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Instant reaction: Seahawks thump Cardinals, move to 11-4

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

In what was dubbed the biggest regular season game in Cardinals history, they were given a spanking. An absolute spanking.

We have seen magic tonight by the Seattle Seahawks” — Cris Collinsworth

Penalties kept it close for a while — and several uncharacteristic misses by Steven Hauschka. In fact that’s pretty much the only negative tonight. How will Hauschka respond? Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby had a night like this once and it spiraled out of control. Is he the type to put it behind him quickly? Who knows. We’ve never needed to ask that question before given his success-rate in Seattle.

Apart from the missed field goals it was just a magnificent display from the NFL’s true top dogs. They’ve fought through the drama. They’re united. And they’re ready for January.

Final score: 35-6

— Russell Wilson was the ultimate playmaker on just an incredible night. He will be a $100m quarterback in the off-season and Seattle can celebrate that fact with gusto.

— Let’s all plead with the Seahawks front office — don’t cut Marshawn Lynch. Keep him. Pay him. Enjoy him. Enough said.

— The offensive line — minus Russell Okung and Max Unger — was superb. For the most part they kept Wilson clean (one sack conceded) and pushed around a formidable Cardinals D-line in the run game. Justin Britt had a much improved performance which is encouraging. In fact he was excellent on first viewing. Alvin Bailey just looked so comfortable on the left side in relief of Okung. They took Lemuel Jeanpierre out as a backup to the injured J.R. Sweezy but he wasn’t needed. Patrick Lewis who did start at center was unnoticeable — which means he played well. Anyone who doubts Tom Cable should always come back to this game to see what a brilliant coach he is. Remember, this is a Cardinals defense that has destroyed so many teams this year.

— You could list the penalty issue as a negative. But this is Seattle under Pete Carroll. They’ve always been penalized. The best teams just get more penalties for some reason. There were some real bonehead flags today (Michael Bennett’s back-to-back offsides) but it didn’t impact the game with the Seahawks dominating so much.

— Luke Willson has everything you want from a playmaking tight end — apart from consistent hands. Today he schooled Larry Foote. If the Seahawks can get him in mismatch situations like this he’ll make more plays. He’s a potential X-factor and a big play artist even if he isn’t Mr. Reliable and the orthodox reliable possession receiver with size they need (and want).

— We’ve talked about Michael Bennett a lot over the last few games. He is legitimately playing as well as any defensive lineman in the league not named J.J. Watt. Tonight he chewed up double teams to allow other linemen to run free. Arizona picked their poison and chose to try and stop Bennett but they couldn’t stop the Seahawks as a unit. He got a sack with three minutes to go and it was thoroughly deserved.

— Jordan Hill has five sacks in his last five games.

— The Seahawks had 596 total yards (a franchise record) compared to Arizona’s 216. The defense now leads the league in yardage and scoring. Only three teams have done that back-to-back in NFL history, including the ’85 Bears. This is a defense for the ages.

— Pete Carroll has lot one game in prime time since arriving in Seattle. One game in five seasons.

A victory against Shaun Hill and the Rams next week will secure the NFC West title and homefield advantage (unless Green Bay and Detroit tie). The Pete Carroll Seahawks are playing as well as they ever have. What a scary thought for the rest of the league.

Nate Orchard is underrated, could be a mid-round pick

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Utah’s Nate Orchard could be a nice option

When I watched Utah beat UCLA, one player stood out. Nate Orchard had four sacks in the game. He dominated from start to finish. But it wasn’t a surprise.

Brett Hundley has been sacked over 100 times at UCLA in just three years. The Bruins offensive line is a shambles. It’s any wonder Jim Mora hasn’t made a few ‘dirt bag’ references since moving to L.A. So watching a guy like Orchard fly around the field and make plays wasn’t a shock. I kind of chalked it down to a ‘right time, right place’ type of situation.

And then I watched the Oregon State game. It was no fluke. The guy can play.

He has 17.5 sacks on the season so far with a Bowl game to come. He’s about 6-2 and 250lbs — so he doesn’t have great length. And that’s going to be a problem for a lot of teams. He doesn’t have the size to be an every-down pure end in the 4-3. He might be pigeon-holed as an outside backer in the 3-4. But if he’s quick enough he might find a role in Seattle’s rotation.

It’ll be interesting to see what his wingspan is. You wouldn’t expect long arms at 6-2. He consistently flashes a nice get off and the ability to get off blocks. The way he disengages is top notch. While a guy like Shawn Oakman will linger on a block far too long, Orchard has a real ‘get off me’ mentality. That’s encouraging, particularly if the arm length is at least average. It’s more likely to translate.

His pad level is always spot on and he understands leverage and hand placement. Despite a lack of great size he’ll offer a real jolt to the body to stun a tackle. You can have all the speed in the world but when a pass rusher is converting to the pro’s he HAS to show this kind of ability. Defensive end is one of the toughest positions to project for the next level. Think of all the high-profile busts in recent years. Just because you’re a great athlete who wins with speed in college doesn’t mean it’ll translate when you take on better, tougher offensive linemen. You simply have to show you can get off a block with hand placement. It’s a necessity.

You also need to show you can convert speed to power. Orchard does that too. He’ll feign the outside rush and deliver a fantastic bull rush right into the body of an unbalanced tackle. There are times when he gets engulfed but that shouldn’t be a surprise at 250lbs. You’ll take that. He isn’t going to win every play, nobody should expect him to.

I’m not convinced he’ll be an explosive runner at the combine and that could hurt his chances of landing in Seattle. They are big on the 10-yard split. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin both ran explosive splits. But Orchard’s first step quickness is good enough to be a threat and he does round the edge nicely. In one rush against Oregon State he left the tackle for dead to fly around the edge and get to the QB. He can get stronger — add some muscle tone to his upper half and really improve his lower body power. I think that’d be the way to go given he probably isn’t going to be a 1.50 runner over ten yards.

For me he’d be a very solid mid-round selection. You have to temper expectations because of the size and the lack of brilliant athletic qualities. He doesn’t have the same athleticism as some of the other prospects who will go in the first — or necessarily the upside. But he’s technically superior and has the production. If he performed above expectations at the combine his stock could go through the roof, much like Marcus Smith this year. Don’t rule that out. If Seattle did want to add a little more depth to the edge rush, this is definitely a guy to monitor.

In the aftermath of the Avril extension, Seattle is possibly less likely to go DE early. The offense needs work — particularly if they lose Marshawn Lynch. But they’re likely to add a pass rusher at some stage. Orchard is an option. He’s also a team captain at Utah and he’s already married with a child. He’s a mature guy who will impress teams with his character.

Cliff Avril signs 4-year extension with Seahawks

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Seattle had two significant defensive free agents ready to hit the market in 2015. In the space of 24-hours, both were re-signed to long-term extensions.

Just a day after K.J. Wright committed his future to the Seahawks, Cliff Avril followed suit.

According to Ian Rapoport it’s a four-year deal worth $28m ($16m guaranteed). He’ll get around $7m per year. As Seahawks fans discussed how a possible $34m in cap space next year could keep the team together, John Schneider didn’t waste any time making sure that is the case.

It hasn’t been a great year statistically for Avril. He has 4.5 sacks. If he doesn’t get any more in the last two games it’ll be the worst total in his career. But here’s the thing — Seattle would need to replace him if he left. And that could be more costly than the $28m they just spent. DeMarcus Ware’s cap hit in Denver is nearly $10m this year. It simply wasn’t worth letting Avril join another team on a fair deal, just to overspend to keep him.

Avril was possibly the true Super Bowl MVP last season — harassing Peyton Manning constantly. His bull rush forced Colin Kaepernick into ‘the pick’. His pressure in the playoffs drove Seattle to the title game. He is a key player.

It’s likely they’ll try and add another pass rusher at some stage, possibly via the draft. It’s a deep class of pass rushers. They’ll have some options.

But the last thing they wanted was to go into 2015 with Michael Bennett as their only proven quality defensive end. Losing Avril was a total non-starter. And now they’ll keep him without any drama.

We said it yesterday and it’s still true today. The Seahawks don’t need to splurge in free agency. They were 13-3 last year and 10-4 so far this term. Seattle isn’t used to this kind of success. Keeping this group together and drafting well is the key. Not losing players like Golden Tate chasing a Percy Harvin.

It’ll be interesting to see if any other moves are close. Byron Maxwell for example?

Seahawks sign K.J. Wright to a four-year extension

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

K.J. Wright deserves a new contract. A fourth round pick in 2011, he’s one of Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s greatest decisions. Very few players in this league can fly around the field at 246lbs like Wright. He’s a vital piece in what is becoming the best trio of linebackers in the NFL.

Find me another group that compares. Bobby Wagner gets a lot of plaudits — and rightly so. As Carroll said recently, he’s a 4.4 runner with cornerback speed playing middle linebacker. He’s a terrific blitzer and he dominates in the run game. Seattle needs Wagner — and he’ll almost certainly get a new contract too in the near future.

But don’t underestimate Wright and Bruce Irvin. It’s gone more or less unnoticed, but Irvin in particular has grown into one of the best defensive playmakers in the league. He has 5.5 sacks, a pick-six, multiple TFL’s and he sets the edge against the run. He’s quick enough to handle scrambling quarterbacks, he’s a pass rush threat and he can cover from time to time. He offers all the upside of Julian Peterson but he’s a lot more rounded for the position.

And then there’s Wright. The guy who shuts down athletic tight ends in the passing game. The man who destroyed New Orleans’ screen game in two meetings last season. Mr. Consistent ever since he entered the league. A player versatile enough to play all three linebacker spots — and play them well too. He’s intelligent on the field. A winner. All-in.

No team in the league carries this much speed and power at linebacker. Nobody.

The thing is, you sense they can get even better. The light has switched on for Irvin this year. Wright’s level of performance has never dipped. This is just Wagner’s third season in the league. They had to keep this trio together. Had to. Wright’s extension is just the start.

There’s a reason teams are 0-8 after playing the Seahawks since October. It’s not because of the size up front. There’s no Vince Wilfork in there blowing up the run. There’s no J.J. Watt sapping the energy of the two starting tackles.

The sheer quickness and physicality of the linebackers, backed up nicely by Kam Chancellor at strong safety, is what teams fear the most. It has to be. It’s why opponents get beat up playing the Seahawks.

Whatever the details of this contract extension, it’ll be money well spent. Wagner and Russell Wilson will get their turn. Hopefully Byron Maxwell, J.R. Sweezy, Irvin and others will follow suit.

Within seconds of Tweeting about this news, a Jacksonville Jaguars fan responded to express his disappointment. Gus Bradley and the Jags wouldn’t have been the only suitor. This was a vital move to keep him off the market.

The Seahawks don’t need to splurge on outsiders with their cap space. The Percy Harvin trade showed that. They just need to keep the band together and draft well.

Seahawks with $33.8m cap room in 2015? Plus McShay’s mock

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

It’s been announced that free agency will begin at 4pm on March 10th. According to Overthecap.com the Seahawks could have a veritable bounty to spend.

A projection published today suggests Seattle could have as much as $33.8m in cap space for 2015. Only four teams — Oakland, Jacksonville, the Jets and Cleveland — have more available. In comparison, San Francisco are currently scheduled to be $10m OVER the cap. Ditto the Cardinals. St. Louis could have as little as $5m available.

Of course, teams will find ways to create space. The Rams could make a major saving by cutting injury prone Sam Bradford (or at least re-working his deal).

Likewise the Seahawks could create even more room if, as speculated, Marshawn Lynch leaves in the off-season. That would create another $7m.

It’s unlikely Seattle would use this money to go on a major splurge. The priority will be to re-sign Russell Wilson to a deal worth over $100m. Bobby Wagner stands to get a new contract. There’s probably enough room to keep K.J. Wright and potentially Byron Maxwell. J.R. Sweezy is also a candidate to receive a contract extension. Bruce Irvin, quietly, is having a sensational season. He played every defensive snap against San Francisco and has developed into an important playmaker. He too may require an extension soon. What about Cliff Avril?

It’s easy to neglect that the Seahawks have had three double-digit win seasons for the first time in franchise history. Even if they fail in their quest to repeat this year, Pete Carroll has created a juggernaut. Expensive outsider additions are not entirely necessary. This isn’t a closing window, set to slam shut in the next year or two. The Denver Broncos know Peyton Manning won’t last forever. Seattle has a young, talented core. Keeping the band together and rewarding your own is most important. The Percy Harvin trade is a valuable reminder.

There should still be enough room to make some choice additions. Whether it’s a much needed big target, an extra pass rusher or something else.

It’s worth pointing out the Broncos are scheduled to have $31m free themselves — so forget about Demaryius or Julius Thomas hitting the market. They have the cash to keep both and extend Von Miller’s contract. Tampa Bay’s possible $31m could make it harder to do a deal for Vincent Jackson at a fair price — especially if they pick first and select Marcus Mariota. The New York Jets having as much as $41.4m available could put them at the top of the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes.

Before it gets brought up — it’s incredibly unlikely Seattle will get anywhere near Suh. Gerald McCoy’s $95.2m deal with the Buccs is a classic benchmark. He’ll probably get more. And the Seahawks are only likely to spend that kind of money on Wilson.

With a bevvy of draft picks likely (multiple compensatory picks), they can fill in the gaps if they keep the roster together. It appears they’ll have the cap space to do it.

And on that note…

Todd McShay’s first mock draft

One of the great talking points over the next couple of months is going to be the stock of Todd Gurley. How is he recovering from knee surgery and a torn ACL? How will teams weigh up talent versus a serious injury and having to estimate whether he can play in 2015? Will there be any long term impact on his performance?

Gurley looked every bit a top-ten prospect during the season. On talent alone he’ll still go early. But if you’re a bad team with a losing record — or even an 8-8 team looking for an impact player — can you justify drafting a first round running back who might need to be redshirted in year one? Or at least managed carefully?

In McShay’s first mock he has Gurley dropping to the Seahawks at pick #29…

“The Seahawks need help along the offensive and defensive lines, and could also look to upgrade at the tight end position. But at this spot, Gurley (assuming Seattle’s doctors were comfortable with his recovery from his torn ACL) would provide high upside as a value pick. Scouts I’ve spoken to considered Gurley a potential top 10-to-20 pick prior to his injury, because of his combination of tremendous power and breakaway speed. Marshawn Lynch has only one year left on his contract after this season, and isn’t a lock to be on the roster for 2015. The closest NFL comparison I can come up with for Gurley is Lynch.”

I’m not totally sold on the Lynch comparison. Gurley is 230lbs. Lynch is 215lbs but plays like a 230lbs running back. That’s the difference. He has unnatural strength, a unique running style and an ability to break tackles that we just won’t see for a generation. He is a genuine freak of nature — a true beast. Gurley runs with power and authority — but you’d expect that for his size.

That’s not to say he isn’t unique in his own way. Lynch’s greatest talent is to play way above his size. Gurley is a true home-run hitter despite being so big. He can avoid tackles and pound it up the middle. He can also take it to the house any time he has the ball. In the season opener against Clemson he had a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown. He had another called back against Auburn. Speed, agility, shiftiness, acceleration — Gurley’s different because he moves so well at 230lbs.

Will the injury compromise that talent? It’s a question that’ll be asked by every front office when they check out Gurley’s medical pre-draft.

The Seahawks wouldn’t have any chance to get Gurley without this issue. They’re good enough to redshirt him — with or without Lynch — or wait to use him midway through his rookie year. It’d be a stroke of luck to find another generational talent as one in Lynch comes close to the end. Even if it comes with an element of risk.

Do the Seahawks need a new right tackle?

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Justin Britt has had a mixed rookie season at right tackle

Justin Britt is fourteen games into his NFL career. Some would argue it’s too early to judge his performance. He’s a rookie. He’s learning a new position and scheme. He’s also faced some of the top pass rushers in the league — whether it’s Denver’s Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware combo or the prolific blitz attack of the Arizona Cardinals. This has been the proverbial baptism of fire.

Inexperience could be used as a legitimate excuse. He could improve with time. Look at the way Jordan Hill has suddenly exploded onto the scene towards the back-end of his second season in Seattle. It’s taken Tharold Simon time to get healthy and have an impact. Golden Tate was a slow burner and even Kam Chancellor sat as a rookie to learn the ropes.

Britt hasn’t been afforded that luxury. The Seahawks needed a right tackle after losing Breno Giacomini. When they reached the final pick in the second round of the draft — they simply had to take one.

By pick #64, seven offensive tackles had been drafted. When the Indianapolis Colts took Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort at #59 (a possible Seahawks target), Seattle faced a dilemma. They didn’t have a third round pick — they coughed it up in the ill-fated Percy Harvin trade. They were next on the board at pick #108 at the top of round four. If they didn’t take Britt at #64, they were probably not going to come away with a guy they liked at right tackle.

Britt is a Tom Cable type of guy. No nonsense. Former wrestler. Tough as nails. The Seahawks have leaned on their offensive line coach for advice in the draft — he appeared to be instrumental in the decision to select James Carpenter and John Moffitt months after arriving in Seattle. They also signed one of his former Oakland players — Robert Gallery — to further bolster the line. They even allowed him to draft a defensive lineman, convert him to guard, and start him in the first game of his rookie season. J.R. Sweezy has since become a mainstay on the O-line.

It’d be easy to look at the acquired group (including Britt) with indifference. The results, however, speak volumes. Pete Carroll wants the best running game in the NFL and that’s what he has — with Cable pulling the strings. For all the complaints over pass protection, before week 15 Seattle ranked only four places below the celebrated Dallas Cowboys offensive line according to Football Outsiders. I suspect both Carroll and Cable are quite satisfied to have a highly ranked run-blocking unit, even if the pass-pro is distinctly average.

That’s part of the reason Britt was drafted in round two. I watched two Missouri games over the summer where he played the run superbly — but looked awkward in pass protection. He played at left tackle but looked far from a natural.

I doubt they planned on rolling out a finished article in 2014. Losing Zach Miller — perhaps the best blocking tight end in the league — hasn’t helped. His presence on the right side would’ve taken the pressure off Britt in his first year. Instead he’s had to get out there and take on the best. It hasn’t been pretty.

In Sunday’s win over San Francisco, Ahmad Brooks had him for dinner. On more than one occasion he had a free run to Russell Wilson. Britt didn’t even lay a finger on him. Giacomini was a brawler and far from perfect in pass protection but he usually did enough to buy his quarterback a bit of extra time. Britt has to develop that kind of effectiveness. He’s never going to be the natural pass blocker who kick-slides with ease and ushers the top DE’s out of danger. But he needs to be disruptive, get into the pads and at least buy Wilson a second or two.

Life won’t get any easier in the final two weeks of the regular season. A rematch with the Cardinals in Arizona — and then St. Louis’ all-star D-line. Ouch.

With every struggling performance you wonder how Seattle’s front office and coaching staff will assess this situation. Will they feel Britt can take the next step in year two? Can he grow just like J.R. Sweezy and others. Can he lock down the position for years to come?

Or is he better off moving inside — just as James Carpenter did after a tough rookie season — and trying his hand at guard?

If the Seahawks were willing to give up on the #25 overall pick at right tackle after one year, you better believe they’ll do the same with the #64 pick. Carpenter’s pending free agency status adds another dimension to this debate. If he walks they could let Britt battle with Alvin Bailey for the left guard spot. The other player, theoretically, could start at tackle. Or they could bring in a new body.

Should they decide to bring in a new tackle — what are the options?

It’s another good class for offensive linemen, even if there isn’t that sure-fire top-five pick heading the group. Depth is the key here — and that’s a good thing for the Seahawks. They’ll be picking in the 20’s or 30’s if they make the playoffs. And there’s every chance they’ll have the opportunity to get a solid player if they want to add another early pick to this unit.

La’el Collins (T/G, LSU) divides opinion. For me he needs to kick inside to guard at the next level — but he has a chance to turn into a perennial Pro-Bowler at that position. Could he operate at right tackle? Perhaps. But you’d be wasting a damn fine guard.

T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh) is the most intriguing tackle in the class. A converted defensive lineman, he’s looked terrific this year playing at right tackle. He’s mobile, athletic, loves to get to the second level. He has the potential to dominate in the run game. He could work his way into being the first or second tackle off the board.

Two of the bigger names — Cedric Oguehi (T, Texas A&M) and Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa) are a bit overrated. Ogbuehi in particular has struggled this year after moving to left tackle. Scherff might be better suited to guard — he’s another player with the potential to excel in the run game but is he good enough in pass protection?

It’s debatable whether Andrus Peat (T, Stanford) and Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame) will declare. If either does, they have a shot to be among the top-15 picks. Peat is a natural in pass-pro and the best pure left tackle eligible for this draft. Tyrus Thompson (T, Oklahoma), Corey Robinson (T, South Carolina) and Ty Sambrailo (T, Colorado State) could all be options too. The depth extends to Cameron Erving (T/C, Florida State), Chaz Green (T, Florida), Jake Fisher (T, Oregon) and Daryl Williams (T, Oklahoma).

Here’s the issue though. Is replacing a struggling rookie with another first-year player the answer? Spending a first round pick on a right tackle (Carpenter) didn’t provide a solution. Spending a second round pick on a right tackle (Britt) hasn’t paid off so far. Do you keep throwing picks at a non-premium position in the hope you finally strike it lucky?

And yes — it is a non-premium position. If Zach Miller returns in 2015, Britt will get the kind of help he currently desperately needs. The Seahawks have won a whole host of games in the last two years starting Michael Bowie and Britt. Their most productive starting right tackle under Carroll and Cable has been a 5th round pick signed off the Packers practice squad.

It would be unprecedented for a team to spend two first round picks and a second round pick within a five year span trying to get a long term starting right tackle.

If they’re going to sign another player, wouldn’t they be better off adding a competent veteran tackle to the roster? Playing it safe at a slightly greater cost? Doug Free could be a cap casualty in Dallas as they try to re-sign DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant. He has his critics in Dallas — but he is the kind of player who could become available.

Alternatively, there is one not insignificant reason to draft a first round tackle. Russell Okung will enter the final year of his rookie deal in 2015. His cap hit is just $7m — a relative bargain for a player of his ability. But what happens after 2015? He could be a difficult keep. On the one hand he made a Pro-Bowl in 2012 and is a highly respected member of the roster. A team leader and a consistent feature during the Carroll revolution. He’s also struggled to stay healthy and might generate serious money on the open market.

Is a first round left tackle necessary? More often than not, yes. Defenses are getting faster. The top, athletic O-liners go early. It’s why Carroll’s first pick in Seattle was a top-ten tackle.

Would they draft a player to initially feature at right tackle, providing security on the left side if Okung walks? Possibly.

Of course, there’s every chance time will be a healer with Justin Britt. And it’s also very possible the Seahawks re-sign Okung. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing either. Again — the Seahawks want the best run-blocking line in the NFL. They’ve set out to draft run blockers. They know they have a scrambling quarterback who can evade pressure — they want to be a scrambling team. Wilson is a difficult guy to block for and it should be no surprise that the top two pass-protecting lines in the NFL according to FO are Denver and New England. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are easier to block for and they both have a super-quick release.

Don’t underestimate consistency either. Keeping a line together is vital — more vital than endless high picks at the position hoping something eventually clicks.

The play of Britt didn’t cost Seattle in any of their four defeats. Let’s hear that perspective. There’s every chance he will improve in year two. But it’ll be interesting to see how they approach this situation in the off-season. Does he switch to guard? What do they do with Carpenter? And would they be prepared to spend yet another early pick trying to find a long term option at right tackle?

T.J. Clemmings vs Miami

Ty Sambrailo vs Boston College

Jake Fisher vs Washington

Brandon Scherff vs Maryland

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Niners again, move to 10-4

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

In the first half Seattle weren’t running the ball and the defense had a few issues getting off the field. It felt like each of Seattle’s previous four defeats.

In the second half Seattle ran the ball, dominated on defense and recorded a shut-out. It felt like each of Seattle’s previous three wins.

The whole season summed up in a single game. A slow start followed by a rampaging finish.

The 49ers have a right to feel aggrieved at a bad call on linebacker Nick Moody. His third down hit on Russell Wilson was completely fair. It put an extra four points on the board for Seattle and ended the scoring at 17-7. Did it decide the game? Of course not.

San Francisco could gripe if they’d actually managed to do anything in the second half. They struggled to defend the run, coughed up key plays on two crucial drives and their offense regressed back to the stalling mess we saw on Thanksgiving. Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times — it could’ve been more.

And with the season on the line Greg Roman and Jim Harbaugh decided to burn the clock with a series of short runs and completions. There was no urgency at all in San Francisco’s penultimate drive after the controversial touchdown. 14 plays for 55-yards and a whole lot of clock — all to concede possession on a fourth down run by the full back. It’s the kind of tepid offensive display that’ll provoke Trent Baalke’s daughter to return to Twitter.

In the first half the Niners threatened to cause the kind of unlikely fightback that Jim Harbaugh has been synonymous with since he left Stanford. It would’ve been easy to write them off last year after lousy to defeats to Seattle and Indianapolis. They always fought back. After two bad defeats to the Seahawks and Raiders — they showed a ton of character early on.

It might’ve been a different game without a cluster of key injuries. Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde were lost — as was Chris Borland. They already started the game without several key starters.

But Seattle’s defense is playing at such a high level right now — and as they got to grips with Kaepernick and the wrinkles in the run game, they took control.

It wasn’t a pretty game by any means. Yet how often have Pete Carroll’s Seahawks been aesthetically pleasing? It was never going to be a cake-walk. Not between these teams. Even in Seattle’s big wins against the Niners there’s been no coasting.

A win’s a win. Seattle has ten of them now.

Green Bay’s loss to Buffalo earlier means the Seahawks have to beat Ryan Lindley and Shaun Hill led teams to secure another #1 seed in the NFC and crucial homefield advantage. They’d also need the Cowboys to lose one more game. Dallas takes on Philadelphia tonight before meeting the Colts and Redskins.

Perhaps more importantly — they knocked out their closest rival today. Despite several comfortable wins against San Francisco — the 49ers remain Seattle’s most dangerous opponent. As a feared division rival, as a similarly built physical group with a great defense and elusive quarterback — they’re the team most likely to come to Century Link and pull it off. They nearly did it last season. San Francisco are out of the playoffs now at 7-7. That feels significant.

In other notes:

— Paul Richardson continues to grow into a legitimate threat for the Seahawks. He prospered at Colorado with initial speed to eat up a cushion, explosive breaks and smooth route running. We saw that today. He made a huge third down conversion prior to Lynch’s touchdown — adjusting to a late pass by Wilson. He later recorded his first career score — a redzone touchdown — on a fluid route over the middle collecting a Wilson strike. He is showing a ton of promise.

— Jordan Hill was a terrific player at Penn State. Every week he provided the kind of interior presence Seattle desperately needed prior to the 2013 season. It’s taken a while, but Penn State-Jordan Hill is now playing for the Seahawks. He had two sacks today and constantly unsettled Kaepernick. This is a huge boost for the Seahawks. He’s become one of Seattle’s most important players on defense. Kevin Williams deserves a mention too — he also recorded a sack.

— Justin Britt continues to struggle. He’s had a rough last few weeks, but overall he’s been a total downgrade on Breno Giacomini. It’s difficult to be overly harsh given he’s a rookie — but we really need to see some improvement over the next few weeks. He had two big penalties today — a hold and a clip. Of more pressing concern is the way he struggled to handle Ahmad Brooks — who at times had a free run to the quarterback. It was a surprise when the Seahawks took Britt in the second round. You have to wonder how they’ll assess his performance in the off-season. Can he grow and blossom into a solid right tackle? Does he have to kick inside to guard?

— The Seahawks were 8/14 on third downs, a big plus given the struggles here earlier in the season.

The curious case of Auburn’s Sammie Coates

Friday, December 12th, 2014

In our first 2015 mock draft yesterday, some of you asked why we had Seattle taking D’haquille ‘Duke’ Williams over his Auburn team mate Sammie Coates.

It’s a fair question. Coates is a tremendous athlete and a safe bet to be one of the combine’s winners in February (if he decides to turn pro as a redshirt junior). In Bruce Feldman’s annual ‘Freaks’ list, this year he had Coates at #1:

Asked about Coates’ 40-time, Russell (Ryan Russell, Auburn strength coach) said they use hand times (which are often faster than electronic times) and they clocked him eight times, dropped out the highest and lowest and said he was at 4.25. Coates’ vertical jump: 44 inches. He benches 405 pounds. Maybe even more impressively, Russell said, the wideout did three strict chin-up reps despite have three 45-pound plates strapped to a weight belt around his waist. “He’s just a stud,” said Russell.

You just have to look at the guy to realize he’s as advertised. Coates is ripped. The extreme speed shows when he’s running downfield. At 6-2 and 201lbs he’s big enough. Simply put, he’s an outstanding athlete.

The type Seattle loves.

Ever since the 2012 draft they’ve focused on big-time, difference making athleticism. Bruce Irvin in the first round, followed by Bobby Wagner. In 2013 they traded the farm for Percy Harvin and followed it up by drafting Christine Michael in round two. This year they went after Paul Richardson with their top pick. You can see a theme emerging.

A lot of people wondered why we didn’t put a defensive tackle with the Seahawks yesterday. I don’t think they’d do it to be honest. I think they’ll continue to look for special athletic potential. Kind of like a modified Al Davis view of the game. Go after the stud’s in the early rounds — get your meat and potatoes type’s later on.

If SPARQ is such a big factor — ask yourself this. How many defensive tackles are great SPARQ athletes? Very few. The ones who are go early (see: Aaron Donald). Too early for a competitor. I think they’ll continue to look for the run stoppers, the interior defensive (and offensive) linemen later in the draft — mid-to-late rounds and UDFA. I don’t think they’re going to change, even if the Irvin pick provided mix results and the Michael selection is yet to pay off.

Coates the athlete is practically already wearing College Navy and Wolf Grey. But is Coates the football player worthy of consideration? That’s the big question.

We identified several big-time athletes at the wide receiver position prior to the 2014 draft. Guys like Cody Latimer, Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant. None landed in Seattle. We can speculate why — was Latimer the type of character to mesh in an intense locker room? Perhaps not. Moncrief’s play jumped between frustrating and fine. He underwhelmed at Ole Miss despite such incredible potential. Bryant was a potential head-case (albeit a talented potential head-case).

There are no character questions with Coates — and this is a good example as to why:

But what about his play on the field? Well, it’s underwhelming. Could be better.

For starters he’s earned a reputation for making big plays. Against Alabama in the Iron Bowl he had 206 yards from just five receptions. He had similar games against LSU (four catches, 144 yards) and Ole Miss (five catches, 122 yards). In those three games he recorded 472 yards and four touchdowns. In the other eight games he played this year he totaled just 245 yards and zero touchdowns. His 2014 season basically came down to three big games. The rest was a whole lot of nothing.

Well, ‘a whole lot of nothing’ might be a positive review. He dropped passes, couldn’t get open and was at times a non-factor. It’s telling that one of the more creative offenses in college football couldn’t find a way to get him more involved. Why was that? He didn’t have a single rushing attempt from a reverse or trick play. He was pretty much a guy who ran downfield and tried to make a big gain. And not much more.

You have to qualify that by pointing out he started the year struggling with a knee injury and didn’t get healthy until a few weeks into the season. He missed the second game against San Jose State.

I want to focus on his ability as a downfield receiver — because I think it’s his greatest strength and perhaps also his biggest problem.

When Coates has made his big plays this year, they’ve all been a little strange. For example, against LSU (see the video at the top of the piece) he made a difficult catch between two defenders for a big gain. And yet he barely left the ground. The pass was underthrown and he had time to adjust to the ball, track it in the air and go get it. Instead he took the catch into his body as he fell to the turf. Ideally you see him go up and get the football at its highest point. Let’s see the great vertical leap and some catching technique. We see none of that. You can’t criticize too much because he made the play — but it was almost inexplicable how it wasn’t defended.

Later in the game he made another big play over the middle — again he has time to track the ball, adjust and make the catch. And again it’s taken at chest-height despite the presence of two defenders. I’m not sure I’ve seen two catches like this completed in the same game. You want to throw something at the screen because his catching technique is so poor — and yet there he is making huge downfield catches for major yardage. How do you complain about that?

The more you watch the tape, the more you see plays like this. Look at this catch against Texas A&M. Almost exactly the same. He collects the ball falling backwards into double coverage:

It’s almost like his signature move. “Here’s Coates — it looks like he’s going for the ‘stands still and catches it falling backwards between two defenders move’ — HE IS! HE GOT IT! SAMMIE COATES WINS THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP!”

In the Iron Bowl he made yet another of these plays right before half time to set up a last gasp field goal. It’s quite incredible:

Maybe he goes to the NFL and just continues to make plays this way? Who knows? I suspect, however, that it’s one of the first things he’ll need to work on. If you can track the football in the air, if you have leverage over the defensive back — just go up and get the football. Don’t wait for it to come to you. We know he can do it:

Because Coates’ biggest strength is also a major area for improvement, it’s hard to judge him as a prospect. There’s no tape of him working in the short passing game. There’s no tape of him making explosive special teams plays. There’s no tape of him running after the catch or being utilized via screens. As good an athlete as he is with so much potential — he might just be a great athlete. He might not be a good football player.

That’s the great conundrum here. If you’re able to get him some plays as a rookie and find a role — then work with him over time — you could be left with one of the more exciting players in the league. Or you could be left with a SPARQ champion who is no use at all.

The Seahawks love their difference making athletes — but they’re not daft. They don’t just look at a list of times and measurements. Bruce Irvin was the best pass rusher in college football during the 2010 season at West Virginia. He followed it up with another good year in 2011. Christine Michael had plenty of production before falling out with the coaches at Texas A&M. Paul Richardson had 1343 yards at Colorado last year and ten touchdowns.

Coates’ best production came last season — a 902-yard, seven touchdown campaign. This included four +100-yard outings but also two games with less than 20-yards (vs Ole Miss & Tennessee). He ticks a lot of boxes in terms of raw potential and athleticism. But is he a good enough football player to warrant early consideration?

That’s the question we’ll be asking if he does indeed declare for the draft.

The first 2015 mock draft: 10th December

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

D’haquille Williams — possible first round pick

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon)
#2 Tennessee Titans — Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska)
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
#4 New York Jets — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
#5 Oakland Raiders — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
#6 Washington Redskins — Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
#7 New York Giants — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
#8 Carolina Panthers — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
#9 Chicago Bears — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
#10 New Orleans Saints — La’el Collins (G, LSU)
#11 Minnesota Vikings — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
#12 St. Louis Rams — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
#13 Houston Texans — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
#14 Cleveland Browns — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
#15 San Francisco 49ers — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
#16 Miami Dolphins — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
#17 Cleveland Browns — Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
#19 Baltimore Ravens — Tevin Coleman (RB, Indiana)
#20 Dallas Cowboys — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
#21 Atlanta Falcons — Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
#23 San Diego Chargers — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
#24 Cincinnati Bengals — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
#25 Detroit Lions — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
#26 Indianapolis Colts — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
#27 Philadelphia Eagles — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
#28 Seattle Seahawks — D’haquille Williams (WR, Auburn)
#29 Green Bay Packers — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
#30 New England Patriots — Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
#31 Arizona Cardinals — T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama)
#32 Denver Broncos — Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)

Thoughts on pick #28

I’m not in love with the idea of giving the Seahawks another wide out. If you count Percy Harvin in 2013, it’d be a hat-trick of first picks spent on the position. That’s a lot. But is it a good enough reason to pass on a particular player if it’s still a need?

Seattle will make Russell Wilson the latest $100m quarterback in the next few months. With that new contract will come extra responsibility, especially if Marshawn Lynch is gone. The Seahawks will remain a run-focused offense, of course they will. But they’ll need to pick up the slack if they lose an almost irreplaceable player like Lynch. The passing game will have to improve. The best way for it to improve is to give Wilson better weapons.

This pick wouldn’t be about adding a pure #1 receiver, throwing the ball more and making one player the focal point of the attack. It’d be about adding a physical possession receiver who can win in the red zone, dominate the seam and make plays on the red line. The Seahawks have clearly lacked that bigger target and they know it. We all saw the reports claiming they asked about Vincent Jackson, Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron and Coby Fleener. It wasn’t a coincidence.

In the last six months they’vr lost Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. They added Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. Jermaine Kearse is a RFA and will almost certainly stick around in 2015 — but after that, who knows? Lockette will be 29 next year. There’s room for one more.

Ideally they pick up the phone, work out a deal with Tampa Bay and acquire Vincent Jackson. He’d need to re-work his contract. You wouldn’t want to give up too much for a 32-year-old receiver. But he’d offer that proven veteran impact to the offense allowing you to focus on other needs in the draft. Who knows how likely that is? If the Buccs are breaking in a new quarterback (eg Marcus Mariota) they might be best served keeping hold of Jackson for another year.

So what does D’haquille Williams bring to the table? For starters, there’s this:

He’s an alpha male — something I guess you need to be to compete with the LOB every day. Against Alabama in the Iron Bowl — the biggest game of his career — he’s dancing in between plays. He’s loose. He’s confident. He had the ear of his JUCO team. Based on the available information — he at least looks like he could live in Seattle’s locker room. That was something Pete Carroll and John Schneider made a point of stressing after the last draft.

Despite recently being compared to Alshon Jeffrey and Mike Evans, he doesn’t possess the same kind of size. He’s listed at 6-2 and 216lbs. He looks like he could comfortably play at 220lbs — matching the size of Dez Bryant. It’s not all about height. Williams has great length. You can see in the first video below — he’ll go up and extend to get the football in tight coverage. Against Alabama he made one incredible grab leaping between two defenders (including Landon Collins) to snatch the ball out of the air. He has big hands and has shown to be a reliable target.

He’s not a blazer but has enough speed to be effective. In the Iron Bowl he ran straight past one Alabama defensive back on an overthrown deep shot in the first quarter. On another play he lined up in the slot, ate up the cushion against the corner and exploded into a crossing route creating immediate separation to make the completion. He’s not going to be a 4.4 runner at the combine. That’s not why you’d draft him. He was a 5-star recruit leaving the JUCO ranks and was coveted by all the big SEC schools.

There are some issues too. His catching technique lurches from textbook to less than ideal. There are times when he’ll let a pass get into his body. On a couple of plays against Alabama he got his body into a poor position to make a possible touchdown grab. There’s not much evidence of any real YAC quality and the Seahawks this year have really gone after the short pass and screen game. With just a years experience in the SEC is he polished enough to have an impact? Or can his natural ability as a receiver get him through a possible tough rookie campaign? Let’s not forget — several rookies have excelled in the NFL this season. Kelvin Benjamin only had two seasons at Florida State (30 catches, 495 yards in 2012 — 54 catches, 1011 yards in 2013).

There’s no clear indication yet on whether he’ll turn pro. Much will depend on what he hears between now and decision time. There’s every chance he won’t declare. But if he hears first round talk, it’ll be hard to ignore. It always is.

This is one of the toughest first mock drafts I’ve had to do from a Seahawks perspective. It would’ve been easy to manipulate the board to put a running back or defensive end at #28. I want to keep challenging different scenarios with these mocks and this week — this is just how it played out.

Take a look at Williams’ JUCO tape below, plus his first game for Auburn against Arkansas:

Insider info: Bob McGinn’s latest draft nuggets

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon could be an early first round pick

I’m going to do my first 2015 mock draft tomorrow. No trades. Just a projection now that we’re at the end of the college football regular season. I’m in two minds whether to do the weekly mocks this year. It might be a case of doing a mock after the Senior Bowl, combine, and then going weekly in April.

For now I’d recommend checking out Bob McGinn’s latest piece for the Milwaukee Sentinel. Every year McGinn gathers information from scouts and front office staff to get an inside view on the top prospects. For the most part it’s a really valuable source. Here’s a review of what’s said with a few of my own opinions along the way.

Quarterbacks

McGinn’s guys heap praise on Marcus Mariota (who will surely be the #1 pick next year) but voice concerns about Jameis Winston. “I would be deathly scared to have him” says one unnamed scout. Even when you put aside all the concerns off the field, Winston has not taken a positive step forward in 2014. He’s constantly been the cause and solution to FSU’s problems — starting slowly, making wild mistakes and then leading the fight back.  The scout adds: “He’s so freaking inaccurate to start games. He’s off the mark more than he’s on. He has arm strength and a good delivery. He’s a nightmare.”

I’m unlikely to include Winston in my first round projection tomorrow. The red flags in terms of performance and character are just too big. On December 1st Tony Pauline reported the following:

“…Talk with scouts or next level decision makers who watch the film in its entirety rather than the highlights and they’ll tell you Winston’s penchant for turning the ball over (is) very disconcerting. Talent? Lots of it. Upside? An enormous amount. But also an equal amount of downside risk which is dangerous for any signal caller, especially one who seems to struggle controlling himself off the field.”

Running backs

The scouts McGinn spoke to raved about Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. Before his ACL injury Gurley looked like a potential top-five pick and Gordon a possible mid-first rounder. The same sentiment is shared here. On Gurley, one scout states: “He’s special. I don’t think he’ll ever run before (the draft) but you don’t need him to because he’s so fast on film. Not a lot of wear and tear on him because they rotate so many backs.” And on Gordon: “He’s a bigger version of Jamaal Charles. He’ll run 4.42. He’s really good.”

It’s worth noting another source told McGinn he saw Gordon as a second rounder. The thing is, it only takes one team to fall in love and he’s gone. I’m absolutely positive someone is going to feel like they need Melvin Gordon in the middle of the first round. Ian Rapoport has suggested the Seahawks have interest in him — but it seems like a major stretch to expect he’ll last until the end of round one.

There’s no indication on Gurley’s stock post-injury. It’s interesting though that he was originally being graded in the top five. There is absolutely no way the Seahawks would’ve had a shot at him without the ACL tear. If they get an opportunity now — with or without Marshawn Lynch — they have to consider it. He’s just too good.

Interestingly McGinn’s sources also tout Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon as a “definite” first rounder. He’s a former 5-star recruit and as a freshman looked like the next big thing. Yeldon never really delivered on that promise. In the SEC title game against Missouri he had 14 carries compared to Derrick Henry’s 20. Henry finished with 141 yards compared to Yeldon’s 47.

Four other running backs were graded in the #25-60 range — raising the possibility of four going in the first round. That’s how good this class is. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman was named first, perhaps coincidentally. He seems the most likely to work into round one and could be as good as Gurley and Gordon.

Wide receiver/Tight end

According the the scouts here, receiver and offensive line are the two best areas in the 2015 draft. Unsurprisingly Alabama’s Amari Cooper is expected to go in the top ten. “Excellent hands. Very explosive and fast. One of the better route runners to come out in a long, long time. Very skilled. Had big-time production.” Kevin White and Devante Parker are the next two players mentioned, again, somewhat predictably.

Aurburn’s D’haquille ‘Duke’ Williams and Sammie Coates are listed as possible first rounders. We talked about both briefly yesterday. Williams is the kind of player Seattle currently lacks. He’s not incredibly tall (around 6-2) but he has the size (220lbs) to box out defenders, win physical match-ups in the red zone and compete for the ball in the air. He has genuine #1 receiver potential. This is his first year at Auburn after converting from the JUCO ranks. It’s unclear whether he intends to declare. One of McGinn’s guys compared him to Alshon Jeffrey and Mike Evans. He’s not as big, but he’d be used in the same way.

Coates is a different player — incredibly athletic. One of the best athletes in college football. He’s all muscle and lightning fast. One scout tells McGinn, “He’s definitely going to (run) 4.3″ but with a caveat, “does he have consistently strong hands?” The answer, sadly, is no. Coates is a big play specialist. In the Iron Bowl against Alabama made numerous chunk plays down field. He’s a true speed receiver. In the right offense he could be an explosive weapon. But he needs to improve his consistency.

Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong also gets a mention as a possible first rounder. For me he’s just such an underwhelming player and is more likely to go in the middle rounds. Here’s Tony Pauline’s take:

“Many are concerned with his lack of speed, quickness and the struggle he’ll have separating at the next level. Several area scouts have stamped Strong as a third rounder based off the film.”

As for the tight ends — Michigan’s Devin Funchess doesn’t get a terrible review. “He’s not unlike Jared Cook, who’s with the Rams… Pretty talented kid. Will he be your split-out tight end-H-back or a bigger wideout? I lean more toward the mismatch at tight end. He’s going to be kind of a hybrid player.” I’d say he’s one to watch for Seattle based on his size and upside — but he’s such a frustrating player to watch. Too many of these big hybrid-type players have entered the draft recently and not delivered. Funchess looks like a guy who needs to be pushed. He announced his decision to declare for the draft today.

Defensive line

The scouts speak highly of Washington’s Danny Shelton, insisting he’s the kind of prospect who will go in round one: “True nose tackle… When there’s a rare nose tackle like that, they go (high).” I’m still not sold on Shelton going as early as the first. Several other true nose tackles have entered the draft in recent years, looked like possible first rounders and faded away. He isn’t the second coming of Dontari Poe in terms of athleticism. He has nine sacks but seven came against Eastern Washington, Hawaii and Georgia State in the first four weeks of the season. The Senior Bowl will be big for Shelton.

McGinn’s sources confirm lofty expectations for Randy Gregory (Nebraska), Leonard Williams (USC), Eddie Goldman (FSU), Vic Beasley (Clemson) Dante Fowler Jr (Florida), Shane Ray (Missouri) and Bud Dupree (Kentucky). They add a few other names to the first round mix — Mario Edwards (FSU) and Jarran Reed (Alabama). We’ve been banging the drum for Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips — he’s described as an early second rounder. I suspect he could slip into the first for the same reasons Danny Shelton possibly could. Phillips really is a nose tackle with rare athletic qualities.

On Kentucky’s Dupree — one of my favorite players in this class — one scout says: “He can be a physical player but he also can be an athlete… Has played both up and down. As he’s gotten better the defense has gotten better. Great kid. All the intangible stuff.” For me he could go in the top ten.

Baylor’s Shawn Oakman — who gives off a ‘looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane’ vibe — comes in for some criticism: “Looks like he’s going to be whoop (expletive) and he just isn’t… Looks like a pro but he’s got a lot of rawness to his game.” Size is both a positive and a negative for Oakman. He carries 280lbs better than any player in football, in part due to a 6-8 frame. But he’s not a sudden player who moves with the freedom of a 6-4 rusher. He’s kind of awkward. Even with a strong get-off he doesn’t really explode as you’d expect. He has all the length in the world but he’s a little bit stiff.

Offensive line

I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to go after an offensive lineman early in 2015. They’ve already spent a top ten pick on a left tackle, a first round pick on a left guard, a second round pick on a right tackle and the center is a second rounder from the previous regime. They also used a third rounder on the now-retired John Moffitt. Even if James Carpenter walks as a free agent, does anyone really expect Seattle to go big on a guard? Have we not seen enough from Alvin Bailey to believe he can take over that role if necessary?

Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) is named as the top tackle but with an asterisk: “He’s soft… Never practices.” A more pressing concern for me would be the high number of sacks Ogbuehi has conceded since switching to left tackle in 2014. Does he have to move back to the right side as a pro? Does anyone really want to draft a “soft” tackle early?

I’ve felt for a while La’el Collins (LSU) and Brandon Scherff (Iowa) are better suited at guard — a view backed up here by McGinn’s sources. “Collins is a lot like Scherff… He was a guard early in his career.” Andrus Peat is touted as the first tackle likely to be taken if he declares, but Tony Pauline recently reported he was expected to stay at Stanford. There’s no doubt in my mind that Peart is the best prospect in terms of pass protection. And that’s what you want from a possible franchise left tackle.

Two other favorites — T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh) and Cameron Erving (FSU) are listed as possible first rounders. Since Erving switched to center he’s been nearly unstoppable.

Secondary

Overall it looks like a mediocre class. We might not see a first round cornerback — and Alabama’s Landon Collins might be the only DB to go in the top-32 altogether. McGinn’s scouts have a similar take — although there is an interesting update on Washington’s Marcus Peters: “He tried to strangle a coach on the sidelines… Then they let him back on the team and he did it all over again. Try selling that to your head coach.” On Peters, Tony Pauline recently reported:

“The issues which led to his dismissal from the Washington football program are well documented but several area scouts say it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Louisville’s Gerod Holliman has 14 interceptions in 2014, but that isn’t enough to gain any praise from McGinn’s scouts. “He needs to go back to school… He’s horrible. He can’t make a tackle to save his life. He’s got pretty good instincts but he’s not that athletic.”

Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu entered the year with high expectations, but he struggled. There’s no respite here: “He’d be much better playing in the slot.. Good tackler, good blitzer, around the football. Little stiff. Probably not great top-end speed.” Slot receivers are valuable commodities these days. Look at Sunday’s game in Philadelphia — Seattle put their #2 corner in the slot and Tharold Simon started outside. For that reason Ekpre-Olomu could still hold some value for the right team.

According to McGinn’s sources, Mississippi State’s Will Redmond could be in the first round mix: “I’d say late first or second round… He will be more of an off corner. I think he will run in the 4.3s.” Redmond is 6-0 and 182lbs.