Archive for February, 2013

Datone Jones vs Nebraska, Rice and Houston

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I’ve been away with work today so haven’t got a great deal of time to dedicate to a big piece. I wanted to put some tape on the blog though, specifically of UCLA’s Datone Jones. One of the big issues with Jones is working out what position he’ll play at the next level. Can he get bigger to play early downs at tackle in a 4-3? Is he stout enough to act as a five technique in a 3-4? Is he troublesome enough to play as an orthodox defensive end?

Despite a great showing at the Senior Bowl plus some decent 2012 tape, teams are going to wonder where exactly he fits. It probably doesn’t help that he pretty much lined up everywhere for the Bruins rather than featuring in one defined position.

He might end up being at his best in Seattle’s ‘Jason Jones’ role. Is he purely a nickel pass rusher? I think you could make an argument for that. And it’ll limit his stock if most teams see him as mostly a third down/passing down pass rusher. Right now I’d grade him as a late second or third rounder. If he’s there at #56, do you consider adding him to replace Jones? Or do you think he could potentially act as a three technique?

Jones shows a good burst, an ability to work into the backfield and he can be disruptive. He also struggles to track the ball, finish plays and he’s more disruptive by his presence rather than actually made the key tackle.

Have a look at the tape and let me know what you think.

Gavin Escobar looking good

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Very quietly, this is developing into a very strong year for tight ends. Certainly the strongest we’ve seen for a while. Maybe it’s just the current penchant for big, athletic difference makers, but there seems to be a few of those types this year.

While Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert have received most of the focus, others are starting to get some attention. Florida’s Jordan Reed has unnatural speed for his size, good hands and will create mismatches for slot corners, linebackers and safety’s. I’m looking forward to watching Cincinnati’s Travis Kelce over the next couple of weeks, while Rice’s Vance McDonald is being tipped for a big combine.

There are others who will go a little later that could have some impact at the next level such as UCLA’s Joseph Fauria, Michigan State’s Dion Sims, Tennessee’s Mychal Rivera and Stanford’s massive 6-8, 263lbs Levine Toilolo.

One player who could force his way into first round contention is San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar. He’s listed at 6-5 and 255lbs. The tape above (vs Boise State) from Aaron Aloysius is the first full look we’ve been given. It’s never ideal to make snap judgements on one game — however — it’s hard not to be impressed.

Blocking isn’t a major strong point for Escobar, but you’re drafting this guy for his receiving talents and his ability to create problems at the second level. In the tape above he appears to have soft hands and an ability to not only high point catches, but also make difficult grabs. It looks like he can create separation and find soft spots in the coverage. And he has the size and mobility to be a Kellen Winslow type at the next level.

Not long ago former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli listed Escobar as his 10th best underclassmen in the 2013 draft.

“Three-year starter who was hampered this season by a knee injury that he played through. Good height-weight-speed prospect at 6-6 and 255 who right now is more receiver than blocker. I’m high on his ability to produce as an offensive tight end right now in the more wide-open NFL offenses. He’s what we call an “F-type” tight end, a receiver who can play off the line probably more productively than as a blocker right now.”

If you’re wondering what a ‘F-type’ tight end is, it’s another way of saying H-back. Basically they line up just off the line, technically in the backfield and normally as the second tight end in a 2TE set. Norv Turner is the most recent coach to use a lot of this in his schemes, but Joe Gibbs is often credited with being the inventor of this particular wrinkle.

To break it down you’re asking a H or F back to run receiver routes in multiple sets while still incorporating blocking responsibilities on certain calls. The way the game has changed and moved more towards passing, the role of the orthodox tight end has shifted towards more of these H/F back types anyway. However, as we’ve seen with Zach Miller in Seattle, teams that are run-centric still ask their tight ends to do a lot of blocking.

When the Seahawks brought in Kellen Winslow it looked to be a way of getting a productive, bigger receiver on the field rather than a pure second tight end. Obviously he didn’t make the cut and Anthony McCoy in my view did enough as the #2 to warrant some faith. However, with the team still lacking a big target for Russell Wilson outside of Miller and 6-4-but-skinny Sidney Rice, they could look at one of these ‘joker’ tight ends that can act predominantly as a receiver. McCoy would still have a role, but you’re opening up the play book. More 2TE sets, sometimes putting three big targets on the field for Wilson. New England made multiple tight end sets feasible. It’s not a bad lead to follow.

Gavin Escobar might not be the most talked about player but his potential as a receiver is clear. San Diego State were run-focused in 2012 so he didn’t make many big, highlight reel plays or generate fantastic production. At the next level, with a quarterback like Wilson, he could be the league’s next intriguing game changing tight end. If you’re looking for the next Jimmy Graham, this guy has as good a chance as anyone.

The only question is whether the Seahawks would consider making such a pick at #25. Because it’s unlikely he’ll last until #56. During our coverage this year there’s been some interest in Zach Ertz, so why not Escobar? It could be argued Escobar possibly has a higher upside, but Ertz is the more natural receiver and already looks accomplished running different routes and acting as the main focus of a passing game. Daniel Jeremiah mocked receiver Keenan Allen to the Seahawks today. He too is pretty under-developed given the weak passing game at California and the restrictions it placed on the skill players. Escobar is no different really, but again might have better upside.

Have a look at the tape and let us know what you think. I’d also recommend checking out this detail-filled piece on tight ends by Danny Kelly, published today. It’s an incredible read.

Talking point: Seahawks taking a big man at #25?

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Georgia's John Jenkins is a 358lbs monster

On Tuesday a couple of people touted the idea of drafting a big defensive tackle with the 25th pick. Essentially, not an orthodox three technique.

JW commented: “I understand the speed issue, but if you can’t find a pure 3-tech, getting a wide body with good push who will consistently command a double team, and if your 1-tech and 5-tech also demand respect, that pocket is going to be sloppy and the Leo is going to have some shots. I’m not sure how much Branch commanded a double team. I wonder if there’s a paucity of 3-techs and it’s not solved in the draft, the hawks brass might think hard about going to a wide-9 and double three alignment more often in order to get more isolation shots. Their LBs are quick enough, Kam can handle the run, so it mitigates the run gashes somewhat. Might be worth revisiting the alignments in 3rd and long if they can’t satisfactorily address the personnel.”

For the last three years, the Seahawks have used quite a sizeable defensive line. Red Bryant has worked at the five technique despite weighing 323lbs. In 2010 Brandon Mebane (311lbs) started at the three with Colin Cole (328lbs) at the one. In 2011 they inserted Alan Branch (325lbs) into the three with Mebane moving across to replace Cole. That’s how it stayed for 2012.

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about drafting a pure three technique. By definition the 4-3 under utilises a natural pass rusher at the position, traditionally weighing around 285-305lbs. They line up next to the LEO and double up to create pressure on the weak side. Instead the Seahawks have used size at the three with mixed results so far.

My argument would be that the pass rush hasn’t been good enough during those three years, provoking a need for change. Total reliance has been placed on Chris Clemons for pressure and sacks and you can’t expect one guy to do it alone in base defense. Getting a natural three technique isn’t easy, but it could be crucial for the future success of this scheme.

On the other hand, perhaps Carroll believes the scheme isn’t the issue? Maybe he feels it’s the personnel? Perhaps a bigger body that can be more disruptive will be the order of the day?

If the second part is true, whether it’s likely to succeed or not, it opens up options we haven’t considered previously. A big space-eater like Johnathan Hankins might be in contention. He offered precious little in terms of pass rush for Ohio State and I’m not a big fan of his skill set. But he’s big, stout and has some athletic upside. ESPN’s Todd McShay gave him to Seattle in his updated mock draft today.

What about the massive John Jenkins at Georgia? He’s 6-3 and 358lbs — a monster of a defensive lineman. He moves well for his size even if he tires quickly (to be expected). Could he be used as a heavyweight powerhouse among the interior, capable of being more disruptive than Branch while also improving the teams run defense?

Could Jesse Williams come in to play? Alabama’s Australian import looks best suited to defensive end in a 3-4, but he played nose tackle in 2012. His main strength is run defense and he’s shown very little interior pass rush on tape. He’s also a baller who plays with intensity and attitude and while he does tend to get dinged up in a lot of games, he also had a big outing against LSU in a key ‘Bama victory this year.

None of these three players are pure pass rushers. Funnily enough of the three, the 358lbs Jenkins is probably the most disruptive. But if they did want to keep size inside, these guys would probably be on the radar.

Sylvester Williams and Kawann Short — who are bigger than the natural three techniques but offer more pass rush — could also come back into focus. Particularly Short — an underrated interior rusher. You just wonder about their upside and necessity to hit the ground running. Neither is a spectacular athlete with unique skills. Williams turns 25 this year, Short will be 24.

I still think this is a tough call. Carroll has highlighted the need to improve the pass rush and I’m not sure getting another big guy will solve that. Alan Branch didn’t do a terrible job and certainly the issues with run defense weren’t solely on him. If the objective is to keep the scheme and invest in an alternative to Jason Jones and find other nickel players, why not just re-sign Branch? Is John Jenkins going to be that much better? To the extent the pass rush greatly improves?

The Seahawks simply don’t collapse the pocket enough and more than anything they just need someone who can be in there to move the quarterback out of position, preferably into the waiting arms of the LEO. A big man can do this sometimes with a dynamic bull rush, but more often than not they lack the kind of explosive first step to shoot a gap or knife through. If it’s about combining size with pass rush — draft Kawann Short. He’s the player most likely to get into the backfield and he plays at a comparable weight to Mebane. I’m not sure Jenkins, Hankins or Williams will be enough of a difference maker in terms of improving the pass rush — the key issue highlighted by Carroll at the end of the season.

JW made a good point when he said, “I wonder if there’s a paucity of 3-techs and it’s not solved in the draft.” He’s absolutely right. There aren’t many great three techniques in the league. They’re like gold dust. There’s no exact science to it, but some of the best looking college three techniques just haven’t worked out in the NFL. It’s why I like Penn State’s Jordan Hill. I wouldn’t bank on him being the guy to get Seattle out of this pass rush dilemma, but I’d take a flier in the mid-to-late rounds regardless of what happens with the #25 pick.

The lack of choice and likelihood that Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd will go in the top-15 keeps pushing me towards free agency. Randy Starks isn’t just an ideal physical match for the three, he’s also an above average run stopper. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the guy this team needs to target. Sign him to a two-year deal and if Richardson, Floyd or whoever isn’t there… keep searching for that next mid-round gem like a Jordan Hill.

Yet I wouldn’t completely rule out a big man being drafted early. As we mentioned, they’ve used three big lineman so far under Carroll. There’s also the San Francisco 49ers factor to consider. The Seahawks need to stay one step ahead of their NFC West rivals. The Niners run the ball so effectively behind possibly the best offensive line in the NFL. Being big, strong and stout up front will be key for the Seahawks in future meeting against San Francisco. The best way to combat the likes of Mike Iupati, Joe Staley and Anthony Davis might be to introduce them to a 358lbs defensive tackle who moves like he weighs 310lbs.

Drafting a big tackle at #25 isn’t something we’ve discussed much so far and I’d be interested to hear what you make of it. I’ve included tape below of the big guys discussed in this piece.

Mock draft Wednesday’s: 6th February

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

I’ve not made a ton of changes this week. Seattle’s first round choice of Rutgers linebackers Khaseem Greene remains unchanged. I noted on Monday why I thought he’d be a likely target. I’ve stuck with it this week despite the availability of Kawaan Short, Sylvester Williams and Dion Jordan.

The Seahawks have drafted a senior in round one three out of four times. They’ve also always drafted scheme-fit types with big production. Very few pass rushers matched Bruce Irvin’s tally of sacks in two years at West Virginia. He was also described as the ‘ideal LEO’ by Pete Carroll. Not many left tackles have anchored a Heisman campaign, springing Mark Ingram for a huge season at Alabama. James Carpenter wasn’t an over-hyped prospect going into the 2011 draft, but he probably should’ve been and was ideal to improve Seattle’s weak running game. Russell Okung was seen by many as a cerebral left tackle and filled a crucial need within the zone blocking scheme.

Short, Williams and Jordan don’t have outstanding college production. Are they obvious scheme fits? Arguably not.

Compare that to Khaseem Greene. He’s an ideal WILL for Seattle’s scheme. He has back-to-back Big East defensive player of the year awards, 276 tackles in two seasons plus 9.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles. Greene is a Seahawks first round pick waiting to happen. I didn’t feel to fight this projection for the sake of it this week.

I’m going to write a piece tomorrow discussing the prospect of the Seahawks possibly drafting a big bodied defensive lineman. The type that doesn’t necessarily fit the ‘three technique’ requirement, but might still be on the teams radar. We’ll continue to look at many different options between now and April. However, Greene could very easily be in contention for the 25th pick. And while most other mocks are projecting guys like Tavon Austin to Seattle (can’t see it), I want to portray a very realistic option for at least another week.

I’ve switched around Seattle’s choice in round two. Having studied further tape on Justin Hunter I think he’s a poor fit for Seattle’s offense (not competitive enough for the ball in the air, doesn’t make the most of his size, inconsistent). Instead I have them taking Jordan Reed, the joker tight end from Florida. I wasn’t blown away by his tape against Georgia, but I really liked his performance against Texas A&M (see video above). He could be a nice roaming option for Russell Wilson, lining up in different positions to create mismatches.

I still think we’ll see quarterbacks going early. Seven have been drafted in the top-12 over the last two years since the introduction of the new CBA. If Christian Ponder can go as early as 12th overall, then there’s no reason why Matt Barkley, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon can’t crack the top ten.

First round

#1 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
Kansas City needs a quarterback. Barkley should be the first to go.
#2 Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
Floyd has a ton of upside and could be ranked higher than the edge rushers in this class.
#3 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
This regime needs to put down some roots. Too many key pieces belong to the last front office.
#4 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
Chip Kelly needs to rebuild Philly’s offensive line.
#5 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
The Lions could use an edge rusher, especially if they lose Cliff Avril.
#6 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
The complete cornerback prospect. He deserves to go this early.
#7 Mike Glennon (QB, NC State)
They need a quarterback. If they can convince themselves Glennon is good enough, they should take him here.
#8 Alec Ogeltree (LB, Georgia)
Ogletree is a star in the making.
#9 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Putting Lotulelei alongside Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples would give Rex Ryan the three-man front he craves.
#10 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
Prototype three-technique.
#11 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan)
They need to draft a left tackle.
#12 Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
If Moore falls a bit he could find a home playing across from Cameron Wake.
#13 Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington)
The Buccs will likely target cornerbacks early.
#14 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
They hit on Newton and Kuechly. This would almost certainly make a hat-trick.
#15 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
The Saints need a pass rusher for their new 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 Ziggy Ansah (DE, BYU)
He’d make a great power end to compliment DeMarcus Ware.
#19 Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
A big, space-eating defensive tackle.
#20 Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma)
Unless they go the free agency route, this is Chicago’s priority.
#21 D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama)
He could replace another former Crimson Tide lineman – free agent Andre Smith.
#22 Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
This would be a great value pick for the Rams and Sam Bradford.
#23 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
If they really are hoping Christian Ponder works out, he’s going to need a receiver like this.
#24 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Incredible value if he falls this far.
#25 Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
Converted safety prospect who looks like a John Schneider draft pick.
#26 Keenan Allen (WR, California)
Donald Driver’s retired, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley are free agents. They could go receiver here.
#27 Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
Would they consider adding some size up front?
#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 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
Randy Moss can’t play forever and return-specialist Tedd Ginn Jr. is a free agent.
#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 – Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
#35 Philadelphia – Barrett Jones (C, Alabama)
#36 Detroit – Matt Elam (S, Florida)
#37 Cincinnati – Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
#38 Arizona – Menelik Watson (T, Florida State)
#39 New York Jets – Stepfan Taylor (RB, Stanford)
#40 Tennessee – Alex Okafor (DE, Texas)
#41 Buffalo – Tyler Wilson (QB, Arizona)
#42 Miami – Johnthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#43 Tampa Bay – Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
#44 Carolina – Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
#45 San Diego – Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
#46 St. Louis – Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
#47 Dallas – Travis Frederick (C, Wisconsin)
#48 Pittsburgh – John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
#49 New York Giants – Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU)
#50 Chicago – Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
#51 Washington – Phillip Thomas (S, Fresno State)
#52 Minnesota – Robert Woods (WR, USC)
#53 Cincinnati – Giovanni Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
#54 Miami – Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
#55 Green Bay – Oday Aboushi (T, Virginia)
#56 Seattle – Jordan Reed (TE, Florida)
#57 Houston – Larry Warford (G, Kentucky)
#58 Denver – Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
#59 New England – Jordan Poyer (CB, Oregon State)
#60 Atlanta – Vance McDonald (TE, Rice)
#61 San Francisco – Datone Jones (DE, UCLA)
#62 Baltimore – Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)

Senior Bowl work-out tape – Brandon & Sylvester Williams

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Brandon Williams had a mixed week at the Senior Bowl

It’s difficult to get an angle on who helped or hindered their stock at the Senior Bowl without seeing the mid-week work-outs. Thankfully, ‘footballmixtapes’ has put together two videos charting all the televised work of Brandon Williams (DT, Missouri Southern) and Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina) plus every snap both players took in the game.

It’s particularly helpful when trying to get an angle on Brandon Williams. Missouri Southern tape is hard to come by, but the game against Lincoln from 2012 is available online and it’s a coaches copy too. I’ve watched the video twice and came away completely underwhelmed. However, Williams seemed to get positive reviews at the Senior Bowl after a slow start.

The tape below highlights his improvement as the week went on. In the first few 1v1’s he gets dominated and looks completely ineffective. At the time Tony Pauline, who was in Mobile, commented: “(Williams) has NFL type size and shows a good degree of lower body strength but was easily handled and really needs to elevate his play here.”

In the 7v7 he also had little impact but managed to anchor nicely on a couple of the run plays. Pauline and several others left the Senior Bowl with a much more favourable opinion of Williams and it seemed like he stepped up his level of performance. This is what Pat Kirwan had to say after attending the Senior Bowl:

“A young man that struggled a lot early in the week to the point he didn’t look like he belonged here. Williams was on the ground Monday but was a force by Thursday. He told me he went back to his room Monday night and decided to do a better job for his mom and 3-month-old son. He’s got a fan in me after he recounted how his mother and brother lived in a car for a period of time when things were tough.”

You can see an improvement at the 1:39 mark, presumably tape of the later practises. This time in the 1v1’s he has some success, flashing a brutal swim move at 1:46 to beat Kent State guard Brian Winters. On the very next snap he beats Winters again with a powerful punch to the chest before rounding the corner with a nice burst. At 2:27 in the scrimmage session, he shakes off a blocker to get into the backfield forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball. At 2:44 he shoves Winters into the quarterback and makes the play. If you were keeping an eye on his play later in the week, you’d come away impressed.

He looked nimble and athletic despite weighing 340lbs. He showed a greater ability to get off blocks than you see on tape. There’s a few occasions when he’s a little slow to react to the snap, but there’s something to work with on this evidence.

However, when you watch the Senior Bowl game tape, Williams seems to go back into his shell. He had virtually no impact and looked like the guy who failed to dominate against Lincoln. A lot of people say the work-outs mean more than the game time, but I think the opposite can be true for defensive and offensive lineman. They have an opportunity to flash power, athleticism and an ability to block or press. It’s the same as any other work out in that regard. It’s tough to judge the skill positions, the corners and even the linebackers in an all-star game, but it’s very easy to judge lineman. While the likes of Kawann Short, Sylvester Williams, Ziggy Ansah, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson and Larry Warford all stood out, I thought Brandon Williams, Alex Okafor and Margus Hunt were all disappointing.

It’s difficult to project his stock without seeing more tape. I definitely wanted to see him obliterate Lincoln’s offensive line given his size and mobility at 340lbs — and he didn’t manage it. I suspect whoever does draft him will be looking for a mid-round, high upside nose tackle. He could even nip into round two depending on need. Several teams are switching to the 3-4 and there aren’t a ton of nose tackles in this class (Jenkins, Hankins for sure, Lotulelei and Jesse Williams possibly). It might take Williams a year to adjust to the pro-level, but he could develop into an effective nose. Or he could be completely ineffective and out of his depth. It helps that he’s a high character prospect — one of the best in this class. Someone will give him a shot.

We’ve been over Slyvester Williams before but I still think he’s better suited to the one-technique rather than Seattle’s biggest need at the three. He can flash a great swim move and we saw it time and time again in college. But he’s not a constantly disruptive tackle like Kawann Short and he doesn’t have the upside (he’ll be a 25-year-old rookie) to make you run to the podium. He has quite a big frame and might struggle to beat pro-lineman for burst. Having said that, he looked good lined up next to Short in the Senior Bowl game and he managed to knife through a couple of times in the scrimmages and 1v1’s.

I’m increasingly sceptical that Sharrif Floyd, Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei will make it to #15, let alone #25. If they leave the board early, we have to compare the likes of Short, Sylvester/Jesse Williams and others to alternative needs and how the receivers/tight ends, linebackers like Khaseem Greene or other players compare. In an ideal world, this team drafts a great defensive tackle in round one. In reality, there might be better options elsewhere.

Something else to remember — John Schneider and Pete Carroll like Senior Bowl prospects. James Carpenter, John Moffitt, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson. They all attended the Senior Bowl. So there’s every chance they’ll be looking closely at the 2013 participants.

You’ll find both videos below. Brandon Williams is #66 and wearing a dark green helmet. Sylvester Williams is #92 and wearing a Carolina blue helmet. There’ll be an updated mock tomorrow as normal for Wednesday’s.

Khaseem Greene – the next quirky Seahawks first round pick?

Monday, February 4th, 2013

This could be Seattle's guy

The more I watch of Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene, the more convinced I am he’s going to be a first or early second round pick. Possibly to Seattle at #25.

Credit to Derek Stephens for being the first to make this projection, but after some initial scepticism I’ve become increasingly confident Greene will be a higher pick than most people expect.

So what’s so special about him?

There’s a reason he’s been named Big East defensive player of the year for the last two seasons. In 2011 and 2012 combined, Green recorded 276 tackles, 26 tackles for a loss, a couple of interceptions and 9.5 sacks. Oh yeah, he also had nine forced fumbles and thirteen quarterback hurries. Not bad for a player who began his college career as a safety.

Pete Carroll wants his linebackers to make plays. The structure of the defense appears to be to create pressure up front allowing the back seven to improvise. The linebackers have to be instinctive, athletic and opportunistic. Greene ticks all of those boxes and could actually be the ideal WILL in this scheme. He’s stocky but mobile, can cover at the second level but more than anything he appears to constantly be a step ahead of the offense.

Apart from the impressive numbers, I’m sure the Seahawks will also pay close attention to the respect he earned from his peers. This front office seems to like guys who do things better than anybody else. As ESPN’s Matt Fortuna notes:

“Greene is the first Scarlet Knights player to become an AP All-American since wide receiver Kenny Britt attained the honor in 2008, and Greene is the first Rutgers linebacker ever to make the team. Greene was named an ESPN.com first-team All-American on Monday, and he has also earned All-America status earlier from the Walter Camp Foundation (first team) and CBSSports.com (third team), in addition to being named the Big East’s defensive player of the year for the second year in a row.

“No other Big East player earned AP All-America honors.”

Going from safety to linebacker is a tough enough assignment at the best of times. Making a rapid transition and becoming the best defensive player in the Big East in back-to-back seasons is even more impressive. It also shows he’s a quick learner so there’s no reason why he won’t have an early impact at the next level. He’s almost the anti-Aaron Curry (remember him?). Greene is controlled, calculated and opportunistic. Curry was reckless, sloppy and didn’t make the most of his supreme athletic skills.

It’s very difficult to judge character and leadership without sitting down and speaking to a player, his team mates and coaches. When you’re relying on other people’s opinions and interview clips, it’s a long way from an exact science. However, I don’t think I’ve been quite this impressed with a defensive prospect’s mental make-up before. Not just this year, but ever.

Take a look at this interview with Emory Hunt. It’s nearly five minutes in length, yet Hunt only has to ask four questions. Four questions. That’s how good the answers were. The detail — particularly when discussing the pro’s and con’s of his game — is thorough, honest and to the point. Nobody playing in yesterday’s Super Bowl got there because they knew how to conduct a detailed interview at the Senior Bowl, but teams are going to fall in love with this guy when they meet him.

I suspect the Seahawks will see a little of that Russell Wilson attitude within Khareem Greene…

Still not convinced? Take a look at this two part feature on the player…

If you’re not impressed after watching those videos, I don’t believe you.

I’ve gone back and watched three Rutgers games again over the weekend — Virginia Tech, Connecticut and Syracuse from 2012. This time I really studied Greene, particularly trying to note his instinct to see how he acted when simply asked to read and react. The first thing that stands out is his ability to guess the snap count and time his blitzes to perfection. When he brings the heat, he often shows flawless timing. While the Seahawks will undoubtedly look to defensive line improvement to ramp up their pass rush, Greene could add a new dimension if they want to be a little more creative in base.

As Greene himself notes, he can do a better job with his hands when taking on blockers. At the same time he has enough pure speed to challenge the edge on certain calls, a knack for identifying and sniffing out screens before sifting through traffic to make the tackle and a dynamic ability to make plays in the backfield versus the run. Against Syracuse he had two identical forced fumbles — ripping out the football as the ball carrier dropped to the turf — and a big interception/return. Rutgers won the game by eight points — so those three turnovers were crucial. In the 13-10 defeat to Virginia Tech he scored Rutgers only touchdown (on a forced fumble recovery) in a squalid affair — and without that score, there was no chance of the game getting as far as overtime. The Scarlet Knights offense was horrendous that night.

With eleven turnovers in two seasons, you know that’s going to appeal to Pete Carroll.

People are going to talk about his height (6-1) and while he’s a long way off Alec Ogletree in terms of upside, size really doesn’t matter here. He’s got a thick 230-235lbs frame — he’s not small — but maintains some of that safety speed. He’s physical, fast and finds ways to have an impact. Someone is going to draft Arthur Brown to play either the weakside or the MIKE, so there’s no reason why teams will be put off by Greene’s size. Brown is also listed at 6-1 but looks small on tape in comparison. Even if he was 6-3 like Ogletree, he’s still going to get absorbed by bigger lineman when attacking the interior. In fact Ogletree’s lean, tall frame often creates a big target for blockers and has proven to be detrimental when trying to attack inside. Green’s stouter frame could actually be an advantage, especially if he improves his hand use and lateral agility.

As you’d expect from a converted defensive back he’s pretty good when asked to cover. He’s most adept at monitoring the underneath layer and keeping an eye on developing screens or running backs breaking out of the backfield. At the same time he’s shown a decent ability to cover tight ends or slot receivers at the second level — although there are times when he tries too hard to read the quarterbacks eyes and gets caught in no man’s land. I’ve not seen any evidence of him biting badly on play action and even when he’s caught out of position he generally flashes good enough change of direction speed to recover. His two interceptions in 2012 were not easy grabs, so he also has some ball skills.

Greene’s range against the run is solid. He goes sideline to sideline well enough for it to be a positive, even if Arthur Brown has the edge here. One area he’s better at though is his ability to make up quick ground. If he’s moving to the right but notices a slow developing play, he’s comfortable changing direction and breaking to the ball carrier, catching target or quarterback to impact the play. I think this skill more than any other will probably interest Pete Carroll when he sits down to watch the tape. I think it’s all about instinct and execution with Seattle’s linebackers.

Like most college players these days there are times when he goes for the big hit and misses the tackle. I’d be more concerned about that if it wasn’t coachable and if most of the time he wasn’t solid in this area. He’s a good ankle tackler, he can be pretty violent at times when he executes and he puts his body on the line in pursuit.

I’m not sure if a player like this would push the Seahawks to change their scheme on third downs. Last year they seemed to use a lot of nickel, taking the WILL off the field for an extra defensive back. Greene’s blitz timing, cover skills (particularly underneath) and ability to shadow/chase tight ends and running backs would make him an asset for any third down call. If something is obviously broken it should be changed — and Seattle’s play against third and long in 2012 was pretty frustrating throughout the year.

Drafting Khaseem Greene won’t be a flashy, exciting pick in the eyes of most Seahawks fans. If this happens in April, most people are going to chalk this down to another quirky move by John Schneider. In reality, Greene has pretty much been the most consistent, impacting linebacker in college football the last two years. Leroy Hill’s latest arrest might be strike three in terms of his career in Seattle. If the Seahawks can improve their front four in free agency, then adding a guy like Greene to play the WILL could be another move towards building an elite unit (and I cannot refer to it as elite until the pass rush is improved).

A lot of people have asked whether he’ll be available in round two. I don’t think he will be. Not any more. Khaseem Greene could be a first round pick whether he lands in Seattle or not. But it’s probably wishful thinking to hope he’ll last all the way to #55. He’s the real deal. Of course, improving the defensive line has to be the biggest priority. But you could be looking at the eighth, ninth or tenth defensive lineman at #25… or the ideal WILL linebacker for this scheme. You can’t force the situation too much.

Below you’ll find game tape vs Syracuse, Connecticut and Virginia Tech:

What is Seattle’s second biggest need?

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Could Arthur Brown be an option at #25?

It’s a subject we touched on in this weeks mock draft and also the conversation I had with the guys at Field Gulls. Are you more likely to take the ninth or tenth defensive lineman with the #25 pick? Or are you more likely to try and fill a different need?

There’s a lot of other teams needing to improve their pass rush. It’s a deep class for defensive tackles. There’s some quality at end and outside linebacker. If you’re a Seahawks fan hoping the team gets a first round pass rusher, you could be sat there mid-way through the first round having watched most of your preferred options leave the board.

If the plan is to go defensive line early, there will be a tipping point for the Seahawks in round one. Well, unless they’ve identified another guy nobody else is focusing on. You can never rule that out. It may even be probable. But there’s at least a chance there’s going to be better options at other positions by the #25 pick. Assuming that’s the case for the purpose of this article — what would you do?

You might disagree but for me the two other greatest needs are a big, athletic target at receiver/tight end a WILL linebacker to replace Leroy Hill. I’m not sure how many run-ins with the law Hill can afford before he starts getting lengthier suspensions. He’s 31 in September and while there’s still a chance he’ll return for another year in Seattle, his latest arrest could be a deal breaker. It also stands to reason that the Seahawks will try to get faster at the WILL — speed within the front seven remains a key feature for this team.

Inevitably Seattle’s group of receivers and tight ends looked a lot better as Russell Wilson grew into his rookie season. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Zach Miller were all productive, it just seems all three hit their peaks at different times. Doug Baldwin’s year was severely hampered by a lingering pre-season injury. Look for him to bounce back in 2013.

I think there’s room for at least another target. Why else were they looking at Terrell Owens in pre-season? Or trying to rekindle Braylon Edwards’ career? Why did they trade for Kellen Winslow? There’s a hole in that roster for a big, athletic target. Whether’s it’s a tight end who can play a little receiver, create mismatches and exploit coverage or a receiver who wins 1v1 battles, goes up to claim the ball and compliments Rice and Tate — it’s a need.

While the options at defensive tackle or end might be limited by #25, it could be a good range to look at pass catchers and linebackers. When the first receiver leaves the board, we could see a domino effect. The first might not go until the 20’s. By the time Seattle’s second round pick comes around, five or six could be gone. Getting the pick of a pretty good bunch in round one is enticing.

It’s unlikely prospective top-15 pick Alec Ogletree will be around (shame) but he might be the only 4-3 outside linebacker prospect off the board early. Arthur Brown and Khaseem Greene stand to be of interest to Seattle. Both are athletic, instinctive players who can get sideline to sideline. Greene is stockier and a better blitzer with safety speed, while Brown is smaller and more agile.

All of the tight ends could be on the board. While Anthony McCoy did a good job as the #2 tight end, the Seahawks could still look for a hybrid type who can line up in the slot, out wide and at the line of scrimmage. Zach Ertz featured all over the field as Stanford’s leading receiver but also worked within a run-heavy offense that utilised a lot of two tight end sets. I still think he’d be an ideal weapon for this team. He’s also the most likely tight end to go before the #25 pick.

Gavin Escobar has great size but didn’t do a great deal of blocking for San Diego State — he could develop into a real difference maker as a receiver. Tyler Eifert is more of an orthodox tight end in terms of frame but his blocking is seriously hit and miss. Jordan Reed is gaining momentum as a joker-style receiver and could be one of the stand-out performers at the combine.

Of the highlighted needs, the WILL could be the biggest ‘must fill’ need. If Hill isn’t re-signed they’ll have to do something. At the same time, is it possible Brown or Greene could be available in round two? It’s not unrealistic. Could you even consider trading down if that’s your target, given they’re unlikely to be snapped up by any of the teams picking right after Seattle? Carroll and Schneider have also done a good job filling linebacker needs later in the draft — Bobby Wagner was drafted in round two, K.J. Wright was a fourth round pick. Malcolm Smith may get the chance to replace Hill and he was a seventh round choice.

The receivers and tight ends might have the biggest impact early. Russell Wilson developed into a big-time playmaker as the 2012 season progressed. Keeping him stocked up with a strong arsenal is key. He deserves as much help as possible. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldin have all suffered their fair share of injuries. There’s not a great deal of depth out there and a bit like the cornerback position — you can never have too many good pass catchers. Aaron Rodgers is a fantastic quarterback, but he also benefits greatly from a loaded receiving corps. The Packers know who their superstar is. Wilson will only get better the more targets he has to aim at.

On the other hand, none of Rodgers’ receivers or tight ends were drafted in round one. Green Bay has a history of success targeting those positions in round two. And the depth at receiver in this class means the Seahawks could get a good one at #55.

So what direction do you go if defensive line quickly becomes an unattractive option at #25? Maybe you have a different suggestion? Below you’ll find tape of the guys highlighted in this piece.

A quick thought on Tyrann Mathieu

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

He’s probably the most talked about draft prospect, and he’s the player I get the most emails about. It seems every NFL fan, whichever team you follow, is wondering whether they’ll take a chance on Tyrann Mathieu.

In 2011 he recorded 71 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five forced fumbles (two returned for touchdowns) and two interceptions. He had two further scores via punt returns. Mathieu was the very definition of a game changing playmaker. That’s not easy for a 5-9, 180lbs cornerback.

Beneath all the stats and game changing ability lay a fierce competitor. There’s no real secret to Mathieu’s success — he plays the game his way. With attitude, style and ferocity. He takes superb angles when challenging for the ball, he’s quicker than fast covering space and he’s instinctive. He can be a walking highlight reel.

That enamoured him to the TV cameras, while the ‘Honey Badger’ nickname he inherited became increasingly over-used as announcers began to mention it every time LSU’s defense was on the field. The attention worked and he was a Heisman finalist — losing out to Robert Griffin III.

The fact he had become the face of LSU’s football program perhaps masked some of the glaring issues within his game. What is he at the next level? His back pedal simply isn’t good enough to warrant serious consideration as a natural corner. Size is a major concern against the bigger receivers in the NFL. You can throw in behind Mathieu because he struggles to locate the ball when it’s not played in front. His balance is surprisingly poor given he’s compact and short. I don’t like his footwork at all.

He’s going to be a nickel corner with limited responsibilities. I understand why that makes him intriguing to Seahawks fans because the position caused a lot of problems in 2012. However… how could you possibly trust this guy at the next level?

Mathieu’s career was on life support when the Tigers basically kicked him off the team for ‘violating of team policy’ (aka, drug use) prior to the 2012 season. Rather than transfer to a small school like Janoris Jenkins, Mathieu wanted to wait it out. See if he can repair the damage at LSU and play football again in 2014. He promised to seek help and learn from his mistakes.

This had been a pretty serious issue for Mathieu previously. He’d already served a one-game ban for violating the teams drug policy. He ignored that warning before finally being dismissed Les Miles.

Time for the wake up call, Mr. Mathieu.

In August he entered a drug rehabilitation program in Houston. So far so good. He was saying the right things, he was getting support from his family. He made all sorts of vows and promises to learn from his mistakes. Could he get his career back on track? Remember, it’s hanging by a thread. Then on October 25th, he and three other LSU players were arrested for possession of marijuana. Here we go again.

Ask yourself this… at what point does a player become too much of a liability? If he’s prepared to keep ignoring warnings, continues to make the same mistakes — don’t you have to sit up and take notice? LSU were pretty emphatic when they’d had enough. Now you’re going to pay him and potentially move him to a state where Marijuana was recently legalised? I’m not sure about that.

I think he’ll ultimately prove to be the kind of player you let somebody else worry about. Let another team take a shot. Is it really worth disrupting the harmony in your dressing room, adding a bad influence and a guy who hasn’t shown he can stay away from drugs all for the sake of a nickel corner? Not for me.

There are teams in the league — such as the Cincinnati Bengals — who appear to thrive on taking little gambles like this. Vontaze Burfict is a great example and he had a terrific rookie season. But that doesn’t mean Mathieu can also perform well and stay away from trouble.

He’s doing all the right things — he visited the Senior Bowl in Mobile as part of a full-court press on the leagues reps attending the event. He managed to secure a place at the combine. He’s going to have to work extremely hard to get a team to trust him whatever he does. He has to prove he’s a changed man.

Is the upside great enough to warrant a pick on the first two days of the draft? I’d argue not. He might fall to day three (rounds 4-7). Like Burfict he might be an UDFA.

Personally I’d need to be extremely convinced he was over his drug problems to even consider taking a shot. Completely over them too this time, not over for two months. It’s not even so much him I’d be concerned about, it’s that he might drag others down with him. The Seahawks like a challenge as much as anyone — but they haven’t been reckless in selecting their players. Mathieu would be a much bigger gamble than trading for Marshawn Lynch, drafting Bruce Irvin or giving a trial to Terrell Owens.

For the sake of a decent nickel corner, I’d probably just look elsewhere. Remember this — there’s a reason Les Miles dismissed a star player and a Heisman finalist. And it’s not because he’s the ‘mad hatter’.

Kenneth Arthur, Jacson Bevens and Rob Staton talk draft

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Today I spent an hour talking about the Draft and the Super Bowl with Kenneth Arthur and Jacson Bevens from Field Gulls. Check it out!

Super Bowl preview with Daunte Culpepper & Fred Taylor

Friday, February 1st, 2013

I had the chance to speak with Daunte Culpepper (former Vikings quarterback) and Fred Taylor (ex-Jaguars running back) today. We talked about Sunday’s Super Bowl… so if you can bear to hear about the 49ers in the big game, have a listen.