Archive for March, 2017

Would the Seahawks draft back-to-back cornerbacks?

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Just a quick thought for the weekend…

By signing two offensive linemen and three linebackers in free agency, the Seahawks have bought an opportunity to tap into the strength of the draft class.

The defensive backs.

It’s still entirely possible they could draft an O-liner or linebacker in the first two rounds. Yet with such a strong group of safety’s and cornerbacks available, they’ve set themselves up to tap into the talent pool.

Could they consider drafting a slot corner and an outside corner with their first two picks?

After all, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright require help and competition not replacements. The O-line has a question mark at tackle but they do have competition.

There’s quite a void at outside corner across from Richard Sherman and Pete Carroll was lukewarm when discussing Jeremy Lane’s play in 2016.

Lane played 71% of the defensive snaps last year and was essentially a full time starter. He’s also a possible cap casualty in 2018 (they’d save nearly $5m by cutting him).

It’s entirely possible they draft a ‘big nickel’ to man that spot in the future but a dynamic slot corner could also be a consideration. Especially with the players available.

For example, we’ve talked a lot about Adoree’ Jackson recently. The more I watched him, the more he felt like a prospective Seahawk. Yesterday I suggested he was Percy Harvin on defense without the drama.

I’ll say it again…

He’s Percy Harvin on defense without the drama.

He has grit. On three occasions I watched him chase down lost causes to make a TD-saving tackle. He’s an incredible athlete and a former 5-star recruit. He didn’t destroy the combine but neither did Harvin. He has the type of natural athleticism that doesn’t necessarily translate to the combine but you watch the games and you see his ability to change direction quickly, to run away from people, to get to 0-60 effortlessly.

He’s sudden. The Seahawks like sudden.

He’s tremendously productive and a playmaker. Five interceptions, 16 passes defended, 11 PBU’s, four return touchdowns and a receiving score in 2016.

He was a team captain at USC.

Jackson might be too small for the Seahawks. Yet he’ll go in round one to somebody, likely as a dynamic slot corner and kick returner. Why not Seattle?

He’d be a 70-80% snap performer on defense and your day one starter as a return man. Don’t underestimate that aspect of his game with Tyler Lockett recovering from a broken leg.

The more you watch him, the clearer it is he’s one of the best players in a great defensive draft.

Upgrading Lane might be one of their priorities. And considering the depth of the class, they could also draft an outside corner in round two.

I wrote about Cordrea Tankersley a few days ago as a possible target. He has a lot of the tools the Seahawks like and a very similar playing style to Byron Maxwell.

Unlike Gareon Conley he’ll jam and use his hands to control the route and get a feel for what the receiver’s going to do. This is a big problem for Conley. He offers free release after free release. At the next level he’ll have to learn how to use his hands, anticipate and re-route. Tankersley’s already there.

He also does a good job baiting quarterbacks into mistakes, gaining position and being the kind of opportunist Seattle likes. He’s a reasonable tackler in run support. He was productive too with 16 PBU’s in 2016, the same number as Kevin King (who got a lot of targets as teams avoided Sidney Jones) and only one less than Adoree’ Jackson and Tre’Davious White. He had four interceptions — as many as Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley.

He’s also a 4.40 runner with ideal height and length (6-1, 32 inch arms).

Jackson and Tankersley would compete to start immediately and could give the LOB a significant boost, providing a solution to Seattle’s flagging turnover numbers.

Keep an eye on Shaq Griffin as an alternative too, especially if they decide to take a safety like Obi Melifonwu at #26.

Friday notes: Seahawks ‘think highly’ of Forrest Lamp

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Forrest Lamp on Seattle’s radar

According to Tony Pauline, the Seahawks are showing interest in Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp:

“The more I speak with people, the more it seems to be a forgone conclusion Lamp ends up in the bottom half of Round 1. The versatility to play either guard position along with center or left tackle in a pinch has teams salivating. When compared to the other highly rated offensive linemen, Lamp is viewed as the safest and surest of the bunch.”

Lamp was the best TEF tester at the combine, scoring a 3.23. He’s also incredibly versatile and could play tackle, guard or even center long term for the Seahawks. After all, Just Britt is in a contract year and could be an expensive re-sign. Lamp’s ability to play guard or tackle this year and maybe move inside to center if they can’t get a deal done with Britt could provide vital insurance.

There’s a realistic chance Lamp won’t make it to pick #26. As TEF shows, he was clearly the most explosive O-liner at the combine. He has good tape against Alabama (see above). Last week Daniel Jeremiah asserted he’d be a top-20 pick.

Yet the reported interest in Lamp suggests the Seahawks are still open to considering further additions to the O-line. They’ve added two veterans in free agency (Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi). If Lamp or Garett Bolles falls into range (arguably unlikely in both cases) they could be on Seattle’s radar.

Friday notes…

— Pete Carroll stated cornerback, linebacker and the O-line were Seattle’s ‘priority’ needs this off-season. So far in free agency they’ve added three linebackers, two offensive linemen and zero cornerbacks. This is a defensive back draft and the Seahawks appear ready to fill their boots.

— Adoree’ Jackson could go in the top-20. Tennessee at #18 could be a legit possibility. He’s a genuine X-factor capable of scoring multiple touchdowns as a return man, his cover skills are much improved and he’s a warrior. Was there a more productive player in CFB in 2016? Five interceptions, 16 passes defended, 11 PBU’s, four return touchdowns and a receiving score. He’s the type of player (5-star recruit, stunning athlete, gritty) that Pete Carroll loves. If he lasts until #26 — he might be a target. He is Percy Harvin on defense without the drama.

Tony Pauline re-asserted Garett Bolles’ stock following the Utah pro-day: “Most I spoke with say definitely top-20 while some feel top-12 is a possibility.” It’s a nice thought to imagine Bolles lasting until pick #26 — and it’s not impossible — but it still seems unlikely at this stage.

— If the San Francisco 49ers are just accumulating talent this year until they can acquire Kirk Cousins in 2018, they should consider taking Leonard Fournette at #2. The Niners don’t have any real stars. Fournette might be wasted in 2017 but over the long term, he can be the identity of that offense.

— Gareon Conley is getting a lot of praise at the moment and it’s justified. However, one thing stands out watching him that needs rectifying. Hand use. He barely lays a finger on a receiver. No jam to re-route, no feel for the development of the route. He gave up free release after free release at Ohio State. With so many cornerbacks likely to be given similar grades it could be a tie breaker.

— As we’ve discussed a lot, T.J. Watt has supreme agility and explosive physical traits. He’s a rare physical specimen. He still needs time to develop. He doesn’t have an effective counter when rushing the edge and struggles to disengage when the initial burst doesn’t succeed. He only started for one year at Wisconsin. It might take a year or two to deliver on his potential. And for that reason he might last into the mid-second round. He has a ton of potential though.

— A lot gets said about Jabrill Peppers’ lack of production. Is it a false narrative? Peppers had 15 TFL’s playing out of position at linebacker. Myles Garrett, the likely #1 pick in the draft, also had 15 TFL’s in 2016. Peppers had only one interception — the same number as linebackers Haason Reddick and Ryan Anderson. Reuben Foster, Jarrad Davis and Zach Cunningham failed to register a single pick. Safety Jamal Adams only had one interception. Budda Baker only had two. The ‘statistics’ argument against Peppers is significantly overplayed.

Mel Kiper’s mock & does arm length matter at slot corner?

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

No Garett Bolles in round one?

In his latest projection yesterday, Mel Kiper didn’t include Utah’s Garett Bolles in the first round.

Kiper has been one of the few national pundits pushing the possibility of Bolles going in the top-20. In his first 2017 mock draft he paired Bolles with Denver at #20. He also touted the Bills at #10 as a possible option.

This week, he isn’t even in round one.

Instead Ryan Ramcyzk is the first offensive tackle to leave the board at #16 to Baltimore. The other two offensive tackles taken are Forrest Lamp (#22 to Miami) and Cam Robinson (#25 to Houston).

It follows a suggestion earlier in the week by Daniel Jeremiah that Lamp would be the first O-liner taken (in the top-20 no less) and Cam Robinson the first offensive tackle.

It’s possible Kiper has received some information about Bolles’ stock. In this weeks ‘First Draft’ podcast he stated Lamp, Robinson and Ramcyzk “won’t be there” at #26 and if any of the group falls it’ll be Bolles. Kiper referred to him as a ‘boom or bust’ prospect.

Here’s the thing though — if players like Reddick, King and Melifonwu are rising up boards, some of the presumed top-25 will be replaced. This is a draft class where even the worst case scenario will be attractive.

In my next mock I was planning to address some of the media sentiment this week by putting Forrest Lamp at #15 and Cam Robinson at #16. Bolles was set at #10.

Let’s imagine the Bills go in a different direction.

After Indianapolis and Baltimore, there are a collection of teams more likely to go defense than O-line: Washington, Tennessee, Tampa Bay. Denver could take an O-liner but then it’s back to defense — Detroit and Miami.

It’s eminently possible that instead of Jarrad Davis, Charles Harris, Jabrill Peppers and Budda Baker — the likes of Kevin King and Obi Melifonwu could go in the top-22.

If Bolles gets beyond Denver, he comes into play for Seattle. It’s possible they’ll go defense even if he’s available at #26. Yet his extreme tenacity, athleticism and grit could help turn Seattle’s O-line into a strength over the next 3-4 years.

Does arm length matter in the slot?

If Bolles, Reddick, Melifonwu and King are off the board, would the Seahawks consider drafting a specialist slot cornerback?

And if so, does arm length still matter?

Jeremy Lane played 71% of the snaps in 2016. Generally across the league, slot corners are playing around 70% of snaps. Increasingly teams are fielding an extra corner or safety and playing nickel in base.

If the Seahawks wanted an upgrade for Lane (possibly with the intention of moving him outside as one of the few experienced CB’s on the roster) they’d be presented with a decent list of options:

Budda Baker
Adoree’ Jackson
Chidobe Awuzie
Fabian Moreau
Howard Wilson

These five do not pass the arm length test (Seattle hasn’t drafted a cornerback with sub-32 inch arms since Pete Carroll took over).

They are, however, all very athletic.

— Budda Baker ran a 4.45 forty, had the fourth fastest three cone by a safety (6.76) and the fastest short shuttle (4.08). His shuttle time is comparable to Earl Thomas’ (4.05) plus short area quickness and change of direction skills are so important in the slot.

— Adoree’ Jackson is a sensational athlete and the most explosive kick/punt returner to enter the league in a long time. He ran a 4.42 at the combine but didn’t do any agility testing as he wasn’t 100% recovered from an ankle injury. He ran a three cone at his pro-day yesterday, timed at a reported 6.49. If accurate, that would’ve been the fastest three cone at the combine.

— Chidobe Awuzie ran a 4.43, jumped 11-0 in the broad and ran a 4.14 short shuttle. That’s the exact same shuttle time as current Seahawks starting slot corner Jeremy Lane. He ranked in the top-ten in both the shuttle and three cone and has experience working in the slot. Awuzie’s also capable of making plays in the backfield (four sacks, six TFL’s in 2016).

— Fabian Moreau’s tape is hit and miss. In USC’s game against UCLA he made a beautiful interception but also gave up a deep throw working against JuJu Smith-Schuster and a far-too-easy inside slant for a touchdown. Yet his combine was remarkable — 4.35 forty, 38 inch vertical, 11-4 broad, 4.12 short shuttle. In terms of upside he’s off the charts.

— Howard Wilson was the only cornerback other than Kevin King to run a sub-4.00 short shuttle. If the Seahawks drafted him, Wilson’s 3.94 shuttle time would be the fastest by any defensive back selected during the Carroll era. His 6.68 three cone was third fastest among CB’s, level with Gareon Conley.

Lane’s arms are 32 1/8 inches long. Here’s the arm length measurements for the five cornerbacks above:

Budda Baker — 30 3/4
Adoree’ Jackson — 31 3/8
Chidobe Awuzie — 30 5/8
Fabian Moreau — 31 3/8
Howard Wilson — 31 3/8

Three of the players (Jackson, Moreau, Wilson) have arms that are less than an inch shorter than Lane’s. Is it that much of a difference working inside?

It might be given the propensity for teams to put a tight end or bigger receiver in the slot these days. Using a safety or ‘Buffalo’ nickel instead guards against mismatches and enables you to retain some strength vs the run.

Yet there are productive smaller DB’s playing in the slot. And the Seahawks love dynamic athletes.

So while history tells us they’re unlikely to draft a cornerback with sub-32 inch arms, if they see the slot as a vital need area and sense an opportunity to get a cornerstone talent, it’s worth not completely ruling it out just yet.

And if other attractive options aren’t there at #26 (Melifonwu, Reddick, Bolles, King) it might be increasingly appealing.

Focus on Adoree’ Jackson

The five names above stand-out for different reasons. Wilson’s quickness, Baker’s agility and tenacity, Moreau’s brilliant physical profile and after watching more of Awuzie yesterday, he could easily go in the top-25. Stud.

Yet there’s just something about Adoree’ Jackson that says ‘Seahawks’.

Here’s a piece I wrote a few weeks ago about Jackson that was never published:

Under Pete Carroll they’ve never drafted a cornerback with sub-32 inch arms. We can’t ignore that and it’s why the combine is a vital tool (drills + measurements).

That said, we also know Seattle is prepared to make an exception. A 5-10 quarterback probably isn’t their ideal and yet here they are with Russell Wilson. It took Wilson, however, to be exceptional in every facet barring height. His athletic profile, leadership, production, backstory, huge hands, creativity, accuracy. So yes they’ll make an exception for the right guy, it’s just the right guy might have to be Mr. Perfect.

Adoree’ Jackson has always been intriguing. He isn’t big but he ticks enough boxes that if he only has 31.5-inch arms (31 3/8 at the combine) they might be willing to make the exception.

Here’s where he excels:

Cover skills

In this area, Jackson’s as good as any corner in this class. He shows the ability to feel coverage and react and flash excellent redirect quickness/recovery speed. He consistently plays the ball and will bait quarterbacks into mistakes. Despite his lack of great size his tackling is more than adequate for the position with sufficient aggression (a problem for some CB’s in this class).

The production validates all of this. He had 5 interceptions in 2016 and 16 PBU’s (tied 11th in the country with LSU’s Tre’Davious White). While many people will recall the way John Ross juked Jackson off his feet in the USC @ Washington game — that’s simply a perfect example of why John Ross is going to be a top-15 pick.

This interception, his second against Washington, is a really ill-advised throw by Jake Browning back across his body. That said — look at the quick reaction by Jackson, the closing speed and the finish:

Character

No issues here. Jackson is well spoken and interesting during interviews. This heart-warming post-game piece with his mother was one of the highlights of the season:

What’s more, we’ve seen tangible proof of progress throughout his college career. This indicates he’s coachable and willing to learn. He turned from a gimmicky return specialist and jack-of-all-trades type playing offense and defense into one of the more accomplished cornerbacks in college football.

I noted three examples when watching his Draft Breakdown tape where he chased down a runner to prevent a touchdown. On each occasion he failed to give up on an apparent lost cause — making the crucial tackle.

Athleticism

He’s one of the most sudden athletes you’ll see in this draft class. He glides as a runner and shifts through the gears with natural ease. When he gets a head of steam — he just seems to be moving a lot faster than everyone else.

He might be the most dynamic return man to enter the league since Percy Harvin. He had eight return touchdowns at USC, averaging nearly 30-yards a return on kick-offs in 2016.

His third score on a kick return vs Notre Dame, hurdling the last defender, is a thing of beauty:

Also, this is not easy to do:

Jeremy Lane played 71.39% of the defensive snaps in 2016. Only five players played more defensive snaps — Bobby Wagner (99.35%), Richard Sherman (97.59%), K.J. Wright (97.41%), Deshawn Shead (85.09%) and Cliff Avril (77.04%). Michael Bennett would’ve likely made it six without his knee injury.

If Jackson was brought in to assume that role, they’d be getting plenty of bang for their buck. Add on the special teams value (especially with Tyler Lockett recovering from a broken leg) and there’s no reason to think the Seahawks would avoid drafting a nickel early.

Someone will probably take Adoree’ Jackson in the first round. Tony Pauline reported the following recently:

Despite the fact he’s likely to measure under 5-feet/10-inches at the combine most I spoke with say Adoree’ Jackson of USC is a lock first round pick.

They are willing to overlook Jackson’s height as teams have stamped the junior “a difference maker” at cornerback, as a return specialist and even at the receiver position.

There’s no denying the ‘difference maker’ tag and the explosive athletic traits he clearly possesses. He’s a special athlete. The type Pete Carroll has really admired in the past.

The question is — are the Seahawks willing to buck their arm length trend to go after a player like Jackson, knowing he can have an immediate impact as a kick returner and possibly start quickly as a slot corner?

Obi Melifonwu pro-day numbers revealed

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Obi Melifonwu ran the agility drills for the first time at UConn’s pro-day today:

Here’s an updated list of defensive back performances in the short shuttle, with Melifonwu’s time included:

Kevin King — 3.89
Quincy Wilson — 4.02
Budda Baker — 4.08
Obi Melifonwu — 4.09
Fabian Moreau — 4.12
Jamal Adams — 4.13
Ahkello Witherspoon — 4.13
Chidobe Awuzie — 4.14
Shaq Griffin — 4.14
Gareon Conley — 4.18
Shalom Luani — 4.21
Rasul Douglas — 4.26
Sidney Jones — 4.28
Cordrea Tankersley — 4.32
Tre’Davious White — 4.32

Melifonwu is 6-4 and 224lbs. His shuttle time is 0.01 seconds slower than Budda Baker’s at 195lbs. It’s quicker than every tested cornerback with +32 inch arms apart from Kevin King and Quincy Wilson. Melifonwu weighs 24lbs more than King and 13lbs more than Wilson.

Here are the short shuttle times for drafted/UDFA DB’s in Seattle:

DeAndre Elliott — 3.94
Tye Smith — 3.96
Earl Thomas — 4.05
Jeremy Lane — 4.14
Jeron Johnson — 4.20
Ryan Murphy — 4.20
Steven Terrell — 4.22
Deshawn Shead — 4.23
Brandon Browner — 4.24
Tyis Powell — 4.25
Winston Guy — 4.29
Richard Sherman — 4.29
Tharold Simon — 4.31
Kam Chancellor — 4.41
Byron Maxwell — 4.49

His three cone time (7.01) actually wouldn’t have cracked the top-15 among defensive backs at the combine, offering a slight contrast. Here’s how Seattle’s previous DB draft picks performed in the three-cone:

Earl Thomas — 6.68
Richard Sherman — 6.72
Deshawn Shead — 6.76
Winston Guy — 6.79
Steven Terrell — 6.84
DeAndre Elliott — 6.93
Jeron Johnson — 6.95
Tye Smith — 6.97
Tharold Simon — 7.01
Jeremy Lane — 7.02
Tyis Powell — 7.03
Ryan Murphy — 7.06
Byron Maxwell — 7.12
Kam Chancellor — 7.36

It’s interesting that Melifonwu has Kam Chancellor’s size and his agility dissects Earl Thomas and Chancellor in terms of three cone testing.

In the 60-yard shuttle, Melifonwu’s 10.69 would’ve set a new record at the combine and easily beat the top three times:

Kevin King — 11.14
Brendan Langley — 11.19
Shalom Luani — 11.22

According to Tony Pauline the Lions met ‘extensively’ with Melifonwu yesterday and will meet with Tampa Bay tomorrow. The Buccaneers own the #19 pick, with Detroit picking at #21. It’s not unrealistic he’ll go in this range.

Pauline also says 40% of teams are viewing Melifonwu as a cornerback. That could include the Seahawks. His tape matches up to the athletic testing. He will visit Seattle before the draft:

Melifonwu is the latest potential target to see his stock gain a tremendous boost. It started with Garett Bolles and Haason Reddick, now Kevin King and Melifonwu appear to be rising quickly.

He could easily be Seattle’s pick at #26. It’s just a case of whether he lasts that long.

Here’s a reminder of how Pete Carroll and John Schneider reacted to his 4.40 forty yard dash at the combine:

Tuesday draft notes: Mayock’s rankings, Cordrea Tankersley

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Mayock updates rankings board

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock updated his prospect rankings today. It’s his first update since the combine. Here are the headlines:

— Kevin King is ranked as Mayock’s #3 cornerback

— Gareon Conley and Fabian Moreau move into the top five at CB

— Budda Baker is now classified as a slot corner, ahead of Chidobe Awuzie

— Jarrad Davis is now the #3 linebacker

King’s rise is the big news here. This is a deep cornerback class and a lot of players will have similar grades. Upside can be a difference maker, so can size and length. King has everything.

Furthermore, his tape has always been really good. Perhaps because he was the ‘other guy’ across from Sidney Jones, he never quite got the credit he deserved.

The only real concern mentioned by anyone was long speed. He ran a 4.43.

He has no character flags. He regularly references tape study and the intricacies of the position. He has experience in the slot and working outside.

King won’t necessarily be graded any better for his play than Tre’Davious White. Yet the size, length, athleticism, agility and upside could act as a tie breaker.

By placing him at #3 in his rankings, Mayock is practically asserting he’s a top-25 pick. In this class, the corner’s will go early and often. It brings about a scenario we touched on in last weeks mock — with King off the board before Seattle’s pick.

Conley, Awuzie and Moreau are also seemingly moving up boards for the same reason. They too showed tremendous upside at the combine. Although this is concerning:

Jim Mora spoke after the workouts stating the injury ‘was nothing to worry about’.

Kris Richard apparently attended the UCLA pro-day. If Moreau had 32-inch arms you’d have to think he’d be a legitimate option for Seattle with his explosive, twitchy athleticism. That’s not to say he won’t be on their radar — but he’d be the first corner they drafted with sub-32 inch arms in seven years of the Pete Carroll era.

The talent at cornerback and safety is so good early in this draft, we could see an unprecedented run on defensive backs in the first round. Teams will want a part of this. They won’t want to miss out. This is without doubt a defensive back draft. We could see 13-15 DB’s going in the top-40. It’s not as crazy as it sounds when you list the names out. It’s quite realistic:

Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Kevin King (CB, Washington)
Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
Adoree’ Jackson (CB, LSU)
Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Chidobe Awuzie (CB, Colorado)
Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Teez Tabor (CB, Florida)
Cordrea Tankersley (CB, Clemson)

And this isn’t accounting for arguably the top corner prospect, the injured Sidney Jones. There was some good news on Jones’ achilles earlier today when he tweeted this:

It’s still quite likely Jones will start the season on the PUP list and may endure a medical redshirt in year one. However, he’s a highly talented corner and well worth a second round investment by someone.

A defensive back in round one still feels the most likely pick for Seattle considering the lack of roster depth at both corner and safety. It’ll be interesting if both Kevin King and Obi Melifonwu are off the board at #26. With Garett Bolles and Haason Reddick very likely to be unavailable too, a trade down scenario at that point could come into play.

Notes on Cordrea Tankersley

I spent a bit of time watching Clemson’s Tankerlsey over the weekend. He could be an option for Seattle with their second round pick or if they trade down from #26.

According to Charlie Campbell, he met with the Seahawks at the combine.

— Tankersley has a knack of undercutting routes, showing ample recovery speed to react and make a break on the ball.

— He’s generally very sticky in coverage. He’s grabby and might have some rough days early in his career as he works out what he can get away with. Yet unlike Gareon Conley he’ll jam and use his hands to control the route and get a feel for what the receiver’s going to do. This is a really underrated part of a CB’s game and it’s a big problem for Conley, who too often gives a free release and the room to make a cut or double move.

— Tankersley appeared to have a strong grasp of Clemson’s scheme and worked well with the free safety to cover his zone and pass off receivers.

— Showed ability to bait the QB by dropping off route, getting out of the line of sight only to make a late adjustment and play the ball. This was the type of move Kam Chancellor made against the Niners in the NFC Championship game. On two occasions I saw Tankersley pulled a similar move, gaining one interception.

— Uses his length well. Will jam at the line and disrupt routes. Has 32 inch arms. High pointed the football to make one brilliant sideline pick. Has some understanding of how to use the sideline to his advantage.

— He’s less finesse than other CB’s in this class. He’s not Brandon Browner but he’s not Ahkello Witherspoon either.

— Tankersley is an opportunist. Bad throws were punished. When a quarterback was moved off the spot and running for his life, Tankersley would read his eyes and make a play. Showed instinct and feel, has a habit of being in the right place at the right time.

— He had 16 PBU’s in 2016, the same number as Kevin King (who got a lot of targets as teams avoided Sidney Jones) and only one less than Adoree’ Jackson and Tre’Davious White.

— Tankersley matched-up vs Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges and won that battle comfortably, showing he can cover big, athletic receivers/tight ends. He did blow an assignment covering Isaiah Ford in the same game.

— He ran a 4.40 at the combine so there’s no problem with long speed.

— Run support was fine. He had a nice TFL vs Derrick Henry in the 2015 National Championship. Fine in this class is a bonus because a lot of the corners are below average in run support.

— Athletically he didn’t have an amazing combine despite the 4.40. He only managed a 29.5 inch vertical at the combine (improved to 30.5 at his pro-day). His 4.32 short shuttle was slower than a lot of the top prospects (and doesn’t compare favourably to some of the LB’s either) but it’s only 0.03 seconds slower than Richard Sherman’s 4.29. He ran a 7.00 three cone. The Seahawks have drafted three players with a +7.00 three cone (Byron Maxwell, Tharold Simon and Jeremy Lane) and Tye Smith ran a 6.97.

— He has the playing style of a Seattle corner and has a bit of the Byron Maxwell’s about him (Maxwell went to Clemson too so this isn’t a surprise in terms of playing style and technique).

While the Seahawks are unlikely to see him as a freakishly good athlete worthy of the #26 pick — he could be a very solid cornerback investment in round two. He isn’t as flashy as some of the corner’s being tipped for the first round but he’s grittier with a knack for making plays.

Vince Biegel insight

If the Seahawks don’t take a linebacker in the first two rounds, Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel could be a target in round three. The Badgers make videos of their players offering an insight into their background and personality. There’s a T.J. Watt version too. Here’s Biegel’s:

Assessing cornerbacks using their short shuttle times

Monday, March 20th, 2017

The short shuttle tests lateral quickness, explosion in short areas, body control and the ability to change direction quickly. We’ve talked about how important it appears to be for linebackers — but what about cornerbacks?

In this visual demonstration of the drill, Mike Mayock states:

“It’s important for literally every position. Why? For the little guys it’s obvious. Quickness, acceleration, change of direction. How about the big guys? Can they bend? Are you a natural bender or are you a heavy-legged waist bender? A great time for a defensive back is a 4.2.”

If a great time is a 4.2, it’s fair to assume anything quicker than a 4.00 is exceptional.

Since 2010, only four CB’s have run a sub-4.00 short shuttle and measured with 32 inch arms (Seattle’s apparent cut-off):

2017 — Kevin King (3.89)
2016 — DeAndre Elliott (3.94)
2015 — Byron Jones (3.94), Tye Smith (3.96)
2010-2014 — No qualifiers

It’s interesting that of the four names above, one could easily be Seattle’s pick at #26 (Kevin King), one was drafted by the Seahawks (Tye Smith), one was signed as an UDFA and kept on the roster (DeAndre Elliott) and the other was an athletic freak unavailable to the Seahawks because they traded their 2015 first round pick to New Orleans for Jimmy Graham.

It’s an indicator that an exceptional short shuttle on a lengthy cornerback is something the Seahawks find particularly appealing.

It’s not, however, a binding indicator. Byron Maxwell ran a 4.49 and Tharold Simon managed only a 4.31. So a mediocre short shuttle won’t necessarily take you off Seattle’s board. A good time, however, could increase their interest.

Here are the short shuttle times for drafted/UDFA cornerbacks in Seattle:

DeAndre Elliott — 3.94
Tye Smith — 3.96
Jeremy Lane — 4.14
Deshawn Shead — 4.23
Brandon Browner — 4.24
Richard Sherman — 4.29
Tharold Simon — 4.31
Byron Maxwell — 4.49

Here are the short shuttle times for select 2017 prospects:

Kevin King — 3.89
Quincy Wilson — 4.02
Budda Baker — 4.08
Fabian Moreau — 4.12
Jamal Adams — 4.13
Ahkello Witherspoon — 4.13
Chidobe Awuzie — 4.14
Shaq Griffin — 4.14
Gareon Conley — 4.18
Shalom Luani — 4.21
Rasul Douglas — 4.26
Sidney Jones — 4.28
Cordrea Tankersley — 4.32
Tre’Davious White — 4.32

Several prospects didn’t run a short shuttle, including Adoree’ Jackson, Marlon Humphrey, Marshon Lattimore, Obi Melifonwu, Teez Tabor and Marquez White.

Considering Mayock’s assertion that a 4.2 is a good time for a defensive back, those are some seriously impressive numbers.

For a bigger cornerback, Quincy Wilson’s 4.02 is noteworthy. He didn’t have a really explosive workout (4.54 forty, 32 inch vertical, 9-10 broad) but for his size (6-1, 211lbs) he ran a superb short shuttle.

Shalom Luani nearly cracked a 4.1, highlighting why he’s quite an underrated prospect in this class.

Kevin King’s time looks even better placed alongside those of his peers. He’s a genuine freak athlete.

It’s also a good way to emphasise T.J. Watt’s extreme agility. Look at the list with Watt included:

Kevin King — 3.89
Quincy Wilson — 4.02
Budda Baker — 4.08
Fabian Moreau — 4.12
Jamal Adams — 4.13
T.J. Watt — 4.13
Ahkello Witherspoon — 4.13
Chidobe Awuzie — 4.14
Shaq Griffin — 4.14
Gareon Conley — 4.18
Shalom Luani — 4.21
Rasul Douglas — 4.26
Sidney Jones — 4.28
Cordrea Tankersley — 4.32
Tre’Davious White — 4.32

Again, Watt is 252lbs. Chidobe Awuzie and Budda Baker are 202lbs and 195lbs respectively.

Here’s what Mayock had to say about linebacker’s running the shuttle in his demonstration video:

“In the ’09 combine Clay Matthews, linebacker from USC, he ran a 4.18. Think about it. A linebacker running what is considered a great time for a defensive back and oh by the way, it was the identical time run the year before by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.”

Is this a good time to mention Watt’s 10-yard split (1.59) is also comparable to the DB class?

Obi Melifonwu — 1.51
Kevin King — 1.55
Ahkello Witherspoon — 1.55
Gareon Conley — 1.58
Sidney Jones — 1.59
Quincy Wilson — 1.59
Tre’Davious White — 1.60

Watt’s vertical jump (37 inches) and broad jump (10-8) would each rank at #6 among defensive backs if he’d gone through drills with the DB’s.

Tyus Bowser was right there with him too.

And one other thing I noticed when running through the three cone results from the combine — if you rank the DB’s and linebackers together, Bowser had the fifth fastest time and Watt the seventh. Despite the fact they’re carrying an extra 40-50lbs in weight:

Kevin King — 6.56
Brian Allen — 6.64
Gareon Conley — 6.68
Howard Wilson — 6.68
Tyus Bowser — 6.75
Marlon Humphrey — 6.75
T.J. Watt — 6.79

(I get it, enough already about Watt and Bowser)

The point is though — there are several really enticing prospects in this draft class that make a ton of sense for the Seahawks.

They should be able to land a defensive back or a linebacker they really like at #26 and the options in round two will be strong too.

Saturday draft notes: Garett Bolles & planning ahead

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

Garett Bolles and Haason Reddick might be this years answer to Sheldon Rankins and Keanu Neal.

Rankins tested as one of the most explosive players in the 2016 draft, while Neal possessed a combination of great athleticism and intensity. They screamed ‘top-20’.

There was a general feeling within the national/draft media that Rankins could fall into the 20’s (he was often mocked to the Seahawks) and Neal was being projected in the second round by many if not most.

They ended up going at #12 and #17 overall.

This year a lot of mocks pair Bolles with Seattle. Reddick is starting to rise in the national draft coverage but you’ll still see the occasional pairing with Pittsburgh at the end of round one.

In my latest mock draft I had Bolles at #6 to the Jets and Reddick at #11 to the Saints.

Here’s why…

Bolles had a terrific combine, highlighted by a superb 9-7 broad jump and a 3.00 TEF score (TEF explained here). His tape is exceptional. There just aren’t many college tackles capable of opening their hips and turning a D-liner to open up running lanes with the mastery shown by Bolles. His desire to reach the second level and punish linebackers/DB’s is especially appealing.

At the combine he was asked about his playing style. His response?

“As an offensive lineman, you want to be the nastiest p***k that you can be.”

These aren’t just empty words. That’s exactly how he plays on the field. Every snap. Every game.

The positional value, the attitude, the way he’s turned his life around, the athleticism. Everything matches up.

Here’s a piece we wrote about Bolles in November detailing what makes him such an exciting prospect.

Reddick meanwhile ranked as the second most explosive tester at this years combine (per TEF):

Myles Garrett — 4.21
Haason Reddick — 3.93
Solomon Thomas — 3.83
Jordan Willis — 3.70
Ife Odenigbo — 3.61

Myles Garrett’s physical profile is generational. Reddick is much smaller and therefore less freaky — but he’s still a tremendously explosive athlete. Considering his terrific final year at Temple (22.5 TFL’s) plus his character, grit and versatility to play several roles (including rushing the passer) — he looks like a lock to crack the top-15.

It’s hard to imagine either lasting to #26. Even if Bolles’ age factors in and the inflated free agent spending is a review of how teams view this O-line class — someone between #4 and #25 will surely roll the dice?

And yet here’s some words from Daniel Jeremiah to at least offer some hope if you’re #1 choice for Seattle in round one is an offensive linemen who ‘wants to be the nastiest p***k’ he can be:

“Much has been made about the lack of elite offensive linemen in this year’s draft class. I don’t believe we will see a lineman drafted in the top 10, which is a very rare occurrence. However, I do believe we will see four of them come off the board in the first round. Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp is clearly the top interior offensive line prospect and I have him as the best linemen overall as well. I expect him to go in the top 20. Here are the three offensive tackles likely to land in the first round: Garett Bolles (Utah), Cam Robinson (Alabama) and Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin).”

He goes on to say…

“As mentioned above, it is a three-player race to be the first offensive tackle off the board. In talking to coaches and scouts around the league, the name generating the most buzz is Alabama’s Cam Robinson. He’s not without faults on tape (he overextends too much and his balance is an issue at times) but he has outstanding size, length and power. He had a combine workout that was better than people expected, and he was very impressive in his team interviews. I won’t be surprised if he ends up being the first offensive tackle selected, landing between picks 15 and 20.”

If the first tackle leaves the board as late as the 20th pick and it isn’t Bolles, he will be within striking range for Seattle. Here are the teams picking between 21-25:

#21 Detroit — spent millions on their O-line in free agency
#22 Miami — have greater needs at linebacker and safety
#23 New York Giants — could be a consideration
#24 Oakland — more likely to focus on defense
#25 Houston — could consider O-line but currently have no long-term quarterback

Of course, this assumes Jeremiah’s scenario plays out as suggested. You need Cam Robinson to be the first tackle off the board and Forrest Lamp to be the first O-liner. Bolles needs to last beyond the top-20.

It still seems a stretch. After all, Jeremiah didn’t rank Germain Ifedi in his top-50 prospects right before the 2016 draft and he had Taylor Decker at #31. With hindsight, both players were underrated in terms of their placing in last years class.

(DJ also had the aforementioned Rankins and Neal at #26 and #46 respectively)

The Jets at #6, the Panthers at #8, the Bengals at #9, the Colts at #15 and the Ravens at #16 could all seriously consider Bolles. At the absolute latest he’d be a great pick for the Broncos at #20.

He was the best left tackle in college football last season and he’s the best offensive lineman in this draft.

Bolles, if he lasted, has the potential to be a stud right tackle for this team. He possesses the punishing tenacity and attitude of Breno Giacomini with a far superior explosive, athletic profile. His backstory is the definition of ‘Seahawky’.

If Luke Joeckel can provide some consistency and solidity to the left tackle position, a group consisting of Joeckel-Glowinski-Britt-Ifedi-Bolles might afford the Seahawks an opportunity to take a step forward in 2016, even if they aren’t that much more experienced than they were a year ago.

Alternatively they could also put Joeckel at left guard and show faith in George Fant’s development at tackle.

The other thing to consider is whether another first round pick on an offensive lineman is part of Seattle’s plan. At the combine John Schneider admitted they were too young and raw in 2016. Another first round pick only adds more inexperience to the O-line.

While there’s a feeling that their greatest current weakness is the O-line, this team is known to plan ahead. And that could mean focusing on the defense (this is, after all, very much a defensive draft).

Kam Chancellor is out of contract in a years time, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril come off the books in 2019.

Could they all re-sign? Possibly. We also know Chancellor and the Seahawks have had financial disagreements before, Thomas has contemplated retirement and the recent talk about Sherman casts a new light on his future (notice that the rumour hasn’t been denied anywhere?).

Look at the Arizona Cardinals as an example of how things can change very quickly. They lost several key defensive pieces in free agency and in a year might lose Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald to retirement.

There isn’t a quarterback in waiting at the moment. The Cardinals face, possibly, the prospect of a semi-serious rebuild over the next 2-3 years.

The Seahawks are unlikely to make this mistake and that’s why finding possible long term pieces for their secondary and at linebacker could be the key to this draft, even if everyone else thinks they’ll zone in on the O-line again.

Why T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser compare to Khalil Mack

Friday, March 17th, 2017

How athletic are T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser?

They’re special. Not just in this draft class but also on a NFL level.

Khalil Mack special, in fact.

This hasn’t really been discussed, possibly because they ran middling forty times (Watt a 4.69, Bowser a 4.65). Yet they excelled in every other test. Watt scored a 140.4 in pSPARQ, Bowser a 142.7.

So what can we learn from their testing results?

Both are really quick over 10-yards

It isn’t very often that a linebacker is going to run forty yards in a straight line. The 10-yard splits and short area quickness drills are arguably more pertinent for linebackers, defensive linemen and offensive linemen.

A 10-yard split in the 1.5’s is considered elite. Both Watt and Bowser ran a 1.59. So while they might not be running like Von Miller over forty yards, they most definitely are over ten.

Here’s how they rank next to a collection of peers and NFL stars:

Sean Lee — 1.54
Anthony Barr — 1.57
Luke Kuechly — 1.57
Telvin Smith — 1.57
Bobby Wagner — 1.57
Jordan Willis — 1.57
Vic Beasley — 1.59
Tyus Bowser — 1.59
Haason Reddick — 1.59
T.J. Watt — 1.59
Lavonte David — 1.60
Von Miller – 1.62
Jamie Collins — 1.64
Thomas Davis — 1.64
Khalil Mack — 1.64
K.J. Wright — 1.66
Shaq Thompson — 1.69

Officially they are quicker over 10-yards than Von Miller and Khalil Mack. They’re in the same range as NFL studs like Bobby Wagner, Luke Kuechly and Vic Beasley. They ran the same split as potential top-15 pick Haason Reddick.

In the test of speed that arguably matters at their position, both players excelled.

Both have great agility

As noted in a recent article, the short shuttle appears to be crucial for linebackers (at least in Seattle). Bowser didn’t run a short shuttle at the combine but Watt recorded the fastest time by a linebacker (4.13) despite being the second heaviest (Ryan Anderson is one pound heavier than Watt).

Bowser did run the three cone, recording a 6.75 compared to Watt’s 6.79. Both scores ranked in the top five among linebackers.

So again, how does this compare to their peers?

Short shuttle

Thomas Davis — 4.01
Von Miller — 4.06
Shaq Thompson — 4.08
Luke Kuechly — 4.12
T.J. Watt — 4.13
Vic Beasley — 4.15
Sean Lee — 4.16
Khalil Mack — 4.18
Anthony Barr — 4.19
Lavonte David — 4.22
Bobby Wagner — 4.28
Jordan Willis — 4.28
Zach Cunningham — 4.29
Jamie Collins — 4.32
K.J. Wright — 4.35
Haason Reddick — 4.37
Telvin Smith — 4.57

Three cone

Von Miller — 6.70
Tyus Bowser — 6.75
T.J. Watt — 6.79
Anthony Barr — 6.82
Jordan Willis — 6.85
Sean Lee — 6.89
Vic Beasley — 6.91
Luke Kuechly — 6.92
Shaq Thompson — 6.99
Haason Reddick — 7.01
Zach Cunningham — 7.03
Telvin Smith — 7.04
Khalil Mack — 7.08
Jamie Collins — 7.10
Thomas Davis — 7.10
Bobby Wagner — 7.10
K.J. Wright — 7.21
Lavonte David — 7.28

Of the 18 names listed above, only three players ran a three cone in the 6.7’s — Von Miller, T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser.

They were considerably quicker than a number of top linebackers (Sean Lee, Telvin Smith, Thomas Davis, Lavonte David, Jamie Collins) and were also quicker than Anthony Barr, Vic Beasley and Khalil Mack.

Watt’s short shuttle (4.13) is 0.44 seconds faster than Telvin Smith’s despite a 34lb weight disadvantage. He’s only 0.01 seconds slower than Luke Kuechly. The three other players that beat Watt in the short shuttle were Thomas Davis (230lbs), Von Miller (246lbs) and Shaq Thompson (228lbs). Watt is 252lbs.

Both are really explosive

The vertical and broad jumps measure explosive traits. Again, both Watt and Bowser tested extremely well with very similar numbers. Watt managed a 37 inch vertical and a 10-8 broad jump. Bowser recorded a 37.5 inch vertical and a 10-6 broad.

Vertical jump

Jamie Collins — 41.5
Vic Beasley — 41
Khalil Mack — 40
Bobby Wagner — 39.5
Jordan Willis — 39
Luke Kuechly — 38
Tyus Bowser — 37.5
Sean Lee — 37.5
Von Miller — 37
T.J. Watt — 37
Lavonte David — 36.5
Thomas Davis — 36.5
Haason Reddick — 36.5
Zach Cunningham — 35
Anthony Barr — 34.5
K.J. Wright — 34
Shaq Thompson — 33.5
Telvin Smith — 31.5

Broad jump

Jamie Collins — 11-7
Haason Reddick — 11-1
Bobby Wagner — 11-0
Vic Beasley — 10-10
Khalil Mack — 10-8
T.J. Watt — 10-8
Tyus Bowser — 10-6
Von Miller — 10-6
Anthony Barr — 10-5
Zach Cunningham — 10-5
Jordan Willis — 10-5
Luke Kuechly — 10-3
Sean Lee — 10-0
K.J. Wright — 10-0
Lavonte David — 9-11
Telvin Smith — 9-11
Shaq Thompson — 9-9
Thomas Davis — 9-7

It’s also important to take size into account. Some of the linebackers listed weigh between 220-230lbs — considerably lighter than both Watt and Bowser:

Anthony Barr — 255
Jordan Willis — 255
T.J. Watt — 252
Khalil Mack — 251
Jamie Collins — 250
Tyus Bowser — 247
Vic Beasley — 246
Von Miller — 246
K.J. Wright — 246
Luke Kuechly — 242
Bobby Wagner — 241
Haason Reddick — 237
Sean Lee — 236
Zach Cunningham — 234
Lavonte David — 233
Thomas Davis — 230
Shaq Thompson — 228
Telvin Smith — 218

So not only are Watt and Bowser testing favourably compared to their peers and the best linebackers in the NFL, they’re doing it in some cases with 20lbs of extra weight.

The only test where they aren’t performing at an extremely strong level is the forty yard dash:

Bobby Wagner — 4.46
Haason Reddick — 4.52
Telvin Smith — 4.52
Vic Beasley — 4.53
Von Miller — 4.53
Jordan Willis — 4.53
Luke Kuechly — 4.58
Thomas Davis — 4.60
Sean Lee — 4.60
Jamie Collins — 4.64
Shaq Thompson — 4.64
Tyus Bowser — 4.65
Lavonte David — 4.65
Khalil Mack — 4.65
Anthony Barr — 4.66
Zach Cunningham — 4.67
T.J. Watt — 4.69
K.J. Wright — 4.71

Even then, they’re in the same range as Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack. They just aren’t close to the times posted by Wagner, Reddick and Miller.

If the forty yard dash is less important at their position than the 10-yard split, short shuttle, three cone, broad jump and vertical jump — there’s a strong case to be made that Watt and Bowser are not just exceptional athletes in this draft class. They are exceptional athletes at a NFL level too.

Let’s isolate Khalil Mack. Here are his combine numbers compared to Watt and Bowser:

Ten yard splits
T.J. Watt — 1.59
Tyus Bowser — 1.59
Khalil Mack — 1.64

Short shuttle
T.J. Watt — 4.13
Tyus Bowser — DNP
Khalil Mack — 4.18

Three cone
T.J. Watt — 6.79
Tyus Bowser — 6.75
Khalil Mack — 7.08

Vertical jump
T.J. Watt — 37
Tyus Bowser — 37.5
Khalil Mack — 40

Broad jump
T.J. Watt — 10-8
Tyus Bowser — 10-6
Khalil Mack — 10-8

Forty yard dash
T.J. Watt — 4.69
Tyus Bowser — 4.65
Khalil Mack — 4.65

Mack is superior to both in one test — the vertical jump. That’s it.

Even in terms of production there’s not a great deal of difference. Here’s how they performed during their final season of college football:

Khalil Mack (2013) — 10.5 sacks, 18 TFL’s
Tyus Bowser (2016) — 8.5 sacks, 12 TFL’s (in just eight games)
T.J. Watt (2016) — 11.5 sacks, 15.5 TFL’s

Production, physical profile, explosive traits, short area quickness — all comparable between Mack, Watt and Bowser.

It’d be naive to suggest any player with Mack’s physical profile is going to mimic his pro career. That isn’t realistic. The purpose of this piece and the comparison is to assess the level of Watt and Bowser’s ceiling.

It’s interesting to contemplate, however, how Watt and Bowser would be judged had they had the same kind of consistent college career. Mack had an accomplished four-year stint at Buffalo and gradually honed his craft. He chose not to declare as a junior after receiving feedback from the advisory committee and had a textbook progression from college player to pro.

Watt was a one-year starter at Wisconsin after switching positions from tight end. Bowser was a basketball player who transitioned to football. Both players suffered debilitating injuries.

So while they have similar athletic profiles, unlike Mack they may require further development (and time) before reaching their potential.

You’ll also notice Jordan Willis’ name high on a lot of the lists. He might be more of a pure EDGE rather than a flexible SAM/LEO with the potential to play inside in the 4-3 under — but he’s another name certainly worth monitoring. I haven’t spent as much time on him as I’d like. He’s on a list of priorities for this week.

Seahawks updates

Seattle added two new free agents today — offensive lineman Oday Aboushi and linebacker Arthur Brown. They re-signed Luke Willson and Deshawn Shead to one-year deals. They’ll meet with defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois on Sunday and met today with offensive tackle Ryan Clady.

Michael Lombardi: Seahawks willing to deal Sherman

Friday, March 17th, 2017

Michael Lombardi is the former GM of the Browns and most recently worked in New England as an assistant to the coaching staff.

He had some interesting things to say in the following podcast about Richard Sherman and the Seahawks:

Here are the quotes:

“If they (the Saints) were to call the Seattle Seahawks up and say, ‘we would be interested in obtaining Richard Sherman, would you be willing to do it?’ — I truly believe based on what I hear in the National Football League that the Seahawks would in fact for the right deal trade Richard Sherman. He has two years left at around $11m a year. He’s two years older than Malcolm Butler… he would come in and fix their defense in a style they want to play. They want to emulate the Seattle defense in New Orleans. So could that be a trade that they make? To me that’s an option. I’m not saying they’re going to do that but it would be an option.”

He goes on to say…

“I think Seattle really thought twice about paying Richard Sherman. They felt they had to when they won the Super Bowl. Now their cap’s kind of a mess and they need to fix it so I think the reason they need to fix it is because they put all that money in the corner position in a defense where, we feel you can draft players that fit that scheme. Seattle did it, they’ve done it over and over again. They rewarded Sherman. I think New Orleans would be better off drafting.”

And then this…

“They’ve paid a lot of players. I think they would have to get their cap back in shape. They don’t have very much cap room now. They signed Eddie Lacy on a really pay-for-play deal which is probably the right thing to do but again, the scheme in Seattle allows you to find corners especially size/speed corners of which there’s a bundle of them in this draft that can play deep third of the defense, they’ll tackle and they can play within the scheme.”

This is a difficult one to digest. On the one hand, it would be an unusual move for the Seahawks to make, especially a week into the new league year. If such a trade was forthcoming, it likely would’ve come together at the combine or the early stages of free agency.

There’s also very little chance of the Seahawks getting market value considering Sherman’s age (he turns 29 this month) and the rich upcoming cornerback class.

And yet Lombardi is relatively connected and doesn’t hedge at all in this podcast. There was a lot of unrest surrounding Sherman at the end of last season and he did, for whatever reason, become a distraction.

It’s probably a non-story but neither is it one to immediately dismiss outright.

The absolute best Seattle could hope to gain in a trade with New Orleans would probably be the #32 pick they recently acquired from New England. Given the Saints’ desperation to repair their defense, an injection of pure talent could be preferable over an inexperienced rookie.

Yet the Seahawks, by trading Sherman, would be forcing themselves to not only replace one of their best players but also fill the existing void on the other side of the field. If they had ready made replacements on the roster, it would make more sense. They don’t, so would be taking a huge risk.

So while a trade seems unlikely, the concerning question right now is — how does this team really feel about Sherman? Is it simply a marriage of convenience? And what kind of dynamic can we expect in 2017, given the way 2016 ended?

In other news…

Luke Willson has re-signed with the Seahawks, agreeing a one-year deal worth up to $3m. Deshawn Shead has also reportedly agreed a one-year contract.

How does this impact the draft? It probably won’t at the cornerback position with Shead expected to miss considerable time in 2017. Re-signing Willson lessens the need to get a tight end contributor for this year. They still might draft one with both Willson and Jimmy Graham out of contract in 2018. It’s likewise not an immediate priority and it’s entirely possible Willson and Graham will agree extensions in the future.

There’s also talk today of Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement to play for the Raiders. Who knows if Lynch is serious about this? It seems like a lot needs to happen. He would need to un-retire and commit to a return. The Seahawks and Raiders would need to come to an agreement (or Seattle would need to release him). That won’t be easy because the Raiders are unlikely to be willing to pay much for a one-year rental. The Seahawks, likewise, are not inclined to help the Raiders and waive their right to compensation.

It seems farfetched but I’m sure we can all agree, the NFL is better with Beast Mode — even if he’s in Oakland.

Anyway, at least it provided Bruce Irvin the opportunity to post this fantastic Tweet:

The Seahawks are also meeting with receiver Kamar Aiken tomorrow. Ricky Jean-Francois and Arthur Brown are the latest defensive players to visit Seattle. Veteran depth on the D-line and at linebacker appears to be the target in this latest stage of free agency. Offensive tackle Ryan Clady also reportedly met with the Seahawks today.

UPDATE — Arthur Brown has agreed terms with the Seahawks.

Finally, I also made an appearance on a British-based NFL podcast yesterday. You can hear us talk Seahawks and the draft via this link (click the 16th March podcast).

Updated mock draft: March 16th

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Notes below, including a few thoughts on each round for the Seahawks.

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Chicago — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#4 Jacksonville — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#5 Cleveland (trade) — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#6 New York Jets — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#7 San Diego — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#8 Carolina — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#9 Cincinnati — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#10 Buffalo — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#11 New Orleans — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#12 Tennessee (trade) — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#13 Arizona — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#14 Philadelphia (via Min) — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#15 Indianapolis — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#16 Baltimore — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
#17 Washington — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#18 Tennessee — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#19 Tampa Bay — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
#20 Denver — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
#21 Detroit — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Miami — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
#23 New York Giants — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#24 Oakland — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
#25 Houston — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
#26 Seattle — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
#27 Kansas City — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
#28 Dallas — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
#29 Green Bay — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, LSU)
#30 Pittsburgh — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
#31 Atlanta — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
#32 New Orleans — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)

Seahawks trading down?

There’s possibly going to be a drop off in talent in the second round at around pick #50-55. The Seahawks pick at #58.

A year ago they moved down from #26 to #31 before trading up in round two (#56 to #49) to get Jarran Reed. Trading down in the first again this year could provide the ammunition (fourth round pick) to repeat the act.

With Kevin King off the board in this scenario (#24) they might be able to move down a few spots and still land Obi Melifonwu.

Trading up in round two? Who for?

It could be for one of the cornerbacks they really like. Cordrea Tankersley has size, length and speed. Let’s see if he can improve his broad and vertical jumps at the Clemson pro-day today.

They could look at T.J. Watt. His ability to play SAM and potentially the WILL could be appealing. He’d add another pass rush option as well. His agility testing at the combine almost certainly got Seattle’s attention. Tyus Bowser had a near-identical workout and could also be on their radar. Does either last to #58?

Wildcard options? How about Evan Engram (possibly out of range as a pick in the early 30’s) or Zay Jones?

Would they trade down in round two?

If there is a drop in talent in the pick #50-55 range, the Seahawks might trade out of round two (just as they did in 2011). The late second round is a bit rich for some of the linebackers in this draft. If they move down into the early third round, that could be the range to justify taking someone like Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel.

Who probably won’t be there for the Seahawks in round one?

Garett Bolles and Haason Reddick. They’re destined for the top-15.

Reddick is second only to Myles Garrett in this draft in terms of explosive, natural athleticism. Bolles is a beast at left tackle with the athletic qualities to go top-10. He sets the tone on offense. For example:

It’s also why his team mate (#54 Isaac Asiata) might appeal to the Seahawks. He plays with the exact same intensity.

What does this likely mean at #26?

Get a defensive back. It’s a DB-draft. There could be alternatives (Forrest Lamp for example) but this class is going to be defined by the cornerbacks and safety’s. They will go early and often. Every team is going to want a piece of this group.

There will be good options at linebacker and the O-line in rounds 2-3.

Notes on Obi Melifonwu

Melifonwu gets nitpicked more than a lot of other prospects probably because his physical profile is so exceptional. People expect to see a combination of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. When they don’t, an overreaction occurs.

Here’s a small sample of what he’s capable of. Watch him cover the slot receiver, recover and then break on the ball:

There aren’t many players in the league with this level of short-area quickness and recovery speed, with the explosive traits to make a play on the ball. There are even fewer players that possess this level of agility and quickness covering the middle of the field with Melifonwu’s size. So while you might be able to find that quick-twitch, nimble orthodox slot corner to make a play like this, they’re often 5-10 and 190lbs. Melifonwu is 6-4 and 230lbs. Why is that important? He’ll never be a mismatch vs tight ends and bigger receivers working inside.

The video below belittles the suggestion he plays without instinct and isn’t a good fit as an orthodox safety:

You can see him read the quarterback and flash the range to make a play on the ball. It’s a late throw by the QB admittedly. That said, he feels confident enough to attempt this pass because the safety is covering the middle. This is a throw to the left corner of the end zone. Look how much ground Melifonwu makes up to intercept the ball. That’s range defined.

Notice how in the two videos above he undercuts the route. That’s instinct. It’s football savvy. It’s knowing what you need to do to put yourself in position to make a play. Melifonwu’s athleticism will often get him to the ball — here’s the evidence he can take advantage when he gets there.

Here’s another example:

He’s reading this play and covering ground from centre-field. He might not be smashing people into next Tuesday like Kam Chancellor. Yet his combination of size and athleticism will enable him to make rangy plays all over the field.

Adding to this, here’s an interesting article on his play courtesy of PFF. They’re asserting he ranked ninth in run-stop percentage and seventeenth in tackling efficiency among CFB safeties last season.

It’s not a big surprise. Melifonwu doesn’t always deliver the highlight-reel hits but he’s an incredibly assured tackler. Again, his athleticism will often get him to a ball-carrier. The important thing is the finish. And he’s a finisher.

For a defense designed around not giving up the big play, creating pressure gradually and being bigger and faster than the opponent, he’s a good fit.

PFF’s comparison for Melifonwu in their piece is Kam Chancellor. That’s a little rich given the difference in their playing styles — but in terms of sheer physical potential, they kind of have a point:

This comparison is low-hanging fruit, but the reality is there just isn’t another existing player in the NFL who can play up to Melifonwu’s ceiling based on his size and athleticism. Chancellor’s role is one that many teams try to emulate and Melifonwu is one of the few capable of living up to that type of hype.

He isn’t going to be Kam. Nobody is. But he has the potential to be really, really good with the right guidance. There is a chance he could be tried at cornerback but his best fit is likely big nickel and strong safety. Essentially he’d provide depth behind Chancellor and the potential to take Jeremy Lane’s 71% of defensive snaps working the slot.

Melifonwu is set to visit the VMAC according to reports and the Seahawks are clearly doing their homework. The key to this fit isn’t likely to be his physical potential and tape. It’s the mental side of things. How does he fit in the locker room? Can he handle being part of a defense littered with alpha-males? We’ll never know how the Seahawks assess him in that regard. It’s probably the only hurdle he has to clear to secure a spot in round one.

Possible round-by-round options

This is a very tentative and most definitely incomplete list. It’s just a guide for now if you want to look at possible options.

In terms of what the Seahawks might look for specifically at linebacker and the O-line, I’d recommend reading these two articles:

Trying to crack Seattle’s linebacker code

TEF results 2017: What did we learn?

I’ve also discarded some positions (eg running back) in the early rounds. It seems unlikely they’d spend a high pick on a RB after adding Eddie Lacy this week.

R1 — (DB) Kevin King, Obi Melifonwu, Budda Baker, Justin Evans, Tre’Davious White

(Expectation — Garett Bolles, Haason Reddick, Marlon Humphrey and Gareon Conley are unavailable)

R2 — (LB/SAM) T.J. Watt, Tyus Bowser, Jordan Willis, Zach Cunningham, (DB) Cordrea Tankersley, Ahkello Witherspoon, Josh Jones, Quincy Wilson (OL) Taylor Moton (WR) Zay Jones (TE) Evan Engram, Bucky Hodges

R3 — (LB) Vince Biegel, Duke Riley, Anthony Walker Jr, Elijah Lee, Alex Anzalone (OL) Isaac Asiata, Nico Siragusa, Adam Bisnowaty (TE) George Kittle, Jonnu Smith, Marcus Maye (DB) Shaq Griffin, Rasul Douglas, Shalom Luani, Jadar Johnson, Rayshawn Jenkins, Delano Hill (WR) Robert Davis, Jehu Chesson, Malachi Dupre, Josh Reynolds

R6 — (DT) Carlos Watkins (LB) Ben Gedeon, Jordan Evans (DB) Marquez White, Treston Decoud, Brendan Langley (WR) DeAngelo Yancey (K) Zane Gonzalez

R7 — (RB) Chris Carson (WR) Quincy Adeboyojo (DB) Brian Allen, Montae Nicholson (DT) Josh Tupou, Rod Henderson

If you missed it earlier in the week, don’t forget to check out the Sea Hawkers podcast appearance. The draft talk starts 30 minutes in: