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College Football week 13 open thread

Saturday, November 26th, 2022

Here are the initial games I have access to watch this weekend:

Florida vs Florida State (recorded, will watch on Sunday)
South Carolina vs Clemson
Georgia Tech vs Georgia
Auburn vs Alabama
Notre Dame vs USC
LSU vs Texas A&M
Washington vs Washington State

Feel free to use this as an open thread to discuss the CFB weekend.

A quick note that Tony Pauline continues to hear Anthony Richardson will declare for the 2023 draft. Richardson still has plenty to work on but again, so do all of the quarterbacks eligible for the draft. His combination of physical brilliance, system experience and upside will be incredibly enticing to teams.

I continue to think if he is available to the Seahawks, they should at the very least consider drafting him early. Being able to roll with Geno Smith and develop Richardson in the background could be an ideal long-term solution at quarterback — enabling the Seahawks to compete now but set-up their long term future. That doesn’t mean I think they should definitely do this, simply that it should be considered.

Curtis Allen: Questions answered by the Seahawks

Friday, November 25th, 2022

With a bye week to catch our breath this season I thought we could discuss some answers to the questions I posed to the offense and defense back in July. 

Questions for the Defense 

Questions for the Offense 

As you can imagine, the answers reveal a mix of good and bad, some pleasant surprises and some same-old, same-old to this Seahawks team.  

They also give us an early read on some of the issues the team will face this offseason as they build their roster for 2023.

Can the coaching staff avoid a sluggish start on defense for the third season in a row?

Answer:  No

This might be the most baffling issue of the modern Seahawks era.  Once again in 2022, the defense started out horribly.  The line – which the Seahawks bolstered with several offseason signings – was barely functioning apart from Al Woods and Uchenna Nowsu.  The linebackers were not kept clean.  Players did not appear to understand their assignments.  Quarterbacks had time, runners had holes and linebackers and safeties were not in position to make routine tackles.  The results were predictable.

Just think:  if the Seahawks were slightly better on defense those first few weeks, they prevent or minimize the defensive breakdowns in the Atlanta and New Orleans games and sit at 8-2 right now.  Pete Carroll would have a real claim to Coach of the Year votes.

What is the problem?  The real truth may never come to light, as we will not be privy to the internal conversations at Seahawks Headquarters.

From Week One however, outside analysts and former players were pointing out that the team acquired players with a certain skillset, and then actively decided to scheme against that skillset.

The public comments by Pete Carroll and Clint Hurtt failed to shed any light on the situation.  Asked if there is a link to the slow defensive starts in recent seasons, Pete feigned ignorance.  One thing we do know:  A Clint Hurtt promotion and a Sean Desai hiring did not stop the trend.

Very rarely does any NFL team start perfectly in tune.  Adjustments after a few weeks are always part of the game.  However, the degree to which the Seahawks need adjusting is too high to be just shrugged off by the fact that they inevitably did make the needed adjustments and are now playing well.

This will remain a major issue for the 2023 season.  Particularly if the Seahawks nail their offseason and stand ready to be a serious contender.  Another ugly start on defense could put a real dent in those hopes.

Can this team get a reasonable return on their investments at the safety position?

Answer:  No — but Ryan Neal blossoming sure eases the sting

Quandre Diggs has not been good this season.  A 62 PFF rating, no heat-seeking-missile like tackles to give his teammates a charge, and so far, he is allowing a career-worst 137 QB rating when targeted.

It is so much more than that though.  It is the missed tackles and his nonchalant attitude on the field that does not match up with his words to the press.  His year does not seem to have improved with the sudden emergence of the pass rush the last few weeks.

There needs to be a real discussion this offseason about whether Diggs is on this team in 2023.  His cap number is $18.1 million.  What are the options? 

He has $8.2 million in signing bonus money that will need to be accrued for on the cap.  They can swallow all of that as a 2023 dead cap and reap $9.9 million of cap room immediately or designate him a post-June 1 cut and split the dead cap between 2023 and 2024 and pick up $14.1 million of room after June 1.

Question for offseason consideration:  Is having $9.9m in March and a clean cap with no dead money for Diggs in 2024 worth eating all $8.2 million of the dead money in 2023?  It very well might be.  

That might heavily depend on what the Seahawks plan to do with his battery mate…

On Jamal Adams, not much else needs to be said.  He has had serious injuries three seasons in a row.  His trade value is shot until he has a sustainable stretch of good, healthy play again.

One salary cap note to be aware of though:  Both Spotrac and OTC are reporting that the Seahawks will pick up $11 million of cap room if they choose to designate him a post-June 1 cut.  Unfortunately, it is a little less than that.  Adams’ contract has a clause that guarantees $2.56 million of his 2023 salary if he is on the roster February 4.  It is guaranteed for injury, which Adams obviously is.  So that $11 million savings is actually $8.44 million that would come available after June 1.

The Seahawks need to either cut Adams or approach him about reworking his contract and easing that massive cap hit.  Going forward with that contract in place is not an option.

A disappointing safety situation has been softened by the emergence of Ryan Neal.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about the need for the Seahawks to get him on the field:

“Ryan Neal has been a great utility player at the defensive back position and on special teams for the Seahawks.  They now have 13 games to see what he can do at the starting strong safety spot.  He is a Restricted Free Agent in 2023, so the team has control of him.   

If they want to retain him, they may have to offer him enough money to scare other teams off.  Therefore, they need to determine right now if he can be worth it as more than a rotational player.”

The Seahawks have put him in and he has absolutely delivered.  In seven games (six as a full-time player) Neal has an 80.4 PFF grade, a sack, a QB hit, a forced fumble, three tackles for loss and six passes defensed.

Neal is more than numbers though.  He is beginning to emerge as a leader on the defense.  He is regularly making pregame speeches and is giving the press great quotes about a hard-nosed defensive attitude.  He is bringing some of that undrafted-dog-off-the-street mentality that made the early Pete Carroll Seahawks so tough.

He will be a Restricted Free Agent in 2023, so the Seahawks will have control of his rights.  According to OTC they will need to tender him at a number of at least $2.69 million to control his rights.  They could easily tender him at the second-round level, or just buy out the RFA year by signing him to an extension early, like they did with Bryan Mone this last offseason.

Can the team distribute the defensive snaps in a more effective way in 2022?

Answer:  Absolutely yes

I opined on a years-long Pete Carroll gripe of mine:  After building one of the greatest defenses in NFL history on the back of giving young players snaps to develop and trusting in their skill, work ethic and instincts, Carroll has reversed course the past few years and blocked young players with expensive, past-their-prime veterans with very little to show for it.  Thankfully Carroll has bucked that trend this year.

At the cornerback spot I wrote:

“The Seahawks have collected an impressive group of talented young cornerbacks. They also wisely covered themselves with veteran free agent signings to assure depth and experience is provided at the position. But will we witness Carroll once again opting for the comfort of experience and mediocre yet predictable play over the unknown of youth and talent at the position?”

The Seahawks answered that question emphatically.  Tariq Woolen has been a revelation, Mike Jackson has been very solid, and Coby Bryant has had more game-changing plays than any nickel in recent Seahawks memory.

Veterans Artie Burns and Justin Coleman have been relegated to the bench.  Sidney Jones was inactive for several games, and with Tre Brown close to coming back, ended up being caught in a numbers game and waived off the roster (to the Seahawks’ credit, they tried and tried and tried to get a team to pick up a chunk of his $2.2 million hit.  They offered him in the trade market, they specifically waived him instead of cutting him, hoping some team would claim him and take his salary off their books, but in the end, they only picked up $480k of roster bonus money and ate the rest as dead cap).

All of this was made possible by Pete Carroll returning to his competitive roots.  And now, the Seahawks reap a fantastic benefit:  They will have Tariq Woolen, Coby Bryant, Tre Brown and (likely) Mike Jackson all entering 2023 with real NFL experience for a grand total of about $5.5 million if they tender Jackson.

$5.5 million.  For your top four corners.  It really illustrates how profitable acquiring and developing young talent can be!

On the defensive line, the Seahawks have not been able to maximize their value as much, with Tyreke Smith and Alton Robinson injured.  Boye Mafe has gotten a healthy share of the snaps, and the Seahawks had to bring in Bruce Irvin to make sure Mafe is not overloaded too quickly and to balance out Uchenna Nwosu’s heavy workload.

I asked if Nwosu was this year’s Benson Mayowa.  A part-timer who will wilt under the pressure of a bigger role and take vital snaps from younger players.  He, thankfully, is not.  He has been an absolute gem of a free-agent find for the Seahawks.

What does the offense look like without Russell Wilson?

Answer:  More complete

I wrote:

“Will the absence of Russell Wilson force them to rely more on the running game? To use the tight ends more and employ more short passing and fly sweep type options that work well with a reformed offensive line?

Being forced into these postures might actually be a good thing, a true ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ moment for the team. As well, with the team free of a quarterback with very strong views about how the offense is run, it might actually help them move away from their ‘all or nothing’ identity on offense.

Time will tell.”

Yes, Past Curtis, time has indeed told.

What a transformation.  The Seahawks have traded the thrill ride of backyard football pyrotechnics from the quarterback for breathtaking runs from their explosive running backs, a decidedly more scheduled offense that does not consistently put strains the defense while still including the fabulously talented wide receiver corps in the mix.

All this while integrating rookie tackles into the offensive line from Week One.

It is worth saying again:  Nobody could have drawn this up in their wildest dreams.  The Seahawks are currently living in the best timeline after years of being seemingly condemned to the dark reaches of utter strangeness and frustration.

Can the Seahawks finally solve the Tight End riddle?

Answer:  Emphatically Yes

The Seahawks as a team are:

Third in the NFL in tight end targets

-Second in the NFL in tight end catches

-Third in the NFL in tight end receiving yards

-Tied for fourth in the NFL in tight end touchdown catches (they’d have more if Ken Walker would quit breaking off 70 yard touchdown runs)

For years, the Seahawk defense has had a particularly play they know is coming and still cannot stop it.  Now finally, the offense has one.

What will the running game look like?

Answer:  Very, very good

Rashaad Penny took a while to get up to speed coming out of the gate.  He had several runs that were ‘thisclose’ to breaking and kept Ken Walker from getting in the game in the early going.

Then the Detroit game happened.  Since then – other than a hard-fought game against the Bucs in Germany – the running game has delivered this year.  Defenses have to constantly be on the watch for explosive runs.

Penny got hurt and Walker stepped in and immediately exploded.  The debate quickly flipped from ‘how can the Seahawks split the reps between their two talented runners?’ to ‘Do the Seahawks even bother to bring Penny back next season?’

There are several good to great running backs eligible for the draft this year.  The discussion about if the Seahawks draft another running back with a high pick is a worthy one.  Particularly if one of the highly-touted players begins to slip down the board due to positional value.

In a way, this year perfectly illustrates the wisdom and potential pitfalls of selecting a running back early.

The very talented Ken Walker struggled to get reps in the offense while Penny was starting.  He then easily took the starting job and produced the minute Penny was hurt.

So, both arguments have merit.

It will be very interesting to see how the NFL and the Seahawks view the running backs in this draft.  

A wildcard:  Would Damien Pierce’s early success as a fourth-round pick push players like Zach Charbonnet and Kenny McIntosh up the board a little?

Can the Seahawks develop this offensive line for 2023 and beyond?

Answer:  Yes — and Damien Lewis has re-entered the future conversation

You know about Lucas and Cross.  The Seahawks have their bookend tackles for the next few years.  Both have that perfect intersection of talent and production right now and room to get so much better in the very near future.

Damien Lewis has started to break through at left guard as well.

I wrote:

“This is a critical season for Lewis. What seemed like a slam-dunk “we’re set at Right Guard for the next 10 years” career track now carries as many question marks as answers. Can he earn that level of confidence at Left Guard? Or has that move stunted his development too much?”

The early part of the year did nothing to answer those questions.  Lately however, Lewis appears settled at left guard.  He currently leads the Seahawk offensive line in PFF score with 71.6 and won his fair share of trench battles with Vita Vea last week.  With 7 games to play, he seems to be on his way toward having his name in the conversation next to Lucas and Cross as the future of the offensive line.

Gabe Jackson appears all but gone, whether it is this year or in the offseason.  Austin Blythe has brought attitude and leadership to the line but not great play.  So, they have questions to address this offseason.  But neither of those questions are at the tackle position.  The Seahawks are set there.

Curtis Allen: Talking through a Geno Smith extension

Thursday, November 24th, 2022

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen…

With Geno Smith giving the Seahawks ten games of fantastic play so far this season, he has made a major step from being a stopgap providing a handful of good games to something more. It is now time to start seriously considering his future with the team beyond this season.

Right at the outset, I would encourage you to read this piece with an open mind and a sober perspective. There are many variables to this situation and the Seahawks have several options. They also have many complex factors to consider.

I would never claim to have all the answers and I seriously doubt NFL General Managers have clear answers at this point either. Survey ten of them on Geno Smith’s prospects for 2023 and you probably wouldn’t get a consensus opinion on how his situation will work out.

What we can do is work through some of the potential options the Seahawks have available to them.

Let’s tackle the hardest question first.

What Will Geno Smith’s Market Value Be?

That is a real challenge. In the modern NFL that is crazy for quarterbacks, Smith’s surge from career backup to star player in his ninth season is not completely without precedent but it is so rare it makes it hard to predict what he will command as a free agent with only one good season to his name at age 32.

Looking at what is out there and gauging for an increase in the 2023 salary cap number, I believe Geno Smith can expect to get a contract between $25 – $32 million per season with about 40-45% of it guaranteed. How did I come up with that range?

There are currently five quarterbacks in the neighborhood of that contract (Tannehill, Ryan, Wentz, Goff, and Cousins). They constitute the lower end of starting quarterbacks that are established on veteran contracts.

Yes, it is easy to look at those players, compare Smith’s numbers this year to theirs and reason that he has been outplaying most of them and therefore deserves more than they are getting. That certainly will be Smith’s agent’s argument.

But two key factors keep his value in check: his body of work and his age.

Smith entered 2022 with a career 58.8% completion percentage and more interceptions than touchdowns. Six full years of little to no activity on the field and only seventeen games as a starter in 2022 make it extremely difficult to project enough success in the next three to four seasons to leverage a contract offer that vaults him into a range of the top 10-15 quarterback salaries.

As for Wentz, Goff, Ryan and even Tannehill — those players are arguments against giving Smith a large contract just as much as they are for him.

Wentz and Goff are the beneficiaries of being extended earlier than they should have in an attempt to get ahead of the exploding market.

The Eagles, Colts and Commanders played ‘hot potato’ with Wentz’ awful contract and he’s currently struggling to get ahead of Taylor Heinicke in Washington.

We know all about Goff. The Rams bought out his fifth-year option early and regretted it. They traded two first-round picks and ate $22 million to get him off their roster and bring Matthew Stafford in. The Lions designed a system around his limitations and have had some success on offense this year. Yet as defenses have adjusted, he has regressed back to being just Jared Goff.

Ryan was the same age that Geno Smith will be next year when he signed his last extension. He had an MVP trophy and a Super Bowl appearance on his resume and had an excellent season in 2018 — but has struggled to keep his pace of play up since then. The Falcons ate $42 million of dead cap and only got a third-round pick in his trade to the Colts.

Tannehill has been battling injuries and has yet to really work through the Titans trading away most of their star wide receivers.

Cousins is the best of the lot but we can all agree he has yet to really elevate the Vikings. He also masterfully played himself into a higher tier of pay with the franchise tag game. You could make a case that his $35 million contract is his ceiling.

So, you see the landscape is littered with expensive contracts that players are not living up to.

However, those players above had two things when they signed their contract extensions that Geno Smith does not: a solid, sustained body of work and all but Ryan were at an age that allowed teams to project a reasonable degree of athletic ability without decline over the course of the contract.

Giving Smith a contract that tops those players at age 33 after seventeen games would be a real shot in the dark. Most owners and general managers would want to leverage their risk by not offering any more than what those quarterbacks are currently making. The length of the deal is a real factor at Smith’s age as well.

Of course, there is always the outlier. The one franchise that outbids everyone and blows the market up (looking at you, Cleveland). I can accept the possibility that some owner or general manager may be so enamored with Geno they may bid against themselves and offer such an uncomfortably high price that the Seahawks may need to just thank Geno for a fantastic season and walk away.

The Seahawks will enter this process with a set range that is reasonable for them and stick to it. In my view, a $25-$32 million AAV contract is that appropriate range for talks.

It may be that – as Rob has suggested – the Seahawks ask Geno Smith to shop the market and bring the best offer back to them in order to see what they can do. Let the market come to them instead of trying to chase it. The factors I mentioned make that a logical plan.

That is a scary proposition for many fans. The thought of bringing back Drew Lock, another veteran or a draft pick and planning for them to be as successful as Smith has been is not a comfortable prospect. Having been pleasantly surprised by this most unexpected season, fans have rightly expressed a ‘let’s keep a good thing going’ groundswell of positivity that naturally extends to wanting to keep Smith on the roster.

Other than negotiating an extension before the new league year begins, there is only one way to do that.

Is the Franchise Tag a Real Option?

The 2023 tag for quarterbacks is projected to be about $31.5 million. That is within the window I mentioned for an agreeable yearly range. Can the Seahawks make that work?

Yes they can. But should they?

It would be fraught with peril.

First off, it would take a significant amount of the Seahawks’ salary cap off the market, at a time where they will need to fill some holes on the roster.

The Seahawks have about $53.8 million of cap space in 2023 currently as projected by OTC. Franchising Smith would take that available number down to $22.3 million. The Seahawks’ large number of draft picks in 2023 makes their rookie pool larger – OTC is projecting about $14 million.

That leaves about $8.3 million left to fill the last 8-10 roster spots and leaves zero cap cushion to tender restricted free agents, fill the practice squad and cover injured players or any incentive money that needs to be counted against the cap.

The Seahawks would need to be very creative to make the franchise tag work. That mostly means cutting and replacing expensive players with cheaper models and hoping the drop-off in play is not commensurate. They would need a very deft touch to make it work for them. They could do it — but it would mean playing closer to the razor’s edge than they have traditionally been comfortable with.

Secondly, the franchise tag brings implications with it. It is fully guaranteed money. It sets the bar for extension negotiations. $31.5 million guaranteed is the starting point. A second tag nets him a 20% raise to $37.8 million fully guaranteed. A request for a $65-70 million guarantee in this year’s negotiations could be put on the table. Again, that may be a bridge too far for the Seahawks.

There is a factor with the tag where his age comes into play again. Players that are franchise tagged typically have a long career ahead of them. Smith might not. Imagine you are a 33-year-old player with $11 million in career NFL earnings (Smith’s number according to OTC). And now you have a chance to earn nearly triple that in just one season – fully guaranteed.

Smith might be truly tempted to not want to negotiate a long-term extension. To take that one season tag and bet on himself. If he has a second very good season on his resume, his bargaining position in the free agent market is vastly strengthened. If he does not, he has in one year boosted his career money from $11 million to $42 million and that is awfully hard to be disappointed about.

You cannot project how placing the tag on Smith will precisely work out. Smith has not been a player the Seahawks have easily re-signed each year. He keeps his own counsel and how he would react after a life-changing season is anything but predictable. The Seahawks could tag him thinking they could get an extension done by July to lower the 2023 cap hit and find themselves stuck.

The risks appear to outweigh the benefits at this moment.

Is it worth the gamble of infringing upon your roster-building freedom to tag him with a fully guaranteed contract for one year of play? It vastly limits your options and makes the margin of error very, very thin.

Not tagging Smith is a gamble. But it is a gamble that the Seahawks are well-advised to strongly consider.

An Extension that Could Work for Both Sides

What would the Seahawks’ goals be in signing Geno to an extension?

Continuity would be a great benefit — and one that they could negotiate on as something that is mutually beneficial.

The upside for Smith staying is just as high as the Seahawks keeping him – he would get to work with two All-Pro quality wide receivers, three solid tight ends, a brilliant running back with fresh legs in Ken Walker and have his back guarded by bookend tackles. All orchestrated by a coach and offensive coordinator that have proven themselves able and willing to maximize his skillset.

It is very hard to see Smith stepping onto another team and having all those factors available to him.

They also want to reward him for a fantastic 2022. The numbers he is delivering thus far, while making a paltry $3.5 million plus incentives, are phenomenal.

As an organization, the Seahawks have done well at awarding results. Signing him to a healthy extension would be a move that continues to underline to the young players that the team rewards strong play no matter where you were drafted or what your previous record of play was.

The public would also welcome the move – particularly in light of the breath of fresh air that Geno and Seahawks have blown through Seattle in the wake of the Russell Wilson trade.

On the flipside, the Seahawks would also need to address the elephant in the room – Geno’s age and the possibility that he had one magical season and could regress in 2023 and beyond.

That and the reality of the upcoming draft. The Seahawks will likely pick very high in 2023 and there are several enticing prospects. Reason and circumstance could dictate that this is their best shot at getting their quarterback of the future.

Both of those factors would strongly argue that the extension, while healthy, should have some potential outs for the Seahawks.

It would also be ideal if the contract includes a 2023 season that is friendly to the cap and allows the team the ability to keep adding necessary pieces.

With those things in mind, here is what I am proposing:

A three-year contract with about 40% guaranteed, with a roster bonus in March 2024.

Since the overall number range is too unknown to absolutely pinpoint it at this time, I used my proposed range of $25 million – $32 million per season and drew up contracts for the high and low numbers:

As you can see, this rewards Geno with a first-year payout of $19-25 million (signing bonus plus guaranteed 2023 salary). He immediately nearly triples his career earnings.

It gives him the security of further guaranteed money in future years, at $12.5-15.5 million in salary.

He gets his franchise tag amount guaranteed and a chunk of money up front, gets to play for an organization that has demonstrated it is invested in his success and the Seahawks get continuity and flexibility.

It provides the Seahawks with room on the 2023 cap, with a cap hit between of $9-11 million. They have room to both add and cut players as they see fit in a critical offseason.

They also now have the option of letting the draft come to them if they like. Instead of desperately paying a king’s ransom for the #1 or #2 pick to fill their quarterback-shaped roster hole, they can either let a premium quarterback fall to them or ignore quarterbacks completely and take the most dynamic player on their board and stock their roster for years to come.

It also provides flexibility for the Seahawks at the quarterback position itself. If they do draft a quarterback in 2023, they can redshirt him and have him ready to take the reins in 2024. It also offers some protection should Smith turn back into a pumpkin in 2023.

Exploring the Benefit of the Roster Bonus

Teams often use the roster bonus as a tool to force both sides back to the table.

Players like it because it can give them either another chunk of change in addition to their signing bonus or their freedom to explore the market.

Teams enjoy the way to gauge player performance and either be free of an underperforming player, or keep the player and have some cap flexibility in their back pocket to free up some cap money. It also gives the team some security, as it further incentivizes good play. A healthy roster bonus can be quite the carrot to keep a player focused.

For both sides, it could be much more than a decision deadline to pay the bonus or not. It could spur a total reworking of the entire contract and provide further benefits, security and flexibility for both sides.

A roster bonus of $18-24 million due in March lets both sides see where they are after a year. The Seahawks then have options.

*If the Seahawks for any reason want to go in another direction, they can cut or trade him before the bonus is due

As you can see, if the Seahawks decide to trade Smith before the roster bonus deadline, there is some dead cap to eat: $10-14 million. The cap savings are very real though: $21-29 million.

A best-case scenario could be spun where the Seahawks draft a top quarterback in 2023 and Smith has a terrific season on the field. The draft pick is ready to start in 2024, the Seahawks offer Smith to a trade partner for a nice draft pick, open up a handsome chunk of cap space and the team trading for Smith gets two years of a solid quarterback for a very reasonable cap hit (the roster bonus and contract could also be reworked by the new team, or the Hawks could pay a chunk of the bonus in exchange for more or better picks in trade).

If the worst happens and need to cut him, you can see it will be costly but there will still be significant cap savings.

If the relationship is still mutually beneficial and they want to continue together after 2023, they can either leave the bonus as is or the Seahawks can have language in the contract that allows them to convert it to a signing bonus and spread the cap hit between 2024 and 2025:

If they split the roster bonus up, they have a very reasonable $22-$31 million cap hit in 2024 for the quarterback position.

And as you can see, if after 2024 they decide to part ways, they can cut Smith and gain $25.5-$31.5 million of cap room.

What About the Dead Cap Money in This Deal?

That is a real concern. However, the contract as constructed gives both the team and the player more than one chance to rework it — with options to ease the cap burden.

But just as is, it would appear that I have set up this contract in every way to accrue dead cap money that is significant somewhere along the line.

I have. That is simply the price you pay for having an excellent quarterback with low early cap hits, a workable amount of risk and some flexibility.

The truth is, if the Seahawks have another great draft, they can afford to spend a little bit of money in this way. They will have rookie contracts with low salaries all over the field contributing greatly and can afford some cap space that is not productive.

Another perspective: The Seahawks have managed to seamlessly go from Russell Wilson to Geno Smith without missing a beat and in some real ways, they’re even better. All without the complete tank job of a rebuilding year.

If they play their cards right they could put themselves in a position to keep progressing with Smith or to find his predecessor and keep the transition far less painful than your standard rebuild would be. Or do both!

With the ever-increasing salary cap and the chance to do something incredibly rare, it is worth the risk. If they were to pull it off, this era could create a very special place among the historically great Seahawks teams. A hit of $15-25 million in dead cap charges would crumble and blow away into the dust of history.

Mock draft — the video version

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

This is also available via ‘The Rebuild’ podcast streams

My first 2023 NFL mock draft (two rounds)

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

Here it is then. My first two-round mock.

I’ve tried to think outside of the box but be realistic. The unexpected happens every year so just going with ‘predictable’ seems pointless. There are a million mocks out there saying the same thing. What’s the point of me doing that?

A few thoughts before getting into the mock:

1. I think Bijan Robinson, Jalen Carter and Will Anderson will likely be the three players with the highest grades on most boards.

2. A team will select Bijan Robinson in the top-10 because he’ll likely be the consensus best player in the draft.

3. Anthony Richardson at #1 overall will get the most criticism in this mock. His upside, however, is MVP level. There are not many humans who can do what he can do. I suspect teams will see a combination of Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. Plus he’s worked in something close to a pro-system, where he’s required to make checks and adjustments. As the process goes on, I think Richardson will emerge as a contender to go very early in this draft.

4. I really like Bryce Young. He is immensely talented, creative and seems to have a winners mentality. However, none of us really know how the NFL is going to feel about drafting a 5-10, 185lbs quarterback. This is a first. I suspect, rightly or wrongly, he will last a bit longer than people think due to his size. Especially in a year where he’s suffered an injury — that doesn’t help allay durability concerns.

5. I think Calijah Kancey is going to go a lot earlier than people are projecting.

One big trade

I have the Colts moving from #14 to #3 and likely giving up a haul to do so (two additional firsts) in a deal with the Bears. This will give Chicago the best possible opportunity to build up their roster and it gives the Colts an opportunity to get a much needed long-term answer at quarterback.

Round One

#1 Houston — Anthony Richardson (QB, Florida)
Here’s what I’m projecting. I think they sign Jimmy Garoppolo to a two-year deal. They then draft Richardson with the intention of redshirting him. Frankly, it’s a plan that would make some sense.

#2 Carolina — Will Levis (QB, Kentucky)
Levis is best prepared to come in and start quickly and that is what the Panthers need next year. His upside is Justin Herbert’s level.

#3 Indianapolis (v/CHI) — CJ Stroud (QB, Ohio State)
The Colts have been in no mans land at quarterback for years. I think there’ll be some pressure on Chris Ballard to move up and sort the problem out.

#4 Las Vegas — Jalen Carter (DT, Georgia)
I think he’ll be the first non-quarterback drafted. Since returning from injury he has been unblockable at times. Impressive.

#5 Seattle (v/DEN) — Will Anderson (DE, Alabama)
Anderson has had a disappointing 2022 season and needs to learn how to counter. However, he has immense potential and would give the Seahawks a shot to find a X-factor rusher.

#6 Detroit (v/LAR) — Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas)
Yes, they need a long term answer at quarterback. However, three are gone already and Robinson will top many (most?) draft boards. A team in the top-10 will decide he’s too good to pass up. There’s talk he’s being graded higher than Saquon Barkley. Detroit uses two running backs and D’Andre Swift has had injury issues. Is it controversial? Sure. But it would fit the identity of the coach.

#7 Houston (v/CLE) — Tyree Wilson (DE, Texas Tech)
He has outstanding length (+35 inch arms) and size (275lbs) and when he turns it on he can be incredibly disruptive.

#8 Pittsburgh — Mazi Smith (DT, Michigan)
Smith is going to go to the combine, put on a dazzling performance, and go much earlier than people think. He’s been disruptive all season.

#9 Jacksonville — Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame)
Just a quality player who would fit nicely in Doug Pederson’s offense.

#10 Philadelphia (v/NO) — Myles Murphy (DE, Clemson)
An outstanding athlete with great size and an ability to dazzle as a pass rusher. However, his pad-level and run defense are a cause for concern.

#11 Arionza — Quentin Johnston (WR, TCU)
Johnston, at times, looks like a poor-mans Larry Fitzgerald.

#12 Green Bay — Bryce Young (QB, Alabama)
Jordan Love has not convinced anyone in fleeting appearances. The Packers need to start their next era at quarterback. Someone, eventually, will take the chance on Young’s size not being an issue. I think after Aaron Rodgers’ never-ending sulking and drama — they’ll enjoy working with the ultimate pro in Bryce Young.

#13 Detroit — Bryan Bresee (DT, Clemson)
Bresee’s tape has been quite poor at times but there’s no getting away from his enormous upside. He’s another player whose character ‘fits’ the Lions.

#14 Chicago (v/IND) — Darnell Wright (T, Tennessee)
The Bears trade down and collect a haul in the process — then address their biggest need. Wright shut down Will Anderson. He is incredibly underrated.

#15 Atlanta — Calijah Kancey (DT, Pittsburgh)
I get it — nobody is going to be Aaron Donald. Kancey, however, is as close as you’ll ever get to finding another.

#16 LA Chargers — Kelee Ringo (CB, Georgia)
He has amazing size and speed and he’s made some nice plays in 2022. He’s also been beaten too often and needs work to max out his potential.

#17 Washington — Joey Porter Jr (CB, Detroit)
Porter Jr plays with a physical, competitive edge and he would fit Ron Rivera’s team.

#18 NY Jets — Brian Branch (S, Alabama)
He’s a silky smooth chess piece who can also lay a hit from time to time.

#19 Tampa Bay — Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Alabama)
There’s a noticeable difference when Gibbs isn’t on the field for Alabama. A very exciting player.

#20 Denver (v/SF) — Cam Smith (CB, South Carolina)
A very competitive, well-sized cornerback who can start quickly across from Patrick Surtain.

#21 Seattle — J.L. Skinner (S, Boise State)
He just screams ‘Seahawks’. His size, length, violent hitting, attitude, playmaking qualities. It’s all there. He looks like a leaner Kam Chancellor. I think they’re going to love him and might not risk waiting until round two.

#22 New England — Cedric Tillman (WR, Tennessee)
An elegant bigger receiver and a player New England has seemingly been trying to find for years.

#23 Cincinnati — Paris Johnson Jr (T, Ohio State)
He’s a day-two talent for me but the Bengals have little choice but to keep drafting for their O-line.

#24 Buffalo — Jaxson Smith-Njigba (WR, Ohio State)
You can never have too many weapons and he’d make a good option as a slot receiver. A lack of pure speed could push him into day two.

#25 Baltimore — Christian Gonzalez (CB, Oregon)
A very athletic, talented cornerback who can stick in coverage and make plays.

#26 Tennessee — Jalin Hyatt (WR, Tennessee)
They need speed, quickness and dynamic playmaking and Hyatt’s ability to accelerate and separate at the end of a route is top-level.

#27 Dallas — D.J. Turner (CB, Michigan)
His testing performance will be excellent, securing a likely top-40 placing.

#28 NY Giants — Jordan Addison (WR, USC)
They need a lot of positions but given they’re picking this late in round one, the value might be at receiver.

#29 Miami — forfeited

#30 Minnesota — K.J. Henry (DE, Clemson)
He has been consistently good all year, creating pressure and making plays. A former five-star recruit with superb character.

#31 Kansas City — Mike Morris (DE, Michigan)
I wish he’d play with more urgency at times but he’s big, fast and difficult to block.

#32 Philadelphia — Peter Skoronski (T/G, Northwestern)
He plays left tackle but I prefer him at guard.

Round Two

#33 Houston — Broderick Jones (T/G, Georgia)
Another player I think is better suited to guard but could be tried at tackle first.

#34 Pittsburgh (v/CHI) — Jordan McFadden (T/G, Clemson)
I’m a huge fan of McFadden. What a brilliantly polished, athletic, balanced and consistent player. Despite his lack of orthodox size I think he can stick at tackle or he could become a top-level guard.

#35 Carolina — Jonathan Mingo (WR, Ole Miss)
A tremendous player with fantastic size and quickness and the ability to play out wide or in the slot. Very underrated.

#36 Seattle (v/DEN) — Nolan Smith (LB, Georgia)
Smith’s a tweener and it’ll keep him on the board but he has outstanding character, elite physical tools (141.18 SPARQ) and an ability to play off the edge or at linebacker. That could appeal to the Seahawks as they continue to build up their front seven.

#37 LA Rams — Ji’Ayir Brown (S, Penn State)
He’s a playmaker who collects interceptions, will test well at the combine and he’s the vocal leader of the Penn State team.

#38 Cleveland — B.J. Ojulari (EDGE, LSU)
Long, lean, disruptive, capable of dropping if needed and wears #18 (a sign of high character at LSU).

#39 Pittsburgh — Byron Young (DE, Alabama)
I love Byron Young. He makes plays every week. A classic AFC North player.

#40 Jacksonville — Zay Flowers (WR, Boston College)
Keep adding weapons for Trevor Lawrence.

#41 Las Vegas — Isaiah Foskey (EDGE, Notre Dame)
He’s had a decent season and he’s the kind of defender Belichick takes. This is a very New England influenced setup in Vegas.

#42 Green Bay — Christopher Smith (S, Georgia)
This feels like a good match for player and scheme. Smith is rangy, physical and can close and hit.

#43 New Orleans — Kyu Blu Kelly (CB, Stanford)
On a struggling Cardinal team he competes and consistently makes plays.

#44 Detroit — Trenton Simpson (LB, Clemson)
He’s had a disappointing 2022 season but his athletic profile is top-notch and he has special qualities.

#45 Arizona — John Michael Schmitz (C, Minnesota)
A great big brawling center who sets the tone up front.

#46 Indianapolis — Olu Fashanu (T, Penn State)
I think he’s red raw but his size and potential will intrigue some.

#47 Atlanta — Will McDonald (DE, Iowa State)
A praying mantis of a pass rusher with elite physical tools but almost no consistent technique other than a violent spin move. Having a poor 2022 season.

#48 LA Chargers — Keeanu Benton (DT, Wisconsin)
They’re still not plugging gaps up the middle and Benton gives them a chance to add some size, disruption and anchor.

#49 Washington — Drew Sanders (LB, Arkansas)
A multi-faceted linebacker who can reduce down and rush the edge situationally.

#50 NY Jets — Joe Tippmann (C, Wisconsin)
Tippmann will test off the charts at the combine and his combination of explosive power and agility will interest teams like the Jets who value athleticism up front.

#51 Tampa Bay — Cooper Beebe (G, Kansas State)
Big, physical, mobile for his size and gets after it. I love a bit of Beebe.

#52 Carolina (v/SF) — Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina)
A combination of Tyler Lockett and Golden Tate.

#53 New England — Antonio Johnson (S, Texas A&M)
A bit overrated for me but I can see why his size and range will appeal to some teams.

#54 Cincinnati — Luke Musgrave (TE, Oregon State)
A brilliant combine will set the stage for second round talk surrounding the extremely talented Musgrave who does everything well.

#55 Seattle — Zach Charbonnet (RB, UCLA)
Seahawks twitter will go nuts if they take another second round runner but here’s the thing — Seattle has re-established its identity and they need depth and talent at running back. Charbonnet is a fantastic player with amazing feet, size, finishing ability and pass-catching qualities.

#56 Buffalo — Kenny McIntosh (RB, Georgia)
He just seems like a great fit for what they do and is a more natural RB1 type compared to James Cook.

#57 Tennessee — Dalton Kincaid (TE, Utah)
I love this fit and he could provide an immediate X-factor for the Titans. Kincaid just makes plays every week and the block he made to spring a touchdown against Oregon at the weekend was first class.

#58 Dallas — Kayshon Boutte (WR, LSU)
He’s had a stinking 2022 season but Dallas often likes to roll the dice on a fallen star.

#59 NY Giants — Bryce Ford-Wheaton (WR, West Virginia)
A big target with untapped potential and an outstanding physical profile.

#60 Chicago (v/BAL) — Jaelyn Duncan (T, Maryland)
They clearly need to start repairing their O-line.

#61 Miami — O’Cyrus Torrence (G, Florida)
I’m not a huge fan and grade him lower than this but there’s a lot of buzz that he’ll go early.

#62 Detroit (v/MIN) — Darnell Washington (TE, Georgia)
Another player I just think fits what the Lions want to do. He’s like another offensive lineman on the field given his ridiculous size.

#63 Kansas City — Zacch Pickens (DT, South Carolina)
He plays in fits and starts and his stamina can be questioned but there’s no mistaking he can be disruptive.

#64 Philadelphia — Kris Abrams-Draine (CB, Missouri)
Good in coverage, good tackler — this would be sound value for the Eagles.

The mock draft in list form:

#1 Houston — Anthony Richardson (QB, Florida)
#2 Carolina — Will Levis (QB, Kentucky)
#3 Indianapolis (v/CHI) — CJ Stroud (QB, Ohio State)
#4 Las Vegas — Jalen Carter (DT, Georgia)
#5 Seattle (v/DEN) — Will Anderson (DE, Alabama)
#6 Detroit (v/LAR) — Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas)
#7 Houston (v/CLE) — Tyree Wilson (DE, Texas Tech)
#8 Pittsburgh — Mazi Smith (DT, Michigan)
#9 Jacksonville — Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame)
#10 Philadelphia (v/NO) — Myles Murphy (DE, Clemson)
#11 Arionza — Quentin Johnston (WR, TCU)
#12 Green Bay — Bryce Young (QB, Alabama)
#13 Detroit — Bryan Bresee (DT, Clemson)
#14 Chicago (v/IND) — Darnell Wright (T, Tennessee)
#15 Atlanta — Calijah Kancey (DT, Pittsburgh)
#16 LA Chargers — Kelee Ringo (CB, Georgia)
#17 Washington — Joey Porter Jr (CB, Detroit)
#18 NY Jets — Brian Branch (S, Alabama)
#19 Tampa Bay — Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Alabama)
#20 Denver (v/SF) — Cam Smith (CB, South Carolina)
#21 Seattle — J.L. Skinner (S, Boise States)
#22 New England — Cedric Tillman (WR, Tennessee)
#23 Cincinnati — Paris Johnson Jr (T, Ohio State)
#24 Buffalo — Jaxson Smith-Njigba (WR, Ohio State)
#25 Baltimore — Christian Gonzalez (CB, Oregon)
#26 Tennessee — Jalin Hyatt (WR, Tennessee)
#27 Dallas — D.J. Turner (CB, Michigan)
#28 NY Giants — Jordan Addison (WR, USC)
#29 Miami — forfeited
#30 Minnesota — K.J. Henry (DE, Clemson)
#31 Kansas City — Mike Morris (DE, Michigan)
#32 Philadelphia — Peter Skoronski (T/G, Northwestern)

#33 Houston — Broderick Jones (T/G, Georgia)
#34 Pittsburgh (v/CHI) — Jordan McFadden (T/G, Clemson)
#35 Carolina — Jonathan Mingo (WR, Ole Miss)
#36 Seattle (v/DEN) — Nolan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#37 LA Rams — Ji’Ayir Brown (S, Penn State)
#38 Cleveland — B.J. Ojulari (EDGE, LSU)
#39 Pittsburgh — Byron Young (DE, Alabama)
#40 Jacksonville — Zay Flowers (WR, Boston College)
#41 Las Vegas — Isaiah Foskey (EDGE, Notre Dame)
#42 Green Bay — Christopher Smith (S, Georgia)
#43 New Orleans — Kyu Blu Kelly (CB, Stanford)
#44 Detroit — Trenton Simpson (LB, Clemson)
#45 Arizona — John Michael Schmitz (C, Minnesota)
#46 Indianapolis — Olu Fashanu (T, Penn State)
#47 Atlanta — Will McDonald (DE, Iowa State)
#48 LA Chargers — Keeanu Benton (DT, Wisconsin)
#49 Washington — Drew Sanders (LB, Arkansas)
#50 NY Jets — Joe Tippmann (C, Wisconsin)
#51 Tampa Bay — Cooper Beebe (G, Kansas State)
#52 Carolina (v/SF) — Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina)
#53 New England — Antonio Johnson (S, Texas A&M)
#54 Cincinnati — Luke Musgrave (TE, Oregon State)
#55 Seattle — Zach Charbonnet (RB, UCLA)
#56 Buffalo — Kenny McIntosh (RB, Georgia)
#57 Tennessee — Dalton Kincaid (TE, Utah)
#58 Dallas — Kayshon Boutte (WR, LSU)
#59 NY Giants — Bryce Ford-Wheaton (WR, West Virginia)
#60 Chicago (v/BAL) — Jaelyn Duncan (T, Maryland)
#61 Miami — O’Cyrus Torrence (G, Florida)
#62 Detroit (v/MIN) — Darnell Washington (TE, Georgia)
#63 Kansas City — Zacch Pickens (DT, South Carolina)
#64 Philadelphia — Kris Abrams-Draine (CB, Missouri)

Seattle’s picks:

#5 Will Anderson (DE, Alabama)
#21 J.L. Skinner (S, Boise State)
#36 Nolan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#55 Zach Charbonnet (RB, UCLA)

With this collection of players, the Seahawks add talent to their defense. The front seven is bolstered and they add physicality to the secondary. Charbonnet provides a fantastic one-two punch with Ken Walker. The four picks add to the identity of the team and put the Seahawks in a position to take on any opponent.

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Some thoughts on Seattle’s current draft standing

Monday, November 21st, 2022

After Denver’s latest loss to the Raiders, the Seahawks currently own the #5 pick in the draft along with #21, #36, #55 and #86 (in the first three rounds).

It’s great news, obviously, to have a pick that high (as things stand). With the Broncos still to play the Chiefs twice and facing a trip to Baltimore — it’s looking increasingly certain that at the very least Seattle will get a top-10 pick from Denver.

I have to say though — having #5 could be quite frustrating.

You’d be so close to securing one of the top-two defensive linemen — Jalen Carter and Will Anderson. Although both have had mixed seasons, they’re still head and shoulders above the rest of the D-liners eligible for 2023. After returning from injury, Carter has recently shown a destructive ability from the interior. Anderson’s season has been a disappointment compared to what he did a year ago — but he’d still be worth taking with a high pick.

Assuming the top-two (Houston and Carolina) go quarterback, you’d only need to be one spot further up the board to get a top D-liner. It might be a ‘so near yet so far’ type of situation.

Unless, of course, you’re inclined to take QB3 as the long term future. This should remain a consideration. Yet it’s impossible not to imagine what this team could be if they added quality talent and depth to the defense via the draft.

There could be a wildcard. Bijan Robinson — as we’ve stated a number of times — is likely to be the top-graded player on a lot of boards. He is an obscene talent, arguably better than other recent top-10 running backs (Barkley, McCaffrey etc).

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he goes earlier than people think. Maybe even top-five. I think he’s more likely to be a top-10 lock but we’ll see.

So what could the Seahawks do if they end up with the fifth pick and the top four go QB-QB-Carter-Anderson?

Again, QB3 is an option. I suppose Robinson would have to be too. It’s not a crucial need at all but this is a team that wants to run and Robinson is flirting with the ‘generational talent’ label. I think they’d be better off waiting until day two to add another back but let’s just mentally prepare for the possibility that they grade Bijan far higher than anyone else and opt to take the best player in the class.

What is more likely, I think, would be the Seahawks going for the next best defensive lineman. That would probably be viewed as Tyree Wilson or Myles Murphy.

There are pro’s and con’s with both.

Wilson has fantastic length (+35 inch arms) and size (275lbs) and has had some big games for Texas Tech mixed in with some performances where you’re left wondering what all the fuss is about. There’s enough internet buzz though from respected sources to believe that the league is enamoured with his potential. He just announced he needs ankle surgery and will miss the rest of the college football season (but expects to be ready for the combine).

Murphy is also well sized (275lbs) and if you look at the draft media — you’ll struggle to find any negative thoughts about him. He’s universally loved it seems. Yet on tape, as I’ve said a few times, I think he’s a pussycat against the run. He’s bigger and more athletic than most college linemen and it means he generally gets by on talent. There’s not a lot of aggression in his play. His pad level is generally poor and he doesn’t do a good enough job countering. I wonder at the next level, when his physical talent won’t shine through quite as much, whether he can do what is needed to become a top, top defensive end.

Both players are hardly prolific either. Murphy has 6.5 sacks in 11 games this season and 11 TFL’s. In 2021, he finished with seven sacks and 14 TFL’s. Wilson has seven sacks in 10 games this year (14 TFL’s) and had seven more in 2021 (13.5 TFL’s).

These numbers are no better than Calijah Kancey — a defensive tackle. He also has seven sacks in 2021 and 2022 with 13 and 14 TFL’s in the respective seasons.

When you look at PFF grades for the top D-liners this year, you can see there’s a bit of a drop-off when you get to Murphy and Wilson (who are in the ‘good’ not ‘great category):

Jalen Carter — 91.6
Calijah Kancey — 91.4
K.J. Henry — 85.1
Mike Morris — 83.7
Will Anderson — 83.6
Byron Young — 80.5
Myles Murphy — 78.4
B.J. Ojulari — 78.3
Tyree Wilson — 74.5
Bryan Bresee — 67.3

Both Wilson and Murphy would fit Seattle’s scheme as very athletic defensive ends in their new-look front — with the ability to kick into space and provide a versatile weapon. Yet neither, for me, would elevate the defense to a new level in the way Carter or Anderson potentially would. Taking either would make me want to double down with Kancey with your second or third pick — to create the kind of line that can truly cause havoc.

That said — I wasn’t a big fan of any of the top-10 offensive tackles in the draft this year. I thought Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu were guards and I thought Charles Cross was more of a second round-type talent. The Seahawks seemingly liked the trio a lot more than I did. Or, they simply saw the need to address a premium position with such a high pick.

They might feel similarly in 2023. They might think if they’re picking that early, just get a good D-liner. Even if it’s DL3 — just as Cross was OL3.

As it happens, none of the top rookie offensive linemen are grading that well. Ekwonu is the 66th ranked linemen according to PFF with a 66.6 grade. Cross is at #45 with a 65.3. Neal is way down at #77 with a horrible 49.8 grade. Abraham Lucas — who I did think was a first round tackle, is beating all three (#33 with a 68.1 grade).

Cross so far has been decent with room to grow and that’s more or less how I’d expect Wilson and Murphy to be when they enter the league. As such, they might be prepared to try their hand at either — just as they did with Cross.

Therefore if they did end up with #5 overall, they might settle for the best remaining D-liner. And that might be OK. I’m not sure it’ll move the needle in a positive or negative way really. But if you want an impact player, it’s worth rooting hard for whoever plays the Broncos. I do think Anderson at his best or Carter can potentially move the needle.

Despite saying last week I wasn’t getting my hopes up about a top-three or four pick, I’ve now fallen for it. I crave for the Seahawks to dominate the trenches. Both sides. And hope they’re in a position to get the best possible D-liners in this class.

If you missed the live stream last night discussing a lot of Seahawks and draft related topics, you can catch-up here:

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Broncos LOSE! Instant reaction live stream

Sunday, November 20th, 2022

Sunday scouting notes from CFB week 11

Sunday, November 20th, 2022

With no Seahawks game this weekend I’m doing my write-up early. A quick note — I will still be jumping on a live stream later with Robbie Williams after the Broncos vs Raiders game. We’ll discuss Seattle’s updated draft position, my horizontal board, the options for the Seahawks in the draft and a lot more. Do join us.

Firstly, injuries — the most notable being Hendon Hooker’s serious looking knee injury. It was non-contact — which makes you think ACL — and he was writhing in pain. There’s been no official confirmation yet but it looks like his season — and college career — is over. It’s a sad end for a player who has enjoyed a productive 2022 campaign.

It will also significantly impact his draft stock. Sudden projections of Hooker in round one were wide of the mark and unwarranted. However, he was a worthy flier in the middle rounds. Now he could, potentially, be out until mid-way through his rookie season where he’ll be 25-years-old.

It’s incredibly unfortunate for Hooker but his health and age will work against him now and seriously impact where he goes in the draft.

Clemson’s Bryan Bresee and Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson also didn’t play due to injury. Wilson was carted off with a suspected ankle problem a week ago so he could miss the rest of the year. Bresee has missed time due to kidney issues this season and he was held out of the Tigers’ stroll in the park against Miami with strep throat.

Finally, Calijah Kancey left Pittsburgh’s win against Duke with a shoulder injury. Pitt’s Head Coach said he was ‘OK’ after the game so fingers crossed he isn’t done for the year. Michigan running back Blake Corum also exited against Illinois with a knee injury.

The Georgia vs Kentucky game was a lot closer than expected. Given the way UK’s season has collapsed, this had the makings of a blow-out. If it wasn’t for the Wildcats’ defense it might’ve been — they played their best game of the year to repel Georgia multiple times, including some key fourth down stops. But it was to Kentucky’s credit that they stuck in there.

Will Levis will come out of the game with his reputation enhanced, despite a so-so stat-line. Yes he had another interception — although I have no idea what the play-design was on the pick. If you want to have a receiver run a route in behind the corner and ahead of the safety, you have to have a decoy to lure the cornerback out of position. Kentucky didn’t — which meant Kelee Ringo could squat on the receiver and make an easy interception. Rich Scangarello is under increasing pressure in Kentucky and it’s not hard to see why with moments like this.

Apart from that, Levis did his best to try and support the defense with almost no help — which has become UK’s calling card this year.

He had a superb 31-yard throw from deep inside his own end zone. UK started with a bad decision to fair catch on virtually their own goal line on the opening kick off. Then the O-line had a false start on 3rd down. Levis, with bodies around him in the end zone, lobbed a perfect pass to the right sideline. He showed wonderful loft and placement for a big-time completion vs Kelee Ringo.

Kentucky got to half-way on that really encouraging opening drive powered by the passing game. They then ran twice on 3rd/4th and 1 and didn’t convert.

A receiver had an enormous, horrible drop on 3rd and 4 with the score at 16-0. It went straight through his hands.

Levis led a 99-yard scoring drive against the Georgia defense to drag Kentucky back into the game. Not many quarterbacks can say that. They got the ball back at 16-6 and Levis again led them into field goal range only for the kicker to boot it 20 yards wide of the posts after a terrible snap.

This has been mission impossible all year. People are comparing Levis to quarterbacks in the PAC-12 with all day to throw against powderpuff opponents, with superior supporting casts in half-field, one-read schemes that are well-oiled and prolific. Levis is helping prop up one of the weaker SEC teams, competing against the likes of Georgia and Tennessee. He has been battered all year and is playing through turf toe and an injured shoulder.

Look what Georgia did to the one PAC-12 opponent they’ve faced this season for a comparison.

Teams are going to view Levis through a projection lens not a ‘he must perform and dominate at Kentucky’ lens and will consider his situation and supporting cast. He’s played behind one of the worst lines in college football all year, for a struggling play-caller with no receivers or tight ends to speak of.

I suspect he improved his stock yesterday and regardless of what others might say — he almost certainly won’t get out of the top-five picks and will remain a big contender to go first overall.

Generally I thought Georgia played in second gear. They never really felt threatened, even though it was a competitive game. Jalen Carter, for example, made some nice plays lining up as a five-technique to help against the run. He didn’t have a typical big splash in the passing game though. They only gained one sack on a day when I think most people expected four or five.

I mocked Kenny McIntosh to Seattle in round three earlier in the week and he showed why. He’s far more than a great pass-catching running back. He is tough, physical and shifty with great size. He had 19 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown. There are a handful of really good runners eligible for 2023 and McIntosh is right up there.

Anthony Richardson and Florida suffered defeat to Vanderbilt (which is not an issue — Vandy have been playing their arses off for weeks and Clark Lea is doing a heck of a job). Richardson made some wonderful throws downfield — including a perfect 35-yard bomb on 4th and 7. Touch, accuracy, placement — it was all there.

On another play with 11:50 left in the third quarter, Richardson threw an unreal pass from the 38-yard line for 20-yards on an absolute dime into good coverage, putting it in the only spot his receiver could make a play by the left sideline. It was a stunning throw — again with ideal velocity and touch.

He then followed up with a touchdown on the drive that showed off what makes him special. Countless times this year I’ve seen defenders draped all over Richardson (or hitting him) but because he is so big and strong, he doesn’t go down and is somehow still able to get a throw away. He did so here, in the red zone, for a score. Brilliant.

It happened again for his interception. He was literally being tackled by two players in the pocket, he stayed on his feet defying physics and still got a throw away to his receiver. Somehow, against all the odds, the receiver makes the catch but doesn’t complete the process. As he hits the turf the ball squirts out of his grasp, loops into the air and is picked off. It’s incredibly unfortunate and Richardson doesn’t deserve to have that interception marked against him. As we’ve been saying all season — not all picks are equal.

He had a long bomb downfield for a touchdown (again, releasing his pass while being hit). His third score came on a good release by the receiver on a red zone route. He finished 25/42 passing for 400 yards with three scores.

Richardson now has 23 total touchdowns and eight picks for the season. His talent level is through the roof and I’ll say it again — don’t count him out for the #1 overall pick as this process develops.

I felt sorry for Ventrell Miller in this game. Once again, the Florida linebacker left everything out on the field in a tremendous, largely unsupported performance on defense. With 11:55 left in the game he delivered an enormous hit in the open field. On review he was ejected for targeting — although I’m not sure it’d even be flagged in the NFL. He finished with 11 tackles in the game and was visibly emotional after the ejection. He misses half of his final game vs Florida State which is a real shame for a heroic figure for the Gators. I really hope the Seahawks consider him in the draft.

For Clemson, Trenton Simpson returned after a weeks absence and finally made some plays — recording two sacks against hopeless Miami. He was still largely on the periphery of the game with the superb Jeremiah Trotter (who isn’t eligible for the draft) really excelling once again. He is a complete linebacker — dominating at the LOS, brilliant in coverage. He will be a high pick in 2024. Back to Simpson — his first sack was a nice read/react when the coverage held the QB in the pocket. He showed a good closing burst to get to the passer. Simpson’s second sack was an unblocked blitz off the edge that led to a fumble. Both plays happened late in the game — he appeared to be spelled quite a lot early on and didn’t seem to be on the field much.

Myles Murphy had a better game setting the edge, winning with a combination of a strong arm and speed. K.J. Henry recorded another sack too. Frankly though, it was men against boys vs Miami and I didn’t feel we learnt too much from the experience of a game that was one of the most boring and routine we’ve seen this season. I will say though that I’m a big fan of Clemson left tackle Jordan McFadden. He reminds me a bit of Isaiah Wynn. He’s so natural in his drops, he locks on and controls and he has plenty of power. I love the way he stays in control of his feet once he engages a block and retains balance. I think he’s a tremendous option to kick inside to guard at the next level. Don’t be shocked if he ends up in the top-50.

All season I’ve been saying that a lot of NFL teams (most?) will grade Texas running back Bijan Robinson as the best player in the draft. For some reason draft media can’t differentiate from talent and grading and their own personal preferences over positional value. Any big board that doesn’t have Robinson in the top three, frankly, isn’t worth reading. He had 243 yards on just 25 carries against Kansas with four touchdowns. He is a superstar in the making and will likely be taken in the top-10, despite his position.

Alabama safety Brian Branch had a nice interception against Austin Peay. He read the play well and dropped into the right zone to be in position to make the play. It was similar to Kam Chancellor’s pick in the NFC Championship game against the 49ers — just further downfield. Branch also had a TFL. He’s not my favourite safety in the class (more on that in a moment) but it’s increasingly likely he’ll go in round one as a silky-smooth versatile defensive back who can cover the slot and either safety position.

Boise State’s JL Skinner is my favourite safety. He’s known for his thunderous hitting and size but he had two interceptions right at the end of the game vs Wyoming (a 20-17 win). It was a crazy ending (see below). Skinner now has four picks for the season. I get a feeling he will be firmly be on Seattle’s radar. Don’t be surprised if they prioritise taking him.

Spencer Rattler had the best game of his career by a mile for South Carolina against Tennessee. Going into the game he had eight touchdowns and nine interceptions for the season. In this game alone he had six touchdowns and zero turnovers. Where has this been for the last two years?

What a tease. This was a ‘first overall’ type display. He threw with a quick release to all areas of the field. He was reading the defense properly. He showed off arm strength and timing. He moved around to extend plays and made smart decisions. He completed 30/37 for 438 yards. He was majestic, magical. He looked like Patrick Mahomes.

It’s hard to know what to make of Rattler. He has so much talent but when things go wrong he looks hopeless. I gave him an UDFA grade on my board but after this, how can you not bump him up at least into day three based on potential alone?

It was good to see Cedric Tillman out there again for Tennessee. He had a wonderful 1v1 catch on a fade in the red zone on fourth down — beating talented cornerback Cam Smith. He is a classy big target who, if he tests well, could find a home in the top-45.

I wanted to end by talking about Utah’s tight end Dalton Kincaid. He had an unreal block to spring a jet sweep to the outside for a touchdown against Oregon. He consistently shows great hands and he can bail out bad throws. Kincaid has superb body control. I don’t know how he’ll test but for me, there aren’t many better players in college football in terms of week-to-week performance. How he performs at the combine will be big but I think NFL teams will love what he brings to the table.

If you enjoy the content on Seahawks Draft Blog — including the recent horizontal board and accompanying thesis, why not consider supporting the site via Patreon? (click here)

College Football week 12 open thread

Saturday, November 19th, 2022

Apologies for the late posting of this. My schedule this week will initially include (but I will end up watching more games during the week):

Florida vs Vanderbilt
Georgia vs Kentucky
Tennessee vs South Carolina
Utah vs Oregon
Miami vs Clemson

I fear for Will Levis today against Georgia. Kentucky’s season is imploding, the offensive line is a horror movie and Levis is clearly nowhere near 100% health after his weekly beating. This could get ugly quickly. Although we’re seeing how competitive Vanderbilt have become in recent weeks (something lost on people, as we discussed the game last weekend). They’ve played tremendously well against Florida.

I might host a live stream tomorrow discussing Seattle’s draft position plus my observations on the draft and horizontal board. If people have interest in this, let me know in the comments section. I would do it at the conclusion of the Broncos/Raiders game.

ESPN are trying to get everyone’s hopes up

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

I saw this tweet today. I suspect a lot of Seahawks fans did. I’m sure, like me, it provided quite the dopamine hit.

The Seahawks picking third overall. What a glorious thought.

Imagine if they were able to qualify for the playoffs and still end up with a top-three pick? Their highest pick since taking Shawn Springs third overall in 1997.

What would it mean?

When I asked Pete Carroll in Munich about Geno Smith’s (and Drew Lock’s) contracts he obviously wasn’t going to give away any state secrets. However, I think his tone and admittance that talks were coming gave more than a hint of his desire to retain both and have both players be part of the foreseeable future.

That doesn’t mean the Seahawks should completely rule out the possibility of drafting a quarterback. Picking third is a rare opportunity. It could produce a situation where you’re able to draft a player so talented, you’d otherwise never have a chance to get near them. I’ve often spoken about Anthony Richardson in Florida and his remarkable upside. Imagine being able to draft and stash him as the heir apparent? It would be a wonderful place to be as a franchise, with Geno Smith starting and Richardson learning in the background.

That said, the alternative must also be considered. It was never more evident than in Germany that the Seahawks have a good crop of rotational defensive linemen but they lack a game-wrecking presence. I like Chris Simms’ way of putting it. Players who ‘F the play up’.

Being in a position to draft one of those would be a huge boon to Seattle’s immediate chances in the NFC. If Geno Smith is able to sustain his performance level — a dynamic, game-wrecking defensive lineman could be the missing piece of the puzzle.

Picking in the top three would, in my opinion, guarantee one of the two players who can become a ‘F the play up’ specialist. Georgia’s Jalen Carter has shown in the last fortnight that he can be that type of player. The Seahawks haven’t had a defensive tackle like this in the Carroll era. He is exactly what they need on the D-line. The other player is Alabama’s Will Anderson. He has had a disappointing 2022 season. I am not convinced he’s anywhere near a Bosa-brother level — let alone Myles Garrett or Von Miller. Yet his 2021 performance was superb. What’s changed? Is he just receiving more attention and struggling to have the same impact? Is he saving himself for the NFL? I’m not sure.

Either way — drafting Carter or Anderson would be a coup for the D-line and a justifiable decision. Either player would excite the fanbase and get people dreaming about what could be possible in 2023.

So are the Broncos really that bad to gift the Seahawks pick #3?

I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

The ESPN predictor is basically saying Denver will only win one more game. As bad as they’ve been, I think finishing the season 1-7 is a little far-fetched.

Let’s not forget — the Broncos have the #4 defense per DVOA. It means they’re in every game, even if the offense is playing like crap. I would think that will give them the opportunity to win more than one game, especially when they’re set to play flaky opponents like the Raiders (H), Panthers (A), Cardinals (H), Rams (A) and Chargers (H). They’re hardly Murderers’ Row.

The idea that they’d only win one of those games and lose the rest seems fanciful. The defense might win them games against Carolina and Arizona alone.

I think it’s more realistic that they finish the season with at least five or six wins, rather than three. That would put them at 5-12 or 6-11.

Last year the Panthers had the #6 pick after finishing 5-12. The Giants courtesy of Chicago owned the #7 pick after the Bears finished 6-11.

Houston had to go 4-13 to get the #3 pick a year ago. The Jets at #4 also went 4-13.

I just can’t see the Broncos doing that, even if their record has only a pitiful five or six wins instead.

Some Seahawks fans will try and talk this into existence and I’m sure some compelling arguments will be made around injuries, the Bradley Chubb trade and the increasingly ugly dynamic in Denver. I just think their defense will be too strong and too proud to only win one more game.

I hope it does happen, of course. And even if you end up with the #5 or #6 pick instead — a good quarterback class and a big need at the position for certain teams could still push one of the more impressive defensive linemen Seattle’s way. Or, for that matter, a great young quarterback.

If you enjoy the content on Seahawks Draft Blog — including the recent horizontal board and accompanying thesis, why not consider supporting the site via Patreon? (click here)