Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category

New podcast and notes on Davis Mills & Kellen Mond

Friday, February 26th, 2021

I’m recording a podcast with Robbie later today. Stay tuned for that, I will post it at the top of this article. In the meantime…

Whether Russell Wilson is traded or not this year, the Seahawks might have to think about drafting a quarterback.

With only four picks it’s not ideal. Especially given Seattle’s long list of needs.

However, there doesn’t seem to be any scenario where drafting a quarterback isn’t somewhat necessary.

An imminent resolution between team and player doesn’t appear likely. Thus, security is required — whether that’s for 2021 or 2022.

The worst case scenario is your left with a backup quarterback with good club control for the next four years. The best case scenario is you’re not totally ill-prepared if a divorce happens over the course of the next 12 months.

As noted in my piece a couple of weeks ago — this is a QB class with a lot of question marks. The players at the top end have limited starts and it shows on tape.

There’s some curious decision making by the top group too. You see Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Justin Fields fail to read wide open developing routes. They also flash incredible, ‘wow’ throws. Especially Wilson and Lance. Arm strength, precision, improvisation. But it’s mixed in with a dose of, ‘what are they seeing/thinking there?’

There isn’t a player in the class, outside of Trevor Lawrence, that you watch and get the same kind of vibe Kyler Murray provided. Watching him you could just detect special qualities. Nobody leaps off the screen in that way. And with the lack of college starts and playing experience, there’s a decent chance there’ll be a significant learning curve for the top rookies. How they navigate through that will be interesting.

I don’t think Mac Jones is a particularly good fit in Seattle. His skill set is well matched, in my opinion, to a timing offense. I think he’s an excellent fit for the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan. Get the ball out quickly, keep everything on schedule. Although he had a lot of completions throwing downfield in 2020, I think that was due to the receivers he played with. He doesn’t have a great arm.

He throws a lot of contested passes, even on a medium-range. I thought he struggled to drive the ball during red zone drills at the Senior Bowl, with tighter windows.

I also think there’s enough noise around Jones to expect he’s going to go quite early in the draft. Mike Tannenbaum insists his floor is #8 and Carolina. I’m not convinced the Panthers are in that market, despite his confident performance under their tutelage in Mobile. I think they’re aiming higher. Even so, I wouldn’t be surprised if a team such as the Niners moved up to get him.

With four quarterbacks possibly going early, what does it leave for the Seahawks?

There are two players I think would be worth investing in.

The first is Davis Mills at Stanford. I do think there’s a chance he will go a lot earlier than many are projecting. He was a highly rated High School recruit for a reason:

Mills has pretty much everything — height, size, poise, athleticism. He looks the part. It won’t be a shock if one of the quarterback-needy teams in the second half of round one, or one of the teams at the top of round two, decide to take a chance on him.

The big knock on Mills is starting experience. He played in just 11 full games for Stanford. It’s very difficult to analyse a player with such a limited résumé.

Compare him to Ian Book with his multiple years as the Notre Dame starter. You can see how he progressed over a long period of time. What mistakes did he correct? How easily has he taken to coaching over numerous seasons? Has he elevated his team? Is he durable? Are there any concerning trends?

With Mills you simply can’t answer any of these questions. You’ve basically got a ball of clay. It’s a high standard of clay and can be moulded into a wonderful vase. Yet how it sets, how it actually looks upon completion, whether it’ll break easily — you’re not going to find out until you get to work on it.

All you can really do is look at what he’s shown in limited action and make a vague projection.

So what does he show?

Mills throws with fantastic touch, even under pressure. He knows how to vary throwing velocity and he has excellent ball placement. He’s patient in the pocket to allow plays to develop, making the right read instead of the first read. He throws to the right areas when targeting receivers who are technically covered, giving his target a chance to make a play, while limiting the risk of a turnover.

He has good pocket mobility, reminiscent of Daniel Jones (minus the long speed). He’s not a big running/scrambling threat when the play breaks down but neither is he a statue incapable of avoiding pressure or extending plays. He can run for first downs when the play breaks down. He’s a frustrating scrambler for opponents, similar to Matt Ryan in his ability to ‘just get enough’.

At SPARQ he ran a 4.32 short shuttle and jumped a 33 inch vertical.

He’s very good at getting the ball out. You see one hitch max and throw. The classical style that avoids issues. Mills moves up into the pocket but keeps his eyes on potential targets rather than dropping his head and taking off. His decision making under pressure is impressive.

His throws are pretty and well delivered. He threw a 56-yard lob on a flea-flicker against Oregon State. He doesn’t have a rocket arm but certainly it’s not average either.

Mills throws the back shoulder with precision. His body position when setting is excellent with his shoulder and knees working in the right areas, allowing him to deliver throws with greater accuracy and punch. His throws to the red line are lofted with the right level of height and placement.

There’s one throw against Washington where the two edge rushers gain early leverage forcing him to step up and across in the pocket to avoid the pressure. He has to scramble into the space but he keeps his eyes downfield, despite the presence of a spying linebacker. Just as he’s about to get hammered in the backfield, he uncorks a perfect pass on the move to a receiver. This was on 3rd and 10, deep inside his own red zone. He converts the first down and moves the chains. It’s a money play, the type that gets you excited. It’s what you want to see given his lack of starting experience.

He also converted a 3rd and 11 against Washington to win the game, with an outstanding throw in tight coverage to the far sideline for a gain of 25.

Personally, I think if Mills was a three-year starter we might be talking about him as a top-10 pick. Sometimes you have to project an opportunity. It’s possible, under greater scrutiny, he will fall short. But how often do you get a chance to take a quarterback with a very high ceiling, without needing to spend a very high pick?

Mills could rise rapidly in the coming weeks. However, if the Seahawks have an opportunity to draft him as a developmental project and/or security against Wilson’s future, I would consider it.

The other player is Kellen Mond. He has 36 starts in the last three seasons for Texas A&M. He has four years of quarterbacking experience in the SEC.

I’m surprised he hasn’t received more attention for his 2020 season. He took a massive step forward in terms of consistency. He led the Aggies to a 9-1 season with the only loss coming against Alabama — where he threw three touchdowns for 318 yards. He orchestrated wins against Florida, Auburn, an improved Arkansas and North Carolina.

I thought Mond was outstanding at the Senior Bowl, based on what I saw. There was a noticeable difference in the way he handled red zone and two-minute drills compared to the other quarterbacks. His arm strength is on a different level. In the game, he had a sluggish start before leading a comeback in the second half with two excellent scoring drives.

He threw the prettiest pass of 2020 for me. A play-action deep shot against Florida right down the post to a covered receiver, yet delivered on the money for a 50-yard gain. When you watch it from the All-22 angle, it’s a thing of pure beauty:

Mond reads the field well and has the arm strength to make plays others in this class simply cannot. He dissected two Arkansas defenders on one brilliant throw to the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown. It’s the kind of play most quarterbacks don’t even attempt. His ability to put a bit of extra mustard on a throw like that, yet retain accuracy, is exciting to watch.

A 30-40-yard throw, on the money, placed in between two defenders across to the sideline was almost a banality watching Mond, it happens so often. He has no physical limitations in terms of what he can do with the football. His release is whipped and super-quick and he delivers a fantastic spiral. He threads the needle.

Not every decision is perfect. He misreads some hots but that’ll happen. He just needs time. The offense he played in is also well crafted and Jimbo Fisher has a history of creating accommodating schemes. That’s something to consider.

Over the years he’s had to deal with a lot of pressure at Texas A&M. He’s learnt to cope with it. There are several examples where he faces interior pressure and a defender in his grill but he’ll stand tall and deliver an accurate throw downfield. Unlike Justin Fields, he doesn’t get flustered and bail. He hangs in the pocket.

There’s another play against Arkansas where he lobs the football over the head of one linebacker and in front of two defensive backs. The linebacker holds his hands up after as if to say, ‘what can I do?’ — there simply aren’t many players with the physical prowess to do this.

His work in the red zone is excellent. He’s very capable of looking off defenders to create openings to the tight end. His two scoring plays to Amari Rodgers in the Senior Bowl game were pure perfection.

He’s not a dynamic runner but he’s very capable of breaking off runs and extending plays when required. As with Mills, he always sticks with the pass to the last minute and doesn’t drop his eyes.

The amount of progress he has made year after year has to be recognised. I don’t see any reason why that can’t continue, either. And while he’s never quite elevated his play to the point of garnering early round attention, he looks like a very capable quarterback with the right physical qualities and mental makeup to play in the NFL. It won’t be a surprise at all if he’s taken on day two of the draft and in five years time, as with Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson, we’re all left wondering how he lasted as long as he did.

I think the Seahawks should strongly consider drafting him.

This is the space we’re living in these days. Short of an unexpected long-term truce, where Pete Carroll caves to Russell Wilson in a way he has so far resisted, the Seahawks are going to have to start paying attention to quarterbacks again.

At the moment, it feels like the countdown to divorce is on.

That means it’s time to plan and prepare. Having ‘one in the chamber’ was John Schneider’s way of putting it a few years ago. Now, they have to deliver on that. They’re in the business of buying lottery tickets again, hoping one wins.

For me — Mills and Mond have as good a shot as anyone in this class outside of Trevor Lawrence to make this work. Whether they trade Wilson this year or not, I would suggest it’s in their best interests to draft a quarterback at some point — and I would seriously consider making the moves needed to acquire extra draft stock in order to make this possible.

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Why we can’t rule anything out with Russell Wilson

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Russell Wilson’s future continues to be a big talking point

Another week, another chapter.

On Monday we had Michael Silver’s report laying the foundation for potential trade talks. Now, a new article in the Athletic — revealing Wilson’s growing discontent.

Here are the two new ‘revelations’:

— Wilson stormed out of a meeting pre-Arizona in week 11 when suggestions he made to fix the offense were dismissed

— Wilson contacted Pete Carroll to ask how the Seahawks planned to address the offensive line this off-season but was not given a satisfactory answer, preempting the comments he made to Dan Patrick and the local media after the Super Bowl

The piece ends with the following:

Asked if Wilson will be the Seahawks’ quarterback in 2021, a source close to the quarterback answered with just two words.

“Good question …”

A divorce feels like a greater possibility than ever.

But when could it happen?

Many people are drawn immediately to Wilson’s $39m cap hit. That’s understandable but I also think it’s a slight red herring.

Let’s be realistic. If the franchise quarterback and Head Coach are increasingly opposed, how can they continue to work together?

They can’t.

Equally, if Wilson’s camp are proposing trade partners to the team, as suggested in the Athletic article, how do you come back from this?

Is the $39m such an anchor weighing down both parties that they’d endure a miserable final 12 months together?

Because let’s be right here — the Eagles just took a dead cap hit on Carson Wentz and they’re $43m over the cap. The Saints are $70m over the cap. The Rams just traded Jared Goff and acquired Matt Stafford and they’re $33m over the cap.

What does the cap even mean any more?

If the Seahawks trade Wilson, they’ll be $7m worse off in 2021. With -$5m in effective cap space, they’d still be in better shape than 10 teams in the NFL.

Meanwhile, if they wait a year they’ll still be taking on a $26m dead cap hit in 2022 which is hardly spare change. So whether he’s traded this year or next, there’s a massive financial penalty brewing.

So while the $39m is admittedly a huge obstacle, I’m not convinced it’s the beginning and the end of any discussion.

To me it really comes down to how you see this situation.

I often read or hear people say they think a divorce is inevitable, just not this year (because of the dead cap hit).

I’d suggest if a parting really is inevitable, they just need to get on with it. There’s no benefit from dragging this out for another year and having 12 months of drama hanging over the franchise.

Imagine what it’ll be like. Colin Cowherd one week, Mike Florio the next. The Wilson camp briefing his dissatisfaction to the media. The constant questions during training camp about his future. The weekly analysis on the level of ‘cooking’ permitted.

Whenever he plays badly — what does it mean? Whenever he plays well — shouldn’t he have more control?

It’s not sustainable.

$39m dead cap hit or not — a line just needs to be drawn and the future plans need to be made if the writing is on the wall.

In many ways it might actually help. From 2022 he’ll be off the books. It might make it easier to justify and structure a big extension for Jamal Adams. You could sign free agents knowing you have an extra $37m to play with in next years cap.

Again — this is only if a parting is inevitable. Delaying things for 12 months for the sake of $7m this year just seems asinine. The football equivalent of a couple thinking a wet weekend away together could salvage a failing marriage.

If the relationship is salvageable though, then really it’s down to the Head Coach to sort things out.

What is the future identity of the Seahawks? Is it Pete Carroll, a soon-to-be 70-year-old Head Coach, or a 32-year-old franchise quarterback?

While Carroll has the power and authority to pretty much do what he wants, surely he also has to be conscious of what’s best for the franchise?

Ideally he might want to do things ‘his way’ to end his illustrious career. If his way essentially forces Wilson to go elsewhere within the next 12 months — are you now placing your own ego ahead of what is best for the long term future of the team?

Furthermore — if Carroll wants to win another Super Bowl before he retires, can he seriously do that without Wilson?

I can’t imagine that moving him and introducing a lesser quarterback, or even a rookie, is the pathway to Carroll securing another Championship in the next five years. Not with the defense in its current state anyway.

But neither is keeping a frustrated, dissatisfied Wilson who actively doesn’t believe in the way you want to do things. Based on that Athletic article, both parties were pulling in different directions in the second half of the 2020 season. The result? Arguably the worst stretch of Wilson’s career.

We all make plans that require adjustment. Very little in life goes exactly how you intended.

Carroll’s dream may well be to end his career doing what he wants — with absolute control over the Seahawks franchise.

But if he wants Russell Wilson to be his quarterback, he’s probably going to have to give up plenty of ground.

This is where we’re at in the NFL. Possessing a star franchise quarterback isn’t something you just have any more. The top players in the game — Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers — are speaking out a lot more than they used to.

The highest financial compensation isn’t the mere aim these days. Legacy and success is increasingly becoming just as important.

In the coming years you’re going to have to run your team with this in mind. Supporting your star quarterback, as the Buccaneers did with Tom Brady, will become the new norm. Weapons, protection, input in coaching, scheming and personnel.

Brady and the Buccs have changed the game.

If you don’t want to run your team that way, there are alternatives. You can win enough to make everything else a moot point. Or you can trade your quarterback. But essentially you’ve got a choice. Embrace the new world order or be prepared for unrest.

If Carroll cannot live in this space — or he simply doesn’t trust Wilson enough to hand over considerable power — then a parting is inevitable anyway.

I don’t think drafting a left guard and signing a tight end will be enough. I think it’ll take more than that to appease the quarterback. I suspect it’s a question of just how much Carroll is willing to cede and what level of concession will be acceptable for Wilson.

I don’t think the aim should be to make this relationship tenable for one more year. The objective should be to create an environment where both parties can work and thrive together for the rest of Carroll’s tenure.

It’s possible that a short-term band-aid could work if the team ultimately takes a step forward in 2021 and becomes far more competitive in the playoffs than its been for the last six years.

The 2020 Seahawks, however, didn’t look close — regardless of their 12-4 record. I’m not convinced this team is on the precipice of greatness. So the leap towards contention probably requires far more off-season work than is currently possible — with only $1.7m in effective cap space and four draft picks.

So what’s going to happen?

I still think this could go either way. There’s a reason why the Wilson camp used the word ‘fluid’ when describing the situation to both Mike Florio and Colin Cowherd.

And while people aren’t doing anything wrong in assuming a trade this year is unlikely because of the dead cap hit, I wouldn’t bet against anything at this point.

***UPDATE #1***

***UPDATE #2***

So in the last four days this is what has happened:

— Michael Silver, who has close connections to the Seahawks and broke the news of the 2017/18 reset before it happened, reported what the starting point for negotiations was (three first round picks)

— Mark Rodgers, Wilson’s agent, leaks to Adam Schefter the four teams he’s willing to be traded to (Vegas, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas)

— Jeremy Fowler reports multiple league executives believe Seattle will eventually make Wilson available

If you weren’t aware already, this is getting serious.

If you missed my podcast with Corbin Smith yesterday, check it out below:

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Podcast with Corbin Smith — debating off-season plans

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

An interview with South Dakota State’s Cade Johnson

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Want to meet the next Tyler Lockett?

You will love this interview. Please share it around if you’re able and subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss a video.

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Updated horizontal draft board and 127 prospect notes

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

I wasn’t happy with the horizontal board I published last week. It was really only designed to illustrate a point on the strength of the interior O-line class.

Over the weekend I made a big effort to review my notes on many prospects I’ve already watched. I also worked through a priority list of players I hadn’t studied yet.

Today I’ve updated the horizontal board. A lot more work has gone into this. Click on the image to make it bigger.

Underneath you’ll find notes on each prospect listed.

As the board suggests, it’s a particularly strong receiver class again. There’s good depth at cornerback. There’s a sweet spot for the interior O-line in the first two rounds. It’s not a particularly deep class at running back or tight end, even if some good options are available.

Defensive prospects

Round one

Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)
There are some suggested character question marks surrounding Parsons but you can easily make the case that he’s the best defensive player in the draft.


Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Notre Dame)

Highly explosive and dynamic — a true first round talent. He can jump a 39-inch vertical and a 10-3 broad jump.

Round two

Alim McNeill (DT, NC State)
Massive, highly athletic prospect who will shock people when he eventually runs and does the agility testing. Ran a 4.27 short shuttle (!!!) at SPARQ.

Daviyon Nixon (DT, Iowa)
A TFL machine in 2020 (13.5). Nixon creates havoc from the interior and is a true playmaking defensive tackle.

Levi Onwuzurike (DT, Washington)
Great attitude, plays pissed off, much more athletic than you think and able to pursue to the ball carrier away from the LOS. Creates interior pressure with dynamic quickness.

Christian Barmore (DT, Alabama)
Definitely flashed some pass rushing prowess late in the season but he never quite lived up to expectations. Is he special enough to have the same success at the next level?

Tommy Togiai (DT, Ohio State)
All-action defensive tackle who lets interior offensive linemen know they’re in a game. Great effort, power and motor — will run to the sideline to make a play if needed.

Gregory Rousseau (DE, Miami)
Looks the part — long, lean and uses his physical tools to create problems. Amazing upside but he needed seasoning at Miami and opting out of 2020 meant a missed opportunity to develop.

Carlos Basham (DE, Wake Forest)
Clearly he’s an outstanding athlete but he lacks length and that might be an issue working the edge at the next level.

Azeez Olujari (DE, Georgia)
Great quickness and bend and straighten to the quarterback. Arguably the most natural pass rusher alongside Jaelen Phillips.

Kwity Paye (DE, Michigan)
Well known for his athletic profile thanks to Bruce Feldman’s freak list. However, his tape is hit-and-miss. You’re investing in potential.

Jaelen Phillips (DE, Miami)
Teams will need to investigate the concussion issues that led to his departure from UCLA. However — Phillips was once a major recruiting superstar and has natural talent to get after the quarterback. Few players have his upside in this draft.

Ronnie Perkins (DE, Oklahoma)
Plays with his hair on fire and possibly the most violent edge rusher in the class. Good motor and passion for the game.

Joe Tryon (DE, Washington)
He looks like a Terminator with his shirt off. Has a physique that D.K. Metcalf would appreciate. Uses his hands well, wins with power and can do it all.

Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State)
Wow-athlete at linebacker with tremendous character and intensity. Ran a 4.18 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 37 inch vertical. Long arms.

Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
He only ran a 5.03 forty at SPARQ but when you put on the tape he jumps off the screen.

Cam McGrone (LB, Michigan)
Limited snaps at Michigan but he still showed incredible pursuit to the ball-carrier, quickness and forceful hits. Could be a terrific get for someone.

Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
He looks like a Greek God of a cornerback. Incredibly put together. Dominated Auburn’s Seth Williams. If he played every game like that he’d be a top-10 lock.

Elijah Molden (CB, Washington)
Outstanding player who will only last this long based on his size and straight-line speed. Ran a 3.93 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 37 inch vertical.

Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech)
He has talent but you don’t see much effort in run-support, his tackling isn’t great and he’s not a physical player. You want to like him more than you do.

Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
He might have to settle for a permanent role in the slot but Wade has talent and someone has to try and develop him. Five-star recruit.

Asante Samuel Jr (CB, Florida State)
NFL bloodlines. Flies to the ball. I liked his feet and ability to recover. Can play outside and kick inside to the slot when needed. Suits a man-cover scheme.

Patrick Surtain II (CB, Alabama)
He had a few lapses in 2020 and he only ran a 4.57 at SPARQ. Surtain has talent, undoubtedly, but I’m not convinced he warrants a higher grade than this.

Benjamin St. Juste (CB, Minnesota)
6-3 with great length, St. Juste constantly plays the ball to break-up passes. Amazing feet for his size — he ran a 3.86 short shuttle at SPARQ. Massive potential.

Talanoa Hufanga (S, USC)
He deserves much more attention. Hufanga is an aggressive, downfield, attacking safety who will suit blitzing schemes.


Andre Cisco (S, Syracuse)
A dynamic athlete and playmaker who has a shot to be really good at the next level. Ran a 4.27 short shuttle at SPARQ, adding a 36 inch vertical. Great production.

Trevon Moehrig-Woodard (S, TCU)
A very talented safety who doesn’t wow with his profile or big hits but does everything to a good standard.

Round three

Jalen Twyman (DT, Pittsburgh)
Interior rusher who lacks size (6-2, 290lbs) but he made enough plays in 2019 (10.5 sacks & 12 TFL’s) to show that he can make an impact.

Jay Tufele (DT, USC)
One of many forgotten players in this class after opting out of 2020. Very strong and disruptive, he’s stout against the run and capable of making plays as a pass rusher.

Milton Williams (DE/DT, LA Tech)
Excellent athlete, great quickness working off the edge or kicking inside. Very disruptive. Has a lot of potential.

Dayo Odeyingbo (DE, Vanderbilt)
Fantastic size and length. Can really disrupt as an inside/out rusher. Major potential but recently suffered a serious achilles injury.

Payton Turner (DE, Houston)
Superb balance and does an excellent job dipping and rounding the offensive tackle before straightening to the quarterback. Very interesting.

Jayson Oweh (DE, Penn State)
The stories about his workout potential are well known but the fact is that for all his athletic talent he didn’t make many plays at Penn State. Major project.

Adetokunbo Ogundeji (DE, Notre Dame)
Ideal size and length with the kind of short shuttle at SPARQ (4.21) that will have teams taking notice.

Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama)
Didn’t play as well in 2020 after returning from an ACL injury. The talent’s there and might just need some time.

Joseph Ossai (LB, Texas)
Would be an ideal fit for someone like the Rams to replace Leonard Floyd. Useful 3-4 OLB prospect who can rush the edge and drop when needed.

Nick Bolton (LB, Missouri)
Old-school linebacker who’ll step up and smack you in the face but limited athleticism could mean he lasts into day two.

Justin Hilliard (LB, Ohio State)
His performance against Northwestern was eye-popping. He can cover, he can get around a football field and he can hit.

Kelvin Joseph (CB, Kentucky)
Former LSU recruit who has the size, the agility and the explosive traits you look for. Long speed is a question mark.

Eric Stokes (CB, Georgia)
Good size, ideal length, a really consistent defender and he ran a 4.06 short shuttle at SPARQ.

Ifeatu Melifonwu (CB, Illinois)
Has the NFL bloodlines, good size, probably a great athlete like his brother but more suited to corner.

Jevon Holland (S, Oregon)
Decent player who can play deep coverage and up at the LOS. However, opting out of 2020 took away a chance to show progress (not that the PAC-12 season was much to write home about anyway).

Richie Grant (S, UCF)
Had an exceptional Senior Bowl. Just has a playmaking knack of being around the football to create turnovers.

Richard LeCounte III (S, Georgia)
He never quite lived up to the 5-star billing but the fact is he’s a safety who runs a 4.01 short shuttle and jumps a 37 inch vertical. You can work with that.

Ar’Darius Washington (S, TCU)
He’s tiny but that doesn’t matter as much when you fly around the field, make interceptions and deliver punishing hits like Washington.

Jamie Sherwood (S, Auburn)
Excellent athlete with good size who can cover the slot or deep and is very happy moving up to the LOS to deliver a big tackle.

Round four

Darius Stills (DT, West Virginia)
He might be undersized and he might be limited to a specialist role. However, he had 22.5 TFL’s in 20 starts for WVU, plus 10.5 sacks. NFL bloodlines, he’ll give you everything he has. Tone setter.

Osa Odighizuwa (DT, UCLA)
He might be limited to a sub-package rusher at the next level but at the Senior Bowl he showed plenty of explosion and quickness, so he could be a useful rotational player.

Rashad Weaver (DE, Pittsburgh)
A skilled pass rusher but what’s his best fit? He’s not quite big enough for the five technique but he’s not lean and long like a natural EDGE.

Patrick Jones (DE, Pittsburgh)
He played well in 2020 but his Senior Bowl showing was a massive disappointment and he has short arms (32 inches).

Joshua Kaindoh (DE, Florida State)
Former recruiting star who just looks the part. Yes he’s inconsistent but he bullied tackles at times, can win with quickness and just looks like a NFL pass rusher. The type of player who could be a steal or a titanic bust.

Monty Rice (LB, Georgia)
Very solid linebacker but lacks some of the pizzaz the day-two prospects have at his position.

Chaz Surratt (LB, North Carolina)
Former quarterback who has done a good job transitioning to a totally different role. However, he still needs time and coaching before he becomes a regular starter. I’m not sure he has the athletic profile to justify taking him earlier.

Pete Werner (LB, Ohio State)
He just has a knack for making plays. If you watch any of the front seven Ohio State players, Werner draws your attention. He might not be an amazing athlete but he’ll contribute one way or another.

KJ Britt (LB, Auburn)
Arguably the most impactful defensive player during the Senior Bowl game. Good combination of agility and explosive traits. Praised at Auburn for his work ethic.

Tyson Campbell (CB, Georgia)
Has the size and the speed but lacks agility and doesn’t play the ball well enough.

Ambry Thomas (CB, Michigan)
He competes for the ball and covers well. His short shuttle (3.90) is impressive. He lacks size however and didn’t make a jump in Mobile.

Aaron Robinson (CB, UCF)
He’s fun to watch. Whether he transitions to safety or nickel remains to be seen. His lack of length is a problem if he wants to play outside corner.

Greg Newsome (CB, Northwestern)
He was solid in 2020 but I’m just not sure how much upside he has based on his size and athletic profile.

Keith Taylor (CB, Washington)
Stuck like glue to receivers at the Senior Bowl and gave his stock a nice boost.

Offensive prospects

Round one

Penei Sewell (T, Oregon)
He might be the best player in this draft after Trevor Lawrence.

Ja’marr Chase (WR, LSU)
It feels like a long time ago but Chase was practically unstoppable in 2019.

De’Vonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
He’s sudden and quick, even if he lacks truly incredible long-speed. He’ll dominate on slants. Massive production.

Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
Good character, elite speed and the type of player NFL teams love to draft early.

Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)
Moore is explosive, fast and unlike anything else in the NFL. He ran a 4.33 forty, a 4.01 short shuttle and jumped a 43 inch vertical at SPARQ.

Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
He was good going into 2020 but he just took his play to an all-new level. He was unstoppable in several games and will be a #1 target for somebody.

Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
A born winner. Accurate, athletic, strong, mobile, mature and ready to be a star.

Zach Wilson (QB, BYU)
He improvs well, makes some special throws and has a little magic about his play. May need time to settle into the NFL.

Round two

Walker Little (T, Stanford)
Perfectly sized, great agility and a very capable tackle prospect. Had the best SPARQ score among O-liners in 2017 (107.25). Hasn’t played for two years (ACL tear, opted out).

D’Ante Smith (T, ECU)
He was superb at the Senior Bowl and whether he plays at tackle or guard he has the kind of potential teams crave on the O-line. Amazing length.

Christian Darrisaw (T, Virginia Tech)
Rising offensive lineman who does a good job in the running game moving defenders to create big lanes.

Teven Jenkins (T, Oklahoma State)
Massive tackle who won’t wow you with his footwork or athleticism. He’s just an enormous road-grader.

Alijah Vera-Tucker (G/T, USC)
He’s not a special athlete but my word, his tape is really good. Gets the job done at left tackle. His UCLA tape was a pleasure to watch. Brilliant prospect.

Rashawn Slater (G/T, Northwestern)
Did a good job handling Chase Young in 2019 but I’m not sure he’s a slam-dunk left tackle prospect. If nothing else, he’ll be a decent guard.

Jaylen Mayfield (T, Michigan)
Might not have the length and profile to play tackle but if he kicks inside to guard there’s no reason why he can’t be really good.

Wyatt Davis (G, Ohio State)
He had a very successful career strictly as a right guard. His lack of versatility could limit his stock but if you want a solid right guard for the long haul, Davis is worth a shot. NFL bloodlines, consistent and powerful.

Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama)
Has tackle size but guard athleticism. If he moves inside he could be great. I’m not sure he has the kick-slide or agility to stick at tackle.

Josh Myers (C, Ohio State)
Incredibly consistent, tough and very athletic center with a long career ahead of him. He ran a 4.49 short shuttle at 310lbs which is outstanding.

Landon Dickerson (C, Alabama)
A heart-and-soul player who was much loved at Alabama. Incredibly talented and powerful. Scored 100.05 at SPARQ. However, he’s had consistent injuries throughout his career and is recovering from an ACL tear.

Elijah Moore (WR, Ole Miss)
Strong for his size and capable of going up to get the football — Moore is an ideal slot receiver but he can be so much more than that too.

Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)
He’s a big favourite in the media but here’s something to consider — he ran a 4.69 at SPARQ at 177lbs. Was it just a bad run? He did jump a 41 inch vertical.

D’Wayne Eskridge (WR, Western Michigan)
Explosive, lightning quick, a threat every time he has the football, makes difficult catches, return specialist — a pure playmaker.

Cade Johnson (WR, South Dakota State)
Dominated the Senior Bowl with dynamic breaks, great routes and superb catching technique. Highly impressive individual. He is a mirror image of Tyler Lockett.

Pat Freiermuth (TE, Penn State)
The ‘Baby Gronk’ nickname is warranted. Superb body control and size when making catches. Runs over defenders. Runs a 4.44 short shuttle.

Brevin Jordan (TE, Miami)
Ultra-dynamic pass-catching tight end who ran a sensational 4.21 short shuttle at 250lbs at SPARQ. Seems to have a good personality, will fit in well at the next level.

Javonte Williams (RB, North Carolina)
PFF gave him a 95.9 rushing grade — the highest of the 2020 season and the best they’ve ever recorded at the running back position. He ranked #1 in the NCAA for broken tackle rate (46.5%). He’s a Seahawks-style runner and frankly, a terrific player.

Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
Gliding, cultured runner who somehow combines power and finesse. Very talented and productive. Won’t fit every scheme as his cuts are sometimes laboured. Ran a 4.16 short shuttle at SPARQ. Not overly explosive.

Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
I think he had a ‘meh’ 2020 season but his profile is incredible. Jumped a 37 inch vertical at SPARQ and ran a 4.43. Finally offered something as a receiver in 2020.

Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)
Big, strong and athletic. Runs with toughness. Can drive the ball downfield. Minimal starts though and he struggled in his one 2020 game.

Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
Mobile, strong and well sized but he struggles to go through progressions, locks on to targets and he had a couple of really bad picks in 2020.

Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
In an offense that relies on getting the ball out on time and playing within the system, he could be superb. I think he’d be a great fit for the Niners.

Davis Mills (QB Stanford)
He’s tall, accurate, has just enough mobility and he throws with timing. However, only 10 college starts are a concern. I think teams will like him more than the media.

Round three

Dillon Radunz (T, North Dakota State)
He had a good Senior Bowl but there are a couple of technique issues and he might have a limited physical profile. I think he’d make a really good guard.

Liam Eichenberg (T, Notre Dame)
Probably not a left tackle but plays with strength and consistency and could find a home working inside.

Ben Cleveland (G, Georgia)
A player I would pound the table for (as Mike Mayock would say). Incredible power and underrated athleticism. Built like ‘the Mountain’ from Game of Thrones. Took the will from Auburn’s D-line last season. If you want to hammer people up front, draft him.

Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame)
Massive guard prospect who isn’t the same level of explosive athlete as others in this class but he can be a people mover up front.

Trey Smith (G, Tennessee)
Despite all the high expectations as a former high recruit, Smith’s career at Tennessee was a mix of disappointing tape and health concerns. However, he has the frame and upside that will still intrigue some teams.

Quinn Meinerz (C, UWW)
One of the stars of the Senior Bowl. Meinerz looks like he was born to play center but he has experience at left guard. He’s tough, athletic and explosive.

Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma)
He’s great on combo-blocks, he plays with attitude but he has short arms, he fights to get his hand-placement right and he might just last a bit longer than some think.

Rashon Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
Bateman was prolific in 2019 but in the few games he played in 2020 he just looked off. He caught everything a year ago but how much athletic upside does he have?

Tylan Wallace (WR, Oklahoma State)
Savvy receiver. What he lacks in elite long-speed he makes up with intelligent routes, subtle separation and a competitive edge.

Terrace Marshall JR (WR, LSU)
Drops have been an issue at times but he works across the middle well, he was pretty much the only bright spark on LSU’s offense in 2020 and he has a shot at the next level as a solid #2.

Tutu Atwell (WR, Louisville)
Despite his diminutive size, he’s highly explosive and electric with the ball in hand. Excels on deep shots and sweeps.

Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR, USC)
Classy receiver who oozes fluidity in his routes. Silky smooth with good bloodlines. He only ran a 4.67 at SPARQ though.

Nico Collins (WR, Michigan)
Collins’ body control, particularly in contested-catch situations and the red zone, is superb. Does he have the speed to create easy separation though?

Dyami Brown (WR, North Carolina)
Looks effortless getting in and out of his breaks, settles into holes in the coverage well, enough speed to challenge defenders. Very solid.

Jaelon Darden (WR, North Texas)
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a receiver juke tacklers like Darden. His footwork is reminiscent of a Justin Timberlake music video.

Amari Rodgers (WR, Clemson)
Thick, explosive lower body with the 4.4 speed to get downfield. He showed up at the Senior Bowl, making two big red zone plays in the game.

Kenny Yeboah (TE, Ole Miss)
Mismatch weapon who attacks seams with authority, makes big plays at every level and can be thrown to when he’s not open. Excelled against Alabama.

Kenneth Gainwell (RB, Memphis)
My jaw dropped watching him run routes and catch passes. He vacuums the football into his mitts. He’s a dynamic, jinking runner. The only downside is size. As a role-player in the right offense though, he could be a X-factor.

Khalil Herbert (RB, Virginia Tech)
Give him some space and he’ll break off a huge run. Very quick, very dynamic and explosive. Rounds off his cuts but I don’t think it matters because he’s so patient and clinical.

Javian Hawkins (RB, Louisville)
He’s tiny and that’s a problem but he runs a 4.36 forty, a 3.95 short shuttle and he jumps a 41 inch vertical. He can hit home runs.

Kellen Mond (QB, Texas A&M)
He’s not that far behind the other quarterbacks. He’s learnt to throw under pressure. He has a great arm. I thought he performed well in two-minute and red zone drills at the Senior Bowl. He could be a Dak Prescott ‘how did he last that long?’ type prospect.

Round four

Sam Cosmi (T, Texas)
Has the size and the profile but his technique’s all over the place. Leans into defenders, too hesitant to get his hands in there and beat someone up. Passive.

Jackson Carman (G, Clemson)
I don’t think he can stay at left tackle at the next level and for me he’s better off transitioning to an accomplished and well-sized guard.

Michal Menet (C, Penn State)
He doesn’t necessarily beat anyone up in the trenches but he’s very consistent, rarely gets into trouble and can hold his own.

Seth Williams (WR, Auburn)
At times he was the best thing about Auburn in 2020. Yet he finished the season like he couldn’t be bothered and Jaycee Horn had him on toast vs South Carolina.

Marquez Stevenson (WR, Houston)
Elite speed and just needs some refinement. Might take a bit of time but has the tools to play at the next level.

Tommy Tremble (TE, Notre Dame)
A run-blocking terror who could be the next Kyle Juszczyk if teams want to shift him to full back. With a 4.20 short shuttle I’d keep him at tight end.

Tre McKitty (TE, Georgia)
He’s not quick but he has 11 inch hands that swallow the football. Good blocker, reliable catcher. Made two glorious one-handed grabs at the Senior Bowl. Ran a 4.13 short shuttle at 240lbs.

Hunter Long (TE, Boston College)
He just made plays. In the right offense he can be a chain-moving dynamo on third down but he’s capable of big plays too. There’s something to work with here.

Michael Carter (RB, North Carolina)
He’s undersized but he just gets after it. The way he and Javonte Williams combined, you almost want to see it again at the next level. He plays bigger than he is.

Trey Sermon (RB, Ohio State)
He’s never quite been able to show any long term consistency at Oklahoma or Ohio State. He’s high-cut but he is explosive (35 inch vertical) and agile (4.27).

Larry Rountree (RB, Missouri)
There’s nothing overly spectacular that stands out but he’s well sized, explosive enough and he can contribute in the passing game.

Jermar Jefferson (RB, Oregon State)
I like him. He gets up to speed quickly and he has some suddenness which enables him to attack gaps or get outside. Can run through contact. There’s something there. Might not have the size to carry the load as RB1 but could be part of a tandem.

Kylin Hill (RB, Mississippi State)
He works through contact well, he’s a good size and he can play a role. I don’t necessarily see a lead-back but he could work nicely as a #2.

Chris Evans (RB, Michigan)
It’s not that long ago that Evans was seen as a hot prospect. Michigan fans will tell you his college career was a big disappointment. However, he’s explosive (36 inch vertical) and agile (4.18 short shuttle) and someone will roll the dice on his potential.

In the coming days you’re going to get a lot of audio content. I have interviews with Benjamin St. Juste, Cade Johnson and Darius Stills recorded. I also have an interview set up with Tommy Togiai.

On Wednesday I will also be recording a podcast with Corbin Smith, discussing our separate off-season plans for the Seahawks.

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Curtis Allen’s off-season positional reviews: DL

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

This is the seventh part of a guest-post series written by Curtis Allen

#7 defensive line

Players under contract for 2021: Carlos Dunlap, Rasheem Green, LJ Collier, Alton Robinson, Darrell Taylor, Jarran Reed

Players under contract for 2022: LJ Collier, Darrell Taylor, Alton Robinson

Restricted Free Agents: Poona Ford

Unrestricted Free Agents: Benson Mayowa, Damontre Moore, Brendan Jackson

Exclusive Rights Free Agents: Bryan Mone

Players Signed to Futures Contracts: Cedric Lattimore

Salary Cap Notes

2021 Cap Commitment: $34.6 million (19.4% of $178m cap)

Carlos Dunlap’s entire salary of $14.1m non-guaranteed

Jarran Reed’s $8.475m salary non-guaranteed ($5m cap hit if cut or traded)
 
Available Free Agents

2020 Season Overview

The defensive line provided a decidedly uneven performance in 2020.

In the interior, Jarran Reed again proved he is in the ‘good but not great’ group of defensive linemen. Early in the season, he had a strip sack against Dallas to give the Seahawks some easy points and a dominant half against the Vikings. Absent those highlights his first few games were uninspiring. He struggled to elevate his teammates. However, his play blossomed in the second half of the season.

Poona Ford took another step forward. The Seahawks moved him around the line a bit and he provided some nice interior pass rushing. He is an easy choice to tender and may even garner an extension if the front office feels he has more room to grow and wants to get him locked into a contract before he takes another step in 2021.
 
Brian Mone rewarded the team’s faith in him with some fine play. He was stout at the point of attack but added some occasional pass rush quickness for such a huge man, which was a bonus. The team felt good enough about him that they chose him over Snacks Harrison late in the season. He has a spot locked down for 2021.

Snacks Harrison spent more time on the practice squad getting into shape than on the field and did not contribute very much.

On the outside, Benson Mayowa was acquired to help but with early season injuries and some strange game day roster choices, he was forced to play a high volume of snaps and faltered trying to take on that much work after a career of being a part time player. He returned to his normal standard of play when relieved of the bulk of the snaps by Dunlap.

Alton Robinson contributed four sacks and did some nice things in the run game at times in his rookie season. He displayed a knack for sacking the quarterback in key situations, which is a confidence-builder for anyone, let alone a rookie player. 

Most of his plays were cleanup type sacks, coming off his blocker after the downfield coverage has caused the quarterback to hold the ball. He needs to develop into more of a ‘pressure creator’ but the start is encouraging.

Darrell Taylor was a disappointment, not seeing the field for a single snap due to his health. He did get on the practice field at the very end of the season and was praised by his coach for looking like he belongs, for what that is worth.

L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green had the occasional notable play at the 5-Tech position but overall did not do enough to inspire much confidence. The position was a real weak spot for the unit in 2020.

Damontre Moore showed some decent play in spots but had his season derailed with a suspension.

Carlos Dunlap was manna from heaven. He recorded five sacks and 18 pressures in eight games and lifted the entire unit. Particularly enjoyable was watching him terrorize Kyler Murray in the Week 11 Arizona game with six pressures and two sacks. He sacked him to finish the game the week after Murray had pulled off a last-second miracle against Buffalo.

A big picture look at the season totals from this defensive line group show some superior numbers over the prior season:

– An increase in sacks, from 19.5 to 30.5 in 2020

– An increase in pressures, from 99 to 124 in 2020

– Team rushing defense dropped a full yard per carry, from 4.9 to 3.9 in 2020

But if there were ever a need for context to understand the numbers, it would be this season for this position group. Because the truth is this group had an extremely difficult 2020.

A good chunk of these numbers did not necessarily come from better play. They were rather a direct result of the opposition exploiting the Seahawks’ poor offseason in constructing this unit and their weakness in the defensive backfield.

How did this come about? 

Early in the season, the Seahawks’ offense was blazing and applying some serious pressure on opposing offenses. Struggling to keep up, they took to the air. The result was they often were able to score just as easily and at times even more quickly than the Seahawks could. No lead was safe. This exposed the defensive line and the backfield and modelled a plan of attack for the rest of the league’s offensive coordinators to tee off on. 

Across the entire season, offenses called a remarkably high rate of passes on this defense. Even run heavy teams were abandoning their scripts and chucking the ball downfield as much as possible.

The opposition threw the ball an incredible 63% of plays. For some perspective, even in the pass-happy NFL, few offenses called for passes at a higher clip than what the Seahawks defense faced.

As a result, the running game was shoved into the background and opportunities for pressures and sacks dramatically increased.

What does a closer look reveal about how the defensive line performed in these two areas?

Rushing defense

The defensive line faced the seventh fewest number of rushing attempts and yielded the fifth fewest yards per rush last season.

But were they truly successful? It was a real mixed bag this year.
 
There were some fantastic run stops at times on defense:

– Week 2 vs the Patriots. The goal-line stand to win the game.

– Week 5 vs the Vikings. Stopping a two-point conversion and a key stop on fourth down to give the offense the ball back. Both plays were the difference in the game as the offense drove the field to win it.

– Week 11 vs the Cardinals. Holding them to only 57 yards on the ground in a right-the-ship win.

But for every successful performance, the run defense experienced a critical failure:

– Week 5 vs the Vikings. The Special Teams unit twice pinned the Vikings’ offense inside their own five. Is the defense able to keep them pinned and win the field position game? They are not. Both drives feature the Vikings bludgeoning their way out of trouble with their running game and driving down the field to score. Alexander Mattison filled in for the injured Dalvin Cook and proceeded to run just as well on this defense. Rushing yards allowed on those two drives alone — 91. Unacceptable.

– Week 7 vs the Cardinals. The defense has held the Cardinals to 109 rushing yards in regulation. Not bad. In overtime, the Seahawks’ offense is stymied and punts. The Cardinal offense comes out and runs for 47 yards on three rushes to get into field goal range for the winning attempt.

– Week 13 vs the Giants. In the third quarter, Seahawks are behind 8-5. The offense attempts to convert a 4th and 1 that fails at about midfield. The Giants take possession and gain 42 yards on four rushes and score the winning touchdown.

– The playoff game vs the Rams. Los Angeles comes in starting a backup quarterback with Jared Goff behind him with a busted thumb. Clearly the Rams were going to rely heavily on their running game. The defensive line had no answers as the Rams gashed them for 164 yards on the ground.

While this unit had some success this season, the fact that they were fifth in the NFL in yards per rush should not be pointed to by anyone to prove that this was a top unit. They had some good overall numbers and some important stops. But they also had some aggravating collapses in key moments. 

So, were they good or bad? The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Pass rushing

How well did this unit rush the passer in 2020?

The defensive line’s pass rush performance this season is best compartmentalized into 2 sections:

Games 1-7 Before Dunlap (BD) and games 8-16 After Dunlap (AD)

Observe:

– Average blitzes per game BD: 26.57
– Average blitzes per game AD: 23.00
 
– Average defensive line sacks per game BD: 1.14
– Average defensive line sacks per game AD: 2.45
 
– Average defensive line pressure rate BD: 14.0% pressure rate
– Average defensive line pressure rate AD: 22.1% pressure rate
 
– Average team sacks per game BD: 1.71
– Average team sacks per game AD: 3.70
  
To summarize, after acquiring Dunlap they cut back their blitzing 10% across the board, doubled their defensive line sacks, the defensive line was 50% more effective in getting pressures and they doubled their overall team sacks. That is some serious in-season improvement.

While we may not be able to chalk every single increase in pass rush success to Carlos Dunlap’s arrival, the line of delineation is so clear it is obvious that he had a significant impact on the defensive line’s ability to create problems for the quarterback.

Jarran Reed in particular came to life:

– BD: 1 sack / 7 pressures in seven games
– AD: 5.5 sacks / 15 pressures in nine games

He also added two sacks and three pressures in the playoff game vs LA.

Poona Ford likewise put up dramatically better numbers.

Again, there were more factors than just Dunlap. The defensive backs getting healthy and getting a jolt from D.J. Reed, a defensive accountability meeting that seemed to energize the unit and playing some teams with passing offenses that are not world class in the second half of the season were all contributing factors.

There is no doubt though — having a real live force at pass rusher unlocked all kinds of channels and allowed the other players to not constantly have to face double teams they cannot handle.

Offseason Questions to Address

1. How will the team attack the passer in 2021?

The Seahawks blitzed an incredible 403 times in 2020. The defensive line frequently relied on outside sources Jamal Adams, Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright to provide pressure.

After acquiring Dunlap, the Seahawks reeled back Wagner’s blitzing to more normal levels. Let us not kid ourselves though. They still blitzed at a higher clip with Dunlap then they have in recent years. They continued to send Adams just as much as they did before.

Was blitzing this much an intended use of their linebackers and safeties? Or was it a product of necessity after being unable to secure talent on the defensive line that can get push without regular assistance?

All three of their blitzers in 2020 will have their futures with the Seahawks considered this offseason. Wright is a free agent. Wagner has a major cap hit in 2021. Adams will want a huge contract extension.

If the Seahawks are considering moving on from any or all of them, where is the pass rush going to come from? 

From their replacements continuing to blitz? 

From the improvement of the defensive linemen already on the roster? 

Or from bolstering the defensive line with new acquisitions? 

Likely it is some combination of all these things. 

Who stays and who goes? Who provides production at the best value?

This is a critical determination that needs to be made. It could plot the entire course of the offseason. 

2. Will the front office finally change its offseason mode of operation for addressing the defensive line?

After witnessing the defensive line be such a team liability in 2019, it was particularly encouraging to hear from the Seahawks leadership that they intended to address the issue as a priority in the offseason.

Hope slowly and agonizingly turned to despair with the realization that the defensive line moves they made strongly resembled the moves they made the previous offseason and foreshadowed another dreadful performance from the group:

– They did not return their best pass rusher from the prior season (2019: Frank Clark / 2020: Jadeveon Clowney)

– They overpaid a past-his-prime speed rusher who had little effect and spent most of the year hurt (19: Ziggy Ansah / 20:Bruce Irvin)

– They banked on young players making a real contribution and were left wanting (19: L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green / 20: L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green)

– The team reached for a lineman on a high draft pick due to need and counted on him contributing right away. Unfortunately, he was severely limited by injury and ended the season as an unknown for the following season (19: L.J. Collier / 20: Darrell Taylor)

– They scrambled to fill their roster at the position and resorted to bringing in replacement-level players (19: Branden Jackson / 20: Branden Jackson, Damontre Moore)

The Seahawks began the season with one of the NFL’s worst position group units, after fielding one of its worst the prior season.

Legitimate questions asked by the press about this group were met with unsatisfactory answers:

– Lower tier free agents were given healthy raises. The sack numbers they recorded for other teams in the prior year as rotational players were half-heartedly pointed to as proof they could be centerpieces of the pass rush effort

– Young unproven players were being discussed as real contributors

– Excitement about the Jamal Adams trade was proffered as evidence the aggressive attacking energy was back in the building

Then the season started.

The results were predictable, just as they were in 2019. 

In the first seven games the defensive line was able to produce only eight sacks on 328 passing attempts for a miniscule 2.4% sack rate. Teams were burning this defense at an all-time record pace.

Even teams with poor offensive lines were emboldened to drop their quarterback and have him regularly throw downfield. A banged up defensive backfield was powerless to provide adequate coverage. The talented linebacker group was trying to hold the defense together with both hands. They had no counter.

Every bit of joy generated by the offense’s brilliance was automatically tempered with dread that the defense would quickly concede just as many points.

A bold gambit to trade two prime draft assets to acquire Darrell Taylor generated excitement that the team was making a serious investment in the pass rush. It slow burned into frustration as his injury recovery dragged into the season and felt like sandpaper rubbing an already sore pass rush spot raw.

Coaches were conducting therapy sessions in broad daylight, assuring reporters, fans and probably themselves that the defense could not possibly be this bad. 

It was a ticking bomb that threatened to implode the season.

Then one of the most fortunate bounces of the prior season bounced the Seahawks’ way again in 2020.

They were bailed out of a disaster of their own making by the grace of a star player falling out with his team. Carlos Dunlap became the 2020 version of Jadeveon Clowney.

Once again, the Seahawks were able to take advantage of a team desperate to unload an impact player and willing to settle for less.

One area where the seasons differed though? The Dunlap trade did not come until after the Seahawks had already played seven games. In some ways the Seahawks would spend the rest of the season trying to recover and rebalance the team after a disastrous defensive start.

The Seahawks cannot count on this kind of luck three seasons in a row. They must act more decisively to address such a critical unit this offseason.

They must restore balance to the defense.

A fortunate bounce like this should be the thing that sends this team on the path to a top seed and a Super Bowl. Not the path to minimum acceptable adequacy.

3. What will they do at the 5-tech position?

Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier were penciled in as a rotation at the spot and were counted on to hold down that side of the defensive line.

Their combined numbers in 2020: Five sacks, 29 pressures and 32 tackles. Nothing to write home about.

Their versatility to be able to slide inside and play the 3-tech position on passing downs was frequently pointed to but neither of them were able to take advantage of the newfound effectiveness of their line mates in the second half of the season to really put a stamp on their roles.

Rasheem Green is a free agent in 2022. He endured a neck injury that appeared to be very serious and lost six games. After recovering, he slowly but surely was given more snaps than Collier but lacked a real signature moment or any kind of flair to show that he was going to regularly be a factor on the defense.  Will he ever be able to reach the potential the team saw in him when they drafted him?

L.J. Collier had some notable moments early but as the season wore on and Green got healthy, his role started to be reduced in the lineup. Are the Seahawks considering 2020 his ‘rookie season’? Can they honestly expect a big leap in 2021? Collier has yet to show that he will ever provide first-round production on the field.

What do the Seahawks do at this position? Do they bank on these two players for the third year in a row? Or do they commit more resources there?

Would the team consider having Carlos Dunlap or Alton Robinson spend some time on that side?

Will the Seahawks make an investment in the draft or free agency?

Whatever route they decide to take, the 5-Tech position must be better in 2021.
 
4. What does the future hold for Carlos Dunlap and Jarran Reed?

Both players have large 2021 cap hits and are out of contract in 2022. 

It might make sense to look at these two players as a matched pair. The options then are keeping both (maybe even extending both) and making some adjustments to the other spots on the line or jettisoning them and rebuilding the whole unit from scratch.

There will be a strong pull to stay with the familiar and for good reason. A complete tear down would be too much to bite off for one offseason and these two cannot be easily replaced. But nothing should be off the table.

Carlos Dunlap clearly had a major impact on the defense. It will be very intriguing to see what he can do with a full offseason and a full season with the team in 2021. There are a greater number of potential positive outcomes with Dunlap on the team in 2021 than with him not. 

His entire salary in 2021 is not guaranteed, which gives the Seahawks all kinds of options. Given their minimal outlay to acquire him (a 7th round pick and $1m of dead money from BJ Finney’s contract) the Seahawks could entertain every possibility:

– They could release him and save the entire $14m salary (unlikely)

– They could pay him his full salary, see how Robinson and Taylor develop and decide in 2022 how much to offer or let him go

– They could extend him now, reasoning he has been very durable, has had a fantastic effect on the team and fits what they are trying to do in Seattle

– There is a fourth option. They could see what Dunlap could fetch in the trade market. Given their lack of cap room and draft capital, it might be wise to listen to offers and see what is available to them. $14m of cap room freed up and some added draft stock could provide the Seahawks more flexibility.

Would he generate much of a return in trade? The odds are not strong they could land enough to consider it.

If you trade him you are back to depleting your most needy unit again. It would be a risk for sure. However, if the right deal comes along, in this climate the Seahawks would be foolish not to listen to what is out there. It does not cost anything to explore a little.

What about Reed? He is the 18th highest paid interior defensive lineman in per-year average.

It would appear he does not have the skill and profile to consistently create disruption on his own. However, he can regularly take advantage when he is lined up next to other players who demand attention and that is not inconsiderable.

The Seahawks clearly love his leadership and the way he carries himself. 

It also needs to be factored that Reed eats snaps for breakfast. He can consistently take 75% of the team’s snaps. That is not an ability you can just get anywhere. A potential replacement like Poona Ford has only handled 58% of the snaps at the most in his career. The gap between 58% and 75% is bigger than it appears. If they part with Reed, they will likely need two players to share the workload he provides.

Is that worth the $13.475m cap hit that he is on the books for in 2021?  The Seahawks need to create some cap room and $8.475m of his salary is not guaranteed. 

Do they consider trading Reed and eating the $5m cap hit? Would they get a strong enough return to offset losing a big piece of their interior?

Or do they look at keeping him, reasoning a full year with Dunlap and improvement from the other young players can elevate him back to a 10-sack season?

5. How much can they count on Darrell Taylor in 2021?

This question will linger all offseason. We will very likely hear plenty of positive news emanating from VMAC about his recovery and progress off and on all summer. Do not let yourself get sucked in and develop oversized expectations for the upcoming season.

The Seahawks were not able to get a single look at him in game action in 2020. Two or three practices are better than nothing but it does not give the team a solid basis for hope that he can have an impact next season.

Even if he is physically ready to play, he will still have to go through all the rookie adjustments and prove he can handle the rigors of playing in the NFL. Just like any rookie he will have to justify his high draft standing.

It is possible no single thing would help the Seahawks more in 2021 than Taylor breaking through and terrorizing the edges. 

It would complement the interior rush and help the defensive backs. It would also reduce their dependence on blitzing. 

It would enable them to be aggressive in the 2022 offseason building their roster. 
Taylor rewarding the investment the team has made and the patience the fans have displayed would be a fantastic success story for next season.

But given what they know of Taylor, right here and now, is it not the course of wisdom to prepare for him to not have a major role in 2021? Or to anticipate that there might need to be some managing of his snaps for the first half of the season to assure he is fully healthy?

It may be worthwhile to have Benson Mayowa’s phone number saved. Bringing a part time player like that back in adds depth and takes some pressure off the situation. If he comes back at a reasonable price, he may be a worthwhile hedge against the young talent on the roster.
 
Rob’s thoughts on the draft class and potential targets

At defensive tackle, the numbers have been depleted with several big names opting not to declare for the 2021 draft. That said, some intriguing options remain.

Alim McNeill is an outstanding athlete with the ability to play nose or three technique. He has star potential and a personality to match — as evidenced in my interview with him.

Frankly, whoever lands McNeill will be counting their lucky stars.

Levi Onwuzurike will likely go in the top-40 as a penetrating three-technique with a great motor. Daviyon Nixon is a master disruptor who racked up TFL’s for Iowa.

Christian Barmore had a hot and cold spell at Alabama but ended strongly enough to give his stock a boost ahead of the draft. Jalen Twyman and Jay Tufele are forgotten men in this draft after opting out of the 2020 season. Tommy Togiai, who I’m due to interview this week, is an incredibly powerful, dynamic interior presence with great energy and effort. Darius Stills, who I’ve already interviewed, could be a mid-round gem.

There’s a chance to find value within this group. Some good players could last well into day two. Seattle’s lack of picks, however, makes for a frustrating outlook.

Milton Williams, who I also interviewed recently, is a nice inside/out project.

In terms of defensive end and EDGE talent, expect Azeez Olujari, Jaelen Phillips and Kwity Paye to leave the board quickly. Gregory Rousseau opting out has hampered his stock slightly, while Carlos Basham’s lack of length and strange use at Wake Forest tempers some of his obvious talent and athletic potential. Joe Tryon also didn’t play in 2020 but possesses a fantastic frame, knows how to win with his hands, power and speed and he should also be a top-45 pick.

All of that group would be appealing if the Seahawks were picking in round one. While it’s true that a lack of testing is creating a great unknown, the athletic potential of all five players is unquestioned. There’s no mystery there. Phillips was once one of the most coveted High School recruits in recent history, Paye and Basham were on Bruce Feldman’s freak list, Rousseau just looks the part, Olujari’s play is reminiscent of Cliff Avril and just look at Tryon during our interview, published yesterday.

Pairing one of these players with Carlos Dunlap would’ve created quite an exciting prospect for 2021. Alas, it isn’t to be.

In terms of options later on — sadly Patrick Jones’ poor Senior Bowl and short arms make him a less attractive option even though he was excellent at Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame’s Adetokunbo Ogundeji might be appealing. He’s 6-4 3/8 and 256lbs with 35 1/4 inch arms and an 85 3/8 inch wingspan. He ran a 4.21 short shuttle at SPARQ.

Janarius Robinson made headlines during Senior Bowl measurements with an insane 87 inch wingspan. He’s 6-5, 266lbs and also has 35 3/4 inch arms. He ran a 4.27 short shuttle at SPARQ. However, he’s so raw he’s a steak tartare.

This feels like a pass rush class where taking a player early would be the wise thing to do for any team in the market. With Seattle’s desperately low number of picks, it’s perhaps more likely they will focus on the offensive line with their first selection, then look at the deep receiver and cornerback class after that on day three — with running back another option.

And while it’s a very valid point that this draft is highly unusual with no combine and limited interaction with prospects, there’s still a long list of players I’d want to take a chance on who could go a long way to provide the Seahawks with young, cheap talent — which is what they need with so many holes and very little cap space.

If you missed my interview with Joe Tryon yesterday, check it out below…

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Why borrowing on the Seahawks credit card is problematic

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

I am writing this piece because there is a common thought among Seahawks fans and media that a logical solution to the off-season challenge faced by the team, is to borrow on the credit card.

After all, Over the Cap says they have $118,526,756 in effective cap space for 2022. Using some of that money to ease the problems in 2021 makes sense — to a degree.

However, the Seahawks currently have $1,751,354 in effective cap space for 2021. So a couple of restructures or extensions won’t be enough.

Thus, the Seahawks are faced with a choice. Either they go down the path of extreme borrowing, or they make some tough personnel decisions. Or a combination of both.

In my own off-season plan I suggested trading Bobby Wagner because I don’t think he is worth a $17m salary in 2021 and a $20m salary in 2022 — especially a year after drafting a middle linebacker in the first round (a pick that could’ve been used to fill one of Seattle’s many existing holes this off-season).

I also suggested trading Jamal Adams. I don’t think he’s a great scheme fit and I don’t think he’s worth the $18-20m a year contract he is probably expecting (as explained in more detail in my own off-season plan).

Too much resource has been used on two non-premium positions. For me, the Seahawks should start to shift their resources to the offensive and defensive line and support their $35m quarterback with good protection and an assortment of weapons.

To me that’s logical. It’s only semi-controversial because it includes a franchise stalwart and a recently-acquired big name. Yet everything else — moving them, shifting resource — is viable.

Especially at a time when the quarterback is making it very clear he expects the team to do things differently.

Corbin Smith, a writer for the Seahawk Maven website, has put together his own plan which makes the case for what I would refer to as ‘extreme borrowing’.

I hope he doesn’t mind me using his work in this way. My intention isn’t to insult or dismiss Corbin, I just want to use the numbers involved to explain why I personally don’t believe a high level of borrowing is feasible.

Let me be clear. I am writing this article not as a personal attack or an attempt to challenge anyone’s authority or credentials. Upon reading this, I do not want anyone attacking the writer on twitter, or rubbing this article in his face.

I am not a cap expert, so please feel free to correct anything glaring in the comments section.

Seattle’s first move should be turning a large chunk of Wilson and Wagner’s 2021 base salary into a signing bonus. Under normal circumstances, general managers don’t like to do this because it increases cap hits in future seasons. But even with Wilson’s cap hit for 2022 jumping to north of $40 million and Wagner’s cap hit escalating to $26 million as a result of the restructure, the benefit outweighs the risk here because the Seahawks instantly creates close to $18 million in cap relief.

It might sound plausible to create $18m of cap space here but there’s a significant consequence. Bobby Wagner’s 2022 cap hit ($26m) would make him the 14th highest paid player in the league. He would be earning more than the total average of Myles Garrett’s salary. Aaron Donald’s average salary is “only” $22.5m.

With Wilson’s cap hit also increasing by $3m (presumably with other consequences further down the line) you would be committing an extra $9m on the cap in 2022 and paying Wilson and Wagner a combined $66m.

That’s only the start, however.

Contract extensions allow teams the opportunity to convert existing base salaries into a signing bonus and spread that money out of the new years added on an extension. This consequently would lower the salary cap hit for 2021. In this scenario, Schneider gives Lockett a two-year extension through 2023 and creates $4 million in cap space, gives Dunlap a two-year extension through 2023 and creates $6 million in cap space, and adds an extra year onto Brown’s deal to open up $2.5 million.

If Tyler Lockett is offered a contract extension, he will probably expect a deal similar to the ones signed by Robert Woods ($16.25m) and Cooper Kupp ($15.75m) within the last six months. The proposal is a two year extension. Let’s say Lockett agrees terms on a deal worth $16m a year, splitting the difference between Woods and Kupp. In order to lower his cap hit this year by $4m, you will probably need to split the difference.

This would mean paying Lockett — who turns 30 this year — approximately $18m in 2022 and 2023, on top of the $66m you’ve already committed to Wilson and Wagner. You would now have spent about $27m of your available 2022 cap space.

A two-year contract extension for Carlos Dunlap would take him through to the age of 34. Let’s project, not unreasonably, a deal worth $10m a year for him. In order to lower his cap hit by $6m in 2021, again you would have to push that down the line. It could mean, without some salary cap magic, paying him about $13m in 2022 — when he’ll be 33.

You’ve now spent $40m of your free cap space for 2022 and in total you’ve spent about $97m on four players all over the age of 30.

Extending Duane Brown’s deal for an extra year will depend on whether he has any interest in committing to such an agreement. He’ll be 37 in 2022. His cap hit this year is $13m. Presumably he wouldn’t be taking a pay cut to stay for another season. Thus, to save the money this year, you might be committing around $15m to him next year.

You’re up to $53m in 2022 spending at this point, with another player over 30 added to the list.

Contrary to prior moves, extending Adams could cut into Seattle’s current available cap space, depending on the structure of the new contract. In this case, the Seahawks sign the All-Pro safety to a four-year, $72 million extension with a $12 million signing bonus, locking him up through 2025. In this simulation, his cap hit for 2021 receives a slight bump, jumping from $9.86 million to $11.86 million, leaving the franchise with around $32.5 million in cap room.

This is a contract worth $18m a year for Jamal Adams. Quite aside from the fact you can argue no safety is worth that amount — even one you blitz 8.2 times a game to gain 0.8 sacks — this further depletes your resources for 2022. You’ve now spent $71m of your $118,526,756 in effective cap space.

By this point alone, before you’ve signed any free agents this year, you’re down to $46m in cap space for 2022.

In Smith’s piece, he goes on to sign Corey Linsley and T.Y. Hilton, further depleting the available resources in 2022. Linsley’s deal is worth $12m a year and Hilton’s is worth about $8m. That’s potentially a further $20m reduction on the 2022 cap. There may well be an ‘out’ within Hilton’s deal — but we have to account for it.

Currently, the Seahawks have 19 contracted players for next year. Extending Brown, Dunlap, Adams and Lockett takes that total to 23. Linsley and Hilton take it to 25.

Let’s be generous and say they sign three other players in free agency on more than short term deals, plus make five draft picks who all make the roster.

You would still need to add 20 players just to get to a 53 man roster, with each earning an average of $1.3m a year.

You might be able to cut or trade players away to save money but the point is clear — so much borrowing puts you in a real bind.

By pushing so many of your problems into next season, you are arguably taking a far more extreme approach than making two big trades. You are investing years into an ageing roster that has won just one playoff game in four seasons. You would have very little flexibility to move on from these players without absorbing dead cap hits.

This is the kind of move New Orleans has made recently, with an ageing Drew Brees and time running out to win another Super Bowl. It’s also what the Cowboys did in the back-end of the Tony Romo era.

Some of this manoeuvring is going to be necessary. Most teams in the league are going to need to restructure some contracts this off-season. Doing it to this extent though can put you in cap hell very quickly.

And this is before we even consider the difficulty of extending or restructuring multiple contracts within the next four weeks, prior to the start of the new league year. Plus, is the addition of one ageing receiver and one big name center, likely to be the kind of ambition to satisfy the currently quite dissatisfied franchise quarterback? Especially when he sees Jordan Simmons starting at left guard?

There are other issues I have with Corbin’s plan. If you’re committing so much money to Bobby Wagner and with the investment in Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton also locked in, the use of their top pick on another linebacker was nearly enough to make my head explode (sorry Corbin). If the Seahawks need another linebacker, they have to find a way to do it on the cheap.

I’d also quibble about trading away Jarran Reed, the second best defensive lineman on a not-great D-line, to replace him with a player on a futures contract. Also, I’m not convinced a $16.5m investment in Hilton (who turns 32 in November) is the best use of resources either.

That said, I’m fully supportive of re-signing Richard Sherman and adding Linsley. Two thumbs up.

Again, I hope this article isn’t seen as a ‘slam’ of Corbin. Unfortunately it just provided a convenient opportunity for me to try and explain my own position on credit card borrowing, which so far I probably haven’t been able to lay out in a sufficient way.

My own off-season plan is there for all to see. I’m open to being challenged on it if people want to.

Meanwhile, my latest interview in the draft series is now available. It’s with Joe Tryon, a highly athletic and talented pass rusher from Washington.

If you’ve been able to share these interviews in the past, please do so again. And don’t forget to like the video on YouTube and subscribe to the channel. There are several interviews on there already, along with the podcasts.

I’ll be publishing an interview with Minnesota cornerback Benjamin St. Juste soon, plus I’m scheduled to speak to Ohio State’s Tommy Togiai in the week.

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Why this is a good year for the Seahawks to draft a left guard

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Yesterday, Colin Cowherd mentioned in passing that the Seahawks were going to be targeting O-line in the draft…

This isn’t an explosive revelation. I think most people would expect Seattle to do this. Cowherd’s connection to Russell Wilson, as evidenced by his comments earlier in the week, make this info more interesting than it otherwise would’ve been though.

It’s not a stretch to think the Seahawks have told Wilson they intend to draft a left guard with their top pick, following his recent complaints about the offensive line, and that this information has fed its way to Cowherd.

I still believe that a major transfer of resources from linebacker and safety to the trenches is required, otherwise the Seahawks are destined to face a very similar fate in 2021 that they’ve experienced over the last few years. This could, in turn, accelerate Wilson’s desire to move on.

However, whatever they do or don’t do in the coming weeks, drafting a guard with their top pick makes a lot of sense this year.

The need matches with the strength of the draft.

In order to try and emphasise this, I’ve put together a rudimental horizontal board.

This is completely underdeveloped. With limited or no testing data it’s going to be virtually impossible to deliver anything close to a worthwhile board throughout this process unfortunately. I don’t run a scouting department, I run baths for my kids. I haven’t seen every eligible player, although I have watched all of the names listed on the board and feel comfortable passing comment on them.

There are several players who would otherwise move up or down based on the combine. So take this with a rather large pinch of salt. It’s really just an opportunity to show what I currently think about certain players and emphasise the point I’m making on the offensive line.

Click on the image below to make it bigger:

I have 11 interior offensive linemen listed in either the second or third round. The four players listed in the third round are fringe second rounders and I’d be comfortable drafting any in the second frame.

It’s not the only area of strength. At receiver their are many good options too. If they had the three picks in the first two rounds they had last year, they could easily address guard, center and receiver with this draft class.

They could’ve done that a year ago too. It was another strong WR/OL draft (plus running back) but by pouring more resource into linebacker and trading up for a pass rusher with serious injury flags, they opted to go in a different direction.

Now they’ll have to find options with fewer resources in terms of cap and picks. The Seahawks face a real challenge this year, as do many franchises, to create the kind recourse necessary to plug holes and find ways to make improvements.

While it’s true that the NFL will find it harder than ever to evaluate prospects and make the best possible decisions in the draft, it’s also true that the draft is the best opportunity to fill holes on the cheap. For example, Jordyn Brooks (drafted in the late first round) had a cap-hit of $2,224,656 in 2020. Damien Lewis’ cap hit was just $891,298. Their combined salaries cost less than Jacob Hollister. It’s hard to find that kind of value in free agency, probably even in a tumultuous year like this.

What type of guard will they look for?

I don’t expect the Seahawks to go full-Rams with Shane Woldren’s arrival. After all, Mike Solari is still the offensive live coach. I think we’ll see a meshing of ideas and concepts.

I suspect they will try to emulate what worked with Lewis. He was huge and had the +33 inch arms they like, he had an extremely successful college career, he was an explosive tester and he excelled at the Senior Bowl — grading out as one of the top-performers at any position.

From Quinn Meinerz to Trey Smith to Alex Leatherwood and Aaron Banks — they all performed at the Senior Bowl and have some of the traits that made Lewis a success-story as a rookie. D’Ante Smith also had a brilliant Senior Bowl and can play guard or tackle. Ben Cleveland hurt his ankle in Mobile and only participated on day one but he’s an incredible monster of a blocker.

If they want to target a center, there are options there too.

The simple fact is this 2021 draft is well set up for the Seahawks to find a starting left guard, possibly even after trading down from #56, much in the way they were able to with Damien Lewis.

Now, it’s just a question of who it’ll be.

And that’s one of the things we get to talk about for the next two months.

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Updated mock draft: 18th February

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Before getting into the mock here are some things to note…

Quarterback trades

We’re likely to see a number of deals completed before the draft in April. Today, Carson Wentz was traded to Indianapolis. For the purpose of this latest projection, I’m going with two further trades:

Sam Darnold to Chicago for a second round pick
I think the Jets are ready to trade Sam Darnold and they’ll seek the best offer. They might have to settle for a second round pick but that enables them to move on.

Jimmy Garoppolo to New England for a third round pick
The Niners appear all set to shift Jimmy G and go in a different direction. If/when that happens, a return to New England feels inevitable.

The other trades explained

I have the Panthers trading up from #8 to #3 with Miami to select a quarterback. Reports are suggesting a level of impatience from owner David Tepper to find a legit franchise quarterback. If a deal for Deshaun Watson, undoubtedly Plan A, doesn’t materialise, I suspect the Panthers will trade up to select a player in the top-five.

I’ve got the 49ers trading up three spots from #12 to #9 in a deal with Denver. The Cowboys are facing a somewhat uncertain quarterback situation and we shouldn’t assume that Dak Prescott will make a full recovery before the season starts, or that the Cowboys will commit to him at the cost of a second franchise tag. Therefore in this mock I have the Niners jumping ahead of the Cowboys to select a QB.

The final first round trade involves Arizona moving up six spots from #16 to #10 in order to draft a dynamic mismatch tight end.

The mock

First you’ll see the projection in list form followed by blurbs on each pick. Then I’ll have some notes specifically on the Seahawks.

This is a very unique draft due to the lack of a combine and the number of players who opted out of the 2020 season. There’s also a somewhat bleak outlook currently for quarterbacks in the 2022 class. Therefore, we might see teams go after the top QB’s early, plus the ‘blue-chip’ players, followed by a lot of unpredictable decisions.

First round

#1 Jacksonville — Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
#2 New York Jets — Zach Wilson (QB, BYU)
#3 Carolina (v/MIA) — Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
#4 Atlanta — Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)
#5 Cincinnati — Penei Sewell (T, Oregon)
#6 Philadelphia — Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
#7 Detroit — Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)
#8 Miami (v/CAR) — DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
#9 San Francisco (v/DEN) — Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
#10 Arizona (v/DAL) — Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
#11 New York Giants — Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
#12 Denver (v/SF) — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Notre Dame)
#13 LA Chargers — Rashawn Slater (G, Northwestern)
#14 Minnesota — Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)
#15 New England — Daviyon Nixon (DT, Iowa)
#16 Dallas (v/ARI) — Azeez Ojulari (DE, Georgia)
#17 Las Vegas — Jaelen Phillips (DE, Miami)
#18 Miami — Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
#19 Washington — Walker Little (T, Stanford)
#20 Chicago — Elijah Moore (WR, Ole Miss)
#21 Indianapolis — Kwity Paye (DE, Michigan)
#22 Tennessee — Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
#23 New York Jets (v/SEA) — Gregory Rousseau (DE, Miami)
#24 Pittsburgh — Javonte Williams (RB, North Carolina)
#25 Jacksonville (v/LAR) — Levi Onwuzurike (DT, Washington)
#26 Cleveland — Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State)
#27 Baltimore — Josh Myers (C, Ohio State)
#28 New Orleans — Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
#29 Green Bay — Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech)
#30 Buffalo — Alijah Vera-Tucker (G, USC)
#31 Kansas City — Ronnie Perkins (DE, Oklahoma)
#32 Tampa Bay — Christian Darrisaw (T, Virginia Tech)

Second round

#33 Jacksonville — Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)
#34 New York Jets — Pat Freiermuth (TE, Penn State)
#35 Atlanta — Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
#36 Miami (v/HOU) — Jalen Mayfield (T, Michigan)
#37 Philadelphia — Elijah Molden (CB, Washington)
#38 Cincinnati — Patrick Surtain II (CB, Alabama)
#39 Miami (v/CAR) — Talanoa Hufanga (S, USC)
#40 Denver — Kelvin Joseph (CB, Kentucky)
#41 Detroit — Alim McNeill (DT, NC State)
#42 New York Giants — Carlos Basham (DE, Wake Forest)
#43 San Francisco — Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
#44 Dallas — Christian Barmore (DT, Alabama)
#45 Jacksonville (v/MIN) — Joe Tryon (DE, Washington)
#46 New England — Brevin Jordan (TE, Miami)
#47 LA Chargers — Wyatt Davis (G, Ohio State)
#48 Las Vegas — D’Wayne Eskridge (WR, Western Michigan)
#49 Arizona — Trey Smith (G, Tennessee)
#50 Miami — Landon Dickerson (C, Alabama)
#51 Washington — Davis Mills (QB, Stanford)
#52 New York Jets (v/CHI) — Nick Bolton (LB, Missouri)
#53 Tennessee — Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
#54 Indianapolis — D’Ante Smith (T, ECU)
#55 Pittsburgh — Tylan Wallace (WR, Oklahoma State)
#56 Seattle — Alex Leatherwood (T/G, Alabama)
#57 LA Rams — Joseph Ossai (LB, Texas)
#58 Baltimore — Teven Jenkins (T, Oklahoma State)
#59 Cleveland — Trevon Moerihg (S, TCU)
#60 New Orleans — Andre Cisco (S, Syracuse)
#61 Green Bay — Tommy Togiai (DT, Ohio State)
#62 Buffalo — Jevon Holland (S, Oregon)
#63 Tampa Bay — Kellen Mond (QB, Texas A&M)
#64 Kansas City — Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma)

#1 Jacksonville — Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
Urban Meyer took this job because of big Trev.

#2 New York Jets — Zach Wilson (QB, BYU)
He has a lot of talent and teams will spend the coming weeks working out his mental makeup while trying to determine just how much upside he has.

#3 Carolina (v/MIA) — Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
Fields has major talent but also some flaws. He needs to avoid dropping his eyes under pressure and locking on to primary targets. Yet the question for Carolina and others is this — if you can’t get Deshaun Watson out of Houston, how does Fields compare to the quarterbacks available next year? And that’s when he and others in this class will become quite appealing.

#4 Atlanta — Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)
I’ve mocked Lance in round two and while he definitely has the physical tools he doesn’t have many starts and he hasn’t played tough opponents. I think he’s in the Jordan Love range personally. However, Atlanta can afford to draft and develop for a year or two with Matt Ryan under center. They might feel like this is the ideal opportunity to stash a quarterback for the long term and thus be willing to select a raw talent who needs time.

#5 Cincinnati — Penei Sewell (T, Oregon)
He might be the best player in this draft after Trevor Lawrence. This would be an ideal pick for the Bengals who need to protect Joe Burrow when he returns from injury.

#6 Philadelphia — Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
The best receiver in the draft and he would be a terrific fit for the target-starved Eagles offense.


#7 Detroit — Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)
There are some character question marks surrounding Parsons but you can easily make the case that he’s the best defensive player in the draft.

#8 Miami (v/CAR) — DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
This works out nicely for the Dolphins as they reunite Tua with a target he already has plenty of chemistry with.

#9 San Francisco (v/DEN) — Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
I’ve spent a lot of time watching Jones over the last couple of weeks. He might well have physical limitations — but I can see him fitting like a glove in the Shanahan system. What did he do well for Alabama? Kept the offense on schedule and got the ball out quickly. Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins thrived under Shanahan and I think there’s a chance they’ll think Jones can too.

#10 Arizona (v/DAL) — Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
The Cardinals have a duty to provide Kyler Murray with as many weapons as possible and putting Pitts on the field with Nuk Hopkins is a terrifying thought.

#11 New York Giants — Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
Supremely fast, dynamic and appears to have excellent character. Waddle has star qualities and could become Daniel Jones’ key to success.


#12 Denver (v/SF) — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Notre Dame)

Highly explosive and dynamic — a true first round talent. He can jump a 39-inch vertical and a 10-3 broad jump.

#13 LA Chargers — Rashawn Slater (G, Northwestern)
I’m not as sold on Slater as some others. I think he’ll make a good guard. The Chargers need help across their O-line so could try him at multiple spots.

#14 Minnesota — Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)
This year, more than any other, you’ve just got to go and get talent. Moore is explosive, fast and unlike anything else in the NFL. He ran a 4.33 forty, a 4.01 short shuttle and jumped a 43 inch vertical at SPARQ.

#15 New England — Daviyon Nixon (DT, Iowa)
A TFL machine in 2020 (13.5). Nixon creates havoc from the interior and is a true playmaking defensive tackle.

#16 Dallas (v/ARI) — Azeez Ojulari (DE, Georgia)
The Bowl game against Cincinnati was a statement performance. It was Ojulari saying ‘I belong at the top of your pass rushing boards’.

#17 Las Vegas — Jaelen Phillips (DE, Miami)
The Raiders need pass rushers. Teams will need to investigate the concussion issues that led to his departure from UCLA. However — Phillips was once a major recruiting superstar and has natural talent to get after the quarterback. Few players have his upside in this draft.

#18 Miami — Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
Gliding and cultured runner who somehow combines power and finesse. Very talented and productive. Won’t fit every scheme as his cuts are sometimes laboured. Ran a 4.16 short shuttle at SPARQ.

#19 Washington — Walker Little (T, Stanford)
Perfectly sized, great agility and a very capable tackle prospect who will go earlier than people think. Had the best SPARQ score among O-liners in 2017 (107.25).

#20 Chicago — Elijah Moore (WR, Ole Miss)
Strong for his size and capable of going up to get the football — Moore is an ideal slot receiver and would provide a much-needed weapon for Carson Wentz if he ends up in Chicago.

#21 Indianapolis — Kwity Paye (DE, Michigan)
The Colts love to draft for upside and physical traits. Paye’s tape is inconsistent and he has limited games to study but physically he was expected to test superbly.

#22 Tennessee — Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
He only ran a 5.03 forty at SPARQ but when you put on the tape he jumps off the screen. He looks like a first rounder.

#23 New York Jets (v/SEA) — Gregory Rousseau (DE, Miami)
Has the size and the length but he was really raw in Miami and sitting out 2020 hasn’t helped his stock.

#24 Pittsburgh — Javonte Williams (RB, North Carolina)
He had a record 0.48 broken tackles per rush attempt in 2020, registered 7.0 YPC and 4.59 yards-after-contact per carry. He’s exceptional.

#25 Jacksonville (v/LAR) — Levi Onwuzurike (DT, Washington)
The Jaguars badly need to address their D-line and while Onwuzurike isn’t going to be able to deliver a Calais Campbell-type impact, they miss that kind of player working the interior.


#26 Cleveland — Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State)

Wow-athlete at linebacker with tremendous character and intensity. Ran a 4.18 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 37 inch vertical.


#27 Baltimore — Josh Myers (C, Ohio State)
Incredibly consistent, tough and very athletic center with a long career ahead of him. He ran a 4.49 short shuttle at 310lbs.

#28 New Orleans — Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
I think the cornerbacks might last a bit then start coming off the board quickly. He looks like a Greek God of a cornerback. Incredibly put together. Dominated Auburn’s Seth Williams. If he played every game like that he’d be a top-10 lock.

#29 Green Bay — Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech)
He has talent but you don’t see much effort in run-support, his tackling isn’t great and he’s not a physical player. He’s a player you want to like a lot but there’s enough to make you pause for thought.

#30 Buffalo — Alijah Vera-Tucker (G, USC)
He could be tried at tackle or guard. He doesn’t have great physical qualities but he was smooth, technically sound and he gets into the right position with ease.

#31 Kansas City — Ronnie Perkins (DE, Oklahoma)
Mean, nasty, quick edge rusher who is only scratching the surface of his potential. Could go earlier.

#32 Tampa Bay — Christian Darrisaw (T, Virginia Tech)
Rising offensive lineman but whenever I’ve watched him there’s just something that makes me think right tackle, not left.

#33 Jacksonville — Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)
He’s a big favourite in the media but here’s something to consider — he ran a 4.69 at SPARQ at 177lbs. Was it just a bad run? He did jump a 41 inch vertical.

#34 New York Jets — Pat Freiermuth (TE, Penn State)
The ‘Baby Gronk’ nickname is warranted. Superb body control and size.

#35 Atlanta — Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
I think he had a ‘meh’ 2020 season but his profile is incredible. Jumped a 37 inch vertical at SPARQ and ran a 4.43.

#36 Miami (v/HOU) — Jalen Mayfield (T, Michigan)
Definitely a right tackle but could help finish off Miami’s O-line rebuild with a pick I have them making at #50.

#37 Philadelphia — Elijah Molden (CB, Washington)
Outstanding player who will only last this long based on his size and straight-line speed. Ran a 3.93 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 37 inch vertical.

#38 Cincinnati — Patrick Surtain II (CB, Alabama)
He had a few lapses in 2020 and don’t forget he only ran a 4.57 at SPARQ.


#39 Miami (v/CAR) — Talanoa Hufanga (S, USC)
The Dolphins acquire this pick after trading down from #8. Hufanga is a player who deserves much more attention and he’s that aggressive, downfield, attacking safety the Belichick tree coaches love.


#40 Denver — Kelvin Joseph (CB, Kentucky)
Well sized and talented. Jumped a 36 inch vertical at SPARQ. Transferred from LSU.

#41 Detroit — Alim McNeill (DT, NC State)
Massive, highly athletic prospect who will shock people when he runs and does the agility testing. Ran a 4.27 short shuttle (!!!) at SPARQ.

#42 New York Giants — Carlos Basham (DE, Wake Forest)
When he flashes he really flashes. There’s also some average games on tape. No combine doesn’t help him because he’s a good athlete.

#43 San Francisco — Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
He might have to settle for a permanent role in the slot but Wade has talent and someone has to try and develop him. Five-star recruit.

#44 Dallas — Christian Barmore (DT, Alabama)
Turned it on late in the season but had a slow start. No doubt he can flash as a pass rusher in college but can he do it consistently at the next level?

#45 Jacksonville (v/MIN) — Joe Tryon (DE, Washington)
Sensational athlete and teams will look at his frame and the way he wins in multiple ways — speed, hand-use, power — and think this is a player we can work with.

#46 New England — Brevin Jordan (TE, Miami)
Ultra-dynamic pass-catching tight end who ran a sensational 4.21 short shuttle at 250lbs at SPARQ.


#47 LA Chargers — Wyatt Davis (G, Ohio State)

He could go much, much earlier than this. Highly talented but a pure guard and that could impact his stock.

#48 Las Vegas — D’Wayne Eskridge (WR, Western Michigan)
The Raiders are still the Raiders and they love freakish speed.

#49 Arizona — Trey Smith (G, Tennessee)
Had a hit and miss Senior Bowl for me but someone is going to want to take a chance on his physical upside.

#50 Miami — Landon Dickerson (C, Alabama)
A first round talent who lasts because of a long history of injuries at Florida State and Alabama.

#51 Washington — Davis Mills (QB, Stanford)

I’ve mocked him plenty of times in round one and I think it could happen. But 10 career starts create a question mark. He has the tools and the talent to succeed.

#52 New York Jets (v/CHI) — Nick Bolton (LB, Missouri)
Old-school linebacker who’ll step up and smack you in the face — but limited athleticism could mean he lasts deep into day two.

#53 Tennessee — Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
Bateman was prolific in 2019 but in the few games he played in 2020 he just looked off. He did the right thing pulling himself out.

#54 Indianapolis — D’Ante Smith (T, ECU)
He was superb at the Senior Bowl and whether he plays at tackle or guard he has the kind of potential teams crave on the O-line.

#55 Pittsburgh — Tylan Wallace (WR, Oklahoma State)
He’s really talented he just lacks truly dynamic speed. The Steelers always do a good job drafting receivers in round two.

#56 Seattle — Alex Leatherwood (T/G, Alabama)
I think he has to kick inside to guard. He struggled in 1v1’s at tackle at the Senior Bowl. However, he has years of experience at left tackle for Alabama and it’s something you could try to develop for the future. A 6-5, 312lbs offensive lineman with an 85 3/8 inch wingspan with a physical nature will surely appeal.

#57 LA Rams — Joseph Ossai (LB, Texas)
He could replace Leonard Floyd as a rush hybrid who can deliver pressure but also drop if needed.

#58 Baltimore — Teven Jenkins (T, Oklahoma State)
A big, tough, aggressive offensive tackle who strictly is limited to the right side. He could replace Orlando Brown, who is angling for a trade.

#59 Cleveland — Trevon Moehrig-Woodard (S, TCU)
A very talented safety who would come in and make a big impact for a secondary that needs help.


#60 New Orleans — 
Andre Cisco (S, Syracuse)
A dynamic athlete and playmaker who has a shot to be really good at the next level. Ran a 4.27 short shuttle at SPARQ, adding a 36 inch vertical.

#61 Green Bay — Tommy Togiai (DT, Ohio State)
Physically powerful with the occasional flash of dynamism as a pass rusher — Togiai is a really good player.

#62 Buffalo — Jevon Holland (S, Oregon)
Out of sight and out of mind — Holland sat out the 2020 season and isn’t generating much buzz.

#63 Tampa Bay — Kellen Mond (QB, Texas A&M)
Why not plan for life after Tom? Mond has the arm, he throws well under pressure and he’s talented. In a few years time we may wonder how he lasted as long as he did.

#64 Kansas City — Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma)
He’s great on combo-blocks, he plays with attitude but he has short arms, he fights to get his hand-placement right and he might just last a bit longer than some think.

Thoughts on the Seahawks

I put this mock together under the premise that they don’t make the kind of bold, calculated moves I think are necessary. They don’t shift resource from linebacker and safety to the O-line and they don’t get back into the top-50 with more draft picks.

In this projection they simply restructure a few contracts, free up cap space and do what they’ve done for a few years now — fill holes with cheap players. Personally I think this will simply lead to more of the same and by next year, if not sooner, we’ll be talking about Russell Wilson’s future in even starker terms than we are now. Pete Carroll has a duty to make this right with Wilson and that means making tougher decisions than I am representing in this mock.

I think in this situation they’re duty bound to go O-line early. I have them taking Alex Leatherwood at #56 but if he was off the board there were many alternative options. It’s a strong class for interior O-liners. Whether the best way to protect Wilson and take on Aaron Donald is with youth and experience is a question that should be asked but here we are. I’d prefer talent and experience up front personally.

Tag-and-trade scenario

I mentioned this in yesterday’s podcast (see below) and I wanted to flesh out the detail here.

The franchise tag number for a cornerback in 2021 is $15.3m. The highest paid corner is Jalen Ramsey, earning $20m a year.

I think it’s quite possible teams like the Jaguars and Jets, with a lot of cap room and a need at the position, would be willing to consider signing Shaquill Griffin to a deal worth around $15m a year. That’s pretty much market value for a decent starting corner with age on his side (he turns 26 in July).

If you don’t want to take a cornerback early, Griffin is a nice alternative.

If the Seahawks hear that he has a strong market before the new league year begins, I think they should consider tagging him with the objective of trading him. I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility you get a third round pick in return.

There’s really no downside. If nobody bites, just rescind the tag. If you can only get a day three pick, so be it. The chances are the Seahawks will sign free agents to fill holes on their roster, meaning they’re very unlikely to get a comp pick for Griffin in 2022. So you might as well get something for him.

This is also a way to add to your paltry number of picks in this draft.

In this projection, it could enable the Seahawks to add someone like Quinn Meinerz in round three, a receiver (it’s a good class) or a defensive lineman (there are several still remaining).

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New podcast: What happens next and a tag & trade proposal

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021