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Saturday draft notes: Paxton Lynch, Sheldon Rankins & more

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

— I don’t think we should read too much into the Tweet above — but I still think Paxton Lynch will be the #2 pick to Cleveland in this draft. People are sleeping on him because of a bad Bowl game against Auburn. It’s worth remembering Memphis lost their Head Coach just before the game and looked like a team that was unprepared and lacked motivation. If you’re letting a Bowl game influence your opinion it’s a mistake. Lynch to me is an upgraded version of Carson Wentz. He’s more elusive, a better passer and elevated a Memphis team to new heights. Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. His combination of size, mobility, accuracy and arm strength (minus the dabbing) is a skill-set they’ll be watching in the Super Bowl this week. He has the most upside of the top three QB’s and one game has created an overly negative impression of his stock.

— Today I watched the practise video of day two at the Senior Bowl. Sheldon Rankins was incredible. Whatever anyone says about how well he performed in Mobile — until you actually see it, it’s hard to imagine. The Jaguars coaches were grinning from ear to ear. They were looking at each other almost in disbelief. Rankins had the quickness to swim/rip and explode but also the technique to gain leverage and drive blockers into the backfield with a bull rush. It was a dominating performance. The way Jacksonville’s staff reacted — it’d be a surprise if they didn’t bang the table to draft him in round one. If they’re going to focus on defense (and why wouldn’t they?) — Rankins could be in play at #5. That’s how good he looked in Mobile. Seriously.

— I’ve done a bit more study on A’Shawn Robinson. I think the team that takes him will do so based on upside rather than anything he put on tape in college. He can be quite an ineffective, passive player. The Alabama front seven is loaded with talent and more often than not it was Jarran Reed, D.J. Pettway, Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams and Reggie Ragland standing out. Robinson is clearly a fantastic athlete. Against LSU he hurdled the LOS like Kam Chancellor vs the Panthers on a kick attempt. That’s at 312lbs by the way. And yet he barely threatens as a pass rusher and doesn’t play with a relentless attitude like Reed. Robinson had 3.5 sacks in 2015 (2.5 came in one game against Mississippi State) and he had zero sacks in 2014. This isn’t deceptive — he doesn’t seem to have many splash plays either. Is he capable of using his size, length and athleticism to be a great pro? Or is he one of those players who gets by on talent in college and never makes the most of it at the next level? He can be great. But does he want to be great?

ESPN’s Scouts Inc has published a top-32 list. Robert Nkemdiche is at #21, Taylor Decker at #24 and Darron Lee at #26. It’s fair to say it’ll be fantastic news for the Seahawks if that trio last anywhere near the #26 pick. For all of Nkemdiche’s off-field issues he has more upside than anyone else in this draft class. His first-step quickness is elite, he has the length and power to win with his hands and he carries 290-300lbs like a 270lbs edge rusher. He has an opportunity to be one of the best players in the NFL — if you can manage him. At what point is the risk/reward too strong? Decker is an underrated athlete with all the grit you’d want in an offensive tackle. There’s so much to like about his game — he’s a genuine top-20 talent with a chance to be a brilliant right tackle for years to come. Lee is a natural playmaker at linebacker with 4.4 speed and a real nose for the ball. I’m currently mocking all three in the top-15.

— One player I wouldn’t put in the top-15 is Oklahoma State pass rusher Emmanuel Ogbah. The 13 sacks he accumulated last year are deceptive. He’s far from a relentless edge rusher, he shows minimal hustle and effort and he doesn’t have the blazing speed to threaten the top tackles or the counter moves to keep tackles guessing. The non-elite athletes rushing the edge need to show they’re capable of setting up a tackle. Rush twice to the edge and on the third go-around stunt inside or throw in a spin-move. Ogbah’s as creative as he is lethargic in pursuit. I had him placed with the last pick in round two in my last mock draft but he might warrant a home in rounds 3-4.

— Noah Spence is going to go very early for two reasons. One — there’s nobody else like him in this draft class. Two — the fire he’s showing and determination to prove he’s a changed man is likely to usurp any lingering concerns over his character:

Projecting legit first round grades for the Seahawks

Friday, February 5th, 2016

There might be 31 picks in the first round this year — but there certainly won’t be 31 first round grades handed out by the teams.

This is always the case. A decent average could see around 12-18 legit first round prospects in a given draft class. Unless you’re picking very early (top-15) you’re likely facing a compromise. Do you take the best player remaining at a position of need, trade down or use your first round pick creatively?

In 2013 and 2015 the Seahawks traded their picks for proven veterans — feeling that was a better use of the resource because they weren’t going to land a first round talent. In 2014 they dropped back into round two before selecting Paul Richardson.

They haven’t always gone down that road — I’m not entirely convinced they had James Carpenter down as one of the best fifteen or so players in the draft. That was about filling a priority — taking the best run blocking tackle available to enhance a league-worst running game.

They’re unlikely to make another big trade this year — probably because they can’t afford to do so. So how likely are they to acquire a legit first round prospect with the #26 pick? And how likely are they to trade down?

In December I estimated a total of 18 first round grades for the 2016 class. Two of those players chose to return to college (Cam Sutton and Tre’Davious White). I listed a further 15 players that could realistically be considered in the first frame as a borderline ’round one’ prospect.

Today I’m going to predict a conservative tally of 14 legit first round grades. This takes into the account the likelihood the Seahawks aren’t going to seriously consider one of the top three quarterbacks. I’m also including 18 ‘borderline’ first round grades. Players they might be willing to consider in round one — or could target after a small trade down.

With so many players in the ‘borderline’ category — it probably lends itself to suggesting the Seahawks are likely to move down. However — they haven’t had a serious need (O-line) like this since 2011, where they took Carpenter to try and solve a problem. In that draft a lot of the better O-liners were off the board before Seattle’s pick and options were thin. They’re perhaps unlikely to take too many risks if there are two or three prospects they really like available at #26. Moving down a few spots and remaining in the late first round could be an option.

Legit first rounders

Offensive line
Laremy Tunsil, Taylor Decker, Jack Conklin, Shon Coleman
Tunsil’s a prototype for the position and a former 5-star recruit who’s been on a path to the NFL since High School. Decker is long and more athletic than people realise — plus he has a terrific attitude and fits Seattle’s profile for the O-line. Conklin lacks elite athleticism but plays with such a grit and determination. He wouldn’t be a left tackle in Seattle — but he could be a fantastic left guard or right tackle. Coleman’s age (24) and medical history might be a concern for some teams — but I think he’s a top-20 talent. He’s long, athletic, physical and plays with an edge.

Linebacker
Jaylon Smith, Myles Jack, Darron Lee
The Seahawks want elite speed and athleticism at linebacker. Smith (pre-injury), Jack and Lee all look like 4.4 runners. Smith was a candidate to be the best player in the draft before he hurt his knee against Ohio State. Jack is also recovering from an injury but possesses such a natural athleticism and played running back for UCLA too. Lee is a fiery competitor and an intelligent player with the speed to match.

Defensive end
Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Noah Spence
Bosa could be another Robert Quinn at the next level (he’s possibly just a notch below Quinn’s level of athleticism). Buckner is a powerful, versatile D-lineman that can line up inside and out. He had major production for Oregon. There isn’t another player like Spence in the draft — he has the speed to work the edge, the hand-technique to fight off blocks and the agility to evade blockers and explode.

Defensive tackle
Sheldon Rankins
The Seahawks haven’t drafted a defensive tackle earlier than the third round and I suspect it’s because that player would need to be a very athletic, quick-twitch pass rusher that plays with gap-discipline and spirit vs the run. Rankins consistently embarrassed Graham Glasgow at the Senior Bowl with an explosive get-off, spin move, swim/rip and elite quicks. The Seahawks can find run stuffers in free agency. They struggle to find guys like this because they’re so few and far between.

Cornerback
Eli Apple, Mackensive Alexander, Jaylon Ramsey
Apple looks like he’d be a perfect fit for the Seahawks. He keeps everything in front and doesn’t get beat deep. On top of that he appears to pass the 32-inch arm test and he’s a great athlete. There’s so much potential here. Alexander might not pass the length test but I’ll reserve judgement until the combine. He’s sparky, physical and a great cover corner. Ramsey won’t play CB for every team but his physical style would work well in Seattle.

Borderline first rounders

Offensive line
Jason Spriggs, Nick Martin, Cody Whitehair, Ronnie Stanley
Spriggs reminds me a little of Nate Solder who the Seahawks apparently liked in 2011. He’s long and athletic with upside and could play right tackle. Nick Martin might be the most accomplished O-liner in the draft. He’s a plug-in-and-play center who gets the job done. Whitehair needs time to adjust to center but has the balance, frame and physicality to be a safe pick. Stanley plays with inconsistent effort and someone needs to light a fire under him. He has the athletic upside to stick in round one — but he could fall.

Linebacker
Leonard Floyd, Kyler Fackrell, Deion Jones
Floyd is pencil thin and hasn’t always looked great rushing the passer (see: Shon Coleman blocking him into the car park). He is a terrific athlete though — in one game he covered a teams #1 receiver on a deep route at 6-4 and 231lbs. Fackrell is just a constantly disruptive pass-rushing force — a splash-play specialist. Jones won’t get many first round grades but his fantastic suddenness, fluidity and all-round athleticism could put him near the top of Seattle’s board.

Defensive tackle
Vernon Butler, Andrew Billings, Robert Nkemdiche, Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson
This is a tough one to gauge. Will they take a bigger, non-quick-twitch interior D-lineman? Butler is intriguing because he combines size, length and quicks to show flashes of Muhammad Wilkerson. He’s still a 325lbs defensive tackle and that’s not something the Seahawks have pursued early. Billings is very strong and athletic but doesn’t play with any kind of discipline and that’s a concern. Nkemdiche might be struck off many boards for off-field concerns despite his massive upside. Reed is a pure run-stopper but plays with his hair on fire. Robinson coasts through a lot of games. He’s an incredible athlete for his size but how badly does he want to be great?

Running back
Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott does everything well. He doesn’t go down on first contact, he can be a home-run hitter, he pass-blocks very well, he’s a threat to catch passes out of the backfield and he makes things happen. He’s the only running back in this class that deserves to go in the first frame.

Wide receiver
Will Fuller, Corey Coleman, Laquan Treadwell, Michael Thomas
Fuller’s suddenness and elite speed to separate and explode will surely be coveted by teams in the top-25. Coleman isn’t far behind as a sparky, athletic playmaker that can make the circus catch and be a production machine. Treadwell is Mr. Consistency but might drop a little if he runs in the 4.6’s or 4.7’s. Thomas is a big target with great agility. The stop-and-go route he put on Kendall Fuller was a thing of beauty.

Safety
Darian Thompson
He had a terrific Senior Bowl — flashing range and closing speed. He’s a playmaker in the secondary and had five picks and two forced fumbles in 2015. He has the size (6-2, 210lbs) to play up at the line if needed. Thompson is an ascending talent and appears to be working his way into first round territory.

D-line vs O-line and thoughts on Baylor’s Andrew Billings

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Baylor’s Andrew Billings was mocked to the Seahawks by Todd McShay

Do you take a defensive tackle at #26 or begin to improve the offensive line?

A consensus opinion is emerging that the Seahawks are probably going to focus on the trenches in the draft. It makes sense — it’s a good class on both sides of the ball.

So what are some of the things to consider?

Pete Carroll said the priority was fixing the O-line

In the past when Carroll says they’re going to do something — they’ve gone after it aggressively. He wanted to improve the run-game in 2011 so they drafted the best run-blocking tackle in college football (James Carpenter) and a road grader guard (John Moffitt). In 2012 he wanted to add speed to the front seven so they took Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner in the first two rounds. In 2013 they wanted to improve the pass rush so went and added Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in free agency.

The Seahawks haven’t had a glaring need since. Now they have. Carroll’s apparent determination to produce a consistently performing O-line could be all the information we need when it comes to the #26 pick.

What about the D-line though?

There isn’t anyone quite as disruptive as Kawann Short (pre-draft scouting report here) but it’s a deep class overall at defensive tackle. In a recent two-round mock draft I put nine DT’s in the first two rounds. Some would argue that’s a conservative projection.

This depth should filter into the early third round but then it starts to thin out. Alternatively, you should be able to find good options for the O-line later on. This is a loaded class at center and it’s possible the likes of Joe Dahl (T, Washington State), Fahn Cooper (T, Ole Miss) and the technically deficient with major upside Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech) could be around in the middle rounds.

For that reason you can make a case for going defense first.

So will they go defense?

It depends on who they like. They haven’t really committed to perceived ‘value’ over ‘need’. They clearly liked Carpenter and Irvin a lot and took them earlier than most people expected. In 2014 they needed a tackle and a receiver but passed on several accomplished linemen (including Joel Bitonio) because they just had to have Paul Richardson. By the time they picked at the end of round two — their options on the O-line were very limited. Without a third round pick (Percy Harvin trade) they felt obliged to reach for Justin Britt to make sure they got a guy they liked. The options at receiver remained strong beyond Seattle’s second pick — Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant for example remained on the board and Jarvis Landry was taken just before they chose Britt.

Their desire to take Richardson trumped the fact that draft value was telling them to go OT first and WR second.

It doesn’t guarantee anything but history suggests they’ll judge the best way to upgrade their roster, find a guy they like and take them. If that player happens to be an offensive lineman — they probably don’t think twice. Even if they’re able to fill more needs by going defense first.

What kind of player do they need on defense?

They’d like a pass rusher. It’s not a frightening need with Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark on the roster. They are potentially losing Bruce Irvin, however, and didn’t get any production out of Jordan Hill in 2015. Essentially they need the next Clinton McDonald or late-2014 Hill.

That’s assuming they retain Brandon Mebane and Athyba Rubin. With Carroll declaring Rubin as the best three-technique they’ve had in Seattle, it’s safe to bet he’ll be sticking around. Mebane earned $5.7m in 2015 and turned 31 in January. He might be willing to agree a team-friendly deal to finish his career with the only club he’s played for.

Keeping both could be important. While they want to upgrade the pass rush, they don’t want to weaken the run defense. Nobody ran for 100 yards against Seattle in the regular season. That’s a big deal.

They need someone who can work into a rotation and make some plays. It doesn’t need to be an every-down pass-rush DT (those are hard to find). It needs to be someone who can do what Hill did late in the 2014 season or McDonald in 2013.

Will this require a first round pick?

Let’s be real here — probably not. Assuming you keep Rubin and Mebane you’re talking about a rotational defensive tackle who plays a certain percentage of the snaps. Is that a good use of resources?

Alternatively you could argue they made a similar pick in round two with Frank Clark last year. Is that an indication they would be willing to take a role-player early? Perhaps — if they have unique traits like Clark (a genuine SPARQ monster).

There are some options later in the draft that could provide some value. Appalachian State’s Ronald Blair III is incredibly disruptive. If he can add another 5-10lbs he could be an interior rusher. He lived in the backfield against Clemson which is no mean feat. Keep an eye on that guy. Ferris State’s Justin Zimmer is another possible diamond in the rough and South Carolina State’s Javon Hargrave has a nice combination of technique and quicks.

What about free agency?

They’ve consistently found value here. Clinton McDonald, Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams, Athyba Rubin. All were acquired at a modest price. Are there players who can have a similar impact in 2016? Is there a player who can come in and compliment what they already have?

Looking at the list of current prospective free agents — nobody stands out. Henry Melton hasn’t really been the same since his knee injury. He’s just completed an average season with the Buccs.

There could be a cap casualty or two along the way. A solution might not be evident just yet.

It’s worth noting that when he was asked about adding a pass rusher — Carroll specifically made reference to seeing what the draft provides. Money could be tight in free agency if they manage to keep a large number of their UFA’s. It doesn’t mean they have to take a D-liner at #26 though.

If they were going to go DT in round one, who would they like?

Tony Pauline noted the Seahawks have given a first round grade to Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins. At the Senior Bowl he displayed top-tier quickness, get-off and the ability to use a swim/rip effectively. The top interior pass-rushers in the league have this skill set. He has enough size to be an early-down DT and plays with terrific gap discipline — something the Seahawks value greatly for their run defense. His tape isn’t quite as brilliant as the way he destroyed Graham Glasgow in Mobile — but there’s a skill set and understanding that matches what they like.

Rankins is unlikely to reach the #26 pick. There’s too much talk about him right now. He’s being mocked in the top-10 by some. Pauline also noted Atlanta likes him in round one and they own the #17 pick.

So what about one of the other options?

Today I went back and reviewed three Baylor games to watch Andrew Billings. Yesterday ESPN’s Todd McShay mocked him to the Seahawks at #26.

Clearly there’s a lot to like — I’m just not convinced he’s right for Seattle. He uses his length well to keep blockers off his frame and generally does a good job to disengage. He shows great pursuit — on one play he ran 60-yards to chase down the ball-carrier and prevent a touchdown. Billings gets into backfield quickly and effectively when he finds the space to exploit.

However, therein lies part of the issue. His gap discipline is non-existent. Whether he’s told to or not, he frequently moves laterally off the snap to shift down the line, find a gap and run to the ball. That seems to work against a lot of the spread teams — especially West Virginia, TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. They separate their tackles off the line and almost put them on an island. It’s perhaps not surprising that four of his 5.5 sacks in 2015 came against these teams. Against Oklahoma though he was frequently caught off balance and spent far too much time on the turf.

He seems to use two moves — the bull rush or this lateral movement. Sometimes he’s capable of plowing his way through the LOS with sheer power. That’s what he does very well — and if he wins with initial power he can find the space to explode and finish. Unfortunately there’s little evidence of a quick get-off followed by a swim/rip to burst into the backfield.

At the next level he’s needs to win straight up 1v1. He might be able to do that with power and be an effective force. His use of length, arm extension and upper-body are intriguing. When he isn’t winning with the bull rush, however, he’s going to need to be quick-twitch to be an effective pass rusher and that just isn’t him. Give him space and he’ll finish better than any DT in this class. Finding the space might be the problem — and it did cross my mind whether he might actually be better suited playing the 5-technique to find an angle.

When he’s moving laterally he almost always concedes his gap — allowing running lanes to materialize. I suspect this will concern the Seahawks and will raise some questions — can he be taught to remain tight in-line and can he still be an effective pass rusher in this role? When he’s not able to wing it trying to find a route into the backfield — can he still win consistently? Can he take his game to the next level and learn to win with a get-off and quickness? Or does he end up being a pure one-technique who possibly does all the things Mebane does but doesn’t really provide consistent pressure?

To some extent he reminds me of another former Baylor D-lineman in Phil Taylor. He too was abnormally athletic for his size (he was 20lbs bigger than Billings), had a lot of upper body power and could sprint to the sideline in pursuit. He ended up being the #21 overall pick because of such an enticing skill set. He struggled to adapt to the pro’s and after being released by Cleveland following the 2014 season he hasn’t had another team.

That’s not to say Billings faces the same fate — but Taylor’s skills are reasonably similar. Like Taylor I could easily see him going in the #15-25 range because very strong, athletic nose tackles generally go early.

I’m going to spend time looking at some of the other options too. Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) is a player I’m intrigued with because he has shown flashes of winning with quickness as well as possessing great athleticism at 325lbs with 34 inch arms. The comparisons to Muhammad Wilkerson are not ridiculous. I want to review my position on A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama) a player I’m currently grading in round two and feel is overrated. I’ve settled on second round grades for Kenny Clark (DT, UCLA) and Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida). Clark is a good run-stopper with limited pass-rushing skill. Bullard’s get-off is fantastic and he plays with high intensity — but he looks like an average athlete and appears to have a relatively low ceiling at the next level. Javon Hargrave (DT, South Carolina State) dominated at a small-school level.

I’m not sure there’s a better way for the Seahawks to improve in 2016 than if they sort out the O-line once and for all (particularly the interior). However, the number of good DT’s in the class and the overall depth on the offensive line makes this a debate that will rage on into free agency.

Breaking down Todd McShay’s second mock draft

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

ESPN analyst Todd McShay today published his second mock draft. He has the Seahawks taking Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor) at #26. We’ll continue to break down the McShay and Mel Kiper mocks to look at options for Seattle in the first round.

McShay on the pick

“Billings has freakish weight-room strength that he puts to good use as a run defender. A great athlete for the position, he displays an impressive combination of quickness and power. Billings improved his consistency as a third-year starter, and that led to him playing the best football of his career in 2015 (14.0 TFLs and 5.5 sacks).”

Reaction

Billings would theoretically replace Brandon Mebane. He’s strong enough to play the nose and provide some level of disruption. The Seahawks have generally gone for quickness and unique athletic traits when spending early picks on their defense. A powerful Mebane replacement would arguably contradict that approach. Is the roster improved by replacing Mebane with a 19-year-old rookie? They’ve been able to plug players into their D-line using free agency. Spending a first round pick on Billings would be a departure from that.

Other players who were available at #26

Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
Spence proved he’s a top-15 talent at the Senior Bowl. He still has to convince teams he’s a changed man after his departure from Ohio State. The reports from Mobile were positive in that regard — and Spence appears destined to go very early in round one. There just isn’t anyone else with a similar combination of speed, agility, hand-use and technique. In a class littered with powerful DE’s, Spence stands out. If he does somehow last until pick #26 — the Seahawks have to consider him.

SDB projection: #12 overall to New Orleans but could go higher

Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
Tipped by many to go in the top-15, Alexander is an aggressive and confident cornerback. He plays bigger than his listed size (5-10, 190lbs) and carries himself like a top NFL corner. With one or two key injuries at the position (Kendall Fuller, Will Redmond) and Tre’Davious White and Cam Sutton opting to return to LSU and Tennessee respectively — Alexander could be competing with Eli Apple to be the top cornerback in the draft. Whether the Seahawks would consider him or not depends on length. They generally avoid cornerbacks with sub-32 inch arms.

SDB projection: #8 overall to Miami

Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Possibly the best left tackle in college football in 2015 (Laremy Tunsil missed most of the season), Coleman combines ideal size with a gritty attitude. He’s the complete opposite of the passive Ronnie Stanley — Coleman loves to get to the second level and punish a linebacker. He talks trash to defenders. He enjoys the competitive side of the game. Teams will do their homework on his medical report after he beat cancer. His age (24) could be an issue for some. If you want a tackle or guard with an edge, Coleman provides fantastic value. A top-20 talent.

SDB projection: #23 overall to Minnesota

Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
The best of a pretty bad bunch of tackles in Mobile — Spriggs was generally hit and miss (just like his college career overall). He’s long and athletic and looks the part. There are some technical deficiencies in his game though — he gets beat too easily on the inside counter and his kick slide is a little laboured at times. Some believe he has to move inside but how many teams want a guard at nearly 6-6 and 301lbs? There’s a lot of upside here if he gets the right coaching. He might need to start at right tackle and eventually move across.

SDB projection: #30 overall to Denver

Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
Dangerously underrated, Martin was the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. A picture of consistency, Martin — like his brother — was born to be an offensive lineman. He has ideal size to work inside (6-4, 300lbs), plays with a fantastic physicality and doesn’t lose many 1v1 battles. The only obvious difference between Zack and Nick is quicker feet — this isn’t really a problem with Nick working at center. If you’re looking for a prospect who can start in year one and just get the job done — this is your man. He’ll be a quality starter for the next few years and like his brother, could be a perennial Pro-Bowler. The Seahawks say they want consistency and physicality in the trenches.

SDB projection: #26 overall to Seattle

Leonard Floyd (LB, Georgia)
Floyd’s a bit of an enigma. He could easily be the next Aaron Maybin — overrated based on his athletic skill set and largely ineffective because what is his best position? At the same time, there just aren’t many human beings that move as well as Floyd at 6-4 and 231lbs. On one play in 2015 he covered a teams #1 receiver running down the left sideline on a deep route. Is he a good enough pass rusher to compliment his speed and agility? He had 4.5 sacks this season and six in 2014. In Seattle his most likely role would be to replace Bruce Irvin but he’s better suited to the 3-4.

SDB projection: #19 overall to Buffalo

Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
Fuller might be the most dynamic receiver in the draft and could easily be the first wide out taken. His ability to shift through the gears and separate is staggering. Yes, he has the occasional drop. However — there arguably hasn’t been a player entering the league with this level of raw explosion since DeSean Jackson. Fuller is a well-spoken, respectful individual with a good understanding of the game. The Seahawks probably won’t take a receiver in round one — but Fuller is their type of wide out. He has a shot to be an instant impact player.

SDB projection: #24 overall to Cincinnati

Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
Another incredibly underrated player. Fackrell’s sack numbers (only four in 2015) are misleading. PFF ranked him as one of the most disruptive players in college football and they’re absolutely right. Fackrell is a splash-play specialist. He impacts so many snaps. So while he might not always get the sack, his ability to move the quarterback, force bad throws and dictate protection is invaluable. In Seattle he would act as a pure edge rusher rather than replace Bruce Irvin. He’s a highly competitive individual with a chance to emulate Clay Matthews’ early success in the pro’s.

SDB projection: #25 overall to Pittsburgh

Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
Although he played left tackle for Kansas State in 2015, Whitehair is certain to move inside to guard or center. He only has 31 and 3/8 inch arms at nearly 6-4 in height — length to make a T-Rex blush. In Mobile he took to the left guard spot with ease. Whitehair is extremely well balanced, a natural knee-bender and he understands leverage. He’s powerful and athletic and should be one of the safest picks in the draft. He’s not quite as accomplished as Nick Martin and would need a bit of time to adapt if he switches to center — but he’s solid..

SDB projection: #29 overall to Arizona

Players off the board in McShay’s mock

Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville) — #10 to the New York Giants
Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) — #22 to Houston
Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State) — #24 to Cincinnati
Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State) — #25 to Pittsburgh

NFL mock draft: Updated 1st February (two rounds)

Monday, February 1st, 2016

The Carolina Panthers are starting Michael Oher at left tackle — a free agent cut by the Tennessee Titans last February. His cap hit for this season is $2.4m.

At right tackle they’re starting Mike Remmers — an undrafted free agent from 2012. He’s 26-years-old and already on his sixth NFL team. He was snatched from the Rams practise squad. His cap hit for this season is $585,000.

Cam Newton is generally well protected. The Panthers gave up 33 sacks during the regular season — the same number as the much vaunted Dallas Cowboys O-line and 13 fewer than the Seahawks.

Carolina are built to win in the trenches and they’re doing it without first round offensive tackles. The Seahawks have to consider a similar path.

Ryan Kalil (center) and Trai Turner (right guard) are Carolina’s two best offensive linemen. Kalil is a pillar of consistency, the unquestioned leader up front. Turner is the ultra-talented, physical guard playing next to him.

This is the strength of the unit.

The Seahawks might attempt to emulate the Panthers by producing a consistently performing O-line built in the same way.

A lot of teams don’t even rush the edge against Russell Wilson. They play contain knowing if they create interior pressure Wilson will scramble straight into the waiting arms of a defensive end. Keeping the pocket clean from the inside is crucial and could be the priority going forward.

Seattle can deal with speed. Tom Cable recently told the local media only one edge rusher in the entire NFL can beat Garry Gilliam with speed. They aren’t built to defend the Kawann Short’s and Aaron Donald’s they end up facing annually. That’s a problem.

This mock draft is based around this thought process. Find a long term solution at center to avoid the kind of mistakes that dogged the start of the 2015 season. Provide toughness, grit and athleticism to the guard positions and develop partnerships that can grow together over the next 4-5 years.

They can find a tackle — just as Carolina did with Oher and Remmers. If they have to plug in a Phil Loadholt in free agency — so be it. If they have to take on a major project like La’Raven Clark in rounds 3-4 — so be it. If they have to lean on a Fahn Cooper drafted even later — so be it.

This projection is all about the interior O-line and finding a solution to Seattle’s biggest off-season priority — improved play in the trenches.

Round one

#1 Tennessee — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
They already have two top-11 picks on their offensive line (Taylor Lewan, Chance Warmack). They have Marcus Mariota and Dorial Green-Beckham to build around. It’s time to add a defensive focal point.

#2 Cleveland — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. He’s big, mobile, accurate and led a Memphis team to a winning season against the odds. A poor man’s Cam Newton.

#3 San Diego — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
He missed most of the 2015 season but played well against Texas A&M’s explosive pass-rusher Myles Garrett.

#4 Dallas — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
The Cowboys take the opportunity to draft Wentz after working with him at the Senior Bowl. The heir apparent to Tony Romo.

#5 Jacksonville — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
The Jags welcome back Dante Fowler in 2016 and pair him with their answer to Michael Bennett. Buckner is a disruptive force that can line up inside and out.

#6 Baltimore — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Length, speed and smarts. NFL teams will view Apple as an ideal corner prospect to develop. He keeps everything in front and doesn’t get beat deep.

**TRADE** #7 Philadelphia — Jared Goff (QB, California)
The Niners give Colin Kaepernick another shot and trade with the Eagles. Philly turns the page on the Chip Kelly era by giving Doug Pederson his own QB.

#8 Miami — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
The Dolphins need to improve their secondary. Alexander is a fiery competitor who loves to talk. He plays above his listed size.

#9 Tampa Bay — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
He’ll need to convince teams about his character, but there’s no denying his talent. The Buccs lack a dynamic compliment to Gerald McCoy.

#10 New York Giants — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
A superb athlete, Jack can play any linebacker position. The Giants need to improve their second level defense.

#11 Chicago — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
He drops a bit due to injury but not too far. Smith is an exceptional player and someone you can truly build around on defense. He could be the top talent in the draft.

#12 New Orleans — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
He had a fantastic Senior Bowl and probably did enough to warrant a grade in this range. There isn’t another player like Spence in this class.

**TRADE** #13 San Francisco — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
After moving down six spots, the Niners bring in a new tackle. With Anthony Davis retired and Alex Boone likely departing — they need to repair that O-line.

#14 Oakland — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
He’s a tweener. Does he have the hips and quicks to match up with elite suddenness? Or is he a permanent safety?

#15 Los Angeles — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
The Rams disappoint their fans by failing to land a quarterback. They do add one of the best players in the draft — Lee is a 4.4 runner with great instinct.

#16 Detroit — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
He’s overrated but admittedly there is some pass-pro upside. Someone will take a shot. He doesn’t get to the second level or play with an edge.

#17 Atlanta — Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
Their defense is still pretty powder puff. Rankins was a winner in Mobile and fills a big hole for the Falcons.

#18 Indianapolis — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Just a hard-nosed, blue-collar tough guy who fought his way into this range as a walk-on at MSU. Not an amazing athlete — but someone teams will love.

#19 Buffalo — Leonard Floyd (OLB, Georgia)
A tall, thin linebacker suited to the 3-4. He could easily be another Aaron Maybin. The Bills do need to find players that fit the Rex Ryan scheme.

#20 New York Jets — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
He could be a superstar in New York. Chris Ivory is a free agent and went off the boil in 2015 after a good start.

#21 Washington — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
Scot McCloughan wanted to make Washington tough in the trenches. His first pick in 2015 was a big, hard-nosed, athletic guard. His first pick in 2016 is a big, hard-nosed, run-stuffing D-liner.

#22 Houston — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
Fuller is a dynamite playmaker. Picking this late limits their ability to get at the QB’s. Whoever starts at QB might as well throw to Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins.

#23 Minnesota — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Maybe Coleman won’t rise into the top-10 where he belongs? He’s still an awesome lineman. He should go much earlier than this.

#24 Cincinnati — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
He just makes fantastic plays. He’s a better athlete than people realise. He’d make a terrific compliment to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert.

#25 Pittsburgh — Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
The Steelers are always willing to draft an outside linebacker in round one. Jarvis Jones has been a disappointment.

#26 Seattle — Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
The best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. He matches Seattle’s desire for toughness in the trenches. He’s wildly underrated and not too far behind his brother Zack. He’s going to be a top-40 pick.

#27 Green Bay — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
Country strong, big defensive tackle that can play the nose and do some pass-rushing. Could switch between NT and DE in Green Bay’s scheme.

#28 Kansas City — Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
The Chiefs might lose Jaye Howard in free agency and can plug Butler straight in as a 3-4 DE. Length, power, size and athleticism.

#29 Denver — Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
Tall, athletic offensive tackles generally go early. Spriggs is a bit of a project. The Broncos might need to replace Ryan Clady.

#30 Arizona — Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
He will move inside to guard or center. In this scenario, the Cardinals draft him to be their long term answer at center.

#31 Carolina — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
With reports of a possible 4.6-4.7 in the forty yard dash, Treadwell drops a bit. He’ll still be a productive and consistent receiver at the next level.

Round two

#32 Cleveland — Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
A dynamic weapon to compliment Josh Gordon and Gary Barnidge.

#33 Tennessee — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
Tough inside linebacker — ideal for their 3-4 defense.

#34 Dallas — Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
Doesn’t it seem inevitable? He’s a good fit for their scheme.

#35 San Diego — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
Overrated defensive tackle who switches to DE in San Diego’s 3-4.

#36 Baltimore — Darian Thompson (S, Boise State)
They need to upgrade at safety and Thompson stood out at the Senior Bowl.

#37 San Francisco — Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson)
His get-off isn’t good enough but he knows how to get to the QB.

#38 Miami — Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
More of a power end and not quite as quick-twitch as Dodd.

#39 Jacksonville — Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
Overrated corner with poor tackling form. Athletic but needs coaching up.

#40 New York Giants — Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)
Dynamic interior rusher. Washington is streaky and needs to be more consistent.

#41 Chicago — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Hampered by an injury, Fuller could drop into the first half of round two.

#42 Tampa Bay — William Jackson (CB, Houston)
With excellent length and ball skills, Jackson could be a big riser.

#43 Los Angeles — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
A big target with surprising agility. He could go earlier.

#44 Oakland — Su’a Cravens (S, USC)
They need to rebuild their secondary. Cravens is a versatile defender.

#45 Los Angeles — Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
Capable of playing tackle or guard, the hulking Ifedi has a ton of upside.

#46 Detroit — Vonn Bell (S, Ohio State)
Another good value safety pick in round two and a need for the Lions.

#47 New Orleans — Kenny Clark (DT, UCLA)
The Saints need a disruptive nose tackle.

#48 Indianapolis — Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida)
His get-off is superb but is he special enough to go earlier?

#49 Buffalo — Jihad Ward (DT, Illinois)
Long, physical defensive lineman that can play end for Rex Ryan.

#50 Atlanta — Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah)
The Falcons can try and mould him into a big-hitting safety/linebacker hybrid.

#51 New York Jets — Nick Vannett (TE, Ohio State)
Arguably the best all-round TE in the class. The Jets keep adding weapons.

#52 Houston — Christian Hackenburg (QB, Penn State)
Bill O’Brien takes a chance on his former protégé.

#53 Washington — Jordan Jenkins (LB, Georgia)
Jenkins had a nice week in Mobile and works into Washington’s pass rush rotation.

#54 Minnesota — De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
A safety net target for Teddy Bridgewater, Wilson is similar to Kelvin Benjamin.

#55 Cincinnati — Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
The Bengals like these tough, athletic linebackers. Striker is a playmaker.

#56 Seattle — Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
Ultra-fast prospect with speed to burn. The type of LB the Seahawks covet.

#57 Green Bay — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)
He’s too good to last this long. It’d be an absolute steal for the Packers.

#58 Pittsburgh — Zack Sanchez (CB, Oklahoma)
They need to do something about that secondary. Sanchez is a ball-hawk.

#59 Kansas City — Xavien Howard (CB, Baylor)
What a talent. He’d make a great partner for Marcus Peters. One to watch.

#60 New England — Sterling Shephard (WR, Oklahoma)
Mr. Consistent and could be a production machine for the Patriots.

#61 Arizona — Kamalei Correa (DE, Boise State)
Athletic edge rusher ideally suited to OLB in the 3-4.

#62 Denver — Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)
Capable of playing end or tackle, Tapper is a productive and polished pass-rusher.

#63 Carolina — Emmanuel Ogbah (DE, Oklahoma State)
A little bit raw and maybe a little overrated. This is a nice spot for him.

Seahawks picks

R1 — Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
An instant starter who provides consistency, power and technique.

R2 — Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
Elite speed and range at the WILL or SAM.

R3 — Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)
An ideal compliment to Thomas Rawls.

R3 — Joe Dahl (G, Washington State)
Looked at home at right guard next to Nick Martin in Mobile.

R4 — Sebastien Tretola (G, Arkansas)
Massive left guard with plus mobility for his enormous size.

R5 — James Bradberry (CB, Samford)
Tall, long corner project as per usual in round five.

R6 — Travis Feeney (LB, Washington)
Instant special teams value.

R7 — Marquez North (WR, Tennessee)
Former four-star recruit with all the tools.

R7 — Ronald Blair III (DE, Appalachian State)
Versatile pass rusher. Lives in the backfield.

New mock draft preview

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

I’ve just finished putting together an updated mock draft (for the first time this will include two rounds). Expect to see it live on Monday.

Here are some preview notes before the big reveal…

— After watching the day three practise footage from the Senior Bowl (see above) it seems clear that Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame) was the best offensive lineman in Mobile. He could easily be a top-40 pick and could go in the first round. That will be represented in the mock draft tomorrow. The only key difference between Nick and Zack Martin is footwork/quickness. That’s why Zack was a left tackle in college and Nick played center. That’s pretty much it between the two. Like Zack, Nick can start immediately and should enjoy a long, successful NFL career. It’s close between Nick Martin and Shon Coleman for the most underrated player in this class.

— There isn’t another player like Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky) in this draft class and for that reason he could go in the top-15. There’s even a chance he makes it into the top-10. Teams love quick-twitch pass-rushers who can beat a tackle in many different ways. Spence wins with speed off the edge, change of direction, speed-to-power, excellent hand use and he explodes to the ball carrier. Vic Beasley was the #8 overall pick a year ago and there’s no reason why Spence can’t also go in that range. He just needs to reassure teams he’s a changed man after his departure from Ohio State. Someone will take a chance on him.

— The receivers in this class might suffer a fall — with none going in the top-20. There are some good wide-outs available but a mix of different needs and a large number of premium players at OT, DL and CB could mean only three go in the first round. Who could be the first receiver off the board? Notre Dame’s Will Fuller is in with a shout due to his electrifying downfield speed and excellent character. Baylor’s Corey Coleman is also a big-time playmaker with a fantastic athletic profile. They might jump ahead of Ole Miss’ reliable and less athletic Laquon Treadwell.

— Increasingly I think we’ll see the top three quarterbacks go in the top-10. Cleveland at #2 are definitely going to take one. They’ll have their pick of the bunch unless Tennessee finds a willing trade partner. San Diego and Dallas should consider ‘heir apparent’ picks for Philip Rivers and Tony Romo. There’s also a chance Los Angeles and Philadelphia look to trade up. Paxton Lynch, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff all have their pro’s and cons — but the drop off once they leave the board is significant. In my latest mock all three were off the board in the top-10 — Lynch to the Browns, Wentz to Dallas and Goff to the Eagles.

— In tomorrow’s projection, five offensive tackles were off the board before Seattle’s pick at #26 — Tunsil, Decker, Stanley, Conklin and Coleman (in that order). It’s not an unrealistic scenario. The only thing preventing Shon Coleman from being an established top-15 talent is his age (24) and the need for teams to do a thorough medical check following his successful fight against cancer. Even if Russell Okung departs in free agency, the Seahawks don’t need to force this need. There is some depth to this offensive tackle class. As bad as Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark looked in Mobile (and when I say bad, I mean horrendous) — the Seahawks have shown a willingness to draft raw size ideals and coach them up. If they’re willing to take a defensive lineman and turn him into a starting right guard or a tight end and turn him into a starting tackle — there’s every chance they back themselves to take Clark in the middle or later rounds with his ideal size, frame and length (36 inch arms) and try to coach him into a starting NFL left or right tackle.

— The big challenge the Seahawks might face is finding a left guard in this class. They have a size ideal at the position — they want ‘massive’. They have consistently used 325lbs, tall and long offensive linemen at left guard. It’s unlikely they’re going to go away from that now. The problem is, there aren’t even many tackle converts that could kick inside and fill that need. It could push them to look at outside free agents to compete with Justin Britt in camp. Alternatively they could draft someone like Arkansas’ Sebastien Tretola and accept his lack of length (30.5 inch arms) for the sake of adding a gritty, physical run blocker with surprising mobility. They have conceded on ideals before (I doubt they planned to draft a 5-10 quarterback, for example) but the player generally has to excel in so many other ways to counteract the deficiency. Tretola’s size and playing style ideally fits their desire to become tougher in the trenches.

— Pete Carroll spoke about improving the pass rush, noting (and I’m paraphrasing), “We’ll see what happens in the draft”. After putting together a two-round mock, it might not be the easiest thing to accomplish. There could be two waves of value on the defensive line in rounds 1-2. An early rush that will see the likes of Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Noah Spence and Sheldon Rankins leave the board in the top-20. The second wave arguably comes between picks #35-50 where a host of defensive lineman will likely be taken. The Seahawks own the #56 pick. If this proves to be the case, it might push them towards the veteran free agent market again. The Seahawks have had a lot of success finding defensive linemen at great value on the open market. That might be their best chance to upgrade the pass rush this year too.

Senior Bowl live blog notes

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

Deion Jones (LB, LSU) had a terrific first half. On one play he lined up at middle linebacker, read the quarterback and reacted to a scramble by Carson Wentz. Jones flashed incredible closing speed to reach the sideline and drop Wentz for a short gain. He also showed some special teams value, excelling as a gunner on one punt to reach the return man and drop him for a short gain. Jones is a sudden, fluid athlete who is light (219lbs) but has some length and physicality. He looks a lot like Telvin Smith at Jacksonville — one of the more exciting young defensive players in the NFL and a pure playmaker. Jones wouldn’t look out of place as a second round pick for the Seahawks if they need to replace Bruce Irvin. He looks like an ideal fit for the WILL position.

Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame) lined up at center and left guard and looked comfortable throughout. At center he was immovable and held position nicely. He hustled to recover a Carson Wentz fumble early in the game. At left guard he helped convert a fourth and one by pulling to the right and hitting the linebacker to create a running lane. On a similar play two snaps later he buried Alabama’s Jarran Reed, driving him on his back into the turf. That’s not easy to do. Martin led the way on a Cody Kessler QB-sneak at the one-yard line. Martin and Dahl came together for a fantastic partnership at center and right guard (more on that later). He looks mobile, stout and powerful. He looks every bit a top-50 talent and could be a lot closer to his brother Zack than a lot of people realise. The Seahawks might only get one chance to draft him — at #26.

Sebastien Tretola (G, Arkansas) really stood out in the first half. He’s a massive, physical guard but the most impressive thing so far is his mobility. On the game’s first touchdown he pulled from right guard to open a lane that the running back exploited for a long score. He also pancaked Notre Dame’s Sheldon Day with 11:36 left in the first half. Day was flattened on the deck. The Seahawks like size at left guard and Tretola is showing today he’s also mobile enough for the ZBS. He’s one to monitor for sure and could be available between rounds 3-5.

Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) is one of the more intriguing players in the class. He trashed Missouri center Evan Boehm on a bull rush to sack Jake Coker. Boehm’s as tough as nails and Butler just overwhelmed him. On another play he darted into the backfield with a nice rip/swim move. He’s not a quick twitch pass-rusher at 325lbs but he combines power, great hand use and length (34 inch arms) to create pressure. Mike Mayock compared him to Linval Joseph and Muhammed Wilkerson. The thing is — he looks like he could actually add some tone to his arms and become even stronger. It wouldn’t be a shock at all if he lands in the top-25.

Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky) has to convince teams he can be trusted after his departure from Ohio State — but in terms of a skill set it’s increasingly obvious he warrants a place in the top-20. He waltzed beyond Stanford tackle Kyle Murphy with an inside move that just looked too easy. He had a sack off the edge, swiping away the right tackle with great hands and showed an explosive finish. On one second half sack he easily beat Jason Spriggs to the edge. He doesn’t have ideal length (arm length seemingly adjusted to 32 inches following an error) but he’s quick-twitch and there just aren’t many players in the league with this type of agility working the edge.

Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan) came into the game midway through the first half and dominated Penn State’s Austin Johnson — manhandling him several times. On one occasion he just drove him downfield about five yards beyond the LOS. He had some issues battling Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins during the week — but Glasgow is building off a good week at the Shrine practises in the first half here. He played right guard in the second half where he didn’t look quite as comfortable. If the Seahawks want size (6-6, +300lbs) at center, Glasgow has the toughness they’re looking to add up front. He could work into a role at left guard. He looks like a very solid third round pick.

Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State) is extremely underrated. He’s a splash-play artist and impacts so many snaps. He was too quick for Le’Raven Clark on one early sack, beating him with an inside move from the edge. On another pressure he darted to the inside before countering on a stunt that also had Clark struggling. He might not be quite the all-world athlete the Seahawks seem to like at linebacker (he missed one tackle in space but had the understanding to gain position) — but there’s no reason why he can’t work as a complimentary pass rusher. He could make the late first round as a 3-4 OLB.

Joe Dahl (T, Washington State) lined up at right guard and did a really good job. Dahl’s technique as a pass-protector really translated inside — he kept his hands nice and tight and fought well against the interior pass rushers. Dahl and Nick Martin combined nicely on a couple of double teams. It looked like a really natural fit for Dahl and he and Martin made for a good looking partnership. He pulled to the left on one snap and made a nice block at the edge. Dahl can’t play tackle at the next level due to his lack of length but right guard might be his best spot. If J.R. Sweezy departs and Dahl lasts long enough — it’d be intriguing to see the Martin/Dahl partnership together again as the Seahawks possibly rebuild their interior O-line.

Players who didn’t impress:

Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana) — it’s difficult coming up against Noah Spence but Spriggs didn’t win this particular battle. He’s a tall, long, athletic tackle and teams love that. He has to do a better job against the speed rush to convince teams he can play left tackle at the next level though.

Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech) — he had a rough week in practise and that just continued here. He is the ultimate project. At 6-6, well over 300lbs and nearly 36-inch arms — he’s a perfect looking left tackle. Technically though he’s a complete mess — a genuine start-from-scratch project. The Seahawks, having tried to convert defensive linemen to the O-line in the past, might not be put off taking on this challenge. He’s far from an early round pick though on this evidence and warrants a day three grade at best. Even Sheldon Day, a defensive tackle, beat him for a sack working the edge. Another really rough day for Clark.

Other notes:

Brandon Allen (QB, Arkansas) impressed among the quarterbacks. He has sub-9 inch hands and that’s an issue — but he made accurate downfield throws and had a nice scramble called back on a holding penalty. He looks like a natural passer.

Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota) had a bit of a reality check. Wentz looked antsy in the pocket, quickly came off his read to try and scramble and was largely ineffective. He’s a toolsy, athletic quarterback but Paxton Lynch and Jared Goff might be better prepared to start early.

None of the receivers had a good day. Too many drops across the board. Nobody looked as good as Tyler Lockett did a year ago, that’s for sure.

Darian Thompson (S, Boise State) made a couple of instinctive, athletic plays in the secondary. There’s room for a safety to make a charge up the boards and go in the top-45 and Thompson could be that guy.

Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah) also had a nice day working in coverage and delivered one signature big hit in the backfield.

Jack Allen (C, Michigan State) barely had any game time. Unless I’m mistaken, we didn’t really see him until late in the fourth quarter. That might be a review of his stock. I’ve seen him graded as a day three pick.

Sheldon Day (DT, Notre Dame) is a player I’m going to have another look at. He’s small (6-2, 285lbs) but looked sharp and quick here.

Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama) isn’t a great pass rusher but he’s disruptive. He’s tough to move, works to the ball carrier and plays with a relentless nature. Late in the fourth quarter he impacted three consecutive snaps to force a turnover on downs.

Aaron Burbridge (WR, Michigan State) caught a hail mary to end the game but was virtually anonymous apart from that.

Final thought

It’s impossible to overstate how good Nick Martin and Joe Dahl looked playing next to each other. If the Seahawks are prepared to spend three picks on the O-line (possible?) I’d be comfortable naming that pair on this evidence as two players I’d want to come away with — even if that meant having to find an offensive tackle or left guard by different means. If a player like Phil Loadholt is available as a cap casualty in Minnesota and you can plug him in at right tackle — a line of Gilliam-Tretola-Martin-Dahl-Loadholt would provide a nice blend of size, athleticism, grit and physicality.

LSU linebacker Deion Jones also made a good case to be a second round option for Seattle.

Notre Dame center Nick Martin might be underrated

Friday, January 29th, 2016

There are some good, hard-nosed center’s in this draft class. That’s a good thing for a Seahawks team looking to get physical. And while it’s unclear what they intend to do at the position (draft, free agency?) it does seem likely they’ll be adding a new center at some point.

Seattle’s line play improved dramatically when relative novice Drew Nowak was replaced by Patrick Lewis. Nobody would argue Lewis is a top-tier center — but his knowledge of the position, understanding and ability to make the right line calls was pivotal in a mid-season offensive turnaround. Solidifying this position over the short term (veteran signing) or long term (rookie) could be an off-season priority.

The overall depth available (you might be able to find a starter in rounds 3-4) could push the Seahawks to address other needs early. That said, I’m starting to wonder if Notre Dame’s Nick Martin might be underrated.

He’s the brother of Zack Martin (the #16 overall pick by Dallas in 2014). Zack played left tackle for Notre Dame and was pretty much considered a future first rounder the minute he walked on campus and so it proved. He’s since moved inside to right guard where he’s established himself as one of the best in the league.

He was considered a clean prospect. Not overly spectacular but a nice mix of athleticism, grit, maturity and dependability. When I sat down last night to really study his brother Nick — I saw a lot of the same characteristics. Nobody will argue they’re the same player — Zack is more athletic — but there’s not a million miles of difference.

The video above is against Ohio State — the toughest opponent Notre Dame faced last year. Take a look for yourself. I didn’t see a single snap where he even looked flustered. Some of the play calls were dubious (a lot of shifting the protection which felt unnecessary) but Martin just excelled throughout. There were a handful of occasions where the rest of the line dropped 2-3 yards behind the LOS to protect while Martin remained at the line blocking his guy better than anyone else. He knows how to work an opening up the middle in the run game and his pass protection is sound.

He can move around and pull when required — plus after watching three Notre Dame games in the last 24 hours he’s certainly willing to get to the second level. Like his brother appeared to be going into the NFL — he’d be a nice fit in the ZBS. He’s a block-finisher which is good to see and he plays with an edge. He plays with balance, setting his position and locking-on. These are all things the Seahawks are almost certainly looking for.

There really isn’t much to nitpick here. Like his brother, Nick Martin is just a really solid future NFL starter.

A serious knee injury in 2013 appears to have taken away some of his explosion and perhaps is the separating factor between Nick and Zack. That said — if you’re after a really dependable interior blocker with the bloodlines, attitude and ability to start quickly — this feels like a wise choice. For a team like the Seahawks that suffered so much uncertainty at the position — you’d know what you were getting from your center with this guy.

So how early could he go?

I’ve seen him ranked predominantly in the middle rounds although interestingly Tony Pauline gave him a first or second round grade last week. That might be about right actually. He’s going to be a multi-year starter. He has decent size (not too big but not as squatty as Jack Allen or Evan Boehm) at 6-4 and 296lbs.

He could easily go in the top-50 picks.

If you imagine a scenario where the top offensive tackles are off the board by #26 (and the best pass rushers) taking a good center might not be such a bad idea for the Seahawks. They’d still have to draft or sign another tackle and find a replacement at left guard — but this is also a deep draft at tackle and the veteran market might provide a solution at either position. They might be able to trade down from #26 (as they’ve been known to do) and still look at a guy like this.

It’s something to consider. Martin wouldn’t necessarily be a flashy pick but if the Seahawks want a player they can trust to start in week one and be a solid starter — they could do a lot worse.

I suspect a few people will cringe at the idea because he’s perceived not to be a first or second rounder. The league might be judging this player differently though. And if you knew a lot of NFL teams were looking at Martin early — would that change your perception?

I sense Nick Martin is being underrated in some quarters and don’t underestimate the power of bloodlines. Even if he doesn’t end up going in the top-50 — he might be a coveted center at the end of round two. If the Seahawks were able to add a first round tackle or guard and come back in round two with a center like Martin — they could feel pretty good about their O-line going forward.

3000 NFL mock draft: Episode #22 & Senior Bowl notes

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Take a listen to this weeks podcast where we touch on the Senior Bowl and some draft situations for the Seahawks…

I also want to make some notes on certain players currently working in Mobile — but first, this is an interesting Tweet from Tony Pauline:

Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville) has had quite a week. He’s flashed quick feet and get-off plus a relentless motor, combining technique (a spin move to die for) with power and leverage to be one of the big winners in Mobile.

However, I challenge anyone to watch this video (his performance vs Florida State) and see the same kind of success…

This is the dilemma with Rankins for me. How much is he ideally suited to have a Senior Bowl impact and how likely is he to recreate the success we’re seeing in the drills at the next level?

Tony Pauline listed Rankins as a round 3-4 prospect in his pre-Senior Bowl rankings — a grade it’s difficult to disagree with going into the week. However, with the likes of Daniel Jeremiah projecting him in round one, there’s clearly some inside-the-league buzz on his ability.

It doesn’t mean the Seahawks will necessarily draft him at #26 if he’s available. There’s also every chance he’ll be off the board if the Mobile hype is legit. It is another example though on why Pauline is a must-follow at this time of year. Twelve months ago he suggested the Seahawks were interested in little know San Diego State lineman Terry Poole (drafted in round four). He previously pegged Seattle with first round interest in Aaron Donald and Odell Beckham Jr. — at a time neither prospect was being thought of as a top-15 lock.

So whatever your view on Rankins — you can take it to the bank that the Seahawks have given him a first round grade.

As noted earlier I wanted to write down some thoughts on a handful of prospects at the Senior Bowl today…

Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford) — he seems to have competed with a real intensity this week and you do see flashes of an edge. In terms of the Seahawks he might be working from an initial disadvantage as a pure guard. They’ve not taken one of those early since John Moffitt in 2011. Instead we’ve seen long, hulking tackles like James Carpenter and Justin Britt converted to left guard — while the right guard spot has been filled by more athletic, mobile, aggressive players like J.R. Sweezy and Mark Glowinski. Garnett doesn’t fit either mould. He’s 6-4, 317lbs and has 33.5 inch arms. It’s not a million miles away from their size ideal at LG — but you have to wonder how they’ll view his upside. He might ultimately go too early for them. Tony Pauline tweeted that he’s had another really good day in Mobile. Are the Seahawks willing to take a pure guard in round two? I have my doubts. It would go against their recent trends. They seem more likely to convert a mid-round tackle with genuine size/length to the position. Yet such is the dearth of options at left guard, you wonder if they’ll consider an early pick this year to try and provide some extra bite. It feels like they have to do something after a rough year for Justin Britt after moving inside.

Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) — his lack of pass rush skills maybe limit his value to the Seahawks. That said, I can imagine they will be interested in his length (+34 inch arms), size (6-4, 325lbs) and agility. He carries the weight well. Comparisons to Muhammad Wilkerson are not quite as unrealistic any more (Wilkerson had +35 inch arms and weighed only 315lbs). If the Seahawks were minded to think, ‘if only we could afford Wilkerson in free agency’ — Butler might be a cheaper alternative. However, how does he fit? If it’s to rotate with Mebane and Rubin — is it worth such a high pick if he’s playing a low percentage of snaps? If it’s to replace either player, wouldn’t it make more sense to keep them at a relatively small price and spend your top pick on someone else? Or just plug in another cheap outside veteran as you’ve done for multiple years? We need to believe in trends — and the Seahawks have avoided going for big, physical run stuffers early.

Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana) — The Senior Bowl is an ideal place for interior defensive linemen and athletic offensive tackles to dominate. Every report I’ve seen has Spriggs boosting his stock this week. Tony Pauline tweeted today that Spriggs has likely cemented himself in the late first round. So basically, into the range the Seahawks are picking. He’s a very similar size to Garry Gilliam with +34 inch arms at 6-5 and a half and 301lbs. Like Gilliam he’s also a former tight end. If they want to plug in two athletic tackles and create a tougher interior line — Spriggs is definitely a viable candidate. There seems very little reason to count him out. Teams will wear out the tape studying his performance against Ohio State and Joey Bosa. They will be impressed, it’s good tape. The question is — like so many athletic tackles before him, will his time in Mobile provide a boost that actually moves him into the top-25 and away from Seattle’s pick? And how prepared are they to go early on the O-line after identifying players like Glowinski (round four) and Gilliam (UDFA) without the big investment?

Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech) — the reports on Clark so far have been fairly negative. It’s not a total surprise. When you watch him on TV tape he just looks bad for the most part. His performance against LSU was frankly embarrassing and made a mockery of projections like this one considering him a first round talent (to the Seahawks no less). Here’s the thing though — if you had to design a frame for a NFL left tackle, you’d draw him up to look like Le’Raven Clark. He’s pushing 6-6 in height, weighs 312lbs and has 36 and a quarter inch arms. That’s world class size and length. The Seahawks have developed the belief that all rookie offensive linemen have to learn their technique from scratch. It’s why they’ve been shooting for athletes with unique traits. If you have to train guys up from scratch — why not a player like J.R. Sweezy or Kristjan Sokoli, even if they come from a defensive background? Technique is very much the issue with Clark (that and some much needed upper body strength work). They might decide that his frame is worth taking a chance on. They might believe they can coach him up to succeed and that the upside is incredible. And if they hold that belief — the only question is what range are they willing to take him? I’ve seen him graded in the late rounds (it’s what his tape performance deserves) — would they consider him as a left/right tackle project in rounds 3-4? Allowing them to address other needs earlier?

The center group — I’m intrigued to see what the Seahawks plan to do at center. I suspect they’ll be adding one at some point. They started Patrick Lewis virtually as a stop-gap measure. Pete Carroll continues to talk up Kristjan Sokoli as a developmental project for the team. They also seem to be fascinated by the idea of a highly athletic center. That said, they can’t go into next season with uncertainty here. The improvement when they switched from Drew Nowak to Patrick Lewis was clear to see. If they can’t afford to go the veteran route in free agency, they might have to draft one. This actually looks like the year to do it anyway. Cody Whitehair (Kansas State) provides an early round option with a combination of great balance, size and consistency. Nick Martin (Notre Dame) has the bloodlines, temperament, technique and physical qualities to be a better player than I think we realise. Don’t be surprised if he goes a lot earlier than anyone expects. He has impressed this week and could join Whitehair in going in the top-45. Jack Allen (Michigan State) is just a classic tough guy in a year where the Seahawks want to get tough. He has the wrestling background Tom Cable likes. He’s only 6-1, 297lbs with 31 and 3/4 inch arms though — is he too squatty for the Seahawks — or athletic enough? Graham Glasgow (Michigan) is tough and physical too with better size (6-6, 306lbs) but he’s struggled this week against Sheldon Rankins. How much is that down to Rankins being on it and how much is it down to Graham? There are others to mention too — Evan Boehm (Missouri), Joe Dahl (T, Washington State) could move to center and Ryan Kelly (Alabama), who chose not to attend the Senior Bowl, is another tough-as-nails interior blocker. They might need to compromise on their desire for athleticism (and in some cases size) — but if they want to toughen up in the trenches, they’ll consider taking one of these center’s.

Senior Bowl day one highlights & my own notes

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Louisiana Tech DT Vernon Butler could go in the first round

Before we get into the Senior Bowl highlights from yesterday, here are some observations I made watching games yesterday:

— Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) is the most intriguing interior defensive linemen in the class. I watched him against Rice and Kansas State and you could see him playing for the Seahawks. His gap discipline is excellent and that’s a big deal for Seattle. They preach doing your job up front and it helps them dominate vs the run. There aren’t many DT’s with length (34 inch arms), size (325lbs) and this type of mobility/athleticism. They like unique players — Butler has a rare physical combination. He carries the size well with a nice blend of lower/upper body power. He’ll soak up a double team on one play allowing the linebacker to break through on a blitz. On the next down he’ll stretch out a run play and work to the sideline. Here’s the thing though — he isn’t a great pass rusher. He just isn’t. And that’s underlined by a poor stat-sheet against some below-par opponents in 2015 (three sacks). So while he has the potential to become a very impressive, solid pro-DT at the next level — is he likely to improve upon what the Seahawks already have? That said, I’m not sure there’s a DT I’d want to take earlier than Butler in the entire class.

— When I do my next mock draft, Kyler Fackrell (DE/OLB, Utah State) will be in the top-25. I can see why PFF graded him as one of the most underrated pass rushers in college football in 2015. Unlike Vernon Butler, his middling statistics (four sacks) don’t do him justice. He’s a splash play artist — constantly impacting snaps and forcing mistakes. He’s a relentless rusher responsible for so many bad throws, picks and poor decisions. Whether you want to use him in the 3-4 at linebacker, off the edge in a 4-3 or in a Jamie Collins type role — he’ll be able to make plays. He’s one of the most fun players you’ll see in this class — with the attitude, intensity and football character that will make him incredibly attractive to teams. If the Dallas Cowboys wanted to draw a line under the ugly Greg Hardy episode, Fackrell would be an ideal replacement. They won’t take him with the #4 pick — but if they trade down with a club looking to draft one of the top QB’s, it could be possible.

— Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville) is getting a lot of attention after what appears to be a terrific first day of practise at the Senior Bowl. I saw one clip where he embarrassed Graham Glasgow with a fantastic spin move. It was quick-twitch, fluid technique at its best. He apparently had a similar move against Evan Boehm. I recall not being overly impressed with his tape — so I went back yesterday to review that initial take. And I came away unimpressed again. Perhaps the nature of the drills and the 1v1 nature of the plays suit Rankins? There’s no denying he has an attractive combination of quick feet and compact size (6-2, around 300lbs) that you want to see in an orthodox 4-3 three technique (not that the Seahawks feature that type of player). Yet on tape he doesn’t beat anyone with the spin move, he doesn’t shoot gaps and penetrate. He hasn’t got that first step quickness to work into the backfield. He doesn’t get pushed around and he looks strong at the POA, he’ll hold his ground and occasionally force running backs to bounce outside. He can move along the line. But he’s not going to the NFL to be a run-stuffer. And there has to at least be some concern that he’ll always look great in these Senior Bowl drills — but will it translate to the NFL? I’m not overly convinced — but will try and watch another couple of different games soon.

Senior Bowl highlights

Jon Ledyard says Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma) had a good day (among his extensive notes). “His hands are deadly when he utilizes them, just has to get precision down. I thought Tapper had an impressive all-around day, and his thick build lends itself to a strong-side 4-3 defensive end who is pretty immovable against the run.”

Joe Marino thinks Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana) is helping himself. The Senior Bowl is always a good showcase event for athletic offensive linemen. Marino: “He has the skills to be a starter on the left side in the NFL.”

Tony Pauline also felt Spriggs performed well:

Pauline also praised Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky), Malcolm Mitchell (WR, Georgia) and Jordan Jenkins (OLB/DE, Georgia) on his Twitter timeline. On Jenkins: “(He) has been unstoppable. A man among boys.”

Todd McShay thinks Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State) can have an impact this week. “Miller showed great play, speed and savvy. He can still work on getting a cleaner release against press coverage, but he really caught the ball — even when the throws were off-target. And you saw his ability to create big plays after the catch.”

Rosterwatch claim Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah) is getting plenty of attention. “One DC told us today he likes him best as a light LB in Thomas Davis mold.”