Archive for October, 2012

Week eight review: McCarron/Barkley hit form, Smith struggles

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

A.J. McCarron had another big day for Alabama

Two weeks ago West Virginia were National Championship contenders and Geno Smith favourite for the Heisman. Nobody predicted what happened next.

Kansas State pounded the Mountaineers 55-14 on Saturday, following up last week’s similar beat down at Texas Tech. Smith threw his first two interceptions of the year against the Wildcats in a difficult display. He went 21/32 for 143 yards and just one touchdown. He received very little in terms of pass protection or help from a miserable defense, but this was a second consecutive struggle for the quarterback.

Here’s the thing – people got carried away during the good times for Smith. He came flying out of the blocks and the temptation is always to crown a guy too early. He’s not a gimmick quarterback, his mechanics are solid if not perfect and he’s athletic. It’s very easy to look at the package and project ‘high NFL draft pick’. Smith’s always been a likely top-two round projection, but suddenly he was pencilled in as the #1 overall talent. Not so fast.

For what it’s worth I think Smith will be a first round pick, depending on how many teams are actually motivated to draft a quarterback in round one. The need is shortening and players such as Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson could leave the board first, impacting on Smith’s stock. He’s still a good quarterback with a lot of the tools to make it at the next level. Even so, he’s not the #1 overall pick and we’ve seen the fragile nature of the WVU team the last two weeks. They can’t play defense, and this puts so much pressure on the offense to make quick scores. They use an extreme spread just like the one we discussed with Brandon Weeden/Oklahoma State last year. If you can bring pressure with four and flood underneath, then it makes life very difficult for a quarterback who will take a lot of 5-7 step drops from the shotgun and he’ll likely start to force things with the fast ball. Just like Weeden, Smith is going to need time to adjust to a more basic pro-style offense. He has a lot of the physical tools needed to manage that transition, but as Weeden is finding out it’s an extremely difficult obstacle to overcome.

On a positive note, Tavon Austin enhanced his blossoming reputation as a potential first round pick with a sensational 100 yard kick off return for a score. He also added WVU’s other touchdown on a 5 yard pass. He’s explosive with elite speed and will interest teams as a big-time playmaker. He should be a top-40 choice in April.

While the Mountaineers were struggling, USC were coasting to victory over Colorado. Matt Barkley set more records as he posted 19/20 passing for 298 yards and six touchdowns. Robert Woods also had a big day with eight catches for 132 yards and four touchdowns. The Trojans had a superb second half to last season culminating in Barkley proving a lot of his doubters wrong to enter the Heisman race. It appears USC are well set for another similar run with some big games coming up over the next few weeks. Even so, there’s no getting away from how poorly Colorado performed in the 50-6 defeat. Woods’ first score – a 39 yarder – included some of the worst tackling you’ll ever see. A strong gust of wind probably would’ve nudged Woods out of bounds, yet two defensive players couldn’t manage it.

It was a bit of an anti-climax for Brandon Coleman after the big send up on the blog this week. Seattle had scouts at the Rutgers vs Temple game (won by the Knights 35-10) yet Coleman managed just two catches for 17 yards. Really, it was one catch for 17 yards as the other reception failed to register any gain. This isn’t necessarily bad news if you’re the type of person, like me, that would like to see the 6-6 receiver in Seattle should he declare for the NFL. Nothing helps your stock like mass production (see: Geno Smith). Demaryius Thomas had all the physical tools you’d wish to see from a receiver, but lasted into the second half of round one seemingly due to modest production in the triple-option offense at Georgia Tech. He had one or two catch games to go along with the six catch-133 yard games. For Coleman to stick around into the kind of range the Seahawks will select next April, a few games like Saturday’s are welcome.

A month ago I wrote a piece arguing that Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron deserved greater attention. He’s a better player than ‘Bama’s more recent quarterbacks and has a future at the next level. He’s not a great, physical passer who will make explosive plays – but he’s intelligent, reads the field well and can execute. He doesn’t turn the ball over – he’s yet to throw an interception this year. The worst case scenario is he’ll become a solid backup quarterback for many years in the NFL, but I suspect he will get opportunities to start. Against Tennessee he threw 17/22 for 306 yards and four touchdowns. In seven games he has 16 touchdowns, no picks, 1476 yards and leads the NCAA for QB rating (183.6). Underrated player.

C.J. Mosley also had another fine game and looks like a top-25 draft pick. He made an easy interception in the first half and on the very next drive blew up a screen to force a punt. He’s an extreme playmaker at the linebacker position with three sacks and two interceptions already this year. He can cover, he can rush. Another word on Alabama – they’re reloading even in a year where they appear destined to win another national title. Freshmen T.J. Yeldon (RB) and Amari Cooper (WR) look NFL ready even now and are likely to become future stars not just in college, but at the next level too.

As for Tennessee, it was another let-down game for Justin Hunter. He had a big drop at the end of the first half which would’ve given the Vols a chance to get back into the game. He didn’t catch a ball until there was 2:36 left in the third quarter, at which point Alabama had settled into a commanding position. He ended up with four catches for 70 yards in garbage time, but he showed no evidence that he’s a top draft prospect. Clearly the serious knee injury last year has impacted his college performance, along with the rampant inconsistency of the Tennessee offense. He could still make a success of things in the NFL, but it’s likely to be as a second day pick rather than the top-15 selection some anticipated.

Cordarrelle Patterson had only one catch for 25 yards and continues to show both rawness as a receiver (poor routes, doesn’t fight for the ball) and extreme playmaking potential (huge kick off returns). I’ll say it again – he’s a home run hitter. The best of the 2013 eligible players in that regard. But you’ll be pulling your hair out watching him play receiver. The team that drafts this guy will do so hoping he can make one or two big plays most weeks and I’m not sure he’ll ever be more than that. Yet the fact he has so much playmaking quality is enticing, I’m just not sure I trust him to be consistent.

Jonathan Banks (CB, Mississippi State) is a cornerback who fits in Seattle’s scheme. He had another interception against Mid-Tennessee State (plus a 46 yard return) and two further pass break-ups. Corner isn’t a huge need for Seattle, but Banks is a clear first round pick.

Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M) continued his fine season with another sack and big performance against LSU. He leads the NCAA with 9.5 sacks – one of the main reasons I had him down as a top-ten pick in my latest mock draft.

Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State) had his first two sacks since week three of the season. The Seminoles handled Miami 33-20 and Werner is up to eight sacks for the year.

Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State) is one of the best linebackers in college football and it might be worth keeping a close eye on this guy. As noted by a few people on Twitter over the weekend, there’s an interesting exert on Brown’s wikipedia page: “Pete Carroll said that Brown was the best linebacker that he has seen in seven years.” There’s no confirming or denying this and it is just wikipedia, but we know how Carroll remembers guys he recruited. The likes of Bruce Irvin and Richard Sherman were both players Carroll failed to bring to USC but have since been drafted by the Seahawks. Brown is a solid round two projection at this point and could make it a hat-trick for Carroll if he’s on the board when the team picks.

A lot of people are talking about Ezekiel Ansah (DE, BYU) – a 6-6, 270lbs pass rusher with extreme athleticism. He only has three sacks for the year, two coming against Utah State (see tape below) but the potential is clear to see. He could be moving into first round contention and may even crack the top-15 if he tests well at the combine.

College football week 8 open thread

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Watching a game or a particular prospect today? Let us know about it. You may be pleased to know Chris Steuber is reporting that Seattle has representation at the Rutgers/Temple game today. It seems pretty safe to say they’ll be keeping tabs on brilliant wide receiver Brandon Coleman.

Thoughts on last night, the draft

Friday, October 19th, 2012

The first drop of the night

It was a pretty disappointing defeat in San Francisco, but Seahawks fans shouldn’t be too concerned about the direction this team is going. When you can hang with this version of the 49ers on the road, then something is working. Execute better in the passing game and maybe you win the game? Either way, there’s no reason to feel too depressed about this one.

The big thing people are talking about today is the passing game. Again. When people aren’t second guessing the quarterback position, it’s the receivers. I actually think Russell Wilson did pretty well for the most part yesterday. He had an extremely good first half and the team came out running in the second. He wasn’t really asked to move the ball until San Francisco scored a touchdown to take the lead – and that’s a thankless task against such a strong defense. His pick was ugly, but he’ll learn from that. Statistically he looks worse than the reality.

No such excuse for the receivers though, unfortunately. After a good performance against New England where everyone contributed, this was a let down. Golden Tate had maybe his worst game as a pro – dropping passes, missing chances, whiffing on a key block and looking disinterested afterwords. Braylon Edwards was OK but didn’t really back up a provocative tweet stating the game was ‘personal’ after his recent release from the 49ers. Sidney Rice was both good and bad, while Evan Moore also had an ugly drop. Was Zach Miller on the field? Only Doug Baldwin earned any credit and he didn’t make the second half due to an ankle injury. We can only imagine what could’ve been had he remained on the field.

One of the big issues for me is the definition of roles within the receivers. They’re kind of just a group. Nobody’s a true #1, nobody’s a consistent short target. There’s no productive tight end. It’s just a group of guys who play for the Seahawks. New England has to be the role model for this team unless they’re able to draft that generational talent like Calvin Johnson. The Patriots make life easy for Tom Brady with precise role players. Two big, athletic tight ends who create nightmares for linebackers in coverage. An athletic downfield player who can stretch the field in Brandon Lloyd. The best slot receiver in the NFL who just makes consistent plays and finds ways to get open. There’s a method to the madness here and while it helps having a Hall of Fame quarterback, the Pats’ offense operates like clockwork.

The Seahawks have good players. Sidney Rice can make big plays and stretch the field. Golden Tate is a capable playmaker. Doug Baldwin could end up being a great third down guy and safety valve. But what are their roles in the offense? Baldwin’s seems to be working out, but for the rest it’s not obvious to the humble observer. Rice and Tate are all over the field, one of the most expensive tight ends in the league doesn’t appear to have much responsibility in the passing game as a receiver. Suddenly the teams other ultra-athletic tight end – Anthony McCoy – isn’t getting many looks despite a ton of chemistry with Russell Wilson in pre-season. Braylon Edwards drifts in and out of the line-up. It’s such a mixed bag and as a consequence I’m not sure we’re seeing the best from any of these guys.

You can watch a game and see Wilson seemingly throw the same (or similar) pass to a different guy each time. Is there not a way of simplifying the roles of each? Perhaps turning to more shorter passes rather than relying on big plays downfield to extend drives or score points? Is a greater pass/run balance needed? Is it just a case of getting better and upgrading positions? Or is there a concern that even if you replace a guy like Miller, the tight end position just isn’t being used as an effective pass-catching threat? If you draft a 6-8, 260lbs monster like Levine Toilolo, is he going to spend every game blocking down?

There are some good receivers eligible for the 2013 draft and increasingly it’s looking like the most likely option with the teams latest first round pick. But even then, merely adding another body to the equation won’t solve all the problems. The entire passing game needs to have more of a focus with more defined roles. The off-and-on nature of the passing game (we’ll come to you when needed, for example) almost encourages inconsistency. Throwing in another young rookie into the system next year won’t necessarily solve any problems. But it’s a start.

I used the Patriots as an example above, but the one other team I keep coming back to are the Atlanta Falcons. They too started a rookie quarterback – albeit the #3 overall pick in 2008 rather a third rounder. Matt Ryan inherited Roddy White, but the Falcons front office quickly went out and grabbed Tony Gonzalez as a safety net at tight end. They created a running game with Michael Turner and drafted a left tackle in Sam Baker. In 2011 they felt obliged to get another weapon and traded up to get Julio Jones. That is the very definition of building around a quarterback and it’s probably why Ryan has succeeded in the pro’s.

Russell Wilson has a left tackle and he has a running game. He’s inherited Sidney Rice, who could be as good as if not better than Roddy White. The Zach Miller project hasn’t worked – he’s no Tony Gonzalez and almost certainly won’t be playing for the $11m he’s currently due in 2013. The Seahawks have to find their version of the great Gonzalez or even their version of Julio Jones. Keep building, refine the passing offense and make sure Wilson feels comfortable with guys he can trust to make plays. He needs to know where certain players are going to be on the field, and the receivers need to know what their role is. Improving the passing game has to be the #1 priority in the off-season because right now it’s the only thing holding this team back from being a serious contender.

Games on the schedule this weekend: LSU @ Texas, South Carolina @ Florida, Alabama @ Tennessee, Utah @ Oregon State.

Should the Seahawks trade for Dwayne Bowe?

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Seattle needs a red-zone threat. Dwayne Bowe is a red-zone threat.

There’s been a bit of talk this week about Dwayne Bowe wanting out in Kansas City. It’s not a total shock – he wants a big contract and received the franchise tag instead. The Chiefs have started poorly at 1-5 and there’s serious front office unrest with speculation about the future of GM Scott Pioli.

It’s not long since Kansas City’s last re-launch when they initially appointed Pioli, but they appear destined for another. Let’s go back to the early days of that regime. In 2010 Matt Cassel held together a pretty good ball-control offense – they ran with Jamaal Charles, dominated time of possession and Bowe was an unstoppable force in the red zone. He didn’t make a ton of big, downfield plays (1162 yards on a 16.2 average) but he had 15 touchdowns.

Things spiralled a bit last year and the Chiefs are unravelling again in 2012. Bowe’s maintaining his production, but he wants a big contract after receiving the franchise tag this year. Miami has a big need at receiver after trading Brandon Marshall and own a lot of draft capital after moving on Vontae Davis. The Dolphins should be working hard to add a player like Dwayne Bowe to make like easy for rookie Ryan Tannehill. The question is – should the Seahawks be making a similar push for the same reasons?

Russell Wilson is starting to get more from his receivers but he lacks a truly excellent red zone threat. Just think how much easier life would be if he had that particular weapon? Bowe is a machine from close range and would be an effective compliment to the likes of Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. The one thing Seattle’s offense lacks is that big target who creates problems in the red zone – they don’t have a dominating tight end or big bodied receiver who fills that role. Do the Seahawks beat Arizona in week one with Dwayne Bowe on the field for that final drive? We’ll never know.

While the Dolphins are very much in year one of a substantial rebuild, the Seahawks might be entering a period where they move from rebuilding to contender. This is the kind of time when you consider the right move to push your team to the next level. Sure, Bowe isn’t Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or A.J. Green. But it would fill a significant need. Unless he hits free agency next year – there aren’t likely to be many alternatives.

The counter argument is two fold. Firstly, Bowe has just turned 28 and may only have 2-3 years of top-end production left in his body before he inherits the ‘possession receiver’ tag. You’d have to believe he can hit the ground running and have an immediate impact. Secondly, the cost would be pretty high. This isn’t a great time to sign a veteran receiver to a new deal – Calvin Johnson penned a $132m deal in March and Larry Fitzgerald signed a $120m deal last year. Bowe won’t expect to earn as much as that, but the top end of the market is set and it’ll filter down. That’s why a guy like Antonio Brown gets a $42.5m deal from Pittsburgh and why players like Bowe, Wes Welker and Mike Wallace are unhappy to get tagged. They’re missing out on their slice of the pie.

Seattle is already paying Sidney Rice $8.2m in 2012 and he’s due $9.7m in 2013 and 2014. Zach Miller is getting $7m this year and is due $11m in 2013. When you’re due to pay two guys over $20m for not a lot of production, it’s difficult to start plotting a move to bring in another expensive veteran. It seems unlikely Rice and Miller will survive with those contracts next year unless they explode over the next 10 games, but paying the big bucks in free agency hasn’t worked for this team so far. Compare it to the production found from guys like Chris Clemons (modest trade), Brandon Browner (CFL addition), Marshawn Lynch (added for a 4th rounder and change) and Richard Sherman (5th round pick) and the Seahawks could be forgiven for abandoning big splashes for the foreseeable future.

Yet there is still that argument where Bowe provides the team with the one thing they really miss on offense – red zone production. Touchdowns. So while it would be very easy to rule this out, I kind of feel like this is a deal that would be attractive. The last trade of a similar ilk saw Brandon Marshall traded from Denver to Miami for two second round picks in 2010. Marshall not only had superior production to Bowe, but he was two years younger. He agreed a four-year deal with the Dolphins worth $47.5m.

As we know, the Seahawks showed interest in Marshall too. They also had at least a passing glance at Vincent Jackson when he was in San Diego. If the Chiefs get into a position where they’re resigned to losing Bowe, they may be willing to trade him for a second round pick – perhaps with a conditional pick thrown in based on production in 2013. That’s the kind of deal that should appeal to a team like the Seahawks. It frees them up to look at other areas in the first round of the draft in 2013, they get an immediate dangerous red-zone threat and bolster the offense in the process.

Another big stumbling block could be Kansas City’s reluctance to deal. If Scott Pioli is fighting for his job, he’s surely not going to start trading away the teams best players so that his replacement can spend all the picks they acquired. Yet there’s been enough talk this week about Bowe’s desire to leave to suggest the issue could be forced.

People will have their own views on this. For a second round pick, I think Bowe would be a calculated gamble. I’m not sure the Chiefs should look at that as a bad deal for an unhappy receiver approaching 30 and playing on the franchise tag. Plus Kansas City’s front office did spend a first round pick on Jonathan Baldwin last year. They surely cannot expect to get much more than a second round pick under the circumstances?

**Note** – I’m guessing a few more people will be willing to consider this tonight. Maybe even in Seattle’s front office.

Jordan Poyer (CB, Oregon State) vs Wisconsin

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Updated 2013 mock draft: 17th October

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The more I look into this draft class, the more I feel like I underestimated it. There’s maybe a lesson to be learnt there. Prospects have emerged, as they always do. But the blossoming strength of this draft comes in its depth. It’s not top heavy, in fact I think it’s going to be one of those years where there’s not a great deal of difference between the #1 pick and the #25 pick.

From Seattle’s perspective, I tried to look for value. Draft order was determined by current win/loss records and opponents strength of schedule. To see the order in full, click here. This put the Seahawks at #20 overall. It’s not taken a huge dose of creativity to make the choice below, but I feel like this was a good match of prospective need and talent.

#1 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
If the Chiefs pick first overall, they need to draft a quarterback. Barkley’s a good fit to manage that offense.
#2 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
Holmgren is out and others may follow. If that’s the case, will they stick by 29-year-old Brandon Weeden?
#3 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
The complete cornerback prospect. He can cover, he can play run support, he’s a ball hawk and has elite recovery speed.
#4 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Lotulelei has a ton of upside but needs to become more consistent.
#5 Jarvis Jones (DE/LB, Georgia)
Whether he plays end or linebacker, Jones is an explosive athlete who will get to the quarterback.
#6 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Redshirt sophomore with unlimited potential. If he declares, he could go this early.
#7 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
Richardson’s had a big impact this year and will be a riser. Lives in the backfield.
#8 Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
He’s been explosive this year and is rising into top-10 contention.
#9 Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
The Colts are transitioning to a 3-4 defense and need to find some building blocks.
#10 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
Brilliant interior lineman. A top-15 shoe-in. Could go earlier than this.
#11 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
He’ll work best in the 3-4 and Dallas needs to bolster its defensive line. They can’t just rely on DeMarcus Ware.
#12 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
He’s 6-7 and around 250lbs. If he tests well at the combine, who knows where he’ll go?
#13 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
Incredible physical potential with off-field concerns. Cincy probably won’t be put off by those kind of red flags.
#14 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Not the same kind of athlete as Luke Kuechly, but he’s a better linebacker. The heart and soul of unbeaten Notre Dame.
#15 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
He’d be better off adding the weight he lost during the summer. He could be a J.J. Watt clone.
#16 Matt Elam (S, Florida)
Flashy safety prospect making a big impression for the Gators this year.
#17 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Athletic guard who shows well in pass protection. He’s only a notch below Warmack. Excellent player.
#18 Marcus Lattimore (RB, South Carolina)
He’s bounced back from a serious knee injury and looks back to his best. Great character, too.
#19 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
By rule one of the offensive tackles in this class will be a first round pick. Lewan might be the best of a mediocre group.
#20 Robert Woods (WR, USC)
Value pick adding another dynamic playmaker to the offense.
#21 Jonathan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
Big, physical corner and a leader on the Mississippi State defense.
#22 Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
He could go higher than this but he’s frustratingly inconsistent. Major potential, but can he deliver?
#23 Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
Outside pass rusher who fits well into Rex Ryan’s scheme.
#24 Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
Competitive safety prospect. New England needs to work on that secondary.
#25 Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
Underrated defensive tackle who will only last this long due to age. He’s approaching his mid-20′s.
#26 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Just a fantastic playmaker at linebacker. He’ll have an immediate impact in the NFL.
#27 John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
Not the flashiest player but nobody shows more effort. He looks like an ideal fit for San Francisco’s defense.
#28 Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
Do they go offensive tackle here? Or quarterback? They need both.
#29 Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
He could play tackle or guard. Moved inside this year but has the athleticism to play the edge.
#30 Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU)
Baltimore always make good choices and Montgomery would add another piece to their pass rush.
#31 Levine Toilolo (TE, Stanford)
He’s 6-8, 260lbs and averaging 20 yards per catch. It’s not hard to work out why he might be a first round pick.
#32 Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
He’d be a nice little addition to that offense, playing in the slot with Jones and White outside.

Notes:

- This isn’t a great draft for offensive tackles, which is why only Taylor Lewan goes in the first round. It’s a premium position and guys like Brennan Williams and Luke Joeckel could easily find themselves cracking the top-25 as a consequence. However, I wanted to represent the weakness at the position at this early stage in the process.

- Two highly vaunted receivers are absent – Justin Hunter and Keenan Allen. Hunter just doesn’t look dynamic this year and doubts persist about how he’s recovered from a serious knee injury. He’s not standing out in a pass-happy offense and team mate Cordarrelle Patterson is the player catching the eye. Allen just isn’t doing it for me – he’s big but lacks deep speed and doesn’t look like a particularly dominating receiver in the making. Both have second round grades at the moment and will need a big performance at the combine. Speaking of Patterson – he has the talent to be a clear first round pick. He’s a home run hitter. He’s also had some big mental errors this year and teams will be left wondering if he’s really worth the risk.

- Defensive tackles Kawann Short and Jesse Williams miss out this time, but could easily have gone in the back end of round one.

Possible Seahawks draft targets – 16th October

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Could Alabama's Jesse Williams become a first round option for Seattle?

It’s still early days but we’ll keep monitoring this list as the season continues. Some names I’ve left out due to Seattle’s current 4-2 record – hopefully the team isn’t going to be picking in the top 10-12 again in 2013. I’m going to do an updated mock draft tomorrow so keep an eye out for that.

Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)

Draft range: Physically he’s a top-15 talent but off-field concerns could seriously hamper his stock

Drafting another linebacker early would be considered a bit of a luxury. Yes, the Seahawks will eventually look to upgrade the position currently occupied by Leroy Hill. But this is a unit playing at a high level already without top-end first round investments. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have also managed to find starters in rounds two (Bobby Wagner) and four (K.J. Wright) so a first round pick to replace Hill doesn’t seem like an obvious necessity. It’s still hard to ignore a guy like Alec Ogletree. He’s a former safety who moved to linebacker and it shows on the field – he’s an incredible athlete. Whether it’s running sideline-to-sideline, working in coverage or acting as a pass rusher, it’s hard to find any faults within Ogletree’s game. And it’s that final point – as a pass rusher – that would interest Seattle the most. He has limitless potential in that area and could bring yet another dimension to Seattle’s defense. As good as Wagner and Wright are, Ogletree would add something different – that ability to bring an extra rusher without needing to take Red Bryant out of the game. There are some concerns in the form of multiple suspensions and cases off-field indiscipline. Even so, Seattle has been prepared to take on similar projects and nobody can deny that on the field, Ogletree is a hard-working leader.

Jonathan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)

Draft range: He’s a solid top-25 pick

Right off the bat, he’s an aggressive 6-2 corner who plays great in run support. That alone probably puts him on Seattle’s radar. But a play against Tennessee at the weekend kind of stood out – Banks tackled a running back on a pitch, stripped the ball and pounced on the fumble. It was an exact copy of Brandon Browner’s play against the Panthers in week five. Throw in the fact he has three interceptions this year and comes across as the vocal leader of the defense at Mississippi State, and you can see why he appears to fit the bill. Like Seattle’s two current starting corners, Banks doesn’t have lightning speed in coverage and relies on a physical approach to jab and stunt the receiver at the line. The Seahawks made fine starters out of Sherman and Browner with the same skill set and Banks could make for an exciting trio. The big question is whether he’s capable of playing nickel and bandit packages before eventually replacing Browner opposite Sherman. I’m not totally convinced he’s suited to that role at 6-2/185lbs and any corner drafted in round one in 2013 would probably need to upgrade the teams slot coverage.

Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)

Draft range: He has the talent to be a top-10 selection but Demaryius Thomas – another physically imposing receiver – lasted into the 20′s

The sky’s the limit for this guy. He’s around 6-6 and 220lbs with an ideal frame, downfield speed and he’s a hands catcher. What more could you want from a receiver? Size, speed, hands, route running – no wide out has had this much upside since Calvin Johnson and Coleman could be a superstar in the making. He’s only a redshirt sophomore and may not choose to declare, but if he does he instantly becomes the #1 receiver in next years draft. The Seahawks will have to make a decision on the big contracts of Sidney Rice and Zach Miller in the off-season and it could create an opening for a big-bodied playmaker. Even if Rice sticks, the Seahawks cannot pass up the chance to add this kind of weapon to the offense. If Russell Wilson proves he’s worthy of the starting role for the long term, they have to try and make his life as easy as possible. What better way than drafting a 6-6 receiver that does it all? I’ve not been this excited about a prospect in a long time. Exciting player who could end up being a dominant force at the next level.

Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)

Draft range: Definite top-15 potential

Jason Jones and Alan Branch are both free agents in the off-season and this could open up a need at defensive tackle. Working out exactly what the Seahawks would look for from the position is the hard part. Currently, 6-6/325lbs Branch is starting in what is considered to be the ’3-technique’ position, but his value comes mainly in run support. Jones acts as a more orthodox 3-tech as a pass rush specialist. They may wish to continue utilising a bigger man at tackle on base defense and this would bring the likes of Jonathan Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins and Sylvester Williams into play. However, if you’re spending a first round pick on a DT who isn’t playing nose tackle, you really want them to add a serious pass rushing threat. Williams and Sheldon Richardson are the two best pass rushing DT’s not named Star Lotulelei. Richardson gave Alabama’s offensive line a work out on Saturday, despite little help from the rest of the Missouri defensive line. He has similar size to Jones but is more of a pure three technique with an exceptionally high motor. The most interesting part about Saturday’s game was the way Richardson had visibly developed a leadership role within the team. He was the heart and soul of everything.

Robert Woods (WR, USC)

Draft range: Second half of the first round – maybe later due to his size

It’s hard to get away from this guy, in the same way it’ll always be hard to get away from Matt Barkley (although if Wilson keeps playing like he did against New England, it’ll soon be ‘Matt who?’). Woods is a former Pete Carroll recruit and could interest his former coach if the Seahawks do end up targeting a receiver next April. The issue with Woods will always be size – he’s just over 6-0 and around 190lbs. Despite showing a lot of playmaking qualities at USC, he’s not going to be great against press-man and he’s not going to be much of a red-zone threat. What he might be, however, is a slightly more athletic version of Wes Welker. It’s clear the Seahawks have some admiration for the way Bill Belichick has set up New England’s offense and they may target a similar safety valve for Russell Wilson. Doug Baldwin could still prove to be that guy, but considering he’s a former UDFA there’s really nothing to stop the Seahawks having both players on the roster. After all – Pete likes competition. If the Seahawks pick later in round one and if Woods drops, this could be an easy decision. The one thing working against it – Carroll has been tough on his former USC guys in the past and so far has avoided them early in the draft. A.J. Jenkins – a receiver with similar size/skill set to Woods – was drafted 30th overall by San Francisco this year.

Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)

Draft range: He probably won’t get out of round two and could sneak into the late first

Let’s consider the possibility that Seattle is picking quite late in the first. It’s not a totally ridiculous suggestion after a 4-2 start including victories over Dallas, Green Bay and New England. Most of the top positional players will be off the board and the Seahawks would be left looking for value within players that fit mentally and physically into Pete Carroll’s vision. Jesse Williams could force his way into the bottom end of the first round with the 2013 defensive tackle class being among the strongest we’ve seen in years. Star Lotulelei, Sylvester Williams, Sheldon Richardson, Jonathan Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins and Kawann Short are all prospective top-25 picks – and if they go early it’ll open the door for players like Williams depending on team needs later in the first. This is the second year Williams has anchored the Alabama defensive line with his forte being run defense. He’d fit into the Alan Branch role perfectly as a 6-3, 320lbs partner to Brandon Mebane. Williams is a disruptive player who frequently gets into the backfield even if the stats don’t show evidence of this. He plays like a former Australian rugby player (if you know rugby, you’ll understand) and fits into the character of this defense perfectly. Oh yeah, he also acts as a full back in the red zone.

Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)

Draft range: Anywhere from the top-15 to the second or third round

I’m struggling to picture Cordarrelle Patterson ever developing into a consistent #1 target in the NFL. He’s going to be a cheap-points scorer, a guy capable of making highlight-reel plays any time he has the ball. He’ll also make mental mistakes and have patches where he’s completely ineffective. Is he a true difference maker, can you rely on him? So far this year we’ve seen 100 yard kick off returns, big runs of 70-80 yards on reverse plays and downfield catching on deep throws from Tyler Bray. Nobody gets close to Patterson’s pure playmaking quality – he’s an X-Factor type player. The Seahawks might find use for a home-run hitter like this, they don’t have anyone like Patterson currently on the roster. If they want to run the ball a lot and strike with big plays in the passing game, having a guy like Patterson who can make it happen would be considered a major positive. But it would be a major gamble. How badly does he want to succeed? Is he willing to do what it takes to max out his potential, or is he happy to flirt with brilliance with the occasional big play? He has top-15 physical skills but he could just as easily go in round three. Former JUCO transfer who replaced Da’Rick Rogers in the Tennessee offense.

Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)

Draft range: Legit top-10 pick

This is a little optimistic and part of me wants to add Chance Warmack to this list if we’re including Milliner. He’s a complete cornerback and deserves to go in the same range as Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne. Some people disagree with that and that’s why he’s part of this list. Scouts Inc only ranks Milliner as their 17th overall prospect at the moment. If Milliner does make it into the teens, then Seattle has to be an option. He’s terrific in run support, can cover as well as any cornerback in college football and flashes elite recovery speed. He’s also a ball hawking playmaker who will force his fair share of turnovers. The Seahawks have experienced some problems covering slot receivers like Danny Amendola and Wes Welker, a role Milliner would thrive on in the first year or two of his career. He also has the range and physical qualities to react to the run and almost act as a third safety. There are only two cornerbacks with obvious first round grades at the moment, and both fit into Seattle’s scheme pretty well. You have to ask though – if this front office can find starters in rounds four (Kam Chancellor), five (Richard Sherman) and in the Canadian Football League (Brandon Browner), will they really spend a first round pick on a third corner? They probably would for the right player and Milliner is a perennial Pro Bowler in the making.

Other possibilities: Matt Elam (S, Florida), Levine Toilolo (TE, Stanford), Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford), Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas), Keenan Allen (WR, California), Dallas Thomas (T/G, Tennessee)

Brandon Coleman: future NFL star, should be a Seahawks target

Monday, October 15th, 2012

The NFL's next great receiver?

I can’t remember the last Rutgers game I had access to, but I think Tom Savage was the quarterback. He’s since transferred twice, from Rutgers to Arizona to Pittsburgh. Either way its been a while. This weekend I read Tony Pauline’s latest piece for SI.com where he singles out CFB’s week seven ‘risers and sliders’. Rutgers wide receiver Brandon Coleman was listed among the ‘risers’:

“Coleman is in the midst of a breakout season and the big-play threat is making scouts take notice of his talents. He’s a big bodied wide out (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) who is becoming more consistent. Coleman turned in his most productive game of the year during the victory over Syracuse, with six catches for 104 yards (17.3 average). In six games this season Coleman has averaged 15.4 yards on 18 receptions, five of which resulted in scores. He possesses the physical skills to line up as a No. 1 wide out in the NFL and his game comes with great upside potential.”

I’d not come across Coleman before – a redshirt sophomore listed at 6-5 by Pauline but also touted at 6-6 and 220lbs by ESPN. There’s a lot of depth in the receiver class for 2013, but no stand-out player you feel like you just have to have. Coleman could fill that hole. JMPasq has supplied some tape (see below) and it’s obvious there’s a lot to like about this guy, he has tremendous upside. Of course, he may not declare for next years draft as a second year starter. It’s hard to turn down the chance to be a top-15 pick, though. If he gets that kind of reassurance from the draft committee in the new year, he may be tempted to turn pro.

Coleman had a bit of a slow start to the season, one of the reasons he’s probably still floating under the radar. Against Tulane, Howard and South Florida he registered just six catches for 118 yards – although he did score three touchdowns. In his next three games – against Arkansas, Connecticut and Syracuse – he has 18 catches for 264 yards and a further two touchdowns. It’s not the kind of prolific stat-line that tempted other redshirt sophomore’s to declare (eg, Michael Crabtree, Earl Thomas) but Coleman’s strength is not in statistics – it’s in physical upside and limitless potential.

You’re unlikely to find another 6-6 receiver that can run as well as this. Usually receivers this tall are thick set or skinny, there’s rarely an in-between. Coleman has the ideal frame in that he’s well proportioned and not heavy or skinny, allowing him to remain agile in breaks/routes or when running in the open-field. He’s a match-up terror against pretty much any cornerback due to his height and reach, but he can also get downfield and create separation. Most big wide-outs get tagged as possession receivers, but Coleman averaged 33 yards per reception (!!!) last season and is working at 16 yards per catch this year.

If you want a good example of just how athletic this guy is, check the touchdown reception at 0:42 in the Arkansas video. It’s a simple receiver screen to the right and he simply runs past the cornerback and away from the defense for a big touchdown. Check the same video at 1:42 and you’ll find a touchdown against Iowa State where he exploits his height and reach in single coverage to grab a deep ball and sprint into the end zone for near enough a 90 yard score. If dominating single coverage isn’t good enough for you, go to 0:37 against Connecticut and check out the big play made in tight double coverage.

Still not convinced? Fast forward to 1:53 in the UConn tape and watch him take a 93 yard catch and run to the house. He finds space at the second level, runs through three defensive backs and out-sprints all of them for a touchdown. Watch it again. And again.

Apart from the obvious physical advantages, the thing I really like about this guy is he’s a natural hands catcher. Nothing is coming into his chest, he’s reaching out and plucking the ball from the air. There are a couple of muffed catches in the videos below and certainly he can work on his concentration in certain situations to make sure he completes the reception, but overall he flashes the ability to use soft hands or snare a fast ball. Check 1:16 against UConn to see evidence of strong mitts to grab a difficult catch under pressure.

He runs inside, he can go deep, he can be an effective red zone target. He gets open, he can play physical when required and he’s got enough deep speed to make big plays down the field. This is the most exciting NFL Draft prospect I’ve seen since scouting Jarvis Jones last year. This is the kind of prospect where you start to consider an Atlanta Falcons-Julio Jones type move up the board. If he declares for 2013 – and that’s a big if – this is the kind of player the Seahawks need to be aggressive in targeting. You can teach him to be an effective blocker at that size, but you also provide Russell Wilson with a big-time weapon and playmaker on the outside. He has Calvin Johnson-like potential – seriously – because he has such a incredible combination of size/speed.

Brandon Coleman could be the most exciting offensive player in college football. He could be a future NFL star. And if he declares for 2013, the Seahawks should be ready to make their move. This guy is unreal.

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat the Patriots

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Russell Wilson looked like a franchise quarterback today

This is the most significant Seahawks victory in a long time. Sure, there are other games you can throw into the mix. But this just seems more important, at least to me. Here’s why:

- Russell Wilson showed he can do what Tarvaris Jackson couldn’t – win a big game with a key drive. Wilson technically had a similar victory over Green Bay, but let’s not go there tonight. With the team trailing 23-10 and looking likely to go 3-3, Wilson scored a touchdown pass on fourth down before nailing the game winner deep down the middle to Sidney Rice. This is the kind of play you need from your quarterback to contend with the best teams in the NFL. In the last two games Wilson has shown incredible maturity and playmaking ability. A 46 yard touchdown pass to win the game doesn’t happen very often in the NFL. He’s starting to look like the teams quarterback of the future, as everyone hoped he would. And that’s exciting.

- The defense didn’t have everything its own way, but they enhanced their reputation today. Richard Sherman might be the best cornerback in the NFL. Earl Thomas was a whisker away from three interceptions. New England had some success running the ball, but it speaks volumes that Tom Brady threw more passes today (58) than any other game in his career – despite holding the lead until the final minute. To a man, every single player on that defense willed the team to victory. They gave up just six points in the second half, despite some offensive struggles in the third and fourth quarter. They were physical, energetic and kept the Seahawks in the game. They also have victories against Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo and Cam Newton this year. Elite? Confirmed.

- The receivers came to the party. Sidney Rice had the game winning 46 yard score and 81 total yards. Doug Baldwin had 74 and a touchdown, while Golden Tate also chipped in with some big plays and 47 yards. Zach Miller also had a couple of smart receptions but loses some kudos for a fumble which at the time appeared to kill any potential Seahawks comeback. As a quartet though, an underachieving group suddenly looks respectable. They’ll need to keep this up, but the last two weeks have been a major improvement.

- Seattle needed a big win to legitimise everything that’s happening with the team. They needed a dramatic victory against a proven winner with an elite quarterback. There are a lot of doubters out there, among the fan base and media. If it’s not Wilson it’s the coaches. I would argue only one team had a worse roster than Seattle’s when Pete Carroll took up the reins in 2010. That team is St. Louis. Carroll had nothing to build around – no young talent, no superstars, no core. He inherited a shambles. And in three years, the turnaround is incredible. If the Seahawks finish 8-8, it’ll be something to cheer about in the third year of this massive rebuild. After week six, they’re 50% there already at 4-2. And still people doubt and complain. The win today proves to the doubters there’s no need to be cynical. And while the team or coaches care little about that, some of the negativity around this team has been tough for humble observers to stomach. That cynicism should end tonight.

- I’ll save the most important important point to end. There’s still room for improvement. On offense, on defense. This team is only scratching the surface. It’s young, it’s hungry. Even if the Seahawks go and lose the next game in San Francisco, it won’t matter. There will be other games against the 49ers. The future is bright. That is the only thing that matters.

Tomorrow I’m going to do a piece on a receiver that hasn’t been on pretty much anyone’s radar so far, but was brought to my attention by somebody else today. I’ve since watched some tape and wondered why the player in question isn’t generating more hype. I’ll have three videos in the post and some accompanying thoughts. Stay tuned.

Week seven review: Smith struggles, Patterson impresses

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Cordarrelle Patterson had a big day for Tennessee

West Virginia vs Texas Tech

Geno Smith has enjoyed such a fantastic start to the season, but he’s had games in his career that have just got away from him. When he struggles for rhythm and little things go against the WVU offense, he can get a bit flustered. We saw it against Syracuse last year and we saw it against Texas Tech.

It’s worth saying that he’ll suffer minimal long-term damage to his stock as long as this is a one-off. He’s not suddenly a bad quarterback because of a mediocre day. He still hasn’t turned the ball over via interception (although he could’ve easily been picked off three times this weekend). If he can bounce back against other strong opponents like Kansas State and Oklahoma, this game will become a distant memory.

Even so there’s no getting away from the fact Smith was completely outplayed by Seth Doege. The conditions were poor for throwing – strong winds swirled around the stadium changing direction and lurching around the field. Doege – perhaps used to dealing with the conditions as the home QB – didn’t miss a beat. Smith on the other hand looked nothing like the composed, accurate passer we’d seen in previous weeks. He struggled to set against pressure, he looked unsure of himself and started to force passes. It began badly and got progressively worse. While Smith struggled to complete 29/55 passing for 275 yards (5.0 average) and just a single touchdown, Doege went 32/42 for 499 yards and six touchdowns and made a mockery of the windy conditions. Texas Tech won 49-14.

Today will take some of the shine off Smith’s Heisman campaign but Robert Griffin III showed you can win the award despite suffering a heavy defeat in the Big-12. He’s just got to get back on the saddle. Here’s the thing though – it’s probably time to limit the hype. I’ve liked Smith for a while and it’s hard to avoid getting carried away when a quarterback throws 24 touchdowns and zero interceptions in five games. It’s also worth noting that the Mountaineers defense is truly horrendous and while TTU were stocking up on points, the pressure cranked up on the offense to keep up. Eventually that was going to cost WVU a game. Smith is a very accomplished passer and could end up having a good NFL career. Is he better than Matt Barkley? Not for me. He deserves a first round grade at this point, but I’m not convinced he’s quite as good as some people have projected recently. He may be behind Tyler Wilson the Arkansas quarterback too. This was a perspective game more than anything, but he still carries a first round grade.

Alabama vs Missouri

Alabama scored a 73-yard touchdown on their first drive against Missouri and quickly built a comfortable 28-0 lead. Credit has to go to Eddie Lacy for a run that showed patience, speed and raw athleticism. For a guy playing at 220lbs he moves well for his size. He’s not going to be a first round pick like Trent Richardson or Mark Ingram, but he has a future in the NFL. It wasn’t the only run where he jinked past a couple of tackles and showed real shiftiness to break into space. Lacy also flashed a few ‘Marshawn Lynch’ type runs, dragging tacklers along for extra yardage. This was a thoroughly impressive performance apart from a sloppy fumble shortly after a lengthy rain delay. If I was trying to build a strong, power running offense I’d want Lacy in my stable of backs. He ended with 176 yards from 18 carries and three touchdowns. Talented freshman T.J. Yeldon also had 144 yards from 18 carries for a couple of scores. That’s what a good offensive line can provide in the SEC.

It’s hard to ignore the line play at Alabama, perhaps the single greatest unit we’ll see in college football. It’ll take some beating, that’s for sure. Chance Warmack blew up two interior lineman on the 73-yard dash by Lacy and continues to be equally effective pulling wide or dominating up the middle. It’s hard to find any fault with Warmack and if he isn’t a top-15 pick next April something is seriously, seriously wrong. Barrett Jones doesn’t have quite as much pure power at center but he’s flexible and can play any position on the line. He’s smart and technically sound and should be a second day pick. D.J. Fluker is a decent college right tackle but might struggle to translate those skills to the next level. Blind-side blocker Cyrus Kouandijo looks like a future top pick.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron is playing the role that Pete Carroll demands of his quarterbacks – using his brain, making good decisions, remaining efficient and not turning the ball over. When he was required to make a play, McCarron made a play. He’s underrated and above the level of previous Alabama quarterbacks. He’s never going to be a top-pick but if he’s lingering around the mid-rounds either next April or in 2014, I’d take him. He deserves more attention.

One guy who gets plenty of (deserved) attention is Dee Milliner. The guy is a complete cornerback. Draft him in the top-five. His best play today was an athletic, tipped pass in single coverage that was picked off by a team mate. Seattle’s greatest strength may be its secondary, but I would happily draft Milliner in round one. Any day, any time. Incredible player. Linebacker C.J. Mosley also had a big day with multiple sacks and several other key plays behind the LOS.

As for Missouri, Sheldon Richardson was the main focus and he did enough on the day to come out of this having boosted his stock. He made double-digit tackles from what I saw and sacked McCarron with a clip of the ankle leading to a bothersome knee problem for the quarterback. He also has top-15 potential at defensive tackle. Perhaps the most promising aspect from today was the clear leadership role he’s taken this season. He’s become the heart of the team.

Cordarrelle Patterson reminds everyone why he’s special

Against Akron he was partly responsible for an avoidable pick-six. Against Georgia he dropped a sure-fire touchdown on an easy deep ball. Cordarrelle Patterson’s stock was falling a little, despite his ability to make plays no other receiver can in the SEC. Patterson’s numbers against Mississippi State weren’t incredible in terms of receiving. He had just two catches for 25 yards, but added 57 rushing yards from three carries. Here’s what else he had:

- A 98-yard kick-off return for a touchdown (see it here).

- An incredible rush for 34 yards on a reverse. The play was blown up early and appeared destined for a big loss, until Patterson somehow escaped multiple tacklers and broke off a huge gain (see it here).

- And 11 yard touchdown pass over the shoulder to get his team back in the game (see it here).

Patterson will probably declare for the 2013 draft and he’s not anywhere close to a polished receiver. In fact, he’ll probably have a pretty slow start in the NFL and it’s going to take a lot of patience to make him consistent. In fact it may never happen – which makes him a serious boom or bust type. Yet he is without doubt the biggest X-factor playmaker at any skill position eligible for next years draft. Any time he’s on the field, he could score. Rushing, receiving, returning. He even has the option to throw in some of Tennessee’s reverse calls. We’re talking about a rare talent with the size to be a #1 receiver at the next level, but the kind of athleticism saved for shorter receivers like Percy Harvin.

He could be seen as a bit of a luxury pick and he will carry huge risks. But if you have an offense lacking an incredible playmaker, it’s hard to ignore this guy.

Another note from the Tennessee vs Mississippi State game (I caught the end) – Jonathan Banks made an absolute carbon copy play of Brandon Browner’s strip sack vs Carolina. An identical play. He’s the spirit of the Miss. State defense and appeared to have a terrific game against Patterson and Justin Hunter (who managed just two catches for 41 yards). Banks is one to watch as he fits the size requirement for Seahawks cornerbacks.