To follow up yesterday’s article I’d compiled a mock with Easley going to the Seahawks at #32. It almost seems quite predictable now to make that move in light of Rapoport’s Tweet. But here it is anyway. I’ve included four trades that are detailed below.
Atlanta (#6) trades with St. Louis (#2) for Khalil Mack
I can see a scenario where the Texans want too much for the #1 pick and are prepared to take Jadeveon Clowney if they don’t get what they want. If that’s the case, I still think the Falcons will consider moving up to add a defensive playmaker. I’m not a huge Khalil Mack fan, but the league seems to think differently. The Rams are likely to be a very willing trade partner and the relationship between Les Snead and Thomas Dimitroff gets the deal done for a modest price.
Detroit (#10) trades with Jacksonville (#3) for Sammy Watkins
The Lions have visited with all the top players in the draft and appear determined to make a splash. They’ll probably have to battle Buffalo to make this move (the Bills have also expressed an interest in trading up) but the Lions are determined to get over the hump and may go that extra mile to land a player like Watkins. I think the Jaguars will target a small move down the board before taking either Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles.
New Orleans (#27) trades with Chicago (#14) for Odell Beckham Jr
I really believe the Saints are going to be very aggressive in this draft. It’s in the nature of their front office, they rarely sit still. Odell Beckham Jr is a local favourite from LSU and would give Drew Brees a needed weapon on the outside. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is drafted by the Rams at #13 the Bears could target a trade down. There’s no other safety worth the #14 pick, but at #27 it’s much more palatable.
San Francisco (#30) trades with Baltimore (#17) for Brandin Cooks
The 49ers have big, physical receivers. What they don’t have is an X-factor. Cooks would add another dimension to their offense. If they’re going to package picks to move up the board, this seems like a decent shout. In this projection the Ravens have seen the top five tackles leave the board. Ozzie Newsome always seems to pick the guys I bang on about on here (Courtney Upshaw, Jimmy Smith, Arthur Brown, John Simon, Matt Elam). So how about this — they trade down to #30 and take Joel Bitonio. In a press conference today Newsome suggested the #17 pick is open for business.
Options for the Seahawks
In this projection eight receivers are off the board and seven offensive tackles. They have to look elsewhere.
I don’t think they’ll take a pure guard in round one, so really it comes down to the defense. They aren’t drafting a corner in the first round (I doubt Pete Carroll ever will). Guys like Ryan Shazier and Anthony Barr are off the board too.
The two best options here might be Ra’Shede Hageman and Dominique Easley.
Given Rapoport’s report at the top of the piece, I wouldn’t rule out the Patriots rolling the dice on Easley. They like versatile, explosive defensive linemen. It’s a need for the Pats. It makes a ton of sense. They’ve drafted plenty of players from Florida in the past — and Belichick frequently goes back to the well (particularly the ‘Rutgers’ well).
If I’d gone in that direction at #29 obviously Hageman would’ve been available for the Seahawks at #32. It’ll be a pick-your-poison type of situation. Easley is a more consistent, explosive player but he carries an injury red flag. Hageman is extremely inconsistent — but he’s healthy, has better size and the upside to be an excellent pro.
It goes to show that even in a scenario where 15 players are off the board at the two positions of highest need (RT, WR) — there are still nice options available at #32.
Even with eight receivers off the board in round one — I think there’ll be some nice wide out options at #64 (potentially Brandon Coleman). If this many tackles leave the board in the first frame, it might be down to Tom Cable to dig out some later round gems again.
Next week’s mock will be my final projection and the one I send to the Huddle Report. Tomorrow we’ll look at Mel Kiper and Todd McShay’s latest mocks and the options available at #32 in each of their latest projections.
Dominique Easley at #32 to Seattle. Is it unrealistic? Maybe. Is it totally out of the question? Perhaps not.
You can’t get away from the two serious ACL injuries and the flags attached to that situation. If the medical checks say he has a high risk of further setbacks or he’ll lose some of his elite quickness and get off — he won’t be considered by anyone in round one.
Yet over the last couple of weeks I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the debate of Seattle considering him at #32. I’m not saying it will happen, but here’s the reasons why it possibly could:
— Other players have recovered from two major knee injuries in college to forge successful pro careers. Frank Gore had exactly the same experience — suffering ACL injuries to both knees in separate seasons before entering the draft. He’s been one of the most durable players in the NFL since 2005 — despite playing the position that takes the biggest beating. If Gore can make it work, why not Easley?
— Make no mistake, Easley is a high pick without the injuries. You’re talking about an explosive difference maker who can line up anywhere on the defensive line. He’ll consistently collapse the pocket, impacting the run and the pass. Even if he’s not recording the sack, see how often the quarterback has to escape the pocket because he’s quickly into the backfield with an incredible burst. Despite lacking ideal size or arm length — he holds the point against the run and has the lateral agility to move down the line and stretch out running plays. He has a relentless sparky motor, a tone setter on defense and an incredible competitor. Don’t underestimate the character he’s shown trying to fight through two serious injuries. You’ll see a tape breakdown vs Toldeo (2013) at the bottom of this article.
— The Seahawks have an insider when it comes to Easley. Dan Quinn spent two years as Florida’s defensive coordinator before rejoining the Seahawks. He’ll know all about the pro’s and con’s. Sometimes familiarity means you judge with a more critical eye. There’s no guarantee Quinn is banging the table for Easley — for all we know the opposite is true. But what if he is in there, fighting his corner despite the injuries? After all — the coaches in Florida made him a team captain.
— Matt Elam, last years #32 pick, has a cap hit peak of $2.15m on his rookie contract. It builds up to that number in year four from a starting point of $1.2m. The Ravens have a fifth year option on the deal. There’s no financial risk in taking Easley with the final pick in round one. If you grade him in the top-20 and you get positive news on his recovery, it’s not even that much of a gamble.
— Some people might argue taking Easley would be a luxury given the needs on the roster. However, could they target a receiver at #64 (eg, Brandon Coleman) and load up on offensive linemen using Cable’s later-round list? You could still fill your needs, while also getting a major impact player for your defensive line.
— The 49ers drafted Tank Carradine with the #40 pick last year — a player in a similar situation. Unlike Carradine, however, Easley is much further along in his rehab and shouldn’t need to be redshirted during the first year of his contract. For me, Easley’s also a better prospect.
— A reader named Thorson posted this a couple of days ago in relation to Easley’s injury issues. It’s worth a read:
As an orthopedic surgeon, I can perhaps add some insight into Easley’s knee. Typically, when fixing an ACL, we use a graft to replace the torn ligament. Sometimes we use a patient’s own tissue. Often, however, when dealing with an elite athlete, we use cadaver graft. That way we don’t compromise any function a patient might lose by taking a tendon from them. Also, recovery is quicker with banked, cadaver tissue since we don’t have to damage a patient’s leg harvesting the graft. So, assuming the tunnels we use to pass the graft were placed correctly, the hardware we use to fix the graft is easy to remove and probably most important that there is no underlying arthritis or significant damage to the meniscal cartilages, then there isn’t that much difference between recovery after ACL #1 or #2 (or #3 for that matter.) Again, the wild card is the status of the meniscal and joint cartilage. With each subsequent injury, there is more risk to these underlying structures.
This is a somewhat simplified look at things, but if his meniscal cartilages are OK and if he doesn’t have a great deal of arthritis, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose him if available.
I’m still sceptical the Seahawks would draft a player with two serious knee injuries in round one. He may just be one of many options at #64 or he might be off their board completely.
It’s not just the injuries either — they do prefer length on both sides of the line. Easley’s arms a shade under 33 inches (32 7/8 inches to be precise). Even Jordan Hill — drafted in round three last year — had 33 1/2 inch arms.
There’s a counter though. You know whose arms are even shorter than Easley’s?
Aaron Donald — 32 5/8 inches in length.
If you’re telling me the Seahawks wouldn’t draft Donald at #32 because of arm length, I’m here to tell you you’re probably wrong. Sometimes just being an explosive, gritty, determined individual who makes plays is enough to see beyond size.
Ask Russell Wilson.
It’s not often you get a chance to draft such an explosive player at the end of round one. A player who, if healthy, might not get past the likes of Chicago at #14 or Dallas at #16.
If the Seahawks are planning another surprise on draft day — maybe, just maybe, this could be it.
Take a look at the tape below vs Toldeo from 2013. There’s no volume until around the 1:45 mark:
0:20 — If you want to see how he wins against the run despite a lack of great size, this is a good example. He cuts to the left, shoots the gap and then locates the ball carrier. One area he can work on at the next level is finding the man with the ball and completing the play. On this occasion — no problem.
0:28 — Engages the center, gets off the block (shoving him to the ground in the process) and loops around to the right to force the quarterback to pull the ball down and run. The edge rushers were contained for the most part and only came into play once Easley had forced the QB to tuck and run. This is the kind of splash play that doesn’t show up in the stat column.
0:53 — Here he lines up as the nose tackle on 1st and 10 and dominates the center. He wins with leverage and strength. If you pause it at 0:58 — look at the penetration he’s created while still engaged with the center. Rushing from the interior isn’t just about a swim move, speed, shooting the gap and forcing a sack/TFL. A tackle can collapse the pocket by shoving the guard or center into the backfield to impact the play. This is a run and the RB does well to make the most out of the play. Against the pass, this kind of bull rush forces the quarterback to throw quickly or move from his spot.
1:45 — Easley blows this up before the center’s even snapped the ball fully to the quarterback. On fourth and inches they line him up against the center. At 288lbs. That says everything about how highly Florida valued his ability against the run in crucial short-yardage situations.
1:59 — On this play he’s well blocked on a double team. Yet after the QB completes a pass to the RB — look at the effort to race after the ball carrier as he runs downfield. Even if the cornerback wasn’t there to make the tackle, Easley would’ve made the play down the sideline. How many defensive tackles can do this?
2:50 — More dominance of the center, lined up as the nose on 2nd and 2.
4:32 — Another example of a splash play that doesn’t go down in the stat column. Easley explodes off the snap and shoots the gap between the center and right guard. The quarterback has no time to react and throws an inaccurate pass to thin air in the red zone — forcing a field goal on third down.
4:56 — Back to back plays in this segment of the tape where he bursts into the backfield forcing the quarterback into a quick throw. Watch and enjoy.
5:29 — Easley adjusts his position and lines up between the guard and center. He’s into the backfield before the guard’s even out of his stance — that’s elite get off. With the guard desperately trying to hold him, he drags down the running back with one hand for a TFL. It’s an incredible play.
6:01 — In this play by my watch the quarterback has 1.03 seconds before Easley is in his line of vision. He’s still getting into his drop, so he can’t step into the throw (notice the placement of his back foot). If Easley is blocked well, the quarterback can step up into the pocket and avoid the two closing edge rushers. Instead he’s held in position like a sitting duck. It all starts with the interior rush.
6:25 — Easley forces the guard into the pocket, is clearly held as he tries to disengage and forces the QB (no edge pressure this time) to scramble as he’s going through his progressions. He doesn’t get a sack, but if the left end contains his edge it’s a big win for the defense.
8:09 — I guess if you’re getting your ass kicked, you can just trip him up — right?
There are plays where he’s well covered by a double team. I counted two occasions where he was blocked 1v1 and gave up a decent run as a consequence. I think you can live with that given the number of snaps he faced and the overall impact he had on the game.
Very few players truly deserve to be referred to as ‘living in the backfield’. For Easley, it’s the best way to describe him.
Forget about the draft pick for a second. If I offered you the chance to sign an explosive player coming off an ACL injury on a contract worth $1.2-2.1m per year. Would you be interested?
So much depends on the medical reports on the most recent knee injury. Even then you’re putting faith in his ability to stay healthy. If you take the chance and that faith is rewarded, you could be left with a top-tier interior pass rusher. And those types of players aren’t usually available in the late first round.
*** Update ***
Medical report on Easley turned out well. Rehab has been positive and is making progress to be ready at some point during training camp.
The Seahawks came into the off-season with three key priorities:
1. Keep Michael Bennett
2. Extend Earl Thomas’ contract
3. Extend Richard Sherman’s contract
Two down, one to go.
Several reports suggest a deal with Sherman could be done before the draft. Ian Rapoport, who broke the Thomas story, claims “Sherman is next”.
It’s a nice reminder that as this team moves forward, they’re not going to be able to keep every asset. In an ideal world you retain Golden Tate and Breno Giacomini. Instead the Seahawks enter the draft probably looking to add a receiver and a right tackle. That won’t change moving forward. Other players will have to be sacrificed — in the same way Red Bryant and Chris Clemons were cut to save money.
The crucial thing is keeping the core together. The elite few.
Who are the players you’ll struggle to replace?
Thomas and Sherman fall into that category.
Let’s start with Thomas. If Russell Wilson is the driving force on offense, Thomas is the defensive equivalent. We’ve seen him develop from a talented, albeit slightly reckless rookie to a cornerstone elite defensive player. He’s the Ed Reed of his generation — except he’s even better. Reed had a knack for making big plays. Thomas might not stack up interceptions in the same way — but his range, ability to cover ground in a split second and discipline make him even more effective.
The Seahawks can’t play their version of defense without Thomas. It really is as simple as that.
I’m not sure there’s another team in the league that can use a single-high safety like the Seahawks use Thomas. His presence on the field enriches everybody — Kam Chancellor, the pass rush, the cornerbacks. Even during that famous goal-line stand against the Rams on Monday Night Football — who’s making the crunching hit to prevent a touchdown?
And he’s not getting by on just natural ability. He had to develop and grow. By Pete Carroll’s own admission, he took too many chances as a rookie. He had to learn the defense, understand why he needed to be in a certain place at a certain time. Once it clicked — he became what we see today. But it took a lot of hard work.
The scary thing is — I’m not sure we’ve seen the best of Earl Thomas. There are still plays or instances where you think — he can still improve. He has an opportunity over the next four years to establish a Hall of Fame career by continuing to develop. That’s the reality.
People question whether Sherman has that same ‘cannot be replaced’ ability. I’d say — sure he does.
You can talk about scheme all you want. The fact is Sherman was the least targeted cornerback in the NFL in 2013 and still led the league in interceptions. Think about that for a second. Teams were avoiding his side of the field — the very definition of a shutdown corner. And he still had more picks than any other player in the NFL.
That’s not scheme. That’s not play calling. That’s elite performance.
For all of Sherman’s outspoken views and headline-grabbing statements — he more than anyone has helped establish Seattle’s attitude. The defense you saw in the Super Bowl — confident, prepared, tough, brash and full of self belief. Sherman helped deliver that with the rest of the young leaders on this team.
His work ethic, obsessive approach to studying an opponent and spirit is worth a few million alone. He leads by example. And he’s a walking advert for hard work and dedication to your craft.
“Look what you can achieve if you do things the right way.”
He makes life easy for people like Pete Carroll. Every late round pick drafted by this team only needs to share a locker room with Sherman to feel inspired. That is priceless.
The Seahawks are very good at finding cornerbacks who fit their system in the later rounds. Nobody would deny that. But Sherman isn’t comparable to Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon or the others. Put Brandon Browner’s name on that list too.
He really is the best cornerback in the league. And you don’t let the best cornerback in the league walk away to sign for someone else.
What kind of a message would that send anyway? Come to the Seahawks as a late round pick, work your tail off to become the best player at your position and then we won’t reward you — in fact we’re going to save money so we can spend a bit more in free agency?
That’s not ‘always compete’. That’s being a jerk.
Sherman has earned a big contract, the Seahawks need the best corner in the NFL on their roster and they don’t need to try and save money. They’re cap healthy. And they’ll make further savings down the line.
They’ll be under pressure to continue to draft well — but that pressure would’ve existed anyway. Let’s face it — if you’re not going out there to add multiple potential starters to your franchise in every draft you might as well not bother turning up.
If the Seahawks wanted to have another Championship off-season, they’re going about it the right way.
Ja'Wuan James appears destined to be a first round pick
When you get this close, you learn one or two nuggets about the way the league is viewing the draft. We get a good idea who’s going to go in the top five. We know who’s likely to fall.
And we get the occasional surprise consensus first round pick.
In 2012 about a week or two before the draft it emerged that Chandler Jones was a round one lock. The media had him tagged not unfairly as a second or third round pick, but the NFL felt differently. There was talk he could be the first pass rusher off the board — but either way he wasn’t going to get out of the first round.
A handful of pass rushers went before Jones in the end but he was drafted by New England with the 21st overall pick.
The other four players are, predictably — Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin.
This quote from Beasley’s piece is also interesting:
In their eyes, there’s a drop-off to the next level, which includes Virginia’s Morgan Moses.
The Dolphins will not spend a first-round pick on Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio, whose injury red flags have the team concerned.
It certainly sounds like Zack Martin is going to leave the board early — it’s hard to see him getting past St. Louis at #13 and he could go earlier than that. If he’s gone by the middle of the first round, James could easily be taken by Baltimore at #17, Miami at #19 or Arizona at #20.
It shouldn’t be a major shock that he’s getting a high grade from teams. He’s fundamentally sound. He’s got 35 inch arms and as a pass protector he’s certainly competent. In terms of footwork, balance and body control he’s excellent. James isn’t a great athlete or even particularly strong (only 22 reps on the bench, doesn’t drive people off the ball in the run game) but he’s a plug-in-and-play tackle. He started 49 games in college and managed a high level of consistency.
A reader recommended I watch the Tennessee @ Missouri game because he had some struggles against one of the better pass rush teams in the SEC. You can see the game below for yourself:
I think James generally does pretty well. It’s not his best tape — But I thought he handled Michael Sam for the most part. He had an issue against former JUCO star Marcus Golden — who looks a really good prospect for the 2015 draft. Golden’s burst off the edge gave him fits and there were a couple of occasions where he got into his pads and drove him back into the quarterback. It was a very impressive display from Golden who needs to be watched next season.
If the Miami Herald report is accurate (and there’s no reason to believe it isn’t) and teams see a drop off between the first five tackles and the rest, we could see a situation where the likes of Morgan Moses and Joel Bitonio are available in the late first. I’ve soured somewhat on Moses with the more tape I’ve watched — but if you’re in desperate need of a left tackle (eg Carolina) he’s probably your best bet.
If the Seahawks want to go tackle early, Bitonio might be the best or even only hope. Right tackle could end up being a difficult spot to fill in round one. And if they don’t take Bitonio, Tom Cable could be tasked with finding at least two linemen who can contribute in the mid/late rounds — because the second round options aren’t great either. We might see an early run on OT’s because if you miss out early, you probably miss out altogether. The Seahawks have faith in Cable to find later round gems — but there aren’t many teams with that level of trust in their offensive line staff.
Clowney or Manziel at #1 for Houston?
Clowney or Manziel with first pick. If trade down and Manziel is gone Bortles or Mack.
You can make a strong case for taking Johnny Manziel. The Texans have a good defense. They have solid receiving options, a good running back and a franchise left tackle.
The one thing Houston really lacks is a dynamic playmaker at quarterback — and Manziel can be that man.
It’d also be fun to see the Jaws, Cosell and Hoge trio react to the quarterback they wouldn’t touch in the first three rounds go with the top pick.
If you’re willing to embrace Manziel for what he is, he can succeed. You’d need to set up an offense similar to Seattle’s. Make the run your focus, use a lot of play action, sprinkle some read option into the playbook and challenge your receivers to win 1v1 battles. Emphasise the importance of explosive plays, try to limit the mistakes while appreciating you need to accept Manziel’s going to scramble a lot and get out of the pocket frequently.
He is the ultimate competitor. And despite all of the off-field drama at Texas A&M Manziel’s performance on the field was never affected. People like Jaws/Cosell/Hoge just want big quarterbacks who stand tall and throw bullets in an orthodox system. The game has developed beyond that being the only way to succeed.
Improvisation is crucial these days. You need to be able to manage chaos. The defensive players entering the league are the best athletes in college football. If you can’t extend plays, throw on the run and be creative — you’re going to struggle. And before anyone quotes Manning or Brady — we’re talking about two established Hall of Fame veterans who get the ball out quicker than anyone in history. How many rookies enter the league with that level of ability, composure or command of their offense? Zero.
Manziel would go into Houston and instantly elevate that franchise. With the supporting cast they already have in place he’ll be a production machine — stacking up yards on the ground and through the air just like Cam Newton as a rookie.
Here’s Manziel’s appearance on Jon Gruden’s QB camp:
And here’s Manziel’s classic performance against Duke, where he put the team on his back and dragged them to victory:
Dominique Easley remains a wildcard
If there was one document I’d love to read going into this draft, it’s a medical report on Dominique Easley’s knees.
How is the most recent ACL injury healing? What condition is his other knee in? What are the chances he will re-injure either knee and how long could you realistically expect to get out of him?
When you watch the tape he just explodes off the screen. He constantly impacts the quarterback by pushing the interior line into the pocket, he shoots gaps better than even Sheldon Richardson and he has that sparky attitude you want to see from a three technique. He plays amped, he plays with an edge.
He’s a fantastic player. A really terrific interior pass rusher who wouldn’t have ANY chance of making it to the late first round with a clean bill of health.
Tank Carradine — who’d also suffered an ACL injury albeit later in the season than Easley — was the 40th pick in 2013 and essentially red shirted by San Francisco. I’m not sure you’d need to redshirt Easley given the extended recovery time he’s had. I also think he’s a better player than Carradine. So how early could he be drafted?
Everything comes down to the medical check.
If it’s positive, he isn’t lasting until #64 and you’ll get one shot at drafting a fantastic player with some risk. If it’s negative, you probably don’t even consider him with the last pick in round two.
He’s impossible to project without seeing the report. And yet it’s hard not to root for good news — because if he can recover and stay healthy, you’re talking about a major impact pass rusher available in an unlikely range.
In terms of surprising news, Jeff Ireland joining Seattle’s front office is a top ten pick.
The much maligned former GM of the Miami Dolphins is said to be a friend of John Schneider. There’s also an opening after Scot McCloughan resigned as the team’s senior personnel executive earlier in the week.
In terms of team building — there were several gaffe’s. The Dolphins traded for Brandon Marshall but didn’t give him a quarterback to work with. And when they finally drafted a QB in Ryan Tannehill — they traded Marshall to the Bears where he immediately returned to Pro-Bowl form.
They traded Vontae Davis to the Colts, leaving the team weak at corner and needing to spend big in free agency to fill a new hole. They spent a kings ransom on mediocre linebackers last off-season, not to mention the incredible $60m contract they gave Mike Wallace.
They failed to adequately protect their investment in Tannehill — the most sacked quarterback in the league over the last two seasons. They traded up in the 2013 draft to grab Dion Jordan — a player who contributed nothing in his rookie year and is rumoured to be available for trade after just one season.
And in his first draft in charge of the Dolphins he selected Jake Long instead of Matt Ryan. Long had a decent spell before leaving for St. Louis, but Ryan has blossomed into a franchise quarterback for the Falcons. Miami has been desperately crying out for a QB since the Dan Marino days. Ryan could and probably should’ve been the answer.
But these negatives perhaps overshadow what he’s good at — identifying value in the later rounds. He found several late round or UDFA contributors for the Dolphins — such as Davone Bess, Kendall Langford and Brian Hartline. He was the man who gave a chance to Cameron Wake in the NFL. That’s what he’s good at.
In a role as a pure scout for the Seahawks it could end up being a good fit and a huge benefit for this front office. So while it’s easy to focus on the mess in Miami — Ireland could be an inspired appointment for the long term if he identifies a few late round gems.
Thoughts on Teddy Bridgewater
We’ve not spent much time on the quarterbacks this year — and with good reason. The Seahawks don’t need a quarterback. They’re not likely to draft one even in the later rounds following the addition of Terrelle Pryor.
But with less than two weeks to go, I need to put some thoughts down on Teddy Bridgewater.
If the Seahawks were in Jacksonville’s position (picking at #3 and #39) and without a franchise quarterback — I wouldn’t take Bridgewater with either pick.
He’s a neat and tidy quarterback. There are flashes of technical quality where he looks off a safety and throws down the seam. He isn’t a bad decision maker. He’s not a statue in the pocket and he can move around. He’s a thoroughly decent player.
Is he special? Not at all.
The Rutgers game in 2013 is a good example as to why. There are some throws where he hangs tough in the pocket and delivers a strike under pressure. But for every one of those throws, there’s a really inaccurate, simple miss. His accuracy is so up and down. Considering he doesn’t wow you in any way physically (not a great arm, not terribly elusive or good throwing on the run, smallish stature) — he needs to be flawless with the accuracy. Worst of all he doesn’t often improvise — the single most underrated aspect of any quarterback.
He just screams average. There’s absolutely no way I’d stake my job or reputation on him in the top ten. I’d struggle to justify it in round one and at the top of round two I could make a case for two or three other quarterbacks first.
He’s a Twitter favourite and it’s almost sacrilege to criticise Bridgewater on social media. But there’s just nothing exciting about his game. If the NFL is rating him outside of the first round, as appears to be the case, that is totally justifiable to me. He deserves to go in the range Geno Smith and Jimmy Clausen went. I don’t think he’s any more or less likely to succeed than those two.
The pro-day merely confirmed some of the issues you see on tape. Even in shorts and a T-shirt throwing against thin air his accuracy was all over the place. It’s not a case of overreacting to one event and letting it dominate the tape. How can you watch that pro-day and go home thinking, “Yep — that’s my first round pick”. You can’t. The fact is he just didn’t look the part. Not even close.
But the thing that really stuck with me was his reaction to the work out. Mike Mayock on the NFL Network — not one to go over the top on the criticism — made it abundantly clear he wasn’t impressed. And this led to one of the most awkward exchanges we’ve seen leading up to this years draft.
Moments after Mayock’s negative review, Bridgewater took a seat next to him for an interview. Mayock’s body language was a picture as Bridgewater uttered his opening gambit: “I think it went pretty well today, the guys came out and competed and…. (I) just did a great job connecting with the guys on those routes.”
You could almost hear Mayock’s famous ‘Beast Quake’ commentary…
“Are you kidding me?”
The whole interview from that point felt weird. When quizzed what he thought he did well — he answered two of the things Mayock and fellow analyst Kurt Warner had just criticised (footwork, timing).
He sounded like a player who wasn’t aware of what just happened and didn’t really understand what he needed to work on.
Then there’s the glove issue. Bridgewater wore gloves throughout his time at Louisville, but then chose not to for the disappointing pro-day. Does he need the gloves to perform at his best? And if so, what happens if he’s drafted by a warm-weather franchise? Was he under pressure from teams not to throw with the gloves, inspiring his pro-day decision? It’s just another set of questions you’d rather not have to deal with.
There are other concerns. During his appearance on Jon Gruden’s QB Camp he was quizzed on his decision to commit to home-state Miami and then depart for Louisville. He answered by saying he felt uncomfortable joining the Hurricanes after Randy Shannon was fired and didn’t want to play for a coach that hadn’t recruited him. He then admitted he “wanted to give up football” when he didn’t start as a freshman at Louisville — before becoming homesick and almost quitting the Cardinals.
Sometimes you can overreact to these things, but that just set off a major alarm bell to me. How is he going to handle the difficult challenge of the NFL? How will he react if he doesn’t start immediately? What if he’s drafted in round two and asked to sit for a year or two?
Maybe he’s matured and a different person these days — but could you imagine Russell Wilson walking into a room and saying the words, “I nearly gave up”?
Bridgewater for me is one of the more overrated prospects in this class. I agree with Mayock — I wouldn’t spend a first round pick on him. And it wouldn’t surprise me if he drifted into the mid-second where a team can draft him with limited consequences if he fails.
Cody Latimer here, making two middle aged Bears scouts feel inadequate
Cody Latimer is going to be an early pick in this draft.
I don’t say that with any authority of course. It’s just my opinion. But he looks better than most of the receivers in this already loaded class. Some team is going to get a terrific football player. The Seahawks will be lucky if he lasts until pick #32.
We may not see a more Seahawky receiver for a while — his combination of strong hands, run blocking and ability to compete for the ball in the air (not to mention speed and leaping ability) make him a very appealing option. And yet here’s the reality…
These receivers are going to go early.
Latimer, Odell Beckham Jr, Brandin Cooks. They’re probably going to be long gone. And that’s after the likes of Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Marqise Lee get snapped up.
Maybe Seattle pre-empted this with the Sidney Rice re-signing? Despite the depth in quality, perhaps they just won’t be able to get one of top wide outs? And maybe the value will be pushed into another position of need like right tackle or the defensive line?
If I had to name three players who just look like great fits for this team it’d be Latimer, Joel Bitonio and Ryan Shazier — with their combination of competitive spirit, athleticism and scheme fit. They’re not the only appealing prospects — but they’ll do for me.
Let’s hope they aren’t all off the board by #32.
49ers trading up?
Via ESPN's Chris Mortensen: "The #49ers are a team people are starting to talk about as someone who could be very aggressive in this draft."
It’s kind of a funny thing to say — but the 49ers almost have too many picks in this draft.
They have 11 in total — a solitary first rounder, two second rounders and three third rounders.
They have holes to fill, but are 11 rookies going to make the roster? Are they going to find six starters by the end of day two?
They also have the ammunition to be aggressive and target a top player to boost their squad. Mike Evans — if that’s who they want — could be scary on that offense.
I will add though — he’s a fiery character and he does allow opponents into his head. We saw that in the Duke Bowl game at the end of last season. While Johnny Manziel was doing a magic show, Evans was mostly anonymous. He let the guy covering him get to him. He couldn’t control his emotions. Manziel at one point got into his face — barking at him to get in the game.
In Seattle I think Evans would be fine. He’d be part of the aggressor — the team with the swagger and confidence. But coming up against Richard Sherman and co would be a challenge if he can’t keep things in check.
San Francisco moving up should be a formality — jut as they did last year to get Eric Reid. They can afford to do it. The only question is — how high do they jump?
We’ll see what impact this has on May 8th. For me, he’s still the best corner in the draft.
More Ja’Wuan James tape study
After Mark Dominik suggested Ja’Wuan James was a first round “lock” — I felt obliged to spend more time watching his tape last night.
The South Carolina game seemed like a good place to start. You can watch it for yourself in the video above.
I’m starting to see why Dominik would make that projection. James is just a really solid tackle. He doesn’t make too many errors, he has heavy hands and the footwork to excel quickly at the next level. He has long arms and an ideal frame. He might not be a special player — but he’s a plug-in-and-play tackle who can start as a rookie.
James always looked in control against the Gamecocks — flashing great footwork and body control. He consistently connected with blocks and while he doesn’t drive people off the ball — when he locks on he’s tough to negotiate. He very rarely over-extends or gets into an awkward position. He’s just a really consistent, solid offensive tackle.
Richardson’s a man mountain but he lacks a lot of the technique and composure of James. He’s much more of a project and could require a year of top-level coaching before he’s ready to start. James on the other hand is ready to go.
This game shows how good Clowney is — he dominates throughout and is constantly around the ball. Tennessee true freshman Marquez North is also one to watch for the future (6-4, 215lbs).
But I can see why James could go in round one based on this tape. There’s nothing flashy about his play, but he gets the job done. Which, essentially, is what you want. I think he could play left or right tackle at the next level. He won’t be a brilliant, athletic future Hall of Famer — but over the 4-5 years of that first contract you’re going to get a really solid tackle.
I also watched some more Morgan Moses last night (vs Vic Beasley of Clemson) to compare him against James. Putting two players together like that really highlights the differences. Moses looked lethargic and clumsy. He didn’t give up any major plays against Beasley — but he just made everything look so difficult. I felt tired watching the tape as he laboured around the field.
This game was the week after he shut down Jeremiah Attaochu — and it bothered me. How can he look so dominant one week, and so shattered the next? I just get the sense you’ll get the same level of performance from Ja’Wuan James on a weekly basis. With Moses, he’s going to be up and down a lot. And you’ll have to permanently monitor his conditioning I fear.
If the idea is to get a nice, solid tackle who can start quickly and play at a certain level — for me James and Bitonio deserve higher grades than Moses. But I suspect all three will go in round one.
At wide receiver, Watkins, Evans, Lee, Beckham and Cooks. Offensive Tackles are Lewan, Matthews, Robinson, Martin and James — Mark Dominik (@MarkdominikESPN) April 24, 2014
There’s nothing revelatory in suggesting Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews will be first round ‘locks’. But it’s the name on the end of the list that is really fascinating.
As in Tennessee offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James.
I don’t get the sense Dominik’s Tweets were just one man’s opinion — they were more a consensus view among league personnel. We’ll probably see more receivers and tackles drafted in round one than just the names listed above. But this is the first suggestion James is in any way a ‘lock’ to go in round one.
The position has become so key in the NFL. That was never more evident than last year when three of the first four picks were spent on offensive tackles. I’m not sure any of the trio are superior to Robinson or Matthews this year — but in a draft without obvious top-end talent, teams loaded up on the best tackles.
Overall nine offensive linemen were drafted in the first frame. We might not reach that number in 2014, but it’ll be close.
Not many people expect the top three (Robinson, Matthews & Lewan) to get out of the top ten. And yet there’s still multiple teams who won’t allow themselves to end day one without a new tackle.
Could James be the next man up? It appears that could be the case.
Tony Pauline noted today that first round buzz on Cyrus Kouandjio — which always appeared to be a bit of a damage limitation stunt — is inaccurate. If teams were failing him on his medical at the combine, he’s going to fall. Perhaps in a big way.
Pauline mentioned Joel Bitonio as a possibility for the Dolphins which shows how far he’s rising up the board (and rightly so). The options in rounds 2-3 aren’t great so any team without a Tom Cable will feel some pressure to find a blocker in round one.
James, Bitonio and Morgan Moses could all be first round picks.
Of course there’s every chance Houston does something else at #1 and the Falcons grab him at #2 after trading with St. Louis. Yet if the Texans are serious about moving down surely they’ll simply agree to any offer the Rams are prepared to accept to move down?
ESPN’s Ed Werder also said on NFL Insiders the #Texans hope to trade out of No. 1 overall, and the #Falcons are their “most likely partner.”
On the Falcons — last year had been brewing for a while. To some extent it’s similar to Seattle’s sudden and dramatic collapse at the end of the Holmgren era. And while Matt Ryan is younger than Matt Hasselbeck and injury free — the rest of the roster is beaten up, ineffective and filled with holes.
Clowney would provide some edge pressure but the main issue is an overall lack of talent and depth. If anything they’d be better off trying to move back from #6. The NFC has become a brutal endurance test — and the Falcons are as finesse as they come. Clowney is an exciting talent, but he’s not going to bring a hard edge to a pretty soft looking unit.
If the Falcons did move up to #1 we could see something like this in the top ten (I still believe Detroit will trade up too):
#1 Atlanta — Jadeveon Clowney
#2 St. Louis — Khalil Mack
#3 Detroit — Sammy Watkins
#4 Cleveland — Greg Robinson
#5 Oakland — Jake Matthews
#6 Houston — Blake Bortles
#7 Tampa Bay — Mike Evans
#8 Minnesota — Aaron Donald
#9 Buffalo — Taylor Lewan
#10 Jacksonville — Johnny Manziel
This would actually be a good thing for the Seahawks. They want the QB’s to come off the board early.
I’ve played around with a number of scenarios from 11-32 with this top ten and in every single one there’s an appealing option with the last pick in round one. Whether it’s Joel Bitonio, Morgan Moses or one of the top receivers (Latimer, Benjamin or Moncrief) — Seattle aren’t without options. And there’s always a chance they’re the team highest on Ja’Wuan James.
Without doubt for me Latimer is one of the most exciting players in the draft — and also one of the most underrated along with Bitonio. This quote from Pauline sums up why he’ll be very appealing to many teams:
“There are a number of reasons for his ascent but the two things I continue to hear as the biggest factors are 1) his 4.43s forty time at pro-day and 2) the way Latimer consistently wins out for contested passes.”
A 4.4 forty and winning contested passes — words to light up Seattle’s war room.
It’s not just that though — his run blocking is superb, he doesn’t drop passes and he’s one of those ‘basketball’ athletes who comes into the league and just takes off.
He’s a special talent and the Seahawks will be fortunate if he’s available at the end of round one. He’s one of 30 players who will attend the draft in New York.
I wanted to do one more mock draft with trades with just over two weeks to go.
The trades in the graphic are represented by a letter ‘T’. You’ll find notes on all of the deals below the mock.
I’l warn you now — I haven’t spent a ton of time researching the value of these deals. You may feel some of these moves are unlikely. I just wanted to put together a mock that included a few trades to see what the options are at #32. Whether the deals are cheap/expensive isn’t really a concern.
TRADE #1 — Atlanta (#6) trades with St Louis (#2) for a mid-round pick
Thomas Dimitroff and Les Snead are close. The Falcons could be one of the teams rating Khalil Mack over Jadeveon Clowney. If the Texans take Clowney, a deal here could be mutually beneficial. The Rams don’t get a kings ransom like the RGIII trade, but they stash a mid round pick in a deep draft.
TRADE #2 — Detroit (#10) trades with Jacksonville (#3) for a mid-round pick and a high 2015 pick
Another deal that has some mutual benefit. I have a hunch the Jaguars will covet Johnny Manziel and they may feel they can move down a few spots and still get their man. The Lions have spent a ton of time with Sammy Watkins given they have almost no chance of grabbing him with the tenth pick. The deal includes a mid rounder plus a high 2015 pick (second rounder?) to enable the Lions to target a cornerback in round two.
TRADE #3 — Tennessee (#11) trades with #St Louis (#11) for a mid round pick
The Titans’ ‘support’ for Jake Locker has been completely underwhelming. You know what else has been underwhelming? Tennessee’s off-season so far. Considering they brought in a new coach, the Ken Whisenhunt era hasn’t exactly started with a bang. Maybe they move up for Bortles and gain some direction? Because right now that offense is full of question marks. The Rams, having seen Jake Matthews leave the board, happily trade down again for perhaps another third rounder.
TRADE #4 — New Orleans (#27) trades with St Louis (#13) for two second round picks
The Saints have one of the more active front offices in the league. Look over the last few years — they move up and down a lot and they aren’t afraid to be aggressive. They need a receiver to support Drew Brees and Odell Beckham Jr is a popular local product. They give up two second round picks — one this year and one next. The Rams move down again. By the end of day one they draft Zack Martin and Calvin Pryor and go into day two with three more picks to add to their collection.
TRADE #5 — Houston (#33) trades with New England (#29) for a mid round pick
The Texans will need to guarantee a quarterback with their second pick having drafted Clowney at #1. They may get itchy fit in the 20’s and look for a trade partner who isn’t demanding a loaded deal. The Patriots are always willing to consider a trade and flip picks with Houston for a fourth or fifth rounder.
I can see Houston dealing the #1 pick and dropping into the #5-6 range before taking Blake Bortles. In that scenario St. Louis probably struggles to find a trade partner at #2 and takes Khalil Mack, Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews. I can see teams trading up for a shot at Mike Evans — potentially spending future first round picks to get into the top-10.
Seattle’s pick at #32
The options are pretty good here even with a rush on receivers taking the top prospects off the board. Joel Bitonio and Ra’Shede Hageman are both available. I went with Bitonio because it’s a bigger need. They can plug him in at right tackle or left guard. He can act as a backup left tackle too.
Other talking points
Arizona & Eagles go pass rush
Both teams take edge rushers in Demarcus Lawrence and Marcus Smith. Personally I think in a bad draft for pass rushers they deserve to go in the 30-40 range. And yet the Cardinals and Eagles know this could be their only opportunity to get even a solid impact player at the position. For two playoff contenders — this is a crucial need.
Cody Latimer in the top-15
The more you watch, the more you like. I’ve now watched six of his games and like Todd McShay — I’m yet to see a drop. He has incredibly strong hands, top-tier athleticism, fantastic leaping ability and he run blocks better than any other receiver in this class. He deserves to go in the top-20.
Kelvin Benjamin drops a little
For me Benjamin probably goes between 12-22. Yet when I put this mock together and with Latimer’s rise up the board — it was tough to find him a spot. I think there’s room for one of the big name receivers to fall — perhaps either Benjamin or Brandin Cooks. Yet their path to the Seahawks at #32 will likely be blocked by New Orleans (if they stay at #27), Carolina and San Francisco.
There’s no guarantee the rest of the league operates in the same way as Jones, but it was interesting to see how the Cowboys broke down and structured their board.
Teams don’t just rank players 1-300 and make their picks using a giant list. They identify and shortlist the players they’re willing to take in the first, second, third round (etc). You might only have 15-20 first round grades come draft day. Players are taken off the board too for a multitude of reasons — injury, character, scheme fit.
Dallas traded down from the #18 pick and selected a player they graded as a second round prospect (Travis Frederick) with the #31 pick in 2013. By the time they were on the clock — all of their first round players had been drafted.
It made me realise that there’s every chance Seattle drafts a player with a second round grade at #32. Unless they’ve given out 32 or more first round grades it could be pretty likely.
I tried to put together a version of Dallas’ board for Seattle. I only included first and second round picks because let’s be right — who can project beyond that with this team? (see: Luke Willson)
I also don’t have any deluded expectations that this is similar to the real thing. The Seahawks love to think outside of the box and they love explosive players with major potential. They also have ways of doing things that just aren’t predictable. I think they thrive on being able to keep people guessing. But I wanted to compile the list anyway if only to show what it might look like.
The names in red are players with injury records who haven’t been totally taken off the board. In 2010 I believe they had a second round grade on Walter Thurmond but took him in round four. So while Dominique Easley is graded in round one here — it doesn’t necessarily mean they’d draft him that early.
Here’s a position-by-position breakdown:
Johnny Manziel gets a first round grade for his competitive spirit and field-tilting ability. If they needed a quarterback I think they’d see Manziel as a potential point guard and difference maker. I’m not convinced they’d draft Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater in round one. Seahawks fans should be grateful they don’t have to debate this position over the next few years.
It’s not a great class for running backs and I didn’t feel the need to include any here. The Seahawks are set with a proven starter (Marshawn Lynch), a capable backup (Robert Turbin) and an X-factor with the potential to one day become one of the NFL’s best playmakers (Christine Michael). Which back in this class gets even a second round grade from this team?
I noted eight receivers with a first round grade. This is the position of strength in round one. I truly believe there’s a chance they’ll see Cody Latimer as the 4th or 5th best receiver in this draft with a firm round one grade. Donte Moncrief is exactly the type of explosive athlete they love to develop. Kelvin Benjamin looks like one of Pete Carroll’s ‘big men’ and deserves to be listed here. I tried to be conservative with this position and still came up with eight names in round one. Davante Adams, Martavis Bryant and Brandon Coleman could be options at #32 if the board falls a certain way. I’d say Allen Robinson and Jordan Matthews are more likely to be considered at #64. I wanted to include Jarvis Landry — but I think this team will give him a third round grade at best.
This is pretty straight forward. Eric Ebron gets the only first round grade. The other three big name tight ends are slated as round two picks.
This includes guards and tackles. Joel Bitonio and Morgan Moses both look like realistic options for Seattle in round one. I’m going to assume none of the other first round names fall anywhere close to #32. If the top prospects are all gone they could consider dipping into their second round options (again, depending on how the board falls elsewhere). This was a hard position to grade because there are players like Billy Turner or Laurent Duvernay-Tardif who could get high grades based on appealing physical attributes. Is either player likely to be graded in round two? Perhaps not. I think they’ll really like Bitonio and that’s why he’s down as the #4 tackle/guard here.
Not a lot of depth this year. I didn’t include Timmy Jernigan because for me he’s a third round prospect and I’m not sure Seattle will disagree with that. Anthony Barr, Demarcus Lawrence and Marcus Smith aren’t 4.5 runners but all have nice 10-yard splits and could be considered at #32. Dominique Easley gets the red font due to injury concerns. This means he’s a first round level talent who hasn’t been taken off the board — but the round you take him in will be impacted due to the health issues. When do you roll the dice? Brent Urban, one of my favourite players in the whole draft, gets a second round grade.
Unless Ryan Shazier falls to #32 — I think this is an area they’ll wait on until UDFA.
Opinions are all over the place on this cornerback group. For me none of them are worth genuine first round grades. Bradley Roby would be highest on my board due to potential. If I really needed a corner in round one he would be me guy. But the Seahawks don’t really need a corner and they are comfortable enough developing players taken later in the draft. Justin Gilbert’s tape is all over the place and while he has the length, speed and playmaking ability this team covets — they also appreciate disciplined, structured cornerback play that screams preparation. Gilbert wings it way too much for a high grade. I know a lot of people think he’ll go in the top half of round one. I might be wrong, but that’ll surprise me.
I don’t expect the Seahawks to draft a safety early. So although Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gets an early grade it’s just a token gesture. The Mark Barron talk in 2012 was a little overblown and probably shouldn’t be used to make ‘safety’ an annual early-round option for Seattle. Firstly, he was never falling to the #12 pick — whether they liked him or not. Secondly, none of the players in this class play like Barron.
Whether this list is fairly accurate, highly inaccurate or somewhere in between — this is what it comes down to. The Seahawks are probably going to look at WR, OT and DL early in this draft at #32 and #64. Unless a rare athlete like Ryan Shazier drops, there aren’t many alternatives.
Chris Maragos replacement?
Heading out to Seattle to visit with the Seahawks… Can't wait to talk football with the coaches… #LOB
Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is the latest player to visit the Seahawks. He’s likely an UDFA prospect — but I can’t help but feel he’d make a nice replacement for Chris Maragos as a backup safety and special teams demon.
30 players to attend NFL Draft
The NFL has released a list of 30 players who have agreed to attend the 2014 NFL draft in New York:
Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Blake Bortles (QB, USF)
Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, Eastern Illinois)
Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
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