Archive for February, 2014

Combine work outs: Day one (OL & TE)

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Today the work outs begin, with the offensive lineman and tight ends running through drills.

Unfortunately I have to work today so we’re going to have to use this as an open thread for now. Later on I’ll sit down and watch the replay and put some thoughts in writing.

Thankfully I’ve got the rest of the week off and I’ll be live blogging on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday as events unfold in Indianapolis. So I hope you’ll join us for that.

For the time being you can watch the combine via the NFL Network or live via NFL.com by clicking here. Use the comments section to react to everything that’s going on.

Everything you need to know from the combine today

Friday, February 21st, 2014

News Flash: Seahawks like really good football player

Seahawks like Aaron Donald

According to Tony Pauline, the Seahawks have a lot of time for Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

This isn’t a major revelation. He’s a fantastic football player, should be a top-15 pick and deserves to go as high as defensive prospect not named Jadeveon Clowney.

Pauline: “I’m told the Seattle Seahawks brass love Donald. In fact (a) source mentioned the Seahawks made Donald a lot of money based on the way they played their defensive tackles in 2013.”

It’s a shame he has almost no shot of making it to pick #32. A real damn shame.

Pauline also quotes sources suggesting Donald could run in the 4.5/4.6 range, after initially reporting the 4.7’s. Nothing would surprise me. This guy is a star in the making and only a really short-sighted front office will overlook him based on size.

Carroll speaks at the combine

Pete Carroll spoke at the podium with a few interesting observations. You can hear the full press conference here.

— Despite the occasional hand-wringing over Christine Michael’s future role, Carroll spoke very positively about the second year receiver…

“He’s really talented and he’s a really exciting guy in our program. Probably has the most breakout potential out of anybody because you haven’t seen much of him yet… We’ve seen him, we know that he can do really special stuff.”

— Carroll spoke warmly about Sammy Watkins, a player the Seahawks have no shot at drafting…

“I was watching Sammy Watkins take the stage as he gets measured today and I think he was like 6-1 and 211 pounds or something like that. What separates that guy? What makes him such a great football player? It’s all the other elements. It’s not his height-weight-speed. It’s all the other stuff that’s part of his makeup, his gifts. Also the experiences he’s had, the coaching he’s had, the opportunity to play with great players.”

— When asked about the blueprint for his defense, he had this response…

“We want to be more and more aggressive (up front), always with speed.”

— In a separate, shorter piece with ESPN he made the following comments about Johnny Manziel. And he’s right…

“You better draft this guy… he’s an extraordinary football player.”

Receiver measurements and why Seattle will look for a ‘beast’

I’ve hand picked some key names, but you can see the full list via Walter Football.

Davante Adams — 6-1, 212lbs, 9 inch hands

Odell Beckham Jr — 5-11, 198lbs, 10 inch hands

Kelvin Benjamin — 6-5, 240lbs, 10 1/4 inch hands

Brandon Coleman — 6-6, 225lbs, 9 1/4 inch hands

Brandin Cooks — 5-9, 189lbs, 9 5/8 inch hands

Mike Evans — 6-4, 231lbs, 9 5/8 inch hands

Jarvis Landry — 5-11, 204lbs, 10 1/4 inch hands

Marqise Lee — 5-11, 196lbs, 9 1/2 inch hands

Donte Moncrief — 6-2, 221lbs, 9 1/8 inch hands

Allen Robinson — 6-2, 220lbs, 9 1/2 inch hands

Sammy Watkins — 6-0, 211lbs, 9 5/8 inch hands

The average hand size of a receiver over the last five years is 9 1/4 inches.

Some initial thoughts…

How weird is the human body? How can 5-9 Brandin Cooks, with his 189lbs frame, have the same sized hands as 6-4, 231lbs Mike Evans?

That is crazy.

I also find it interesting that Brandon Coleman at fully 6-6 and 225lbs has hands that are nearly an inch smaller than Odell Beckham’s Jr’s.

I’m going to reserve making any big judgements until after the weekend when these guys have worked out, but I will say this…

The Seahawks, if they’re going to draft a receiver early, they’re going to want a beast.

Not a middling 6-1/6-2 guy who runs a safe and steady forty time.

I’m talking about a monster who is big, fast and might have a few flaws, but is just a nightmare to gameplan.

If they don’t have great size, then they’ll need to be a tremendous athlete.

Look at the draft history under PC/JS.

In 2010 their two first round picks were Russell Okung (great mobility, long arms) and Earl Thomas (4.3 speed, electric athleticism).

The year after they drafted a man-mountain in James Carpenter — not a brilliant athlete, but incredibly huge with an impressive run blocking résumé at Alabama.

In 2012 Bruce Irvin was the top pick — a 4.4 guy and another big time athlete.

And last year their top two ‘picks’ were essentially Percy Harvin and Christine Michael.

Each year at the top of the draft they’ve gone after difference making physicality, speed or athleticism. Later on they’ve been willing to consider a John Moffitt or Jordan Hill. But early picks = nothing average.

And that’s what we should be looking at when it comes to the #32 pick. Even if that player is far from the finished article, they’re going to be special in terms of size or speed.

I suspect they’ll probably have Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans right at the top of their list. It’s a shame neither player will get close to #32 — in fact both could be top ten picks.

Evans doesn’t just have the size — on Sunday he’ll show the speed. And he has 35 1/8 inch arms. That’s just incredible length.

To put that into perspective, in the last five drafts the average arm length for a receiver is 32 inches.

Benjamin isn’t too far behind Evans with 34 7/8 inch arms — he too is going to run well for a 240lbs monster.

For a time they may have wondered if Benjamin would last to the late first, but after the weekend he’ll be considered a top-20 lock. I have no doubts there.

After that I’m not convinced there’s an obvious size/speed receiver fit unless Brandon Coleman has a terrific work out.

Don’t get me wrong, the list above is filled with good receivers. But a lot of them are similar to what the Seahawks already have.

If they’re going to draft a bigger target and a red zone threat, it might be time to start looking at Troy Niklas. If he runs well with that physique, he could be their guy.

He’s already a sound blocker with incredible size (6-6, 270lbs). How well is he going to run? We’ll find out tomorrow.

This could be an option for Seattle — especially with Evans and Benjamin likely to be long gone.

It’s also worth monitoring Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ work out. He was a former 5-star recruit, after all. And USC showed some interest during recruitment before Carroll left for the Seahawks.

OL and TE bench press results

Russell Bodine, a guard from North Carolina, had the most reps (42). He’s 6-3, 310lbs with 32 inch arms.

Here are the some other hand-picked results. Again, Walter Football has the full list.

Cameron Fleming — 34 reps

Gabe Jackson — 30 reps

Ja’wuan James — 22 reps

Cyrus Kouandjio — 21 reps

Taylor Lewan — 29 reps

Marcus Martin — 23 reps

Zack Martin — 29 reps

Jake Matthews — 23 reps

Morgan Moses — DNP

Antonio Richardson — 36 reps

Cyril Richardson — 25 reps

Greg Robinson — 32 reps

Xavier Su’a-Filo — 25 reps

David Yankey — 22 reps

Jace Amaro — 28 reps

Eric Ebron — 24 reps

Marcel Jensen — 24 reps

Colt Lyerla — 15 reps

Troy Niklas — 27 reps

Austin Seferian-Jenkins — 20 reps

It’s worth noting arm length for these players and the total reps. It’s much harder for Cyrus Kouandjio with nearly 36 inch arms to bench press than it is for someone like Jake Matthews, Zack Martin or Taylor Lewan.

Antonio Richardson’s 36 reps with 35 inch arms is positively freakish. We talked all year about how he could make a move up the boards. This might be the start of the hype train leaving the station.

In terms of the tight ends, Jace Amaro and Troy Niklas performed well considering their +34 inch arms.

Running back and quarterback measurements

A few other choice notes…

There were no major headlines involving the top three quarterbacks. Johnny Manziel is listed at 5-11 and 207lbs with big hands — 9 7/8 inches.

With hands like that, it’s safe to say John Schneider likes this guy.

Average hand size for a QB is around 9 5/8 inches. Considering there are very few quarterbacks under 6-0, that’s impressive for Manziel.

Blake Bortles is 6-5 and 232 lbs with 9 3/8 inch hands. Teddy Bridgewater is 6-2 and 214lbs with 9 1/4 inch hands.

For the full list click here.

I don’t expect the Seahawks to draft a running back, but for the record Carlos Hyde is listed at 5-11 and 230lbs, Bishop Sankey is 5-9 and 209lbs and Lache Seastrunk — who could run a fantastic time this Sunday — is 5-9 and 201lbs. You can see the rest here.

The weirdest story of the day award goes to…

The Cleveland Browns, who apparently tried to trade for Jim Harbaugh.

Plus there’s this addition from Mike Florio… “A deal that would have sent multiple draft picks to San Francisco was in place between the teams. But Harbaugh ultimately decided not to leave the 49ers.”

And then this…

And this little go-between is a classic…

This is so Harbaugh. And clearly something isn’t right in San Fran if he really is entertaining this switch. Seahawks begin negotiations with Michael Bennett’s agent According to this tweet…

What is Jared Allen’s market?

Jason La Canfora has an interesting piece on free agent Jared Allen.

Can he beat the collapsing pass rusher market for veteran players?

There’s been some talk that free agency could take a battering this year, due to the sheer quality and depth of this draft class.

However, it’s not a great draft for edge rushers. And this could actually benefit the likes of Allen and others when the market re-opens next month.

Even so, the Seahawks might keep an eye on what happens here. They reportedly showed interest before the trade deadline. If they cut Chris Clemons and with the cap growing to $130m — is there a chance to work out a cap-friendly deal to help Allen win a ring?

Sidney Rice makes it official

Adam Schefter broke the news earlier. I guess it’s now official.

Report: Seahawks releasing Sidney Rice

Friday, February 21st, 2014

This move frees up $7.3m in cap room. It won’t be the only piece of cost-cutting by Seattle.

Rice was an important capture in 2011, a key note signing after the lockout. The Seahawks were determined to make a splash, to get the rebuild moving. Adding Rice, Robert Gallery and Zach Miller was a big deal and undoubtedly helped create some momentum for the franchise.

Yet as they move forward after winning their first championship, there’s at least some chance none of that trio will be part of the future.

Miller is another potential cap casualty, although unlike Rice he’s stayed relatively healthy and had a big impact as a blocker.

But with a salary worth $7m — a year after earning $11m — it might be too much. Cutting him saves another $5m.

Nothing has been made official by the Seahawks on Rice, but this news along with the combine really kicks off an intriguing off-season.

Thursday combine notes – TE’s and OL measure up

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Why do college teams embellish the truth?

I’ve never understood this.

One of the best things about the combine is simply getting the facts on height and weight.

Cornerbacks listed at 6-1 suddenly drop to 5-11. Expect Justin Gilbert to get that treatment. Johnny Manziel’s going to struggle to crack 6-0, even though he’s listed at a very generous 6-1.

Today the offensive linemen and tight ends were weighed and measured. Kudos to @ThePatton for putting together this spreadsheet for the tight ends…

Troy Niklas is 6-6 and 270lbs. It’ll be very interesting to see how he performs with that massive size.

When I saw how big he was, I immediately thought back to this 66-yard touchdown he scored against Temple:

I know it’s only Temple, but look at the way he moves in the second level. If he comes out all guns blazing in Saturday’s work out, be prepared for the hype factor to go through the roof.

At 270lbs he’s built like a third offensive tackle. When that third offensive tackle can run a seam route down the field for a touchdown, that guy is going to be popular among NFL teams.

I wouldn’t mind but there’s barely any body fat on that frame either.

Niklas also had the second longest arms among TE’s. He has ten inch hands.

He mentioned during his interview he’s struggling with an unspecified ‘strain’ but still intends to work out.

How is he as a pass catcher? The video below details all his 2012 and 2013 targets. This isn’t just a highlight reel, it includes drops:

Austin Seferian-Jenkins has shed some weight for the combine, which is good to see. He was listed at 6-6, 276lbs by ESPN during the 2013 season. He came in at just under 6-6 and 262lbs in Indianapolis.

Let’s see if the weight-loss leads to a positive work out. He can really help his stock by running well here. The late first round isn’t totally out of the question, but he needs to compare favourably to the likes of Jace Amaro — who is almost identical in size.

Another stat worth monitoring with ASJ — according to @FantasyDouche he coverted 38 red zone targets into 19 touchdowns at Washington. That’s the kind of production Seattle currently lacks in that area.

Keep an eye on Fresno State’s Marcel Jensen too. He’s someone we talked about during the season. His best football is going to come at the next level.

At 6-4 and 250lbs, Eric Ebron looked more like a big receiver than a tight end. And that’s exactly what he’s going to be drafted to be. You can see his combine interview here.

Walter Football has the offensive line measurements from earlier.

Over the last five drafts, the average size of an offensive tackle is 6-5 and 315lbs — with 34 1/8 inch arms.

Now look at these…

Cyrus Kouandjio — 6-6, 322lbs with 35 5/8 inch arms

Greg Robinson — 6-5, 332lbs with 35 inch arms

Taylor Lewan — 6-7, 309lbs with 33 7/8 inch arms

Morgan Moses — 6-6, 314lbs with 35 3/8 inch arms

Antonio Richardson — 6-6, 336lbs with 35 inch arms

This is a draft filled with monster offensive tackles, completely hammering the five year average in terms of size.

A player like Jake Matthews will look at these numbers and get sweaty palms. He’s only 6-5, 308lbs with 33 3/8 inch arms. That’s decidedly average in comparison.

Stanford guard David Yankey is 6-5, 315lbs and has 34 inch arms. Very similar.

Unless he separates himself during work outs, I’m not sure Matthews’ tape will be enough to make him the first tackle off the board. Luke Joeckel was usurped by Eric Fisher last year because Fisher was just a better athlete with greater upside.

Robinson, Lewan, Kouandjio — these players are more than capable of jumping to the front of the draft.

Morgan Moses has also dropped considerable weight since the Senior Bowl, probably on the recommendation of the NFL teams he talked to in Mobile.

If the players listed above move well at that size, this is going to be some draft for offensive linemen in round one.

Elsewhere today…

— Jermiah Attaochu will not work due to an injured hamstring.

— Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said the 2014 draft class might be the most immature group he’s seen. He started by saying it’s the deepest class he’d evaluated, before dropping that little bombshell. Very interesting.

— Minnesota GM Rick Spielman also referred to the depth of the draft, saying you can find instant starters in rounds three and four.

Tony Pauline says Aaron Donald is expected to bench 30 reps at the combine and run a 4.7. If he manages that, say hello to the top-15. Incredible player.

Tomorrow the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs will be weighed and measured.

Away from the combine, the big news of the day involved the salary cap.

Reports are saying it’ll be increased by 5% to $130m.

Originally a $3-4m increase was expected. This would represent a $7m jump.

This significantly improves Seattle’s chances of re-signing Michael Bennett and Golden Tate, while also retaining some of the clubs other free agents.

With an extra $7m in cap room and cuts to be expected (Sidney Rice, possibly Zach Miller and Chris Clemons), life just became a little easier for the Seahawks. Especially with Earl Thomas almost certainly receiving an extension this off-season.

In his combine press conference today, John Schneider essentially ruled out using the franchise tag on Bennett. It’s probably unnecessary given today’s news on the cap. Tagging Bennett as a defensive tackle (contentious) would incur a $9.6m cost.

Schneider was interviewed by the NFL Network. You can see it here.

Pre-combine mock draft, big changes: 19th February

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

This week I’ve tried to project what a lot of mocks could look like immediately after the combine.

We’ll do another one next week to compare. Let’s see if some of the moves here come off.

For example, I’ve got Mike Evans at #5 going to Oakland. I suspect he’s going to run a lot faster than people think — possibly matching Vincent Jackson’s 4.46 in 2005.

If he does that to go along with everything he’s shown in college, he might be a top five pick. He might be the first receiver off the board.

And that’s no slight on Sammy Watkins. I have him going to Tampa Bay at #7. I just wonder, after weeks of Watkins being the perceived #1 wide out, whether a change will occur next week.

We’ll see.

That’s just one example. There are others…

— Will Jadeveon Clowney convince the Texans they have to take him with the #1 pick? Or will he leave the door open for a quarterback instead? In this mock, I think he performs well enough to be the first name called.

— Can Kelvin Benjamin wow onlookers with a crazy work out at 6-5 and 230lbs? He’s a physical freak and this setting could suit him. By this time next week is he a consensus top-10/15 player?

— Two of my personal favourites — Ra’Shede Hageman and Brent Urban — will both perform well enough to get a little more attention. That’s my projection. Although I hope Urban doesn’t use the whole ‘moody Canadian Hockey Player’ persona during team interviews.

— Justin Gilbert is being tipped to run a fast time. Does he become the consensus #1 corner after running a fast forty?

— Can Brandon Coleman silence a few critics about a lack of production with a first round work out? I think he’s capable, he also has to clear medical checks over his knee.

Then there’s the players not involved here…

— Will Austin Seferian-Jenkins give his stock a boost, or does he run a middling 4.7 and remain a second rounder at best? I’m not expecting a sensational work.

— Stephon Tuitt, for me, looked cumbersome and ineffective in 2013. Does he show up in better shape or does he remain a 320lbs monster with marginal athletic skills?

— Will Allen Robinson actually run in the 4.5 range? I think it’s very possible, hampering his hopes of a first round grade.

— Is Kony Ealy really worth the first round chatter? I guess we’ll see what he’s made of during drills.

We’ll come back to this mock next week and review the before and after.

I’ve also gone in a different direction with Seattle’s pick at #32.

Over the last few days I took in some Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State) tape. He’s generally ranked anywhere between rounds two and four by the internet pundits you all know.

I think he might be flying under the radar a little bit.

He’s far from the finished product. You’d want to get him in the weight room and add a bit more upper body power. He’s capable of carrying another 8-10lbs I reckon without losing any speed.

He also needs to develop a better bull rush and perform better against double teams. Again, these are things that can be rectified with pro-strength training.

Here are the positives — wonderful, long frame (ideal LEO size at 6-3 and around 250lbs). He’s a natural pass rusher with 20 sacks and 34 total TFL’s in two seasons after leaving the JUCO ranks.

Lawrence is a very fluid athlete who knows how to get off a block and explode to the ball carrier. I like the fact he plays with an edge — this is an underrated feature in a pass rusher. He’s a violent dude. But at the same time, he never seems to lose control and he has terrific balance.

I like his hand use, even if it could be even better (extra strength will help here). He’s got a great motor and he’ll chase across the field to get involved. Always finishes plays.

In a year where there aren’t a ton of great pass rushers, he’s one of the better ones. There are a few character issues (suspensions) that need to be addressed. Hopefully we’ll get some info on that during the combine.

He’s not going to be on every wish list. I’m not sure he’s got the coverage skills or mobility in space to convert to a 3-4 linebacker. He lacks the size to play a lot of downs at end in an orthodox 4-3.

Yet for the Seahawks he fits quite nicely. They can line him up across from Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett (if he re-signs) and limit how many double teams he faces. In that type of situation, I think you could generate an instant impact.

Seattle needs to consider the future at defensive end. Chris Clemons might be cut this off-season, while Avril is a free agent next year.

They spent a year training Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin could always return to the LEO. Even then, there’s no guarantee Mayowa takes the next step and Irvin might remain at linebacker.

Adding a long, athletic pass rusher into the mix might not be such a bad idea. The Seahawks tend to see things differently compared to other teams, and they might see some value in this particular edge rusher at #32.

I also wouldn’t rule out a late surge. Chandler Jones ran a 4.87 at the combine two years ago, but ended up going 21st overall. Lawrence could experience something similar — but I think he’ll run a lot faster than that.

I’ve included his 2013 tape vs Nevada at the top of this article. Take a look for yourselves. Check out that last play to end the game.

Shop for Conference Champs and Super Bowl XLVIII Match Up Merchandise at NFLShop.com

#1 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
If Clowney performs as expected at the combine, this will be an easy decision — however much they need a quarterback.
#2 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
It’s up to Matthews to flash the kind of athleticism Luke Joeckel failed to show at last years combine.
#3 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
He could be the sparky competitor Gus Bradley needs at QB to continue the building job in Jacksonville.
#4 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
After all the changes, who knows what to expect in Cleveland any more?
#5 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
He could blow up the combine. Seriously. Adding speed to the size and production could put him in the top five.
#6 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
It would be the perfect review of the strength of this draft if Robinson lasted this far.
#7 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
He’ll do everything well in Indy and won’t get out of the top ten. It’s just a case of how high does he go?
#8 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s a decent fit for Norv Turner’s offense, and they need a quarterback badly. He’ll throw at the combine apparently.
#9 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
With his size, a good showing this week could put him in the top-ten mix.
#10 Khalil Mack (DE, Buffalo)
Detroit could field a front four of Mack, Suh, Fairly and Ansah. All four are top-15 picks.
#11 Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)
I’m still not overly convinced by Barr. Ray Horton’s arrival as defensive coordinator means they need a 3-4 OLB.
#12 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
He could easily go in the top ten and this is pretty much his floor.
#13 Zack Martin (G, Notre Dame)
Doubling up on the offensive line might not be a bad idea for the Rams.
#14 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
Every team in the league is looking for a rangy safety. The Bears need one badly.
#15 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Terrific athlete with the potential to be the next big time tight end. He’s predicting an “illegal” work out on Saturday.
#16 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
If he shows above average athleticism at the combine, he deserves to go this early. Geno Atkins-esque.
#17 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Baltimore always seems to get great value in the draft. They consistently make smart picks.
#18 Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
Terrific receiver. It’s a toss up between Landry and Odell Beckham Jr who goes first. They’re both fantastic players.
#19 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
He could easily go earlier based on potential, but he needs to impress this week to move up a talented tackle board.
#20 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
They won ten games without a very good offensive line last year. Hageman is better value than any of the remaining tackles.
#21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Green Bay needs to keep adding toughness to that defense. It’s holding them back.
#22 Brent Urban (DE, Virginia)
Long, talented defensive lineman. Could have a big weekend. Personality is very ‘Canadian hockey player’.
#23 Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
Big, third down converting tight end. Would have an instant impact in this offense. Needs to avoid a Gavin Escobar type work out.
#24 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Touted to run very fast this weekend. It’s not a great corner class, so Gilbert has a shot to create some separation.
#25 Xavier S’ua-Filo (G, UCLA)
Major upside and could impress on Saturday. Has the potential to ‘wow’.
#26 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
The Browns might wait on a receiver and instead secure a book end tackle for their new quarterback.
#27 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
The Saints could use a new corner and Dennard is probably the #1 or #2 corner available.
#28 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Insane potential. Give him a year and he could be big time. Has a chance to silence a few critics this weekend.
#29 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Didn’t have a great 2013 and won’t be Dontari Poe at the combine. Needs to turn up in better shape.
#30 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
I’m not going to lie — this would be tough to accept. Beckham is such a good player.
#31 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Not a brilliant 2013 season and will probably struggle to match Calvin Pryor’s work out on Tuesday.
#32 Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State)
Keep an eye on how he performs. He has the required length and speed. He might be flying under the radar a little bit.

The only scenario I’d want to go offensive line at #32

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Breno Giacomini -- underrated, under appreciated, our guy

By now I think you know my stance on drafting an offensive lineman at #32, but here’s a quick recap…

— Whatever o-line you put on the field, Russell Wilson is going to get hit. That’s not to say he didn’t get hit too often in 2013, but he’s always going to get more punishment than other quarterbacks. Pete Carroll wants to be the best scrambling team in the league. His words. That comes with a cost.

— Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco are going to create pressure. That’s an unavoidable fact. Russell Wilson is going to get sacked by these teams, because the NFC West is loaded with defensive talent. You simply cannot shut down Robert Quinn AND Chris Long. You can’t dominate San Francisco’s excellent front seven. And the Cardinals were ranked #2 on defense by DVOA. The 49ers have the best o-line in the division and they can’t stop Colin Kaepernick getting hit. The defenses are too good.

— I think it’s a poor draft for guards, outside of Notre Dame’s Zack Martin moving inside from tackle. Even then, you wonder how he’d react to a positional switch. The likes of Cyril Richardson and Gabe Jackson were found out at the Senior Bowl, while Xavier S’ua-Filo is more upside over proven ability. David Yankey looks like a classic Stanford lineman — technically gifted within that system, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the next level.

— I think it’s a very good draft for offensive tackles. Yet three out of the first four picks last year went on offensive linemen. SIX of the first eleven picks in 2013 were either tackles or guards. Any top-tier talent on the o-line isn’t going to hang around. Teams are putting these guys right up there with the quarterbacks. By the time Seattle’s on the board at #32, it’s a major stretch to think there’s going to be a really good offensive tackle just sitting there waiting to be snapped up.

— I know people disagree, but I reckon the Tom Cable project is working. J.R. Sweezy continues to develop and let’s remember, 2013 was only his second year as an offensive lineman and his first as the unquestioned starter. We’re seeing a lot of potential in Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie. I’d let Cable try and add a couple more later round/UDFA players to the group while further developing the current incumbents.

One final point, and it’s the one that winds people up the most — I don’t think you need a brilliant, elite offensive line to win a title.

A lot of people complain about Seattle’s line, yet they’re Super Bowl champs.

Name me the last team who won a Championship and the offensive line was considered ‘great’.

It certainly isn’t Seattle, Baltimore, New York, Green Bay, New Orleans or Pittsburgh — the last six Super Bowl winners.

Denver won the AFC this year without their stud left tackle playing more than two games.

For me, it’s all about managing situations and finding ways to win. Seattle spent most of the year in damage-limitation mode, reeling from a spate of injuries to Russell Okung, Max Unger and Breno Giacomini.

Wilson got hit too much in their absence, but they still won games.

Why?

Because they managed the situation, working their gameplan to suit. It didn’t always look pretty — but they lost only one game during the OL injury crisis.

I often hear people quote where Seattle’s line was ranked by PFF or some other format. Do these rankings take into account who was starting for most of the season? It’s OK saying they were only 17th for run blocking. But that’s 17th for run blocking with your left tackle, center and right tackle missing multiple games.

An average end-of-season ranking for run blocking when you’re fielding a line of McQuistan-Carpenter-Jeanpierre-Sweezy-Bowie for part of it could actually be perceived as a positive.

I actually think if this unit can stay healthy, they can thrive. They’re well coached by Cable. They know the scheme (such an underrated factor) and each other.

Drafting in the late first round doesn’t always guarantee results (see: James Carpenter) and throwing another rookie into the mix might actually have a negative impact next year.

Do you really want a late first round tackle trying to stop Robert Quinn, Calais Campbell, Chris Long, Aldon Smith etc etc?

*shudders*

In an ideal world they re-sign the underrated Breno Giacomini and pick up one or two more guys for Cable to work with.

But what if they can’t keep Giacomini?

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility he’ll get a relatively attractive offer in free agency. He’s a solid right tackle who plays with attitude — and he’s now a Super Bowl champion. There’s a few teams out there with plenty of cap room who can afford to maintain the average of his 2012/2013 salary (around $3.5m).

I suspect age (he turns 29 in September) plus the strength of the tackle class in the draft might put teams off, and he could end up being a bargain re-sign for Seattle.

If he does walk, that’s when I think you start looking at the position at #32.

Bowie, for me at least, looked a lot more comfortable at guard against Arizona and New Orleans (playoffs). At times he struggled at tackle, particularly the game on the road against the Cardinals.

The fact Bailey sat while Bowie played is a hint the Seahawks don’t see Bailey as a right tackle.

If you lose Breno, you have to replace him.

But will there be a guy sitting there at #32? This is the big question.

As noted earlier, the league is placing a high premium on offensive linemen. Will there be any left?

I’d need to see one of Cyrus Kouandjio, Morgan Moses or Antonio Richardson waiting there to even consider it. I’m going to do more work on Richardson before the combine because I’ve seen quite a lot of negativity on him recently.

Kouandjio is likely to be long gone, while Moses could be snapped up by Baltimore, Miami or Arizona.

If anything the likelihood of a rush on tackles would make me even more determined to re-sign Giacomini.

I’m not being blasé about the offensive line. I just feel better luck with injuries can provide the biggest boost in 2014.

It’ll be a major improvement if they simply aren’t forced to start Paul McQuistan at left tackle for weeks on end, put a 7th round rookie at right tackle and fit in a 2010 undrafted free agent to replace you’re Pro Bowl center.

For me, a healthy line of Okung-Bailey/Bowie/Carpenter-Unger-Sweezy-Giacomini… works just fine.

But if they lose Giacomini, I have to respect tackle becomes a much greater need.

Yet it’s just as likely we’ll see major changes to the defensive line due to free agency and cuts (Bennett? McDaniel? McDonald? Clemons? Bryant?).

Let’s not forget what made this team the best. Even if you manage to keep Michael Bennett, the others would need to be replaced.

And if the receivers and offensive tackles go early this year, it increases the chances of a really good defensive lineman making it to #32.

Food for thought.

Shop for Conference Champs and Super Bowl XLVIII Match Up Merchandise at NFLShop.com

The thankless task of projecting tight ends

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, yet another TE who could sink or swim in the NFL

Tight end is one of the toughest positions to judge.

At least for me it is.

Essentially, the NFL is full of really average tight ends.

And yet they’re all so different at the same time.

What should we be looking for?

Everyone wants to find the next big thing, but for whatever reason it’s just so damn difficult.

**********************************

The most highly touted prospect I’ve covered since starting this blog was Jermaine Gresham. He was considered a huge talent at Oklahoma. A true difference maker.

At the combine he ran a 4.66 — which was pretty good at 261lbs. Not elite, but fair. His vertical jump (35 inches) was superior to the likes of Jason Witten (31) and just shy of Jimmy Graham’s (38.5).

He wasn’t joining a team with a hopeless passing game — whatever you want to say about Andy Dalton, the Bengals have put up yards since 2011.

He had the luxury of playing alongside a superstar in A.J. Green — a player who regularly draws extra attention in coverage.

Yet for whatever reason it just hasn’t worked for Gresham. He is the very definition of average.

He’s a classic ‘bye week’ fantasy tight end. He’s always on the waiver wire. You’re hoping the week you grab him in desperation is that one, strange week he actually does something.

We’ve all been there.

And more often than not you’re left completely disappointed.

He has 2262 yards in four seasons and 19 touchdowns. After his most productive campaign in 2012 (737 yards, five scores), the Bengals went out and drafted another tight end (Tyler Eifert) in round one.

For all the promise he showed in college, we’ve seen such rampant mediocrity at the next level.

This was supposed to be a can’t miss type pick. Really, it’s just a classic example of how difficult it is to project tight ends to the pro’s.

**********************************

Here’s a list of TE’s taken between rounds 1-3 in the four drafts prior to 2013:

Brandon Pettigrew (1st rounder, 2009)
Richard Quinn (2nd rounder, 2009)
Jared Cook (3rd rounder, 2009)
Chase Coffman (3rd rounder, 2009)
Travis Beckum (3rd rounder, 2009)
Jermaine Gresham (1st rounder, 2010)
Rob Gronkowski (2nd rounder, 2010)
Ed Dickson (3rd rounder, 2010)
Tony Moeaki (3rd rounder, 2010)
Jimmy Graham (3rd rounder, 2010)
Kyle Rudolph (2nd rounder, 2011)
Lance Kendricks (2nd rounder, 2011)
Rob Housler (3rd rounder, 2011)
Coby Fleener (2nd rounder, 2012)
Dwayne Allen (3rd rounder, 2012)
Michael Egnew (3rd rounder, 2012)

That’s a heck of a lot of swinging and missing.

There’s everything in that list above. Big production, minimal production. Great size, smaller tight ends. Athleticism, more of a blocker.

And out of 16 players drafted in the first three rounds between 2009-12 — about three guys made it happen.

Three.

So much swinging. So much missing.

**********************************

It’s a similar story with the 2013 class. Of the six tight ends taken in the first three rounds — the guy picked right at the end of the third (Jordan Reed) had the best rookie year.

Gavin Escobar, Travis Kelce, Vance McDonald, Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert.

All usurped by Reed — a guy who ran a 4.72.

Drafting this position early, to put it bluntly, scares the crap out of me.

How do you know what you’re going to get?

Michael Egnew ran a 4.62, had a 37.5 inch vertical jump and managed 21 reps on the bench press. He looked every bit the next big ‘move’ tight end at 6-5 and 255lbs. I really liked his potential, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was high up on Seattle’s list.

He went in the third round to Miami.

In two years he has seven catches for 69 yards and zero touchdowns.

Coby Fleener — solid, Stanford guy. 4.52 speed, 27 reps on the bench. Looked sensational at his pro-day too. He’s a very early second round pick after a lot of talk he could go in the top 20.

He’s even drafted by Indianapolis, the team that just picked his guy to play quarterback — Andrew Luck.

The end result? Drops galore, loads of errors and a marginal NFL target for Luck.

Both players look like the kind of guys you’d take a chance on.

And yet neither is working out as planned.

Then you look at players who did make it work in 2013…

Julius Thomas — a former 4th round pick who ran a 4.64 and spent his college career playing basketball.

Jordan Cameron — another ex-Basketball guy and another former 4th rounder. Ran a 4.53 with a 37.5 inch vertical jump at the combine in 2011.

Antonio Gates — undrafted in 2003, enjoying a renaissance season after a mountain of injuries. Yep — you guessed it — basketball background.

It seems to me a better plan might be to keep searching for those 4.5/4.6 runners who converted from basketball. Dig around in the later rounds to find the next gem.

Seattle had some success uncovering Luke Willson last year with this type of approach.

At least your not making too much of a commitment, because a lot of these early round picks are bombing and it’s costly.

**********************************

Let’s have a look at the upcoming class. Five names stand out going into the combine.

Eric Ebron — the perceived big-time athlete and former basketball talent (take note). He’s getting the big props, a bit like Gresham, with people suggesting he could be the next great tight end to enter the league.

Jace Amaro — an over-sized receiver who doesn’t have great speed but oozes control and manages to find ways to get open. He excelled in a prolific passing offense, but how will he adjust to the next level when he’s not operating in an extreme spread system?

Austin Seferian-Jenkins — At times at Washington he looked like an insane prospect, with ideal size and a solid all-round game. More of a throwback tight end, not just a joker. Some have expressed concern over an entitled attitude. Does he want to be great?

Troy Niklas — a massive tight end with great height and size. Was considered a tackle prospect initially. He can get downfield but he might be better off training to be a blocker first. How fast is he?

Richard Rogers — the wildcard. Touted to flash extreme athleticism at the combine, he drifted under the radar at rotten California. Just how physically talented is he? And can he become more than just a great athlete?

All five have their issues.

Is Ebron really going to put in the kind of performance he’s touting? Can he be the next basketball convert to take over the league?

Amaro’s size can be instantly compared to Gavin Escobar in 2012. He had a very disappointing combine and it hurt his stock. I just don’t see a great athlete here and the combine might not be a good thing for Amaro.

Seferian-Jenkins needs to turn up in great shape and flash the kind of 5-star athleticism that had all the big schools trying to recruit him. If he does it, someone will take a shot early. But there’s every chance he runs a 4.7 or worse.

Niklas might be the latest player off Notre Dame’s tight end conveyor belt, but it also means he has limited experience on the field. Before the 2013 season he had just five catches for 75 yards. That’s it. And he wasn’t a focal point on the offense when he eventually became the starter. It was somewhat surprising he chose to declare.

Rogers has a shot to move up the board with a great work out. If he doesn’t run in the 4.4’s or early 4.5’s — why would you take a shot early? There’s not a great deal to get excited about on tape, even if that’s mostly down to one of the worst passing offenses in the NCAA.

Honestly, I could see all five players entering the NFL and having success. But I can also see all five adding to the list of flops.

There really isn’t a classic modern tight end where you can say — this guy ticks the right boxes so he will be this type of player.

Whether you’re bigger, smaller, faster, more powerful or whatever. All types have failed in recent years.

Here’s the order I’d put them in terms of how much confidence I’ve got in their ability to succeed:

#1 Ebron #2 ASJ #3 Amaro #4 Rogers #5 Niklas

We get a chance to see all five work out on Saturday. The combine gets under way with the tight ends and offensive linemen going through drills.

Also — keep an eye on Fresno State’s Marcel Jensen. What he lacked in consistent production, he makes up for in potential. He’s a very intriguing player.

I’ll write a review of day one from Indianapolis on Saturday evening. I’ll be live-blogging on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday during the other work outs.

**********************************

Monday links

Speaking of tight ends, Mike Huguenin has a nice piece comparing the combine results of previous players and discussing this years crop.

Huguenin on Seferian-Jenkins:

” His combine performance should be excellent, and if you like Seferian-Jenkins, that will strengthen those feelings. But will that combine performance win over any detractors?”

Mike Mayock has published his pre-combine rankings. I love Mayock, but for someone who’s so cagey about doing a mock draft — I’m surprised he puts out an early list like this. It nearly always changes so dramatically after the combine.

His tight end list goes: Ebron, ASJ, Amaro, Niklas, C.J. Fiedorowicz.

Nolan Narwocki has put together a piece for NFL.com, looking at ten players with ‘character’ issues.

Here’s what he has to say about Johnny Manziel, and it aint pretty:

“…not a leader by example or known to inspire by his words. Carries a sense of entitlement and prima-donna arrogance seeking out the bright lights of Hollywood. Is known to party too much and is drawn to all the trappings of the game. Has defied the odds and proven to be a great college-system quarterback, but still must prove he is willing to work to be great, adjust his hard-partying, Hollywood lifestyle and be able to inspire his teammates by more than his playmaking ability.”

Friend of the blog Kenneth Arthur has written a detailed off-season projection for Field Gulls.

Arthur, on the cap conundrum facing the Seahawks:

“Very soon — possibly before this article is published — the Seahawks will really start making offseason news. It will likely start with the releases of some popular veterans, and possibly some other re-negotiations. As of February 17, OvertheCap.com says that the Oakland Raiders have over $60,000,000 in cap space for next season. Per Davis Hsu’s latest projections on next years Seattle roster, the Seahawks are spending $60 million on the offense and defense… each.”

Finally, and seeing as we’re on the subject of tight ends, here’s some new tape on Jace Amaro vs Texas:

Shop for Conference Champs and Super Bowl XLVIII Match Up Merchandise at NFLShop.com

What if Seattle let Bennett & Tate test the market?

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Michael Bennett, and his celebration, must stay in Seattle

How much should you pay a free agent?

It’s not always obvious.

Sometimes you just have to get it done. It’s why quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco all got huge contracts. At some point in the next few months I’d expect J.J. Watt to get a titanic-sized deal.

But other times it just makes financial sense to let the market come to you.

In an ideal the world the Seahawks keep Michael Bennett and Golden Tate.

But they might be forced into letting both find their true worth.

Amid all the talk of discounts and a desire to stay in Seattle, they’ll never get a better chance to cash in.

They just won a Super Bowl. Both players are fairly high profile. In Bennett’s case he’s coming off a monster post-season where he had a huge impact as a pass rusher.

They can walk into a meeting with the Seahawks and name a high price — and it wouldn’t be out of order.

Bennett’s agent can point to the 5-year, $40.5m contract signed by Paul Kruger — a Super Bowl winner last year who also enjoyed a huge post season in Baltimore. Kruger left the Ravens to go to Cleveland, and will earn $8.2m in three of the next four years.

He’s also only three months younger than Bennett.

Tate’s agent can use Brian Hartline as an example. He signed a 5-year contract in Miami worth nearly $31m and for the next four years he’ll earn between $6.2m and $7.5m.

Whether we like it or not, that is the kind of money Tate can expect to command.

To accept smaller offers to stay in Seattle, without testing free agency, would be a huge gift to the Seahawks worthy of the phrase ‘hometown discount’.

So unless the Seahawks are willing to pony up that kind of cash (and they might) both players could easily become free agents.

That in itself would bring about an interesting chess game.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider have allowed players to test the market before. Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane were re-signed after an anxious wait in free agency, with New England and Denver sniffing around.

The reward can be substantial if you get a cheaper deal, but you also run the serious risk of losing key players — or even paying more.

In the end neither Bryant or Mebane came back at a reduced price. Seattle had to pay up.

Yet we only have to look at last year to realise you can save money too.

Everyone expected Bennett and Cliff Avril to get paid. The Seahawks weren’t mentioned as potential suitors — nobody expected either to last long in free agency.

Yet after a battle for Paul Kruger’s signature, the market went flat.

Suddenly Avril was signing a two-year deal in Seattle, and Bennett penned a one year contract. This was all about improving their future market potential. Both players were young enough to have another crack at free agency down the line.

But is the money definitely going to be there now they’ve won a Championship?

Could they actually be considered cogs in an an uber-talented, balanced unit? After all, it’s the secondary that gets most of the attention in Seattle. They’re the ones with the nickname.

Will teams, incorrectly, look at Bennett as just an 8.5-sack guy on a great defense?

It’s not completely unlikely.

Greg Hardy (26 sacks in 2012/13) will be the premium pass rusher in free agency and he’s likely to get the big money offers and the most early interest. Carolina have cap issues, so Hardy won’t be franchised.

When he leaves the board, does it go cold again? Just like a year ago?

Not helping matters is the relative depth available. Michael Johnson, Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen, Everson Griffen, Justin Tuck — other players who will follow Hardy’s lead.

If Bennett is being quoted offers less than the total he was requesting from the Seahawks, you’d have to fancy Seattle’s chances of keeping him at a slightly better price.

Of course the alternative scenario is a team just offers up a nice big contract and Bennett’s packing his bags.

Gus Bradley and the Jaguars have $47.7m in free cap space and should be making him one of their top targets.

Atlanta has $19.2m free even and could make a strong bid as they need a pass rusher.

Bennett’s former Head Coach in Tampa Bay — Raheem Morris — is now the defensive coordinator in Washington. They’ve got $24.9m to play with.

This is the kind of risk facing Seattle if they let Bennett talk to other teams.

**********************************

Unlike the pass rush market, receivers are hot property in free agency. The ones who don’t get huge, over-inflated contracts (Mike Wallace) at least get decent money.

Any team breaking in a young quarterback could use Golden Tate.

He’s reliable, he’s a playmaker, he’s physical for his size and he’s a good return man.

Numbers can be deceptive. Anyone who ‘gets’ the Seahawks understands they’ll probably never have one receiver who puts up monster stats.

This offense is about big plays and running the ball. Carroll refers to Wilson throwing around 25 times as perfection. We’ll not see 350-400 yard games with any regularity, and we may never see a Seahawks receiver leading the yardage charts.

Tate’s best year statistically was the 898 yards he recorded in 2013. He managed that from 64 catches. None of the top-ten receivers had less than 82 receptions, while the likes of Antonio Brown had nearly twice as many (110) to put up his 1499 yards.

It’d be interesting to see how he’d fair in a prolific passing offense such as New England’s. Julian Edelman had 1056 yards from 105 receptions. With Tate’s ability in space I wonder how productive he’d be in the Patriots system?

At the same time he’s pretty much perfect for the Seahawks offense. Make the most of your chances, be consistent, compete every day and be an X-Factor. He has a lot of value to Seattle and it’s why John Schneider will make a big push to keep him.

And yet there’s one huge elephant in the room if he wants big money….

It’s a FANTASTIC year for receivers in the draft. Truly exceptional.

If you need a receiver, whatever the type, you’ll find them in this class.

And while Tate, Eric Decker and Jeremy Maclin all have some value — they’re not must-have players. Not when you can get an Odell Beckham Jr or Jarvis Landry for a fraction of the cost.

So while the Seahawks risk losing Tate if he hits the market, they also know an other-wordly receiver class could work in their favour.

If Tate expects to get Hartline-money, he might be unlucky. There’s enough talent in the draft to hammer his value — potentially taking a couple of million off the table.

**********************************

Essentially it comes down to this — how much can you afford to gamble on either player?

Bennett for me is a must-sign. He’s just too important to the defense and for the sake of trying to save $2-3m, you just get it done.

Unless his agent constantly moves the goalposts and asks for more, there needs to be a meeting point on a contract to make sure he’s playing the peak years of his career in Seattle.

I truly believe Bennett is a top-10 defensive lineman in the league — and his lack of a defined position and gaudy numbers is making him devastatingly underrated.

No messing around here, I think this could be a formality. These were Ian Rapoport’s words on Super Bowl Sunday:

“Michael Bennett will be re-signed”

His words on Tate?

“They’ll try… if they have space”

I suspect Seattle is thoroughly determined to keep Tate. He gets under the skin of opponents, has consistently won games with big plays and has a lot of chemistry with quarterback Russell Wilson.

Unlike Bennett, however, you can imagine a successful Seahawks team without Tate. They somewhat made their bed by paying Percy Harvin a massive contract. I’d be surprised if they don’t make receiver an early target in the draft just because of the quality available. And we have to assume they’re going to tender Doug Baldwin.

With some heartbreaking decisions forthcoming, Tate might be a player they end up allowing to test the market. And unless they can get him back on a deal worth $3-4m a year, he might be playing elsewhere.

But as we discussed above — don’t rule out that kind of deal because the receiver-rich draft could hurt him.

For me — Bennett gets done before free agency begins on March 11th. Tate tests the market, but could still remain in Seattle.

**********************************

Speaking of heartbreaking decisions…

Sportrac have put together a list of 60 potential cap casualties. Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant are all named for Seattle.

Here’s the potential saving for each:

Rice — $7.3m

Miller — $5m

Clemons — $7.5m

Bryant — $7.5m

Total — $27.3m

I watched some post-season highlights this weekend. Part of Seattle’s effectiveness with the pass rush was being able to team Bennett and Avril on one side, with Clemons on the opposite edge.

Whatever you think about Clemons’ performance during the regular season, he appeared back to his effective best in the playoffs.

Bryant is assumed as a luxury by most fans, and yet I get the feeling Carroll sees him as integral on early downs. It’s not as simple as plugging a more orthodox 5-tech guy in that position. Bryant’s massive size would also need to be replaced.

Miller has acted more as a terrific blocker in Seattle but he’s made his fair share of catches too. Ideally you keep him, but whatever anyone says he shouldn’t be earning $18m for his efforts in 2013/14. Luke Willson is more of a joker than a blocker and not a natural replacement.

Rice is the nearest thing Seattle has to a #1 receiver. Even with a good group, they need a #1. Out of the four though, I think Rice is the only sure-fire cut.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility Clemons could be cut and then re-signed at an incredibly low price. The market for 32-year-old pass rushers isn’t great.

I think the team would look to work on Bryant’s and Miller’s contracts simply because they are vital players. But they aren’t irreplaceable like Russell Wilson or Earl Thomas.

If they cleared house and cut all four it’d make for an interesting off-season.

In that scenario they’d have the necessary funds to extend Thomas’ contract, pay Bennett, re-sign the likes of Breno Giacomini and Steven Hauschka, possibly keep Tony McDaniel and/or Clinton McDonald and have a look at what value they can find in free agency.

A new deal for Richard Sherman is also very much on the table.

Of course, you’d also be losing four players who’ve been part of the heart and soul of this team for the last few seasons.

They’d need to be replaced. And it wouldn’t be easy.

Shop for Conference Champs and Super Bowl XLVIII Match Up Merchandise at NFLShop.com

Saturday draft links

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Dan Pompei has some interesting notes on Ra-Shede Hageman and Austin Seferian Jenkins, amongst others.

On Hageman: “NFL teams will pepper him with questions about his tough upbringing, his off-field decision-making and an academic suspension. They also want to see what he has to say about being such an inconsistent player.”

On ASJ: “He will be asked about a DUI and a team suspension. But the bigger issue might be Seferian-Jenkins’ inconsistencies on the field. He dominates at times and then disappears. Said one exec, ‘I want to get a feel for if I can trust him.'”

Eric Ebron isn’t lacking in confidence. In an interview with NFL.com, he stated his combination of size and speed should be “illegal”. He also rejected recent rumours that he’d gained weight during the off-season.

Very few players will impress more than Ebron at the combine if he turns up in peak condition. Can he run in the 4.5’s like Jimmy Graham and Jordan Cameron? That seems to be the benchmark for a difference making, pass-catching tight end.

If he’s going to go in the top-15 you get the feeling he’ll need a fast time. Several good tight ends have dropped after running anywhere between 4.6-4.8.

Former Bears GM Jerry Angelo says teams won’t be too concerned with Jadeveon Clowney’s character.

Angelo: “Something people don’t know: In the NFL, at some positions, character is less or more important than it is at other positions. In Clowney’s case, character is less important because of what he does. What Clowney does has rare value, so coaches and personnel people alike will compromise – and, in some cases, prostitute – character for his pass-rush prowess.”

Johnny Manziel doesn’t think he’s going to make it past Jacksonville at #3.

Manziel on the prospect of being snubbed by Houston: “It would be the worst decision they’ve (the Texans) ever made… I’d be in the same division playing against them twice a year. Sorry, but you just turned that chip on my shoulder from a Frito into a Dorito.”

Unless he’s referring to Tennessee at #11, he clearly believes he’s going to the Jags if the Texans pass.

Stuff like this sounds great in a meeting room, when you can look a GM or Head Coach in the eye and make quite an aggressive pitch. It certainly worked for Peyton Manning, who once famously told Bill Polian before the 1998 draft, “‘If you pick me, I guarantee you that we will win a championship and we’ll have a great program here… If you don’t, I’ll come back and I’ll kick your ass.”

Unfortunately this kind of thing doesn’t have quite the same impact when you’re saying it to the media.

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have re-launched their weekly ‘First Draft’ Podcast for 2014. Give me this pure draft-a-tainment any day over the sycophantic Greg Cosell media love-in which is about to begin any minute now.

Give me strength, and pass me a sick bag.

Finally here’s some more Bashaud Breeland (CB, Clemson) tape (vs Virginia). We had a look at him earlier in the week.

Some thoughts on Stephon Tuitt & Dee Ford

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Stephon Tuitt didn't have a great 2013 season

Sometimes it’s good to have another look at a player. Aaron Donald is a great example — my opinion changed dramatically after a more extensive review.

I let myself down by not taking him seriously during the season.

Now, there aren’t many players I’d rank above him going into the combine.

Unfortunately, I’m not quite as excited about the two prospects below after watching more tape this week.

Stephon Tuitt (DL, Notre Dame)

I’m really, really confused by Stephon Tuitt.

He left high school as a 4/5 star recruit, at 6-5 and 252lbs. Scout.com listed ‘athleticism’, ‘speed’ and ‘pass rushing skills’ as plus points, with ‘strength’ and ‘technique’ the two areas he needed to improve.

So when you put on the tape, why are we watching a +300lbs plus monster who doesn’t move well, is a really limited athlete but appears to have decent strength and at least some degree of technique?

It’s like he spent the last few years concentrating way too much on the areas he needed to improve and dropped what made him such an exciting recruit in the first place.

And it’s incredibly frustrating.

He’s listed by ESPN at 6-7 and 322lbs. That’s nose tackle size, and he plays like a nose tackle asked to work the edge. His 2013 tape is sluggish and completely underwhelming. Yet every now and again there’s a little glimmer. He’ll swim past a blocker and burst into the backfield. He was incredibly effective against USC — his one genuinely good game in 2013.

The rest of his tape is nowhere near as enticing.

It’s the USC game that makes you want to tear your hair out. Inside this mammoth frame could be a competent pass rusher. If he was playing at 275-280lbs, you’d probably have a guy who’s big enough to hold up against the run, but he’d also be much quicker — and much sharper.

So why has he got this big? I just don’t get it.

Is it a conditioning issue? Was he encouraged by Notre Dame to add weight?

Whatever the reason, it’s going to hammer his draft stock this year.

In a scenario where he ends up on my team, the first thing I’d want him to do is drop a ton of weight. Re-emphasise the speed while maintaining a frame that is able to defend the run. At 280-285lbs he could pretty much line up at the three technique, the one, as an edge rusher or a five.

Right now I’d probably feel obliged to have him inside or limited to a Red Bryant-style two-down role. But even then, he isn’t Bryant. He doesn’t play with anywhere near the same level of intensity or freakish strength. Anyone thinking this could be a good match for Seattle — essentially a cheaper replacement for the big guy — is probably going to be let down after watching the video below.

Tony Pauline sums up his season in a week-2 blog for DraftInsider.net (following Notre Dame’s game against Michigan): “He looked un-athletic, marginally explosive and was constantly on the ground.”

I have very little interest in Tuitt and I suspect the Seahawks will feel the same way. Unless he shows up in better shape at the combine and puts on a show, he could easily drift. I’m not quite sure why he’s still being projected as a round one pick by some high profile pundits.

Maybe they know something we don’t?

Either way, it aint obvious.

You can see his final game for Notre Dame below, a bowl game against Arizona State. Mike Mayock mentions in the commentary that Tuitt played ‘heavy legged’ this year.

The tape overall is just one great big example of this.

At his current size, he’s just a cumbersome defensive lineman who isn’t special. And I’d say it’d be an upset if he goes much higher than rounds two or three.

Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)

If you browse through the 2013 tape, you’ll find a few games where Ford looks the part.

His display in the BCS Championship was particularly impressive. He gave the FSU offensive line fits, regularly pressured Jameis Winston and finished with two sacks.

They couldn’t deal with his speed off the edge, it was like candy from a baby. If you were watching this game in isolation, you’d get excited. I know I wanted to see more.

How good could this guy be?

That interest grew when he had a big impact at the Senior Bowl — reportedly performing well during work outs and grabbing a couple of sacks in the game.

I dug out his tape against Texas A&M and Alabama — because they are the games scouts will gravitate towards.

Against the Aggies he came up against Cedric Ogbuehi — destined to be a high pick in the 2015 draft and A&M’s latest brilliant tackle.

We all know what to expect from an Alabama line — and once again in 2013 they continued to churn out top-tier talent.

In both games, Ford was pretty much dominated.

He was a complete non factor against the Crimson Tide, recording one tackle and struggling to get off a single block. It was a pretty ugly display to be honest.

Even the tight ends had a lot of success against him. That can’t happen in college.

Right at the end of the A&M game, he makes a couple of sacks. And that looks good on the stat sheet. But on both occasions Johnny Manziel ran straight into him — scrambling into trouble.

The sacks are a deceiving stat, because this battle was very much won by Ogbuehi. Having watched Morgan Moses handle Jeremiah Attaochu earlier in the week, this was a close second in terms of a pure one-sided match between tackle and pass rusher.

If you get Ford in space with a QB in his sights, he can chase them down in the open field. He has good speed — some say as fast as 4.4. He’s a finisher if he can get free.

But that’s the problem — getting free. When he’s asked to take on a competent or experienced tackle, he struggles to shake a block. He doesn’t have the upper body power or hand-use to disengage. He isn’t a great fighter at the line, working to get free and break into the backfield. Ford relies on a very wide starting position and beating his guy for off the edge in a foot race.

Ogbuehi looked like he was playing at a different level.

Every time he just set up his stance and got his hands on Ford — it was over. He’s got a good enough kick step to shadow and counter the speed. This was food and drink until the late mistakes from Manziel gift wrapped the sacks.

Teams are going to gravitate towards these two games and any excitement built up over the Senior Bowl week is going to be tempered.

Some will covet his speed if he does run a really fast time at the combine. I can see him in a wide-9 having some success, albeit as a specialist early on. He’ll likely secure a place in rounds two or three if he shows up well in Indianapolis.

Yet his overall game isn’t good enough to warrant a first round pick. I’m not expecting to project him to Seattle at #32 — even with their penchant for speed off the edge.

He doesn’t have great length or size (barely 6-2, 243lbs) and I’m not sure he’s got the frame to get any bigger. He’s a redshirt senior entering the draft so this might be close to the finished article we’re seeing.

There’s more to being a LEO than pure speed. Cliff Avril isn’t huge at 6-3 and 260lbs — but he’s a more rounded and complete player. He’s big enough and strong enough to use a bull rush and the 4.51 speed is adequate to be an effective edge guy too.

When a blocker gets into his pads — it aint over.

Too often that’s the case with Dee Ford — and he could easily still be around in round three as a consequence. Round two is probably his ceiling — and that’s with a good combine.

If the Seahawks do have interest here, I suspect they’ll probably wait it out. I’m not convinced there’s any reason to target him at #32.

He does have some potential to work in coverage — and he might be a better fit in an orthodox 3-4.