Archive for April, 2012

Carroll & Schneider pre-draft press conference

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Pete Carroll and John Schneider conducted their pre-draft press conference today. Unsurprisingly the subject of pass rushers came up early. A few quotes from Carroll:

“The most difficult talent to find is ‘pass rusher’.”

“We think Clem (Chris Clemons) is a premier pass rusher. He’s a factor. We need to add to that.”

“You never have enough pass rushers, a lot of edge guys in this draft.”

Carroll also noted that pass rushers don’t have to be 6-4 with long arms, at least not for the Seahawks. I think it’s pretty clear – not that it wasn’t already – that the Seahawks are targeting at least one pass rusher early. It’s been clear for a while. Last year’s pre-draft press conferences didn’t give anything away directly, but there was enough honest information to work with. The team wanted to move down – a genuine plea almost to the rest of the league – but nothing materialised. They wanted to get bigger up front on both lines. They talked about other needs and positions the team were linked with, they answered openly. Yet the options seemed clear and Seattle eventually went big on the offensive line by taking James Carpenter and John Moffitt.

This year, the pass rush is almost certainly going to receive a similar focus. The defense needs more pressure up front. Carroll admitted Jason Jones has been brought in to play the three technique and predominantly play through the middle, but accepted it was an area they were still open to improving. But the Jones signing does suggest it’s going to be an outside rusher that will be drafted as the priority. Despite a lot of attention focused on Luke Kuechly or David DeCastro in a lot of mock drafts, the Seahawks appear destined to try and improve the one area holding back the defensive unit from becoming a real force.

Onto other subjects…

John Schneider noted that misinformation between teams began two weeks ago. He complimented members of the front office for identifying team needs and being able to see through the various smokescreens. Pete Carroll was asked about Ryan Tannehill’s work out, he replied by saying he ran well and looked good. He praised his ‘toughness’ after transitioning from receiver. Peter King wrote today about the Seahawks desires for Ryan Tannehill if he falls to #12. He also poured water on the idea Seattle would move up to #7. I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to draft Tannehill at #12.

Carroll on wide receiver being a need: “It’s hard to pass up a touchdown maker. Anyone who can score touchdowns is big on our board. We have a very competitive group coming back.” For what it’s worth Carroll and Schneider spent time praising the receivers already on the roster.

Earl Thomas was called a “heart and soul guy for this programme” by Carroll. Marshawn Lynch and Michael Robinson were name checked in a similar way on offense. On tight ends, “We think he (Cameron Morrah) is a really good football player. Anthony’s got some really unique aspects. It’s a good, solid position for us.” Carroll also noted they’d still look at the position and again used the ‘touchdown maker’ phrase. I suspect the Seahawks are willing to keep an open mind at receiver and tight end if the value’s there. I also believe Carroll sees a lot of talent at both positions on the roster and that maybe they deserve a further chance to shine this year.

Carroll admitted Brandon Weeden turning 29 this year is an issue and would be a factor in the way the team viewed him. He also said he’s a good football player. It didn’t sound like Seattle will be drafting Weeden.

When talking about finding value late in the draft, Schneider admitted he takes “a lot of pride from the fourth round down.” He also said Kam Chancellor was graded much higher than the 5th round where he was taken. Schneider spent some time talking about the situation at Green Bay with Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn and why the 7th round quarterback beat out the 2nd rounder. Schneider also talked about perceived scheme fit: “If we see some cool qualities, we’re not saying ‘this is our scheme’. If we like a guy and everyone agrees with it, we’re going to go for it.”

I posted an updated quick-hit mock draft last night. If you missed it, take a look by clicking here.

Where I’d rank them; where I think they’ll rank them

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

We haven't had a picture of this guy on the blog in a while

Written by Kip Earlywine

I think I’m pretty much done with the draft spotlight series for this year.  In the end, I scouted a little over twenty players in the last month, and spent (on average) about five hours apiece doing the write-ups for each player, and that’s on top of the 15 quarterbacks I reviewed in my late round quarterback series earlier this year.  Before I shut things down and slip into an exhaustion coma, I thought that it might be fun to attempt a “big board” for each position after doing all the work and research over the last few months.

I’m only going to include quarterbacks, running backs, and linebackers, since I spent 99% of my time researching those positions and didn’t really cover anything else.  Additionally, I’ll include my best guesses on what John Schneider’s big board might look like for those positions.  Let me be clear that while Rob and I have heard a handful of specific details about players they like, most of this list will just be guesswork. Bear in mind that all of my rankings are tailored to Seattle’s specific scheme needs (point guard quarterbacks, fast linebackers or coverage oriented linebackers, and zone blocking scheme friendly running backs).  I’ll break this down into three different posts.  For now I’ll start with quarterbacks.

My top ten quarterbacks in the 2012 draft:

#1:  Andrew Luck (deserves to be drafted: #1 overall)

It’s hard to tell how good Luck is under duress, because he was almost never under pressure at Stanford thanks to what was arguably the best offensive line in the country.  That pretty much sums up the totality of my reservations regarding Luck, who’s been the golden boy of college football the last two years.  Any quarterback can bust, but Luck is the safest quarterback with the highest potential to come out since at least Carson Palmer.

#2:  Robert Griffin (deserves to be drafted: top 10 overall)

I don’t want to be the guy who bets against Griffin.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a quarterback with his elite combination of intelligence, athleticism, work ethic, arm strength, and accuracy.  That said, Robert Griffin might be the most over hyped quarterback of all time.  His hype is understandable, but it is not deserved.  He has way too many red flags to justify the price Washington paid for him.  His pocket presence and “escapability” aren’t as good as a lot of people think despite the athleticism.  His mechanics and footwork need serious work.  He’s a lanky 215 pounds and was an injury magnet in college.  He also came from a college system that was designed to exploit college level athletes.  For all the crap Darron Thomas gets for having superior athletes and easy plays, people don’t talk about this problem at all when discussing Griffin.

Overall, I find him to be easily inferior to Cam Newton as a prospect.  It’s kind of amazing how much the “diva” label matters to GMs, some of whom felt Newton was not worth a top twenty pick (oops).  Griffin is no diva, in fact, I’d go so far as to say he’s the coolest guy in the whole draft.  I think his likable nature may have sparked his meteoric rise up draft boards as much as anything else.

Regardless, Griffin is a worthy top 10 pick on potential alone and I really do wish him the best.  I’m not expecting him to fail, but I guess you could say I’m more prepared for it than most because his risks are very real and not being talked about nearly enough.

#3:  Russell Wilson (deserves to be drafted: round 3)

After Luck and RG3 leave the board, there is a massive drop off in the quality of the quarterbacks.  Most people have Ryan Tannehill third, with many even swearing to believe he’s worth a top 15 pick.  I know it’s self-serving for Russell Wilson to compare himself to Drew Brees, but I think Wilson has a point.  Brees stands about 5 inches shorter than the average NFL lineman.  Wilson stands 6.5 inches shorter.  Does that extra inch and a half matter when even Brees has to use passing lanes at his height?  Really, any quarterback under 6’2″ is probably going to be a “passing window” quarterback in the NFL.  Jeff Garcia (6’1″) and Michael Vick (6’0″) were very effective in a point guard quarterback scheme and had to use throwing windows because of their height.

Not all short quarterbacks can get around this problem, but Russell Wilson has already proven that he can.  His line at Wisconsin was one of the tallest in the country and taller than many NFL lines, and yet he had almost zero height related problems because the scheme and his own talent allowed him to find throwing lanes to look through.  I honestly worry more about Wilson’s stats being inflated by Wisconsin’s high completion rate offense more than I worry about his height.  If Wilson goes to the right kind of offense, namely an offense just like Seattle’s, I believe that at a minimum he’ll be one of the league’s best backups, with a chance to be a good starter.

Wilson is either NFL material or he isn’t, but I think if he passes that test he’s going to be a good NFL quarterback.  Wilson probably won’t be drafted in the 3rd round, he’ll probably go in rounds 4-6, but quite honestly I would not complain if the Seahawks pulled the trigger on him there.  Wilson has the talent to fundamentally change how the NFL looks at sub-six foot tall quarterbacks.

#4:  Chandler Harnish (deserves to be drafted: round 3)

Concerns about height (6’1″) and level of competition aside, Chandler Harnish is simply the best quarterback in the draft that none of the big name draft analysts are talking about.  His pocket presence, elusiveness, mobility, accuracy, confidence, mechanics, decision-making and his general smooth looking play are all NFL caliber.  Some have criticized his arm strength but I just can’t agree.  His passes arrive with zip and his deep ball isn’t Locker/Mallett territory by any means but it’s good enough.  My only real concern with Harnish was that he ran a disappointing 4.76 forty at the combine, which makes me wonder how much of a hit his field speed will take when going up against NFL defenses.  Harnish may not have ideal measurables, but it’s clear that the guy can flat out play.  The way he plays the game reminds me of Steve Young.

#5:  Ryan Tannehill (deserves to be drafted: round 3)

I remember right after last year’s draft, Rob did a piece on potential quarterbacks to look out for in 2012.  Near the bottom of the list was Ryan Tannehill, a guy that nobody was talking about.  I wasn’t impressed by a lot of the options, but Tannehill jumped out at me immediately as a guy with first round potential.  As we’re starting to find out, a lot of NFL scouts were fully aware of Tannehill’s talents, with some of them claiming to grade Tannehill in the top 15 even before the 2011 season.  I believe them.  Tannehill’s best tape was from 2010, so it makes sense they would like him after his best season.

Unfortunately, Tannehill did not develop as he needed to in 2011 and even took a few steps backward.  I like the guy and he certainly has NFL pro-bowl potential physically, but his decision making is deeply flawed and he might require years of development.  In a way, he’s a bit like this year’s Colin Kaepernick, although each quarterback needs development time for totally different reasons.

#6:  Darron Thomas (deserves to be drafted: round 4)

I’ll admit some bias on this one.  Not Oregon Duck bias, because I’m not a Duck’s fan.  No, I suffer from a Keith Price bias, as Keith Price’s 2011 season developed my thinking on quarterbacks more than any quarterback in a long time.  Thomas is the closest thing in this draft to a Keith Price option.  Both are lanky, semi-athletic quarterbacks with a little inconsistency in their deliveries.  While Thomas gets a lot of bad press for being the quarterback of a gimmick offense, he still played a point guard quarterback role very similar in nature to the role Keith Price played last year.  Thomas looks very comfortable progressing through reads and makes mostly good decisions (unless Cliff Harris is involved).  In a lot of ways his flaws are less egregious than Robert Griffin’s (particularly footwork and mechanics), but because his ceiling isn’t as high he gets crucified for his problems while Griffin gets a free pass.

I have a ton of respect for Chip Kelly, but he’s in the business of competing for national championships, not possibly throwing games away to develop his quarterbacks.  I can’t help but wonder how perceptions of Thomas would differ if he had put up close to the same numbers he did the last two years while playing in Steve Sarkisian’s pro-style offense, which given the similarity of the quarterback roles, doesn’t feel like a stretch to me.  Don’t get me wrong, Price is the better quarterback, but Price is 6’1″ and finished last season at 185 pounds.  Darron Thomas is 6’3″ and weighs 220, both being “franchise quarterback” measurements.  If you have that kind of size with above average mobility and performed well for a major school, you should not be allowed to be an afterthought.  I’m not glossing over Thomas’ flaws- that’s why he’s this far down the list.  But I think a lot of people have fallen into the trap of ignoring his talents because he’s got some imperfections and because the prevailing attitude about him is so stiflingly negative (or as I like to think of it, “Tedford quarterback” syndrome).

Do I think Thomas is likely to be a good starter?  Probably not, but I do think he could become one of the league’s better backups in a point guard quarterback scheme.  To me, that’s worth a 4th round pick.  Given how pervasive the groupthink on Thomas is though, it wouldn’t shock me if he went undrafted.  Which is silly, I think.  Thomas has some talent.  This isn’t Jordan Jefferson we’re talking about here.  I see some natural talent in Thomas, and a lot of stuff to work on, but also a ton of room for development.

#7:  Brock Osweiler (deserves to be drafted: round 4)

I should probably have Osweiler a lot higher than this.  Osweiler passed for 4000 yards last season and threw 28 touchdowns.  He’s 6’7″, but doesn’t come with the typical athleticism drawbacks of an overly tall quarterback.  Purely in terms of potential, Osweiler could become an NFL quarterback that resembles Big Ben:  big, tough, decently mobile, and efficient.  I think that if Pete Carroll could get any quarterback in the NFL, Big Ben would be on the short list because of how his toughness and efficiency compliments a run first offense.

I have a few problems with Osweiler though that provide me with a healthy skepticism.  First is that he was really inconsistent.  He’d have some games where he’d look like 1st round material but other games where he looked like garbage.  His accuracy is also very inconsistent and at times he’ll miss the target by a lot, which reminded me a little of Mike Teel when he was here.  Osweiler also had 13 interceptions last year (one per game), and that’s simply too many.  Another thing is that I’m not seeing natural leadership from Osweiler on the field, or at least not leadership that is on par with most other draftable quarterbacks.  It’s superficial, but I get a bit of a Jimmy Clausen vibe from Osweiler in interviews- though I’ll at least give him credit for trying to be likable, even if it’s incredibly rehearsed sounding.

I also wonder why Osweiler would leave Arizona State after only one season of starting, especially with all the problems he has to work on.  Darron Thomas catches a lot of crap for the same thing, but Thomas started for two years, not one, and even if he had returned in 2012 the odds would be against him boosting his draft stock even if his performance improved.  If Osweiler had returned to Arizona State and improved, he could have easily become a 1st round pick next year.  By declaring now and settling to be a round 2-4 pick, that makes me wonder how much confidence he has in himself.  It definitely feels like Osweiler is cashing in now to cut his losses.  I’d have a lot more respect for him as a prospect if he went the Landry Jones route instead.

#8:  Brandon Weeden (deserves to be drafted: round 4)

We’ve seen Weeden before.  His name was Chris Weinke, the oldest player to ever win the Heisman.  He entered the 2001 draft at 28 years of age just like Weeden.  Despite having second round talent, Weinke was a 4th round pick.  He was a solid backup for a few years, but only briefly started and in the end, didn’t amount to much.

As much as Brandon Weeden would like everyone to believe that his age and maturity will allow him to walk into the NFL without a rookie hangover, history has proven otherwise. Most recently, we’ve seen something similar with Danny Watkins- a player that Seattle had a lot of interest in and very nearly drafted (the Eagles snatched him up a few picks before the Seahawks).  Watkins was 26 years old, but made the argument that he was more NFL ready because of his age.  Instead, Watkins was a brutal flop in his first season, getting benched early in the season and even admitting publicly that he was overwhelmed and not even close to being ready.  I’m not pronouncing Watkins a bust, but I think it’s safe to say that his argument about being NFL ready because of his age has been thoroughly discredited by this point.

Other than some inconsistent accuracy, I found Weeden to be a promising quarterback, but his age will almost certainly limit him to being a short term backup.  His talent is better than a 4th round grade, but his circumstances and limited shelf life drop his grade considerably.

#9:  Kirk Cousins (deserves to be drafted: round 5)

Cousins, a quarterback with remarkable eloquence off the field but limited ability on it, is a bit like this year’s Ricky Stanzi, although quite honestly I liked Stanzi a lot more when I scouted him last year.  You can read my review of Cousins in more detail here, but the main thing is that he’s a mediocre quarterback despite throwing most of his passes less than 10 yards.  His upside in the NFL is Trent Edwards.  Stanzi was a 5th round pick last year.  I’d feel a little bad for him if Cousins was drafted earlier despite being inferior, and it looks very realistic that could happen.

#10:  Austin Davis (deserves to be drafted: round 5)

I wish I knew more about Austin Davis.  I’ve only been able to scout one full game.  My initial impression is mostly positive.  In terms of size he’s similar to Chandler Harnish, and while he’s not the athlete Harnish is, he’s a leader who is money in the red zone.  He has the look of a point guard quarterback.  If I knew more about him, I’d probably have him higher than this.

The front office’s top 10 quarterbacks (my guesses):

(estimated draft grade in parenthesis)

#1:  Andrew Luck (1st round grade)

I’d assume they’d have him ahead of RG3.  While Luck gets compared to Manning a lot I think he probably compares the closest to Big Ben because of his size and accuracy, and as said before, I think Seattle is looking for a Big Ben type quarterback.

#2:  Robert Griffin (1st round grade)

Griffin is a perfect fit for the point guard role and might have more upside than Luck, and this front office values upside more than most.

#3:  Brock Osweiler (2nd round grade)

I’ve heard from two sources that the Seahawks are huge fans of Osweiler, which makes a lot of sense.  I’m not that big a fan of his, but this front office likes players with upside and they like value.  Osweiler has 1st round upside with a 2nd or 3rd round price tag.  He fits the “tough guy” quarterback mold.  Their interest in him makes a lot of sense.

#4:  Ryan Tannehill (2nd round grade)

As said before, Tannehill has a lot of similarities with Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick was Seattle’s 2nd highest rated quarterback in the 2011 draft.  From what we’ve heard, Seattle does like Tannehill but seems to like Osweiler a lot more.

#5:  Russell Wilson (4th round grade)

I’ve also heard that Carroll “loves” Russell Wilson.  Not at all surprising.  The Seahawks are one of the few teams that run a scheme tailored for Wilson’s strengths and weaknesses, and there may not be a quarterback in the 2012 draft who “tilts the field” as much as Wilson does with his confidence and leadership.  He’s also a guy that could potentially be available in the late rounds, which scores bonus points as I feel it’s unlikely Seattle will draft a quarterback early.  It’s worth pointing out that last year we heard of several prospects that the Seahawks thought well of but scratched off their boards completely despite that (Marvin Austin and Adrian Clayborn being a couple examples I remember).  So just because Seattle really likes Wilson doesn’t necessarily mean they’d draft him (that said, I hope they do).

#6:  Kirk Cousins (4th round grade)

I wonder if Cousins might be much higher than this.  We’ve heard that (unsurprisingly) the Seahawks are big fans of Cousins, and if Cousins reaches the 4th round, don’t be surprised if the Seahawks end up taking him.  I hope they don’t, personally, but I think it’s very possible.  I’m putting him below Wilson for now since the info we’ve heard was very positive for Wilson and seemingly more positive than Cousins.

#7:  Chandler Harnish (5th round grade)

Here is where the guessing really begins.  Seattle’s draft boards are always a little weird- John Schneider is a guy who marches to the beat of his own drum- though who can blame him with the results he’s had?  I’ll put Harnish in this spot as to me he’s clearly the best of the rest at this point and fits the offense like a glove.  He was also the only quarterback in the draft that was given an invite to visit the team.

#8:  Austin Davis (6th round grade)

In an interview around the time the combine was going on, John Schneider listed Harnish and Davis in the same breath.  Seattle was known to have sent a scout for one of Southern Mississippi’s games last year, and I can’t imagine it was to scout anyone else.  Davis seems to be NFL adequate in terms of tools and he oozes strong intangibles.  He’s another “tilt the field” kind of quarterback.  It would be pretty cool if Seattle drafted him.  Austin Davis was kind enough to give an interview to Rob on this blog last year, and we don’t exactly have a ton of interviews on this site.  So his becoming a Seahawk would be kinda neat.

#9:  BJ Coleman (6th round grade)

As much as I dislike Coleman as a prospect, it’s hard for me to not see him being on the Seahawks’ radar.  He doesn’t have much talent, but he does have terrific measurables without being publicly condemned as damaged goods like Jordan Jefferson.

#10: Bo Levi Mitchell (7th round grade)

I’ll end this list on a bit of a wildcard.  The Seahawks have not shied away from small school talent.  Mitchell made huge strides in each of his last two seasons, including a FCS national championship season in 2010.  I’ve only had a chance to see him in his near upset on the road at Washington, but he’s similar in size and stature to Drew Brees and has terrific pocket presence and elusiveness.  He doesn’t have a world class arm, but it didn’t stop him from making “wow” throws in that game.  He’s a guy that might be totally off the radar of most NFL teams, but I doubt he’s off the Seahawks radar as the Seahawks do a lot of homework on smaller schools.  I’d probably have Mitchell higher on both these lists if I had more of his tape to go off of.

Quick-fire mock, Fletcher Cox & the countdown

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Trade target?

First things first, don’t forget to check out Kip’s excellent write-up on Courtney Upshaw or the latest SDB community pick.

Quick-fire mock draft

I’ll be publishing my final 2012 mock on Wednesday just before the draft. You never know, maybe Kip will break out a mock too before Thursday (how about that for pressure). As we’re approaching draft week I wanted to note down a few thoughts and provide a quick first round projection. On Wednesday we’ll include the second round and full breakdown as usual.

#1 IND – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
#2 WAS – Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
#3 MIN – Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
#4 CLE – Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
#5 TB – Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
#6 STL – Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
#7 JAC – Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
#8 MIA – Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
#9 CAR – Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
#10 BUF – Stephon Gilmore (CB, South Carolina)
#11 KC – Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College)
#12 SEA – Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
#13 ARI – David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
#14 DAL – Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
#15 PHI – Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina)
#16 NYJ – Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
#17 CIN – Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
#18 SD – Nick Perry (DE, USC)
#19 CHI – Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
#20 TEN – Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
#21 CIN – Peter Konz (OG/C, Wisconsin)
#22 CLE – Reuben Randle (WR, LSU)
#23 DET – Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse)
#24 PIT – Dont’a Hightower (LB, Alabama)
#25 DEN – Doug Martin (RB, Boise State)
#26 HOU – Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis)
#27 NE – Shea McClellin (DE, Boise State)
#28 GB – Vinny Curry (DE, Marshall)
#29 SF – Riley Reiff (OT/G, Iowa)
#30 BAL – Cordy Glenn (OT/G, Georgia)
#31 NE – Stephen Hill (WR, Georgia Tech)
#32 NYG – Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)

More of this kind of thing on Wednesday.

Trading up for Fletcher Cox?

Dave ‘Softy’ Mahler at KJR tweeted an interesting rumor today, suggesting the Seahawks would consider moving up in the draft to get Fletcher Cox. The Seahawks want a pass rusher, it’s absolutely the #1 priority in the first round. While many have speculated about Luke Kuechly, David DeCastro and Michael Floyd, it’s all about creating more pressure up front. Cox is a pass rusher, so I’m paying more attention to this rumor than I would if – for example – it was being suggested the Seahawks wanted to trade up for Ryan Tannehill.

Cox put on a clinic at the combine, running a 10-yard split in the low 1.6’s (comparable to the top defensive ends) despite weighing 298lbs. He had 30 reps on the bench press and recorded a 4.79 forty. The guy looks the part, no doubt about it. Deciding his best position is the difficult part and is created an interesting (and at times, heated) debate for a lot of the off-season.

At Mississippi State he lined up everywhere – three technique, five technique, orthodox defensive end. I’ve always compared his game to a runaway train – full of speed and power, he can be unstoppable at times. He’s also a little off-balance and reckless and the key will be keeping the speed/power while rounding off a few of the rougher technical edges. He’s a pure physical specimen who doesn’t use a lot of technique or hand use, he prefers to get his head down and bull-rush. For that reason I think his best position will undoubtedly be the five-technique, where his speed and style will be a little more effective. He may even be able to play end on the strong side and could increase his rush capacity by losing a bit of weight and playing at around 290lbs.

When he’s at tackle I’m not enamoured by his run defense – he could be stouter, he could use a little more in the lower body. Cox looks like a big, athletic defensive end playing inside. His gap control is superior in the five and he’s not always the toughest to angle out on inside runs. He’s a pure pass rusher and while a lot of people believe he’ll create more pressure working inside, I’d rather see this guy playing the edge. Either way he’s one of the more unique athletes in this year’s draft and the versatility he brings to the table will probably interest Pete Carroll as much as anything else.

Would he fit into the scheme? Having spent a lot of time arguing the case for Courtney Upshaw, I’m not about to claim there’s no fit for Cox. They could use him at the three, before moving outside on certain downs. Yet isn’t that what they signed Jason Jones for? And if you’re drafting a guy to play tackle inside, do you cut Alan Branch? He isn’t likely to play permanently at end given Red Bryant’s recent extension. And before anyone asks about moving Bryant inside – this team moved him outside for a reason, and they also made him the best paid player on the defense as a defensive end for a reason.

It’s a name that hasn’t been touted elsewhere, which makes me believe there could be something in this. At the same time, moving up would be an expensive ordeal. You’d have to expect the Seahawks to pay a second round pick for the privilege of taking Cox, an expensive price given the needs elsewhere. And despite being such a physical impressive prospect, he still managed just five sacks in 2011. Break it down even further, and he actually only had sacks in three games – registering two against both Kentucky and South Carolina and one against Wake Forest (see tape below).

In 2010 he had 2.5 sacks and zero in 2009. Draft history is littered with stand-out athletic prospects who perform well at the combine, gradually rise up the boards and become top-ten picks. If those prospects fail, people inevitably try to find out what went wrong. They look at the late rise, they look at the lack of top-end production in college. That’s not to say Cox won’t play his best, productive football in the NFL, but sometime’s there’s a ‘fools gold’ aspect to prospects like this. That’s the gamble you take on upside, of which Cox has plenty.

That potential is expected to secure Cox a place in the top ten – either to St. Louis, Jacksonville, Miami or Carolina. I’m not convinced the Seahawks will pull the trigger on a trade, even if it is being contemplated as Softy has suggested. But one way or another they’ll be adding to the pass rush early in this draft.

So what’s the plan for draft day? Last year we ran a productive live-chat session that featured on Seahawks Draft Blog and Field Gulls. I’m pleased to say we’ll once again be using the live-chat feature on Thursday and Friday on both sites, covering rounds 1-3. For the final day on Saturday I’ll be creating an open thread for comments and reaction. Last year several hundred people used the live chat to talk with other Seahawks fans, analyse the picks and more. I hope you’ll join us again.

SDB Community mock – #11 Kansas City

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

On Tuesday we’ll vote for Seattle’s pick at #12, concluding the community mock. Kansas City are next up after Buffalo drafted Riley Reiff with 60% of the votes. This is how the board looks so far:

#1 Andrew Luck – IND
#2 Robert Griffin III – WAS
#3 Matt Kalil – MIN
#4 Trent Richardson – CLE
#5 Morris Claiborne – TB
#6 Justin Blackmon – STL
#7 Michael Floyd – JAC
#8 Ryan Tannehill – MIA
#9 Quinton Coples – CAR
#10 Riley Reiff – BUF

The Chiefs could go in a number of directions. If you believe the speculation, they are fond of Ryan Tannehill and may have the opportunity to draft him. The team’s offensive line could still use further additions, with David DeCastro a possibility even if it is a little early for a guard. Yet most people believe the Chiefs will take a defensive player at #11 with several solid options available.

They could choose Luke Kuechly, who looks like the prototypical Scott Pioli draft pick. Although he’s not an obvious scheme fit in the 3-4, Pioli may just feel the guy is too good to pass in this range – offering a defensive leader for the long term. Even so, it’s still not a position of priority need for the Chiefs. Would they gamble on a nose tackle such as Dontari Poe or Michael Brockers? How about a corner like Stephon Gilmore? Or would they keep adding to the pass rush with Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw?

It’s in your hands…


(polls)

Why I’m starting to get excited about Upshaw

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Written by Kip Earlywine

Last night I sat down to begin my Draft Spotlight article for Courtney Upshaw, and like I had done previously with Zach Brown, I had to stop partway through because I felt that a scouting report wouldn’t sufficiently convey the thoughts I had discovered while going through the process.  I’ll go ahead and treat this like a scouting report and include my Draft Spotlight graphic, but there is also a larger point I want to get across.

Before today, I liked Upshaw as a player but I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that drafting him to fix our pass rush was misguided.  I had seen a few compilation videos of Upshaw.  He wasn’t explosive.  He didn’t seem fast enough to fit the LEO role currently occupied by Chris Clemons.  And while I thought Rob’s estimated guesses about scheme changes made a lot of sense, in the back of my mind I wondered.  Changing the defense fundamentally for Von Miller is one thing.  Changing it for a guy like Upshaw is another.  Then there was the question about how Seattle would shift its defense around to make it all work.

After scouting several games tonight, a realization came upon me.  I’ll get to that realization later in the scouting report section, because first I think its important to explain the entirety of my observations so that my thoughts will make sense.  I want to show my work so that you can understand the answer I came to.

Background:

Coming out of high school, Upshaw was ranked a four star prospect by both Scout and Rivals.  He was the 4th best graduating high school defensive end in the country according to ESPN.  Upshaw had a whopping seven different scholarship offers, but settled on Alabama since he was born and raised there.  At Alabama, Upshaw was promoted to full time starter during his junior season (2010) and started nearly every game since.  During those two seasons he accumulated 16.5 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss.  Upshaw started in two bowl games, and was awarded MVP both times, including the MVP of the 2011 national championship game.  He was also a consensus All-American in 2011.

Scouting report:

Thankfully there is a lot of material out there for Upshaw, so I was able to get a larger than usual sampling of his play.  One thing that really surprised me is how many 4-3 fronts Nick Saban uses in his “3-4″ defense, and on almost every single play that featured Upshaw, he was lined as a 4-3 end, typically on the strong side, though occasionally he’d see snaps at weak side end too.  Upshaw only played a handful of snaps at linebacker in the seven game sample I broke down.  He only dropped into coverage one or two times as well.  Almost without exception, Nick Saban used Upshaw like a typical 4-3 end, but dropped him into coverage even less than a typical 4-3 end would.

As strictly a 4-3 end, Upshaw probably reminds me the most of Adrian Clayborn, whom I was a big fan of in last year’s draft.  Both are enormous strong side ends in the 280 pound range who win with power and awareness instead of speed.  Clayborn posted 7.5 sacks as a rookie on what was otherwise a disastrous 2011 season for Tampa Bay’s defense.  If Seattle drafted Upshaw with Adrian Clayborn in mind and gave Upshaw Red Bryant’s job straight up, it would upgrade the team and the pass rush.  Maybe that’s what the Seahawks could be thinking, and it wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but based on some of the subtle traits I noticed in Upshaw’s game, I think there could be a better use yet, which I’ll explain a bit later on.

Upshaw has short 32″ arms, the same length as Robert Gallery’s.  For all the (well deserved) grief that Melvin Ingram gets for his short arms, they are only half an inch shorter than Upshaw’s.  However, when watching Upshaw’s tape you honestly wouldn’t know that he had short arms, because his arm usage is one of his biggest strengths.  Arm length is important because when linemen engage, the one with the longer arms has the first strike and all the advantages that come with it.  What’s neat about Upshaw, and this was only something I noticed after studying him very closely, is how he compensates for this problem.

Upshaw’s is not a speed demon, but his ability to go from a standstill to top speed is impressively quick.  One of the tricks he likes to do sometimes is to slow down before engaging, almost to a full stop, and just as he nears arms reach, he’ll explode into the blocker’s body, not merely engaging the blocker but attacking him.  This attack is sometimes preceded by a bit of a quick wiggle move, which makes the initial punch more difficult to deliver for the blocker.   Upshaw doesn’t do this to shed the block.  Upshaw is actually attacking the blocker’s upper body to throw off the blocker’s balance with a violent body impact, and Upshaw is pretty damn good at it.  The blocker remains engaged with Upshaw, which temporarily seems as if Upshaw is losing.  However, when Upshaw senses that he’s knocked the blocker off balance, he turns on the jets and walks the blocker into the backfield like John Carlson attempting to block Jared Allen.  Off balance and reeling, the blocker is doing his best just to simply stay in Upshaw’s way.  Upshaw powers into the pocket in moments, and uses his impressive upper body strength to shed the off balance blocker with ease and close for the pressure, hit, tackle for loss, or sack.

If Upshaw was able to pull off this power move with more consistency, he’d be a threat to break double digit sacks with regularity.  The reason he can’t is precisely because he’s often playing in a five or six tech role that doesn’t allow him enough of a “flight deck” to take off.  Funny enough, I’ve always thought that Upshaw was a terrible fit for the LEO because he lacks the speed and agility of a typical weak side rusher, but on snaps when Upshaw is given the extra yard outside to work with he is able to explode and attack the blocker’s balance with much better consistency.  Just an extra yard or two often makes a big difference.  Now try to imagine how effective this attack would be if given a full running start instead.  It’s an exciting thought, and I’m surprised that Upshaw didn’t get almost any reps as a pass rushing linebacker when he looks his best with momentum at his back.

Upshaw is also very strong in run support.  He has the power and leverage to hold his ground, he has the arm strength to disengage from blocks, and he generally does a good job tracking the ball and knowing when to break free for a tackle.  He seems to always sniff out cut blocks, though unfortunately he doesn’t have the quickness to completely avoid being slowed by them.  I haven’t seen enough of Upshaw at linebacker to pass judgement, but my initial impression is that he’d be a more extreme version of David Hawthorne, really good against the run but even weaker against the pass.

I wouldn’t go so far to say that Upshaw stands out on a great defense, but you might say that he’s the Alan Branch or Red Bryant of the Crimson Tide, not because he’s anything like either of those players, but because Branch and Bryant made the defense better last year in ways that were not easy to notice, and Upshaw was just one of those players that somehow made his defense better.  There is so much NFL talent on Alabama’s defense that it would be almost impossible for that defense to have one true standout player.  We’re talking about a defense that is probably going to have three players go in the first round next week.

That said, I don’t think its an accident that Upshaw won the MVP award in both of his bowl games.  Not just because Upshaw stepped up big in both games, but because his tenacity and spirit sets the tone for the rest of the defense.  Nick Saban called Upshaw “the meanest player [he] ever coached.”  We saw last year how the nasty style of play by Red Bryant, Kam Chancellor and Brandon Browner helped set the tone and changed the mentality of the defense completely.  In that sense, Upshaw seems like a perfect fit for what Carroll is trying to build in Seattle.

I only have two notable complaints about Upshaw that haven’t been said elsewhere ad nauseum.  The first is that once the play is by him he will often jog in pursuit instead of running.  That’s a minor gripe, but there will be times in a game where backside pursuit can lead to an important tackle that minimizes damage.  For a guy that plays so hard when the play is in front of him, he doesn’t really share that urgency when he thinks the play is past him.

The other complaint is that for a guy who doesn’t get a ton of sacks, he had a lot of sacks where quarterbacks slipped or fell down and Upshaw was credited.  It makes his eight sacks a year stat feel like five or six instead.  Or to put it another way, it felt like Upshaw “over-achieved” to reach 16.5 sacks the last two years because of him having so many shoe-string sacks that very nearly weren’t sacks at all.  I think if Carroll plays Upshaw exactly as he was used at Alabama, he’d be a 5-8 sack a season defensive end in the NFL.

In conclusion:

Upshaw’s ability to disrupt a blocker’s balance and subsequently walk the blocker into the pocket is a potentially elite trait that has yet to be harnessed.  It’s probably because of this that Upshaw looked much more effective in pass rush attempts that gave him even a small head of steam at the start.  Nick Saban is one of the best coaches on the planet, but he didn’t experiment much with Upshaw and I’m starting to think he should have.  When Upshaw has enough momentum and power to unbalance blockers he looks like an elite pass rushing talent on those snaps.  The question is, “how can we enable Upshaw to be in that position more often?”

I’m guessing Pete Carroll has asked himself similar questions regarding Upshaw.  Not that I have anything against adding an Adrian Clayborn or Robert Ayers type player to this defense, but I wouldn’t do it at #12 overall, and I don’t think Carroll would either.  I think Carroll sees more than a sub-elite defensive end when he looks at Upshaw.  If given the chance to rush the passer from an outside linebacker spot with a head of steam, he’d be a fundamentally different pass rusher than the Upshaw who played at Alabama lined up directly across from the tackle and too often had to rely only on hand usage.

It’s common to dismiss the idea of Upshaw as a rush linebacker because of his lack of burner speed.  Fair enough.  It should be noted though that Lamarr Woodley, a 3-4 outside linebacker for the Steelers, ran the same forty time as Upshaw at a very similar size and weight.  Woodley has had 44 sacks over the last four seasons, and he isn’t as violent as Upshaw with his upper body use either.   Upshaw may not become a typical rush linebacker, but he wouldn’t be unprecedented.

How Seattle would get Upshaw on the field for a Woodley type role is a discussion in itself, but that’s not the point.  The point is that pass rushers are very hard to find, and if you feel good about your chances of landing a difference making pass rusher with a certain player who may not fit the scheme like a glove, there is a lot to gain by getting creative.  Carroll has already shown that he’s perfectly willing to tweak the defense to fit available talent.

Whether Seattle plays Upshaw at outside linebacker, the LEO spot, or another position that gives him some room to build up speed, I’m starting to believe there is a chance that he could develop into an elite level bull rush pass rusher.  And if I’m wrong, then Upshaw could still be a solid 4-3 defensive end who generates a modest amount of pressure while being very strong against the run.  If the Seahawks do draft Upshaw at #12, I think its because they believe they can get more out of Upshaw’s unique  talents than he showed at Alabama.  Even if they are wrong, Upshaw will still be a solid contributor to this defense.  Contrast that with Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram, who have high ceilings but very low floors.  There is a chance that Upshaw has a high ceiling too, but he also comes with a nice parachute if he doesn’t become the bull in the china store that he could be.

Its hard to get behind a pick as high as 12th overall without feeling there is a chance that he could become an elite contributor.  But after looking into Upshaw very closely, I can see the faint signs of some untapped talent as a pass rusher that may actually give Upshaw a real chance to justify the #12 pick after all.

Compilation videos:

vs. South Carolina, Auburn and Michigan State (2010)

vs. Auburn

vs. Mississippi State

vs. Florida

vs. LSU

How picks 7-11 could impact the Seahawks

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Ryan Tannehill actually has an evil twin named Bryan Tannehill. They lock Bryan in the garden.

Jacksonville Jaguars

They’re till a major mystery given nobody’s really sure who’s making the pick. Shahid Khan (the owner) and Gene Smith (the GM) could have different ideas about the #7 pick. Khan’s pursuit of Tim Tebow was all about ticket sales, and this is his first opportunity to get involved in a draft. Despite signing a new contract, Smith’s position was slightly undermined in the bid for Tebow and speculation has suggested he may leave the franchise after the draft. You have to believe Khan would like the big name, flashy pick. They need a receiver to help Blaine Gabbert, so Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd fits the bill. Khan may also buy into the potential of a physical specimen like Quinton Coples. Smith is more unpredictable and less inclined to fall in love with athletic potential. Stephon Gilmore, Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus, Melvin Ingram, Riley Reiff, Luke Kuechly – who knows what he’d do. It’s worth remembering that it was Smith who traded up for Gabbert and he may feel obliged to support that decision with help for the offense.

Miami Dolphins

The debate has to start with Ryan Tannehill. Mike Sherman coached Tannehill at Texas A&M and has the inside track. You would hope – you would really, really hope – Jeff Ireland is using that resource to the maximum. Why employ Sherman otherwise? If he’s banging the table for Tannehill, and he’s on the board at #8, you would expect Miami to make that pick. However, nothing is predictable or smooth with this franchise. Ireland could just flat out ignore Sherman and go in his own direction. Tannehill might be off the board if someone trades up. Sherman may not even be giving the hard sell, especially considering he chose Jerrod Johnson over Tannehill for the Aggies. Maybe they go quarterback in round two, copying the Bengals last year? If the Dolphins don’t select a quarterback in round one they will probably look at pass rushers. Wide receiver is a greater need these days following the Brandon Marshall trade, but Joe Philbin directed an offense in Green Bay that regularly found WR talent beyond round one.

Carolina Panthers

There are several options for the Panthers, all on defense. They’ve extended Steve Smith’s contract, have a healthy stable of running backs and some nice pieces on the offensive line. Cam Newton is going to be a star in the NFL. They can keep adding to the offense, but it already has the makings of a productive unit. So this draft should be all about the defense. They have some pass rush threat, but they need more. Carolina needs a defensive tackle who can absorb the run and collapse the pocket. Cornerback and linebacker are need areas. Really, they can’t go wrong with whoever they take at #9. Ron Rivera apparently wants to use 4-3 and 3-4 looks, so scheme diversity seems to be important. Fletcher Cox, Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw can all work into different looks. Luke Kuechly would fit for the Panthers, while Stephon Gilmore is an en vogue suggestion in the top ten. Do they go nose tackle with Dontari Poe? Having the ninth pick is a good spot for Carolina.

Buffalo Bills

Mario Williams and Mark Anderson have added quality to the Bills defensive line, so you would assume they’ll go offense, right? A lot of people think Buffalo will keep building a defense that has to face Tom Brady twice a year. Michael Lombardi today projected Mark Barron to the Bills, while this is another place where Stephon Gilmore’s name gets mentioned. Despite all of that, they still don’t have a left tackle. What might sway things here is the way Buffalo’s front office grade the two most likely tackle options – Riley Reiff and Cordy Glenn. Both make a lot of sense, but are they good enough at #10 if the Bills can’t move down? And would they be better served taking a superior player on their board even if it’s a lesser need? There’s going to be some offensive line value at the top of round two, so maybe Buffalo does go defense at #10? Wide receiver is also perceived to be an option if Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd are available. I doubt either goes 10th overall.

Kansas City

Scott Pioli likes tough, solid football players. Then he goes and picks Jonathan Baldwin last year. I really liked Baldwin’s potential at Pittsburgh as a big, tall, athletic receiver – but people thought he was soft. The pick contradicted what a lot of people expected from Pioli. So while we stand here wondering if he’ll take Luke Kuechly or David DeCastro, maybe there’s a surprise in stall? Are they interested enough in Ryan Tannehill to move up? Will Tannehill be there at #11? Will they buy into the potential of Dontari Poe as a future nose tackle? It actually wouldn’t surprise me if KC moved above Miami to get Tannehill, allowing Jacksonville to move down a few spots. When you think about what the Chiefs need, they’re suddenly competing in a division with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. Is Matt Cassel going to get it done? There wouldn’t be pressure to play Tannehill immediately with Cassel, Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi on the roster, but he could start in year two. For some reason I have a hard time imagining Tannehill in Miami.

Seattle Seahawks

There’s really a lot of options for the #7-11 picks. Although the top five or six seem pretty secure, it could be a free-for-all beyond that. There also seems to be little difference in value from the #6 pick all the way to around #25. That shouldn’t necessarily be considered a negative for Seattle. They aren’t picking high enough to rue the fact there aren’t better top-ten players available, but they’re high enough to get one of the guys they want without worrying too much about him leaving the board. There’s likely to be a rush on defensive ends in the teens and twenties, and the Seahawks could be the catalyst. It’d be incredibly surprising if the best pass rushers left the board in the top ten, meaning the Seahawks are likely to find good value with their pick at #12. However, there’s also a case to be made for Jacksonville, Miami and Carolina all addressing that area – even if it’s unlikely all three go for defensive ends. A perfect scenario for the Seahawks could be:

#7 Kansas City (trades with Jacksonville) – Ryan Tannehill

#8 Miami – Quinton Coples

#9 Carolina – Fletcher Cox

#10 Buffalo – Riley Reiff

#11 Jacksonville – Stephon Gilmore

Only one pass rusher is off the board (Quinton Coples) leaving plenty of options for the Seahawks at #12. A worst case scenario would see Jacksonville stay put and Miami simply pass on Tannehill, making it extremely possible pass rushers are drafted at #7, #8 and #9. The Seahawks won’t want to contemplate that scenario.

Draft Spotlight: Doug Martin, RB, Boise St.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Written by Kip Earlywine

Doug Martin is (most likely) a classic illustration of the gap between “draftniks” and actual NFL front office personnel.  Doug Martin had almost 1600 yards from scrimmage in 2010 with 14 total touchdowns.  He did this while being the featured back of the Boise State Broncos, a perennial top 10 team in college football.  Despite this, Martin was an afterthought entering the 2011 season, thought to be a 4th round pick.  After posting another 1554 total yards and 18 total touchdowns in 2011, Martin was still considered a 4th round prospect as recently as early January of this year.

Then something happened.  Some time around the Senior Bowl, Doug Martin’s stock rocketed from a 4th round afterthought to the near consensus “best back in the draft not named Trent Richardson.”  Now Martin is considered a possible late 1st round pick.

It’s one of those things that gets me thinking.  We’ve heard quotes about NFL scouts having Ryan Tannehill as a top 15 guy going way back.  Rob and I know from our own inside info experiences that Seattle’s own front office tends to look at least one extra year ahead with every draft.  It’s not uncommon for scouts to follow prospects going all the way back to high school.

In other words, I don’t think the NFL world just suddenly discovered Doug Martin, even if it looks that way.  More likely, a scout or two blabbed about Martin to a draftnik at some point, and suddenly the cat was out of the bag.  Because of this, I don’t feel that Martin is over-hyped or a sudden riser: I simply think that he’s finally getting the credit he should have been getting over a year ago.

Now with all that being said, do I personally think Martin is the second best back in this class?  No, I don’t.  Although I do think it’s mighty close.  I slightly favor Miller as the second option, with Polk placing third and Martin fourth.  You might not be able to slip a piece of dental floss between the three though- all of them are outstanding backs in three unique ways, and your preference will ultimately boil down to what you value most in a running back.

Martin had the humblest beginnings of the three.  Whereas Miller and Polk were four star recruits coming out of high school, Martin was only a two star (out of five) prospect.  Whereas Polk and Miller had multiple schools fighting for their signatures, Martin did not get a single scholarship offer outside of Boise State.  ESPN ranked Martin as the 248th best running back coming out of high school.  Miller was 12th and Polk was 66th.

Martin redshirted his first season (2007).  He played special teams and defense during the next season (2008), with just a handful of rushing attempts sprinkled in.  During his third year (2009) Martin broke out after replacing injured starting running back DJ Harper.  Martin finished with over 700 rushing yards in part time duty.  The next year (2010) was his massive debut season as the full time starter in which he had nearly 1600 yards from scrimmage.  He followed that up with another good season in his senior year (2011) with 1554 total yards from scrimmage.

Even though I may not rate Martin quite as high as some, even I will attest to Martin’s special quickness.  There may not be a back in this draft that can move his feet as quickly as Martin can.  Martin has a lightning fast spin move and has elite stop and go ability.  He’s deadly in the open field as he can easily juke defenders out of their shoes.  Martin might be even more elusive in the open field than Lamar Miller, although I tend to favor Miller as he just makes everything look so easy.  Martin’s combination of strong looking physique, quickness, but lack of a third gear is reminiscent of Knowshon Moreno, the 12th overall pick in the 2009 draft.

While Martin struggles in some aspects of penetrating the first level (more on this later), his command and navigation in the second and third levels of the defense looks pro-bowl worthy.  In addition to having great quickness, quick cuts, short area burst and general elusiveness, he’s also patient and smart.  He’ll often wait the extra split second to let a lineman reach his block and use that block for extra yardage.  When Martin gets up to speed he displays impressive strength, often carrying defenders extra yards.  Short (good leverage), strong, and quick is a tough combination to deal with as a defender in the open field.  Martin is one of those running backs that linebackers hate having to tackle.

As a receiver Martin has good hands and has been productive each of the last two years.  He won’t run routes deep downfield like Chris Polk can, but on screens or safety valve passes you can’t ask for much more than what Martin provides.  Martin’s pass blocking is neither good nor bad, though in this class of backs that probably makes him one of the better pass blockers.

Despite being only 5’9″, Martin is a ripped looking 222 pounds.  That added size eases some injury concerns, but Martin suffered his share of injuries at Boise State, including an ankle injury late last season and an injured hamstring in 2008.  I’m kind of surprised he wasn’t injured more.  As strong as Martin can be at full speed, a few times a game he’ll get popped at the line of scrimmage and slammed to ground with great force- not unlike how Justin Forsett could get manhandled when he ran into a defensive lineman instead of a crease.  Martin is not a weak back, but there are many times he gets blown back at the line with so much violence that it’s as if he weighed 170 pounds, not 222.  We’ll have to wait and see, but I suspect that Martin could end up getting pulled in 3rd and short situations in the NFL.

Martin has good balance and has a good habit of churning his legs through contact.  Despite that, I found that he broke surprisingly few tackles.  Whereas a back like Chris Polk (or Marshawn Lynch) has a knack for using his balance to absorb the impact of a hit and transition to a spin out of the tackle, Martin looks caught in a trap.  Rather than break free, Martin typically concedes the tackle while pushing for the extra yard or two.  I really like it when backs have the presence of mind to tack on extra yardage whenever they can, though I would prefer to see Martin break more tackles instead.

For as much flak as Chris Polk has received for his average speed, he’s actually faster than Doug Martin.  And given how well Martin benefited for playing on a national title contending team against Mountain West competition, that lack of top speed should probably be talked about more.  A lot of Martin’s big runs wouldn’t have been so big in the SEC, much less the NFL.  Martin can still be a great NFL back, but big plays will probably drop off considerably and he’ll have to make his living off a high number of mid-range runs.

For a variety of reasons, I found that Martin had a distressingly high number of rushes for negative yardage in my sample despite the run blocking advantage held by Boise State on a week in week out basis.  As said before, Martin’s initial power isn’t enough to compensate for his lack of height.  You would think that being 222 pounds, it wouldn’t matter how tall Martin is, but for whatever reason linemen can blow Martin back at the line as if he weighed far less.  And for as impressive as Martin’s footwork and quickness are beyond the first level, it lures him into a bad habit of dancing too much behind the line, robbing him of the precious time needed to turn a two yard loss into mildly positive play.

Finally, as with many players I’ve reviewed recently, Martin is another “old” college prospect (Earl Thomas is 4 months younger than Doug Martin is).  I don’t worry about age as much with running backs though, as decline for backs is tied more to wear and usage than age.

In conclusion:

Doug Martin is a hell of a running back, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who ranks him as the second best running back in the draft.  Martin is special enough to warrant late first round consideration, though in my opinion Lamar Miller and Chris Polk are equally as special, if not more so.

What I like most about Martin is his ability to make linebackers miss with his quick feet and impressive lateral agility.   Once he gets past the first level, Martin passes the eyeball test with flying colors.  The Ray Rice and Frank Gore comparisons almost feel inadequate because neither one possess the short area quickness and elusiveness that Martin does.

However, I do have some worries about Martin’s ability to breach the first level, and I also worry about his lack of fit with a zone blocking scheme that asks running backs to can the flashy stuff, make one cut, and go.  Behind a man scheme line that allows for some wiggle room (pun intended) behind the line of scrimmage, it wouldn’t be hard for me to envision Martin as a top five NFL back.  But behind a zone scheme without great blocking, I could just as easily envision Martin struggling as Knowshon Moreno did with Denver.   I don’t think Seattle is the ideal fit for Martin, but we could certainly do worse than taking Martin with the 43rd pick, should he reach it.

Compilation videos:

vs. Colorado State

vs. Georgia

vs. Arizona State

vs. New Mexico

SDB Community mock – #10 Buffalo

Friday, April 20th, 2012

With the 9th overall pick, Carolina drafted Quinton Coples. He just edged out Fletcher Cox (39% vs 33%) in the closest vote we’ve seen so far. We’re just two picks away from the Seahawks, with Buffalo and Kansas City yet to make their choice.

#1 Andrew Luck – IND
#2 Robert Griffin III – WAS
#3 Matt Kalil – MIN
#4 Trent Richardson – CLE
#5 Morris Claiborne – TB
#6 Justin Blackmon – STL
#7 Michael Floyd – JAC
#8 Ryan Tannehill – MIA
#9 Quinton Coples – BUF

The Bills went big in free agency to improve their pass rush, making a huge offer to Mario Williams and then adding Mark Anderson. Buffalo suddenly has one of the more feared defensive fronts in the AFC. However, will they be susceptible to even the most modest of rush attacks if they don’t improve their offensive line?

Demetrius Bell played left tackle for the Bills last year, but he’s since moved on to Philly. The team needs an offensive tackle, simple as that. Riley Reiff would make a lot of sense here and while he isn’t the elite pass protector teams look for in this range, he’ll solidify the line and help keep Ryan Fitzpatrick upright. If they don’t fancy Reiff, then Cordy Glenn and Jonathan Martin could be alternatives.

I’ve also included cornerback Stephon Gilmore and linebacker Luke Kuechly. The Bills could go defense and wait on a tackle, but they’d be taking a gamble. Many expect Michael Floyd to be a consideration but he left the board at #7.

So which direction do the Bills take?


(polls)

Early look at 2013 QB’s not named Matt Barkley

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Upon the draft’s conclusion next Thursday, we’ll be reviewing the prospects taken by Seattle before moving on to 2013. We’ll get into this subject more when we break down the tape of various prospects, but I wanted to publish early videos on three key quarterbacks. In my eyes, Matt Barkley is the clear #1 next year and several teams will already have an eye directed towards the USC quarterback. But who are some of the others to think about?

Regulars who visited between September-December will know I’m not a fan of Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. Had he declared for this year’s event, he would’ve been a mid-rounder at best in my eyes – so no surprises he chose not to declare. But three other quarterbacks are a little more intriguing.

We touted Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas on our top-50 watchlist for 2011 and he didn’t disappoint – showing enough potential as a first-year starter to warrant genuine excitement. He is a possible #1 overall pick next year. Tyler Wilson will have to deal with the departure of Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, but he was also the most prolific SEC quarterback last year. I like Wilson, but I do have some concerns (all in good time…). Tyler Bray has had to deal with injury problems at Tennessee and he needs to add weight, but he throws a pretty ball. Tape supplied below by JMPasq, expect full and detailed breakdowns after the 2012 draft. Expect the latest SDB community mock draft pick later today.

Mike Florio on Pete Carroll/Arkansas

Friday, April 20th, 2012