Archive for May, 2014

LIVE COVERAGE: The 2014 NFL Draft (rounds 2-3)

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Send your questions on Twitter to @robstaton

PART TWO

PART ONE

Day two preview — Seahawks own picks #40, #64

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Could Joel Bitonio be Seattle's pick at #40?

Tonight I’m going to be hosting a live Google Hangout through round two. It’ll be a solo effort but you can send your questions to @robstaton on Twitter. We’ll stay live until Seattle makes their two picks (and stick with it if they trade down from #64).

Looking ahead it’s going to be a pretty interesting start to round two. What will the dynamic be? Are we going to see a rush on defensive linemen? The pass rush depth is so weak (probably the catalyst for Dee Ford and Marcus Smith going in round one) I suspect teams with a DE/DT need will go for it early. That could mean more trades — and potentially the opportunity for Seattle to move down again.

Will that happen? The board still looks good right now but for me there’s going to be a major drop off in talent at around #45. Make a pick and see what the options are at #64 and whether trading down into round three is a possibility.

Are there any defensive linemen who could fit in Seattle? They love speed and unique quicks. With Ford, Smith and Dominique Easley now gone there isn’t an obvious target. Kony Ealy and Timmy Jernigan just don’t look like Seahawks — while I’m not convinced Stephon Tuitt will be a candidate in round two. I don’t see any driving desire to replace Red Bryant with a like-for-like type player.

Ra’Shede Hageman has the athletic upside but his tape is just so poor. Go and watch the Wisconsin game from 2013. He has the potential to explode through the interior and be a real impact player. And yet it only happens once or twice a game. Demarcus Lawrence ran a 4.8 at the combine but recorded an impressive ten yard split. He could be one to watch. And I suspect a player like Kareem Martin might get over drafted with the depth so weak later on.

I’ll keep mentioning Brent Urban as a wild card. Really talented player. Great length and strength. One to monitor today.

What is the issue with Marqise Lee? Why is he still on the board? Here’s why:

At any point in round two he could be a steal as long as you feel comfortable he can stay healthy. He’s such a competitor. He plays like a former defensive back — he has that intensity. But if he’s such an injury concern there are other receivers you can go after.

Cody Latimer and Joel Bitonio remain two of my favourite players in this class. Bitonio in particular would be a wise pick at this stage. You can slot him in quickly, let him play guard or tackle. It’d firm up a weak area. And you can get your receiver at #64. That to me would be a good plan.

I still think they might target a more explosive option at #40 which brings Martavis Bryant and Donte Moncrief into play. Could Bryant’s immaturity keep him on the board until #64?

Jordan Matthews has the kind of gritty attitude Seattle likes and he’s extremely focused. But is he physical enough? Is he the type of player they would consider early in round two?

If Bitonio isn’t the choice on the offensive line then Morgan Moses and Cyrus Kouandjio could be on the hit list. Here’s the latest on Kouandjio’s health:

At this stage I’d be willing to take a chance. You might have to accept it’s a one-contract-and-done deal with Kouandjio. But for 4-5 years you’ll get a very accomplished, mountainous offensive linemen on a cheap deal. You just have to be willing to accept he’s not a ten year starter.

A lot will depend on how they view Michael Bowie’s future. How highly do they rate him as a potential starter? Is it more about depth on the offensive line or finding immediate starters?

Aside from Lee, Latimer, Bryant, Moncrief and Matthews — the options at receiver are terrific. Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Brandon Coleman, Jarvis Landry, Bruce Ellington, Paul Richardson. Any of those players in the second frame would present a degree of value.

What about tight end? At what stage does the value of a Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins become too good? I don’t expect the Seahawks to take a TE that early (if at all), but we’ll see.

Jeremiah Attaochu is very hit and miss on tape — driven to the turf three times against Miami, then flying past the tackle for a big sack. I’m not sure he’s enough of an athlete to be considered. Kyle Van Noy and Chris Borland will make nice picks for someone on day two — but probably not Seattle.

Would they consider Stanley Jean-Baptiste? Will he even make it to #40?

Possible round two targets

Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste (CB, Nebraska)
Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State)
Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Davante Adams (WR, Fresno State)
Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)
Bruce Ellington (WR, South Carolina)

Seahawks trade down to #40, won’t pick until day two

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Did the Seahawks just miss out on their guy?

After weeks of suggesting it might be difficult to trade down from #32, that’s exactly what the Seahawks did today. They made a deal with Minnesota to move out of the first round, collecting a fourth rounder (#108 overall) in the process.

They now own the #40 pick.

Was this always destined to happen? Perhaps.

But you could watch the Seahawks war room on a live feed online. And those watching certainly detected an air of deflation when New England selected Dominique Easley at #29.

It felt pretty deflating watching at home too. Easley is a terrific prospect and clearly some teams feel comfortable about the situation with his knees. He’s not just an explosive interior rusher — he has a Seahawks attitude and personality. He would’ve fit like a glove on this defense. Imagine him blowing up the pocket from the interior with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett working the edge? What a shame.

Ian Rapoport has since confirmed Seattle wanted Easley:

Dan Quinn didn’t join the Gators until 2011 and Easley was part of Florida’s 2010 class — so Quinn didn’t recruit him. But he coached him — and clearly he made an impression.

Only five receivers went in the first round, with several good options remaining in the second frame. Getting Easley at #32 would’ve allowed Seattle to still get a receiver at #64 and feel pretty satisfied with that deuce. Now the best option at #40 could be a wide out, so the complexion of the draft plan potentially shifts in a big way.

Here’s a list of the best players remaining options for Seattle:

Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
He’s extremely competitive and gusty. He’s intense, he fights to succeed. In 2012 he was the ultimate playmaker in college football. So why’s he still on the board? You start to fear if there are unknown health concerns. He’s not the biggest guy. He ran a 4.50 and dropped a few too many passes last year. If the 49ers are willing to take Jimmie Ward at #30 instead of Lee — what does that tell you? Is he a product of other receivers moving up — or is he set for an even bigger fall based on circumstances we don’t know about? Would Seattle even consider him if he’s there at #40 — given so many other teams have already passed?

Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
Tall, fast and with strong hands. He’s a top-tier athlete with big potential. Doesn’t drop the football ever. Spent the off-season working his tail off to get better with Brandon Marshall. I’m surprised he lasted beyond the end of round one. He’s also the best run blocking receiver in the class. He’d make a lot of sense at #40 if they want to take a punt on athletic skills. But is he tough enough to make it in Seattle? Marqise Lee will go up against the LOB and demand respect. Latimer’s a little quieter and won’t get in your face. You better come ready to play in camp if you’re playing receiver for this team. Cleveland (#35), Oakland (#36) and Jacksonville (#39) could take him.

Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Solid tackle or guard. Athletic with a great attitude. Had been tipped to go to the Panthers at #28, who instead took Kelvin Benjamin. Not a long-limbed lineman like Okung or Carpenter but will come in and work hard to succeed. Shut down Anthony Barr last year — the #9 overall pick. Is he special enough? I felt coming into today they wanted to add an explosive player and there are more explosive guys available. It really depends how badly the want to fill the depth on the offensive line.

Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson) or Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
If they want explosive, one of these two could be the guy. A pair of 39 inch jumpers, 4.3/4.4 runners with height to match. If you want to swing for the fences this is an option. Bryant is immature but an excellent deep threat who’s well coached. Moncrief needs to play tougher but he has a unique blend of size and speed. Both players really only scratched the surface of their potential in college.

Other options

Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota) — more miss than hit in college but a big time athlete with a lot of potential

Davante Adams (WR, Fresno State) — not a great straight line runner but he can jump (39.5 inch vert) and great character

Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State) — fluid pass rusher with a quick get off, Character concerns

Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama) — would be gone by now if not for the knee issues

Morgan Moses (T, Virginia) — another long limbed, massive tackle

Brent Urban (DT, Virginia) — I’m calling him a wild card. Incredibly athletic, huge size. They love length inside.

Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt) — I’m not a fan personally but he’s competitive and athletic

Second round mock draft up to #40

#33 Houston Texans — Stanley Jean-Baptise (CB, Nebraska)
#34 Washington Redskins — Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
#35 Cleveland Browns — Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
#36 Oakland Raiders — Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
#37 Atlanta Falcons — Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State)
#38 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
#39 Jacksonville Jaguars — Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
#40 Seattle Seahawks — Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)

Final thoughts on the first round

— The big shock initially was Blake Bortles to the Jaguars. He’s a high character passer with the charisma to lead that franchise. He carries the drive Blaine Gabbert lacks. He’s a competitor and someone the Jags can build around. I like that pick.

— Cleveland grabbed another first rounder next year to pass on Sammy Watkins. It looks like a good deal on paper now that they have Johnny Manziel, but wouldn’t their offense look even better with Mike Evans catching passes from his former QB? Is Justin Gilbert and an extra pick worth giving that up now that they’re all-in on Manziel? As for Buffalo — they better hope they improve in 2014 or that’s a gift for the Browns next year.

— I was surprised to see only five receivers leave the board. I expected seven. A bad call on my behalf.

— The Rams had a great draft getting Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald. Superb. 10/10. I’m not sure what the 49ers were doing with their pick. They now have three safeties. Arizona also added a safety and further improved their blossoming defense.

It’s now 6am here so I’m going to wrap up for tonight. We’ll be back with more live coverage tomorrow — I hope you’ll join us.

LIVE COVERAGE: The 2014 NFL Draft (first round)

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Below you’ll find a live chat service in partnership with the Seattle P.I. I’ll be answering questions and offering analysis on each pick. You’ll also find a Google Hang Out if you want to watch us discuss the first round as it unfolds.

Draft day final thoughts…

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

McGinn posts a mock draft

We’ve been referring to Bob McGinn’s posts for the last week on the blog. Last night he put out a mock draft. Over the last five years his mocks have ranked amongst the most accurate according to the Huddle Report.

There are some interesting picks. Teddy Bridgewater’s in the top ten despite everything we’ve heard over the last few weeks. Johnny Manziel goes to the Rams (it still seems unlikely to me given their continued staunch defense of Sam Bradford).

There’s also a couple of developing late trends — Jake Matthews going second overall, Ja’Wuan James at #19 to Miami (appears very likely). McGinn is projecting Mike Evans to Cleveland and Joel Bitonio to Carolina — Tony Pauline also put forward those two scenarios earlier in the day.

Most interesting for Seattle is the players still on the board at #32. Cody Latimer, Kelvin Benjamin, Dominique Easley, Cyrus Kouandjio and Morgan Moses are all there. If the board fell this way, the Seahawks would have some nice options.

McGinn has the Seahawks taking Ra’Shede Hageman. John McClain also made this projection today. He has rare size and athletic ability so it makes sense. And that brings me onto…

Use the SPARQ

I probably should’ve touched on this in my own mock yesterday.

The Seahawks are in a position now where they don’t have a ton of needs. They like the young depth they have. Remember the end of season press conference this year? In the past Pete Carroll’s been very open and honest about the teams biggest needs. This year he said the key was to keep the group together. No mention of the places they had to improve.

If they feel very positive about the young defensive linemen on the roster, Michael Bowie’s ability to play right tackle and the depth at receiver — this could be another opportunity to simply add a dynamic, unique athlete.

They took Christine Michael a year ago not because they had to have another running back — but because he was a SPARQ demon with incredible potential. There’s a lot to work with and develop. I could see a scenario this year where they may a similar pick even if they stay at #32. Who is this years SPARQ specialist?

This team has a Championship core. What’s the one thing Seattle’s opponents don’t want to see? Another incredible athlete they have to account for — on offense or defense.

So while I can see them going for a solid, long right tackle — I also think there’s every chance they’ll swing for the fences with another big time athlete on either side of the ball. Someone with unique qualities — and not necessarily at the positions we’ve focused on.

Manziel mystery continues

A few days ago Chris Mortensen reported Johnny Manziel wouldn’t get past Cleveland at #4. Then Jay Glazer shot down the report. Then Mike Mayock — a well sourced, big supporter of the Texas A&M quarterback — left him out of the top-15 of his mock draft.

It’s safe to say, nobody knows who’ll be drafting JFF.

Now we get this from ESPN’s Ed Werder:

***UPDATE*** — Now Glazer is ruling this out too.

I think we’re all ready for less speculation and more answers. Only a few hours to go.

Our live Google Hang Out begins tonight at 4:45pm PST (just before the first round kicks off). I’ll also be providing analysis and answering questions in text form in partnership with the Seattle P.I. from 4:30pm. Both events will be live on the blog and I hope you’ll join us.

The final 2014 mock draft

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Here’s what I considered for Seattle when putting this final mock draft together:

— I believe, first and foremost, they’d love to come away with a starting right tackle. As John Schneider often mentions, they grade for the team and not the league. When he looks at Seattle’s depth chart and sees Michael Bowie as the only realistic starter — I suspect he feels that’s an area they can make an upgrade. No disrespect to Bowie — but he is what he is. I’m not convinced they’d have faith in him to work the blindside if Russell Okung suffers another injury. They can’t have another situation where a player like Paul McQuistan plays multiple games at left tackle. The guy on the right side needs to be able to move across. I’m not sure Bowie is that man.

— Is there a situation where tackle isn’t the priority? Yes — if one of the top receivers drops to #32. And I include Cody Latimer as part of the top group. Again, it’s about grading for the existing roster. If you have a split end prospect graded very highly, that might provide a greater upgrade than going with the tackle. And if the Seahawks don’t find a right tackle early — you know Tom Cable has a list of later round guys ready and waiting. So while I think a starting RT will be the priority at least initially, it doesn’t mean they won’t go after a tall, athletic receiver who owns the red line. Or even an explosive defensive player depending on how round one falls.

— The Seahawks love size and length at tackle. They drafted hulking James Carpenter in the first round. Bowie has long arms. Okung has long arms. They’re all big guys. I don’t believe they’re philosophy has changed much. For that reason, I’m convinced they’d love the opportunity to draft Ja’Wuan James. He might be something akin to the ideal pick. Solid, immediate starter with 49 college starts to his name and a great attitude. Unfortunately he’s likely to be long gone by #32.

— I haven’t at any point in this process considered a first round pure guard. They rotated the left guard spot last year and started a converted defensive lineman on the right side. Clearly this is an area where the Seahawks don’t place too much value. Tom Cable is an Alex Gibbs disciple. You know, the same Alex Gibbs who used to say he could train a garbage man to play guard in the NFL. They’ll keep finding their guys and plugging them in without the need for big investment here.

— Joel Bitonio doesn’t have 35 inch arms. He has 33 and 7/8 inch arms. Which is the same as Taylor Lewan and better than Jake Matthews. James Carpenter was drafted to play right tackle with 34 inch arms. Breno Giacomini has 32 1/8 inch arms. Bitonio’s length shouldn’t be an issue — and what he lacks in massive size he makes up for with classic technique, grit and rare athleticism. He tested superbly at the combine. I think he’d be an excellent fit for Seattle but in this mock he goes to Carolina at #28.

— So James and Bitonio are off the board. Seven receivers have gone in the first round. Even Dominique Easley has been taken by the Patriots at #29. I think in this situation they would be hammering the phones trying to trade down. I’ve mentioned time and time again that I think it’s unlikely to happen unless the Seahawks are willing to take a cheap deal. In this scenario — I think they probably would take a token gesture trade. Potentially for as little as another 5th round pick or even flipping picks in a round (eg swapping a late 4th for an early 4th). I’ve not included trades in this mock.

—  I had to make a pick and it really came down to (again) what I think they’ll consider as the best possible upgrade. And it’s still right tackle. There are two players left on the board who are big, long offensive linemen. Morgan Moses had a hit and miss final season at Virginia. Against Jeremiah Attaochu he dominated. Against Vic Beasley he looked exhausted and uncomfortable. Despite the size, I’m not convinced he’s what they’re looking for.

— I ended up wondering how they will feel about Cyrus Kouandjio’s knee situation. We’ve seen the reports about possible arthritis and the damage limitation campaign to counter it. He also had a lousy combine, but I’ve always felt quite positive about Kouandjio’s college performance. If the Seahawks’ medical staff are comfortable with his health he has the size and length to be considered at #32. It’s a huge ‘if’. Some teams won’t have him on their board. He needs coaching. The thing is — if he clears the medical, the Seahawks have the ideal coach to get him working that right side. He is capable of holding his own in pass protection, he can blow people up in the run game. He can also play left tackle. And he’ll cost no more than $1.25-2.5m until the end of the 2018 season. I like his attitude towards this difficult off-season.

— You might ask, why Kouandjio? Why now? We’ve spent the last few months talking up so many other players. It’s a risky pick that could smack me in the face if the knee problems are legit. I’ll tell you why. I don’t want to be safe. If I put Bitonio, Latimer or Easley at #32 and they’re the pick — does it make any difference? We as a community have talked about these guys. We know who they are. Why does one final mock draft defeat all the coverage we’ve done since August on this draft class? It doesn’t. It shouldn’t. I’d hate to think all the work comes down to this. We don’t need to nail this pick. We’ve covered this thing the best we could. So why not take a shot with a day to go?

We do these projections to start talking points, not to seriously try and predict what will actually happen. And you know what? It’s time for one final talking point. Cyrus Kouandjio. Let’s have it. You’ll find the mock draft below. There are some further notes underneath.

Why are the Cardinals taking Johnny Manziel?
Placing Johnny Football was the toughest part of this mock. I like the guy — I think he’d be a great pick for the Jags at #3 or even the Texans at #1. And yet I think we’re going to see a similar situation to last year where no quarterbacks go in the top ten. I’ve not included trades and it wouldn’t shock me if a team moved into the teens or the early 20’s to get Manziel. He’s nothing like a Bruce Arians prototype and I don’t think the Cardinals would take him. But this is the kind of area where I expect him to go. Arizona could move out of this spot and accumulate some extra picks. I had to include Manziel somewhere for the purpose of Huddle Report scoring.

Why a tackle for Cleveland at #4?
There’s a lot of buzz about Mike Evans to Cleveland but I just have this feeling the Browns want to create a dominant, run based attack. That’ll probably mean adding another running back in round two or three (Carlos Hyde?). Putting Jake Matthews at right tackle across from Joe Thomas (and with Alex Mack at center) will enable you to play ball control offense in the AFC North. They already have a top-tier receiver who can be a downfield threat off play action — and Derek Carr has the arm to exploit Josh Gordon’s playmaking ability.

Could more than seven receivers leave the board?
Sure. And there’s a lot of speculation about Allen Robinson, Martavis Bryant, Donte Moncrief, Jordan Matthews and even Bruce Ellington finding a home in round one. The thing is — I think there’s going to be a cutting off point where teams are prepared to wait until rounds two or three. The Seahawks are a good example here. I think there’s every chance they go wide out at #32. But the options at tackle will be limited at #64. Potentially you could have 3-4 enticing receivers available in the second frame. I doubt they’ll be the only team thinking this way.

Picks I’m most confident about…
Aaron Donald and Zack Martin in the top ten, Ryan Shazier going earlier than people think, Kelvin Benjamin going between #12-22, Ja’Wuan James landing in the top-20.

Picks I’m not that confident about…
Manziel falling this far, Eric Ebron going to the Giants at #12, Kyle Fuller going this early, Calvin Pryor sticking in round one, the lack of pass rushers given the depth is poor and teams will reach.

Options at #32 for Seattle at the three key areas
OT: Ja’Wuan James, Joel Bitonio, Cyrus Kouandjio, Morgan Moses
WR: Cody Latimer, Donte Moncrief, Martavis Bryant
DL: Dominique Easley, Marcus Smith, Demarcus Lawrence, Ra’Shede Hageman

Which position would they likely take in R2 if they draft a right tackle at #32?
Receiver

I had a request from ‘hawkfaninMT’ to name some players I’d most like to leave the draft with. Here’s five players I’d bang the table for… not including likely top ten picks:

1. Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State) — incredible athlete, great character. In the right scheme could be a sensational playmaker.

2. Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada) — I like everything about the guy. Tough, gritty, athletic, gets under an opponents skin with great play. The second coming of Logan Mankins.

3. Brent Urban (DT, Virginia) — Won’t be as good as J.J. Watt, but that’s who he reminds you of.

4. Dominique Easley (DT, Florida) — Explosive interior force who would be a top-20 certainty without the injuries. Team captain.

5. Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU) — Not the biggest or the fastest. But he’ll make a play when you need one. The kind of guy you want to go to war with.

6. Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana) — In a few years we might wonder how this guy was (approximately) the seventh receiver off the board.

And finally…

A reminder that tomorrow we’ll be hosting a Google Hang Out and I’ll be providing live analysis for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. If you’re at home, watch the Hang Out. If you’re at work, read the analysis. All bases covered throughout the first round. I also want to take this chance to thank everyone who makes this community what it is. It’s not about my views, what we get wrong or right or any of that stuff. It’s about a bunch of Seahawks fans coming together to talk draft every year. And it’s freaking awesome.

Richard Sherman signs 4-year extension with the Seahawks

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

I’ll be posting my final 2014 mock draft later today. For now let’s use this as an open thread to discuss Sherman’s new deal.

The contract is worth $57.4M — with the four years added to the one remaining on his current deal. On average he’ll be paid around $11.8m per year, with $40m guaranteed.

The Seahawks had three key objectives entering the off season:

1. Re-sign Michael Bennett

2. Extend Earl Thomas’ contract

3. Extend Richard Sherman’s contract

Whatever happens in the draft over the next few days, the big business is complete. The future is set behind a core group of elite players — with the next move being Russell Wilson’s new deal in 12 months time.

Final draft notes, Chancellor injured & Seahawks cheat sheet

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Cold Dominique Easley -- with his quirky personality -- be an option at #32?

Cosell hits a home run on receiver observation

“You can’t teach 6-5” — one of the popular buzz phrases of the 2014 draft. It’s often used to describe Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans — two players who will probably go in the top-20 on Thursday. Why? I’m not a paid up member of the cult-of-Greg Cosell, but he’s written an absolutely blinding piece about the way the NFL views the receiver position:

“The concept of separation has changed. Distance between receiver and corner does not necessarily have to be the defining criterion. The ability to use your long or wide body against shorter and smaller corners has become just as valuable an attribute, especially with more and more man-to-man coverage being played.”

Cosell absolutely nails it. He goes on to add:

“Separation is not the defining characteristic needed for them (Evans and Benjamin) to be dangerous receiving threats. What throw has become such a critical part of the NFL game? The back shoulder fade. The back shoulder throw is almost impossible to defend against big, physical wideouts like Evans and Benjamin; corners cannot defend two routes, and they must play the deep ball first, so a well-executed back shoulder throw to a big-bodied wide receiver is a tactical nightmare for even the best of corners.”

This is one of the best observations we’ve seen all off-season — and a reason why big, tall receivers will be attractive to teams in this draft. It’s not just the big guys either. Odell Beckham Jr, Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks. None taller than 6-0 — but all capable of competing for the ball at its highest point.

The days of precise accurate routes and timing are fading. Seattle’s DB’s have contributed to that as much as anyone. The Seahawks have receivers who can do what Cosell talks about in his piece — but they lack that tall, rangy wide out who can be a relentless force outside of the numbers. You just know Pete Carroll wants to find that guy, even if it isn’t with the #32 pick.

McGinn’s scouts analyse the defensive linemen

Over the weekend Bob McGinn provided anonymous scout quotes on the receivers and offensive linemen. Today he moved on to the D-liners — the other position Seattle is likely to consider early in the draft.

Here’s the quotes on three players we’ve focused on ahead of this years draft:

Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)

“He is the blueprint of a 3-4 end physically… Very strong.”

“He is a poor man’s J.J. Watt. They look the same. They play the same. Everything about Urban is just lesser than what J.J. had.”

“He’s a power guy… Size and length (34¼ arms). He can push the pocket but doesn’t have a lot of twitch to get an edge. Lot of batted balls. Plays hard. He’s an ideal 3-4 guy.”

Those who’ve followed the blog from September will know I’m a big fan of Urban’s. For me he could easily have sneaked into round one with a healthy post-season. That comparison to J.J. Watt is right on the money. As crazy as it sounds — that’s what he looks like on tape. He’s a diet version of Watt.

He gets banged up and has an ACL injury on the list of previous issues. But if the Seahawks took him at #32 I’d be surprised but not upset. If they get him in any round after it’ll be a fantastic pick. He has the length and strength to be effective against the run. He can play early downs and he has untapped potential as a pass rusher.

Urban’s been totally overlooked because he’s not done anything since hurting his foot at the Senior Bowl. Do not sleep on this guy.

Dominique Easley (DT, Florida)

“The knees are OK with us… That’s what will make him fall to the second round or maybe early third.”

“He’s as good as (Aaron) Donald… Really a good player.”

“Plays hard… When he hits it right, he’s disruptive. But he’s disruptive both ways. He’ll get knocked out of the hole. He’ll get gashed. Hurt all the time. He has five career sacks. We’ve got people here who love him.”

“Even big, strong guys have trouble with him because he’s in their pads so fast. He can create inversion. That’s how he survives. Big guys will wash him. He gets swallowed.”

I’m surprised he received such a middling review. The second scout hits the right note for me — he’s as good as Aaron Donald. Both players have a sensational ability to collapse the pocket. It’s very rare you find one guy capable of doing this in a draft class — let alone two. Disruptive, natural three techniques are among the most fun players to watch in the NFL. Everyone loves Geno Atkins’ style. This pair can play up to that standard — seriously.

The final quote isn’t inaccurate. There are plays where he gets washed out against the run. A big lineman is going to turn him a few times and open a hole. It’s the sacrifice you make for starting a 280-290lbs defensive tackle. For the sake of one or two 10-yard gains in the running game though, I can live with the 5-6 huge plays he seemed to make at Florida where he’s into the backfield before the quarterback’s finishing his drop.

Easley is a special player. The type Seattle would normally have no chance of getting at pick #32. If they have no problem with the knees like the first quote above, they’ll be getting an explosive pass rusher to add to the ranks. I just wonder if he’s recovered well enough to be off the board before the Seahawks pick.

Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)

“Physically, he’s got tools… He’s one of those guys, you’ve got to see what’s underneath the grill.”

“Those guys on that line at Minnesota played hard. Except him, he’s kind of fooling around. He had two sacks the whole year and he’s probably the most talented physical specimen in the Big Ten at the position. He has no feel on the pass rush. He just throttles it down whenever he gets stymied. If things don’t go he just stops. You’ve got your hands full coaching him. I just don’t think mentally it’s there.”

“You’ve got to like him because of the ability… But he just wallows around sometimes. He gets knocked on his back. Takes himself out of games. But a big, giant guy. When he goes he hits heavy and shows a lot of athletic ability.”

The more you read on Hageman, the more likely it seems he’ll fall to the second round. There are times on tape where he really turns it on and you think, “Wow”. But we are literally talking about 2-3 times a game. And the rest of the time he’s a non-factor. I thought for a while the pure upside would keep him in day one — and that may still prove to be the case. But there’s a lot of noise from within the league that he’s just too inconsistent and presents too much of a risk.

He’s athletic enough for the Seahawks to consider and can’t be ruled out at #32. But look back to what John Schneider said about guys fitting into Seattle’s intense locker room and then you read this: “Those guys on that line at Minnesota played hard. Except him..” — doesn’t it just make you second guess Hageman’s suitability?

It was also reassuring to see McGinn’s sources saying the kind of things we’ve talked about with some of the more overrated D-linemen in this class.

On Dee Ford one scout says, “He just jumps, jumps, jumps. Just a little guy that’s not a special pass rusher. He’s got to be a 3-4 guy, but I don’t think he’s that kind of an athlete.”

Another scout says about Kony Ealy: “There’s no outstanding traits about him other than he gives you some versatility in a bad (defensive-line) draft. He’s a mess. Somebody’s going to draft him because they need a defensive end and overdraft him.”

On Timmy Jernigan: “Like him, don’t love him. He’ll fade on you. You won’t see him sometimes. He has really good three-technique quickness but not first-round three-technique quickness. He has some strength, but he’ll get swallowed up by some big people.”

And Stephon Tuitt: “That’s all he is. Big dude. Zero pass rush.”

I’ve seen a few quotes on Twitter tonight from people in the media claiming they’ve been told their mock drafts are inaccurate and we’re in for a shock on Thursday. It’s just my take — but I think you’ll only be shocked if you expected the likes of Ford, Ealy and Jernigan to go early.

Kam Chancellor set to miss time

The good news is this has been dealt with immediately — giving Chancellor the best possible opportunity to return. The Seahawks were willing to shell out to keep Jeron Johnson and that is significant. He’ll likely be tasked with stepping in if Chancellor misses time.

It’s unlikely to be considered a new need as Rapoport’s suggests — you don’t overreact to news like this. But having ended the 2013 season playing his best football, Seahawks fans will be hoping he’s available to open the season against the likes of Green Bay and Denver.

Seahawks wish list/cheat sheet

I got an email earlier today from a reader named Andy:

I have a request. Would you be willing to put together a ‘cheat sheet’ with the prospects that you think are the most likely candidates for the #32 pick, with a sentence or two summarizing each of them? I won’t have a tablet or laptop with me watching the draft. If possible, I would like to have something I can print, maybe circle the guys I like best, and then refer to them quickly when each pick is in.

I’m basically picturing this… except with your thoughts instead of Todd McShay’s. You could include the top-tier guys like Clowney and Watkins if you want, or you could limit it to guys that are more likely to be available at #32.

This might not be the easiest thing to read and break down — but I guess you could copy it to a word document. Hope it’s what you were after Andy.

Quarterbacks

Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
The ultimate competitor and playmaker. Improvisation is the most underrated characteristic in a quarterback and Manziel has it in spades. If you’re willing to build around him and maintain an open mind, he can be a very successful quarterback.
Scored a 32 on the wonderlic, just under 10 inch hands

Running backs

None

Wide receivers

Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
Big, reliable hands. Strong as an ox. Capable of doing it all at the next level — running across the middle, owning the red line, being a YAC threat and working on end arounds. The best receiver to enter the league since A.J. Green.
34 inch vertical surprisingly modest, ran a 4.43

Mike Evans (Texas A&M)
Jump ball specialist. Showed he’s quick enough running away from Alabama defensive backs for a 99-yard touchdown. Very similar to Vincent Jackson. Sometimes easily wound up on the field and needs to stay in control.
Has +35 inch arms and recorded an impressive 37 inch vertical

Odell Beckham Jr (LSU)
Massive ten inch hands on a 5-11 frame. High points the ball superbly. Gritty, sparky playmaker who never backs down. Will enjoy immediate success as a return man. Exceptional athlete.
Both parents were athletes, had a 38.5 inch vertical

Marqise Lee (USC)
In 2012 he was the most dominant playmaker in college football. Another brilliant competitor. Watch the Stanford game from 2013 — he won it for the Trojans with an injured leg. Forget the 4.5 forty — he’s quick enough. Drops the occasional pass but makes up for it.
Had a difficult upbringing and turned his life around, 38 inch vertical

Cody Latimer (Indiana)
Exceptional player. Never drops a pass. Runs a 4.4 with basketball skills in the air. The best run blocking receiver in the draft. Wins the red line consistently, takes the ball away at the highest point. Spent the off-season working his tail off with Brandon Marshall in Florida.
Recently recovered from a foot injury, has impressive dunking skills

Brandin Cooks (Oregon State)
Tavon Austin-style receiver. Plays above his size at the sideline. In the 2013 Civil War game he consistently drew triple coverage (!!!) from the Oregon defense — and he still made plays. If a team is willing to be creative and move him around — you can feed him the ball. Good character.
Has the same sized hands as Mike Evans (5-10 vs 6-5)

Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State)
Incredible size is a positive not the negative some make out. At his best high points the ball, shields defenders and will break tackles. Capable of destroying defenders in the run game. Had too many lousy drops in college and needs to concentrate more. Will be a red zone demon.
35 inch arms and 10 1/4 inch hards — has a huge catching radius

Fringe first round:

Martavis Bryant (Clemson)
Exceptional athlete but an immature player who still needs to do some growing up. Nearly blew his career due to complacency. Throat-slashing celebration against NC State was ugly. Could be special with the right development. Well coached at Clemson in terms of routes and an absolute dynamo downfield.
39 inch vertical, has a young child to support

Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss)
Another incredible athlete. Good size at 6-2, 221lbs but also had a hand timed 4.3 at the combine. Disappointing 2013 season leaves stock difficult to judge. Missouri game in particular was very sloppy. Part of this is on the Ole Miss offense. He showed against Texas & LSU in 2012 he has the potential to be special.
Incredible 11-foot broad jump and 39.5 inch vertical — legit top-5 athlete in the draft

Tight ends

Eric Ebron (North Carolina)
Ideal modern day pass-catching tight end. So fluid working the seam. If he gets into space he can break off big gains. Made some one handed catches in 2013 that had to be seen to be believed. Also has the occasional disappointing drop. Minor character concerns and can show more commitment to blocking.
Had a 4.60 forty — Rob Gronkowski managed a 4.68

Offensive linemen

Greg Robinson (Auburn)
Incredible beast of a tackle. The biggest concern surrounding most college tackles is their ability and willingness to excel in the running game. Robinson thrived in Auburn’s run-heavy system and will have instant success at the next level. He can be as good as he wants to be. Potential star left tackle.
Ran a 4.92 at 332lbs — has 35 inch arms

Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)
Shorter arms but natural technique and feel for the game. Terrific bloodlines. Always looked better than Luke Joeckel when the pair played together at College Station. Plays to the whistle, holds position well and kick slides perfectly well. Solid prospect.
Part of the famed Matthews clan — and so is Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas

Taylor Lewan (Michigan)
Tall, athletic tackle. It’s been suggested he’s a bit of a phony tough guy. On tape I think he plays tough. Very self confident. Another player who might fair better on the right side. Like Matthews, will be solid if not spectacular.
Recently had a run-in with the law, ran a 4.87 at 309lbs

Zack Martin (Notre Dame)
I’m surprised it took so long for the media to realise how good Martin is. He looked like a first rounder throughout his time at Notre Dame. Can play any position on the offensive line. Could have a better career than Matthews and Lewan.
Didn’t run a forty at the combine, 32 and 7/8 inch arms

Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee)
Prototype tackle with long arms, height and a good frame. Mr. Technique — never gets flustered in pass protection and plays with excellent balance, hand use and stops defenders with ease. Needs to get stronger — doesn’t drive people off the ball. Started 49 games at right tackle in the SEC.
Had the third lowest reps on the bench at the combine among OL’s

Joel Bitonio (Nevada)
In terms of size, athleticism and length — he’s on par with Matthews, Lewan and Martin. Very underrated. Shut down Anthony Barr, held a thriving Florida State defense at bay and Demarcus Lawrence had no success against him. Great attitude, plays to the whistle. Very similar to Logan Mankins coming out.
Late father was a martial arts expert, ran a 4.97 at the combine

NOTE: I would’ve included Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio as a first round suggestion. He has the length and size for Seattle. I thought he played at a very high level in the SEC and would’ve been a top-20 pick but for concerns over an arthritic knee. If the Seahawks have faith in his health, then he could be an option. Without the necessary information it’s hard to project where his stock is. He could go anywhere from round one to being completely off many boards.

Defensive tackles

Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)
At times unblockable. Size (6-0, 285lbs) will concern some teams but it shouldn’t. Fires off the line and constantly impacts plays. Donald was the star of the combine — running a 4.68 and recording 35 reps on the bench. Grounded individual, could be a little more confident. A really safe pick even in the top ten.
A home-bird born and raised in Pittsburgh, has a young child

Dominique Easley (Florida)
Two serious knee injuries are a concern — but he’s since been cleared and could be ready for training camp. If you aren’t put off by the injury history he’s just as good as Donald — and potentially better. Explodes off the line with great burst, he’s stronger than you expect. Impact pass rusher who holds his own against the run. Ideal three-technique. Team captain and leader. Fun personality.
Has a young son, worked at Florida with Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn

Defensive end’s/LEO’s

Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina)
For all the negative talk about Clowney — you just have to watch him at his best to understand why he’s so highly rated. Watch the Tennessee game from 2013. With the right guidance he can be just as good as Julius Peppers. He won’t always play with fire, but in the big games he’ll be a difference maker.
Ran a 4.53 at the combine, has a laid back personality

Khalil Mack (Buffalo)
In terms of athleticism he’s top notch. The concern is against mediocre opposition in the MAC he didn’t have an impact. Yes — he destroyed Ohio State. But his opponent that day — Jack Mewhort — might not even play tackle at the next level. I’m not as sold as others — but he’ll go in the top ten.
40 inch vertical was impressive, has the length to play DE

Anthony Barr (UCLA)
He needs time. He’s played two years on defense and showed plenty of potential. Not an incredible athlete like we expected but he managed a 1.56 ten yard split at the combine. Barr needs to work on his technique and upper body strength. Getting stronger is an absolute must. You can’t rely on an immediate return and that could hurt his first round stock.
Ran only a 4.66 at the combine and benched just 15 reps

Linebackers

Ryan Shazier (Ohio State)
Incredible athlete. Runs in the 4.3/4.4 range, jumped a 42-inch vertical. He struggles to keep weight on during the season and will ultimately play between 220-230lbs. For that reason he needs to be protected by scheme. His best fit is at weakside linebacker in a 4-3 — where he can play in space and fly around the field.
Has dealt with hamstring issues this post-season, appears to love the game

Defensive backs

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)
Not a Mark Barron or Earl Thomas — but the best safety in this class. You can rely on him to come in immediately and settle into a defense. He has enough range. Might work best partnering another dynamic player on the back end.
Had a suspension at Alabama, first name is short for ‘Ha’Shean’

Note: I didn’t include any cornerbacks because let’s be right here, Pete Carroll isn’t taking a first round corner. They’ll keep finding guys later on. For what it’s worth I expect four to go in round one — Bradley Roby, Darqueze Dennard, Kyle Fuller and Justin Gilbert.

I’ve written some further notes on some of the players I’d like to see in Seattle, regardless of round:

Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
See the Cosell article above. Size wins in the modern NFL and Coleman is 6-6 and 225lbs with 34 inch arms. He ran a hand timed 4.50 at the combine (official 4.56). And he’s strong — managing 21 reps on the bench. He was a team captain at Rutgers and really suffered in a terrible passing offense. He needs development and time — but the ceiling is so high. How many players have you seen with this size run away from defensive backs for 80-yard touchdowns? Imagine him in Florida State’s offense instead of Rutgers’. He can be taught to make the most of his size and reach — and in today’s game a player like this will be a threat.

Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)
As we discussed earlier — he’s Bud Light to J.J. Watt’s Budvar. That doesn’t mean he’s going to come into the league, be the most dominant defensive player in the NFL and win countless awards right off the bat. But he has at least a shot at being a similar albeit less effective type of player for a team. And that’s exciting to me. He’s stout against the run, he destroys linemen with power and drives blockers into the pocket. He has the length (+34 inch arms) and size (6-7, 295lbs) Seattle loves. He’s a freak of nature. If he stays healthy he could be one of the steals of the draft, whichever round you take him.

Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
What’s not to like? He’s a former basketball player with incredible athletic qualities and leaping ability. He’s been timed in the 4.3/4.4 range and he has the size at 6-2 and 215lbs to win in the modern NFL. All of that alone is enticing. But the #1 reason why Latimer is so appealing is his hands. The guy doesn’t drop passes. Whether it’s running over the middle in traffic, high pointing the football down the sideline or ripping an under-thrown pass away from a cornerback — he just makes plays. He’s reliable. Add in his willingness to run block (seems to enjoy it) and you’re talking about someone who should be a consensus first rounder.

Dominique Easley (DT, Florida)
Three techniques have to carry an edge. They’re not like other players in the league. Darnell Dockett is a great example. Can you honestly tell me he’d be the same player without his quirky personality? Ditto Sheldon Richardson or Warren Sapp or any of the greats. Your ideal offensive lineman is a meat and potato’s blocker with a blue collar attitude. Your ideal three technique collapses the pocket, makes a sack and has a well crafted dance routine to celebrate. Easley isn’t just explosive, lightning fast, strong at the point, relentless and at times unstoppable — he has the perfect personality to be the next star three-tech. He dances between snaps, wears a heavy chain to take onto the field and carries a Chucky Doll to games. Most importantly he was a team captain at Florida — a real heart and soul type who commanded respect from the coaches and his team mates.

Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
I’d have no concern playing him at right tackle. He can do it. I think if you needed him to he’d hold his own as a left tackle for a few weeks. I agree with those who believe his best position could be guard. For me he’s another Logan Mankins. If you slot him in at left guard he could easily hold that spot down for 10-12 years. Look at the comparisons between the two coming into the NFL — they’re nearly identical. But I think he can play tackle — and that’s the crucial thing in terms of the Seahawks. He needs to get stronger, but he makes up for it with sound technique and elite athletic ability. For me there’s nothing between Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Bitonio. Size, length, athleticism — they’re similar. Except Bitonio’s the only one to shut down Florida State, Anthony Barr and Demarcus Lawrence. He has longer arms than Zack Martin and Matthews and the same arm length as Lewan.

Ja’Wuan James (T, Tennessee)
The more I watched of James recently, the more I liked. He’s a much better prospect compared to team mate Antonio Richardson. Aside from one difficult match-up against Missour’s Markus Golden he just oozed comfort. He never gets flustered. The ball’s snapped, he locks onto the edge rusher and does his job. If you want a blocker who can come in and keep your QB clean — James will do that. He’ll start for years at right tackle and might even be able to shift over to the left. He has good character, he started 49 games in college (in the SEC). Technically he’s very good (excellent balance, footwork). He needs to get stronger and he doesn’t drive people out of the way in the run game. But as a pass protector he’s very accomplished.

In terms of later round/UDFA guys — the Seahawks know the types of player they want. They’ll bring in a host of athletes and some unknowns. It’s hard to project who they’d show interest in. Here are some of the names I like, although some of these players won’t fit into Seattle’s thinking:

Chris Whaley (DT, Texas), Kaleb Ramsey (DT, Boston College), Jordan Zumwalt (LB, UCLA), Jonathan Dowling (CB/S, Western Kentucky), Jonotthan Harrison (C, Florida), Marcel Jensen (TE, Fresno State), Kevin Norwood (WR, Alabama), Ronald Powell (DE, Florida), Taylor Martinez (QB, Nebraska)

Oh, and then there’s this…

Talk about always compete. Although hopefully whoever typed it (so many typos) will be getting some competition this off-season too…

Tomorrow I will post my final mock draft. It’s the version I’ll be sending to the Huddle Report.

On Thursday I’ll be taking part in a Field Gulls Hangout and conducting a live session with the Seattle P.I. offering analysis during the draft. Both features will be available on the blog.

How I see the Seahawks approaching the #32 pick

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Ja'Wuan James probably won't be there at #32

A lot can happen between picks 1-31 to influence a teams plan, but here’s my best guess at what the Seahawks will be thinking going into Thursday’s draft.

Can they get a starting offensive tackle?

Michael Bowie is currently slated to be the starting right tackle. I like Bowie. He was put in a difficult situation last season coming up against the likes of Houston, Arizona and St. Louis. In some games he got pushed around (Cardinals on the road) but hopefully that experience will only benefit him going forward.

Yet I can’t help but feel like if they can get a day-one starter at right tackle, they’ll take that opportunity. No disrespect to Bowie, but he looks a lot more appealing as a backup than he does starting against the defenses in the NFC West. There’s also the Russell Okung factor. He missed another eight games last season. They can’t have another year using someone like Paul McQuistan at left tackle. They need a right tackle who can move across — either on a temporary basis or for the long haul if Okung can’t stay healthy (or if they can’t get him re-signed after 2015).

Unfortunately, finding a plug-in-and-play tackle with a late pick in round one isn’t easy. There aren’t many Joe Staley’s out there.

I’m convinced they had their eye on Ja’Wuan James. He has the length, footwork, experience and character to play left or right tackle and start immediately. He made 49 starts at right tackle for Tennessee in the SEC, featuring as a true freshman too. Tom Cable went to work him out at the Vols pro-day. He would’ve been just the ticket for a team that values long arms (35 inches) and size (6-6, 311lbs).

He seems to be the latest in a growing list of post-season risers at the position. In 2010 Trent Williams shot up boards after an excellent combine. Last year Lane Johnson wowed at the Senior Bowl and combine to move into the top five. And now James — who also shone in Mobile and Indianapolis — appears destined for the top-20. Miami will likely be his worst case scenario at #19.

If he somehow fell to #32 I think this could end up being a no-brainer.

Is there another player who fits the criteria?

I’m torn on Morgan Moses. He also has the length (+35 inch arms) and size (6-6, 314lbs) but he’s nowhere near as polished or comfortable as James. How much of an issue is conditioning? He looked gassed against Vic Beasley and Clemson. He can be inconsistent. He can also be dominant — as he showed against Jeremiah Attaochu. He also has starting potential on the blindside and could easily be off the board to Carolina at #28.

So that really only leaves Joel Bitonio. I suspect he’ll be there at the end of round one, unless Baltimore trades back into the late first round. Call it a hunch, but I think the Ravens would not only be interested in moving down — I think they’ll also rate Bitonio quite highly. I’m almost expecting a deal where San Francisco moves up to #17 for a receiver and Baltimore drops back before adding an offensive lineman.

He doesn’t have the length Seattle craves but neither does Taylor Lewan or Jake Matthews — and I think they’d consider either of those two. He has the athletic upside they’ll like and he can work on his upper body power. He has an excellent attitude and he’s versatile. If they seem him as purely a guard I’m not convinced they’ll be interested. If they see him as a legitimate starter at tackle — and plenty do — he has to be a very realistic option. Perhaps the only one if they intend to scratch this particular itch in the first round.

I don’t see the team drafting a guard in round one. They’re starting a converted defensive lineman at one guard spot and used a rotation to fill the other in 2013. This doesn’t look like a position they value highly enough to spend a first round pick. And the options aren’t good enough to make an exception this year.

Out of reach: Ja’Wuan James
Possibilities: Joel Bitonio, Morgan Moses

Which receivers are left on the board?

The Seahawks do need to add another receiver at some point. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Sidney Rice are all free agents in 2015. Rice and Percy Harvin have both missed considerable time in the last two seasons to injury. Golden Tate is now in Detroit. On paper there appears to be both depth and top-end talent at the position, but they’ll be relying on a degree of luck in terms of injuries.

The crucial thing for me will be to develop a player over the next year to potentially take on a bigger role down the road. They will be paying Russell Wilson a new contract next season, having already paid Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman (inevitable). They might have to try and re-sign or replace Cliff Avril. Drafting a wide out who can contribute in year one and turn into a featured receiver next season would be good planning.

The need pairs up with the talent available. It’s a rich class of receivers. If they don’t take one at #32, they may well take one at #64.

Whether they take one in the first frame will surely depend on who’s left. Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans will be gone in the top ten. If we see the next cluster going in the mid-teens the well may run dry by the end of round one. I think we’ll see pockets where the wide out’s are drafted. The first group (in my opinion) includes Watkins and Evans plus Odell Beckham Jr, Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin and Cody Latimer.

I have a feeling they’d love to grab Latimer. He has the size and speed. He’s a terrific athlete (4.3/4.4 runner) with tremendous leaping ability (39 inch vertical). He doesn’t drop the football, he competes for everything. He’s an excellent and willing run blocker. He won’t fit every team because separation is an issue. He won’t fit a timing offense. But Seattle is happy to take 1v1 shots and let their guys compete. The ability to get open with a crisp route just isn’t as important when you’re taking shots at the sideline off play action.

I’m aware my take could differ quite dramatically from Seattle’s, but if Latimer and the rest of the top group are off the board they might be forced to wait until round two if they want value. Unless they want to take a chance on a brilliant athlete — and this is where we come back to the development side of things.

Martavis Bryant and Donte Moncrief are quite incredible athletes. Bryant ran a hand timed 4.3 at the combine (official 4.42) at a shade under 6-4 and 211lbs. Moncrief also had a hand timed 4.3 and an official 4.40 at 6-2 and 221lbs. Both managed a vertical jump of +39 inches. Moncrief also managed an 11-foot broad jump (Bryant had a 10.4).

It’s not often you find players with that combination of size and explosion. In terms of pure upside, they’re on a different level.

They also need time and coaching. They can both improve. That doesn’t mean you redshirt them, it means you bring them along gradually. And by 2015 you might have a player ready to do what Josh Gordon did in his second season.

There’s a catch though — and a reason why both could potentially be available at #32. Bryant appears very talented but immature. Having almost destroyed his career through sheer complacency, he recovered to have a solid 2013 season. And yet he was still doing stupid things like this. He wouldn’t be the first receiver to carry baggage — and it could be manageable. But it’s out there.

Moncrief’s 2013 was just incredibly underwhelming. Part of it’s down to the schizophrenic Ole Miss offense. Part of it’s on the player. His Missouri performance is tough to forget — he was very poor. Then you watch the Texas or LSU tape from 2012 and get excited. This team drafted Tharold Simon so they’ll know about Moncrief and how he destroyed Simon that year.

I wouldn’t expect either to be there at #64 and we know the Seahawks love to take a chance on rare athletic ability. They love to develop players. These are two prospects to watch at the back end of round one.

Out of reach: Odell Beckham Jr, Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin
Possibilities: Cody Latimer, Martavis Bryant, Donte Moncrief

Which defensive players are still on the board?

It’s not until you write down the depth chart that you realise it isn’t all that ‘deep’.

Here are Seattle’s established, veteran defensive linemen:

Brandon Mebane
Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Tony McDaniel

Here’s the rest:

Greg Scruggs
Jordan Hill
Benson Mayowa
Michael Brooks
Jesse Williams
D’anthony Smith
Dewayne Cherrington
Kenneth Boatwright

I appreciate the Seahawks feel positive about this young group. But there’s a heck of a lot of unknown here. Greg Scruggs has added weight and is coming off a serious knee injury. Jordan Hill didn’t really contribute as a rookie. Benson Mayowa had a productive pre-season in 2013 but can he take the next step? Will Jesse Williams ever contribute? And it’s very difficult to talk about the final three names who we know almost nothing about.

If several of those players step up to the plate — excellent. But you’re relying on that at the moment because they didn’t sign any veterans to make up for the loss of Chris Clemons, Red Bryant or Clinton McDonald. Hill should get a chance to replace McDonald. But they failed to lure Jared Allen to Seattle and Henry Melton chose Dallas. This actually looks like a pretty thin group right now with a lot of uncertainty.

The main issue could be the pass rush. Unless they plan to move Bruce Irvin back to defensive end, there’s a lot of responsibility on Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. It’d be good to add at least one more rusher to the group.

If Anthony Barr drops he will be intriguing. But even his most staunch critic doesn’t expect him to fall to #32. Dominique Easley would be ideal if you can see beyond the knee injuries. Adding Easley’s ability to destroy the pocket from the interior would create a different looking but still intimidating pass rush for the Seahawks. Ra’Shede Hageman is another option — although his lack of consistency is a concern. Easley is a much more explosive pass rusher when healthy.

The other two options and wildcards for #32 are Marcus Smith and Demarcus Lawrence. Smith might be the more intriguing option — he ran a 4.6 at the combine with a 1.57 ten yard split. He’s a former quarterback and needs time — his arms lack muscle definition and he can get stronger. Yet the potential is there.

The nagging doubt I’d carry would be the unpredictable nature of edge rushers transferring to the next level. For all the scaremongering about taking receivers early — pass rushers are the ones to worry about. Look how many surprising busts there have been over the years. The speed isn’t quite as effective at the next level and you have to be able to battle — hand use, strength, counter moves and speed-to-power are crucial. Smith’s a nice athlete, but he’s not a rare player. As good as he looked in college, he’d be a risky pick at #32.

Stephon Tuitt is a popular pick among the national media — and he has the unique size and length Seattle likes on both sides of the line. He’d also be an obvious replacement for Bryant if they wanted another big five-technique who plays early downs. I’m not overly convinced though that the Seahawks would add a player like this in round one. It’s hard to see his 2012 pass rush production translating to the next level — and I think any D-liner taken in round one better be able to get after the quarterback. You can find run defenders later.

I wouldn’t have drafted the overrated Timmy Jernigan even before news broke of a failed drugs test at the combine. Ditto Dee Ford or Kony Ealy. First round? Not for me.

Out of reach: Aaron Donald, Ryan Shazier, Anthony Barr
Possibilities: Dominique Easley, Marcus Smith, Ra’Shede Hageman

Why we could see a lot of WR’s going in round one

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

This Tweet doesn’t lock in the Cowboys taking a receiver. Far from it. But it does hint at an approach teams could take in the #10-25 portion of this draft.

By now we have a pretty good idea about who’s going to go in the top ten. Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan should go in that range — and Zack Martin could join them. We’ll see Jadeveon Clowney go early, probably at #1. Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are safe bets and the top two quarterbacks — Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles — could be gone by #8. Aaron Donald should also be a top ten pick.

The 10/11 players named above are pretty established as the top prospects in the 2014 draft. But when you get outside of the top ten, things get a little murky.

This is nothing new. Often when you’re faced with a good quality draft the talent difference between #12 and (approximately) #26 is minimal. Picking in the mid-teens can be undesirable — you just miss out on several top tier players, and end up drafting someone who isn’t that much better than a guy you can get ten picks later.

Let’s say the Chicago Bears draft Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at #14. He’d be a solid pick. But he’s certainly not Earl Thomas, a previous #14 pick. And he probably isn’t all that better than the players who will go in the early 20’s. It’d fill a need, but the value would be slightly underwhelming.

Some of the other teams between #11-19 will struggle to fill their needs. Dallas are one of those teams. So what do they do?

They could consider trading up. Going after Aaron Donald would make some sense for the Cowboys. Jerry Jones has been aggressive in the past. Yet they have so many needs on defense I’m not convinced giving up a boat load of picks would be a wise idea.

Will there be a deal to trade down? Perhaps. The Ravens at #17 are a threat for anyone wanting a right tackle or specific receiver.

If no deal is forthcoming though, who do they take?

A lot of people, myself included, have mocked Anthony Barr at #16. He’s not a perfect fit for Rod Marinelli’s scheme and ideally you wouldn’t be banking on an immediate return on your investment. He needs further development having only played defense for two years. He needs to get stronger. His best fit is on a team that can mix him into a rotation in year one — not rely on him to provide an edge rush.

The Cowboys might think it’s too big a risk to put that pressure on Barr. They may need alternatives. He might even be off the board by #16. The Titans at #11 need a 3-4 OLB for Ray Horton’s new defense.

If we’re going to take Barr out of consideration for the purpose of this article, what other direction can they go in? Timmy Jernigan for me is totally overrated and won’t be considered anywhere near this early. Are there any other safety’s or defensive linemen you’d take at #16?

The receiver position is so rich in quality at the top end, you might as well consider it. Just add a really good player to your team.

This is what an unnamed personnel man told Bob McGinn:

“I told the head coach, there will be a team that comes out of this thing with five starters in the next three years.”

“If there’s ever a situation where you pick the best player available, it’s this year. There’s that many good players.”

The Cowboys could add Odell Beckham Jr or Marqise Lee as Rapoport’s Tweet suggests and feel very satisfied that they added a really dynamic weapon.

Dallas won’t be the only team that ends up in a situation like this. Tennessee with all their needs might see receiver as the best option. Pittsburgh could look at the position. So could Baltimore, the Jets, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Kansas City.

When faced with making a big reach or just grabbing a good receiver, I think many teams next Thursday will see it as an easy decision. And the overall depth in this draft will encourage this mentality.

There’s also the possibility teams like New Orleans and San Francisco (both with a history of being aggressive) will move up to make sure they get one of the top wide outs.

We could easily see seven receivers off the board by #22: Watkins, Evans, Beckham Jr, Lee, Cooks, Benjamin and Latimer. It could happen.

After that you get a run of teams who won’t see the position as a big need. Between #23 and #31 there’s probably going to be a mini-run on cornerbacks. This is the area where value meets need, there’s a real soft spot here for 3-4 defensive backs to leave the board.

But when you get into New Orleans (if they stay put) at #27, Carolina at #28, San Francisco at #30 (again, if they stay put) and Seattle at #32 — we could see even more WR’s going in round one.

I imagine there’s a consensus talent drop off after Benjamin/Latimer, but it wouldn’t be a total shock if Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant (for example) ended up sneaking into the back end of round one.

Some teams are going to say, “we’ll wait” for a wide out because there’s depth to match the first round numbers. But the thing is — it’s a weak draft for other positions. Defensive tackle is mediocre this year. Linebacker and defensive end might be even worse. It’s not a great cornerback or safety class. And after the top 6-7 offensive tackles leave the board, there’s a major drop off.

You can find players at all of those positions, but there’s either limited depth or little value in round one.

When you’re faced with a Marqise Lee or Odell Beckham Jr sitting there as a fall back — it’s going to be really difficult to pass.