a lot last year. For example, blog favourite Rashard Lawrence is described as such:

“Plays with dog mentality and is ready to turn any rep into a street fight if he needs to. Lawrence’s leadership and toughness stand out on the defensive side of the ball. He plays with pain and never shortchanges teammates in the effort department.”

Unique traits and athleticism with the high pick, generally high-leadership and toughness throughout the class. These are things to look for in the write-ups.

Quarterbacks

Joe Burrow — 7.07
Tua Tagovailoa — 6.82
Justin Herbert — 6.45
Jordan Love — 6.33
Jake Fromm — 6.29
Jacob Eason — 6.29

Running backs

D’Andre Swift — 6.81
Jonathan Taylor — 6.46
Zack Moss — 6.45
Clyde Edwards-Helaire — 6.42
J.K. Dobbins — 6.38
Cam Akers — 6.35
Javon Leake —- 6.30
A.J. Dillon — 6.25
Eno Benjamin — 6.23

Wide receivers

Jerry Jeudy — 6.86
Ceedee Lamb — 6.86
Laviska Shenault Jr — 6.50
Henry Ruggs — 6.49
Tee Higgins — 6.48
Justin Jefferson — 6.41
Chase Claypool — 6.40
Jalen Reagor — 6.39
Michael Pittman — 6.38
K.J. Hamler — 6.37
Brandon Aiyuk — 6.36
Bryan Edwards —- 6.29
Van Jefferson — 6.27
Antonio Gandy-Golden — 6.27
Denzel Mims — 6.25

Tight end

Harrison Bryant — 6.44
Devin Asiasi —- 6.35
Cole Kmet — 6.34
Jared Pinkney — 6.32
Albert Okwuegbunam — 6.30
Hunter Bryant — 6.20
Adam Trautman — 6.20

Offensive line

Jedrick Wills — 7.07
Tristan Wirfs — 6.49
Mekhi Becton — 6.49
Andrew Thomas — 6.48
Josh Jones — 6.42
Cesar Ruiz — 6.41
John Simpson — 6.39
Tyre Phillips —- 6.36
Austin Jackson — 6.34
Prince Tega Wanogho — 6.30
Lloyd Cushenberry — 6.30
Isaiah Wilson — 6.28
Lucas Niang — 6.28

Defensive line

Chase Young — 7.40
Derrick Brown — 7.16
Raekwon Davis — 6.70
Javon Kinlaw — 6.70
Yetur Gross-Matos — 6.50
A.J. Epenesa — 6.47
Ross Blacklock — 6.40
Jordan Elliott — 6.38
Marlon Davidson — 6.35
Alton Robinson —- 6.33
Jonathan Greenard — 6.31
Justin Madubuike — 6.30
Julian Okwara — 6.26
Jason Strowbridge — 6.26

Linebacker

Isaiah Simmons — 7.08
K’Lavon Chaisson — 6.88
Patrick Queen — 6.76
Zack Braun — 6.73
Kenneth Murray — 6.48
Jordan Brooks —- 6.37
Malik Harrison — 6.36
Anfernee Jennings — 6.35
Terrell Lewis — 6.35
Joshua Uche — 6.26

Cornerback

Jeff Okudah — 7.15
C.J. Henderson — 6.77
Cameron Dantzler — 6.43
Jaylon Johnson — 6.43
Trevon Diggs — 6.39
Jeff Gladney — 6.39
A.J. Terrell —- 6.36
Stanford Samuels —- 6.33
Bryce Hall — 6.32
Amik Robertson — 6.32
Kristian Fulton — 6.29
Noah Igbinoghene — 6.29

Safety

Xavier McKinney — 6.70
Grant Delpit — 6.45
Antoine Winfield Jr — 6.36
Ashtyn Davis — 6.33
Kyle Dugger — 6.32
Terrell Burgess — 6.20

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An off-season prediction for every NFL team

February 5th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Teddy Bridgewater swaps New Orleans for Carolina

At least one prediction for all 32 teams. These are just my guesses. Nothing is sourced. Nothing should be taken too seriously.

Cincinnati
The Bengals will be offered major compensation for the #1 pick and there’ll possibly even some pressure from Joe Burrow’s camp to accept a trade. Yet with the most stubborn owner in the league running the franchise like a family business, he won’t budge and they’ll take him. Even if Burrow threatened never to pull on a Bengals jersey.

Cleveland
There will be an acknowledgement that they need to invest more in the offensive line and two key linemen will be added — one veteran and one high draft pick.

Pittsburgh
They will put the franchise tag on Bud Dupree and might consider drafting a QB early (their first pick is in round two). They need to turn over every stone with Big Ben nearing the end.

Baltimore
They will tag Matt Judon but will be open to any reasonable trade offers to move him.

New England
Tom Brady will re-sign. Because of course he will. There’s no way he’s going to play somewhere else now and as if the Patriots are going to start chatting up Teddy Bridgewater or Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton. No.

Miami
The Dolphins will start making it known to the media that they like Joe Burrow. It’ll be a nudge to the player to see if they can ‘pull an Eli’.

Buffalo
The Bills will make an aggressive move this off-season. They’re developing nicely but they need a jolt. They’re in the ‘good not great’ category. It could be a trade up or a free agency splash.

New York Jets
The Jets will focus on building an offensive line for Sam Darnold and landing a weapon for him too.

Indianapolis
The Colts could end up with Tua Tagovailoa. They might trade into the top-five. They could simply land him at #13. Or the Colts could even move into the back-end of round one if the hip injury puts teams off.

Houston
The Texans have played their hand and their off-season priority will be locking down the quarterback and left tackle to long term contracts.

Jacksonville
The Jaguars will cut Marcell Dareus and a handful of other fringe players, enabling them to franchise tag Yannick Ngakoue.

Tennessee
The Titans will find a way to keep both Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. They need both players to return.

Kansas City
The Chiefs will cut or trade Sammy Watkins, creating the cap space to franchise tag Chris Jones.

Denver
The Broncos will have an aggressive off-season having seen division rival Kansas City win the Super Bowl. It’s probably best they build gradually but there will be some impatience in the building.

Las Vegas
Despite all the talk about adding a new quarterback, the Raiders will flirt with a few and end up settling back down with old faithful — Derek Carr.

LA Chargers
The Chargers will acquire Cam Newton via trade and will draft a longer-term heir apparent too (Justin Herbert?).

Green Bay
They will focus on offense after years of building the defense. That could include drafting a receiver early and maybe even trying to tempt Washington with a trade for Trent Williams.

Chicago
The Bears say they’re sticking by Mitchell Trubisky but behind the scenes they’ll be planning to acquire a QB as their answer to Ryan Tannehill (Andy Dalton?).

Minnesota
They are stuck in a cap mess so will cut or trade Everson Griffen, will look to trade Stefon Diggs and this will be a last chance for Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman to win with this group before some changes occur.

Detroit
The Lions won’t trade Darius Slay because they’ll ask for too much in return. They’ll be open to it, though.

Dallas
The Cowboys will re-sign Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper to long term contracts — eventually.

Philadelphia
The Eagles will trade up in the draft for a receiver.

New York Giants
The Giants will seek to trade down even though Dave Gettleman doesn’t have a history of doing so. I just get the feeling that Jerry Jeudy will be their guy. They’ll want Daniel Jones to have a go-to target. #4 is a bit early for Jeudy but then #6 was for Jones and they took him anyway, so maybe they just repeat the act.

Washington
The Redskins sign Greg Olsen and then go back in free agency to get another former Panther in the form of cornerback James Bradbury. Then they select Chase Young and hope Alex Smith might just be able to return.

New Orleans
The Saints bring back Drew Brees for one more tilt at avoiding the bad luck that has dogged this team in the playoffs over the years.

Tampa Bay
The Buccs bring back Jameis Winston when he discovers his market is cold. They have a serious talk with Philip Rivers too as a viable alternative but he ends up retiring.

Atlanta
The Falcons have no cap space so they cut Alex Mack and try to create some room to bring in a pass rusher. They know it’ll be tough to find one with the #16 pick.

Carolina
The Panthers sign Teddy Bridgewater as the replacement for Cam Newton, who is traded to the LA Chargers.

San Francisco
Rather than retreat into their shell after the Super Bowl, the Niners make a splash somehow. I’m not sure what it is. It could be an Odell Beckham Jr trade or a Stefon Diggs trade. I think they’ll do something, though.

LA Rams
What can they do? They’ve no picks or cap space. So the only solid prediction to make is they’ll extend Jalen Ramsey’s contract.

Arizona
The Cardinals focus on the offensive line this off-season as a priority.

Seattle
The Seahawks have an aggressive off-season similar to 2013 — with a few surprise moves along the way. They’ll kick things off by retaining Jadeveon Clowney.

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What I think we learnt from the Super Bowl

February 3rd, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

1. Everything is easier when you can rush with four

If you’d never seen the Kansas City Chiefs play before, you might’ve expected some new-age football last night.

People make it seem like they’re playing a different sport sometimes.

Yet all it took to make them look pretty normal for three and a bit quarters was a good four-man pass rush.

You could clearly see Patrick Mahomes was flustered. The Niners were able to drop bodies in coverage and still create pressure. This wasn’t rocket science from the Niners. It was simply talent up front allowing them to play what is, essentially, a very conservative scheme. The same used in Seattle.

This wasn’t Gregg Williams’ 10,000 different blitzes or Todd Bowles sending the house every down. It was simply a quality pass rushing quartet enabling everyone else to take away the deep threat and explosive plays. Mahomes either didn’t have time to throw downfield or players simply weren’t open.

The Niners don’t have a Legion of Boom secondary. They have some good players but there’s no Earl or Kam. Richard Sherman looked like he’s nearly 32 towards the end of the game.

They have good, young, quick linebackers. Again though, not of the Patrick Willis standard or Bobby Wagner at his peak.

The 49ers’ defense works so well because they can rush with four. It’s actually as entertaining to watch as anything else in the sport. A truly excellent and dynamic pass rush is exhilarating. The Niners possess that.

The Seahawks need to acquire the pieces this off-season so they too can reliably rush with four (as they could in the Bennett and Avril days). That’s the only way their scheme can function properly and it’s mission #1 this off-season.

They can’t go out and draft two top-five picks and two top-20 picks like the Niners while also trading for Dee Ford. They can add pieces to their D-line though — starting by keeping Jadeveon Clowney — to provide a much more consistent and threatening group in 2020.

They need talent. No hoping a rookie pans out or that a guy with a busted shoulder and history of injuries can ready himself to play. Talent and production and quality. That’s the order of the day. They have the cap room to make it happen and the draft picks to use if needed in the trade market.

Get Clowney back in the building and get him a proper partner to get after the quarterback. Clowney is a supercharged Michael Bennett. Now go get a Cliff.

2. The Seahawks need a quality tight end

It’s pretty remarkable watching the 49ers offense. Everything is very well crafted and executed. It seems relatively straight forward though. They’ll motion Kittle across the line to get a nice match-up then have him run right across the formation. They’ll have Kittle run across the middle to draw the safety then have two receivers run routes in behind. They’ll use misdirection to set up tricky little perimeter runs.

We’re not watching new-age football here. A lot of it’s just good execution.

What’s indisputable though is how much George Kittle just makes it all tick. Without him, it runs the risk of all being a bit basic. If you guard the perimeter and you don’t have to double Kittle, you’re really just dealing with a fairly standard set of concepts. As soon as Kittle’s on the field they can move him around to get him matched up against certain players, he draws coverage to open up team mates. Even when he’s covered you can throw it up to him. And he’s such an outstanding blocker.

Kittle is an absolute game changer for the Niners. He’s their best player on offense and you could even make a case for saying he tops Nick Bosa for most talented player on the roster overall.

The Seahawks aren’t going to be able to go out and get a George Kittle. 30 other teams would love to do the same. They need something though. Someone who can provide those same mismatch opportunities. A really dynamic tight end is a vital piece to any offense.

It’s not just Kittle either. Look at the impact Travis Kelce has in Kansas City. Tyler Higbee has developed into a massive part of the Rams’ offense. Where would the Eagles be without Zach Ertz? Look at the impact of Darren Waller for the Raiders.

Whether it’s through free agency, the draft or via a trade — tight end is a vital off-season need, second only to the pass rush.

3. They have to come up with a plan to defend the perimeter run

The Chiefs played somewhat like the Seahawks in this game. They didn’t really turn it on until the end, when a roaring comeback sealed the win. They remained balanced, finishing with 29 runs for 129 yards to go with Mahomes’ late flourish. This felt a little bit like the week 17 Seahawks/Niners game, with the Chiefs simply finishing the job.

They were also fairly terrible at defending the perimeter run.

The 49ers might’ve had a variety of ways to try and deceive the Chiefs but essentially, they tried to get the ball-carrier to the left edge with blockers in front time and time again. And it worked. They essentially looked the Chiefs in the eye and said, ‘we’re going to do this until you find a way to stop it’.

I’m not sure they were ever going to find that answer. In fact, had they stuck to it at the end rather than putting the ball in Jimmy Garoppollo’s hands, we might be talking about a Niners win. Tyrann Mathieu was screaming on the sidelines at one point in frustration. Frank Clark was burying his face in an oxygen mask. For all the talk afterwards of not losing hope — Mahomes looked dejected for most of the second half. The Niners were comfortable — much like they were in week 17.

It brought back a lot of bad memories.

The Seahawks were so bad at defending the perimeter run, Pete Carroll listed it as a specific area for improvement this off-season. If they’re going to face the Rams, Niners and Cardinals for six games a season, they need to come up with a solution.

I suspect the base-defense plan for 2019 was partly to try and handle this. We saw Bill Belichick use safety’s in the last Super Bowl to stymy some of LA’s misdirection and stretch plays. Mychal Kendricks isn’t a safety but he runs a 4.4. Again, people can criticise the end product but I think the plan made sense.

Seattle has speed at the second level but I think it needs aggressive quickness too. When teams get to the perimeter like this, you’re going to face blockers. You’re going to need to work through traffic. You’re going to need to battle a bit and then make a tackle. You’ve got to be more physical than the guy across from you.

Too often the Seahawks got pushed around in these situations. Nobody could get off a block. Receivers and tight ends were handling their guys. Heck, even Aaron Rodgers managed to block Cody Barton at Lambeau.

Next time, stick him on his backside. Or be quicker to the ball.

This is also an area where improved tackling can help. As we’ve discussed a lot, Seattle’s tackling form was statistically very poor in 2019.

If a team tries to attack the perimeter and doesn’t get anywhere early in a game, they’ll probably move off it pretty quickly. Otherwise they’ll keep going to the well, just as the Niners did. Seattle can’t allow opponents to keep going to the well in 2020.

4. The Niners have a great coach and a highly talented team but…

If you don’t trust your quarterback to run a two-minute offense with three time-outs on the board before half-time that’s a problem.

Garoppollo is neat and tidy. He executes a lot of what Shanahan needs him to do. For the most part he delivers a pass that is on-time, to the right receiver. They didn’t fluke 13 wins and a Super Bowl appearance. The quarterback played his part.

He’s not special though, is he? It’s possible the Niners will be right back in contention again next year. They are rich in talent on the D-line and with Kittle. Shanahan, despite blowing two healthy Super Bowl leads, is a tremendous coach and figure-head.

They’re in the Jared Goff zone though. Both Garoppollo and Goff have been to Super Bowl’s and they’ve been paid hefty salaries. Yet you just know they’ll never quite be great.

There’s a new era of young QB’s coming through — DeShaun, Lamar, Mahomes, Dak — paired with Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. I don’t think any of those players depend on scheme. In Los Angeles and San Francisco — the coaches and the scheme are the most important factor. Not the quarterbacks.

Given Shanahan’s clear qualities, visision and veto on decision making, it’s surprising that he didn’t think Mahomes or Watson were worthy of being his QB in 2017. Instead they took Solomon Thomas at #3 and eventually traded for Garoppollo on October 31st that year. Hindsight is a great thing, of course. Thomas was excellent at Stanford and hasn’t delivered in the NFL. Imagining this Niners team with either at quarterback, however, is a scary prospect.

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