Archive for January, 2018

2018 Senior Bowl preview

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Here are the big name prospects who decided not to participate at the Senior Bowl this year:

HB Sony Michel
HB Nick Chubb
LB Lorenzo Carter
LB Rashaan Evans
LB Josey Jewell
OL Billy Price
QB Mason Rudolph
WR Anthony Miller
DT Maurice Hurst
WR Courtland Sutton
LB Skai Moore
OL Martinas Rankin
DE Duke Ejiofor
OL Frank Ragnow
DT Derrick Nnadi
LB Harold Landry
OL Braden Smith
CB Anthony Averett
DE Bradley Chubb

Mason Rudolph, Harold Landry, Anthony Miller and Frank Ragnow are nursing injuries. The Georgia and Alabama players finished their season several weeks after everyone else having qualified for the National Championship game. Bradley Chubb has very little to prove as a top-five pick and only stands to risk injury.

Billy Price opted against participating, as did Braden Smith. That’s slightly disappointing because both players had something to gain from being in Mobile. It’s indicative perhaps that both are hearing positive things about their draft stock. That wouldn’t be surprising. Price is a legit top-20 pick and Smith will gain a lot more attention when he destroys the combine.

To see who is attending, you can view both rosters by clicking here.

Here is the practise schedule (all times are CT):

Tuesday, January 23
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm (SOUTH)
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm (NORTH)

Wednesday, January 24
12:30 pm – 2:30 pm (NORTH)
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm (SOUTH)

Thursday, January 25
12:30 pm – 2:30 pm (NORTH)
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm (SOUTH)

Here are some of the players to monitor and why…

North roster

Jaleel Scott (WR, New Mexico State)
Best known as the receiver responsible for this catch, Scott reportedly has a 6-6 and 215lbs frame while showing the ability to compete for the ball in the air. Seattle could be in the day three market for receivers.

Kyzir White (S, West Virginia)
Seen by some as a possible big nickel, White has size (6-2, 218lbs) and has been touted as a possible high pick in a mediocre safety class. It’s difficult for safety’s to stand out in Mobile but he’s someone to watch in Saturday’s game.

Kalen Ballage (RB, Arizona State)
A good athlete with excellent bloodlines, Ballage is a fantastic character and comes across as a great guy. He has so much potential but ended up being lost amid a sea of mediocrity at Arizona State. He will use this draft season to regain some momentum.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (LB, Oklahoma)
He’s a difficult player to judge. At about 6-1 and 240lbs it’s hard to imagine him playing defensive end at the next level. And yet he’s such a talented pass rusher and does his best work in attack mode. Size could limit his stock but he’s good. Watch him in the DL vs OL drills.

Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford)
The first college game I watched in 2017 was Stanford’s trip to Australia. Bryce Love had a big day vs Rice but so did Phillips. He stood out. Henry Anderson went in round two after a great combine. Can Phillips move from likely top-100 pick into the round two range? If he’s capable — he’ll stand out in DL vs OL and come close to matching Anderson’s combine.

Brian O’Neill (T, Pittsburgh)
Listed in the middle of round one in Mel Kiper’s first mock draft, I watched some of O’Neill last week and wasn’t blown away. He looks a bit stiff, tall and reckless. He chose to declare early and is a former tight end. This will be a vital week if he’s going to live up to Kiper’s billing.

Tyrell Crosby (T, Oregon)
He looked a bit big and sloppy and his play was a bit mixed too. Watching him live, it was hard to judge his play against Washington as the game escalated out of control. As with the other O-liners, he has a great chance to impress in the pass rush/pass pro drills.

Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
He’s big, physical, strong and has some nuance to his technique. You wonder if he’s a bit stiff as an athlete though — he’s not Billy Price, Quenton Nelson or Isaiah Wynn on the move. Might be a straight ahead blocker. You know what the theme is here though. The O-line vs D-line drills are the most important part of the Senior Bowl.

Luke Falk (QB, Washington State)
He had a hit and miss season career. At times he looked like a possible second rounder, then he’d have a stretch of games where he’d look like a day three type. This will be a tough week for Falk given the upsetting situation at Washington State. He has to show adequate arm strength and can he look like an alpha leader within the group?

Durham Smythe (TE, Notre Dame)
I haven’t studied Smythe but noticed a few people talking about him in the comments section. Notre Dame traditionally does a good job developing TE’s and require their guys to do some blocking. Seattle might draft a TE at some point and whoever it is will need to block. Mike Gesicki (Penn State), Tyler Conklin (Central Michigan) and Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin) are also on the North roster.

B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)
Bit of a hidden gem and a possible mid round DT with value — Hill has an opportunity to grow his stock in Mobile. Especially since he’ll be competing against the likes of Will Hernandez 1v1.

Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State)
Once considered a possible high pick not so long ago, Lewis never really delivered on the promise. He had seven sacks in 2017 and 9.5 TFL’s but had to work as part of a rotation at DE. This is a nice opportunity for him in a setting made for pass rushers to impress.

South roster

Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
Once a big-time five star recruit pursued by many top teams, Blanding chose Virginia and never really reached the highs expected. He’s 6-2 and 210lbs and we’ll see if he can make some plays in the game.

Da’Shawn Hand (DT, Alabama)
If Blanding was once a highly recruited High School stud, Hand takes it a step further. He was the #1 recruit in the country. Yet at Alabama he always had a supporting role and flattered to deceive. He has the physical talent but needs to show it here.

Marcell Ateman (WR, Oklahoma State)
Another big receiver (6-4, 220lbs) who could have some appeal to the Seahawks later on. The receiver class looks better from round three onwards than it does in the early rounds. Ateman is one to watch.

James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State)
Ateman’s partner in crime, Washington is likely a top-40 pick. He’s compact with a similar frame to Golden Tate and is capable of making big plays downfield.

Shaquem Griffin (LB, UCF)
Shaquill’s brother and a much-admired playmaker for UCF. It’ll be interesting to see how the NFL coaches use him in Mobile. Is he rushing the passer, playing at linebacker, safety? Or a combination of all?

Rashaad Penny (RB, San Diego State)
With so many big name RB’s not attending, this is a big opportunity for Penny. He’s stout, returns kicks, has home-run hitting ability and he’s tough. Hopefully he gets some decent carries in the game. He has MVP potential for the game and could make a big impression.

M.J. Stewart (CB, North Carolina)
In a seriously underwhelming cornerback class, Stewart has the size and athleticism to boost his stock significantly here and at the combine.

Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
It felt like Haynes was at Ole Miss forever — but now he’ll turn pro and he’s an interesting prospect at about 6-2 and 230lbs. He was a playmaker, totting up TFL’s and impact plays for many years. One to watch and could be a valuable day-three option.

Daniel Carson (K, Auburn)
The only kicker with a chance of being drafted. He will get a chance in a camp somewhere. You don’t need me to tell you why he’s listed here. Has quite a big leg and scored a lot of points for the Tigers.

Uchenna Nwosu (LB, USC)
Not a million miles away from a Rashaan Evans type in terms of playing style. Reportedly there is some interest within the league in Nwosus’s forty time and a feeling it will make or break his stock.

Micah Kiser (LB, Virginia)
Kiser could generate some first/second round talk down the line. He’s in a similar position to Leighton Vander Esch in that regard. He’s 6-0 and 240lbs and looks the part. One to monitor. He could be a riser.

Dorian O’Donnell (LB, Clemson)
Certainly benefitted from Clemson’s all-star D-line and there are concerns about his modest size at the next level (6-1, 215-2220lbs). Seen by many as a WILL and might have to prove he can play the SAM in Mobile.

Isaiah Wynn (T, Georgia)
For me, one of the best prospects in the draft based on what he showed on tape. Wynn was a master at left tackle, controlling even the Alabama front seven in the Championship game. He will likely move inside to guard. This is a great setting for Wynn to push himself into a possible first round placing.

Ian Thomas (TE, Indiana)
Not the most versatile or interesting tight end, Thomas is a pure pass catcher and a big target. He’ll likely be a late round pick at best but it’ll be interesting to see if he can generate some buzz here and perform well at the combine. Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State) is also on the South roster but I think he’s a bit overrated.

Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
A monster in college and this is his big opportunity to cement a place in the top-15. His tape is great. He looks fast, powerful, dynamic and at times unstoppable. Now can he do it in this setting against his peers? Davenport vs Wynn will be box-office viewing.

Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
Compact defensive tackle who excelled at the Shrine game according to reports. Ford had eight TFL’s in 2017. He’s only 6-0 and 305lbs but that sometimes helps with leverage. Let’s see if he excels in the DL vs OL drills.

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Nike SPARQ data for the 2018 draft class

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

If you’re not familiar with SPARQ here’s a simple breakdown courtesy of Top End Sports:

SPARQ is an acronym for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness. The SPARQ Rating is a scoring system designed to measure sport-specific athleticism. The results from various tests in each of the areas of speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness are combined and weighted using a sport specific formula.

Every year Nike hold a SPARQ combine and the top high school athletes are invited to take part. If you know where to look there’s plenty of data involving many of the big names making up the 2018 draft class.

Even though their testing results could easily be different at the NFL combine — it’s still a useful benchmark for what we can expect in Indianapolis.

I had to search numerous websites for this info. Many prospects either didn’t participate or chose not to reveal their results. You’ll notice there’s no mention of Bradley Chubb, Vita Vea or Tremaine Edmunds.

Here are the SPARQ scores I did find:

Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas) — 145.65
Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia) — 143.91
Josh Sweat (EDGE, Florida State) — 140.01
Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama) — 130.41
Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia) — 129.75
Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) — 129.30
Derwin James (S, Florida State) — 124.35
Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon) — 121.17
Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State) — 116.79
Quin Blanding (S, Virginia) — 115.95
Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama) — 113.7
M.J. Stewart (CB, North Carolina) — 112.08
Jerome Baker (LB, Ohio State) — 106.35
Kevin Toliver (CB, LSU) — 99.03
Roquon Smith (LB, Georgia) — 97.20
Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA) — 96.90
Armani Watts (S, Texas A&M) — 96.51
Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama) — 92.70
Tavarus McFadden (CB, Florida State) — 91.86
Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame) — 85.20
Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama) — 84.00
Derrius Guice (RB, LSU) — 83.37
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech) — 73.17
Sam Darnold (QB, USC) — 71.25
Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State) — 70.14
Isaiah Wynn (T, Georgia) — 54.45

Running backs Damien Harris (126.93) and Bryce Love (122.43) didn’t declare. Bo Scarborough, Sony Michel and Braden Smith didn’t complete a full test to qualify for a score.

I’ve listed the testing information in full below. There’s some very interesting data. Here are some of the highlights:

— Malik Jefferson’s sensational 145.65 SPARQ score is mostly down to a 4.39 forty and a 40 inch vertical at 6-2, 215lbs. If he gets close to these marks at the combine, he’ll be one of the big winners.

— We’ve often discussed Nick Chubb’s incredible SPARQ performance. The key to his stock will be medical checks on his knee and whether he’s still capable of an elite workout. If he ticks both boxes he could easily be a high pick.

— Chubb’s Georgia team mate Sony Michel isn’t quite as explosive. He was reasonably quick with a 4.46 forty but he only managed a 30.5 inch vertical — that’s a 10.5 inch difference compared to Chubb’s attempt.

— Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James and Christian Kirk completed SPARQ tests in 2013 and 2014. The data I’d been using for Fitzpatrick and James was from 2013. They both significantly improved their scores the following year.

— Roquon Smith plays fast with great intensity but he only managed a 4.55 forty at 203lbs here. His SPARQ score of 97.20 is well below the likes of Lorenzo Carter, Rashaan Evans and Jerome Baker. It’s something to keep an eye on at the combine. He’s really good — but a mediocre combine would hamper his stock. Teams want speed at linebacker these days.

— Calvin Ridley is a very consistent receiver. Physically, however, he’s unspectacular. He isn’t big or particularly fast and at the SPARQ combine he ran a 4.54 at just 169lbs with a 32 inch vertical. It’s hard to get excited about Ridley.

— Quenton Nelson and Da’Ron Payne weighed a combined 650lbs at the SPARQ combine. They both scored higher than Derrius Guice.

— Braden Smith is known as an explosive, athletic freak at Auburn. He managed a 35.5 inch vertical at 285lbs. Providing he tests at the combine, he’s going to put on a show.

Full breakdown

Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 215lbs
Forty: 4.39
Short Shuttle: 4.19
Powerball: 42
Vertical: 40
SPARQ: 145.65

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 217lbs
Forty: 4.47
Short Shuttle: 4.12
Powerball: 43
Vertical: 41
SPARQ: 143.91

Josh Sweat (EDGE, Florida State)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 240lbs
Forty: 4.46
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 42
Vertical: 39
SPARQ: 140.01

Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama) (2014)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 194lbs
Forty: 4.51
Short Shuttle: 3.81
Powerball: 39.5
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 130.41

Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama) (2013)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 183lbs
Forty: 4.67
Short Shuttle: 4.05
Powerball: 34
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 106.26

Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 234lbs
Forty: 4.63
Short Shuttle: 4.32
Powerball: 41.5
Vertical: 40
SPARQ: 129.75

Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) (2014)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 191lbs
Forty: 4.47
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 41.5
Vertical: 39
SPARQ: 129.30

Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) (2013)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 185lbs
Forty: 4.49
Short Shuttle: 4.15
Powerball: 38
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 115.83

Derwin James (S, Florida State) (2014)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 200lbs
Forty: 4.50
Short Shuttle: 4.21
Powerball: 41
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 124.35

Derwin James (S, Florida State) (2013)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 197lbs
Forty: 4.52
Short Shuttle: 4.32
Powerball: 38
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 108.57

Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 227lbs
Forty: 4.58
Short Shuttle: 4.07
Powerball: 39
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 121.17

Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 208lbs
Forty: 4.63
Short Shuttle: 4.06
Powerball: 35
Vertical: 38
SPARQ: 116.79

Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 209lbs
Forty: 4.62
Short Shuttle: 4.18
Powerball: 38
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 115.95

Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 217lbs
Forty: 4.51
Short Shuttle: 4.27
Powerball: 33
Vertical: 38.4
SPARQ: 113.7

M.J. Stewart (CB, North Carolina)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 190lbs
Forty: 4.57
Short Shuttle: 4.00
Powerball: 36
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 112.08

Jerome Baker (LB, Ohio State)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 202lbs
Forty: 4.54
Short Shuttle: 4.09
Powerball: 35.5
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 106.35

Kevin Toliver (CB, LSU)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 193lbs
Forty: 4.61
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 32
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 99.03

Roquon Smith (LB, Georgia)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 203lbs
Forty: 4.55
Short Shuttle: 4.29
Powerball: 31
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 97.20

Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206lbs
Forty: 4.99
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 40
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 96.90

Armani Watts (S, Texas A&M)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 183lbs
Forty: 4.76
Short Shuttle: 4.07
Powerball: 33
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 96.51

Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 169lbs
Forty: 4.54
Short Shuttle: 4.15
Powerball: 32
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 92.70

Tavarus McFadden (CB, Florida State)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 198lbs
Forty: 4.60
Short Shuttle: 4.34
Powerball: 33.5
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 91.86

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 302lbs
Forty: 5.64
Short Shuttle: 4.81
Powerball: 42.5
Vertical: 24
SPARQ: 85.2

Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 348lbs
Forty: 5.24
Short Shuttle: 4.80
Powerball: 37.5
Vertical: 25
SPARQ: 84.0

Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 215lbs
Forty: 4.61
Short Shuttle: 4.66
Powerball: 35
Vertical: 30
SPARQ: 83.37

Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 339lbs
Forty: 5.35
Short Shuttle: 5.06
Powerball: 31.5
Vertical: 24
SPARQ: 73.17

Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 202lbs
Forty: 4.96
Short Shuttle: 4.47
Powerball: 35
Vertical: 27
SPARQ: 71.25

Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 299lbs
Forty: 5.53
Short Shuttle: 5.06
Powerball: 34
Vertical: 26
SPARQ: 70.14

Isaiah Wynn (T, Georgia)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 274lbs
Forty: 5.30
Short Shuttle: 5.06
Powerball: 32
Vertical: 27
SPARQ: 54.45

Bo Scarborough (RB, Alabama)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 215lbs
Forty: 4.59
Short Shuttle: 4.09
Powerball: DNP
Vertical: 31
SPARQ: Incomplete

Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 194lbs
Forty: 4.46
Short Shuttle: 4.22
Powerball: DNP
Vertical: 30.5
SPARQ: Incomplete

Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 285lbs
Forty: 5.12
Short Shuttle: 4.65
Powerball: DNP
Vertical: 35.5
SPARQ: Incomplete

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Looking at Daniel Jeremiah’s first mock draft

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Another day and another mock draft by one of the higher profile pundits on ESPN or the NFL Network. This time it’s Daniel Jeremiah’s turn. He has the Seahawks taking a cornerback at #18:

Isaiah Oliver (CB, Colorado)

Oliver has excellent size and speed. He can locate and play the ball down the field. The Seahawks are likely headed toward a rebuild in the secondary.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. The Seahawks aren’t taking a cornerback in round one. They have consistently waited until later in the draft to take CB’s. If there’s one position in football Pete Carroll is clearly very comfortable drafting to develop, it’s cornerback.

Even when they had an opportunity to draft Kevin King with his unique size, length and athleticism — they passed in favour of waiting until round three to get Shaq Griffin. Indeed Griffin — a late third round pick — is by far the highest pick they’ve spent on a corner since 2010.

Instead they’ve started 5th round picks, 6th round picks, free agents from the CFL and UDFA’s. This has never been a position Carroll has looked at early.

Jeremiah’s point on change in the secondary is accurate. And it’s true the defense is going to look very different going forward. An early pick on a DB is unlikely though, as illustrated here by Kenneth Arthur at Field Gulls. In fact you could argue they’ll probably never take one in the first round unless they end up picking in the top-10 and a Jalen Ramsey or Patrick Peterson are sat waiting for them.

As for Oliver, he’s not a player I’ve spent much time on personally. Here’s what an anonymous scout told Bob McGinn about his pro-prospects:

“He’s a solid third-round talent who may go earlier if he impresses or fools personnel staffs with his elite athleticism at the combine and pro day,” said one scout. “He does have make-up speed … average instincts and inconsistent reaction to short and intermediate routes … just average physicality in run support and as a tackler.”

Elite athleticism is very appealing to the Seahawks. Average physicality and mediocre run support is not.

It’d be unfair to criticise Jeremiah or Mel Kiper for their picks at #18 (Kiper also had Seattle taking a defensive back). They’re not Seahawks fans, they’re unlikely to have intimate knowledge of team needs or the philosophy Carroll uses to draft certain positions.

If anything they’re following the narrative to a tee. The Legion of Boom era might be over. Completely. And given how important the secondary was to Seattle over the years, repairing and rebuilding it will be seen by many as a likely course of action.

However, that is unlikely to be Seattle’s priority this off-season.

For starters, it’s at least somewhat possible that both Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas will remain with the team. If they re-sign Bradley McDougald, Justin Coleman and Byron Maxwell and continue to develop Shaq Griffin — that’s a useful looking secondary. None of this is improbable.

Secondly, they drafted a number of defensive backs a year ago. As well as Griffin they brought in Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson and Mike Tyson. It’s possible they will get an opportunity to stake a claim before the Seahawks write off their chances.

Thirdly, we’ve already heard Carroll speak directly about the need to repair the running game. It was the outstanding theme of his end of season press conference. Carroll’s arguably the best developer of DB’s in the NFL. Being able to field a strong secondary is within his grasp even if there’s major change coming. Fielding a strong running game has been an overwhelming problem ever since Marshawn Lynch left.

They simply haven’t been able to manufacture even an average running attack.

The crisis that occurred this year can’t be underestimated. Russell Wilson was the leading rusher, only one running back scored a touchdown and that was gadget player J.D. McKissic and they pretty much played with one arm tied behind their backs all season.

Carroll and co. will get this defense going again. Probably not to 2013 levels, maybe not 75% of what they once had. He’ll put a defense on the field though to compete. It’ll be younger, cheaper and feature new faces. Carroll’s a proven builder and will likely go about this the way he did in 2010-2011. It’s also entirely possible he’ll retain three elite players in Thomas, Sherman and Bobby Wagner.

The running game on the other hand is on its knees. The offensive line needs an overhaul in terms of the way it functions, with personnel changes possible too. The running backs are ineffective bar one man — a 7th rounder who spent most of 2017 on injured reserve.

They clearly want to be tough, physical, productive and punishing in the running game. And they’re so far away from that — this is the unit most likely to get attention.

Interestingly in Jeremiah’s mock, Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State) was still on the board at #18 and Isaiah Wynn (T/G, Georgia) went at #23 to the Rams. These are two of my favourite players in the class and it was reassuring to see Wynn listed that highly (more on him here). It’s extremely possible he works into the first round discussion. If the Seahawks had their second round pick available to get a running back, I’d be banging the table for Seattle to take Wynn with their first choice. He is a terrific player.

All of the running backs are on the board expect Saquon Barkley too. This projection shows quite clearly how beneficial it’d be for the Seahawks to move down and try to acquire multiple day two picks to try and repair their running game.

I also think the mocks by Jeremiah and Kiper prove how few legit first round prospects there are. There’s very little consensus aside from the very top of round one. By the time you get into the 20’s — there’s a lot of unexpected picks.

This isn’t a good cornerback class for example, yet both Kiper and Jeremiah are loading their first round with corners. Both include a tight end — yet neither player (Mark Andrews or Hayden Hurst) really warrants that type of placing (we might not see a TE drafted before the end of round two). Harrison Phillips — a likely top-100 type who could get into round two with a good workout — is also listed in round one.

This is a draft class that save for about 10 names is still really working itself out. There are about 18 places in round one up for grabs, with the Senior Bowl and Combine likely to determine who makes it. The strength of this class is not going to be in the second half of round one. The players going at 45 are not going to be that different than the players going at 20.

It’s good news if you’re hoping Seattle trades down. If there’s a big cliff at about pick #15-20 (and if the late first round is going to be a bit of a jumbled mess) — teams might be very interested in trading up to #18 to get at the last few remaining players they actually like in round one.

Here’s my own mock draft if you missed it earlier in the week (with the Seahawks trading down out of round one):

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#3 Indianapolis — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#5 Buffalo (via Den) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#6 New York Jets — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Chicago — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#10 Oakland — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
#11 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#12 Cincinnati — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#13 Washington — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#14 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#15 Arizona — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#16 Baltimore — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#17 LA Chargers — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#19 Dallas — Arden Key (DE, LSU)
#20 Detroit — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#21 Denver (via Buf) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#25 Tennessee — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#27 New Orleans — Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
#28 Pittsburgh — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#29 Jacksonville — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#30 Minnesota — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
#31 New England — Ben Banogu (EDGE, TCU)
#32 Philadelphia — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)

If it played out like this (with the Seahawks acquiring day two stock) — they’d have a good opportunity to address the running game (RB, OL) and/or add to the defense.

One final thought for today — if you can come out of this draft class having taken a couple of players from Georgia, you’ve done well. There’s a reason that team came agonisingly close to winning the playoffs despite starting a true Freshman quarterback. Wynn, Michel, Chubb, Carter, Wims and others. That was a loaded group.

If you missed the podcast I did this week with the UK Seahawkers, please have a listen:

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Mel Kiper’s first 2018 mock & thoughts on Derwin James

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Before we get into Mel’s mock, this week I was invited onto the Pedestrian Podcast (courtesy of the UK Seahawkers). Please check it out below and have a listen…

Mel Kiper published his first 2018 mock draft today, with the Seahawks taking Derwin James at #18:

“James is tough to figure out, but Seattle would be thrilled to get him here. He’s super talented and looked like a top-five pick as a freshman at Florida State in 2015, but he missed the entire 2016 season because of a knee injury. James had a solid 2017 season with 84 total tackles and two interceptions, but scouts wanted to see more. At his peak, though, James is a typical Seattle safety and fits what it looks for. Kam Chancellor’s future is up in the air after a neck injury, and the Seahawks could need a replacement.”

Regular visitors to the blog will know I’ve been saying James is a bit overrated — but I’m starting to think my view is part of the consensus. Kiper has him at #18, I had him at #21 in my mock draft. I think he’s going to go in the mid-to-late first.

My argument for him being overrated was based on projections of a top-10 slot, which are/were unrealistic. But I also think it’s important to work through some of the hype with James — one of the biggest names in the 2018 draft but not necessarily one of the absolute best prospects.

Physically he looks the part. I’d expect a good vertical jump at the combine and some nice explosive testing marks. I don’t think he’ll be the fastest or the most agile but he’s about 6-3 and 211lbs so that’s not a big surprise.

In the Nike SPARQ testing he had the following performance:

Height: 6-2
Weight: 202lbs
Forty: 4.52
Short shuttle: 4.27
Power throw: 40
Vertical: 37 inches
SPARQ: 113.34

It’s a reasonable workout for sure. Yet if you compare it to Lorenzo Carter’s at Georgia, there’s a bit of a difference:

Height: 6-5
Weight: 234lbs
Forty: 4.63
Short shuttle: 4.32
Power throw: 41.5
Vertical: 40 inches
SPARQ: 129.75

James is a box safety well suited to playing up at the line of scrimmage. He’s a sure tackler and occasionally delivers a big jarring hit. His run defense is extremely disciplined. Look at the play below and the patience he shows before shedding Damien Harris’ block and making the tackle:

He is capable of creating a fear factor on crossing routes and that’s one of the reasons he’ll be a first round pick. This is textbook — reads the play, classic form on the hit and makes it count:

Here’s another example of his tackling form. Anyone who’s watched Lamar Jackson will know how difficult he is to tackle in space. James executes his attempt perfectly:

Put him up against a bigger receiver and he can gain position and make a play on the ball:

These are some of the areas where he’s going to excel. If you want someone who can run and hit effectively as a box safety, James will provide some value.

Sadly, James just doesn’t make enough plays beyond the hits and tackles. It’s why Kiper starts his blurb with the line ‘James is hard to figure out‘. Brock Huard said the following about him today when assessing Mel’s pick for Seattle:

“Freak show. Five star, #1 recruit in America just a few years ago… There’s an unbelievable Youtube — when I did some Florida State games — of him in a weight room jumping some 50 inches on a pad. An adonis. You’re not supposed to be that dynamic at that size. So unique gifts and all that, kind of fits Pete’s eye and scouting eye. Not nearly the productivity. Where is all of it on the field? Let me see that come to life. Where is that play after play after play… you don’t see those two back each other up and that’s why he’s probably going to be a mid to late first rounder instead of some of the safety’s we saw last year taken in the top ten.”

We’re talking about a decently explosive athlete. Not the fastest, I wouldn’t expect a great forty time. But he’s explosive. And big. But still a box safety.

And unfortunately, you see moments like this:

He’s the last line of defense in the video above. He’s playing deep — and in that situation, he just has to do better.

How is he covering in the short game? This is where Minkah Fitzpatrick excels. In the video below, James is covering Florida’s Antonio Calloway in the slot:

You could say it’s a mismatch in coverage and any right minded quarterback will exploit that. If you’re taking a safety in the top-20, however, you want more than he’s showing here.

While he’s very good at the LOS, you also see some misses. Damien Harris in the video below takes him out of the play quite easily. If the hope is that James can be Kam Chancellor — with Kam’s limitations and strengths — well Kam never looked like this attacking a running back in pass-pro:

James is far from a bad player. He’s good and will likely will go in the first round. Is he a treasured blue-chip prospect in the same tier as Tremaine Edmunds, Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson and Bradley Chubb? No, not for me. And he might not be in the second tier either.

So what about his fit in Seattle?

With Kam Chancellor retiring, being able to land a dynamic strong safety with great size could be perfect timing. There are a couple of things that are important to remember though:

— In the Carroll era, the Seahawks have only drafted one defensive back in the first two rounds. It’s Earl Thomas, a future Hall of Famer. Carroll’s track record in Seattle is to draft DB’s later and coach them up. It’s a plan that has worked emphatically so far. It doesn’t mean they won’t take James in round one but history tells us they’d have to rate any safety or corner very, very highly to pull the trigger.

— How important is it for the Seahawks to invest their top pick in a strong safety? If Earl Thomas stays in Seattle they could re-sign Bradley McDougald and have a good pairing. Ultimately, what is best? Earl & McDougald plus the ability to use the first rounder on someone else? Or having Earl & Derwin James?

Ultimately it probably comes down to this — Carroll’s ability to coach up a safety versus the need to repair or manufacture a running game. In the last two years Seattle failed spectacularly to run the ball. They can’t make it a hat trick in 2018. And if they draft James at #18 — they won’t pick again until the second half of round four. That’s a significant wait to do anything about the offense.

Further notes on Mel’s mock

— Kiper has Josh Allen at #1 to Cleveland. I also mocked that in my projection. Not because I think Allen is the best QB in the class — there’s just too much noise at the moment suggesting John Dorsey (Browns GM) believes he is.

— Vita Vea drops to #19 in Mel’s mock. Maybe I’ll be wrong but I’m 99.9% certain he will not fall that far. Top ten prospect.

— Mel includes Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews, UCLA tackle Kolton Miller, USC defensive end Rasheem Green and UCF corner Mike Hughes in round one. I need to watch more of Green and Hughes — I’ve not studied them at all. I was surprised to see Andrews in round one (I’m not convinced he’ll go in round two, let alone the first) and Miller’s inclusion also raised an eyebrow. Perhaps most surprising though was Pittsburgh tackle Brian O’Neill at #16. I need to watch some of his tape.

— Kiper has Billy Price falling to the Panthers at #24. Interesting.

— He also only has one running back (Saquon Barkley). It’s worth noting that Kiper is Lord Commander of the ‘don’t draft RB’s early’ clan so it’s not too surprising. Still, it goes to show the options Seattle would have if they wanted to trade down significantly — possibly into round two. There wouldn’t just be good options at running back — but also on the O-line (Wynn, Ragnow) and defense (Carter, Vander Esch, Settle).

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Podcast: New coordinators, the draft & more

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

This week I was invited onto the Pedestrian Podcast (courtesy of the UK Seahawkers). We got into a number of different Seahawks topics over the course of 70 minutes. Please check it out below and have a listen. Later today I’ll write-up some thoughts on Mel Kiper’s first 2018 mock draft, published this morning.

Legit first round grades & an updated top-50

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

In a good class you might have 20 players graded in the first round.

I think it’ll be a lot less this year.

It’s still very early in the process and the Senior Bowl and combine will change things dramatically. We’ll come back to this list down the road and see how things have shifted. For now though, here are the players I think are worthy of first round grades:

Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)

11 players.

A lot of people will have Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James listed as legit first rounders. I think they are both a bit overrated. Roquan Smith seriously warrants consideration but he’s only 6-0 and 225lbs. Quarterback needy teams might have Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield listed.

For me though, these are the eleven I think are genuinely worth a first round grade.

Barkley, Nelson, Chubb, Darnold and Rosen will appear on many similar lists so I want to concentrate on the other six.

Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech) — he’s just an incredible talent. Edmunds can play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, LEO, he can rush. You can ask him to do so many jobs. He’ll appear from nowhere to blow up a screen or sweep, he’ll chase down the ball carrier and make a secure tackle in space, force turnovers with jarring hits and he’s always in control. He has great size (6-4, 235lbs) and length. Expect a great workout at the combine and a very, very high grade among scouts. For more on Tremaine Edmunds click here.

Vita Vea (DT, Washington) — there are plenty of mixed opinions on Vea but you have to watch him live to appreciate his talent. He’s 6-4 and 340lbs but he moves around the field with incredible mobility. You expect him to be powerful and capable of controlling the LOS with his size. He does that very well. Yet it’s his ability to play across the line, sprint to the ball carrier and move with unnatural ease that makes him one of those rare nose tackle prospects who go early in the draft. He could be Haloti Ngata.

Billy Price (C, Ohio State) — Price is pretty much the complete package. He plays the way you want your offensive linemen to play — with great intensity and a nasty edge. He sets the tone up front. He combines athleticism and power with strength and physical toughness. He plays like a third Pouncey brother. Urban Meyer absolutely raves about him, crediting Price with a stirring motivational speech to kick start Ohio State’s season after their big loss at Iowa. Plus he’s smart, intelligent and knows what he wants in life. He used the 2017 season to set himself a challenge of becoming a first round pick. He will go early.

Ronald Jones II (RB, USC) — he only received a second round grade from the draft committee but personally I think he’s special. The comparisons to Jamaal Charles are legit — absolutely legit. So how can I not name him here? He dodges tackles and cuts his way through traffic like a slalom skier. He has the burst, suddenness and acceleration to explode to the second level and capitalise on an opening. Most of all though, he finishes every single run. He’s tough. He’ll need to show he can pass protect but he has star quality. For more on Ronald Jones II click here.

Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech) — it’s surprising to see Settle receive so little hype, especially after he declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore. You don’t see many players do that, especially not 6-3, 328lbs defensive tackles. There’s a reason though. Settle has the size to play nose but the quickness, get-off and pass rush ability to be so much more. He had 12.5 TFL’s in 2017. That’s incredible for a 328lber. In comparison, Vita Vea had 5.5 TFL’s and Da’Ron Payne 1.0. The scary thing is he could stand to lose a little weight and be even better. For more on Tim Settle click here.

Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA) — watching his tape he looks special. At first you wonder about the competition level and then you see him do it to every opponent and you have to buy in. He’s about 6-5 or 6-6 and around 254lbs. At times you feel like you’re watching DeMarcus Ware. He has a violent bull rush, he explodes off the edge and dominates the tackle. He can hold off offensive linemen with one arm and he has the quickness to win with speed. He’ll chase down a ball carrier and finish consistently. He has a big opportunity to impress at the Senior Bowl and prove the hype is warranted. If he succeeds — he could be a top-15 lock. For more on Marcus Davenport click here.

This list could grow. At the moment this is how I see things. It looks like a draft where there will be around 10-15 legit first round grades. That’s my current estimate. There might be better value in round two than in the second half of round one.

Seeing as a number of high profile prospects have chosen not to declare for the draft (Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, Damien Harris, Bryce Love) I thought I’d also update my top-50:

Quarterbacks (5)

Sam Darnold (USC)
Josh Rosen (UCLA)
Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
Josh Allen (Wyoming)

It’s possible all five could go in the first round.

Running backs (8)

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Ronald Jones II (USC)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Sony Michel (Georgia)
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)

The group takes a hit with Damien Harris and Bryce Love opting not to turn pro. Still, this is a strong looking list with 3-4 potential stars.

Wide receiver (5)

Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
Courtland Sutton (SMU)
James Washington (Oklahoma State)
Anthony Miller (Memphis)
D.J. Moore (Maryland)

The depth at receiver is better than the early round talent. Ridley isn’t particularly big or fast but he gets open and he’s consistent. Sutton is a big bodied Alshon Jeffrey type. Washington could go in the 20-40 range.

Tight end (0)

As things stand, there’s a chance we won’t see a tight end go in the first two rounds of the draft. It’s almost certain there won’t be a first round tight end.

Offensive line (9)

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State)
Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
Coleman Shelton (C, Washington)

It’s a decent crop of interior linemen but a weak looking tackle class. Nelson could go in the top-10 and Price isn’t far behind. Brown and McGlinchey are expected to be first round tackles. The rest could go in the late first or second round.

Defensive line (10)

Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
Arden Key (DE, LSU)
Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE, Oklahoma)

Clelin Ferrell could’ve been a top five pick. The Clemson trio staying in school is big news. There’s still a bit of everything here — speed, power, length, size.

Linebacker (7)

Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech)
Roquan Smith (Georgia)
Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State)
Rashaan Evans (Alabama)
Lorenzo Carter (Georgia)
Keishawn Bierria (Washington)
Harold Landry (Boston College)

Edmunds is the outstanding linebacker prospect. Smith, Vander Esch, Evans and Carter are capable of going in the first frame.

Cornerback (3)

Denzel Ward (Ohio State)
Joshua Jackson (Iowa)
Anthony Averett (Alabama)

It’s not a good looking cornerback class. Iowa’s Joshua Jackson has major production this year with eight interceptions and a pair of touchdowns. He could sneak into the first round. Some think Ohio State’s Denzel Ward is the best corner in the draft and he’s expected to have a great combine. Averett is sparky and could be a useful slot corner.

Safety (3)

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
Derwin James (Florida State)
Ronnie Harrison (Alabama)

The safety’s are a bit overrated but Fitzpatrick is likely a top-15 pick, James could go between 15-30 and Ronnie Harrison could be a second rounder.

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New mock draft & the benefit of trading down

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Could the Seahawks move down and address two key needs?

Trade down or stay put.

We’ll be having this discussion a lot over the next three months.

Here are the two arguments:

1. Stay put

The Seahawks haven’t picked in the top-20 for six years. The intention should be to make this a rare one-off. Do they need to make the most of this opportunity? The last three players taken at #18 were Adoree’ Jackson, Ryan Kelly and Marcus Peters. This has been a sweet spot in the draft in recent years.

2. Trade down

With no picks in rounds two or three, the Seahawks are currently set to pick just once before day three. Without a massive amount of cap space, the draft is Seattle’s best opportunity to address several needs. There will be good depth on day two. They might be able to get two or even three players by moving down instead of just one.

Weighing up the options

There are cases to be made for both scenarios.

If the Seahawks had their second and third round picks, it’s a no-brainer. Play the draft board at #18 as you see fit. You’ll still have a chance to get two more good players.

Unfortunately they don’t have those picks — so they have to consider the bigger picture.

It doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t just take BPA at #18. It’s still possible. The problem is — with the likes of Clelin Ferrell and Drew Lock opting to stay at Clemson and Missouri respectively, the chances of a top player dropping to #18 are slimmer.

Tremaine Edmunds isn’t going to last to #18. He’s too good. Billy Price? Possible. Good interior linemen have lasted into that range before. Quenton Nelson will go in the top ten and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts Price. If he falls to #18 they might have to consider taking him.

Why would trading down be attractive?

This draft class is particularly deep in three need areas:

1. Running back

2. Interior O-line

3. Defensive front seven

By trading down, you might be able to address two of these needs before the end of day two.

Let’s focus on the running game for a moment. Among our top-50 draft eligible players, here are the names included on the O-line and at running back:

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State)
Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
Coleman Shelton (C, Washington)

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Ronald Jones II (USC)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
Sony Michel (Georgia)

(Bryce Love and Damien Harris aren’t included after they opted not to turn pro)

The names in bold, plus Derrius Guice, could be available in rounds 2-3.

So you’re faced with a situation. Let’s say Billy Price lasts to #18. You take him but miss out on the best players in this excellent running back class. Is that better than being able to get a pairing of Ronald Jones II and Frank Ragnow or Isaiah Wynn and Nick Chubb?

Here’s a mock draft that looks at a trade down scenario:

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
There have been reports that John Dorsey is a big fan of Allen’s. If the Browns make a deal for a veteran (eg Alex Smith) they might sit Allen for a year.

#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
This could be either Darnold or Rosen but with Pat Shurmur expected to be the new Head Coach, Darnold’s mobility could give him the edge.

#3 Indianapolis — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Barkley deserves to go this early. He could be the highest graded player to enter the league since, funnily enough, Andrew Luck.

#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
The Browns pair Chubb with Myles Garrett to create a fearsome pass-rushing double act.

#5 Buffalo (via Denver) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Armed with the #21 and #22 picks, the Bills trade ahead of their divisional rivals in New York to get Rosen.

#6 New York Jets — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
With three quarterbacks off the board already, Mike Maccagnan falls back on taking the best player available.

#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Someone will take Vea early. He’s too big, too quick for his size and too powerful. He has a shot to be Haloti Ngata.

#8 Chicago — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
If they use free agency to improve at the receiver position, this will allow the Bears to take a top defensive prospect here.

#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
Quite frankly a sensational prospect worthy of a place in the top-10. He can play inside linebacker, SAM, EDGE, LEO. An incredible talent and clearly one of the ten best players in this draft class.

#10 Oakland — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Enormous prospect with NFL bloodlines and could solve a problem for the Raiders at right tackle.

#11 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Teams will love Price. His attitude, his physicality, his versatility. He’s a third Pouncey brother. A top end talent in this draft.

#12 Cincinnati — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
Fitzpatrick is a bit overrated and it’ll be quite the thing if he goes earlier than Earl Thomas, Keanu Neal and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

#13 Washington — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
The Redskins cling on to Kirk Cousins for another year and take the best defensive player on their board.

#14 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Underrated player who managed 12.5 TFL’s at 330lbs. That’s relatively unheard of and considerably more than Vita Vea (5.5) and Da’Ron Payne (1.0).

#15 Arizona — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
The tackle position has become a big problem for the Cardinals. McGlinchey is finesse but one of the best options in a weak OT class.

#16 Baltimore — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
Not an exciting player. Lacks size and not the most sudden. His interviews are a bit weird. He is consistent though and Baltimore loves ‘Bama.

#17 LA Chargers — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
The Chargers are reportedly looking to develop a player to be the heir apparent to Philip Rivers. Mayfield could be their guy. Rightly or wrongly, might last due to his height.

#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
John Dorsey trades up to secure the best cornerback in the draft.

#19 Dallas — Arden Key (DE, LSU)
Jerry Jones loves a splash and isn’t afraid to take a risk. Key has talent but will he ever put it together?

#20 Detroit — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
Matt Patricia begins his stint as Head Coach by drafting an on-field leader.

#21 Denver (via Buf) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
The Broncos fill a big need here. Like Fitzpatrick, James is a little overrated. He looks the part and tackles well but he’s a box safety. More Eric Reid than Eric Berry.

#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
The Broncos draft a quarterback capable of delivering some excitement back to Denver.

#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
He’s not physical enough to play DE so he has to go to the right scheme. Wade Phillips’ defense is a good fit.

#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
Bryan could be used as an inside/out pass rusher for the Panthers. He has major upside.

#25 Tennessee — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
Despite drafting Adoree’ Jackson a year ago, the Titans still need more in their secondary. Jackson’s combine will determine if he goes this early.

#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Hurst can rush the passer from the interior and these types of players always have value.

#27 New Orleans — Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
Carter has explosive qualities and finds a way to impact games. Capable of playing SAM/LEO or OLB.

#28 Pittsburgh — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Payne just looks like an ideal fit for the AFC North. Arguably the best run defender in the draft.

#29 Jacksonville — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
If they lose Allen Robinson they might look for a big receiver to replace him on the outside.

#30 Minnesota — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Nnadi played better in 2016 but he’s still a disruptive nose capable of providing some pass rush.

#31 New England — Ben Banogu (DE, TCU)
He just feels like the type of unheralded defensive prospect the Patriots take in the late first round.

#32 Philadelphia — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
Evans doesn’t just tackle and hit, he hammers people. The combine will be big for his stock.

Trade breakdown

— Buffalo trades #21 & #22 to Denver for #5 and a sixth round pick

— Cleveland trades #33, #63 and a fifth rounder to Seattle for #18

Trade notes

It feels like the Bills are setting up for a big move. With the #21 and #22 picks, they have the stock needed to climb into the top-10.

The Browns have two first round picks and three second round picks currently. Trading back into the top-20 would give them three top-tier picks and an opportunity to pick again at #35.

John Schneider and John Dorsey know each other very well, so it’s plausible they could work together on a trade.

So what would the Seahawks do if they did end up with #33 and #63?

Simple — repair the running game or take one player for each side of the ball.

For example, if Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter lasted into round two — could he be an option to fill the Bruce Irvin role at SAM/LEO? Would they have any interest in Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo? The Senior Bowl and combine will reveal more about possible defensive options.

If they wanted to focus on offense, they could go running back and O-line. That could mean considering Georgia’s brilliant Isaiah Wynn to play guard with their first pick and then assessing the running back options at #63. Would Nick Chubb, Rashaad Penny or Royce Freeman be there in the late second? Possibly.

In 2016 they used a fourth round pick to move up seven spots to select Jarran Reed. A similar deal in this scenario could secure the running back they want. If the Browns give Seattle their fifth round pick as part of a trade, that could also be used.

Alternatively they could take a running back at #33. In this scenario Ronald Jones II, Kerryon Johnson, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Derrius Guice and others are available. They might even move down again, as they did a year ago before selecting Malik McDowell.

With a running back secured, they can wait to see which interior offensive linemen are left at the end of round two. Frank Ragnow (Arkansas), Braden Smith (Auburn), Will Hernandez (UTEP) or Coleman Shelton (Washington) could be options.

The late second could be another trade-down spot — and that could bring receiver, tight end and several defensive positions into play too.

When you look at it like this, trading down is a reasonable option. You’re moving into the heart of the value zone for Seattle’s key positions of need. And you’re giving yourself a chance to acquire more picks to help repair the running game and aid the transition to a younger (and cheaper) defense.

Mock draft in full

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#3 Indianapolis — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#5 Buffalo (via Den) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#6 New York Jets — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Chicago — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#10 Oakland — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
#11 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#12 Cincinnati — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#13 Washington — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#14 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#15 Arizona — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#16 Baltimore — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#17 LA Chargers — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#19 Dallas — Arden Key (DE, LSU)
#20 Detroit — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#21 Denver (via Buf) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#25 Tennessee — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#27 New Orleans — Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
#28 Pittsburgh — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#29 Jacksonville — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#30 Minnesota — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
#31 New England — Ben Banogu (EDGE, TCU)
#32 Philadelphia — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)

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Ken Norton Jr, Mike Solari returning to the Seahawks

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Mike Garafolo also reports Norton Jr has an out in his recently signed contract with the 49ers to move to Seattle. The report is backed up by Alex Rozier who claims it’s a three-year contract.

The length of the deal suggests Pete Carroll isn’t thinking of quitting any time soon.

It became apparent Seattle was moving on from Kris Richard when they tried to lure Gus Bradley from the Chargers. Did they expect to land Bradley? Have they been seeking an alternative since?

Expect to see a lot of statistics highlighting how bad Norton Jr’s Oakland defense was. Some key points need to be highlighted here:

— Jack Del Rio pretty much ran Oakland’s defense. Pete Carroll might do the same in Seattle and he’s going to be better at it.

— Oakland had Khalil Mack but they didn’t have Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas.

— Norton Jr is a great motivator and commanded great respect from Seattle’s alpha dog defense before he left for Oakland.

Bucky Brooks made this observation on the hire:

I’m not sure it’s quite as negative as this. Brooks implies Carroll wants a yes man. That’s one way of looking at it. The Brian Schottenheimer hire also plays to this dynamic. Rex Ryan highlighted Schottenheimer’s loyalty to the Head Coach during an interview on Brock and Salk this morning. Ryan told this story during the piece:

“One day, we were playing the Detroit Lions and I told these guys, ‘Look, we are going to run the ball 40 times tomorrow,’ because I thought in my heart that was the best way to beat them. We’re just going to pound them. So, sure enough, we’re doing it, they got (Ndamukong) Suh, they got all these other guys, and we’re running the ball. Well, all of the sudden, they’re putting eight, nine guys down there and we can’t run it. Yet, Brian is so loyal to the head coach, that by God, we’re getting beat 20 to nothing and we keep running it. I finally went over and said, ‘Guys,’ I’m looking at Schotty, I said, ‘Schotty, we’re down 20,’ and he said, ‘Yeah but Rex, we’ve got to get those 40 carries.’ I go alright, forget it. I call the offense over and Brian said, ‘I think we can throw it on them,’ and I said, ‘Well, you guys want to win the game, I know I told you we were going to run it 40 times. Would you rather win the game or run it 40 times?’ I said alright, let’s just light them up. And that’s exactly what Brian did, he flipped the switch, we went no-huddle, ended up forcing overtime and winning.”

That’s pretty striking evidence that Schottenheimer will do pretty much whatever Carroll asks.

However, I’m not ready to assume Carroll is an overlord demanding everyone ‘respect his authoritah’. It could be that he wants to be more hands on. It’s possible he simply believes his message has been lost over the last two or three years — or that he’s relinquished too much control.

He wants to run the ball as a point of emphasis, so he appears set to name an offensive coordinator committed to doing so. He possibly wants more control of the defense. In the past maybe it was Bradley, Richard or Dan Quinn leading the way on game day, with Carroll acting as the motivational source? Perhaps the roles are flipping, with Carroll now in charge and Norton Jr doing what he does best?

One other thing to consider:

The two coordinator hires are not flashy. They aren’t new or bold or different. The Seahawks haven’t gone after big names to do things differently. This really is Pete Carroll going back to his roots. This is an attempt to play the way he wants to. We’ll see if Norton Jr and Schottenheimer help make that happen.

Meanwhile…

Here’s your Tom Cable replacement. Solari was Seattle’s O-line coach between 2008-09, spent four years as San Francisco’s O-line coach between 2010-14 and most recently spent two years coaching the Giants’ O-line.

In 2009 I wrote a piece for Bleacher Report looking at Solari’s version of the zone blocking scheme. Here are some notes:

Offensive line coach Mike Solari has predominantly favoured a slightly different variation. It could be described as a “power ZBS” in that the guards are usually bigger and do most of the heavy work load.

Unlike Knapp’s ZBS, they are the primary movers with the center more likely to progress to the second level and attack linebackers due to directional drive blocking.

The advantage of Solari’s system is that if a defense goes run blitz, the linebackers can be driven out of the play creating huge gaps.

It’s possible the Seahawks could combine the two. Looking at the current roster, the potential is certainly there to be flexible.

Guards Mike Wahle and Rob Sims are athletic enough to fill Knapp’s ZBS. Wahle in particular has good technique and should be able to execute well as a starting left guard. Neither are the big power types that would usually be used in Solari’s scheme.

Mansfield Wrotto, however, stands at 320lbs—the perfect kind of weight to fit the power ZBS. He’s also a good athlete, so he could excel in this system. The downside is he’s still a little raw even approaching his third year in the league. The mental side of the Solari version is less demanding which could help Wrotto get on the field.

The center position is a point of contention. Chris Spencer has the freaky athleticism and solid strength which would make a good fit at guard in either system. His issue has always been execution and technique, which would be a problem at center in either scenario.

Recently drafted Max Unger is a little more predictable. He is an obvious guard in Knapp’s ZBS background and a center in Solari’s. I have to believe the Seahawks won’t be willing to flex between the two at center, but they may have to in certain circumstances.

Expect the power ZBS in 2017.

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Report: Brian Schottenheimer is Seattle’s off-coordinator

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

After this tweet from Adam Schefter, Ian Rapoport added that Pete Carroll had called Schottenheimer to offer him the job. The Seahawks have selected their replacement for Darrell Bevell.

The initial reaction from a lot of fans isn’t positive. It feels a little bit like 2018’s version of Darrell Bevell. A coach who is available and seemingly not that in-demand. In 2011 the Seahawks were linked to Josh McDaniels before going with Bevell. This has a similar feel.

His track record is mixed. The Rams offense ranked 21st, 22nd and 25th in DVOA during his tenure in St. Louis. When he was with the Jets they ranked between 12th and 22nd. On the other hand, the quarterbacks he had to work with were essentially Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez and whoever was the backup to an injured Sam Bradford.

Schottenheimer has never had an opportunity to work with a player like Russell Wilson before. It’s often said players make coaches. This is his opportunity to prove the numbers above are a product of mediocre tools not a suspect workman.

There are some positives to mention. In 2009 the Jets had the top ranked running attack in the NFL (albeit paired with the 31st passing offense). Seattle’s big priority is to get the running game fixed. At the very least, he’s had some success in that department.

Schottenheimer is also fresh off a stint working with Jacoby Brissett in Indianapolis. Considering they traded for him as the season was about to begin, a 3,098 yard effort with 13 touchdowns and seven picks was respectable. It was a bad year for the Colts but nobody was pointing the finger at Brissett.

You can’t blame fans for feeling a little bit underwhelmed though. When Bevell and Cable were fired we talked about a desire to see one coach brought in to control the whole offense (no more passing/running coordinators), being afforded an opportunity to hire his own staff and have a major say in how they were going to attack opponents.

Schottenheimer might be provided that opportunity. However, this feels like a further reminder that this is very much the Pete Carroll show.

His offense.

His identity.

His way of doing things.

They haven’t gone out and landed a big name, an ex-Head Coach or a young stud potentially to groom as the heir apparent. Someone who might need convincing to take the job with the promise of newfound power or control.

It seems like they’ve gone and got someone who will likely facilitate Carroll’s wishes and desires for his offense. Run the ball, old school style. If it works, great. But it has to work now.

They’ve tried for two years to get back to what they want to be. John Schneider explicitly stated their desire to become the ‘bully’ again before the 2016 season. Pete Carroll talked about getting the running game going again a year ago. Neither happened.

They have to be open to scheme tweaks, personnel changes and doing things differently. That has to include considering a switch in the way the O-line operates and how they try to run the football.

There is some encouraging news on this — Schottenheimer isn’t another west coast coach. In fact in the past his system has been accused of being overly complex. So it could indicate a change in tact.

While this job will be highly attractive because it’s an opportunity to work with an extremely talented quarterback — there’s also a lot of pressure. The Seahawks can ill-afford another calamitous season of offense were they spend 16 weeks scratching around trying to be something they aren’t anymore.

The inspiring appointments don’t always work out. Philadelphia Eagles fans were probably stoked when the innovative Chip Kelly was appointed as Head Coach. The much less hyped Doug Pederson is the one that has guided them to the #1 seed in the NFC.

People will undoubtedly give Schottenheimer a chance. There’s no other choice. But with the Rams and 49ers fielding increasingly potent offenses, the Seahawks need a counter punch. Especially if the defense is going to be in transition.

Schottenheimer faces a big task to make that happen.

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Appearace on KJR with Softy

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Have a listen below. I was invited onto Softy’s show on KJR to talk about the Seahawks in London, the coaching changes and the draft. Check it out: