Why the Seahawks could consider trading for Odell Beckham Jr

December 10th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Russell Wilson and Odell Beckham Jr embrace in week six

This hasn’t been a good season for Cleveland or Odell Beckham Jr.

An off-season of hype has translated into a regular season of mediocrity. A bad mix of ego, star names and a rookie Head Coach has produced a 6-7 record (with three of those wins coming against the Jets, Dolphins and Bengals).

Beckham Jr was their big off-season splash. OBJ was going to help elevate Baker Mayfield to stardom. At least that was the hope.

Instead he’s clashed with the league over the decision to wear a designer watch during a game. He wore the wrong cleats, leading to the NFL threatening to prevent him from playing in the second half of a loss against Denver.

Beckham Jr has 844 yards for the season — 25th most in the league — and only two touchdowns.

For a player who had 4122 yards and 35 touchdowns in his first three seasons in the NFL — this isn’t what you’d expect. In 2016 he was well on his way to becoming an all-time great. In the three seasons since there’s been too much drama, injuries and a lack of elite production.

Over the weekend reports emerged that he’s been sending out ‘come and get me’ pleas to other teams.

The issues are not all OBJ’s fault though. He suffered through the final years of Eli Manning and Mayfield — for all his repetitive and annoying commercials — doesn’t appear to be as good as advertised.

He needs a fresh start — preferably with a team that has a strong culture, a winning reputation and a quarterback in his prime.

The Seahawks, in that sense, are an ideal fit.

For starters they’ve never shied away from a big name. They go where other teams won’t — trading for Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin for example. They entertained the possibility of signing Antonio Brown this year and were the only team to make a waiver claim for Josh Gordon.

They’ve accommodated a wide variety of personalities over the years and had more success than failure doing so.

They aren’t the only team to fit the bill. New England are equally willing to take a shot. The 49ers also need to keep adding talent at receiver as do the Packers.

However — San Francisco is only projected to have about $18m in cap space next season. The Pats are expected to have $42m but if they re-sign Tom Brady, a large chunk of that will disappear. The Packers have $25m to spend.

All three have key free agents to re-sign or replace too. For Green Bay it’s Blake Martinez and Bryan Bulaga. For New England it’s Brady and Devin McCourty. For the Niners it’s Emmanuel Sanders and Arik Armstead.

While the Seahawks also have some big name free agents (Jadeveon Clowney, Jarran Reed, Germain Ifedi) they also have about $72m available.

Beckham Jr’s cap hit in 2020 is $14,250,000. That’s currently only the 14th highest for a wide receiver next year. He’s contracted until the end of the 2023 season and the hit never tops $15,750,000.

Russell Wilson is at the heart of everything for this team now. The difference between his early season form when he had a fully healthy Tyler Lockett and Will Dissly compared to what we’re seeing currently is stark.

He needs weapons. Lot’s of them. While Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are locked-in as long term members of the roster — there are question marks elsewhere. Is David Moore or Malik Turner a long-term #3? Will Jaron Brown and Josh Gordon even be here next season? With Dissly’s injury history, don’t they need security and talent at tight end too?

Wilson deserves the best possible arsenal. If they’re willing to trade for Harvin and Graham in 2013 and 2015 — with the team as well placed as it was — they should consider bolstering Wilson’s options this off-season now that he’s the focal point.

The Seahawks and Beckham Jr could be good for each other. He gets to play with a top-tier quarterback during his prime. It’s a mature roster that celebrates personality and unique qualities. He already has a relationship with Wilson and they’ve spent time working out during off-season training. It’s also a highly productive offense that loves to take shots downfield using sudden and explosive receivers.

As noted in yesterday’s piece, the Seahawks reportedly loved Beckham Jr in 2014.

Jadeveon Clowney and Quandre Diggs moved to Seattle and look superb. There’s no reason why OBJ couldn’t enjoy similar success.

It’s also worth noting how rich the 2020 draft class is at receiver. If a player like Jalen Reagor, Henry Ruggs or K.J. Hamler was available in the late first round, that’s a cheaper albeit less proven alternative.

However, it’s easy to forget what people were saying about Beckham Jr at this time in 2013. A lot of mocks, believe it or not, had him as a borderline first or second round pick (not us — we loved him as you can see here). I suspect Reagor, Ruggs and Hamler will fly up the boards after running at the combine. All three will test superbly and will go earlier that they’ve currently being projected.

If that happens the Seahawks will have to look elsewhere. Considering it’s a poor class for pass rushers they might prefer to use their first pick on a proven veteran — just as they did in 2013 and 2015 — to make a statement that they’re going to fully support their star quarterback.

They’d still have two second round picks to spend. They have the cap room.

And if it isn’t him — don’t rule out a trade for a pass rusher (call it a reverse Frank Clark), a different receiver (Stefon Diggs?) or a tight end (O.J. Howard?).

Whatever happens this season, the Seahawks are at the end of the transition. Now they’re approaching a window of opportunity.

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Monday notes: Perspective on the loss in LA

December 9th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

If ever a picture summed up a game this season…

Perspective is always important — especially after a loss.

The Seahawks were touted by many pundits last week as a Super Bowl team after beating the Vikings. Others have focused on their low points differential and number of close games to argue the opposite — that they’re playoff pretenders.

Here’s the reality of Seattle in 2019. They’re not lucky or flukey. They’ve been incredibly resilient and clutch all year and fully deserve to be 10-3.

They’re also not as good as some people have been suggesting. It’s possible to both overachieve and be deserving of a strong regular season record.

There’s a clear ‘tier A’ in the NFL that includes Baltimore, San Francisco and possibly New Orleans. The Seahawks aren’t miles behind. They have beaten the Niners after all. Yet it’s fair to say they’re firmly in a larger ‘tier B’ including Kansas City, New England, Green Bay, Minnesota and possibly the resurgent Rams.

Baltimore and San Francisco will not lose a game 28-12 and fail to score an offensive touchdown. They have a consistency in performance the teams in tier B have lacked this year. They also appear to be getting stronger when it matters most.

Seattle and the other teams in tier B have most of the parts you need to compete for a Super Bowl but there are also some holes. In the Seahawks’ case they need more speed and productivity in the pass rush. They need a proper nickel cornerback. They need more dynamic offensive weapons. At least they’ve found their playmaking safety in Quandre Diggs (and what a trade that was).

We always said this was likely to be a team that needs another off-season. They do. The fact they’re in the mix for the #1 seed while in this transitional position is both exciting and frustrating — because who really wants to wait until 2020 to have a proper go at this?

Yet wait we must based on the evidence of last night unless Russell Wilson and the offense can rediscover their best form and find a way to end the regular season with three wins. The idea of the Seahawks blazing through road games in Dallas, New Orleans or Green Bay and San Francisco as the #5 seed seems fanciful.

In order to take that next step they’ll need to be busy in the off-season. They almost certainly will be. They’re reaching the point where a degree of calculated aggression is palatable. We saw that in 2013, 2015 and 2017 with their multiple high-profile trades and key free agent additions. They’ve already made two huge trades in 2019 for Jadeveon Clowney and Diggs.

In 2020 they’ll need to re-sign Clowney and make big calls on players like Jarran Reed, Justin Britt, Germain Ifedi and George Fant. They need some speed in the pass rush and might need to spend some cap space to acquire it (Dante Fowler?).

The 2020 draft will be rich in first round wide receiver talent. They’ll also need to add a tight end at some point. Jalen Reagor, Henry Ruggs, K.J. Hamler and Hunter Bryant could be options depending on how their stock rises.

They could also make a bold trade if those players start to move up boards after the combine. Earlier this season Stefon Diggs was seemingly unhappy in Minnesota. He has the kind of sudden quickness and ability to create easy separation the Seahawks love. Check out this video at the 08:15 mark. Wilson seemed quite friendly with Diggs during Monday Night Football.

Odell Beckham Jr. is reportedly putting the word out about wanting to leave Cleveland. After a year or two of unnecessary drama, some may wish to avoid ODB. That said, Wilson and Beckham seem close and have worked out in the past. This report is interesting. The Seahawks have never shied away from difficult characters. If they’re willing to even consider adding Antonio Brown this year — OBJ isn’t going to be out of bounds.

The Seahawks reportedly loved Beckham prior to the 2014 draft. Adding him to Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf would create an outstanding trio of targets for Wilson.

The Buccaneers resisted trade offers for O.J. Howard before the deadline but that could be a situation to revisit in the off-season.

With a haul of draft picks and cap room to spend — the Seahawks can make a leap next year. For now — as we’ve said so often this year — simply enjoy the ride. The Seahawks are contending when other teams would be painfully rebuilding. They’re in the mix. They have two games coming up they should win (although this year has shown that nothing should be taken for granted). If they do win against Carolina and Arizona — it sets up a tremendously important regular season finale.

It’s better to be relevant than not. The Seahawks are relevant — even if they’ve not yet reached the peak of their powers in 2019.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks flop in LA, drop to 10-3

December 8th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

The LA Rams have Seattle’s number.

The three games previous to this one were back-and-forth shoot-outs. And while they won the last meeting in week five, the fact is they ended up playing LA’s game.

The Rams are happy to have a points race. Their foundation is built on a great offense with Sean McVay. Their defense is capable, thanks largely to Aaron Donald, of aiding the offense just enough to win a lot of football games.

In the last five games between these teams, the Rams have scored 42, 33, 36, 29 and 28.

In other words, the Seahawks were either going to need to turn this into their type of game or they needed to score a lot of points.

They did neither. They’ve now lost four of the last five games to LA with the solitary win coming off a missed field goal.

The Seahawks aren’t chasing the Rams in the NFC West this year but they’re still chasing them on the field.

The Rams marched to an early advantage and almost immediately the Seahawks were chasing. Any hopes of being able to run the ball against a much lighter defensive front evaporated. The game plan quickly switched because they had to keep up.

They ended up playing to LA’s tune. The Rams tee’d off in the pass rush with a strong lead to defend. Seattle became one-dimensional. The offense looked discombobulated all night and failed to score a single touchdown.

The defense had no answer in the first half to slow things down. After half time they rallied with the two Quandre Diggs’ interceptions and the Rasheem Green blocked kick. Any opportunity to get back into it extinguished because the offense couldn’t do anything.

For a long stretch earlier in the season it really felt like Wilson was destined to win the MVP this year. His season, unfortunately, is stalling. In the last four games he has four touchdowns and four interceptions. He hasn’t had a passer rating above 100 or a QBR above 58.

If this version of the Seahawks are going to roar into contention in the playoffs, they need Wilson and the offense at its best.

Seattle has done extremely well to get to 10-3. It’s charring, however, that in all three of their losses they’ve been clearly second best. New Orleans, Baltimore and now LA were more physical on the day and won the LOS battle on both sides. They looked tired today, possibly due to the short week.

This loss doesn’t really cost the Seahawks provided they get back on track quickly. Three wins to end the regular season will secure the NFC West and — potentially — the #1 seed. The Seahawks didn’t look much like a #1 seed here tonight though.

If anything, this performance illustrated how miraculous it is that they’re 10-3. Baltimore destroyed the Rams 45-6 two weeks ago as they march towards the #1 seed in the AFC. The 49ers just beat the Saints in their own backyard. It’s hard to imagine either losing a game without scoring an offensive touchdown like Seattle here.

Even so, the Seahawks weren’t realistically going to finish 14-2. They were going to lose one at some stage. The key now is to hit back quickly against the Panthers and make sure the week 17 contest against San Francisco is as meaningful as everyone’s been expecting for several weeks.

A final point — this is why it was thoroughly bizarre that it was even a question on who to root for in the Saints vs 49ers game. Forget the #1 seed for now. They need to focus solely on the NFC West. The difference between being the #5 seed and needing to win three road games to make the Super Bowl vs needing to win a home game and one other home or away game is enormous.

This was a great weekend for San Francisco. The only crumb of comfort is perhaps the Rams will be able to play as well against the Niners in week 16. San Francisco seems to be gaining a second wind though. We’ll see if the Seahawks gain their’s next week.

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CFB Championship weekend & Seahawks notes

December 8th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Just a few notes here this weekend — plus a thought on the Rams game. Feel free to use this as an open thread for tonight.

— This was a fairly underwhelming Championship weekend and it highlighted the top-heavy nature of college football currently. There are a handful of ‘super power’ teams and everyone else is making up the numbers. Every conference has seen teams regress.

— The ACC has watched Florida State fall off a cliff while Georgia Tech have been travelling backwards for some time. Miami flirted with a return to relevance but have fallen off again this year. Syracuse, NC State, North Carolina, Boston College and others — either restarting or failing to build.

— The Big-12 contains one of the super power teams (Oklahoma) and has really benefitted from the re-emergence of Baylor. The two played undoubtedly the best Championship game this weekend. Tough defense, explosive plays, drama. Yet the conference overall is riddled with inconsistent or under-performing teams. Not so long ago Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU and Iowa State were incredibly difficult opponents. This year they’ve all been wildly unpredictable. Texas has taken a step back this year too.

— The BIG-10 remains relatively competitive due to the consistency of Wisconsin, the return of Penn State, Minnesota’s emergence and the Harbaugh influence on Michigan. Ohio State are an elite team and a consistent contender. Iowa is annually competitive. Yet the conference has still taken a step back with Nebraska and Michigan State becoming also-rans and Rutgers has collapsed.

— The SEC is the main true powerhouse conference with three super-power teams (Alabama, LSU, Georgia) and two others with the potential to return to super-power status (Florida, Auburn). Not even the mighty SEC has avoided regression though. Ole Miss are turning to Lane Kiffin to stop their rot. Arkansas has become an abomination. Tennessee seems to always be rebuilding. South Carolina, despite beating Georgia this year, are poor. Texas A&M are stuck in neutral. Not so long ago, Ole Miss and Texas A&M could go and upset Alabama and send shockwaves through the conference. Now they’d be lucky to escape with a 17-point loss.

— That brings me onto the PAC-12. What on earth has happened to the conference and when is something going to change? The Championship game played out almost apologetically on Friday night. ‘Sorry sir, didn’t want to disturb the other conferences, we’ll just play on Friday, don’t mean to get in the way’. The marketing of the conference, the way it sells itself to the rest of the country, the complete paucity of quality teams. The conference is a mess, is generating almost no excitement and has very little draft relevance. Just look down the list of teams. If you’re not a fan of a PAC-12 team, what is remotely exciting about USC, Stanford or UCLA currently? Three teams in the vaunted California recruiting region — all virtually irrelevant on a national scale. Well organised if unspectacular teams like Utah are succeeding simply because they have their act together. In many ways, that’s why Washington succeeded too in previous years. Ditto Oregon — because they didn’t make the most of their first round quarterback. There’s a major problem in the PAC-12. It’s not short of coaching ‘names’. It’s not short of great recruiting regions. On a marketing level to a football level — things need to change.

— Joe Burrow was already destined to be the #1 pick next year and his performance against Georgia simply confirmed it. Burrow was outstanding again — leading to the broadcasters to make comparisons to Tom Brady. His poise in the pocket, accuracy, elusiveness and production has been sensational. Top quarterbacks elevate their teams. Not always (see: Mahomes @ Texas Tech) — but most of the time that’s the case. Pro-quarterbacks these days also need to improvise and avoid pressure. The way he dodged tackles on one play to create time and space before launching a perfect pass downfield was incredible. He ran for first downs, kept plays alive. Burrow has turned LSU into a contender. They should be #1. He will be #1 in the draft.

— Everyone played well for the Tigers (although Georgia did a good job containing Clyde Edwards-Helaire) but the top player on defense for me was Rashard Lawrence. He was amped for this game — playing with intensity and quickness. He bullied the interior Georgia linemen, flashed speed off the snap and was constantly harassing in the backfield. It’s going to be really interesting to see him at the Senior Bowl and combine. He just looks the part of a NFL defensive lineman. He has a great frame, strong hands and the ability to control the LOS. Testing will determine how early he goes but his play-style and body-type could appeal to the Seahawks.

— Jake Fromm has not taken the step forward he needed to this season. If anything, he’s regressed. He lacks the physical tools so needs to be laser accurate. Here he missed open receivers and couldn’t elevate his team in the way Burrow does. He threw two interceptions, hurt his ankle and looked like a day-three prospect at best. It’s worth wondering whether he might simply go back to Georgia for one more year. Fromm had to play without many of his receivers and D’Andre Swift was nowhere near 100%. Georgia also had some drops, including the first offensive play of the game to take away a big passing play. Fromm just hasn’t been convincing this year though. He can’t put up points without the strong supporting cast.

— Now that Georgia are out of playoff contention, D’Andre Swift needs to get that shoulder rested and sorted. Swift is competing with a large group of running backs in the 2020 draft. Missing the combine would impact him — especially when Jonathan Taylor runs well and J.K. Dobbins blows the roof off. He only had two runs for 13 yards here and was used mostly as a receiver out of the backfield (eight passing targets).

— Like everyone else, I like Ceedee Lamb. I’ve had him in the top-15 of my mocks. It’s worth noting, however, that I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt in terms of athletic potential. There’s no doubting his YAC ability and some of the big plays he’s made this year are sensational. He’s looked like a more polished version of Cordarelle Patterson. Even so — he ran a 4.60 at SPARQ despite weighing only 172lbs. He’s a wiry receiver. If he runs in the 4.5’s — that’s going to raise some concerns. And given the likes of Henry Ruggs, Jalen Reagor and K.J. Hamler could all run in the 4.2-4.3 range — Lamb has to show he has the speed. Otherwise he won’t go as early as we’re projecting currently. Against Baylor he had one enormous 71-yard YAC play and finished with eight catches for 173 yards.

— I didn’t have access to the BIG-10 or ACC title games but here are the key notes. J.K. Dobbins had 173 yards on 33 carries and a touchdown for Ohio State. K.J. Hill managed two scores on seven targets (83 yards). Chase Young was often double or triple-teamed based on the clips I’ve seen and had 1.5 TFL’s and two QB hurries. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor had one gliding 45-yard run and finished with 148 yards on 20 carries and a score. Tight end Jake Ferguson had two catches for 33 yards. For Clemson, Travis Etienne had 114 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Tee Higgins had nine catches for 182 yards and three touchdowns. Isaish Simmons had an interception and 22 yard return, plus a QB hurry.

— The top four, to me, seems pretty obvious — #1 LSU, #2 Ohio State, #3 Clemson, #4 Oklahoma. Ohio State has the most talent on its roster but LSU has beaten better teams and has the best player in the country. Beating 2019 Alabama — with Tua — in their own backyard, while also defeating Georgia, Auburn and Florida has to count for something.

— I’ve said this a few times already this season but I think the Seahawks might come unstuck in LA tonight. When you play things so close to the vest all year, eventually you’re going to drop a game. The Rams have had Seattle’s number on offense under McVay. They’ve moved the ball at will in the last four meetings between the teams and even with a weaker O-line and banged up unit, I don’t see that changing much tonight. It’ll be up to Russell Wilson and the offense to keep pace (which in fairness they have done in the last three games). Seattle has run the ball consistently well against the Rams and the size advantage on the O-line will be key again tonight. Defensively they’ll need Jadeveon Clowney to be at his game-wrecking best. The Seahawks need to go 1-1 in their final two road games to set up the two homes games against Arizona and San Francisco. The Niners have to play the Rams again plus they’re in New Orleans tonight. Winning at least one of the games against LA or Carolina puts the Seahawks in pole position to claim the NFC West — even if they’d still need to defeat the 49ers (a tough ask) in week 17.

— A lot of fans have been debating whether to root for New Orleans or San Francisco tonight. Root for the Saints and forget about the #1 seed. The Seahawks are 6-0 on the road currently. They’ve travelled well. If they’re the #2 seed, they’d have to win a maximum of one road game to make the Super Bowl and they wouldn’t need to travel at all if the Saints lost in the divisional round. The absolute priority this year is to win the division and make sure you get the playoff bye and don’t have to be the #5 seed. Any advantage in the NFC West race is crucial. Why would you want to risk not winning the west by rooting for the Niners? Just look at the two scenarios:

#5 seed — would need to win three road games to make the Super Bowl

#2 seed — would need to win one home game and one home or away game to make the Super Bowl

Being the #1 seed would be excellent but being #1 instead of #2 is not enough motivation to root for your only rival for the division and a playoff bye. It’s much more preferable to maintain or create further separation between the Seahawks and Niners in the division.

— Hunter Bryant announced he was turning pro this week. We’ve talked about him a lot this year. He’s a name to keep an eye on for the Seahawks in this draft. A quick reminder — the Seahawks have frequently targeted tight ends who do well in the short shuttle and three cone. Bryant ran a superb 4.35 three cone at SPARQ. Unlike most college tight ends he was asked to block at Washington and did a decent job overall. He’s a dynamic target at the second level and while he’s had some drops — he’s also a big-play artist who’s tallied a high number of explosive plays this year. The Seahawks will add a new tight end at some stage during the off-season. If the top receivers are off the board by Seattle’s first pick — Bryant could offer an alternative option. For more on Bryant check out this article.

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Wednesday notes: Stats update, special teams & receivers

December 4th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Season stats after the Vikings game

Bradley McDougald is having a great season but the blown coverage that led to Laquon Treadwell’s touchdown on Monday seemingly impacted his passer rating when targeted. His rating rose from 29.4 to 40.0 and he’s dropped from #4 in the league to #6. He’s fourth overall for safety’s behind Earl Thomas, Tashaun Gipson and Justin Simmons. Despite the error, it’s still an impressive mark.

Quandre Diggs is also excelling with a rating of 43.3 when targeted.

McDougald’s yards-per-target score (4.6) is almost identical to Thomas’ (4.5) too. They’re also conceding a very similar completion percentage (47.4% for Thomas, 47.5% for McDougald). Diggs’ completion percentage is 50% although his yards per target score is much higher (9.4).

Unsurprisingly the top ranked cornerbacks for passer rating when targeted are Stephon Gilmore (44.1), Tre’Davious White (46.9), Ahkello Witherspoon (48.9), Richard Sherman (52.2) and Jimmy Smith (53.6). Interestingly, Tre Flowers isn’t too far behind at 65.6. Getting up to three interceptions will help. He’s scoring higher than Marlon Humphrey (73.2), Denzel Ward (79.7), Jaire Alexander (83.0), Carlton Davis (83.7) and Marshon Lattimore (85.2). They were all first or second round picks between 2017 and 2018. Flowers was a fifth round pick in 2018.

It’s further evidence of Pete Carroll’s ability to draft and develop cornerbacks.

Shaquill Griffin has a passer rating when targeted of 85.4. This is undoubtedly due to his lack of interceptions so far. A couple between now and the end of the season will have a big impact on his score.

As a consequence of the Vikings game, Griffin’s completion percentage has risen from 50.9% to 52.2%. Flowers marginally improved his rating from 58.2% to 58%. In comparison, Stephon Gilmore’s completion percentage is 51.4%. Both players are clearly playing very well.

Earlier this year Mychal Kendricks led the league in missed tackle percentage. He’s now only ranked 15th in the league with 21.5% missed tackles. However, a new Seahawk is rising up the list unfortunately. Quandre Diggs has now missed 26.3% of his tackles — the third most in the league.

Jadeveon Clowney is ranked 16th for pressures (29), ninth for hurries (15) and 11th in for QB knockdowns (11). These are impressive marks when you consider Clowney is only credited with one blitz for the entire season. In comparison, T.J. Watt leads the league for pressures (46) but he’s blitzed 65 times. Shaquill Barrett at Tampa Bay has 36 pressure but he’s blitzed 148 times. Chandler Jones has 31 pressures but has blitzed 108 times.

Clowney is creating a similar level of pressure but doing it within a conservative scheme.

The other players who are also doing this are:

Joey Bosa — 0 blitzes 43 pressures
Aaron Donald — 0 blitzes 43 pressures
Cam Jordan — 11 blitzes 41 pressures
Everson Griffen — 0 blitzes 32 pressures
Nick Bosa — 1 blitz 32 pressures
Danielle Hunter — 0 blitzes, 30 pressures

That’s the kind of company Clowney is keeping this year, despite arriving late in Seattle and dealing with an injury. He’s a top-level defensive lineman who must be retained.

Overall on defense the Seahawks have the fourth fewest sacks (23) — they’re sandwiched between the Lions, Bengals, Falcons and Dolphins. Their sack percentage (4.6%) is the third worst in the NFL.

They’re also the fourth weakest team in terms of pressure percentage (20.2%) — again flanked by the Falcons, Dolphins, Lions and also the Texans. They have the third fewest TFL’s (39)

They’ve also given up the fourth most yards on defense (3232) — topping only Arizona, Tampa Bay and Detroit.

It’s incredible really that they’re 10-2 with these numbers. It’s equally baffling to see they have the seventh most interceptions (11), their touchdown percentage (3.2%) is the fifth best in the league behind only New England, Buffalo, Baltimore and Chicago, they have the eighth most pass deflections (57) and they’re seventh in the NFL for passer rating (85.8). They’re also ranked in the top-10 for third down defense (36.2% conversions).

Imagine how good they’d be with a consistently strong pass rush?

In terms of run defense, they’ve given up 99.6 rushing yards per game (eighth best in the NFL). That’s a definite improvement on a year ago.

On offense the Seahawks are running the ball the way they like. They currently rank third in rushing yards after contact:

Baltimore — 1019
Tennessee — 937
Seattle — 922
Buffalo — 850
Jacksonville — 827

They also average 2.5 yards after contact per carry, the fifth best mark in the league. They’ve also broken 34 tackles in the running game, second only to the Saints (36).

They’re also third in the league for rushing yards (1724) behind only Baltimore (2494) and San Francisco (1776). Interestingly though, they’ve achieved those yards on 376 attempts — fewer than the Niners (400) and Ravens (445).

In the passing game, the Seahawks have had only 13 drops this year. Only Atlanta (12) and Baltimore (9) have fewer.

2019 special teams emphasis

New England has three players on their roster purely for special teams value. The Seahawks took a similar approach this year and made a big statement during free agency and the draft.

The selection of Travis Homer and Ben Burr-Kirven plus the addition of Nick Bellore were clearly for special teams value. They retained Neiko Thorpe as special teams captain and made a big push to add Jason Myers.

It’s not uncommon for the Seahawks to do this either. In 2013 they had Chris Maragos, Heath Farwell, Michael Robinson and others with a main or strong responsibility on special teams.

It’s something to consider when assessing decisions in the future. There was a lot of talk from fans in pre-season about Bellore’s role, Thorpe being cut and who they may or may not keep. This team, like most winning teams, places a big emphasis on special teams.

They needed to get back on track with this unit. In the last three games, we’ve seen a marked improvement and that’s a very encouraging sign for the rest of the 2019 season.

What kind of receiver is needed?

I received this question on twitter earlier today…

The answer is clear — speed and suddenness.

We need to look for players who create easy separation and can play a variety of roles — whether it’s the slot or outside. They have size with D.K. Metcalf (although he needs to develop skills to make more of his frame) and they will almost certainly add another tight end at some point. Josh Gordon could also be retained. They need another dynamic speed receiver. Thankfully this draft class is loaded with early round options.

The only question is whether or not the likes of Jalen Reagor, Henry Ruggs, K.J. Hamler and others will be available whenever the Seahawks pick. It’s possible all could rise quickly up the board — especially if they run as well as expected at the combine.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Vikings, win another thriller

December 2nd, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks ran the ball with authority in another vital win

‘What did you do during the game last night?’

‘Oh just stressed out for three or four hours like usual’

Another game, another crazy night involving the Seattle Seahawks.

This latest 37-30 win against Minnesota, like all but one of the other nine this season, was equally terrifying and glorious.

This is a team that mixes moments of pure excitement with an inability to get out of its own way. The end product is a lot of entertaining football games — if you’re a neutral.

For Seahawks fans it’s probably created a few extra grey hairs.

It’ll be worth it if they continue on their current trajectory and make this a season to remember. They’re pushing fine-margins-football to the brink though.

This game had four major swings, which is incredible.

The first half was tight until the freakish ‘volleyball’ pick-six gifted the Vikings a half-time lead. After two quarters, you couldn’t help but wonder if this was going to be a similar story to the Saints and Ravens games. The Seahawks have now conceded five touchdowns on offensive turnovers — the most in the league. They lost to New Orleans and Baltimore by conceding cheap points.

Yet the third quarter was about as well as the Seahawks have played all season. They went on a 24-0 scoring tear — running with authority, forcing turnovers and threatening to make a major statement against a quality opponent. The Vikings looked dejected and beaten. It appeared, for only the second time this season, the Seahawks might win a game with a degree of comfort.

What followed was crushing.

A blown coverage by the usually reliable Bradley McDougald for a quick-response touchdown. Another fumble from D.K. Metcalf. A pass interference penalty against Tre Flowers. Another quick Vikings score. A 13-yard loss on an unnecessary Russell Wilson sack. Minnesota suddenly had the ball, driving to win.

You’d be forgiven for fearing the worst at that stage. Kirk Cousins completed a pass to Kyle Rudolph and the charge was on. Suddenly, the defense stood tall. Four stops, a turnover on downs. A final, decisive momentum swing.

The Seahawks still had to finish things on offense and this time they executed and obliged. A fumble-turnover on special teams denied Minnesota one last shot at a miracle.

A game filled with pro’s and con’s, excitement and pain — and the satisfying conclusion of a win and now first place in the NFC West.

We’ll see how they handle being chased at the top of the division. Hunting the Niners has seemingly suited this team. Now, despite being 10-2 themselves, San Francisco finds itself in second place.

Next week will again be crucial. The 49ers go to New Orleans while the Seahawks head to LA to face the rejuvenated Rams. It’ll likely be as significant as it looks.

The big thing today was the increased effectiveness of the running game against a stout running unit. Minnesota made the Seahawks work for their yards through the air with the exception of the David Moore touchdown. On the ground, Seattle romped to 218 yards — by far the most conceded by the Vikings this season.

Both Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson excelled, as did the offensive line. The line in particular deserves high praise for the way they continue to blossom this year — both in pass-pro and the run game.

The defense continues to make big plays. Tre Flowers’ interception was superb and should’ve been the clincher. Overall the Seahawks collected three more turnovers and had the key turnover on downs too. The special teams unit was also on-point — with a great kicking game complimented by the successful fake punt.

Nothing is bolstering Seattle’s Championship credentials more than the improved defensive and special teams units.

There are some issues to discuss too, though.

Tyler Lockett still doesn’t look right and it’s perhaps no surprise Russell Wilson’s MVP campaign has faded with Lockett virtually out of the picture. The Seahawks need Lockett at something close to 100% to function at their very best.

D.K. Metcalf is an exciting talent but he’s added ball-security to his list of issues along with high-pointing and boxing-out. These are not insignificant problems to overcome.

The team ‘finished’ in the end but really it should never have been so close. Are they pushing their luck or simply battle-hardened?

Overall though, it’s another win. It was a crucial victory in the NFC playoff picture. It’s first place in the NFC West this week. It’s another 10-win season. It’s a five game winning streak. And the Seahawks are in the hunt.

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CFB week 14: Rivalry weekend provides entertainment

November 30th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

This was a bad look for Xavier McKinney

If you missed yesterday’s piece on Hunter Bryant check it out here.

The Iron Bowl is rarely dull and Alabama and Auburn played out a 48-45 classic today. It’s unfortunate the end came down to a missed kick and an illegal substitution to decide it. The game, which swung back and forth throughout, deserved a better finish. It’s strange that Alabama won’t be in the playoffs too. This feels like a three-horse race. LSU, Ohio State and Clemson are the challengers. One other team will be in the playoffs simply to make up the numbers.

Auburn did very little on defense. They struggled to contain Alabama’s talented receivers and Najee Harris had one of his best games. Yet Derrick Brown still looked like the best defender on the field. He consistently created pressure, provided none-stop effort to chase down ball carriers and looked like a clear top-10 talent.

His physicality is incredible. Very few defensive tackles are capable of dominating the POA and providing stoutness and toughness while also being that quick athlete able to penetrate and create pressure. Brown was a highly-touted recruit, he’s deadly serious and all-football. He could’ve declared a year ago and been a high pick. He returned this year, won the Iron Bowl and was the defensive player of the game.

Aside from him most of the other draft highlights came from Alabama’s offense.

Jaylen Waddle would’ve been the MVP had Alabama won through. He had four total touchdowns including a brilliant 98 yard kick return and a wonderfully high-pointed reception in the end zone. Waddle will almost certainly be a high pick in 2021 with his range, speed and ability to make plays in a variety of ways.

Henry Ruggs was healthy again and it showed with six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. His speed and dynamism are clear. His ability to provide a deep threat opened up multiple back-shoulder opportunities for backup QB Mac Jones. He reportedly runs in the 4.2’s. With his catching technique, electric speed and production — it’s impossible to imagine him not being a high pick.

DeVonta Smith had another big game with five catches for 80 yards. He remains incredibly underrated. He had a big reception on a key third down in the third quarter — running a great crossing route to create easy separation.

Jerry Jeudy had another quiet game with five catches for 26 yards. Sometimes there’s just too many mouths to feed in this offense. Jeudy is very talented. Yet he’s had some rough games in 2019. In this one he had a bad drop in the third quarter. He’s had too many concentration drops this season and it’s something to consider.

Najee Harris was his usual hurdling self with 146 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. He also had 26 yards on four catches. Harris is extremely talented. He has everything. You just want to see some consistency in terms of the physicality. Today was his best effort. He was smashing into defenders, stiff-arming one literally out of the game with a devastating forearm blow. When he plays like this he looks like a guy you can build around. There’s just something that gives you pause for thought with Harris. He’ll go relatively early in the draft (first three rounds) and he can be a lead-back. If he can find a level of consistency he could be really good. There are very few limitations.

I’m struggling to buy into the early round talk for Alabama’s Xavier McKinney. He got absolutely battered trying to defend a fourth quarter TD (see the image at the top of the piece). He struggles to contain against the run and he’s at his best simply blitzing into the backfield. He was fortunate to be credited with a forced fumble today on what was essentially a lucky play on a whiffed tackle.

— Not a lot went right for Michigan in another chastening defeat to rival Ohio State (56-27) yet Cesar Ruiz was a highlight. The more I’ve watched of him, the better he looks. He was controlling blocks all afternoon, showed great feet to pull to the right to help out against Chase Young and absolutely looks the part of a top pro-center. He opened up a huge lane for Hassan Haskins on a 33 yard run. I paired him with the Seahawks in my updated mock this week but I’m starting to wonder if they’d be lucky to have a shot at Ruiz. He’s the best center in this draft and looks like a first round talent. He did have one wayward snap which led to a fumble by the QB — but really Shea Patterson should’ve still handled it.

J.K. Dobbins had a huge day for Ohio State and equally deserves a lot more early-round talk than he’s getting. He’s highly explosive, fast, patient to allow runs to develop and he’s the type of runner the league favours these days.

His second touchdown was a great example of his athleticism and patience. He took the hand-off in the gun and assessed the blocking. No gaps were created up the middle so he bounced the play outside with fluidity and no wasted motion. As soon as the cut-back lane opened up he stuck his foot in the ground and exploded into the end zone.

On the first play of the third quarter he found the edge and sprinted away from numerous defenders for a huge gain. His fourth touchdown was very similar. If he gets to the edge in space he’s incredibly difficult to stop. On one huge play he was a little bit fortunate to fumble the ball, have it bounce right back into his hands and basically allow him to continue running in stride.

He finished with 211 yards on 31 carries and four touchdowns, plus 49 receiving yards on two catches. He’s not a physical, pounding runner who will get the tough yards and grind down an opponent. For a creative offense willing to scheme plays to put him in a position to get the ball in space — he can be a massive weapon as a receiver and runner.

Chase Young was kept relatively quiet with no sacks and only two QB hurries. I want to refer back to my post last week. Destroying Will Fries at Penn State is fair enough. He’s not going to be facing many players like Will Fries in the NFL though.

— D’Andre Swift was injured in a 52-7 win against Georgia Tech. He seemed concerned and emotional on the sideline, with team mates saying prayers with him. Yet after the game Kirby Smart said it was a mere shoulder contusion and that he should be fine. Hopefully that is the case. Swift had 73 yards on 10 carries in the game. He also fumbled twice. Georgia’s two book-end tackles are just incredible. Everyone talks up Andrew Thomas and rightly so. It’s time more people talked up Isaiah Wilson. For me he’s a top-15 talent. He does everything well and was terrific again in this game as both a pass and run blocker.

— Penn State are nowhere near TCU’s level when it comes to a bad passing game. Jalen Reagor has been dealing with a horrendous QB situation for weeks — hammering his potential to put up big yardage and really bolster his draft stock. K.J. Hamler still doesn’t get much help from Penn State. He was under-thrown on a potential big play in a mediocre 27-6 win over Rutgers. The other receivers on the team struggle to make plays. Hamler finished with only five catches for 22 yards and one run on an end-around for six yards today. He did have a 34 yard kick return and a 24 yard punt return. Yetur Gross-Matos didn’t play in the game and was stood on the sidelines with his arm in a sling.

— Wisconsin hammered Minnesota 38-17 to earn the opportunity to lose to Ohio State in the BIG-10 title game next week. Jonathan Taylor had 76 yards on 18 carries and two rushing touchdowns. Jake Ferguson had yet another quiet game with only one catch for 20 yards. For Minnesota, Reshad Bateman was again excellent with 147 receiving yards on six catches and a touchdown. He looks the part of a high pick in 2021. Tyler Johnson had eight catches for 89 yards and a score.

— It’s going to be really hard to project Justin Herbert to the next level. The Oregon offense doesn’t do him any favours. He’s a big-armed, improvising force who can make improbable throws and the modern NFL will love that. Yet Oregon plays everything so conservatively. The offense doesn’t suit him and isn’t allowing him to flourish. At the same time — an ultra-conservative offense should enable a QB to master things fairly comfortably. Has he ever reached a high level? Or at least the level you’d expect from a top-10 pick? Oregon were largely unimpressive in a 24-10 win against Oregon State that was close until the end. Herbert finished 18/30 for 174 yards and a touchdown. It’ll only take one team to buy into the size, arm and playmaking for him to go early. Yet his stock-range is really difficult to gauge.

— Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons had 10 tackles, a sack and two TFL’s in a 38-3 win against South Carolina. Tee Higgins had two touchdowns to go with three catches for 101 yards. Travis Etienne also had two touchdowns, 51 rushing yards on 15 carries and 37 yards on three receptions. He also had 50 yards on two kick returns.

— Another quarterback who will be difficult to project is Jordan Love. He similarly has the arm, the improv skills and the size. Going into today’s game against Nevada he’d thrown more picks than touchdowns though (14/15). In a 38-25 win he threw three touchdowns and one pick to get back into the black (172 passing yards). The best thing for his stock might be to grad-transfer to a team like Oklahoma. If that’s not an option and he turns pro, it’ll be interesting to see if teams buy into the upside after a poor final year in college (just as Buffalo and others did with Josh Allen at Wyoming).

— Joe Burrow continued his march to the Heisman and the #1 pick in the draft in a 50-7 win against Texas A&M. He finished 23/32 passing for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Burrow has been the real deal this season and kudos to him for taking a big step forward and elevating LSU. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 87 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown while adding 49 receiving yards on four catches. Grant Delpit had a straight forward interception in the game.

— Utah clobbered Colorado 45-15 to stay in playoff contention. Laviska Shenault had 43 receiving yards on four catches plus an extra 25 yards as a runner. Keep an eye on Nate Landman the linebacker who had 10 tackles and a TFL in the game. He’s extremely talented and flying under the radar.

— Ceedee Lamb mysteriously took himself out of the Baylor game recently and it seems to have impacted his season. Against Oklahoma State he had only four catches for 36 yards and a further eight yards on two runs. He’s lost some momentum. Oklahoma won 34-16 and will meet Baylor again in the Big-12 Championship game.

— There are serious questions about the athletic potential of Jon Greenard at Florida and that will significantly impact his stock. He has produced at a high level this season though. Against Florida State he had three sacks in a 40-17 win.

— Arizona State has two very intriguing skill players. In a 24-14 win against Arizona, Eno Benjamin ran for 168 yards on 34 carries and scored twice. He also had three catches for 14 yards. Brandon Aiyuk had five receptions for 67 yards and ran once for eight yards. Both players are worth monitoring during the draft season.

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Why the Seahawks might be interested in Hunter Bryant

November 29th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Hunter Bryant helped the Huskies win the Apple Cup today

Washington won the Apple Cup again for the seventh straight time today.

John Schneider, unsurprisingly, was in attendance.

It’s not exactly headline news that the local NFL GM took in the game. It’s an easy opportunity to get a look at some of the pro talent particularly on the Washington roster.

Nick Harris is an underrated center who could be an off-season riser as the process develops. Trey Adams will get a shot somewhere — although his medical checks will determine how early he goes.

The player the Seahawks might be most interested in though could be tight end Hunter Bryant.

Husky fans will be quick to mention his drops. That is an issue that warrants consideration. Yet there are a significant number of positives to mention too.

Short-area quickness

A lot of people will tell you Bryant isn’t ‘fast’. Admittedly at SPARQ he ran only a 4.82. If you’re expecting him to test like Evan Engram (who he’s occasionally compared to) you’ll be disappointed. Engram ran a 4.42 at the combine at 234lbs. Bryant isn’t going to be in that ball-park.

Where he should test well, however, is the short shuttle. At SPARQ he ran an excellent 4.35.

There’s evidence to suggest the Seahawks pay a lot of attention to the short shuttle at the tight end position:

Luke Willson — 4.29
Will Dissly — 4.40 (8th best in 2018)
Nick Vannett — 4.20 (2nd best in 2016)
Anthony McCoy — 4.57
Zach Miller — 4.42
Jimmy Graham — 4.45

These are all excellent times for the position with the exception of McCoy (who was a sixth round pick). This is the benefit of being able to study a front office for a decade. You can pick up on trends.

Will Dissly only ran a 4.87 forty at his combine but has shown plenty of ability as a pass-catcher due to his short-area quickness, execution on routes and body control. Bryant might not run a 4.42 like Engram or even a 4.52 like George Kittle or a 4.61 like Travis Kelce. There’s at least some history suggesting a good short shuttle time — which we know he’s capable of — could get him on Seattle’s radar.

Explosive plays

Coming into the Apple Cup, Bryant had 14 receptions of +20 yards or more. That ranked #1 in college football among tight ends. It also compared favourably to some of the top draft prospects at receiver:

Ceedee Lamb — 19
Jerry Jeudy — 18
DeVonta Smith — 18
Tyler Johnson — 17
K.J. Hamler — 16
Brandon Aiyuk — 15
Hunter Bryant — 14

He’s also the only tight end in the country to register enough +40 yard plays to make the list (three). He also has one +50 yard play and five +30 yard plays.

In the Apple Cup he added to his total with a 39-yarder and ended with six catches for 96 yards. For the season he has 52 catches (second most in programme history) for 825 yards and three touchdowns. He averages 16 YPC.

He is proving he can be a X-factor as a receiver.

Blocking

The Seahawks want tight ends who can block. Yesterday I watched three Washington games specifically to study his blocking.

The first thing to point out is it’s actually a rare positive to see him doing some blocking. Most college TE’s barely have any blocking responsibility these days. When I went to study Stanford’s Colby Parkinson recently — it was practically impossible to judge his blocking. He spent most of his time as an outside or slot receiver. And that’s at Stanford — a team known for it’s desire to run the ball.

Bryant actually has some fairly frequent blocking duties and he does a good job overall. He’s not T.J. Hockenson driving defenders onto the turf in the running game. You’re not likely to see him operating as the ‘sixth lineman’.

However — whether he’s working the edge or being asked to get up to the second level on screens or quick-hitters, Bryant did a perfectly adequate job. His hand placement and control is good. When he’s blocking bigger targets he generally stays in position to execute. When he does get overmatched he often finds a way to cling on just enough to get the job done. His ability to locate and latch onto second-level targets on the move was impressive.

That’s really all you can expect. He’s not going to be drafted for his blocking. Saying he’s not a liability might sound like dabbing him with faint praise. Yet there are barely any classic Y-tight end’s in college football. The fact Bryant does block, executes at a decent level and offers move than a mere ‘move TE’ is a big positive.

Versatility

Bryant lines up in a number of different positions and can be shifted around to create mismatch opportunities.

In the Apple Cup on one snap he lined up as an outside receiver and was still given a significant cushion by the cornerback. He ran to the sticks, caught a slightly overthrown pass by Jacob Eason at full stretch and then turned upfield for a nice gain (it took several defenders to halt his progress).

On another snap he lined up in the slot and settled into the soft-zone to provide a nice target between two defenders.

On his long reception they lined him up in a more orthodox position and cleared out underneath by having the receivers run downfield. It’s poorly played by the defense but on a team with several deep threats like Seattle — you can see why having another dynamic target to handle the middle/underneath could be useful in these situations.

On one snap they had him line up in a 2×1 look to the left sideline. It’s a nice play design to fake the receiver screen with Bryant shaping to block and the other wide out sitting in position. Instead Bryant gets the release and flies by the two defenders sucked into the static receiver. He’s wide open and Jacob Eason has a horrendous overthrow on what should’ve been an easy touchdown.

Again — we’ve seen D.K. Metcalf execute some effective WR screens recently. Having Bryant line-up next to him as either a lead blocker or an option to run downfield on the fake would be a useful.

They also used him on a quick-crosser and he did a good job catching the ball in traffic for an eight yard gain.

The Seahawks need a tight end

Whatever happens between now and the end of the regular season, the Seahawks need to add a tight end. Dissly has suffered his second serious injury in just over a year. Ed Dickson is a certain cut after he missed the entire 2019 season. They’ve already traded Nick Vannett away and are currently ‘getting by’ with Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson.

Hollister has shown more than enough to warrant some faith and an extended run. Even then — they need one more at least. This is a position they’ve placed a lot of importance on over the years. They spent a first rounder on Jimmy Graham. They paid Zach Miller a fortune. Vannett cost them a third rounder and Dissly a high fourth.

One way or another they’ll make a move. It doesn’t have to be via the draft. Perhaps Tampa Bay will consider dealing O.J. Howard for example? And there might be some appealing veteran options?

Yet with the need to retain some key internal players and bolster the defensive line — the available cap space might need to be spent elsewhere.

With three high picks in the 2020 draft, it won’t be a surprise if they target Bryant. There’s still a lot to be determined of course. We need to see him test for a starter — plus he’d need to declare as a junior.

Yet this isn’t a particularly good looking tight end class. Byrant is a strong contender to be the best available who is eligible to turn pro.

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2020 mock draft #4: Seahawks target Cesar Ruiz

November 26th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Michigan center Cesar Ruiz is highly impressive

The objective of these mocks is always to run through different scenario’s.

#1 Cincinnati — Joe Burrow (QB, LSU)
The performance against Alabama confirmed he’s the best quarterback in college football.

#2 New York Giants — Chase Young (EDGE, Ohio State)
In nine games he has 16.5 sacks and 19.5 TFL’s.

#3 Miami — Andrew Thomas (T, Georgia)
Supremely balanced and consistent, his footwork is superb and he anchors brilliantly.

#4 Washington — Jeff Okudah (CB, Ohio State)
He will destroy the combine and was a 142.56 athlete at SPARQ.

#5 Denver — Jerry Jeudy (WR, Alabama)
Jeudy is extremely consistent, athletic and pro-ready.

#6 Atlanta — Grant Delpit (S, LSU)
He’s legit but he’s played hurt for most of the season.

#7 Detroit — Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
A tone-setting defensive lineman with the stoutness and quickness.

#8 Arizona — CeeDee Lamb (WR, Oklahoma)
Kyler Murray is reunited with his favourite target.

#9 Jacksonville — Isaiah Simmons (S, Clemson)
Reportedly he can jump a 40-inch vertical, an 11-0 broad and run in the 4.4’s.

#10 New York Jets — Trevon Diggs (CB, Alabama)
Competitive cornerback who does an excellent job tracking the ball and breaking up passes. Stefon Diggs’ brother.

#11 LA Chargers — Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
He’s highly underrated and for me the second best tackle eligible for 2020.

#12 Tampa Bay — Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
He’s +300lbs but carries minimal body fat. He dominated Alabama’s O-line a few weeks ago.

#13 Philadelphia — Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
Raegor reportedly runs a 4.29. He also jumped a 38.5 inch vertical and can squat 620lbs.

#14 Miami (v/OAK, CHI) — Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama)
The Dolphins jump above several QB-needy teams to take a chance on Tua.

#15 Cleveland — Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
Huge, physical and athletic but destined to play right tackle in the NFL.

#16 Carolina — Henry Ruggs (WR, Alabama)
Ruggs reportedly runs in the 4.2’s and has excellent catching technique.

#17 Oakland — Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
A former 5-star recruit who’s playing exceptionally well.

#18 Indianapolis — Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
He can anchor the interior of a defensive line for years to come.

#19 Tennessee — KJ Hamler (WR, Penn State)
Not their biggest need but Hamler is just too dynamic to pass up.

#20 Jacksonville (v/LAR) — Kristian Fulton (CB, LSU)
A physical cornerback who tracks the ball almost as well as Trevon Diggs.

#21 Dallas — Laviska Shenault (WR, Colorado)
We’ve not seen him anywhere near his best so far but he’s a swiss-army knife who can score points as a runner, receiver or returner.

#22 Oakland (v/MIA) — Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama)
Would be a top-10 pick had he not tore his ACL.

#23 Kansas City — Kenneth Murray (LB, Oklahoma)
Incredibly quick and physical — helps set a tone.

#24 Minnesota — DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
Extremely underrated and very dynamic.

#25 Miami (v/HOU) — D’Andre Swift (RB, Georgia)
Productive and shifty — his combine will determine how early he goes.

#26 Buffalo — Walker Little (T, Stanford)
Ran a 4.40 short shuttle at SPARQ and scored an overall 107.25 (the top score by an offensive lineman in 2016).

#27 Washington (v/GB) — Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama)
After trading Trent Williams, the Redskins do what they always do and draft a player from Alabama.

#28 Seattle — Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan)
Tough and leading the charge for Michigan. 97.92 SPARQ tester (#1 for center’s in 2017).

#29 Baltimore — Tyler Biadasz (C, Wisconsin)
He loses balance/control at times but he’s physical and solid.

#30 New Orleans — Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
Better quarterbacks have dropped into this range.

#31 San Francisco — Tyler Johnson (WR, Minnesota)
Testing is key but Johnson has played so well in 2019 and could be coveted.

#32 New England — Austin Jackson (T, USC)
The Pats are not afraid to take a chance on O-line upside.

The trades explained…

Miami trades #22 to Oakland for #14
It’s impossible to say with any confidence what’ll happen with Tua Tagovailoa but it’s possible he will fall a bit and then someone will make a move to get him.

Green Bay trades #27 to Washington for Trent Williams
The Redskins will trade Trent Williams at some point. The Packers were physically hammered by the 49ers and that performance might linger into the off-season. Green Bay has a move pro-active front-office these days and Aaron Rodgers turns 36 next week. They need to help him as much as possible.

Seattle’s pick explained…

In this scenario the top receivers are off the board. I think it’s very realistic we’ll see a big run on wide outs early. They’re all good enough and aside from Jerry Jeudy and Ceedee Lamb, all underrated. Receiver might not be a hot suggestion among Seahawks fans yet this team has consistently tapped into the ‘strength’ of a class and in 2020 that’s receiver. They will never have ‘too much’ support for Wilson either. They need a tight end this off-season and, if possible, another dynamic receiver. If Germain Ifedi and George Fant depart, right tackle also becomes a striking need.

The pass rush is going to need to be addressed in free agency or via trade. This is not a good D-line class. They’ll almost certainly be preparing to pay Jadeveon Clowney. They might need to make another big splash to properly support him and it’s also possible they’ll seek to retain Jarran Reed.

This will clearly cost money. Keeping Clowney and Reed then adding someone like Dante Fowler or Everson Griffen might not be possible. If they want to make moves like this they’ll need cap space. They’re currently projected to have about $65-70m. To spend big on the D-line they might need even more.

Cutting Justin Britt would save just under $9m in cap space. That’s a big chunk. Ideally they would keep Britt. His knee injury this season has come at a bad time for player and team. Now they have a choice to make. Do you keep him with a near $12m cap hit in 2020? Or do you part ways — albeit grudgingly — and then use the money to help your D-line?

This is a decent draft for center’s with Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, Washington’s Nick Harris and Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz all possible early-round options. I projected Ruiz here after watching him closely for the first time against Indiana. He anchors Michigan’s line and looks the part. At SPARQ he managed a 97.92 score at 321lbs which is no mean feat. He was the top tester at the center position in 2017 and has explosive qualities. Plus we know Carroll and Schneider like their Michigan guys.

Of course they could retain Britt or cut him and go a different route. He could be re-signed at a cheaper price. They could go for a veteran like Alex Mack (who’s expected to be cut in the off-season). They could re-sign Joey Hunt and let him compete with Ethan Pocic (although I wouldn’t expect that to be likely).

In this mock I have them replacing Britt with Ruiz and using his salary to really get the pass rush rolling for 2020.

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What the stats say — Bradley McDougald is having a year

November 25th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Bradley McDougald is having an exceptional 2019 season

Individual stats don’t tell the full story. They can, however, highlight strong performers and illustrate improvement. This week’s collection say a lot about Seattle’s secondary and much talked about base defense.

The Seahawks celebrated the signing (and re-signing) of Bradley McDougald as a major move. The advanced stats show that in 2019, he is having a quite exceptional season. He’s playing better than I think most people realise — even if he’s one of the more respected players on the team.

He’s now ranked fourth in the NFL for passer rating when targeted.

Here’s the top five:

#1 Justin Simmons (Denver) — 25.4
#2 Earl Thomas (Baltimore) — 27.7
#3 J.C. Jackson (New England) — 29.0
#4 Bradley McDougald (Seattle) — 29.4
#5 Devin McCourty (New England) — 30.6

Stephon Gilmore is ninth on the list (40.6) and Richard Sherman is 13th (50.8).

Essentially the Seahawks are getting top-level play in coverage from McDougald.

McDougald is now ranked tied fourth in the NFL for yards per target (4.0) — level with Minnesota’s star safety Harrison Smith. Earl Thomas is conceding 5.1 yards per target. He also has the third best completion percentage in the league at 45.2% (again, ahead of Thomas’ 52.9%).

His interception against the Eagles highlighted his playmaking quality too. He now has five picks and five forced fumbles in the last two seasons.

For all the talk of Seattle’s unwillingness (or inability) to pay Thomas the $13.75m a year — McDougald is playing the best football of his career on $4.5m a season and is making a major contribution in 2019.

It’s also worth highlighting the play of Seattle’s other defensive backs.

Shaquill Griffin’s completion percentage when targeted is 50.9%. Here’s a list of cornerbacks with a higher completion percentage:

Stephon Gilmore — 51.6%
Marlon Humphrey — 53.1%
Darius Slay — 53.3%
Marcus Peters — 54.5%
Marshon Lattimore — 55.9%
Tre’Davious White — 56.1%
Jaire Alexander — 56.9%
Richard Sherman — 60.8%
Jalen Ramsey — 64%

Tre Flowers, for what it’s worth, has a completion percentage of 58.2%. That’s a really good score given he’s been targeted 67 times — 14th most in the league.

For both of Seattle’s young cornerbacks to be keeping this company — among the league leaders in completion percentage — is indicative of their continued progress.

With the addition of Quandre Diggs, it seems the Seahawks have a quartet they can build around. Along with the improved play of the three experienced linebackers, the second level of Seattle’s defense no longer looks like a glaring weakness.

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about Mychal Kendricks essentially acting as Seattle’s hybrid linebacker/slot. Pete Carroll has repeatedly talked up his 4.47 time at the combine. It’s also worth noting his short shuttle (4.14) and three cone (6.68) times were better than most defensive backs.

For example — Darnell Savage ran a 4.14 short shuttle this year. Ugo Amadi ran a 4.19. Chaucney Gardner-Johnson ran a 4.20.

Kendricks’ short shuttle would’ve been the third fastest by a defensive back at the 2019 combine, behind only David Long (6.45) and Marvell Tell (6.63).

Who knows whether Kendricks, now 29, can still run these times? Yet for all the clamour for Ugo Amadi — Kendricks had a far faster three cone (Amadi ran a 7.21) plus a marginally faster short shuttle and forty (Amadi ran a 4.51).

In terms of the stats, Kendricks is giving up six yards per completion — good enough for sixth best in the league. In comparison, Justin Coleman is giving up 11.5 yards per completion as the slot corner in Detroit. Chris Harris in Denver is conceding 18.1 yards per completion.

Kendricks’ yards per target is also strong at 5.1. That’s the same as Earl Thomas and good enough for tied-25th in the entire NFL. Stephon Gilmore is giving up 5.2 yards per target. Jamal Adams gives up 5.3 yards per target.

He’s only given up 135 yards after the catch — a similar number to Jaylon Smith in Dallas (134) and a better mark than Fred Warner (156) and Devin Bush (162). Tre Flowers has given up 163 yards after the catch.

Kendricks has also given up 30 receptions — as many as Marcus Peters, two fewer than Bobby Wagner and Jalen Ramsey and three fewer than Stephon Gilmore.

The return to base defense caused a lot of discussion earlier this season but things appear to have settled down. Now that he isn’t missing as many tackles (see below), Kendricks appears to be the perfect player for the system Carroll is utilising. The numbers don’t show a liability — they show a player who is performing at a pretty high level.

For a large part of the season Kendricks led the league in missed tackle percentage. He has been making steady progress for several weeks now. He’s dropped from 25% missed tackles to 21.1% and he’s now only ranked 14th. Strangely enough the player ahead of him on the list is Calais Campbell (21.6%). Who would’ve guessed that?

What about team defense overall? The Seahawks now have 10 interceptions — tied-sixth in the league. They’ve forced 14 fumbles — tied first in the league with Pittsburgh. Their 24 total turnovers is the third best tally behind New England and Pittsburgh. They also have the third best turnover-per-drive percentage (17.7%) and they’re only giving up the 11th most penalties on defense (75).

As encouraging as the last two games have been though — they’re still among the leagues worst teams in terms of pressure. Their 82 total pressures is sixth lowest in the league. Their pressure percentage is 17.3% — the lowest in the entire NFL. They force a QB hurry 8.2% of the time — the eighth weakest percentage. They also have 20 quarterback knockdowns — the fifth worst record.

Hopefully the last two weeks are a sign they’re heading in the right direction. These numbers are indicative though of just how bad Seattle’s pass rush was prior to the San Francisco game.

That said, Rasheem Green’s performance in Philadelphia has now taken him to 10 pressures, three sacks and seven hurries for the season. He’s now only two pressures behind DeForest Buckner (although Buckner does play inside). Clelin Ferrell, the #4 pick in this years draft, has only eight pressures and 3.5 sacks. That might say more for Ferrell than Green but there have at least been some encouraging moments this season after an anonymous rookie campaign.

Quinton Jefferson has played a lot of snaps working inside. He has 12 pressures for the year. That’s as many as former first-round pick Jonathan Allen at Washington, one fewer than Vic Beasley, Cameron Wake and Bruce Irvin, four fewer than Ndamukong Suh and five fewer than Yannick Ngakoue.

If you missed yesterday’s reaction podcast to the Eagles game, check it out below:

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