Archive for May, 2011

Receiver preview part 3: Mohamed Sanu & Juron Criner

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

I’m going to complete this early look at the 2012 receiver prospects with two other names that are worth monitoring this year: Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) and Juron Criner (WR, Arizona).

To see reports on Justin Blackmon, Jeff Fuller and Ryan Broyles click here. For my preview of Alshon Jeffery click here.

Sanu is one of my favorite prospects who will be available for next year’s draft. For me, he’s one of the most explosive playmakers in college football and a potential top-20 pick. I watched him several times as a freshman in 2009 and he absolutely blew me away with elite athleticism, perfect size and all-round playmaking ability. He showed sure hands catching the ball, an ability to create separation, blazing speed and a competitive streak when asked to block. Quite aside from that, he offered a real threat as a wildcat quarterback, often taking direct snaps and running for big gains (755 rushing yards in 2009-10).

Unlike the more orthodox receivers we’ve looked at over the last couple of days, Sanu is a guy you utilise in many different ways. Maybe he run 7-8 times in a game? Have him run screens and underneath routes to take advantage of his ability in the open field. You can ask him to run deep and open things up. The sky’s the limit really, he’s possibly the most exciting raw talent I’ve watched since Percy Harvin, yet Sanu has a major size advantage at 6-2, 218lbs.

However, he’s off the radar a bit due to a distinct lack of production during his sophomore campaign. After such a productive year as a true-freshman, big things were expected in year two. A 727 total yard season with six touchdowns wasn’t what the Rutgers fans were hoping for. We need to appreciate the situation he faced, which was far from ideal. Tom Savage entered the year also a true sophomore after a great start to his career at quarterback. He had everything – size, arm, talent. This was a key note commitment for Rutgers and he appeared to be destined for a great college career and eventually a move to the NFL. I’m still not entirely sure what went wrong in 2010.

Savage got injured early and lost his job to Chas Dodd, a smaller and more mobile quarterback who could deal with the porous Rutgers offensive line. At times it was ugly to watch the Scarlet Knights passing game and the skill players like Sanu suffered in a big way. He had highlights (including a 91-yard touchdown run against Tulane) but his production suffered almost entirely due to the inconsistency at quarterback. Savage appears to be ready to transfer from Rutgers and is currently plotting his next move to get back on track. We can only hope that whoever starts at QB next year can make the most of Sanu’s brilliant potential.

So what is he capable of? It’s hard to find guys capable of making explosive plays that impact games, but that’s what he brings to the table. The early mocks have him posted as a late first rounder but I have no issues putting him higher up the board.

Juron Criner is a player who almost declared for the 2011 draft but eventually opted to stay at Arizona. He’s Nick Foles #1 target (1233 yards and 11 touchdowns last season) with ideal size at 6-4, 211lbs. He was very consistent last season and he offers a major bonus in the red zone. Arizona uses a funky short passing game and Foles’ lack of arm strength makes it difficult to judge how good Criner’s straight line speed is – that could define his stock over the next 12 months. He has shown the ability to compete for the ball, make difficult catches and show some YAC ability.

With Foles returning for the Wildcats too, there’s no doubt that health permitting Criner will have another +1000 yard season. That’s an advantage that perhaps some others such as Sanu won’t have and it can only help his stock. I have tape from Arizona @ Stanford from last season, a game where Criner caught nine passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. I’ll review the tape not only to keep an eye on Sherman, but also to get another look at recent Seahawks addition Richard Sherman.

It’s a tight group of receivers heading into 2012 with a lot of depth and potential first round quality. Alshon Jeffery is the clear #1 heading into the new college football season, but doubts about the future of Stephen Garcia in South Carolina could hit his production. He could be the top 10/15 talent from this group, but it’s interesting to note there are two senior prospects in Texas A&M’s Jeff Fuller and Justin Criner who could also go in the top-25. It’s rare to have that quality of senior prospect at the receiver position. Both have the kind of size teams will look for in round one, while Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon will have production on his side. Mohamed Sanu is the X-factor in the draft, but don’t rule out the possibility of all five being taken on day one next year.

It doesn’t end there either. Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame) has courted controversy at Notre Dame recently. He’s a talented player with a lot of potential, but the light needs to switch on if he’s going to make the most of his ability. Greg Childs (WR, Arkansas) is another big name to watch out for and Chris Owusu (WR, Stanford) will provide Andrew Luck with a playmaker.

Field-ing questions

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

I wanted to draw attention to a piece I did with Dan Kelly at Field Gulls. A few topics are discussed including reaction to the draft and the future at quarterback for the Seahawks. Click here

Crankin’ the NFL commish

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I had an email from 12 Angry Mascots asking to give this a push and was happy to oblige. Enjoy…

12 Angry Mascots Channel
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Receivers in review: Blackmon, Fuller and Broyles

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State) won the Biletnikoff in 2010 and it was somewhat of a surprise that he chose not to declare for this year’s draft. Despite enduring a one-game suspension, he recorded 1782 receiving yards and 21 total touchdowns. The thing that stands out for me when watching Blackmon is his control running routes and positioning his body to catch the ball. He’s very smooth if not explosive going into his breaks and he does a decent job at getting open.

You’re not looking at a big physical guy at 6-1 and 207lbs and he’s not going to run a great forty time. Blackmon has a tendency to body catch a little too frequently and  overall he hasn’t got great hands – as emphasised by the drop at 1:53 in the video above. Like Greg Jennings and Roddy White he has the potential to be productive receivers without having amazing athletic qualities or size, but like those two I expect he’ll be drafted in the late first or second round.

Jeff Fuller (WR, Texas A&M) has the opportunity to fight for the second receiver grade after Alshon Jeffery (who we looked at yesterday – click here). He’s a rare senior wide out with first round talent. Fuller has the size (6-4, 215lbs) to be physical against elite cornerback talent and he’s more than capable of getting downfield. The tape above flashes exactly why he’s an outside candidate to go in the top-15 next year. That is every snap thrown in Fuller’s direction against LSU, so who do you think won that battle between the receiver and Patrick Peterson? He caught seven passes for 83 yards – a better performance than most managed against Peterson last year.

The quarterback situation for the Aggies didn’t help Fuller in 2010. He did quite well under Jerrod Johnson initially, had a great start with Ryan Tannehill against Texas Tech but that production was short lived. Things seemed to click in the Bowl Game as we see above, so if the chemistry is finally there it could be a major positive for Fuller who is my #2 receiver prospect for 2012.

Ryan Broyles (WR, Oklahoma) also had an extremely productive season in the Sooners prolific passing game. In three years at Oklahoma he has 3429 yards and 35 touchdowns. He’s not a big guy (5-10, 183lbs) but he has slot potential and could provide the kind of safety net that’ll make life easy for young quarterbacks in the NFL. Like the previous two receivers featured here, I think people expected Broyles to declare. He’s had three years in the Oklahoma offense and achieved major production plus success.

I can’t place his stock much higher than rounds 2-3 going into his senior campaign and perhaps that’s why he is staying in college? He’s a by-product of the Oklahoma offense, taking so many catches on high percentage passes and trying to use open field ability to make plays. To some extent he reminds me of Golden Tate in that regard, because Tate’s Biletnikoff season was packed full of simple routes to get the ball in his hands quickly. Like the current Seahawks receiver, he’s capable of making spectacular plays (see 1:01) but really hes a difficult prospect to project because he doesn’t run many pro-routes and he isn’t catching the ball in challenging areas.

Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina) in review

Monday, May 9th, 2011

So far in this series we’ve looked at Matt Barkley and Landry Jones (courtesy of game tape supplied by Draft Breakdown). The next four 2012 prospects in focus will all be wide receivers, starting with Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina) and moving on to Jeff Fuller (Texas A&M), Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma) and Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State).

Jeffery is a true junior with 2280 yards and 15 touchdowns already in credit. He enjoyed a productive freshman season (763 yards, six scores) and really burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2010 (1517 yards, nine TD’s). At 6-3, 233lbs he’s very much in the Mike Williams category of receiver and will draw some comparisons to Jonathan Baldwin (drafted 26th overall by Kansas City this year). Jeffery has benefited from a potent setup at South Carolina. Stephen Garcia is a capable quarterback and Marcus Lattimore’s 1197-17 touchdown freshman campaign added elite rushing skills to an already thriving offense.

The similarities between Baldwin and Jeffery may grow depending on the fate of the aforementioned Garcia. He’s currently suspended after yet another off the field incident and there’s some talk his days as the Gamecock’s signal caller are over. If they’re forced to turn to less experienced sophomore QB Connor Shaw, it could spell trouble for both Jeffery and Lattimore. Ask anyone who followed Pittsburgh last year for the evidence.

With Bill Stull at quarterback – a capable if not explosive college player who eventually went undrafted in 2010 – Baldwin recorded 1111 yards with eight touchdowns in 2009. When Stull moved on the Panthers transitioned to sophomore Tito Sunseri who was anything but consistent. Productive games against Rutgers and West Virginia were offset by poor displays against Miami and Kentucky. Baldwin’s production took a major hit, dropping to 822 yards and just five touchdowns, despite catching only four fewer passes in 2010.

The end product was a player who entered the year as a possible top-15 prospect and went into the draft with some touting a fall into round three. Kansas City took a chance on the big body that could move and flashed explosive talent, but a few eyebrows were raised when he went at #26.

As I hinted earlier, it wasn’t just Baldwin that suffered. Dion Lewis went from a 1799 yard rusher with 17-touchdowns to a struggling running back who scraped to 1061 yards in 2010 with four less touchdowns. There were other mitigating factors in Pittsburgh that contributed to a disappointing season last year, but there’s no doubt what so ever that inconsistent and inexperienced quarterback play hampered the teams’ skill players.

If Garcia is out in South Carolina, that could hurt Lattimore (who won’t be available for the draft until 2013) and Jeffery’s production in a similar fashion. Last week ESPN’s Todd McShay paired the big receiver with Seattle in his early 2012 mock draft at #7 overall. Jeffery’s certainly capable of going in that range but he’ll need to maintain the same kind of production witnessed during his excellent sophomore year.

So what’s to like? He gets separation despite lacking an explosive first step or brilliant deep speed. He is fluid into his breaks and he’s shown the ability to make big time catches away from his body – that’s absolutely key when judging these big name receivers. There are one too many body-catches, but you expect to see that because not every player is going to be Michael Crabtree in that regard. You can toss the ball up in his general direction and he’ll go up and get the football. He’s not going to beat anyone deep with pure speed, but he’ll be a great red zone target.

He looks a notch slower than Jonathan Baldwin on his deep routes but he makes up for it with much greater control and awareness, especially when he leaps for the football and extends those long arms. Look at the way he gets open on the second touchdown against Alabama – that’s the kind of thing teams want to see from a guy who won’t run in the 4.4′s.

You can see in several instances where Garcia was willing to take a shot at throwing into tight windows, trusting his receiver to make a play. There’s also the odd spectacular play, such as the stunning one-handed grab against Alabama with Dre Kirkpatrick (another possible top-15 pick next year) draped all over him. That kind of quality will boost his stock and make up for the lack of elite deep speed. He’s not going to be Julio Jones – who ran in the 4.3′s to match the size and ended up in the top-ten. I’m not convinced that even with another year of great production Jeffery can go in that range. He’s very much in that 10-25 area for me as we shift attention to the 2011 college season.

However, if I’ve spent a lot of money on a young franchise quarterback and I’m looking for a safety net to make life easy then I’m less concerned about the speed and more concerned about how Jeffery absolutely fits the bill. I’m not entirely sure why McShay paired Jeffery with Seattle because ultimately the Seahawks already have this type of player on the roster. At the end of the day, what use are two big bodied receivers when the only contracted quarterback currently on the team’s roster is Charlie Whitehurst? His contract is also up after 2011 and if Seattle does own yet another top-ten pick next year, you have to believe quarterback comes first. In McShay’s mock, Landry Jones is still on the board.

Landry Jones tape review vs Florida State (2010)

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Over the next few days I’m going to continue to review 2012 prospects, break down the tape and preview the new college season. Yesterday we featured USC quarterback Matt Barkley, so it’s only fitting to cover the other guy not named Andrew Luck – Oklahoma’s Landry Jones.

The redshirt junior had major production in 2010, stacking up a lofty 4718 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. It’s no surprise given the number of high percentage passes in the Oklahoma offense. Jones threw the ball an incredible 617 times last season, averaging 44 passes per game. Against Oklahoma State he threw 62-times and his lowest workload came in a 45-7 blow out of Texas Tech – a game he didn’t finish yet still managed 29 attempts. This is a very different offense than the one witnessed at USC (Barkley) or Stanford (Luck).

In Sam Bradford’s Heisman winning season he recorded 4720 passing yards, so around the same region as Jones last year. Yet Bradford attempted 483 passes, 134 less than Jones in 2010. The pass-happy offense didn’t restrict Bradford’s stock because he was able to shine regardless. Sure, he also made a large number of screens and dumps off – but he also flashed the ability to be incredibly accurate and capable of making every pro-pass. His 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions in 2008 was testament to his quality and rightly he was drafted first overall last year. Jones has to prove he’s equally capable of flourishing in an offense that will always make life easy.

The good news is he has the prototypical size (6-4, 225lbs) and an arm that won’t be a restriction in the NFL. As with both Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley, Jones doesn’t have any character issues and plays up to the ‘leader’ role on his team.

The tape above is from a blow-out win over a sloppy Florida State. His opposite number Christian Ponder suffered a hideous meltdown on the day and one can only assume Minnesota didn’t linger too long on this game before drafting him 12th overall. As you can see, there’s a real mix of good and bad from Jones. On a positive day, you’ll see the kind of performance above. The errors are largely unpunished and he’s able to make a few good plays. On an off day, he struggles and we saw that in perhaps Oklahoma’s biggest game of last season against Missouri where Blaine Gabbert looked a superior pro-prospect.

His quest in 2011 will be to become a consistent force and to shine beyond the pass-happy offense. He can do that with the vast talent he has at receiver and particularly the return of safety net Ryan Broyles is a big positive. Limit the turnovers and try to become more efficient and Jones can become a quarterback with top 10-15 talent.

So to the tape…

This is pretty much eight minutes of screen passes and you could cut most of it out and be no more incapable of making a pro-judgement. Welcome to the Oklahoma offense. It’s all about quick tempo, high percentage passes that get the ball out to the playmakers quickly and then rush back to the line before the defense has a chance to rest. Jones is given a different read but the check-down is always there. What I need to judge next season, especially against the tougher defenses, is whether he’s too quick to go to that safe option. Alternatively, will he make errors trying to force things when dropping off a short pass was actually the best bet? Little things like that will define his decision making and as he owns the physical tools, will be a major factor in his final grade.

He has a tendency to be a little off with some throws, as witnessed at 0:51, 1:03, 2:11, 5:32, 5:37 and 6:18. The pass at 6:45 is a really poor decision that should’ve led to an interception. 

In contrast there are some really positive plays where he looks like a top-ten pick. The first examples comes at 1:32 where he fits the ball through a crowd into a position where the receiver can catch it in traffic. Nice zip, good placement and it’s also from his second read, so he’s had to make a quick decision to make the completion. This preceeds the first touchdown, another pro-throw, with Jones’ showing a great pump, the #27 bites opening up space in behind two defensive backs for his receiver. Again the pass is very accurate and executed to perfection.

Fast forward to 2:21 for the next big play. This throw is Bradford-esque with beautiful touch, dropped in behind the cornerback giving the receiver a chance to catch by the sideline and run in for the score. It’s impossible not to see a throw like that and think top-10 potential.

In Seattle’s offense you need to be able run bootlegs and throw on the move, we see some evidence of this at 3:08. Mobility isn’t a big positive for Jones but he’s not Ryan Mallett-slow. He’s a bit like Matt Ryan on his feet – capable of rolling out and moving around in the pocket, but he’s not going to break off big runs or surprise you with a scramble. There’s a play-action at 4:11.

The third touchdown is a great example of how the fast tempo offense works to Oklahoma’s advantage. The FSU defense can’t prepare itself in time, it’s a disorganised mess and Jones takes full advantage by snapping the ball early and getting it to an open receiver.

He’ll probably want to forget the play at 4:30. Ouch.

There’s absolutely no reason why he can’t take the next step and not only be very successful with Oklahoma, but also be one of the big name prospects for the 2012 draft. Unlike Matt Barkley he has no real need to stay for a fourth year starting and there will be a market for the players next in line behind Andrew Luck. Can he become more clinical and efficient to match the physical qualities and the flashes of pure potential? He made major strides forward as a second year starter and there’s no reason why that can’t continue. However, there is still work to be done and he’s behind both Luck and Barkley at this stage in my opinion, but things can change.

Matt Barkley tape review vs Virginia (2010)

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Thanks again to the excellent Draft Breakdown for providing game tape that goes beyond highlights. Today we have a close look at USC quarterback Matt Barkley, a player many consider to be one of the top rated NFL prospects in college football. He’ll be a true junior in 2011 having started as a freshman, but it’s unclear whether he’ll declare for next year’s draft. In 2012 sanctions will be lifted on USC allowing them to participate in a BCS Bowl and that could be tempting enough for Barkley to return for a fourth year.

There’s also the possibility of becoming the #1 pick in 2013, an honour which will almost certainly go to Andrew Luck next year. I suspect Landry Jones will declare as a redshirt junior having already had success with Oklahoma in two bowl games. It’s a very different situation for Barkley, but he’s worth reviewing nonetheless.

The snap judgement you make is that he’s a pure pocket passer, but actually he’s deceptively agile. We see at the 4:02 mark that he’s more than capable of making plays with his feet when the situation arises and the second touchdown pass at 5:37 is Aaron Rodgers-esque, a pump fake before slipping away from pressure, then hitting his target on the numbers. The plays at 6:48 and 6:58 are two more examples of what Barkley is capable of in this area.

On other occasions you’re left a little bit frustrated that he doesn’t extent the play. The sack and fumble after 35 seconds showed the perfect opportunity to step into the pocket yet he remains glued to the spot almost waiting to be hit. In that instance you want to see some appreciation for the pressure and adjustment, whether it’s a quick throw or at least trying to get out of the pocket to create a passing lane. We saw improvements in his footwork as a sophomore and it’s fair to expect that to continue as a junior. If he can become consistently good in this area you’re talking about a big-time pro-prospect because the other qualities he has are borderline elite.

Barkley excels with the quick pass and accuracy. Mechanically there’s no issues with his throwing motion and he’s well versed taking the snap from under center, taking a five step drop and delivering the ball on the money. The throw at 1:02 is the kind of thing that people rave about Andrew Luck, an efficient drop back and throw on the target in a crowd for the first down. You see further evidence of this at 4:46 and you have to love the way he looks off the safety to make the completion.

He needs to put more velocity in the mid/deep range throws and unlike some prospects I think he’s got the frame and mechanics to improve in this area. The pass at 1:14 could’ve done with a little more zip, but you can’t fault the placement over two defenders and it should’ve been caught. It’s the same situation at 2:24, good placement but you’d like the ball to hit the target a little quicker. A bit of work in the weight room will do wonders and he can add muscle without seeing an adverse effect on his accuracy.

Even so, the deep ball isn’t something we’ll ever rave about with Barkley but as long as it’s accurate and not under-thrown I don’t have an issue. Andrew Luck doesn’t have a cannon arm, but he rarely under throws his receiver. Christian Ponder on the other hand will try and throw to a distance he isn’t capable of and lobs it up for grabs. The completion at 2:40 is more Luck than Ponder, because although the ball doesn’t zip through the air like a Ryan Mallett pass there’s only one player who has any chance of catching the ball – the receiver. Barkley executes the play-action well and places the ball perfectly.

The touchdown pass afterwards flashes the decision making qualities he has, initially acknowledging his first option wasn’t on, moving to a secondary option before returning to the initial read in a split second when the pass re-opened. It’s a good, accurate throw to the back of the end zone.

Barkley suffers a little bit with an issue Luck had as a redshirt freshman and also at the start of the 2010 season in that he forces passes. This is probably to be expected with young guys still learning their game. Luck made major strides during last season but for the occasional stop-start performance (including the first half of the Orange Bowl) and I suspect Barkley will enjoy the same kind of improvement here.

The fade pass at 5:04 is perfect and should’ve been caught – it’s the third of five bad drops on the tape following an inch perfect throw. You also have to be impressed with the way he visibly progresses through his reads. Again, you’re talking about easy comparisons to Luck in that area.

Whenever I’ve watched Barkley I’ve been impressed and I maintain that he has #1 pick potential if he continues to improve as a junior and possibly during a fourth year with Southern Cal. Although he may not have the cannon arm, he’s pretty much the complete package in every other respect. Teams are going to want this guy to be the face of their franchise for the next +10 years. With USC off the national radar due to the sanctions, he’s unlikely to generate the same mass exposure that Luck enjoyed last season, but it’ll be fascinating to see how the pair perform and if they do both declare, how they’ll challenge each other at the top of the draft.

As things stand today I would project Andrew Luck to be a sure-fire #1 pick, but if he does declare Barkley would be the close second and who knows – he may end up having the better career.

Landry Jones, Vinny Curry and McShay’s 2012 mock

Friday, May 6th, 2011

I had the opportunity to sit down and watch some Oklahoma tape last night, with the purpose of taking a greater look at quarterback Landry Jones. There’s a lot to like about his game and equally some question marks too. The Oklahoma offense is geared towards high-tempo, quick passes to keep the defense off guard. There’s a lot of passes into the flats, a lot of underneath throws, crossing routes and screens. A lot of the time when you’re watching Jones, you’re making excuses for the big time production (4718 yards, 38 touchdowns in 2010) which is, in fairness, a by-product of the offense he plays in.

However, there are 3-4 passes per game that really jump off the screen. Difficult throws into tight windows down the middle, throws on the move where he has to disect a couple of defenders and a deep ball that isn’t in the Ryan Mallett category, but is certainly acceptable for a pro-level.

The issue remains, however, that Jones averaged 44 pass attempts per-game last season. Against Oklahoma State alone he threw 62 passes. While he is capable of making pro-level throws, it’s drowned out by a lot of simple, easy passes that dominate the offense he works in and certainly makes life easier because of the tempo. What I’ll be hoping to judge this year is whether Jones is capable of turning those 3-4 passes into 6-7 per game and then whether he’s capable of making those tough throws in a more complex offense when he might only be throwing 20-30 times each week in the NFL.

I understand why people have projected him highly – possibly even as a top-five pick. At 6-4, 225lbs he looks the part, the arm strength is good enough and he has shown a flash of quality – but there have also been games such as Missouri last year where he was outshone by Blaine Gabbert in a high pressure environment. As a red-shirt junior you expect he’ll declare for the 2012 draft if he repeats the production witnessed last season and with Matt Barkley more of a question mark as a true junior, at this stage he has to be considered the #2 ranked quarterback behind Andrew Luck. It’s still early though and as we saw last year with Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, prospects can develop over a season and end up being unexpected high draft picks.

I’ve added highlight videos for two of Jones’ performances last season, but remember that these are positive highlights only. The Florida State game also gives your the opportunity to watch a famous Christian Ponder meltdown, expressing exactly why Minnesota pulled off a major panic reach taking him 12th overall when Gabbert and Jake Locker left the board.

Another video I wanted to add comes courtesy of Draft Breakdown, who have already moved onto their 2012 prospect tape. Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry was 6th in the country for sacks last season, registering twelve in total. The 16th overall pick this year, Ryan Kerrigan, managed 12.5 for his senior season. He’s not the biggest at 6-5, 242lbs but by adding an extra 10-15lbs he is a possible option as a LEO rusher in Seattle’s defense, or at least a productive pass rushing outside linebacker. His production also came against tough opponents such as Ohio State (two sacks), West Virginia (two sacks) and Southern Miss (two sacks). Below I’ve added the Draft Breakdown video showing all of the plays he impacted against Ohio State.

Finally for now, ESPN analyst Todd McShay has provided his annual attempt at an early mock draft. The 2012 first round is now available in full to ESPN insiders. If you don’t have an account, I’ve listed the top-ten below:

#1 Cleveland – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
#2 Carolina – Quinton Coples (DE, UNC)
#3 Washington – Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
#4 Buffalo – Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
#5 Denver – Jerel Worthy (DT, Michigan State)
#6 Arizona – Donte Paige-Moss (DE, UNC)
#7 Seattle – Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)
#8 Tennessee – Jayron Hosley (CB, Virginia Tech)
#9 Oakland – Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
#10 Cincinnati – Jenoris Jenkins (CB, Florida)

It’s hard to argue with most of the picks. People will question the Jenkins suggestion at #10 considering the doubts about his future, but for me he’s a legitimate top-ten talent who was superb against Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffery and AJ Green last year. I’m not sure Donte Paige-Moss warrants top-10 consideration heading into the 2011 college season, or Jerel Worthy for that matter. However, Quinton Coples and Jayron Hosley are two players to keep an eye on. Other big names not listed above are Trent Richardson (McShay has him at #12 to St. Louis), Landry Jones (#15 to Miami) and Brandon Jenkins (#25 to the New York Jets).

John Schneider speaks candidly about the 2011 draft

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Not pictured: Poker face

Posted by Kip Earlywine

John Schneider was recently interviewed on 950 am on the Mitch in the Morning program.  If you haven’t heard it, you can listen by following this link.

I don’t know if this was on purpose, but in several ways, John Schneider’s regime has been the polar opposite his predecessor’s.  No issues with drafting from small schools.  Character concerns are given relatively little consideration.  Size, speed, and athleticism are generally considered above intangibles and college production.  He brings a massive emphasis on the offensive line and the running game.  And he hasn’t been a regular player for big name free agents the way Tim Ruskell always seemed to be.

But maybe the biggest difference of all could be how the two play their cards.  Tim Ruskell, despite having drafts that often felt very predictable, would almost never go into gritty details even after the fact, like a professional poker player who won’t show the hand he just folded.  Not so for John Schneider.

I won’t rehash the whole interview, but there were a few portions that really grabbed my attention.

  1. Schneider said that James Carpenter was the teams #2 overall tackle prospect, ahead of USC’s Tyron Smith.  That speaks volumes of how highly they thought of Carpenter, since Carroll knew as well as anyone about Smith’s abilities.  With this in mind, it’s looking more and more that Seattle went BPA at #25, at least in their own minds, rather than reaching for a need.
  2. I like the way this front office evaluates talent, but every now and then, I’m left scratching my head.  The #1 tackle on their board was Nate Solder.  I need to send Bill Belichick a thank you card.
  3. I still don’t like the KJ Wright pick, but its neat that Minnesota called Seattle to make a deal to move up in the 4th, and after Seattle picked Wright instead, Minnesota let Seattle know they were targeting the same guy.
  4. He also hinted at Seattle making big changes on the defensive line in free agency.  But given Ted Thompson’s and John Schneider’s combined background, its safe to say it probably won’t be overly splashy.
  5. He talked about undrafted free agents like they were major signings.  He didn’t name names, but I thought it was interesting that every single player he hinted at played defense.  I think its kind of funny that Schneider is so jazzed about signing UDFA’s.  Of the 15 he signed last year, only Josh Pinkard is still on the roster.
  6. He didn’t talk about Chris Spencer, but talked about Unger and Moffitt in a way that would indicate that Unger has already been anointed the future at center.
  7. In maybe the most profound moment of the interview, Schneider casually asserted his philosophy that a team needs to build an offensive line first before getting its quarterback.  I know this subject is hotly debated but here we see clearly which side of the debate Schneider falls on.
  8. Finally, he said Charlie Whitehurst has a “50-50″ chance of being the starter next year, but in a rare case of evasiveness, probably only gave that answer not to be truthful but to be as vague as possible.  I think its pretty clear that Seattle is going to only start Whitehurst after a dozen other options for veterans fall through.

Anyway, regardless of whether I agree with everything John Schneider says, its very refreshing to have a GM that will give us an inside look and help scratch some of those curiosities we’ve had lingering.  As far as being a better poker player, I’m not going to say that guarding information isn’t important, but it didn’t help Tim Ruskell much and it hasn’t really hurt John Schneider.  When it comes to the most important things, Schneider is good enough at keeping things on the down low, and he’s been wise about choosing which topics to share with the public later.  And that’s something I appreciate quite a bit as a fan, since we watch sports to be entertained, and that includes the offseason as well.

Source: Blaine Gabbert was top QB on Seattle’s board

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Gabbert was drafted 10th overall by Jacksonville

I had contact with my ‘draft insider’ yesterday for a catch up and to get some info on the team’s plans during last week’s draft. Before we get on to that, I want to point out the success rate of his information this year to date (click here and here). Despite placing Ryan Mallett at #15 in my final mock draft, the source told me there was no chance that would happen. Here’s what I wrote the night before the draft: “Ryan Mallett isn’t just off the Seahawks draft board, he’s sinking in a big way. Apparently he won’t be taken until the mid second round at the earliest. The source was quite adamant about this.”  

What about the Seahawks? “I’m told it’s likely Seattle will favor offensive lineman if they can’t move down.” Seahawks Draft Blog even touted James Carpenter as an option.  

Do not expect Andy Dalton to be drafted at #25. The words used to describe the possibility of that happening were very negative.”  

Just a small sample, but there’s a lot more that came to fruition if you select the links above. Not every piece of information I relay on this blog will be proven true, but this particular source continues to offer a great insight into the Seahawks draft plans. He nailed the 2010 draft last year and called the Marshawn Lynch trade days before it became public knowledge (for proof, see here). So whether you believe the information I publish on this blog or not, it’s fair to say it’s coming from a source with a track record.  

We told you before the draft that Colin Kaepernick was the #2 quarterback on the Seahawks draft board, with Andy Dalton at #3. The top ranked quarterback was unknown prior to the draft. I’ve since discovered that Blaine Gabbert was the man in question. You may be interested to know that Cam Newton was ranked at #4 and Jake Locker as low as #6. I am not aware of who was at #5, but it’s probably safe to assume it was Christian Ponder. Ryan Mallett was never a consideration.  

What this tells me is that the Seahawks did not feel good about this quarterback class. A pretty obvious statement I suppose, considering they ignored the position completely. I understand there was interest in Kaepernick if they could initiate a trade down into the top end of round two, which makes sense given where he was eventually drafted by San Francisco. I also believe there was a significant grading drop from Kaepernick at #2 to Dalton at #3. The way the quarterbacks were ranked and left the board suggests a QB at #25 was never really a consideration. They simply did not rate this group.  

I’m told that the team was really high on Danny Watkins, drafted two spots before the Seahawks by the Philadelphia Eagles. In fact, he was considered the #1 realistic target at #25 if they couldn’t trade down, but of course he left the board just before Seattle was on the clock. My source didn’t know how James Carpenter was graded in comparison, but certainly Watkins was in play before the Eagles drafted him.  

Despite what has been said to the contrary by Seahawks GM John Schneider on KJR this week, I understand Jimmy Smith was still in play at #25 despite character concerns. However, as with Alex Gibbs last year, Tom Cable has been afforded a substantial input and the team decided that if they couldn’t move down, they would take an offensive lineman. Clearly the off-field concerns played some part because there’s no way a player as talented as Smith should’ve lasted into the 20′s anyway. But unlike Ryan Mallett, Smith wasn’t struck off the board and they did grade him higher than Prince Amukamara. 

I was told about two specific targets whenever free agency begins, but have promised the source I won’t reveal the names on here. Both were offensive minded players that will continue the team’s desire to improve the run. Time for a bit of cryptic Pete Carrol-esque musical mystery. Your first task is to find the player hidden in: Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters theme tune. If you can work out who player #1 is from that, you should be a sleuth. Second player’s clue: Hilary Duff – The Getaway. Good luck, think outside of the box.  

The final piece of information I can give you today is on the Seahawks immediate future at quarterback. Regulars will know that I’ve been writing about the possibility of a deal to bring Carson Palmer to Seattle being in the pipeline. I asked my Seahawks source about that talk and he couldn’t offer anything to confirm or deny it. However, he did tell me that Matt Hasselbeck is still a very realistic option for the Seahawks. He added that there is interest in Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb, but any deal is dependant on the price. In fact he stated that the Cleveland Browns were the team to watch in the race for Kolb’s services. That would make perfect sense given Tom Heckert’s influence in drafting Kolb for the Eagles and with Cleveland holding two 2012 first round picks.  

Finally, the team does still have faith in Charlie Whitehurst and I understand it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could end up being the starter next season. This would be dependant on other deals not being completed, for example Hasselbeck signing elsewhere or any possible deal for Palmer hitting a blockade. However, it appears the team are prepared and won’t panic about giving Whitehurst his opportunity.