Archive for April, 2011

My stance on positional risk and Jimmy Smith

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Probably the riskiest deserving first round pick possible

Posted by Kip Earlywine

Can you believe the draft begins this Thursday?  There isn’t much time left, so I figured now would be a good time to talk about which positions are the safest bets in the first round.  Here is a chart, though a couple years old, that tracks the success rate by position both by being a long term starter and also by becoming a star player.  It covers data from 1997 to 2008.

Excluding kickers (heh), the safest positions for finding a long term starter are center (100%), guard (100%), safety (91%), linebacker (83%), defensive tackle (83%), defensive end (79%) and tackle (73%).

The worst positions for finding at least a long term starter are quarterback (44%), wide receiver (49%), tight end (50%), cornerback (56%), and running back (57%).

Finding a franchise quarterback is the single most difficult and important task for an NFL front office.  Even though a 44% rate is the worst among every position, that 44% rate far exceeds the rate of any round thereafter.

Considering this, you would expect quarterback to finish very low in terms of finding stars, but just the opposite:  25% of this group go on to become franchise quarterbacks.  Or to look at it another way, for every 8 first round quarterbacks that start long term, 5 are star players.  That’s the highest rate among successful starters at any position.

So what are the best positions when considering both starter potential and the odds of becoming a star?  Guard, safety, linebacker top the list, with defensive end being an honorable mention.

The worst?  Tight end and cornerback stand out quite a bit.  Corner is tied for 3rd worst for percentage of star players and is 4th worst for overall ability to produce a starter.  What’s even more alarming about the corner statistic is how many successful corners come out of the top half of the first round.  As Mel Kiper recently cited, 21 of the last 24 corners taken in the top half of the first round have been at least somewhat successful.  That’s amazing, and it really paints a grim picture for corners who are taken later in the first.

I think that jives with this year’s draft as well.  Patrick Peterson is a top 10 lock and about as close to can’t miss as it gets.  He’s this year’s Joe Haden or Darrelle Revis.  Prince Amukamara?  He’s pretty much bombed drills at the combine and sorely lacks some of the most basic athletic qualities to play the position at the NFL level.  Maybe he’s still drafted as a corner, but if he is, it will be later in the first and it would be a very risky proposition to keep him at corner.  Then you have Jimmy Smith, who has all the physical talent to be a top 10 pick but has a rap-sheet and work-ethic reminiscent of infamous flame-out Maurice Clarett.  Considering the innate risk of the cornerback position coupled with that, I would nominate Smith as the riskiest first round prospect- that is unless you consider Andy Dalton or Christian Ponder worthy 1st round guys.  (I don’t).

So its with this in consideration that I have very mixed feelings about Seattle drafting Jimmy Smith.  If Seattle selects Smith 25th overall, though I wouldn’t pull the trigger myself, I would support their decision and I wouldn’t hate the pick.  Finding good starting corners is almost as hard as finding good starting quarterbacks, and in later rounds it gets even harder.  Seattle badly needs quality at the corner position and putting off addressing the issue will have consequences.  Smith has the base of talent to be just like those highly successful corners taken earlier, its just an issue of being motivated and staying on the straight and narrow.  If anyone can do that, Pete Carroll can.

On the other hand, if Smith busts especially for off the field reasons, its going to look very obvious in retrospect won’t it?  Smith has two felonies in his past, displayed (to my eye) a regular habit of cruising by in games, and didn’t work out for at least two weeks before the combine, presumably because he didn’t care about being his best.  I don’t care too much about him lying in interviews, the other stuff is what concerns me more because of the behavior patterns it indicates.  I don’t mind rooting for degenerates like Randy Moss or Brandon Marshall, because at least they bring it on Sundays and compete Monday through Friday like champions.  With Smith, I’m not so much worried about him getting arrested with enough guns for a Mexican standoff in his pickup truck or getting stabbed by his wife, as much as I am worried about him just not caring enough to reach his potential.

If Mike Pouncey is there at #25, (I highly doubt it), then he would be the best pick in my view.  Not just because we desperately need help at guard, and not just because he’s the twin brother of a highly successful NFL interior lineman, but because guard (usually a position addressed where we are picking) is the safest pick in the first round and also one of the best for finding a star player.

Similarly evaluating risk/reward for Locker/Kaepernick is probably another post in itself.  For now I’d say that I’d endorse either at #25, though with Kaepernick admittedly I’d cringe a little bit after thinking of him as a late 2nd rounder for so long.

Searching for diamonds: Seattle’s late round targets

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Pete Carroll and John Schneider see depth as an issue. It’s not really surprising, considering the number of injuries sustained in recent years and how the team has suffered as a consequence. The Seahawks got better value than usual out of their late round picks last year, finding contributors like Walter Thurmond and trading for Leon Washington. They also found a few guys for the future, including Kam Chancellor and Anthony McCoy.

Currently they own the second pick in round four, two picks in round five and some late round change in the 6th and 7th. Schneider has been part of a franchise in Green Bay that has the best draft pick retention in the league over the last few years. Seattle must emulate that and it means continuing to search for diamonds.

The list further down the board will be much larger than the possible options at #25 - that’s pretty obvious due to the talent pool and nature of the draft. I understand these four are among the players the team is considering – in some cases possibly as early as #57 and in others as low as priority undrafted free agents.

DeMarcus Van Dyke (CB, Miami)
Originally seen as a late round pick, now a fast riser after running a 4.28 at the combine. If the Seahawks want him badly enough, they may have to consider spending their #57 pick. A track star at Miami, he sometimes plays that way with a lack of natural instinct for the position, but he has raw potential as a cover corner.

Lee Ziemba (OL, Auburn)
Played right tackle for the Championship winning Tigers. Considered a fourth round prospect in some quarters and could be a depth solution on the offensive line at 6-5, 317lbs. Very superstitious apparently and a four year starter, but not considered an obvious fit in the zone blocking scheme.

Curtis Marsh (CB, Utah State)
Converted running back who is believed to be a hard working, team first kind of guy. Possible 5th or 6th round selection. Above average speed but struggled with a hamstring injury at the Senior Bowl. Reportedly strongest in press coverage.

Jeff Tarpinian (LB, Iowa)
Special teams prospect who carries a late round or UDFA grade. It’s not hard to see where his value is (see video below).

The Packers draft philosophy

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

If nothing else, I'd like Seattle's next quarterback to make skipping fist pumps and invisible championship belts

Posted by Kip Earlywine

We don’t spend a lot of time talking about other NFL franchises here, but today I’d like to talk a little about John Schneider’s roots as a GM.  Seemingly every time Mr. Schneider talks draft, he makes a reference to his time in Green Bay and the roster creation system he learned there under Ted Thompson.  Even off the camera, our source has told us that Seattle won’t be trading up to draft a quarterback “unless Aaron Rodgers re-enters the draft.”  Its not hard to figure out the original source of that quote.

When the Packers selected Aaron Rodgers, they were in a very similar situation.  Brett Favre was the exact same age (within a month) that Matthew Hasselbeck is right now, and the Packers were fresh off a playoff appearance.  They picked 24th. Hasselbeck is a free agent who may have played his final snap here, and Favre is a future HoF who still had gas in the tank, but simply in terms of being “in the zone” for a new quarterback, both teams compared well.

Rob Staton and Brandon Adams from 17power have long expressed a belief that none of the “big four” quarterbacks will escape the top 16 picks.  Then again, Aaron Rodgers was considered a top 10 lock, and he became one of the more surprising prospects to fall in recent memory.  If one of those “big four” quarterbacks reaches the 25th pick somehow, we could see history repeat itself.

Here is a video from NFL.com about the Packer’s draft strategy.

In my opinion, John Schneider was hired by Seattle for two primary reasons: his chemistry in interviews with Pete Carroll and his background with a proven and highly successful NFL front office.  I suspect reason #1 was the bigger part of the decision, but its reason #2 that will reap the rewards for this franchise in the long haul.  Since John Schneider frequently talks about bringing the Packers philosophy here to Seattle, I found the video linked above to be pretty interesting.

“19 of 22 Superbowl starters were either drafted by the Packers or undrafted free agents signed by the Packers.”

Building through the draft is a cliche uttered by just about every fan and front office alike, but Green Bay is one of the very best in the business at living by this mantra.  In fairness, that statistic is somewhat inflated by a high number of injuries forcing depth players into starting roles, since this wasn’t opening day after all.  It was the final game of the season when teams tend to be the least healthy.  However you look at it, the bottom line is that Green Bay found success by using a highly disciplined and organized approach to the draft.  A lot of the things we hear about the Packers in the video are things you could say about every front office, which to me points out the value of going the extra mile.

“They have an all-inclusive process… they want people with strong opinions… they want scouts who are evaluators, not just information gatherers… evaluators comes first, and one man makes the decision at the end of the day.”

For all I know, these same seemingly bland features could be true of every NFL front office.  However, there was one part of this quote that really caught my ear; the part about wanting evaluators not just information gatherers.  Quite often I read scouting reports that rattle off a list of components for a player while missing the point completely- what specific team and what system would this player be best served playing for?  What do Steve Young, Brett Favre, Jake Plummer, and Michael Vick all have in common?  They were talented quarterbacks who didn’t reach their potential until they landed on a second team that was a better fit for their skills.

A good scouting report should include these kind of details.  Its not enough to ask yourself if a player has a bright future or not.  Does he have a bright future for you?  We can already confirm that John Schneider uses this method when scouting.  In the latest example, our source mentioned to us that the front office loves Stephen Paea, but isn’t going to draft him.  It seems silly to not draft a player you really like right?  Well not if he’s an awkward fit for the defense and wouldn’t reach that potential you like so much.  Paea is in my view a pure 4-3 one tech, very similar to Brandon Mebane.  Unfortunately, that just isn’t a position that exists in the LEO defense, so like Mebane, Paea’s immense talent would go to waste if we drafted him at #25.

This seems like a contrast with Tim Ruskell’s regime, where he had a bit more of a grab-bag approach.  He simply took players he liked, without considering chemistry or scheme.  That’s how we ended up with guys like Brian Russell undermining our secondary, and picks like Deon Butler that were very hard to make sense of.  Butler was a very good college player, and in some ways was a 2nd rounder on paper (outstanding character, hands, production, route running and sub- 4.4 speed).  That’s why Tim Ruskell paid quite a bit to move up to get him, in Ruskell’s eyes Butler was probably a worthy 2nd rounder pick who fell into the 3rd.  But what Ruskell didn’t consider was that Butler’s very small size would undermine his game as both a slot receiver and a deep threat, especially for a team that lacked a #1 wide-receiver.   That’s why Butler lasted as long as he did, he was a great college receiver who sadly just didn’t have a niche in the NFL.

Tim Ruskell took a guy like Aaron Curry 4th overall because of outstanding athleticism, character, and work-ethic, but didn’t consider the needs of the roster or how a player like Curry wouldn’t come even close to filling the pass rushing shadow left by a departed Julian Peterson.  Lawrence Jackson and Kelly Jennings were the same thing, players who passed the criteria but would never be vital components of a defense or fit into a grand scheme of things.

Not every pick John Schneider made last year followed his own rules.  Golden Tate, much like Deon Butler, is a talented guy that probably doesn’t have a role in an NFL offense, unless the team gets very creative.  Last year they didn’t use Tate to his strengths (his running back type qualities) and instead had him run post and fade routes deep, with predictably bad results.  With the exception of Tate though, just about every pick Seattle made last year was a good fit, even a player like EJ Wilson who failed to stick but was a fit for the 5 technique.  I completely expect this trend to continue in this years draft, and its why I’ve long suspected privately that Seattle probably wouldn’t pursue Ryan Mallett but would be seriously interested in Jake Locker or Colin Kaepernick (or Christian Ponder if the arm had checked out, which apparently it didn’t).

“…seventeen days there together, all the scouts are in the room, and they look at about three games on every single player (emphasis his) that any scout in that room has rated draft-able and some of their top free agents… it gives each scout a chance to look at his grades and compare it to what prospects from other sections of the country look like, and that helps them adjust their grades when they go to their final evaluation in the Spring.  I think they are one of the few teams that does it for that amount of time.”

Again, this is probably something that I’m guessing many other front offices do as well.  The only real difference here is the impressive amount of due diligence and time spent with this process.  Charley Casserly states his belief that this is an unusually high amount of time and resources spent reviewing prospects.  Scouting is well known to be a flawed and subjective “science,” so spending that extra time could pay dividends by ironing out some creases in the evaluation process.  We don’t know for a fact that Seattle uses this method, but the talk about Kaepernick gaining “unanimous approval” would hint at such a process.  And for what its worth, Schneider’s regime probably has one of the highest work ethics in the NFL, if judged from the number of roster moves they’ve made and how many trade avenues they sought over the last year.

“…remain [humble] with leadership, Ted Thompson does a great job with that.  He operates under the radar because he doesn’t have a big ego, but the rest of the league respects him because of his ability to evaluate players.”

Without watching John Schneider work the war room, there really isn’t anyway of knowing if he’s an ego-maniac or a humble listener who values the opinions of others.  John Schneider brought Ted Thompson’s system to Seattle, and we can only hope that he shares Thompson’s traits as well.  The key to making a great decision is by considering as many opinions and as much information as possible.  Its what made Thompson one of the best GMs in the NFL, and hopefully John Schneider will follow that example, if he isn’t already.

Updated two-round mock draft: 23rd April

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Miami's Orlando Franklin doesn't need a helmet to block

I’ve updated the two-round mock draft today to represent how I feel some of the teams may be thinking five days before the draft. 

Essentially it comes down to two factors. Firstly, Colin Kaepernick is very much an option for the Seahawks and they believe they can trade down and target him at the top of round two. If a deal is not forthcoming, does the team still feel comfortable drafting him in round one? To see the latest projection, click here or select ‘Mock Draft’ in the menu bar above.  

Secondly, which players do the Seahawks grade higher than Kaepernick so that they would avoid the position with their first pick in the draft? Mike Pouncey appears to be one of them. I would project that Jimmy Smith is another and I understand one member of the offensive coaching staff is very high on Mark Ingram. I truly believe neither Pouncey or Smith will be available at #25 and the team isn’t trading up for them. Correctly, the Seahawks believe running back would be a luxury considering their investment in the position through Marshawn Lynch and the many other needs elsewhere.  

The impression I’m getting is that they aren’t tied to any one position and that’s an opinion John Schneider expressed in his press conference last week. They would probably like to make an investment in quarterback first and foremost, but they are confident in their ability to perhaps solve three or four problems instead of one. They found some mid-to-late round talent last year, but didn’t strike gold in round two gambling on Golden Tate. You can’t write him off after one year, but evidently he has a lot of work to do to warrant the investment Seattle made.  

Nevertheless, Kaepernick fits the bill in terms of what they’re looking for in a quarterback – mobility, arm strength, the ability to extend plays, the non-reliance on brilliant pass protection in order to make plays, running ability to develop the zone blocking scheme and become part of the overall gameplan, character and playmaking quality.  

It’d be taking a chance, just like trading for Charlie Whitehurst was taking a chance. Kaepernick would not be expected to start in year one, with either Matt Hasselbeck being re-signed or Carson Palmer being brought in from Cincinnati for perhaps a 5th rounder and a further conditional pick depending on performance. I believe a deal like that could be possible to land Palmer and there has been some discussion. Both are stop-gap options that the team likes enough to run with as it re-builds. There are people out there who rate Kaepernick highly, very highly. Don’t sleep on him being off the board before Seattle is on the board at #25, particularly if a team trades back into the first.  

In round two I’ve gone back to the Seahawks taking an interior lineman in Miami’s Orlando Franklin. I suspect guard is an area they are determined to improve and will consider early – but as with other needs, they aren’t going to focus in on the position as a life or death situation.  

Elsewhere, I have Buffalo making a surprise move at #3 taking Cameron Jordan. Make no mistake he is a big-time talent who would instantly upgrade Buffalo’s defense. Adding Phil Taylor in round two could set up that defensive front for a long time, particularly in a division that contains a lot of offensive punch. So why not Von Miller, Blaine Gabbert, AJ Green or Patrick Peterson? No specific reason, but how many people had C.J. Spiller pinned to #9 last year? Or Aaron Maybin and Eric Woods to Buffalo the year before? Zero. That alone is not enough to warrant the Jordan projection, but he is a flashy playmaker who will provide a quick impact at a position of need. To some degree, he could be the back-up option to Marcell Dareus for Buffalo.  

I have Gabbert dropping to #8 and past a few quarterback needy teams. Cincinnati is still a very likely proposition, but would anyone be surprised if they take a receiver in round one? AJ Green may be able to help a mediocre pick at quarterback in round two (such as Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton) look a little brighter. Arizona should take him at #5 but appear to be leaning towards a veteran option (Marc Bulger is the hot tip). San Francisco, for whatever reason, seems an unlikely fit. If Gabbert does squeeze past the first seven picks, you’re looking at Tennessee as perhaps being the floor.  

The reason for the fall in this projection? Gabbert looks the part across the board, yet he was just so completely unspectacular in college. You’re investing in the unknown to a degree. I suspect that Gabbert will be top of a lot of boards in the quarterback department, but may not thrill some GM’s enough to make the call. At the end of the day, Carolina are going to end up taking Cam Newton – a guy with a bigger boom and a bigger bust ratio – over Gabbert, who is the presumed safe option. 

I could be wrong here and Gabbert go as high as #2-#4 overall, or perhaps he will slip a little bit?

Saturday links

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

David Fucillo at Niners Nation has a piece quoting official NFL Biographer Dave-Te Thomas with some very positive comments about Colin Kaepernick: “To me, he’s another Aaron Rodgers on the field. With his mobility & off-field character, I see a lot of Roger Staubach in him. He’s what I call a blue moon QB- only comes along once in a blue moon. Folks tortured me when I had Rodgers as my #1 prospect years ago & got on my hynie over Josh Freeman a few years back, but I’m not a draft analyst & judge guys on production & where I feel they will be three years down the road.”

Brandon Adams has the second part of his piece on Ryan Mallett: “In typical fashion, much of the sports community is only now taking a fair look at the Arkansas signal-caller and judging him in the light of actual NFL attributes. He’s a polarizing figure, to be sure. All it takes in this reactionary pre-draft environment is one notable writer or reporter to laud a guy, and suddenly everyone starts jumping on board.”

Chris Kouffman at Universaldraft.com appears on the NFL Network to argue the case against negative reports on Mallett.

Dan Kelly at Field Gulls has an interview with ex-NFL scout Dave Razzano, who has some interesting things to say about this draft class: “Kaepernick is another QB I feel will be very successful. Everyone is targeting for round two. He will go either late one or early two. Again, Jake Locker, to me, is a Brett Favre clone and the same things people say about Locker they said about Favre.

For more information on the Locker/Favre comparison, don’t forget to check out Kip’s article from earlier today.

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay run through a few draft related topics for ESPN:

And seeing as we’re talking a lot about Colin Kaepernick…

Former NFL scout: Jake Locker is a “Brett Favre clone”

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Little kid Brett Favre wore #10 and played for the Hawks. I rest my case.

Posted by Kip Earlywine

The other day I was reading SB nation’s Seahawks blog Fieldgulls, and a certain article caught my eye, site-author Danny Kelly’s interview with veteran NFL scout Dave Razzano, who’s not currently active but has worked in the NFL as far back as the 1980s.  I’ll get this out of the way and mention that you might not agree with everything Mr. Razzano says, including his obvious man-crush on Nate Davis, his dismissive words for Ryan Mallett and his opinion that Russell Okung isn’t very athletic and is better served at right tackle.  But sometimes even a person you disagree with has the capability of providing unique and interesting insights from time to time.  Here is what Razzano had to say about how he looks at Jake Locker, known to be a high profile target for the Seahawks should he reach #25:

Jake Locker, to me, is a Brett Favre clone and the same things people say about Locker they said about Favre coming out of S Mississippi. Poor accuracy, can’t read defenses etc. Not shocked when I checked out favre’s total college stats vs Locker and they were identical Favre in college….55 td 35 int 53.2% completion. Locker…53 td 35 int 53.6 completion percentage. This is why you can’t put emphasis on the stat sheet. Most of the stats is the team you are on and the system. Joe Montana did not have overly impressive stats coming out of Notre Dame. When you studied him closely he made plays when team needed them most..Had “winner” written all over him, just like Locker does today.

I wasn’t even 10 years old when Favre played his final college snap, and I barely watched college football.  When I did, I sure as hell wasn’t watching Southern Mississippi games, and as such I can provide zero insight into how a young Jake Locker would compare to a young Brett Favre.  However, like anyone not living in a cave the last 20 years, I know plenty about Brett Favre, NFL quarterback.  And considering that, I’m surprised I didn’t make this connection on my own, since, you know, Brett Favre is one of the most famous and over-exposed NFL players in the history of Earth.

Brett Favre is 6’2″, 222 lbs.  Locker is 6’2.5″, 231 lbs.  Locker raised concerns among some for scoring only a 20 on the wonderlic test.  Brett Favre scored a 22.  Both were the star attractions of their college teams with very little supporting talent.  Both are exceptionally mobile quarterbacks at their best on the move (I’ve read Favre ran a 4.60 forty coming out of college), and both have strong right arms with similar mechanics.  And while Locker could very well be drafted 10th or 12th, if he gets past Minnesota, he’ll likely slip to the late 1st or early 2nd round, the place where most analysts believe he “should” be selected.  Brett Favre himself was picked near the very beginning of round 2 (#33 overall).  Though Favre was famous for not missing games, he took a beating and constantly played hurt.  So did Locker at Washington.  Favre sat his first season in the league and didn’t become a starter until his 2nd year.  Similarly, Locker is a guy you probably would wait a year before pressing into action.  And then of course you have the incredible statistical similarities Razzano mentions.  I don’t put a ton of stock into college stats, but that is a remarkably close comparison.

Already, we’ve got a pretty stunning list of similarities between the two, but the biggest similarity of them all is the mentality both players share.  Locker doesn’t slide.  He lowers the shoulder and powers through.  Though Sarkisian reigned in Locker somewhat in 2009 and especially in 2010 by specifically coaching him to throw the ball away more, you could always tell that Locker’s preference was to force passes into tight windows, completely trusting his incredible arm.  As it turns out, the “wilder” version of Jake Locker seen in 2009 was a lot better than the “safer” version we saw in 2010.  My initial diagnosis of Locker was that he’d go to a tightly controlled environment and continue his progress at being a safer quarterback, very similar to when Mike Shanahan salvaged Jake Plummer by beating those gunslinger habits out of him.  But I’m now beginning to wonder if playing it safe with Locker does his talent injustice.  Brett Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and he’s also the NFL’s all time interception leader.  Perhaps like Favre, Locker could loosen up his game somewhat at the expense of suffering more interceptions, with a tradeoff in yardage and touchdowns that makes up for it and then some.

I guess its worth wondering what type of approach Seattle would take to Locker.  The connection Carroll shares with Steve Sarkisian is impossible to ignore, and judging by the highly structured offense the team played Charlie Whitehurst in during week 17, it would suggest a similar “simplify and limit mistakes” approach could be in play for a young, learning quarterback.  Darrell Bevell’s resume reads to me like that of a mousy “yes-man” offensive coordinator, and though he answers to Pete Carroll, make no mistake, he’ll be the one drawing up the plays and building this offense.  Given Bevell’s experience and success with Brett Favre in Minnesota, its possible that Locker could be given the same leeway to make plays as Favre was afforded.

Obviously, Brett Favre represents an absolute best case scenario for Jake Locker, but if Locker becomes a Seahawk, the comparison is a lot of fun to think about.  And of course, if the Redskins or Vikings feel this way about Locker, then you can probably forget about him lasting to #25, even if they don’t select him 10th or 12th.  If Locker reaches #24, you better believe the Saints will be fielding some interesting calls, particularly Washington who would have no other choice but to offer future picks.  Why was it that Tampa Bay dealt a late round pick just to move up a mere two spots for Josh Freeman, knowing that the team in front of them wasn’t a serious threat?  Because they were wise enough to know how obvious of a landing spot they were, and it was very possible a team behind them could leap up and screw them out of a future franchise quarterback.  So for almost no cost at all, Tampa eliminated that possibility, in what was probably the single most intelligent trade of that entire draft.  If Locker is there at #23, Seattle should take a page from Tampa’s draft playbook and make a move.

The quarterback situation Seattle faces entering this draft is eerily similar to the one they faced in 1991, fresh off of parting ways with Seattle’s other great quarterback, Dave Krieg.  Seattle needed a new quarterback, and was willing to spend a 1st round pick on the position.  This isn’t a comparison I’d personally make, but a lot of people have compared Ryan Mallett to another 6’7″ quarterback who went in the mid-1st round that year:  Dan McGwire.  Then coach Chuck Knox, as well as the majority of the scouting department, furiously protested the selection of McGwire and had their hearts set on a different, more mobile quarterback.  But Ken Behring had his heart set on Mark McGwire’s little brother, and the rest is history.  That other quarterback Knox and company wanted so badly?  Brett Favre.

Edit 4/24:  Razzano is interviewed my Michael Silver, its worth a read.  Like the Seahawks, Razzano is a huge fan of Colin Kaepernick but likes Jake Locker even more.

Colin Kaepernick #2 quarterback on Seattle’s board?

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Following up yesterday’s information, I’ve had further contact with my source and he’s been able to shed a bit more light on a few things. Remember, these are just things he’s heard. I’m merely relaying the information. Don’t forget to check out my earlier article on Colin Kaepernick and the ‘Pete Carroll offense’.

- Ryan Mallett is not part of Seattle’s plans due only to a lack of mobility and it is not an issue of character.

- It’s understood Colin Kaepernick is the second ranked quarterback on Seattle’s board and apparently Andy Dalton is ranked at #3. The top ranked quarterback is not known. It’s important to remember that guaranteed top-ten locks Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are probably not on the board due to their likely exit point.

- Mike Pouncey is viewed as a guard, not a center and is a favorite but likely won’t last to #25.

- Adrian Clayborn, Marcus Cannon, Phil Taylor, Stephen Paea and Marvin Austin – players the team has shown interest in but will not be drafting for various reasons.

- Some mid/late rounders to keep an eye on – Curtis Marsh (CB, Utah State), DeMarcus Van Dyke (CB, Miami), Lee Ziemba (OL, Auburn), Jeff Tarpinian (LB, Iowa).

- It’s understood that Jimmy Smith is valued higher than Prince Amukamara and that he’s likely to go in the 15-20 range on draft day.

- Trading up appears to be unlikely. In the fact the words used by my source were that a trade up won’t occur unless “Aaron Rodgers re-enters the draft”.

- Finally, it’s said that one high profile member of the coaching staff is a big fan of Mark Ingram and would love to draft him at #25 if available. However, the front office believe there are too many needs on the roster to draft a running back in round one.

Mallett, Kaepernick and the ‘Pete Carroll offense’

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

This is Pete Carroll's vision, including on offense

Yesterday we brought you information on what the Seahawks might be planning for next week. I wanted to offer a few thoughts.

People have latched onto the information about the quarterbacks and the possibility that Colin Kaepernick has received consensus approval in the team’s scouting department. The other big headline is the suggestion Ryan Mallett is not part of the team’s draft board.

The same source last year told me, accurately, that Jimmy Clausen was not in the team’s plans and neither was C.J. Spiller. Both players had been projected regularly to the Seahawks with the #6 and #14 pick in the 2010 draft yet the team passed on both. Of course, they had many options among the top-15 picks but let’s not forget just how regularly both were mocked to the Seahawks.

Let’s start with the Ryan Mallett news. After all, I graded him higher than a lot of prospects in this draft. I understand the concerns that a lot of people have, but I also value some of the positives more others too. If I’m a team in need of a quarterback and Ryan Mallett is available on the board, then I’m giving serious consideration to making that pick. Not every NFL team will feel that way and it appears the Seahawks are a case in point.

When Jeremy Bates was offensive coordinator a lot was talked about mobility at the quarterback position and arm strength. This was a Shanahan-style offense that required a Shanahan-style quarterback. Bates’ departure made many believe the Seahawks would make clinical changes, possibly towards a more conventional west coast offense. I never agreed with that suggestion. This is the Pete Carroll offense – this is the Pete Carroll show.

Make no mistake that the direction this offense goes will be dictated by Carroll. Sure, the man charged with making the play calls may change and at the moment it’s Darrell Bevell. The idea, the philosophy on how this offense coordinates is being dictated from the top.

Jeremy Bates did not trade for Charlie Whitehurst, that was a decision made by Carroll and John Schneider. Look at the two quarterbacks that have arrived since then – JP Losman and Nate Davis. Are we seeing a pattern here? All three are mobile guys capable of getting the ball downfield. This was more than a pure Bates philosophy.

In Carroll’s end of season press conference he stated himself that not much would change on offense. The plan stays the same – they want to run the ball using the zone blocking scheme and they want a quarterback who can run bootlegs, handle play action and be a threat running the ball in order to further open up the attack. Bates’ departure was certainly down to the problems running the ball. The departure of Alex Gibbs played it’s part, because the party that won that battle didn’t achieve results. Yet the core value of the Carroll offense remains. They will start again with Tom Cable effectively running the ZBS and with Bevell attempting to bring it all together and be the designated play caller.

That is the strictness with which this situation is being handled. The flexibility that some thought might be there perhaps isn’t after all. They won’t be signing a quarterback and building around them. Seattle will draft a quarterback who fits their plan and while that doesn’t mean drafting any old QB who fits, it does mean refining the search.

It’s not that Mallett doesn’t fit an assumed version of the WCO that keeps him off the team’s board, he won’t be an option because he’s immobile. I don’t necessarily agree with this approach because I rate Mallett, but if you believe the information provided yesterday this is my read on the situation.

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I anticipated a battle between Washington and the Seahawks for quarterbacks during the 2010 NFL season. Neither team was performing particularly well and for large parts were projected as picking in the top ten. Seattle would’ve picked 8th overall had they lost to St. Louis in week 17, instead they win a playoff game and the rest is history. It’s not much of a competition now with the two picking at opposite ends of the first round.

The Bates connection to Shanahan really was the catalyst for this thinking, but as I mentioned before it’s looking more and more like the ‘Carroll’ offense is based around some similar aspects. I am absolutely certain that given the opportunity Washington will draft Jake Locker tenth overall. I think Seattle would do the same if roles were reversed. Pete Carroll is a Jake Locker fan and I truly believe he’d love to coach the guy in Seattle, what’s more he fits what they want to do on offense perfectly.

Would they consider trading up? I seriously doubt it. Imagine the backlash such a move would create, particularly because it would almost certainly involve 2012 compensation to get as high as #9. The reality is they are left with little option here and Locker is out of their hands.

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My source speculated that Kaepernick had received consensus approval in the Seahawks draft camp. This is another guy who fits the mantra – mobility, arm strength, character. I have seen two games from Kaepernick (vs Boise State and vs Boston College) which is not enough to make a valid opinion. In comparison, I’ve seen 10+ games from Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton because I have a lot more access to the SEC.

I’d recommend reading Kip Earlywine’s report on Kaerpernick if you want a better opinion on the guy.

I spoke to a friend yesterday who is very knowledgable on the draft and he informed me of two scouts he knew who both rated Kaepernick highly, one even graded him 14th overall on his big board. Perhaps he is ranked higher than a lot of the draft media has been reporting? It wouldn’t be the first time someone flew under the radar (see: Tyson Alualu).

Perhaps the Seahawks view Kaepernick as a viable alternative at quarterback and one they would be willing to make the investment on?

Yet here’s the important thing to remember – my source said they like Kaepernick, but this only produces a possibility. What if there’s a shock and he’s off the board before #25? What if someone else falls? What if the Seahawks actually grade 3-4 players higher than Kaepernick and they are available, or what if a trade down the board isn’t possible?

There’s a big difference between rating someone highly and actually pulling the trigger. I wouldn’t assume the Seahawks will draft Kaepernick, I’d just prepare yourselves for it being a possibility.

Colin Kaepernick at a glance

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The highlights haven't even started yet and I'm already entertained

Posted by Kip Earlywine

Highlights:

Strengths:

  • Highly mobile with excellent acceleration and top speed
  • Good running instincts
  • Excellent pocket awareness
  • Evasive both inside the pocket and outside it
  • Gaudy career total statistics
  • Accuracy took a big step forward in 2010 (65%)
  • Low Interception totals
  • Lightning fast arm speed (throws 95 mph and was drafted as a pitcher)
  • Showed some capability of checking more than one read
  • Mechanics improved as the season went on
  • Very nice zip on passes short, middle and deep
  • Great leadership, intangibles, coach-ability, character, hard-worker
  • Ideal “wholesome” face of the franchise just like Jake Locker
  • Some big time individual performances against quality competition
  • Tons of college level experience
  • Playmaker with speed that rivals or even exceeds Newton and Locker
  • Remarkably durable in college (just one injury: ankle in ’08)
  • Very high ceiling

Weaknesses:

  • Worrisome “hitch” in his throwing motion, though in some games it wasn’t there (!)
  • Sometimes struggles with touch on short throws
  • Played in a “Pistol” offense, not much under-center experience
  • Only checks 2nd read as a last resort, panics and takes off too much and too early
  • Won’t get to run for 1000 yards a year in the pros
  • Weak overall competition (WAC conference)
  • Skinny Frame, needs to add some bulk… I worry about durability at the next level
  • Comically bad ball security (holds the ball almost like “shake weights” when running)
  • Runs with high center of gravity
  • Needs to learn a lot; not likely to contribute immediately

Impressions:

Its not surprising to me our front office has a glimmer in the eye for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick reminds me a lot of emerging phenom Josh Freeman, just in a skinnier body.  Both are guys who build their game off of running the ball to open up the pass, and throw well on the move.  The thing that makes Freeman a special talent is his sometimes ridiculous ability to sense and avoid pressure in the pocket, and though Kaepernick isn’t playing against the same caliber of opponents, that same trait is there, and it will serve him well in the NFL.  Pete Carroll saw Freeman work his magic against the Seahawks last season.  I wouldn’t doubt if he had called up John Schneider right after that game and said “I want a quarterback like that.”  Then again, who wouldn’t?

Colin Kaepernick can be a quarterback like that.  But it would probably take a least a couple years for him to reach that level.  He needs to learn the pro-style offense, and he needs to be more disciplined on making reads, running the ball less, staying calm under pressure and holding the ball properly when he does run.  You could say a lot of those same things about Jake Locker, except Locker doesn’t need to add weight and looks closer to being ready in my opinion. So in a way, you could say that Kaepernick is somewhat of a poor-man’s Jake Locker.  I’d be a little surprised if Kaepernick leaves the board before Locker does.

I recently read on Seahawks.net that “Seattle Seahawks” is an anagram for “Weak-ass athletes.”  I decided to take a look at “Colin Kaepernick” and see what anagrams it produced, and would you believe it, one of the results was “Inane Locker pick.”  Anagrams are such jerks.

Source: Mallett not on Seahawks board, Kaepernick is

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Gaining momentum: Could Colin Kaepernick be a Seahawk next week?

I wanted to offer some information I received today from a proven source. Regular visitors to the blog will be aware of the success rate of this source in the past. There have been occasions when the information hasn’t been 100% accurate as well, but never illogical. This is speculation and not fact, but as I say it comes from a guy I trust. 

- Ryan Mallett is not on the Seahawks draft board. No reasons were given.

- The Seahawks like Mike Pouncey (OG, Florida) but the belief is he’ll be off the board before the 25th overall pick. He is seemingly receiving consensus approval. 

- Trading down is very much part of their plans. The desire is to drop down into the first 5-7 picks of the second round. Regaining a third round pick is considered the target. If a deal isn’t there the likelihood is they’ll remain at #25 although depending on how the board falls, they may consider dropping back for as little as an extra 4th or 5th rounder. 

- I understand the other player that is gaining approval across the board is Colin Kaepernick (QB, Nevada). It’s believed they can get him in the early second round, but could be willing to take him at #25.

- The third player I’m told they really like is Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State). The Seahawks were incredibly impressed with him. Nevertheless, it’s suggested he won’t likely be an option based on where he is projected to go. 

One final note, it’s believed the team came close to completing a deal with Matt Hasselbeck just before the CBA expired with guaranteed cash the stumbling block. This is something the Seahawks expected more flexibility with, but it didn’t happen. 

Don’t forget to check the latest Seahawks Draft Blog mock draft.