Archive for March, 2013

Mock draft Wednesday’s: 6th March (trade edition)

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Today I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. A mock draft with trades.

Considering the fruitless nature of trying to predict 32 picks anyway, I thought I might as well throw in a few deals to change the angle of the debate.

There’s a good chance we’ll see 8-10 trades in the first round this year, giving the whole thing a completely different feel. There’s no fear factor over acquiring early picks since the new CBA was installed. Teams are more than happy to move up. And I think we’ll see a few significant moves in 2013.

Let’s put it this way — there are no obvious elite picks this year. No Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Jadeveon Clowney or even Cam Newton. So what we could see are teams with needs at the premium positions moving up in cheap(ish) deals to make sure they don’t leave empty handed. Teams who are comfortable at quarterback or left tackle could conceivably be willing to move down given the defensive depth in this draft.

Below you’ll find today’s mock including all the deals (trades are highlighted by ** after the players name). At the bottom of the piece I’ve listed the nine different trades I included with a short blurb for each.

First round

#1 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
They try and trade down, but why would you need to get ahead of Jacksonville? Dion Jordan + Tamba Hali = a way to stop Peyton Manning.
#2 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia) **
Buddy Nix said his team might have to move up this year to get their guy. They trade ahead of Oakland to secure Geno Smith.
#3 Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
With Geno Smith off the board they take the best defensive lineman available.
#4 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama) **
Martin Mayhew makes sure he gets a complete cornerback by swapping picks with Philly.
#5 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan) **
It’s easy to forget what a shambles Philly’s offensive line was last year. Having convinced Detroit to swap picks, they take Fisher at #5.
#6 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M) **
Sensing an opportunity, San Diego trades up to nail the left tackle position indefinitely.
#7 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
After the fiasco of 2012, don’t expect Arizona to do anything but draft a quarterback here.
#8 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah) **
Assuming he checks out medically, Lotulelei could play the one or five technique in Gus Bradley’s defense.
#9 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
The Jets might play it safe with the long term future of Rex Ryan unclear. Go back to the run on offense. Start by drafting Warmack.
#10 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Not the flashiest pick but Tennessee’s pass rush isn’t as bad as people think.
#11 Ziggy Ansah (DE, BYU) **
They could’ve taken him at #6 but they still get their guy despite moving down.
#12 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
Werner won’t fall too far. He makes a nice partner for Cameron Wake.
#13 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri) **
Monte Kiffin loves this guy, so the always-aggressive Jerry Jones moves up again.
#14 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
Disappointed that Richardson is off the board, they address a different need at receiver instead.
#15 Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma) **
Unless they sign Jake Long, they need to be aggressive to get a blind-side blocker. They have to consider trading up.
#16 Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
They want weapons on offense. Here’s a weapon.
#17 Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
This is a nice fit for player and team.
#18 Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State) **
They can move down a few spots and still get a cornerback.
#19 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
Some team will bite on Ogletree in the top-20
#20 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU) **
Trading down five spots doesn’t hurt the Saints — they still get an edge rusher for the 3-4.
#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)
If they’re losing Steven Jackson, then they’ll need a big, physical runner to compete in the NFC West.
#23 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?
#24 Datone Jones (DT, UCLA) **
They have enough picks to target a defensive lineman and move up.
#25 Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee) **
With the pick they got from Atlanta for trading Revis, the Jets trade above Green Bay to get a much needed receiver.
#26 Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
Donald Driver’s retired, Jermichael Finley might be cut and Greg Jennings is a free agent. They could go for a pass catcher here.
#27 Kevin Minter (LB, LSU)
Solid, productive inside linebacker.
#28 Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington)
After a horror show in the playoffs, Denver needs to re-boot that secondary.
#29 Menelik Watson (T, Florida State) **
They need a tackle almost as much as they need a quarterback. Trading up to address the gaping hole at left tackle is a must.
#30 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia) **
Stenosis could lead to a fall. Working out where he goes is like trying to finish a Rubik’s cube.
#31 Travis Frederick (G, Wisconsin) **
They need to bulk up the interior offensive line.
#32 Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
Should they lose Paul Kruger in free agency, finding an edge rusher will become a priority.

There are nine trades in this week’s mock:

1 – Atlanta trades #30 and a conditional 2014 pick to New York for Darrelle Revis

Thomas Dimitroff is no stranger to big moves (see: Julio Jones). Long before the draft they win the Revis sweepstakes by giving the Jets a first round pick this year and throwing in a conditional second rounder for 2014.

2 – Buffalo trades up from #8 to #2 with Jacksonville (estimated compensation – second round pick)

With Oakland speculated to be showing interest in Geno Smith, the Bills could be pro-active to make sure they get their man. GM Buddy Nix has openly admitted this might be the year to make it happen at the quarterback position. Jacksonville can afford to move down and still improve their pass rush. They have a lot of needs, so acquiring the #41 pick to go with the #33 in round two makes sense.

3 – Detroit trades up from #5 to #4 with Philadelphia (estimated compensation, late round pick)

The Lions make sure they get Milliner by flipping picks with the Eagles for minimal compensation. Philly could use a cornerback, but they might have their eye on other needs. That won’t stop them attempting to lull the Lions into a deal. Minnesota successfully scared Cleveland into swapping picks last year for Trent Richardson. It’s a small price to pay to get your guy.

4 – San Diego trades up from #11 to #6 with Cleveland (estimated compensation, third round pick plus)

With Luke Joeckel still on the board and the Chargers wondering what Arizona will do, they move up to secure a much needed left tackle. Cleveland hasn’t got a second round selection so accumulating another pick in round three makes sense. This would be a good deal for both parties, win-win.

5 – Dallas trades up from #18 to #13 with Tampa Bay (estimated compensation, mid rounder)

Jerry Jones is always willing to be aggressive on draft day. Monte Kiffin was equally aggressive in trying to get Sheldon Richardson to de-commit from Missouri and switch to USC. They need to get the right players to make this switch to a 4-3 work. Richardson surely won’t get past Carolina at #14? Tampa Bay can still get a corner at #18 while also hurting a division rival if the Panthers are targeting Richardson. It could make for a cheap trade with Dallas.

6 – Chicago trades up from #20 to #15 with New Orleans (estimated compensation, mid/late round package)

Unless they want to make a move for Jake Long next week, the Bears are running out of options to protect Jay Cutler. If they see Fisher, Joeckel, Warmack and Cooper leave the board in the top ten, they better get ready to move up. The Saints are down on picks due to the bounty scandal so might be willing to talk about a trade. St. Louis could take Johnson at #16 while other teams (Cincinnati?) may also show interest. Trading up eliminates the competition for Chicago.

7 – San Francisco trades up from #31 to #24 with Indianapolis (estimated compensation, mid rounder)

The 49ers know they need to bolster their defensive front and have enough picks to make a deal. Datone Jones could have a big impact at the five technique and might be the heir apparent for Justin Smith. San Francisco will suspect interest from Seattle, and you just know Harbaugh would love to get one over the Seahawks here. If Indianapolis is looking seriously at Travis Frederick, they can probably afford to trade down first.

8 – New York trades up from #30 to #25 with Seattle (estimated compensation, late rounder)

John Idzik rings his old buddies in Seattle and works out a ‘mates rates’ trade. The Jets need a pass rusher, but they also need to kick start a rank bad offense. Justin Hunter is trending upwards after the combine and could be a target for Green Bay. The Jets swoop in first. Without much competition for pass rushers in the late first round, the Seahawks can afford to move down even if the deal isn’t great (eg, 4th or 5th rounder).

9 Arizona trades up from #38 to #29 with New England (estimated compensation, mid round pick plus)

The Cardinals know they have to get a left tackle and the options remaining are running thin. Similar to Tampa Bay going up to get Doug Martin last year, Arizona takes no chances here and makes a move at the end of day one. Menelik Watson is the best option available and they get the job done so they can relax over night. New England — despite moving up twice in round one last year — always appear willing to move down.

So what about the Seattle’s first pick?

In this scenario, I’m projecting they would’ve shown serious interest in Datone Jones until San Francisco moved up to get him. Accessing that there are still plenty of options at defensive end, tackle, tight end and receiver, the opportunity to move down appears attractive. The new-found connections in New York help things along.

It really came down to two players at #30 — Jarvis Jones and Corey Lemonier.

For the last few weeks, I’ve had Jones dropping out of the first round. This isn’t a wishful attempt to give the Seahawks one of biggest names in the draft. I think we’ve gone through enough different options so far to make that a moot point.

I do believe he’ll suffer a fall on draft day. Stenosis is a bad word in the NFL. While some teams will be willing to take a chance (they always are) others will be wary of the condition making it a short-term investment. Teams picking in the top-20 will have alternatives. It’s just a case of which team is going to take the chance and at what point in the draft.

If he falls into the late first, the Seahawks might be the team. Yes — Pete Carroll has the whole USC history with Jones. And I still think there’s an extremely good chance that’ll stop Seattle considering Jones in round one. However, as discussed in yesterday’s piece — he’s a grown man and nobody is forcing him to pursue a career in the NFL. I think it comes down to the percentage risk of a life threatening injury. If the stenosis is always liable to end his career prematurely, that’s one thing. If it’s liable to ruin his life forever, that’s quite another. I’m not a doctor, I don’t understand the full consequences here. The player himself could fall, but he’s also good enough to be named among 2013’s top prospects. So how do you balance everything out? And will he even be a part of Seattle’s draft board to begin with?

There’s a lot’s of things at stake here that’ll determine whether he’s part of Seattle’s plans. Availability, diagnosis, need. Again, it’s something we discussed at length yesterday. Could it happen? Only another 50 days to find out.

John Schneider has pockets

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

And he knows how to use them

Be sure to check out Rob’s article on Jarvis Jones if you missed it yesterday.

Last year, we predicted that Seattle would go pass rusher in round one.  We predicted Seattle would go linebacker in round two.  We predicted they’d go running back in round three and quarterback in round four.  I also thought they’d add a second linebacker, as well as a corner and safety in the later picks.

Basically, we completely nailed it, other than Seattle flip-flopping rounds three and four.  While it would be fun to brag, we had some help from some sources with close contacts to the front office, and that information proved extremely accurate, even if a few of the names we were given missed the mark.  Rob even remembers being told that quarterback had possibly moved to a round three priority about a month before the draft, and if we had adjusted for that, we would have basically batted a thousand last year in regards to guessing the order in which needs were addressed.  I remembered hearing that nugget about a quarterback, but for whatever reason I forgot to adjust my projection and was genuinely surprised (in an extremely good way) when Wilson was our 3rd round pick.

This year we’ve had less insider information to go with, which of course coincides with a draft that is widely considered one of the deepest and most unpredictable groups ever.  We are cranking out two articles almost every day and I still think we’ll come up well short of naming every realistic option in the earliest rounds.  Be ready for surprises.

During a recent press conference or interview, John Schneider talked about how there were nice “pockets” of talent here and there during this draft.  We understand that running back was considered to be a round 1-3 priority last year since they liked the talent pool in that area.  It ended up being pushed back one round, but they still got a very nice talent in Robert Turbin.  They thought that pass rusher had to be a very high priority.  They liked quarterback in rounds 4-6, although that was later bumped up to round three for a specific quarterback who’s stock was rising.  I would guess that John Schneider probably had an undrafted free agent pocket for receivers, as he added three UDFA receivers that year and later talked about how he thought it was a weak receiver class.  We saw a gap in this information and concluded that linebacker would be an early priority as well, probably the second round.

So what might those pockets look like this year?  I have no scoop to give you this time, so with nothing other than a few clues and my trusty gut, here are what I think the 2013 draft pockets might look like for the Seahawks this year:

___________

Interior Pass Rush:  Rounds 1-2.

LEO:  Rounds 1-4.

Wide Receiver:  Rounds 1-4.

Linebacker:  Rounds 2-5.

Offensive Tackle:  Rounds 3-5.

Corner:  Rounds 4-7.

Tight end:  Round 5-7.

Safety:  Rounds 5-7.

___________

Defensive tackle:

Seattle wants to improve their pass rush, and it will be an early priority if the exasperation in Pete Carroll’s voice after the Falcon’s game is any indication.  Good pass rushing defensive tackles are some of the rarest and most valuable players in the NFL.  They are extremely hard to project during the draft process.  I think that’s underscored by guys like Geno Atkins and Henry Melton, who are among the NFL’s best but were just 4th round picks.  In a draft where defensive line talent is (in my opinion) being overshot in evaluations, finding that mid round steal will be pretty hard this year.  If you even have the physical potential to be Melton or Atkins, you are going to leave the board very early this year.  Probably as a result of Seattle’s success, teams are starting to weigh upside more heavily than risk this year.

Further, there just aren’t a ton of physically gifted defensive tackles this year.  Only two defensive tackles posted forty times under five seconds.  Jones’ time was easily the fastest this year, but it would not have been the fastest in any of the four previous drafts.*   It’s hard to be a great pass rushing 3-tech if you don’t have speed, and there aren’t a ton of them with speed this year.  If you want a fast defensive tackle, your options are basically between Datone Jones, Sheldon Richardson, and Sharrif Floyd.  Floyd will be off the board in the top five.  Richardson will probably leave the board in the top twenty.  Jones will probably leave the board in the late teens to late twenties.  If you want one of these potential difference makers, it’s starting to look like you’d need to take him in round one, if you were fortunate enough to get the chance.

*Interestingly, there are some really good defensive tackles just ahead of Datone (4.80) Jones in the speed rankings over the last 4 years:  Henry Melton (4.65), Geno Atkins (4.75), Cameron Jordan (4.74 official), Fletcher Cox (4.77).  So there is a pretty good correlation between speed and production.  Fun fact: Jaye Howard (4.83), Clinton McDonald (4.83), and Jason Jones (4.76) all ran forties at or under 4.83.   I think it’s safe to say this isn’t a coincidence.  It appears Seattle is aware that speed kills at defensive tackle.

The Seahawks could wait for round two, but I don’t think they’d pass on Richardson or Datone Jones if they were available, not unless Werner or Jarvis Jones fell, and the reasons that caused that fall didn’t apply to the Seahawks.  I am reasonably sure that Seattle would take Datone Jones over more “touted” outside rushers like Barkevious Mingo.  Seattle can get a backup LEO later, but if they want a difference making interior pass rusher, it has to be very early.

In the event that none of those three defensive tackles make it, Seattle might possibly trade down or consider the best remaining option in round two if they don’t like Kawann Short enough to take him this early.  Candidates in round two include Brandon Williams, Sylvester Williams, and (if I had my druthers) John Simon.  I have a really hard time envisioning a draft where Seattle does not select a defensive tackle in the first two rounds, barring an unexpectedly fruitful free agency (such as signing Desmond Bryant while also retaining Jason Jones).

LEO:

Last year I watched Bruce Irvin with a focused eye every week, and when he was rarely put in true three down situations (i.e. not against a two-minute offense), the near automatic result was that Irvin vanished.  Irvin is a special athlete who creates pressure mostly from a blistering edge rush, but since his repertoire is so limited he has to commit fully to that one tactic and to beat NFL tackles.  With such a one dimensional attack Irvin has had no choice but to sell out as a pass rusher to achieve results.

Irvin has the speed to be a LEO, but not the technique, not the size, and maybe not the strength.  Irvin showed some good strength in college as a bullrusher, but after last season that strength did not appear to translate in the NFL.  Because Irvin is undersized and underpowered, he must sell out to stop the run.  Part of what makes Chris Clemons so great is that he can seamlessly play both the run and the pass on every play, doing an outstanding job in both areas.  Compare that to Irvin, who has to sell out as a pass rusher to get sacks, and has to sell out as a run stopper to not get killed as a run stopper.  Bruce Irvin did look like an ideal LEO in college, but in 2012 he did not.

I’m not ruling out the possibility of Irvin developing.  After all, Chris Clemons himself entered the NFL as a 236 pound linebacker, and had a reputation as a poor run defender for many years before arriving in Seattle.  It took a long time, but he turned into a terrific all around defensive end.  Irvin is much more gifted physically than Clemons, a 2003 UDFA, was.  As one of Irvin’s very biggest fans before the 2012 draft, I won’t be the guy to put limits on his potential.

Regardless, that day when Irvin becomes a complete player is not assured, and if/when it does happen, it’s not likely to be in time for the 2013 opener.  With Clemons turning 32 next season and coming off an ACL, Seattle can’t afford to risk being in position to force Irvin into a role he’s not ready for. When Pete talked about needing pass rushers in the plural, I’m sure it was for this exact reason.  We need depth, and preferably an improved future at pass rushing end.

With the rest of the league playing copycat and looking for the next Bruce Irvin type, Seattle probably won’t be able to wait long if they want a quality option at LEO.  If they rate Werner as being athletic enough, or if they rate Jarvis Jones as healthy enough, they might strongly consider either at #25 if a dramatic draft fall occurs for either one.  Barkevious Mingo will probably not reach Seattle’s pick, but he could be considered as well.

I think a more likely scenario is that Seattle goes for a defensive tackle like Richardson, Jones, or Short in round one, and then hope to get Corey Lemonier in round two.  If Lemonier is gone at #58, Seattle might consider a few other options in the rounds 2-4 range.

While Alex Okafor seems far too slow to be a classic LEO, he is a complete defensive end with good run defense, good size, and an excellent pass rush repertoire (as well as good college production).  Given that even a young, 236 pound Clemons didn’t have blistering speed, I would guess that last year’s Chris Clemons probably wouldn’t beat Okafor in a footrace by much.  So in a situation where the best fast options are all gone, Okafor could come into play if he’s there in round two.  I would keep an eye on Armonty Bryant as a 3rd or 4th round option as well.  Like Okafor, he doesn’t have LEO speed, but has other dominant traits that more than compensate. Brandon Jenkins opted not to run at the combine, and he looks like he’s a decent but not great 4.7 on tape (my estimate).  He had a rough combine in drills, although I think his tape is pretty good- he’s definitely a natural LEO in terms of how he plays the position.  Cornelius Carradine might be an option in this range as well.

If Seattle is adamant about drafting for speed at LEO, Margus Hunt, Ty Powell, Devin Taylor, Cornelius Washington and Trevardo Williams bring excellent athleticism but are completely undeveloped.  And in the case of Williams, I think he’s probably a 4-3 linebacker anyway.  Devin Taylor posted a so-so 4.72 forty time, but I’m intrigued with his 1.59 ten yard split and he had a very strong combine overall.

Wide Receiver:

Seattle needs depth at receiver and is hoping for an upgrade as well.  Seattle likes fast receivers with quick feet that can gain yards after the catch.  They will probably prefer a receiver with deep ball skills, so either one that is fast and tall or one that is fast and can jump high.  I think they will rate Cordarrelle Patterson very highly, and if he’s there Seattle will have an interesting decision to make.  Keenan Allen and Tavon Austin could be worth monitoring in round one as well.  More likely, Seattle will keep tabs on options during the 2nd and 3rd rounds.  In an extreme case, I could see Seattle waiting until the 4th round, as this receiver class is incredibly deep.

I expect Seattle will look to add a second receiver in the very late rounds or in UDFA.  This group of receivers is too good to walk out with just one.

Linebacker:

It’s a very thin linebacker class this year, and Pete’s tone of contentment in a recent interview when discussing his “USC backup crew” (Malcolm Smith, Allen Bradford, Mike Morgan) makes me think he’s not too panicked about the position.  Rather than talking about upgrading at weakside linebacker, Pete instead talked about finding “competition” for them.  Basically, a peer among a group that includes just one player drafted as a linebacker:  Malcolm Smith in the 7th round.  Smith posted a 4.44 forty, Morgan a 4.46, and Bradford a 4.56.  All would be among the very fastest among the linebackers this year.  Practice squad player Korey Toomer clocked a 4.53 himself.

Alec Ogletree did not run the fastest forty, but is a gifted athlete.  Arthur Brown drew rave reviews from Carroll coming out of high school, and is a sideline to sideline speedster.  Khaseem Greene has average speed but has a great nose for the ball.  You can see some players that might rate highly early, but I just think other needs will likely trump linebacker.  I think it could be an emergency option in the event where the draft board at pass rusher and receiver do not fall kindly for Seattle, but my guess is that Seattle probably looks at linebacker in the middle rounds.  Zaviar Gooden probably makes the most sense of all the fast linebackers available.

Offensive Tackle:

Seattle’s interest in Jordan Mills confirms that they are looking into offensive tackle.  Mills is considered to be a mid-round prospect, although the report mentioned that Seattle might select Mills “earlier than you might think.”  We’ll see.  Unless Seattle absolutely loves freak athlete Menelik Watson, I can’t really see them drafting a tackle in round one or two.

Breno Giacomini was a penalty machine in the first half of last season, but down the stretch he seemed to get his act together.  A polarizing player, Giacomini could be our worst lineman one week and our best lineman the next.  I do not think Seattle is unhappy with Giacomini, but they might want to improve our depth situation at tackle.  Frank Omiyale is a free agent, and Paul McQuistan is a free agent in 2014.  Giacomini himself is in a contract year.  So being proactive with the tackle situation in the 2013 draft makes sense.

Corner:

Seattle has drafted a corner every year since Pete took over, but never did they spend higher than a 4th round pick on one.  In a year where as many as twenty corners are expected to go in the first 100 picks, we might see Seattle snag a corner a little earlier than we’re used to as a reaction to the behavior of the market.  There are a very high number of fast corners with decent size this year.

Tight end:

Seattle got very good production out of Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy on a per-target basis last year.  Miller may not be cheap, but he proved late in the season- especially in the postseason- how indispensable he is.    While I really like Zach Ertz and think that Tyler Eifert is a perfect fit for Seattle, I just can’t see Seattle taking tight end in the early rounds with several other areas being much bigger areas for upgrade.  I expect Seattle to look for a mid to late round value addition such as Travis Kelce or perhaps tweener Chris Gragg.  The futures contract given to Darren Fells yesterday might also hint at the kind of investment at tight end Seattle is targeting for a 3rd option.

Safety:

The Winston Guy pick didn’t work out quite as hoped in 2012, and while I highly doubt they will give up on him just like that, Seattle could certainly look to add competition to the “big nickle” safety role currently held down by Jeron Johnson.  Chris Maragos (a free agent) has provided the speedy safety depth needed for Earl Thomas the last couple years.  Will Seattle bring Maragos back or seek an upgrade?

___________

Free agency could modify priorities, but I’m not really expecting that.  Seattle wants to build through the draft.  I think we’ll see a few complimentary signings.  With Melton, Starks, and Johnson all being franchised, and talk that Cliff Avril will get megabucks, I don’t really see a likely scenario where the Seahawks draft plans change all that much based on free agency.  That said, I’d love to see them be active at defensive tackle.  I’d really hate to see us lose both Jones and Branch.  Branch was a great contributor in 2011 and Jones was definitely helping before he got injured.

I don’t know if this is what John Schneider’s draft pockets actually look like, but hopefully I’m at least close.  Last year was a lot of fun in large part because we felt prepared for what Seattle was going to do.  It’s much more fun and interesting when the Seahawks draft players we actually know something about.

So… Jarvis Jones to Seattle. Could it happen? Should it?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Would it be ethical for Seattle to take Jarvis Jones?

It just seems so unlikely that the Seahawks would draft Jarvis Jones if he made it to the #25 pick. Pete Carroll and other members of Seattle’s coaching staff were at USC when he was told by the school’s medical team that he should cease playing football to avoid life threatening injury. He has spinal stenosis, a condition that has cut short many promising careers. Although it’s highly unlikely a scrubbed up Carroll was the guy making that particular judgement, imagine that scenario for a moment. You’re part of an organisation that warns a player he should stop playing to avoid possible permanent and serious injury. Then when he turns pro, you offer him a contract? The ethics don’t add up there.

Having said that, someone is presumably going to give Jones the opportunity to play professional football — whether that’s as a first round pick or a seventh round pick. And that team will have to clear him to play, just like Georgia did and USC didn’t. The NFL teams will do their own tests. Their doctors will offer up their own take.

I’m not going to pretend I have any insight into the specifics of spinal stenosis, but Jones has argued that he only suffers from a mild case and it won’t be an issue. That might be wishful thinking. Yet since he started competing in the SEC, he’s not had any neck or back injuries. He’s been banged up and missed games (plus the combine), but there haven’t been any red flag moments where you start to fear that he’s putting his life at risk.

Some teams will possibly hear the word ‘stenosis’ and take his name immediately off their draft board. Others will take their chances based on the information they receive. It does seem a little crude to even use the words ‘take their chances’. We’re talking about a man who could be left with life-threatening injuries if this condition is as serious as USC suggested. And that’s why I keep coming back to whether Carroll would want to be the one to make the call. Him drafting Jarvis Jones just seems all the more risky. He’s the one who probably sat in a room with those doctors when the call was made to prevent him playing any more football for Southern Cal. If Jones did suffer a serious injury in Seattle due to the stenosis, how bad what that look?

I suppose if the Seahawks’ medical team see things differently and clear him physically, then it becomes somewhat of a moot point. After all, nobody is forcing Jones to play football. They’d be able to point to the tests and say they did their homework. Carroll would be well within his rights to explain he’s a coach not a doctor and that he was acting only on the information presented to him. You can see why things might get a little awkward though if something went wrong.

The stenosis is likely to drop Jones down the draft board, although it’s not the only reason why he probably won’t be a top-ten pick. As dynamic as he’s been in the SEC for the last two years, there’s still a lot of frustrating tape out there. You can’t help but watch the SEC Championship game against Alabama and scream, “Get off that tight end!” Get off the block and make a play. He couldn’t.

Even when he had a big impact (eg, Missouri), there are frustrating moments where he’s easily managed. I think he’s a naturally gifted football player and athlete with a nose for big plays, but he’s not necessarily the most natural edge rusher. I know that sounds strange given his sack numbers, but it’s difficult to explain. Look at the tape below and you’ll probably see what I mean.

There’s no getting away from his production in college. For the last two seasons, he’s been statistically one of the best players at any position. Only Whitney Mercilus topped him for sacks in 2011, but he led the country in 2012. That’s two solid years of pure production in the SEC. He had an astonishing 24.5 tackles for a loss in 2012, with a further 19.5 the previous year. Throw in nine forced fumbles and an interception and it’s easy to see why teams will be hoping he checks out medically.

It’s easy to rule Jones out at #25 due to the medical history involved with USC. But what about the argument that suggests it still remains a possibility?

Pete Carroll has been very open and honest when discussing the teams needs going into an off-season. In his end of season press conference in 2011, he singled out how important it was to improve the 31st ranked rushing offense. So what does he do? He goes out and drafts the left tackle from the best running team in college football — Alabama. The guy who created rushing lanes for Mark Ingram so that he could win a Heisman. James Carpenter was the teams first round pick. They then go back and add a road-grader type with their second choice in John Moffitt. The intent was very clear and with hindsight, both picks made absolute sense. Yet at the time nobody called it.

A year later and Carroll is speaking about the next batch of needs. He highlights speed among the front seven as a key focus. Then he goes out and selects the fastest defensive end in the draft — Bruce Irvin. He follows it up with one of the fastest linebackers — Bobby Wagner. Again, with hindsight if you took Carroll’s remarks literally both picks were fairly obvious. He did what he said he was going to do. By the book.

And now the focus is improving the pass rush. Carroll has spelled it out again, just like the last two years. It’s a safe bet that he’s going to draft for the defensive line to improve the pass rush. I sat down last night and looked at a long list of defensive ends and tackles. I could see a handful of likely options. But one name stood out. Carroll has been extremely literal with these hints, he’s made everything clear. He wants to improve the pass rush this off-season.

Statistically, who has been college football’s best pass rusher the last two years?

It’s Jarvis Jones.

Yet just when you think — hey — this makes perfect sense, you almost have to take a step back.

Let’s go back to 2009, when the stenosis was initially discovered. ESPN’s Jordan Conn takes us through events:

The injury occurred against Oregon on Halloween in 2009. By all accounts, it was a routine hit, but after staying on the turf for a few seconds, he was removed from the game. Within days, he found himself in the hospital, where a specialist told him he had a “mild” case of spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column. “I’ve seen this over and over again,” Jones remembers the doctor saying. “If you play the game long enough, things like this will happen.”

The doctor told Jones he would be fine and he could play again. But the Trojans’ team doctors thought the injury was much more serious and refused to clear him for contact; they eventually recommended that Jones retire from football. So the then-20-year-old spent his days wandering from class to the basketball gym to the weight room.

USC doesn’t just turn away top recruits on a whim. Could it be argued that the first doctor wasn’t speaking from a completely qualified position? That perhaps he didn’t have the full facts at the time? If you’re told everything will be fine one minute and then you need to retire the next, it’s harder to accept. You’re getting mixed message. Ultimately, USC made a difficult judgement. They were ending his dreams. You don’t take matters like that lightly. And yet I appreciate why Jones fought to continue.

Conn also spoke to Ken Norton Jr. — now linebackers coach in Seattle, but in 2009 he was the main reason Jones chose to play for the Trojans.

“A lot of guys have speed, but they’re not tough,” Norton says. “Then some guys are tough but slow. Then there are guys who have all of that but no football smarts or work ethic. Jarvis has it all. It’s not even fair.” Norton, like Jones, truly believed the Trojans had signed their next great linebacker. “It seemed like just a regular linebacker injury,” says Norton. “I don’t think any of us thought it’d be as serious as it turned out.”

The coaches were aware of the situation. Carroll and Norton left USC for Seattle a matter of weeks after the decision was made, but you have to believe they were right there — maybe even breaking the bad news to the player. For those same coaches to then offer him a pro-contract a few years later just seems unethical, doesn’t it?

Scott Schrader also spoke to Jones about his departure from USC and I’d recommend checking out his piece. There’s also an article courtesy of redandblack.com documenting his switch from inside linebacker to the WILL/outside rusher. “The switch to playing the weak outside linebacker, called ‘Will’ in the 3-4, allowed Jones to use the wide variety of skills that he possessed. Jones insisted he didn’t always view himself as a pass rusher and that he didn’t even know why he had so much success at getting to the quarterback.”

Would Jones play the WILL in Seattle? This isn’t a 3-4 scheme and the roles are different. Would he play the LEO? He doesn’t have the natural length that would make that an obvious fit.

And yet he’s been the most productive pass rusher in college football the last two years. Wouldn’t you just have to find a role for the guy if he is cleared medically? However big that if may be?

Stranger things have happened. The biggest priority will remain a defensive tackle for now, unless that matter is addressed in free agency. It’s one of only two positions on the roster (along with the WILL) where the Seahawks are scheduled to lose a starter. Yet this is a team that has taken risks. Trading for Marshawn Lynch, Charlie Whitehurst and Lendale White were risks. Drafting Bruce Irvin was seen as a risk. Drafting a 5-10 quarterback and making him the starter was a risk. Trying out Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards was a risk. So was flirting with the idea of trading for Brandon Marshall in 2010.

This would be a completely different risk given the extremely serious consequences of it all going wrong. The question is, would this risk be too much even for the Seahawks?

What level of compensation makes sense in a Revis trade?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Knowing when to pounce and when to walk away is part of what makes the Seahawks' front office so effective

Note:  Be sure to check out Rob’s article on Andy Reid below if you haven’t seen it already.  Rob tends to post articles in the early afternoons, while I tend to post them in the dead of night.  Often times we might bury each other’s work, so be sure to always scroll down and check.  I’ve noticed that comment activity seems to be much higher on articles that top the page.  We’d like to churn out content rapidly but one of the downsides is a shorter window for exposure and comment activity.  Rest assured that if you comment in a lower article we always try to read through and answer your questions.  So please don’t hesitate.  We generally check the comments for a day or two, sometimes more if it’s highly active.

Darrelle Revis was a Hall of Fame caliber player before his ACL.  Will he bounce back?  Will he leave after one season and be an expensive rental?  There are a lot of scenarios where dealing for Revis doesn’t make much sense.  I think it’s a reason why the market for Revis at least appears to be cooling down a bit.

So that begs the question: at what point does the price make sense for Revis and the risk that comes with him? The Seahawks didn’t think that Matt Flynn made sense for them last offseason, primarily because they expected him to get Kevin Kolb money. When it became apparent this was not the case, Seattle’s interest was ignited and they ultimately pulled the trigger after viewing Flynn’s developing contract situation as an opportunity.  I’m not sure if Seattle is wild about paying two firsts for Revis, but if the cost comes down enough, I think Seattle will have interest.  The question becomes: where would a deal begin to make sense?

First you have to determine how much Revis is actually worth. That leads me to a series of questions:

How will Revis play coming off an ACL injury?

A few years ago, the ACL injury probably would have killed Revis’ trade value almost completely, but in recent years there have been many cases of players returning to full strength after such an injury. Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, etc. Revis has speed to spare (4.38 forty) and that seems to be the common link between those who bounced back the best from the injury. You can’t rule out the impact completely, but it’s not insane to think that you’d get Revis type production from Revis in 2013. The injury does increase the risk though, and will certainly effect the Jets’ asking price.

How likely is Revis to be retained after 2013 and what might his market price be?

Revis can’t be franchised after next season and is seeking an insane amount of money in free agency. Whichever team trades for Revis will have zero leverage in contract talks and it’s considerably likely that Revis will hit open free agency next year. And if that happens, it’s anyone’s guess where he ends up. Overall, I’d say it’s likely that whichever franchise trades for Revis is getting a rental.

That said, don’t overlook the “upside” of actually landing Revis in a long term deal after 2013. Teams that make trades for rental types have generally enjoyed a bit of an inside track on getting the next contract. I think at least some of Revis’ high demands come from the fact that he plays for a lousy Jets team and probably wants out. If Seattle makes a deep playoff run (which I think is pretty likely) and Revis believes he is on the NFL’s best team, it’s going to make it harder to take that slightly better offer from the Jacksonville Jaguars or Cleveland Browns next march. Revis is already very rich, and I think the next contract is really more of an ego thing. If you make him the highest paid corner, that might be enough.

The highest paid corners in the NFL made around $11 million last season. Revis wants $16 million a year. Maybe after a very positive experience in 2013, he might sign back in the $12-$14 million range. FWIW, when you compare Revis to other high paid NFL players, I think he justifies that kind of salary pretty easily. He’s one of the most valuable non-QB players in the league. Or to look at it another way, is Revis worth as much as Zach Miller and Alan Branch combined? Because that’s what $12 to 14 million in salary looks like. Of course, you don’t want to lose essential players so we’re just talking dollars in expendable/luxury players.

It would be nice if we had a “wins over replacement” type stat in football as they do in baseball, then the calculation of Revis’ worth would be very easy. We don’t, but consider that this is a league where Brandon Flowers, Leon Hall, Chris Gamble, DeAngelo Hall, Nnamdi Asomugha, and an old Champ Bailey all made $8 to $11 million at the cornerback position last season. A league where good #2 corners like Brandon Carr get 5/50 contracts.

I genuinely feel that if you get Revis back on a 5/60 or 5/70 contract (which would make him the highest paid corner in the league by a good margin), you are getting a more than solid return on your investment. If he proves healthy and as good as ever.

How much is Revis worth purely as a rental?

If you deal for Revis, what is a reasonable price in the event he’s just a rental for one season? His cap hit is a reasonable $9 million in 2013. As expressed above, I think even $14 million is a fair price for a contributor of his magnitude. So his 2013 salary of $9 million is a plus, in my opinion.

Paying a 1st round pick in the event of a rental is far too much. I think a late 2nd rounder sounds about right though for a team that is front and center for the Superbowl discussion entering the 2013 season. To be clear, I think a late 2nd rounder is an overpay for one season of any player, but there is a higher chance to have Revis beyond 2013 if you trade for him and that added chance carries value.

I also think that one season of Revis carries a lot more value to a team like Seattle than it would to a middling team because it would make a hard team to beat that much tougher. Even if Revis leaves, would anyone complain about burning the #64 pick if the Revis trade helped us win a Superbowl? In a worst case scenario, Seattle fails to win it all, Revis walks, and the pick is lost. That’s not a good situation. So there’s risk to weigh.  Even in that worst scenario, there is tangible value in having Revis for one season.  Look at what major league baseball teams pay for star rentals at the trade deadline- for less than half a season.  They pay through the nose.  Sure, different sport, different value paradigms, but I think the upside of winning a championship or keeping Revis long term counterbalances the risk of having a 2nd round pick potentially burned.

How will Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis coexist?  Do they magnify each other’s value or diminish it?

It’s hard to tell how Revis and Sherman would coexist as teammates. I think they’d make up pretty quickly, as Sherman is really more of a joker than a jerk and Revis certainly didn’t seem to be holding any grudges during his interview with Sherman teammate Michael Robinson.

It would be a really interesting competition dynamic to be sure, with both players competing for interceptions and big plays. I have to wonder if that very reason might be why Seattle was “highly interested” in Revis at the dawn of the trade talks. You know our coach loves competition, and a Revis-Sherman competition would be among the most epic in the history of the sport.

Having Revis on the field means more passes than usual will target Sherman, and vice versa. I think it would probably be a good thing forcing quarterbacks to throw more passes in Sherman’s direction, as well as Revis’. The passer rating on passes targeting Sherman and Revis are absurdly low. Combine that with Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond covering the number three and four options, and you are looking at a secondary for the ages.

So here is where I think a trade begins to make sense for Seattle

Seattle trades a conditional 2014 pick. If Revis gets re-signed and remains with the Seahawks beyond the 2013 season, the Jets receive our 2014 1st round pick. If Revis signs with another team in free agency, the Jets receive a 2014 2nd round pick instead. If Revis proves his worth and signs an extension to remain here, he is easily worth a 1st round pick and the money we pay him, especially since that 1st round pick will probably be a very late one.

And before anyone flips out of the mythical value of a 1st round pick, consider the options Seattle had in the late first back in 2011, 2008, 2006, 2005, and 2004. Those picks turned into James Carpenter, Lawrence Jackson, Kelly Jennings, Chris Spencer, and Marcus Tubbs. You look at the late 1st round most years and it’s not nearly as good as you might imagine. It’s hardly a lock to get a star. Although I do love the late 1st this year, but that’s beside the point and trust me, this year is pretty uncommon in it’s depth.  Anyway, he justifies that cost if he’s extended.  This is Darrelle Revis we’re talking about, not Deion Branch.

And while I’m sure people are sick of hearing this, it’s possible that the Jets could have a degree of interest in Matt Flynn as competition for Mark Sanchez and that could have a minor impact on the trade details as well.

Maybe the Jets get a better offer elsewhere. I am not saying that we must trade for Revis at all costs. But I think if an offer like this is possible, at this type of risk/reward, the balance of the deal becomes one worth making.

Monday draft notes: What will KC do with the #1 pick now?

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Andy Reid is making life interesting in the NFL

Crazy in KC

The Chiefs turned an already unpredictable draft on its head tonight. By agreeing a new 5-year contract with Dwayne Bowe, it allowed them to spend the franchise tag on left tackle Branden Albert.

It means Albert will earn $9,828,000 in 2013. Considering the Chiefs already have right tackle Eric Winston under contract (4-years, $22m), it seems unlikely they’ll be spending the #1 pick on Luke Joeckel or any other offensive tackle.

They could theoretically move Albert back to guard, a move he’s been vocally opposed to. He played guard at Virginia. It still seems like a costly exercise. They’d have the 2013 #1 pick playing left tackle, Albert and his near $10m salary playing guard and Winston is taking up $7m against the cap this year as the right tackle. Sure, a good offensive line is important. But that looks like overkill.

Albert could also hold-out if they force him to change position. He knows any future big contract will be predicated by his ability to continue as a blind-side blocker. Nobody is going to pay multi-millions for his services as a guard. Surely the Chiefs didn’t just pay $10m for a headache?

So what happens now with the #1 pick?

They may intend to try and recoup picks after the Smith-deal with San Francisco — although that’s easier said than done. Why does anyone really have to get above Jacksonville and Oakland to own the top selection? The Chiefs saying they’d like to trade down would be like any of us saying we’d appreciate a night on the town with Megan Fox, with an invitation for coffee afterwards. Well.. duh. Neither situation, sadly, appears likely.

Bowe’s cap hit will likely be substantial after signing a long-term contract. The offensive line is now very expensive and Alex Smith is due nearly $10m in both 2013 and 2014. Jamaal Charles’ six-year contract pays him over $4m this season and next. They have playmakers, a line and a quarterback earning big money. A serious case can be made for the Chiefs turning their attention to defense.

If they stay put, I think it might come down to two guys — Dion Jordan and Sharrif Floyd.

There’s not a desperate need for an edge rusher in Kansas City with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the roster, but Jordan showed at the combine he has genuine elite athletic potential. I do think he has a chance to become a star at the next level. No offense to Mr. Houston, but putting Jordan across from Hali would create one of the best pass rushing tandem’s in the league. It’d certainly ask a few questions of Peyton Manning in Denver. Andy Reid knows he doesn’t just need a new offensive direction, he has to find a way to stop Manning to win the AFC West.

It’d be unusual for a team to draft a five technique with the #1 pick, but it seems like a lot of teams are really high on Sharrif Floyd’s back-story, upside and physical attributes. If he’s been graded as the best player in the draft then he has a shot to go first overall. If they have ambitions of transitioning to a 4-3 in the future, he’s also scheme diverse. The contract at #1 isn’t so big these days that you’re paying a ridiculous salary for a position of secondary importance. It might only be a matter of time before we see a non quarterback, left tackle or edge rusher go first overall.

Right now, I’d put Oregon’s Jordan down as the favourite to be the top pick.

Whatever happens, Andy Reid is making the off-season fun already.

Seattle’s options at defensive tackle dwindling

Sadly, neither Henry Melton or Randy Starks will be available in free agency. Both players were tagged by Chicago and Miami respectively. The two most attractive options for Seattle in free agency are no longer available.

Other players, such as Oakland’s Desmond Bryant or unattached Cullen Jenkins, are still out there. Jenkins is having his visit to Seattle today. Who knows, maybe he never makes that trip to San Francisco (his next scheduled stop)? The Seahawks also have the option of re-signing Alan Branch.

I suspect they’ll do something, whether that’s before March 12th with Jenkins or during free agency. The Seahawks only have two out of contract starters — Branch and Leroy Hill. Although not a starter, I think they view the Jason Jones position with equal importance. He too is a free agent. Going into the draft needing to replace two defensive linemen isn’t a desirable position to be in. It makes some degree of logic to at least entertain the possibility of a modest free agent investment to keep a few options open.

Depending on the price, I’d welcome Branch back at this stage. I think he’s had a solid two years with the team despite being asked to fill a position that’s quite foreign to a player of his size (three technique). The fact he can cover Red Bryant at the five and play inside has some value. Teams switching to a 3-4 this off-season might be willing to pay him more money to fill the nose tackle slot. At the right price, I say bring him back.

It is disappointing to see both Melton and Starks leave the market. It’s not a huge shock that Chicago held onto their prize asset, but it’s only recently that Starks emerged as a tag candidate in Miami. A likely target for Seattle based on his ability to anchor versus the run while still collapse the pocket, Miami made the right move keeping him alongside Paul Soliai. It’s basically a one-year $8m rental for the Dolphins.

While this is a good year for defensive tackles in the draft, there isn’t really anyone you want to fight for at #25. It’s easy to say in January and February (as we did) that this is a deep class. You could draft a Sylvester Williams, Kawann Short, Johnathan Hankins or Jesse Williams (for example). As we get closer to the draft though, most of those options just seem, well, underwhelming. The options at defensive end (LEO), receiver and tight end however seem more appealing.

Players to receive the franchise tag: Jairus Byrd (Buffalo), Henry Melton (Chicago), Michael Johnson (Cincinnati), Anthony Spencer (Dallas), Ryan Clady (Denver), Pat McAfee (Indianapolis), Branden Albert (Kansas City) and Randy Starks (Miami).

Notable players who weren’t tagged before the deadline: Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Aqib Talib, William Moore, Brent Grimes, Cliff Avril, Sebastian Vollmer, Danny Amendola, Desmond Bryant, Jared Cook, Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings.

Matt Barkley back in pole position?

Here at Seahawks Draft Blog, we get a lot of things wrong. It happens. But one of the things I think we’ve got right this year is not buying into the Matt Barkley-is-garbage bandwagon.

Today I noticed two articles to support that stance. The first — by NFL.com’s Albert Breer — notes different quotes from personnel executives, GM’s and scouts on whether anyone can usurp Geno Smith to be the first quarterback off the board. The consensus generally seems to be that Barkley can:

One NFC personnel executive said that Barkley, from a “football smarts” standpoint, is rare, comparable with Andrew Luck when he came out last year. In fact, when asked on Monday if anyone could pass Smith, the exec texted to say, “I think (Barkley) already has.”

Second, Barkley’s 2012 stumble is explainable. He lost his left tackle, Matt Kalil, to the NFL, and an injury to his center, Khaled Holmes, left USC’s line in shambles. A series of injuries at tight end didn’t help, either. Besides all that, the locker room melted down around him.

Barkley admitted to some NFL folks in Indy that he tried to do too much as a senior. An NFC general manager who still likes Barkley said, succinctly, that the quarterback’s problem was that he was “coloring outside the lines” last fall.

I don’t know if it’s a California thing, or a USC thing, but a lot of people have been quick to come down on Barkley. The guy can play. Take away Russell Okung, injure Max Unger, have Pete Carroll replaced with Lane Kiffin and swap Seattle’s defense with eleven scarecrows and let’s see how Russell Wilson does in 2013. That’s basically what Barkley had to work with. The Trojans were a complete shambles last season.

Was the quarterback blameless? Not at all. But it’s funny how similar statistically he was in 2011 when many considered him a top-ten pick. Those condemning Barkley love to point to the fact he had Marqise Lee and Robert Woods to throw to. So did Max Wittek when he laid a couple of eggs against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.

The other thing people love to point to is a lack of arm strength. Nobody will ever argue that Barkley has a big arm. He doesn’t. But neither is he Kellen Moore-standard as some joker suggested recently. That really is a laughable comparison.

He won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Teams utilising a vertical passing offense won’t show much interest. Others who are prepared to play a similar way to Seattle — run the ball, lots of play action utilising a point guard quarterback — will probably love the guy. To quote again from Breer’s piece today:

Barkley is at his best when he’s playing quarterback like a point guard, focusing on setting up others to make plays rather than being asked to make plays on his own.

He also notes:

One NFC personnel executive said that Barkley, from a “football smarts” standpoint, is rare, comparable with Andrew Luck when he came out last year. In fact, when asked on Monday if anyone could pass Smith, the exec texted to say, “I think (Barkley) already has.”

This brings me to the second article I wanted to highlight today, written by Dan Pompei from the NFP. He notes that the focus within the NFL right now is to find the next Russell Wilson. Not by drafting another underrated 5-10 quarterback, but by finding a player that shares the same level of work rate and football IQ to put themselves in a position to be successful:

“The reason quarterbacks have success is because they are leaders,” one NFC general manager said. “Russell Wilson absolutely reinforces that. You have to feel comfortable with that. Did Christian Ponder have everything you look for? No, but he had some leadership to him. I’m not surprised he went in the first round. Minnesota got comfortable with the leader. That’s a valuable trait, over the arm strength.”

So which prospect in this draft has the best combination of intangibles and ability? According to multiple front office men surveyed by NFP, it’s Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley. As a result, some believe his stock is back on the rise after taking a season-long dip.

Different execs lauded Barkley for his anticipation, his communication skills, his personality that lights up a room, and his pocket presence. Another said he had the best instincts and ability to see the field.

Asked which quarterback was most impressive in terms of conveying leadership in his combine interview, one general manager said, “I think Barkley is special that way. He has some ‘it’ factor to him. The personality is there with Barkley. We ask them questions, try to get a feel for how much they love football, and see if they have a special trait that makes people want to be around them and listen to them. It all comes through with him.”

(Pete) Carroll has a better feel for Barkley than most because he coached him at Southern Cal. “No question Barkley is loaded with intangibles,” Carroll said. “He has everything everybody wants. He has had it for some time. He knows what it’s like to be on a big stage at an early age and handle it impeccably.”

When push comes to shove, some GM’s and coaches will be prepared to go into battle with Matt Barkley. They’ll know they need to surround him with a supporting cast, but they’ll work on that. For everyone who thinks this years group of quarterbacks is mediocre (it isn’t, it’s just not as good as last years), wait until you see what 2014 has to offer. I think Barkley will look like a pretty good investment in twelve months time.

I also suspect he’ll be the first quarterback off the board unless someone really has fallen for Geno Smith (it could happen). I think both could be top-10 picks. But Barkley certainly won’t be dropping into round two or even round three as some have suggested.

Lemonier, Joeckel and Swope game tape

Two pieces of game tape for you today. The first shows an interesting Corey Lemonier vs Luke Joeckel match-up from 2012. Well, it would’ve been an interesting match-up. But this is 2012 Auburn we’re talking about. And it’s hard to rush the passer when you’re 21-0 down at the end of the first quarter and 42-7 down at half time. We talked about Lemonier on the blog yesterday.

The second shows Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope vs Auburn and Mississippi State:

If Bjoern Werner slips, would the Seahawks catch him?

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Those arms are a lot stronger than they look.

I usually wait until around December before I start scouting prospects.  Werner was one of the first I watched, and he quickly shot to the top of my draft board.  At the time, he was considered a mid first round prospect.  By the Senior Bowl, he had vaulted into “top five lock” status.

I’m not sure what happened after that.  Reports from NFL scouts began surfacing, saying that they viewed Werner as being just okay.  Good, but not special.  Mike Mayock stated that he didn’t think Werner would be a top ten pick.  Insiders reported that scouting opinions on Werner were polarized.  And all of this occurred before February’s NFL combine in Indianapolis.

Dion Jordan and Ezekial Ansah had two of the more over-rated combine performances in recent memory, posting much slower times in drills than guys like Von Miller or Bruce Irvin in recent years.  But even a 4.6 forty looks pretty electric in this pass rusher class, where big names like Werner and Moore were big disappointments.  Werner ran a 4.81 time, which is actually slower than defensive tackle Datone Jones (4.80).  Jones’ had a superior 10 yard split as well.

This can’t help Werner’s draft stock, especially as Dion Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah are rocketing up boards.  Barkevious Mingo seems to be holding steady as a mid first rounder.  Russ Lande’s most recent mock even has Corey Lemonier going 15th overall.  I can’t help but think that the sudden rise of undeveloped athlete pass rushers and the decline of the slower more physical pass rushers is a sign that the league has noticed what Seattle is doing.

It might help Werner that Jarvis Jones is tanking as well on account of his medical status, and Damontre Moore has been exposed as a 2nd or 3rd round prospect.  That might be enough to keep Werner in the top 20 picks or so.  But what if it’s not?

In terms of teams that need pass rushers at defensive end, there only so many of them, and most of them pick very early.  Sharrif Floyd, Ziggy Ansah, and Dion Jordan all look like top five candidates.  The Jets need a pass rusher at #9, but they run a 3-4 defense and Werner would be an oddball for most 3-4 defenses.  The Titans run a 4-3 defense and might pursue a defensive end, but they have needs all over the place.  The Saints need pass rush help, but are converting to a 3-4 defense.  Then you have the Steelers, who also run a 3-4 but have a history of drafting bigger, slower 3-4 outside linebackers like James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Jason Worilds.  Werner going to the Steelers could make some sense, but as a player who would have to transition to playing standing up instead of on all fours, not to mention that he runs like a fast defensive tackle, even they might pass.

After that you have the Colts, maybe.  Again, a 3-4 defense.  Seattle would then be next at #25.  If teams don’t have a first round grade on Werner as a 3-4 outside linebacker, he could end up a surprise faller on draft day, all the way to Seattle’s pick.

Now comes part two of this discussion:  would Seattle draft Werner?  That poses an interesting question.  I’m not sure if they would.

Seattle drafted Bruce Irvin who ran an official 4.50 forty.  Pete Carroll raved about Irvin’s speed and even called him the “ideal LEO,” a statement he probably wouldn’t have repeated immediately after the Falcon’s game.  Regardless, Pete’s choice of words seemed to indicate that he puts a premium on speed with his pass rush prospects.  Seattle also drafted Dexter Davis who clocked a 4.62 forty and Jameson Konz.  Konz ran a 4.41 forty time and was eventually moved to LEO before being released.

On the other hand, Chris Clemons is probably slower today than he was as a 23 year old 236 pound linebacker coming out of Georgia, and even that Chris Clemons only managed a 4.68.  Raheem Brock had a career year in our system with 10 sacks (including playoffs) during the 2010 season.  Depending on which website you ask, he either ran either a 4.74 or a 4.91.  And it’s probably safe to assume he wasn’t quite that fast during his age 32 season.  Werner’s speed is probably in the neighborhood of both these guys, and both had great success in our system.

Werner looks every bit of his 4.81 time when in coverage or pursuit, but his burst off the snap is at an elite level despite that.  Werner often plays in a four point stance and he uses that stance to coil his body for maximum explosion on the snap.  Werner is a bit of a one trick pony in that he is at his best as a basic edge rusher, and is not as special when trying to spin inside or stunt.  Werner combines an explosive get off with an aggressive downhill angle while keeping his shoulders square- meaning that his inside shoulder is aiming at the tackles chest.  Werner’s signature is then using his inside arm to reach around the tackles outside shoulder and use his excellent arm strength to defeat the incoming punch.  Because Werner’s chest is not available as a target (see picture above), tackles often fail on their initial punch, allowing Werner to explode through the missed block, slipping around the edge.

Werner can bull rush fairly well and can easily shove tackles off balance.  Though he’s obviously very different from JJ Watt, I think it’s the reliance on upper body strength that is the basis of what was for a while a popular comparison.

I think a better comparison is Chris Long of the St. Louis Rams.  Long also plays in a four point stance and has very strong arms.  Long ran a 4.75 forty time at his combine, but plays plenty fast on the football field.  Werner is 6’3″ and 266 pounds.  Long is 6’3″ and 270 pounds.  I think Long is a superior prospect because he is a better athlete and has a more complete pass rush repertoire, but if you said Werner was a poor man’s Chris Long you wouldn’t be off by much.

Bottom line, Werner is a strength based pass rusher that uses excellent edge rush technique and benefits tremendously from an explosive get off.  Within the first second or two, his forty time might as well be irrelevant since he is so explosive in his first few steps.  Werner can spin inside, bull through blockers, and rip through arm blocks, but all those techniques are merely adequate.  Werner’s star power comes from his edge rush, which is why he edge rushes on almost every pass rush attempt.  Werner has decently long arms (33.25″) but plays like he has 35″ arms on tape, I guess just because of how he protects his body from the initial punch and from his pure arm strength.

Werner is inconsistent against the run.  He can get destroyed by a road grader if he isn’t careful, although he usually plays the run smart, even if he doesn’t dominate.  Basically, he’s about what you’d expect from a LEO in run defense, and I’d grade him ahead of alternatives such as Barkevious Mingo or Corey Lemonier as a run defender.

Like Chris Long, I don’t think Werner’s speed hurts him much as a pass rusher.  But speed still matters.  Beating Colin Kaepernick twice is job number one next season.  Seattle will also drop their defensive ends into coverage from time to time.  You don’t want a 4.81 athlete put in those situations.

While I used the argument of Clemons and Brock, I should also point out that both were cheap acquisitions.  Clemons was a throw in as part of the Tapp trade.  Brock was signed off the street in 2010 to a minimum contract.  Seattle’s draft history, though limited, has shown that speed matters.  When Seattle is bargain hunting at the NFL’s garage sale and they see a good buy that won’t saddle them for a decade, they tend to be less picky.

So what will they do if Werner unexpectedly falls into our lap at #25?  It’s a similar situation with John Simon, actually.  Though both are excellent pass rushing prospects, I’m just not convinced they pass the “athlete test” that Seattle seemingly always applies to their draft picks.  John Schneider has recently said himself that his staff grades for athleticism first before moving on to grade for any other criteria.  This regime has a clear history of drafting athletic, versatile, explosive players.  And outside of his get off being explosive, I’m not sure any of those three adjectives apply to Werner.

My guess is that Werner will never be a Seahawk, and I think that’s kind of a shame.  Maybe he won’t reach our pick and we’ll never know either way.  Or maybe he does reach our pick, and we’ll have fifteen interesting minutes to wonder to ourselves what might happen.

Corey Lemonier could be this year’s Bruce Irvin

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Corey Lemonier stood out at the combine

The Auburn Tigers had a wretched 2012 season, going 3-9 (wins vs LA-Monroe, New Mexico State and Alabama A&M) while being outscored 150-21 in their final three defeats. It was ugly.

It’s easy to forget they started the year with some close defeats — 26-19 against Clemson, 12-10 versus LSU. Within that not-too-horrendous start, Corey Lemonier made an impression. He stood out and was universally ranked among the top 2012 draft prospects. As Auburn’s season imploded, so did Lemonier’s stock. It was quite dramatic. Suddenly, nobody was talking about him any more. He had five sacks in his first four games, then 0.5 sacks in the final eight. I watched his team get taken apart by Georgia (38-0) and Alabama (49-0). Unsurprisingly, he was anonymous in both games.

When you’re getting your ass kicked by the best the SEC has to offer, you can’t expect a pure pass rusher to be churning out production.

I’ll admit that I got a little sidetracked. Like everyone else, I lost interest. This guy wasn’t getting it done. Where was the fire and brimstone from earlier in the season? With hindsight I needed to appreciate just how bad things had become at Auburn. They’d lost their heart, their hope. The atmosphere wasn’t ripe for a productive speed rusher. I started to think of him as a middle round prospect, as did many others. I think that was a mistake.

A good performance at the combine has helped to put his name back out there. He ran a 1.57 ten-yard split and a 4.60 forty (unofficially he was originally credited with a 4.53). This despite the fact he gained 10lbs for the combine to get up to 255lbs. None of it was fat or excess, he looked compact and muscular (see the image above). He had 27 reps on the bench press — only three less than Jesse Williams.

Pat Kirwan wrote a review of his time at the combine for CBS and quoted an unnamed defensive coordinator in the piece: “We’re all looking for the Bruce Irvin in this draft.”

Well, Corey Lemonier is the closest thing to Bruce Irvin this year.

Considering 2012 was so bad for Auburn in general, I wanted to go back to 2011 and get a look at Lemonier playing for a competitive outfit. He had 9.5 sacks that year. So I searched out the tape and realised just how effective he can be.

Here’s what I like about him. For an undersized player, it was refreshing to see how many snaps he took as a pure edge rusher. Bruce Irvin was used creatively by West Virginia but made most of his round one money on third downs. Lemonier might be a more natural LEO ‘starter’, in that he often engages blockers at the line of scrimmage and is able to set an edge against the run. He’s stronger than you think in the upper body despite his size — and I guess that’s emphasised by his bench press tally. You can be as explosive as you like as a speed rusher, but to start in a four man front you can’t afford to be hopeless against the run. My biggest concern with Irvin is whether he can cope in a role that asks him to do more than pin his ears back, which kind of limits his ability to be anything more than a specialist.

Chris Clemons isn’t an amazing run stopper, but he kind of holds his own. Irvin struggles to get off even a tight end to make a play against the run. Lemonier plays with great pad level, he can disengage and break on the ball. I love his hand use. The guy can play above his size. There are times when he puts his hands on a blocker and drives them into the backfield. I love to see that from a player who featured at just over 240lbs in college.

He also has that relentless motor you crave from an edge rusher, with a real edge to his play. He’s driven in the way Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo clearly aren’t at LSU. He’s got the speed to beat his man on the edge and I like the way he sets blockers up over time. Aside from a naturally quick burst off the snap, he also flashes a decent repertoire (spin move is evident, rip move is effective too). Quite often he turns a sack into a sack-fumble, something that’ll go down well in Seattle’s front office. He had five forced fumbles in 2011 alone.

One thing that the Irvin and Russell Wilson picks from last year taught me was to keep your options open. Don’t write guys off. I wrote an article twelve months before the 2012 draft saying Bruce Irvin was set to gate crash the top of round one. Had I stuck by that initial assessment, I’d look pretty smart right now. Then he got bogged down in West Virginia’s odd 3-5 scheme and I let it impact my opinion too much.

I feel like history is repeating itself here. Hey, maybe Lemonier doesn’t go in round one? But Auburn’s implosion shouldn’t impact his stock too much. He could go in round one. Technically he’s up their with Bjoern Werner as one of the better edge rushers in this class. Unlike Dion Jordan and Ziggy Ansah, he’s shown a degree of technical quality and readiness. Unlike Damontre Moore and Tank Carradine, he doesn’t look cumbersome getting off the snap. There aren’t any long term injury concerns like we see with Jarvis Jones. And unlike Mingo and Montgomery, he doesn’t take whole games off.

It won’t just be the teams looking for the ‘next Bruce Irvin’ that consider Lemonier. The 3-4 teams could show interest in moving him to outside linebacker. He has to be an option for New Orleans to improve their impotent pass rush. Pittsburgh at #17 need another edge rusher. What about Minnesota at #23? People will ultimately say this is too early, or too reactionary to the combine. They also would’ve said the same about Bruce Irvin a year ago.

“We’re all looking for the Bruce Irvin in this draft.”

Hey, I’m not saying this will definitely happen. Lemonier didn’t run a 4.4 after all. The one team who definitely will be using the LEO pass rusher in 2013 is Jacksonville and they’re not likely to take him with the #2 pick. Seattle already has Irvin. And if the 3-4 teams don’t bite after all, he could still last into the second round. I think that’s his floor though — round two.

I wouldn’t rule him out at #25. Not at all. Pete Carroll will probably take the best pass rusher in round one, whether that’s a tackle or a LEO. I think they’d rather bring in an interior rusher than another LEO, unless they have really serious reservations over Chris Clemons. You’d have to be pretty convinced about a particular prospect to take back-to-back first round LEO’s. What if neither player can act as a full time rusher? You’ve drafted two undersized defensive ends who can’t start. Even so, they might feel that the best value at #25 is to grab another LEO. And that could put Lemonier on the radar if he’s still on the board.

Keep an eye on his stock over the next few weeks. He could be one to watch. The Auburn pro-day takes place on Tuesday.

2011 tape vs Florida, Arkansas and Georgia:

2012 tape vs Clemson & LSU:

What the Seahawks’ draft might look like

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

One of my regrets is that I often find myself saving my best write-ups and ideas for posts on the Seahawks.net draft message board, while sometimes failing to transfer those thoughts over here at Seahawks Draft Blog.  That was especially true last year for Russell Wilson.  Some of my best works have been on message boards.  I have put as much as 36 hours into a message board post on a few occasions, ranging as high as 3,000 to 5,000 words.  How anyone reads them, I have no idea.

Well here I am, another year and I am doing it again.  Some topics aren’t quite blog appropriate, but today I’m linking a couple of works over there that you might find worthwhile reads. (more…)

Saturday notes & further thoughts on Datone Jones

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Whatever that is on Cullen Jenkins' left hand, I want it in Seattle

Seahawks to meet with Cullen Jenkins

According to Adam Schefter, the recently released Eagle will be making a stop in Seattle.

John Schneider is familiar with Jenkins during their time in Green Bay and the Seahawks need the ‘Packers version’ of Cullen Jenkins. He has 21 sacks in the last four seasons, so Seattle’s interest is perfectly understandable.

He’s also 32. How much has he got left in the tank? Even on a one year deal, can he continue to be productive? The Seahawks don’t carry ineffective, past-their-best veterans. This is a young, vibrant roster and that’s likely to remain the case. Jenkins would have to be worth it.

This could be due diligence or there could be genuine intent to talk about a contract. It’s no surprise that the Giants, Niners and Seahawks are the three showing the early interest here. They’re all likely to target defensive line help in the draft, and none seem particularly likely to open the cheque book in free agency to address this need. With Henry Melton receiving the franchise tag and Randy Starks likely to follow, the interior defensive line options are dwindling.

I didn’t spend any time watching Jenkins in 2012, but he had an excellent 2011. He looked powerful, quick off the snap and he made a difference. He’s good enough against the run to anchor but he also has a playmaking streak in him. He’s developed a lot of veteran moves and counter’s during his career. This is what Seattle needs.

The only question is, will Jenkins still be up to the task in his 9th season as a pro?

Barkevious Mingo is still confusing

Last night was pretty eventful. I dropped boiling water all over myself which led to a night in serious pain without any sleep. Before that delightful experience, I watched a couple more LSU games to try and ‘get’ Barkevious Mingo. I’d watched five last week and came away so completely and utterly underwhelmed I dropped him out of my first round projection. Then at the combine, he showed enough athletic quality to make me re-consider and put him at #15 to New Orleans.

There are plenty of teams in the NFL looking for pass rushers. I guess that search never ends, really. There are teams transitioning to the 3-4 who could use a skilled outside linebacker. But more than anything, there are also teams looking to mimic the Seahawks. Pete Carroll has created an ‘en vogue’ team. Seattle is flavour of the month, the trendy outfit. Young, fast, skilled and aggressive. Who doesn’t want that?

There will be GM’s out there looking at the moves made by Pete Carroll and John Schneider and they’ll want a piece of that. Bruce Irvin — a much maligned pick 12 months ago — is now considered a great success because he led all rookies for sacks. The truth is, Irvin was the least effective of the three early picks last year. But the NFL loves production and eight sacks is considered a positive in season one.

Mingo doesn’t have the same blazing 4.4 speed or 1.53 ten-yard split, but he’s the player who most closely resembles Irvin in this draft. So while 3-4 teams might be coveting him for a switch to linebacker, 4-3 teams might consider using him as a LEO.

If there’s enough demand for pass rushers this year (remember, Irvin was the first to leave the board twelve months ago at #15), then he could go early. Much will depend on the stock of guys like Bjoern Werner and Damontre Moore. Could he fall? Absolutely. The 2012 tape is not very good for Mingo. He hasn’t got close to the level of production Irvin managed at West Virginia, even though he acted mainly as a third-down specialist. At LSU Mingo had the benefit of Sam Montgomery, Michael Brockes and Bennie Logan, not to mention some of the best secondary talent in college football. He had 4.5 sacks in 2012, one of which came against Towson University.

When speaking to John Clayton recently, Pete Carroll stated he wants another LEO. That might be to cover the possibility of Chris Clemons never quite being the same post-ACL surgery. The Seahawks need to plan for the future anyway with Clemons approaching his 32nd birthday in October.

If the top rated defensive lineman at #25 is a LEO, I think they take him. I think they’ll look at any player with that first pick and try to find the best pass rusher. Could be an end, could be a tackle. If Mingo was there at #25, would they pull the trigger? Is a pass-rushing double threat of Irvin and Mingo too good to turn down? After all, nobody is doubting his physical talent and speed. He’s got the kind of length they look for. It’s just the attitude, the motor, the application. Is he a relentless guy who thrives on impacting games? Or is he doing what team mate Sam Montgomery admitted at the combine — picking his moments, taking weekend’s off? To fall to #25 there’d have to be some issues, even considering his measly 4.5 sacks this past year.

I could imagine a scenario where Mingo’s off the board at #6 to Cleveland or #9 to the New York Jets. Keeping him in Louisiana also makes sense for New Orleans. But I could just as easily see him dropping a bit, especially if Werner holds position and other players like Dion Jordan and Ziggy Ansah go early.

So, would you take him at #25 if he’s there?

Snap judgement? More tape on Cornelius Washington

We published tape of combine warrior Cornelius Washington earlier in the week. Many people were pretty underwhelmed by what they saw in the game versus Buffalo. So it’s only fair we put a couple more video’s on here for a more rounded debate. See what you think.

Further thoughts on Datone Jones

Who is this guy? That’s the question I keep coming back to. In fact, it’s more like two questions.

– Just how explosive is he? He isn’t running a 4.64 like Cam Jordan. He’s running a time comparable to J.J. Watt but at 10lbs lighter. You put his times and measurable’s together and there are similarities to Lawrence Jackson. So are we talking about a difference making, explosive defensive lineman or not?

– What position will he play at the next level? He lined up everywhere for UCLA – nose tackle, three-technique, defensive end. That can be a positive or a negative. On the one hand, you can put him in all kinds of confusing looks — get him rushing from a variety of angles and gaps. At the same time, he might always be a ‘tweener’ without a defined role.

For the first question, I went back to my notes during our live blog for the combine. It’s very easy to look at a list of numbers and get caught up. Tape, tape, tape. That’s how to do this. Whether it’s a work out in shorts or watching a game. Trust your eyes. And I asked myself this week — why am I still doubting this guy’s athleticism? This is what I wrote about Jones when watching the drills:

“Datone Jones is a superb athlete.”

In the video below you’ll find the defensive lineman vs offensive lineman drills from the Senior Bowl. I’d recommend watching the first 3:50, even if you can’t watch the full 46+ minutes. At 3:18 Jones makes his first appearance. And he destroys the interior lineman. The reason I’d recommend watching the first 3:50 is simply to see how things suddenly kick into life when Jones turns it on. Prior to that play you see John Simon get absolutely stoned, Brandon Williams get floored, Alex Okafor struggle a little bit with bog-standard blocker Ricky Wagner. Eric Fisher dominates his guy. Then there’s Datone Jones.

Mike Mayock is commentating from the booth and it’s like someone just injected him with a shot of caffeine. You can picture his eyes lighting up as soon as Jones flies into the backfield. “Boy was that a quick, explosive move there. Wooof, I like that. Let’s see it again here.”

On the next play, he does beat his guy again. Pure athleticism. And yes, he looks like a difference maker.

I’m at the point now where I really don’t care what forty time he runs, or whether his vertical jump and bench press compare favourably to Lawrence Jackson. They are just numbers. When I watch the tape, his athleticism stands out. And I get the impression in a few years time we may well be comparing other 275-285lbs defensive lineman to Datone Jones when it comes to combine performances.

Over the last two nights I’ve gone over seven UCLA games to revise my position on this guy. I made the decision to place him at #25 last week based on how he might fit as a Jason Jones replacement in Seattle. He could still fit into that role. However, can he be more than that?

The question over whether he’s a tweener will be a legitimate one for a lot of teams. If you’re running an orthodox 4-3 you’ll need to decide whether he’s stout enough to play inside permanently or whether he’s a power end. A 3-4 team will need to know if he fits at the five-technique, or if he can be that same roaming pass rusher that J.J. Watt is in Houston’s scheme.

Some might just say, “too many question marks.” The thing is, I doubt the Seahawks will be one of those teams.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider appear to be spending less time on what a guy can’t do. Of course, you never ignore a player’s limitations. You just don’t want to be consumed by them. So while we can sit here and argue Jones is maybe a shade small to feature as a permanent three-technique, or a bit too big to play the LEO, Carroll and Schneider might be debating what he can do for this team. What he can be is a possible upgrade for Jason Jones in an underrated role for the Seahawks.

He had 19 tackles for a loss in 14 games this season. He’s strong enough at the point to push his blocker into the backfield — something we recently highlighted as a key need for Bill Walsh defensive tackles. He also has a good enough first step, repertoire of moves (swim, spin, club, rip) and explosion to shoot a gap and make his presence known.

One of my big issues is execution. Given how often Jones has success in 1v1 battles, he should be even more productive. I’m a little surprised watching the tape that he only manufactured 6.5 sacks in 2012. Yet it’s not all about pure sacks. We should know that from the Walsh article. Being able to impact plays by your very presence is good enough for an interior rusher. And Jones appears to impact his fair share of plays, even if he doesn’t always finish.

The Seahawks really benefited from using Jason Jones at an interior starting point while getting Bruce Irvin to stunt around and come at the offensive line from a different angle. As well as Greg Scruggs played in relief of Jones, I’m not sure this tactic was quite as effective in the second half of the season. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Irvin’s production fell of a cliff as a consequence. So it was pleasing to see UCLA running similar stunts with their edge rushers while Datone Jones worked inside.

Jones has some pretty good tape (see: Washington State) but he also has some pretty average tape (see: Nebraska). There are occasions where he just absorbs blocks and doesn’t have any influence on the play. There are times where he’s not blocked and given a free road into the backfield, but he makes a bad read — pursuing a running back on a QB-keeper or failing to detect a draw play. He’s not a brilliant run stopper working inside, although upon further review I’m less concerned about using him inside as a conventional three-technique. I also think he gets tired in games and despite being athletic enough to shift around at 280lbs like he does, he could maybe use some pro-conditioning to max-out his potential for sixty minutes. He tired a bit at the combine too.

When Seattle drafted Lawrence Jackson in 2008, it was seen as a copy-cat move to mimic Justin Tuck’s role in the Super Bowl winning Giants team. Of course, it never worked out. Jackson was a pure effort and hussle guy, not the kind of versatile, roaming athlete that Tuck’s been in New York. Jones is bigger than both Jackson and Tuck, but he appears primed to take on a role that puts him in different positions. That probably puts him on New York’s radar. He should be on Dallas’ too as they move to the 4-3.

If Jones ends up being a top-20 pick, it could push two or three other defensive lineman down the board — which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for Seattle. If he is available, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be on Schneider and Carroll’s radar. And even if they feel he isn’t an orthodox three-technique or end, don’t rule out this team drafting a specialist rusher in the first round. They want to play stout on early downs then create turnover opportunities in third and long by bringing the pressure and putting athletes in coverage. The Jason Jones role might be specialist, but it could also be crucial for this defense. Jones is the most likely candidate to fill that position in round one. If he’s available.

Here’s all the Datone Jones tape… this will keep you busy for a while…

The ‘trading up for Sheldon Richardson’ article

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Could Sheldon Richardson fall into range for Seattle to trade up?

When I was asked by Kenneth Arthur and Jacson Bevens who I thought Seattle should take if they had their choice of any player in the draft, it was an easy question to answer.

Sheldon Richardson.

Seattle’s defensive scheme is pretty creative. For the last two years they’ve used size up front in base while utilising a specialist LEO rusher. In nickel and passing situations, they’ve been pretty attack-minded. Bruce Irvin and Jason Jones were brought in for the ‘money downs’. And while I accept that Irvin has been talked up as a prospective full-time LEO, he made his money at West Virginia as a third down specialist. And I have no real issue if that’s all he ends up being in Seattle.

I don’t expect the Seahawks to make any great changes to this plan, which is why I projected Datone Jones to Seattle at #25 this week. Whether they use a first round pick on a nickel three-technique remains to be seen. But I think they’ll draft one, as Jason Jones re-signing seems unlikely. And we’ll see the specialists in for those obvious passing situations. We may also see a continuation of size at the one, three and five technique.

I still think it’d be great to get a defensive tackle who offers the pass rushing quality of a so-called ‘specialist’, but also has the ability to feature on early downs. Someone who can double up with the LEO and cause real problems on early downs. After all, the issues with the pass rush were not limited to simply third downs. In terms of a pure three-technique, Sheldon Richardson would be the ideal choice.

He’d represent a considerable downgrade in size from Alan Branch, but Richardson’s still incredibly strong at the point of attack. I thought for the most part Georgia’s John Jenkins struggled against Alabama’s offensive line in the SEC Championship. In the second half, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker dominated Jenkins and the rest of the Bulldog’s D-line. Missouri on the whole didn’t fair much better against the Crimson Tide earlier in the season, but Richardson as an individual gave Alabama headache’s throughout.

If the Seahawks are going to start a 6-2, 290lbs defensive tackle (in other words, an orthodox three-technique) I think he has to be stout against the run. The NFC West is different these days. St. Louis and San Francisco make up one quarter of Seattle’s schedule every year. And both of those teams are going to try and beat you with the run. For all the hype around Colin Kaepernick and the investment in Sam Bradford, Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher will put a team on the field that wants to ram the ball down your throat. Seattle knows that.

It doesn’t mean you have to overreact and worry too much about what they’re going to do, but you have to be able to match-up at the same time. In using size and specialists I think the Seahawks are trying to get the benefits of both attack and defense. Pro-active and reactive. They can play stout on early downs to limit the run and capitalise in favourable down/distance situations later on.

Richardson isn’t going to anchor the run, but he’ll not be a liability either. He needs to be more disciplined and learn proper gap control. Yet he also plays with great leverage and 30 reps on the bench press was equal to Jesse Williams — so he has good upper body strength.

The fact that he’s capable against the run just makes his pass rush quality all the more exciting. He’s incredibly mobile and quick on his feet, has a great burst, he’s able to drive blockers back into the pocket but also show that great first step to beat a man with speed. He’s sparky — getting into a lineman or quarterbacks head (just like all great three-technique’s do). The motor never stops running, as witnessed by his willingness to chase to the sideline on the off-chance he might be able to make a decisive tackle. When he finds room to get into the backfield, he runs up the gears and finishes. While the sack numbers for 2012 weren’t great, he’s got as much potential as anyone to be another Geno Atkins (middling college production, superb as a pro).

Simply put, he’s one of the best players in this year’s draft. I personally cannot see him getting past Carolina at #14. Others disagree. Todd McShay has him as the #16 overall player on his post-combine big board. And today Daniel Jeremiah predicted he’d fall to Dallas at #18.

The Cowboys would undoubtedly love to get Richardson. Monte Kiffin tried in vain to get him to commit to USC during his time in the JUCO ranks. He stuck with Missouri, who’d originally sent him to California to improve his grades so he could feature for the Tigers. It’s unlikely anybody in the NFL has a better insight into Richardson than Kiffin.

I found him to be an engaging character during his interview with the NFL Network in Indianapolis. His personality seems confident without pushing it. Scouts Inc, in their 2012 report of Richardson, stated: “Mental capacity and maturity level are being closely investigated by NFL scouts.” There may be a few skeleton’s we don’t know about and I don’t even want to begin to speculate. It could also just be an overreaction, given he had to go and play in the JUCO ranks. After all, he’s a three-technique, not a quarterback.

Going back to Jeremiah’s mock where Richardson falls to #18 — if he starts to drop, what would it take to move up?

I’m fairly confident we won’t see any blockbuster trades where the Seahawks move into the top ten. To get up from #25 you’re looking at two first round picks and a mid-round pick as minimum compensation. That’s not a deal I think this team will be particularly interested in. In Jeremiah’s mock the Seahawks wouldn’t have to move up that far.

The old draft chart is fairly redundant in the new CBA, as witnessed by the sheer number of first round trades last year. Picks 2-7 all changed hands with no obvious rhyme or reason. The biggest jump saw Dallas move up eight spots from #14 to #6 to select Morris Claiborne. The deal cost the Cowboys their second round pick (#45 overall). According to the old chart, the Cowboys overpaid by 150 points.

Seattle would also need to move up eight spots to get ahead of Dallas. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a viable trade partner, considering they don’t meet the Seahawks again for a while and play in separate conferences. Would a straight up deal for Seattle’s second round pick (#56 overall) get it done? Would the Seahawks be willing to make that kind of move? In a deep draft, it’d be tough to part with a late second rounder. Yet the prize of landing Richardson could help solve the teams greatest remaining need.

On the old trade chart, the #25 pick would’ve been worth 720 points, with the #17 pick worth 950. Seattle’s #56 pick is valued at 340 points. Technically, the Cowboys would be getting a great deal. Combining Seattle’s third and fourth round pick creates 209 points, making it a better deal for the Seahawks. Given the teams success in rounds three and four so far — again — it’d be a tight call.

But as we touched on, the chart isn’t that accurate any more and teams appear to be prepared to look at a deal on face value and make a judgement call. How else do you determine Tampa Bay being able to move from #36 to #31 last year for basically swapping fourth rounders with Denver? According to the chart, that trade was worth a third or fourth round pick straight up. The Buccs got a steal (even more so considering that pick turned into Doug Martin).

If the Steelers want to accumulate picks and are looking to move down anyway (perhaps eyeing a particular player), they might be willing to take a deal worth a single third rounder. Moving from #25 to #17 to get Sheldon Richardson for a third rounder would, in my opinion, be a fantastic trade. What it basically comes down to is your opinion of Richardson versus whoever else is likely to be available at #25. Would you be willing to give up a second, third or fourth round pick to move up?

Of course it’s all fantasy football at the moment. Projecting trades in the draft is like trying to guess the lottery numbers (well, nearly). There are too many factors that have to align for these things to come off. However, for anyone hoping there’s a chance Sheldon Richardson lands in Seattle in April — they’ll need to start considering what it’ll take to move up. Because there’s hardly any chance he lasts until #25.