Archive for February, 2013

Monday draft links & a list like a big board (but not)

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Firstly, please welcome Kip Earlywine back to the blog. His latest article is now available so check it out by clicking here.

Mike Mayock said via conference call today that Cincinnati pass rusher Walter Stewart would be a top ten pick if healthy. It’s an interesting angle. I’ve posted his tape vs Pittsburgh above. I’ve not spent a great deal of time studying him, in part due to the injury issues. For more information, check out this piece by Jeff Darlington. Essentially, he has a rare back issue that could end his career before it’s really begun.

Mayock also mentioned today that he’d “bang the table” for Alec Ogletree as a top ten pick without the off-field issues, claimed Sheldon Richardson had “the movement skills of a linebacker” and projected Barkevious Mingo to go in the 25-40 range. Could he be an option for Seattle as another LEO prospect? Is he too similar to Bruce Irvin? Mingo might actually be a great option for Gus Bradley and Jacksonville at #33, presuming they go defensive tackle at #2.

Matt Barkley will not throw at the combine. This isn’t a surprise. In fact, I’m not sure why initial noises suggested Barkley would throw. He had nothing to gain aiming to unfamiliar guys in shorts in an unnatural environment, particularly as he’s still recovering from a shoulder injury. Instead, he’ll throw to Robert Woods at the USC pro-day. Wise decision.

Mike Florio reports that Barkley sent letters to all 32 NFL teams explaining his decision not to throw in Indianapolis.

Tony Pauline has updated his top-160 draft board today. A great sign of the depth available this year is the fact Pauline ranks Steadman Bailey and Robert Woods at #68 and #69 respectively. For me, Bailey is a fantastic and underrated prospect. I’ll have a piece about him on the blog tomorrow. He’s a top-40 player for me. I totally underestimated him during the season.

Danny Kelly at Field Gulls has put together a piece on what the Seahawks might be looking for during the combine work-outs: “Weeding through the vast amount of numbers won’t be easy, but here’s a quick little refresher course on what to keep an eye on, as it specifically relates to the Seahawks and their unique and mysterious grading scale.”

Dan Kadar at Mocking the Draft has an updated mock draft. The Seahawks take an interior pass rusher with upside. A player USC recruited during Pete Carroll’s tenure. And a guy who could continue to boost his stock at the combine this week.

Adam Schefter reports that Eddie Lacy won’t work out at the combine. A bad hamstring is not good news for a running back with first round potential:

Gil Brandt names his top-25 players for the 2013 draft. No quarterbacks are named. The Seahawks pick at #25 with DeAndre Hopkins listed as the 25th best player. Interestingly, Sheldon Richardson is only at #19. I’d also argue Keenan Allen (#13) is too high and Eric Fisher (#22) is too low.

Albert Breer has a great piece on the changing ways of the combine and wonders if competitive drills are part of its future. The draft is becoming increasingly popular, and not just among over-anxious 20-year-old’s with self appointed ‘Senior Analyst’ titles. The combine is getting to be as big a deal as the draft itself. And as more and more people tune in, expect it to continue to adapt to a wider audience.

New Kansas City Chiefs GM Jon Dorsey had some high praise for Russell Wilson this week: “The most impressive interview I’ve ever had in the last 25 years of doing this? Russell Wilson. Wasn’t even close. You could feel that guy as a person, how strong he was, how intellectually deep he was, how mentally tough he was, that he had the charisma to lead other players. I always try to look at kids like I’m in the locker room and I’m a teammate. It was easy to see this guy leading a team.”

I’ve had a few people ask about a ‘big board’ type post and I’ve always been loathe to do those. Nothing makes me tune out more than hearing people refer to their ‘top-300 boards’ like anyone really cares who they have ranked at #277. For example, you will probably find the following sentence on a website such as B******r R****t shortly after the draft: “This is a bad pick because he’s only the 7th best safety on my top 300 board.”

Instead I decided to just throw down a list of my favourite players. I’m not going to pretend that I know who the 9th best punter is in the 2013 draft. I might even have missed a couple of names I’d want on there. These are a few guys that I like. There’s no specific order even though some of the more familiar names are at the top. I didn’t include certain positions — there’s only one quarterback because the Seahawks don’t need a quarterback, there’s no left tackles because the team doesn’t need a left tackle. There are a few safety’s listed but they are guys not necessarily going to go in the first or second round.

#1 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
#2 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
#3 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
#4 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
#5 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
#6 Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
#7 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
#8 Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
#9 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
#10 Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
#11 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
#12 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia
#13 Steadman Bailey (WR, West Virginia)
#14 Stepfan Taylor (RB, Stanford)
#15 Phillip Thomas (S, Fresno State)
#16 Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
#17 Jordan Hill (DT, Penn State)
#18 John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
#19 Sanders Commings (CB, Georgia)
#20 Bacarri Rambo (S, Georgia)
#21 Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
#22 Travis Long (DE, Washingto State)
#23 Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
#24 Quintion Dial (DE, Alabama)
#25 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
#26 Giovani Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
#27 John Bostic (LB, Florida)
#28 Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB, Connecticut)
#29 Rex Burkhead (RB, Nebraska)
#30 Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
#31 Johnthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#32 Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
#33 Shawn Williams (S, Georgia)
#34 Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
#35 Jordan Poyer (CB, Oregon State)
#36 Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
#37 Matt Elam (S, Florida)
#38 Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
#39 Jordan Reed (TE, Florida)
#40 Robert Woods (WR, USC)

Screw your elite drafts, I’ll take a deep draft any time

Monday, February 18th, 2013
always compete

The debate rages on

This April, roughly 255 amateur players will be drafted into the NFL.  Many hundreds more will be signed to post-draft contracts.  The amount of time required to sort, study, analyze, and choose among these options is staggering.  The process is urgent, challenging, sophisticated, and above all else:  guarded.  Like the sports world equivalent of the Manhattan Project.

And yet, for a process with enough information to fill a section at a library, draftniks and draftertainers find a way to boil it down to the most binary of terms, every year, without fail.  That distillation?  The draft is either “elite” or it isn’t.  And by elite, I mean elite in the top ten picks, which comprise just 4% of all the selections that will be made on draft weekend.  While GMs know perfectly well the value of a good 2nd round pick, draftertainers tend to display a laser focus on those high picks, as if to seriously suggest that those choices define the draft.

Pouring over this draft has been like pouring over a bag of dimes trying to figure out which ones are the shiniest.  But here’s the thing- it’s a really big bag of dimes.  While it’s true that relatively little separates the 3rd pick from the 33rd pick, there’s also little that separates the 50th pick from the 100th pick.  I haven’t been doing this forever, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a draft that was stronger top to bottom than this one.

It reminds me a little of 2009- some unremarkable yet over-hyped players dominated the top ten, and a lot of the talk before that draft was how it wasn’t a great draft.  Indeed, the first dozen picks of that draft were about as bust-laden as they come.  But for as bad as those early picks were, that draft recovered in a hurry.  After an atrocious top twelve, the next 50 picks took off, among them Clay Matthews, LeSean McCoy, Jairus Byrd, Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing, Josh Freeman, Malcolm Jenkins, Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Pettigrew, Percy Harvin, Alex Mack, Max Unger, Michael Oher, Vontae Davis, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, James Laurinaitis, Andy Levitre, Phil Loadholt, William Moore, Paul Kruger, and Sean Smith.  For good measure that draft also produced Mike Wallace in round three and Henry Melton in round four, and someone named Arian Foster went undrafted, thanks in part to Jim Mora.  And if you don’t know that story, take it from me, ignorance is bliss.

If there was ever a draft that made the obsession with top 10 picks look silly, it was that one.

I see history repeating itself in 2013.  Star Lotulelei will be like this year’s Aaron Curry, a guy who’s raw physical ability will entice enough to trump common sense and assure himself a selection in the top five picks.  Sharrif Floyd will be this year’s Tyson Jackson, who went from a 2nd round pick at the start of the year to a top 3 pick in late April.  It’s even possible they could be selected by the same team.  Matt Barkley is obviously this year’s Matt Stafford.  Mike Glennon and Ryan Nassib will battle for the honor of being this year’s Mark Sanchez.  EJ Manuel could very well be this year’s Pat White, and Geno Smith could end up having a similar up and down career to Josh Freeman. I never said this draft would be without it’s ugly parts.

But some early headscratchery aside, this draft will get awesome in a hurry.  You are going to see 1st round names going in the 2nd round, 2nd round names going in the 3rd round, and some 3rd round names going in the 5th round.  This draft is as unpredictable as anyone has seen in recent memory.  And the reason it’s unpredictable is because there might be 60 players who get talked about as top 32 round picks, and maybe 150 players who get talked about as top 60 picks.

The receiver and tight end class are incredibly deep.  As many as six tight ends could carry top 60 grades, and the list of top 100 receivers grows by the day.  Stedman Bailey and Markus Wheaton are great prospects.  They could go 25th overall, or they could go 125th overall.  There is just a sea of viable receivers this year.

Some of the best pass rushers are among the least heralded:  Jordan Hill, John Simon, Quanterus Smith, Armonty Bryant, Brandon Jenkins, Tank Carradine, David Bass, Corey Lemonier, Alex Okafor.  The first round will be dominated by defensive lineman, but the options remain deep long after despite that.

In a draft like this, a late first could look like Kawaan Short, a late second could look like Khaseem Greene, a late 3rd could look like Markus Wheaton, a late 4th could look like Jordan Reed.  Even in the 5th and 6th rounds, you’ll probably continue to hear familiar names get called.

And that is pretty damn exciting.  The homerun potential in this draft from start to finish is like Barry Bonds’ home run potential hitting off a tee in a little league game.

Who needs to tank a season for Julius Peppers at #2 when you can get Clay Matthews at #26?  Sure, it’s not that simple.  But elite talent rarely is.

Most people consider the first two rounds to be their “starter” rounds.  Let them think that.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks will do their thing from rounds 3-7, and celebrate a job well done.

Oh and hey, I’m back.  I hope you all are as jazzed as I am for this draft.

Alec Ogletree arrested, charged with DUI

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

As far as stupid decisions go, this one's a corker from Alec Ogletree

In my updated mock draft last week, I had the Seahawks taking Alec Ogletree at #25. He only lasted that far due to possible red flags over a four-game suspension in 2012 for a failed drugs test. His chances of making it into the 20’s (or later) increased this weekend with the news he was arrested and charged with DUI in Arizona a week ago.

Ogletree’s agent Pat Dye told Mike Florio at PFT:

“Last weekend, my client Alec Ogletree was pulled over for speeding and a lane violation in Arizon. After the officers smelled alcohol, they conducted tests and also cited him for DUI. Although Alec regrets this incident terribly, he is thankful that there was no accident and that no one was hurt. Because this matter is still pending, we cannot comment further publicly at this time.”

Quite aside from the rampant stupidity of drink driving, what on earth was Ogletree thinking? He’s currently in the middle of the biggest job interview of his career. You’d expect a person in that situation to be dedicated to their craft, working hard to be 100% for the combine. At the very least, you don’t expect him to be drinking — let alone drinking and then getting into the driver’s seat of a car.

I’m a big fan of Ogletree’s on-field performance and his upside is through the roof. He could be a sensational player in the NFL. Yet stuff like this makes you want to run a mile. Can you trust a guy who jeopardises his college career with a failed drugs test, gets arrested as a freshman on a misdemeanor theft-by-taking charge and now this?

The interview process at the combine just became a lot harder for Ogletree. He’s going to have to explain his actions to anyone who’ll listen. But how do you explain them? Some GM’s and coaches won’t be prepared to listen and will presumably strike him off their boards immediately. If it was a one-off, you might be prepared to see through this. With an ever growing list of incidents, he runs the serious risk of falling much further than his talent deserves.

I suppose the question is, would the Seahawks take a chance? He’s undoubtedly skilled, appears perfect for Seattle’s defense and could be a star at the next level. There just aren’t many linebackers with his range, coverage skill and ability to play the edge as a pass rusher. He’d be a dynamic counter to any team looking to use the read option against the Seahawks while also potentially improving the teams third-down defense. He’s not a perfect player and you’d like to see more consistent effort. Yet there’s still so much to like about his game.

It’s also worth noting that Seattle’s front office hasn’t completely avoided players with perceived character issues. Bruce Irvin and Marshawn Lynch were both considered ‘risky’ investments. The team also coveted Brandon Marshall and had a look at Kellen Winslow and Terrell Owens. John Schneider and Pete Carroll aren’t afraid of a challenge.

Then you compare him to a player like Khaseem Greene — a picture of professionalism, an engaging character and a good enough athlete to usurp Ogletree on a lot of draft boards. Given the choice of the two, I suspect the Seahawks might choose Greene. They’d have to really appreciate Ogletree’s upside to see past the red flags. Greene is a saint in comparison.

Many players have had incidents like this and moved on. There’s nothing to say this won’t be a much needed wake up call for Alec Ogletree. Sometimes a player needs an epiphany moment to get their act together. If he’s willing to learn from this latest mistake and begin to mature and take responsibility for his actions, rolling the dice could prove to be a calculated gamble. He’s a very talented football player. I wouldn’t strike him off my board yet, but I’d want to be one of the first teams to interview him in Indianapolis.

I was going to move Ogletree up to #13 in my updated mock this week, but I’m going to have to consider that idea. Round two isn’t out of the question now. The one saving grace might be that the Bengals — never a team to shirk away from a guy with character red flags — are in need of a 4-3 outside linebacker. With picks at #21, #37 and #53, Ogletree could be saved by Cincinnati. It’s a shame he might have to be saved by anyone.

The other saving grace will be the combine coming up so quickly after this news became public knowledge. Ogletree’s physical qualities should shine in Indianapolis. He could be one of the star’s of the show. If he turns up and dominates in a lot of drills, he’ll take back some momentum. He’s got a lot more work to do though to convince teams he can be trusted.

Players like Ogletree only ever fall because of issues like this and good teams have benefited in the past from overreactions to off-field concerns. It’s not like past and present Seahawks players haven’t dealt with similar issues. You could end up with a defining talent because of stuff like this. I’d recommend keeping an open-mind. As ridiculous as this news is on the players behalf, it could be a turning point. I hope so for his sake that proves to be the case. Ogletree has so much upside and potential, it’s still hard to imagine passing on him.

Sticking up for ‘draft entertainment’ & Vance McDonald tape

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Mayock, Kiper, McShay... they all deserve a break

Mayock publishes pre-combine rankings

Mike Mayock is kind of the thinking man’s Mel Kiper. They both have great presence on the TV, make for terrific entertainment at this time of year and they also seem to do a lot of conference calls. While Kiper relies on sheer enthusiasm, Mayock gets into detail and reels off a series of catchphrases (sneaky athletic, quicker than fast, dancing bear etc). Personally, I think both do a great job. The draft is taken far too seriously these days and people like Kiper get chastised for basically doing what he’s always done — put a face to the coverage. Good for him.

Twitter, blogs (like this one) and websites like B*****r R****t are giving more and more people a voice, and everyone thinks they’re more qualified to talk about the draft than the next person. We/they aren’t. Call yourself ‘Senior analyst’ of a self-made draft website if you want. We’re all a bunch of fans and some of us are sad enough to spend our free time watching lots of college football. That doesn’t qualify us to work in an NFL front office. It perhaps gives us more motivation to put down a few words on a blog. But that’s about it. Most people don’t even write any more, they take the 140 characters on offer on Twitter and settle.

I was a little surprised to see some of the (mostly quarterback related) angst directed at Mayock’s pre-combine rankings yesterday. I expect Kiper to get abuse these days, even though most of it is unjustified. But hey, that’s the way the world is going right now. Some guy might think Matt Barkley is a bum who deserves a fourth round grade (he doesn’t). Others think Tyler Wilson is the greatest thing since sliced bread and are more than happy to ram that opinion down your throat. Everyone has a right to an opinion and a right to disagree. I thought Von Miller was overrated. I’m comfortable admitting that was an epic misjudgement. I just wish people wouldn’t take their own views so seriously sometimes.

Sure it was outrageous that Kiper had Colt McCoy in his top-25 throughout the 2010 build-up. But he’s always going to have views like that and hey — it gives people something to talk about. He’s a haircut that talks about the draft. And the whole event wouldn’t be the same without him.

(rant over)

Personally, I found Mayock’s rankings refreshing. It was great to see Khaseem Greene rated highly (#3 outside linebacker, ahead of Barkevious Mingo). Cordarrelle Patterson was ranked as the #1 receiver with Tyler Eifert edging Zach Ertz among tight ends. Geno Smith and Matt Barkley were the top two quarterbacks. Sharrif Floyd was the #1 defensive tackle — a trend we’re seeing more and more.

I would’ve had DeAndre Hopkins in the top five receivers (the biggest shock for me) but perhaps Mayock just hasn’t got round to the Clemson tape yet? I also would’ve liked to see him separate the rush linebackers (Mingo, Jarvis Jones, Dion Jordan) from the orthodox 4-3 guys (Greene, Arthur Brown). Yet overall Mayock provides a solid list. And without doubt when the combine roles around this week, he’ll be compulsive listening on the NFL Network. Just like Kiper and Todd McShay will be with their ‘First Draft’ podcasts. They are ‘draft entertainment’. Let’s appreciate them for what they are.

Vance McDonald tape

One of the players generating some hype pre-combine is Rice receiver/tight end Vance McDonald. He’s 6-5, 260lbs and had a solid week at the Senior Bowl according to reports. The suggestion is he’ll shine in Indianapolis this week despite his size and possibly push his stock into the second round.

Personally, I can’t tell how good or bad he is on tape.

The Rice offense is such that he isn’t running many conventional routes. In the tape below he basically lined up in the slot and took screen passes from the quarterback. I guess it’s indicative of his athletic potential if they’re trying to put the ball in his hands in space — that’s pretty unique at 260lbs. Yet one of the things I like so much about Zach Ertz is you can see him run pretty much a full route tree in college. He gets downfield, he works over the middle, he runs the post and the slant. You know what you’re getting.

With a guy like McDonald, there’s much more of an unknown. He needs to impress at the combine to prove he’s worthy of the investment, so you can get him into your roster and work him into a joker tight end. If he doesn’t flash the kind of athleticism people are talking about, I’m not sure the hype will be justified. I’ve seen Jordan Reed find an inch of space, explode and run from third to fifth gear quickly. It gets you excited, you start to wonder how good he could be. McDonald needs to prove he also has that ‘wow’ factor.

One thing that does bother me are his hands. He seems to bobble a lot of passes, or at least paw at them. He was responsible for a bad pick-six in against Baylor because he just bats the ball straight to a defensive back. The pass wasn’t great and thrown slightly behind, but I didn’t think much to the catching effort. He had a couple of bad drops in the tape too. On the plus side, he managed to get pretty open on the second touchdown in the same game and he showed sure hands on that occasion. I also liked a difficult catch McDonald made over the middle against Houston for a decent gain.

At the moment there are four tight ends I’d be willing to draft in the first two rounds — Ertz, Escobar Reed and Eifert. In that order. I wasn’t thrilled with Travis Kelce’s tape — he rounded off a ton of routes, looks better as a blocker than a receiver and maybe the long, dramatic touchdown in his final play as a college player has boosted his stock a little too much. He’s a mid-round pick for me and more of an orthodox tight end compared to the likes of Ertz or Reed.

Friday draft thoughts & links

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Does Dwight Freeney have enough left in the tank?

Two quarterbacks will go early

Pat Kirwan has an insightful video on CBS Sportsline considering the drafts ‘risers and sliders’. He makes a fantastic point about Geno Smith and Matt Barkley.

Essentially, teams without quarterbacks are not going to wait and see how things pan out and risk missing out. You can win in the NFL with Smith and Barkley. If you’re Arizona and you pass on a quarterback at #7, what happens if 2-3 players leave the board unexpectedly before your second round pick? Are you then trying to force an expensive move up the board for a player you don’t really want? Settling for someone you don’t want at all? Or are you facing another year of John Skelton? There is no way — NO WAY — the Cardinals aren’t proactive with this position.

You could say the same for Kansas City and Buffalo too. One way or another, at least two quarterbacks are likely to go in the top ten. And the two most likely to go in that range are Smith and Barkley. Compounding the issue is the lack of elite defensive talent. There are some good players and a ton of depth in the 2013 draft. But there aren’t players that are going to make quarterback-needy teams avoid their greatest need.

Free agency could change things, particularly if the Kansas City Chiefs pursue possible trade-target Nick Foles. Buffalo could look at Alex Smith as a stop-gap while Ryan Mallett has done enough in New England to warrant trade consideration for a team like Arizona. Roll on March 12th when the new league year opens.

Kirwan also touches on Jarvis Jones’ stock and suggests he’ll fall due to his spinal stenosis issue, an issue we discussed in some detail in November.

Freeney leaving Indy, is he an option in Seattle?

The Indianapolis Colts today revealed they won’t offer a new contract to Dwight Freeney. It’s not a complete shock. The five sacks he contributed last year cost the grand total of $14.035m. Even if both parties had the motivation to get a new deal done, the Colts weren’t in a great bargaining position considering his 2012 salary.

Inevitably people will wonder if he fits in Seattle. Let’s say he doesn’t not fit in Seattle. After all, Freeney is better suited to the 4-3 rather than the 3-4 he played in last year. I’m not overly excited about the idea of getting Freeney. If it was a really cheap, throwaway deal to cover Chris Clemons I’d consider it. Anything more than that and I take the stance that Freeney’s better days are in the past. He’ll turn 33 in four days time and his production has gradually been declining.

The thing is, the Seahawks almost have to consider a move like this. They face a tricky situation over the next few weeks. While Clemons is out, they need another LEO — whether Bruce Irvin gets to start or not. You need two LEO’s. Cliff Avril will generate a deal worth around $10m per year, Osi Umenyiora could also be costly and Michael Johnson might get a surprisingly high contract. I’m not sure Michael Bennett is a scheme fit.

One player who might be worth monitoring is Connor Barwin. Houston are notoriously tight and Barwin doesn’t turn 27 until October. He’s 6-4 and 268lbs. He’s not a dominating pass rusher but he has good length and could work into a LEO.

Freeney might present the best value for money in comparison, but that should be the case given his age and declining skill set. Yet given the circumstances you can definitely make an argument for bringing him in. It just depends what he’s asking for. If he has unrealistic ambitions of getting even half of the $14.035m he earned in 2012 then you move on. If he’s willing to take a Raheem Brock-style contract, that’s palatable.

I might feel differently about this when contract demands emerge, but I’d like to see the Seahawks entertain the possibility of adding a proven defensive tackle (Henry Melton, Randy Starks). That really opens up the draft so you can look at guys like Khaseem Greene, Arthur Brown and maybe Alec Ogletree if he falls. You can also consider a tight end or receiver at #25. Investing big in a LEO might be harder to justify given Clemons’ salary and Irvin’s first round cost. Finding a stop-gap such as Freeney, if he’ll play for a modest deal, might be the best option if doubts remain over Clemons’ availability.

Keenan Allen isn’t all that

According to Tony Pauline, Keenan Allen, “Has not looked anything special in combine training nor has he separated himself from the almost dozen wide outs he’s working out with in Florida.”

This isn’t a major surprise. In November I wrote a piece questioning whether Allen deserved all the top-15 praise he was getting. He won’t run well at the combine and I suspect his measurements will be fairly average too. The offense in California was so bad, it really limited his ability to develop and polish up his technique. So you’re basically getting a non-spectacular athlete without the ability to flash crisp routes or safe hands.

While it’s been assumed Allen will be a first round pick, I think there’s a good chance he’ll dip into round two. And I’ve thought that for some time. Don’t forget he’s also returning from injury.

Right now Pauline is the defining draft insider. He consistently comes out with little nuggets of information with a proven track record and his site DraftInsider.net should be a daily visit. In his latest blog post he also praises the potential of Steadman Bailey, Ryan Swope and Gavin Escobar. He’s also hearing negative things about Tyler Wilson: “Last week I was told several teams had a third round grade on Wilson. Teams are seemingly concerned with Wilson’s small hands, which measured 8.58-inches at the Senior Bowl. Sources told me most teams have a cut off at 9-inches for quarterbacks and Wilson was the only one in Mobile under that number.”

Would the Seahawks really draft another injured pass rusher?

Josh Norris updated his mock draft today and had the Seahawks taking FSU’s Cornellius ‘Tank’ Carradine at #25. It’s an interesting mock on the whole, but I have serious doubts about the projection for Seattle.

It’s bad enough that the team is going to be sweating over Chris Clemons in 2013. They’re scheduled to pay him $8.17m this year and $9.66m in 2014. I don’t have the guaranteed totals and breakdown information to determine how likely it is he’ll get that salary over the next two seasons, but the fact is he’s due to earn a lot.

The risk factor just seems too strong to then go and take a player with the exact same ACL tear and hope that either or both are healthy by September. Improving the pass rush is too important for this team. Relying on two players with ACL injuries would be incredibly unnerving and borderline foolish, both financially and production-wise.

John Schneider and Pete Carroll have so far tried to draft immediate starters in the first three rounds. Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, James Carpenter, John Moffitt, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson all started straight away in some capacity. The one player who took a little while to adapt was Golden Tate — which isn’t a total shocker given the amount of technical improvement he required after leaving Notre Dame.

Drafting Carradine in round one would go against their philosophy so far. I’m not sure he’s good enough to justify the long term planning plus the obvious risk involved.

The dream draft?

Hunter Ansley published a four round mock draft today. The Seahawks get Sheldon Richardson in round one and DeAndre Hopkins at #56.

Yes. Please.

I may well compile a ‘big board’ this year, something I haven’t done in the past. I feel it’s maybe a little more justified this season with the Seahawks picking 25th overall rather than in the top-15. If/when I do compile that big board, Sheldon Richardson and DeAndre Hopkins would both be in the top ten.

I’d settle for either being available at #25, let alone both.

Charting the unpredictable

The above mock from Ansley may sound a little idealistic, perhaps even unrealistic. But the fact is nobody can call how the 2013 draft will play out. It’s going to be more unpredictable than ever before. Could the Seahawks really get Sheldon Richardson and DeAndre Hopkins? I wouldn’t rule it out.

Emphasising how unpredictable things are, here’s a nice piece from Kenneth Arthur at Field Gulls. He highlights how contrasting people’s views are, with the quarterbacks proving to be the most divisive. This quote sums it up perfectly, “The funny thing about this years draft is that its common to have a polarizing quarterback. It’s less common to have five of them.”

Jon Gruden quarterback camp 2013

In what has quickly become a draft tradition, Jon Gruden will again be hosting his ‘QB Camp’ series this year. Matt Barkley, Tyler Bray, Zac Dysert, Mike Glennon, Landry Jones, E.J. Manuel, Ryan Nassib, Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson will take part.

There’s a twist for 2013, however. Luke Joeckel, Marcus Lattimore and Manti Te’o will also be appearing. It’s not the first time Gruden’s interviewed non-quarterbacks — he spoke to Earl Thomas amongst others prior to the 2010 draft.

Gruden was less critical in 2012 with the quarterbacks and I hope he continues to grill the players rather than revert to his ultra-positive MNF persona. It’s good to see these guys out of their comfort zone in an extended feature where they can’t just reel off scripted cliche’s. It’s also good to get the players working the white board. One of the more memorable moments in 2011 was seeing Ryan Mallett put together his favourite play with ultimate detail. Expect Tyler Wilson — another former Bobby Petrino quarterback — to similarly stand out here.

It’s a good move by Lattimore’s representatives to get him on the show. You’ll struggle to find a more engaging character in football and I guarantee right now he’ll be the most impressive player from the group appearing on the show. Matt Barkley will be a close second.

For nostalgia’s sake, here’s Russell Wilson’s appearance from last year:

What are the chances of Henry Melton in Seattle?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Would Chicago really allow Henry Melton to walk away?

Free agency kicks off on March 12th and truly, anything could happen. The Seahawks were big players the year they added Sidney Rice, Robert Gallery and Zach Miller (they also re-signed Brandon Mebane). In 2010 they wined and dined Brandon Marshall. Last year things were a little quieter apart from the re-signing of Red Bryant and the addition of Matt Flynn.

So what happens in 2013? Will they go big to try and improve the pass rush? Will they take a back seat and concentrate on the draft? With the team so close to reaching the NFC Championship, do you make the big splash to try and get over the line? Or do you recognise how many teams have chased the dream — failed — and then been left to face the consequences?

The Rice and Miller signings were seen to be jump starts — moves that would increase the speed of the rebuild. Let’s not forget just how bad this roster was when Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over. Now that it’s in a much healthier position, do they really need to go big in free agency again? Perhaps, but only for the right player.

The one that probably stands out more than any other this year is Henry Melton in Chicago. A running back in college, Melton made the unusual transition to defensive end and then eventually to tackle. Somewhat against the odds, he’s been among the leagues best three-techniques in recent seasons. A staple in Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 scheme, he’s looked the part within a star-studded Bears defense.

A lot has changed in Chicago recently, including Smith’s departure. Perhaps priorities have changed too? Despite fielding a top-ranked defense, the Bears couldn’t protect their main asset. Jay Cutler doesn’t usually need any encouragement to start carelessly winging the ball into coverage, but that reckless nature’s been stoked by a lack of time in the pocket. The Bears’ offensive line has been a revolving door of mediocre talent. And when they finally decided to address the issue, they wasted a first round pick on Gabe Carimi.

Great job, guys.

Failing to sufficiently protect Cutler prompted the changes in Chicago. After all, they spent a small fortune on a quarterback thinking he’d win a title or two. Having leaned on the defense and managed only one NFC North title in the Cutler-era, the new plan appears to be offense-centric. Marc Trestman is an intellectual, offensive mind. He’s already made it clear his priority is to do a better job protecting the quarterback. The entire offensive line could be set for a rebuild.

Jake Long, for me, looks like a Bear in the making. He’ll be the top rated left tackle hitting the market if he gets out of Miami. Surprisingly, despite a decent chunk of cap room (+$30m), the Dolphins have shown little motivation to speak to any of their pending free agents. If Trestman is serious about protecting Cutler, they can’t rely on a tackle being there with the 20th overall pick. The three top left tackles — Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson — could all be off the board by San Diego at #11. Signing Long would put the Bears in a strong position and allow them to target the two guard spots in the first round.

Long + Jonathan Cooper = better Jay Cutler… Probably.

The only problem is, Chicago has just $13.3m available in cap space. There’s not a ton of wiggle room if they want to go chasing big name free agents. Long could generate a contract worth up to $9-10m per year. They can structure the deal to lessen the hit in 2013, but when you’re paying big contracts to Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Julius Peppers and others, you can put yourself in a big hole if you keep signing expensive free agents.

Going back to Melton, if the Bears want to franchise him it’ll cost $8.3m. That’s not an unreasonable sum but it’s big enough to take the Bears out of the free agency market for several other players. As the franchise moves in a new direction, they could be prepared to take a hit by losing Melton. What is more important to the franchise? Keeping Melton, or going after Long? It could be an either/or situation.

It’s worth noting that while I referred to ‘change’ earlier, one thing that won’t change is Chicago’s defensive scheme. New coordinator Mel Tucker has already revealed he’s sticking with the 4-3 and won’t even be changing the terminology used under Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli. If Melton leaves, it won’t be because the Bears don’t want or need him. I suspect they’d love to keep him, but it’s all about priorities.

So what about the Seahawks? He’ll turn 27 in October so on a four-year deal you’d be fairly confident about getting at least three years of peak performance. He recorded thirteen sacks in his last two seasons. He’s really the kind of player Seattle has lacked so far — an interior penetrator who consistently collapses the pocket. It helps that he’s had the chance to play on the same line as Julius Peppers. How much has it helped? Would he be the same force in Seattle’s defense?

Essentially that’s what it all boils down to. If you’re paying top price for a free agent, you want instant gratification. That’s hard to find, whoever you are.

Schneider and Carroll spent big on an injury prone Sidney Rice and had no qualms about going after Zach Miller. They also had plenty of background on Rice from Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable knew all about Miller and Robert Gallery. Will anyone be banging the table for Melton? And how influential was that vouch-for-factor in dishing out the big contracts in 2011?

One thing that could play into Seattle’s hands is the strong class of defensive tackles in the draft. Potential competitors for Melton’s services might feel confident about entering the Sheldon Richardson/Sharrif Floyd/Star Lotulelei sweepstakes and resist the temptation to offer a big contract. All three would be a lot cheaper, even if they go in the top ten. Unfortunately at #25 the Seahawks have little chance of getting at this talented trio.

It’s rare that a team gets the opportunity to sign one of the leagues best three techniques. The Seahawks have $18.6m in cap space and that will increase if they release or trade Matt Flynn. The key factor could be how it impacts being able to re-sign the teams own free agents over the next few years. Eventually guys like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate and K.J. Wright will be looking for new contracts. This will be off-set by the likes of Zach Miller seeing a reduction in salary, but being in a position to keep throwing unused cap space forward into future seasons is crucial to ‘keep the band together’.

Melton was a fourth round pick. Geno Atkins was a fourth round pick. Darnell Docket went in round three. In a contract sense, the team would benefit explicitly from finding their own version in the draft rather than going after a big name free agent.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. We’re talking about a position that’s notoriously hard to scout. The Seahawks drafted Jaye Howard in round four last year, probably hoping he could be the next mid-round gem. Instead he spent most of the year on the inactive list, even when Jason Jones was placed on injured reserve. Greg Scruggs forced his way onto the field as a rookie, Howard could not.

The search will probably continue this year and there’s a couple of guys that really intrigue me. One is Kaleb Ramsey at Boston College — a player hampered by injury issues. He’s likely to be a late round pick or UDFA because he couldn’t stay healthy. However, I’d take a flier on him with the hope his fortunes change at the next level. Ramsey’s a really talented player who would’ve been a much higher draft pick had he avoided the injuries.

The other intriguing player is Jordan Hill at Penn State. I cannot talk highly enough of this guy. I’ve put his tape on the blog before, but I’ve re-posted the Wisconsin game below for anyone who missed it. He’s solid against the run despite a lack of pure size (6-0/6-1, 295lbs), he gets into the backfield to make plays and he’s got that little spark to his game that you want to see from a three technique. Any defensive lineman at that size who performs well against Wisconsin deserves a ton of credit.

John Schneider and Pete Carroll might decide to trust their ability to find a mid-round prospect like Hill that negates the need to spend big in free agency. Presumably there would also be some concern that a guy taken later in the draft just wouldn’t have an impact (like Jaye Howard). Then what? Another year of mediocre pass rush costing the team wins?

It’s a tough balancing act. Trying to address the problem and failing on a third or fourth round salary won’t cripple the franchise. Spending big and not getting value for money could, especially if it jeopardises your ability to re-sign players who are actually doing their jobs. A conservative approach would be financially sound, but not taking the occasional gamble could cost you the chance to win a title.

I think Carroll is trying to create a culture of reward. You play well for this team, buy in to what we’re doing and we’ll look after you. I’m not sure he’ll be so desperate to reward other team’s players unless they absolutely take this roster to the next level. Will Henry Melton do that? Is he that much of a difference maker?

Don’t rule out Alan Branch re-signing with the Seahawks instead. If they want to keep size up the middle, then he’s an option. He performed fairly well for two years, would be relatively cheap and he’s familiar with the team. Randy Starks is another option and a player Carroll highlighted for praise when Seattle were beaten by Miami during the regular season. Starks plays the run brilliantly for a guy weighing just over 300lbs. He’s also a very capable pass rusher and made the Pro-Bowl this year.

Yet both players lack the kind of star power Melton possesses. If the team really is serious about improving the pass rush, replacing Jason Jones might not be enough. If Chris Clemons doesn’t make an Adrian Peterson-style recovery from his ACL injury, if anything Seattle’s pass rush could be even weaker in 2013. You could argue it’s crying out for a big splash, especially if the best defensive line prospects leave the board early on draft day.

One final note on Melton — during the pre-draft work outs and All-star games he was listed at around 260-270lbs and played defensive end. During the Texas vs Nation work outs he featured exclusively at end. The Bears took him in the middle rounds and moved him inside. He’s since added weight, maintained his athleticism and turned into an interior force. Datone Jones similarly weighed as little as 260lbs at UCLA for a time but got up to around 280lbs for the Senior Bowl. He also has a similar athletic quality to his play and was recruited by USC during Carroll’s time at Southern Cal. Just a few things to remember.

In terms of other prospective free agent defensive tackles, I’m not sure the Seahawks would necessarily look at failed top-ten picks like Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis. Both have been pretty disappointing so far. You could argue Dorsey has played out of position in the 3-4, but in the year he turns 28 can you rely on him to suddenly explode at the three? Ellis has been one of the bigger busts from the 2008 draft. He has history with Pete Carroll at USC and really that’s the only thing that makes this a viable suggestion. The best he can probably hope for is an opportunity to compete.

The Raiders are going to struggle to keep any of their free agents because they’re already over the cap, meaning Desmond Bryant is likely to be available. He’s probably the best option after Melton and Starks with eight sacks in the last two years. Tom Cable will likely give the front office an inside track here. He’s 6-6 and 311lbs meaning the continuation of size up the middle plus a pass-rush upgrade over Alan Branch. At the right price, the Seahawks could show some interest. He’ll turn 28 in December.

Team mate Richard Seymour also had a better 2012 season than most people give him credit for. But with his 34th birthday due in October, he’s unlikely to be anything more than a stop-gap.

Jordan Hill (DT, Penn State) tape vs Wisconsin

Mock draft Wednesday’s: 13th February

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Another week, another scenario to look at. Yesterday we touched on the possibility of players ‘falling’ in the draft and how this could benefit the Seahawks. This week’s mock mixes things up a bit and considers the possibility of one or two players dropping into range.

I’m a big Alec Ogletree fan. A lot of other people aren’t. When I watched the Ole Miss tape (see above) I felt like I was possibly watching the best player in the 2013 draft. At the very least I thought I was watching a player with the greatest upside. Not many linebacker’s rush the edge for a sack, make a defining tackle on fourth down inches from the marker, force a safety and sprint 20-25 yards in coverage to make a leaping interception. This was perfection.

There are other games where Ogletree’s tape is only OK. At times he seems almost disinterested, appears to avoid contact and he can go through the motions. Throw in a few lingering character issues and a team suspension due to a failed drugs test and suddenly you begin to consider if he’s due for a fall.

The combine could be his biggest friend. It’s the type of platform where he can run a blistering forty, look great in coverage drills and get a team or two to fall in love with his physical potential. Ogletree could be one of the stars of the show later this month. On the other hand, he’s going to have to answer questions about his various suspensions and what if he doesn’t quite live up to expectations on the field? He’s going to be one of the more interesting players to monitor in Indianapolis.

As I mentioned yesterday, don’t underestimate the perception of a ‘safe’ pick. Khaseem Greene is another converted safety playing linebacker. He doesn’t have Ogletree’s length or upside, but he has a flawless character, will perform well at the combine and will completely ace his interviews. And I guarantee there will be a GM or two weighing up the two players and siding with Greene.

Look at the chart below and you’ll see why some people are definitely underrating this guy. It charts impact tackles made by linebackers during the 2012 season. Greene isn’t just ahead of every other player, he’s in a different universe. There’s every other linebacker in college football — and then there’s Khaseem Greene. See for yourself…

If Ogletree gets past the first couple of teams who would consider drafting an outside linebacker in round one (there aren’t many) he could drop a little bit. And the Seahawks need to be ready.

Tony Pauline recently only ranked Ogletree as the 18th best player in the draft while Josh Norris today placed him at #26. If a lot of NFL teams share that opinion, dropping to #25 isn’t exactly a pipe dream.

I would still argue that a fall is not ‘likely’ at this stage, but I wanted to bring the possibility to the table in this weeks mock. He could easily be a top-ten pick and Buffalo would be a good fit if they don’t go quarterback at #8. Ogletree is such a fantastic athlete that GM’s and coaches could easily end up talking themselves into drafting him. At a time when more and more teams value speed on offense, a guy with this kind of range will have value.

Ogletree’s at his best playing deep and swarming to the ball carrier. He’s athletic enough to react and play the ball carrier, work in coverage and occasionally rush the edge. For a team like Seattle that likes roaming, instinctive linebackers he’s a good fit. And while John Schneider may too prefer the leadership qualities of Khaseem Greene — if the Rutgers linebacker leaves the board (do not rule that out) it’s a moot point. Ogletree has to be attractive if he makes it into the 20’s. He has to be.

I suspect that in such an unpredictable draft, we’ll see more than a few shocks in round one. That could mean some unexpected falls. And as discussed yesterday, the Seahawks need to be ready to pounce if certain opportunities arise.

There are a few other changes in this weeks mock and the options at #25 on the whole are pretty healthy. I think out of all the players in this class, Khaseem Greene is still the one that shouts ‘Seahawks’ more than any other — but he wasn’t available this week. I want to stress (again) that this is just another scenario we’re looking at here. So basically, don’t get too bent out of shape if you don’t agree with the picks. We’ve got about ten more of these to do before the end of April and we’ll continue to look at different ideas. This years draft is so unpredictable — and that’s a good thing. I’m not going to dish up the same mock every week.

In round two I have another defensive pick for Seattle. What is Datone Jones’ best position? He’s not a full time five or three technique. Is he a power end? These question marks could keep him out of the first round and his best position might be the one Jason Jones filled in Seattle this season. He could be quite effective as a nickel interior rusher. If he’s on the board at #56 the Seahawks could show some interest.

I’d previously pencilled that pick in for a pass-catcher, but many of the bigger targets are off the board. If the Seahawks target a guy like Fred Davis (ex-Washington and USC tight end) in free agency, that could suggest two early picks for the defense in the draft. At the moment I think if the Seahawks want to draft a big receiver or athletic tight end who can start quickly, they might have to do it at #25. That remains a distinct possibility with guys like Zach Ertz and Keenan Allen potentially going in that range.

First round

#1 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
They desperately need a quarterback but if Branden Albert’s back issues are legit, this becomes more likely.
#2 Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
Floyd has a ton of upside. He could play the one or three technique in Gus Bradley’s scheme.
#3 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
They could lose both Desmond Bryant and Richard Seymour in free agency.
#4 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
Speed and height seems to be the order of the day for Chip Kelly’s defense.
#5 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
The Lions could use an edge rusher, especially if they lose Cliff Avril.
#6 Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
A partner for Jabaal Sheard is required.
#7 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
After the fiasco of 2012, don’t expect Arizona to do anything but draft a quarterback here.
#8 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
They have some nice pieces in Buffalo but they must find a quarterback.
#9 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
The Jets have no edge threat for a defense predicated on pass rush.
#10 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
Prototype three-technique.
#11 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan)
They need to draft a left tackle. He could go earlier.
#12 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
If he goes here, Tampa Bay hearts sink.
#13 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
This isn’t a bad consolation prize if Dee Milliner leaves the board before they pick.
#14 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
It seems almost certain someone will fall for Patterson’s playmaking qualities.
#15 Ziggy Ansah (DE, BYU)
This would be a gamble for a 3-4 defense,
#16 Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
Vaccaro would be a nice addition to St. Louis’ defense.
#17 Kevin Minter (LB, LSU)
This could be Pittsburgh’s biggest need.
#18 Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
Jay Ratliff’s latest issue could make adding size up front a bigger priority.
#19 D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama)
With a lot of the top defensive players off the board, they could look to the offensive line.
#20 Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma)
Unless they go the free agency route, this is Chicago’s priority.
#21 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
Imagine this guy across from A.J. Green. Scary.
#22 Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
Totally underrated. Impact player and turnover machine.
#23 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Plug him in alongside Matt Kalil for ten years and enjoy.
#24 Travis Frederick (G, Wisconsin)
More than anything they need to bolster the offensive line.
#25 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
If he falls, he could find a home in Seattle’s defense.
#26 Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
Donald Driver’s retired, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley are free agents. They could go for a pass catcher here.
#27 Keenan Allen (WR, California)
You can never have too many weapons on offense.
#28 Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State)
After a rough ride in the playoffs, the Broncos could boost their secondary here.
#29 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
The spinal stenosis issue could lead to a fall. Someone will take a shot.
#30 Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
An ideal replacement for the ageing Michael Turner.
#31 Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington)
The secondary in San Fran could use a shot in the arm.
#32 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Tough shoes to fill, but the Ravens often look for value in round one.

Second round

#33 Jacksonville – Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)
#34 Kansas City – Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse)
#35 Philadelphia – Barrett Jones (C, Alabama)
#36 Detroit – Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
#37 Cincinnati – Stepfan Taylor (RB, Stanford)
#38 Arizona – Menelik Watson (T, Florida State)
#39 New York Jets – Mike Glennon (QB, NC State)
#40 Tennessee – Larry Warford (G, Kentucky)
#41 Buffalo – Johnthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#42 Miami – Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
#43 Tampa Bay – Matt Elam (S, Florida)
#44 Carolina – Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
#45 San Diego – Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
#46 St. Louis – Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
#47 Dallas – Alex Okafor (DE, Texas)
#48 Pittsburgh – John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
#49 New York Giants – Jordan Reed (TE, Florida)
#50 Chicago – Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
#51 Washington – Phillip Thomas (S, Fresno State)
#52 Minnesota – Robert Woods (WR, USC)
#53 Cincinnati – Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
#54 Miami – Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB, Connecticut)
#55 Green Bay – Giovanni Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
#56 Seattle – Datone Jones (DT, UCLA)
#57 Houston – Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
#58 Denver – Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
#59 New England – Jonathan Cyprien (S, Florida International)
#60 Atlanta – Vance McDonald (TE, Rice)
#61 San Francisco – Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
#62 Baltimore – Oday Aboushi (T, Virginia)

Seahawks need to be ready… like the Ravens

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Georgia's Alec Ogletree is one of three talented prospects that could suffer a fall

Yesterday I wrote a piece asking whether the Seahawks could learn something from the Baltimore Ravens. Today, I’m going to take it a step further.

Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome has consistently managed to get value out of the draft. One way he’s achieved this is by taking advantage of the mistakes of others. He’s taken calculated risks when others ran a mile, used common sense and snatched at any opportunities presented to him. Newsome was ready and waiting when Ed Reed was still on the board in the mid-20’s. He repeated the act when Ben Grubbs, Michael Oher and Jimmy Smith fell into the same range. He was able to trade down last year and still managed to get Courtney Upshaw in round two. And when he’s been presented with picks in the top-15, he’s drafted Terrell Suggs, Haltoi Ngata and Joe Flacco (after a trade down).

When Tim Ruskell traded up to take John Carlson in 2008, he dealt with the Ravens. Newsome drafted Ray Rice with Seattle’s pick.

It’s not all been perfect — he chose Kyle Boller at #19 overall in 2003. I also appreciate I’m not shocking anyone by simply highlighting one of the leagues best GM’s is actually good at the draft.

The point I want to make here is to highlight the opportunistic way Newsome has gone about his business. He traded up for Ngata, Flacco and Oher. He knew the value on offer when trading down with Seattle in 2008. He’s built a team by sensing opportunity when others sensed danger. When certain players suffered unexpected falls, he’s made the necessary moves to get them to Baltimore. In some cases that meant a small move of just a single position (Ngata). In others it means being a little more proactive (Flacco).

Picking 25th overall, the Seahawks have an opportunity to mimic the Ravens. This draft is going to be so unpredictable, I think we could see two or three players reach the late teens unexpectedly. There may be an opportunity for the Seahawks to seize the initiative and make a small move up the board. That’s something John Schneider will have to judge. They be be able to sit tight but dropping to #25 is a lot more substantial than say #17-19.

Newsome has proved that sometimes you have to be proactive. The Seahawks are yet to trade up in a draft in the Carroll/Schneider era. This could be the year to do it.

So who could fall into a position where such a move is likely? Keep an eye on guys with character concerns. When the combine kicks off later this month we’ll start to find out who interviewed badly and who is a concern for scouts and GM’s. Baltimore’s previous picks are a great example of the types of players that can fall. Micheal Oher was a storied prospect made famous by a book and (in my opinion) a lousy film. Character concerns saw him drop from top-ten certainty to late first rounder. Jimmy Smith is one of the best cornerback prospects I’ve ever scouted. He also fell due to character concerns. In both cases, the media speculated they would fall. As it happens, they fell right into Ozzie Newsome’s lap.

Both players offered supreme physical talents with limitless upside, but there was enough suspicion with their character to provoke a fall. There are more than a few players who could also fall for similar reasons in 2013. Here’s three examples:

Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia) — (see tape vs Kentucky below) He might have the biggest upside in the 2013 draft and his tape against Ole Miss will get anyone buying into his potential. However, he’s missed games due to drug related suspensions and he has quite a passive off-field personality. It’s a limited sample size, but he comes across quite distant in interviews and he’s not the kind of confident talker you see with Khaseem Greene. Some teams will decide he’s more upside than proven production and might be turned off by his personality, forcing a drop. Those suspensions also need checking out. Personally I still think he’s a top-15 lock, but I thought the same about Jimmy Smith. He’d make a great WILL in Seattle’s defense and it’d be very difficult to pass up the chance to bring him to the North West.

Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri) — Another player with the athletic potential to get anyone excited. He’s a brilliant three-technique with a relentless motor and he should be a top-ten pick on talent alone. Richardson also had to play JUCO football because of bad grades, flip-flopped over his decision to attend Missouri despite a previous commitment and was suspended at a crucial time in the 2012 season for violating team rules. His personality might rub some people up the wrong way — but as a three technique you kind of want to see a bit of fire and brimstone. ESPN notes on his draft profile: “Mental capacity and maturity level are being closely investigated by NFL scouts.” He’s unlikely to get past the Cowboys if Monte Kiffin has any sway in Dallas — he tried very hard to recruit him for USC. It might cost only a third round pick to get above Jerry Jones if he falls, however.

Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU) — This isn’t a suggestion necessarily for the first round, but he’s a player to monitor in rounds two and three. At times Montgomery has looked the part of a dynamic pass rusher alongside Barkevious Mingo. Yet there are so many lingering issues with his attitude and work rate. He started the season on the bench as a wake-up call from the coaches and then an image started doing the rounds on the internet that wasn’t exactly flattering. I’ve seen Montgomery listed in some first round projections but he’ll need to flash big time at the combine to get over these concerns. Even so — the Seahawks are likely to consider adding another LEO following Chris Clemons’ ACL injury. At 6-5, 260lbs they could get a bargain in the second or third round if they’re willing to take a shot on a talented but floored prospect.

Never underestimate the perception of a ‘sure thing’ versus a risk. GM’s, scouts and coaches love high character players with big time potential. Nobody is talking about Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene at the moment, but wait until he impresses at the combine. Not only will he flash the athletic qualities befitting a converted defensive back, he’ll also blow teams away during interviews. And that could potentially put him ahead of a guy like Alec Ogletree who has a higher ceiling, but also a much lower floor.

Despite thinking that one or two players could fall in the draft, I can’t bring myself to express this in a mock draft. When you pair the Seahawks with a player expected to go much earlier, it just looks like wishful thinking. You almost want to see other people making those projections so you can refer to it and make it seem that little bit more possible. Let’s just say it’ll be a nice surprise if it happens. In tomorrow’s mock though I will have a team ahead of the Seahawks falling for Khaseem Green, and that’ll mean a different pick at #25.

Monday draft thoughts

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Following Baltimore's lead might not be a bad idea

Learning from the Champs

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t have an elite defense during the regular season. While Seattle’s unit ranked fourth overall according to Football Outsiders, Baltimore came in at #19. The Seahawks had the third best pass defense, Baltimore’s was 13th best. And despite the presence of Haloti Ngata up front the Ravens only ranked 26th against the run. Seattle finished 12th.

For years they had one of the league’s most daunting defensive unit’s. Yet in the year Ray Lewis finally crumbled and chose to retire, Ed Reed looked human and Paul Kruger became pretty overrated, they finally won another title.

We’ve gone over Seattle’s need to improve defensively this off-season. And yet here are the Baltimore Ravens, with their rank average defense from weeks 1-17, becoming World Champions.

The thing is, they were anything but average in the post season. They recorded nine sacks — four more than the second best playoff team (Washington had five). The Ravens had an incredible SIX post-season interceptions, forced five fumbles (four were recovered for turnovers) and had 308 total tackles. In all four key defensive categories, they ranked #1.

It helps that they played more games being a wild card that won it all. Even so, they came up against some high power offenses along the way. Indianapolis at home, Denver (Peyton Manning) and New England (Tom Brady) on the road. Then the 49ers fresh from destroying Atlanta and Green Bay. That’s not exactly the route you’d pick to win a title.

So how did they turn a middling defense into a Championship?

On reflection, they played without a hint of erraticism in the post season. They didn’t lurch into big deficits, they didn’t put too much pressure on either side of the ball. They remained balanced and took their chances.

San Francisco and Seattle are often compared favourably. And they both seemed to suffer from the same issue — they were both patchy in the post-season. The Seahawks put themselves in a hole with a slow start against Washington, but managed to overcome a 14-point deficit (just). A week later they trailed 20-0 at half time in a game they had no business trailing 20-0 in. The 49ers similarly made hard work of their meeting with the Falcons, going 17-0 down almost immediately. They also put themselves in a gigantic hole in the Super Bowl before launching a late but ultimately fruitless comeback.

The Ravens never encountered such problems. Sure, they trailed in games. They faced uncomfortable and even fortunate moments. Without the worst defensive play in recent post-season history against the Broncos, they don’t even make it to the conference finals. But by playing it close in every game and minimising huge momentum swings, they put themselves in position to get maximum benefit out of any fortune being offered.

Seattle still won eleven games in 2012 and if the offense continues to grow there’s no reason why 12-14 wins isn’t achievable next season. Yet even if they win just ten games — like the Ravens in 2012 — they just need to find a way to mimic Baltimore’s post season. Play things tight. Avoid great big deficits and the need for brave comebacks. Play solid football.

Baltimore appear to have been built to compete with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That seemed to be the starting point for that franchise. If they wanted to win it all, they first had to be able to stand toe-to-toe with the Steelers in the AFC North. Neither team is flawless, but they are balanced. And it’s no surprise that over the last few years their rivalry has been the catalyst to Championship wins. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have both won Super Bowls. And they’ve both spent a lot of time kicking the crap out of each other.

Rather than contemplating how the Seahawks can improve this off-season to get back those agonising defeats to Detroit and Miami, perhaps the best thing to do is focus closer to home? What are the moves that will help the Seahawks beat the 49ers in order to have a shot at not just a division title, but multiple home games in the playoffs? Own the NFC West first. Without doubt Seattle’s best chance at making another Super Bowl is to play as many games at Century Link in the post-season as possible. The team is good enough now to win a certain number of games in a regular season. So are the 49ers. Divisional records within the NFC West are going to be crucial going forward, particularly the two games against San Francisco.

They could go out and make moves to try and improve the pass rush, but neither the Ravens (37 sacks) or the 49ers (38 sacks) dominated in that area during the 2012 season. The team at the top of the sack rankings — St. Louis with 51 sacks — blitzed all year and that comes with a consequence too. The Seahawks could use an extra pass rusher or two but the Ravens got by without any stars. They also got by without an elite run defense. And when the post-season came around they played the percentages. The Seahawks didn’t beat the 49ers 42-13 because of pass rush and they didn’t lose the earlier fixture 13-6 because of a lack of pressure. The way both teams are set up, it’s always likely to be a physical battle won equally in the trenches and with the speed of the offensive and defensive playmakers.

Rather than trying to create the ‘perfect’ roster that includes a franchise quarterback, a dominating pass rush, elite secondary and fantastic running back — perhaps they need to concentrate on creating the perfect roster to beat the 49ers and win the NFC West? A division which is starting to look increasingly like the old AFC North. While we agonise over pass rushers and three techniques, the thing most likely to help the Seahawks beat their greatest foe might be size up front to combat San Francisco’s power running game, speed at linebacker to limit Kaepernick and the read option, plus more offensive fire power.

You can’t expect to dominate every game. You can’t expect the pass rush to be fantastic every week. Perhaps a little more creativity in certain situations is needed, or at least some better production from specific role players. But more than anything, the Seahawks have to win their division. And when they get to the post-season, they have to play less erratic football. This team will win more close games than it loses. This team will pulverise certain opponents, just like we saw in the three game stretch against Arizona, Buffalo and San Francisco. They can beat anybody. They just can’t necessarily do it if the other guys get a 20-point head start.

The key to emulating Baltimore might start with finding a way to top the Niners for the divisional crown. And that might lend some strength to going for size over pure pass rush at defensive tackle. It might mean focusing on increased speed and playmaking at the WILL. It might also mean continuing to top up the playmaking element of the offense too — because this is a rivalry that will compliment graft with plenty of big plays.

What Vick signing in Philly means for the draft

Michael Vick agreed a new contract with the Eagles today, giving him a chance to be a starter in Chip Kelly’s offense. I suspect Kelly has decided he can begin to install his offensive vision with Vick acting as a place-holder. And with both offensive tackles returning from injury and a few good weapons remaining at the skill positions, it could push the Eagles towards defense at #4 overall. They have a complete dearth of talent in the secondary so could look at Dee Milliner. But perhaps more likely is a stud pick up the middle, particularly if they plan to switch to a 3-4. Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd are unlikely to last long because of their upside and diversity. There’s a pretty good chance one of those two will be playing for the Eagles next year.

Welcome to silly season

Here’s a polite warning. We’re entering the time of year where everyone is a draft expert. Pundits and bloggers who barely watched any college football last season are suddenly putting together big boards because their editors are asking them to. Or because they know the draft sells and a good old rankings piece or mock draft generates hits.

We also start to see outrageous projections and opinions as people battle to be loudest among many voices. When the 2013 draft is long in the past, nobody will remember what is said at this time of the year. Nobody is ever held to account. So while someone gets placed in front of a camera to do this years version of ‘Russell Wilson is the worst pick in the entire draft’, rest assured that person will not need to justify such a lousy opinion in the future.

Today I noticed this Tweet..

… and nearly fell off my chair. This opinion on Barkley is typical for the time. We’ll see where he goes in the draft. I’d beat against it being the late second round.

A great example are the two Oregon games from 2011 and 2012. Last year it was Barkley’s performance against the Ducks that generated talk of a top-ten grade. This year he scores 51 points against the same unbeaten opponent, throws for five touchdowns and 484 yards and loses because the Trojans defense allowed 62 points. And it’s Barkley’s stock that takes the hit?

I’m willing to wager that most people knocking his stock this off-season haven’t even studied the tape. They’ve looked at the fact he returned to USC, not accomplished what he set out to and just offered a thumbs down. After all, why concentrate on the way Marqise Lee gave up on a route for a costly pick in the first half? Or that Barkley’s response on the subsequent drive was to throw a long downfield bomb to the same receiver for a touchdown? He lost, his team had a bad year, so he falls as a consequence.

How about another perfect downfield pass to the corner of the end zone was dropped poorly by Nelson Agholor? Or at 4:17 in the first video below where he does a great job extending the play before throwing a perfect touchdown pass to the opposite corner?

Matt Barkley was not worse in 2012. The USC Trojans defense had an atrocious year, but Barkley did not. Don’t take my word for it either, check out this detailed piece which brings metrics to the discussion. Negative hype reigns just as supreme as positive hype at this time of the year. He threw more picks, but then he was being asked to chase more games. He would’ve beaten his touchdown total for 2011 had he not picked up a shoulder injury. And Max Wittek’s performance in relief shows what he was up against.

There are too many teams in the NFL who need a quarterback like Matt Barkley. Not all offensive schemes will suit him, but some will. And within those offenses, he will prosper. Don’t trust my view? The two Oregon games are below. You tell me what the difference is. It’s certainly not the difference between consensus top-ten and the third round.

The argument against Percy Harvin to Seattle

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Percy Harvin to Seattle? I can't see it

I had an email today from a reader called Chris. Thought it might create an interesting discussion…

Rob, I read today on Rotoworld that Percy Harvin is on the out. They say a second rounder and change. With the Hawks having so many picks, what about offering our second rounder and a 5,6, or 7? The only thing I wouldn’t like is that I thought we would be looking for a big receiver, rather than adding another 5-11 receiver. With that said, it’s Percy Harvin and could be reunited with Darrell Bevell. I would say that with Sidney Rice and Golden Tate on the outside along with Harvin in the slot, that would be a formidable trio. Thoughts?

Harvin is a truly dynamic receiver. Very few players enter the league with his playmaking talent. We’ve seen all kinds of prospects compared to Harvin — most recently Tavon Austin at West Virginia. The reality is nobody gets close. He plays bigger than his 5-11, 185lbs frame, gets off press and can stretch the field. He’s competitive. He has tremendous YAC value, is capable of handling a few snaps in the backfield and he’s one of the best kick returners in the league. He constantly finds ways to impact games and he’s been relatively productive despite awful quarterback situations in three of his four seasons in the NFL.

When you watched him at Florida, you knew he was a star in the making. Throughout his college career he just looked better. And despite concerns over drug use going into the 2009 draft, it wasn’t a big surprise he still ended up as a first round pick (#22 overall to Minnesota).

Age-wise he’s still young enough to warrant a decent contract. He’ll be 25 in May but still has at least four years of excellent production in his locker. He’s the quintessential scorer of cheap points. There aren’t many better than Harvin for making big momentum changes in a game. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the leagues best receivers, playmakers and all-round football players.

So why wouldn’t I make the trade?

For everything that’s good about Harvin, there’s nearly always a bigger negative. The report from Rotoworld quoted in Chris’ email refers to a piece by CBS Minnesota:

Sources tell WCCO’s Mike Max that the No. 1 reason Percy Harvin left the team this season was not his injury, but it was motivated by a blowup he had with Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier.

Multiple sources tell Max that Harvin had an embarrassing tirade directed toward Frasier, disrespecting the coach during the season when Harvin was sidelined with an injured ankle.

Teammates were present, and Max was told that is when Harvin left the team and was put on injured reserve.

Sources say teammates were disappointed in Harvin’s actions and the organization has moved toward less tolerance for that behavior.

Harvin apparently had a similar incident when Childress coached the team.

The Vikings will try to trade him, Max reports, as Harvin does have market value.

One of the key mantra’s within Seattle’s locker room is you have to be ‘all in’. They want players to buy into Pete Carroll’s vision. That doesn’t mean they’re bringing in robotic yes-men towing a party-line that isn’t working. It’s about putting the team first and so far it’s working. The Minnesota Vikings won ten games in 2012 and made the post-season. Yet Percy Harvin is trying to show up the coach? Why? It’d be partly understandable if they were destined for 2-14. The Vikings actually had a pretty remarkable season. But Percy’s not happy.

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.

Ok — he’s been after a new contract. I get that. But you do your complaining in campe, make the point and then get on with the job. Right at the point Harvin should’ve been doing his best to enhance Minnesota’s playoff ambitions, he was doing the polar opposite. Not good.

The fact he also had tear-ups with Brad Childress also suggests this isn’t a one-off, contract based wrangle. Seattle has a pretty harmonic dressing room right now and the last thing they need is Percy Harvin acting as a distraction. We saw some of the playmaking qualities he possesses at Century Link in 2012 but cast your minds back. What else do you remember? That’s right, Percy screaming at his coach on the sideline. In a close game. Whether it was a legitimate gripe or not, there’s a time and a place.

Then there’s the injury history. In 2009 and 2010 he suffered severe problems with migraine’s and was constantly listed on the injury report as a consequence. He’s also suffered many other issues including ankle, hamstring, hip, shoulder and finger injuries. In 2009 he was listed as questionable seven times. He was on the injury report eight times in 2010, seven times in 2011 and five times in 2012 before being placed on injured reserve (missing Minnesota’s last five games). He’s competitive for his size when he’s actually on the field, but he’s also been quite brittle.

And finally there’s this article by Jeremy Fowler at TwinCities.com:

Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin “epitomized the climate” of player entitlement under coach Urban Meyer at the University of Florida, according to a Sporting News report posted online Monday, April 9.

Harvin, who played for the Gators from 2006-08, reportedly was one of three players who missed the 2008 season opener after allegedly failing drug tests for marijuana – penalties dictated by university policy – although Meyer publicly blamed an injury for Harvin’s absence.

Harvin also refused to run stadium steps with the rest of the team during offseason conditioning before the 2007 season, according to the Sporting News, and once allegedly threw wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales to the ground by his neck.

Harvin reportedly wasn’t punished for either of those incidents, according to the report, and was treated differently as a member of Meyer’s “Circle of Trust.”

Harvin told strength and conditioning coaches while boycotting stadium runs, “this (expletive) ends now,” according to the report, and the team played basketball as conditioning the next day.

So it comes down to this — is he worth the hassle?

That’s not to say any deal is impossible. Marshawn Lynch was considered troublesome in Buffalo but he’s been a perfect professional for the Seahawks. John Schneider takes an aggressive approach to team building and he’s made similar deals in the past. He brought in Lynch, traded for Charlie Whitehurst and also found a way to land Chris Clemons in a bargain deal. They seriously considered a big trade for Brandon Marshall — who’s had his fair share of problems.

If Carroll and Schneider feel Harvin helps them get significantly closer to a Championship then maybe this could happen? Someone will show interest after all. Why not Seattle? They’re good enough to start considering the final moves that will push them towards title contention. And just like all potential trades (see: Darrelle Revis) they’ll no doubt do their homework and made an educated decision.

Right now I’d still say a trade to the Seahawks is unlikely. However dynamic Harvin can be on the field, you also need to be able to trust him off it. And as Carroll and Schneider build around Russell Wilson — I think they’ll be looking for guys who share his burning enthusiasm for success and hard work, not guys who are likely to scream at the coaches in the midst of a battle.

Daniel Jeremiah this week gave the Seahawks Keenan Allen in his latest mock draft. I suspect if the Seahawks do try to add a receiver, it’ll be the big, physical target they currently lack. Whether that’s a guy like Allen at 6-2/6-3 with the ability to compete in the air or a mobile tight end who can run a lot of receiver routes and act in the role Kellen Winslow would’ve taken had he made the cut — I think that’s what they’ll set out to add.

If they are willing to consider another receiver in that 5-11-6-1 range, why not go after DeAndre Hopkins? He might not be the most explosive receiver, but he’s reliable, consistent and will make life easier for Wilson. He might not have the same playmaking qualities as Harvin, but he could be more effective for this young offense.