Archive for January, 2012

Is Justin Blackmon Seattle’s touchdown maker?

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Out of reach? Maybe Justin Blackmon could land in Seattle...

You’re always looking for touchdown makers on offense. You always want to get guys that can score. So if there’s a wide receiver in the draft that would be cool, if there’s a big- time running back that would be cool.”
- Pete Carroll, January 2012

The quote above raised a few eye-brows during Pete Carroll’s end of season press conference. The Seahawks have some talent at both skill positions, even if Marshaw Lynch is a free agent and a strong candidate for the franchise tag. When the subject of drafting a receiver in round one has been brought up on this blog, some have been quick to point to the existing talent on the roster. Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Mike Williams, Golden Tate, Ben Obamanu and Deon Butler are flanked by highly regarded developing pro’s Kris Durham and Ricardo Lockette. The Seahawks also have depth at the tight end position, spending big bucks on Zach Miller and using Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah quite heavily. John Carlson is a free agent, but Carroll has already voiced his desire to agree terms on a new deal.

There’s a lot to work with there, but so far there isn’t one game-breaking talent. A ‘touchdown maker’ as Carroll puts it. In an injury-hit five-year career, Sidney Rice has just twenty touchdowns. In 2009 – his best season – he recorded a respectable but not overwhelming eight with Brett Favre rolling back the years and leading Minnesota to the NFC Championship game. Baldwin, Williams, Tate, Obomanu, Durham and Lockette have a combined total of twenty career touchdowns between them. Nobody would argue that there’s a lack of potential among the group, but there’s certainly room for a big-time playmaker. A touchdown maker.

I’m a fan of Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright and Dwight Jones - the three best receivers in this group in my eyes. Yet I can also see a situation where not a single one goes in the top ten. Last year included two unique, rare players who combined size, speed, fluidity and an ability to contribute quickly. A.J. Green may go on to become the best receiver in the league even in Cincinnati. Julio Jones has the physical potential to be one of the most dangerous players in the league for Atlanta. Blackmon, Wright and Jones aren’t close to that level of potential, so it’s no lock they’ll go quite as early. Last year Blackmon wasn’t considered a likely top-15 pick while Wright and Jones weren’t in the first round discussion at all.

For the purpose of this article I’m going to concentrate on Blackmon because I wouldn’t rule out the Oklahoma State receiver being an option for the Seahawks. He’s 6-1 and around 211lbs – which isn’t a negative, but it’s not elite size - and he compares physically to the only other two-time Biletnikoff winner Michael Crabtree, but he’s a little more nimble and agile – yet lacks Crabtree’s near-flawless hands. I like his attitude on the field – he’s got that ‘alpha-male’ swagger to his play and truly believes he’s going to have a big impact on every game he features. He’ll compete with defensive backs, he’ll finish runs, he’ll chip away when blocking and get under your skin. Blackmon is possibly the most controlled receiver I’ve ever scouted, with supreme positioning and balance. He makes catches purely by doing the basics right and getting into the correct position on his routes. He’ll come into the league and cause problems with his double move which to create downfield problems and make up for a lack of truly elite deep speed and explosion out of his cuts. He has a natural feel for soft zones and will adapt his routes on developing plays to help out the quarterback.

The biggest knock on Blackmon is that in each game there seems to be at least one mental mistake – either a sloppy drop, lack of concentration or bizarre error. Overall he’s a very technically gifted receiver, but he’s not the physical freak of nature that has often guaranteed a high pick. He’s featured in an offense that notoriously favors the passing game and has consistently exploited talented receivers with big production.  Blackmon was also arrested andcharged with DUI 2010 leading to a one-game suspension. There’s a lot to like here, but there’s also enough reasons to believe a slight fall into that #8-12 range isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

In the five drafts before last April, only four receivers were taken in the top-15 picks. I like to call this the ‘Matt Millen effect’. During his time as GM in Detroit, Millen did more to create a stigma around drafting of receivers early in round one. He busted on Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, added Roy Williams with an early pick and went back again to draft Calvin Johnson before getting fired. Ironically, he finally got it right with Megatron – even if it was a no-brainer decision and too little, too late. The failure of Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson and Mike Williams in 2005 maybe played some part too, but only Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr, Darius Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree became top-15 picks between 2006-2010. Fans – and more importantly teams – often refer to the high bust rate among the position, exemplified by an article from John McTigue for ESPN where he writes:

“With teams passing more and using more three-wide receiver sets, the perception has become that drafting a first-round talent at wide receiver is a necessity. However, despite the increase in pass plays and three-wide receiver formations, wide receivers haven’t been targeted more. Pass-catching tight ends and running backs are still just as important in offenses. As teams use more platoons at running back and as tight ends become more athletic, that is not likely to change.

“The sheer volume of wide receivers in the draft gives teams plenty of opportunities to get a high-caliber player. On a per game basis, first-round receivers since 2001 have averaged 3.4 receptions, 48.0 yards and 0.3 touchdowns. Receivers drafted in the secondround or later have averaged 2.1 receptions, 27.5 yards and0.2 touchdowns per game. (Those numbers were compiled from the 235 wide receivers who played at least one game.) When thinking of the difference between a first-round receiver anda second-round-or-later receiver, one 20-yard catch per game probably isn’t what comes to mind, but players like Greg Jennings, Chad Ochocinco, Vincent Jackson, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall and Mike Wallace (among others) have helped close that gap.”

Of the top-ten receivers for yardage in 2011 – only three were former first round picks (Calvin Johnson #1, Larry Fitzgerald #4 and Roddy White #8). We can’t use the past to dictate what might happen this April, but clearly teams are being a little more cautious with the position. Considering the depth available this year at receiver – who’s to say that won’t happen again?

I don’t expect Justin Blackmon to go 2nd overall to St. Louis. While the Rams clearly need a productive receiver, it’ll be very difficult to pass on Matt Kalil. Jeff Fisher built a strong offensive line in Tennessee but he’s inheriting a porous line with really only one building block in Roger Saffold (maybe Jason Brown too, but he’s been a free-agent flop so far). Kalil is one of those players who will come into the league and quickly become one of the best at his position. He’s a slightly different player to Joe Thomas, but he could have a similar impact. The depth at receiver will afford the Rams an opportunity to address the position later and hey – Jeff Fisher can’t solve every problem in year one. The Rams simply cannot afford to pass on Kalil and chase other needs.

After St. Louis, there’s a series of team’s that could be interested in drafting a receiver. Minnesota relied too much on Percy Harvin last year, but also have huge holes on their own offensive line and in the secondary. Cleveland needs offensive playmakers, but shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to draft one of Robert Griffin III or Trent Richardson. Washington could look at the position, but are more likely to address quarterback and the offensive line as greater priorities. Jacksonville will surely look to help Blaine Gabbert and Pro-Football Weekly speculated this week that GM Gene Smith would aggressively pursue prospective free-agents such as Vincent Jackson. If they land a big name before the draft, it decreases the likelihood they’d spend big on the position in the draft with many other needs requiring aid. Carolina needs to build up a bad defense and Buffalo should re-sign Stevie Johnson and continue to add to both lines. That said – would anyone be surprised if any of these teams drafted Blackmon? Of course not, but at least there’s some rhyme or reason to the idea he could drop to an attainable range for Seattle.

Tony Pauline reported last week that some team’s graded Kendall Wright as the #1, not Blackmon. Given the depth of talent at receiver, there could be several ranking variations across the league. To come back to the Crabtree comparison – he was clearly regarded as the #1 receiver in 2009 but still went behind speed-merchant Darius Heyward-Bey. Of course, Crabtree received a negative press going into the draft and suffered a broken foot which forced him out of the combine and subsequent work-outs. Wright is a better, more rounded player than Heyward-Bey, but teams love a player who can take the top off a defense.

A lot of people will be sceptical of Blackmon dropping, or any of the other ‘big names’ for that matter – yet it does tend to happen every year. Twelve months ago Nick Fairley was the hot-tip to be the #1 overall pick and he eventually left the board at #13. Not many people expected Blaine Gabbert to fall as far as #10. Crabtree and Michael Oher are other good examples in recent times of big name prospects suffering a bit of a fall. Dropping to the #11 or #12 pick isn’t exactly a substantial act, so as we approach the Senior Bowl it’s worth thinking about players who might be available for Seattle that maybe we haven’t considered so far.

If Blackmon is there for the Seahawks, why wouldn’t they consider him? Even if you don’t see receiver as a critical need – this could be good value. John Schneider contributed to a system in Green Bay with real depth and quality at receiver and having a lot of talent at the position could help emulate that success in Seattle. If, of course, they can also upgrade the quarterback position. That’s a pretty big ‘if‘.

I’ve logged four game’s below, featuring Blackmon’s performances against Stanford, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Texas A&M.

Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State) tape review

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Fletcher Cox is a little bit like a runaway train. He’s fast, he’s powerful – but also a little off balance and out of control. For a guy playing at 6-4 and 295lbs he’s incredibly athletic and carries his frame well. Sometimes he looks like an unpolished version of Cameron Jordan, with a similar compact frame despite playing at nearly 300lbs yet without the same kind of explosion when playing off the edge.

He’s strong at the point of attack and will consistently get his hands on an offensive lineman and drive them into the pocket. You can see in the tape the amount of times he’s in the backfield through sheer brutality, even if he’s not creating a splash play. Whether he lines up on the edge in a three-man front or inside at tackle, he’s got a productive bull rush and he should be able to cope against the greater physical demands at the next level. Unfortunately he’s not as succesful using his hands to avoid blocks and there’s no real evidence of an effective swim move. Most of his pressure comes from physically outmatching his opponent – especially with that bull rush – which is a shame considering his natural athleticism lends itself to mixing it up with a few finesse moves. He has 7.5 sacks in two years at Mississippi State but even when he’s not the guy making the play, he’ll often shut down zones with pressure.

Cox keeps his feet moving when engaged and shows a decent punch to drive back lineman. He rarely gives up and often makes tackles after the ball is thrown away from the LOS through sheer perseverance. He’s not got the ideal size to act as a stout run stuffer and while he penetrates fairly well playing inside, his greatest aspect comes with his athleticism. He appears more ideally suited to the five-technique, although as mentioned he lacks the kind of explosive edge talent we saw from Jordan at California.

His ‘all-out’ style makes him a bit unbalanced and you’ll see in the tape a few occassions where he loses his footing. Sometimes it only takes minimal contact to send him to the turf and he could probably do a better job of being a more controlled rusher. Can he tone it down a notch to avoid taking himself out of certain plays too early? He’s a bit high at times and loses leverage when lineman get under his pad level. On some of the occassions where he did lose balance, he appeared to be jolted from a slightly upright position because when sprinting at full pace he keeps his back straight.

In a class lacking a lot of great defensive lineman, there’s a chance Cox can really boost his stock with a good combine. He should interest teams using the 3-4 and the likes of Green Bay and New England should be looking at this guy late in the first round. Could he fit for the Seahawks? Certainly he plays with the edge Seattle’s front office is looking for on defense and his brawler style should ensure he’s not a liability even when used on first downs at tackle. He could also play some five-technique snaps without giving too much away against the run, something maybe the Seahawks should consider even though clearly they like what Red Bryant offers at the position. Cox could be a player to monitor in the second round.

Tape vs South Carolina & Wake Forest supplied by JMPasq

Joe Philbin to Miami – how it impacts the draft

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Will Joe Philbin's appointment in Miami have a big impact on the draft?

The Miami Dolphins will make Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin their next Head Coach, replacing Tony Sparano. Chris Kouffman called it earlier in the week, suggesting Philbin would also be joined by Tom Clements as offensive coordinator and eventually Matt Flynn as the team’s quarterback. Whether this proves to be a wise move or not, the Dolphins are at least committing to a defined route forward. So how will this impact the draft?

If the Dolphins do eventually sign Flynn (no guarantee) to work in an offense akin to what he’s used to in Green Bay, it seems unlikely they’ll make a bold move up the board to draft Robert Griffin III. Having committed to Flynn, spending a first round pick on a quarterback would be counter productive unless they want to start with a consistent quarterback controversy. Although many people assume a team will trade into the top-three to draft RGIII, I always felt Miami were the most likely candidate if it was going to happen. They need an identity, a spark on offense. Now it appears that spark will be dependant on trying to emulate the scheme in Green Bay rather than a ticket-selling playmaker to galvanise the franchise.

This could be Miami’s only real option. Can they really coast through free agency investing in the possibility that nearly two months later they can work out a deal for Robert Griffin III? Considering they will own the #8 or #9 pick, the Dolphins front office may simply feel they can’t risk it. By appointing Matt Flynn’s offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach, they not only have a strong bargaining chip for his services in March, but they aren’t pinning their hopes on a deal that’ll be out of their hands. At least by going the Green Bay route they can control this situation. 

We could see something very similar in Washington. It seems likely that Peyton Manning will be a free agent soon and if he’s healthy enough to play in 2012, why wouldn’t the Redskins show interest? Dan Snyder would surely love that move, the franchise is desperate for a legitimate quarterback to contend in the NFC East and while Manning isn’t the usual Shanahan prototype, it’d buy the coach some time to groom a long term replacement such as Ryan Tannehill, who’s a more obvious fit. Manning-to-Washington makes a lot of sense and the Redskins also cannot afford to risk getting a deal done if they are interested in Griffin, knowing they could be left with another year of mediocre quarterbacking from a guy like Rex Grossman. 

Suddenly, the trade options dry up. If this scenario played out, why would Cleveland move up and bid against themselves? What if Mike Holmgren decides he’d actually rather take Trent Richardson with the #4 pick and draft a quarterback later on? After all, he’s avoided a big splash on a quarterback so far and invested a degree of faith in third-round pick Colt McCoy. Is it totally unrealistic to think the Browns might pass on Griffin even if he’s available with the fourth pick?

I’m a fan of RGIII, but this is the kind of scenario I’ve talked about a few times on this blog - a not completely far-fetched way in which Griffin could suffer a slight fall. I suspect someone would eventually bite and move up - just like Jacksonville did with Blaine Gabbert. However, once he gets beyond Cleveland at #4 it becomes a little easier for a team like Seattle at #11 or #12 to make a cost-effective move if they so wished. It’s important to remember that while not owning the same level of hype, not many people expected Gabbert to drop to #10 last April. In many ways Griffin is the perfect off-field quarterback - he’s intelligent, has the right look, says the right things and is a marketing dream. But let’s not forget that team’s may not be totally convinced with the tape.

I still expect Griffin to go as early as most people and Cleveland at #4 makes a lot of sense given the Browns also have another first round pick to draft a skill-position player, possibly a talented receiver (a position with a lot of strength in this class). However, it’s not a total shoe-in that the Baylor quarterback is out of Seattle’s reach and while the league will act shocked if the Seahawks are able to draft Griffin (should they wish to do so), it won’t be a miraculous set of events.

See this as a proposal rather than an assumption on what will happen over the next three months, but Philbin’s appointment in Miami will create a new dimension to the draft discussion and it could have a significant impact.

Don’t forget to check out my Brock Osweiler tape review vs Illinois, also published today

Brock Osweiler tape review vs Illinois

Friday, January 20th, 2012

  

In the last week we’ve been discussing Brock Osweiler as a possible round one pick and had a look at his tape vs Illinois. We’ve already looked at four other games (USC, Utah, Oregon and Boise State) and I wanted to run through what I liked/disliked about this performance. Aside from the obvious positives (arm strength, ability to make difficult throws into tight windows, mobility) I’ve seen enough evidence now that he can make more than one progression, that he is capable of feeling pressure, that although he does take risks he’s not careless with the football and his turnovers are rarely reckless and that he’s willing to take a hit to make a key completion on a developing route.  

There are several things he needs to work on too. For example, he really only has two levels of touch – one of which is a pure fast ball. I like the trajectory and air he gets on the drilled throws but I’d like to see a greater range here – so that when he needs to place a throw in between two defensive backs he’ll make it. He’s a bit hesitant sometimes to make a decision and although he received very little protection in the game above (and suffered through a series of bad drops) he was also directly responsible for some avoidable sacks. Although he has a good deep out, I’ve not seen him throw deep down the middle for a big completion, but without all-22 tape it’s hard to see if teams take this option away because of his arm strength.  

I don’t think he’s quite the ‘project’ that some people think and because he has such pure natural ability as a passer, he’ll be able to contribute quickly in a scaled down playbook. Everything about him is unique - especially the frame and the release – but I kind of like that. One of the key things I look for in a quarterback is an ability to improvise and make plays when things don’t go according to plan and Osweiler has shown he can do that. He might not reach a pro-bowl level as a rookie, far from it in fact, but I suspect he’ll be able to come in and make enough plays to avoid becoming a weekly hindrance. Considering Seattle’s starting quarterbacks have combined for 26 regular season touchdown passes in the last two years, it’s hardly a stretch to believe he can improve upon a 13-touchdown average.  

As we’ve started to discuss Brock Osweiler more on the blog, people have started to say, “I’d take this guy in round two, but not at #11 or #12.” Personally, I think you’re going to be very fortunate to draft a player like this beyond round one. The Seahawks are never going to be in a position to draft a quarterback the majority of people feel ‘comfortable’ with while they’re winning even seven games in a season. If you’re waiting on Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin III, Matt Stafford etc etc – all of those players have been drafted – or will be drafted – within the top handful of picks. The Seahawks have been built to keep progressing, to move forward under Pete Carroll’s vision. If you want to draft a quarterback for the long haul yet be consistently picking deeper in the draft, be prepared to eventually take a chance on someone like Brock Osweiler.  

He has a lot of first round tools and while admittedly there is also a degree of inexperience, why are we so afraid to fail? This team hasn’t drafted a quarterback in round one since 1993, but some people cringe at the idea of a toolsy quarterback with big-time potential – yet a similarly raw defensive player or offensive lineman will get a collective thumbs up. It’s not a case of drafting any old quarterback – which is why I’ve been very critical of players like Ryan Tannehill and Landry Jones this year. Brock Osweiler is better than those two players on many different levels.  

Before we get into the tape-breakdown, I’ve added a selection of links to check out for more on Brock Osweiler:  

ESPN feature on Osweiler and ASU receiver Aaron Pflugrad  

Sixty-yard touchdown pass vs Missouri  

Seventeen-yard touchdown pass vs California  

Thiry-five-yard touchdown pass vs California  

Four-yard touchdown pass vs California  

Arizona State vs Colorado highlights  

Steve Muech from Scouts Inc also wrote a piece today grading Osweiler in round one:  

“He is a good athlete who chose the Sun Devils over an offer to play basketball at Gonzaga, and Osweiler shows the ability to buy time in the pocket and even pick up yards with his legs when given the opportunity. He’ll never have the elite pocket mobility of a quarterback like Drew Brees, but given his frame and above-average athleticism Osweiler is good enough in that area.

“Taller quarterbacks naturally have longer deliveries as well, and while Osweiler’s accuracy will be affected at times by over-striding, he has a unique release that gets good results. He has a unique release that reminds you a bit of Philip Rivers, but because his arm is strong he can get away with looking a bit like a dart-thrower. Osweiler can be accurate when his lower body is sound, puts enough zip on the ball to fit it into tight spots, and he can vary his launch points to account for hands in passing windows and the positioning of defenders in coverage.”

I’ve broken down some of the plays from the Illinois tape (see above) and listed a few thoughts on each with the time they appear in bold:  

0:08 – Instinctive play thrown deliberately low to make it hard to defend. Essentially, his receiver is catching the ball or nobody is. The defensive back probably would’ve jumped the route had it been chest-high, so that’s a good decision from the quarterback.  

0:14- Lingers too long on his intended target and needed to move to a different option or throw it away. Having lingered on the hot read, he can’t move back inside into traffic to extend a play. A completely avoidable sack.  

0:48- Evidence that he is willing to progress through reads. Osweiler looks to his left, then down the middle before progressing to the deep right. He rejects all options and throws incomplete to his left. It’s hard to tell without all-22 tape if any of his downfield options were open, but he visibly made multiple reads here.  

0:56 – Good patience to let the inside route develop and an accurate pass for a nice gain.  

1:04- Good play action into a shoulder pump to the flare, before looking deep right and throwing a nice pass that gave his receiver a chance to score a touchdown in single coverage. Should’ve been caught.  

1:22 – Stays composed despite the blind side pressure. He understands where the soft spot in the defense is and took what was on offer. An easy completion for the touchdown, but he capitalised on the opportunity.  

1:45- Free play with the offside penalty, so Osweiler throws deep down the left sideline and again puts the ball in an area for his receiver to make a play. Textbook throw.  

1:54- QB draw for a decent gain, shows off Osweiler’s mobility. He’s a long way off being considered a threat as a runner, but he moves well for his size.  

2:13- Bad interior protection and good defense, Osweiler has two seconds to make a play. He’s tackled as he throws and the ball rather fortunately hits a lineman on the back and is deflected into the hands of an Illinois defender. It goes down as an interception.  

2:41- Shows good presence to step into the pocket and throw downfield, but the two receivers get in each other’s way.  

2:54- Very accurate pass with perfect trajectory and pace, hitting the receiver in-stride for a first down.  

3:29 – Makes two reads but needs to feel the pressure and make a decision. Either get the ball out or throw it away. Protection isn’t good again here, but that was another avoidable sack.  

3:45- Avoids contact in the pocket and throws downfield for a completion. Wasn’t distracted by the pressure and managed to avoid the sack.  

3:54- Osweiler knew he was going to get hammered by a defensive lineman, but stayed tall to deliver a catchable pass. Should’ve been a completion, but credit to the quarterback for again making a brave throw.  

4:08 – Possibly the best play in the tape. This is what the NFL is looking for – great footwork, keeping the play alive and buying that extra time to deliver a big-time throw on third down for a huge completion. First round-level quarterback play.  

4:26 – Nice pump fake down the middle before throwing a fade to the back of the end zone. This looked like a touchdown to me on the replay, but it wasn’t given. Accurate throw, nice spiral. Would’ve been a great play had it stood, but still a good throw.  

4:53 – Needs to read that this screen play isn’t on. The call broke down and he needs to get out of that – ASU lost yards for no reason.  

5:00- Stands tall in the pocket but throws off his back foot and floats a pass to the right hand side. He couldn’t transfer any weight to his front foot due to the rush, but losing that extra yard of pace on the football forced the incomplete pass. Still – not many players can get close to that throw leaning backwards.  

5:14- Accurate throw down the middle of the field. On the replay we clearly see this is Osweiler’s second read having looked initially to the left, but he spots the separation from his middle-of-the-field option and makes a big completion.  

5:30 – Again a little indecisive here and too tentative. He needs to make a decision when a play collapses like this – he had a check down to the right and didn’t need to take the sack.  

5:36 – Play action, two reads and another throw down the middle dissecting two defenders for a first down. Nice play.  

6:10- Good work to extend the play, make a difficult throw and take no risks passing low. Pass interference flag gets the first down, but kudos to Osweiler for avoiding the sack in the first place.  

6:21 – Nothing he could do here, the offensive line collapses and he takes a sack.  

6:27- Deflected pass intercepted. Low trajectory on the throw tipped by a defensive tackle and picked off. The ball leaves Osweiler’s hand above his helmet so it wasn’t due to a side-arm motion. The pressure again collapses the pocket and Osweiler was throwing inside and short therefore not getting much height on the ball. It’s hard to pin too much blame on the quarterback here.  

6:42- Great footwork to extend the play, should’ve been caught for a first down. Excellent quarterback play.  

6:52- Developing route but Osweiler hasn’t got enough time due to the pocket collapsing yet again.  

7:23- Possibly the ugliest play of the night where he lazily tosses a hopeful, floated pass downfield. What is he seeing here to make that throw, let alone put such weak velocity on the ball? Bad play.  

7:46- QB draw from the 14-yard line, Osweiler actually has to make 19-yards to get the touchdown. Further evidence of his athletic ability despite a 6-8, 240lbs frame. He bursts through a hole in the line and shows the ability to shift up the gears.  

8:13- Again has very little time in the pocket but spends too long going through his progressions. He has three seconds to make the call. Although the left tackle is dominated off the edge by Whitney Mercilus, he needs to sense that pressure and get the ball away. It’s difficult, because he can’t throw out of bounds without being flagged. I’m more inclined to blame the weak pass protection here.  

8:52 – Dropped pass, needed to be caught.  

8:58 – Nice, accurate throw into traffic for a big completion.  

9:14 – Two reads and checks down to the tight end for a smart completion, again taking what he’s given by the defense.  

9:20- Similar play to 9:14 and puts a high touch throw into an area for the tight end to make a catch, but he drops it. Should’ve been an easy completion, good throw from Osweiler. The drop possibly cost ASU a chance to make overtime or win the game.  

9:53 – Good scramble for a first down, stopping the clock. The right decision.  

10:00 – Again does well to elude pressure and extend the play, bootlegs to the right and identifies the original LOS before throwing. Pass is delivered on a plate for a wide open receiver who drops it.  

10:16- Under thrown deep ball, bad execution. Put the ball behind the receiver who had separation. Needed to air the ball out to the left and a missed opportunity.  

10:31 – Better effort on the deep ball, just slightly over thrown.  

10:40 – Throws too high on fourth down, incomplete to end the game. Good pressure from the defense again, but an off target throw that asked a lot of the receiver.

Melvin Ingram in Seattle? I can’t see it

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Ingram doesn't make a logical fit in Seattle's defensive scheme

I’m a little surprised that Melvin Ingram’s stock has steadily grown to the point he’s considered a top-15 pick. Coming into the 2011 season, he was pretty much an afterthought. A fifth year senior who missed the whole of 2008 with a broken foot suffered off the field, he carried a mid-late round grade. He started out at linebacker before moving up front, but his eye-catching athleticism led to a role returning kicks having worked as a running back at high school. He accumulated 19 sacks in the last two seasons and a few explosive plays this year have helped put him in the national picture. But top-15?

It’s tough to work out exactly where he fits in the NFL – especially on the Seahawks roster. He’s 6-2 and 276lbs but looks squat, almost like a big running back. He hasn’t got the leaner frame you’d expect for an outside rusher, but neither has he got the size to kick inside to play defensive tackle at the next level. Ingram is the very definition of a tweener and although he’ll go into the NFL with a decent résumé and plenty of experience, are you really going to spend a high first round pick on someone with no obvious or defined role?

Mel Kiper mocked Ingram to Seattle in his first projection of the year, stating,

The Seahawks have quietly made major strides in overhauling the roster and finding solutions to grow with in the past two years. Last year, they targeted offensive linemen early, and with the addition of Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin, also have good talent at wide receiver. Even banged up at O-line, they ran the ball with some effectiveness. Obviously, quarterback remains a big question, but that’s not something they can target at this spot in the draft. What they can do is add a final piece to a defense that is young, fast and extremely good in the secondary. The linebacking corps was strengthened by the emergence of K.J. Wright. So the work is up front and at defensive end for a team that was just 23rd in the NFL last year in sack percentage. Ingram is just big enough to fit this system as a 4-3 defensive end, and should add a boost to the pass rush early.”

This to me looks like a projection based around a statistics sheet charting quarterback sacks. The Seahawks don’t run a conventional 4-3 and use Red Bryant at end to provide greater support against the run. Pete Carroll set this out deliberately to create an identity and while he’s talked about getting more speed among the front seven, there’s little chance he’ll abandon the Bryant experiment. Seattle wants to shut down the run, which is why you see Bryant (333lbs) line up alongside Brandon Mebane (311lbs) and Alan Branch (325lbs) for a lot of the defensive snaps. They mixed in Raheem Brock for specialist blitzes and certain passing downs, but are they really going to draft someone with the #11 or #12 pick that inherits such a limited role?

I suspect the Seahawks are not necessarily looking for a defensive end to play across from Clemons. If they can find an upgrade for the WILL linebacker position and someone who can play up at the LOS on passing downs, excellent. If they can find a three-technique with the necessary size to feature in any defensive play call, that’ll be a strong option. If there’s a potentially elite pass rusher who can upgrade the LEO for the long term and allow cost-effective Chris Clemons to become even more of a specialist, they’d have to at least consider it. The problem is, none of those roles fit Melvin Ingram. He lacks the height and frame of a prototypical LEO, he’s not big enough to play inside and although he played linebacker in 2007 are you really spending a top-15 pick to revert back to that?

I’ve enjoyed watching Ingram the past two years and there’s no doubt he’s athletic. He moves well, he has an effective spin move, he stays busy and you can’t argue with his production. But what’s his position? He doens’t look like a five technique, he’s not a natural power end, he probably isn’t going to play linebacker at the next level. He can be engrossed by bigger lineman and while he’s quick, is he going to work the edge quite as well in the NFL? Can he move inside and penetrate against pro-interior lineman on third downs? I’m really not convinced.

This is a bad overall draft for defensive lineman and perhaps that is one of the reasons why pundits like Kiper feel obliged to make this kind of pick for the Seahawks. There’s no doubt that beyond the quarterback position, improving the pass rush is Seattle’s greatest need. Yet without departing from the current defensive scheme, I just can’t see it. It seems like a match made out of mock draft convenience.

I think they’d like to find a linebacker who’s comfortable in coverage, plays three downs, can get to the quarterback and push up to the LOS on third down. In many ways this team is searching for a younger Julian Peterson. He’s not there. The closest thing you’ll get to the type of player they’re maybe looking for is Zach Brown at North Carolina. You can run through the possible LEO candidates, but it’s just a rank bad draft to try and address the defensive line in round one and there are better options later. I understand arguments for Devon Still and Michael Brockers, but I’m still trying to work out if their natural fit isn’t actually at the five-technique rather than the three and whether they warrant strong consideration.

While the Seahawks aren’t going to force the issue at quarterback, neither are they likely to force the issue on a defensive player just because it’s the next strongest need. This week I projected Brock Osweiler as an option and in fairness he’s a player gaining moment right now. If that’s unrealistic, I fully expect the next most likely alternative to be wide receiver considering the depth of quality at the position. Although many people see Justin Blackmon as a top-five lock, I completely disagree and actually think he could easily be there at #11 or #12 as the kind of ‘touchdown maker’ Pete Carroll desires. I’m not a fan personally, but Dre Kirkpatrick is the type of tall and physical corner Pete Carroll has brought to this team and he’s also discussed collecting further depth in the secondary.

With six picks in the draft and the possibility to move around to accumulate more, Carroll and John Schneider will have ample opportunity to keep building their defense. Let’s also not rule out potential moves during free agency and while the Seahawks might not make any major financial transactions, who’s to say they won’t uncover another Chris Clemons, Brandon Browner or Alan Branch? There seems little point in fighting the draft board when it lacks top-end defensive talent and drafting Melvin Ingram that early would be a key example of that. Here’s the tape…

The following games vs East Carolina, Georgia and Auburn were supplied by MarioClP, JMPasq and Aaron Aloysius

Updated mock draft: 18th January

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I want to try and make these mock drafts different, not just a weekly repetition with one or two minor tweaks. These things are never that accurate and a good mock draft should never be the benchmark for validation. This is all about the journey from September to April – watching the tape, making the judgements and coming to conclusions. I expect a lot of people to disagree with this week’s projection, but that’s OK. We’re over three months away from the draft and now is the time for debate.

There is one significant tweak today because although I don’t project trades, I’ve laid things out to look at what will happen if a certain deals occur early in round one. If a team like Miami does move up to draft Robert Griffin III, how does it impact other picks? It seems likely Minnesota won’t draft Griffin, but I’ve put RGIII at #3 to see how the cards fall in that situation.

With Seattle’s pick I’ve gone in a direction I’ve hinted at for the last seven days. I know the Seahawks won’t reach for a quarterback, but John Schneider and Pete Carrol have a different way of doing things. A lot of people in the media hadn’t even considered James Carpenter in round one last April – yet Seattle made him the #25 pick. It was obvious why they liked Carpenter – he stood out on tape for Alabama and even jumped off the screen a few times blocking for Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. We talked about him often on this blog because the guy clearly had talent. Maybe he was a little raw, but the physical potential and room for development was extremely high.

The Seahawks made similar picks throughout, raising a few eye brows when they took John Moffitt in round three and Kris Durham and KJ Wright in round four. There were bigger, more established names on the board – but Seattle’s front office knew exactly what they wanted. This continued all the way into day three of the draft – unique picks, most of which had an instant impact. I’m not here to say Brock Osweiler definitely falls into that same category – particularly as a quarterback – but he’s another player with incredible potential even if he is a little unrefined. Look at the players this team has signed at the position so far and they all have similar physical attributes. Osweiler may be a more talented version of what they already have.

He’s starting to get a bit of national attention too, which isn’t unexpected but certainly it’s helpful. Today I noticed a tweet from ESPN’s Todd McShay stating, “Momentum building for Osweiler as a late-first round grade after three tapes studied. Maybe 3rd QB after Luck, RGIII?” This was closely followed by a reply from McShay’s Scouts Inc colleague Kevin Wiedl (whose opinion is worth noting, he’s one of the best around) who added, “Extremely impressed with Osweiler’s tape. A lot of tools to work with and a competitor. Stock could rise moving further into the process.” Interesting.

We’ve already looked at tape against USC, Utah, Oregon and Boise State. In the video above you’ll see Osweiler’s performance against Illinois (thanks to TTN2810 for supplying the tape). Expect further thoughts tomorrow, but for now let’s get into this week’s mock.

Updated first round mock draft

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts are cleaning house to make room for the Andrew Luck era. At this stage, I don’t think there’s any deal Indianapolis would accept to trade this pick.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Rams have to take Kalil, he’s too good to pass up. There’s enough depth at receiver to wait until round two.
#3 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Minnesota won’t draft Griffin, but I don’t project ‘trades’. I want to look at a mock where RG3 leaves the board here in the event of a deal.
#4 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
I could see Richardson being Cleveland’s choice even if Griffin is still on the board. He’s that good.
#5 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
He’s had a great year and put his stock firmly in this range. Tampa Bay can’t lose if they take Claiborne or Trent Richardson.
#6 Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
This would be a foolish reach but Shanahan wants hisguy. If Tannehill really is going to go in the top-15 as speculated, Washington is the obvious choice.
  #7 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Jacksonville are known for doing things differently. It’s speculated that a lot of teams see Wright as the #1 receiver in this class.
#8 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
Depending on the appointment of their new coach, I still think Miami are the favorites to trade up for Griffin. Minnesota would then draft a lineman like Reiff.
#9 Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
A complete lack of defensive line talent could push a raw youngster like Brockers into this range.
#10 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
If the Bills don’t re-sign Stevie Johnson, receiver becomes a desperate need. They also need to improve the offensive line and pass rush.
#11 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
Undersized but a tackling machine. The kind of player Scott Pioli likes to draft for his team.
#12 Brock Osweiler (QB, Arizona State)
The tape doesn’t lie and there’s a lot to like about Osweiler. If Christian Ponder is good enough to go here, so is this guy.
#13 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
This is the kind of range where Martin becomes a bargain and well worth the risk to improve Arizona’s offensive line.
#14 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
He’s big and good in run support, but struggles in coverage at times. Jerry Jones will like this guy, so will Eli Manning.
#15 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
The Eagles will look closely at the linebacker position and Brown is a good fit for Philly’s scheme.
#16 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
Few players have enjoyed the level of progress shown by Barron in 2011. He’s firmly in the round one equation.
#17 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
Slightly over rated, a technician who looks great on the move but lacks elite power at the point of attack.
#18 Courtney Upshaw (OLB, Alabama)
The kind of player San Diego is lacking on defense and will instantly improve their attitude and pass rush at outside linebacker.
#19 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
The best receiver in this class as far as I’m concerned. He has enough talent to become the complete package.
#20 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
They need to improve their edge rush and Mercilus led the nation in 2011 for sacks. A hard player to work out.
#21 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite cornerback talent but troubled by off-field problems. The Bengals needs to draft a corner and Jenkins is good enough to start quickly.
#22 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Cleveland needs to keep adding playmakers. Floyd has his issues, but put him on that offense with Trent Richardson and it’ll be much improved. They’d still need a quarterback.
#23 Brandon Boykin (CB, Georgia)
He doesn’t have elite size but he’ll light up the combine and push his stock into this range.
#24 Mike Adams (OT, Ohio State)
I’m not a fan personally, but reports suggest it’s likely Adams will go in this range. The Steelers could look again at the offensive line.
#25 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
The Broncos run the ball well and could look to add another back to their stable. Carolina had two first round runners under John Fox.
#26 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
The Texans might struggle to re-sign Mario Williams, so could look elsewhere for further additions to their growing defense.
#27 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
I’m still trying to get an angle on Still. It often looks like his best fit may be at the five-technique.
#28 Fletcher Cox (DE, Mississippi State)
He plays a bit like a runaway train. He’s unbalanced but moves well for a big guy. He looks ideal for the 5-technique position.
#29 Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
Sanu can line up anywhere and make plays. New York aren’t desperate at receiver, but they could be creative here.
#30 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
In recent years Baltimore have capitalised on players falling into this range to get value. Coples could drop into the late first.
#31 Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)
Jeffery divides opinion. He is capable of making big plays, but he runs sloppy routes and looks ‘too big’.
#32 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro.

Tuesday draft notes & Derek Wolfe game tape

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Thoughts on Derek Wolfe and the Seahawks options in round one

Derek Wolfe has flashed some big plays during his time at Cincinnati, but it’s tough to fit him into Seattle’s defense. He’s been used at both tackle an end in Cincy’s system, but his home at the next level will surely be as a five technique. He’s got the kind of height that teams like for the position (6-5) and his size (300lbs) means he’ll hold up well against the run and help set the edge. When he plays inside he often gets flushed out of plays and he struggles to attach the point, often leaning into lineman and becoming ineffective. When Wolfe is able to use his hands and keep an opponent away from his frame, that’s when he penetrates. He’ll be better served away from the busy interior and should get looks in the middle rounds for teams running orthodox 3-4 schemes. He’s not an explosive athlete, which will limit his stock and should put him behind Fresno State’s exciting and underrated Logan Harrell.

It’s difficult to imagine he’s the answer to Seattle’s interior pass rush concerns and he’s not powerful enough as an inside force to generate consistent pressure and absorb blocks. Although he may be considered a slightly better attacking threat off the edge, the Seahawks are seemingly committed to stopping the run and I expect they’ll keep using bigger players like Red Bryant at DE, mixing in spot pass rushers for certain downs. It’s a bad year for the Seahawks to try and find interior pass-rushers. Last year, picking in the #11-12 range would’ve provided an open shot at Corey Liuget. Phil Taylor went at #21 to Cleveland and offered superb size to work against the run, but also the foot speed and athleticism to get into the backfield. There’s nobody in this class who is close to that level of talent. Round two may offer more hope if Brandon Thompson is still around, but there’s no Brian Price or Lamarr Houston as in 2010.

It really depends on what the Seahawks are looking for as to whether there’s an obvious round one option on defense. Pete Carroll says he wants speed and a better pass rush, but prospective WILL linebackers like Jarvis Jones chose not to declare. A player like Star Lotuleilei would’ve offered a better interior rush (although he must improve his ability to stay strong against the run) but he’s staying at Utah. Zach Brown is a better sideline-to-sideline linebacker than most in this forthcoming class, but is he good enough to offer consistent pressure on passing downs if asked to play closer to the LOS?

Will the Seahawks see enough value in drafting Michael Brockers or Devon Still in round one? They are two players capable of playing inside, but also two players that have flashed inconsistencies and may be better suited to the five-technique. Luke Kuelchy is very talented and a tackling machine, but he’s undersized to play the MIKE and hasn’t offered any pass rushing threat at Boston College (not that it was a big aspect of his game). I’m not convinced the Seahawks will see the LEO as enough of a priority in round one unless a star pass rusher is available. Chris Clemons is still the starter and the specialist nature of the position dictates a skill set that can be found beyond the high picks. Despite a cluster of solid LEO options last year (Jabaal Sheard, Brooks Reed) the Seahawks passed. I’m not sure Andre Branch and Whitney Mercilus are truly good enough to warrant consideration, while I’m still trying to work out exactly where Courtney Upshaw would fit in Seattle’s scheme.

This just isn’t a good draft for defense and it keeps me coming back to two areas. One – the possibility that the Seahawks will consider adding to their quota of receivers. This is a very strong draft at the position, with top end talent (Dwight Jones, Kendall Wright, Justin Blackmon) a strong second tier and a handful of sleepers later on. Although it lacks the superstars we had in the top six last April, it’s a group filled with starting potential and depth. The second option? The Seahawks target a quarterback one way or another, possibly after moving up or down the board. I’ll be publishing an updated mock draft tomorrow.

The tape above was supplied to Seahawks Draft Blog by JMPasq

Dre Kirkpatrick arrested for marijuana possession?

Reports today claim that Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was arrested after being found in possession of twenty grams of marijuana. It’s pretty ridiculous, considering Kirkpatrick is about to go through what equates to a three-month job interview. Yet to put this into perspective, it’s hardly earth shattering news that a football player has been found carrying some weed. Teams will do all of the necessary homework and if this isn’t a wider problem for Kirkpatrick, it shouldn’t impact his stock more than the fact his coverage skills are pretty basic compared to his excellence in run support. However, what should be a big deal for teams is the rank stupidity of a player you’re about to pay millions of dollars being caught in this situation. It’s not exactly difficult to avoid such a potential red flag between the months of January and April. If Kirkpatrick can’t be trusted to put himself in the best possible situation for the draft, can you really trust him to cover Calvin Johnson?

Dolphins about to turn into Green Bay mark II?

Chris Kouffman is reporting on Twitter that the Dolphins are close to appointing Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as Head Coach. Kouffman, who writes for ‘Universal Draft’ and a football blog at the South Florida Sun Sentinel, claims Tom Clements could also be appointed as offensive coordinator with Matt Flynn likely to reunite with the pair as the team’s new starting quarterback. It’s unclear at this stage how legitimate this is, but it’d certainly change the dynamic of the draft. Everyone expects the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings to be inundated with trade offers as teams battle for Robert Griffin III. I’ve always felt the one team likely to make a big splash for RG3 were the Dolphins – a franchise in need of a star for many different reasons. By going the Packers-route, Miami would be less likely to make a bold move up the board.

Suddenly, those trade offers seem a lot less likely. Washington at #6 are the nearest threat to Cleveland – who may or may not be even interested in Griffin III – and who’s to say the Redskins aren’t preparing to go in a different direction themselves? We’ve long discussed the possibility of Peyton Manning landing in Washington as a free agent, a move that seems a lot more likely now that Jim Caldwell has been fired by Indianapolis. Shanahan could still add someone like Ryan Tannehill as a long term option, but Manning would be a tremendous bridge to the future.

Although Griffin is a tremendously talented quarterback with a ceiling as high as most young players entering the league, the simple fact is team’s like Miami and Washington have to prepare as if Cleveland are going to take him at #4. That could take the two franchises into completely different directions during free agency, so if the Browns end up drafting – for example – Trent Richardson instead, what happens to Griffin? Although it’s assumed this year’s fastest riser will go in the top three, we can’t rule out the possibility he suffers a minor fall – potentially putting him closer to the Seahawks at #11 or #12 and making a deal up the board more manageable. A pipe dream? Maybe, but in mid-January we’re still working out how this draft is going to fall.

Mike Adams rising? Kendall Wright the top receiver?

I’m not a big fan of Ohio State tackle Mike Adams – he’s never stood out on film as an obvious first round talent. He’s neither truly dominating in the run game or a brilliant athlete who projects as an ideal blind side blocker. I expected him to receive a mid-round grade and end up playing right tackle at the next level. According to Tony Pauline at SI.com and DraftInsider.net – Adams will go much earlier. “Word from scouts at the Shrine game is Mike Adams/T/Ohio State will be drafted much earlier than most predict.” Pauline’s sources are to be trusted, so against my will I will be including Adams in my latest first round projection tomorrow. Pauline later added on his blog, “Many in attendance think Mike Adams/T/Ohio State will go much higher than he’s presently projected.  How high?  Though we don’t share the opinion I am hearing anywhere from the middle of round one, on.  Adams is slated to play in the Senior Bowl next week.”

It was also interesting to see the wide receivers come into discussion. According to Pauline’s sources, some teams have Baylor’s Kendall Wright ranked as the #1 at the position this year, “Additional sources here at the Tradewinds confirmed our report from Friday that a number of teams presently rate Kendall Wright/WR/Baylor over Justin Blackmon.  The list of teams that have Wright over his Big 12 counterpart is either growing or was underestimated by myself last week.” This isn’t surprising, given that Blackmon is pretty overrated while Wright and the likes of Dwight Jones have usually been (wrongly in my view) graded below players like Michael Floyd and Alshon Jeffery. I like Blackmon as a prospect – he’s got the competitive streak you want to see from a receiver, he’s an alpha-male type who can make spectacular plays. Yet he’s also inconsistent and makes a lot of sloppy mistakes, while the offense at Oklahoma State is tailored for production. The result? A two-time Biletnikoff winner, just like another receiver coming from a yard-happy system – Michael Crabtree.

Brock Osweiler heading for the top-20?

I’ve been promoting the talents of Brock Osweiler this week, even going as far to say he could be a first round option for the Seahawks. Some have disagreed (strongly at times) but there’s been a healthy debate on the blog. I’m expecting to have further tape published soon, with Osweiler’s performances against Illinois and Arizona on the way to go along with the tape we’ve already dissected against USC, Utah, Oregon and Boise State. The idea of Osweiler going in the top-20 might not be such a far fetched suggestion after all if Wes Bunting at the NFP is to be believed: “Just got off the phone with an NFL scout who he thinks Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler is a 3rd round talent, who could go top 20.” As I said earlier, I don’t expect the Seahawks to reach for a quarterback. Yet it’s clear John Schneider and Pete Carroll have a different way of doing things. A lot of pundits shouted “reach!” when Seattle drafted James Carpenter with the #25 pick, likewise when they drafted John Moffitt and Kris Durham with several other ‘bigger names’ still on the board. For what it’s worth, I thought the Carpenter pick was great value at the time. If it so happens that the Seahawks do think Osweiler is worthy of a top-20 grade, they won’t be concerned by others who think he’s worth a grade in round three.

East-West Shrine week preview

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Arkansas' Jarius Wright will be hoping to impress scouts

 

This week the East-West Shrine game takes place in St. Petersburg with several players worth keeping an eye on. The game is on Saturday but there’s a series of practises during the week, so it’s an opportunity for certain prospects to impress that are currently flying under the radar. I’ve highlighted some of the names I’ll be monitoring this week:  

Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor)
Nose tackle with terrific size. He struggled to have an impact on a weak Baylor defense, but he has legitimate pro-potential and could be a key riser during the off-season.  

Chandler Harnish (QB, Northern Illinois)
Has an opportunity to really boost his stock by performing well here. Intelligent as a passer, capable of making a lot of different throws and offers real value as a runner. Measured at 6014 and 219lbs, 32 1/4 arms,  9 1/4 hands and a 76 1/2 wing span. 

B.J. Cunningham (WR, Michigan State)
Flashed a number of times during the last two seasons but he’s inconsistent, bit of a ‘boom or bust’ type. He was listed at just 6013 and 209lbs during weigh-ins.  

Brandon Lindsey (OLB, Pittsburgh)
Capable pass rusher and one to watch from a Seahawks perspective. Consistent production with 18.5 sacks the last two years, could be an option to transition to the WILL.  

Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss)
Underrated prospect who measured at 6013 and 218lbs, 31 3/4 inch arms, 10 1/8 hands, 75 1/4 wing span. He’s a machine in the red zone and very efficient overall, with the experience of controlling an offense. 

A.J. Jenkins (WR, Illinois)
Productive receiver who stood out in 2011. Lacks prototypical size and was listed at 6001 and just 192lbs, but he plays above those physical restrictions.  

B.J. Coleman (QB, Chattanooga)
Came in at 6-3 and 234lbs and has a lot of physical potential. Could end up being this years version of John Skelton.  

Blake Gideon (S, Texas)
Not a terrific physical specimen but has a natural feel for the game and could have some special teams value. Well coached coming from the Texas secondary.  

John Brantley (QB, Florida)
Perhaps the biggest name among the quarterbacks, but Tim Tebow’s replacement in Florida never showed enough as a starter. Mediocre prospect with middling ability.  

Greg Childs (WR, Arkansas)
Hampered by injuries but now close to 100% health, this is a real opportunity for Childs to show off his obvious pro-talent. Big, fast and when healthy he looks the part.  

Jarius Wright (WR, Arkansas)
Always exciting receiver prospect who made a number of big plays for Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson. Should be at the Senior Bowl.  

Matt Reynolds (OT, BYU)
Came into the year completely over rated by the national media. His future lies at guard and he will struggle against the speed rush if tried at tackle here.  

DaJohn Harris (DT, USC)
Useful against the run and understands leverage, will get low and has been effective for the Trojans. Minimal pass rush threat.

Brock Osweiler tape review vs Oregon

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Players with vast potential and a high ceiling will always get drafted early. If you ask most people if they’d be willing to select LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers in round one, they’ll respond in a positive manner. The Seahawks need a three-technique who can play every down and maintain the ‘stop-the-run’ logic of this defense. Brockers is far from the finished article and may go through a learning curve that limits his rookie-impact.

This is no different to Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, who has undoubted physical talent and a ceiling as high as most quarterbacks that have entered the league in recent years. Teams are willing to reach for potential in the NFL and the rookie wage scale encourages a lower financial gamble on the position. If the Seahawks ever want to draft a player who could be ‘the one’ without actually owning a top-five pick, they’ll need to take the plunge on a player like this.

I’ve previously gone through Osweiler’s tape against USC, Utah and Boise State. Today we’ll take a look at his performance against Oregon (courtesy of MarioClp) and there are several examples that prove he has the kind of potential to be a high pick:

0:08 – Looks down the middle of the field and then back to the deep right with a receiver going downfield in single coverage. Osweiler’s forced to throw off his back foot because there’s pressure, but he delivers a pass with the right velocity into an area for the receiver to make a play. Not many quarterbacks can generate that much punch on a throw off the back-foot.

0:34 – Evidence of a willingness to make progressions as he originally looks to his right before coming back to the underneath crossing route. Smart play.

1:04 – Although this isn’t a completed pass, it’s further evidence of how Osweiler is adjustable and will improvise. Due to the blitz and pressure, he changes the angle of his delivery in order to get the ball quickly to the receiver before taking the hit. A side-arm release is never ideal even on a 6-8 quarterback, but Osweiler is not a robotic passer restricted to one delivery. Being able to improvise is an underrated quality for quarterbacks.

1:41 – Terrific pass to the right inside corner of the end zone. He waits for the route to develop, scans the field and spots an open receiver running to the end zone. It’s still a tight window he has to throw in and it’s only due to his arm strength that he’s able to make that pass. Some quarterbacks will hesitate to make such a throw, others will just be incapable of completing it. This is why we need to start talking about Osweiler as a round one option.

2:24 – Standard inside slant, spots the receiver making a good break and delivers a perfect ball for the first down.

3:02 & 3:42 – Two more slants, but evidence that Osweiler is comfortable in the pocket and taking what the defense gives. He’s not just about forcing big plays downfield, he can make good, accurate plays in the pocket.

4:27 – A similar touchdown pass to the first at 1:41, this is all on Osweiler’s arm strength. He shows an ability to exploit single coverage and put the ball in an area for his receiver to make a big play. Again, this is a tremendously difficult throw that most quarterbacks simply won’t be able to make, but it’s a perfect spiral with good height and velocity. There’s such a short window for the defensive back to react due to the speed in which the ball reaches the target.

5:55 – Good decision to throw the ball away, but he allowed the play to develop before making that choice and didn’t get impatient and make a rash judgement.

6:06 – Quick slant that dissects two defenders for a short gain, a precise delivery.

6:32 – Scans the field and anticipates the developing route to make a throw down the middle for a first down – good, quick decision and execution.

8:27 – Visibly moves between targets but can’t spot an open receiver, so he runs to the edge and makes a nice gain on the ground. Unique mobility for a 6-8 quarterback and flashes the ability to make plays on the run.

9:09 – Stands tall in the pocket and delivers a strong throw down the middle before taking a hit. Again, in that situation a lot of quarterbacks wouldn’t be able to generate that level of velocity. Osweiler can. The receiver makes a dumb decision after the catch leading to a big penalty, pushing ASU back approaching half time. This ultimately leads to an interception.

11:32 – Osweiler handles a difficult snap before making a big throw downfield despite getting hit by a defensive end. The play is called back for offensive pass interference, but it’s still an impressive completion.

12:25 – Elite footwork to move away from pressure and extend the play, before firing a perfect strike to the receiver who breaks off a big run. This is the kind of play the NFL wants its quarterbacks to make.

14:30 – Further evidence of patience in the pocket, allowing the route to develop and finding an open receiver for the first down.

15:16 – First down throw on 4th and 9 where he runs through multiple progressions to make the completion. Intelligent quarterback play and field vision.

15:54 – A second interception, but it has nothing to do with Osweiler. This is top-end quarterback play of the highest order. He looks very deliberately to his left to allow the developing route to his right. He snaps back across and fires a perfectly executed throw into the end zone, which is fumbled by the receiver and caught by a defensive back. This was actually one of the most impressive plays in the tape, but it goes down as a pick.

Osweiler essentially kept Arizona State competitive in a game where they had no legitimate running game and got most of their yards on the ground using laterals and extended hand offs. The play calling after the first pick became strangely conservative given the quarterbacks performance up until that point. Of course, it wasn’t all positive – at 7:17 he fails to spot the open receiver down the middle and forces a throw into single coverage instead. Although he was pressured from the interior, it’s a mist opportunity on third down to make a big gain. On the first interception at 9:53, although the receiver appears to slip, Osweiler puts too much juice on the throw leading to a pick and substantial return. Having said that, he maybe needed to force things a little after a dumb personal foul penalty on one of the receivers and with half-time drawing near.

Apart from one bad interception against Boise State that led to a 100-yard pick-six, I’ve been impressed by Osweiler’s decision making. Considering he is a player who naturally will take chances with his arm, there aren’t many ‘close calls’ and the turnovers he’s had are not as concerning as they could be. While Ryan Tannehill is currently being talked up as a potential top-15 pick, he’s much more prone to mental errors and doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket. Osweiler - despite having comparable starting experience – looks like a much more natural passer.

The offensive scheme at ASU uses a lot of flare passes, extended hand offs and screens to open up deeper routes. People will highlight this, but it’s difficult to criticise the quarterback too much when this is just part of the sytem. He’s shown on varying levels an ability to make difficult completions, a wide range of complex passes, extend plays and get the ball downfield for big gains. He’ll be capable of scoring quick points at the next level, but I’ve seen enough to believe he can also manage a ball control offense and limit turnovers. If you take away the short stuff at the next level, I still firmly believe Osweiler will be capable of making tough downfield throws. Working in an offense with a solid ground-game could have a similar impact, creating a lot of single coverage situations and opening up play action.

Physically, Osweiler is a unique player with a ceiling higher than most quarterbacks entering the draft. He’s far from the finished product, but I’m starting to believe he’s going to eventually enter the first round discussion. If you can draft him at any point after the first round you’re getting a potential steal. An exciting prospect who will be part of my next first-round mock draft on Wednesday.

Darron Thomas declares for the 2012 NFL draft

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Written by Kip Earlywine

Things just got very interesting.

In what could be argued is the most surprising declaration so far, Darron Thomas let it be known last night that he will forgo his senior season to enter the 2012 draft.  Thomas isn’t a guy who’s (yet) talked about as a major quarterback prospect, but it seems pretty likely he will be in short order.  He’s 6’3″, 215 lbs, and will likely post a very strong 40 time.  He led the #6 offense in college football this year, and the year before he led Oregon to the National Championship game (the #2 offense nationally that year).   Obviously, those offenses were built on the running game, but while Thomas could perhaps be labeled a bit of a game manager, he is capable of carrying an offense on his back from time to time.  Thomas has a lot of similarities to Robert Griffin, and is, in my opinion, easily superior as a prospect to Ryan Tannehill.   Robert Griffin could go as high as #2 overall, and if you buy into the source Rob cited the other day, there is a very real top 15 buzz for Ryan Tannehill right now.

Obviously, this could put Thomas right in Seattle’s wheelhouse at #11 or #12.  That might seem high, but consider the alleged draft stock for Tannehill or how highly Jake Locker was drafted last year. Thomas may not deserve that high a grade, but remember that quarterbacks are usually over-drafted.   Thomas wouldn’t have passed up a shot at a 2012 National Championship to be a 7th round pick.  Perhaps he received a good review from the NFL draft committee?

Regardless of where Thomas actually ends up drafted, he is exactly the kind of quarterback Seattle is looking for, and if their interest in Colin Kaepernick last year was an indication, I expect them to rate Thomas highly.  As of right now, Thomas is a bit of an under-rated prospect, but if Tannehill can fly up the boards, so can Thomas.  I’ll post more thoughts on Thomas over the next few days.

In the meantime, here’s a video of Thomas playing in the Rose Bowl (full game).  I’m not sure how long it will last as that seems like a pretty blatant copyright issue, but its there right now!  You can find even more games in thornsx’s corresponding youtube channel.