Archive for March, 2014

Looking at the possibility of 8-9 first round receivers

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Donte Moncrief -- better than people think

You can’t often say with a high degree of surety that a minimum of five receivers will go in the first round of a draft.

This year it’s almost guaranteed.

Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Marqise Lee, Odell Beckham Jr, Kelvin Benjamin.

Not even the most sceptical of pundits is likely to deny this quintet a day one projection.

Even Benjamin’s critics will probably accept he’s unlikely to get past Seattle at #32 as a worst case scenario.

It’s likely he’ll be long gone before the Seahawks are on the clock.

The quality isn’t restricted to five players either.

The 6th-8th best receivers in this class are better (again in my opinion) than the #2 defensive tackle, the #2 defensive end, the #2 offensive guard, the #2 safety and all of the cornerbacks and running backs.

In several cases you’d have to really fight the board to go in a different direction.

There’s a strong chance eight or nine receivers will be drafted in the first round. I could be proven wrong on that. But I don’t think there’s a better way to begin making my case than stating the belief that the 2014 receivers are just better than most of the other players in this class.

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Detroit’s biggest needs are at cornerback and safety. Assuming they don’t trade the #10 pick, what are they likely to do?

Reach for a cornerback? Reach for a safety?

Or look into the possibility of adding another top receiver to create a formidable passing attack?

The signing of Golden Tate alone doesn’t address Detroit’s substantial need to provide better support to Calvin Johnson. Remember, this is a team making the passing game the focal point of everything they do. That’s why they appointed Jim Coldwell. They’re going to throw a ton of passes, so having multiple weapons at receiver will be crucial.

They need another receiver. One more. Imagine trying to stop Megatron, Tate and one of the top receivers in this draft? It’d be a match-up nightmare and that’s Detroit’s best way to become a forceful opponent.

Draft Tek uses a team of projectionists to judge needs for each franchise.

The site lists ‘speed receiver’ as a ‘P3′ need for Detroit. Here’s what P3 means in the Draft Tek system:

“In need of starting caliber talent, but will not reach for it. Some teams use a “best available player” draft discipline, this fits the P3 code well.”

So essentially they’re saying if BPA is a ‘speed receiver’ at #10, there’s every chance they’ll go in that direction.

I’ve been projecting Marqise Lee to the Lions. While he’s not a 4.3 type runner, he’s a brilliant and competitive athlete capable of creating separation downfield and winning with yards after the catch. A lot of people have soured on Lee after a difficult 2013 season, but I’d recommend watching his 2012 tape. Go and see what he’s capable of when teamed with a competent quarterback.

Imagine the 2012 version of Lee as part of a dynamic triple-threat Lions attack at receiver. It’s a staggering proposition.

And then consider the alternatives. Reaching for a good but not great Ha Ha Clinton Dix with the 10th pick in the draft. Going after Justin Gilbert — who ticks a lot of athletic boxes but was almost benched for bad play by Oklahoma State.

This would be the very definition of fighting the board. Unless Detroit can find a deal to move down, drafting Lee at #10 just provides better value and still addresses a position of need.

They could look at cornerbacks like Jason Verrett or Kyle Fuller in round two, while monitoring safety’s like Deone Bucannon, Jimmie Ward and Terrence Brooks.

I suspect the Lions will be a much better football team if they go Lee, Fuller and Bucannon (for example) instead of a cornerback at #10 and then hoping there’s no great rush on receivers before they pick in round two.

Detroit won’t be the only team faced with such a conundrum. Passing on a 2014 receiver in the first round will be the toughest decision many GM’s make this year.

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One other note from the Draft Tek projector — 14 teams have ‘featured wide receiver’ listed as a P2 or P3. Eight list ‘speed receiver’ with the same status.

P2 is stated as, “in great need of starting calliber talent and will reach to fill the need.”

Seven teams, according to Draft Tek, would be willing to reach for a featured receiver. Let’s look at each one and see what Draft Tek considers a comparable need:

Buffalo Bills
Draft Tek needs: WR, RT, TE
The Bills could legitimately go for Taylor Lewan or Eric Ebron at #9. However, both players made headlines for the wrong reasons recently (Lewan, Ebron). Even so, I think there’s as much chance Buffalo goes for a tackle as they do a receiver. Lewan has a desirable skill set. But you also have to consider the value of taking a right tackle in the top ten versus a game-changing receiver.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Draft Tek needs: WR, DE, QB
The age of Chris Clemons and Jason Babin plus the availability of Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack could make this a no brainer. Ditto if the Jaguars have fallen for a quarterback and want to take one at #3. But what if a team trades above them to get Clowney or their chosen QB? Is Mack a scheme fit? Sammy Watkins could become a legit option for the Jaguars, particularly if they plan to draft a quarterback later. But I’m still expecting to see Clowney or a QB in round one.

Kansas City Chiefs
Draft Tek needs: WR, FS, CB, G
The Chiefs lost Dexter McCluster and were publicly frustrated when Emmanuel Sanders snubbed them for the Broncos. Dwayne Bowe has been a big disappointment after signing his new contract. They’re thin at receiver and have a quarterback who relies on playmakers. While they have needs at safety and corner, they also have good starters in place already (Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry). It’d make a ton of sense to get a receiver at #23.

New York Jets
Draft Tek needs: WR, TE, OLB, FS, CB
For too long the Jets have been a mess on offense. They’ve lacked an identity, they’ve switched offensive coordinators regularly. Now they’re letting Geno Smith and Michael Vick battle for a starting job. Whoever wins that particular competition needs better weapons. Eric Decker alone is simply not enough. Rex Ryan’s defense was good enough last season to compete, and it’ll be no different this year. They must get either a dynamic tight end or a top receiver at #18.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Draft Tek needs: WR, CB, RB
In the last year they’ve lost Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. The depth at cornerback in this draft means they can address that need in round two. They should also be able to find a running back later — although the recent addition of LeGarrette Blount takes the pressure off there. They’re perfectly placed to grab a receiver at #15 and will have some good options in that spot.

Seattle Seahawks
Draft Tek needs: WR, RT, DT
I think there’s every chance Seattle considers an offensive lineman early, but I also suspect Tom Cable’s list of late round options will be ready and waiting if the board goes in a different direction. They’ve lost Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, while Doug Baldwin is a free agent next year. Adding a receiver at #32 and getting them on a cheap deal for five years appears increasingly desirable. Much will depend on where the greatest value lies.

St. Louis Rams
Draft Tek needs: WR, OLB, FS, CB, G
Quotes from the Rams front office seemed to play down the likelihood of a receiver being drafted early. It’s only a year ago that they spent a top ten pick on Tavon Austin. They also invested a high second rounder in Brian Quick. It’d actually make a lot of sense for the Rams to add another receiver — it’s still a need and they’re well placed at #2 and #13 to get a really good one. And yet oddly they might bypass the position with both of their first round picks. Signing Kenny Britt today on a one-year deal decreases the chances they’ll take a receiver early.

When you break it down there are probably only two out of the seven with a very high probability of going receiver. Seattle’s decision will depend on what’s left with the final pick in round one. There’s a strong possibility Jacksonville and St. Louis don’t take a receiver in the first round.

However — for me it’s not a case of needing 7-8 teams who must get a receiver at all costs in order for that many to go in round one. This is about value.

I suspect it’s the teams without a defining need at the position that’ll push the first round quota beyond a normal rate. Simply because the players available are too good to pass.

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It’s kind of strange that while this receiver class is universally regarded as very deep, quite a few players (in my opinion) are still underrated.

I wrote a piece about Donte Moncrief last week. Here’s a section from the piece: “I suspect some teams are going to look at the 2012 tape and really buy into this guy. He could easily be the 3rd or 4th receiver on a few draft boards. The national pundits aren’t really discussing this, but for me he could easily be a first round pick. Easily.”

There really hasn’t been much national discussion about Moncrief at all. Or Martavis Bryant. Or Cody Latimer.

Compare this to some of the other players who are clinging to high grades.

Scouts Inc via ESPN still rank C.J. Mosley as a top-10 player in the draft. I like Mosley. But he’s a health risk, doesn’t play in a premium position and is he really one of the ten best available prospects in this great draft?

Dee Ford and Jeremiah Attaochu are also given first round grades. Ford looks like a one-dimensional speed rusher with limited upside. I’d second-guess taking him in round two. He struggled badly against Alabama in 2013 and against Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi. Attaochu was shut down by Morgan Moses — the best opponent he faced last season.

Timmy Jernigan is one of those players who’s been in the first round discussion since forever — but has anyone ever offered a convincing argument as to why? And what has Louis Nix done since the 2012 college season to justify a slot in the first frame?

Scouts Inc lists just five receivers in their top-32. I’m absolutely positive teams won’t view Ford and Attaochu higher than the likes of Kelvin Benjamin or Moncrief.

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One opinion I’ve seen is that a deep draft at receiver will allow teams to look at other options in round one.

I think it might be the other way around.

You can afford to get your receiver early, then go back and fill other needs later.

You’re not going to find many teams scrambling to draft an edge rusher once Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack are off the board. Anthony Barr has serious bust potential, while players such as Kony Ealy and Dee Ford, as discussed above, are simply overrated.

And yet there are several options later on that are enticing, such as Louisville’s brilliant Marcus Smith or Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence.

We’ll see two or three cornerbacks go in round one, but there’s enough depth to see you through into round four.

There’s also depth on the offensive line, depth at quarterback, a lot of the running backs will last until the middle rounds.

Any team that really values the receivers in this draft won’t necessarily say, “It’s OK — we’ll get one later.” They might be saying instead, “Let’s get our receiver now from the elite group — because the value’s there and we know we can fill other needs later.”

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I sat down tonight and wrote down all of the players I felt deserved genuine first round grades.

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers per position:

QB — 1
RB — 0
WR — 7
OT — 5
OG — 1
C — 0

DT — 1
DE — 1
OLB — 2
MLB — 0
CB — 1
S — 1

I didn’t include any prospects I considered fringe first/second round players and seriously erred on the side of caution — including at receiver.

Now of course there are more than 20 players I’d consider drafting in the first round (and more than seven receivers). I was deliberately strict for the purpose of this article.

I wasn’t surprised, however, that the strength of the draft appeared to be at receiver and offensive tackle.

So while the likes of Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack are certain to go in round one, there’s every chance teams will have a similar looking tally themselves. And if the best players on the board are at receiver, why would you fight against it? Especially if you need a receiver?

There’s around 19 teams in the first round who are likely to consider drafting a receiver. Not all of them will, but there’s something of a perfect storm emerging where supply matches high demand.

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The Seahawks picking at #32 also adds a unique angle to this debate.

This is a team that has so far ignored conventional wisdom and media scrutiny to basically do as it pleases.

They were willing to take the next best offensive lineman on their board in 2011. They identified a specific scheme-fit pass rusher in 2012. They wanted a tackle and a safety in 2010.

They’re willing to aggressively address a need in the draft. They’ve targeted players or positions for specific rounds.

For example, it seems they knew they wanted to take Bruce Irvin, a linebacker and Russell Wilson with their first three picks before the 2012 draft even began.

They look for the best possible way to upgrade the roster based on what they already have at their disposal. They don’t just sit there with a list of names ranked accordingly. They appear to be very specific with the positions they target.

If they go into this draft thinking, “we want to get a receiver” — they’ll do it if the right fit is there. It doesn’t matter if five, six, seven or eight wide outs are off the board by #32. If there’s a player who fits what they’re looking for, they’ll take him.

I could just as easily see the Seahawks gratefully accepting Odell Beckham Jr or Kelvin Benjamin at #32 as I can see them getting panned for ‘reaching’ on a Cody Latimer or Brandon Coleman.

So even if a lot of receivers leave the board before Seattle’s pick, there’s always the chance one more will be taken to end day one.

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For whatever it’s worth, this is my top twelve at the position right now. There’s no particular order, even if Watkins, Evans and Lee are at the top.

Click on each players name for a highlight video.

1. Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
2. Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
3. Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
4. Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
5. Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
6. Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
7. Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
8. Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
9. Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
10. Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
11. Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
12. Bruce Ellington (WR, South Carolina)

Indiana’s Cody Latimer another receiver to watch out for

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Cody Latimer, just another quality receiver to add to the list

Yeah, this receiver class is as good as we thought it was.

With every week that goes by, the decision to let Golden Tate walk makes more and more sense.

For a fraction of the price, the Seahawks are going to land a very talented player at some point in this draft. If they take a receiver at #32, they’ll be paying around $1.25-2.5m for his services for the next FIVE years.

Or around $4-5m less than Tate’s getting in Detroit.

That’s business.

Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Marqise Lee, Odell Beckham Jr, Kelvin Benjamin, Donte Moncrief, Brandin Cooks, Martavis Bryant, Jarvis Landry, Brandon Coleman, Allen Robinson, Davante Adams.

And now you can add Cody Latimer to the list of prospective first or second round picks.

I keep seeing people refer to the depth of this class and that players will drop to the middle rounds as a consequence.

Not for me.

I think we’ll see a ton of receivers going off the board in round one. As many as seven or eight, if not more. There’s no doubt whatsoever that the strength of this class is at receiver. And with so many teams needing a wide out, they’d have to fight the board not to make an early splash.

Any team thinking of handing DeSean Jackson a big contract needs to consider the options available. The Redskins make a lot of sense because they don’t have a first round pick. Their first pick is at #34 overall.

There’s every chance most of the top receivers will be long gone by then. Seriously.

Grab one early or risk missing out. That’s how I see it.

I might be wrong. But the more I watch of these receivers, the more impressed I am by the sheer strength in top-tier depth.

So what about Latimer?

He’s 6-2 and 215lbs. He’s been bothered by a foot injury so didn’t do anything at the combine other than the bench press. His 23 reps were the highest among receivers.

He’s since run a 4.43 at his pro-day and recorded a 39 inch vertical. He’s still to do any drills and that’s probably why the Seahawks are bringing him in for a visit:

Latimer’s a former basketball star who chose to pursue football for a career in High School: “I was leaning more toward basketball at first… But I love the contact.”

He isn’t kidding. Latimer’s one of the best blocking receivers you’ll see in college football. He’ll lock onto a target and drive a defensive back out of the play. As I went through the tape this weekend, he was pushing people ten yards downfield, shoving them into the end zone to spring a running touchdown and taking any opportunity to get involved.

I’ve seen it suggested that football isn’t his first love. Based on his passion for blocking, I’d say that’s irrelevant. If he’s on the field, he’s getting involved. Nobody can question his heart or commitment in that sense.

And if Basketball was his key passion, you can kind of see why…

Either way, he’s a football player now. That kind of leaping ability at 6-2 can’t be ignored.

Throw in the upper body power (he’s ripped, as the 23 reps on the bench press indicate) and you’re looking at a terrific possession receiver who has all the tools to compete down the red line, win jump balls and provide some value in the running game.

Basically — the kind of things Seattle looks for. The fact he’s a 4.43 runner is just a bonus.

Fast forward to 1:38 in the video beow:

That’s Darqueze Dennard covering Latimer — perhaps the most physical cornerback in the 2014 class. I’ve not spent a ton of time on Dennard because I don’t expect the Seahawks to take a corner in round one — but I haven’t seen anyone shield the football like this against him, gain position and make it look this easy.

Dennard was flat out schooled there — Latimer’s power, control and strong hands were too good.

This is what you want to see from a prospective red zone threat, especially against a first round talent (Dennard could be the first cornerback off the board).

It’s not the only example of strong hands either. I’ve not seen any ugly drops in three games against Michigan State, Michigan or Bowling Green. He’s a sure handed, reliable catcher who can high point the football and make a difficult grab.

He can get downfield as you’d expect from a 4.43 runner — but he’s not a truly explosive athlete or a shifty runner. He’s a straight line guy who tries to out-sprint an opponent, he won’t make many people miss in the open field. But then you wouldn’t be drafting him to be a YAC threat — that’s why you’re paying Percy Harvin $13.4m in 2014.

Latimer’s a pure possession receiver with plus speed and ideal strength. ‘Possession receiver’ shouldn’t be a negative. That is what Seattle needs to compliment the current group.

He also suffered in college — as many of these 2014 receivers did — via bad quarterback play. He’s right there alongside Moncrief, Coleman and even Bryant/Watkins in that regard (the more you watch Tajh Boyd, the more inaccurate you realise he is).

I’ve seen it suggested that Latimer could be anything from a late first rounder to a 5th rounder. For me he’s a solid second round grade with the potential to get into the first round mix. He isn’t the same athlete as a Moncrief or Bryant, but there’s a lot to work with here.

Zach Kerr one to monitor

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Zach Kerr is one of those players who started the post-season well, and just kept building momentum.

It started at the Shrine game where according to Tony Pauline, Kerr, “was explosive and showed a variety of skill.”

He tested well at the combine, running a 5.08 at 6-1 and 326lbs. Pauline again singled him out for praise, listing him among his top defensive risers in Indianapolis: “He moved well in position drills showing not just straight line speed, but lateral quickness and the ability to easily change direction.”

At his pro-day on March 18th, the Seahawks sent their defensive line coaches to get a closer look.

In the video above you see flashes of quality. He can collapse the pocket, work into the backfield and make splash plays. He’s got a relentless attitude, the motor keep running until the whistle. There’s enough burst there to think he can have an impact at the next level.

He also has fairly long arms for his height (nearly 33 inches).

I’m away with work until Sunday night so unfortunately I’ve had to keep this brief. The Seahawks are likely to be searching for depth on the defensive line and Kerr’s one to keep an eye on in the mid-to-late rounds.

SPARQ receivers, Manziel madness & DeSean Jackson

Friday, March 28th, 2014

I’d encourage everyone to check out this article by Cablinasian at Field Gulls.

The Seahawks take SPARQ seriously. It’s a calculation of different variables (40 time, three cone, vertical, broad jump, bench press, height, weight) to provide one overall score.

Until this year, Nike had an online calculator that worked out SPARQ scores with relative ease. It’s no longer available, so Cablinasian has put together his own formula (calling it rSPARQ) so we can review the 2014 receivers.

To see the grid listing all the players and their projected scores, click here.

Unsurprisingly, Jeff Janis is ranked at #1 and it aint close. If anyone ‘won’ the combine, it was Janis.

Height/weight: 6-3, 219lbs
40 yard dash: 4.42
Vertical: 37.5 inches
Broad jump: 10.3
Three cone: 6.64
Short shuttle: 3.98
Bench press: 20 reps

Janis’ rSPARQ score is 137.4 — 5.5 points higher than the second placed receiver (Brandin Cooks).

He’s an incredible athlete, certainly the type Seattle is unlikely to ignore.

But working out how he fits into the 2014 draft is incredibly difficult.

He played at Saginaw Valley State, so he’s a small school player. It’ll be a steep learning curve when he gets into training camp — and even with incredible athletic skills, you’re never really sure how a guy like this will adapt.

He could fit like a glove, thrive on the improved competition and work to develop as quickly as possible. Or he could just be completely out of his depth.

He’ll be a 23-year-old rookie in 2014.

If you’re so inclined you can watch over 45 minutes of coaches copy tape on Janis to get a feel for the type of player he is:

He has small hands (9 inches) and it tends to show up on tape with some clumsy drops. His catching technique could use some work — he doesn’t really attack the ball in the air and he’s not a reliable catcher in traffic.

Having said that, there are some eye-catching grabs too and he’s a legit deep threat.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone like Seattle took a chance on him in the round five range with the idea of red shirting him for a year.

Looking at the rest of the rSPARQ scores, Brandin Cooks (131.9), Martavis Bryant (127.4), Donte Moncrief (122.0) and Odell Beckham Jr (120.1) all score highly. There’s a genuine chance all four could go in the first round — or at least the top forty.

I also find it interesting that Kelvin Benjamin and Brandon Coleman are right next to each other on the list (Coleman — 106.6, Benjamin — 104.1).

It really makes you wonder what Coleman’s stock would be like if he had Jameis Winston throwing the ball instead of Gary Nova.

Manziel madness

Here’s Ron Jaworski, praising Johnny Manziel’s pro-day…

For those who aren’t aware, Jaws previously stated he wouldn’t take Manziel in the first three rounds of the draft. A truly hyperbolic remark right up there with last year’s “Colin Kaepernick could be one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL”.

Merril Hoge — who spends his time watching tape with Jaws and Greg Cosell — offered a similar assessment, claiming Manziel had “bust written all over him” giving him a “zero or a one” out of ten in the following categories:

— Decision making
— Playing within the structure of an offense
— Throwing into “voids”

Here’s the video for the rest of Hoge’s critical review:

Again, the “zero or one” out of ten remark is pure hyperbole. But hey, it’s Hoge’s right to be critical. I’m not here to argue Manziel is Andrew Luck or even for that matter Russell Wilson.

But what does irk me slightly about the three musketeers — Jaws, Hoge and Cosell — is the fact they all seem to be living in 1974.

The NFL has changed. It’s different.

Yes, there’s always room for a 6-4 pocket passer. Those types of players still exist.

Yet we’re now in an era where mobility is crucial. The top college athletes are playing defense and the offensive line talent simply can’t match-up for the most part. That’s starting to filter into the NFL.

Being able to escape pressure, extend plays and improvise is vital in the modern game. It’s not just a case of being able to stand on the spot and make three or four precise reads any more. You might need to make two reads, get out of the pocket, keep your eyes downfield or just take what’s on offer and run for a few.

The read option hasn’t been found out as a passing fad. It’s here to stay as a valuable wrinkle for a specific game plan.

Manziel should be judged on how he works within the game today.

You can still make a case for needing better decision making or initial work within the pocket going through reads. But in context, he does most things perfectly well.

You can’t block J.J. Watt. When Seattle beat the Texans in 2013, Watt had their decimated offensive line for dinner. The Seahawks only won that game because Russell Wilson could escape the pocket, extend plays and create a little magic.

Most people remember Matt Schaub’s careless pick-six to Richard Sherman as the key moment. For me it’s the 90-yard drive from Wilson to make it a one-score game. He faced crucial third and fourth down calls. He was under constant duress. He dragged the offense kicking and screaming into the end zone with sheer escapability and inspiration.

Joe Flacco would’ve gone three and out on that drive — while eating a face full of turf courtesy of Watt and co.

Players like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and even someone like Aaron Rodgers are having success because of their mobility — not just because they operate within the pocket standing tall chucking bullets around the field.

They’re built to deal with players like Watt and Robert Quinn.

All we’ve heard from the Jaws/Hoge/Cosell trio is Manziel isn’t a good enough pocket passer. He’s too frantic, leaving the pocket too soon and creating chaos for himself.

And yet here’s a guy who thrives amid chaos. I’m not suggesting he runs the football twenty times a game or remains quite as reckless with his body as we saw at Texas A&M. But Manziel’s ability to be creative, to buy time and to make plays downfield is everything you want to see.

Embrace him. Build your offense to enhance his strengths and limit or improve his weak spots. Acknowledge that he’s different to the Joe Flacco’s of this world and ‘different’ can still win a Super Bowl.

If your preference is a conventional system and quarterback, just say. But don’t make out a guy like Manziel can’t succeed unless he’s willing to conform to your conventional ways.

Seattle won a Super Bowl by being thoroughly unconventional.

Going back to the original video — which is essentially Jaws offering a gushing review of Manziel’s pro-day — I fully expected a much more positive impression going forward.

And then I read this quote, courtesy of PFT:

“I certainly would move him up a bit… I moved him from the fourth round to the third round.”

How generous.

He then revealed his top-five quarterbacks for 2014:

What a surprise — tall, immobile pocket passer Zach Mettenberger comes in at #2.

“When you watch him on tape, this guy has an NFL skill set.”

Of course he does. He’s tall and a pocket passer. Boxes, ticked.

I long for the day when the band of brothers — Jaws, Hoge and Cosell — are able to admit the game is changing. That we don’t have to build a football team based on age-old formula’s and specifics.

But let’s not hold out any hope. Fast forward to 28:30 in the podcast below:

When Cosell is asked — twice — to name a player he missed on in the draft, he refuses to answer the question. Even when pushed by Ross Tucker, he finds a way to avoid offering even one name.

I’ll give you two names, Greg.

Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.

And they succeed not just because of the benefit of great defensive play either. This is the NFL in 2014. Unconventional quarterbacks like this can thrive.

Johnny Manziel won’t fail just because he’s not an orthodox passer. We shouldn’t be judging him like there’s only one way to succeed at the position.

DeSean Jackson cut by the Eagles

The Seahawks were linked to Jackson for a while, and then those rumours were denied.

Now that he’s a free agent, it wouldn’t be a huge shock if they looked into this — even if it’s an exercise in leaving no stone unturned.

Jason La Canfora seems to think there will be interest…

This article raises some off-field concerns and it could limit his potential to sign a new long term deal.

The Seahawks have an estimated $15.2m in remaining cap space. Much will depend on background checks not just relating to the gang-stuff, but also the questionable work ethic noted in the article.

Pete Carroll hasn’t shirked away from players with character flags — yet even he will be cautious on this one. Carroll has spent considerable time trying to end gang violence through ‘A Better LA’.

Albert Breer says the pair have some history:

He was recruited by USC, had an official visit and even attended a camp before committing to Cal. A week ago Jackson posted this picture on his Instagram account. It shows Carroll sat in his front room during a recruitment visit.

*** UPDATE ***

Jackson has released a statement in response to the claims made in the article above. Here’s an exert:

“I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible.”

Updated mock draft: 27th March

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I really wrestled with this mock draft today.

There are four or five players I could’ve easily paired with Seattle before I even wrote this piece. It’d be very easy to say, “this is the mock where the Seahawks get Donte Moncrief.”

But that’s not how I want to do these. I want to go pick-by-pick and not pre-empt anything.

And I want to be open to the idea of other teams taking the players I like for the Seahawks.

If I’m going to write articles praising the underrated qualities of a Moncrief, Martavis Bryant or Joel Bitonio — why should I assume the Seahawks might be the only team who sees the same thing?

If I wanted to put Moncrief with the Jets at #18 because it looks like a legitimate option, then I’m going to do it.

If there was an obvious choice for Seattle at #32 — great.

On this occasion, that wasn’t the case. Not by a long shot.

Eight receivers were off the board and six offensive linemen.

I was tempted to go with Clemson’s Brandon Thomas — a tackle who could eventually transition to guard.

Yet I’m intrigued by a Tweet written by Davis Hsu this week. He’s relaying a comment by Pat Kirwan (close to Pete Carroll) discussing Tom Cable’s approach to drafting offensive linemen:

I genuinely believe this could be the plan.

When you think about it, Cable’s had more success with late round picks and UDFA’s (J.R. Sweezy, Michael Bowie, Alvin Bailey) compared to players drafted early (James Carpenter & John Moffitt).

They were also able to turn a waiver wire pick-up into a quality starting right tackle (Breno Giacomini).

It wouldn’t shock me at all if, once again, they take 3-4 guys in the later rounds/UDFA and allow Cable to work them into his scheme. Neither would it shock me if both Bowie and Bailey started next year.

Hey, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right way to go. But is it implausible that they wait to address the offensive line? Absolutely not.

With that in mind I tried to think about what they might do in a situation where as many as 4-5 potential #32 picks are already off the board much earlier than the national pundits are currently projecting.

Defensively the options aren’t great. I’m a big fan of Brent Urban but persistent injury problems might keep him on the board until rounds 2/3. I don’t see Dee Ford, Timmy Jernigan or Louis Nix as players the Seahawks are likely to covet (or as first round picks at all).

I’m going back and forth a lot with Stephon Tuitt. With a fully healthy off-season he could be trending upwards. That isn’t the case, and there’s no new news on the foot injury that kept him out of the combine.

So then I come back to the offense, and specifically to LSU’s Jarvis Landry.

If I had to write a list of ten players I’d love the Seahawks to get, Landry would be on it. Without a shadow of a doubt.

So many people talk about Jordan Matthews. For me he’s a middling player who’s suddenly flavour of the month because he performed better than expected at the combine.

He is prone to the occasional ugly drop, he isn’t overly competitive, he’s quite finesse at times and a lot of his production came on quick screens that needed good-to-perfect blocking to succeed.

Now I appreciate that there are positives too that I’m not mentioning here. But the point I’m trying to make is — Jarvis Landry might be the player everybody thinks Jordan Matthews is.

He’s a brilliant hands catcher, a driven and edgy receiver who loves to hit people in the face. He’s the guy who high points the football, plays above his size and makes the impossible possible.

I sat down today and re-watched a ton of LSU tape just to have another look. It’s so incredibly difficult to mark this guy down.

The only thing stopping me going ‘all in’ on a first or high second round grade is the combine performance — where he ran a 4.77 at clearly less than 100%.

Is he a 4.77 runner on tape? Absolutely not. But neither is he a 4.43 guy like Odell Beckham Jr.

He’s probably a 4.60-4.65 type. Which isn’t exactly blazing at a shade under 6-0 and 205lbs.

Yet everything else about his game compensates for that.

I more than anyone gets caught up in the size/speed argument when considering prospective Seahawks.

They’ve drafted a ton of athletes. Carroll clearly loves physical difference makers, and they do pay attention to things like SPARQ.

I also appreciate the way this offense is set up. They love to take shots. They want to make chunk plays downfield off play action and scrambling drills.

Even Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin — two former UDFA’s — ran in the 4.4’s.

But it’s not just about speed. If it was, Zach Miller wouldn’t be still on the roster, pay cut or no pay cut. Marshawn Lynch isn’t exactly what you’d call fast. Michael Bennett and Red Bryant aren’t brilliant athletes either, but they possess other skills to emphasise their value to this team.

It’s not just about size and speed, whatever Seattle’s ideals may be.

It’s also about competition.

Fierce competitors.

Players who are going to put it all on the line — not just on the field, but in the weight and film room too.

Landry is a model student, a driven and determined individual and a productive football player.

I’m a big fan of receivers who clearly have an understanding of their position and the kind of routes they’re going to run. You can tell from this combine interview below that Landry isn’t going to be overwhelmed when he gets a pro-playbook:

He might not be ‘Seahawky’ in terms of height or speed, but he’s plenty ‘Seahawky’ when it comes to high pointing the football, great hands, run blocking, special teams value and attitude.

He makes some of the most difficult catches you’ll ever see. They have to be seen to be believed. I’ve included some tape below today’s mock for people who haven’t had a chance to watch him play. Just absorb what he’s capable of. Forget the 4.77 for an hour. Watch the tape and form your opinion on what you see him doing on the field.

Is he Anquan Boldin — another player who suffered in the draft due to a poor forty time? They’re not perfect physical matches, but there are some similarities in terms of the time they ran (both 4.7’s) and how it doesn’t really represent what you see on tape.

I know what the reaction’s going to be to this pick — and this isn’t me saying Landry is definitely a first rounder or anything. I want to think outside of the box and I want this community to do the same. I don’t want us to assume Landry is just a mid-rounder because of one bad forty time with a tight hamstring.

I guarantee fans wouldn’t complain anywhere near as much if the Seahawks traded down to #40 and took Landry. Even if it meant getting as little back as say a 5th rounder. There’s a stigma attached to the first round and perceived ‘reaches’ are over analysed. As soon as you get into round two, players like this are considered valuable.

As we’ve discussed many times — trading out of #32 is going to be incredibly tough. If they can’t do it — then why not just take a player like this and not second guess it?

If we’re talking about potential impact players who can step in and just get at it, this guy can do that. And while I’d much rather grab a Bitonio at #32 and feel smug about a Landry pick in round two — there may well be a situation, as we see below, where options are limited with the final pick in round one.

I’ll say it again — this isn’t me saying Landry is definitely a first round pick. This is me tossing a pitch for people to swing at.

Give me the ultimate competitor at receiver at #32 over Louis Nix, Dee Ford, Xavier Su’a-Filo or any other ‘big name’ every day of the week.

#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a very creative quarterback. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year if they find a solution at quarterback.
#2 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
I suspect the Rams will trade this pick, but you can argue they’d be better off staying put and drafting Robinson.
#3 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
The ultra competitive Manziel fits Gus Bradley’s approach perfectly. The Jaguars need someone who can come in and elevate this team. Manziel can be that guy.
#4 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
They’ve appointed a defensive minded Head Coach and Clowney’s not going to fall too far. He can line up in a three or four man front.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The best receiver prospect to enter the league since A.J. Green and Julio Jones. You can build around a talent like this. Get a quarterback later.
#6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
The Falcons should just sit tight and see what falls to #6 — but it sounds like they’ll be moving up again. They need to protect Matt Ryan and they need to find a pass rusher.
#7 Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo)
He’s a little overrated for me, but Tampa Bay looks like a good landing spot. They need to bolster the pass rush and Mack can play DE and OLB.
#8 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Teams are going to see the incredible talent available at the receiver position and not think twice about getting stuck in — whether it’s a top need or not.
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Some believe he’s a bit of a phony tough guy. Others really like him. It’s worth a shot here.
#10 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
This would be a good position to trade down and add to the secondary. If no such deal exists — don’t fight the board. Megatron, Golden Tate and Marqise Lee is a frightening trio.
#11 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Again — don’t be shocked if these receivers start flying off the board. If you want a really good one you better get in early.
#12 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
The Giants suddenly have a ton of needs. But that also means they don’t need to force this pick. Ebron provides value as a seam-busting safety net.
#13 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
How do you block Robert Quinn and Chris Long off the edge if you’ve got this guy rushing the interior?
#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
They’ve added Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen up front, now they need to improve that secondary.
#15 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Receiver is now a big need for the Steelers. They need someone who can come in and have a quick impact. Out of all the WR’s in this class, Beckham Jr is best served to hit the ground running.
#16 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
I wouldn’t draft Barr this early, but the Cowboys are stuck without moving up or down. After bringing in Henry Melton, they need an edge rusher. They have no alternative.
#17 Ra’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
After losing Arthur Jones in free agency, the Ravens could use an athletic replacement up front. Hageman fits the bill as a possible five technique.
#18 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
It’s only after really studying Moncrief (in particular his 2012 tape) that you begin to truly appreciate just how much potential he has. Don’t be shocked if he goes this early.
#19 Zack Martin (G, Notre Dame)
An absolutely superb tackle in college, but expected to move to guard in the NFL. Could play left guard next to Brandon Albert.
#20 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
Receiver isn’t a huge need for the Cards, but he’d add another dimension to the offense as an explosive playmaker. Keep Ted Ginn on returns.
#21 Ryan Shazier (LB Ohio State)
Green Bay’s defense is too slow, too sluggish and doesn’t have enough playmakers. A linebacker like Shazier can help take this unit away from total mediocrity.
#22 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
A physical corner who plays with an edge. Good blitzer. Philly wants tough football players on defense and this fills a big need.
#23 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
Andy Reid had a good look at the defensive backs at the combine. Pryor would add a hard-hitting element to Kansas City’s secondary.
#24 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Gilbert has everything you want in a corner physically. He could go much earlier than this. But he was also almost benched in 2013 for poor play. He’s a really tough one to work out.
#25 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Underrated, incredibly athletic tackle or guard. Versatile. Outstanding character. He’s a Logan Mankins clone.
#26 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
I get the sense Cleveland is just going to play the hand it’s dealt. If there’s better value at #4 or #26, they won’t force a QB pick. In this slot Bridgewater would equal supreme value.
#27 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
If he checks out medically, Mosley is a plug in and play defender who can have a quick impact. New Orleans is trying to get tougher across the board.
#28 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
I’m not sure how Carolina has allowed a situation to occur where they’re suddenly desperate at receiver and the offensive line.
#29 Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
Adding a pass-catching tight end makes sense, even if Rob Gronkowski returns to full health.
#30 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
The 49ers have plenty of possession style receivers. Why not add a home run hitter? You’ve got the quarterback to make it work.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
An edgy competitor with massive hands. Ideal attitude, work rate and personality. If the only thing letting him down is a bad combine, I’ll take my chances.

Jared Allen agrees four-year, $32m deal in Chicago

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

There was nothing the Seahawks could do about this.

In an off-season where a banged up, soon-to-be 32-year-old Demarcus Ware and a declining 34-year-old Julius Peppers both got paid — it was pretty stunning that Jared Allen lasted this long on the open market.

For me he’s the better player. He’s younger, plays a ton of snaps and his production has shown no signs of dropping off as he approaches his 32nd birthday.

Seattle saw an opportunity and tried to recapture last years magic.

Could they do it again? Grab an established pass rusher with a stalling market and bring him in on the cheap?

It sounds like they came pretty close. But this time someone else stepped up to the plate. They went over Seattle’s threshold, paying about $8m a year on average.

According to Spotrac, Allen will be the third best paid player on the Bears roster.

Good for Chicago, and good for Allen. It works out well for both parties.

The Seahawks just move on. They weren’t going to pay Jared Allen more than Michael Bennett. Not when he turns 32 later this year.

They’ve now got more than enough money to extend at least Earl Thomas and possibly Richard Sherman this off-season. That’s the next priority.

There’s no crisis here. Signing Allen was merely one of the few moves they could’ve made to improve an already dangerous pass rush.

It just creates an opportunity for somebody else.

Pete Carroll revealed today that Tony McDaniel will replace Red Bryant as the five technique and Cliff Avril will replace Chris Clemons at right end.

Dan Quinn recently stated he felt Bruce Irvin “was in the right spot” at strongside linebacker and would stay there. You have to wonder if he might convert back to defensive end following today’s news?

Perhaps not coincidentally, the team website is now listing Irvin as a ‘DE’ again after switching his description to ‘LB’ last season.

You could argue they haven’t got much to lose. Irvin is 27 in November and you don’t often draft athletic SAM linebacker-converts with the #15 pick in any draft.

You have a need at end, you drafted the guy to be the “ideal LEO”.

Maybe it’s time to give him another shot there?

No prizes for guessing what Bruce wants to happen…

Certainly nobody can begrudge Malcolm Smith an opportunity to move into a starting role. Aside from winning the Super Bowl MVP award, he finished the season with four interceptions in five games — and returned two for touchdowns.

Irvin could replace Avril, doubling up on the left side with Bennett. K.J. Wright could start at the SAM, Bobby Wagner at the MIKE and Smith at the WILL.

As for the rest of the defensive line rotation — Jordan Hill is almost guaranteed to get more playing time as a former third round pick. Benson Mayowa was protected on the roster throughout 2013 and will get another chance to compete in camp.

Greg Scruggs is returning from injury, while Mike Brooks, D’Anthony Smith, Dewayne Cherrington, Kenneth Boatright and Jesse Williams remain on the roster.

Would you bet against one of those players really stepping up to the mark next year, in the same vein as Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald?

My money’s on Brooks for what it’s worth. He flashed throughout pre-season last year and had an impact in the road game against Arizona.

They could re-sign O’Brien Schofield and/or another veteran.

So what about the draft?

With the interest in Allen, I’d started to focus on receivers and the offensive linemen for picks #32 and #64.

I’m not sure anything dramatically changes off the back of one players decision, but I’m at least willing to broaden those horizons a little bit following today’s news.

The big problem is — you’d be fighting the draft to take a defensive lineman at #32 unless a Ra’Shede Hageman falls or someone of that ilk. This isn’t a top-heavy draft on the D-line. It’s loaded with first or second round receivers, and a fair few offensive line prospects who deserve to go in the first frame.

Personally I’d rather wait until later on and look at the following players:

Marcus Smith (DE, Louisville) — LEO style prospects — 6-3 and 251lbs, ran a 4.68 at the combine. Long arms (34 inches) and great production (13.5 sacks in 2013). Really good player who’s flying under the radar. Worth a look in round two, but if you can move down from #64 and get him in the third — even better.

Brent Urban (DT, Virginia) — Really tough, long defensive tackle. Dogged by injuries this off-season after a fleeting visit to the Senior Bowl. On tape he really looks the part and he might fall due to the injuries. A smart team will capitalise. He’s 6-7, 295lbs with long arms. He could be one of the steals of the draft and a huge impact player.

Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State) — Another long pass rusher who also put up decent numbers this year. Has similar size to Marcus Smith — he’s a shade under 6-3, 251lbs with almost identical arm length. He ran a disappointing 4.80 though. His game speed looks a lot faster on tape.

Taylor Hart (DE, Oregon) — Graded in the round 4-5 range, he’s another tall, versatile lineman. Doesn’t have the longest arms for his height (just under 33 inches) but reports suggested he ran a 4.78 at his pro-day. There’s plenty to work with here.

Chris Whaley (DT, Texas) & Dominique Easley (DT, Florida) — Two redshirt types you can stash. Both are recovering from serious injuries — and both flashed big time potential in college. Ideal interior pass rushers, in particular Easley who was a beast at Florida. He’s a sure-fire first rounder without two ACL injuries in college.

Will Clarke (DE, West Virginia) — 6-6 and 271lbs, with nearly 35 inch arms. Ran a 4.77 at the combine. Tape is poor for the most part — doesn’t play up to his size and he’s pretty ‘meh’ as a pass rusher. Physically he has all the tools. Worth a day three pick to see if you can coach him up.

James Gayle (DE, Virginia Tech) — 6-4 and 259lbs, ran a 4.68 at the combine. He also managed a 37 inch vertical. Strong in the upper body and will be able to compete. More of a rotational pass rusher but for a late round flier you might as well take a look. High motor. Has NFL bloodlines.

Caruan Reid (DT, Princeton) — Looked really smooth at the combine. 6-2 and 302lbs, ran a 4.91. He has 33 inch arms. He’ll need some technical refining as a pro but he turned a few heads in Indianapolis.

Deandre Coleman (DT, California) — I’ll watch more of his tape before the draft. My initial impression is — good run stuffer, could be plugged in as a rotational guy. Moves well for his size but will be drafted predominantly to defend the run.

There’s depth to be had in this draft right into day three. So nobody should be panicking about needing to go defense in round one, or missing out on Jared Allen.

I’ll have a new mock draft available tomorrow.

Some thoughts on Donte Moncrief

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Moncrief's leaping ability is pretty special

Donte Moncrief’s 2013 tape is pretty average and frustrating.

And it’s not really his fault. Not entirely.

I’m not sure what Ole Miss are trying to do on offense under Hugh Freeze. They spell in two quarterbacks, they do a little read option. They ask Bo Wallace to run the ball but he’s also predominantly a pocket passer.

It’s a bit of everything which ends up being pretty muddled and messy for the most part.

They’d almost be better off just committing to one or the other. Be a pro-style team or a run heavy option attack.

Moncrief’s form suffered as a consequence, and he probably wasn’t the only one. And while his situation is still a darn site better than the one Brandon Coleman found himself in at Rutgers, it’s not exactly been the ideal environment for a receiver to perform.

Having said that — he’s not entirely blameless either. He didn’t trouble Alabama’s secondary at all — and that’s a massive audition for the NFL. There were too many games last year where he left opportunities on the field and didn’t have enough of an impact — even if he did play on a disappointing offense.

I found his 2012 tape to be a lot better. And despite some of the frustrating moments last season, there’s definitely plenty to work with.

Moncrief can be a big-play artist. He’s got enough size (6-2, 221lbs) to compete in the air, plus the speed (4.40) to be a YAC or downfield threat.

There are more than a handful of examples on tape where he sidesteps a corner after a quick out and he’s gone. He’s not just a good athlete who can run, there’s so much natural ability to his game. You can throw a quick pass to him in the flat and he’s tough to bring down. He’ll get cheap yards on the quick throws (Seattle often used these to Golden Tate).

He’s extremely effective in chewing up a DB’s cushion, driving off a corner and creating separation (see 0:40 in the video below). He can get deep too. Both Moncrief and Martavis Bryant use speed as a decoy running routes — they’ll give the impression they’ll run deep, eliminate the cushion and get the corner turned. Then they’ll drive into a little crossing route or sit.

Both players have mastered this, and Moncrief’s done it without the top-notch coaching the Clemson receivers get.

He had a 39.5 inch vertical at the combine and an 11.0 broad jump. Only two players had a better vertical, and nobody topped 11.0 on the broad.

He also carries 221lbs very well. There’s no bad weight — and that’s quite a big frame for a 6-2 receiver.

It’s not all positive of course — and there’s one crucial area he’ll need to improve to be a potential Seahawk.

Winning jump balls and competing in the air is a must for this team. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin might not be +6-0, but they’re fantastic at going up and getting the football against bigger corners. I’d say Moncrief is average at best winning jump balls. And that’s a shame given his impressive vertical.

Part of it is inconsistent physicality. He’ll get pushed around sometimes. He doesn’t always show strong hands (his hands, incidentally, are on the small side at 9 1/8 inches).

This is kind of why he was so frustrating last year. There are examples where he does compete well in the air, or show genuine toughness.

His run blocking kind of sums him up perfectly. When he wants to block — he’s awesome. I’ve seen him throw some of the best blocks you’ll see from a college receiver — and he knows it. He celebrates the good blocks.

And then there are other times where he doesn’t want to know.

If you could get under his skin, get at him a little and make him play with a chip on his shoulder, you’ll get a better player. It really comes down to whether you can create that environment — and how will he respond to being challenged by his own team? Some thrive in that type of situation, others fold. Although I will say Moncrief appears to be mentally tough.

I suspect some teams are going to look at the 2012 tape and really buy into this guy. He could easily be the 3rd or 4th receiver on a few draft boards. The national pundits aren’t really discussing this, but for me he could easily be a first round pick. Easily.

And yet it wouldn’t surprise me either if he did stick around into the second frame.

Moncrief might not be a really dominating, prototypical big man like Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin might become — but he could be a guy who’s capable of making several big plays during a season and enough basic plays per-game to warrant a high pick.

For the Seahawks, I do think he’ll be an option at #32. His SPARQ rating will be through the roof and I think you can work on making him a little edgier.

(Just make him share a room with Doug Baldwin on road trips)

In fact his best fit might be on an offense like Seattle’s. They can take their shots using him downfield, they can use his leaping ability in jump ball situations and work on making him stronger in that department.

He could offer some of the X-factor qualities that Golden Tate provided, plus some of the factors Sidney Rice offered as a taller receiver in this system.

I would recommend checking out his 2012 tape — it is better than some of the 2013 stuff out there. Here’s a game against Texas where he should’ve had three highlight-reel touchdowns:

Offensive line & wide receiver big board

Monday, March 24th, 2014

No problem…

NOTE — Just because I’ve put a certain grade on a player (eg first round) doesn’t mean I expect them to go in that range.

This isn’t me projecting where players will go. It’s just how I’m ranking them on March 24th (for whatever it’s worth).

This is such a good class, I expect players with first round grades to last into round two. There’s every chance Brandon Coleman lasts until #64, or Brandon Thomas.

Offensive tackle

Round one

#1 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
#2 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
#3 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
#4 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
#5 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
#6 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
#7 Brandon Thomas (T, Clemson)

Round two

#8 Ja’Wuan James (T, Tennessee)
#9 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)

Cyrus Kouandjio would’ve been on this list — probably in the top three — before the combine. News of a potentially serious knee problem worries me enough to take him off the board.

He’s received high-profile support from people like Dr. James Andrews recently, who claimed there were “wear patterns” on the knee. These were present throughout his college career, having no obvious impact on his play.

Yet when you hear the term “arthritis”, alarm bells have to go off. It’s a shame for Kouandjio who looked terrific at Alabama against some top level opposition. But unless it’s a late round flier (ala Jesse Williams) I’m not making any investment here.

Seattle is unlikely to get any shot at Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan (despite his recent trouble with the law). Joel Bitonio, Morgan Moses and Brandon Thomas can all play tackle at the next level, with Moses perhaps the best fit on the right side.

One of the big plus points for Bitonio is his ability to fill multiple spots. He could play guard and backup left tackle. In that scenario you’re trusting Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey to start at right tackle.

Offensive guard

Round one

#1 Joel Bitonio (Nevada)
#2 Zack Martin (Notre Dame)

Round two

#3 Marcus Martin (USC)
#4 Xavier Su’a -Filo (G, UCLA)

I’m really not a fan of the pure guards available in this class. I wouldn’t draft David Yankey in the first two rounds, ditto Cyril Richardson.

Gabe Jackson doesn’t look like a great fit for Seattle and probably suits a man-blocking scheme. I’ve not had a chance to look at Penn State’s John Urschel.

The best players available are converts. Bitonio and Zack Martin both played tackle in college, while Marcus Martin was a center. On the plus side I think Bitonio is a possible Logan Mankins clone while both Martin’s should make extremely competent guards at the next level.

Wide receiver

Round one

#1 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
#2 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
#3 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
#4 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
#5 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
#6 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
#7 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
#8 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
#9 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)

Round two

#10 Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
#11 Paul Richardson (WR, Colorado)
#12 Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)
#13 Davante Adams (WR, Fresno State)

The strength of this draft is at wide receiver. I’d be surprised if all nine of the names I’ve listed for the first round were gone by #32 — making for great value at the end of day one.

There’s a cigarette paper between Watkins and Evans at the top.

We could see five or six receivers off the board by the Jets at #18. Even if such a rush occurs, there’s plenty of remaining fits for Seattle.

Martavis Bryant is tall, long and fast. He’ll make chunk plays downfield, he can run away from a defense. There’s a little Randy Moss to his game. If he’s switched on he can become a big time receiver at the next level.

There aren’t many 6-6, 225lbs receivers who run in the 4.5’s like Brandon Coleman. He’s a rare prospect who had the misfortune of playing in a lousy college offense. In the right system, Coleman can become a star.

Brandin Cooks is a smaller playmaker who commands attention wherever he lines up. Oregon put three defensive backs on him in the Civil War game. He was a production machine last season and had a terrific combine.

Donte Moncrief’s tape is frustrating to watch, but so is Ole Miss’ offense in general. He has ideal size and speed and you just get the sense his best football will come at the next level (depending on what team he plays for).

I like the round two options, although out of the four names listed there’s a bit of a gap between Jarvis Landry and the rest.

I’m guessing people will mention the absence of Jordan Matthews. Right now I think he’s a third round talent. Great stats, good measurables. Very average tape.

I’ve been putting it off for a while but eventually I’ll get round to doing an article on Matthews explaining my opinion in more detail. This piece by Sigmund Bloom is worth reading and covers some of the issues I have.

To answer the final question in the Tweet at the top of the piece — “Who do you take before who, between the two?” — it really comes down to who’s available.

Here’s a combined OL/WR board for the first round:

#1 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
#2 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
#3 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
#4 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
#5 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
#6 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
#7 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
#8 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
#10 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
#11 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
#12 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
#13 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
#14 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
#15 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
#16 Brandon Thomas (T, Clemson)

If the intention is to grab a receiver and an offensive lineman, really it depends on what you get at #32. If you take a receiver in the first round, you’re looking at the offensive line options at #64. And vice versa.

I’d lean towards a receiver in round one due to the sheer quality of the position this year. But if a player like Joel Bitonio is sitting there at #32, I’d find it tough to pass.

Meanwhile the 2014 compensatory picks were announced today. Unsurprisingly, the Seahawks weren’t awarded any additional picks.

Thoughts on LSU’s Jarvis Landry

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Jarvis Landry is a terrific football player.

Out of this fantastic crop of receivers in the draft, if you needed one guy to make a key third down conversion — you’d probably choose Landry.

He’s a gutsy, ferocious competitor with massive 10 1/4 inch hands.

Landry just always seems to be involved. If he’s not catching a pass, he’ll be around the ball trying to throw a block or looking for someone to hit. He loves to hit people on special teams.

He’s exactly the type of player you can rely on. He’s a tough, gritty receiver — with the right attitude to the game.

But athletically, he’s nothing to shout about.

A lot of his catches in college were contested. Sometimes that’s a good thing — he’ll compete in the air to make a difficult conversion over the middle and you get out of your seat.

At times he also struggles to manufacture separation at the beginning of his routes with a lack of explosion. He won’t get beyond a defender and take the top off a defense. He’s not a downfield threat.

For an offense that loves to take shots (eg Seattle) — he’s not going to burn off a defense on play action and make the huge chunk play. He also lacks the height and reach (5-11, 31 1/4 inch arms) to be a great jump ball specialist.

That’s not to say he doesn’t make spectacular plays. He does. He’s definitely capable of ‘wow’ moments and he wins his fair share of 50/50 passes. Look at the video above and notice the one-hander against Arkansas in the back of the end zone at 2:57.

We just need to work out whether his skill set translates into what the Seahawks want to do.

He’s going to win by out-working a defender, using body control on shorter routes to get an edge and being a solid hands-catcher. He’s not a burner with great height and length.

Can he win the red-line? Sure. He’ll have an early impact on special teams too. But he’s not a deep receiver. And I’m not convinced he’ll be much of a red zone threat at the next level.

They’ve added toughness and consistency to the receiver position, but not with early picks or big free agent money. I get the sense they’ll really like Landry, but we need to work out what kind of grade he’ll be getting.

Landry had a poor combine, running one forty time of 4.77 before getting injured (hamstring). He tried to do the drills but pulled up after a solitary one-handed grab on a short route. The injury probably had an impact on a lousy 28.5 inch vertical.

He needs a good pro-day to recapture some momentum. And yet teams won’t be too concerned about that when they go back and watch the tape and see what a great competitor he is.

There isn’t a tougher receiver in this class.

Here’s how I’d look at it. If Seattle drafted Jarvis Landry in round one or round four I’d be thrilled. You want players like this on your team. And it’s not always about being the biggest or the fastest player — a seven yard completion on third down can be one of the most important plays in a game.

That’s the kind of thing Landry does well.

It’s hard to work out where his stock is right now — but a smart team will be ready to pounce if he falls.

Seahawks discussed trade for DeSean Jackson

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

When a good receiver is made available via trade, the Seahawks nearly always make an enquiry.

Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson, Randy Moss. Percy Harvin.

And now DeSean Jackson is the latest player they’ve asked about, according to Jason La Canfora.

John Schneider and Pete Carroll like to make deals. Whether it’s the package that brought Chris Clemons to Seattle, the Harvin move or the trade with Buffalo for Marshawn Lynch — they’ve always been active.

So interest in Jackson shouldn’t be a shock. And it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

But neither should it be ignored.

Seattle doesn’t seem to worry too much about size. I think they’d love to get a dynamic, bigger receiver. Why not?

Yet they’re not going to ignore the chance to add another X-factor to the offense just because he isn’t 6-4.

Jackson is an incredible deep threat, another extreme competitor and he just flat out makes plays.

That’s what Carroll wants.

Seattle’s offense would be one of the more explosive in the league if they could field Jackson and Harvin at the same time.

The Seahawks want to compete at every level — on and off the field. That’s why they keep asking questions, seeing what’s available and trying to find ways to get better every day.

Undoubtedly that’s why they made this call.

But it doesn’t mean anything will come of it.

The interest from San Francisco also plays a part. Why not just make life a little bit more difficult for your rivals? This is how the Seahawks and the 49ers compete with each other.

Jackson has a 2014 cap hit of $12.75m. Neither the Seahawks or the 49ers are going to inherit that.

There are suggestions he could be cut. In that scenario, I could easily see him making a visit to Seattle.

People will cite character concerns. There’s a reason why Philadelphia are seemingly willing to part with one of their better and more productive players.

Yet the Seahawks are willing to take chances. They believe in the strength of their dressing room.

It’d probably help that Marshawn Lynch is tight to Jackson from their Cal days.

But yeah — it’s still highly unlikely we’ll see any deal here, either via trade or free agency.

It’s a great draft for receivers (have I mentioned that?) and even if he’s cut, Jackson isn’t going to come here for $4-5m. Not with teams like Oakland needing a receiver and having money to burn (ideal location too).

It’ll be even more unlikely if Jared Allen decides to join the Seahawks this weekend, further limiting the teams available cap.