Archive for January, 2012
It was revealed today that Tyler Wilson won’t be entering the 2012 draft and will return to Arkansas. Barring any last minute shocks, we know what’s out there for the Seahawks. Amid all the talk of improving the front seven and especially the team’s pass rush, one need sticks out so much it’ll trip you up. The Seahawks need a quarterback. I started this blog in 2008, and we’ve talked about this subject virtually every week since. Back then it was a case of fixing the roof while the sun was shining - drafting a successor for Matt Hasselbeck before he departed. It started raining, and the house flooded.
The prospect of spending another year talking about quarterbacks is about as tantalising as watching Jim Harbaugh win a Super Bowl. Yet without some bold, ambitious, zany move up the board – that’s exactly what we’re faced with. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be drafted early and the Seahawks will have to pull out all the stops to get one of the ‘big two’.
After that, well there’s always the possibility players will rise up the board considering the vital nature of the position and how it translates to NFL success. The new rookie wage scale makes drafting a quarterback in round one much less of a gamble, with damaged reputation and pride rather than cap space the main issue. A team can decide to fire a GM for making a bad pick at the position, but they’re going to be able to clean up the mess quite swiftly. We saw last year that team’s are prepared to chance their arm now – there’s no other way to justify a prospect like Christian Ponder going #12 overall.
In my latest mock I included Ryan Tannehill as an early pick after reading Tony Pauline’s report that he’s currently expected to go in the top-15. Like Jake Locker last year, someone could easily take the gamble under the new cap rules. I much preferred Locker if we’re talking comparisons, but many graded the former Washington QB outside of the first round. In the end Tennessee drafted him at #8 – considered a shocking turn of events at the time – and there’s every chance Tannehill will also go in that range whether you agree with that decision or not.
The Washington Redskins pick #6 overall and while they may be better served going in another direction, this is Mike Shanahan’s third draft with the team. In year one he gushed about Sam Bradford, but the #4 pick in 2010 wasn’t high enough to get his man. Last April I fully expected Shanahan to draft Locker at #10 before the Titans stepped in. This year, they might take the hit to get that elusive quarterback. Tannehill shouldn’t go as early as #6 overall, but are you going to risk a third strike and face another year with potentially John Beck or Rex Grossman as your starter? They could take Tennessee’s lead and still add a veteran option to tutor Tannehill and give him time and I maintain Peyton Manning playing in the capital seems like a logical option. If Shanahan doesn’t sort out the position this off season, he’s going to be on the hot-seat.
So with three quarterbacks off the board already, the Seahawks could be left with the scraps at #11 or #12. One option is to just take the situation on the chin, because this is still a team in rebuild with other needs. However, if the goal is sustained improvement it’s unlikely a franchise quarterback is going to one day magically land on a plate. Any quarterback with a modicum of talent is going to go earlier now that team’s essentially have a financial carte blanche to roll the dice on a franchise quarterback. Is it wrong to believe that if things keep progressing in Seattle, the front office faces an inevitable decision on either a.) reaching for a player or b.) trading up?
Of course, so far this regime has found gem after gem in the later rounds of the draft and free agency. They have the midas touch at the moment and the way they’ve turned around an ageing team going absolutely nowhere fast deserves greater credit on a national scale. However, their record so far at quarterback is poor. Tarvaris Jackson was a convenient choice last off season, but he lurched from good to mediocre to bad in 2011. The Charlie Whitehurst trade is a busted deal, simple as that. The only other fairly significant move was to sign Josh Portis and essentially red-shirt him for a year. Nobody truly knows what he’s capable of, but expecting to find the next UDFA sensation is like expecting to win big on the lottery – not impossible, but excruciatingly difficult.
There are options in this draft beyond round one. Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois), Ryan Lindley (San Diego State), Austin Davis (Southern Miss) and BJ Coleman (Chattanooga) all carry a degree of intrigue. There are bigger names out there too, such as Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State). Realistically though are any of these guys going to start next year? Perhaps of greater importance, is it really that much easier to find a starting quarterback in rounds 2-7 if the top players are going to go earlier than ever before?
The Seahawks may have to take a chance. This isn’t a draft full of top end first round talent and the prospective options at #11 or #12 are hardly making the fans in Seattle rub their hands in delight. It’s particularly weak on the defensive line – the other real need area that has been highlighted. Do you take a chance? Have Pete Carroll and John Schneider earned the opportunity to get a first round pick at quarterback wrong and live to tell the tale? Are they prepared to take a chance on a quarterback who might not quite be the second coming of Aaron Rodgers, but has enough talent to upgrade the position beyond Tarvaris Jackson? Enough talent to pull together an offense that blocks better, has some talent at receiver and a running back who, if he re-signs, will be hoping to build on a 2011 season that firmly put him among the league’s best.
Let me take you back to 2008.
A quarterback named Joe Flacco was preparing for the NFL Draft. He’d left Pittsburgh after struggling for starts behind Tyler Palko and moved to Delaware, where he made 22 regular season starts and led a FCS playoff run in 2006. He went to the Senior Bowl and impressed enough to earn a grade in the back-end of round two. Momentum continued to build, other quarterbacks failed to emerge. It was understood the Baltimore Ravens had interest in drafting Matt Ryan with the #8 pick, but when he left the board at #3 they traded all the way down to #26. They then moved back up to #18 to secure their man.
Flacco was raw and his footwork needed major work. Most people said he needed time but when injury and illness ruled out Kyle Boller and Troy Smith respectively, Flacco was in. Baltimore boasted an elite defense, a sound running game and offensive line and the rookie quarterback was able to make some plays, helping his team to the AFC Championship game. He got a lot of help as mentioned, his performances were hit and miss – but he did enough. Flacco’s big arm kept other team’s honest, and he did enough to win Rookie of the Year.
Since then Baltimore have returned to the post season each annually. Flacco hasn’t had it easy, including some heavy criticism as people reflect on his status after four seasons of pro-football. The thing is, he’s never going to be Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. In Baltimore though, he only has to be Joe Flacco. Denver, New England and Houston are the three teams standing in the way of a first Super Bowl – and the Ravens have home field advantage. Flacco is far from perfect, he can be rattled at times and he’s not been helped by some bizarre playcalling (see: Seattle, week 10). Yet he does enough consistently to keep getting wins. Sure, he won’t be perfect every game – far from it in fact. But he’s not bad enough to stop Baltimore making the playoffs every year and competing. He doesn’t spoil a good supporting cast.
And this is when we come to Seattle.
Everyone is chasing the next Manning, Brady, Brees or Rodgers. Everyone is also chasing the next tier of Matt Stafford, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger (or whoever else you want to include here). The Seahawks don’t necessarily need to keep chasing the holy grail. They may only need their version of Joe Flacco.
Some people will cringe at that because let’s be honest - nobody truly aspires to have Flacco as ‘the guy’. We all dream of the elite passers in the league, the miracle workers. But here’s the reality – Alex Smith was quarterback for not just the NFC West Champions this year, but also the #2 seed in the NFC. He did enough in certain games to get a few W’s – the kind that went begging for the Seahawks under Jackson. The Niners have a lot of talent, but they’re not the elite Ravens on defense. This is Seattle’s primary competition for now.
Carroll and Schneider are building a defense that is starting to look very promising. Potentially, it’s a three-technique and another pass rusher away from being – dare we say it – a force to be reckoned with and feared by the rest of the NFC. The running game has come along nicely as 2011 developed. Doesn’t it all just sound familiar?
The Seahawks are lacking that facilitator, someone who can make enough big plays in a game to get the job done. Maybe it is just 145 yards and a score one week? As long as you win the game, what does it matter? That touchdown could be the game winning drive? Unfortunately, ‘game winning drive’ are not words you can associate with Tarvaris Jackson.
Seattle’s Joe Flacco could be Brock Osweiler. The physical similarities are there – height (6-6 vs 6-8), weight (240lbs vs 240lbs), arm strength and raw potential with room for development. Like Flacco, Osweiler has a grade in that round 2-3 range right now. Flacco actually only started six more regular season games at Delaware than Osweiler has at Arizona State, but there’s a steep difference in opposition quality between the FCS and the PAC-12.
Nobody will ever count Osweiler as the ideal. Nobody will argue he’s the finished article or flawless. Yet anyone who watches the Utah tape from yesterday’s blog article will see there is some legitimate pro-potential. Fran Duffy, associate producer for philadelphiaeagles.com and a former video coordinator at Temple University describes Osweiler as, “(someone) who is going to be a stud in this league. I’m sold. This kid has a howitzer. Osweiler can stick the ball anywhere he wants, and he tries to. (He) puts the ball in tight quarters, sometimes good, some bad. But I like that.”
I tend to agree with this assessment and while there’s plenty to work on, there’s also plenty to work with. The one great difference between Flacco and Osweiler is mobility – extending plays, breaking off runs. Osweiler is a natural athlete with surprising agility that helps him improvise on plays the way Flacco simply can’t. In many ways, Osweiler is the kind of quarterback Seattle has been looking for – ability to run bootlegs, downfield passer with an arm to make all the throws and is able to extend plays. Ultimately though, Seattle’s roster is being set up to accomodate a less than perfect quarterback, simply a good one instead.
A lot of people are going to hate this idea, but I’m putting it out there. The Seahawks could trade down, just like Baltimore in 2008, enabling them to add an extra pick or two later on and then draft Osweiler in the #18-25 range just like the Ravens planned with Flacco. It’d be taking a bit of a risk, but this is the situation while ever Seattle’s not picking in the top five to get at the Andrew Luck’s and Matt Barkley’s. Some will say, “why not wait until round two?” My answer is simple - quarterbacks are going to go earlier and earlier these days. Waiting, hoping and praying will not get it done. Osweiler may never reach elite status as a NFL passer, but if he can be Seattle’s Joe Flacco and do enough to make the Seahawks competitive – isn’t that just the ticket?
Brock Osweiler’s performance against Utah (see above) flashed first round talent. Simple as that. His decision to turn pro was greeted with a mixture of surprise, confusion and criticism – yet when you watch a performance like that, you start to appreciate why he made the decision. He was facing the prospect of working with yet another different offensive coordinator and another playbook – and he decided he might as well be learning NFL plays instead. Maybe this was the right choice after all? I’ve documented several key highlights below alongside the time they appear in the tape. The reason I singled out the following plays is simple – they’re all evidence of what you expect to see on a Sunday.
1:23 – An impossibly accurate throw for a touchdown, fitting the ball into the tightest of windows. Overall he has a split second to make that read, set and release to dissect the two defensive backs and complete the pass. An exceptional touchdown made even better considering he had two defensive lineman right in his face as he delivered the pass – his height probably played a big advantage here to see the receiver in the end zone. Just a fantastic play.
4:08- Perfect fade pass into the back of the end zone and a pro-quality delivery that should’ve been caught. Bad execution on the catch from the receiver and should’ve been a score.
4:19 – Bootlegs right to allow for a developing route before delivering a strike to the receiver right on target. The kind of route and execution he’ll need if he’s going to play in Seattle or Washington.
4:27- Osweiler throws a frozen rope down the left sideline that should’ve been caught. I’m tempted to say there was a little too much velocity on the pass, but to a degree that was needed to fit the ball into a tight window. NFL wide receivers should make that play.
4:48 - Flashes unnatural mobility and agility for a 6-8 quarterback by scrambling on 3rd and 7 and coming within inches of a first down. He makes it on a quarterback sneak with the next snap. Great improvisation skills to keep the drive moving and appears to know when to run, he doesn’t seem to bail on passes too early.
5:20 – Further evidence of good decision making on fourth down showing the composure to read the field, decide to run and making the first down with ease.
5:57 - Nice ball placement on a throw deep to the right across the field from the left hash. Put the football in an area for his receiver to make a play in single coverage. Perfect spiral on the football.
6:27- Osweiler adjusts his throwing angle and chucks a sidearm pass to his receiver for a touchdown. Superb improvisation under pressure. Quarterbacks need to make plays on their own in difficult circumstances when things don’t go according to plan, it may be the most underrated aspect of any prospective NFL quarterback.
6:48 – Brilliant scramble for big yardage, again flashing unique running ability despite his size. This is an absolutely sensational run for a guy listed at 6-8 and around 240lbs.
7:13- Osweiler dissects two receivers to make a perfect throw standing in the pocket.
7:36 – Here he makes one read to the left then clearly snaps his head back to go to the secondary target for a first down with another very accurate pass. This. Is. What. We. Want. To. See.
8:10- Possibly the most exciting throw on the tape - a back shoulder pass to the left corner of the end zone perfectly executed for a score. Osweiler gave the cornerback zero chance to make a play and that’s another NFL throw.
There were a few bad decisions as well early in the tape, but mainly on lazy dump offs to the left hand side where he isn’t making a proper read. As soon as you get beyond the 4:08 mark you’re looking at a player on first viewing that looks like a sure-fire first round pick. He’s a completely unique quarterback prospect and you know what? That’s kind of exciting. If you’re taking snaps at 6-8 you expect a real lack of mobility but Osweiler is surprisingly nimble and borderline ‘athletic’. He’s more than capable of avoiding pressure and extending plays. If he needs to get a few yards, he’ll get them on the ground if he doesn’t like the read.
Osweiler also has elite arm strength and can be a tremendously accurate quarterback. There are several throws in that Utah tape that are as good as anything you will see leading into this draft. With Arizona State trialing, Osweiler takes over the game in the second half and wins it. Yes, quarterbacks are capable of doing that. When you see evidence like this, it’s difficult not to get excited about his potential.
And….then you see this…
There’s really no point in breaking down the Boise State tape because we can sum it up in one word – horrific. It’s like watching two completely different players. Which is the real Brock Osweiler? Is it the one picking apart Utah with big plays and extending long drives, or is it the one that gift wrapped a nice gentle Bowl victory for Kellen Moore in his college finale? In fairness, you could argue circumstance played a part. This was a game that ultimately meant more to Boise State and their quarterback, while Arizona State were limping towards the off-season having endured yet another dose of drama behind the scenes. ASU ended the year abysmally and it was well known that changes were afoot long before the end of the season.
Osweiler clearly was contemplating his next move and perhaps this was a game too far against elite opposition? You can make those excuses, but it doesn’t much help in terms of an evaluation. If the going gets tough, will Brock Osweiler fold like a pack of cards? Will he stand up and be counted in a big game? If he was thinking of turning pro, couldn’t he motivate himself for one last blast against a good team to boost his stock?
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle – he’s not quite as prolific as the Utah tape suggests, but not nearly as bad as the Boise State evidence argues. He’s a player with incredible physical potential, but do you take the gamble early to have the chance to work potential into NFL production? And how will teams approach the level of unknown here, considering a quarterback like Osweiler has never graced the game before?
It’s worth noting that Osweiler and ASU were one of only two teams (alongside Andrew Luck and Stanford) to beat USC in 2011. I’ve included the tape of that game below (all three videos were supplied by JMPasq). He’s a player I’m still trying to work out, but there’s perhaps a little more to his game than I originally thought. He’s one to monitor going forward in this process.
Michael Brockers declares for the draft
Last week we included Michael Brockers for the first time in our mock drafts and we put him in the top ten. It made sense that a highly rated defensive tackle prospect like that would take advantage of a rank bad class at the position. Today, LSU’s Brockers announced he will enter the NFL Draft. Despite only being a redshirt sophomore who is still growing into the game, Brockers will be the first player drafted at his position and should be on Seattle’s radar. His arrival should help the Seahawks in one of two ways – either they have a shot at a talented interior lineman who can play the much needed three-technique role, or he’ll be taken in the top ten forcing another potential target down the board. It’d make a lot of sense if Carolina drafted him at #8 or #9 but don’t rule out a fall to the Seahawks. His lack of experience and raw ability may put off some teams and I don’t have to remind anyone that certain GM’s (eg Tim Ruskell) prefer to avoid underclassmen with limited experience. The Seahawks got a steal when they drafted another redshirt sophomore – Earl Thomas – with the #14 pick in 2010. Maybe lightning will strike twice?
Tyler Wilson coming close to a decision?
ESPN’s Joe Schad is reporting that Tyler Wilson is still mulling over a decision on whether to enter the NFL Draft this year. This is a player who most assumed would return to college after just one season as the starter having taken over from Ryan Mallett. However, some fine performances in the SEC are seemingly giving Wilson food for thought. There’s a gap in the market to be the third best quarterback in this class and Wilson could easily be a high pick given the number of teams needing a QB. He’s got a decent arm even if it’s not at Mallett’s elite standards, he’s mobile in the pocket and well coached coming out of Bobby Petrino’s offense. He’ll have a head start on terminology and he’s used to facing complex defenses. The Seahawks really need this quarterback class to keep growing to aid their chances of solving the team’s greatest dilemma.
I’ve gone against my convictions this week. Tony Pauline at Draft Insider.net and SI.com is one of the best in the business at getting the inside edge on what teams are thinking in the draft. Last year he quoted sources claiming Tyron Smith would be a top-ten pick long before people were even including him in their mock drafts. The Dallas Cowboys drafted Smith ninth overall. When Pauline reports on what the teams are thinking, it’s worth taking notice.
Ryan Tannehill isn’t someone I can grade as a first round pick. He was bitterly disappointing during the 2011 season and justifications like a lack of experience were off-set by an ideal environment including high quality pass protection and a cluster of NFL weapons. I’ve not included him in a single projection so far because I didn’t expect him to be drafted in round one. However - despite breaking his foot and pulling out of the Senior Bowl this week - Pauline is today reporting that Tannehill will very likely go in the top-15:
“Why is Tannehill making such a bounce up draft boards in recent weeks? One trusted source told me teams are eating up the quarterbacks upside potential and described it as “the love affair factor”- teams see what Tannehillcan develop into at the next level and can’t stay away. His athleticism, mobility, toughness and decision making all has scouts giddy. With Cam Newton, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder coming off the board so early in the 2011 NFL Draft, teams now feel they have the green light to select someone such as Tannehill earlier than most anticipate. Sources are saying don’t be shocked if the Texas A&M product ends up as a top 15 choice, depending on the injury.” – Tony Pauline
It’d be ignorant to brush aside such a report and for those reasons I have to put him in this week’s mock. The question is, how high does he go? I had a strong suspicion last year that Washington were hoping to draft Jake Locker with the 10th overall pick – so much so, I never budged from that predicition throughout the process. Locker fit like a glove in Mike Shanahan’s offense and it wasn’t surprising that the Redskins traded down – rejecting Blaine Gabbert in the process - after Tennessee chose Locker at #8. Tannehill doesn’t have the same upside as the former Washington quarterback, but he has a very similar skill set. Having come so close to getting their man last year, perhaps Shanahan won’t take any chances in 2012? After all, the relative cost of picking in the top-10 is much less these days so he can afford to roll the dice (at least financially). It wouldn’t necessarily prevent the Redskins from signing a prospective free agent like Peyton Manning. After all, Tennessee quickly signed Matt Hasselbeck to a three-year contract after drafting Locker.
The Cleveland Browns still provide healthy debate at #4. I think there’s a good chance they will look at other options at quarterback rather than draft Robert Griffin III and I have to believe Trent Richardson will be on their radar. We’ll know more depending on what the Browns do in free agency, with Matt Flynn a possible target and maybe even Kevin Kolb if the Cardinals trigger their ‘get-out’ clause after a series of mediocre performances last season. If the Browns do pass on Griffin III, I don’t think it’s a shoe-in that he’d automatically go to Washington. Let’s not forget, many people expected Blaine Gabbert to be the second quarterback drafted last April but he was chosen after Jake Locker. Although the hype for Rg3 is much greater, I still think there’s a very good chance he could fall to Miami at #8 or #9. If the Seahawks want a shot at Griffin, they’re going to have to move up.
For Seattle’s pick this week I’ve returned to Courtney Upshaw. He’s not going to provide that burst of speed in the front seven that Pete Carroll is looking for, but he’ll improve the team’s pass rush. Despite his lack of height, he’s a warrior at the LOS and holds up incredibly well against the run. Seattle could use a lot of different looks, using Upshaw as a power end at times in a front four and in space off the edge on certain calls with the three big bodies in the middle and Clemons at the LEO. They could even try him as a WILL linebacker and certainly he flashed decent mobility against LSU, although coverage skills aren’t a strength. What he could provide is a more balanced attack while helping to build the teams physical style that refuses to concede the run. He’ll be a tone setter, a ring leader and his attitude coincides with the other players already on the team. He might not be the lean, elite edge rusher that usually goes in the top-15 – but there’s every chance he’ll have an impact in the NFL. At the top of this blog post, you’ll find game tape from Upshaw’s performance against LSU in the BCS Championship courtesy of JMPasq.
Note: Yesterday I conducted an interview with Danny Kelly at Field Gulls talking about several quarterback prospects. To see the piece in full, click here.
Updated first round mock draft
|#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
Despite a lot of talk about keeping Manning and drafting Luck, it remains an unlikely proposition. Long term thinking will win out.
|#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 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
Minnesota would love a shot at Kalil. Claiborne is a decent consolation prize to improve their struggling secondary.
|#4 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Richardson has to be a consideration here, but the hype surrounding RG3 is intense and it’ll be tough for Cleveland to justify passing.
|#5 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
Elite talent who will be a star in year one. Tampa Bay get a steal with this pick if Richardson is still on the board.
|#6 Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
A foolish reach but Shanahan wants his guy. If Tannehill really is going to go in the top-15, Washington is the obvious choice.
|#7 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
This is too high for Blackmon in my opinion, but his production will interest teams. The Jaguars need to help Blaine Gabbert.
|#8 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
Miami will pick 8th if they win a coin toss with Carolina. With RG3 off the board, expect Miami to beef up their run game.
|#9 Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
A complete lack of defensive line talent could encourage one or two unexpected players to declare. Brockers is one to watch.
|#10 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
The Bills go into the off-season needing to improve their pass rush and pass protection. Martin would be a wise pick here.
|#11 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
Undersized but a tackling machine. The kind of player Scott Pioli likes to draft for his team.
|#12 Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
If the Seahawks want to improve their pass rush and continue to build a defensive identity, Upshaw could be the pick here.
|#13 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
With the tackles leaving the board early, Arizona will be forced to address their second most important need – an outside rush.
|#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 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
They won’t franchise Vincent Jackson again and need a weapon for Philip Rivers. Jones could be the complete package. Underrated.
|#19 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
The ultimate deep threat. Jay Cutler will get the most out of Wright, who should be able to have a Mike Wallace-type impact.
|#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 Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
Although his stock is falling, someone could take a shot on Burfict. My guess is he’ll end up playing in the AFC North.
|#25 Michael Egnew (TE, Missouri)
He’s very much the modern tight end – a pure pass catcher who will make spectacular plays downfield.
|#26 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.
|#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 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
|#29 Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
Sanu can line up anywhere and Jim Harbaugh will find different ways to get him involved. Another powerful weapon for San Fran.
|#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 Fletcher Cox (DT, 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.
Robert Griffin III, Heisman winner and productive quarterback from Baylor, will today reveal his decision to turn pro. Consensus opinion is that teams will have to move into the top three to draft him, although I remain somewhat sceptical. Nevertheless, if the Seahawks want to get into this party they’ll definitely have to move up, at least in front of the Dolphins. In many ways Griffin represents what the Seahawks have been looking for at the position. He makes very few mistakes, he’s capable of extending plays with his athleticism and running all of the bootlegs, developing routes and play-action’s in the playbook. Griffin’s got the arm to make difficult throws, but crucially he’s savvy enough to make the right calls and be that ‘point guard’ type that Pete Carroll has talked about.
Carroll has also talked quite openly about his desire to add speed to the team’s defensive front while improving the pass rush. All of this flies in the face of the concept of a move up the board to draft a quarterback. The Seahawks currently own six picks, a stark contrast to the nine they spent in both the 2010 and 2011 draft. Trading up would be expensive and given the good work done in the later rounds so far, I suspect they’d like to keep adding depth in key areas. Then you consider the lack of obvious options in round one at defensive tackle, defensive end and the WILL linebacker spot and you come back to a quarterback like Griffin. Maybe this is the year?
That’s a debate that will continue long into April, but today I wanted to consider a situation where RG3 isn’t an option. In that case, they should be looking to target more than one quarterback in this draft. Without doubt the most logical way to find a franchise quarterback is to draft one in the first round. If that isn’t possible for whatever reason, they need to attack the middle and later rounds. Finding a starter beyond round one is like trying to win money on a scratch card. Essentially, you’re very unlikely to win. However – the more cards you buy, the more likely you are to get a return. The only problem is there’s a chance you won’t get anything and then you’ve wasted money chasing something that could’ve been used more wisely. So when it’s all done, is it worth the gamble? That’s where the analogy ends, because it probably isn’t worth it with the scratch cards – but it almost certainly is in the NFL.
Yesterday we identified Chandler Harnish (QB, Northern Illinois) as a player to keep an eye on. In the video at the top of this piece, you can see further tape from his performance against Ball State (courtesy of JMPasq). We’ll be publishing more game-tape on Harnish soon, but my first impression watching him perform against Arkansas State, Toledo and Army was incredibly positive. He has a shot at the next level, no question about it. I’ve also spent considerable time talking up Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss). Below, I’ve included a video highlighting Chattanooga quarterback BJ Coleman (tape courtesy of Aaron Alosysius) – a toolsy quarterback who lacks a lot of technical quality, but has some of the physical qualities the Seahawks are looking for.
By drafting multiple quarterbacks (for example, Harnish and Davies) the two rookies can compete with Josh Portis with the intent to discover if any have the potential to succeed Tarvaris Jackson and become the team’s long term starter. Beyond pre-season you could carry two of the players on the roster, with a third likely to make the practise squad. It’s not like the Seahawks felt obliged to stay loyal to their draft picks – they cut fourth round pick E.J. Wilson during his rookie season. Potentially losing a pick trying to open up a productive quarterback competition seems to be a perfectly acceptable situation.
Of course, you’re not going to completely force the issue. John Schneider and Carroll have done an excellent job identifying starters with their mid-to-late round picks. Are you going to pass on the next prospective Kam Chancellor or Richard Sherman just for the sake of opening up a token QB competition? At the same time, if you’re looking to spend two picks between rounds 3-7 on quarterbacks, you’ve also had the chance to spend your first two picks improving other areas of the team. Considering the blossoming depth on Seattle’s roster, perhaps they can afford to spend stock on the one position that has so far raised the most question marks for this front office?
This plan may prolong the starting career of Tarvaris Jackson for another season, but it’s also, in my mind, a better way of approaching things than throwing money at a ‘flavor of the month’ free agent like Matt Flynn. Let’s not forget that Flynn himself is the product of a similar plan in Green Bay. Despite having Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, the Packers spent a second round pick on Brian Brohm in 2008 before adding Flynn in round seven. No stone was left unturned in planning for the future beyond Favre and in the end it was the later round pick that became a productive back-up for Rodgers.
Rather than tapping into somebody elses work, the Seahawks should do their own. They may not have a future Hall of Fame quarterback and a first round pick already in the stable, but that’s not to say this can’t help identify an eventual starter. If the project fails and they’re essentially left with two busted mid or late round picks – was it not worth the effort?
This isn’t an ideal situation and I do think the Seahawks should explore every opportunity to move up in the draft. In two drafts so far, this front office hasn’t used a single draft pick on a rookie quarterback. They did spend a third rounder on Charlie Whitehurst, alongside a significant drop in round two. Trying other people’s back-ups failed in that particular case, it’s time to take a different approach. If this team isn’t going to make that bold move up the board, they need to look at alternatives. Finding the answer this way might be akin to winning on a scratch card, but if you don’t buy a card in the first place you’ll never be winner.
B.J. Coleman (QB, Chattanooga) vs Nebraska
Thoughts on last night’s BCS Championship
Alabama controlled LSU for four quarters in an anti-climactic finale to the college football season. Both teams have a lot of pro-talent and you have to give credit to the Crimson Tide defensive line, led by nose tackle Josh Chapman, for thoroughly dominating performance. Chapman would be a solid depth pick for the Seahawks to spell the big trio up front. Courtney Upshaw had his usual combative game at defensive. He’s stocky and short and lacks the natural length and edge speed that fits what the Seahawks are looking for, but he’s a warrior. He understands leverage and uses his height as an advantage to get underneath lineman. He’ll become the heart of a defense, he will keep fighting for four quarters. Yet if he’s not going to play permanently in a front four, how does he fit in Seattle? Can he translate to the WILL linebacker position? He’s not a naturally mobile player and will struggle in coverage, so it’s not an obvious fit.
Dre Kirkpatrick again took a lot of plaudits as people gushed over his tackling ability in run support. Nobody will deny that Kirkpatrick is a physical corner who will hit you in the mouth and make great stops in the run game. However, his coverage skills are average at best – John Brantley at Florida targeted him earlier in the season and he struggled. I have some concern that the Seahawks – despite being relatively solid at corner – will consider Kirkpatrick for legitimate depth under the mantra of ‘you can never have too many good cornerbacks’. The big issue I have is I don’t think Kirkpatrick will ever be a good cover corner. The saving grace could be that while he’s a very good open field tackler, he’s quite poor at taking on receivers at the point of attack and struggles to knock them out of rhythm. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are adept at this, so it could put the Seahawks off Kirkpatrick.
I suspect this front office will one day draft a linebacker like Dont’a Hightower, I’m just not sure it’ll be this year. He’s big (6-4, 260lbs), physical and will further help to create the identity that this defense is looking for. Hightower has some limitations – the knock on to his size is a lack of sideline-to-sideline quicks and an inability to shed blocks and get around. Yet he’s superb in run defense and with greater speed in other areas of the front seven that kind of player could be productive in Seattle.
LSU’s defense started brightly but tired (unsurprisingly given they spent most of the game on the field). Michael Brockers (DT, LSU) was a great example of this, getting off to a productive start including a blocked field goal before tiring as his team’s offense lurched from one three-and-out to another. He remains the best available three-technique prospect should he choose to declare and would be a top-12 pick if he turns pro.
Ryan Tannehill injury news
Tony Pauline is today reporting that Ryan Tannehill has picked up “a significant foot injury” in training and will miss the Senior Bowl. This is a blow for a player who needed to use the work-outs to make up for a disappointing senior season. Last year Christian Ponder had a largely mediocre season at Florida State but a decent Senior Bowl launched a positive hype that eventually led to becoming the 12th overall pick. We’ll have to wait and see how serious this injury is and how it could impact Tannehill in the draft. Pauline is also reporting that Ryan Lindley (QB, SDSU) will replace him at the Senior Bowl.
Before Christmas, Kip highlighted quarterback Chandler Harnish as a possible option for the Seahawks in April’s draft. I hadn’t had any access to Northern Illinois game tape, but having read Kip’s review I made sure to watch last night’s GoDaddy.Com Bowl between the Huskies and Arkansas State. It was an impressive performance from the quarterback and left me wanting to learn more. I’ve included game tape above which highlights every snap he took in a victory over Toledo, while I also referred to this video against Army.
There’s an awful lot to like here. Even at the collegiate level his drops backs are crisp and sharp – an underrated feature. It’s not so much the footwork either, which is good, but rather the way he scans the field while stepping back. There were several instances against Arkansas State, Toledo and Army where you can see Harnish looking downfield as he sets, switching from one option to another and making a completion. Although he’s a long way off the kind of technical qualities we see from Matt Barkley, he’s certainly a cut above the majority of college QB’s I’ve watched this year. Take a look at the touchdown pass at 0:50 in the video above. He looks initially to his left but doesn’t like the read, so comes back across to the middle. He rejects that secondary option and comes back to the left, scrambles to extend the play and then draws the defensive back before dumping a perfect pass into the end zone. That’s textbook quarterback play in several ways.
One of the other things that really impresses me about Harnish is the way he hangs in the pocket to the last possible second to deliver a throw. He’s not flustered by pressure at all. Look at 2:19 because it happened three times in the Arkansas State game too. Harnish will know the defensive end is approaching, but he doesn’t bail on the play call. He’s athletic, so he could’ve scrambled and lost the passing window. There’s perhaps an even better example at 4:23 where he takes a huge hit but still finds his receiver in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. It’s a difficult throw into a tight window – a NFL throw. This is almost an unteachable skill for quarterbacks.
His accuracy overall was very good – in the two full games I’ve watched in the last 24 hours I barely saw one throw he’d like to have back. Ball placement is excellent. Unlike a prospect like Ryan Lindley - who has a lot of similar qualities – there weren’t any plays where the quarterback has risked a bad turnover or just failed to execute. He has a low number of turnovers for his career (only five interceptions in the 2011 regular season) and the one pick he had against Arkansas State was all on the receiver who allowed the ball to be taken out of his hands. Look at the play at 5:20 where he steps up into the pocket, has a little pump and hits a receiver despite excellent coverage and three defensive backs in the zone. Again, it’s a NFL throw. The pass to win the game at 6:39 is equally impressive.
Harnish is a fluid and effective runner with the football. He looks a real threat on run-option and while that won’t be a big part of his game at the next level, he has above average running ability for the position and will be able to make first downs and break off gains. Not surprisingly it also translates to an ability to extend plays, run bootlegs and throw effectively on the run on developing routes – all key within the Seahawks offense. A good example of his running ability comes at 4:09 but there are a number of examples in the video above.
He understands touch and knows when to take pace off the throw. Harnish has a decent arm but he doesn’t pass at one speed or rely on arm strength to make difficult throws. You can see at 0:35 his poise on fourth down to take the snap, set and deliver a nice controlled pass for the first down completion. Technically it’s an easy pass, but the circumstances cloud things slightly and he kept his cool in the pocket to deliver the correct throw. I also like the way he throws to the touchline and particularly his work on the inside slant. The play at 1:45 is a good example – nice pop on the pass, good delivery and allows the receiver to make a play.
On the downside, his height concerns me and he’s listed at – and looks - 6-1.5. He currently takes the snap almost in the crouching position and in some of the All-22 replays he’s clearly shorter than the lineman making it difficult to scan the field. Against Arkansas State I saw on more than one occassion a pass that was a little flat where he just didn’t have the angle to throw over the linebacker and one instance almost led to a turnover. At the same time, I haven’t seen a lot of tipped passes and his release point is high rather than a slingy action. But the height is a shame, because it’s really the only major knock and otherwise he’d have legitimate early round potential. This could put teams off, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Although he has decent arm strength, it could be even better if he learns to transfer the weight onto his front foot throwing downfield. You can see at 2:07 how he leans back and delivers the ball off the back-foot and although he makes the completion, he won’t have that kind of window in the NFL. Of course, the receiver was so open he may just have been ‘playing it safe’. At the next level he needs to force that play a little more and step into the throw, getting it out in front of the receiver and giving him a chance to get the ball in stride.
There are also some concerns about the level of competition he’s faced in the MAC because he had a marginal impact against Wisconsin in a 49-7 defeat (14-24 passing, 164 yards and no scores). The tape above highlights his best performance of the season and really to make a proper judgement you’d have to compare it to the Wisconsin game to make a proper judgement. Based on the evidence I’ve seen so far though, he’s a definite sleeper for the Seahawks and could go earlier than a lot of people expect.
Pete Carroll says he wants to improve the team’s pass rush, but the first round isn’t filled with a lot of top-end defensive line options. North Carolina’s Quinton Coples entered the season with a lot of hype but didn’t live up to expectations. He started slowly with just two sacks against James Madison in his first four games and he was a non-factor in the team’s first defeat to Georgia Tech. Coples was subbed in and out regularly, spelling with Donte Paige-Moss and interestingly was kept out of crucial early down’s. Thing’s picked up late in the year and he finished with five sacks in his last seven games. However, it may be too late to save his dwindling draft stock.
Tony Pauline at Draft Insider.net reported, “The news has not been positive for defensive lineman Quinton Coples. Considered by just about all, including yours truly, as the top rated senior entering the 2011 campaign. Coples watched his play and production slide. Its obvious on film Coples did not play with a sense of urgency last season nor really went after plays not in his immediate vicinity. While Coples turned it on late in the year scouts were given the word from those inside the North Carolina program that Coples was “playing not to get injured” for much of the year and was preparing for the draft rather than playing for the season.”
You don’t keep spelling future NFL lineman unless there’s something seriously wrong. Coples was not hurt, he was not tired – that was a coaches decision. Pauline’s report makes absolute sense to anyone who watched North Carolina earlier in the season. Coples looks every bit a pro-prospect physically and when he wants to, he shows off a certain degree of talent. However, how early are you prepared to take the risk that the light stays on once he gets paid? Let’s not forget, this is a player who seemingly risked his eligibility in 2011 after attending a draft part for former Tar Heels Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin (who themselves had already missed the 2010 season). The NCAA investigated after pictures (click here) emerged of Coples at the party, apparently also attended by an alleged runner. He was eventually cleared and it was judged no violation took place. Considering North Carolina’s recent issues, it may have been wise to stay at home.
So here we are, preparing for the 2012 NFL Draft. Having failed to dominate at the defensive end position, some pundits are wondering whether he could have a future inside at tackle. Due to Marvin Austin’s suspension in 2010, North Carolina moved Coples to defensive tackle out of sheer necessity. Rob Rang at CBS Sportsline and NFL Draft Scout recently mocked Coples to Seattle with the idea he could play the three-technique position. So is it an option? In my opinion, no – especially not in Seattle.
Take a look at the tape below (courtesy of Aaron Aloysius) which highlights Coples playing at tackle:
The Seahawks have built a system which is quite niche. We all know by now they use three big lineman (Alan Branch, Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant) with a LEO pass rusher in space attacking the edge. The WILL linebacker is expected to create pressure on the opposite side to Chris Clemons on obvious passing situations and third downs. So far it’s had mixed results, helping to solidify the run for the first half of the 2010 and 2011 season’s, emphasising Clemons’ talents as an edge rusher but generally not creating enough pressure. Seattle ranked 19th for sacks with 33 – eleven of which were from Clemons. Carroll says he wants more speed among his front seven and it’s easy to see why.
However, how does Coples fit into this scheme? You can see in the video above how completely ineffective he is in run defense. He’ll be a consistent liability playing in the middle in the NFL and it makes almost no sense to have an undersized three technique playing alongside Brandon Mebane if you’re going to play Red Bryant at end. If Coples lined up next to Clemons in the three-technique, where would you run the ball? Against Mebane and Bryant, or Coples and 254lbs Chris Clemons? It would negate all of the benefits Seattle has looked for with this system defending the run.
Of course, you could use Coples as a spot-duty pass rusher inside on long distance downs and passing situations – but are you really going to spend the #11 or #12 pick for that? Of course not. I don’t even think Coples is that effective as a pass rusher at three-technique to warrant consideration for a permanent move inside. After all, North Carolina quickly moved him back to the edge for the start of this season. You could ask Coples to add weight (he’s currently at around 280-285lbs) but will you negate what speed he has if you’re asking him to add 10lbs?
His frame and build look ideal to play the orthodox five-technique position in the 3-4, or potentially power end in the 4-3. If the questions weren’t there already about his heart and desire after a sloppy senior season, are you really going to take a gamble on a not-obvious scheme fit who may need to adapt physically to play inside? Is Quinton Coples really what the Seahawks defense has been missing?
There’s no doubt they need to find a three-technique who has the size to play any down but can offer greater interior pressure. Michael Brockers (DT, LSU) still looks like the best first round option if he chooses to declare, but alternatives are limited apart from that. Devon Still (DT, Penn State) had a strong senior campaign, but may be a better fit at five-technique. I don’t think Coples is the answer though and it would be a surprise if the Seahawks drafted him.
Written by Kip Earlywine
Last year, Rob and I made it no secret that we weren’t exactly the world’s biggest fans of TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton wasn’t without his merits, but ultimately I felt that as an athletic quarterback who would play whole games without checking a second read, he wasn’t much different than Charlie Whitehurst. Obviously, many NFL front offices value intangibles more than we do. Even our own front office rated Dalton as their #3 quarterback ahead of guys like Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, and even Cam Newton.
Regardless of what we thought, Andy Dalton was widely considered a 2nd round prospect by NFL GMs. His selection and rookie success rewarded the Bengals for what was probably just a typical stubborn move by owner/GM Mike Brown. Andy Dalton the prospect was never the thinking man’s quarterback, rather, he was the quarterback for someone who just wants a winner and cares little about the details. That said, even if on the surface the over-drafting of Dalton doesn’t appear terribly nuanced, I have to give Brown a lot of credit for thinking it through. The Bengals realized that getting both AJ Greene and Andy Dalton could net a better result than drafting Blaine Gabbert or Jake Locker and pairing him with a nondescript second round receiver.
So what happened? Andy Dalton posted numbers slightly superior to Sam Bradford’s offensive rookie of the year season and his team won 9 games (and a playoff berth) while playing in the same division as the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. He did that on a team that finished 4-12 the year before with Carson Palmer at quarterback, and who lost their best defensive player (Johnathan Joseph) in free agency. Andy Dalton still has long odds of ever being an All-pro quarterback. But given the full context, it could easily be argued that he had one of the five most impressive quarterback debuts in NFL history.
I just finished watching Dalton in a losing effort against the Texans. While it would be easy to pick on a guy after a 31-10 loss, Dalton impressed me today. He went on the road against arguably the toughest pass defense in the NFL. The Texans were on the inside track for home field advantage throughout the playoffs before Matt Schaub went down, and both the fans and players were energized for the first playoff game in the franchise’s history. Dalton didn’t have a particularly great performance, but I saw a lot of technical improvements over his TCU days- he actually did check beyond his first read this time. To put it in very simple terms, Dalton actually looked like a real NFL quarterback. I may not agree with the draft pick spent on Dalton, but it appears that Mike Brown somehow won this one, just like he somehow won the Carson Palmer fiasco despite playing his hand completely wrong. Hey it happens.
But it never would have worked out if not for the Bengals securing AJ Greene first.
Enter the 2012 draft. Andrew Luck is unofficially officially the #1 pick. After that, you have a couple teams that would consider investing in a quarterback, but aren’t exactly “ready” for a quarterback either. Barring a surprise entry such as Tyler Wilson, Robert Griffin pretty much stands alone as the only legit first round quarterback from the second pick onward. The new car smell on Griffin’s Heisman trophy coupled with Matt Barkley’s conspicuous absence has vaulted Griffin into lofty draft territory by an overzealous media. Griffin could absolutely go top five, but a mini-fall should not be unexpected either. Like Jake Locker, he has sublime potential, but a laundry list of things to nitpick him on. It could be argued that Griffin’s timing is better than Locker’s, and as a result those flaws might be less examined or less emphasized. But like all top 10 range quarterbacks, Griffin will be put under a microscope and mountains will be made of mole hills, which could be a problem for Griffin as his resume has a bit of a mole infestation going on.
Long story short, there are two teams (Cleveland and Washington) who are in a remarkably similar situation to the Bengals last year. Might they view Dalton’s success as a roadmap?
In the 2011 draft, the Bengals picked 4th overall and had access to the #2 quarterback on the board at that point, but lacked weapons to accommodate a drafted quarterback. In 2012, the Cleveland Browns will also pick 4th, have access (presumably) to the #2 quarterback on the board and lack weapons to accommodate that pick. As much as I kick myself for not hyping up Greg Little (who I thought the world of last April), Little isn’t yet a true #1 receiver and Cleveland’s offense in general is pretty barren outside of the offensive line.
The Redskins will pick sixth and are in a similar situation. They have a semi-promising young running back in Roy Helu and a productive tight end in Fred Davis, but their leading receiver last year was 31 year old Jabar Gaffney. Roy Helu- a running back mind you- started all of five games and finished 3rd on the team in receptions, ahead of all but Gaffney among the team’s wide receivers. While its clear that quarterback is the top need in Washington, wide receiver is not far behind.
The early second round of the 2012 draft will likely feature both Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiller, who are at least on par with Andy Dalton as prospects, even if they missed the crazy hype train. The early first round will have no shortage of hyped wide receivers, with Justin Blackmon leading the pack. He may not be AJ Greene, but in terms of hype, he’s not terribly far off. Its possible that Dwight Jones could enter the discussion as well.
Some may question the wisdom of passing on Griffin for any reason, but for a pair of former hotshot west coast offense gurus entering a critical put up or shut up year, the Andy Dalton path to quick success has a lot of appeal. Drafting Griffin, starting him right away, and denying him the kind of weapons he enjoyed at Baylor is a faulty short term strategy. And unfortunately for both Holmgren and Shanahan, short term thinking probably has more value to them at this point.
Now I am not saying that I expect Cleveland or Washington to pass on Griffin, but I do think that teams could look at the Dalton formula and believe it could work for them as well. And while I doubt that Griffin would ever reach the 11th or 12th pick, every pick that he falls is good news for the Seahawks should they be interested in his services.
Bruce Irvin really intrigued me coming into the 2011 season. He’s a JUCO transfer who played spot-duty on third downs last year, but recorded 14 sacks and flashed elite potential as a pass rusher. He had the speed, the repertoire and the balance to be a legitimate pro-prospect. Taking on a new expanded role as a senior, expectations were high that Irvin could develop into an every down player.
For some reason, West Virginia’s coaches tried to fit him into a three man front – putting blockers in his way and not making the most of Irvin’s speed. He recorded one sack in his first five games, before going back to limited snaps and being mainly used on third down. He ended the season strongly with six sacks in the last five games.
Irvin is probably always going to be a specialist. He needs to play in space off the edge, he’s going to need lineman who take blocks so he can exploit 1-vs-1 match-ups outside. He’s going to struggle against the run playing at 245lbs so he’s often not going to be able to play in a four-man front on early downs. However, for a team like Seattle that’s looking for more pass rush and greater speed in its front seven – he could help. Even if Irvin only plays obvious passing downs, he will create problems off the edge. At the moment the Seahawks play three big bodied lineman alongside Chris Clemons and spell in Raheem Brock. Irvin could play the Brock-role while offering a greater impact with his fluid pass-rushing ability.
If Seattle is prepared to consider more 3-4 looks on defense, they could try and coach in some coverage skills to get the maximum out of Irvin and turn him into more of a regular feature. However, he’s the kind of player who’s always at his best without responsibility. You really want to say, “go get the quarterback.” Nothing more, nothing less. People will cringe at spending a high pick on a player who doesn’t feature in most of the defensive snaps every week, but if it helps the Seahawks get off the field on third down – would you really be averse to drafting the guy in round two or three? At the end of a season, ten sacks is ten sacks - right?
Game tape supplied to Seahawks Draft Blog by JMPasq
Pete Carroll spoke openly about his desire to improve the team’s pass rush this week, while also adding more speed to the front seven. He didn’t speak with quite as much urgency about the quarterback position. That’s not to say the Seahawks will ignore it (let’s hope not) but Carroll has been open and honest about his draft plans in the past and I’m not expecting anything different this time round. The big issue appears to be simply a lack of options. Matt Barkley has returned to USC, leaving just Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as the two likely options early in round one. A lot of people have touted Ryan Tannehill as an option, but I just can’t grade him that early. Landry Jones, who has decided to return to Oklahoma, would almost certainly not have been an option for the Seahawks (or anyone else in the first round).
Kip looked at some potential later round QB’s last month (here and here), while I highlighted Ryan Lindley and Brandon Weeden game tape. Today I’m going to feature tape from five different quarterbacks, one of which currently plays in the NFL.
Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
Wilson is reported to be researching his options and has requested feedback from the draft committee. It’s not surprising that he’s testing the water, given the lack of top end quarterback options in round one. While he’s a mobile and accurate passer with a lot of the technical qualities you expect from a player working underneath Bobby Petrino, he’s not a physically brilliant quarterback who will wow scouts in work-outs. He’s more developed than a lot of college quarterbacks in terms of needing to make reads, going through progressions and attempting a range of different passes. He’s not quite as sharp as Ryan Mallett from the pre-snap standpoint, but quarterbacks working under Petrino will always have a slight edge with the terminology and expectations of the next level. Seattle’s front office wants a point guard who can control the clock and make the most of their playmakers – and Wilson could easily fill that void. Is he special enough to warrant the #11 or #12 pick though if he declares?
Tape vs Auburn (2010) – JMPasq
Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
I’ve written a lot on this blog about Tannehill and I just do not see a first round level talent. Yes – he has a lot of the athletic qualities you want for a potential franchise quarterback. He’s at his most comfortable getting out of the pocket and throwing on the run, similar to Jake Locker. However, Locker had better mechanics and a great knack for making plays. It’s also important to remember Tannehill was sacked less than any other quarterback in the NCAA this season except notoriously untroubled Kellen Moore. Taking that into consideration, there’s very little excuse for some of the mistakes he made during the season. His side-arm throwing motion led to a lot of tipped passes, he made several bad decisions and he just doesn’t look like a natural for the position. His awareness in the pocket is weak and he’ll regularly linger on a target, before panicking and forcing a throw to another receiver. He’s had interceptions this season where he’s been staring right at a target and knows full well the defensive back has leverage, only to throw the pass anyway. I don’t accept a lack of playing time as an excuse, because this is all we have to work with. You don’t take gambles on players making giant steps forward on a technical level, because the risk is too severe.
Tape vs Northwestern (2012) – JMPasq
Matt Flynn (QB, Green Bay)
Here’s the most recent ‘flavor of the month’ at quarterback. Flynn set records for his display against Detroit in week 17, helping the Packers to a shoot-out victory over the Lions. The entire NFL fraternity now assumes he’ll get a major contract in free agency and be immediately snapped up Washington, Cleveland, Miami or Seattle. When I watch the tape from last week, I see the same player that warranted a 7th round pick in the 2008 draft despite leading LSU to the BCS Championship. Flynn was always a neat and tidy football player, who put the ball in the right areas but lacked any kind of physical quality. He hasn’t got a strong arm, he struggles to move around in the pocket and extend plays. In order to throw the ball downfield, he needs to exert so much back-lift and almost jumps into the throw. Green Bay’s offense is a well oiled machine, with or without Greg Jennings. Flynn deserves credit for getting to grips with it and providing solid cover for the NFL’s best quarterback. Yet as Pete Carroll referred to him this week, he’s “the backup”. It’s an unpopular opinion to have at the moment, but I don’t expect a scramble of activity to sign Flynn in free agency. It is quite possible to just be a good back-up. In fact, when all is said and done I think there’s a pretty good chance he re-signs with Green Bay on a modest deal to continue as Aaron Rodgers’ understudy.
Tape vs Detroit (2012) – Aaron Aloysius
Brock Osweiler (QB, Arizona State)
Osweiler today revealed his intentions to declare for the 2012 draft. He’s a lean quarterback who’s been measured in the 6-7/6-8 range. The 240lbs weight listed appears ambitious and he could do with adding some bulk before attempting a career in the NFL. However, he moves well for a big guy and has no trouble extending plays or running for first downs. Osweiler’s greatest strength is his arm and he’s quite capable of elite velocity on long and medium range throws. The coaching staff at ASU may actually have downplayed his talents by not using the deep ball more in 2011. He has a side-arm throwing motion which is less of an issue given his height, but it’s still not ideal given the release angle on some throws. Like Tyler Wilson, he only has one year’s experience as a starter and that will concern teams in an age where Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Robert Griffin III have all had multiple seasons in the same offense. Osweiler has some potential though and don’t be surprised if he makes a late surge up the boards. He has the arm and the mobility that teams are looking for these days and he could go higher than you expect.
Tape vs USC (2011) – JMPasq
Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
Dana Holgorsen knows how to create a pulsating passing offense and 2011 was no different in his first year at West Virginia. Geno Smith passed for 4379 yards – a significant improvement on the 2763 he managed the previous season. A 401-yard, six-touchdown performance in the Mountaineers 70-33 Orange Bowl victory was a fitting end to the year for a quarterback who took major strides forward. However, Smith is far from the finished article. His deep ball is inconsistent and he needs to improve his arm strength. He made probably my favorite pass of the season against LSU, flashing perfect accuracy and touch. This was mixed in with a lot of mental mistakes too and games where he struggled (for example, in defeat to Syracuse). Smith has potential if he continues to develop and another year at West Virginia would be just the tonic. Yet with so few exciting quarterback options, he may feel this is a good time to declare and ‘strike while the iron’s hot’. He’s unlikely to be a first round prospect in 2012, but he could easily find a home in rounds 2-3 if a team buys into the potential. There’s nothing to say he will declare, but with nine days to go until the deadline – anything can happen.
Tape vs LSU (2011) – JMPasq