Comparing mocks: SDB vs ESPN’s Todd McShay

December 12th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

ESPN analyst Todd McShay posted his first 2019 mock draft today. It’s behind a paywall but if you don’t have an ESPN+ account, a Reddit user has posted the list in full. So that’s an option if you want to check it out. You can also start a free trial of ESPN+ by clicking here.

I thought this would be an opportunity to post my own updated mock draft and compare it to McShay’s.

Seahawks Draft Blog mock (draft order via Tankathon):

1 San Francisco — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
2 Arizona — Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
3 Oakland — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
4 Atlanta — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
5 New York Jets — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
6 Buffalo — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
7 Jacksonville — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
8 Tampa Bay — Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
9 Detroit — Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
10 New York Giants — Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
11 Cincinnati — Devin White (LB, LSU)
12 Green Bay — Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
13 Cleveland — Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
14 Washington — Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
15 Carolina — Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
16 Philadelphia — Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
17 Denver — David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
18 Miami — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
19 Indianapolis — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
20 Tennessee — Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
21 Minnesota — Greg Little (G, Ole Miss)
22 Baltimore — Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
23 Pittsburgh — Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
24 Oakland — Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
25 Seattle — D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia)
26 Oakland — Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
27 Houston — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
28 Los Angeles Chargers — Noah Fant (TE, Iowa)
29 New England — Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
30 Green Bay — A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
31 Kansas City — Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
32 Los Angeles Rams — Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)

Players included by SDB but not by McShay

Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia)
Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)

Players included by McShay but not by SDB

Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
DeAndre Baker (CB, Georgia)
Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida)
Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
Michael Deiter (G, Wisconsin)
Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)

Notes on the differences

— I think Kyler Murray is by far the best draft eligible quarterback for 2019. Ignore the size. Just watch the way Murray plays compared to Drew Lock, Dwayne Haskins and even Justin Herbert. You will see every kind of throw, to all areas of the field, with accuracy, touch and precision. Murray has zero limitations as a passer. He’s also highly dynamic and athletic — capable of extending plays, throwing on the run and breaking off huge gains as a runner. Murray deservedly won the Heisman. McShay possibly didn’t include him due to the uncertainty over whether he’ll choose football over baseball. I’m going to include him until he officially rules out the NFL. Murray is a spectacular prospect with limitless talent and potential.

— I included Drew Lock because he was considered a possible first round talent this year before opting to return to Missouri. He’s long been on the NFL’s radar and has a skill-set that can be developed. A team with uncertainty at the position and needing a cheap option (eg the Redskins) could look at him. I didn’t include Dwayne Haskins and don’t consider him a top NFL prospect. A lot of his throws are out to the flat or check-downs to an arsenal of fantastic talent at the receiver and running back positions. Ohio State are loaded with explosive skill players and Haskins was given a lot of easy throws to get the ball into their hands. Compared to Kyler Murray it was night and day. Murray throws into difficult windows over the middle, manipulated defenses and threw receivers open. Haskins doesn’t show anywhere near this range. I think he’s a day two developmental prospect.

— It’s good to see McShay include Rashan Gary and Dexter Lawrence in the top-10. Both players will go very early. Gary had an underwhelming college career and Lawrence has been unfairly critiqued at times. Here’s the thing though. In a year lacking obvious top-10 quarterbacks, left tackles and cornerbacks — the league will tap into major potential on the D-line. Gary and Lawrence were considered by many to be the best defensive tackle duo to ever appear in the same recruiting class. Ever. They were freakishly good in high school and remain difference making athletes. The upside with both is off the charts. They could easily end up being two of the best in the NFL. Teams will recognise that and feel comfortable drafting them early.

— Taylor Rapp at #15 overall in my mock is a little rich. However, according to Tony Pauline the Panthers have identified safety as a key target in the draft. Tapp, for me, is the best available. A lot of people talk about Deionte Thompson at Alabama. He ran in the 4.7’s at SPARQ, didn’t make a ton of plays in 2018 and has a long, lean frame. He looks like a Seahawks day three corner convert — not a rangy free safety or a towering strong safety. Rapp has quickness and agility plus the ability to make plays in space. The Panthers might try to trade down once they’ve identified which safety they want. I didn’t include trades in the mock.

— McShay has the Seahawks taking Jeffery Simmons at Mississippi State. As a player he’s exactly what Seattle needs. Simmons can play any down or distance at defensive tackle. He’s a tremendous run defender but also provides some dynamism as a pass rusher. He’s quick and physical and has taken a leadership role on the defense. A player with his talent could create a fantastic trio with Jarran Reed and Frank Clark. I’m still not convinced he’ll be drafted by the Seahawks. This video (warning — it’s not nice) is the reason why. Someone will draft Simmons, just like someone drafted Joe Mixon. Will the Seahawks go down that road? Be prepared to deal with the reaction? Not sure. A mistake shouldn’t be the end of your career but it does require a lot of investigation. How accountable are you to the mistake? How have you made amends? How have you changed? What lessons did you learn? These are all questions NFL teams will be asking.

Here’s another video about Simmons that offers an insight into his character:

— I don’t plan to mock D’Andre Walker to Seattle every time. I think he’s a fit as a physical and explosive EDGE with the ability to play the run, operate in space and offer some pass rush. He showed against Alabama that he’s one of the top defenders in this class. Unfortunately a lot of the possible alternatives are off the board. It’s one of the reasons I posted the piece about Kyler Murray yesterday — and why it might be an option if he chooses to play football and lasts into the late first round. If the Seahawks continue to win and progress beyond the wildcard round of the playoffs, they will work their way out of range for the best defensive linemen. And then they have a choice to make. Roll the dice on an undersized player like Brian Burns (supposedly playing in the 220’s this year), consider someone like Gerald Willis II (who has had a weird college career but will destroy the short shuttle at the combine) or keep trading down to restore stock in days 2-3. It’d be great to imagine what a Derrick Brown, Christian Wilkins or Jachai Polite could do for this team. All three are likely to be off the board very quickly, however.

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An argument for the Seahawks drafting Kyler Murray

December 11th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Firstly, there are four things to point out:

1. No, the Seahawks shouldn’t trade Russell Wilson

2. I don’t buy into the argument that you need a cheap QB to succeed

3. It’s unclear whether Kyler Murray will even pursue a NFL career

4. This is an argument for drafting Murray, not a statement that it should happen

Let’s address each point.

1. The Seahawks shouldn’t trade Russell Wilson

Wilson is a perfect fit for Pete Carroll’s offense. The scheme is also perfect for Wilson. Brian at Hawkblogger wrote a superb article to highlight this.

Furthermore, the Seahawks appear to be on the brink of another 3-4 year journey. The offense is stronger than it’s arguably ever been under Carroll. The offensive line is finally fixed. The running game is productive and physical. With a few exceptions, Wilson has been more efficient and explosive than ever. Everything is clicking.

With a few upgrades on defense, this team could be a legitimate contender again in 2019 or 2020. They’re close. It makes no sense whatsoever to move the franchise quarterback and potentially scupper the progress made this year.

Wilson is 30. The team has two realistic, sensible options. Let him play out 2019 and then franchise tag him. Or extend his contract for another four years. Why risk wasting a second Championship window with Carroll?

2. I don’t buy into the argument that you need a cheap QB to succeed

The success of teams like Philadelphia, Kansas City and Los Angeles (Rams) has led to a growing feeling that there’s a competitive advantage when you’re not paying a veteran quarterback +$30m a year.

It’s logical. The rookie pay scale in this CBA changed the game forever. Instead of having to pay Sam Bradford $50m guaranteed, you get to pay Baker Mayfield $32m. Lamar Jackson’s contract only contains $7.5m guaranteed. If you’re paying less for your quarterback, you have more to spend on the rest of your roster.

That said, talent is still the biggest factor in the NFL. It always will be. The teams with the best quarterbacks are going to be the most competitive. It’s why the same three AFC quarterbacks played in the Super Bowl every year for the last 15 years — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning (with a cameo by Joe Flacco).

The quality of your quarterback is what matters, not the cost.

You don’t have to be big spenders in free agency. After all, when the Seahawks were paying Russell Wilson a tiny third-round rookie salary, their best moves were the value moves (Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril) not the big splurge (Percy Harvin).

If you have a QB who isn’t getting it done (eg 2018 Joe Flacco), turning to a cheaper rookie makes sense. When your quarterback is legitimately one of the best 5-6 in the world and having a career season — you ride that wave. Not swim to shore and look for a new board. It’s up to the Seahawks to make it work.

And while things are currently looking good for the Chiefs and Rams, it’s not really because of the saving they’re making at QB. The Rams are great because the Head Coach has proven to be an exceptional talent in his own right — and he inherited a team that had Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley. Kansas City’s defense is horrible. They succeed because of quality coaching and the blossoming career of a possible generational QB talent.

The Rams and Chiefs will pay to keep Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes one day. And so they should.

3. It’s unclear whether Kyler Murray will even pursue a NFL career

Murray’s baseball agent insists he’ll report to spring training with the Oakland A’s. If you’re unaware, Murray was the ninth overall pick in the MLB draft.

The player himself hasn’t ruled anything out, opting to say he’s merely concentrating on the College Football Playoffs.

Financially, the NFL has to appeal. As PFT’s Michael David Smith highlights, the riches are in football:

“If Murray is a first-round pick, he’ll make anywhere from $10 million (if he goes at the end of the first round) to $35 million (if he goes first overall) on his four-year rookie contract. And if Murray develops into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, his second contract would be massive. Even if Murray doesn’t become a great quarterback, plenty of not-so-great quarterbacks make a lot of money in the NFL. Matt Cassel has made $60 million in his career; Mark Sanchez has made $74 million.

“In baseball, Murray is guaranteed $4.6 million if he goes to the A’s, but beyond that he wouldn’t get a big payday for five or six years, and he wouldn’t hit free agency until he’s 29 or 30 years old.”

Winning the Heisman Trophy possibly opened Murray’s eyes. Is there more success to come in football? Can he make this work? Is he starting to consider how Baker Mayfield rose to the #1 overall pick?

We’ll likely find out quickly after Oklahoma’s season ends. This feels like it’s trending one way, though. Towards the NFL.

4. This is an argument for drafting Murray, not a statement that it should happen

The 2019 NFL draft is loaded with defensive linemen. Seattle’s biggest needs are on defense. If the intention is to take a big step towards contending for a Super Bowl, the best move would be to add to the D-line with their first pick.

However, the top players will go early and often. If the Seahawks make the post-season, they won’t pick earlier than #21 overall. If they win in the Wildcard round, they can’t select earlier than #25. If they avoid a late-season collapse, they might not be in range for the top D-liners. And that’s part of the consideration here. What’s an alternative plan? Especially if they keep winning?

It’s also worth noting how good the free agent class could be for defensive linemen. Cameron Wake, Brandon Graham, Clay Matthews and Terrell Suggs are all experienced free agents. Anthony Barr, Grady Jarrett, Dante Fowler and Dee Ford are out of contract in the new year. Presumably Demarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah will get big money — but they too are all reaching the market.

And with a strong D-line class in the draft, there could be some value to be had here.

So what would be the plan if they did draft Kyler Murray?

There are two key things you gain:

1. A proper developmental quarterback to work with for the first time since drafting Russell Wilson

2. An insurance policy

The first point is simple. For years Seattle wheeled out Tarvaris Jackson, Austin Davis and then traded for Brett Hundley. They’ve only drafted two quarterbacks in the Carroll era — Wilson and seventh rounder Alex McGough.

Drafting a young, developmental quarterback can pay off. Green Bay planned for life after Brett Favre. New England drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in round two and were able to trade him for a high pick.

Both the Patriots and Packers were in a very different position to the Seahawks. Favre and Brady were a lot older than Russell Wilson is currently. It’s also worth noting that the Packers also spent a second rounder on Brian Brohm as they were planning for life after Favre. That didn’t work out as well as the Aaron Rodgers pick.

That said, there’s some logic in bolstering your quarterback ranks — especially for a dynamic playmaker. Kyler Murray has a special quality.

So that brings us onto the insurance policy aspect of this. And a brief history.

When Russell Wilson and the Seahawks began negotiations over a new contract in 2014, a quick deal seemed inevitable. Other highly paid quarterbacks had set the market. Wilson and Seattle were a winning match. Why would there be any drama?

Instead, one of the most tedious episodes of the Carroll era occurred. Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, drove a hard bargain. By the time he started appearing on the radio, you knew things were bad. Deadlines were set. Playing the 2015 season without a new deal became a reality. Then at the last minute, both parties came together.

It felt like an avoidable saga.

Who knows what will happen this time? Wilson is only contracted until the end of the 2019 season. You would expect negotiations to begin again in the off-season. And once more, the market is set. Aaron Rodgers has been paid. Everything works off his latest deal.

It’s possible history will repeat. That the two sides will be locked in negotiations all summer and not come away with an extension until deep into the summer (if at all). It wouldn’t be a big issue. The franchise tag would keep Wilson in Seattle until at least the end of the 2020 season. After that? Who knows.

Preparing for any potential issues would be sound planning. It’s better to have an alternative at hand. It can help in negotiations, it certainly helps if you have to part ways. It’s better to have a solution in place one or two years in advance rather than having to react to any future drama.

Spending a high pick on an insurance policy would be expensive. However, it could be important for two reasons:

1. If there’s one position that retains or increases value, it’s at quarterback. You might get a return on your investment 2-3 years down the line if you decide to trade Murray.

2. If you do have to part ways with Wilson after 2020, at least you’ve got a player who’s spent two years on your roster and knows the offense — rather than trying to scramble for an expensive veteran stopgap or start a rookie.

There’s also a scenario here that includes extending Wilson’s contract and still drafting Murray. Wilson is now 30. If he receives a four-year contract extension, that’ll take him to the age of 35. A first round rookie contract lasts for five seasons.

If you draft Murray in 2019, you have a quality backup for the rest of Wilson’s third contract and then you can make the same kind of decision as the Patriots in 2017. They had to choose between keeping Jimmy Garoppolo or Tom Brady. They chose Brady and traded Garoppolo for a high pick.

So there’s some of the reasoning. I’m not trying to argue this is something the Seahawks should do. I’m just bringing up the conversation.

And as noted in our piece on Murray published last week, he’s a special player:

He’s an accurate passer with great feel and understanding in the pocket. He can improvise and extend plays when required. He has a terrific arm and can make the big plays downfield. He’s even more impressive when he throws with touch — and watching multiple games in the last couple of days there were clear examples where Murray delivered a beautiful touch pass. One in particular stood out — the tight end ran to the sideline on a scramble drill and Murray looped a pass over the head of one defensive back but kept the ball away from the safety. It was inch perfect.

He’s also a tremendous athlete capable of breaking contain and making big gains with his legs. He throws well on the run — whether that’s downfield or finding a check-down. There’s a lot to like.

I’ve watched two more games since publishing that piece. Murray’s footwork and comfort in the pocket is of the highest level. He’s equally comfortable moving to buy time and he can throw from numerous angles. His downfield throwing ability is exceptional. He’s not just got the arm strength — he’s incredibly accurate on his deep throws. He has terrific range, can make plays at every level of the field and there is clear evidence of Murray running through progressions.

Then there’s his dynamic athleticism. If he finds a crease or a running lane — he’s practically unstoppable. He accelerates and glides away from defenders and he’s even more of a dynamic dual-threat than Lamar Jackson.

Forget the size. Kyler Murray is legit. He is, in my opinion, by far the best draft eligible quarterback for 2019. And if the Seahawks end up taking him in the first frame as a long-term insurance policy, developmental quarterback and potential future starter — it will be a fine pick.

They’d need to be busy in free agency to upgrade the defense. With only four picks, this would have the feel of a ‘luxury’. It’d be an investment, not an impact pick. With a potential new Championship window opening, the wise money is on more of an ‘impact pick’ with their first selection in 2019.

Keep this idea in mind though. It’s worth a discussion at the very least. And if it were ever going to happen — Murray’s the type of player to go and get.

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Instant reaction: The Seahawks play weird football games

December 10th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

There’s just something about the Pete Carroll Seahawks.

They play in bizarre, weird games.

This was a new one.

Seattle dominated the first half. They had 12 first downs compared to Minnesota’s five. They ran 15 more plays, gained 114 more yards, ran for 139. It was a dominating opening two quarters.

And they let the Vikings off the hook with mistakes.

A flag on Jordan Simmons and an uncharacteristic, befuddling interception by Russell Wilson meant a 3-0 half-time lead instead of a handsome advantage.

A game in control… transformed into a war of attrition.

Still the weirdness continued. A bad pass interference call on Xavier Rhodes set up a first down at Minnesota’s 10-yard line. Again, they settle for a field goal.

You’re waiting for Kirk Cousins and Minnesota to take advantage. They had to, surely? They’d been kept alive for so long.

A 48-yard completion to Stefon Diggs. This is the moment. Here come the Vikings.

Nope. Stopped on fourth down in the red zone.

But Seattle give them the ball back with great field position. Is this the moment Seattle would surrender their lead?

Again, nope. The defense stands tall. Bobby Wagner blocks a field goal with an illegal, uncalled leap over the LOS.

The Seahawks are desperate on offense at this stage. The run has stalled. The passing game is non-existent. What can they do?

Well of course. A 40-yard scramble by the quarterback — sprinting away from a lunging Linval Joseph the nose tackle. How else would the Seahawks break open the game on a night when Wilson threw for a career-low number of passing yards?

It all finishes with a Jacob Martin forced fumble and a Justin Coleman scoop-and-score. After all the nervous energy, the anxiety, the wondering whether the Seahawks were going to let this one slip. They get the handsome scoreline after all.

The Pete Carroll Seahawks. After all these years, still finding different ways to do it.

Following a weekend where the rest of the NFC was a mix of bad, worse and downright ugly — they’ll take the win. The rebuilding, re-setting Seahawks are on the brink of the playoffs. They need one more NFC win. They’ll want three wins to take into the wildcard weekend.

Amid all the chaos there were some big positives here:

— The Vikings do a good job defending the run. Seattle ran for 216 yards. They also did it without D.J. Fluker. They truly are the #1 rushing team in the league. They showed that today.

— Minnesota took away Seattle’s explosive passing plays. The Seahawks executed poorly too — Wilson and the receivers can share the blame there. But again — they still found a way to win in that environment.

— Seattle’s defense was fantastic. After some recent struggles, the entire group stepped up to a new level. The DB’s played the ball and limited the big plays, the D-line created pressure and Bobby Wagner was his usual all-pro self. They deserved a shut-out and will be disappointed they didn’t get it. Still, this was an excellent display.

— They’re finding ways to win. The late drama against Green Bay and Carolina, now this. They’re battled tested. And only three teams have a better record than the Seahawks in the NFC (even after a disappointing 0-2 start).

It’s the type of night that would’ve been bitterly disappointing had they thrown it away and lost. Instead? It’s another fun moment in an increasingly enjoyable 2018 season that is going far better than most people imagined.

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Updated 2019 draft class tier list: 9th December

December 9th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray is the best draft eligible quarterback

I’m going to keep updating the tier list. It’ll change if players decide not to declare. It’ll change if I study a player and decide they need to be included. That happened this week with a pair of Oklahoma prospects.

Tier 1 — the top of the class

Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)

There’s still no challenge to Bosa for #1 overall and he deserves a tier to himself. He’s the complete defensive end — with the quickness and rare agility to be a dominant speed rusher, the power to manhandle offensive linemen and the size/toughness to work against the run. In a year without a top quarterback prospect or offensive tackle, Bosa goes #1.

Tier 2 — likely top-10 picks

Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)

Quinnen Williams has been a dominant force for Alabama but there will be some mild concerns about his age (19) and the fact he’s a one-year wonder. Clelin Ferrell has ideal size and length and would be a top-five pick in any class. Ed Oliver is extremely dynamic but there will be some questions asked about his fit at the next level due to his lack of length and size. Rashan Gary and Dexter Lawrence wowed High School recruiters and were the #1 and #2 top prospects in the country. One scout for Rivals called them the best defensive tackle duo he’d ever seen in one single class. They’ve long been destined for the pro’s and NFL scouts will love this pair. They will go early. Christian Wilkins is a phenomenal player with fantastic athleticism, prototype three-tech size, excellent character and technique. Ignore the critics. Raekwon Davis is a monster built like Calais Campbell.

Tier 3 — possible top-15 picks

Devin White (LB, LSU)
Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)

I’ve added Kyler Murray to this tier. As I noted on Wednesday, I think he’s the best eligible quarterback prospect and a possible first round pick. At least one NFL GM agrees. He’s accurate, exceptionally athletic and simply a fantastic playmaker. If I needed a quarterback in this draft, I’m going to take Murray and roll the dice. Devin White was once considered the next Leonard Fournette. He was projected as a running back in High School, then he added a lot of bulk and lost some speed. Recruiters started to project him to full back, believe it or not. Then he slimmed down at LSU and became an elite college linebacker. Jachai Polite’s motor never stops. His effort is incredible. He lacks length and size but he’s extremely quick and aggressive as a pass rusher and has been productive despite facing a number of double teams in 2018. Derrick Brown is a complete defensive tackle. He controls the LOS, shows excellent discipline in the run game and makes an impact as a pass rusher too.

Tier 4 — possible top-20 picks

Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)

Zach Allen has been a force all season. He’s big and looks like an interior rusher but still wins with get-off, speed and his hand use and technique is on-point. The combine will be big for him but he has a legitimate chance to secure a place in the top-20. Josh Allen has been a consistently effective pass rusher all season. He’s probably best suited to playing as a pure 3-4 OLB in a scheme like Pittsburgh’s. Georgia had success running right at him and Vanderbilt’s tight end also handled him. Even so, he gets to the QB and makes plays. David Edwards is a pure right tackle but teams will like his attitude, consistency and toughness.

Tier 5 — Top-40 talent

D’Andre Walker (LB, Georgia)
Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Brian Burns (EDGE, Florida State)
Rodney Anderson (RB, Oklahoma)

We’ve been saying all season that D’Andre Walker is underrated and it took a big performance against Alabama to finally gain some recognition. Walker is very strong against the run despite his linebacker size. He’s capable of rushing the passer as a defensive end, dropping into space and he always plays with a high intensity. Byron Murphy flies to the ball-carrier and looks like a naturally gifted defensive back. He plays cornerback for Washington but I’d love to see him tried at free safety. Jerry Tillery was recruited as a left tackle before switching to defense. He’s as big as Raekwon Davis and provides an alternative later in the top-40. Damien Harris is highly explosive and the complete running back. Brian Burns had a terrific year and could be listed higher but there are legitimate concerns about his weight (is he really playing in the 220’s?). Rodney Anderson will not go early due to injury concerns but in terms of pure talent — he’s right up there. Explosive, great size, tough. An excellent prospect who just needs to stay healthy.

Tier 6 — best of the rest

Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (CB/S, Florida)
Jaylor Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)

Marquise Brown is sudden and a fantastic playmaker. He was a little inconsistent against Texas in the Big-12 Championship game and then got hurt. He’s Antonio Brown’s cousin. Kaden Smith is the most rounded draft-eligible tight end. Drew Lock could easily be the first quarterback taken and could’ve been a first rounder this year. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson switched to nickel corner from safety in 2018. He’s extremely physical and plays with personality and attitude. He can be boom-or-bust. Jaylon Ferguson had major production in 2018 but plays with raw technique. With a good combine, some teams will believe he’s worth selecting early to develop. Austin Bryant is a pure pass rusher who will make plays in a rotation. Taylor Rapp is athletic with the ability to leave an impression and could be the first safety off the board.

Still intriguing

Gerald Willis II (DT, Miami)
Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)
Christian Miller (LB, Alabama)
Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)

Gerald Willis will need to explain to teams a bizarre college career that started at Florida, appeared to be going way off the tracks and then ended with a fantastic year of production in Miami. He’s undersized and might be a specialist rusher but he plays with supreme agility and will test well in the short shuttle. Johnathan Abram is a playmaking safety but there are concerns about his athletic upside. A big combine performance could push him into the top-40. Christian Miller will test well and has developed into a more complete player in 2018. Steven Montez isn’t expected to declare for the draft but if he changes his mind could still provide an intriguing alternative to the big name quarterbacks.

Overrated players (or players who might go earlier than they should)

Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)
Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
Deandre Baker (CB, Georgia)
Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
N’Keal Harry (WR, Arizona State)
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (WR, Stanford)
D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)
Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)

Greedy Williams will likely be the first cornerback off the board, possibly in the top-15. However, he still needs a lot of work and shares some of the same issues as Deandre Baker when tracking the ball in the air. Williams has the size and looks the part but might underwhelm at the next level. I think he’s overrated and generally projected too early. Dre’Mont Jones looks great at times as an interior pass rusher. He’s quick and fluid and gets into the backfield to make plays. He also disappears from games (an issue stretching back to High School) and is a liability against the run. Jonah Williams plays left tackle at Alabama but is a pure guard, lacking the length and foot-speed to play outside. He’s best blocking head-on 1v1 and has limitations. I wouldn’t consider him a round one prospect, especially at tackle. Greg Little similarly looks a bit stiff handling the edge and might need to kick inside to guard.

Deionte Thompson is a long, lean safety. He isn’t rangy or particularly fast. He might run in the late 4.5’s or 4.6’s. He’s physical but I don’t understand the first round hype. The Seahawks could look at him as a day-three corner convert based on his frame. Deandre Baker lacks size, struggles to track the ball and might not test particularly well at the combine. There are character flags lingering over Montez Sweat according to Tony Pauline and while he’s a capable college pass rusher, he’s very lean and his success might not translate to the next level. A.J. Brown competes for the ball in the air but how athletic is he? Is he just another Laquon Treadwell? N’Keal Harry wins plenty of contested catches and has YAC ability but struggles to separate. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is merely a useful redzone target and jump-ball specialist. He might be a day-three pick. D.K. Metcalf has a ton of potential. However, he has a serious neck injury. He’s declared to set the wheels in motion for a pro-career, rather than spend 2019 sitting out at Ole Miss. His long-term future is still a question mark. He likely just wants to get into the league. I doubt he’s expecting to be drafted early. Dwayne Haskins has talent and production. There were also too many ‘off’ throws. Personally, I think he’s a mid-rounder with some potential to work with over time.

Players I’m still unsure about

Jeffrey Simmons (DT, Mississppi State)
Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)

Jeffrey Simmons is a good player. He was also filmed beating up a defenceless woman. Many teams won’t have him on their board. I’ve listed him here simply to avoid having to answer questions in the comments section about where he fits. Someone will draft him. I can live without it being the Seahawks. Daniel Jones has shown flashes of quality at Duke and could slip into the 20’s. I need to do more study before confirming that thought. I’ve not studied Cody Ford enough to pass judgement but Tony Pauline believes he could rise into the first frame. Devin Bush is not bad player at all. However, there are some concerns and I don’t see a first round prospect. Bush was asked to be very aggressive by Michigan. He had two key roles — attack the LOS to try and make plays in the backfield and cover passes to the flat. That’s not his fault but it makes for a difficult evaluation. There wasn’t too much in the way of read-and-react, discipline vs the run and zone coverage. In one game I saw him attack the LOS leaving a simple outside cut for the running back to break off a big gain. He needed to be less aggressive and simply force the runner back inside. He has energy and speed but it’s hard to get a sense for how his game translates to the next level watching Michigan play.

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Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson is a fit (with injury issues)

December 6th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson suffered an ACL injury in September

The Seahawks just drafted a running back in round one. Chris Carson is under contract for two more years. This isn’t a need — especially if they bring back Mike Davis in 2019 (which seems possible and probably sensible).

That said, this is clearly a team determined to run the ball. It’s also a team that has experienced injury issues at the running back position for years. If they don’t keep Davis — or if they keep their options open until after the draft — I want to talk about a possible mid-round addition to replenish their depth.

Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson started the year being touted as a possible first round pick. He had 1161 rushing yards in 2017 and 18 total touchdowns. He’s 6-1 and 220lbs — a perfect frame for a NFL running back.

On September 8th in a game against UCLA he tore his ACL. Season over. He’s since declared for the draft. It’s not his first serious injury. He suffered a broken leg in 2015 and a fractured vertebrae in 2016. He didn’t play until 2017.

At the combine, teams will want to check the progress of his recovery and look at some of the other previous injuries. It’s likely, whatever they find, he’s going to be a mid-round pick at best. He might even last a little longer.

Even so, he’ll be worth a shot. He’s a highly explosive, physical runner. The cost will be reduced as a consequence of the injuries and it’s a shot to nothing really. In Seattle, he’d also be working in a time-share. It’s succeeding this year and Pete Carroll often collected prize running backs at USC.

He’s doing the same in Seattle…

2010 draft — traded for Leon Washington
2010 season — traded for Marshawn Lynch
2012 draft — drafted Robert Turbin (R4)
2013 draft — drafted Christine Michael (R2) & Spencer Ware (R6)
2015 draft — signed Thomas Rawls as an UDFA
2016 draft — drafted C.J. Prosise (R3) & Zac Brooks (R7)
2017 draft — drafted Chris Carson (R7)
2018 draft — drafted Rashaad Penny (R1)

(Note — I included Rawls in the list above because Carroll admitted after the draft that was his guy — just as Carson was in 2017)

Under Carroll, the Seahawks have consistently added running backs. Even when they had Marshawn Lynch in his prime, they spent a fourth rounder on Robert Turbin and used their first pick in the 2013 draft on Christine Michael.

For that reason, I have to believe they’d continue to keep adding if the right opportunity emerges.

Anderson might be too risky. Clearly they’ve had to endure enough injury issues. Are they willing to take a chance? With only four picks currently in the 2019 draft, can they afford a move like this?

Or do they have to max-out their picks, with Anderson providing an opportunity to get big value potentially early in day three?

For some years now we’ve been able to identify what a Seahawks running back looks like. Here’s a note from a piece written after the 2018 combine:

The Seahawks have targeted running backs with explosive athleticism and size during the Pete Carroll era. They’ve consistently taken runners who excelled in the vertical and broad jumps. Christine Michael (220lbs), C.J. Prosise (220lbs), Robert Turbin (222lbs), Alex Collins (217lbs) and Spencer Ware (228lbs) all had similar size, height and athletic profiles.

Clearly this is a meaningful trend. The Seahawks appear to have a ‘type’. Using this information, we highlighted the following players in the previous two drafts as potential targets:

2016:

C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs, 35.5 inch vert, 10-1 broad
Kenneth Dixon — 5-10, 215lbs, 37.5 inch vert, 10-8 broad

2017:

Christopher Carson — 6-0, 218lbs, 37 inch vert, 10-10 broad
Brian Hill — 6-0, 219lbs, 34 inch vert, 10-5 broad
Alvin Kamara — 5-10, 214lbs, 39.5 inch vert, 10-11 broad
Joe Williams — 5-11, 210lbs, 35 inch vert, 10-5 broad

They eventually drafted Prosise and Carson.

Considering how many running backs were available in 2016 & 2017, to narrow it down to six names and hit on two players they actually drafted is not insignificant.

This trend continued in the 2018 class. We were able to identify the following group as ‘definite’ fits in terms of their physical profile:

Saquon Barkley — 6-0, 233lbs, 41 inch vert DNP broad
Kerryon Johnson — 5-11, 213lbs 40 inch vert, 10-6 broad
Bo Scarborough — 6-0, 228lbs, 40 inch vert, 10-9 broad
Nick Chubb — 5-11, 227lbs, 38.5 inch vert, 10-8 broad
John Kelly — 5-10, 216lbs, 35 inch vert, 10-0 broad

And described the following group as borderline fits:

Lavon Coleman — 5-10, 223lbs, 33 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Rashaad Penny — 5-11, 220lbs, 32.5 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Royce Freeman — 5-11, 229lbs, 34 inch vert, 9-10 broad

They took Penny with their first pick. He was considered ‘borderline’ rather than a definite fit purely because his explosive testing wasn’t quite at the level of their previous selections. Even so — in terms of size he matched. His speed (4.46 forty) clearly intrigued them enough to concede a little in the explosive testing. That’s something to consider going forward — but their ‘type’ remains clear.

Again, being able to narrow down a loaded 2018 class of runners to eight names isn’t insignificant. They ended up carrying Lavon Coleman on their practise squad too, plus Pete Carroll admitted interest in Royce Freeman during his mid-week press conference before the Denver game.

Anderson at 6-1 and 220lbs fits in terms of size. His SPARQ testing also shows he’s a highly explosive athlete. He jumped a 37-inch vertical. The broad jump isn’t part of SPARQ but he also ran a 3.97 short-shuttle which is impressive for a big running back. In comparison, Bryce Love ran a 4.21 at SPARQ despite being much lighter.

Here’s a further example of his explosive athleticism:

I spent a bit of time watching his tape after studying Kyler Murray this week. Despite carrying 220lbs he accelerates away from defenders to act as a home-run hitter and his ability to change direction and cut back into space is highly impressive.

Here’s an example:

If you need him to fight through contact, he’ll do it:

Can he make plays in the passing game? Absolutely:

Anderson is an early round talent that will last due to the injury history. It’s possible he’ll continue to miss time at the next level and never truly realise his potential. That said, whoever takes him will get a player with a lot more potential than the other players drafted in the same round.

If the Seahawks want to continue to collect runners for their run-heavy offense, Anderson could be an option if he lasts into the third or fourth round.

If you missed yesterday’s piece on Kyler Murray and SPARQ testing, click here.

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Wednesday notes: Kyler Murray & SPARQ numbers

December 5th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray has already signed a deal with the Oakland A’s

Kyler Murray is the best draft eligible quarterback

It’s not a great quarterback class. There’s not an obvious top-10 talent.

We could see Drew Lock go very early. Or Dwayne Haskins. It seems somewhat likely they’ll be the first two quarterbacks taken (assuming Haskins declares and Oregon’s Justin Hebert doesn’t).

That said, I’d take my chances on Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.

He says he’s still planning to return to baseball. Murray was the #9 overall pick in the last MLB draft, picked by the Oakland A’s. He agreed a deal that contained a $4.66m signing bonus. Murray’s baseball agent says he’s committed to Oakland.

It could come down to money. Josh Rosen, the #10 pick in the NFL draft this year, received a $10.87m signing bonus from the Cardinals with $17.5m guaranteed overall. If teams are willing to draft Murray in the top-15 he has a decision to make.

Lamar Jackson, the #32 overall pick, received a signing bonus worth $4.9m. It’s similar to Murray’s MLB deal. In that scenario, it might still be a decision worth contemplating. As a late first round or early second round pick, Murray would expect to start sooner rather than later (Jackson is now a rookie starter in Baltimore). If he’s drafted in the third round, he’s getting less money and there’s no guarantee he’ll ever truly compete to start (and might even be drafted by a team looking for a backup).

It’s a tough call for NFL teams too. If Murray opts for the NFL — will he be making the move knowing he can always turn to baseball in the future? Will he be constantly weighing up the two sports? Or will he simply move on with the occasional flirt (see: Russell Wilson)?

They’d also have to consider that there isn’t anyone like Murray in the league. Wilson was short but sturdy and played in a distinctly pro-style offense at Wisconsin. Murray is listed at 5-10 and 195lbs. That’s 10lbs lighter than Wilson at the 2012 combine. Can Murray get over 200lbs to allay some of those fears?

Either way, I promised never to write a player off due to height after the Wilson experience. So I’m not going to do that with Murray. And for me, he’s the most exciting QB eligible for this class. He’s an accurate passer with great feel and understanding in the pocket. He can improvise and extend plays when required. He has a terrific arm and can make the big plays downfield. He’s even more impressive when he throws with touch — and watching multiple games in the last couple of days there were clear examples where Murray delivered a beautiful touch pass. One in particular stood out — the tight end ran to the sideline on a scramble drill and Murray looped a pass over the head of one defensive back but kept the ball away from the safety. It was inch perfect.

He’s also a tremendous athlete capable of breaking contain and making big gains with his legs. He throws well on the run — whether that’s downfield or finding a check-down. There’s a lot to like.

Teams like the Giants, Dolphins, Jaguars and Redskins — they need a long term answer at quarterback. And if I’m thinking of going in that direction in 2019 — I’m getting the message out to Murray’s people that we’re interested. He’d be the most unorthodox NFL quarterback at his size. It could easily be that it doesn’t work out, that he struggles like other QB’s missing the ideal height and frame. I think you have to keep your options open though. Especially if you’re in the market for a quarterback.

Murray has something about him. A special quality. He’d be the player I’d be showing most interest in if this was a blog focusing on a team with a QB need. I think he’s worthy of first round consideration.

It’s also worth mentioning that John Schneider attended the Oklahoma vs West Virginia game recently. Murray would be an ideal project for Seattle. Wilson is now 30. It wouldn’t be the worst time to draft a highly talented quarterback. Clearly Wilson is in his prime and having a tremendous year. He’s worthy of the contract extension he’ll likely receive within the next 18 months. But it’d be ideal to have an option when he reaches age 34. At that point, are you thinking about a fourth contract? You’d at least welcome an alternative that is trained in your offense.

New England drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in round two in 2014. He was a possible replacement for Tom Brady. In the end, the Pats traded Garoppolo for an early pick and stuck with Brady. They had that choice.

It might be time for the Seahawks to give themselves a similar option a few years down the line. Murray would fit the bill. There are two problems though — is he even willing to sit and wait for his chance with a $4.66m signing bonus to play in the MLB? And can the Seahawks justify a move like this when they currently only have four picks in the 2019 draft and clear defensive needs?

SPARQ scores for the 2019 class

Most of the top players take part in the Nike SPARQ events during recruitment. It’s a chance to show off their physical potential. It also gives us an early insight into how certain players might test at the NFL combine.

It has to be noted that the players have since grown, developed, been on proper diets and spent more time in the weight room. Some players might be slower because they’re bigger — others might’ve developed significantly since High School. This is nothing more than a gauge. Generally though, the top athletes are the top athletes. Josh Sweat for example had an unreal SPARQ score in High School and then blew up the NFL combine this year.

Some of the best players didn’t take part in SPARQ (Nick Bosa, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins for example) while others such as Kyler Murray seemed to attend but not test. I’ve listed the players high-to-low based on their scores. It’s also worth mentioning — size matters. The heavier players aren’t going to score as well.

Terry McLaurin (WR, Ohio State)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Forty: 4.41
Short shuttle: 4.13
Vertical: 42
SPARQ: 141.96

K.J. Hill (WR, Ohio State)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 192
Forty: 4.65
Short shuttle: 3.88
Vertical: 40
SPARQ: 133.95

Porter Gustin (LB, USC)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 238
Forty: 4.63
Short shuttle: 4.13
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 130.44

Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 180
Forty: 4.47
Short shuttle: 3.90
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 129.75

Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 208
Forty: 4.48
Short shuttle: 4.00
Vertical: 38
SPARQ: 126.93

Marvell Tell (S, USC)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 184
Forty: 4.55
Short shuttle: 4.19
Vertical: 39
SPARQ: 125.16

Christian Miller (EDGE, Alabama)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 212
Forty: 4.74
Short shuttle: 4.18
Vertical: 39
SPARQ: 124.17

Devin White (LB, LSU)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 260
Forty: 4.57
Short shuttle: 4.36
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 122.19

Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 249
Forty: 4.99
Short shuttle: 4.31
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 109.80

Rodney Anderson (RB, Oklahoma)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 205
Forty: 4.63
Short shuttle: 3.97
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 109.29

Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 287
Forty: 4.74
Short shuttle: 4.38
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 109.17

Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 199
Forty: 4.74
Short shuttle: 4.09
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 108.3

Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 175
Forty: 4.77
Short shuttle: 3.98
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 107.40

Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 289
Forty: 4.87
Short shuttle: 4.52
Vertical: 30
SPARQ: 105.63

Trayvon Mullen (CB, Clemson)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 170
Forty: 4.52
Short shuttle: 4.24
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 101.49

Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 317
Forty: 5.17
Short shuttle: 4.53
Vertical: 28
SPARQ: 100.14

Cameron Smith (LB, USC)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 236
Forty: 4.82
Short shuttle: 4.28
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 96.45

Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
Height: 6-8
Weight: 318
Forty: 5.49
Short shuttle: 4.84
Vertical: 26
SPARQ: 93.63

Brian Burns (EDGE, Florida State)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 213
Forty: 4.76
Short shuttle: 4.50
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 92.04

Jonathan Ledbetter (DE, Georgia)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 276
Forty: 5.04
Short shuttle: 4.69
Vertical: 28
SPARQ: 91.47

Jordan Fuller (S, Ohio State)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 205
Forty: 4.51
Short shuttle: 4.40
Vertical: 33
SPARQ: 90.96

Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 260
Forty: 5.24
Short shuttle: 4.72
Vertical: 29
SPARQ: 90.3

D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 213
Forty: 4.63
Short shuttle: 4.16
Vertical: 33
SPARQ: 89.91

Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 335
Forty: 5.03
Short shuttle: 4.61
Vertical: 23
SPARQ: 88.98

Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 204
Forty: 4.84
Short shuttle: 4.35
Vertical: 31
SPARQ: 88.38

Jaquan Johnson (S, Miami)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 182
Forty: 4.75
Short shuttle: 4.28
Vertical: 33
SPARQ: 87.78

Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 213
Forty: 5.75
Short shuttle: 4.70
Vertical: 26
SPARQ: 86.1

Jeffrey Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 262
Forty: 4.96
Short shuttle: 4.61
Vertical: 25
SPARQ: 83.79

Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 280
Forty: 5.14
Short shuttle: 4.66
Vertical: 27
SPARQ: 82.35

Joe Jackson (DE, Miami)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 237
Forty: 4.83
Short shuttle: 4.93
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 80.31

Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 314
Forty: 5.53
Short shuttle: 4.79
Vertical: 23
SPARQ: 76.71

Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 322
Forty: 5.28
Short shuttle: 4.82
Vertical: 23
SPARQ: 64.38

What stands out…

The top two players listed here are Ohio State wide receivers. I’m a big fan of Terry McLaurin based on what I’ve seen in 2018. Dynamic, able to separate and get downfield. His best football could come at the next level.

Rashan Gary’s short shuttle of 4.38 at 287lbs is eye-catching. He was recruited as a defensive tackle prospect (Rivals viewed Gary and Dexter Lawrence as the best defensive tackle duo they’d ever seen within the same class). It’s a quicker time than Bradley Chubb ran this year at 269lbs. Rasheem Green ran a 4.39 at 275lbs. That’s the type of potential Green has — even if we haven’t seen much from him as a rookie in Seattle.

Jerry Tillery’s short shuttle of 4.53 at 317lbs and Dexter Lawrence’s 4.61 at 335lbs are also worth noting. Taven Bryan ran a 4.50 at 290lbs and landed in round one this year. Lawrence ran the same time as Jeffrey Simmons despite a 73lb weight difference. Brian Burns ran a 4.50. Again, that puts the times of Tillery and Lawrence into perspective.

Austin Bryant also performed well in the short shuttle, running a 4.31. That’s a similar time to Josh Sweat (4.28) at almost identical weights. Sweat only fell in the draft this year due to injury concerns.

USC’s Porter Gustin won’t be an early pick but he’s someone to keep in the back of your mind. Before picking up an injury this year he had 10 TFL’s and seven sacks in just six games. Production + athleticism.

I’ve been saying for a while I don’t really understand the hype around Alabama safety Deionte Thompson. He’s not a bad player but where’s the evidence of a first round talent? At SPARQ testing he ran a 4.77 at 175lbs. Rashan Gary ran a quicker time (4.74) at 287lbs. Thompson might be faster now but he’s not going to run a 4.4 or 4.5. He did test very well in the short shuttle with a sub-4.00 time of 3.98. I think he’s a cornerback in a system like Seattle’s. Long arms, lean frame, quick feet, physical. I’d be projecting him at corner as a mid-round pick.

D’Andre Walker’s short shuttle of 4.13 is quicker than Leighton Vander Esch’s 4.15 at the NFL combine. Walker’s added 30lbs since he tested at SPARQ. If he produces a similar short shuttle in March with the extra muscle, get ready. People have been underrating him all year.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks handle Niners, move to 7-5

December 2nd, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

A comfortable win was the order of the day. The Seahawks need to take care of business in their remaining NFC games. This was always going to be the easiest on the slate. It’s unlikely Minnesota or even Arizona will be quite as accommodating as the Niners.

This was Seattle’s 10th straight win against San Francisco. Imagine anticipating that immediately after the 2013 NFC Championship. A rivalry that had developed into the NFL’s best didn’t last long.

There’s not a great deal to take out of the victory other than the win. The offense was efficient, Russell Wilson and the running game on point. The offense makes this team extremely competitive. Losing D.J. Fluker to a ‘pretty significant‘ hamstring strain is a blow.

The defense has some lingering issues. The pass rush still looks light and they give up too many easy big plays.

The Niners had 452 total yards on offense, including 386 passing yards.

San Francisco doesn’t have the worst O-line in the league (at least on paper). Yet this felt like a day where the Seahawks could crank things up (especially with an early and growing lead). It took until the final meaningful play of the game for someone to beat a lineman straight up (Jarran Reed, getting the third and final sack). The previous two both came on a blitz (the first from Bobby Wagner, the second shared between Justin Coleman and Quinton Jefferson).

It felt like a missed opportunity — or at least a further indication of the biggest off-season need.

The linebackers played very well — Wagner and Austin Calitro. Both ended with a pair of TFL’s and Wagner also had a 97-yard pick and a forced fumble plus recovery. It was a superstar performance and should be credited as such, regardless of the opponent.

The unit as a whole concedes too many big plays. Dante Pettis’ 75-yard score is the kind of play this defense is designed to avoid. Limit explosive plays — that’s the aim. It’s not happening at the moment.

The Niners didn’t have the punching power to punish Seattle. At times, however, it was all too easy for them. They could’ve easily scored more than 16 points. I’m not sure whether the defense deserves credit for the fact they didn’t or was it simply a fortunate day against a meek opponent?

The circle isn’t entirely complete and it’s not because of the running game any more.

In the post-season, it could be costly. And it remains, without doubt, the big priority for the off-season. One way or another they have to force more pressure next season. It’ll likely take a draft pick and a free agent addition or two. Extra competition across the board is necessary too. Work is required on the defense.

That’s the key to future improvement. For now, the Seahawks progress to 7-5. After a disjointed 0-2 start, they’ve gone 7-3 losing only to the Rams (twice) and the Chargers. All three losses could’ve ended differently.

Once again, Pete Carroll deserves credit for the way this season has developed into a legit post-season challenge.

Next week is huge. Minnesota at home on Monday Night Football. We saw what Kirk Cousins is capable of, leading a Redskins team to a win in Seattle last year.

It’s a playoff game in all but name.

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Separating the 2019 draft class into tiers

November 29th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Christian Wilkins & Dexter Lawrence will both go early in the 2019 draft

We’re near the end of the college football season, so time for an updated tier list.

I’ll keep updating this as we go along.

If you missed yesterday’s Google Hangout, listen here.

Tier 1 — the top of the class

Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)

There’s a clear #1 in this class and it’s Nick Bosa. As long as there are no major health concerns before the draft, he’ll be the first overall pick. I believe he deserves a tier on his own. He’s the complete defensive end — with the quickness and rare agility to be a dominant speed rusher, the power to manhandle offensive linemen and the size/toughness to work against the run. In a year without a top quarterback prospect or offensive tackle, Bosa goes #1.

Tier 2 — likely top-10 picks

Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)

Yes, all eight players listed in tiers one and two are defensive linemen. This is the reality of the 2019 draft class. Quinnen Williams has been a dominant force for Alabama but there will be some mild concerns about his age (19) and the fact he’s a one-year wonder. Clelin Ferrell has ideal size and length and would be a top-five pick in any class. Ed Oliver is extremely dynamic but there will be some questions asked about his fit at the next level due to his lack of length and size. Rashan Gary and Dexter Lawrence wowed High School recruiters and were the #1 and #2 top prospects in the country. One scout for Rivals called them the best defensive tackle duo he’d ever seen in one single class. They’ve long been destined for the pro’s and NFL scouts will be all over this pair. They will go early. Christian Wilkins is a phenomenal player with fantastic athleticism, prototype three-tech size, excellent character and technique. Ignore the critics. Raekwon Davis is a monster built like Calais Campbell.

Tier 3 — likely top-15 picks

Devin White (LB, LSU)
Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)

These three are a notch below the names in tier two but are still likely to be off the board quickly. Devin White was once considered the next Leonard Fournette. He was projected as a running back in High School, then he added a lot of bulk and lost some speed. Recruiters started to project him to full back, believe it or not. Then he slimmed down at LSU and became an elite college linebacker. Physical, tenacious, productive, consistent and a leader. Jachai Polite’s motor never stops. His effort is incredible. He lacks length and size but he’s extremely quick and aggressive as a pass rusher and has been productive despite a number of double teams in 2018. Derrick Brown is a complete defensive tackle. He controls the LOS, shows excellent discipline in the run game and has an impact as a pass rusher too.

Tier 4 — likely top-20 picks

Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)

Zach Allen has been a force all season. He’s big and looks like an interior rusher but still wins with get-off, speed and his hand use and technique is on-point. The combine will be big for him but he has a legitimate chance to secure a place in the top-20. Josh Allen has been a consistently effective pass rusher all season. He’s probably best suited to playing as a pure 3-4 OLB in a scheme like Pittsburgh’s. Georgia had success running right at him and Vanderbilt’s tight end also handled him. Even so, he gets to the QB and makes plays. David Edwards is a pure right tackle but teams will like his attitude, consistency and toughness. At least one quarterback will be taken early and if Justin Herbert stays at Oregon the most likely candidate is Drew Lock — a player who could’ve been a first round pick in 2018.

Tier 5 — the best of the rest

D’Andre Walker (LB, Georgia)
Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Brian Burns (DE, Florida State)
Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)

D’Andre Walker is very strong against the run despite his linebacker size. He’s capable of rushing the passer as a defensive end, dropping into space and he always plays with a high intensity. He leads Georgia in sacks. Byron Murphy flies to the ball-carrier and looks like a naturally gifted defensive back. He plays cornerback for Washington but I’d love to see him tried at free safety. Jerry Tillery was recruited as a left tackle before switching to defense. He’s as big as Raekwon Davis and provides an alternative later in the top-40. Damien Harris is highly explosive and the complete running back. Brian Burns is having a terrific year and could be listed higher but there are legitimate concerns about his weight (is he really playing in the 220’s?). I’m buying into Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. I like his speed, ability to separate and the way he catches the ball. Major talent. Kaden Smith is a very athletic, productive tight end who will star at the combine, especially in the short shuttle.

Overrated players (or players who might go earlier than they should)

Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)
A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
Deandre Baker (CB, Georgia)
Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
N’Keal Harry (WR, Arizona State)
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (WR, Stanford)
D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)

Greedy Williams will likely be the first cornerback off the board, possibly in the top-12. However, he still needs a lot of work and shares some of the issues Deandre Baker faces in Georgia when tracking the ball in the air. Williams has the size and looks the part but might underwhelm at the next level. Dre’Mont Jones looks great at times as an interior pass rusher. He’s quick and fluid and gets into the backfield to make plays. He also disappears from games (an issue stretching back to High School) and is a liability against the run. He doesn’t play with his hair on fire. Jonah Williams plays left tackle at Alabama but is a pure guard, lacking the length and foot-speed to play outside. He’s best blocking head-on 1v1 and has limitations. I wouldn’t consider him a round one prospect, especially at tackle. Greg Little similarly looks a bit stiff handling the edge and might need to kick inside in the NFL.

Deionte Thompson is a long, lean safety. He isn’t rangy or particularly fast. He might run in the late 4.5’s. You can’t fault his commitment or his physicality but he looks somewhere between a free and strong safety. The Seahawks would probably look at him as a day-three corner convert based on his frame. Deandre Baker lacks size, struggles to track the ball and might not test particularly well at the combine. There are character flags lingering over Montez Sweat according to Tony Pauline and while he’s a capable college pass rusher, he’s very lean and his success might not translate to the next level. N’Keal Harry wins plenty of contested catches and has YAC ability but struggles to separate. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is merely a useful redzone target and jump-ball specialist. He might be a day-three pick. D.K. Metcalf has a ton of potential. However, he has a serious neck injury. He’s declared to set the wheels in motion for a pro-career, rather than spend 2019 sitting out at Ole Miss. His long-term future is still a question mark. He likely just wants to get into the league. I doubt he’s expecting to be drafted early.

Players I’m unsure about

Jeffrey Simmons (DT, Mississppi State)
Jaylon Ferguson (DE, LA TECH)
Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (S/CB, Florida)

Jeffrey Simmons is a good player. He was also filmed beating up a defenceless woman. Many teams won’t have him on their board. I’ve listed him here simply to avoid having to answer questions in the comments section about where he fits. Someone will draft him, probably in the top-50. I can live without it being the Seahawks. Jaylon Ferguson has been one of the most productive defensive players in the country this year. He looks incredibly raw, there’s some frustrating tape but also some things to like. I want to see his combine numbers. Daniel Jones has shown flashes of quality at Duke and could slip into the 20’s. I need to do more study before confirming that thought. Austin Bryant is so productive and fun to watch at Clemson. I just wonder what his ceiling is at the next level. Taylor Rapp equally is very fun to watch. I want to see testing numbers though. What is the upside with Rapp and Bryant? It could be the difference between a top-25 grade and a second round projection. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson switched from safety to nickel in 2018. There’s a lot of potential here at either position — and he’s seen as a leader. How does the league view his potential and his best position?

Players who could rise

Christian Miller (EDGE, Alabama)
Gerald Willis (DT, Miami)
Colton McKivitz (T, West Virginia)
Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)
Joe Jackson (DE, Miami)
Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)

Christian Miller is a fantastic athlete and a productive edge rusher. This year he’s also become a much better run defender and he looks the part. Expect a big combine performance. Gerald Willis has phenomenal agility. The hype will build when you see his short shuttle result. He also has 17 TFL’s this year but will need to answer questions about a bizarre college career. Colton McKivitz is the best tackle on the West Virginia line. Can he test well to push himself into a top-40 grade? Steven Montez has everything you want in a quarterback prospect but needs time and development. He could be a steal for somebody. Joe Jackson has had a solid year for Miami and he’s well sized. A good combine could push him into the top-40. Johnathan Abram is a former four-star recruit who is having an excellent year for Mississippi State. There are concerns about his athletic upside. A good combine could push him high up the board.

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LIVE Google Hangout — watch now!

November 28th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Here is today’s Google Hangout. Topics discussed include the current state of the Seahawks, why 2018 is so much better than 2017, a thorough look at the defensive line class in the draft and a Q&A to finish. Check it out…

 

Monday notes: Jaylon Ferguson and Marquise Brown

November 26th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

2019 was already going to be the year of the defensive linemen. Now, Tony Pauline has highlighted another first round candidate — LA Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson:

“Graded as a potential first round pick entering the season, he’s considered one of the best pass rushers from the senior class but has rounded out his game this season and developed into a terrific run defender. For the season Ferguson has totaled 59 tackles while amassing 23.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. Though I have my concerns about his instincts there’s no denying Ferguson’s tape is impressive and will push him into the early part of the draft.”

Before today I hadn’t studied Ferguson, which was a mistake. He leads the country in sacks and is second for TFL’s. He should’ve been on the radar.

I found one game on Youtube plus some highlights videos. It’s not enough to make a firm projection but it is enough to see the potential.

He isn’t Marcus Davenport. There’s a reason why the Saints spent two first round picks to get him. Davenport absolutely dominated at a small school level, looking like a grown man playing a bunch of High School opponents. Ferguson still flashes though. He’s incredibly quick lining up in a wider position and sprinting to the QB. He has a knack for forcing the ball out (six FF’s in the 2016 & 2018 seasons combined). He has quality length and ideal size. He can work in space with the agility and footwork to read a play and make a difficult tackle (handy in the modern NFL with all the sweeps and motions).

There was one snap where he did a tremendous job bending the arc with perfect lean and balance to straighten and get to the quarterback. Quickness off the snap, the athleticism to turn the corner and explosion to finish. It was a big time play. On another snap he beat the right tackle with ease, just shimmying past him to get into the backfield and recover a fumble. There’s evidence of a neat push/pull move. Sometimes he’ll lock-on and control an offensive tackle to seal the edge. There’s plenty of power in his punch.

There are areas he needs to improve too. His reading of certain plays is poor. There are times when he’s too aggressive. You seem him slam into the left tackle with a thunderous punch — but he ends up battling with the LT in a wrestling match instead of using the jolt to disengage and look for the ball carrier. His gap discipline suffers because of his aggression. Sometimes he gets his head down and tries too hard to attack a gap, even when the play doesn’t call for it. Then at times he seems a little bit hesitant — an odd contrast to the times he’s a little too aggressive. On one occasion in the game I watched (vs FAU) he was easily handled 1v1 by a running back.

On first viewing there’s plenty of potential here. Ideal size, great power, some hints at top-end quickness and twitch. There are technical flaws that need fixing. As always, his combine will be interesting. Can he copy another LA Tech D-liner Vernon Butler and have a great Senior Bowl to secure a day one grade?

Ferguson is another name to add to the list of possible first rounders.

And it’s a truly ridiculous list.

All of the following could easily go in round one:

Nick Bosa, Ed Oliver, Clelin Ferrell, Quinnen Williams, Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Derrick Brown, Rashan Gary, Dexter Lawrence, Jachai Polite, Zach Allen, Josh Allen, Brian Burns, Dre’Mont Jones, Jerry Tillery.

I think there’s at least a fair chance D’Andre Walker (a personal favourite) and Austin Bryant find a home in the first frame too. There are likely other names who could come into contention. Miami’s Joe Jackson for example — or Gerald Willis. Or Florida’s Jabari Zuniga. I wouldn’t even completely eliminate Alabama’s Christian Miller as a possible top-50 alternative.

It’s remarkable really. In a year with so little in the way of quarterbacks, cornerbacks, offensive tackles and other positions too — there’s this enormous list of quality defensive linemen.

Wherever the Seahawks pick — and it’ll be no earlier than #21 overall if they make the playoffs — they should be able to identify someone they like. And after the last few weeks, it’s clear the defense needs some help in 2019. Whether it’s an athletic EDGE, a monster at defensive tackle or an inside/out rusher — the options are there.

It’s always possible they’ll trade down, of course. After all they only own four picks.

I’m not just going to hammer the D-line point home for the next five months and never consider any other alternatives. So here’s one today. If they trade down aggressively and perhaps miss out on the top defensive linemen, is Oklahoma’s Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown an option?

For years people have talked about Seattle’s lack of (or need for) a big target for Russell Wilson. They flirted with it when they traded for Jimmy Graham. Then they spent two years trying to make him a complete tight end, before reducing his role to basically ‘red zone specialist’. Aside from that, Wilson has always seemed more comfortable with a dynamic, quicker receiver than a jump-ball specialist.

Wilson is naturally quite conservative as a thrower. He picks his moments. He’s not a gunslinger. The offense calls for a point guard and Wilson handles the role very well. He’s explosive and can make the big plays — he merely endeavours to do it at opportune moments.

He’s never really been one to throw multiple targets to a well-covered big receiver and let them go and make the play. It doesn’t mean he never takes those chances. It just feels like he prefers to see clear daylight in coverage or an obvious mismatch. Just look at the success he’s had with Doug Baldwin — adept at getting open and creating separation.

Have the Seahawks noted and identified this? Perhaps. Carroll himself has admitted his love for a dynamic big target. He’s even more or less suggested he’s been hunting for one in the past. Yet look at their draft history over the years:

2013 — traded for Percy Harvin
2014 — drafted Paul Richardson with their first pick
2015 — drafted Tyler Lockett with their second pick

There’s a trend. Harvin, Richardson and Lockett were all smaller, dynamic and sudden receivers. Playmakers.

When Richardson departed in free agency this year, they went out and replaced him with Jaron Brown. At the Clemson pro-day in 2013, Brown ran a 4.40 and had great numbers in the vertical (35.5 inches) and broad (10-4). He’s a bit bigger (6-2) but in the same ballpark. Quick, lean and sudden.

If the Seahawks add another receiver it could easily be another smaller, extremely dynamic target. At the end of the day, the Seahawks want to run the ball but they also want explosive plays in the passing game. Downfield shots — major yardage. Receivers like Marquise Brown provide that.

John Schneider attended the Oklahoma vs West Virginia game on Friday.

If you’re averaging 150 yards a game with the run and you’ve got two dynamic downfield threats at receiver — plus the brilliance of Baldwin and David Moore — that’s a good looking offense.

And having planted that thought in your brain, I’ll finish with this. Their priority should still be to improve the defense. They tried to close the circle with their running game this year. The defense is keeping the circle open. Too many explosive plays conceded, inconsistent run defense, not enough pass rush. It’s been too easy for opponents in some games.

Improving the defense has to be the priority in the off-season. This draft is set up for doing just that. I like Brown but he’d be a luxury with the defensive needs.

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