Archive for May, 2018

Breaking down the draft class: Poona Ford

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Seattle’s Super Bowl team wasn’t built on first round picks. They were a bunch of disrespected and under-appreciated players with a point to prove.

The early picks played their part, especially Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Bruce Irvin. But the Seahawks succeeded because they found star players in unlikely areas. A franchise quarterback in round three, a lockdown corner in round five, a #1 receiver as an undrafted free agent, a legendary running back on the scrap heap in Buffalo.

Many of those players had clear talent. They simply didn’t fit in with conventional NFL wisdom. They were too short, too big, too slow, too difficult. The Seahawks gave them a chance to show they could excel anyway.

Poona Ford is in exactly the same situation.

I don’t often do write-ups on undrafted free agents. The Seahawks signed a bunch immediately after the draft. Two of the most talked about signings were Ka’Raun White and Taj Williams, two receivers. Both were cut almost immediately.

A draft pick will get a little more leeway.

In Ford’s case though, I wanted to put something together. I’ve already written about Shaquem Griffin here and it’s going to be hard to assess Michael Dickson and Tre Flowers. I’m no expert on punting and Flowers played safety for Oklahoma State. It’s hard enough to judge safeties using TV copy tape. It’s even harder to judge a cornerback convert.

So for that reason I thought I’d write about Ford — a player we often projected to the Seahawks in our seven round mocks.

Perhaps more than any of Seattle’s undrafted free agents, it feels like he has two things working for him:

1. A familiar burning desire to prove a point and a major chip on his shoulder

2. A worthwhile skill set, undersold by a lack of conventional size

Russell Wilson was too short. Richard Sherman too tall and slow. Kam Chancellor needed to convert to linebacker.

Players with something to offer — they just didn’t match a consensus positional ideal within the league.

For Ford, it’s his height.

You don’t see many 5-11 defensive tackles in college or the NFL. We’re seeing increasingly bigger, faster and more athletic interior linemen.

Ford can play. He didn’t suffer due to a lack of attention. He played for Texas. It’s just unusual to look at a 5-11 defensive tackle. The NFL isn’t looking for that.

Where does he fit in?

Is he a possible three technique or is he mainly a space-eating one tech? Does he have the necessary sand in his pants (303lbs) if you want him to play the nose?

The thing is, there is a lot to work with. And Ford has an unusual attribute that might make teams really regret their decision not to take a flyer on him in the later rounds.

Yes — Ford is 5-11. However, he does have 33 inch arms and a +80 inch wingspan. That isn’t normal. He has longer arms than Vita Vea and Taven Bryan. They’re 6-4 and 6-5 respectively.

In an interior battle, this is a fantastic weapon.

Ford’s height actually becomes something of a positive. Because he isn’t 6-4, offensive linemen are going to find it hard to win with leverage. There isn’t the big target to punch and jolt. You’ll struggle to get into his pads. The lower man usually wins in the trenches and Ford, by his nature, will often be the lower man.

The problem for shorter DT’s (at least the ones without the quickness of Aaron Donald or the explosive qualities of Sheldon Rankins) is they can often be overpowered. This is especially difficult if they have short arms. Even if you’re the lower man — if the other guy can keep you off his frame easily, you’re not going to win many battles.

Ford’s length and height will mean he’s not only able to win with leverage — he also has the length to hand-fight and combat guards/centers.

He’s not the most explosive tester or the quickest. That will be the challenge. At the next level can he still do all of the things we saw at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl?

At the very least he has a shot.

Case in point — watch him vs Will Hernandez (drafted #34 overall):

Hernandez has 32 inch arms. You can clearly see Ford engage, swim and get off the block. This snap highlights Hernandez’s occasional laboured footwork and he can’t recover. Ford wins, he’s into the backfield and absolutely nails the quarterback.

If he can win like this against Hernandez, a player the New York Giants liked enough to take with the second pick in round two, he has a chance to stick in the league.

Leverage really matters and this is going to be Ford’s calling card. His height and length make him a really unique player. Here’s another snap from the Senior Bowl. Look at the way he gets into the pads of the O-liner and just drives him deep into the backfield:

Can he counter? Yes he can:

Here’s another angle. It’s against Bradley Bozeman, the Alabama center:

When you see a snap like that, it’s hard to imagine how he went undrafted. Ford had a great Senior Bowl week:

And it merely followed up a stand-out performance at the Shrine Game:

Here’s what Tony Pauline noted about Ford at the Shrine Game:

Ford was not as dominant as Senat yet was pretty darn good. He was probably quicker off the snap, played with better leverage and displayed a wider variety of moves. He was impossible to stop and even hammered bigger opponents such as Cody O’Connell of Washington State on occasion. Ford has size and scheme limitations but will be playing on Sundays next year, which is pretty amazing considering he wasn’t even graded by scouts entering the season.

The size (height) and scheme issue is why he went undrafted. He isn’t going to be a five technique, he might not be able to anchor your run defense. He’s probably out for the 3-4 teams. You’re going to need him to be able to rush the passer at his size.

This isn’t a talent issue. It’s a conventional wisdom issue. One that might prevent him from having a successful pro career. But he offers a lot — he might just need an opportunity.

Here’s further evidence of his first-step quickness and then power/leverage to drive his blocker into the backfield:

It’s very hard to understand why someone didn’t give him a shot on day three.

And then there’s the chip on his shoulder. Why wasn’t he invited to the combine? The fact he went undrafted probably justifies the call. He saw the positive in the situation:

“I’m used to being at a disadvantage… I’m a strong person, and I use that to my advantage. God don’t give his biggest battles to the weakest person.”

His coach, Tom Herman, was a little more irked about it:

“Why Poona Ford wasn’t invited to the combine, I’ll never know”

Mike Mayock agreed:

“Here’s what I think about Poona Ford… A, he should have been invited to the combine. The Big 12 defensive lineman of the year, productive, tough. I think what’s happening is that so many juniors are coming out this year, they’re holding spots for juniors and kicking some of the seniors out. But there’s no doubt he should have been invited to the combine.

“You get drafted at one area if you’re a run-only defender, and you get drafted earlier if you can affect the pass game… I think that’s what people have to figure out about him.”

Herman also raved about Ford during an interview with Brock & Salk on 710 ESPN.

“He’s a captain. He’s going to be a 10-year starter in that league. I’ve been doing this a long time… there’s three defensive tackles in my 20-years of coaching that I’ve seen that I would say have elite, elite, elite work ethic, determination, drive — play after play after play. That would be Casey Hampton way back when I was a graduate assistant in 1999… the second one would be Ed Oliver who had the opportunity to coach for a year at the University of Houston… and then Poona Ford. He’s on that list. He’s explosive, he’s powerful, he’s so strong. To me he’s the perfect nose guard.”

The Seahawks have done it several times in the Pete Carroll era. Taking a chance on an underrated player due to his size? So Seahawky.

Poona Ford has a chance to make it. We’ll see if he can be Seattle’s next great find.

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!

Why you should ignore Seattle’s draft grades

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Pete Carroll speaks to Shaquem Griffin, part of a draft class that deserves more credit

Not everyone has been overly positive about Seattle’s 2018 draft…

Mel Kiper — C+

“I could practically hear the Seattle fans in Dallas wondering why the Seahawks waited so long to address the O-line.”

Andy Benoit — C

“Drafting a running back is an odd way to kick off your massive rebuilding project on defense.”

Chad Reuter — C

“No corners or receivers selected puts Seattle in a hole at those spots after the draft.”

Pete Prisco — D+

“I was not a big fan of trading up to take a punter (Michael Dickson) in the fifth round.”

The consensus outside of Seattle is the Seahawks had a bad draft. The perception is they failed to address three vital areas:

1. They didn’t spend another high pick on the offensive line

2. They didn’t draft a cornerback early

3. They didn’t draft any weapons for Russell Wilson

It’s easy to dispel all three complaints.

1. They didn’t spend another high pick on the offensive line

Here are the recent high draft picks they’ve spent on the offensive line:

2014 2nd round pick — Justin Britt
2016 1st round pick — Germain Ifedi
2016 3rd round pick — Rees Odhiambo
2017 2nd round pick — Ethan Pocic
2018 3rd round pick + 2019 2nd round pick — Duane Brown

The Seahawks have used more draft stock on their offensive line than any other team in the league bar Dallas. And so far, that hasn’t been a solution.

They actually need to develop some of these players.

For example, had they spent the #18 or #27 pick on a left guard this year, that likely would’ve meant benching Ethan Pocic or cutting recent signing D.J. Fluker. Pocic was named to the all-rookie team in 2017 despite playing less than a full season. Fluker, with vital experience in new O-line coach Mike Solari’s scheme, has an extremely team-friendly cap hit of $1.36m in 2018.

Trying to actually develop Pocic is a better proposition than replacing him with the 2018 version. Replacing Fluker feels like a poor use of resources.

You could argue, why not draft a tackle instead to replace Germain Ifedi? It’s a fair argument to make, although this wasn’t a good draft class for tackles. It was a far better draft for interior offensive linemen. The chances of finding a solution were limited. The Seahawks also like George Fant a lot and he’s set to compete with Ifedi to start at right tackle.

No right minded individual would argue the Seahawks O-line doesn’t need major work. It does. But that doesn’t necessarily mean more youth, inexperience and repeating the same plan that hasn’t worked so far.

The addition of Solari to replace Tom Cable is the key here. A fresh approach, a new voice, a scheme tweak or two. Perhaps simplifying things for certain individuals and allowing them to best utilise their physical talents.

The Seahawks aren’t short of highly drafted, high-upside players. What they’re short of is consistency, proper communication, execution and guidance.

It’s time to develop the players they’ve already invested in.

And a final point on this — if the complaint is they didn’t spend a high pick on the offensive line this year, well, they did. They spent their third rounder on Duane Brown (plus their second rounder in 2019).

2. They didn’t draft a cornerback early

It’s strange that this is still a ‘thing’. Pete Carroll has been in charge of the Seahawks for eight years. He’s spent one early pick on a defensive back (Earl Thomas).

Here are the players they’ve brought in and developed without spending high picks:

Shaquill Griffin — R3
Walter Thurmond — R4
Kam Chancellor — R5
Richard Sherman — R5
Byron Maxwell — R6
Jeremy Lane — R6
Brandon Browner — CFL
DeShawn Shead — UDFA
Justin Coleman — trade with the Patriots
Bradley McDougald — FA

Carroll has a proven track record of defensive back success that, for some reason, goes mostly unnoticed. Suddenly Richard Sherman is cut and the Seahawks have to change their ways. They have to spend their first pick on a corner.

Why?

Especially considering they re-signed Byron Maxwell during the draft.

This is one of the big benefits of Seattle’s scheme. They’re able to draft a profile, teach their technique and find success. The scheme doesn’t call for a big investment in the cornerback position, as highlighted by Michael Lombardi a year ago:

“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.

“… 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.”

They haven’t needed Patrick Peterson playing across from Darrelle Revis. The creation and success of the Legion of Boom is evidence of that.

It would’ve been more surprising if the Seahawks had spent an early pick on a corner. It would’ve been a major change in their approach to the position. Instead, they drafted a defensive back with size and length in the fifth round in Tre Flowers. Just like they’ve been doing for the last eight years.

If you know the Seahawks, you know how they handle their business at corner.

3. They didn’t draft any weapons for Russell Wilson

The Seahawks lost ten touchdowns when Jimmy Graham signed with the Packers. They lost six more when Paul Richardson joined the Redskins.

In response they drafted a blocking tight end and signed Arizona’s Jaron Brown.

How on earth are they going to replace the lost touchdowns?

Well, it might not be as difficult as it seems. And it all comes down to the running game.

While Graham was prolific in the red zone, his production mostly filled a significant void. Seattle’s running backs only scored ONE touchdown in 2017. They had four rushing touchdowns in total — three from Russell Wilson and one from J.D. McKissic.

Even the Miami Dolphins, who also scored four rushing touchdowns, had three from Kenyon Drake.

Graham’s production didn’t compliment the running game — it replaced it. It had to in 2017 — but it doesn’t have to be that way going forward.

If the running backs can start to produce at even a modest level, the lost touchdowns will be replaced.

Let’s propose a solution to replace the ten scores:

Jimmy Graham -10 touchdowns

Rashaad Penny & Chris Carson +6 touchdowns

Will Dissly & Ed Dickson +4 touchdowns

It’s not unrealistic to think Penny and Carson will manage six scores between them. It’s quite a modest total. It’s also realistic that Dissly and Dickson could combine for four touchdowns.

If the Seahawks can fix their running game — they could/should be able to actually top the lost production from Jimmy Graham.

Here are the stats from 2011-14:

2011 — 15 rushing touchdowns
2012 — 16 rushing touchdowns
2013 — 14 rushing touchdowns
2014 — 20 rushing touchdowns

2017 — 4 rushing touchdowns

If they can get back to the relatively modest 2013 total of 14 rushing touchdowns, that will be an improvement of ten scores. Exactly the amount they need to replace Graham’s production. Considering they’ve spent the off-season focusing on fixing the run, you’d hope that was achievable.

As for Richardson’s six touchdowns — Jaron Brown actually scored four for Arizona in 2017. A repeat of that production would get you almost there. Tyler Lockett should also be set for a boost an extra year on from his severe broken leg. He only scored two touchdowns in 2017 but had six as a rookie.

It’s also emerged they’re meeting with an old friend. Brandon Marshall nearly joined the Seahawks in 2010. Now he’s once again reportedly visiting the team.

Should they have drafted a receiver? Bob McGinn quoted one personnel man as saying:

“This is the worst wide-receiver draft I’ve seen in my life”

And really, it’s about more than just replacing ‘production’ and ‘stats’ this year.

It’s about culture.

In 2017 they scored 38 offensive touchdowns. They might score less in 2018 and be a more competitive team.

They lost their identity. It’s been MIA for two straight seasons.

When Jim Mora was the coach in 2009 the lack of culture, identity and a clear plan was a major issue. What were they trying to do? Who were they trying to be?

It was a stark contract to the Holmgren years.

Pete Carroll immediately rectified this. As soon as he took the job in Seattle he set out his vision, called on the players to ‘buy in’ and created the clearest identity imaginable.

That laser-sharp focus took the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl Championship.

They lost their way. They lost a focal point of that identity — the running game.

And for all the laboured hand-wringing about the importance of running the ball these days and the value of running backs, the Seahawks were at their best when they ran the ball well to compliment their defense.

It created a bully-mentality. The Seahawks were physical, in your face. They intimidated teams.

Bigger, faster, stronger.

There are different ways to win in football. There’s no ‘right or wrong’ way of setting up your team. The key is to know what you want to be, then make it a reality.

If you want to throw the ball 50 times a game that’s fine. Build your roster around that approach.

If you want to run the ball and play defense, that’s just an alternative.

Seattle set themselves up to be the run and defense team — then had to try and be the passing team when the running game collapsed.

That was the problem. They couldn’t be true to their vision. They lost their identity, the culture, the toughness.

They weren’t bigger, faster and stronger any more. They were just broken.

Fixing that aspect was the key to everything moving forward. And that’s what they’ve done with this draft. They’ve added a running back they saw as the second best to Saquon Barkley. They added the best blocking tight end in the draft. They have a new O-line coach and offensive coordinator. They signed Ed Dickson and D.J. Fluker.

This was all set up to fix the running game as a priority. As it happens, they were also able to add a pass rusher and improve their special teams.

They pretty much ticked off every ‘need’ box along the way, especially if you include Duane Brown as part of this draft class (and you should).

That doesn’t mean this draft will necessarily move the needle for the Seahawks to improve on 9-7. That’s not the argument. I’m not sure, with one pick at #18 and nothing else until #120, they had the ability to achieve that. They didn’t have multiple early picks like the Colts or Giants.

The point is, this class (along with their work in free agency) should help regain their culture and identity. They’ll be able to return to the highly competitive atmosphere that fostered the initial Super Bowl charge.

They’ll be Pete Carroll’s Seahawks again.

And if they can run the ball better, if Russell Wilson continues to perform at a high level, with Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, Frank Clark and others on defense — they can be competitive in 2018.

It might only be a more palatable 9-10 win season rather than a Championship year. But at least they’d be heading back in the right direction.

This draft class helped turn the corner. And for that reason, it deserves praise and not criticism.

(Not that the critics will bother the Seahawks. If anything, this is exactly the type of reaction they wanted. Keep that fire burning).

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!

LIVE: Google Hangout Q&A

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Here is today’s hour-long Google Hangout. I run through some thoughts on why the Seahawks did what they had to do with this draft, we look at the day three picks and end with an extended Q&A…

Here are the review articles we’ve posted on the draft class:

Rashaad Penny

Rasheem Green

Will Dissly

Shaquem Griffin (pre-draft)

I have a Poona Ford write-up coming soon.

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!

Watch Rashaad Penny get the call from the Seahawks

Monday, May 7th, 2018

Breaking down the draft class: Will Dissly

Friday, May 4th, 2018

One way or another, the Seahawks were going to draft a blocking tight end.

It was inevitable. A foregone conclusion. As likely as a big investment in the running back position.

We never even really looked at the ‘pass-catching’ tight ends in this class. And that’s pretty much the whole class. The number of blockers, once again, was decidedly low. A point emphasised by Pete Carroll immediately after the draft:

“It has been harder to find, John (Schneider) has been checking it for years. We’ve really had a difficult time finding a guy that can do both, who can catch the ball and run some routes for you but can be a strong blocker.”

The Seahawks made a big investment in Zach Miller seven years ago. With money to spend and having already signed Sidney Rice and Robert Gallery, they signed Miller to a five-year, $34m contract with $17m guaranteed.

It was a huge investment at the time.

He was familiar with Tom Cable (himself having just joined the Seahawks) and fans saw a former second round pick with 2712 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns already to his name.

He was going to be a big time playmaker, right?

It depends how you define the term ‘playmaker’. Miller ended up being the perfect compliment to the Marshawn Lynch running game. He was a terrific blocker — legitimately as good as a sixth offensive lineman. When they needed an important catch to move the chains, he was often there.

In four seasons with the Seahawks he never had more than 396 receiving yards in a single year. His production statistically was unimpressive. Yet his production in terms of impact on the field was hugely significant.

When he retired after the 2014 season, the Seahawks went in a very different direction. Possibly (probably) in a retaliation to what happened in the Super Bowl, they went after a different type of tight end. A red zone monster, more of a pass catcher and certainly not a blocker.

They traded for Jimmy Graham.

They then proceeded to spend two years seemingly trying to convert him into a capable blocker. Carroll would reference Graham’s potential to become a complete tight end. It never happened. In year three he was used almost exclusively as a big red zone target. It was too late. The Seahawks — and Graham — needed a fresh start.

I don’t buy into this idea that Seattle’s culture changed the moment they traded for Graham. You could argue it was ill-advised to try and turn him into something he wasn’t (a good blocker). But there was more going on than just Graham’s addition from 2015 onwards. We were witnessing the end of the Marshawn Lynch era in Seattle, the offensive line became a major weakness and the injuries took a toll on many offensive players.

Even so, moving on from Graham and Luke Willson this year while adding Ed Dickson and Will Dissly is a statement of intent to get back to the 2011 plan.

The Seahawks don’t need an 800-900 yard tight end who can haul in 10 touchdowns. That’d be a bonus. First and foremost they need someone who can do the job Miller did. Block well, provide a reliable target.

That’s Dissly down to a tee.

Over the course of the draft coverage I mocked Dissly, Dalton Schultz and Durham Smythe to the Seahawks — all for their blocking ability. These were the three players competing in something similar to a pro-style offense (or at least an offense that featured the run). I paired Dissly with Seattle in my final seven-rounder.

Lance Zielein projected him as a sixth round pick.

Even so, I’m glad the Seahawks took him where they did. There’s nothing wrong with getting ‘your guy’. Many teams wouldn’t have been interested in a blocking tight end with a limited physical profile. But the Seahawks aren’t drafting for the rest of the league. At this time in the Pete Carroll era, with fixing the run being the priority, it was absolutely the right time to go and get a tight end like Dissly.

Not Mike Gesicki. Not Mark Andrews.

They needed someone they could put out there, deliver a decent block to help the pass or run and catch a few balls. No fuss, no pressure to get him the football. A modest albeit important job.

More than anything next season it’ll be refreshing not to read the weekly analysis of how many receptions a certain player had. Throughout Graham’s time in Seattle there was almost a pressure to get him the football. On the days when he didn’t get more than a couple of targets, it became a ‘thing’. Questions would be asked, people would wonder why they weren’t making him a feature.

There’s not going to be any of that anymore. Nobody is going to question how many targets Ed Dickson and Will Dissly received in a game. The Seahawks can go back to what they were in the 2011-2014 years. A bunch of under-appreciated, ‘pedestrian’ pass catchers. Russell Wilson can spread the ball around and Seattle can feature the running game again.

Back to Seahawks football.

Getting a running back and a tight end was vital from this class. Carroll and Schneider, quite clearly, got the two guys they really wanted. They didn’t leave anything to chance. They had their pick of the running back class apart from Saquon Barkley and they took Dissly in a range where they were assured to get him — and then declared him the best blocking tight end in the draft.

Running back they want? Check

Blocking tight end? Check

Pass rusher? Check

The three most important needs in this draft, all checked off.

And while many will complain about the lack of yet another first round pick on the O-line (just to put last years early OL pick on the bench) or no cornerback drafted early (despite their history of success on day three and the re-signing of Byron Maxwell) — these were the real moves the Seahawks had to make.

Again, I’m not here to just cheerlead for the Seahawks. I think the fact we’ve talked about these things for months proves that isn’t the case. We focused on running backs and tight ends quite a lot. They had to come out of this class having added to those two positions with guys that fit their way of doing things. And they pulled it off, despite the lack of picks.

How do you criticise that?

They did what they set out to do. You can’t accuse them of a lack of focus or clarity here. They had one pick at #18 and turned it into two players that had been ranked in the top-50. They got their tight end. They added some really intriguing players in rounds 5-7.

This was a good draft for the Seahawks. Simple as that. It might not be enough to propel them into a far superior record in 2018. They might go 9-7 again. But it might be a more palatable 9-7 with belief restored that this team can compete again in the future.

And hey — if they can run the ball this year and with Russell Wilson at quarterback, we shouldn’t set any limitations for what they can achieve.

So what about Dissly?

An anonymous NFC West Scout had this to say about him:

“He’s a Peterson guy. All-in with his commitment to the team and what he has to do. He won’t blow you away with talent or athleticism, but he does his job.”

That’s exactly what the Seahawks were looking for. A committed team player, ready to come in and block and do his job.

Bob McGinn listed Dissly as an ‘unsung hero’ in his piece on the receivers and tight ends, noting:

A consensus choice as the best blocking tight end in the draft. “Somebody will take him late because he’s a blocking fool,” said one scout. “There’s no ‘Y’s’ (conventional tight ends) anymore. Everybody plays the spread.” Shifted from DE to TE late in the 2015 season. Adequate size (6-3 ½, 261), below-average speed (4.88) and 35 on the Wonderlic.

What do you see on tape? Nothing overly spectacular — just a large number of really solid, competent blocks. He does his job, down after down.

He plays with the kind of edge you’d expect from a converted D-liner. He’ll often finish his blocks:

John Schneider complimented Dissly’s catching ability but there aren’t too many examples to highlight. He only had 21 receptions as a Senior for 289 yards and a couple of scores. I saw him live against Oregon and he only had one reception for six yards.

Here’s the thing though — you don’t see many errors. Either as a blocker or catcher. He can certainly snatch a difficult pass out of the air:

In this game against Montana, Dissly also had a really good reception on a scramble drill. He uncovered from the right sideline and gave Jake Browning an option, collected the pass at the 15-yard line and then fought his way to the goal line, carrying defenders along the way.

This was the play that really caught my attention in that game. His ability to understand the moment, provide a target and then finish the run was very Zach Miller-esque. And it’s not like Washington has a scrambling quarterback and this was just second nature for Dissly. It showed he had a natural feel to get open, provide a target and give Jake Browning an option.

His ability to finish runs consistently shows up. Against Utah, Dissly caught a fairly simple pass to what would be the right hash in the NFL. He’s hit at the 12-yard line as he completes the pass, breaks the tackle and then drags another defender to the two-yard line.

Against Oregon State he caught a pass on an outside slant to the right sideline. He cut back inside, dodged two defenders and made a difficult first down. In the same game he caught a checkdown from Browning and it took six (SIX) defenders to halt his progress. He was pushing the pile on his own.

This was also a game where he showed a genuine ability to quickly race down the seam and provide an option. He had a really sharp break off the snap, got downfield with enough shiftiness and made a 25-yard completion.

In a game against Portland State he again took another checkdown to the right sideline, plowed through one tackle and then side-stepped another to score a touchdown.

We also know the Seahawks like the occasional trick play…

There’s no real art in judging what Dissly does well. He’s tough, physical, reliable as a catcher and blocker and has surprising power and an ability to get open.

While he didn’t run an outstanding forty time (4.87) he did manage a 4.40 short shuttle. That’s no mean feat at 6-4 and 262lbs. That agility shows up fairly often.

The other thing he has in his locker is experience playing defense. In the same way Richard Sherman had an advantage due to his time playing receiver, Dissly can think like a pass rusher. He knows what to expect, what a defender is looking to do.

We’re not going to be sat here in four years time toasting Dissly for passing Jimmy Graham as the most productive tight end in franchise history. That’s not why they drafted him. They will need to find a way to replace some of Graham’s scoring production. That doesn’t have to come from the tight ends though. Hopefully the running backs will score more than one touchdown this year.

Dissly’s here to help the Seahawks get back to their brand of football. Dissly, Rashaad Penny, D.J. Fluker, Mike Solari, Ed Dickson. All moves designed to get the balance back on this offense.

I wanted to finish today with a few words about Cliff Avril. He never quite made the headlines like Richard Sherman or Michael Bennett. He wasn’t outspoken, he just got on with the job. Yet when we look back at what pushed the Seahawks over the top in 2013 — Avril was every bit as important as Bennett.

I remember the day well when Avril signed. There was something special about that off-season. The Percy Harvin trade, Bennett and Avril signing. The Seahawks were unstoppable — on the field and in free agency.

Before he was drafted in 2008 he ran a sensational 1.50 10-yard split. That’s as good as it gets for a pass rusher. Avril will be the benchmark from which we compare every future possible DE addition to this team.

And it’s often forgotten that his rush off the left edge played at least some part in ‘the tip’.

Through his effort on the field, his charity work and the way he always came across well in interviews, Avril deserves everyone’s respect now that his career in Seattle has ended prematurely.

He was a fantastic Seahawk — and we’ll be lucky to see another pass rusher capable of combining his intensity and effort on the field with humility and charm off it.

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!

Breaking down the draft class: Rasheem Green

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Rasheem Green wasn’t supposed to be a third round pick

He chose to declare for the draft, somewhat surprisingly, and when he made that decision the initial reaction was positive. Lance Zierlein noted he could be a first or second round pick in his NFL.com bio. He gave him a 5.88 grade, putting him a notch below Billy Price and Josh Allen. He graded above Christian Kirk, Kerryon Johnson, Kolton Miller, Austin Corbett, Nick Chubb, Frank Ragnow and Rashaad Penny.

Clearly Green had been given advice that he would be an early pick. In a year with a real lack of pass rush options, it wasn’t an unrealistic proposition.

Initially I didn’t think there was much chance he would last into round three. On April 3rd I mocked him as high as #24 to Carolina. There wasn’t a lot of buzz around his stock leading into the draft and in my final mock I had him again to the Panthers but at #55.

You can tell when a player might be set to last longer than expected. They have no buzz going into the draft. Projections drop. Zierlein ended up giving him a final second or third round projection. Bob McGinn’s sources offered the same grade with this accompanying blurb:

Third-year junior played DE in a 3-4 defense and moved inside on passing downs. “He’s naturally an outside guy,” said one scout. “One of the reasons he’s leaving is there was word they planned on him continuing to work inside. He sees himself as a defensive end. He’s super talented and super young (will turn 21 in May). He needs to get stronger. Probably would have benefited staying in an extra year. His best football is ahead of him.” Finished with 117 tackles (20 for loss) and 16 ½ sacks. Two teams have major medical concerns about his knee. “Kind of a potential guy,” said a third scout. “He’s got some inside pass rush. He’s not quite man enough inside and doesn’t have quite the juice outside. You’re hoping to project him to 3-technique. He doesn’t like going inside because I don’t think he’s tough enough.” From Los Angeles.

His stock started high but never gained the kind of momentum where you felt he was going to go early. Seattle took advantage of that.

This was a bad class to find an EDGE

Bradley Chubb was always destined for the top-five but after that? It was Marcus Davenport and not much else. With limited options and always a need for pass rushers, it felt like Green, Sam Hubbard and others would go early. Perhaps earlier than they deserved to go.

That wasn’t the case.

Both Green and Hubbard dropped. Pete Carroll and John Schneider noted it was a knee issue with Green that led to his fall. Hubbard had a disappointing final year at Ohio State.

It was left to the likes of Harold Landry (#41) and Kemoko Turay (#52) to pick up the slack. If this was a New Orleans blog we’d probably be reflecting on the complete dearth of options as a reason why the Saints made such an aggressive move to get Davenport. If you wanted a pass rusher this year, good luck.

And Seattle needed a pass rusher. They really needed one. So why not take a chance with Green? They might’ve been especially careful with their draft board this year but this felt like the time to roll the dice a little. As long as the knee issue isn’t too serious, take the shot.

They traded down from #76 so did they want Hubbard and got cute?

I’ve seen this suggested on Twitter. Presumably this suggestions is based on either cynicism or Pete Carroll’s obscure ‘draft clues’. He posted a GIF of a monkey running off with a hubcap. It’s a bit vague to connect ‘HUBcap’ and ‘Hubbard’.

Instead, I think this was the situation. They picked at #76. They liked both Hubbard and Green. They knew at least one would be available by dropping down to #79. So they made the deal.

Why would both Green and Hubbard appeal?

Agility testing.

Quinton Jefferson (4.37), Jordan Hill (4.51), Jaye Howard (4.47) and Malik McDowell (4.53) all tested superbly in the short shuttle. Bruce Irvin (4.03) and Frank Clark (4.05) both ran incredible short shuttles. Cassius Marsh’s 4.25 and Obum Gwacham’s 4.28 were also really good.

Here are the top-five D-line testers in the short shuttle at this years combine:

Sam Hubbard — 4.32
James Looney — 4.37
Rasheem Green — 4.39
Bradley Chubb — 4.41
Marcus Davenport — 4.41

If the Seahawks do view the short shuttle as a vital test, here’s why they were likely interested in Hubbard and Green. They not only recorded the first and third fastest times, they also beat Chubb and Davenport.

Now here’s the top five three cone times:

Sam Hubbard — 6.84
Taven Bryan — 7.12
Marcus Davenport — 7.20
Rasheem Green — 7.24
B.J. Hill — 7.28

Hubbard’s time is the sixth fastest in the last 10 years of the combine.

So here were two players who were available in an ideal range for the Seahawks, testing in the area they were looking to add a defensive lineman.

Evidence of a well judged draft plan.

So this was the right way to go about this class?

We made this point in the Rashaad Penny review but essentially these were the options:

1. Harold Landry at #27 then Nyheim Hines, Mark Walton, Kalen Ballage or Chase Edmunds at running back

2. Rashaad Penny (the RB you want before the rush starts) and Rasheem Green

The Seahawks haven’t received positive grades for their draft class. Considering they had one pick at #18 and then nothing until #120 though, how can you criticize what they were able to do here? If fixing the run and adding a pass rusher was the priority, mission accomplished.

So what about Rasheem Green the player?

He’s not the finished article and that shows up on tape. Yet the upside is so high for a third round pick. That’s not me just being positive about everything the Seahawks do. That’s not how we operate here. I’ll always be honest. And my honest view is — this was a value pick.

Here’s what an anonymous AFC regional scout said about Green courtesy of NFL.com:

“I wanted him to go back to school because he probably would have been a top-10 pick next year. He’s not strong enough to handle NFL guys yet so this year may be a redshirt year for him. He’s got some serious juice though. He’s going to be a dude when it all comes together.”

This sums it up perfectly.

1. He has incredible, untapped potential — enough that he could’ve been a high first rounder next year

2. He needs time to get stronger and wiser

3. He could be very, very good

Seattle needs the aforementioned ‘dude‘. Someone to fill the massive void left by Michael Bennett.

Not that anyone should expect the second coming of Bennett. From arriving in Seattle as an UDFA and then moving to Tampa Bay — nothing about Bennett’s career was expected or orthodox. There were no great testing numbers. No rhyme or reason to what he does. He’s probably as rare as Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks couldn’t have asked for a better inside/out rusher to compliment their star-studded secondary during the glory years.

Green has a lot to do to get to that level. An awful lot. But it’s indicative of his potential that he might be able to get there one day.

One of the things Bennett had was an arsenal of moves. He could win with power or rush the edge, he knew how to set up a blocker over several snaps and he often out-thought as well as out-fought his opponent. Green, at the moment, is a little bit predictable. He needs a counter. You see the flash off the edge and he will win with speed and length. There are also times where he gets stalled and you’d love to see a club/swipe or a spin — just something to mix things up.

One of the reasons I liked Dalton Schultz a lot as a blocker was the way he battled with Green. At the next level, that needs to be a mismatch.

He could also be a bit edgier and rough around the edges. Bennett had a mean streak and an attitude that sometimes pushed the line of acceptability. Green is almost a bit too polite at the moment. Perhaps he can be the aggressor a bit more going forward? But he’s 20-years-old. If we’re saying the same things in five years, it’s a problem. Not now though.

That’s why the anonymous AFC regional scout said what he said above. When he gets stronger, wiser and a little bit more experienced — watch out. Because what he already does well is pretty exciting.

The Seahawks need a player who can rush from the inside on key downs. There is ample evidence that Green can do this while also playing with power and aggression when needed too.

As noted immediately after the pick, he was sometimes asked to play nose tackle. Malik McDowell had the same task at Michigan State. He should never have been asked to play as much nose tackle as he was at MSU. He still excelled. His one-arm bull rush was incredible. His combination of length and power was freakish. It’s why Seattle took the chance on McDowell.

Green shows some evidence of that same power/length combo. He’s a pure inside/out or EDGE pass rusher and yet he can anchor inside:

Just look at the way be bullies his way into the backfield from an interior position:

And I highlighted this one the other day. Nobody does this to Billy Price. I watched virtually all of Price’s 2017 games and this is a collector’s item:

Here he is winning with relative ease against UCLA using a club/rip:

This is why you get excited about this pick. If he’s succeeding from the interior like this already, that’s the exciting part.

He can rush the EDGE. You can find examples of that. Lots of players do this in college:

Yet more than anything the Seahawks need an inside/out threat. Those types are rare and difficult to find.

His effort and motor are also a major positive. He doesn’t stop, competes to the ball and makes plays:

It took Frank Clark a year to reach something close to his best in the NFL. It might take Green a year to get there too. But he’ll contribute quickly to Seattle’s rotation and his potential down the line is clear and obvious. As long as the health of his knee isn’t a big problem, he could be a key component of the new look Seahawks.

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!

Breaking down the draft class: Rashaad Penny

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Before getting into Rashaad Penny the player, a few thoughts on the pick:

1. The Seahawks took the guy they wanted not the consolation prize

Whatever your thoughts are on Seattle drafting a running back early, two points are indisputable. The Seahawks set out to fix the run as a priority. They appeared set on taking a running back with their first pick. And rather than keep trading back and ending up with their second, third or fourth choice, they took the guy they really wanted.

It’s refreshing to know they got their guy. We’ll never wonder if they missed out on target #1. With a pick of the whole running back class aside from Saquon Barkley, they genuinely wanted Penny. Not Nick Chubb. Not Sony Michel. Not Kerryon Johnson or Ronald Jones II or Derrius Guice. They landed the guy they sought the most. They didn’t get cute. Pete Carroll stated, emphatically:

“I don’t mind telling ya, this pick fires me up. I am jacked about this pick.”

It’s not uncommon for Pete to be ‘pumped’ or ‘jacked’. It’s fair to say though, this was an especially ‘jacked’ Carroll. They really wanted Rashaad Penny.

2. Rashaad Penny + Rasheem Green = better than the alternative

The Seahawks could’ve taken Harold Landry (overrated) or Taven Bryan at #27 and waited until round three to take a running back. That would’ve been fine if you were content with Nyheim Hines, Mark Walton, Kalen Ballage or Chase Edmunds being trusted to help ‘fix the run’. Those were the four running backs taken after pick #76.

So what would you rather have? Rashaad Penny, the running back they really wanted, and Rasheem Green — a player who, according to one unnamed AFC regional scout, “probably would have been a top-10 pick next year“? Or Harold Landry and Kalen Ballage?

I’ll go with option A.

3. The good running backs were always going to go early

How often did we talk about at least six running backs being off the board by pick 50?

#2 Saquon Barkley
#27 Rashaad Penny
#31 Sony Michel
#35 Nick Chubb
#38 Ronald Jones II
#43 Kerryon Johnson

Six were gone by #43. The predictable rush on running backs occurred right in the range everyone expected. Royce Freeman lasted until #71 (I personally thought he’d go in the top-65) and Derrius Guice dropped to #59 due to well publicized character concerns.

If you wanted one of the top runners you couldn’t hang about. The likes of John Kelly (sixth round) and Bo Scarborough (seventh round) clearly weren’t viewed positively by teams in the league. This was most definitely a case of ‘go early or miss out’.

The Seahawks acted accordingly.

4. Stick to your guns

I like to try and learn from every draft. There’s always a lesson. I’ve already mentioned my regret at being swayed to pick a cornerback (Isaiah Oliver) to be Seattle’s first pick after spending a whole draft season talking about the running game. Another lesson also became evident after a few days. One I should’ve already learnt from.

In 2012 the first player we talked about immediately after the 2011 draft was Bruce Irvin. Here’s the piece and here’s an exert:

He’s the best kept secret in college football. Last season he recorded 14 sacks and yet received virtually no hype. West Virginia pulled off a masterstroke appointing Dana Holgorsen as their offensive coordinator and future head coach. He was the mastermind behind Oklahoma State’s free-scoring offense which consistently churned out talent at running back and wide receiver. The Mountaineers will have a productive offense next season and with Irvin leading the way on defense they’re an outside pick to go unbeaten next year. That’ll help to put this guy firmly on the map.

Make no mistake this is the most devastating, dominating and exciting player you’ll watch during the 2011 college season.

Then when the college season started and West Virginia strangely used Irvin in a three man front, we only occasionally talked about him. And we projected him as a third round option by the 2012 draft like most people.

The ideal LEO, as Pete Carroll later called Irvin, had been identified almost a full year before the Seahawks drafted him. And rather than keep that thought firmly in our minds, we looked at other players at the business end of the draft coverage.

Six years on, history repeated.

The first running back we talked about during the 2017 season was Rashaad Penny. Here’s the piece and here are some of the notes:

San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny is a player to start paying attention to. Listed at 5-11 and 220lbs, he’s right in the ball park for Seattle’s size preference at the position…. A true all-rounder with great speed, thickness and athleticism — he’s a Senior running back to watch for the rest of 2017.

That was in September and in a follow up piece in November, there was this:

It’ll be interesting to see how Nick Chubb tests following his knee injury. We’ve often referenced his performance at one of the Nike SPARQ combines. If he gets anywhere near that again and the medical checks are OK, he could go very early.

There are others to mention — Bryce Love, Derrius Guice, Damien Harris, Ronald Jones and Royce Freeman to name a few. The one I’d keep an eye on the most at the moment is San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny.

He’s having a fantastic year with 1368 and 12 rushing touchdowns (plus 136/2 as a pass catcher). He has six career kick return touchdowns and he combines toughness, elusiveness and the ability to break off big plays. He’s in Seattle’s size bracket (5-11, 220lbs). He also talks well in interviews and is elevating his team to a strong season.

I’m not sure where Penny will go in terms of round. We’ll need to see how he tests. Yet if the Seahawks did move down into rounds 2-3 to accumulate more picks, I wouldn’t bet against Penny landing on this team.

We focused on Penny during the college season and then during the draft season spent more time on Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb and others. It’s something to remember and learn from going forward.

So, what does the tape say about Rashaad Penny?

The thing that really stands out is his burst and suddenness. His straight-line acceleration is impressive. When he finds a crease and gets to the second level, he’ll be a threat to break off big runs. He’s a different type of back than they’ve had in the past. Marshawn Lynch was a generational power back. Thomas Rawls was an angry, aggressive runner constantly seeking contact. Christine Michael was all lower body explosive power. Penny isn’t the most explosive player and he doesn’t have the Rawls running style. He’s a lot quicker though.

It might indicate a desire to have more explosive running plays. Even a year ago they seemed to be looking for a more physical approach. Eddie Lacy was supposed to provide size and power (but emphatically didn’t). Chris Carson was more explosive than fast (4.58 forty vs 37 inch vertical). Before he got injured Carson showed an ability to fall forward. He was tough to stop and physical rather than quick.

Penny has 4.47 speed. He’s a home run threat. And maybe they wanted someone who will do the fundamentals well but also provide that X-factor ability to score at any time?

He’s not just about ‘speed’ though. According to PFF he had 1295 yards after contact in college — more than any other running back in the 2018 draft. Not bad for a player who was only a one-year starter. He also led the class in missed tackles forced.

Put on the tape and plays like this are quite frequent:

Want to see a bit of Baby Beast Mode?

Or a bit of Baby Beast Mode Blocking?

Can he be an asset in the passing game? This play suggests he can:

So there’s plenty of the toughness you want to see. He also gets on with the job. Because while all the highlight runs are nice, perhaps the most exciting part of his game are plays like this:

It’s third and three against Stanford and they’ve got eight defenders lined up close to the LOS. They know it’s a run. They’re going for it anyway. ‘Hand it to #20’. He finds his gap, gets skinny through the hole and plows forward for a 14-yard gain.

How many 3rd and 3 conversions did the Seahawks have from their running game last season? Zero?

It’s not a big, gaping hole he exploits here. At one point it looks like #57 is going to make a play but Penny is just too quick. And then you see the physicality to finish the run and get the most out of the play.

This is what fires me up most about this pick. Not a play like this:

Or this:

Or the huge game he had against Arizona State:

Whenever you take a running back in the first round you expect some electricity. Penny will provide that in spades. He’ll be the proverbial threat to score any time he touches the ball.

But what I really like about his suddenness, finishing ability and toughness is the way he’ll effectively help Seattle sustain drives. Hopefully, he’ll provide the kind of balance that has been non-existent for two years.

Mike Mayock described him as a ‘weaver’. You can see why. He’s not an ankle breaker and certainly doesn’t possess anything like Saquon Barkley’s jump-cut (but who does?). He uses subtle motion to deceive defenders:

This is likely why one of Bob McGinn’s sources said of Penny:

“I don’t think he has good feel or a lot of niftiness.”

He’s still, essentially, a 220lbs runner. ‘Niftiness’ would be a rare trait. Another of McGinn’s sources added:

“Makes guys miss. Got great contact balance.”

And that sums it up. He isn’t going to be DeSean Jackson in a 1v1. He still makes guys miss in his own way. And that contact balance shows up time and time again with the way he finishes runs, gains the extra yards after contact and forces the broken tackles.

Overall this is what the Seahawks are getting:

1. A runner who can be in on any down or distance

2. A sudden, quick runner with burst and acceleration

3. A player who can be a legit returner on special teams

4. Someone who drives through contact and finishes

5. A patient runner who will work through traffic to convert short-yardage situations to extend drives

6. A threat to score any time he gets the ball in his hands

7. A player with ideal size for the position, above average speed for his frame and explosive traits

8. A player with no durability concerns

9. A possibly solution to their greatest single need — fixing the run

What does he need to work on? The usual stuff. Most running backs need to work on pass protection when they enter the league. Penny isn’t unique there. There aren’t many Ezekiel Elliott’s in college. Penny, in fairness, wasn’t even asked to do much pass-pro in college.

There are also occasions where he misses a cutback lane in the way Ronald Jones II doesn’t. That’s not to say he isn’t capable of dynamic cuts to make big gains. He is. But occasionally he’s more north-south and doesn’t feel the cut to make more of the run. It’s a minor quibble and an easy teaching point.

His vertical jump (32.5 inches) was a little lower than they’ve preferred in the past and was well below the attempts of Saquon Barkley (41 inches) Kerryon Johnson (40 inches), Nick Chubb (38.5 inches) and Ronald Jones II (36.5 inches). His broad jump (10-0) was only the joint 12th best among running backs at the combine. Chubb (10-8) and Johnson (10-6) both faired better.

Ideally this is an area where we’ll see some improvement once he enters a pro-training program.

Why did Seattle draft him ahead of some of the other runners available? Let’s run through the list:

Nick Chubb — highly explosive, ideal size, great attitude but one-paced, not a passing game threat, injury history with the knee

Kerryon Johnson — very powerful and physical runner and set the tone for Auburn in 2017 but high-cut frame and upright running style encourage injuries and he’s been banged up

Ronald Jones II — extremely quick and dynamic with star-potential but smaller than ideal size, there were some concerns about his pre-draft process (injuries, poor meetings) and might need to be part of a duo

Sony Michel — very versatile, mature and productive but legit concerns about bone-on-bone knee issue and lack of explosive traits

Derrius Guice — Tough, physical runner but major concerns about his maturity, focus, character and had a bizarre pre-draft period (and was banged up in 2017)

Royce Freeman — Very fluid, smooth and productive runner but unfortunately he’s a big back who runs like a smaller back

Then you look at Penny. He has ideal size, plus speed, enough explosive attributes, major production, high character, physicality, can catch the ball and he has no injury concerns.

Seattle needed a running back. They need to fix their running game. Rashaad Penny gives them an opportunity to create a ‘run-aissance’ as Kenny Sloth has been calling it in the comments section (nice work Kenny).

Rashaad Penny & Shaquem Griffin jerseys are now available via the NFL Shop. To purchase either, check the blog sidebar.

I promised podcasts and here are two. One with Kenny at Field Gulls and another with the Seahawkers. Both are running through the draft classes in full. Please listen to both if possible:

You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.

Become a Patron!