Archive for February, 2012

BJ Coleman (QB, Chattanooga) tape review

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

BJ Coleman could be a late round option for Seattle

On January 11th I wrote an article for Field Gulls discussing quarterbacks available in this class, and touched on a little known prospect from Chattanooga: “If we’re talking darkhorses, B.J. Coleman is a former Tennessee transfer who has put up impressive numbers for the Mocs and has a lot of the physical tools Seattle likes. Big arm, mobile, makes difficult plays downfield. He’s very raw and more of an UDFA project, but he’s worth bringing to a camp.”

Ten days later he performed well enough at the East-West Shrine game to move beyond UDFA consideration and he could easily be drafted in April. He performed well for scouts during workouts in St. Petersburg and during the game completed 10/15 passing for 170 yards and a touchdown. He measured at 6-3 and 234lbs in Florida and has been invited to the scouting combine which starts this week. Coleman looks the part as a prototypical modern day quarterback – he’s big yet mobile, has an arm strong enough to make downfield throws and reports say he commanded the huddle and impressed onlookers at the Shrine game with his leadership.

So what do we know about the guy? He was a top-20 recruit coming out of high school but struggled for playing time at Tennessee with Jonathan Crompton acting as the starter. Coleman decided to transfer as a red-shirt sophomore when Crompton received all-first time reps in the Spring 2009 ‘Orange and White’ game. “It’s the best move for me. What changed my mind is, after this spring, I don’t see myself getting a fair shake. Based on conversations with coaches and things that happened this spring, I feel the staff has goals that do not include me. I didn’t just quit. I didn’t just walk out. But I’m going to be taking a huge risk of losing another year of eligibility if I stay. I just want to play ball.”

Coleman was criticised in some quarters for the decision, with the Tennessean’s David Cliner suggesting he’d put ego before the team – that Coleman had an inflated view of himself, his abilities and his importance. Lane Kiffin – who has coached a few quarterbacks in his career – clearly didn’t believe Coleman was good enough to start in the SEC at a time when the player believed he was ready. We also have to factor in that his father played football at UTC for four years alongside the current Head Coach and there are obvious links between the family and the school. Rather than waste time backing up Crompton, there’s something to be said for moving on and just playing some football. Let’s look at his time at Chattanooga and move on to the tape.

His senior year at Chattanooga wasn’t his best. He missed time with a shoulder injury – only featuring seven times – and managed a 9/9 touchdown/interception ratio passing for 1527 yards. Compared to his previous two years at UTC, this was a disappointment. In 2010 he went 26/13 for 2996 yards in 11 games and he had similar numbers in 2009. He did manage to improve his completion percentage to 60.9% as a senior, up from an average of 56% in his first two years – but this may have been impacted by less playing time. For a run down of his statistics from 2011, click here.

Mel Kiper says he could be a 5th or 6th round pick, and I think that’s a fair range for Coleman. Kiper: “He’s got the arm, and he’s got the size. You look at him at 6-3 and change and at 235 pounds, and you look at what he was able to do during his career at Chattanooga. I thought he ran a little hot and cold and had an accuracy issue here and there, but the long-range possibilities are evident.”

An obvious comparison can be made to John Skelton – a former 5th round pick out of Fordham who also boosted his stock during the Shrine Game in 2010. He had the size (6-5, 243bs) and the arm and has since started (and won) games for the Arizona Cardinals. Coleman hasn’t quite got the same downfield tools or accuracy, but he’s a little more mobile.

I’ve added two videos below. The first is every pass he attempted at the Shrine game, the second a performance against Nebraska.

Here’s what I like. At the 0:31 mark of the Shrine video, he shows a nice crisp drop back, good anticipation and delivery. He rejects the first read, there’s a good fake. That’s a quarterback responding to a week of coaching and showing he can learn quickly because there was no previous evidence of progression in college. I liked his three-step drop and throw in Florida, it was an improvement on the Chattanooga tape. At 1:38 he shows good awareness to put air on the ball and fit the pass into a really tight window. That’s a dangerous throw that usually you wouldn’t want to see your quarterback make, but he puts it in exactly the right area for the tight end to make a play. The throw at 3:52 is very difficult to execute and should’ve been caught, but it shows he can fit passes into tight window’s and isn’t scared to try and make plays in coverage.

In the Nebraska tape he makes a good throw to a soft spot at 0:49 but that’s a pass that should be defended. He stares down his target all the way and still has enough of a gap in between two defenders to make the play. He consistently stood tall against heavy pressure, stepping into passes and delivery with the necessary velocity to the target. His deep ball flutters sometimes and needs to be crisper. When he sees separation he can’t be conservative and try to place it too much (he is guilty of this sometimes). Coleman will consistently face difficult throwing positions at the next level, so when he gets a shot he needs to let fly with a little more punch. He’s shown on other throws his willingness to fit passes in there, so when offered an easier target I’d like to see him attack those plays a little more. On the touchdown vs Nebraska at 5:29 he takes advantage of a slip by a defensive back and executes better.

He’s good on timing passes especially on crossing patterns over the middle. These are high percentage plays, but even against a tough defense like Nebraska that outclasses his offense at the LOS and in the secondary, he didn’t panic. His accuracy is inconsistent, often just missing the target and he could do with becoming a little sharper across the board even on short range slants and touch passes into the second level. Yet the biggest problem Coleman has – unsurprisingly – is the inability to make great progressions. It’s a common issue for non-elite college quarterbacks, but it’s something Coleman particularly has to work on. Too many times he throws the play call even if it’s not on. He almost never rejects an option to move to a secondary read, he’ll linger on the primary receiver and try to throw him open rather than move on. He stares down targets, he gives away his intention too early. It’s the biggest step so many quarterbacks have to make in the NFL and Coleman is no different. It was good to see some degree of improvement in the Shrine game after some pro-level coaching.

One thing that stands out in the second video is just how good Jared Crick (DT, Nebraska) can be on his day. He’s almost the forgotten man of the 2012 draft due to a torn pectoral injury that ended his senior season prematurely. Crick should still be a second round pick this April. As for Coleman – I think if he performs well at the combine he has a shot to go in the 5th or 6th round. The Seahawks are likely to acquire a quarterback in the round 4-6 range and I wouldn’t be surprised if Coleman is on their radar.

The power of patience and inclusive thinking

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Doug Baldwin's success was improbable, but it wasn't an accident.

Written by Kip Earlywine

Back in the early to mid 90s, I was a young, displaced Seahawks fan growing up in Arizona.  I’d be lucky to see three Seahawks games in any given season, especially since the Seahawks were consistently lousy back then.  While my access to the Seahawks was limited, my access to the NFL draft was no less restricted than anywhere else.  Because of that, the draft took on a pretty big level of importance in my sports-fan life from a young age.

Of course, this being the early to mid 90s, the internet wasn’t really around yet, especially in the small, isolated town I grew up in.  I didn’t watch a ton of college football, either.  Despite the fact that I enjoyed the draft so much, I’d go into it every year a completely blank slate.  As a result, I pretty much hung on every word megastar draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said, and “Mel Kiper’s best available” turned every pick into a developing news story. Being uninformed only deepened my desire to see Mel Kiper’s hyped players slide to Seattle’s picks in each round.  Kiper brought a lot of positive energy with his analysis and it was easy to buy into the hype he was selling.  His coverage made it feel like every pick impacted the Seahawks, even picks by other teams.  It was especially excruciating when Kiper’s best available fit Seattle’s biggest needs.  I was entranced and unquestioning.

Don’t get me wrong, I like and admire Mel Kiper, and I hope that some day he’s in the NFL Hall of Fame as an analyst.  His big hair and bigger personality helped make the NFL draft a national spectacle.  Given how miserable the Seahawks were for the first decade of my fandom, I may not be a Seahawk fan today without all those fun NFL draft seasons he covered.  But that said, by relying so much on Kiper’s lists, I fell into a trap, like millions of other fans.  I’d see a player on Kiper’s best available list twenty picks away from Seattle’s next selection, and root for him to slide.  I’d become completely focused on that one guy, celebrating each pick that he wasn’t selected.  I’d celebrate like crazy if Seattle actually got the player (which almost never happened), and be royally pissed off if that player reached Seattle’s pick and they passed on him (which happened a lot).  It was as if the other 500-1000 draftable players didn’t even matter.  They weren’t on Kiper’s list, so they must be nobodies.  “That” guy on Kiper’s list, the one that’s been his BPA for 20 picks now, he’s almost to us!  Cross your fingers!

I didn’t realize it then, but I know now that building a Superbowl team is about more than drafting Mel Kiper’s top players.  I’m sure most of you have long realized that as well.  But it wasn’t until last night that I realized the reason why this is true.

It occurred to me while I was stumbling through Dan Kadar’s draft site:  Mocking the Draft.  I was reading this six round mock draft someone had posted a couple days back.  I had some time to kill and I was bored, so I looked at each Seahawks pick in this mock draft and replaced his picks with players I would have considered for the Seahawks (my personal choices, as well as my best guesses for the FO’s, are at the bottom of their comments section, if anyone is curious).

While doing the exercise I had a bit of an epiphany moment.  Among players Rob and I have highlighted here at Seahawks Draft Blog, only Quinton Coples had left the board before our first pick (Seattle was picking 12th).  Doug Martin and Ryan Tannehill were there in the 2nd.  Derek Wolfe, Sean Spence, and Chris Polk where there in the 3rd.  Kirk Cousins and Brock Osweiler very nearly reached our 4th round pick.  I went into this exercise with a very large list of players, and as a result, there were consistently multiple good options at every pick.

I’m just an ordinary fan with limited knowledge and resources.  My bright ideas dry up around the 4th or 5th round.  Imagine viewing the draft from the front office’s point of view.  Not only is their base of knowledge of prospects several times larger than our own, they also have inside knowledge into the Pac-12 thanks to Pete Carroll.  That inside knowledge allowed Seattle to get a franchise corner with a 5th round pick last year and a budding star receiver in undrafted free agency.  At every pick through the first four rounds, I actually struggled to choose just one player.  For this front office, they must feel that way too, but where my options die off around the 5th round, they probably have an abundance of options all the way to the end, and even into undrafted free agency.  Suddenly it makes a lot of sense why there was so much urgency in John Schneider’s voice regarding undrafted free agency last year.

Rob has written a couple of articles now highlighting John Schneider’s philosophy of “not panicking” for a quarterback. Today I realized that this isn’t the whole story.  John Schneider doesn’t just fail to panic for quarterbacks.  He fails to panic for every other position too.

In Schneider’s first two years, not once has Seattle traded up for a player.  Trading up has been rare for Schneider’s mentor in Green Bay as well.  This isn’t to say that trading up is stupid.  Seattle’s draft history is full of trade ups that produced excellent results (off the top of my head: Walter Jones, Lofa Tatupu, John Carlson, Max Unger).  However, by having such a broad list of options, trading up becomes a luxury instead of a necessity, since you almost never find yourself having to get “that” guy.  If that player you covet doesn’t reach your pick, there are still many other great options to consider.  Moving up to ensure getting a great player is fine, but doing so comes with a cost.  By taking a broad brush approach, the Seahawks have gotten comparable talent without having to pay anything extra.

And to me, that highlights the real reason why the Seahawks fell apart under Tim Ruskell’s drafting and have thrived under John Schneider.  Schneider is one of, if not the hardest working GMs in the NFL.  If there is talent to be found, he will find it.  BCS schools, non-BCS schools, FCS schools, Division II schools… CFL… out of football for a couple years… he doesn’t care.  Eagle scout, model citizen, leader, loner, donut thief, toker, stealing credit cards, walking out on bar tabs… he doesn’t care.  The only thing he cares about is if you have talent and if you have a place on this team to play.

Contrast that with Tim Ruskell, who screened out character concern players, non-BCS college players, and preferred four year starters.  Tim Ruskell believed that his process would work because it would remove players who were bad bets, but he didn’t seem to appreciate the value in having a large pool of players to choose from.  More than anything else, that is why the Seahawks talent grew thinner and thinner with each successive year during his regime, while the opposite is occurring for John Schneider.  Just look at the draft record of both regimes from the 4th round on.  In just two years, John Schneider already has more mid-to-late round success stories than Tim Ruskell had in five years.  In other words, the more options you have, the more talent you’ll ultimately end up with.  Especially later on when the pickings are slim.

~

Seattle will not likely draft a quarterback early in 2012.  I know plenty of reasonable people who freak out at this concept.  After all, Seattle really should have drafted their quarterback 3-5 years ago, so waiting yet another year feels inexcusable. However, I’m no longer terribly worried about it.  I’ll tell you why.

It may have quietly passed by everyone else, but in Claire Farnsworth’s interview that Rob linked yesterday, there was one quote by John Schneider that shot off the page.  I found it incredibly revealing:

“[Not making a big move for a QB] may disappoint fans, because they want to see an instant guy and have that instant success,” Schneider said. “But really, you’re better off continuing to build your team. Initially when I got here, I thought we were going to plug the quarterback in and we were going built around him.

You catch that?  When John Schneider first came to Seattle two years ago, his initial intention was to grab a quarterback right away.  It was around this time two years ago that Pete Carroll gushed about Sam Bradford, much in the same way that he (allegedly) gushed about Courtney Upshaw in a random pickup basketball game.  Not long after that, it became clear that the Rams had locked in on drafting Bradford, and Seattle never had a chance.  Seattle’s best QB options in that draft were Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow.  The Seahawks passed, and were wise to do so.

Andy Dalton was very successful by rookie standards.  But even if he goes on to have a great career- and he probably won’t- that won’t change the fact that drafting Dalton at #25 last year would have been a dangerous and ill-informed decision.  Colin Kaepernick was the only other serious option at that point, and he would have been a reach pick and a long term project quarterback.  Seattle would ultimately get Josh Portis in undrafted free agency, and for the long term project quarterback role, Seattle is not much worse off despite spending their 1st elsewhere.

Its now clear to me that Schneider’s decision to avoid the quarterback position in 2010 and 2011 had nothing to do with the team not being ready, nor was it because he thought quarterback was unimportant.  It was because any quarterback he could have realistically drafted in those drafts would have been a mistake pick.  Drafting Clausen, Tebow, Kaepernick, or Dalton… drafting any of them would have been like a repeat of the Whitehurst trade, except we’d be giving up a 1st rounder instead.  Does anyone really think that’s a good idea?  Personally, I respect the fact that John Schneider isn’t willing to do something stupid just for appearance’s sake.

Rob and I have made one thing pretty clear while covering the draft over the last several months: this was going to be a three quarterback draft.  Then Matt Barkley went back to USC.  Luck remained a #1 overall lock and is going to a team that won’t trade the pick.  Its looking likely that Robert Griffin will be traded at #2 overall, and the selling team hates the Seahawks more than any other team in the sport.  In other words, getting the kind of quarterback we all want this year is all but impossible.  The best quarterback we can draft at #11/#12 this year (Tannehill) is an awful lot like the best quarterback we could draft last year at #25 (Kaepernick).

If you want to blame something, don’t blame this front office.  Blame people like us for helping to overhype the crap out of Robert Griffin.  I know.  It sucks.  It’s like we’re at the final table in a Texas Hold’em Tournament, and we’re a winning hand from the championship, but the dealer just keeps giving us one crummy hand after another.  That doesn’t mean you should go all in when the dealer keeps giving you two-seven off suit over and over.

John Schneider has taken a “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” approach to these situations.  He used the lack of quarterback opportunity in 2010 and 2011 to focus instead on the offensive line and secondary.  I’d say that’s worked out pretty well.  This year, he’s going to spend his energy on the pass rush and running game.  He’s not avoiding the elephant in the room.  He knows perfectly well how badly this team needs a quarterback of the future.  The only thing he’s waiting for is a wide open shot.

Just remember that John Schneider is a master of keeping his options open.  From that philosophy we’ve already seen so many good things happen to this team.  When Seattle had won five out of six games and looked like one of the more physically dominant teams in football last year, did anyone really care that they passed on Kaepernick?  Even Andy Dalton, in a performance that I don’t think he’ll sustain, had a QB rating only two points higher than T-Jack’s last year.

With the inclusive system of talent evaluation John Schneider uses, the Seahawks will always come out draft winners, even when it feels like the universe is conspiring to keep franchise quarterback’s out of this city.  Eventually, John Schneider will get his guy at quarterback.  And in the meantime, he’s going to do the best he can with the hand he’s dealt.  He’s not going to get tunnel vision the way that I did as a young fan watching Mel Kiper, or the way Tim Ruskell did when his short list of screened out players reached a trickle.  And maybe its just me, but I’m thankful for that.  Even if the journey itself is a little frustrating at times.  We all know where this franchise is going and its a very good place.  And the reason we are heading in that direction is precisely because John Schneider has shown patience and inclusive thinking in his process.  I think we’d all be a little smarter (and a bit more sane) if we all did the same.

Seattle’s John Schneider won’t panic. Will you?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

John Schneider won't panic. Recent comments suggest he doesn't want you to either.

John Schneider doesn’t conduct a lot of interviews. Every now and again he’ll join Pete Carroll for a press conference, but mostly he stays in the background. It’s perhaps telling that in the last two weeks he’s spoken twice with one clear message: “We won’t panic at quarterback.”  

Schneider initially spoke to Chris Egan at KING-5, an interview you can see for yourself by clicking here. He was pretty firm about Seattle’s situation at quarterback, that the team wouldn’t make any drastic moves to solve the greatest question mark on the roster. It’s perhaps not a surprising position given the team’s draft position this year. When I put the KING-5 interview on the blog on February 5th, I also wrote: “If you’re a Seahawks fan pinning your hopes on this situation being resolved during the 2012 draft, it’s time to start preparing yourself for that not happening.” That’s as true today as it ws twelve days ago.  

Now Seattle’s GM has conducted a similar interview with Clare Farnsworth for Seahawks.com. It’s almost identical, reaffirming the message the Seahawks want to make to their fans.  

Schneider: “I just know if you panic at the position, it can set the organization back. So we’re not going to do that. That may disappoint fans, because they want to see an instant guy and have that instant success. But really, you’re better off continuing to build your team. Initially when I got here, I thought we were going to plug the quarterback in and we were going built around him. If we had done that, we would have panicked in a way. And I’m not sure we would have been able to host the Saints (in the 2010 wild-card playoff game) and had that great atmosphere and all that.”  

I sense the Seahawks are trying to prepare people for what may be perceived at the time as disappointment. Despite the various mock drafts doing the rounds at the moment projecting Ryan Tannehill to Seattle, it’s not going to happen. I’ve seen mocks promoting the Seahawks as a candidate to move up to draft Robert Griffin III, but it’s not going to happen. Get used to the idea of this team not solving the quarterback position because as with  Schneider and Pete Carroll’s previous two drafts in Seattle, they have little choice but to take their lumps.  

In 2010, the team had two first round picks yet no logical quarterback option with either. Last year, four quarterbacks were off the board before Seattle even picked at #25. People mention Andy Dalton, but I firmly believe it’ll be proven over time that they were right not to draft him as their long-term quarterback hope.  

The situation has lent itself to criticism from some, but whatever anyone says – you do need effective quarterback play to win consitently in this league. In 2011 the Seahawks didn’t re-sign Matt Hasselbeck after he received an incredible deal from Tennessee and went with a player insted who was at least familiar with the team’s new offensive coordinator and new #1 receiver. Tarvaris Jackson was likely never perceived as the man for tomorrow, rather just the man for today. I still put this in the category of making the best of a bad situation.  

Schneider: “We’re going to try different things at the position all the time, but we’re never going to get ourselves in a situation where we just completely panic.”  

There’s that word again. ‘Panic’. I look at the use of this particular word in two different ways. Firstly, not panicking means not making a bad move. In my opinion, chasing the situation will only compound the situation. The Seahawks don’t currently have a long-term answer at quarterback unless Josh Portis ends up being an unlikely one-in-a-thousand UDFA starter at the position. If you grade a player in round two or three, reaching to draft that prospect in round one would be a classic panic move. A lot of Seahawks fans want the team to draft Kirk Cousins in round two, but there’s every chance he will only carry a R3-4 grade and therefore that too would be constituted as a panic move.  

Making a bad commitment to a player is just as bad as not committing at all. Carroll and Schneider have had a lot of success building their roster up and that will all be for nothing if they make a crucial error at quarterback.  

Then there’s the other side of the story – letting a desire to ‘not panic’ drift into complacency. Hoping the perfect quarterback will fall into the team’s lap is beyond wishful thinking. People refer to the way Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers, but the Packers had the luxury of having a future hall-of-famer as the occupant starter. The Seahawks surely don’t believe they’ll be able to coast along for years using re-treads at quarterback waiting for the glorious day to arrive when a generational quarterback just happens to appear on the scene? That’s a sure-fire way to waste a lot of talent at other positions.  

If this team doesn’t intend to endure a 2-14 season like the Colts, they’re never going to be in position to draft a guy like Andrew Luck. This is such a quarterback-centric league now that we’re going to see more and more QB’s drafted early. Not panicking is one thing, but letting a glorious opportunity pass you by is another. Eventually this franchise will have to make a bold move to trade up the board and get ‘their guy’.  

A lot of fans think the team is ready to make the big splash now – go after the quarterback and this team will be ready to compete. I more than anyone during my four years writing this blog have insisted the team must solve this issue or face the consequences of not being a consistent challenger. However, I do also sympathise with the team’s current stance.  

For starters, trading for Luck or Griffin III will not be possible. Indianapolis won’t trade the rights to Luck having made such a meal of the Peyton Manning situation. They are committed to moving on and there’s no going back now. Luck will be a Colt, whatever anyone offers. I understand there are front offices in the league that believe Robert Griffin III will be drafted in the top three picks – either because a team (Cleveland or Washington) trades with St. Louis, or because Minnesota drafts RGIII with their pick. In my latest mock, I had the Browns trading their two first round picks this year to get the Baylor quarterback, a trade which would make a lot of sense for both parties.  

The second tier options – Ryan Tannehill etc – are not worth the #11 or #12 pick. I am a big fan of Brock Osweiler, but believe that he’s likely to be available with Seattle’s second pick if not later. The Seahawks are determined to improve their pass rush and with players such as Courtney Upshaw, Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram potentially available in round one – they will address this key need in 2012. If Trent Richardson is available, he also comes into play as one of the elite players in this class.  

I understand there’s a distinct possibility the Seahawks won’t address the quarterback position until rounds 4-6 this year. We’ll see what happens in April, but the message Schneider is putting out there appears to be preparing fans for what many would be perceive to be ‘bad news’. It’s almost a plea for calm, to understand their position and that a plan is in place. The Seahawks don’t want to panic about quarterbacks, and they don’t want you to panic either.

In 12 months time – with a thriving defense including a much improved pass rush, a developing offensive line including a growing running game and more depth across the board – nobody will argue about the team making their splash at quarterback. I think that will be the time Seattle goes big at the position and becomes aggressive. It’s going to take another year of patience, but that’s the situation. There will be good quarterbacks available in 2013 including one player very close to Seattle’s Head Coach. Of course, there’s every chance USC’s Matt Barkley is taken very early – but it’s worth noting how other quarterbacks have suffered slight falls after returning to college. And let’s not try to preempt the 2013 class 12 months too early.

That’s not to say there won’t be an upgrade at quarterback this off season. As both myself and Kip Earlywine have discussed, we understand there’s a possibility of something happening in free agency that will improve the team significantly. Could it be a quarterback? Who knows, we’ll have to wait just under a month to find out. The Seahawks are going to add to the position at some point because Charlie Whitehurst is unlikely to be retained as a free agent. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a very modest deal for a veteran signal caller who can carry the team for one or two years, upgrade the position and help continue Seattle’s progress. Just don’t expect this team to draft a quarterback in round one on April 26th.

Late round Quarterbacks of interest, Part III

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Life is a popularity contest

Written by Kip Earlywine

Part I, Part II

Something I’ve noticed in doing this series is that you have two types of late round quarterbacks.  You have underdeveloped and unconventional players with great size and tools, and then you have more polished players who are undersized.  Josh Portis is the closest thing to an undersized quarterback this regime has grabbed so far, and he’s 6’3″ (6027) and 210 lbs, which is still bigger than a lot of the late round options this year.  The Seahawks spoke with Russell Wilson at the Senior Bowl.  I don’t want to make too much of that, but then again, Pete Carroll and John Schneider are not exactly known for misdirection.  If the team has some legitimate interest in a guy who’s 5’10”, you can probably assume the team has no ironclad rules about size with a late round quarterback pick.  I hope that’s the case, because I’m finding that the best looking late round quarterbacks this year are consistently undersized.

Ultimately, the actions taken by the Seahawks before the draft could have a big influence on the quarterback they pull the trigger on.  Pete Carroll has stated openly that he wants competition for the starting quarterback job in 2012.  The best way to do that is to add a veteran roughly of the same caliber as Tarvaris Jackson.  There are a few free agents out there who could fit the bill, and both Rob and I have dangled the idea that Palmer or Sanchez could make some sense to fill this role and either one could conceivably be moved for a reasonable price.  However, if Seattle enters the 2012 draft without having added a quarterback to create competition, that is probably going to affect their quarterback focus.  You wouldn’t draft a guy like Dominique Davis and expect him to compete as a starter right away.  If Seattle wanted a real competition, they’d need to draft a guy like Cousins or perhaps Weeden to make that concept plausible.  Conversely, adding a veteran quarterback before the draft could free up Seattle to draft more of a project later on, someone who would compete with Josh Portis for the 3rd quarterback roster spot.

With that in mind, here are three more quarterbacks who could make some late round sense for the Seattle Seahawks:

Darron Thomas, Oregon. Size:  6’3″, 215.  Class:  Jr.  Age:  21

To me- without question- the most underrated quarterback in the 2012 draft is Darron Thomas.  His size, statistics, athleticism, and natural talent level are all fairly close to that of Ryan Tannehill, and Thomas is actually the more experienced of the two despite only being a junior.  Ryan Tannehill is getting “top 15 pick” hype among many scouts and NFL columnists.  And yet its a highly common opinion that Darron Thomas is never going to be an NFL quarterback, and that he may even go undrafted.  I’m not an Oregon Ducks fan, but as someone that lives near Portland and has watched many of Thomas’ games, I find those ideas completely at odds with one another.  Unlike Rob, I actually like Ryan Tannehill, but it appears that many people have chosen to focus exclusively on Tannehill’s upside, while refusing to apply that same sense of imagination with Thomas.  Brock Osweiler is seeing his stock rise too, despite being outplayed by Thomas in the same conference.

Even some Oregon fans aren’t believers in Darron Thomas.  A common assertion is that Thomas left because he wouldn’t have kept his starting job over backup Bryan Bennett.  Bennett is a 185 pound quarterback who many Oregon fans hope can be their version of Washington’s Keith Price.  Price also finished last season at 185 pounds (according to a January interview) and outshined RG3 in the Alamo Bowl with a phenomenal performance.  I say this without any intention of disrespect to Bennett, who I think will be a pretty good quarterback next year, but I personally think the notion of Bennett beating out a senior Darron Thomas would be unlikely.  Thomas is already one of the most efficient quarterbacks in Oregon history, and would have been entering his senior season with a chance to take the next step in his development as a senior.  JTLight, the head writer for SBNation’s Oregon Ducks fansite Addicted to Quack seems to agree with me.  When the topic arose of Thomas leaving because his job was already gone to Bennett, JTLight’s response was this:  “Do people seriously believe that?”

All of this seems especially ironic, given the incredible RG3 love-fest that has taken a life of its own this draft season.  A year ago, Robert Griffin was still an athlete playing quarterback who was efficient, but wasn’t a winner and didn’t have the kind of polish and skills you look for in a franchise player.  His college passer ratings before 2011?  142.  143.  144.  Pretty good, but not elite.  You know what Thomas’ ratings look like the last two years?  151.  159.  Thomas and RG3 are identical in terms of size and while Thomas isn’t the freak athlete Griffin is, he’s solidly above average.  I actually prefer Thomas’ mechanics and footwork to Griffin’s, although I’d give RG3 an edge in intelligence and accuracy.   A couple months back, I was actually planning to highlight Thomas as a guy who could be next year’s RG3 before he made the surprising choice to turn pro.

Some like to compare Thomas to one of his Oregon predecessors, Dennis Dixon.  One difference though is that Dixon returned to Oregon for his senior season, in which he experienced a big leap forward.  His passer rating that year jumped from 121 to 161.  Even still, that big senior leap put Dixon only two rating points above Darron Thomas’ junior year number.

Of course, evaluating a quarterback for the NFL is never as simple as looking at statistics. And yes, I can understand why a majority of people look at Darron Thomas and instantly dismiss him.  The NFL is a league dominated by franchise quarterbacks.  Every team and every fan is looking for the next guy who’s 6’5″ 230 lbs, throws the ball a mile and with perfect mechanical efficiency.  A guy with elite accuracy and elite decision making.  A guy who’s biggest question mark is how goofy he’s going to look in advertisements over the next ten years from all the mega endorsement deals he’ll be getting.  To many of us, its not a question of “can he be good enough?” nor a question of “could the team make it work?”  For many, it simply boils down to one thing: he’s either good enough or he isn’t.

And certainly when judged by that latter standard, Thomas falls far short of the surefire franchise quarterback label.  I have nothing against that kind of thinking- who doesn’t want a surefire franchise quarterback?  I’m sure this front office has nothing against drafting a perfect prospect either.  No sane person would be against it.  But let’s remember Pete Carroll’s own words regarding quarterbacks in the draft this year.  He mentioned that John Schneider identified some players that could be had later, and that they’d be “good enough.”

Great general managers identify and exploit market inefficiencies to their benefit, even though doing so often means violating conventional wisdom and bringing about ridicule.  Some people laughed at the Seahawks for signing NFL dropout and CFL star Brandon Browner.  Many people didn’t even seriously expect Browner to make the final 53 man roster that year.  How’d that turn out?  The NFL is every bit as applicable to the concepts put forward in Moneyball as Major League Baseball is.  There are players out there who’s actual value is far better than their reputations.  Raheem Brock and Chris Clemons were essentially castoffs before 2010, and yet they combined for 20 sacks that year.  Browner, Clemons, and Brock probably wouldn’t have produced like that for just any team, because Seattle identified useful attributes in each one and created a role for them that helped mask their weaknesses.

Darron Thomas is not a student of the game who will be an offensive coordinator on the field.  But neither is RG3 and neither was Cam Newton.  Thomas is often criticized for his accuracy, but he still posted good completion rates.  Thomas will suffer if his receivers in the NFL have alligator arms, because he does force his targets to catch a lot of passes outside of the body area.  Thankfully the Seahawks have built up a pretty deep group of quality receivers and tight ends so this could be less of an issue.  Thomas doesn’t throw as well on the move as Ryan Tannehill, but I think he does better than Tannehill throwing from the pocket.  Thomas has a pretty good arm and his mobility is solidly above average.  He took a decent number of snaps from under center (for a non-pro style) and his dropback is more fluid than not.  His physical measurables are on the lower end of the NFL franchise quarterback spectrum, and better than pretty much every other late round 2012 point guard quarterback prospect.

My biggest worry about Thomas is that he doesn’t have a lot of consistency game to game, and while I haven’t figured out a cause yet, my hypothesis is that Thomas struggles when defenses put him under a lot of pressure.  He’s not as deliberate as T-jack, but its fair to say that Thomas is a guy who likes to take his time setting up a play.  Comfort matters to Thomas, and many defenses over the last two years found ways to put Thomas off his game.

I guess what separates my opinion of Thomas from many others is that I don’t view Thomas as a huge project.  Thomas is many things, but he’s not a wooden quarterback like Tarvaris Jackson that is prone to a brainfart every 5th play.  Thomas is a natural quarterback who can progress through multiple reads, calmly make smart decisions and avoid mistakes without much if any signs of mental awkwardness.  I think its impressive that Thomas does not at all shy away from tight throws, and yet he only threw 7 picks in 339 attempts last year.  I don’t think that Thomas could compete with T-Jack as a rookie.  But at the same time, I don’t see a guy that needs to fix a laundry list of problems before he could work in Pete Carroll’s style of offense.

If Seattle adds a veteran before the draft, Thomas is a nice gamble in the mid to late rounds.  He’s got NFL sized measurables with an underrated amount of natural ability, and he’s a great fit for the role the Seahawks are seeking on offense.  While the rest of the NFL is coming around to the idea that Newton and RG3 as the new breed of NFL quarterbacks, the Seahawks can take it one step further, and identify the next Newton/RG3 the year before he explodes onto the scene.  I’d love to see the Seahawks take that approach, and I think they just might.  It would hardly be the first time this front office has bravely charted an unconventional course and come out winners.

Expected draft trajectory:  Mid to Late round pick.

~

GJ Kinne, Tulsa. 6’1″, 235.  Class:  Sr.  Age:  23

Fieldgulls did a recent draft podcast series with Davis Hsu and Derek Stevens.  Stevens has apparently been in contact with Rob Rang and been shown the ropes on how to scout, and it shows in his analysis.  I highly recommend listening to his podcast on quarterback options.  One quarterback he especially gushed about was GJ Kinne.  Finding any kind of decent footage on Kinne is difficult, which is strange since he plays in the same conference as Austin Davis,  Dominique Davis, and Case Keenum.  I searched for hours and found minutes of footage.  I’ve hardly seen enough to form an endorsement, but I also saw enough to understand Stevens excitement about Kinne.

2012 is the year of the short quarterback, and Kinne continues that trend.  I’ve seen some measurements that have him at 6005, or six foot and one half inch tall.  Despite his lack of height, Kinne weighs in at a rather amazing weight of 235 lbs, tying him with Andrew Luck and BJ Coleman as the third heaviest quarterback in the draft.  Its all good weight too, and it doesn’t seem to interfere at all with Kinne’s athleticism. His arm puts good velocity on the ball, and his general composure on the field looks compatible with a point guard quarterback role.

Kinne doesn’t have the highest release, which is pretty worrisome given how short he is.  But then again, I’m basing that off of just a few throws.

Like Russell Wilson, Dominique Davis, and BJ Coleman, Kinne is a player who transferred schools.  He was initially a quarterback with Texas before transferring to Tulsa in 2008.

Expected draft trajectory:  Late round pick / UDFA.

~

Bo Levi Mitchell, EWU. Size:  6’1″, 210.  Class:  Sr.  Age:  22

Bo Levi Mitchell played for Eastern Washington the last two seasons after transferring from Southern Methodist (SMU).  Eastern Washington is part of a lower tier of college football, known as the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).  You can kind of think of it as being the tier between Division II and a non-BCS conference like  Conference USA or the WAC.  Anyway, in 2010, Mitchell’s very first season at Eastern Washington, he led the Eagles to a FCS national championship.  In 2011, he threw for over 4000 yards and led the FCS in four different passing categories, ultimately earning the Walter Payton award by seasons end, which is the FCS equivalent of a league MVP award.  Notable Walter Payton Award winners include Jon Friesz, Doug Nussmeier, Steve McNair, Brian Westbrook, and Tony Romo.

I had a chance to watch Mitchell when his EWU Eagles rolled into Husky stadium last September.  I was actually looking forward to scouting Keith Price in that game, but it was Mitchell who I came away impressed with.  Mitchell displayed extremely impressive pocket presence and pocket mobility while keeping his eyes downfield.  His accuracy overall was very impressive, particularly on one incredible deep touchdown pass he threw late in the game.  His size, pocket savvy, quickness, and good mechanics reminded me of Drew Brees. You can see some of those throws in a highlights video from that game.

Overall, his 473 yard, 3 touchdown performance was very impressive and if not for a great play by Washington DB Desmond Trufant with seconds remaining, Mitchell may have completed a huge upset that afternoon.  I haven’t seen anything from Mitchell since then, but I could tell at that moment that he was in for a special year and I was hardly surprised to find that he finished with huge statistics.   If the Seahawks acquired Mitchell with a late round pick, I’d be pretty excited about it.  He’s a got some talent, and he took two big steps forward in 2010 and 2011.

Expected draft trajectory:  late round pick / UDFA.

Updated mock draft: 15th February

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

This week I’m going to go against my better judgement and project a trade. It’s unavoidable. There’s a feeling within some front offices that Robert Griffin III won’t get out of the top three picks, even if that means he’s selected by the Minnesota Vikings. Teams with an eye on RGIII will have to weigh up how much they’re willing to spend to deal with St. Louis or Minnesota. I suspect it’ll take something special to get the #2 pick because the Rams will essentially be turning down the opportunity to draft Matt Kalil. St. Louis needs a deal that makes it worth their while – not in the future, but for now.

For those reasons I suspect Cleveland could be an appealing trade partner, with the Browns packaging their two first round picks to move up. This would afford the Rams the opportunity to fill two needs in round one and only suffer a small move down the board from #2 to #4. Cleveland recently appointed Brad Childress as offensive coordinator – a coach who has predominantly worked with mobile quarterbacks during his time with Andy Reid and at Minnesota. The Browns’ rebuild under Mike Holmgren has been slow progress so far, but Griffin III could rejuvenate the team and the fans in Cleveland. For St. Louis, they’d still have a chance to grab a much needed addition to the offensive line and draft a wide receiver later in the first round.

Whether such a move actually happens, we’ll have to wait and see. However, it seems increasingly likely Griffin III will be drafted in the top three. Those hoping the Seahawks will make a bold move to address the quarterback position will be left disappointed – Seattle isn’t going to trade up for a quarterback this year and are unlikely to address the position in round one.

A St. Louis/Cleveland trade could be the catalyst for an offensive-minded start to the draft. Tampa Bay would be in an ideal situation choosing between Morris Claiborne (they need to improve their secondary) and Trent Richardson (a potentially defining player for Greg Schiano’s run-centric system). By the time Jacksonville are on the clock, we may not see a defensive player off the board. That wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Seahawks, who appear determined to improve their pass rush early in this draft.

A lot is still to be determined by free agency and the combine which starts next week. Several players will shoot up the boards after the event in Indianapolis and keep an eye out for North Carolina’s Zach Brown. Sources tell us there’s a feeling that Brown could really propel his stock at the combine due to his overall athleticism and straight line speed. He’s broken sprinting records at UNC and could be set for a big leap, certainly into contention within the first twelve picks. In terms of free agency, Washington and Miami are both expected to be aggressive in the quarterback market. That could dictate what direction they go in round one. For example – if the Dolphins sign Peyton Manning, they could be inclined to go heavy on the offensive line to protect their investment.

Updated first round mock draft

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts are cleaning house to make room for the Andrew Luck era. They might as well start talking about a contract now.
*TRADE* #2 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Cleveland would need to part with both first round picks to draft RGIII. Would St. Louis pass on a shot at Matt Kalil?
#3 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
This would be a dream for the Vikings. They avoid any awkward QB situations with Griffin/Ponder and take a left tackle with elite potential.
*TRADE* #4 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
St. Louis softens the blow of trading out of Matt Kalil-range by drafting Reiff and adding a receiver later in round one.
#5 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
You have to believe Greg Schiano would love to draft Trent Richardson. Cornerback is also a need, so Claiborne is an alternative.
#6 Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
This would be a foolish reach but Shanahan wants his guy. If Tannehill really is going to go in the top-15 as speculated, Washington is the obvious choice.
#7 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
Assuming the Jaguars attack the market for receivers in free agency, Gene Smith can concentrate on defense.
#8 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
Carolina wants to use a lot of different defensive looks and Still is scheme versatile. This is a big need for the Panthers.
#9 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
Which team bites if Blackmon starts to fall? Joe Philbin worked in a Green Bay offense that was stacked at receiver.
#10 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
The Bills could switch to a 4-3 and that makes Coples rather than Upshaw or Ingram a more likely pick here.
#11 Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
This could be Seattle’s ideal situation. Upshaw would have an instant impact, balancing out the pass rush with Chris Clemons.
#12 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
This is a little high for me, but Scott Pioli will almost certainly like DeCastro and he has a little Logan Mankins about him.
#13 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
The Cardinals need to upgrade their offensive line. The only question here is – would they prefer Jonathan Martin or Mike Adams?
#14 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
He’s better in run support and his coverage skills are nothing to write home about. However, Jerry Jones seems to like corner’s with size.
#15 Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
Andy Reid doesn’t like drafting linebackers, so he might consider taking a chance on Brockers’ potential.
#16 Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina)
The Jets pass rush went a bit flat in 2011. Ingram could be moved around in the 3-4 and give things a jump start.
#17 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Brown could be set for a big jump after the combine. Cincinnati could solidify their defense with two first round picks.
#18 Mike Adams (OT, Ohio State)
San Diego could look to upgrade their pass rush, but that offensive line also needs help.
#19 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Electric receiver who would quickly become Jay Cutler’s BFF. Capable of having a big impact quickly.
#20 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
Safety is a need for Tennessee and Barron is clearly the best available in this draft class.
#21 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Corner with elite potential, hampered by off-field concerns. Cincinnati has a reputation for dishing out second chances.
*TRADE* #22 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
The second pick courtesy of St. Louis’ trade with Cleveland. The Rams take an underrated receiver to help out Sam Bradford.
#23 Cordy Glenn (OT, Georgia)
Glenn could play right tackle or move to guard. This would be a good fit for Detroit, even if they have greater needs.
#24 Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
Played left tackle at Iowa State but will kick inside to guard at the next level. I really like this guy.
#25 Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College)
He’s under sized but what a tackler – he’ll get close to 100 tackles in year one. Kuechly will also provide needed vocal leadership.
#26 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
The Texans saw life without Andre Johnson and might add another receiver as insurance.
#27 Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin)
Top-end interior lineman who could be the best in this class. Stuck out on a talented Badgers line and no surprise he turned pro.
#28 Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
The Packers could look at outside rushers, but Cox is capable of helping the pass rush from the five-technique position.
#29 Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
Sanu can line up anywhere and make plays. San Francisco use a lot of gimmicks and needs a sure-handed catcher.
#30 Dont’a Hightower (LB, Alabama)
The type of player that just fits in with Baltimore’s defense. This would be a fantastic addition for the Ravens.
#31 Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse)
A raw physical talent with plenty of upside. The Patriots are a hard team to project and have multiple options in this slot.
#32 Sean Spence (LB, Miami)
Underrated linebacker who makes up for a lack of great size with speed, instinct, tackling and elite recognition skills.

Why the Seahawks will draft a running back early

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The Seahawks want more moments like this, even in the post-Lynch era

“We like the attitude that it brings, the mentality that it brings to run the football, to play run defense, and play tough on teams, and play it that way, so I don’t care which way the trends are going in the league. What’s best for us, is the way that we want to go at it.

“The way that we want to play, you need somebody on your team carrying the football. Without an attack guy it doesn’t feel the same. And he fits it just right, and he’s taken advantage of the emergence of these guys and the whole scheme, and he’s playing great football. We’re always going to continue to look for guys that add that to us.”

- Pete Carroll, 14th December 2011

Carroll has been pretty honest about the way he’s setting up his third (and probably final) tilt at the NFL. This is his vision. At a time when a lot of the NFL is turning to potent aerial attacks featuring big name quarterbacks, the Seahawks are using the run at the heart of their offense. His justification, noted on the same date as the quote above? “You don’t need to be like everyone else. I don’t want to be normal, you know?”

It took a little while to get going. Two high-profile coaching appointments, two offensive coordinators, three high draft picks, a big name splash in free agency and a calculated trade and Seattle has the semblance of a running game. The attack guy Carroll refers to above is Marshawn Lynch. He ended the 2011 season as possibly the league’s most effective running back, churning out yards and touchdowns and leading the offense to some degree of respectability. While offensive lineman fell to injury, Lynch continued to run with vigour. It’s fair to say that had his name been added to the list of casualties, the Seahawks offense would’ve been abominable. Again.

Lynch hits free agency this year but will almost certainly be retained. I understand Lynch isn’t too keen on the franchise tag, which isn’t unexpected. He’d rather agree a longer term deal for multiple seasons – just like virtually every other pending free agent who’s a candidate for the tag. DeAngelo Williams signed a $43m contract over five-years to stay in Carolina prior to the 2011 season, a likely starting point for Lynch in discussions. While I’m sure the Seahawks would love to strike a modest deal for more years, they won’t be making any heavy commitments to a position notorious for punishment. Shaun Alexander signed an 8-year, $62m contract extension to stay in Seattle six years ago. This regime will not be making a similar offer to Lynch.

The franchise tag for running back’s is expected to be around $7.7m in 2012, down from $9.6m in 2011 – a manageable figure for such a crucial part of Seattle’s offense. At this stage, the tag looks likely for Marshawn. It allows the team an opportunity to buy another year and re-access the situation in twelve months. Considering he’ll only turn 26 in April, agreeing a multi-year deal in 2013 isn’t out of the question if he continues to perform at a high level. However, the tag also gives the Seahawks insurance if Lynch disappoints.

Rotoworld’s Evan Silva had some interesting things to say on Twitter yesterday:

Free agency buyer beware: Marshawn Lynch. Avg’d 3.87 YPC in first 61 games. 4.45 YPC in last 11 (Contract yr). Already 1,137 career carries.

Lynch’s conditioning, especially in offseasons, has long been an issue. Ideal franchise tag candidate. Keep him hungry, in contract year.

It’s a fair point on Lynch’s carries and his physical running style could have an impact earlier in his career than other more elusive backs. The tag would indeed keep him hungry and if he can put back-to-back productive seasons on the negotiating table, the Seahawks may be duty bound to reward him or let him test free agency next year. This offense needs its attack guy and Lynch is the team’s MVP on offense right now. So why is the front office going to spend a high pick on a running back?

Commitment to the run

Pete Carroll has made it clear that the run game will make or break this offense, at least until they find ‘the one’ at quarterback. There’s no grey area here, the Seahawks want to run the ball. Most of their investment – be it in the draft, coaches or free agency – has been focused on setting up an effective running game. They can’t move forward knowing they’re an injury to Marshawn Lynch away from losing that identity again. Although many people believed the tepid 6-3 defeat in Cleveland was a review of Tarvaris Jackson’s effectiveness and Charlie Whitehurst’s ineptitude, it was mainly an insight into Seattle’s offense minus-Lynch. The Seahawks cannot risk being caught short and with a lot of talent available at running back in rounds 1-3, it will be a target area.

Insurance

One way to keep Lynch fresh is to limit his carries. When the Seahawks subbed in Leon Washington and Justin Forsett in 2011, there was a noticeable drop in effectiveness. If Seattle can find someone who can help the team manage Lynch a little more carefully, that will be a big boost for their star. I’m quite sure this team isn’t looking for a ‘change of pace’ back in this year’s draft, they’ll probably be going after another attack guy. A player who can work with Lynch as a duo, a partnership that constantly keeps team’s guessing and Seattle’s offense rolling. And if Lynch was to suffer an injury, they’ll need someone who can take up the slack.

Leverage

If the Seahawks can draft a running back who can lead the offense, it’ll eliminate the dependency on Marshawn Lynch. If they don’t want to commit multiple years in 2013 to a running back with even more miles on the clock, they’ll have the option to move on with a younger player. The best team’s in the league stay at the top by being a step ahead of the game. It’s not necessarily always about filling holes in the NFL, rather maintaining and enhancing your strengths to overcome weaker areas of the team. While some people may argue a high pick on a running back is a luxury, it may actually be one of the more intelligent moves they could make this year to maintain a strong running game.

Talent

This draft is top-heavy for running backs. Trent Richardson is a star in the making who could quickly become the best back in the league. The Seahawks will consider drafting him if he’s available at #11 or #12, creating possibly the most fearsome duo of running backs in the history of the league. In round two, the likes of Doug Martin, Lamar Miller, Chris Polk and David Wilson offer excellent value and could be deemed BPA with the team’s second choice. You can find effective runners without top-level investment, but this is a draft where a GM or coach can be forgiven for taking a running back early. The talent is there this year.

A lot of fans will complain if or when the Seahawks do select a running back within the first two days of the draft this year. Quarterback is the consensus gaping hole on the roster – and rightly so too. It’s also a situation that can’t be forced and while many would like to see a quarterback drafted almost for the sake of finally addressing the situation early, the facts are quite simple… There won’t be a quarterback worth the pick at #11 or #12, but Trent Richardson would be a steal in that range. There may not be a quarterback worth a high second round pick, but a player like Doug Martin or (if Richardson is the R1 pick) a defensive player like Vinny Curry could be deemed BPA at a position of need.

I’m sure the team will add viable competition and maybe even a new starting QB at some stage. That could happen via trade long before the draft takes place – we’ll see what happens in March. Yet the way this draft could unfold, it may just be that the Seahawks are left waiting another year before making the big draft splash at the position and appeasing the majority of the fanbase.

It’s going to be more of the same in 2012 in terms of a heavy run focused offense and the Seahawks have committed to a strong running game to succeed. The rookie pay scale has changed the complexion of the draft, making a high pick on a running back much more viable than it has been before. Richardson would be a bargain in round one, offering instant production and a means for Seattle to build on it’s run philosophy while preparing for the possibility of life without Lynch. Although most mock drafts at the moment lazily have the Seahawks drafting Ryan Tannehill (won’t happen), it’s time to concentrate on the front seven and the running back position.

Lavonte David tape review vs Ohio State

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Tape courtesy of Aaron Aloysius

As Seahawks fans embrace the likely attention the front seven will receive in this upcoming draft, Lavonte David (LB, Nebraska) is a name that keeps being mentioned. He was a Butkus Award runner-up in 2011, he had a solid Senior Bowl and expectations are that he could impress at the combine. You want to see pure speed from a linebacker who’s playing at 6-0 and 220lbs and it’ll be interesting so see how he performs. Players without prototypical size are always going to have to compensate, so an impressive athletic showing will allay fears that size will matter at the next level. That could be the issue, however.

I’ve seen some projectionists suggest he could get into round one contention, but I think that’s very optimistic. He may test well at the combine, but the tape above shows an athlete with above average mobility, but not the kind of consistent explosion that could promote him beyond a R2-4 grade. See the play at 4:54 where he has an angle on the runner, but is beaten on the outside for speed. He needs to make that play if he’s going to be considered a smaller, quicker linebacker at the next level. His best asset is working through traffic against the run when the play is in front of him. Check the tape at 0:16, 0:36, 4:06 and 4:14 to see an example of read, react and finish. Footwork is key here and he moves well to avoid blocks when trying to work in traffic. He also does well to diagnose plays quickly and get to the ball carrier. Reports say he’s a hard worker who’s spent a lot of time in the film room during his two years in Nebraska.

At times he gets overwhelmed, but that’s not a total surprise at 220lbs. You see at 1:29 when he plays at the LOS that he struggles when starting in a more attack-minded position. He cuts into the middle to try the inside rush, but gets stoned by the lineman allowing a big run on the outside. He doesn’t look a mature or effective pass rusher at this stage (although he’s not really used as a rusher) and at his size he really needs to learn to avoid contact and use his mobility to greater effect to work as a threatening pass rusher. Teams will need to feel confident he can develop this side of his game. At the moment he looks like a player who will predominantly play a lot of his snaps behind the LOS, but you have to believe teams are going to want to be more aggressive with a 220lbs linebacker knowing he could be a liability in the second level at that size.

When he gets low on tackles he’s effective. He understands he won’t be able to overpower bigger runners and receivers and I like his overall tackling technique which seems to be consistent. However, there are still times when he seems to deflect off runners. That’s a risky play, especially against the caliber of back he’ll face in the NFL. Go low, but make sure you wrap up and take the ankles – don’t rely on your shoulder knocking Ray Rice or Marshawn Lynch off balance. I like the play at 2:59 purely because it’s opportunistic. He senses a chance to strip the ball loose and force the turnover and he executes.

I wonder if teams will consider a move to safety, especially given he actually added weight before his Senior year (he previously played at around 210lbs). Switching to strong safety could be an option, because his frame is pretty maxed out as it is. I think he’s more suited to the WILL where his size will be less of a concern – but he’ll need to reassure teams he’s quick enough and capable enough of adding some pass-rush threat. In college he was a tackling machine – one almost as impressive as Luke Kuechly at times (albeit with greater lateral mobility, if not overall technique). Yet at the next level he’s going to have to adapt. That’s what makes David such a difficult projection right now. He could be that guy who everyone expects to go early but falls a bit.

Sunday links & game tape

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Alex Dunlap from the Austin Chronicle featured Seahawks Draft Blog in a piece discussing team needs around the league. Here’s what we had to say: “The Seahawks greatest long-term need is at quarterback, but don’t expect the team to reach for the position this year. It’s almost certain they’ll instead target defense early and particularly the front seven, so the likes of Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples, and Zach Brown will be on the radar. Running back is also likely to get attention within the first three rounds as Seattle looks to compliment – and protect – Marshawn Lynch.”

Rob Rang at CBS Sportsline lists this year’s pro-day schedule, starting with Missouri on March 1st. Scouts will be busy on March 7th with Alabama, USC, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Wisconsin and California prospects all performing. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will also have to share the headlines on March 22nd, when Stanford and Baylor’s pro-days coincide.

Two pieces of tape for your observation this weekend (courtesy of JMPasq). Chris Polk is a running back who’s tape will always outshine his workout performance. Although he received negative reviews at the Senior Bowl, I still expect teams will grade him highly based on performance. Nick Perry is slightly overrated in my eyes, considering he’s being graded as a first round pick by a lot of projectionists. More on Perry to come shortly including a more detailed analysis, but I’d be surprised if he left the board in the top-32.

Chris Polk (RB, Washington) tape vs Baylor

Nick Perry (DE, USC) tape vs Washington

Seahawks trade down? Maybe not this year

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Trading down could cost the Seahawks a shot at this, which seems unlikely

In 2011, the Seahawks talked a lot about moving down. John Schneider was pretty open about this desire to do so and was pretty open about the way they searched for a good deal last April. Twelve months earlier, Schneider admitted a trade was on the table to move down from the #14 spot. It was all set to be completed, until the Eagles surprisingly passed on Earl Thomas and instead took Brandon Graham. Seattle, who always intended to take a tackle and safety combo in 2010, decided Thomas was too good to pass.

It’s a bit early for Schneider or Pete Carroll to come out and talk about moving up or down the board in their third draft with the team, but I suspect there’s every chance the Seahawks will be rooted to the #11 or #12 pick. They only have six picks due to various trades and it seems likely they’ll try and accumulate more either before or during the event. However, there’s always a slight danger in valuing quantity over quality and I don’t expect any mistakes to be made this year. Carroll made his intentions known at the end of the season – to improve the front seven and the pass rush. On April 26th, the Seahawks will try to draft someone who can do that. There will be possible exceptions (such as an elite talent like Trent Richardson falling) but the likely focus will be on the Courtney Upshaw’s, Melvin Ingram’s and Quinton Coples’ of this class.

We all have different opinions on that trio. Personally, I have mixed feelings for Coples but he has the highest ceiling among any defensive player in the class of ’12. I’m not a big fan of Ingram, others have different impressions of his potential. I see Upshaw as one of the few elite talents in this class. By moving down the board, the Seahawks run the risk of missing out in a year without a great amount of top defensive lineman. In my latest mock draft, six front-seven prospects were off the board by the 15th pick. The only other defensive lineman I had going in round one beyond that was Fletcher Cox – a player expected to translate to a pure five-technique at the next level. Three linebackers remained on the board – Dont’a Hightower, Luke Kuechly and Sean Spence.

Of course, that’s just my interpretation of what could happen and maybe some of the players I have going early will fall, allowing the Seahawks to make a realistic drop and still get a player they really want. However, I think this front office wants to find a pass rusher who can provide the same impact as Aldon Smith in San Francisco – someone who can be used in different looks and make big plays on key passing downs. Upshaw, Coples and Ingram will not last very long if you believe the projectionists. I doubt all three leave the board before #11 or #12, but two might. Seattle isn’t going to gamble on losing that last player if they’re determined to add to their pass rush.

Some may point to the talent available at the top of round two. Whitney Mercilus continues to be something of a mystery (just how good is he?), Brandon Thompson likewise could be an underrated player due to his lack of production. Vinny Curry impressed at the Senior Bowl and Chandler Jones, Nick Perry, Cam Johnson and Jared Crick all have value. The Seahawks will still have a shot at one of these players in round two and being able to maybe reach for another in round one isn’t really a preferable situation when you miss out on a Courtney Upshaw (for example) for the sake of an extra third round pick (for another example).

There is some precedent for trading down multiple times, but I’ve always thought this appears to be smarter on the actual day than in hindsight. New England have drafted poorly in recent years despite accumulating more picks than several teams combined. Cleveland has moved down aggressively to acquire a couple of players I thought were top-20 talents (Alex Mack and Phil Taylor) but also gave away the chance to draft in the top ten and grab players who maybe could’ve lifted the Browns beyond mediocrity. For all of Denver’s dealing in 2010, they ended up with Tim Tebow as the end product. If you draft smart, you make the most of top-15 picks and build a good team. There will never be a substitute for pure quality and while more picks also means more opportunities to hit, you’re always picking from a smaller sample when you move down.

I think the Seahawks will see this as an opportunity to add another key defensive piece, just like they did with Earl Thomas. They may well get trade offers – some that are maybe quite tempting too – but ultimately this team knows what it wants. You can never rule anything out and if the three defensive lineman named above are off the board – and so is Trent Richardson – they could move down a little bit and consider a player like Zach Brown. But faced with the opportunity to draft Coples, Upshaw or Ingram – I think there’s a strong chance that is what will happen.

To consider a move down the board, you need a trade partner. We can at least consider which teams might wish to move up to tempt the Seahawks with a deal:

San Diego (Currently own #18 overall)
The Chargers need to rebuild their offensive line and might struggle to draft a left tackle at #18. The best lineman will leave the board quickly given the premium nature of the position and players like Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin could go in the top ten. If any survive or if San Diego sees real value in Ohio State’s Mike Adams, they might need to jump Arizona at #13 or even Kansas City at #12 if Seattle wins the coin-toss. San Diego made a bold move up the board in 2010 to draft Ryan Mathews, so could it happen again?

Philadelphia (Currently own #15 overall)
A team that has also shown it’s willingness to move up, Philly could be active in round one. Andy Reid isn’t a predictable drafter although he’s avoided drafting linebackers early. He’s in prime position to draft Zach Brown if he wishes, but may decide he needs to get at the top receivers should the Eagles lose a player like DeSean Jackson. Although there’s no obvious reason to grab Seattle’s pick at #11 or #12, should a player such as Justin Blackmon suffer a bit of a fall, Philly might not waste any time if Buffalo passes.

New York Jets (Currently own #16 overall)
A third franchise with previous history in making a move – the Jets moved heaven and earth to draft Mark Sanchez in 2009. They could use help with the pass rush and at receiver and may entertain the idea of a trade to get an injection of quality. Although New York had a disappointing 2011, they’re still a team who made the AFC Championship game in the two previous seasons. One or two key additions could put the Jets back on the map and they may feel like they need to make a splash after watching their neighbours win the Super Bowl.

Whitney Mercilus tape vs Ohio State

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Whitney Mercilus is a player I’m still trying to work out. In my initial tape review vs UCLA, I had mixed feelings. He flashed on a handful of run plays, got to the quarterback enough to impact the game and showed the ability to adapt and work out a lineman’s weaknesses. Mercilus also struggled against a tight end he should be dominating in college, didn’t flash an effective bull rush or compensate with elite speed or technique. He led the NCAA for sacks in 2011, but how does he grade? I’ll keep monitoring the tape including the performance above against Ohio State – expect more on Mercilus soon.

Tape courtesy of Aaron Aloysius