Senior Bowl gets under way
Day one started with measurements and a weigh-in. It was disappointing to hear that Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown wouldn’t be attending due to injury. Another linebacker — Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene — impressed during coverage drills. Seattle sent scouts to a few Rutgers games this year (per Chris Steuber) and while many assumed it was to observe giant receiver Brandon Coleman, the main focus could’ve been Greene. I see him as a solid second or third round option. He appears to fit what the Seahawks are looking for at the WILL.
Margus Hunt showed off an impressive physique and confirmed his stature at 6-8, 277lbs. Hunt also has 33 inch arms — good length for a defensive end. Alex Okafor came in at 6-4 and 261lbs with 33 inch arms. Kawann Short flashed an impressive 6-4 and 308lbs (lighter than expected), while John Simon came in at 6-1 and 256lbs.
Sylvester Williams didn’t get rave reviews for his body type, apparently looking a little sloppy in the midriff. He measured 6-2 and 313lbs with 33 inch arms. That’s quite big for a potential three technique, although Seattle has used 325lbs Alan Branch in the role for the last two years.
Jonathan Jenkins looked every bit a future nose tackle at 6-4 and 359lbs. According to Shane Hallam the Seahawks set up an interview with the Georgia prospect.
Seahawks scout set up an interview with John jenkins
— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) January 21, 2013
After speaking to Sylvester Williams yesterday, it seems like the Seahawks are putting in the leg work to check out this defensive tackle class. Jenkins would appear to be an unlikely option given his massive size and lack of pass-rush, but it’s worth doing due diligence this week. With three high calibre defensive tackles set to hit free agency in mid-March (Randy Starks, Henry Melton and Desmond Bryant) it makes sense to check on the prospects in Mobile to weigh up options. There’s more on Williams and Florida’s Sharrif Floyd later in today’s article.
Many of the offensive lineman impressed — D.J. Fluker showed off a compact frame with little body fat but still came in at 6-5 and 355lbs with 36 inch arms. At that size the big question will be mobility, even if he doesn’t have a sloppy frame. I think he’ll end up being an excellent guard as opposed to a starting tackle. Eric Fisher measured at 6-7 and 305lbs with 34 inch arms. He’ll likely be the second left tackle off the board in April.
Kyle Long started working at right tackle during drills and has shorter arms at 32 inches, which could have an impact on whether he starts at tackle or guard at the next level. It was a similar case for Justin Pugh (31 inches). Teams are looking for tackles with a long reach and a strong punch. Shorter arms aren’t a death sentence by any means (Atlanta’s Sam Baker had this issue going into the draft) but they can impact your stock.
Sanders Commings measured in two inches shorter than Georgia had him listed (5-11, 223lbs). It shouldn’t be too much of a concern though, especially given his recent display against Alabama in the SEC Championship. I like Commings as a possible Seahawks target at corner.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson helped his stock by measuring at 6-2 — there had been some concerns he would come in at around 6-0/6-1. Height is much less of a taboo these days following Russell Wilson’s brilliant rookie season, but it would be a concern for his namesame who has a slingy, low release point. He had the smallest hands among the quarterbacks (between 8-9 inches). E.J. Manuel and Ryan Nassib led the group for hand size. Landry Jones had a disappointing first work-out according to eye witness accounts.
Landy Jones all over the place with throws. — Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) January 21, 2013
Wilson was apparently the best of a mediocre bunch today, spreading the ball around and connecting on a big play to Terrance Williams in 7v7 drills. Williams also had some issues with body catching, something that flashed up as a consistent problem on tape during the season. Reports suggest Markus Wheaton is looking smooth early on — he’s the best senior receiver so this should be no surprise.
For thoughts on the Senior Bowl work-outs I’d recommend following Tony Pauline on Twitter. He’ll also post practise notes on his website Draft Insider.net — such as the following on Ziggy Ansah: “Played in spurts but when he was on Ansah was terrific. The athleticism, explosion and power is there but he really needs to improve his overall techniques and polish his game.”
Further thoughts on Slyvester Williams and Sharrif Floyd
Seattle’s pursuit of the defensive tackles at the Senior Bowl sparked my interest in the position again this week. It’s no great shock that the Seahawks are looking here — it’s the teams greatest need. Whatever happens this off-season, they need to come away with a defensive tackle capable of collapsing the pocket. Alan Branch has done a fine job during the last two seasons, but he isn’t a pass rusher. The 4-3 under scheme that the Seahawks are using requires a pass rusher at the three-technique position.
Sharrif Floyd and Sylvester Williams are two players that continue to interest me, but for different reasons. There are also some concerns.
I’m constantly going backwards and forwards with Sharrif Floyd. One minute I’m convinced he’s better off concentrating on the five technique position in a 3-4 scheme, the next I’m looking at his frame and imagining ideal three-technique size and some incredible raw potential.
I’ve talked about his background before (click here) but if you want a quick recap — he had a tough upbringing without his parents, was scrambling around looking for basically anywhere to live during High School. He was going to school in the same tattered old clothes every day. Floyd had to raise money on his own by making and selling brownies to get a plane ticket to attend an All-Star game in Texas — despite being a 5-star recruiting prospect.
And despite all of these hardships, he got on with his life. He’s a well spoken, driven individual. This is a man who has had pretty much everything thrown at him and not once has he complained. He’s a true inspiration.
I did some further digging on Floyd over the weekend and found some interesting information. Pete Carroll recruited Floyd in 2009, inviting him to USC for a visit. Pretty much every major school was trying to convince him to join their programme — and the Trojans were no exception. Floyd wrote a blog for Sports Illustrated during his recruitment experience. And he had a few interesting notes about his time with Carroll:
“I had a few opportunities to meet with coach Pete Carroll once before the game and than Sunday morning, prior to my departure. That last meeting was really chilled as we had breakfast on the beach. We spent some time just talking, and we didn’t talk football that much. We walked around for a bit after breakfast, just taking in the scene along the pier.
“I found out that he’s a great man and I enjoyed just being able to see him as a person and not the coach on the sidelines. I liked being able to talk with him about life.”
Of course he eventually committed to Florida, but despite a cluster of interest from all of the major schools — it seems like USC were in the running all the way. That suggests Carroll was pretty keen to bring him to Southern Cal. He made a policy of only going after out-of-state prospects who could be potential first round NFL picks.
Carroll already knows about this guy. Eventually the Seahawks are going to lose this edge when players recruited by the Trojans have all moved on to pastures new. For now, this front office continues to benefit from a unique insight courtesy of the Head Coach.
Combine this with Dan Quinn’s two years as Floyd’s defensive coordinator at Florida and the Seahawks barely have to scout the guy. I noticed an article from March 2012 where Quinn referenced his best position was defensive tackle, rather than end. It’s interesting that Carroll also saw him as a fit for his scheme at USC and both coaches will have insight into his strengths and weaknesses, which will help if you’re trying to manufacture an impact in year one.
Rest assured if the Seahawks do pass on Sharrif Floyd it’ll be more than an educated guess on his NFL potential.
We know he’s off the charts in terms of character and has the ideal frame for a three-technique at 6-3 and 298lbs. He’s only really scratched the surface of his potential in college. And he’s young – he won’t even turn 21 until late May.
What does the tape show? He has a lot of areas to improve if he wants to make the most of his obvious physical quality. Floyd takes a lot of wasted steps. He often lacks an explosive first step off the snap which is one of the big no-no’s when you’re looking for a three-technique. He plays with a lot of heart with a high motor, but he sometimes lacks that nasty streak you love to see for the position. He has almost a tendency to play too nice at times. There’s not a lot of evidence of a pass-rush repertoire or even one move that he can rely on. He’ll need some technical refinement to become an effective interior pass rushers in the NFL.
At the same time he shows well against the run and does have an effective bull rush. Mobility wise you can’t ask for much more and that’s why you can’t ignore this guy. Any player that moves this well at nearly 300lbs will interest a good defensive line coach. If you can teach him to judge a snap count and find that little edge by improving his first step, he could be effective. He looks to have long arms so there’s no reason why he can’t master the swim move. In one of the videos below you’ll see he more than holds his own against prospective t0p-five left tackle Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M.
It’s very easy to put 2+2 together and get 5 sometimes. The recruiting history with Carroll and the Dan Quinn-connection makes Floyd one to monitor, without any guarantees he’ll be on the teams radar. In terms of pure potential he’s off the charts — and there could be enough people banging the table to take a chance on him in April. The only concern will be if he’s almost too much of a high-upside project. Can he have an impact immediately? Can he rush the passer in year one? Fellow Gator Jaye Howard — another of Quinn’s former lineman — had absolutely no impact as a rookie and spent the year on the inactive list. The Seahawks need an interior presence now, not in 2014 or 2015.
Sylvester Williams played most of 2012 nursing an ankle injury — and it showed at times. Fair play to him for competing through the pain barrier, but he lacked the kind of burst and freedom we saw in 2011.
He’s bigger than most three-techniques, but you have to assume Seattle wouldn’t be put off by that given their use of Alan Branch previously. It does help against the run — and Williams is difficult to shift, eats up space and stands his ground well. He understands leverage and generally plays with good pad level. Even if he underwhelms as a pass rusher in the NFL, you’re going to get a fine run stopper.
The two things I think you want more than anything in a three technique are explosion of the snap and attitude. You can’t be a nice person and play the three-tech. These guys are not generally nice people on the football field. They’re outspoken, often leaders on the defense. One of the great things about Sheldon Richardson is the fact he’s a prototype for the size but he also has that sparky attitude.
Williams isn’t the same in that regard, but he does explode off the snap. Considering he’s 313lbs, he gets off the line really well and combines it with a superb swim move to penetrate. His technique is something to behold in this area, as he’ll slap an arm away and with such fluidity before escaping into the backfield. It’s unnatural for his size. Whether this will be equally effective against veteran pro-lineman remains to be seen, but there’s a lot to like here.
He too has had an unusual path to the NFL. At one point he almost gave up the game, dropping out of High School. He went to work making radiator parts for large trucks and had something of an epiphany moment — deciding he truly did want to make football his career. Since then he hasn’t really looked back — walking onto Coffeyvile in the JUCO ranks and then eventually getting his chance with the Tar Heels.
It means he’s going to be a 25-year-old rookie. That’ll put some teams off, but it’s worth noting that Bruce Irvin also turned 25 in his first season with the Seahawks. Team scouts from Seattle met with Williams on Sunday upon his arrival at the Senior Bowl.
There are a handful of concerns that I have here. One — he has a body type more suited to the one-technique. While his swim move and burst is impressive, will the quickness we’ve seen in the college ranks translate to the next level? Smaller, squatter lineman have often had greater success in the NFL at the three-technique. Two — he’s almost given up on football once before, so can he be trusted to keep the fire burning once he gets paid? Does he appreciate that the NFL should really be the start of his career, not the climax of a smaller journey from that car-parts workshop back onto the field?
Williams is a talented player who deserves a lot more hype than he receives. But he’s a classic defensive tackle prospect. By that I mean — tantalising skills but a constant, nagging element of doubt as to whether it’ll all translate to the next level. There’s a reason why there’s barely any good three-techniques in the league — it is such a difficult position to judge and get right.
Want a great example of this? Geno Atkins had three sacks in his final year at Georgia and zero sacks the year before. He ends up being a fourth round pick for Cincinnati and now he’s the best three-technique in the NFL. Work that one out. I suspect it all comes back to what I was talking about earlier — this position is as much about attitude, scheme and a natural feel for the position as it is about physical skills. Atkins is 6-1 and 300lbs. He’s squat, he masters leverage and he explodes into the backfield. He’s a constant disruptive force. There are better athletes out there, but he just gets it.
It’s really difficult to project how an undersized defensive tackle will translate to the pro’s. And you can gamble on upside and fail. Even the ideal prospects for the position — like Nick Fairley — can take a while to adjust or just flat out struggle.
Weirdly production in college doesn’t always translate to the next level. Sharrif Floyd only had three sacks in 2012 and two came against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. Sylvester Williams had six sacks this season. Yet can we really rule out the possibility either will be enjoying 12.5 sack-seasons like Geno Atkins in the future? There was no precedent for Atkins having a season like that before he arrived in Cincinnati. Alternatively you could just as easily envisage both players struggling at the next level due to some of the issues we’ve discussed in this piece.
I’ve included tape of both Sylvester Williams and Sharrif Floyd at the bottom of this article. Three videos per-player.
Free agency options
The defensive tackle issue could be a problem filled in free agency. Signing a proven commodity would eliminate some of the boom-or-bust issues of having to take a guy in round one of the draft.
Randy Starks (named to the AFC Pro-Bowl roster today as an alternate) could provide a cost effective answer, but at 29 he’s approaching the final throngs of his career-peak. Henry Melton will need to escape the franchise tag in Chicago, but the former running back could be a blue-chip signing. It’d come with a hefty price tag though. Desmond Bryant is less spectacular but also young and coming off a good year for the Raiders. It seems unlikely Oakland will be able to re-sign him given their serious cap problems and he too could be a potential target.
Signing a veteran tackle would allow the Seahawks to consider adding a physical freak like Margus Hunt to play some edge rush or maybe even take over the Jason Jones role. Getting an interior presence signed and sealed before April 25th would make such a proposition more likely.
Of course, they could do things the other way around. Cliff Avril will be a free agent this year and Detroit will not use the franchise tag to keep him. He was offered a contract worth $30m over three years in the summer, but turned it down. He’s been a productive pass rusher for the Lions in recent years and fits the size requirements of a LEO. He ran a 4.51 at the combine with a 1.50 10-yard split, which is certainly quick enough to interest Pete Carroll. It’s just a case of price and whether the Seahawks want to go big on a pass rusher of Avril’s nature. He’s certainly benefited from the presence of Ndamukong Suh over the last three years.
What works against Avril is that he’s in the second tier of pass rushers. We’re not talking Mario Williams territory here, far from it. As soon as you start talking about a deal worth around $10m a year, I think it’s less likely the Seahawks would bite. He’s a player to keep an eye on though. He turns 27 in early April, so a three-year contract with big incentives wouldn’t be a complete non starter.
Osi Umenyiora would be a cheaper, shorter term option similar to Raheem Brock’s arrival in Seattle. He’ll be 32 next season and coming off a year where New York relegated him to spot duty. Even so, he’s a proven commodity and wouldn’t cost anything like the outlay you’d have to spend on Avril.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how the Seahawks play free agency. Whatever they choose to do is going to have a major impact on the draft, even more so than usual.
Shrine game notes (offense)
A big thank you once again to guest blogger Morgan Goulet for providing us with his take on the Shrine Game over the weekend. Be sure to check out his notes on the defensive players if you missed it from yesterday. Today, Morgan focuses on the offense:
Collin Klein was the first QB to set foot on the field on Saturday and the Heisman candidate had a lot of questions about his skill set to answer. He had a difficult week of practice and not much changed after the whistle blew. He completed 5 of his 13 passes with an INT in a scattershot performance.
I have no idea what Southeastern Louisiana QB Nathan Stanley was even doing suiting up. I was excited to see what Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron could do, though. Pete Carroll had casually mentioned that it’s be nice if they could find someone that can “do what Russell Wilson does,” which I assume means run the complete playbook and minimize turnovers. Cameron had just finished a season where he threw for over 4100 yards with only 5 INTs. On the way he broke Wilson’s record for passes completed without a pick. Here he had one of the worst passes of the game, flinging an out late to a covered receiver, and well to the inside instead of the outside. The pass was picked and returned for a TD. It was pretty ugly and summed up the evening for the East QB’s. Fortunately for Cameron, he has plenty of better tape with a Tech program that was actually pretty decent this year.
The West QB situation was only a bit better. Seth Doege got the start despite Tony Pauline’s flat “he can’t throw” dismissal earlier in the week. He didn’t really show that he could throw on Saturday, either. Matt Scott was uncomfortable on the field, calling two timeouts on one series because he couldn’t get the play call right. He did turn what I thought was a poor decision to pass into gold on a long TD throw to Mississippi State WR Chad Bumphis. Georgia CBBranden Smith was closing fast but jumped a fraction of a second early, and the ball slid right past his fingers and into the arms of Bumphis who raced untouched into the endzone (helped by an uncalled block in the back on S Cooper Taylor by Nevada TE Zach Sudfeld). The pass itself was a thing of beauty, and was probably the prettiest of the evening in terms of touch and trajectory.
Scott ran a very effective ZRO offense at Arizona but needs some work. He does a good job of keeping his eyes up and scanning the field as he’s scrambling, but locks onto his first read and lacks downfield accuracy. He’ll also need to play a little bit safer as he’s slide-averse and had to leave consecutive games with concussion symptoms this season. With the mobile QB revolution in full swing, Scott is going to be drafted this year and that team will spend the time to hammer out his rough edges because he is fully capable of performing in an offense like Seattle’s, but he needs to be a better passer; even his mediocre 60.3% accuracy rating was buoyed by a lot of short passes. Western Michigan’s Alex Carder was the final QB to feature and he showed the poise required to get a shot at the tail end of the draft, despite also tossing a pick.
There was a good mix of running backs on display. Vanderbilt’s career rushing leader Zac Stacy showed off an absolutely nasty stiff arm and some bounce to find holes at the line, but whiffed on an easy swing pass. Texas A&M tailback Christine Michael has near-ideal size at 5’11 and 225lbs but brings with him the baggage of a falling out with the A&M coaching staff. He lost time to junior Ben Malena and also to freshman Trey Williams, who emerged as a dynamic threat. Michael still managed to lead the team in rushing TD’s with 12 on only 88 carries. He has a good jump cut and not a lot of mileage on the tires.
Leon Johnson had a pro-bowl year in 2012, but his age and contract might make him vulnerable. Enter Kerwynn Williams. A fellow Utah State alumnus with Robert Turbin and Bobby Wagner, Williams is a shifty and quick and did it all for the Aggies last year, running for 1507 yards with 15 touchdowns and added 45 receptions and another 5 scores. Williams finished his career with 235 rushing yards against Toledo in the Idaho Potato Bowl. I really hope his name gets called by Seattle on draft weekend.
Production for the wide-outs was limited by the horrendous QB play, but there were some plays made. Bumphis almost broke a hundred yards on his four receptions and the aforementioned touchdown. He showed he can catch the ball but his draftability probably hinges on his combine numbers as his size and production are unremarkable. There were a lot of big receivers on both rosters but despite their size, the quarterbacks just couldn’t find them. The 6-4 Corey Fuller out of Virginia Tech made a nice move to juke Aaron Hester out of his cleats on the way to converting a first down and 6-4 Marcus Davis of West Virginia pulled down a nice 16-yarder, but that was it. Even the impressive array of TE’s didn’t contribute. All of the tight ends on the East roster were 6’6″ and 250+ lbs and only Chris Pantale from Boston College managed a reception. The biggest name on the West, UCLA’s (and former ‘Hawk TE Christian Fauria’s nephew) Joseph Fauria, didn’t play due to an injury incurred during the week.
All talk of the offensive line starts with Arkansas-Pine Bluff OT Terron Armstead. Armstead slammed, slid, twisted, and contorted his 6’5 310 lb frame anywhere he had to to keep the quarterback clean. I’ve heard rumblings about him having to kick inside to guard but to me it looks like he carries his weight like a tackle. He is toolsy but doesn’t completely lack technique. For comparison’s sake I’ll say he looked better than former Hillsdale grad and Raiders third-rounder Jared Veldheer looked in his All-Star game, and Veldheer went on to win the Raider’s left tackle job a few games into the season. Armstead isn’t the physical freak that Veldheer is but I think he’ll find success on Sundays. The middle of the line was typically a mess but TCU guard Blaize Foltz looked solid and warrants the attention he’s been getting. He was alert and active and used his 6’4, 315 lb bulk to hold his ground as best he could against the talented East front four.
Sylvester Williams & Sharrif Floyd game tape (three videos each)