Archive for January, 2013

Friday draft thoughts: Seattle’s ideal draft pick?

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Still Seattle's ideal first round pick?

Before I start, I wanted to apologise for the hosting issues we’ve had in the last 48 hours. My provider migrated to a new server and there was chaos for a little while. You maybe missed this week’s mock draft or a piece I wrote yesterday on Margus Hunt. Hopefully the problems are now in the past.

Ideal picks for the Seahawks

It’s been a while since we looked at some of the ‘ideal’ options for the Seahawks. The deadline to declare for the 2013 draft is four days away and we still haven’t heard confirmation either way from guys like Brandon Coleman. For now I’m going to concentrate on prospects that are definitely going to be part of this years draft class. I wanted to note a list so that we could come back to this piece and review it in a few weeks to see how things have changed.

Even though it’s only January, I think the Seahawks are going to find it really difficult to address their biggest need in the first round. Sheldon Richardson is the only true three-technique worthy of such grade — and there’s almost no chance he’ll be on the board when the team picks. There’s every chance he could be a top five pick. He plays with an intensity comparable to the classic three techniques, but also moves so well for a guy at 295-300lbs. He’s strong at the point of attack and can provide constant interior pressure. It’ll take a minor miracle for him to fall, or at least some pretty serious character flaws. I’m not sure calling Georgia’s style of play, “old man football” or taking a one-game ban after skipping class is going to be enough.

For me, he’s still the Seahawks #1 ideal draft pick. Richardson’s presence would take an already productive defense to another level. Imagine the coverage skills of Seattle’s secondary, the speed of the linebackers, the size up front to work against the run and a consistent pass rush in base? The word ‘elite’ gets thrown around too often, but with a legitimate three-technique on the roster — the Seahawks would be getting mighty close. We can make an argument for adding a talented receiver, a linebacker or simply the best player available. Richardson would be the perfect storm of need meeting talent. It’s just a shame it’s unlikely to happen.

The only other players I think you could consider for this role are Utah’s Star Lotulelei and North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams. Lotulelei has been very inconsistent but he’s got incredible upside and won’t get out of the top-15. He’s 320lbs which would make him big for a three technique. Williams has a superb swim move, he’s always active and makes plays. His body type looks a little more suited to the one-technique position, but he’s the next best fit after Richardson. I had him at #14 to Carolina in my latest mock.

I said I’d watch LSU’s Bennie Logan this week and I wasn’t all that impressed after watching three games. He gets very little push against the run, he can be driven back and he’s a very limited pass rusher. Johnathan Hankins (who I don’t rate) and Jonathan Jenkins are both bigger tackles ill-suited to the position, while Sharrif Floyd (see tape below) and Jesse Williams might be at their best acting as an orthodox five technique in the 3-4. I still think the Seahawks might have to tap into the free agent market here to solve their biggest need.

For more on why Sheldon Richardson might be Seattle’s ideal first round pick in 2013, click here

Top five ‘ideal picks’ – 11th January

#1 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)

#2 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)

#3 Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)

#4 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)

#5 Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)

Wild card: Margus Hunt (DE, SMU) – there’s something about a 275lbs pass-rushing discuss thrower from Estonia that screams Pete Carroll and John Schneider.

Coaching appointments impacting the draft

Thanks to a conversation with Kip for sparking this part of today’s article…

There’s been a couple of interesting developments in the last 24 hours that could have an impact on the draft. Firstly, the Jacksonville Jaguars appointed David Caldwell to be their new General Manager — and he immediately ruled out any possibility that Tim Tebow would end up with the team. Caldwell couldn’t have been any more forthright about it. Being so ruthless on this matter was quite simply the only thing he could be, removing the question from future press conferences and allowing the Jaguars to move on without the need for a quarterback who will never start in the NFL. I’m not sure Tebow has much of a future in the league.

Of course, the issue now moves on to what the Jaguars will do at the position. Caldwell highlighted Blaine Gabbert’s youth in defense of his inauspicious start in the NFL, but made only a passing reference to Chad Henne. The appointment of a new Head Coach will be a big determining factor here. San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman is the hot tip as a close friend of Caldwell, although you have to wonder if the pair want to work together in any environment where the GM might have to one day fire the Head Coach. If Roman lands in Jacksonville, does it increase the chances of a potential trade for Alex Smith? Is that too obvious to be plausible? Do they consider the draft?

Personally I think Jacksonville needs to concentrate on the pass rush, because it’s the worst in the league. In my updated mock I had them doubling up on defensive ends with Bjoern Werner and Alex Okafor. They could also consider an interior pass rusher with the #2 pick. If Roman does move to the Jaguars (and that would be great news for the other NFC West teams, by the way) you have to wonder if he’d target a big running back to compliment Maurice Jones-Dre. Alabama’s Eddie Lacy has a little Frank Gore to his game and is likely to be a second or third round pick. The 49ers built their recent success on good defense and running the football. A Roman-Caldwell partnership would probably go down this route too with a facilitator at quarterback.

I still think it’s too early to completely write off Gabbert – who has the misfortune of having to deal with a third new offensive scheme in three years. It’s hard to think of a worse situation for a young signal caller entering the league. Whatever happens I still think Gabbert, Henne or an acquired veteran is more likely in year one of this rebuild. Why ruin the career of two young quarterbacks drafted in the top ten? They need to put down some roots. Although you can never truly rule out a new GM and coaching combo simply deciding they want their own man. Interesting times for Jaguars fans.

In Cleveland, lifelong Browns fan and former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski has been named as the teams new Head Coach. It seems he is set to appoint Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator. Although this news made for some disappointment among Browns fans, I think it’s an inspired choice. Cleveland tried and failed to deliver a big name like Chip Kelly, but this could end up turning out for the best.

Chudzinski and Turner will run a vertical passing game with a heavy dose of run. That completely suits the roster they’re inheriting. Let’s not forget here, the Browns don’t own a second round pick after taking Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft. They have the #6 pick as their one true shot to add an impact starter. CEO Joe Banner is likely to be the decision maker within the front office and he’s had his feet under the table for some time now. He’ll have watched a lot of college football in 2012 and will already have an idea of the direction he wants to go in re-shaping this team.

There’s every chance he’s decided, after looking at the top prospects available in this years draft, that there isn’t much of a chance to completely rebuild the offense. They have big receivers who can get downfield, a decent offensive line, a potential superstar at running back and a quarterback with some faults – but he’s a much better fit in a vertical passing attack than the west coast offense run by Pat Shurmur. Turner has had success with virtually every offensive coordinators gig he’s ever had. Meanwhile Chudzinski ran the Browns offense during their 10-6 season in 2007. Derek Anderson – with a similar skill set to Brandon Weeden – went to the Pro Bowl that year.

If you can’t totally rebuild an offense, you might as well get the most out of what you’ve got. This appears to be what the Browns are doing. Chudzinski will no doubt head into the market for a tight end (a focal point of his offense in Carolina and Cleveland in 2007-08) but the Browns made a killer appointment here. Cleveland hit a home run.

Assuming they don’t draft a quarterback early – and I don’t think they will following this appointment – they have a number of alternative options. There’s a lot of speculation that they’ll switch to a 3-4 defense, which would open up the possibility of drafting a pass rushing compliment to the talented Jabaal Sheard. They have enough big bodies up front, but they’re light at linebacker for a 3-4 scheme. Fortunately, this is a draft rich in 3-4 outside linebackers. They could also look at a guy like Anthony Spencer in free agency – speculation suggests he could leave Dallas following the (somewhat bizarre) appointment of Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator and the inevitable switch to a 4-3 defense.

While the arrival of Andy Reid in Kansas City increased the chances of a quarterback being drafted first overall, these two appointments suggest the Jaguars and Browns might go in a different direction. Buffalo is a tough one to work out. Doug Marrone knows he has to do something. A lot of people want you to believe he’ll draft his Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib early, but he doesn’t warrant a grade higher than the second or third round. General Manager Buddy Nix has talked about moving on from Ryan Fitzpatrick and bizarrely even mentioned moving up in the draft to get a quarterback. What any of this means I’m not sure. But the Bills remain a candidate to go quarterback early, perhaps even after trading back into the first round.

Arizona also has to be in the market for a quarterback, while the New York Jets seemingly have to do something at the position despite Mark Sanchez’s hefty guaranteed salary. Unfortunately, I still don’t see any of these teams showing any great interest in trading for Matt Flynn. Adam Schefter reported today in his mailbag column for ESPN Insider: “Everyone keeps bringing up Flynn, but what people forget is that last offseason there were only two teams, Seattle and Miami, mildly interested in him. He did not get near the attention many thought he would. And he didn’t play this season. His value isn’t as high as many people think.”

Alabama trio going pro

Dee Milliner (CB), D.J. Fluker (T) and Eddie Lacy (RB) all confirmed today that they are turning pro. Milliner is a complete cornerback prospect and a likely top-15 pick. Fluker improved as the 2012 season progressed and had a tremendous game against Georgia in the SEC Championship. His best position might be guard at the next level, given his massive 335lbs frame is unlikely to fit at tackle in the modern NFL. Lacy is a physical, dominating running back without supreme speed but anyone looking to mimic Seattle and San Francisco and how they run the ball should consider him early on day two.

Sharrif Floyd (DT/DE, Florida) game tape vs Texas A&M

Lineman say ‘no’ to NFL, the impact & thoughts on Margus Hunt

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Taylor Lewan will stay at Michigan for the 2013 season

In the last 24 hours Michigan’s Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews both confirmed they won’t be turning pro this year. Lewan’s decision is surprising given Michigan’s status as an unlikely candidate for a BCS Bowl next season, but clearly he feels this is a realistic goal citing “unfinished business”. Matthews wants to put some left tackle tape on record having played on the right during Luke Joeckel’s time with the Aggies. Both players could’ve been top-15 picks this year, but will instead turn pro in 2014. Next year’s draft is shaping up to be a good one, with the following eligible:

Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina), Marqise Lee (WR, USC), Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville), Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame), Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers), Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington), Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame), C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama), Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan), Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M), Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama), Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU)

Turning attentions back to this year, what impact will Lewan and Matthews’ decision have on the 2013 draft? There are multiple teams needing to find an answer at left tackle. Like quarterback, it’s considered a premium position that teams are willing to reach for to fill a need. By my count there are at least eight teams that would’ve considered tapping into a decent crop of young tackles this year. Now, there’s more likely to be higher demand at the top of round one for the best 2-3 available.

This isn’t great news for the Seahawks. They have a pro-bowl left tackle and are unlikely to target the position early. The more tackles going before they pick (between #25-32), the better chance a talented player at a different position makes it through. It seems certain that Luke Joeckel will be a top-five pick as the best player available at the position. Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan) could see his stock boosted significantly following today’s announcements. Any of Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma), Justin Pugh (T, Syracuse), Kyle Long (T/G, Oregon), Oday Aboushi (T, Virginia), D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama) or Brennan Williams (T, North Carolina) could also move into first round consideration as a consequence. Such is the perceived importance of the position.

However, not all of those players necessarily deserve first round grades. In my latest mock draft, I could only find a place for Joeckel, Fisher, Johnson and Pugh in round one. Even that seems optimistic. Pugh has shown flashes of quality this year protecting Ryan Nassib but isn’t a dominating tackle, while Johnson is a pure technician who looks well coached. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Joeckel and Fisher were the only two who receive first round grades by many teams. North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper could also receive interest as a tackle-convert given his superb athleticism and footwork. Kansas City’s Branden Albert made a similar switch after being drafted 15th overall in 2008.

Teams could be forced to look at different positions once the top 2-3 players leave the board. For example, the Chicago Bears could be a suitor for Stanford’s Zach Ertz. The Bears need an upgrade at tight end and appear ready to appoint an offensive minded Head Coach. If the value at tackle isn’t there when they pick at #20, Ertz could be the alternative choice. In this weeks mock I had Ertz going to Seattle at #26.

Another team who could show interest here? The St. Louis Rams. They are also expected to look at the tackle market, but might be out of reach picking at #16 and #22. Of course, they have the ammunition to move up. If they stay put, Ertz would make a lot of sense as a passing target for Sam Bradford.

While we’re on this subject, I found the following tweet from Daniel Jeremiah quite interesting:

Jeremiah has some connections as a former pro-scout. Fleener was taken with the #34 overall pick last April. Ertz will go earlier than this, the big question is — how much earlier? It’s also worth noting how much interest Seattle’s coaches showed in Fleener’s pro-day last year. I suspect Ertz will be on the teams radar.

It perhaps helps the Seahawks that there are multiple interior line prospects who could also go early. Teams like the Rams who are almost rebuilding their line from scratch could also look at Chance Warmack, the aforementioned Cooper or even prospects like Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick, Alabama’s Barrett Jones or Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson. Again, the earlier those prospects leave the board – the more chance the Seahawks have of perhaps filling one of their biggest needs in terms of the pass rush, receiver or linebacker.

One player I’m struggling to work out is SMU’s Margus Hunt. Avid college football fans will know about him – for those who don’t, he’s a 6-8 discuss thrower from Estonia. He came to the United States to train at SMU and work with athletics coach Dave Wollman. By the time he arrived at the school it’d dropped the track and field programme. He still wanted to work with Wollman and to cut a long story short – a football scholarship would’ve enabled him to stick around. He tried out for the team and got the required scholarship.

After a period spent learning the game from scratch he’s gone on to break SMU’s record for blocked kicks, although he didn’t really start having a consistent impact on games until this season. He saw more consistent game time in 2012 and recorded eight sacks. I’ve included tape of his performance in the recent Hawaii Bowl against Fresno State below. As you can see, he has some talent.

He’s also still relatively new to football, he’ll be 26 next June and he hasn’t quite dominated like the Fresno State game too often. At that age, you can’t afford to wait a year or two coaching him up. He has to have an impact quickly. I’m struggling to work out if he’s a potential first rounder due to upside or if he’s simply too old and too good to be true.

Bruce Irvin turned 25 during his rookie season and still earned a top-15 selection due to his college production and explosive speed. Hunt won’t run a 4.4 at the combine, but at 6-8 and 275lbs he won’t necessarily need to. A time in the 4.6 range will be impressive enough at that size. Part of me wonders whether a former discuss thrower from Estonia with hardly any football experience is just the kind of pick Pete Carroll and John Schneider are likely to make.

From the limited tape that’s out there, he has lined up inside at tackle for some snaps. He’s not a full time interior pass rusher, but I just wonder if he could be a possible option for the Jason Jones role. It’ll be interesting to see if the Seahawks go for a more natural three-technique next year to replace Alan Branch (who still deserves a new contract in my opinion). If they don’t – and I wouldn’t say it’s guaranteed given their penchant for size the last three seasons – then they have to find other ways to create more pressure. Jones is no shoe-in to re-sign. Margus Hunt could act as that nickel interior rusher (although this doesn’t address the teams biggest issue – a lack of pressure rushing four in the base defense).

Of course acting in the Jones role will limit his snaps and makes a first or second round grade harder to accept, even for the quirky Seahawks. A team considering Hunt as an orthodox defensive end or five technique is much more likely to be willing to carry that grade. He’s not a LEO. He’ll never be a LEO. That may push his value into the middle rounds within Seattle’s front office, by which he might be long gone. But there’s just something about Hunt that is obscure enough and intriguing enough to catch the attention of this team. Even if he can only act as a specialist.

Mock draft Wednesday’s: 9th January

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

For Kansas City, it has to be Matt Barkley

Another week, another mock draft. This time things are a little bit clearer for the team picking first overall.

Andy Reid is in at Kansas City. The main reason the Chiefs job was so attractive was in part because they’re such grand underachievers. They have two good pass rushers, two excellent defensive backs, an explosive running back, a decent offensive line and some young receiving options. There is no way this team should be picking first overall.

The reason they are is simple – they don’t have a quarterback. Reid will know if he finds one, Kansas City could enjoy a resurgence and become competitive in an AFC West division that isn’t exactly daunting (Peyton Manning won’t play forever). He has to draft a quarterback first overall and I’m sticking to my guns on who he’ll take. I want to talk about this briefly before getting into this week’s projection.

A lot of people want to tell you how bad the quarterback class is, but in reality it’s just not as good as last year. There’s no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III that tick every media-friendly box. Elite athleticism? Check. Character? Check. Feel good storyline? Check.

What you’ve got instead are three decent quarterbacks who all deserve first round consideration. Matt Barkley, Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson all have their faults, but all have striking positives too. It’s not a black hole situation for Kansas City and they can win with all three of these players in my opinion. For all the hand-wringing over the quarterback position, who else truly deserves to be the #1 overall pick? I’m not convinced Luke Joeckel is quite as good as a Matt Kalil for example (4th overall last year) while the top pass rushers don’t get close to Jadeveon Clowney (a probable #1-2 overall pick in 2014). This isn’t like the time St. Louis took Sam Bradford over Ndamukong Suh. There really aren’t many alternatives that will lead Kansas City away from trying to solve their quarterback dilemma.

Anyone playing any position could be a top-ten pick this year. That’s just the way it is. The talent differential between picks #1-25 is going to be minimal. And there’s no none-quarterback who truly deserves to go first overall.

If Reid ignores the position with the first pick, he’ll likely be depending on a Ryan Nassib, Tyler Bray, Mike Glennon or Landry Jones being available in the middle rounds. That seems like the blueprint to another lost year, and Reid needs to kick start this franchise and find momentum early.

So which of the three quarterbacks should Kansas City select? I still think it has to be Matt Barkley.

There’s a lot of garbage talked about Barkley – how he had a bad year, how he only succeeded due to the talent around him. If you want to blame anyone for USC’s meltdown this year, look no further than Lane Kiffin. When he wasn’t busy being a jerk to the media or playing silly mind-games with opponents, he was overseeing a shambles on the field.

Amid this shambles, Barkley still threw 36 touchdown passes. Had he not missed the last two games through injury, he would’ve likely topped 2011′s 39 scores – beating a season that won universal praise. He had to operate behind a porous offensive line minus Matt Kalil and with center Khaled Holmes suffering an injury plagued year. He ran an offense that scored 51 points against the Oregon Ducks – I guess Barkley also needed to play defense too seeing as Monte Kiffin’s unit gave up 62 themselves? In a bad year for the Trojans, Barkley’s numbers still stand out. So why is he getting so much bad publicity? Why has he gone, for example, from #1 to #32 on Todd McShay’s big board? Why has he gone from #1 on Mel Kiper’s board to not even being included – while Mike Glennon does make the list? I understand if you never rated Barkley to start with, but how does he go from best to borderline first rounder based on a 36-touchdown season? That makes zero sense.

If his success at USC was only due to a strong supporting cast, why did Max Wittek only throw for 107 yards against a rank bad Georgia Tech outfit in the Sun Bowl? Wittek has a better arm than Barkley, he’d played against Notre Dame previously. Why wasn’t the talent at receiver helping him put up big numbers against a mediocre opponent?

Andy Reid can build around a quarterback like Barkley. He is a methodical, accurate quarterback. He’s not going to run the read-option or beat you with his legs. He will orchestrate an orthodox passing offense, make quick, intelligent decisions and act as a point guard for your playmakers. In the right environment, Barkely can shine. Kansas City has that right environment. They can protect him, run the ball and use a possession-based offense. And they can win football games.

He’s also an engaging, hard-working character who will quickly take control of the offense. If you build to his strengths, he will succeed. I’ve long believed he has an upside potential comparable to Philip Rivers and I see no reason to doubt that. Rivers is competitive, accurate and when he’s had tools he’s been elite. If Kansas City builds correctly, Reid can win with Barkley.

In Philadelphia he drafted smaller, quicker receivers (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin). The Chiefs should target Robert Woods with their second pick and maybe also Markus Wheaton. That way they can run a lot of quick screens, slants and get the ball to their playmakers – just as Barkley operated at USC. He has a bigger target in Jonathan Baldwin, although Dwayne Bowe appears likely to depart. Jamaal Charles is a perfect foil as a runner/receiver. With a good defense already installed, this could be a 9-10 win team in 2013.

You can make arguments for the other two quarterbacks too. Geno Smith has a superior fast ball and showed real efficiency at the start of the college season before things imploded at West Virginia (similar to USC’s crash, although Smith’s stock somehow stayed intact while Barkley’s fell). Tyler Wilson is surprisingly mobile and more of a gun slinger – plus he had no chance of succeeding in Arkansas’ season from hell. He does force too many passes though and occasionally makes questionable decisions. I still think Barkley presents the best option as a technically gifted passer who can act as a point guard for Andy Reid. And if he needs any reminder of what Barkley is capable of, he needs only look at the 2011 Oregon tape. Why not ask Chip Kelly what he thinks about Matt Barkley?

Three other quick notes – Tennessee defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore today declared for the draft. He’s a former transfer from Alabama. This is a boost for Seahawks fans hoping to identify a mid-round defensive tackle who can rush the passer. Sentimore is a fiery character, he weighs 290lbs and is 6-2 in height. He never truly delivered on his promise in college, but he has a lot of talent. He could be on Seattle’s radar. I’ve also left out Brandon Coleman in this weeks projection. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood says he doesn’t expect any more players to turn pro before the January 15th deadline and Coleman is yet to commit either way. I think he’d be better off turning pro given the quarterback situation, but it appears he might be spending another year in college. He’s only a redshirt sophomore. Taylor Lewan announced today he will be returning to Michigan for his senior year.

Onto this week’s mock draft…

First round

#1 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
The Chiefs need a quarterback. They don’t have a terrible roster. They have to do this.
#2 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
The Jaguars need a pass rusher and Werner could be the choice after a 13.5-sack season.
#3 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
Only Jacksonville had less sacks than Oakland this season. Richardson could be the next great interior pass rusher.
#4 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
This is the starting point for whoever replaces Andy Reid. They have to repair the offensive line.
#5 Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
The Lions could use an edge rusher. Moore had 12.5 sacks in the SEC this year.
#6 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
Jones has top-five talent but the spinal stenosis issue will really linger. He’ll need to be cleared to go this early.
#7 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
They need a quarterback. Simple as that.
#8 Alec Ogeltree (LB, Georgia)
Buffalo might trade back into the first round to get a quarterback, allowing them to take the best player available here.
#9 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
If Chance Warmack went first overall, it’d still be good value.
#10 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Plenty of upside here, just not a lot of consistency.
#11 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan)
They need to take a left tackle.
#12 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
The X-Factor player of this draft.
#13 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
The complete cornerback. This would be a steal.
#14 Sylvester Williams (DT, Utah)
Big-bodied defensive tackle who can get to the quarterback and play well against the run.
#15 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
Jordan will know he can make some money at the combine, so he needs to get healthy.
#16 Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma)
With Taylor Lewan deciding to return to Michigan, this is great news for the technically sound Lane Johnson.
#17 Matt Elam (S, Florida)
Pure playmaker in the secondary.
#18 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Athletic guard who could even switch to tackle. He will start for 10+ years.
#19 Ezekiel Ansah (DE, BYU)
Another player who could really boost his stock with a great combine.
#20 Justin Pugh (T, Syracuse)
The next best tackle on the board.
#21 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
He had a tremendous Chick-fil-A Bowl.
#22 Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
This guy is legit. A brilliant linebacker prospect.
#23 Travis Frederick (C, Wisconsin)
He’s going pro after dominating at guard and center. Big body, looks made for a man-blocking scheme.
#24 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
Minnesota needs a reliable receiver to compliment Adrian Peterson’s brilliance. They kind of need a quarterback, too.
#25 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
The Ravens always seem to get value. What better way to replace an emotional leader?
#26 Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
Stanford’s leading receiver, his blocking is also better than advertised.
#27 Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)
His best fit in my opinion is at 3-4 end.
#28 Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
He’s a good fit for the 3-4 end position. Long term Jason Smith replacement?
#29 Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
He had a great year on a losing team. Can play tackle or guard.
#30 Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
No, I don’t think the Patriots draft Wilson. But a team like Buffalo could trade into this range to get him.
#31 Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
They could use a big body to help the run defense.
#32 Kevin Minter (LB, LSU)
Denver can afford to take a solid football player here.

Second round

#33 Jacksonville – Alex Okafor (DE, Texas)
#34 Kansas City – Robert Woods (WR, USC)
#35 Philadelphia – Barrett Jones (C, Alabama)
#36 Detroit – Jonathan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#37 Cincinnati – Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
#38 Arizona – Kyle Long (T, Oregon)
#39 New York Jets – Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
#40 Tennessee – Gabe Jackson (G, Mississippi State)
#41 Buffalo – Logan Ryan (CB, Rutgers)
#42 Miami – John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
#43 Tampa Bay – Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
#44 Carolina – Shawn Williams (S, Georgia)
#45 San Diego – Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
#46 St. Louis – Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
#47 Dallas – Jonathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
#48 Pittsburgh – Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
#49 New York Giants – Oday Aboushi (T, Virginia)
#50 Chicago – Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
#51 Washington – Eric Reid (S, LSU)
#52 Minnesota – Bennie Logan (DT, LSU)
#53 Baltimore – Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State)
#54 Cincinnati – D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama)
#55 Seattle – Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
#56 Green Bay – Giovanni Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
#57 Miami – Brennan Williams (T, North Carolina)
#58 Houston – Keenan Allen (WR, California)
#59 San Francisco – Jordan Poyer (CB, Oregon State)
#60 New England – Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB, Connecticut)
#61 Atlanta – Margus Hunt (DE, SMU)
#62 Denver – Terrance Williams (WR, Baylor)

Next best available

QB – Mike Glennon, Tyler Bray, Ryan Nassib, Landry Jones

RB – Stepfan Taylor, Montee Ball, Le’Veon Bell, Andre Ellington, Kenjon Barner, Jawan Jamison

WR – Steadman Bailey, Cobi Hamilton, Da’rick Rogers, Kenny Stills

TE – Levine Toilolo, Dion Sims, Joseph Fauria, Michael Williams, Brandon Ford

OL – Larry Warford, Brian Waters, Khaled Holmes

DL – Corey Lemonier, Sam Montgomery, Quinton Dial, Cornellius Carradine, Kawann Short, Darrington Sentimore

LB – Kevin Reddick, Chase Thomas, Kiko Alonso

CB – Sanders Commings, Greg Reid, Terry Hawthorne

S – Bacarri Rambo, Devonte Holloman, D.J. Swearinger, Tony Jefferson, T.J. McDonald, Shamarko Thomas

Will Sutton staying at Arizona State, won’t turn pro

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

I wanted to start a separate post for this because so many people have taken an interest in Will Sutton recently (no surprise given Seattle’s need for more interior pass rush). I did a piece on Alex Okafor earlier today which you can check out by clicking here.

There aren’t a ton of options for Seattle if they want to use the draft to find a three technique. The two best options (Sheldon Richardson, Star Lotulelei) will both be long gone as early first round picks. Sylvester Williams may also be a top-25 pick. I’m going to take a closer look at Kawann Short and Bennie Logan over the next fortnight. Logan opted to turn pro this week.

Sutton was never going to be a first round pick, but he would’ve been in contention as a mid-round target. It looks increasingly like the best way for the Seahawks to solve this problem will be in free agency.

Alex Okafor an option for the Seahawks?

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Texas defensive end Alex Okafor had a 12.5 sack season for the Longhorns

Yesterday we touched on the injury to Chris Clemons (now confirmed as an ACL) and how this might impact the Seahawks’ off-season. There’s still no firm time-scale for the injury – it could be seven months, it could be twelve. Adrian Peterson had an impossibly quick recovery from a similar issue and had a season for the ages in 2012. Stem cell therapy and other advances give players a better chance to overcome serious ACL injuries but we’re a long way from knowing how it’ll impact Seattle’s best pass rusher.

By March they’ll know a lot more about the recovery period and what contingency plans have to be made. They drafted Bruce Irvin to be the heir apparent to Clemons at the LEO position. Yet the team has used another rusher of similar stature for certain play calls during each of the three years this scheme has been in place. Clearly this will be a need that has to be addressed if Clemons can’t start the 2013 season.

There’s every chance they could go the Raheem Brock route and look for an ageing pass rusher with a little left in the tank. Osi Umenyiora is a name that comes to mind – he’s coming off a down year (like Brock) and turns 32 in 2013 (as did Brock the year he joined the Seahawks in 2010). He won’t command the kind of contract he was hoping for during several disputes with the Giants in recent years. An incentive-laden 1-2 year deal would make sense at the right price and Umenyiora might entertain the idea of playing for a blossoming contender. Of course, he already has two Super Bowl rings – so he might be willing to just take the best offer whoever puts it on the table.

The draft will provide cheaper, unproven alternatives. It really depends on the teams motivation to use free agency to keep building momentum. Undoubtedly Pete Carroll and John Schneider want to build through the draft, but they’ve also been active in re-signing existing players and making the occasional splash for the likes of Sidney Rice and Zach Miller. While I doubt they make more bank-breaking moves like that any time soon, I do think they’ll search for cost-effective role-playing veterans. Umenyiora and Randy Starks won’t necessarily be prize, expensive free agents. But both could do a really effective job in Seattle and fill a couple of key needs.

The cap situation works in Seattle’s favour here, although they’ll be aware that some big years are on the horizon with several key players needing to be re-signed. Mike Sando wrote a piece today noting the Seahawks have $18.6m in cap space for 2013. Teams are able to carry cap over into future seasons – the reason Seattle would have $18.6m available is mostly down to $13.2m in carry-over from 2012. Not spending too much money during free agency in 2013 could afford the team more space to re-sign 2014 free agents like Kam Chancellor.

Even so, there’s still plenty of room to make a couple of smart additions, especially if the deals are short term and maybe even expire in 2014/2015. The available cap room for 2013 could further increase if Matt Flynn leaves the team or if a player like Zach Miller ($11m cap hit in 2013) is willing to re-work his contract to spread out the salary.

There aren’t a ton of early round LEO options in the draft and I doubt they make a first round pick at this position in consecutive years. At the very least they have to back their judgement on Irvin and improve other areas of the team. It’s one thing to plan ahead and draft a pass-rush specialist with future starter potential. Having two first round LEO prospects means one of those guys will always be consigned to specialist duties unless injuries take over.

Having said that, one player who might interest the Seahawks is Texas defensive end Alex Okafor.

When you look at the tape he’s not an obvious LEO prospect. He’s a little thicker and not quite as lean as Clemons or Irvin. He doesn’t flash an explosive first step and I’m not convinced at the combine he’s going to run a tremendous ten-yard split. These are all things the Seahawks seemingly liked about Irvin. Okafor looks big for a listed 265lbs and could potentially add another 10lbs to become a more orthodox 4-3 edge rusher. At the combine he’ll likely try to lose a bit of weight to max-out his forty yard dash.

There’s no doubting the guy can rush the passer — and what sets him apart from other 265lbs edge rushers is his ability to play stout at the point of the attack and excel against the run. He holds position well, he gets a little push with effective hands and he can make a play in the backfield when it’s stretched to his side. I like his ability to get off blocks even if he hasn’t quite got that explosive edge speed. His effort sometimes runs a bit hot and cold, but he can also be quite deceptive – rounding the edge with good footwork and getting the sack. It’d be nice to see some of that Jabaal Sheard attitude on tape – a crucial factor in my view when you’re playing in the 250-265lbs range at the line of scrimmage.

I touched on his hand use and he flashes ideal technique here. He drives back offensive lineman with an excellent bull rush and understands leverage. He could be a little more aggressive at times to match how good he is at driving his legs and pushing back the tackle. But he’s not going to get overpowered much off the edge and when a player flashes this level of technique and the ability to rush the passer, you’ve got a nice prospect to work with at the next level.

Okafor dominated Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl recording 4.5 sacks. He actually had consistent production all year for a rank average Texas defense. He finished the season with 12.5 sacks. A lot of people will suggest, due to his size, that he fits the 3-4 OLB position more than the 4-3. I’m not convinced he’ll be able to flash strong enough coverage ability and he looks better playing up front in a four than standing up in space. I think you also take away some of his run defense qualities playing him at OLB. The 4-3 teams might want him to add that extra weight, but the Seahawks like to use the under-sized defensive end for their LEO position.

I’m fighting this a little bit (perhaps carelessly) because like I said, he’s not an obvious LEO candidate even at 265lbs. But his ability against the run is intriguing and if the Seahawks don’t trust Irvin on early down due to his run defense, Okafor could be a nice compromise. You won’t get quite as much explosion off the edge, but you probably also won’t get gashed by a left tackle taking on Bruce Irvin to free up running lanes. In the long term, Okafor could still add extra weight and fill the position vacated by Jason Jones. I’m not sure what the future holds for Jones following his injury and free agent status, but Okafor looks to me like he could play that nickel three-technique role who slips inside on passing downs. His body type appears to be suited to that position, but he’s got the flexibility to play some edge rush too and this could make him an attractive option.

There are also some similarities to Brian Orakpo, another former Texas defensive end. Both players entered college undersized (Okafor joined the Longhorns at 229lbs, Orakpo was also considerably underweight with room to grow). During his time with Texas, Orakpo hit the weight room and really maxed out his frame at around 260-265lbs and there were some concerns he didn’t have a great deal of upside. He’s since turned into one of the league’s better pass rushers, despite far from dominating in college (he had 11 sacks in his final season at Texas and ten sacks in the three years previous combined). Okafor has a frame capable of holding more weight and he’s not as fast off the edge. He also had a strong senior year after three seasons of development. He had to get bigger. I’m not saying Okafor is the second coming of Orakpo, but there are some similarities in how they came to develop in college.

Okafor’s stock is a little hard to determine. The brilliant bowl game helps, but prior to that he was receiving tentative grades as a day two pick. If he lasts until Seattle’s second round choice, he could be in play. I’m not sure he’ll drop that far, in fact I think there’s every chance he could be a first round pick. He’s a good pass rusher. If he performs better than expected at the combine, he could end up being a big riser. Whether he’s likely to be on Seattle’s radar that early I’m not sure, but he’s still someone to keep an eye on this post-season.

Below I’ve included tape of his performances against Ole Miss, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Oregon State:

Monday thoughts: LEO, Commings, BCS, Escobar & Ertz

Monday, January 7th, 2013

A serious knee injury for Chris Clemons is cause for concern

Is LEO now a bigger priority?

Chris Clemons’ injury last night has started a discussion about the teams future at the LEO. In the short term, it’s pretty easy to wonder whether Ray Edwards gets another look. He recently worked out for the Seahawks and would debut against the team that cut him a few weeks ago. It’s a storyline waiting to be written. You could also argue there’s a reason why such a big-name pass rusher remains a free agent. And his time in Atlanta was a major disappointment. Danny Kelly at Field Gulls has also touted Aaron Maybin as a possible target. Whoever comes in, it’s only fair that Bruce Irvin gets his chance to start against Atlanta.

What about the long term?

Players are recovering from ACL injuries quicker these days due to advancements in science (stem cell therapy etc). Adrian Peterson is a great example of this, having recovered from such an injury to have arguably the best ever season by a NFL running back. It’s not unrealistic to think this setback will take 6-7 months of recovery, but there’s no reason why Clemons can’t feature in 2013 even if he starts the year on the PUP list.

Some people have questioned whether this injury makes the LEO more of a priority. After all, the teams pass rush hasn’t been too productive in recent weeks. Didn’t they just draft Irvin to be the heir apparent though? He was described as the ‘ideal LEO’ by Pete Carroll upon his arrival in Seattle. If he’s not ready to start in the year he turns 26, when is he going to be ready? I suspect Irvin will get his chance if Clemons can’t go. Even so, they’d still need another pass rusher.

I don’t think this will end up being a high draft priority in April. There aren’t many LEO options in the first two rounds that make a lot of sense. Barkevious Mingo could fit the bill if he runs a good ten-yard split at the combine. Outside of that, I’m not sure who warrants a late first round pick? Alex Okafor is listed at 260lbs at the moment but looks bigger on tape and isn’t quite as lean as Irvin or Clemons. He seems more suited to the Jason Jones role, but he’s one to keep an eye on.

There are some later round options. It’ll be interesting to see if Sam Montgomery falls due to character concerns. He would certainly fit the bill. Joe Kruger at Utah has declared for the draft. It’s a shame Travis Long and Quanterus Smith both got hurt at the end of the year. Michael Buchanan and Devin Taylor are also worthy of late round consideration.

Free agency could also come into play. Osi Umenyiora is a free agent and has been linked to the Seahawks in the past. He’s 32 this year and has lost some of his explosive athleticism, but he’s still an ideal fit physically and could be used as a nice veteran stop gap while Clemons is out. He probably won’t command a big contract due to his age and the Seahawks could get some value here, just as they did with an ageing Raheem Brock.

Although this is a team being built through the draft, some crafty veteran additions have certainly helped. Getting guys like Umenyiora (LEO) and Randy Starks (three-technique) on shorter term, incentive-laden deals would put the Seahawks in a strong position going into the draft and give the pass rush a much needed boost for 2013.

But yeah, we’re still a long way away from seriously talking about free agent additions.

Sanders Commings tape vs Alabama

The Georgia defense has a lot of big-name talent, but also some really underrated players. There could be as many as 7-8 players from the 2012 group that go on to become NFL starters. Sanders Commings is one of those players capable of making it in the pro’s.

I’d seen Commings a few times and been impressed, but it was his performance against Alabama in the SEC championship game that really caught the eye. He’s not a terribly fast corner with 4.55 speed. He’s a bigger guy at 6-0 and 218lbs and that helped against Nick Saban’s physical receivers. He had almost a flawless game, capping it with a vital interception. The speed issue is going to put off some teams, but his size and aggressive nature makes him a possible candidate for the Seahawks. I’ve included the tape against Alabama below and I particularly liked the way he shadowed receivers running underneath or across the middle. Finding more competition for the slot coverage role is an option this year. Commings could be another one of Pete Carroll’s value picks at corner.

Speaking of Alabama…

Tonight it’s the BCS National Championship game between the Crimson Tide and Notre Dame. There’s a number of players to keep an eye on in this one.

First of all, check on Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt the two big-time defensive line prospects for the Irish. Nix is a nose tackle with some pass rushing ability, while Tuitt has been a terror off the edge all year recording 12 sacks. In many ways they are the real stars of the Notre Dame defense, although Manti Te’o gets almost all the publicity. Nix and Tuitt could both be top-15 picks in 2014.

In terms of this years draft, there’s a ton of big-name talent. Te’o will undoubtedly have a strong game, but watch tight end Tyler Eifert for Notre Dame. I think he’s a little overrated. He’s not quite a spectacular pass catcher while his blocking has been suspect at times. He’ll need to have a big game if the Irish are going to trouble Alabama’s brilliant defense. Receiver-turned-runner Theo Riddick is also worth monitoring – he’s been a big playmaker this season.

Alabama has a host of NFL talent. Dee Milliner is a complete cornerback prospect. The offensive line is full of stars, including Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker. Running back Ed Lacy is still pondering whether to declare for the 2013 draft, but he’s shown enough this year to warrant day two consideration. I like Quinton Dial the defensive lineman, while it’s also another chance to watch Jesse Williams. Michael Williams the tight end has also made big strides this year.

Personally I think Alabama will win this game fairly comfortably. Their defense will likely dominate and they should be able to run the ball and get Amari Cooper involved in the passing game. For what it’s worth, Cooper has the look of a future NFL star. He’s a true freshman so won’t be eligible until 2015, but he’s ridiculously polished for a player basically just starting out.

Gavin Escobar and Zach Ertz going pro

San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar has declared for the NFL draft. He had 543 yards and six touchdowns in 2012. Escobar’s 6-6, 255lbs and a pure pass-catcher. He had limited blocking duties in college, but showed a knack of getting downfield and making plays. He’s the kind of player the league salivates over in the era of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.

I expect he’ll be a second or third round pick, but his upside is certainly intriguing. I’m a bigger fan of Anthony McCoy than most and I’m not sure Escobar would offer much more as the #2 TE. Despite last night’s dropped pass, McCoy has been a much improved player overall this season. However, Escobar is one to check on at the combine. He could be a big riser this off-season.

Zach Ertz is a terrific prospect. Stanford’s #1 receiving target this year, he lines up all over the field and makes plays. He’s 6-6 and 252lbs. I think he could be a top-20 pick. He had 898 yards and six touchdowns this season.

Aside from an honest, hard working personality – he’s also close to a complete tight end. Although he’s maybe not quite the explosive athlete that Graham is or the physical freak of Gronkowski, Ertz is similar to Zach Miller. We saw last night what an effective force Miller can be when featured prominently – and it’s not really Miller’s fault that his role has been switched since moving to Seattle. In Oakland, he was the #1 receiving option. When they took the training wheels off Russell Wilson, it seemed to take some of the heavy blocking responsibility away from Miller. And for the last few weeks, he’s been one of the more productive players in the offense.

Without the truly dynamic receivers at the top of the first round that we’ve seen in previous years, Ertz could get early looks. He’d be a nice, safe target for a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill or Sam Bradford. I suspect he received a decent review from the draft committee given he was undecided on whether to turn pro prior to the bowl game.

Is he an option for the Seahawks? It might fly in the face of what I said earlier about Escobar/McCoy, but I think Ertz could prove to be the exception. I have a feeling Seattle would love to run more 2TE sets with two similar, consistent tight ends on either side of the offensive line. Stanford run a lot of these power sets, relying on Ertz and Levine Toilolo as receivers (surprisingly, Toilolo also announced his intention to declare today). It enables them to give run looks on any down, utilise play action to maximum effect and suck in the linebackers. It was an effective enough tactic to win a Rose Bowl this season.

Ertz is a better blocker than most people give him credit for. The Seahawks were said to be very interested in Coby Fleener’s pro-day at Stanford last year, and Ertz is arguably the better player. Technically he could also be used in the slot and out wide – we’ve seen it in college and he’s been good enough to make plays. The New England Patriots have boasted an effective offense featuring two tight ends. Why not Seattle? I’d be almost surprised if he wasn’t on the teams radar in the first round.

Instant reaction: Seahawks win, Falcons next

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

This was not a good night for RGIII and the Redskins

This is a team that keeps making statements.

Despite a lot of positive media coverage this week, the often trotted out ‘can’t win on the road’ excuse reared its ugly head again. A long 29-years of waiting for a road playoff victory will do that.

Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez might win a playoff game for Atlanta next week. But it won’t be the fact Seattle is playing on the road that is the problem. This was the teams third straight road victory and but for a crazy opening, it was about as comprehensive as anyone could’ve hoped for. The Seahawks can win away from the Pacific North West.

Washington came out flying and threatened to show up a number of lingering issues for the Seahawks. The team failed to generate any meaningful pass rush early on while again sticking with four rushers. Robert Griffin III had an age to throw the ball and he made it count with two quick scores. Alfred Morris also found early running room. The Redskins were playing Seattle’s game against them. They were physical, they were relentless and they executed with confidence.

It brought back memories of Seattle’s last playoff game – a pasting in Chicago. And the previous road game in the post-season against Green Bay. Surely this wasn’t going to be another beat down? Not this time — not this team?

Had you said at the time that Washington’s 14th point would be their last, nobody would’ve believed you. We can talk about the play of Russell Wilson, the defense or Marshawn Lynch. You don’t often come from 14-points down on the road in the playoffs. For a young team to show that level of composure when they were up against it is quite something. The Seahawks dominated from the second quarter onwards and fully deserve to reach the Divisional round of the playoffs.

There are some issues I want to talk about…

The offense had several missed opportunities. Anthony McCoy stalled a promising drive with a bad drop, Lynch had a momentum-destroying fumble in the red zone that was crying out to be a deciding factor. The play calling mixed between genius and puzzling. The zone read jumped in and out with a little too much frequency despite it’s relative success. I didn’t much care for a third down call at 13-14 that included one receiver (Doug Baldwin) on the field, almost inviting the Redskins to blitz (which they do well). Wilson was sacked on the play.

There were several things Washington did that were very predictable, but still had success with. Is this just execution and you take your lumps, or could certain early problems have been avoided? Even an untrained eye like mine could see how frequently they brought the secondary blitz against Dallas last week, yet the Seahawks struggled to adjust to it at any point today.

The pass rush is still a major concern – even more so if Chris Clemons is out for the Atlanta game. PFT is reporting it could be an ACL injury. The Seahawks cannot press a quarterback with four rushers. We see it every week. I’m not entirely sure how you solve this issue during the playoffs. It’s clearly a focal point of Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley’s scheme. It might be something they have to live with for now until improvements can be made in the post-season. But if they can’t get pressure on Matt Ryan next week, it’ll be more of an issue than it was today against an injured Robert Griffin III.

Funnily enough the one player who is most susceptible to criticism due to a lack of pass rush – Alan Branch – had possibly his best game of the season today. He was amped up and had a couple of key plays in the backfield, including a sack. Even so, the defensive line in general was predictable against the pass. Late in the game Carroll and Bradley clearly felt confident enough to attack Kirk Cousins and brought all-out blitzes with major success. I don’t think you can do this from the start, but there’s a duty to be a little more creative next week especially if Clemons can’t go.

One suggestion is to perhaps re-consider adding Ray Edwards this week. He’ll need no motivation against his old team and is probably the best free agent on the market who fits the scheme. Even if Bruce Irvin starts – and he played extremely well after replacing Clemons – they’ll need another pass rusher. For those not aware, Edwards was cut by the Falcons earlier this year despite signing a big contract in Atlanta after leaving the Vikings. Unless he really failed to impress during a recent work-out in Seattle, I’m not sure what they’d have to lose?

It’s hard to be too critical of the defense on a night when they made key adjustments early and dominated after the first quarter. Carroll and Bradley deserve a lot of props. They combated the early problems and came out swinging. This was a good night for Bradley, who could interview with the Eagles in the next day or two for the vacant Head Coaches position in Philadelphia.

On the whole the offensive line did a good job against Jim Haslett’s creative scheme. J.R. Sweezy had a much better game and it probably helped having John Moffitt in for a few series. Zach Miller had a terrific night making clutch plays and looked every bit an elite tight end. He was probably the MVP for Seattle. He sprung Lynch for the go-ahead touchdown with a crunching block before catching the two-point conversion. On the same drive he had a catch and run for a key third down. This was Miller’s best day for the Seahawks.

You cannot give Russell Wilson enough credit for winning his first road playoff game. He wasn’t perfect – he missed some throws and had one or two questionable decisions. Yet he’s already playing like a veteran and is a defining playmaker. At times he looked like Wisconsin-Wilson again, which is no bad thing. The game is really slowing down for him with every passing week, no doubt due to his extreme preparation and growing experience.

The Redskins came into the game with the #5 rushing defense. The Seahawks ran for 224 yards on the ground. That’s impressive.

Our wishes go out to Robert Griffin III, who played hurt throughout and appeared to suffer a further nasty injury to his right knee. Serious questions have to be asked about the way Mike Shanahan has dealt with his star quarterback. The Redskins traded three first round picks for Griffin, yet appeared to be gambling with that investment all night. He clearly wasn’t anywhere close to 100%, yet he was still running zone plays and rushing basically on one leg. When he twisted awkwardly trying to recover a botched snap, it was evident just how weak his knee was. It doesn’t matter how much a player wants to play sometimes, you have to be above that. The coaches should know better in that situation. You drafted Kirk Cousins for this exact situation.

Make no mistake, the Falcons will be a far superior test. They’ll milk the clock, use their playmakers and play a bend-but-don’t-break defense. It might be their year after several playoff disappointments. However, the Seahawks can go their with nothing to lose. They’re playing the NFC’s #1 seed on the road in a game that starts at 10:00am PST. The win tonight qualifies the season as a major step forward and it legitimises the franchise. Losing in Atlanta won’t change that. But I doubt anyone is contemplating a losing scenario right now.

Bring on the Falcons.

Draft order update

The Seahawks will now pick no lower than #25 overall in the 2013 draft. This was also a good night for the St. Louis Rams as they own Washington’s first round pick. They will pick twice in the second half of the draft as things stand with the #16 and #22 overall picks. Here is the updated draft order for picks 1-24:

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Detroit Lions
6. Cleveland Browns
7. Arizona Cardinals
8. Buffalo Bills
9. New York Jets
10. Tennessee Titans
11. San Diego Chargers
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14. Carolina Panthers
15. New Orleans Saints
16. St. Louis Rams
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
18. Dallas Cowboys
19. New York Giants
20. Chicago Bears
21. Cincinnati Bengals
22. St. Louis Rams
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Indianapolis Colts

Aaron Murray returning to Georgia

The Bulldogs quarterback tweeted out today that he won’t be turning pro. Considering the way the SEC Championship game finished, this isn’t a big surprise. He’ll be playing on a Georgia team without some serious defensive talent. Alec Ogletree, Jarvis Jones, Bacarri Rambo, Jonathan Jenkins and others are all heading for the NFL. Even so, he doesn’t have the physical tools to warrant early round consideration. Why not spend another year chasing glory in the SEC?

What to expect this week…

Lots and lots and lots and lots of mock drafts projecting Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib to Buffalo in round one. Because, as you know, as soon as a college coach heads for the pro’s, he spends a top ten pick on his old quarterback who really isn’t worth much more than a mid-round grade. Or maybe not.

Thoughts on the playoffs, more Hopkins/Sutton tape

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Sunday is a great opportunity for the Seahawks to prove they're as good as advertised

Thoughts on Seattle @ Washington

All week the Seahawks have been praised, promoted and respected. It’s now time to prove the hype is justified.

I’ve never seen so many members of the media fall over themselves to declare the Seahawks as Super Bowl contenders. They’re a great ‘on paper’ team. Statistically they rank well in all three facets of the game. They have key positions filled with talented players. There’s the quarterback, running back, shutdown corner, left tackle, passer rusher with double digit sacks. There’s a lot of balance on the roster. And they play a style of football that traditionally does well in the playoffs.

None of this means much. Because the people who watch the Seahawks every week know the deal. This is a young team still growing into its trousers. There are issues that flare up every now and again. Third down defense, pass rush on early downs, pass protection against certain schemes, run defense. There are also a ton of positives too, but this isn’t a flawless team. And they’ll have to play a great game to beat the Washington Redskins.

For me it’s all about establishing an early lead and chipping away. I don’t think it’ll be a high scoring game. It could play out a little like the Bears game. But getting a lead and keeping the Redskins at arms length will be crucial. Alfred Morris and the Shanahan ZBS can beat the Seahawks. They’ll be able to run to the left side and have some success there.

Seattle has to try and minimise the threat and make the Redskins chase. If Washington gets in front, they’ll run it and let Robert Griffin III manage the situation. He isn’t turning the ball over and he won’t make mistakes if he’s protecting a lead. He might make mistakes if he has to force things. The run is less of a factor if the Redskins have to chase the game. Starting fast is always important, but it may be more so tomorrow.

I think Jim Haslett will blitz a lot, just like he did against Dallas. Russell Wilson is more mobile than Tony Romo, but Romo has always had a knack of extending plays. Not against Washington last week. H looked like Ryan Mallett in the pocket last weekend, struggling to find time and exploit a shaky Redskins secondary. The St. Louis Rams gave Haslett a blue print on how to rush against the Seahawks, so there could be some issues in the first half again.

Seattle needs the offensive line to step up again. They’d played very well in recent weeks until that half against the Rams. It might be best to play max-protect early and rely on the receivers, knowing that Rice, Tate or Baldwin are likely to match up well against DeAngelo Hall and co. Washington’s pass rush isn’t quite as emphatic as St. Louis’ and it’s a different scheme. The Seahawks handled San Francisco’s 3-4 handily. Getting the read-option going will help and Washington didn’t do a great job against Cam Newton and the Panthers in week nine.

I think it’s the greatest review of Seattle’s quarterback situation and how it’s changed that I don’t have any concerns about Russell Wilson going into this game. I feel pretty confident he’ll do his job well. And if the Seahawks lose, it won’t be on the quarterback. Imagine that. Just a few months ago this team had no hope at quarterback. Now they have one of the best young signal callers in the league. For a third round pick.

For a couple of weeks people have talked about Seattle being the team nobody wanted to face in the playoffs. Now it’s time to back that up. Even though I’d say it’s a coin-toss type of game, it’ll also be very disappointing if a season of such promise ended with a first round playoff defeat. If there’s one thing worse than nobody talking about you, it’s being called a fraud. The Seahawks are getting praise. Time to prove it’s worthy.

DeAndre Hopkins tape vs five teams

Thanks to JMPasq for putting this together. We’ve talked a lot about DeAndre Hopkins on the blog this week and even mocked him to Seattle in round one. Here’s a compilation of his performances against Florida State, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Boston College and NC State.

Will Sutton vs Navy

This was a pretty odd performance. For most of the game he did very little, often getting pushed around at the line of scrimmage and failing to have an impact. Then right at the end, he exploded into action. Sutton was only credited with 2.5 sacks according to ESPN, but it looks more like four to me. Either way he ends the year with 13 sacks which is very impressive for an interior pass rusher.

Is he stout enough against the run to be an early down lineman? That’s the big question. Without doubt he has a spark as a pass rusher. But if he’s getting blown up more often than he’s penetrating into the backfield, he’ll be a liability. As a mid-round option though he’s incredibly intriguing. I wish he had a similar kind of mean streak to Sheldon Richardson. I wish he was a little bigger. He’s still one to monitor.

Notes: Why Chip Kelly will be more ‘pro-style’ than you think

Friday, January 4th, 2013

"Pssst... I'm not that obvious"

Why Chip Kelly will be more ‘pro-style’ than you think

Reports are coming out today that Oregon’s Chip Kelly will be the next Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns. It’s a good fit for Kelly, who will inherit a talented roster with plenty of potential. What’s more, the AFC North isn’t quite as intimidating as it’s been in the past. The Browns can be competitive going forward. Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert didn’t do a terrible job recruiting talent, but their time in Cleveland shouldn’t be viewed as anything close to a success.

Firstly, they made a complete mess of the coaching situation, to the point where Holmgren would’ve been better just taking the gig himself. They made Eric Mangini a lame duck before turning to Pat Shurmur after a less than high-profile search. All the while you kind of wondered if Holmgren was itching to get back out there. Would a big-name coach take the position with the Walrus judging everything from close by? Doubtful. How can you work for a successful former Head Coach like that? Which is why Holmgren was better off doing it himself. After all, he clearly wants to coach again.

They drafted two quarterbacks early in Colt McCoy (2010) and Brandon Weeden (2012). McCoy lacked anything like the necessary tools to be an effective pro-passer, while Weeden turned 29 during his rookie season leaving very little room for progression during his career. One of Holmgren’s big remits would’ve been to use his vast experience to help identify a legitimate starting quarterback for the long term. He (and Heckert) failed to do so.

I think you can call the Julio Jones trade a big mistake with hindsight. The two first round picks they got in return for Jones turned out to be Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor) and Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State). Given Cleveland’s dire need for a receiver over the last few years, they probably should’ve just drafted Jones themselves. He isn’t just one of the more physically impressive receivers in the NFL, he’s also a workaholic without an ounce of diva about his personality. Basically, the kind of playmaker Cleveland has needed for a long time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but with a little more shrewdness they could’ve had an offense that featured left tackle Joe Thomas, Julio Jones and Trent Richardson. That would’ve made life easier for whoever was the quarterback.

Essentially their inability to get a trade done with St. Louis for Robert Griffin III will be listed as the main reason why they lost their jobs. However, it’s more likely a new regime just wanted their own guys all along and needed an excuse. Who can blame them? The Browns are going in a new, exciting and unpredictable direction with their front office set-up and Kelly coaching the team.

So what about the soon-to-be former Oregon coach?

Here’s what I don’t understand. I go on Twitter minutes after the Kelly-to-Cleveland news breaks and there’s a ton of Tweets linking Tajh Boyd to the Browns. Forget that Boyd’s father is still maintaining he’s likely to return to Clemson for the 2013 season, what is it about Kelly that strikes you he’d make this move? Nobody has been touting Tajh Boyd as a top ten pick or even a first round pick this year – and with good reason. A great performance against LSU in the Chick-fil-A doesn’t change a great deal unfortunately – he still has issues with deep accuracy and velocity, his decision making is inconsistent, he’s mobile but not electric as a runner and he’s not particularly evasive. He’s solid. He can throw with some velocity on shorter routes, his accuracy is fine on the short-to-intermediate throws. He’s a fairly good college quarterback.

But nobody has touted him as an early pick before this week’s game against LSU, or before Kelly emerged as a presence in the NFL.

If it’s not Boyd, you can guarantee it’ll be E.J. Manuel being linked. Or some other quarterback with plus athleticism. It reminds me so much of the early days of Pete Carroll in Seattle. Suddenly the Seahawks were going to trade for Reggie Bush, draft Taylor Mays, sign any free agents who ever played for USC. All presumptions based on nothing but a lazy thought process.

What is it about Kelly that makes you think he’ll try and re-create Oregon’s offense in the NFL? Or that players like Tajh Boyd are even remotely close to the players Kelly has been working with? Is he really just going to draft any old quarterback who can move around in the first round of his first draft? Come on!

This is a coach who lists guys like Carroll and Bill Belichick as friends. He watches their teams practise, he asks questions. He studies, he learns. The pro-coaches equally spend time looking at his Oregon team and try to use some of his more fascinating concepts. Kelly might not have any previous NFL experience, but he probably has a good idea what works. That’s why he surrounds himself with winners from the pro’s.

If he does end up in Cleveland, rather than go out and immediately draft whichever quarterback runs the quickest forty yard dash, he’ll probably put tape of the Patriots on. See what they do well. Then look at the New York Giants. And the San Francisco 49ers. And the Seattle Seahawks. And the Cincinnati Bengals. And the Denver Broncos. What are these teams doing well? How can I use this to make Cleveland a winning franchise? In fact he’s probably done all of this already. Several times.

People are getting excited about seeing the Oregon Ducks playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. I suspect that won’t ever happen. Kelly will undoubtedly keep some of his concepts – his penchant for speed and a quick tempo offense. But he’ll modify it for the pro’s and do whatever it takes to build a winner. Cleveland aren’t appointing Kelly because they like the Ducks offense or their jersey combo’s. They’re appointing Kelly because he builds teams, gets praised by the best coaches in the NFL and understands you have to adapt to survive.

In all honesty it wouldn’t surprise me if he went out and drafted a guy like Matt Barkley with the #6 overall pick, trolling 95% of the media in the process. And then asked Barkley to hand off 60% of the time to Trent Richardson. That’s the brand of football that has won football games in the AFC North for a generation. Rest assured that’s what Kelly is going to be dreaming of – winning in the AFC North – not putting the ultimate spread offense together to get beaten up by Haloti Ngata.

Jarvis Jones to turn pro

One of the players that could be on Cleveland’s radar in round one will be Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. The Bulldogs announced his intention to declare for the 2013 draft today. He has enough pure talent to be a top-five pick. However, in November I wrote a piece questioning whether his spinal stenosis condition could impact his stock. The issue was serious enough to end his time with USC, although Georgia were pretty emphatic in their decision to let him continue his career in the SEC. Jones has missed some games, but there doesn’t appear to be any lasting problems so far.

The big question is whether or not those issues will emerge in time. The condition has cut short many blossoming careers. Teams will have to decide whether they want to take the risk on Jones being a possible five-year player. He’ll go through a whole gambit of tests at the combine and front offices will seek every form of expertise and reassurance before pulling the trigger. It’s anybody’s guess what could happen, but Jones could easily be a top five pick in round one… or he could be set for a big fall.

The Browns do need a pass rusher so Chip Kelly could consider Jones with the #6 pick. I went that way in my latest mock. It’ll also be interesting to see if Kelly entertains the possibility of drafting Dion Jordan that early. He’s been touted as a top-ten prospect due to his athletic prowess. If he dominates at the combine, expect to see a lot of Jordan-to-Cleveland projections. Given the Browns’ need for a pass rusher, would it be a cautionary note if Kelly goes for a defensive end but passes on his former player? Similar to when Pete Carroll opted for Earl Thomas over Taylor Mays? That would be an interesting dynamic if Jordan proves worthy of top-ten consideration.

Why not a three-technique?

I mocked a wide receiver to the Seahawks this week. Some have questioned how likely this is given Seattle’s extreme need to improve their pass rush on base defense. I’ve ‘banged on’ about why I think upgrading the three-technique is the teams greatest need, but I’ve also been hesitant to mock the position to the Seahawks in round one.

Let me explain why.

I do not think the defensive tackle class of 2013 is quite as good as first anticipated. Star Lotulelei didn’t quite make the giant strides in terms of consistency that we’d hoped to see. Kawann Short had a mediocre season and went from a potential first round pick to seemingly a range in rounds 2-3. Johnathan Hankins really disappointed me when I watched Ohio State, while further study left me wondering whether Jesse Williams and Sharrif Floyd are better fits in the 3-4.

The three players that impressed me the most were Sheldon Richardson (a pure three-technique who completely looks the part), Jonathan Jenkins (a nose tackle from Georgia who weighs +350lbs) and Sylvester Williams (a big, pass-rushing tackle from North Carolina). I’m going to watch more LSU tape over the next couple of weeks to get a better angle on Bennie Logan, who at least has the size to act as a three-technique.

The Seahawks are going to be picking in the #21-32 range in April. Barring any unforeseen character issues, it’s a major stretch to think either Richardson or Lotulelei will be available without trading up. The likes of Jenkins and Hankins could be around but are too big and aren’t good enough pass rushers to fill this role. The options end up being quite limited, where you either buy into Jesse Williams or Floyd working inside or draft Sylvester Williams.

He’s an older defensive tackle as a former JUCO transfer. I’m not sure that has any impact, it didn’t for Bruce Irvin. Pete Carroll did have previous with Irvin though and he fits the teams LEO position perfectly. Williams is 320lbs which is pretty big for a three-technique and I wonder if he’s better suited to the one-technique. He really just abuses college lineman at North Carolina – which he won’t be able to do as regularly in the pro’s. And while I really like Williams’ swim move, I can’t help but think his size is better suited in the one. Having said that, the Seahawks have used big Alan Branch at the three-technique for the last two years. Isn’t this the issue though? Don’t the team need to get smaller and quicker at this position?

Either way, unless I’m going to project Williams as Seattle’s first round pick every week, I find it hard to solve this problem in my mock drafts. People have questioned why I go for a receiver or WILL linebacker so often in these projections, but I do see those two positions as the second and third biggest needs. Plus, the value at receiver and linebacker looks quite strong in the late first round at this early stage.

Things can change. They often do. But as we stand here today, I still believe Seattle’s best options to solve this problem are to target key free agents (Randy Starks, Henry Melton) or to continue to try and find the next Darnell Dockett or Geno Atkins in the middle rounds. This has been a breeding ground for undersized three-techniques in the past who don’t fit every scheme. The Seahawks drafted Jaye Howard last year I believe with the intention to see if he could be their guy. I’m tempted to say he won’t be given how little he’s featured this season, especially after the injury to Jason Jones.

Players like Kawann Short, Will Sutton and Bennie Logan might be available outside of the first. There’s also been quite a lot of first round busts among interior defensive lineman in recent years. So this is how I justify not addressing the teams biggest need in the first round of my mock drafts. It might not be a problem the Seahawks can solve with that early pick.

John Simon game tape

Someone requested game tape of Ohio State’s John Simon recently. He’s one of my favourite ‘underrated’ players. I think he’s a late first round or early second round pick. I’ve added his performance against Wisconsin below:

DeAndre Hopkins vs Cordarrelle Patterson

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

DeAndre Hopkins dominated LSU's secondary, something not many people achieve

DeAndre Hopkins is Mr. Consistent – a clutch receiver without the eye-popping physical qualities. He makes up for it by getting the basics right – he catches with his hands, doesn’t have many drops, runs good routes and makes crucial rather than explosive plays.

Cordarrelle Patterson is the X-Factor player of the 2013 draft. He’s 6-3/6-4, could run a 4.35 at the combine and hits home runs. He’s a threat to score every time he gets the football, setting a school record for all purpose yards in his first season with Tennessee. Patterson doesn’t play with great technique, but he’s a playmaker.

Which is the better fit for the Seahawks?

On the one hand they have a young quarterback who needs as many consistent targets as possible. When it’s third down in a big game, Russell Wilson needs to know there are guys on the field he can rely on. He also needs as much dynamism as possible in this offense. Seattle likes to make quick strikes down field, usually off play action. Speed, height and reach are crucial as Wilson looks to exploit single coverage and jump-ball situations.

Hopkins is no slouch and we’re not talking about a mediocre athlete who can only run short, inside routes. You don’t get to 1405 yards and 18 touchdowns playing steady football. He can get downfield, he can run after the catch. Yet he doesn’t compare favourably with the statistical top-five receivers in the NFL who all weigh +225lbs and stand at least 6-3 tall. He compares favourably to Roddy White, but there aren’t many dominating receivers who play outside at his size.

Patterson had 1,858 all-purpose yards in 2012 – more than any other player in the SEC. He scored five receiving touchdowns and three rushing – plus two extra scores via punt and kick returns. However, he also faced something of a learning curve in his first season in the NCAA. His technique looks off and he looks every bit a player fresh out of the JUCO ranks. He gets his body into awkward positions to catch the ball and doesn’t often extend his hands to make a completion. These things can be coached and he has the athletic prowess to make for a worthy project.

Let’s look at the tape…

DeAndre Hopkins vs LSU

This was one of the all-time best performances I’ve seen from a receiver, mainly due to the sheer quantity of clutch plays. Sammy Watkins left the game in Clemson’s first offensive series through injury, meaning the LSU secondary could zone in on Hopkins. He still found ways to get open despite double coverage. He still made difficult passes with a corner draped all over him. He had two difficult touchdown receptions, several third down completions and made the play of the game on 4th and 16 to extend the game-winning drive.

Look at the technique at 0:35 in the video where he extends his arms to make a catch for the first down. Hopkins locates the ball mid-route, reaches out and plucks the football out of the air. Textbook reception.

At 1:49 he absorbs a holding call against the corner, fights off some physical coverage and still locates the back-shoulder throw for a completion. He needs to prove he can be physical at 6-1 and 200lbs.

The two touchdowns at 2:25 and 5:57 emphasise how crisp he runs his routes, how he can make difficult catches in traffic and convert on key downs. Bear in mind LSU were fully aware Tajh Boyd would be looking for Hopkins on both plays.

At 3:07 he flashes his athleticism to make a man miss and turn a short gain into a first down. The 4th and 16 conversion comes at 6:48 and prevents LSU from winning the game. Again – another tough grab.

The one thing that keeps jumping out – you don’t need to make a perfect throw with this guy. He’s going to adjust to the ball in the air, extend and complete the catch. He might not be the most dynamic receiver in college football. He might not run the fastest forty yard dash. But he’s a driven and ambitious player who will work hard to have an impact.

We talked about his character and drive to succeed in a piece earlier this week. I have no doubts that he’ll work hard at his craft. His personality and attitude appears to compare favourably to Julio Jones, who won major brownie points with the Atlanta Falcons because they knew they could trust him to work at his craft.

There are some issues too – as always. Hopkins is a pure hands catcher but he doesn’t necessarily have the strongest hands. Sometimes when a ball is a little high and he has to extend, he misses the catch. As cornerbacks in the NFL get bigger, questions are going to be asked if a player of this stature can win a high percentage of jump passes (a heavy staple in Seattle’s offense). Teams are looking for big receivers who don’t necessarily run a 4.3, but can be competitive and win 1vs1 match-ups in the air.

Neither is Hopkins a truly explosive player. While you can never truly have enough reliable pass-catchers, do the Seahawks need to look for something they don’t have? Is this an offense that lacks more of an X-Factor type – someone with unique dynamism who can make quick strikes downfield or major YAC? Or can we sometimes be distracted by flashy playmakers when really the core quality a receiver needs is the ability to get open and make a play. The question becomes, can Hopkins continue to get open and make regular plays in the bigger, faster world of the NFL?

One example that says he can is the game above. LSU’s secondary remains one of the best in college football. And he dominated them to the tune of 13 catches for 191 yards and two vital touchdowns. GM’s, scouts and coaches around the league will turn to this game when they sit down to scout Hopkins… and they’ll like what they see.

Cordarrelle Patterson vs Florida, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Georgia

Only the Florida game in the tape above was among Patterson’s most productive (eight catches, 75 yards and a touchdown) in 2012. By the end of the season Tennessee were just trying to find ways to get him the ball – thus why you see him taking a lot of snaps as a running back. In part this is a concern. His consistency as a receiver took a hit after week three vs Florida when teams started using physical corners to disrupt his routes. The solution? Find other ways to get him the ball because he’s too much of a playmaker. They did that, and he scored touchdowns and made big plays.

He’s pretty much the ‘Ying’ to Hopkins’ ‘Yang’. Patterson hasn’t been a production machine who churns out 6-8 catches a game. Yet sometimes he only needs one catch or one possession to have a major impact.

Here are some of the good plays from the tape above. At 2:28 he’s being held all the way by a defensive back, but he keeps his focus and extends to make a smart diving catch. We see the best example of strong hands at 7:06 when he plucks the ball out of the air for a nice completion.

He’s capable of trick plays – something that has been more of a feature for the Seahawks this year. At 3:29 he throws a pass on a fake run and at 4:46 he scores on a reverse against Missouri. Perhaps the best play in the tape is at 11:37 where he takes a reverse and is set to throw to Justin Hunter. He’s not open, so Patterson has to pull the ball down and run. Which he does, finding the edge and running half the field for a spectacular touchdown.

At 7:51 he flashes some of that punt return quality before taking one all the way at 10:04 against Vanderbilt – managing to avoid hitting the turf despite a heavy tackle, keeping his balance and taking it home.

We see further evidence of his elusiveness at 5:41 when he appears to be bottled up for a short loss only to extend the pay, stretch it out and make something out of nothing. Great athleticism.

Then there are the concerns, such as the awful drop against Georgia at 10:59. It’s a perfect throw by Tyler Bray, right on the money for a touchdown. Patterson has his guy beat – all he has to do is make a simple catch and he runs it home for a score. Bad, bad drop. There’s a further sloppy play at 2:39 going for a one-handed effort when two hands and a little more commitment makes a big gain.

Against Akron (not featured in the video) he was responsible for a pick-six by rounding off his route and not challenging for the ball. His catching technique is far from perfect – even when he makes plays. Patterson has a tendency to contort his body and make life difficult for himself. He’s more of a body catcher and let’s it get into his chest/stomach too much. There’s not a great deal of evidence on tape of him winning jump balls.

At the same time, you cannot expect the finished article from what essentially amounts to a freshman in college. He transferred from the JUCO ranks and started in week one, going straight into the line-up to replace dismissed receiver Da’Rick Rogers. In his first year in the league, you’ll probably throw him out there as part of some package plays. Let him run some deep routes and return some kicks. It’s bonus time to get coached in the pro’s. And it’s only then that you can expect to see anything like a complete player. In the meantime you might just get a really dangerous weapon who can still make some big plays. Score some touchdowns. Seattle took a similar approach with Kam Chancellor in year one and it paid dividends. Golden Tate has looked sharp after two years having little impact. There’s precedent there for bringing guys along slowly knowing the upside and potential at stake.

What is Patterson’s ceiling? He has the speed. He has the size. He makes game-changing plays and scores cheap points. Essentially, the sky’s the limit. But you might also have to stomach some of the mistakes to get to the promise land.

So what’s it to be?

The Seahawks have looked at both kinds of players in the draft. Bruce Irvin was a former JUCO transfer with raw potential and mass-production in college in a specialist role. He was judged to be a top-15 pick because he fit the teams scheme (although Pete Carroll’s familiarity with Irvin also played a key part). Patterson does fit the quick-strike offense, he can work in trick plays and he’s explosive.

On the other hand, they’ve also gone the route of very solid, productive players who are consistent without prototypical size – with one obvious example of that. And I don’t think they’ll be averse to take players like that in round one to help that particular player reach his maximum potential. Consistency is not an ugly word for a wide receiver and Hopkins simply gets the job done.

So what’s it to be? Let us know what you think.