Comparing Seattle’s rebuild to St. Louis’ current woes
When Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived in Seattle, they had an extremely focused vision for rebuilding the team.
And let’s be right, a titanic rebuild was required.
The Seahawks had nobody to build around. No stars left over, ready to be the cornerstone. Just ageing veterans picking up pay checks and injuries.
It needed strong leadership. Seattle needed an identity.
The funny thing is, having so little to build around definitely helped the Seahawks. Having a blank sheet of paper was actually a good thing.
They never had to consider what was already on the roster. They never had to build around somebody else’s idea.
This, for me, is an infrequently discussed reason why Seattle became an 11-2 franchise.
When you can do whatever you want, you truly can install a vision. It was all Carroll. The ‘Win Forever’ philosophy within the locker room, the style of football they were going to play on the field, and what they were going to do in each draft to improve an area of the team piece by piece.
This was a completely focused rebuild starting from scratch. At no point did they have to say, “well we have this guy, who wasn’t our pick, but he’s going to impact our plan.”
Now look at the Rams.
Jeff Fisher inherited a much more talented roster in St. Louis compared to Seattle in 2010. They had two excellent edge rushers. A dynamic inside linebacker. A physical, pounding running back. And a quarterback.
Or so they believed.
I think the Sam Bradford pick has seriously hurt the Rams. Essentially, Fisher had some of his vision crafted for him by the former regime. And at first I suspect he believed it wouldn’t be an issue. But it became one.
Even if they decided to make major changes, it was nearly impossible to trade Bradford and his $78m contract. He had to put is faith in somebody else’s guy. And he had to tailor an offense to suit what he already had.
Whether he liked it or not, that was the hand he was dealt.
Carroll had no such restrictions. He could basically do what he wanted. Imagine how different things would be in Seattle had Bradford declared after the 2008 season and landed with the Seahawks in the 2009 draft. It’s not that unrealistic, given they had the #4 choice (although there’s every chance he could’ve gone to St. Louis or Kansas City at #2 or #3 — both needed QB’s at the time).
Let’s run with that thought for a second. When Carroll left USC, he would’ve been forced to work with a quarterback he hadn’t selected. And that relationship — coach and QB — has to be water tight. There has to be ultimate confidence there. The kind of trust and confidence we see between Carroll and Russell Wilson.
I just have a hard time picturing Bradford and Carroll as a working partnership. It doesn’t quite fit.
And it would’ve been a potentially frustrating marriage given Bradford really hasn’t taken the next step. He looks average.
Fisher could be forgiven for feeling a little agitated.
His quarterback is set to earn $17.6m next year. In 2015 the cap hit is $16.6m.
They’d be better served finding a way out of that deal and starting again. Sportrac has the dead money on his deal at around $7m next year– which isn’t too bad. I think they need a get out, and fast.
For too long that pick has shaped what the Rams have tried to do. Fisher needs a release to truly turn that team into a contender.
He needs his guy.
They had to try and build around Bradford and hope he was up to it. They made the big trade with Washington in 2012, but clearly didn’t like what they saw with the inherited #6 pick. Some reports said they wanted Justin Blackmon, who went at #5 after a move up by Jacksonville.
Were the Rams targeting Blackmon for Bradford? Maybe.
When the Jaguars stepped in, St. Louis moved down again — dropping all the way to #14, almost in disgust, and taking Michael Brockers. It all seemed a bit reactionary at the time.
I think they wanted to force it. To get a weapon for Bradford.
And I think part of the reason they traded up for Tavon Austin this year was a response to that.
But they’re still building around a player who barely warrants such faith.
It just seems like, despite spending three first round picks, the presence of an average and now injured quarterback had too much influence.
Less could’ve been more.
Start with the blank sheet. Draft Robert Griffin III. Build around him instead.
Would the Rams be better off? I genuinely think so — despite all the picks they got from Washington. There’s no way Fisher and that organisation would’ve brought on the Dan Snyder -nspired chaos we’re seeing with RGIII and the Redskins.
Was it ever a realistic option? Of course not. Bradford was forced on Fisher. An arranged marriage worth nearly $80m.
It’s hurting them. Look how quickly Bruce Arians has turned Arizona into a winner. They were a shambles a year ago. Jim Harbaugh immediately picked up the 49ers and got them to a Super Bowl after years of underachieving. And Carroll made Seattle competitive with a lightning quick rebuild.
Rams fans would be well within their rights to question why things are taking so much longer in St. Louis.
To an outsider it looks like they’re regressing again. They’ll play tough some weeks because they have a good coach and some elite defensive players. They do have talent. But it’s all a bit of a jumbled mess without the one guy who glues everything together.
I suspect in 2014 we’ll see the Rams again forced to build around Bradford, unless there really is a logical way out of that contract. I have this vision of them going tackle (Matthews, Robinson, Kounadjio) and then receiver (Watkins, Evans, Lee) — without getting any better in the process.
Perhaps going for a Texas A&M hat trick would be the best way forward? Jake Matthews and Mike Evans in round one. Trade back into the first to go after Johnny Manziel.
Hey, it’d get people talking. And all three guys can play. It’d be an easy sell on season tickets — Manziel, Evans and Austin on the same offense? Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that?
It might also be a disaster — Manziel’s certainly volatile territory. He could change the NFL. He could be a massive disappointment. But it might be a more pro-active plan than continuing to build around an average quarterback and being the spare wheel in a rock solid NFC West.
It’s a big twelve months for the Rams. I’m not sure they can justify floundering in 2014 having spent five first round picks in the process. Better quarterback play will likely determine whether they become another nightmare match-up for the Seahawks and the rest of the division.
For me that means ridding themselves of the one thing Seattle never had to worry about at the start of the Carroll era.
Somebody’s else’s well-paid quarterback.
Luke Willson’s role developing
For most of the year Luke Willson has been a project. He had nine catches in his final year at Rice. And when he was drafted in the 5th round, even the keenest college football fan barely knew anything about him.
This is essentially what we knew — 6-5, around 250lbs and runs a 4.54.
Yet that is what the league is looking for. It’s what a heck of a lot of regional scouts will be asked to find. Go and get the next athletic move-tight end who is big and fast.
It’s been steady progress for Willson so far. He got rave reviews in training camp. Yet in games he’s mostly been limited to one big play on each opening drive. The scripted part he can practise during the week.
Maybe things have started to click? Maybe he’s growing in confidence, starting to understand the concepts and how he can be effective?
Against the Niners he was a bigger part of the game plan and scored his first pro-touchdown — leaving Patrick Willis for dead in coverage and sprinting home on a nice score.
While he’s no Jimmy Graham or Jordan Cameron, he is a difficult match-up for linebackers. And it’ll be interesting to see if his production increases in the final three games.
Look out for the Arizona game in week 16. They’ve struggled against tight ends all year, including against Zach Miller when the teams met earlier in the season. That could be a big break out day for Willson, much in the way Anthony McCoy torched the Cardinals last year.
If he continues to progress and makes the most of the off-season, who knows what he can achieve going forward?
The Seahawks needed a weapon like this. Every team does these days. And with only Eric Ebron an obvious solution in the 2014 draft, seeing Willson improve will be a major plus point for this developing offense.
Byron Maxwell played well… he just needs to back himself
In pre-season Maxwell looked like a starting NFL cornerback. That was one of the big storylines of the summer — just how good the depth at corner is. Antoine Winfield not making the roster was a bigger deal than we probably realised at the time.
Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell essentially made him redundant. Jeremy Lane did enough as a spot-starter last year to warrant some faith.
All three have shown up in a big way.
Maxwell is the biggest positive for me. He’s physical. He fits the character of the defense and in particular the secondary. And it looks like he’s spent enough time around Richard Sherman to understand the benefit of preparation.
If there’s one thing he just needs to do to completely take that step forward to legit starter — it’s trust himself more.
At times yesterday he was grabbing, holding and in some cases — mugging — the 49ers receivers. He got called, he also got away with some stuff. And I just kind of felt it was all unnecessary.
He’s a very good cover corner and he can be physical. He has the ball skills as we saw on the interception. And despite getting targeted (understandably) he never backed down.
I’d love to see him show a little more confidence to play ‘clean’ — to trust his skills in coverage, his athleticism and not risk the wrath of a referee’s flag.
If he can do that, I think he has a very bright future in the league.
Kearse’s role going forward
Speaking of guys breaking out — Jermaine Kearse just continues to impress.
He always flirted with quality at Washington. He dared you to believe in him — and some did. I remember a time when he received grades in the second and third round range by the big media pundits.
Kearse went undrafted largely due to the freakish inconsistency he showed. He was probably the most frustrating player in college football for two years. And I’m not a Husky fan (I’m not a fan of any college team).
Whether it’s the laser eye surgery or something else, this year he’s looked like a genuine NFL receiver. The circus catch against the 49ers was truly incredible — a major underrated play in the game on third down. To contort his body in such a way to make that catch — that was special. Really special.
So what can he be going forward?
I think this current role suits him. He’s not a big overly physical guy, but he makes plays. He’ll never dominate a defense or take over a game. Seattle really lacks that tall, explosive big man and that’s never going to be Kearse.
But at a time when other guys are creeping closer to free agency (Tate, Baldwin) they’re going to need others to step up to the plate and if nothing else — remain consistent.
And despite what he showed in college, Kearse is quickly turning into Mr. Consistent for the Seahawks.
Tre Mason one to monitor
My choice for the Heisman? Auburn’s Tre Mason.
All year he’s produced. He’s the true heart beat of his team.
They don’t pass much and rely on brilliant run blocking and the opportunistic tendencies of their backs. Mason is essentially the focal point of a team nobody expected to be in the National Championship.
Yes — Jameis Winston has had a great year. He’s also surrounded by 5-star talent and I must confess to having a great deal of sympathy with this article.
You could also argue the Seminoles have barely broken sweat in the ACC this year, unlike Auburn who have needed Mason to get through another rock-hard SEC campaign.
But it’s his pro prospects that interest me the most, not his ability to win an award. And I think he has a big future.
For starters he’s explosive enough — he can make the big play. He’s got a very squat frame with a strong lower body. I think he can act as a receiver out of the backfield and be something of a Darren Sproles. Yet he’s capable of pounding the rock too.
Against Alabama he was hitting the hole well and making yards after contact. He consistently picked up 4-5 yards.
In other games he’s been able to make big explosive plays. He had 304 yards against Missouri. Without that effort, his team don’t get to the big game.
Right now I’d grade him right up there with Bishop Sankey. Teams will be put off taking running backs early. When a sure thing like Trent Richardson looks positively powder puff in the NFL, that has to be a concern.
We’ll see less and less running backs going early as a consequence.
Wherever Sankey and Mason end up going in the draft, I still expect both to have an impact at the next level.
Penalties, two big red zone sequences and one run decided this game.
In the first half the Seahawks consistently extended 49er drives with a series of holding or P.I. calls. From what I saw, all were called fairly.
In the second half it was something much more avoidable.
San Francisco were rolling before Byron Maxwell’s interception, and it was a chance to regain momentum and swing things back in Seattle’s favour. It was never going to be easy driving from the 2-yard-line, but a time-consuming scoring possession at that stage could’ve been decisive.
Things started well. A favourable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Donte Whitner gave the Seahawks some breathing room.
Marshawn Lynch broke off a big 20-yard run. Seattle had 1st and 10 at the San Francisco 42.
Michael Robinson got a handful of facemask. It was a fair call — the type we’d all call fair if it benefited the Seahawks.
Instead of 1st and 10 at the 49ers 42, it was 1st and 25 at the Seahawks 23.
It killed the drive and Seattle punted (after wasting a time out — more on that later). O’Brien Schofield then interfered with the returner. Another 15-yard penalty.
That sequence just about sums the night up. The Seahawks couldn’t get out of their own way.
Here’s an interesting stat. Seattle had 64-yards of total offense and lost 45-yards on penalties in the third quarter.
They ended the night with nine total penalties for 85-yards.
Stuff like that gets you beat.
Apart from the sea of yellow, two big redzone plays had a major impact — giving the Niners an eight-point swing.
RED ZONE PLAY #1
Vernon Davis’ touchdown before half time was avoidable and costly. Seattle appeared destined to restrict San Francisco to a fourth field goal, taking a 14-12 lead into the break. K.J. Wright left the game with a broken foot, leaving Bobby Wagner covering Davis. Wagner reacted slowly and didn’t get any help.
It was a sloppy redzone score. As good as Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree are — Davis is a killer redzone target and demanded more attention in that situation. It wasn’t a shock he was the intended target.
14-9 Seattle became 16-14 San Francisco. And it stayed that way until the fourth quarter.
RED ZONE PLAY #2
Clinton McDonald’s sack and the subsequent punt return from Golden Tate looked like a potentially game-defining moment in the fourth frame.
Seattle began to move the ball, edging closer to a crucial touchdown and moving into the redzone. A 21-16 Seahawks lead would’ve forced the Niners to go after a touchdown to win.
Instead they kicked a field goal. Settling for three instead of seven was big in hindsight and led to the second four point swing of the game.
(In fairness, Aldon Smith should’ve been called for a face mask on Zach Miller on the failed third down conversion)
It would’ve been really interesting to see the 49ers deal with a decent fourth quarter deficit. At home against Indianapolis and Carolina — they imploded and lost on both occasions.
When Seattle failed to punch it in you felt they’d need another drive to win. And so it proved.
This was a small margins game. In the two big redzone sequences that ultimately decided it, the 49ers won both situations.
TD Niners. Field Goal Seahawks. Eight points. Home team wins.
GORE BREAKS IT OPEN
San Francisco couldn’t run on the Seahawks. They had 3.5 YPC before one big, 51-yard effort by Frank Gore.
A play that put the Niners in position to win.
The blocking up front was perfect, but Earl Thomas took a bad angle on the tackle and struggled to catch Gore in the chase. Richard Sherman sprinted past Thomas (surprisingly) to make the play.
This was a heavyweight contest figuratively speaking. The Niners jabbed all night but landed the knockout blow in the last round when it mattered.
QUESTIONING THE TIME OUTS
The 51-yard run by Gore might’ve actually helped the Seahawks initially — it prevented a slow death via manageable field goal and gave them a chance to get the ball back with time on the clock. If they weren’t going to get an outright stop, a big play in that situation wasn’t totally back-breaking.
So it was a surprise to see all the time outs pretty much wasted.
The first was tossed away in the third quarter on 2nd and 25 (why?). The two remaining T/O’s were spent before the ‘and goal’ conversion. As soon as Colin Kaepernick converted on third down with a designed run, he basically iced the game. With the two minute warning stopping the clock anyway — the Seahawks were better served holding fire with their time outs.
It left just 26-seconds to try and get a game-winning score. It was never going to be enough. Even on the long throw Wilson attempted to Kearse (intercepted) it would’ve been nearly impossible to spike the ball with eight seconds left.
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Losing a second game might not be the worst thing for the Seahawks. Getting a bloody nose every now and again isn’t so bad. A 15-1 season was very likely with a win today — and how many of those do you see in the NFL?
The target switches to 14-2 — and that’d still be a franchise record. It’s also very achievable against the Giants (A), Cardinals (H) and Rams (H).
The big negative though is what this win will do for San Francisco. They might be hitting their stride at the right time. And they’ll believe they can beat Seattle in the playoffs — and they can.
Even at Century Link.
I truly believe the Seahawks can handle most NFC teams quite handsomely. The Saints, Panthers, Eagles, Lions. Against all of those teams I’d expect a big win.
It’d be a battle, just like this. Decided by small margins, just like this.
And I’ll say this now — make no mistake, Seattle’s biggest threat in the NFC is the team they played tonight. They are the annual dangerous Wild Card team everybody fears.
A win today would’ve put real doubt in the minds of that San Francisco team. The Seahawks could say they marched into Candlestick Park and took the NFC West title away from the defending Champs… right on their own doorstep. They could’ve pushed the Niners towards possible elimination.
In that sense, it’s a missed opportunity.
It’s the time of year when we start to hear which underclassmen are declaring for the draft. The prospects involved in Bowl games will likely wait it out. For the others, there’s no reason to hold back their intentions.
Tennessee announced left tackle Antonio Richardson will turn pro today.
Despite suggestions he held back this year, Richardson has massive potential. And it’s not the only thing that’s massive — he’s 6-6 and 327lbs, but holds the weight well.
Teams are going to be all over this guy. I remember in 2010 — Anthony Davis was a late addition to the class after opting to leave Rutgers. He too was a huge, athletic tackle who faced claims he hadn’t played his best football during the season.
Ultimately, the potential won out. Davis looked the part of a NFL tackle, tested well and was drafted 11th overall by the 49ers.
Richardson has even more potential. He’s exactly what teams are looking for — quick on his feet, huge frame, long arms, rarely beaten by pure speed and forces defensive ends to take difficult angles to attack the quarterback. He also flashes a nasty streak from time to time, which is a big plus.
While a guy like Jake Matthews will be considered a ‘safer’ option, he simply can’t compare to the upside on show here.
In fact there’s maybe only Auburn’s Greg Robinson who can compete when it comes to pure potential. My favourite tackle in this class — Cyrus Kouandjio — can only dream of a ceiling as high as Richardson’s. Fortunately for Kouandjio, he’s much more technically and fundamentally sound. There’s less bust potential, but he’s not a freak of nature.
The question to Richardson will be — can you deliver on that potential? When scouts and coaches look into his eyes during this process, will they see a man determined to be as good as he possibly can be?
That for me seems to be the one thing that will determine how high he goes in the draft. If he can convince people he’s ready to dominate — he’ll go very early.
Tony Pauline is reporting that Louis Nix will likely begin training for the combine at the beginning of January.
It’s not a major shock that Nix is planning on heading to the NFL. He turned down the option of going pro last year.
Yet in terms of his stock, that extra season could be costly.
Twelve months ago Nix was seen as the dominating, immovable force of Notre Dame’s defensive line. Nobody came out of the National Championship smelling of roses, but Nix’s fantastic 2012 season had him touted as a likely top-10 pick.
This year, he’s struggled to emulate that level of play.
He’s looked heavier for a start — and it doesn’t look like good weight. It’s a good thing he’ll start his combine prep immediately — he could do with trimming down.
The league values speed more than ever, even with the big guys. Dontari Poe was a top-15 pick purely down to his athleticism and size. His tape was nothing special at all, with almost nothing to highlight and say, “that’s why we need this guy”.
It’s vital that Nix can show quick twitch movement and mobility — because we all know what he’s capable of when it comes to filling a gap in the running game. Even this year it’s hard to knock his ability against the run — he anchors well, he’s strong in the upper body.
It’s good to see he’s getting a head start as he tries to prove he can also have an impact against the pass. Two-down linemen don’t tend to go in the top-15.
Finally a thought on Teddy Bridgewater — the default early pick at quarterback this year. I say that with respect for Bridgewater, who is a pretty good player with a future in the league at the right spot.
However — I saw a lot of comments yesterday suggesting the Houston/Jacksonville game was the ‘Bridgewater Bowl’. Let’s take a rain check on that.
Bridgewater’s first half display against Cincinnati last night was a perfect review of how he’s played in the last month.
By half time this was his stat line: 6/14, 86 yards. One touchdown, one interception.
At that point he’d only thrown three touchdowns since the end of October. For whatever reason, he was in a slump.
Admittedly things picked up in the second half and he threw two more touchdowns. Louisville squeezed past Cincy and life was good again.
But it made me question, once again, Bridgewater’s status in this draft.
He is a good college quarterback with a reasonable skill set. Is he a special player though? That’s what I keep coming back to. Is he special enough for a team like the Texans to feel he’s worthy of the #1 pick?
Houston, I presume, aren’t seeing this as the start of a major rebuild job. Unlike Seattle in 2008, they have a ton of young talented players — including possibly the best all-round player in the league.
Whoever replaces Gary Kubiak will inherit a roster with enough players to bounce back quickly.
Owning the #1 pick is a bit of a luxury. And much like the Chiefs last year, they should be doing better. Everything is set for a rebound season in 2014.
Yet Kansas City needed a quarterback and didn’t take one with the #1 pick. They drafted a right tackle and traded for Alex Smith long before the 2013 draft.
Could the Texans take a similar path?
Here’s some names for you — Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford.
Cutler is a free agent next year, and the Bears have to decide whether to pay him a hefty salary to keep him. Their lukewarm approach to contract talks and public admission that the franchise tag isn’t ideal could mean anything. It could be leverage. Or it could be a sign that all is not well between the two parties.
The Rams look set to own a top five pick on top of their own selection. Will they go in a different direction, potentially leading the way to Bradford’s departure?
That’s just two examples. You may be able to think of more. Theoretically the Texans could look at either player, or another veteran, just like Kansas City did. And that would give them the opportunity to draft Jadeveon Clowney with the #1 pick.
Alternatively, they could just take a quarterback with the #33 pick. It’s a deep enough class to consider that option. They could even move back into the first.
What I’m trying to show here is — just because the Texans are picking early and need a quarterback, it doesn’t mean they’re just going to draft Bridgewater.
And right now, I’m not convinced Bridgewater — or any quarterback for that matter — is worthy of going before Clowney. For all his negative publicity this year he still remains a generational physical talent. He has the ability to come into the league and become a superstar.
Those chance are greatly improved if you’re lining him up next to J.J. Watt. That could be a duo for the ages.
If you’re going to say “no thanks” to that proposition, you better make sure the other guy you take is very good.
Is Bridgewater good enough to win Houston a title one day? Maybe. He’d have weapons. It’d probably be a better spot for him than Jacksonville.
But is Bridgewater + whoever you get at #33 better than Clowney and A.J. McCarron? Or Clowney and whatever veteran you can add?
That is the big question facing the Texans. And it’s far from a foregone conclusion they decide to go quarterback if they get that top pick.
Time for the first mock draft of the year.
I wanted to mix things up a little bit compared to some of the mocks out there, but here’s a few pointers…
- Whichever team gets the #1 pick, I still think they’re going to find it very difficult to pass on Jadeveon Clowney. When you pick that early, you want a special player. Or at least a player with the potential to be special. Clowney and J.J. Watt could be a partnership for the ages, and something Houston simply has to consider even if they feel Case Keenum isn’t the guy. If I’d done a second round projection, I would’ve had the Texans selecting A.J. McCarron at #33.
- Sam Bradford has had a tough time in St. Louis. Multiple offensive coordinators. Very little consistency. A dearth of weapons. And his huge pre-CBA contract has severely limited the Rams’ ability to really attack free agency. At the same time, he has one year left on his contract. And because he’s been earning so much these last four seasons — any extension will need to be massive. I don’t see how you can make that commitment. The Rams have the luxury of two picks and could even end up with the #1 choice. They need to consider taking Teddy Bridgewater.
- The two positions of strength in this class are offensive tackle and receiver. That’s my take. But a ton of league sources are raving about the cornerbacks. I’ve tried to represent that in this mock.
- I’m not a Washington Huskies fan. I’m not a fan of any college team. The reason Bishop Sankey is in the first round of this mock is down to one thing and one thing only. He’s a hell of a football player.
- Cincinnati needs to find a quarterback. Andy Dalton teases the Bengals fans with 4-5 games every year where he looks the part. The rest of the time he wastes all that talent on the Cincy roster. That’s not to say Johnny Manziel is necessarily the answer. But surely the Bengals have to weigh up their options here? They’ll have to pay Dalton in a year. Do you really want to make that long term commitment?
- Keep an eye on UCF’s Blake Bortles. He’s a very modern NFL quarterback — a big, mobile presence with an arm. I can see Cleveland going down that road with one of their two first round picks ahead of someone like Derek Carr. And I like Carr, just not necessarily in round one.
- For the Seahawks I took a tackle. Brandon Scherff is a punishing run blocker and looks like a Tom Cable prospect. I sincerely hope the Seahawks find a way to keep Breno Giacomini, but it’s going to be tough to pay him and the likes of Richard Sherman, Golden Tate, Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett. You can see some Scherff tape at the top of this piece.
All thoughts welcome in the comments section.
|#1 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Jadeveon Clowney next to J.J. Watt makes it acceptable to wait until round two for a quarterback.
|#2 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
The Rams are coming to a crossroads with Sam Bradford. Either they pay him mega bucks, or they move on. I’d move on.
|#3 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
Gus Bradley’s new athletic LEO. Their defense needs a guy with his speed off the edge.
|#4 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
With the top two DE’s gone, this is the other big need in Atlanta.
|#5 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
The best tackle in this class for me. Superb talent. Not sure why he has so many critics.
|#6 Re’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
Athletic specimen. Why else have they stashed Josh Freeman? He must be the plan for 2014. Surely?
|#7 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Who wouldn’t want a Vincent Jackson clone?
|#8 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
He’d be a great compliment to Josh Gordon in Cleveland.
|#9 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Robinson’s a fast rising prospect who looks the part of a NFL left tackle.
|#10 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
Athletic ‘beast’ of a player with limitless potential. His play has been inconsistent this year, however.
|#11 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Looks like a difference maker at tight end. Ebron’s production hasn’t dipped despite the change of quarterback at UNC.
|#12 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
Keep an eye on this guy against Ohio State. He could be the top corner for 2014.
|#13 Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Elite speed off the edge, 12 sacks this year. Welcome to the modern day pass rusher.
|#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
The Rams defense is perhaps a great safety (or corner) away from being very scary.
|#15 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Solid, if unspectacular, offensive lineman. New York needs to rebuild in the trenches.
|#16 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
He’s making plays and getting good reviews all year.
|#17 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s not been dominant in 2013 and it’s a concern. Has he added too much bad weight?
|#18 Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Converted defensive lineman. Big upside. Would test well at the combine.
|#19 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
A lot of people want to convert him to guard. I like him where he is — at left tackle.
|#20 Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU)
Philly desperately needs talent on defense. Van Noy is a playmaker.
|#21 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Terrific, polished, explosive receiver. He could go earlier than this.
|#22 Loucheiz Purifoy (CB, Florida)
Inconsistent corner but plays the run well and a decent athlete.
|#23 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Criminally underrated because he lacks elite physical tools. He could be a star.
|#24 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon)
Solid all-round corner prospect who can play outside or in the slot.
|#25 Bishop Sankey (RB, Washington)
Dallas reached for a center last year, so why not a running back? Sankey is a stud.
|#26 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Average 2013 season could prove costly. Still, the talent is there.
|#27 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Andy Dalton has had more than enough time to prove he’s the guy. Someone is going to roll the dice on Manziel.
|#28 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
Big, mobile quarterback who can get the ball downfield. Could begin a quick rise up the boards. Having a great season.
|#29 Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
Small but highly competitive corner.
|#30 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
Athletic freak who can play tackle or guard. He has a ton of upside.
|#31 Marcus Roberson (CB, Florida)
They need to add talent to that secondary. Roberson has character red flags.
|#32 Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Punishing run blocker with attitude. Looks like a Tom Cable type player.
Oregon announces QB Marcus Mariota will return next season
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) December 3, 2013
The big news of the day (aside from Jim Mora’s decision to stay with UCLA) is the announcement by Oregon that Marcus Mariota won’t declare for the 2014 draft.
It’s not that much of a surprise really.
Mariota has a very intriguing skill set, but he’s not the finished product by any stretch. He can work on his arm strength — there’s definitely the frame there to add some extra upper body muscle. A third year starting will be a big plus, and it seems he’s keen to get his degree (always a good thing).
I voiced some concern in this piece about how he might project to the NFL. Nothing about this decision will harm him.
And despite a few odd results recently, Oregon are too good to suffer a catastrophic, stock-destroying season like we saw with Matt Barkley and USC last year.
It does make things very interesting at the top of the draft.
UCLA’s Brett Hundley shouldn’t declare, but will he spend even more time considering his options now that Mariota is staying in the PAC-12? The quarterback market has thinned at the top, after all. Although he too would really benefit from another year starting.
Hundley also needs to be aware that teams are not reaching for needs at the position. Last year several high profile quarterbacks sank into the middle rounds. An impressive physical skill set is no guarantee you’ll find a home in round one.
The Mariota news could help the likes of A.J. McCarron, Derek Carr (see his recent performance vs San Jose State below) and Johnny Manziel (assuming he declares). All three, for me, still look like early second round picks. Especially with the quality and depth on the offensive line next year.
It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see teams going receiver early (there’s a few good ones this year) and then looking to get a quarterback in round two — just like Cincinnati did with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. There’s no receiver out there as good as Green, but there are superior quarterbacks to Dalton.
One name to keep an eye on — Blake Bortles at UCF. Physical, good athlete and playing well this year. He could be a quick riser over the next few weeks.
I’m putting my first mock draft out there tomorrow. Bortles will be part of it…
Derek Carr vs San Jose State
Seahawks needs no clearer
Nothing really has changed as far as the Seahawks are concerned. It’s mostly about who they can keep in the off-season.
Right now there aren’t any glaring holes. The pass rush is much improved — both off the edge and inside. Pass protection has seen a noticeable improvement since the return of Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. And the sheer depth of Seattle’s secondary is testament to the front offices’ ability to find corners without spending high picks.
We can’t say what Seattle’s needs will be today. We won’t know until free agency comes and goes.
Who will they cut? Who will they re-sign? All mysteries right now.
But just take a moment to realise what that means. How on earth are there not major, clear holes on this roster? There’s depth and talent right across the board.
And it’s no surprise Football Outsiders continues to rank the Seahawks as the #1 team in the NFL.
What a truly satisfying night of football.
There’s been a lot of talk this week. Brandon Browner’s suspension. Walter Thurmond’s suspension. Percy Harvin’s injury status.
In pre-game, Trent Dilfer questioned the legitimacy of Seattle’s defense.
There were plenty of doubters. I’ll admit I wondered whether all the talk would be a distraction.
Well, that was some statement to the critics.
Let’s cut to the chase — Russell Wilson is the second best thing to ever happen to this football team. Right behind Paul Allen buying the franchise and keeping it in the city.
I’ve been following Gregg Rosenthal’s NFL.com series ranking the quarterbacks. Every week he lists Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers in a class of their own (Brady is consistently way down the list, although I’m not sure why).
Gregg is going to have to make room for Wilson at the top table.
He doesn’t have as many touchdown passes as Manning and co, but it’s purely by design.
Tonight was a masterclass.
He wasn’t totally flawless. He probably should’ve been picked off in the first half on a downfield throw to Golden Tate. He missed an open Doug Baldwin in the third quarter.
And that, my friends, is about the grand total of the struggles Wilson ‘endured’ against a supposed top defense.
On a night when Marshawn Lynch was held in check, the quarterback put the team on his back. He ran. He threw. He improvised. He notched up twice as many yards as Brees.
League MVP? Why not?
Seattle has the best record in the NFL. Wilson is the teams best player. Seahawks fans should celebrate every day the decision to draft the 5-11 quarterback so many teams were sceptical of.
They should also celebrate the teams offensive coordinator. Darrell Bevell will be coveted in the off-season. Big time. And while people love to complain when things don’t go swimmingly, this really was a genius piece of game-planning tonight.
He constantly kept the Saints guessing. Bevell used all his weapons and found a way to get Wilson rolling without gimmicks or tricks.
I’ve always been surprised by the grief Bevell receives from some fans. He gets no credit for Wilson’s quick rise to prosperity. When things go well he’s rarely praised. And if you run through a list of currently active offensive coordinators — who would you swap him for?
Seattle gave Bevell a pay rise last off-season to make sure he stuck around. It might be time to start writing up a new offer.
Elsewhere — the pass protection issues are in the past following the return of Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. Doug Baldwin is making it very easy to get over Harvin’s hip injury. And Zach Miller really is Mr. Consistency. While a shiftier tight end probably walks into the endzone on the 60-yard play — Miller once again provided a reliable target for his quarterback.
Back to the defense — very few teams shut down Drew Brees. They made the New Orleans offense look positively ordinary.
Going into MNF, Brees was on a 43-game streak of 200-yard passing games. The NFL record is 45, held by Dan Fouts.
That run ended tonight with a 147 yard effort.
I’ve had the opportunity to watch the Saints a few times this year. Every time their screen game stood out. It was fearsome. Teams knew what was coming, and they couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
K.J. Wright and the Seahawks made it look like a piece of cake, something nobody else has done this year to my knowledge.
Time and time again, Wright identified the screen, shed a block and made a play. His performance was completely understated on a night when others got the plaudits.
Earl Thomas has achieved Luke Kuechly status. By that I mean — every tackle is lauded by the commentators, he’s constantly talked about as an MVP candidate and any mistake is quickly glossed over.
Cliff Avril continues his march to becoming Seattle’s most effective pass rusher. Another strip-sack today — his speciality — led to Michael Bennett’s early touchdown. These two have had a major impact this year. Avril is signed up for 2014 — but they need to find a way to keep Bennett too.
Byron Maxwell had one bad play by my count — a slightly slow recovery to a Jimmy Graham inside slant for a first down. Apart from that? A really encouraging display.
Seattle held New Orleans to seven points. Seven. Points.
I started this blog in 2008, anticipating a rare opportunity to cover a top-five draft pick for a competitive and injury-hit Seahawks team.
By the end of 2009, it became apparent this was actually a major rebuild. All those dreams of winning a Championship had vanished. Seattle was old, injured and going nowhere fast.
Now, we almost take for granted this is an eleven-win team with four weeks to go in the regular season.
Life is good.
Now go beat the Niners.
This is going to be one of the toughest groups to work out.
At various points this season all of the ‘big names’ have looked the part. They’ve also shown worrying trends and suffered dips in form.
And really, I’m not sure there’s anyone I’d want to hang my hat on.
Not as a franchise-changer, anyway.
Teddy Bridgewater is going to be the first taken, I’m pretty sure about that. But I’m not overwhelmed with his potential. He’s an extremely competent college quarterback, and very traditional in his approach.
Is he a special player? I’m not sure.
What’s his upside? What can he become?
He doesn’t have great mobility, but he has enough to avoid pressure and extend the odd play. He won’t be particularly elusive or much of a runner.
He’s accurate, but not flawless in that regard. He can hit receivers in stride, he’ll make plays downfield. His timing can be inconsistent though and he will miss in frustrating fashion on occasions.
Arm strength, size, personality — all above average, yet not mind-blowing.
I think overall he’ll be considered a safe option for a team that has seriously underachieved in 2013. It’s quite fortunate for Bridgewater that there are some candidates in that regard, rather than the usual bevy of useless teams that usually fill up the early picks in a draft.
He’s unlikely to transform a franchise on his own. With a decent supporting cast he should be able to move the ball around and be productive.
So really it depends on the team he gets saddled with. For me there’s little point Jacksonville going down that road because they have a paper thin roster. He’s not going to galvanise that team single handed and he might suffer long term damage by starting early for the Jags (a thankless task).
Houston, Minnesota and Cleveland make a lot more sense. The Texans should be able to plug him in quite quickly, the Vikings have Adrian Peterson and the Browns are a talented group just lacking a consistently healthy signal caller.
Bridgewater should find a home within the top five picks. He is the best available, even if he’s not quite as good as some will have you believe.
After that it’s a much cloudier picture.
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota worries me.
I hate comparing prospects and basing judgements on that kind of approach because no two unrelated players will be the same. Yet it’s watching Colin Kaepernick this year that has me wondering what type of player Mariota will be at the next level.
For starters any team that drafts him has to let the guy move around and run the ball. Reigning in Kaepernick early this year took away a lot of his effectiveness. He isn’t a brilliant pocket passer and he never was at Nevada. He’s a rangy, athletic runner with the ability to make some plays and improvise.
Restrict him to the pocket and you see a guy who struggles to go through his progressions (well documented) and looks permanently flustered under duress.
Asking Mariota to sit tight and read a defense would be pretty similar. He just looks so effective on the move. Yet if you’re drafting a guy in the top ten, you’re also going to want to protect that investment. So while a running Mariota will give you the best chance of success, it’s also your best way to guarantee he gets hurt.
San Francisco, I’m guessing, at least tried to limit how often Kaepernick ran the ball. And it has had an adverse effect. But they had to try it.
This is almost exclusively down to the Oregon offense, but I haven’t seen any evidence of Mariota going 1-2-3 with his reads and then checking down. It’s not what the Ducks do. So you have to project a quarterback’s ability without any core evidence that he can do the basics well. And that’s where my concern lies.
I have seen evidence where he’s tried to force the ball to his favoured receiver or original target. It took him an age to throw his first pick, but there were a few close calls long before the Arizona game.
And the one area Kaepernick is evidently superior is arm strength. Mariota doesn’t have a weak arm, but he doesn’t have a rifle like Kaepernick. And it’s such a huge weapon for the San Fran quarterback, I’m not sure what he’d be without it.
If Mariota declares — and that’s up in the air — I think a GM or coach somewhere will convince themselves that he’s worth a high pick. But I’m not totally convinced. Not yet.
Zach Mettenberger at LSU started the season showing major improvement from last year and the potential to be an early pick.
Those days are long gone.
In the last few weeks Mettenberger has looked lethargic. He’s started to force way too many passes.
A great example was a pick against Arkansas on Friday. Having lost Odell Beckham (back injury), he was zoning in on the equally talented Jarvis Landry. It was too obvious. And eventually his opponent made him pay, put a blanket over Landry and forced an ugly high pass for a turnover.
He has an arm, he can spread it around. But he’s also a statue in the pocket and when the going’s got tough over the last few weeks, he’s regressed back into something akin to his 2012 form.
Mettenberger left the Arkansas game with a knee injury and that could have even more impact on his stock. Right now he looks like a mid-round pick. He looks like a poor man’s Ryan Mallett.
Derek Carr leads the nation for yardage and in his last two games has 13 touchdowns.
The hype button has well and truly been activated.
I like Carr and argued his case when he wasn’t getting much attention earlier in the year. But suddenly I’m seeing him ranked as a top ten pick.
It’s a classic example of internet hype. He’s productive, he’s been winning (until this week) and people look at the arm strength and the mechanics and feel comfortable.
Let’s take a step back here. He features in an ultimate spread offense that accentuates the passing game. He’s throwing endless swing passes and WR screens and using YAC.
He isn’t being asked to negotiate through reads, break down a defense, fit the ball into tight spots. Throwing over the middle at the intermediate level has been a struggle at times.
The competition he’s facing most weeks is derisory. It’s a shame Fresno State couldn’t keep winning — it would’ve been very interesting to see him go up against a big school in a BCS game.
For now I think he deserves a solid round 2-3 grade with the potential to keep moving up. Putting him among the top ten picks seems a bit reactionary. I like Carr — but nobody can tell me this is the performance of a top-ten quarterback.
Johnny Manziel had another difficult day yesterday against Missouri. It followed up a tough outing at LSU.
When he’s at his creative best — scrambling away from pressure, having the time to set and throw out of the pocket — there isn’t a more exciting player in college football. When teams are able to contain his receivers and stay organised — he looks frustratingly average.
Last night he couldn’t get anything going. Not really. And when the game was on the line his accuracy deserted him. On one play he attempted a simple screen pass to Mike Evans on a crucial third down, trailing by seven. He managed to throw it high and wide of the 6-5 receiver and the play was buried before it ever had a chance to succeed.
Texas A&M never got the ball back on offense after that.
The magic he displayed against Alabama and Auburn was nowhere to be seen.
It’s really difficult to work out what he’s going to be at the next level. He’s a player of extremes. The thing about Russell Wilson (who he gets compared with far too often) is when the game is going against him, he finds ways to have an impact.
Essentially, an average Russell Wilson performance can still be a winning display. He’ll take what’s on offer, be patient. Keep battling and staying in the game.
When Johnny Manziel is having an off day, Texas A&M can forget about it. Contain Manziel, win the day. When he’s not feeling it, he drifts into struggling. He gets agitated, he starts to force things. You can see in his body language a level of irritation developing that for me, engulfs his ability to stay ice cool the way Wilson does.
At the next level it’s hard to imagine what he could be. Can he still produce the same magic as a scrambling phenomena? Has he got the arm strength and accuracy to make it count against better defensive backs and schemes that will confuse the heck out of him? On a day when the magic isn’t there, can he sit in the pocket and make simple throws faced with complex looks at the LOS?
And aside from all that, how will teams grade his mental make-up?
Wilson is a student of the game, a tireless worker. And he needs to be to succeed. I just can’t see Manziel emulating that work ethic. He’ll need to.
I want to cling to the cliche ‘it only takes one team’. I do suspect somebody will give him his shot. I just wonder whether that shot will come in round two where the risk is less severe.
Alabama’s A.J McCarron is very intriguing. I think he’s improved in pretty much every area he needed to improve — including arm strength. He’s more mobile than people imagine and he can avoid pressure and scramble when required. He’s vastly superior to his predecessors Greg McElroy and John Parker Wilson.
He’s not a great improviser and for that reason he’ll be fairly limited. He’ll take a call and execute it in the NFL, but when things go south I doubt he’s going to be able to adapt and still make a chain-moving play.
McCarron will also make errors — he’ll undersell a pass trying to thread it in behind two DB’s, he’ll miss on a crossing route by throwing slightly behind.
There’s no reason why he can’t be an Andy Dalton-level quarterback. That means completely frustrating at times and bordering on holding back his team. Then on other occasions he’ll be very productive and give the impression he’s a legit franchise starter.
Like Dalton he’s also quite an emotional character — this also leads to some erraticism.
I could see him going in the early part of the second round to a team that wants solid rather than spectacular. But he’s a decent player who has too many unfair critics. As I said, his greatest issue is a lack of improvisation. But he’ll still enter the league a much better player than guys like Christian Ponder and Geno Smith.
Of the others I think Brett Hundley should return to UCLA (debatable whether he will), Tajh Boyd has proven just a little too inaccurate and inconsistent, Logan Thomas hasn’t done enough to repair his stock (but will still go earlier than some think — round 2-3 I suspect) and Aaron Murray’s ACL injury might secure his position as an UDFA candidate.
I’ve flip-flopped on this group all year and I’m still searching for a clarity.
Thank goodness for Russell Wilson.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) November 30, 2013
Just when you thought it was safe to get excited.
Percy Harvin teased Seahawks fans with his brilliance against Minnesota. A one handed grab. A great kick return.
We probably won’t see any of that on Monday night against the Saints.
Harvin is listed as doubtful, having suffered soreness in his recovering hip following the Vikings game. Nearly two weeks of rest hasn’t put him in a position to practise.
That has to be a concern.
Even with limited snaps against Minnesota, he’s hurting. If he feels close to 100% over the next 48 hours, can you feel comfortable putting him on the field? And what would his workload be?
They might as well turn doubtful to ‘out’.
And it’s getting to the point where it might just not be worth the risk over the next few weeks. Instead of going into every game wondering if he’s going to be ready — is it time to face facts?
Is it time to shut him down?
That doesn’t have to be IR for the rest of the season. Maybe it just means saving him for the playoffs? That extra few weeks can be spent on rehab and practise. It could make a world of difference.
You’re talking about five weeks of the regular season plus a possible first round playoff bye. Six total weeks to prepare and get ready.
Right now it’s pretty clear he isn’t ready. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not spend every week wondering if Harvin is going to make it. As much as everyone wants to see him out there, I also want to see him out there next year and the year after. This isn’t a one year deal.
I also appreciate keeping teams in suspense will make it tough for opponents to prepare.
But aren’t the Seahawks good enough to win without those kind of shenanigans?
(I love using the word shenanigans in a piece)
While it’s disappointing to get almost no immediate return out of a first round pick plus change, the Seahawks are 10-1 without Harvin. This isn’t the difference between success and failure.
There’s no doubt Carroll and co will do the right thing here. I just feel like it’s something we need to embrace.
We might not see Percy Harvin again this year.
It is what it is.