Archive for January, 2019

Senior Bowl 2019 preview & Parris Campbell

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Time for the Senior Bowl week. Below are some of the players I’ll be focusing on during the workouts broadcast on the NFL Network.

I’ve also posted the practise schedule.

Before we get into it though I wanted to quickly share some thoughts on Ohio State receiver Parris Campbell.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Seahawks and the draft this week. After initially thinking this was going to all be about the D-line early, I’ve changed my mind slightly.

Here’s why:

1. We know the Seahawks are going to trade down. It’s inevitable. They won’t be picking only four times in this draft.

2. It’s very possible after trading down they’ll do what most people expect and take a front-seven defender with their first pick. It’s a need and there’s excellent depth on the defensive line and at linebacker.

3. It’s also possible they trade down into a range were the best defensive linemen and linebackers are off the board. After all, if they’re going to acquire extra picks they might need to trade down multiple times. For example, the 2018 draft was strong for running backs. However, after the Seahawks took Rashaad Penny at #27 we saw four others leave the board quickly. If something similar happens with the D-liners and linebackers, they might need to consider other positions.

4. This is why I considered T.J. Hockenson in my last mock draft. Tight end isn’t the greatest need but there might be a scenario where the Seahawks are looking for talent + impact rather than necessarily what we perceive to be the biggest need. That’s the consequence of needing to trade down. And let’s not forget — Pete Carroll recently stated he doesn’t see any glaring voids on the roster.

5. There’s still a lot to be decided. Who can they keep among their free agents? Who can they add? There’s a lot to be determined before the draft. If they re-sign or franchise Frank Clark and are able to add one or two quality veteran defensive linemen in free agency — everything changes.

6. Carroll wants to lead the league in explosive plays. For all the talk about defense and running the ball — Carroll also wants big gains and momentum swings. Carroll also values traits and unique qualities. It’s why they aggressively pursued Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham. It’s why they drafted someone like Christine Michael early. Speed, size, suddenness, X-factor ability. They’ve always sought it.

If I was only allowed to do one more mock draft before April and I had to do it tonight — I’d pair the Seahawks with a defensive linemen. However, I’m going to be more open minded about the possibility of them drafting someone like T.J. Hockenson or Parris Campbell or D.K. Metcalf. Why? Because they have the potential to be difference makers in a way many other players in this class can’t.

Campbell is a converted running back who switched to receiver. In 2018 he made 90 receptions for 1063 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s extremely fast, explosive and dynamic. Dwayne Haskins is being touted as a top-10 pick but a lot of his production came on extended hand-off’s to players like Campbell and the other great weapons on the Buckeye offense (K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin etc).

Throw it out to the flat, throw a receiver screen. Campbell was capable of getting the YAC and making big gains. He also has the speed and quickness to separate downfield and make field-tilting catches.

At the SPARQ combine he ran a 4.41 forty and a 4.16 short shuttle. He jumped a 40-inch vertical and finished with an overall score of 121.8. He did that at 6-0 and 184lbs and he’s now listed at 6-1 and 208lbs. If he repeats this performance at the combine — teams are going to take notice.

Campbell is a very different receiver to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. While he’s still capable of the downfield plays — he’s very useful on screens and could be utilised in some misdirection, sweeps, some quick hitters and even some runs. A quick first-down throw to the flat could break up some of the early 1st down runs and stretch out a defense. It could provide a new angle to the offense.

It’s very possible Campbell rises along with Hockenson and they both end up going earlier than people are currently projecting. Both appear to be high character individuals and speak well during interviews. And while there are legit concerns about D.K. Metcalf’s neck injury and how it could limit his career — presumably Carroll would have some interest in a 6-3, 225lbs receiver who, according to Bruce Feldman, has been timed at 4.46 in the forty, can jump 37.5 inches in the vertical, 11-1 in the broad plus he can bench 330lbs and power clean 350lbs.

It’s something to consider during this long draft process.

Now, onto the Senior Bowl…

Senior Bowl practise schedule

These are all central time (so deduct a couple of hours for PST). The game kicks off on Saturday at 1:30pm CT.

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

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

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

Here are some of the players on each roster I’ll be keeping an eye out for…

North team

Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
A quarterback with first round potential who was up-and-down during the 2018 season. Lock has a quirky release but all the physical tools teams look for.

Germaine Pratt (LB, NC State)
Burst onto the scene this year with tone-setting tackles and a quickness to break into the backfield and make plays. Goes into the combine with a day-three-value tag.

Darnell Savage (S, Maryland)
The combine will be Savage’s main event (he tested fairly well in SPARQ) but this is a chance to impress. He’s quick and agile and could be a mid-rounder.

Andy Isabella (WR, UMass)
A celebrated athlete with track speed. Isabella is undersized and needs to show he can compete against the DB’s here.

Marquise Blair (S, Utah)
In the lead up to the game, Senior Bowl Executive Director and former scout in Seattle Jim Nagy referred to Blair (6-2, 195lbs) as a “Seahawks safety”.

Te’Von Coney (LB, Notre Dame)
Consistent and athletic but lacks size. Some believe Coney could even be a first or second round pick.

Terry McLaurin (WR, Ohio State)
An extremely dynamic playmaker with sneaky pro-potential. One to definitely keep an eye on here and at the combine. 141.96 elite SPARQ score.

Ryan Finley (QB, NC State)
Touted as a possible first rounder in the off-season, Finley failed to impress in 2018. The Senior Bowl, however, has been a king-maker at the QB position.

Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
Declared late in the day and seen by many as a possible top-20 pick with a good off-season. Jones is a good athlete. Can he show off arm strength and accuracy here?

Nasir Adderley (S, Delaware)
A bit of a ‘draft geeks’ favourite. Adderley is quick, hits and plays well on special teams. Can he jump up a level and show he’s worthy of a high draft grade?

Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Allen was unstoppable at times in 2018 and will be one of the best players in Mobile. It’ll be a treat to watch him in the 1v1 drills. First round talent.

Kaleb McGary (T, Washington)
Some considered McGary to be Washington’s best tackle going into the 2018 season. He’s very tall so can he play with leverage in the 1v1’s?

Michael Deiter (G, Wisconsin)
The best guard in the draft — plays with attitude and control. He’s played every position on the line and likely goes in the top-50.

Max Scharping (T, Northern Illinois)
Some people really like Scharping and feel he has the potential to be one of the better tackles in the class. He needs to show it here to go in the first two rounds.

Drew Sample (TE, Washington)
After the success of Will Dissly — of course I’m going to keep an eye on Washington’s latest TE prospect as a potential day three target.

Renell Wren (DT, Arizona State)
Unbelievable talent yet inconsistent. He could be a big riser in Mobile if his effort is good and he excels in the 1v1’s. Tony Pauline thinks he could go in round two.

Greg Gaines (DT, Washington)
Gaines has been a consistent and tough interior defender for many years. The Senior Bowl is made for linemen to impress.

Khalen Saunders (DT, Western Illinois)
Extremely athletic defensive tackle best known for becoming a viral sensation for doing backflips.

Dalton Risner (T, Kansas State)
Slightly overhyped and probably needs to kick inside to guard. The Senior Bowl is set up for linemen to impress. Comes in as a mid-round type.

Kris Boyd (CB, Texas)
In a weak class for cornerbacks at the top of the draft, Boyd will be competing with DeAndre Baker and Trayvon Mullen to follow Greedy Williams and Byron Murphy.

Anthony Nelson (DE, Iowa)
Great size and length with plenty of production in a tough, physical conference. Nelson, with a good off-season, could be a day-two pick.

South team

Deebo Samuel (WR, South Carolina)
Stocky and sturdy with surprising agility and a dynamic kick returner. He could be a potential game MVP if he gets enough snaps.

Jaquan Johnson (S, Miami)
Seen as a mature leader for Miami. Johnson is undersized but still packs a punch. Could be a mid-rounder in a suspect safety class.

Bruce Anderson (RB, North Dakota State)
Dynamic runner with the potential to get into the mid-round debate. The Senior Bowl game is kind for running backs.

Oshane Ximines (DE, Old Dominion)
Mel Kiper’s pick for Seattle at #21 in his first mock. The tape is ‘meh’ so let’s see what the fuss is all about in the 1v1’s. Bring it.

Jarrett Stidham (QB, Auburn)
Stidham was supposed to be a first or second rounder but had a bad 2018 season. Can he repair the damage in Mobile?

Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
Sweat is extremely quick, long and has 35.5 inch arms. He should have a great week here. A possible first pick for Seattle?

Jonathan Ledbetter (EDGE, Georgia)
An understated pass rusher who can play every down. Didn’t have the big production at Georgia but could be a third rounder with a good off-season.

Gardner Minshew (QB, Washington State)
This is a big chance for Minshew. Can he impress more than the other QB’s? There’s time for a big rise yet.

Juan Thornhill (S, Virginia)
It’ll be interesting to see how Thornhill tests at the combine. He’s a converted cornerback with great character. He had six interceptions in 2018.

Ryquell Armstead (RB, Temple)
Jumped off the screen when I watched Temple during the season. A compact powerball of a runner who could be a day three or UDFA steal.

Daylon Mack (DT, Texas A&M)
One of the best performers at the Shrine Game gets a chance to impress in Mobile. He’s 320lbs and a force. Can he impress in the 1v1’s?

Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
A pass rusher with top-25 potential. Ferguson was very raw in college in terms of technique but his production was first rate. He has the tools.

Isaiah Buggs (DE, Alabama)
Possible mid-round pick who played DE at Alabama but will likely kick inside at the next level. He had a good 2018 season.

Andre Dillard (T, Washington State)
Possible first round pick and a player many consider to be the best pass-blocking offensive tackle in the draft.

Elgton Jenkins (C, Mississippi State)
Struggled against Quinnen Williams but otherwise had a solid year. Could be the first center drafted and a possible day two pick.

Dru Samia (G, Oklahoma)
Tough guy and has a shot to start in the NFL. Watch him this week. See if he gets into a scrap with someone. Fun player.

Anthony Johnson (WR, Buffalo)
A favourite within the draft community. Probably a later pick but has some talent. Can he leave an impression here?

Dontavious Russell (DT, Auburn)
Big 6-3 and 320lbs defensive tackle who could get lost amid an extremely deep D-line class and provide some middle-round value.

The following players are no longer competing at the Senior Bowl:

Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State), D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia), Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky), Gerald Willis III (DT, Miami), Marvell Tell (S, USC), Chase Winovich (EDGE, Michigan), Christian Miller (EDGE, Alabama), Yodny Cajuste (T, West Virginia), Myles Gaskin (RB, Washington), LJ Scott (RB, Michigan State), Clayton Thorson (QB, Northwestern)

DeAndre Baker, Christian Wilkins, Damien Harris and Parris Campbell rejected their invites.

And here’s a little known fact to finish. Miami defensive tackle Gerald Willis III — who had to pull out of the Senior Bowl — is the half brother of New York Giants safety (and pending free agent) Landon Collins.

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The confusing and wonderful 2019 draft

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Every draft class is unique and has its own positional strengths and weaknesses.

2019 seems more unique than usual. I’m not sure we’ve seen a class like this before.

From the heaving depth of top defensive linemen available to the relative unknown of the quarterbacks — this is a class that keeps people guessing.

And truth be told, I bet the teams are still working out how they feel about a few significant issues.

For example — who’s the best offensive tackle in the draft? It’s a premium position. Tackles always go early. As we saw with Mike McGlinchey and Kolton Miller last year, the perceived ‘best available’ don’t last very long — even if a prospect has flaws.

Several of the big names this year possibly need to kick inside to guard — Cody Ford, Greg Little, Jawaan Taylor, Jonah Williams. Some believe Washington State’s Andre Dillard is the best pass-blocking left tackle prospect — a sentiment that is gathering steam in first round mocks. Are you comfortable making him a top-20 pick?

A few months ago people were rushing to extol Alabama safety Deionte Thompson. He was touted as a rangy free safety with speed and playmaking ability. He was mocked as a top-10 talent. Then the reality kicked in. A September flourish turned into an indifferent overall season. It was discovered by some that he ran a 4.71 at SPARQ testing. One scout said the following:

“I’ve watched all the Alabama tapes and I can’t grade him… I don’t see the guy doing things.”

Now you’ll be hard pushed to see him in round one at all in internet mocks. Many jumped the gun.

At one point the receiver class was all the buzz with some suggesting it was a major draft strength. Players like Kelvin Harmon were suggested for the top-10. D.K. Metcalf was a first-round darling — despite the serious and well-publicised concerns about his serious neck injury.

Yet this weekend Tony Pauline reported the following:

“…scouts and general managers are complaining this will be one of the worst draft’s for prospects from the scoring side of the ball in a long time. Right now they project as many as 70 of the top 100 players drafted coming from the defensive side of the ball.”

And then there’s the quarterbacks. Justin Herbert didn’t declare, Jarrett Stidham underwhelmed, Drew Lock was up and down. Nobody knew who to mock early. Was it possible no quarterbacks go in the top-10? Maybe. Yet in the end Dwayne Haskins promoted himself into that range and then a quarterback everyone expected to play Major League Baseball threw his hat into the ring.

If you listen to Adam Schefter, Murray could be a high draft pick. Ian Rapoport was touting rounds 2-3. Some are mocking the late first. I think he’s the most talented prospect in the entire draft.

Does anyone seriously know where he’ll land? Do the teams?

How many expected him to even declare?

We’ve had a season of analysis with no consensus opinion other than it’s a great class for D-liners. We’re still seeing it now. The mocks are all over the place. The only consistent thing seems to be everyone acknowledges Nick Bosa will go in the top-two.

So how should any of us react to this? Mocks are supposed to be just fun conversation starters really. They’re an internet phenomena, by and large. For the talking heads, they’re a lot more serious.

Mike Mayock resisted posting one until the day before previous drafts. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper frequently tut and sigh on their podcast at the idea of putting one together. For those making a career out of projecting the draft — a mock is simply an opportunity to look foolish. You have your judgement questioned. For the rest of us, it’s just an exercise in filling the time between January and April.

Judging a ‘mockers’ credibility almost always usurps the actual analysis of the projection. I bring this up because I’m about to analyse Daniel Jeremiah’s first 2019 mock — one of the most out-there predictions I can ever recall. I’d rather stick to the subject matter if we can — but there are some serious ‘WTF’ reactions to be had:

— Josh Jacobs is projected as a top-five pick. Running backs have gone this early recently — but all were college superstars. Zeke Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Saquon Barkley. Jacobs was a rotational cog in Alabama’s offense and never had more than 640 yards in a single season. It’s unfathomable to think Jacobs would go this early.

— Jeremiah specifically describes Christian Wilkins as a “top 10 talent”. So why does he last to #25? No reason is given. It’s not unusual for a top-10 talent to fall to #11-15 (see: Odell Beckham Jr, Aaron Donald). Dropping to #25 is an incredible fall for a player you’re suggesting is a legit top-10 player — especially considering there are zero character or injury concerns.

— Jeremiah describes Dexter Lawrence as having a similar skill-set and playing style to Ndamukong Suh. If that is true — why does he have Lawrence dropping to #30? Surely any player with a remote likeness to Suh (I personally don’t like the comparison, I think Jeffery Simmons is much closer to Suh in terms of body-type and playing style) is going to go much earlier than #30 overall?

— Jachai Polite is a top-20 talent. Don’t take my word for it — one NFL scout says this: “Polite is really fast and explosive. Excellent off the edge. Top 20.” Jeremiah excludes him from the entire first round.

— T.J. Hockenson is a very talented tight end who will have a good combine and could easily rise quickly up boards. However, is he really going to go in the top-10? Since 2006, only two tight ends have gone in the top-10 — freak of nature Vernon Davis (2006) and Eric Ebron (2014). Even exceptional athletes like O.J. Howard (#19) and Evan Engram (#23) lasted well outside the top-10. Jeremiah has Hockenson going #8 to Detroit.

Adam Schefter recently reported the Miami Dolphins are willing to take a hit in 2019 and target the quarterback class in 2020. They’re focusing on the lines this year and are willing to endure a rebuild season. With that in mind — and considering Schefter is a trusted source — it seems unlikely they’d take a quarterback like Daniel Jones in the top-15. It’s definitely not impossible but seems improbable given the report just six days ago.

When I first read this mock I didn’t know whether to applaud the originality and the fresh talking points or question the thought process. I suppose, really, that’s what you want from a mock draft in January. Jeremiah perhaps does a better job than anyone of encapsulating the massive unknowns from within this class.

It’s also worth highlighting the parts of the mock that make a lot of sense:

— Greedy Williams and Jonah Williams aren’t included in the top-10 — two things you see often in mocks but, at least to me, seem unlikely.

— Deionte Thompson isn’t included in round one.

— Marquise Brown finds a home in the top-20. He’s an electric, dynamic receiver and you can tell he’s Antonio Brown’s cousin. He’s a talent and teams love game-changing potential. John Ross was a top-10 pick and Brown could easily go in the top-20.

— Andre Dillard is starting to get some serious attention as the best pass-blocking tackle and could easily work his way into the first round with a solid combine.

In Jeremiah’s scenario, the Seahawks would be on the board at #21 with Kyler Murray, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Jachai Polite all available. You’re talking about four of the best 10 or 12 players in the entire draft. In this scenario, a 2020 first round pick would be burning a hole in my pocket. Who wants it? Any opportunity to get two of the names above.

Before anyone gets overly excited, I wouldn’t expect any of the four to be available. Just as I wouldn’t expect Josh Jacobs to be a top-five pick.

Again, it highlights how much of a hard time we’re all having trying to work out this class. The order, the direction teams will go. Rather than pin this on the prognosticators and analysts and writers — I think it’s a review of the mystery behind the scenes. Teams, perhaps more than ever, have very different opinions on this class. They might need a Senior Bowl, a combine and some pro-days to get a proper steer.

It’ll make for an intriguing draft process. It’ll also be confusing and frustrating. It’ll get your hopes up and tear them down.

One thing is pretty certain for Seahawks fans though. They aren’t picking only four times in 2019. They will trade down from #21. It’s just a matter of how many times and who’ll be available when they’re finally ready to make a selection.

That’s the one thing we can be sure about.

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Updated mock draft — two rounds

Friday, January 18th, 2019

A few notes before getting into this pre-Senior Bowl mock draft…

1. The Seahawks are likely to draft a defensive player first…

…but it’s not a certainty. In this latest scenario I wanted to go in a different direction. It’s inevitable the Seahawks will trade down. They usually do and this year they only own four picks. So they’ll trade down at least once and get into the 6-8 pick range. It’s possible they’ll move down and out of range for the better defensive linemen. More than ten could go in round one. If that happens, they might see better value at a different position. And while it certainly could be Seattle’s priority to upgrade the defense this year — Pete Carroll also values explosive plays and has consistently sought more weapons for the offense. Golden Tate, Percy Harvin, Paul Richardson, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett, Rashaad Penny. There are more examples. Could they take an offensive player with their first pick? Yes. Is a defensive player more likely? Probably. Will free agency have a massive impact? 100%. If they pull off a repeat of the Avril/Bennett heist from 2013, it could shift their focus in the draft. There could be some free agency value too given the strength of this draft class is without question the defensive linemen. One other quick note — if Kyler Murray drops, I think the Seahawks will seriously consider taking him for the reasons listed here.

2. Teams are trading up for quarterbacks

For the last few years we’re seeing teams aggressively pursue the top quarterbacks in a draft class. A year ago the Jets, Bills, Cardinals and Ravens all traded up for a QB. In 2017 the Bears moved up one spot to guarantee Mitch Trubisky while the Chiefs and Texans moved way up to secure Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. In 2016 the Rams and Eagles traded into the top-two spots to get Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. And in 2015 the top-two were the teams most in need of a young quarterback (Tampa Bay took Jameis Winston, Tennessee took Marcus Mariota). Nobody’s really talking about it at the moment but there’s a developing trend. Teams are not waiting for QB’s to fall. They’re being aggressive. And the same could happen in 2019. Arizona and San Francisco would likely be very interested in moving down too.

3. Could the best player fall to #3?

Yes. No doubt at all. Nick Bosa will be top of many boards. His brother Joey was also a consensus #1 prospect throughout his final year at Ohio State. In the end he dropped to #3 because two teams (the Rams and Eagles) traded up to take quarterbacks. Could history repeat? Absolutely. In this instance the Jets would hit the jackpot. Their biggest need is an edge rusher. A year ago Sam Darnold dropped to #3 when many believed he would be the top pick. Nick Bosa could land in New York under similar circumstances.

Here’s the mock. It’s two rounds and includes trades…

First round

#1 The Giants trade with Arizona to select Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
Kyler Murray is the most talented player in the draft and is a worthy #1 overall pick.

#2 The Broncos trade with San Francisco to select Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
John Elway admitted recently that Case Keenum is not a long term solution.

#3 New York Jets — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Nick, just like brother Joey, falls to a lucky team owning the #3 pick.

#4 Oakland — Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
The Raiders snap up a player who could remind Jon Gruden of Warren Sapp.

#5 Tampa Bay — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
A former #1 national recruit — teams will love Gary’s upside and he’ll go very early.

#6 Arizona trades down and selects Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
After moving down five spots, the Cardinals still get a top-tier pass rusher.

#7 Jacksonville — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
The Jags sign a veteran QB (Joe Flacco? Nick Foles?) and then draft a replacement for Marcell Dareus.

#8 Detroit — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Polite plays with a relentless effort and regularly battled double teams at Florida.

#9 Buffalo — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Wilkins will have an outstanding combine, teams will love him and he’ll go early.

#10 The 49ers trade down and select Devin White (LB, LSU)
San Fran swaps #2 for #10 and selects a cornerstone defender for the next decade.

#11 Cincinnati — Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
If there’s one team that won’t have any issue drafting Simmons, it’s the team that selected Joe Mixon.

#12 Green Bay — Josh Allen (LB, Kentucky)
The top-five talk is a bit rich for a player who needs to be stronger. He suits a 3-4.

#13 Miami — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Ed Oliver is a wonderful talent. But what’s his fit at the next level?

#14 Atlanta — Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
Ford has fantastic feet for his size.

#15 Washington — Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Alex Smith’s future is uncertain but his contract is locked in. They need a cheap alternative.

#16 Houston trades up with Carolina for Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
The Texans make a big move to solve a huge need.

#17 Cleveland — Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
Of course the Browns will troll the Steelers by drafting Antonio’s cousin.

#18 Minnesota — Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
If he runs well at the combine his stock will take off.

#19 Tennessee — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
Major production, big talent — very raw.

#20 Pittsburgh — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Highly competitive and gritty. Gets after the ball and hits like a hammer.

#21 Green Bay trades with Seattle to select David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
The Seahawks traded with the Packers a year ago and history repeats here. Green Bay needs some new blood on the O-line.

#22 Baltimore — Mack Wilson (LB, Alabama)
The Ravens love to tap into the Alabama pipeline.

#23 Carolina trades down and selects Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
The Panthers reportedly want to target the safety position this year.

#24 Pittsburgh trades with Oakland for Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
The Raiders make a big splash and trade a first rounder plus for Antonio Brown.

#25 Philadelphia — Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
The Eagles like to bolster the lines in the draft.

#26 Indianapolis — A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
Getting their answer to Alshon Jeffery could be a key for Indy.

#27 Oakland — Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Excellent player (and Mayock surely can’t resit taking a BC defender?).

#28 Los Angeles Chargers — Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida)
Likely to kick inside to guard.

#29 New England — Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
The Pats need to come up with some kind of long term QB plan.

#30 Los Angeles Rams — Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
They’ll take all the weapons they can get.

#31 The 49ers trade with Kansas City for Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)
He’s overrated but here the 49ers jump ahead of Arizona to land Williams.

#32 Seattle trades down and selects T.J. Hockenson (TE, Iowa)
A run will start at the TE position in the late first or early second round.

Second round

#33 Arizona — Max Scharping (T, Northern Illinois)
Some think Scharping is better than Eric Fisher was entering the league.

#34 Indianapolis — D’Andre Walker (DE, Georgia)
Tough and plays the run well for his size.

#35 Oakland — Irv Smith Jr (TE, Alabama)
Another weapon for Oakland, acting essentially as a big slot receiver.

#36 Kansas City trades down and selects Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)
After moving down five spots they take a tough, hard-nosed safety.

#37 Arizona trades down and selects Michael Deiter (G, Wisconsin)
The Cardinals get this for trading the first pick and continue to rebuild their O-line.

#38 Jacksonville — Noah Fant (TE, Iowa)
He’ll have a great combine but he was outplayed by T.J. Hockenson in 2018.

#39 Tampa Bay — D’Andre Baker (CB, Georgia)
He’s physical but undersized and needs to learn how to track the ball better.

#40 Buffalo — Andre Dillard (T, Washington State)
Some scouts reportedly see Dillard as the best pass-blocker in a weak tackle class.

#41 The 49ers trade down and select Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
This pick is acquired for moving down from #2 to #10.

#42 Cincinnati — Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
Smith will test well and could add to the run on TE’s.

#43 Detroit — Deebo Samuel (WR, South Carolina)
The replacement for Golden Tate in Detroit.

#44 Green Bay — Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
The Packers have a hole at safety.

#45 Atlanta — Brian Burns (EDGE, Florida State)
Burns has talent but how early can he go if he weighs 225lbs?

#46 Washington — Trayvon Mullen (CB, Clemson)
A good performance in the Championship game has his stock trending up.

#47 Carolina — Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s very athletic but how will teams feel about his Brian Kelly tweets?

#48 Miami — Elgton Jenkins (C, Mississippi State)
Apparently, Miami’s priority is to fix the O-line and D-line this off-season.

#49 Cleveland — Yodney Cajuste (T, West Virginia)
The combine testing will be better than the tape. He’s very explosive.

#50 Minnesota — Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Can they trust Dalvin Cook?

#51 Tennessee — Jordan Kunaszyk (LB, California)
He’s tough and physical and capable of going earlier.

#52 Pittsburgh — Rodney Anderson (RB, Oklahoma)
He’d be a first round pick if he was healthy.

#53 Philadelphia — Benny Snell Jr (RB, Kentucky)
Tough, productive, fast, versatile.

#54 Carolina trades down and selects Kris Boyd (CB, Texas)
The Panthers acquire this pick for trading down from #16 to #23.

#55 Houston — Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (CB, Florida)
CGJ moved to the slot this year but could revert back to safety.

#56 New England — Te’Von Coney (LB, Notre Dame)
A steady player who can help himself with a good combine.

#57 Philadelphia — N’Keal Harry (WR, Arizona State)
Talented with YAC ability but he can’t separate.

#58 Dallas — Gerald Willis III (DT, Miami)
Impact rusher who will excel in the short shuttle at the combine.

#59 Indianapolis — Christian Miller (EDGE, Alabama)
Has limitations but he will test very well and he has the right attitude.

#60 Los Angeles Chargers — Nasir Adderley (S, Delaware)
I can’t tell yet if the hype is warranted. Let’s see how fast he is.

#61 New England — Chase Winovich (EDGE, Michigan)
He just seems destined for the Patriots, doesn’t he?

#62 Kansas City — Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
Bryant could be a replacement for Dee Ford.

#63 Kansas City — Kelvin Harmon (WR, NC State)
Is he special enough to go earlier? I’m not sure.

#64 New Orleans — Alizé Mack (TE, Notre Dame)
The Saints don’t have many holes.

The trades in review

1. New York trading up for Kyler Murray
There’s no doubt in my mind that Murray is the special talent eligible for this draft and a potential superstar. The Giants need some excitement at the QB position and make a bold move involving multiple high picks to grab Murray.

2. Denver trading up for Dwayne Haskins
When the GM infers you’re a short-term solution, you know your days are numbered. Case Keenum wasn’t convincing in 2018 and the Broncos are reportedly seeking a more modern offense moving forward.

3. Houston trading up for Greedy Williams
I think Williams is a bit overrated as a top-10 lock but he is the best corner eligible in this class. The Texans need major help at the position so make a big move up the board when Williams lasts into the teens. The Panthers are willing to strike a deal because they want to move down and get better value at the safety position.

4. Green Bay trading up for David Edwards
The Wisconsin tackle has the kind of attitude you expect from Green Bay’s O-line and could be coveted as a long term replacement for Bryan Bulaga. The two teams made a deal a year ago and the Packers might be aggressive considering they own two first round picks. Here they give Seattle their third round pick and a little more on the side.

5. Oakland trades for Antonio Brown
If it wasn’t obvious by now, the Raiders are all-in on making headlines ahead of the move to Las Vegas. What could be more headline grabbing than a big trade for Antonio Brown? They have the draft stock to make it happen. Here they give up pick #24 plus change.

6. San Francisco trading up for Jonah Williams
Despite the countless mocks projecting Williams in the top-10, he looks like your typical guard-convert taken in the 30’s. Here the 49ers jump ahead of Arizona at #33 to take him. Both teams need to bolster their O-lines.

What it all means for the Seahawks

In this scenario, ten defensive linemen are gone in the top-20. It might sound unrealistic but that’s where this draft class is. Two more go off the board before the end of round one. Twelve D-liners in the first frame is about par for this draft. It’s expected.

With the Seahawks trading down from #21 to #31, in such a situation they might be forced to look at other options.

Montez Sweat is available and I paired him with Seattle last time. There are still legitimate question marks about his character, departure from Michigan State and ability to defend the run and become more than a speed-rush specialist.

None of the safety’s are particular appealing. It’s not a good year at the position. The top-three linebackers are gone.

In this particular mock my two favourite available players were Michael Deiter and T.J. Hockenson.

Deiter is the best guard I’ve seen in this draft. His toughness, experience playing across the line and size make him an appealing fit at left guard. I suspect the Seahawks will re-sign J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker making this pick less likely. Deiter was a consideration though.

I went with Hockenson for a few reasons. The Seahawks love to work the board. Here the top defensive linemen are gone but the run on tight ends is just about to begin. Maybe in this scenario they anticipated that and got a player they really liked? They did it with Rashaad Penny a year ago — and similarly launched a run on running backs.

Ed Dickson missed several games and had hot and cold games in his first season. They can save nearly $3m by cutting him. Nick Vannett is a free agent after 2019. Will Dissly is recovering from a serious knee injury.

Considering they spent most of the year featuring an extra tackle as the tight end, it’s not a ‘massive’ need. They may wish to add a TE, however. And they have invested in the position previously — Zach Miller ($$$), Jimmy Graham (R1 + $$$), Nick Vannett (R3), Will Dissly (R4), Luke Willson (R5).

Hockenson blocks well (sometimes with real aggression), has a very fluid running style with the ability to get deep and he looks like a potential playmaker with the experience operating in a run-centric scheme.

The Seahawks might be very likely to select a defensive player with their first pick but Hockenson is an alternative worth considering.

If they move from #21 to #31 they should be able to acquire an extra third rounder and some day three compensation. This could enable them to pick twice in round three and have the kind of ammunition in rounds 4-7 to fill needs at receiver, defensive line, linebacker and in the secondary.

Hockenson might not last to #32. Or even to #21 for that matter. He’s a very talented player with major upside. Daniel Jeremiah put him in the top-10 of his first mock draft (although it’s quite an unusual mock with Josh Jacobs going in the top-five and Christian Wilkins dropping late into the first round — I don’t think either is likely). I’ll publish a deeper look at Jeremiah’s mock over the weekend.

Hockenson’s star is rising though — teams will covet his skill set.

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Wednesday notes: Seahawks eyeing Khalil Hodge?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Seahawks looking at Buffalo linebacker

Tony Pauline is at the Shrine game practises this week and he’s reporting interest from the Seahawks in Khalil Hodge:

“Hodge is an explosive run defender. A lot of people think the Seattle Seahawks are very high on him.”

I’ve watched some of Buffalo’s games today and there’s a lot to like. Hodge does a relatively good job dropping into coverage with light feet. He’s tough and physical and looks big. He’s not the fastest in terms of straight-line speed (would expect a forty in the 4.6’s or 4.7’s) but he gets around the field well for his size.

He also has a backstory that will appeal to Seattle. He didn’t receive much interest out of High School so rather than join a Division-II program he opted to play a year of JUCO. After one season at San Francisco City he moved to Buffalo where he averaged over 10-tackles a game and had 420 total tackles in three seasons (plus 21 TFL’s and three interceptions).

A captain for the Bulls, Hodge has also had to battle adversity recently. His younger brother was shot dead aged 19 in 2017.

Buffalo published the video below during the pre-season. It’s a good look at Hodge on and off the field. You can see his personality fitting in Seattle. Testing will be vital. The Seahawks focus a lot on athleticism and profile at linebacker in the draft. The short shuttle, forty, explosive testing, measurements. It all matters. It’s also worth noting K.J. Wright ran a 4.75. They valued his length, physicality and character.

Hodge is a name to look out for and could provide the Seahawks with a tough, run-defending option at linebacker in the middle rounds.

A quick reminder — Tony Pauline also reported recently the Seahawks have strong interest in Mississippi State’s massive, physical cornerback Jamal Peters. He certainly looks the part as a Seattle corner with great length and size.

T.J. Hockenson is one to watch

We’re going to see a run on tight ends at some point in this draft. It could happen in a similar way to the running back class of 2018 (not that this TE group is the same level of talent as the 2018 RB’s). It’ll likely happen in the late first or early second round.

A proper order is hard to determine at the moment. The position has changed so much. Some teams like the traditional multi-faceted TE who can block and catch some passes. Others will target what amounts to a ‘big’ slot receiver and a mismatch weapon. Testing results are vital these days unless, like the Seahawks a year ago, you’re looking for a pure blocker at the start of day three.

Noah Fant is expected to have a big combine but had an underwhelming final year at Iowa where he was usurped by T.J. Hockenson (who we’ll come onto in a minute). Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. is a pure ‘big slot’ and his father is a former first round pick at tight end. He isn’t expected to run particularly well at the combine but teams will admire his ability to move the chains.

Stanford’s Kaden Smith should test well. Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney and Notre Dame’s Alize Mack will also be monitored.

Hockenson, for me, is the best of the bunch.

He caught my eye in the Bowl game against a tough Mississippi State defense. He’s effortless in his ability to progress to the second level and get open. On one snap he had Johnathan Abram for dinner — pulling off a neat little break to separate and provide an easy target for the QB. It’s that type of move that gets you out of your seat. This guy can play, he can get open, he can be dynamic.

Hockenson had a big impact in the second half against Mississippi State to secure an solid win for the Hawkeye’s. I wanted to see more so watched the games against Wisconsin and Penn State. There were plenty of examples of his smooth transition to the second level and his ability to find pockets of space to get open or to separate when he’s engaged by a defender. He tracks the ball very well and even has enough speed to take the top off a defense and get downfield.

For a team wanting to take deep shots like the Seahawks, he’d be an excellent weapon. Especially when paired with speed on the outside. If you have your receivers settle in on short-to-intermediate routes, Hockenson can get in behind. If you run some go-routes to open up the middle, Hockenson should be able to find a zone to provide an option.

There’s even evidence of savviness in the scramble drill:

The big question is — can he block? Because the Seahawks want blockers. They spent two years trying to make Jimmy Graham the complete TE, then made him a red zone specialist. They’re not going back to that. It’s why they rolled with a combo of Will Dissly, Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett and George Fant in 2018.

They’ll like the offense Hockenson played in because it’s very run-centric and there are some familiar concepts. Hockenson is often lined up like an orthodox TE. He’s frequently asked to stay in and block. There are occasional whiffs where you’d like to see him hold position a little better and stick. There were occasions were defenders slipped him a bit too easily. It’s to be expected though given he’s listed at 6-5 and 250lbs (Dissly was 262lbs at his combine).

On the whole, however, you see a lot of effort. A real willingness to block. And at times, you see incredible violence and a nasty edge.

Look at this thread courtesy of Michael Kist:

You can work with this level of attitude.

I don’t know whether the Seahawks would be in the market for an early pick at tight end. A year ago they traded down from #18 to #27 and took Rashaad Penny — kicking off a run on running backs. Would they make a similar move from #21 and kick off a run on tight ends? Maybe.

It all depends on what happens with the defensive linemen. The expectation is at least 10 D-liners will go in the first frame. Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Jachai Polite and Ed Oliver will almost certainly be off the board by #21. Assuming the Seahawks trade back into the 20’s or 30’s — there’s no question they’ll be all gone. If you include Josh Allen as an EDGE/DL he’ll be gone too.

We’ll have to see what happens with Jeffery Simmons. I’ve started to think one of two things will happen. Either he’ll go in the top-15 because the talent warrants it. Or he’ll fall badly because of the High School incident and in that scenario — the Seahawks will simply be one of the teams to let him fall.

Dre’Mont Jones, Jaylon Ferguson, Jerry Tillery, Montez Sweat, Brian Burns, D’Andre Walker and others could also go in the top-40 range. But as the names come off the board, the Seahawks would have to decide how to work the board in their favour. Do they identify a D-liner they really like in the #25-40 range? Very possible. It could also be that they see better value elsewhere.

If that’s the case, someone like T.J. Hockenson could come into view.

Free agency will be interesting. One way or another, they’ll need to sign a hedge for the draft. That’ll be at both defensive tackle and end. They need depth, competition and playmaking quality on defense. If they find great value and can land a couple of prize additions in a repeat of the Bennett/Avril heist of 2013 — it possibly opens things up in the draft. So we’ll see how the situation plays out.

Hockenson’s intriguing though. I’m not convinced the Seahawks would take any of the other TE’s early. He could provide a possible longer-term alternative to Ed Dickson plus some security as Will Dissly recovers from injury and with Nick Vannett a free agent after the 2019 season. It’s something to consider, even if they eventually just draft a defensive lineman with their first pick.

Michael Deiter is really good

It’s looking like a particularly weak offensive tackle class (at least in terms of round one). The guard class will be boosted by tackles kicking inside (Greg Little, Jawaan Taylor, Jonah Williams). However, my favourite guard so far is Wisconsin’s Michael Deiter.

I put him in the top-40 of my last mock on January 8th. I wanted to repeat what I wrote about him a few days ago:

He’s about 6-5 and 320lbs. He switched from left tackle to guard and he looks at home in the role. He previously had limitations against speed and the top athletes working the edge. Now he excels as a terrific interior mauler. He gets into blocks quickly and is very capable of locking on at the second level. He plays with a nasty edge and will often play to the whistle (and beyond) and bury defenders into the ground. He anchors well and you rarely see him jolted off the LOS allowing penetration into the backfield. There’s evidence of him pulling to the right and sealing blocks in the run game.

I think the Seahawks will re-sign J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker and another early pick on a guard seems unlikely (especially given the growing pains they’ve experienced with younger offensive linemen in recent years). That said, Deiter looks like a solid second round grade to me and a player with the attitude and potential to be a pro for many years.

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An early projection on legit first round grades

Monday, January 14th, 2019

Thirty-two players will be drafted in round one. The number of players receiving ‘legit’ first round grades will be a much smaller number.

Teams don’t grade 32 players in round one, 32 in round two and so on. They might have a very small number of players they’re willing to grade in round one.

On average you might get 12-18 players in the first frame. Last year I thought there might be between 10-15. I thought there might be approximately 14 in 2016.

It’s still too early to say for sure. The Senior Bowl and Combine always impact the list. My projection today would be at least 14-18. It would’ve been higher had Derrick Brown and Raekwon Davis not opted to stay at Auburn and Alabama respectively.

Kyler Murray today declared and as I’ve been saying for a while, I think he’s the most talented player in the draft. I wrote about him being the best draft eligible quarterback, built an argument for the Seahawks drafting him, put him at the top of my tiered rankings with Nick Bosa and argued the Cardinals should think about taking him with the #1 pick.

I don’t think there’s any doubt he’ll be a first round selection. The question is — how early does he go? Will he be the first pick taken by either the Cardinals or a team trading up? Does he get out of the top-10?

For me, any player who can do this…

…goes very, very early.

John Schneider attended the West Virginia vs Oklahoma game. I’d imagine one of the reasons would’ve been to see Murray in person. Why wouldn’t you? He’s a phenomenal talent.

Here’s what Bob McGinn’s scouting sources had to say about him:

“I don’t know what you do with a guy that’s 5-9 but he is something special… He would be a shorter version of Patrick Mahomes. He can be that special. He’d probably run like a 4.4 something. He’s a better football player than Baker Mayfield because he runs so well.

“He can be going full speed left or right and throw the ball the length of the field. I haven’t really broken him down yet because I figure he’s going to play baseball. But you go ‘wow, wow, wow!’ when you watch him. I wouldn’t want to defend him.

“The amazing thing is his arm strength. He’s accurate, too. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Mahomes.”

The Mahomes comparison, for me, is profound. They’re cut from the same cloth. Different body types. Not identical playing styles. But they have that same ability to throw with power and accuracy all over the field, make the improbable happen and be a complete playmaker.

I wouldn’t have any issue with the Seahawks drafting Murray as insurance to Russell Wilson. If they can’t extend Wilson and need to franchise him twice (in 2020 and 2021) or even if they extend him for four more years — have the heir apparent ready and waiting. Give yourself a bargaining chip in negotiations with Mark Rodgers. There’s nothing wrong with having a quality backup. You can always trade him (see: Jimmy Garoppolo) and the Packers spent two high picks preparing for life after Brett Favre (Aaron Rodgers, Brian Brohm).

It’s highly unlikely Murray lasts into range for the Seahawks but I’d have absolutely no issue with them taking him. Even if Wilson enjoys many more successful years as the starting QB. You just can’t pass on a talent like this.

So what about the rest of the draft and possible ‘legit’ round one prospects?

The top three in the class are probably Murray (QB, Oklahoma), Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State) and Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama). Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson) isn’t too far behind and neither are his Clemson team mates Dexter Lawrence (DT) and Christian Wilkins (DT).

The NFL is dominated by big, athletic pass rushers. Plenty of teams will be prepared to draft Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan) in the top-10 despite a slightly disappointing college career. His upside as a former #1 recruit is unquestionable.

Devin White (LB, LSU) can feel very secure about his place in round one and if Devin Bush (LB, Michigan) has a big performance at the combine, he’ll claim a first round home.

There are fair concerns about Ed Oliver (DT, Houston) and his next-level role. He’s undersized to play defensive tackle but lacks the length or frame to play defensive end. Even so, his athletic profile and talent likely secures a top-15 range.

Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida) and Josh Allen (LB, Kentucky) will also hear their names called in the top-20.

That’s 12 on my list so far. Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State) undoubtedly deserves to be given a first round grade based on his play and incredible upside. We’ll have to wait and see how teams view his stock following a serious incident in High School that will leave many uncomfortable selecting him early (or at all).

Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford also deserves a mention. He has a massive frame but moves with excellent agility and has a terrific kick-slide. At the very least he could be a fantastic guard at the next level.

I personally wouldn’t include Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State) but many teams will. Quarterback-needy teams could also consider Daniel Jones (QB, Duke) and Drew Lock (QB, Missouri) in round one.

Greedy Williams (CB, LSU) could end up being a consensus first rounder but not for me. I’m equally unconvinced Jonah Williams (T, Alabama) warrants such a grade.

You could certainly make a case for Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma) but he’s probably more of a R2 grade who still goes in the first frame. Byron Murphy (CB, Washington), Zach Allen (DE, Boston College), Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida) and Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State) are in a similar position.

I suspect there’ll be mixed grades on Greg Little (T, Ole Miss) and Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech). This is why the combine is such a vital event — how much athletic potential do these players have? Especially those needing to work on technique.

Mack Wilson (LB, Alabama) has first round potential after opting to turn pro. Alabama often left him as the deepest player on the field on key passing downs. His coverage ability is a big plus and he hits like a hammer.

The combine will be big for the receivers and tight ends. Both positions have depth without an obvious order of talent or a clear prospect who goes early. Win at the combine and we could see some big risers. The worst case scenario is we see a lot of WR’s and TE’s leaving the board in round two.

Wisconsin’s Michael Deiter is a player who intrigues me a lot. He’s about 6-5 and 320lbs. He switched from left tackle to guard and he looks at home in the role. He previously had limitations against speed and the top athletes working the edge. Now he excels as a terrific interior mauler. He gets into blocks quickly and is very capable of locking on at the second level. He plays with a nasty edge and will often play to the whistle (and beyond) and bury defenders into the ground. He anchors well and you rarely see him jolted off the LOS allowing penetration into the backfield. There’s evidence of him pulling to the right and sealing blocks in the run game.

I don’t know how early Deiter will go but he looks like an early starter and a player with the potential to start for a number of years at left guard. Keep an eye on him at the Senior Bowl. I’d give him a second round grade at the moment. He could easily land in the top-45. I had him at #39 in our first two-round mock.

So how does the class look in terms of legit first round grades? Not bad at all with room for more after the Senior Bowl & combine. What makes this draft class so unique is the way it’s weighted to the defensive line. Other traditional ‘cornerstone’ positions like left tackle, cornerback and receiver are weak at the top of round one. Linebacker will also be seen as a first-day strength. But there are just so many talented D-liners. We could see ten (or more) go in the first round.

Don’t forget to check out our other recent articles:

Prediction: A modest off-season and lots of trading down

Roster predictions, Devin Bush & more

Podcast: Dallas aftermath, the 2018 season and looking ahead

The start of the Seahawks off-season article

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Prediction: A modest off-season and lots of trading down

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

I think I made a mistake a week ago.

Pete Carroll held his usual end of season press conference. It’s often quite revealing. Carroll provides a steer for the off-season, even if he’s not giving away any state secrets.

Initially it appeared Carroll was being quite vague when asked about off-season priorities:

“We’re pleased with the progress that we’ve made with the guys we have. We don’t think there are big voids or big holes.”

In an interview with 950 KJR after his press conference, Carroll was asked what the needs on the roster are:

“Across the board we need to develop our competitiveness. We need to get the young guys who missed out on this season… to come forth and challenge the spots and make everybody better.”

He goes on to reference the returning players — Will Dissly and Jamarco Jones — plus other younger guys like Rasheem Green. Carroll also talked up Delano Hill’s emergence.

At first this appeared to be a fantastic way of avoiding answering the question. I think there’s more to it now.

It speaks to Seattle’s need for depth, although Carroll believes he has a developing core. It’s also hard to say what areas they’ll be able to address.

Let’s take every point in turn.

1. It speaks to Seattle’s lack of depth

Between 2011 and 2014, a second-string Seahawks team could’ve won games in the regular season. Opponents were destroyed in pre-season. It was the deepest, most competitive roster in the league.

That wasn’t the case in 2018. They lost all four pre-season games. The depth was exposed a little. That happened in the regular season too.

Part of this will be solved by players gaining experience, playing time and information. Part of this will be new additions. It is a big priority this off-season though. They need to be deeper and more competitive across the board.

2. Carroll believes a core is there

We’ll spend an off-season debating and discussing Seattle’s greatest needs. It’s worth remembering they have the following:

— A franchise QB
— A legit starting LT
— Two really good receivers
— The most productive running game in the NFL
— Two defensive linemen combining for 24.5 sacks in 2018
— The NFL’s best linebacker

That’s a lot of pieces there. Enough to be among the contenders. Improving the depth and experience around this core group will enable the Seahawks to take the next step and compete for the NFC West (and at least one home playoff game).

3. It’s hard to say what areas they’ll be able to address

They have a lot of work to do this off-season. It starts with franchising or re-signing Frank Clark. It develops into a decision on players like J.R. Sweezy, D.J. Fluker, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks. You’ve got a whole bunch of RFA’s and ERFA’s. You need to fill out the roster similar to last year with some calculated moves in free agency. You also need to think about the future — with Jarran Reed, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson all out of contract after 2019.

When you think about it like that, it’s a stack of issues to address. Few teams have this much work to do. If your intention is to extend Wilson, Wagner and Reed — you need two out of three extended before the season ends. Otherwise, you’re going to lose one. You only get one franchise tag.

It’s unclear how much cap room they’ll have to spend but the chances are it’ll be severely limited after all the new deals are handed out. It’s very possible they won’t have the flexibility — in terms of cap room or draft picks — to make major additions.

Carroll’s understated words on priorities and needs might actually be quite revealing if you interpret them as I’m considering now. I think he expects quite a modest off-season. One that does focus on re-signing and developing the existing group.

So here are a couple of predictions on reflection…

1. Free agency will be like a year ago

For all the speculation about Ndamukong Suh and other possible additions, the Seahawks stayed well clear of any big moves in free agency. They targeted players like Ed Dickson, Barkevious Mingo, Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen and eventually — D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy.

Their biggest priority was re-signing and keeping Bradley McDougald.

There’s always a chance an opportunity arises. If there’s a 2019 version of the Michael Bennett/Cliff Avril deals from six years ago, the Seahawks may well go after it. If that doesn’t happen, selective and cost-effective additions in the second and third wave of free agency seem more likely. They have to prioritise keeping their own (in 2019 and 2020) and will not be left with millions to spend, even if $60-70m in available cap room seems appealing at the moment. It will evaporate quickly.

Again, adding more competition and depth could be the key.

2. The draft will involve a lot of trading back

This would be different if they had all seven draft picks and some comp picks were due. Instead they have just four picks. That’s what happens when you’re caught between an aggressive ‘got for it’ approach one year (2017) and then face an immediate reset operation (2018) and aren’t able to trade away players before they reach free agency (Earl Thomas).

While a lot of fans will spend an off-season pitching ‘just take a blue chip guy’ at #21, the Seahawks have to weigh up the options.

I’m going to publish a post this week discussing how many ‘legit’ first round grades will be offered in this draft class. I think it could be around 14-18. So at #21, the options might be pretty similar to the options at #35 or later.

Even if a player drops unexpectedly, trading down might still be inevitable. I know a lot of people like to reference Derwin James ‘being one pick away’ a year ago. I’m 100% convinced they would’ve traded down had James lasted to #18. They had a first round pick then nothing until round four. They had minimal stock. It wasn’t unfair for them, in any scenario at #18, to try and create more and fix other needs (namely what they judged to be their top need — fixing the run — and getting a pass rusher).

I’d expect something similar this year too. I suspect they’ll want to have 7-8 selections. That could mean trading down from #21 two or three times (as they’ve done in the past).

I think it’s highly possible we’ll see a repeat of a year ago (and some longer Seahawks draft trends) of identifying ‘their guys’ in the range they know they can get them. They knew in round three in 2018 they could get a pass rusher with a terrific short shuttle and low and behold — Rasheem Green and Sam Hubbard were available in their range. They took Will Dissly in a place where they could guarantee getting him. They traded up for Michael Dickson, secured Tre Flowers in their typical range for a cornerback (fifth round).

Assess the board after the Senior Bowl, combine and pro-days. Find the guys who ‘fit’. Manipulate the board to get as many of those guys as possible.

I could be totally wrong here. They might be more aggressive than ever. We’ll see. They’re always looking for an opportunity. On reflection though, I think there’s more to Carroll’s words than I first thought. The last time he spoke in this way — 2014 — they had a very quiet free agency period highlighted only by re-signing Michael Bennett. They then traded down twice from #32 and #40 before taking their guy (Paul Richardson) at pick #45. They passed on several of the ‘bigger names’ by moving down.

The big difference is, of course, the Seahawks were coming off a Super Bowl. But Carroll’s words — “(We) don’t see anything we need to add… We just have to get better” — are almost identical to what he said last week.

This is my off-season prediction for Seattle:

— A fairly modest and quiet free agency period similar to last year with a focus on keeping the core together.

— A draft that involves a lot of trading down and a focus on acquiring positional preferences in terms of physical profile and character to add further competition and depth to a 10-win roster.

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Friday notes: Roster predictions, Devin Bush & more

Friday, January 11th, 2019

Firstly, if you missed the UK Seahawkers podcast yesterday don’t forget to check it out below. I was invited on and we get into some big topics — the Dallas game, the 2018 season and the future of the Seahawks. Have a listen…

Predicting the future

The Seahawks have big calls to make on several members of the roster. Here are some early predictions on how some of these situations will play out…

Frank Clark
Pete Carroll has made it very clear Clark will stay with the team. The key is whether there’s any chance of a long-term extension or will he receive the franchise tag? I suspect Clark will ask for top money. The Seahawks won’t want him to reach the market. The franchise tag will be used and that’ll be the starting point for a long term deal that could be completed at some point over the spring or summer.

Jarran Reed
Reed timed it perfectly to have a career-best season, putting up gaudy sack numbers. Has he potentially priced himself out of getting a deal done this off-season? Maybe. After all, he can ask for big money now. The Seahawks would no doubt love to get him tied down as part of a new young core. It’ll require some give and take. Perhaps they’ll wait to make a deal during the 2019 season?

K.J. Wright
Wright is clearly loved by the players and staff. The Seahawks undoubtedly want to keep him. The problem is, Wright is a good enough player for someone to pay reasonably big bucks for. Just look how well he played against Dallas. If you’ve got a lot of cap room, you might take a chance on his knee to get his talent and leadership. The Colts and 49ers, for example, could be teams that show a lot of interest. They can afford to take a chance on his health. He’ll likely reach the market and the Seahawks will have a number in mind. If it gets blown out of the water, what can they do? I suspect this probably happens and, sadly, Wright moves on.

Mychal Kendricks
Carroll has already referenced bringing Kendricks back. It makes sense anyway but it’ll be a priority if K.J. Wright departs. Kendricks likely respects the opportunity Seattle gave him in 2018 and the Seahawks clearly benefited from his play. A deal, probably for one or two seasons, seems inevitable.

Justin Coleman
Coleman is the type of player you ideally keep but probably don’t overpay for. The Seahawks plucked him from New England in the Cassius Marsh trade and might prefer to go hunting for another bargain. It seems likely Coleman reaches the market, just as Jeremy Lane did back in the day, and the Seahawks assess their options. They might make a generous offer (as they did for Lane) if other moves don’t come off and they have some money to spend. They might get him back on a very reasonable contract if his market is lukewarm. Or he could get paid elsewhere. It seems like the most fluid and open-ended situation and could go either way.

Earl Thomas
Earl is moving on to a new team. There’s no doubt here. The Seahawks clearly made a decision not to pay him a third contract. A year ago they were willing to trade him. They were equally prepared to lose him as a free agent in 2019. And that’s what is going to happen. Some fans might want to cling to the hope he will return but we know it isn’t realistic.

J.R. Sweezy & D.J. Fluker
I’ve clubbed these two players together because I think it’s inevitable both will remain. In London I asked Pete Carroll if he wanted to keep both. He didn’t just say ‘yes’, he suggested they were part of the new core. And it’s no surprise. The O-line helped set the tone and did more than anyone to regain the physical style Carroll and John Schneider are looking for. Plus Sweezy and Fluker have both expressed interest bordering on excitement about staying in Seattle.

Still trying to figure out Michigan’s Devin Bush

There are a lot of impressive parts to his game. His quickness to go sideline-to-sideline and run in pursuit is top level. He reads plays very quickly and has outstanding athleticism to react and get to the ball carrier. On one red zone snap against Ohio State he was lined up at weakside backer, detected early that it was going to be a swing pass to the running back and made a break to the ball carrier. He covered a lot of ground in no time at all, dodged a blocking receiver and made the tackle. It’s this type of exceptional quickness and understanding that puts him in the round one conversation. He’s also a terrific blitzer, he hits like a sledgehammer and rarely misses tackles. He’s strong, powerful, tough and fast. When he correctly reads an inside run he’ll be patient and deliver a jarring blow at the LOS.

However, he was also used predominantly as an attacker. He would be encouraged, pretty much on all of his snaps, to attack the LOS and be aggressive. It occasionally meant he would be too aggressive — taking bad angles, running under blocks or failing to contain the edge. There were times where he conceded some decent gains in the running game. Was it the scheme? The role? Quite possibly. He has the athleticism and toughness to be a very effective starter in the NFL. But it’s out there on tape. And at 5-11 and 232lbs he doesn’t have the length to stay clean like a K.J. Wright and keep blockers off his frame.

He’d be an exciting addition to any defense. Whether he can limit some of the flaws vs the run to become a fantastic run-and-hit tone-setter is the key question.

Latest news on declarations

Alabama’s Raekwon Davis is staying in school. It’s another surprise after Derrick Brown and Jabari Zuniga both chose not to declare. It’s still a very deep D-line class but it won’t be quite as deep with this trio opting not to turn pro.

Irv Smith Jr and Josh Jacobs are heading for the NFL (both Alabama). Smith Jr has NFL bloodlines (his father was a former #20 overall pick as a tight end). He had a productive 2018 season essentially in the role of a big slot receiver. He wasn’t asked to do much blocking. There’s a feeling he won’t run a great forty yard dash. He could be the first tight end taken. My prediction at the moment is for a run on the position in round two. Jacobs had a really strong end to the season but seems like a bit of a ‘flavour of the month’ candidate. Rodney Anderson, Damien Harris and Benny Snell Jr all played well enough to warrant higher grades. That doesn’t mean Jacobs is a poor player. He has excellent physical skills and could be a good pro.

Jonah Williams the Alabama left tackle has declared for the draft. He’s one of the more overrated 2019 prospects and struggled badly against Clemson in the National Championship. He lacks top level strength and power to make up for below average length and footwork/agility. A lot of people project him as a top-15 pick but not for me. I wouldn’t take him in round one.

Quinnen Williams is also turning pro. He’s a nailed-on top five pick.

And then there’s Kyler Murray. For me, the top draft eligible player. The prospect who should go #1 overall — taken by either the Cardinals or a team trading up. Murray is the real deal with superstar potential. Reportedly he is leaning towards picking football instead of baseball.

Murray is a special talent with an opportunity to come into the league and have a Patrick Mahomes type of impact. I’ve put him at #1 in my last few mocks and that won’t change any time soon if he declares. What a talent.

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Podcast: Dallas aftermath, the 2018 season and looking ahead

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

This week I was invited onto the Seahawkers UK podcast. We get into some big topics including what went wrong in Dallas, the 2018 season on the whole and how the Seahawks take the next step this off-season. I’m biased but I think it’s a really good listen and it’d be great if you check it out…

Mock draft: Two rounds, multiple trades

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Time for a two-round mock draft that includes the Raiders trading for Antonio Brown, the Seahawks moving down twice to accumulate picks and the Broncos moving up to the #1 pick to get a quarterback…

First round

#1 Denver trades with Arizona to select Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
Murray is the most talented player eligible for the draft. The Broncos make a huge trade to get a potential superstar (if he chooses football…).

#2 San Francisco — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
The Niners get lucky and land the best defensive player and a complete pass rusher.

#3 New York Jets — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
The Jets need an edge rusher not an interior rusher, so they go with Ferrell.

#4 Oakland — Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
The Raiders snap up a player who could remind Jon Gruden of Warren Sapp.

#5 Tampa Bay — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
A former #1 national recruit — teams will love Gary’s upside and he’ll go very early.

#6 New York Giants — Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
Haskins is a bit overrated but the Giants are a good fit.

#7 Jacksonville — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
The Jags sign a veteran QB (Joe Flacco?) and then draft a replacement for Marcell Dareus.

#8 Detroit — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Polite plays with a relentless effort and regularly battled double teams at Florida.

#9 Buffalo — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Wilkins will have an outstanding combine, teams will love his interviews and he’ll go early.

#10 Arizona trades with Denver and selects Devin White (LB, LSU)
Having moved down from #1 overall and acquired a bevy of picks, the Cardinals draft a rock-solid LB.

#11 Cincinnati — Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
If there’s one team that won’t have any issue drafting Simmons, it’s the team that selected Joe Mixon.

#12 Green Bay — Josh Allen (LB, Kentucky)
The top-five talk is a bit rich for a player who needs to be stronger. He suits a 3-4.

#13 Miami — Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
It seems inevitable Miami will make a change at QB. The Senior Bowl is huge for Jones.

#14 Atlanta — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Ed Oliver is a wonderful talent. But what’s his fit at the next level?

#15 Washington — Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Alex Smith’s future is uncertain but his contract is locked in. They need a cheap alternative.

#16 Houston trades up with Carolina for Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
The Texans make a big move to solve a huge need.

#17 Philadelphia trades up with Cleveland for Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
The Eagles like to be aggressive and target talented linemen.

#18 Minnesota — Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
He has great feet for his size. If he doesn’t work out at tackle, he’ll be a top guard.

#19 Tennessee — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
Major production, big talent — very raw.

#20 Pittsburgh — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Highly competitive and gritty. Gets after the ball and hits like a rhino.

#21 Green Bay trades with Seattle to select David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
The Seahawks traded with the Packers a year ago and history repeats here. Green Bay needs some new blood on the O-line.

#22 Baltimore — Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
I think Little will kick inside to guard. He’s suited to the move.

#23 Carolina trades down with Houston for Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
The Panthers reportedly want to target the safety position this year.

#24 Pittsburgh trades with Oakland for Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
The Raiders make a big splash and trade a first rounder plus for Antonio Brown.

#25 Cleveland trades down with Philadelphia and selects Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
The Browns select Antonio’s cousin to take his place in the AFC North and give Baker Mayfield another weapon.

#26 Indianapolis — Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
The Colts get a speedy partner for Darius Leonard.

#27 Oakland — Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
The Raiders get a steal to go with Quinnen Williams and Antonio Brown from the first frame.

#28 Los Angeles Chargers — Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida)
The Chargers don’t have many holes and have regularly invested in their O-line.

#29 New England — Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
He’s fast and explosive and might just be the kind of weapon they like in New England.

#30 Los Angeles Rams — D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia)
If they don’t re-sign Dante Fowler, Walker could be a cheaper alternative.

#31 Kansas City — Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
They need to do something to improve the defense.

#32 The New York Giants trade with Seattle to select Jonah Williams (T, Alabama)
The Giants leapfrog the Cardinals to add an (overrated) offensive lineman.

Second round

#33 Arizona — Max Scharping (T, Northern Illinois)
Some think Scharping is better than Eric Fisher was entering the league.

#34 Indianapolis — A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
The Colts see an opportunity to get value in Brown.

#35 Oakland — Albert Okwuegbunam (TE, Missouri)
It’s believed Okwuegbunam will have an outstanding combine performance.

#36 San Francisco — Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)
A tone setting safety with a great attitude and leadership qualities.

#37 Seattle trades down with the Giants and selects Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
After trading down from #21 to #32, then from #32 to #37, the Seahawks add some picks and then some speed, length and pass rush to the front seven.

#38 Jacksonville — T.J Hockenson (TE, Iowa)
The Jags attacked the TE position a year ago and might go back for more this year.

#39 Tampa Bay — Michael Deiter (G, Wisconsin)
There’s a feeling Deiter might be the best pure guard in the draft class.

#40 Buffalo — Irv Smith Jr (TE, Alabama)
He’s basically a big slot receiver. I’m not sure he’ll be a great tester at the combine.

#41 Arizona trades with Denver and selects Noah Fant (TE, Iowa)
The run on tight ends continues. This is part of Denver’s package to move up to #1 overall.

#42 Cincinnati — Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
Don’t be surprised if we see a lot of TE’s go in this range. Smith might be the best.

#43 Detroit — DeAndre Baker (CB, Georgia)
He has talent but he’s small and struggles to track the ball in the air. He might last.

#44 Green Bay — Deebo Samuel (WR, South Carolina)
Looks stocky but has surprising quickness and he’s a great returner.

#45 Atlanta — Brian Burns (EDGE, Florida)
Burns is immensely talented but if he weighs 225lbs how can he go in round one?

#46 Washington — Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (CB, Florida)
Great competitor, great personality. Boom or bust as a playmaker.

#47 Carolina — Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Why not have a fantastic compliment to Christian McCaffrey?

#48 Miami — Gerald Willis III (DT, Miami)
Had an outstanding 2018 with major TFL production. He’ll excel in the short shuttle.

#49 Cleveland — Andre Dillard (T, Washington State)
Some scouts reportedly see Dillard as the best pass-blocker in a weak tackle class.

#50 Minnesota — Christian Miller (LB, Alabama)
If they lose Anthony Barr in free agency, Miller could be a replacement.

#51 Tennessee — Trayvon Mullen (CB, Clemson)
It is not a good corner class. Mullen has the potential to go in this range or earlier.

#52 Pittsburgh — Rodney Anderson (RB, Oklahoma)
A first round talent who lasts because he’s recovering from injury.

#53 Philadelphia — Benny Snell Jr (RB, Kentucky)
A really physical runner who has enjoyed a couple of great years in the SEC.

#54 Houston — Kris Boyd (CB, Texas)
The Texans double-dip at corner after a nightmare 2018 season at the position.

#55 Houston — Colton McKivitz (T, West Virginia)
He’s not as athletic as team mate Yodney Cajuste but he’s more consistent.

#56 New England — Jordan Kunaszyk (LB, California)
A good combine could launch the physical Kunaszyk up the boards. He ran a 4.29 short shuttle at SPARQ.

#57 Philadelphia — Kelvin Harmon (WR, NC State)
The Eagles might lose two receivers in free agency (Jordan Matthews & Golden Tate).

#58 Dallas — Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
I’m not sure why Thompson is considered a first round prospect. There’s no evidence for it. He looks like a Seahawks corner convert.

#59 Indianapolis — Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
Situational rusher but he often finds a way to make a sack or TFL.

#60 Los Angeles Chargers — Jaquan Johnson (S, Miami)
A safety partner for Derwin James. Small but physical.

#61 New England — Chase Winovich (EDGE, Michigan)
He just seems destined for the Patriots, doesn’t he?

#62 Kansas City — Elgton Jenkins (C, Mississippi State)
He had a rough outing against Quinnen Williams but who didn’t?

#63 Kansas City — Te’von Coney (LB, Notre Dame)
Not that exciting to study but a good combine would help Coney.

#64 New Orleans — N’Keal Harry (WR, Arizona State)
Looks the part but can you trust him to separate and make plays?

The trades in review

1. Denver trading up for Kyler Murray
There’s no doubt in my mind that Murray is the special talent eligible for this draft and a potential superstar. The Broncos need some magic at the QB position and make a bold move involving multiple high picks to grab Murray (assuming he chooses football over baseball).

2. Houston trading up for Greedy Williams
I think Williams is a bit overrated as a top-10 lock but he is the best corner eligible in this class. The Texans need major help at the position so make a big move up the board when Williams lasts into the teens. The Panthers are willing to strike a deal because they want to move down and get better value at the safety position.

3. Philadelphia trading up for Raekwon Davis
The Eagles usually focus on the trenches and are always willing to make a big move. Davis is extremely talented with Calais Campbell-type size. Philly sees an opportunity to go up and get him.

4. Green Bay trading up for David Edwards
The Wisconsin tackle has the kind of attitude you expect from Green Bay’s O-line and could be coveted as a long term replacement for Bryan Bulaga. The two teams made a deal a year ago and the Packers might be aggressive considering they own two first round picks. Here they give Seattle their third round pick and a little more on the side.

5. Oakland trades for Antonio Brown
If it wasn’t obvious by now, the Raiders are all-in on making headlines ahead of the move to Las Vegas. What could be more headline grabbing than a big trade for Antonio Brown? They have the draft stock to make it happen. Here they give up pick #24 plus change.

6. The New York Giants trading up for Jonah Williams
If the Seahawks can get to pick #32 some teams might be keen to jump ahead of Arizona to get at what’s left of the O-line class. The Seahawks get a day three pick in the deal to help fill out their board.

What it means for the Seahawks

They trade down twice and accumulate three picks in the process (let’s say Green Bay’s third and sixth rounder, plus New York’s fifth rounder). That gives them seven picks instead of four.

With their first selection at #37 they take Montez Sweat. As noted earlier in the week, I’m still trying to work out where Sweat fits into this draft. Will teams fall for his 35.5-inch arms and dynamic speed off the edge? Or will they have concerns about his ability to defend the run and weird spell at Michigan State?

In this mock I’m pairing him with the Seahawks — a team that has always been willing to roll the dice on a certain type of player with major upside. Sweat has the length and the twitchy quickness they love. He could be a complimentary pass-rusher for Frank Clark and improve the speed up front. Clark is one of, if not the most explosive edge rushers in the league. Pairing him with Sweat’s speed could be a nice combo.

Instead of picks in rounds one, three, four and five — these trades would give the Seahawks picks in rounds two, three (x2), four, five (x2) and six. The third frame could be a good area to look at the wide receiver or defensive tackle position. They’d have three picks to target defensive backs at the start of day three (their usual range for the secondary). They’d also have a sixth rounder.

It’s still incredibly early to project what they might do on draft day — but this kind of plan makes some degree of sense. They’re not going to spend just four picks in the 2019 draft — and the only way they’ll accumulate more is by trading down from #21.

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Monday notes: Pete Carroll press conference edition

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Carroll: there are no ‘big voids’

At the end of every season Pete Carroll conducts a press conference. And every year, Carroll is candid about how his team can take the next step.

In previous years he’s noted they need to fix the run, add more speed in the front seven and enhance the pass rush. It’s usually somewhat revealing.

Today was the first time since 2014 that this wasn’t the case.

When asked specifically about needs, Carroll mentioned a conversation with John Schneider before announcing:

“We’re pleased with the progress that we’ve made with the guys we have. We don’t think there are big voids or big holes.”

Sound familiar?

This is what Carroll said after the Super Bowl parade five years ago:

“(We) don’t see anything we need to add. We just have to get better.”

“It’s not going to be something from outside of us. We have what we need.”

The message on both occasions was similar. Just get a bit better. No glaring needs.

Of course, this is a very different roster these days. ‘Just get better’ in 2014 meant adding to the best team in the league. In 2019 they’re looking to improve depth and find more key players to help regain the NFC West and secure at least one home playoff game.

It’s worth considering how they approached the 2014 off-season though to see if there are any clues to be had.

The draft that year was absolutely loaded at receiver. Three went in the top-12 (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr) with a further nine (Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson, Davante Adams, Cody Latimer, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry) coming off the board before the end of round two.

It was the clear and established draft strength going in. It’s no surprise either. Among that list are some of the NFL’s best current playmakers. What a group it proved to be.

The 2019 draft also has a very clear draft strength on the defensive line.

Five of the 2014 receivers were taken in the first round. Per Bob McGinn’s scouting sources, we could see at least 10 D-liners in the first frame this year:

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the scout, a veteran with more than 30 drafts under his belt. “Call off the names.

“Most NFL teams don’t have defensive lines as good as Clemson’s. Then they have three backups that are just as good.”

If we’re making comparisons to Carroll’s words in 2014 — and if the Seahawks have a similar feeling about progressing the roster — it’s possible they will again look to tap into the draft strength once again after trading down. Five years ago they moved from #32 to #45 and selected Paul Richardson — their preferred receiver. Moving down from #21 to a range where they can get their preferred defensive linemen is a fair prediction entering the off-season.

Meanwhile, Carroll again reiterated his desire to re-sign Frank Clark: “I’m counting on it. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

On the approach since losing in Dallas: “John (Schneider) has a master plan of carrying this out… we’re already well into it.”

Is there a chance K.J. Wright returns? Carroll certainly made it very clear he’d like to see it happen: “We’d love to have K.J. back with us. That’s one of the many issues… Everything he stands for is what we love about him and we’d love him to be here throughout.”

On whether D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy will return: “We’d love to keep those guys together.”

Carroll is very confident the roster is in good shape following a 10-6 season: “You can tell the nucleus, the core, of a championship team is here.”

It was also noted that Naz Jones has officially moved to play the five-technique and David Moore was identified as a player who could potentially improve the most from year two to three.

The history of the #21 overall pick

With Philadelphia beating Chicago in the playoffs, the Seahawks are locked into the #21 spot in this years draft. Here are the last 10 picks at #21:

2018 — Billy Price (C, Ohio State) — Cincinnati
2017 — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida) — Detroit
2016 — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame) — Houston
2015 — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M) — Cincinnati
2014 — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama) — Green Bay
2013 — Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame) — Cincinnati
2012 — Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse) — New England
2011 — Phillip Taylor (DT, Baylor) — Cleveland
2010 — Jermaine Gresham (TE, Oklahoma) — Cincinnati
2009 — Alex Mack (C, California) — Cleveland

It’s a great example of Cincinnati’s playoff misery under Marvin Lewis (the #21 pick is awarded to the lowest seed beaten in the wildcard round).

Two key defensive linemen won’t enter the draft

It’s going to be an exceptional D-line class but two names won’t be part of it. Auburn’s brilliant defensive tackle Derrick Brown is returning to college football. So is Florida pass rusher Jabari Zuniga.

Brown, a former 5-star recruit, had the potential to land in the top-15. He’s a complete defensive tackle who plays with attitude.

Zuniga put together an excellent 2018 season playing across from Jachai Polite. He could’ve sneaked into round one with a good combine.

A thin-looking safety class also took a hit with the news Georgia’s J.R. Reed will return as a redshirt senior in 2019.

Montez Sweat will be a difficult one to project

I’ve watched practically all of Mississippi State’s 2018 games. There’s a lot of talent on their defense. We’ve talked about Jeffery Simmons and Johnathan Abram. Willie Gay Jr is an unbelievable linebacker who isn’t eligible for the 2019 draft but he was a constant playmaker this season (he also ran a 4.53 at SPARQ and jumped a near 40-inch vertical).

Pass rusher Montez Sweat is the one I’m still having a hard time projecting.

He has great length and speed off the edge. He’s a more filled-out version of Brian Burns at Florida State.

He’s been decently productive with 14 TFL’s and 11.5 sacks in 2018 and 15.5 TFL’s plus 10.5 sacks in 2017.

Sweat looks like a LEO. If the Seahawks wanted to add a speed rusher to compliment Frank Clark, he could be an option. I think he’s unlikely to go in round one because there will be concerns about his run defense at his size. His scheme fit will be a question too. He’s best playing up at the line and doesn’t seem like a great fit for the 3-4. Traditional 4-3 teams might find an issue with his strength but in a 4-3 under he’s potentially well suited.

According to Bob McGinn, Sweat has 35.5-inch arms. That’s the kind of length they love. Can he produce a 1.5 10-yard split and show some explosive qualities at the combine?

He’s attending the Senior Bowl in Mobile and he’ll be one to keep an eye on. We do see athletic speed rushers last sometimes. Justin Houston is a good example (round three). Jordan Willis had a great combine in 2017 and also lasted deep into round three. Teams legitimately do have concern about college speed rushers. They’re often one-dimensional and poorly prepared to adjust to the pro’s. What worked in college often doesn’t translate. They have the speed but can they win with power, keep their frame clean and play the run?

These are questions to ask about Sweat. He could end up in round two or round four. He is a name to keep on the radar though.

National Championship game tonight

By now you’re very familiar with the draft prospects featured in tonight’s game. It’s a shame Christian Miller got hurt against Oklahoma and may not play (he’ll at least be extremely limited). Miller is a name to watch as a highly athletic, blossoming pass rusher. Clemson will be without Dexter Lawrence again but their D-line is loaded. Tony Pauline has a list of the names to look out for.

Finally, this is our third article on the off-season already. If you missed the reaction piece to the Dallas loss or the article assessing the direction of the team, don’t forget to check them out.

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