Archive for March, 2013

Monday draft notes: Carson Palmer destined for Arizona?

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Arizona bound?

Carson Palmer to exit Oakland, enter Arizona?

Part of the draft process is to keep an eye on the other teams in the NFC West. One development today could have an impact for arguably the weakest team in the division.

Arizona ended last year a shambles. The 58-0 defeat against Seattle was the tipping point for a season that started so brightly (4-0) and ended with a whimper. At the core of everything was a mess at quarterback. John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Ryan Lindley all took turns to be the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. The end product was a complete clear-out of the coaching staff and front office.

Bruce Arians was appointed mainly off the back of his work with Andrew Luck during his rookie season. It seemed a formality that Arians would be tasked with working the same kind of magic with another rookie in Arizona.

Does today’s news regarding Carson Palmer change anything? Quite possibly.

The Cardinals basically have two striking needs. Their offensive line is poor overall and the quarterback position is a mess. Ideally they’d fill both areas this off-season, least temporarily. They’ve (typically) stayed clear of spending any money in free agency despite a decent crop of offensive tackles becoming available (plus a favourable market). And despite noises to the contrary, it’s highly unlikely Arians truly believes he’s good-to-go with Drew Stanton at quarterback. Not unless he’s been told a 4-12 season is OK in year one.

The Raiders are in the process of a humongous rebuild. It’s a hack job for the ages — they need to bring in the demolition crew and get to work over several years. Oakland are basically in expansion franchise mode right now, mostly because the previous regime gambled and lost on Carson Palmer being the missing link to a post-season appearance.

Paying Palmer $13m this year makes absolutely no sense. He has little to no chance of winning in Oakland, yet earns a significant salary for his efforts. They’re better off making a saving, accepting the situation and building around a young core. That could mean drafting a quarterback at #3 or in the third round. It could mean turning the keys over to Terrelle Pryor to see if he has any kind of shot to make it in the league. None of these options are ideal, but clinging onto an expensive ageing veteran at $13m makes little sense.

Palmer might earn $13m this year, but he’ll take up $15m on the cap in total. The Raiders can save $6m by moving on. That money is better off sitting in the front office, waiting to be pushed forward into next year. They need a youth movement with heavy competition, much like Seattle. In fact the Seahawks should created the blueprint for any team facing the same bleak future Seattle faced in 2010.

Oakland has to tear everything down and start again. I think GM Reggie McKenzie probably would’ve loved to do that last year, but he didn’t have a single pick in the first two days of the 2012 draft. And without the opportunity to get busy, what choice did he have put to meander onwards? Now he has a shot to make this his team. To put down some roots. He’s another Green Bay exile and will share some of John Schneider’s visions. I can’t see him clinging to Palmer in the hope he creates a miracle. A revolution is required.

If or when Palmer hits the market, Arizona seems like the ideal home. He could be another Kurt Warner. It’d buy some time for Arians in the toughest division in football (and it really is, let’s be right). It’d also allow him to concentrate on repairing that weak offensive line at #7 with either Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson or Chance Warmack. Throw in a tight end in round two (Zach Ertz?) or even a running back (Eddie Lacy?) and suddenly they have an offense that looks like it might be able to compete.

They could still draft a quarterback later on as a longer term possibility, but Palmer would provide some veteran leadership in a one or two year rental situation. While it might only produce a six or seven win season for the Cardinals, at least the Arians/Steve Keim era would have some forward momentum. And the Seahawks have shown that starting a new regime with two 7-9 seasons isn’t necessarily a road to constant mediocrity.

One realistic possibility could be the idea of going Fisher/Johnson and then Mike Glennon in round two. Certainly Glennon has the kind of arm strength Arians is used to working with. There’s something to be said for not ‘needing’ to panic at quarterback, however. I think Seattle showed that. You’d have to feel very comfortable about Glennon to go in that direction. And Arians hasn’t really hand-picked Ben Roethlisberger or Andrew Luck, so we don’t know that arm strength is the defining factor here. I doubt the rest of the division would be too concerned about that prospect of facing Glennon, even with Fitzgerald as a target. However, the Cardinals will conduct a private work-out with the NC State quarterback tomorrow.

If the Cardinals do add Palmer, Johnson and Ertz to their offense, it could provide a fourth wheel to the blossoming monster truck named the NFC West. They’d still be favourites to finish 4th in the division, but they’d certainly offer a few blooded noses along the way and re-establish some momentum. Rest assured nobody will be particularly concerned about the Cardinals if they’re starting Drew Stanton at quarterback. And I say that as a fan. But I’m really only a fan because his second name is very similar to mine.

Big day for Barkley

Wednesday is a crucial day for Matt Barkley. After an off-season of constant hand-wringing about his arm strength (can anyone remember the comparison to Kellen Moore a few weeks ago? Who said that again?), he finally gets a chance to gain some momentum.

There’s no doubting he’ll perform well. After all, when’s the last time you heard a negative report from a college pro-day? And despite a lot of negativity around his physical performance in college, I suspect there will be a handful of teams ready to put their stock in his talents.

Don’t count out the Jaguars here. I think there’s an extremely strong chance they’ll move down from #2 with teams like Buffalo looking to get hold of Geno Smith. They could possibly move down again from the #8 range to accumulate further picks. Don’t forget how Carroll and Schneider built their defense in Seattle — the core didn’t come in the first round. The Jaguars could search for role players (LEO, interior size, talented safety) in rounds 2-3.

Gus Bradley will surely be aware of Barkley’s talents having spent a lot of time with Carroll. I have no doubt whatsoever that had Russellmania never happened in Seattle, they’d be targeting Barkley to lead Seattle’s offense. We’ll see what happens. Yet as far as matches go, I think Barkley in Jacksonville isn’t an unrealistic proposition. The hoopla about their presence at the West Virginia pro-day looked a bit of a smoke screen to me (RE: Geno Smith). We’ll see what presence they have at USC on Wednesday.

Simon shines

Ohio State’s John Simon is a favourite on this blog and it was good to see he enjoyed a productive work-out today in front of scouts. He’s been struggling with a slight injury since the Senior Bowl.

If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, here’s a refresher:

Leon McFadden

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Solid, but not spectacular

I’ve had a few people ask me for a review of San Diego State’s Leon McFadden.  Usually when people bring players to my attention I end up as impressed as they were.  Not this time.

First I should be clear, McFadden is not a bad prospect by any means.  But after watching the available game compilations (BYU, Boise St.), I am pretty confident that he’s not what Seattle is looking for.  In two full games, I didn’t see a single “wow” play; the closest being a routine looking pass defensed.

The shortest corner that Seattle has acquired during the Pete Carroll era is Walter Thurmond who stood 5’10¾”.  McFadden checks in at 5’09⅝”, more than an inch shorter than Thurmond.  Only 4 out of 30 corners measured shorter at the combine, and none of them are expected to be drafted high in the draft.  Seattle has made it no secret that they prefer big corners, and McFadden certainly doesn’t meet that criteria.

McFadden possesses decent bulk for his height, and tackles fairly well.  He’s not particularly physical though and can at times struggle off blocks.  There was one play in particular where a quarterback ran past the line of scrimmage at the 16 yard line and ended up scoring a touchdown before McFadden fought off a downfield block in the end zone.  He struggled with blocks in other spots too, but that particular play was pretty damning.

In terms of coverage, San Diego State played him outside and mostly in cushion coverages. His man coverage was competent but he seemed happy to stand completely still in zone- a pretty huge contrast to Robert Alford who was not only far better in man coverage, but also remained active and moved with a plan in zone coverages.

His field speed is decidedly ordinary and at the combine he clocked a very average 4.54.  For comparison’s sake, Byron Maxwell ran an official 4.43 at his combine at 6’1″ 202, and Jeremy Lane clocked 4.48 at his pro-day while standing 6’0″ even.  If Seattle is going to take a corner with 4.54 speed, he’d better stand at least 6’3″ or weigh 220 pounds.  In other words, his speed further disappoints because small players are supposed to be faster to help compensate for their size disadvantages.

There are no certainties in life, but I would be pretty surprised if Seattle selected Leon McFadden.  With below average height and so-so athleticism (including one of the lesser vertical jumps), he’s not a high upside player and he doesn’t really have the tools or even the press coverage experience to satisfy the Seahawks’ requirements.  A team that is willing to overspend on a safe, well rounded corner will select McFadden before Seattle’s 3rd round pick rolls around- another reason why this pick feels unlikely.

Saving money at right tackle & Kyle Long

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Oregon's Kyle Long could be an option at #56

I was half expecting something to happen this weekend. Kam Chancellor getting a new deal. Tony McDaniel signing. Whatever. It’s been as quiet and slow this week as the previous seven days were explosive and enthralling.

John Schneider’s admittance that the next priority is to extend the contracts of their own players suggested something might be close. Maybe this will take a little longer than expected? Once Chancellor gets his new contract (and it’s probably a formality) they’ll see how much cap room remains and plan from there. We could see further cuts as this things get worked out, especially if they also want to offer new deals to Earl Thomas and Golden Tate too.

Until then I guess everything else is on hold. Seattle’s two greatest needs on paper still seem to be defensive tackle and linebacker. They are the only two positions where they’re potentially losing starters.

There’s every chance they’ve identified two replacements in the draft and have an exceptionally strong feeling they’ll land the players they want. After all, they made such plans for Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson last year. Perhaps we’ll see many of the defensive tackles falling into the late second, giving the Seahawks a pool of talent to choose from? Maybe they know a mid-to-late linebacker who’s going to come in and compete for (and possibly win) the starting WILL job?

Or perhaps they feel comfortable with this being a deep class until about the mid-third round and appreciate they’ll get a pretty good player whatever the circumstances?

In that scenario, nothing is out of the question. So while defensive tackle and WILL are holes that need to be filled, they aren’t such striking needs that they simply must be addressed without question on day two of the draft.

We’ve discussed the option of drafting a swing guard/tackle prospect at #56 when I mocked Dallas Thomas to Seattle a couple of weeks ago. I still think they feel good enough about their coaching situation and ability to find players to avoid going offensive line early. I think we could see another raw talent added like J.R. Sweezy. Another project for Tom Cable. Overall there’s already quality depth at guard on the roster and getting a veteran backup tackle isn’t exactly difficult.

The other dynamic though is the constant thought process of planning ahead. Cheap labour is vital for Seattle when they’re making all these exciting moves for Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Golden Tate, Brandon Browner, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright (plus others) all earn a relative pittance. Eventually, some will earn the big bucks. So finding ways to make savings elsewhere will be crucial if the plan is to keep the team intact.

Regular visitors will know I’m a fan of Breno Giacomini. I think he gets a raw deal from fans based purely on a laundry list of penalties early in the 2012 season. The perception stuck that Giacomini wasn’t doing his job. The reality, in my view, was very different. Once he’d cut out the mental errors and penalties, he thrived. Watch him perform against a collection of the league’s best pass rushers and you’ll see what I mean. He had a terrific 2012 season on the whole.

However, regular visitors will also know how often we’ve debated the importance of the right tackle position. A right tackle has the benefit of protecting a quarterback’s strong side, he often gets help from a tight end and they’re mostly judged on their ability to create running lanes. There are still teams (like Seattle) who keep their best pass rusher attacking the blind side. Any right tackle coming up against the Seahawks for example has to pass-protect against Red Bryant for the first two downs. It’s not a premium position and it’s the main reason why so few teams put a lot of emphasis on it. Most people would struggle to name more than five right tackles in the NFL. There’s a reason for that.

I firmly believe you can and should be able to plug guys into that role with good coaching. And yet Breno Giacomini is due to earn $4.25m in 2013 in the final year of his contract.

That’s pretty high.

One way around this could be to sign an extension now, giving Giacomini long-term security while spreading out the cost over (let’s say) a three-year deal. As much as a right tackle can be plugged in, consistency is also key. Keeping the same faces together on the offensive line is one of the best ways to create a productive unit. Five guys have to work as one.

If a new contract doesn’t happen, then Giacomini might be one of the players you can make a saving on down the line. Rather than continue to pay him $4.25m (or a similar amount) you could pay a player drafted with the #56 pick a salary worth $1.2m at it’s highest point. Ohio State tackle Mike Adams was the #56 pick last year (taken by Pittsburgh). His cap hit as a rookie was $644K. He will take up $805K in 2013, $966K in 2014 and $1.12m in 2015. That’s a considerable saving compared to the money Giacomini is earning this season.

Even if Giacomini is willing to take a long term contract to lessen the cap hit, he’s not going to accept a salary as low as the one Mike Adams signed. So even as a self-confessed member of the Breno Giacomini fan-club, I understand a situation where he moves on next year.

The best way to maximise the cap saving would be to draft a rookie next year as a direct replacement. However, this also means a rookie would have to start immediately and that comes with its own pitfalls. Drafting a player this year and using 2013 as preparation could be useful. And it’s the main reason why I’m identifying Kyle Long in this piece.

Most people are aware of his back-story, but here’s a quick summary. He’s the son of Howie and brother of Chris, but actually went to Florida State to play baseball. It’s a little bit odd that he didn’t play football until his sophomore year at High School given his bloodlines, but I’ve not been able to find any information as to why that was. He failed out at FSU and was arrested for a DUI in 2009. Apparently Howie gave him a few home truths during this time and after a year away from sport, he went down the JUCO route and eventually ended up at Oregon where he played tackle and guard.

On tape he looks like a guy with limited football experience. There are occasions where he very clearly struggles to identify what a defense is going to do and this is more evident, perhaps worryingly, against the run. Strangely for a guy with his size and attitude, he’s better in pass protection. Guys like that often get labelled as ‘finesse’ but he’s not what you’d call ‘a technician’. I think he just needs more coaching and more time on the field.

And yet physically he has so much potential and absolutely looks the part at 6-6 and 313lbs. The Seahawks seem to want size not just at defensive tackle, but also on the offensive line. James Carpenter is massive while Giacomini is 6-7. None of the other guys are ‘small’ either. Long could theoretically work as a guard or tackle in Seattle’s scheme. He’s agile and sinks his hips well to get leverage on pass plays. His hand use is relatively good but could still use some improvement. He’s relaxed and confident when defending the edge and does a good job mirroring rushers. One look at his frame and he appears made to play in the NFL — and he has the upper body power to eventually excel against the run. He’s an athlete playing on the offensive line and these days, those guys are rare. It’s why he could still work his way into the early second round.

Given all his issues at Florida State, his lack of experience and the fact he was concentrating on baseball just a few years ago, his rise to prominence is fairly spectacular. If the upward curve continues, you could be looking at a high-value pick — especially for a team that has one of the best in the business working the offensive line.

He seems tailor-made to spend a year with Cable enhancing his skills. The Seahawks were happy to spell Sweezy with John Moffitt last year to give the rookie needed time on the field. Why wouldn’t they do the same between Long and Giacomini? Then in 2014 you have a well prepared athletic specimen to come in at right tackle who is earning $800k instead of $4.2m.

I also get the sense Pete Carroll would buy into the NFL pedigree and ‘name’ value of Long, plus the potential. The only thing that might be holding them back is the evidence they are prepared to search for diamonds in the rough such as Sweezy, lessening the desire to go for offensive lineman early. Yet in many ways drafting Long is a move that makes a lot of sense — especially when it comes to cap room and finances going forward.

Christine Michael

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Talk to the hand.

If there is a story to tell with the 2013 running back class, it’s the high risk / high reward running back.  Marcus Lattimore might be the next Willis McGahee, a terrific talent that had a once bright NFL future cast into uncertainty with an awful injury during his final season.  Knile Davis seemed like a budding megastar in 2010 but missed 2011 from injury and disappointed in 2012.  Christine (pronounced “Kristin”) Michael is a former 5-star recruit that battled injuries and coaches over the last 3 seasons.  While each have tantalizing upside, each could end up leaving the board in the middle rounds despite that.

While I would have personally preferred to draft a receiver instead of trading for Harvin and all the future cap space that went with it, I love the trade for all the extraneous benefits it provides.  It finally gives the team an “out” for Leon Washington.  If the Hall of Fame takes kick returners, Washington is in it, but I never really felt comfortable with the crunch Washington put on our roster by essentially committing one of our few running back spots on someone who was essentially just a special teams player.  Harvin made Washington expendable, and with it our team finally has a 3rd spot open for a real running back.

I suspect that “plan A” for this roster spot is a diverse and explosive talent like Denard Robinson.  I’ve always thought that Robinson would be an amazing situational running back on day one, with the upside of being a return man or receiver down the road.  Seattle has met with Robinson and he’s one of the few players I can guarantee our team covets.  If Robinson isn’t in the cards though, it wouldn’t surprise me if Seattle gave a long look at Christine Michael.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCVqxFeWFoU

Last year I made the mistake of comparing Robert Turbin to Marshawn Lynch.  Both are big, fast, physical backs, but Turbin is more of a home run hitter than an evader.  The zig-zag agility and light feet that Marshawn Lynch runs with are extremely rare for any back, much less for one with his power and determination.  With that in mind, I wouldn’t compare Michael to Lynch either- although I do think his game compares very well to former Seahawk Ahman Greene.  Green was 6’0″, 220 pounds, and ran a ridiculous 40 time unofficially.  Michael is 5’10”, 220 pounds, and ran an official 4.54.  On tape though, he is explosive and has the field speed of a 4.4s type player.

There are plays in every compilation I watched where Michael “wows” with his acceleration through the hole.  This play against Mississippi State, for example (this video also included a Ryan Swope sighting).  Michael relies on that burst so that he can be more patient waiting for the hole to develop, knowing that he has the burst to react rather than being forced to anticipate.

How explosive is Michael?  Vertical jump is measured in part because it is often a strong indicator of short area burst.  At the combine Christine Michael posted a 43″ vertical.  That is not a typo.  He did that in a 220 pound body.  Unsurprisingly, his cone drill and 20 yard shuttle both ranked #1 among all running backs, despite posting an official forty time that was middle of the pack.

As you might expect, the speed, size, and power that Michael brings makes tackling him difficult, as if trying to catch a cannon ball.  Michael doesn’t have the lightest feet, but he has excellent balance similar to Golden Tate or Chris Polk.  That balance allows him to keep plays alive, sometimes for huge gains.  This combination of traits allows him to break tackles with his body and continue for yards after contact.  He has a lot of power and can push a freestanding pile similar to Marshawn Lynch.

Michael has a few minor flaws.  He doesn’t make the sharpest cuts and only really shines with his maneuverability at higher speeds in open spaces.  He’s not likely to be more than an average cutback runner.  He’s more of a north/south guy than a “moves” back.  Michael also has a problem with ball security (another reason for the Ahman Greene comparison).  I didn’t get to see much of him as a blocker, but as a receiver he didn’t seem at all instinctive.

Really, if we are talking about his tape- this guy should be a first or second round pick, without question.  The reason he won’t be is because of his reputation off the field.  He was in the coach’s doghouse at Texas A&M and he even missed two interviews at the combine because he overslept.  Seriously.  In fairness, snippets taken from his interviews show a maturing young man that learned from his mistakes and considers his former A&M coach a “real good friend.”

He also has some injuries in his past- not surprising given his extremely punishing style.  Those past injuries include a broken leg and an ACL.

These issues press a first round talent into the middle round range.  General managers tend to view draft picks as business decisions, and it’s very common to see outstanding talents fall disproportionately far because of high risk- especially if we’re talking character risk.

In a year that figures to have some very exciting options in the middle rounds at running back, Christine Michael is my favorite.  He may not be a complete back, yet, but he also possesses mega-star upside in Tom Cable’s power zone running game.  Seattle can afford the risk and I don’t sense Michael is a problem child too difficult for Carroll to manage.

Robert Alford

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Robert Alford is a master in coverages, yet blunders against the run

After a very impressive Senior Bowl and a strong NFL Scouting Combine performance, Robert Alford has been given some attention on youtube in the last month, meaning we can finally say something meaningful about his NFL prospects and how he fits the Seahawks.  Alford was linked to the Seahawks in the past couple months, over at rotoworld, if memory serves.

What’s interesting about that rumor (which I will post when I find it) is that Alford is not likely to be a late round pick, unlike most of Pete Carroll’s other investments at the position.  Alford ranks 105th on Tony Pauline’s big board (about halfway between our 3rd and 4th rounders), and pre-combine there was a lot of talk that suggested he was a “lock” for the second round.  Then again, a lot of the round two hype was pre-combine when Alford was expected to run in the 4.2s, which he didn’t.  Still, Alford could be a surprisingly early pick in an unpredictable corner group.  Would Seattle take a corner at #56?  That seems unlikely, but with needs being toned down by a strong free agency, Seattle legitimately has the option to go corner early should they choose.

Alford’s game is antipodal in its extremes- almost like a cornerback version of Bruce Irvin.  He is one of the better coverage corners I’ve ever scouted, and is excellent at tracking the ball carrier in run support.  Unfortunately, he’s miserable at making open field tackles or finishing sacks despite showing promise as a blitzer.  For a guy that presses at the line like he’s 6’2″, he tackles like he’s 5’6″.

Southeastern Louisiana used Alford mostly in press.  Alford gets a great press at the line and he can often sustain it for many yards down the field.  Once he releases that press, he has excellent ability to stay in the hip pocket of the receiver.  He has a good sense of knowing when to look back for the football.  Alford played at a low level of competition, but receivers struggled to shake his coverage even slightly.  Alford knows how to look for the football and overall I’d give him close to the highest grade possible in press/man coverage, with the only caveat being his level of competition.

Alford also shines in zone, showing some of the best polish and instincts I’ve seen in a good while.  When he releases a receiver, he continues to move with a plan in mind.  There is never indecision in his zone coverage.  Once he drops a target, he’s already drifting to the next logical one, standing close enough to jump the route on a poor throw.  I really can’t stress enough with words how instinctive and polished he looked while doing this, the term “natural” comes to mind.

Alford explodes in short areas and would be a nice tool to have on corner blitzes.  His instincts at tracking ball carriers is way up there- roughly on par with Manti Te’o.  He knows where runners are going almost before they know it themselves.

It’s so disappointing then that Alford struggles with missed tackles and bad angles in close spaces.  In a lot of ways, you could compare his run support to Zaviar Gooden: shot out of a cannon, but sometimes that velocity causes him to blow by the target.

Alford ran an official 4.39 forty at the combine, one of just five corners to do so.  Alford’s speed translates on the field, though more in the short area than in the long one.  Alford nearly returned a kickoff for a touchdown during the Senior Bowl but was caught from behind by Desmond Trufant, despite the fact that Trufant was only one hundredth of a second faster on his track forty.  That hints at Alford’s field speed being a notch lower than his track performance.

Teams tested Alford in cushion coverages, and to my eye he seemed far less impressive.   Then again, I never really liked conservative cushion coverages and always felt they put the defensive back at a disadvantage on anything other than a deep ball, and Alford isn’t going to be burned on the deep ball.  Seattle would use him in press and in zone, and he looks excellent in both of those.

While Alford’s ability to finish a tackle worries me greatly, I remember the philosophy this front office goes by.  They are always looking for special players who’s best football is still ahead of them.  Alford’s issues certainly seem coachable, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he was coached out of them in year one.  In terms of size and coverage ability, he has some similarities to Walter Thurmond, who is outstanding when healthy.  Alford has that competitive edge that you know Pete Carroll loves.  You always have to be careful when a player is linked to a team- it being lying season and all.  That said, I’ve seen enough to think that Seattle’s rumored interest in him is probably genuine, even if he doesn’t physically impose the way that Browner or Sherman can.

Brice Butler, prepare to be Shermanated

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Pete's USC advantage didn't really show itself last year. It might make a comeback in 2013.

If you are looking for a Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner in this draft, you won’t find one strictly from the corner ranks if sampled from those who appeared at the NFL Scouting Combine.  Browner stands 6’4″, Sherman 6’3″.  The tallest corners at the combine measured exactly 6’2″.  Those players were Tharold Simon and Jonathan Banks, two great players with a pretty fat chance of being 5th rounders.

So why not consider players who might have the potential for a position switch, like Sherman did during his career at Stanford?  Pete was familiar with Sherman from his USC days as he tried to recruit Sherman as a corner, but lost out because Sherman coveted a Stanford education.  Say, who’s another 6’3″ wide receiver with connections to Pete during his days at USC?

The Seahawks could be a possible landing spot for Butler because head coach Pete Carroll knows him well from when he recruited the receiver out of high school as the head coach at USC.

“That whole staff (in Seattle) is almost like my old staff, even down to the strength trainers,” said Butler, who transferred to SDSU for his final year last spring after graduating early from USC. “Coach Carroll knows my worth. He went al lthe way out to Atlanta to recruit me, so I know he has high expectations of me.”

Perhaps Carroll knows something everyone else doesn’t, because the Seahawks’ scout approached Butler on Tuesday with an interesting proposition.

“The Seahawks guy was talking about me playing a little DB, at corner,” Butler said.

The receiver was surprised, but he told Seattle that he wouldn’t be opposed to switching positions if they saw potential in him as a cornerback.

“Because if you’re going to make me change my position, you obviously think I can do it,” said Butler, who hasn’t played defensive back since his senior year of high school, when he was asked to come into a game on defense to cover the opponent’s standout receiver.

“Our guys couldn’t stop him, so they threw me in there for a little bit,” Butler said. “My senior year, I was like a pinch DB. If they really needed it, they put me in.

“But if teams wanted me to do it, I’ll call my dad and have him come train me wherever I’m at.”

After all, his father is former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Bobby Butler.

I think my favorite part of that passage was the tone of eagerness from Butler to rejoin Pete Carroll even if it meant never playing receiver again.  That “can do” attitude will do him a lot of favors.  It probably also helps that Butler clocked the forty at 4.36, a 6.6 in the 3-cone, and a 10’9″ broad jump while 26 NFL teams had representatives in attendance.  That kind of athleticism at 6’3″ could vault him from the ranks of the undrafted all the way into- oh let’s just say- the 5th round.

Once again, tip o’ the cap to Scott for finding this.

Thursday links and notes

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Could this be a guy for Seattle?

Just a few things to keep you up to date…

Tony McDaniel, a free agent defensive tackle, is meeting with the Seahawks today according to Adam Schefter. He’s a former UDFA out of Tennessee (2006) who’s spent time with Jacksonville and Miami. Last year he recorded just a half-sack in limited playing time with the Dolphins, but he had five sacks overall in 2010-11.

He’s had a couple of ugly run-ins with the police. In January 2005 he assaulted a fellow Tennessee student during a game of pick-up basketball. Edward Goodrich suffered four broke bones in the incident and needed a metal plate inserting into his face to repair the injuries. McDaniel pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. Four years later he was arrested on the charge of domestic battery against his girlfriend. The charges were later reduced to disorderly contact, another misdemeanor. He was sentenced to six months probation. He was also required to attend counseling and served a one-game suspension issued by the NFL.

He’s 6-7 and 305lbs. That appears to be Seattle’s preference at defensive tackle. Size. Or more specifically, height. Alan Branch is 6-6, 325lbs. I’m not sure they’re looking for a 340-350lbs space eater. I think they’re looking for a taller tackle with proportionate size who isn’t just a one-trick pony. It’s kind of a unique look. Not a nose tackle, but not a three-technique either.

The thing is, there doesn’t appear to be many players who fit that style in this years draft. John Jenkins is just shorter than 6-4 and weighs a massive 346lbs. He might be too big. Kwame Geathers is 6-5 but again on the big side at 342lbs. I’m struggling to find others.

Maybe there are players in this draft class, such as Sly Williams or a Kawann Short, that go beyond any size ideals? Yet if they are looking for a tall, 315-325lbs — the options aren’t great. Montori Hughes (6-4, 329lbs) fits the criteria. Yet he didn’t look all that special at the Senior Bowl (see below). He’s certainly not a pass rusher at this stage. His pad level is all over the place, while his hand use lacks any real technique. He doesn’t convert speed to power at the snap and often gets beat pretty early during a rush. He does have a lot of core strength though for the run game and this can be harnessed. Short arms (32.5 inches) are a concern though.

He’s also got plenty of his own off-field red flags, including:

– Reportedly being involved in a bar-room altercation involving several members of the Tennessee football team, although he was not charged by police

– Suspended in 2010 for a violation of team academic rules

– Suspended two more times from team activities for unspecified offenses

– Dismissed by Tennessee after a further altercation in a dorm room in 2011

– Coaches at Tennessee questioned his work rate and desire for the game

Like many players who are kicked off a big program, they go to a smaller school (in this case Tennessee-Martin) and knuckle down. There were no fresh incidents with his new team. He’s a former three-star recruit and was also a talented basketball player at Siegel High School. The potential is there. He fits what Seattle is looking for at least in terms of size and hey — they’re speaking to McDaniel with all of his former problems. Maybe they consider Hughes too? The off-field concerns and on-field performance might force him down the board. He’s become a bit of a media favourite this off-season, but that’ll only get you so far. If they feel confident to go after a big tackle later in the draft, Hughes is one to monitor.

Who knows, the plan might be to use Greg Scruggs as a permanent defensive end. According to his Twitter feed, he’s added 10lbs this off-season. That would put him around 295lbs at 6-4.

Pete Carroll spoke to Mike Florio in Arizona this week. There’s an interesting remark on Russell Wilson, where Carroll admits they would’ve taken him in round two if necessary. Yet they felt he’d be around in round three. And they were right. Thankfully.

This is a fine interview by Florio, incidentally. One of the best I’ve seen with Carroll.

According to Mike Sando, the 7th round pick Seattle traded to Minnesota in the Percy Harvin trade was the #214 overall selection. That’s the pick Buffalo gave Seattle for Tarvaris Jackson.

The Seahawks had representation at Cumberland’s pro-day today. They were watching 6-4, 255lbs tight end B.J. Stewart. You can get a look at him here here and here. It’s coaches-copy tape too.

The NFL has released the official draft order as things stand today. You can see it by clicking here.

It was the Stanford pro-day today and Zach Ertz ran a 4.66 according to Tony Pauline. The track is notoriously fast (Coby Fleener ran in the 4.4’s last year). It’s hard to get an angle on Ertz’s stock right now. Could he fall into the late second round? And is he too good to pass at #56?

Georgia also held their pro-day today and Jarvis Jones had a chance to work out for scouts. I guess we know why he skipped the combine after running a reported 4.92. He was never likely to post a lightning quick time, but that’s slower than expected. Some reports say he pulled a hamstring during the run. It’s funny how hamstring injury’s always seem to happen to pass rushers running in the 4.9’s (Jarvis Jones, Damontre Moore…)

Florida State’s pro-day took place earlier in the week. Tank Carradine still didn’t do anything apart from the bench press, but he has an individual work-out scheduled for the week of the draft. I’m still sceptical that a.) he’ll be able to compete that soon after injuring an ACL and b.) it’s the right thing to do. Getting 100% healthy must be his priority, not fitting in a work-out for the sake of it.

Having spent considerable time talking against an offensive lineman being drafted in round one (and let’s be right, it was never likely to happen), I do think the Seahawks will consider a swing tackle/guard on day two of the draft. It’s why I mocked Dallas Thomas at #56 last week. It’d still need to be a value pick — it’s not a big need that must be addressed. But I think it’s something they could consider. Here’s some more Thomas tape vs Florida courtesy of JMPasq:

I found this note interesting from the owner’s meeting this week — Seattle and Philadelphia agreed on a first round trade the day before the draft last year. The Eagles moved up for Fletcher Cox while the Seahawks moved down three spots and took Bruce Irvin. It goes to show two things. One — Seattle didn’t have much interest in Cox. Two — teams have a pretty good idea how things will shake out.

It’s worth keeping a tally on who’s visiting Seattle for a workout. Look at this list of defensive players (compiled by Davis Hsu) who made a pre-draft visit in 2012. There are some familiar names on there.

Players to keep an eye on this year include Louisville running back Jeremy Wright, Tarleton State DE/OLB Rufus Johnson and UCLA long snapper Kevin McDermott. In the two videos below you’ll see Wright competing against Rutgers (it’s also a tape feature for Khaseem Greene, so check him out too) and a highlights package for Johnson. All three players named above are visiting Seattle.

Mock draft Wednesday’s: 20th March

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

If Sly Williams falls into day two, he'd be a great option for Seattle

Most people voted in favour of keeping trades in the mock, so that’s what I’ve done. There are nine in total this week — a comparable amount to what we saw in the first round last year. Looking at this draft class overall I think we’ll see a lot of cheap movement. We might see a handful of deals that go against market value. A lot of the teams picking in the 11-20 range for example might want to move up to fill a certain need. But I can also see a few teams (like Cleveland) that’ll be more than happy to move down.

Buffalo (#8) trades with Jacksonville (#2) for a 2nd round pick + 2014 2nd rounder
The Jaguars sent a convoy to Geno Smith’s pro-day but this looked like a classic smokescreen. They’ll almost certainly look to move down. With Chris Mortensen repeatedly linking Oakland to Geno Smith, this could force potential suitors to act. Buffalo GM Buddy Nix said during the 2012 season that it could be time to move up and get a quarterback. I suspect Smith will go second overall, it’s just a case of which team moves up.

San Diego (#11) trades with Cleveland (#6) for a 2nd round pick
This makes too much sense. The Browns don’t have a second rounder after taking Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft last year. The Chargers need a left tackle badly. Assuming one of Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson is still on the board at #6 — San Diego could move up to get their guy.

Carolina (#14) trades with Arizona (#7) for a 3rd + 5th round pick
The Cardinals need to put down some roots at quarterback. Last year was a farce. And with the possibility of the top-three tackles going early, it takes away their other big need as an alternative. Having said that, they could move down and get the next best available quarterback. Carolina might be prepared to move up and fill a big need at defensive tackle. With Sharrif Floyd still available in this projection, they do just that.

Dallas (#18) trades with Cleveland (#11) for a 3rd + 5th round pick
Jerry Jones has shown a willingness to move up in the draft. The Cowboys are transitioning to a 4-3 and need the pieces to make it work. Jay Ratliff’s latest arrest is a concern and Dallas might be considering moving on. They could move up to get Star Lotulelei. He did everything at his pro-day today and the medical news appears to be positive.

Chicago (#20) trades with Tampa Bay (#13) for a 3rd round pick
The Bears don’t have a ton of needs but they can’t be totally satisfied with their offensive line even after signing Jermon Bushrod. Trading up for a guard is uncommon, but Jonathan Cooper is up there with Chance Warmack and Mike Iupati as players worth taking in this range. Tampa Bay knows it can get a cornerback at #20.

Minnesota (#23) trades with New York (#19) for a 4th round pick
The Vikings have two first round picks and might use one to move up and get a playmaker at receiver. Even after signing Greg Jennings, they could use another X-factor type like Cordarrelle Patterson. The Giants have plenty of defensive options remaining in this scenario and feel comfortable moving down four spots.

Atlanta (#30) trades with Green Bay (#26) for a 4th round pick
With Bjoern Werner falling into the 20’s, Atlanta trades up to get an impact pass rusher. The value at #26 isn’t great for Green Bay’s needs so I’d guess they’ll be willing to move down.

San Francisco (#31) trades with Indianapolis (#24) for a 4th + 5th round pick
The Niners aren’t going to keep 14 rookies on their roster, so it stands to reason that they’ll move up at some point. Datone Jones looks like an ideal fit for their defensive front. Indianapolis, like Green Bay, aren’t going to get value at #24 if they want to target the offensive live. A trade makes sense for both teams. The Colts would probably like to get some extra picks after trading a 2nd round choice for Vontae Davis last season.

Philadelphia (#35) trades with Baltimore (#32) for a 5th round pick
Last year the Buccaneers moved back into the late first to select Doug Martin. Denver traded down for a pittance, knowing they could get Derek Wolfe on day two. We could see something similar here. The Eagles re-signed Michael Vick but he’s not the future. Neither is Nick Foles in this offense. E.J. Manuel is trending upwards.

Seattle’s pick in round two is fairly straightforward. It appears they are concentrating on re-signing Kam Chancellor and maybe also Earl Thomas and Golden Tate. We’ll see how much cap room they have left when those talks are concluded. If they’re unable to sign a free agent defensive tackle, it becomes a big need in the draft. And if Sylvester Williams drops to #56 he has to be an option. His age (25 year old rookie) will put some teams off. The depth at tackle is also likely to push some attractive options down the board.

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First round

#1 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
Their reported willingness to discuss a trade for Branden Albert makes this a formality.
#2 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
Buddy Nix said it was time to move up and get their quarterback.
#3 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
They need to build a foundation. Jordan has as much talent as anyone in this draft.
#4 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan)
Having made significant moves to boost the defense in free agency, they now concentrate on the offensive live.
#5 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
With Joeckel and Fisher off the board, they take the best corner.
#6 Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma)
Having seen Joeckel and Fisher leave the board, they don’t wait to see if Johnson will be there at #11.
#7 Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
Perhaps Carolina’s biggest need. They pay a big price to jump ahead of Jacksonville.
#8 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
He’s too good to pass up.
#9 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
Rex Ryan’s future beyond 2013 is unclear, so go back to running the ball. A solid pick with no long term issues if there’s a coaching change.
#10 Ziggy Ansah (DE, BYU)
Someone is likely to take a chance on Ansah in the top-ten.
#11 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
The Cowboys are transitioning to a 4-3 and need an interior presence. Jerry Jones is not afraid to move up. This is health permitting.
#12 Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
The Dolphins could do with improving their secondary.
#13 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Ok, they signed Jermon Bushrod. They still need to keep building that line. And I think they know it.
#14 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
After moving down for an extra two, they get their quarterback of the future.
#15 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
Some teams will still be cautious, but if Jones’ back injury really isn’t as serious as feared — he should be a top-15 pick.
#16 Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
They want weapons on offense. Here’s a weapon.
#17 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
Pittsburgh needs a linebacker and someone will roll the dice on his talent.
#18 Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
After trading down twice to accumulate picks, the Browns get a tight end for Rob Chudzinski.
#19 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
Rather than hang about, Minnesota moves up to secure Patterson.
#20 Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB, Connecticut)
I just have a hunch there will be teams who rate this guy very highly.
#21 D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama)
I’m not a fan personally, but then I was never really a fan of Andre Smith either.
#22 Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
With Steven Jackson in Atlanta, they need another big, physical runner to win in the NFC West.
#23 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
He drops a bit and New York halts his slide.
#24 Datone Jones (DE, UCLA)
The Niners need to bolster that defensive front and they have the picks to move up.
#25 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Rick Spielman has already hit on two other Notre Dame players. Will he try and make it a hat-trick?
#26 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
The Falcons move up to get an impact pass rusher.
#27 Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State)
One of the hardest players to judge this year. Something puts me off this guy, despite the size and speed.
#28 Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington)
They need to improve a porous secondary.
#29 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
He could be Tom Brady’s new best friend.
#30 Robert Woods (WR, USC)
They move down and grab a pass-catcher. This is a need considering they’ve lost both Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
#31 Justin Pugh (G, Syracuse)
Maybe Indy’s biggest need?
#32 E.J. Manuel (QB, Florida State)
Like Tampa Bay last year (Doug Martin) the Eagles manufacture a cheap trade to move back into round one.

Second round

#33 Jacksonville – Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
#34 San Francisco- Jonathan Cyprien (S, Florida International)
#35 Baltimore – Matt Elam (S, Florida)
#36 Detroit – Tank Carradine (DE, Florida State)
#37 Cincinnati – Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
#38 Arizona – Menelik Watson (T, Florida State)
#39 New York Jets – Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
#40 Tennessee – Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)
#41 Jacksonville – Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse)
#42 Miami – Larry Warford (G, Kentucky)
#43 Tampa Bay – Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
#44 Carolina – Johnthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#45 Cleveland – Mike Glennon (QB, NC State)
#46 St. Louis – D.J. Swearinger (S, South Carolina)
#47 Dallas – Travis Frederick (C, Wisconsin)
#48 Pittsburgh – Johnthan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
#49 New York Giants – John Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
#50 Chicago – Keenan Allen (WR, Syracuse)
#51 Washington – Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
#52 Minnesota – Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
#53 Cincinnati – Jonathan Franklin (RB, UCLA)
#54 Miami – Jamar Taylor (CB, Boise State)
#55 Green Bay – Giovanni Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
#56 Seattle – Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
#57 Houston – Ryan Swope (WR, Texas)
#58 Denver – Phillip Thomas (S, Fresno State)
#59 New England – Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
#60 Atlanta – D.J. Hayden (CB, Houston)
#61 San Francisco – Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
#62 Baltimore – Jamie Collins (LB, Southern Miss)

Picking up the pieces: Offense

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Brennan Williams could be our "ultimate warrior." He likes the face paint part at least.

Quarterback

Seattle is looking for a read-option capable quarterback backup quarterback.  In my opinion, there are only three of them among the well known names:  Geno Smith, EJ Manuel, and Matt Scott.  I think Smith is under-rated in media circles and I would be surprised if he’s not a top five pick, but that’s a discussion for a different time.  There were whispers that Manuel was a potential top 15 pick in the 2013 draft a year ago, similar to the kind of early hype Ryan Tannehill got.  Given Manuel’s physical gifts and obvious parallels as a prospect to Colin Kaepernick, don’t be shocked if he ends up going somewhere in the first round.

Matt Scott is a favorite of mine and I had been waiting for the right time to explain why I think he’d be great for us.  Unfortunately, word surfaced shortly after the combine that Matt Scott is a much more popular prospect with scouts and coaches than media types portrayed him, and his status has probably been elevated to a late 2nd round or early 3rd round type pick.  Unless Seattle drafts Matt Scott at #56 overall, they probably aren’t getting him.  That obviously isn’t happening, and if I had to bet, I’d keep an eye on Jacksonville in the 3rd round if they don’t select Geno Smith #2 overall.  Their quarterbacks coach is reportedly a huge Matt Scott proponent.  Since Matt Scott probably won’t be a Seahawk, I’ll have to put that post on the back burner and see if I run out of more relevant prospects to talk about first.

I like Tyler Wilson especially as a backup, but calling him a read option capable quarterback feels debatable, and will he fall far enough in the draft for Seattle to consider him?  Something tells me that quarterback probably isn’t a first four rounds priority.

After that, there isn’t much.

I’ve cut against the grain in the past for several quarterbacks that were dismissed out of hand by the majority, including Russell Wilson.  I’m not afraid of standing alone for a player I see potential in.  That said, Marqueis Gray won’t get that endorsement from me, he’s just simply not a quarterback.  Even his own team had him playing receiver near the end.  Gray had more rushes than pass attempts last season.  Having watched him some, I’m not even sure if he checked his first read before running half the time, much less a second.  His mobility looks less impressive than his 4.72 forty time as well.  And now I’ve already wasted too many words on him.  I’d put Denard Robinson in this category as well.

John Skelton was cloned and renamed Zac Dysert.  Dysert has good arm talent and can make throws from within the grasp, but locks onto receivers and has slow feet no matter what his forty time might indicate.  Like Skelton, he’s capable of annoying you with fluke plays, but eventually reality will crash down on him.  I personally do not view him as a read option capable quarterback.

Tyler Bray… moving on.  Not a mobile quarterback.  He’d be a great pick for Cincy as a backup- as he reminds me of a poor man’s Andy Dalton.

Colby Cameron is cited by some since he has read option experience and didn’t embarrass himself in the forty.  Cameron has a lot of problems though.  He officially weighed in at just 212 pounds, but I would guess that he played around 200 flat.  He has a very skinny frame that does not look conducive to taking hits.  He also has a sidearm release and at just 6’2″ that could result in a very high number of batted passes and accuracy problems.  He has a big windup on his throws- though like Colin Kaepernick coming out of Nevada- he compensates for a very inefficient motion with a ton of arm speed.  Cameron’s overall technique isn’t pretty.  I feel like I see players like Cameron every year and they never last in the NFL, much less turn into impact starters.

There are things I do like about Cameron though.  He plays the game at a very fast pace, a rare quality.  He has solid footspeed on the field, somewhere between Jay Cutler and Tony Romo levels.  He has an impressive feel for the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield, and he showed himself capable of checking through multiple reads, then tucking to run after completing several reads.  He can change reads quickly, though he isn’t as smooth at checking reads as guys like Russell Wilson or Matt Barkley.

There is enough to like that Seattle might consider him, but I’m worried enough about his mechanics, accuracy, and lack of durability potential to pass on him if the choice were mine.

Then you have BJ Daniels who I highlighted yesterday.  If you detected a tone of excitement in that post, it was partially from a sense of relief that I found a worthwhile consideration in an otherwise desolate landscape for late round read option quarterbacks.

It is possible that Seattle does not draft a read option quarterback this year.  After all, John Schneider said his “primary model” included keeping Matt Flynn.  If he does, the pressure to add a quarterback is lessened.

If Seattle does draft a quarterback, I could see five possibilities:  Tyler Wilson if he tanks, Matt Scott if he doesn’t go as early as speculated, Colby Cameron if they feel comfortable with his flaws, BJ Daniels if they are okay with having two short quarterbacks.  That’s four, with the fifth option being a quarterback that essentially nobody knows about- ala Josh Portis in 2011.

Would Seattle spend a high pick on a quarterback?  That strikes me as unlikely, though it would become a little less unlikely if Matt Flynn is traded.

Wide Receiver

There was a tone of excitement in John Schneider’s voice when he acquired Stephen Williams on a dirt cheap two year contract earlier this winter.  Some of you might be asking “Williams who?”  Williams had been a failed member of Arizona’s wide receiver corps; you might say he was their version of Ricardo Lockette.  That said, you know else was a castoff from an NFC West team in recent times?  Danario Alexander.  Alexander had a monster second half of the season in 2012, and finished #1 in the NFL in yards per target.  Alexander proved to be one of the NFL’s most explosive deep threats, even if just for half of one season.  Williams has very similar height/weight/speed/potential to Alexander.  Maybe Williams is another Lockette, or maybe he’s another Alexander minus the injuries.  All I know is, John Schneider was pretty geeked about acquiring him.  “We got him!”   Those were his exact words as I recall.

Ahead of Williams on the depth chart is the following crew:  Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Doug Baldwin.  John Schneider recently admitted that wide receiver was not a need this offseason, but they just felt Harvin was too good an opportunity to say “no” to.   Would Seattle pass on this excellent receiver class as a result?  Maybe, but then again, we have ten draft picks.  What’s the harm in trying to jump on a value pick here and there?

As much as I’d love to get Ryan Swope at #56, that feels unlikely, unless Seattle feels they are likely to lose Golden Tate to unrestricted free agency in 2014.  I think our best bet is later in the draft for tall receivers to compete with Williams, guys like Mark Harrison or Rodney Smith.  I prefer Harrison, but Smith has some yards after catch ability and great measurables, so he’s worth keeping an eye on as well.

Tight End

I think Seattle is very comfortable with Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy as a starting duo.  That said, I do think tight end could be an early priority for a few reasons.  The first is that Seattle will run into cap problems next season, and that could force them to approach Zach Miller with a restructure, and that carries a strong risk of having to release him.  Having a guy like Zach Ertz or another starter option gives Seattle leverage, and an insurance policy if the team is forced to terminate Miller’s contract.

The second is that Seattle doesn’t truly have a “joker” type tight end that is versatile enough to play several roles on offense.  Chris Gragg, Vance McDonald, Jordan Reed, Dion Sims, Nick Kasa, Luke Wilson and Jake Stoneburner are some examples.   Luke Wilson in particular could be a guy to keep an eye on since he’s almost more of a Riley Cooper type receiver than a true tight end.  I’m lukewarm on Luke Wilson as a prospect, but he does strike me as a “Seahawky” pick at tight end.

My favorite tight end is Tyler Eifert.  I was just about to give him a glowing writeup the day of the Harvin trade.  Without a first round pick, we probably don’t have much chance to get him.  His overall game is excellent but it’s his jump ball ability that I think would be a devastating weapon in our offense with Russell Wilson.  If he somehow slides into round two, I would love to see the Seahawks make a dramatic move up the board to get him.

Zach Ertz will probably be an early to mid 2nd rounder.  In a draft that has close to 100 players carrying round two grades, not to mention a very competitive tight end group, it’s conceivable that he could reach the #56 pick.  I’d be a big fan of that pick as well.

Tight end is one of the positions in this draft where I could see Seattle grabbing one almost anywhere.

Running back

With the departure of Leon Washington there’s a new opening on Seattle’s roster at running back.  Seattle has an interesting choice to make here, as there are some interesting bell-cow type backs in this draft with question marks.  Marcus Lattimore and Knile Davis in particular.  Seattle has the roster spot and lack of urgency required to draft Lattimore and stash him until his leg heals.  Knile Davis is a gamble but his upside in a power zone is astronomical.  He has some Terrell Davis type tape from his 2010 season, and his combine measurables are almost identical to Ahman Green’s.  Both backs were 6’0″, 220, and ran a shockingly good forty time.

I don’t think Giovanni Bernard reaches the 56th pick, but if he did, I wouldn’t complain about selecting him.  He has excellent smoothness and speed but is also tough and smart- he reminds me a little of Doug Martin last year.  Utah State’s Kerwynn Williams is a similar player.  Cierre Wood had a nice career at Notre Dame and posted decent enough combine numbers, but appears to be destined for the late rounds.  I think he’d be a great pickup as his game reminds me of Chris Polk.  He’d give Seattle a well rounded, versatile player.

I think the most likely option is that Seattle targets a dynamic and versatile player for that 3rd running back spot- with Denard Robinson being the front runner.  Robinson has elite speed with excellent rushing talent, and might develop into a Percy Harvin type receiver with time.  He can also return kicks.  He’s about as Seahawky a pick as any in this draft.  If Seattle took him in round three I would not be shocked, though I would hope they get him later.

Maybe they draft a Vai Taua type that can play both running back and full back.  Michael Robinson is 30 years old and the fullback position means a lot to our offense.  In fact, maybe Seattle just drafts a second fullback outright.  It’s very hard to predict what Seattle could do here.  Which I guess is a good thing, because having more options means more opportunity.

Offensive line

Seattle is set at center with Max Unger and Lemuel Jeanpierre.

Seattle’s situation at guard is unsettled but make no mistake, Seattle has talent there.  JR Sweezy progressed much faster than anyone could have possibly envisioned.  He is already a very good run blocker with elite second level blocking ability.  He has elite athleticism (outperforming prospects like Matt Khalil in agility drills) and also has long 34″ arms for good measure.  He makes a lot of mistakes in pass protection, but the future is very bright for Sweezy and I would expect him to be an asset next season.  John Moffitt is a technician, not a juggernaut.  He won’t blow you away but I noticed him creating several instrumental blocks on rushing touchdowns last season.  I’d feel comfortable grading him as an average guard last year.  James Carpenter has a ton of power and pulls well, he reminds me of the kinds of guards the 49ers have.  He just needs to stay healthy and stay in shape.  Rishaw Johnson showed a lot of promise as a road grader type last preseason.  Paul McQuistan had a solid year starting at left guard.  Overall, I think we are set at guard at least for 2013.

For the most part I am content with Breno Giacomini.  A lot of his negative value comes from his penalty issues early in the season, but he seemed to improve on that area by the end of the season.  He is a force in the running game, and he’s had some notable victories against top shelf pass rushers.  That said, both Giacomini and McQuistan are free agents after this season, and Frank Omiyale is a yet unclaimed free agent right now.  Drafting an offensive tackle as an upgrade makes sense.  Not only as an upgrade, but as a way of saving some cap space that will be desperately needed next offseason.

Tom Cable’s preference so far has been for very tall offensive lineman that generally weigh less.  Athleticism, power, and nastiness are emphasized over pass protection and polish.

My favorite, easily, is Menelik Watson.  Unfortunately it’s looking like a poor showing at the combine can’t keep him out of the first round.  That’s too bad, because his athleticism and power on tape is eye-popping.  Less impressive tackles have gone top ten in previous drafts.

Terron Armstead is a small school option that tore up the combine and looks like a developmental type with a lot of power and quickness.  I like that he wears my number.  We haven’t had a #70 worth remembering since Michael Sinclair.

Brennan Williams is massive, powerful and very athletic.  He’s 6’6″, 318.  He doesn’t show a ton of nastiness in his play and has a problem with his hand placement, but I could easily see him being picked by the Seahawks in the early to mid rounds for his physical gifts alone.  Williams was as high as #5 overall in a September mock draft on this very site.  As Rob mentioned, Brennan Williams is the son of former Seahawk defensive lineman Brent Williams.

Jordan Devey doesn’t look athletic on tape, but he tested surprisingly well at the combine.  He checks in at 6’7″ and 317 pounds.  Devey plays with a nasty streak and is adept at getting defenders on the ground.  Lumbering but powerful and probably a little too nasty for his own good at times, he reminds me of a taller Richie Incognito.  Devey will likely go undrafted.

John Wetzel needs to be coached up some but he has very quick feet for someone in a 6’7″, 315 pound body.  He has a ton of strength too and plays with a chip on his shoulder.  Not a ton of stuff out there, but what I’ve seen of him strikes me as a Tom Cable type.  Like Devey he’s not the fastest guy but he has a lot of power.  Wetzel will likely go undrafted.

And of course, you have Jordan Mills, who was linked to the Seahawks, a team that might draft him “earlier than you’d think.”

There are many more offensive tackles, and I’ll probably break them down three at a time over the next six weeks.  Those are just a few I thought I’d mention.

Fitting it all together

Here is a rough guess of what John Schneider’s draft pockets might look like on offense right now:

Quarterback: Very late rounds unless someone like Matt Scott or Tyler Wilson tumbles.

Wide Receiver: Rounds 5-7, barring an extreme value opportunity.

Tight End: Rounds 2-5.  A good tight end class creates incentive for Seattle to grab one relatively early.

Running Back: Rounds 5-7, barring a draft steal falling into their lap.

Offensive tackle: Rounds 2-5.  Adding a second one in the 7th or later as competition is possible.

Kicker: Maybe in the 7th.  We’ll see.

There will be surprises, but in a predictable world, Seattle’s draft plan might look something like this (combining the draft pockets from both offense and defense):

Round 2: Defensive tackle, Offensive tackle, Tight End, Corner is a fringe possibility, as is a pass rusher if someone like Corey Lemonier is there.

Round 3: Defensive tackle, Offensive tackle, Tight End, Corner is a fringe possibility

Round 4: Defensive tackle, Offensive tackle, Tight End, Corner, Safety, Linebacker

Round 5: Offensive tackle, Tight End, Corner, Safety, Linebacker, Receiver, Running back

Round 6: Corner, Safety, Linebacker, Receiver, Running back

Round 7: Remaining needs and value selections

As you can see, this is a really wide open draft for Seattle so it isn’t easy to narrow things down much.  That said, I think it’s pretty likely that Seattle will go defensive tackle, offensive tackle, and tight end with their first three picks, though there will be room for surprises depending on how the board falls in each round.  I think Seattle will probably draft a cornerback later, but their interest in Robert Alford hints at it being a surprisingly early possibility.  I think Seattle will probably bypass LEO given the additions they’ve made on a crunched roster, but I wouldn’t rule it out if an unexpected value falls in their lap.

Robert Woods is extremely underrated

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Most underrated player in the draft? Probably

This piece was partly inspired by a reader comment on Sunday. ‘Bobk333′ wrote in the Gavin Escobar article that he considered Robert Woods the most underrated player in the draft, stating:

Woods has all the markings of a *great* – as in all-pro, as in hall-of-fame potential – NFL receiver. Speed is important for an NFL wideout, but the importance has been taken to the extreme. Skill in catching the ball, running routes, fooling defenders, along with intelligence, timing and body control, are more important than raw speed in the 40-yd dash. Woods reminds me of skilled, smooth, intelligent, crafty receivers like Lynn Swann, Jerry Rice and Steve Largent who had extraordinary hands and extraordinary attitudes, who were hard working and ran perfect routes with perfect body position, with the god-given talent of being to fool defenders with seemingly minimal effort.

Robert Woods is the Russell Wilson of this year’s draft. He has the most potential for greatness not only among the receivers but among all the players coming out this year.

It’s easy to forget just how highly rated Woods became before Marqise Lee burst onto the scene at USC. He exploded as a true freshman and started his sophomore year putting up crazy numbers. 17 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota, 14 catches for 255 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona, twelve catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame. He was on fire.

Yet as Lee emerged as a true freshman in 2011, Woods’ role diminished. By 2012 he was no longer the focal point of the passing attack And while he still had some big games, it was Marqise Lee making the headlines and breaking the records.

When Woods declared for the 2013 NFL draft, he delivered the following knockout quote: “If the coaches wanted to keep me another year they would have probably got me the ball.”

He’s since claimed he was mis-quoted and I’m told even tweeted the reporter who wrote the story to make that point.

The point is, Marqise Lee is probably going to be a top-15 pick one day. He is insanely talented. That’s what people were saying about Woods. His stock appears to have fallen simply because USC had two studs for Matt Barkley to throw to instead of one. Let’s say Lee commits to another college team. If Woods continued his strong production from early 2011, he would’ve probably won a Biletnikoff by now. He’d be the superstar receiver in Southern Cal. And his stock would probably be much higher.

He ran two unofficial 4.44’s at the combine (later moved to a 4.5 officially). He’s not Tavon Austin, but he’s certainly faster than a lot of the other receivers at the combine. He looked good at 6-0 and 201lbs. In many ways he’s Percy Harvin-lite. I suspect Pete Carroll saw that comparison physically. He maybe saw a little Percy in Robert Woods.

If you look at mock drafts these days you’ll see Woods in the second or third round range. I still think he could and maybe should be a first round pick. And if you can get him any later than that, make the pick and feel good about it. Would I consider him at #56? Sure. Why not? Sometimes you just can’t look a gift-horse in the mouth. The Seahawks don’t need an army of receivers in the 5-10-6-1 range, but they do need as much talent as they can find. Woods will improve any roster.

Watch the first video below and the first thing that stands out to me is his competitive nature. The athleticism is there for everyone to see. He can run, he can make plays. Yet it’s the way he competes in the air that’s so impressive and may attract him to Seattle despite their depth at receiver.

0:21 – he makes a difficult grab over the middle in tight coverage, high pointing the ball and showing strong hands with a defender draped all over him.

2:06 – Barkley makes a high throw off his back foot. Woods knows he’s going to get drilled, but makes a fingertip grab. Despite a suplex from the UCLA defensive back, he somehow maintains possession of the ball.

2:40 – Woods lays out over the middle, diving at full stretch to make an athletic catch. Again, he risked his own health (defender also diving for it) to get the first down.

3:17 – This is one of the best touchdowns you’ll see from the 2012 season. I still don’t know how he completes this catch at the back of the end zone. He was well covered (so much so, the ref’s called pass interference) and showed such amazing concentration, hands and body control. Superb.

4:29 – Another example of high pointing the football, showing complete control through the catch and not hearing footsteps from the defensive back.

6:28 – Thrown over the middle. Woods is being tackled in mid-air before the ball even arrives. No problem. He still maintains concentration, corrals the football and makes a first down.

There are other throws in the videos below where you’ll see further evidence of a guy who plays with a spark. He competes to make difficult grabs. He’s not 6-4 and 220lbs, but he plays above his listed height and weight. I like the way he reacts after a catch. He’s pumped up. It’s an all-round attitude that’ll serve him well at the next level.

Can he be a #1 receiver? I believe he can. I think he can run any route, make any play. I think immediately he’ll be a threat as a kick returner while also fitting into a NFL offense. When a play breaks down he finds a way to give his quarterback an option — an underrated feature not often talked about with college players. Woods shows strong hands (not too much of a body catcher) and he can make plays away from his frame.

He’s not a flawless player by any means — he had frustrating days at USC with occasional mental errors. He lacks the truly elite size. While Harvin has shown the ability to run away from players with ease, Woods struggles to go up through the gears quickly. He won’t be a big time YAC threat or a great downfield receiver. He’s not a home run hitter.

However, he’s suddenly plummeting down draft boards because he’s unfashionable. He’s a USC guy (when did that become such a negative?) without prototype size. Whatever. He should be in the early second round discussion at worst. I’d happily spend a pick in the late first to get him on my team if I needed a receiver. At any stage beyond that the value seems too good to pass.

If he does fall as far as #56 (perhaps unrealistic) the Seahawks could be ready to pounce. By 2014 Sidney Rice’s contract might be untenable. We don’t know whether Golden Tate will be retained (he’s a free agent after 2013) or whether Doug Baldwin can continue to factor in the offense. Even despite the Harvin trade, it’s not ridiculous for Seattle to consider drafting another playmaking receiver. Planning ahead is going to be crucial for this team to stay ahead of the curve. The eventual savings made by replacing Rice, Zach Miller and others on the cheap will help keep some of the teams underpaid stars in Seattle.

I can see a future where Harvin and Woods are Russell Wilson’s answer to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. For those wondering, both Harrison and Wayne are 6-0. And yet they created a dynamic combination for Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. I see no reason why Harvin and Woods cannot do the same in Seattle. Frankly I doubt he does make it to #56. Personally, I hope he does. And I hope the Seahawks are ready to take advantage if it happens, even with needs elsewhere.

As Bobk333 said on Sunday, he might be this years answer to Russell Wilson. He might be the most underrated player in the 2013 draft.