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National Championship: open thread

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Draft related thoughts post-Lions game

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

The Seahawks showed they can run the ball successfully yesterday — with this O-line and these running backs.

Whatever the reason — the opponent, some schematic tweaks, greater commitment to run — this was their identity reborn. Re-established.

Calais Campbell, working for the NFL Network post-game, stated:

Seattle’s unbeatable when they get the run game going because their play action is unstoppable.”

One performance doesn’t make everything right. It does offer pause for thought though. Is it a one-off, or have they turned a corner?

This is a young offensive line, crafted for the future. Was last night a glimpse into that future? Maybe, maybe not. The challenge next week is to prove this isn’t a one-week-wonder.

Can they buy some faith as a unit?

It’s likely the Seahawks will keep adding to the O-line regardless — but the extent is open to change. Another collapse against Atlanta and perhaps they’ll feel obliged to spend free agent dollars on some proven, veteran replacements? Finish the season like they did against Detroit and they can probably justify adding extra competition via the draft and saving their cap resources for other positions (eg D-line).

At running back it feels inevitable they will add at least one more body in the off-season (if only to replace the spot vacated by Christine Michael). Thomas Rawls, infectious as he is during press conferences and a joy to listen to and root for, is arguably his own worst enemy. His penchant for physicality despite a modest frame has led to injuries.

He has Marshawn Lynch’s mindset, toughness and running style — but perhaps not his ability to absorb punishment.

When he plays like he did against Detroit — it’s clear he has an important role. It might be that his workload needs constant management. Yet when he’s on it — he can be spectacular and dynamic and everything they need. A tone setter.

C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins could be enough as a supporting cast — but do you want to risk the same problem happening again? Especially with the recent injury history of Rawls and Prosise?

Elijah Hood opting to turn pro after all was a potentially crucial piece of news this week. Slated to go somewhere in the middle rounds, Hood matches the type of running back Seattle has drafted in recent years in terms of physical profile (as highlighted in this piece I wrote for Field Gulls in November).

Hood isn’t necessarily going to come in and be a superstar — but he isn’t going to cost you an ultra high draft pick either. So unless you’re determined to go big at the position either with a veteran move or an early round prospect — he makes sense as an explosive, cost-effective option for this team.

The other good thing about the performance last night is it reminds you how talented and balanced Seattle’s roster is overall. They have needs — but who doesn’t? If they can run the ball, the defense will benefit. Everything connects.

And instead of needing to contemplate major overhauls and restarts, you’re looking at a whole range of different possibilities:

— Can they use their free agent money to go after a big fish D-liner such as Calais Campbell?

— Can they consider doubling down on the D-line, with a free agent splash and a first round pick given the extensive depth in that area in this class?

— Can they consider spending a high pick on a 6-4, 245lbs weapon (David Njoku) who could be set to run in the 4.4’s and in High School jumped 2.09 metres in the high jump — #1 among his peers during that particular indoor track season.

— Can they consider adding to the secondary with a high pick, something they haven’t done since Earl Thomas in 2010?

The above suggestions play into the hands of the draft class overall. There aren’t many good offensive tackles slated to go in the first two rounds. There’s better depth in the middle rounds — and that’s likely to be the same at running back. This is a draft class for DB’s and DE’s — with some freaky athletes mixed in at other positions.

It’s not worth overreacting to one game and assuming everything is fixed with the running game. Yet the Seahawks showed what they’re capable of. Let’s see if they can repeat the success in Atlanta next week and maybe change the complexion of the off-season in the process.

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Lions, head to Atlanta

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

As enjoyable as that was, is it wrong to ask where this brand of football has been for the last few weeks?

The Seahawks committed to running the ball, overpowered Detroit and battered them into submission. This was classic Pete Carroll football.

This is what this team was built to do.

Admittedly it would’ve been tougher to repeat this against Calais Campbell and Aaron Donald — but it showed the Seahawks are capable of this type of offensive performance. Russell Wilson was back to being a point guard, the O-line used their size and explosive qualities to create huge running lanes. The defense benefitted from the ball control offense.

If they can build on this into next week, this could be a dangerous team after all.

Seattle dominated in every key facet. They were 9/16 on third downs (56%) compared to Detroit’s 2/11 (18%). They had 387 yards of offense compared to 231. The Seahawks gave up just 49 rushing yards but managed 177 of their own.

This is how you win in the playoffs.

The 26-6 score didn’t flatter Seattle — and they limited Detroit in a way Green Bay and Dallas (their previous two opponents) could not. The Packers and Cowboys conceded 24 and 21 points respectively against the Lions. Detroit didn’t get a sniff of the end zone in this one, barely reaching Seattle’s 35-yard-line.

It’d be quicker to list the players who only played a decent game. Everyone, collectively, had an impact. I’ll mention a few names but you could run through the whole team:

— Thomas Rawls showed his incredible talent. His big challenge is to do it again next week and stay healthy.

— Kam Chancellor was quietly exceptional again both in coverage and his play recognition to impact the LOS.

— Frank Clark is quickly developing into one of the more underrated players in the league. This was a ferocious performance of splash play magic on a night he was needed.

— DeShawn Shead had his best game in a few weeks, with only a dropped easy interception blotting his copybook.

— Mark Glowinski had arguably the best performance of his short career and he was ably supported by the rest of the line, including what felt like another strong outing by Garry Gilliam.

— Jeron Johnson had a spectacular night on special teams.

I wanted to save Paul Richardson for the end. This Tweet says it all:

And let’s hear some credit too for the offensive staff. This was a well crafted and executed offensive gameplan.

If there was a downside it was Steven Hauschka’s latest missed PAT. That’s seven for the season now, apparently a NFL record.

Next week in Atlanta will be a very different contest. The Falcons have a better offense and they have momentum going into the post-season unlike the Lions. They are thoroughly dynamic — finding creative ways to feature their running backs and of course Julio Jones.

The Seahawks will need to continue this level of performance and then some to have any chance against an opponent they only just beat in the regular season at home.

That said, Atlanta’s defense has given up some points this year. Just look at their home scores:

Tampa Bay 31-24 Atlanta
Carolina 33-48 Atlanta
San Diego 33-30 Atlanta
Green Bay 32-33 Atlanta
Arizona 19-38 Atlanta
Kansas City 29-28 Atlanta
San Francisco 13-41 Atlanta
New Orleans 32-38 Atlanta

That’s 27.75 points per game they’ve conceded at home and a 5-3 record that includes a one-point victory over the Packers.

You can see how potent they are on offense (35 points per game) but they also lost to the Buccs, Chargers and Chiefs in their own backyard.

It feels like the game will come down to Seattle’s defense being able to have some kind of control, the offense not starting poorly as it did against Arizona, Green Bay and Tampa Bay and avoiding first half mistakes. Keeping it close early, establishing the run. Similar ingredients to tonight — while acknowledging the Falcons are going to get their plays and points on offense over the course of 60 minutes.

Special teams and turnovers could be key. It’s a while since Seattle had a big return in the kicking game. The defense hasn’t had a single interception since Earl Thomas broke his leg against the Panthers in week 13.

The Seahawks will certainly be helped on offense if C.J. Prosise returns, as Pete Carroll has suggested is possible.

By the way, someone was watching the game closely tonight:

NFL Playoffs open thread: Seahawks in wildcard

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Here’s an open thread for your predictions and thoughts on the two games today: Oakland @ Houston and Detroit @ Seattle.

A two round mock draft compared with Tony Pauline’s

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Below you’ll find an updated two-round mock draft. One thing we like to do every year is look at other high profile projections and assess the options available to Seattle.

Today we’ll look at Tony Pauline’s first 2017 mock.

Rob’s projection

Round One

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
#3 Chicago — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#4 Jacksonville — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#5 Tennessee — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#6 New York Jets — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#7 San Diego — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#8 Carolina — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#9 Cincinnati — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
#10 Buffalo — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#11 New Orleans — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#12 Cleveland (via Philadelphia) — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#13 Arizona — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#14 Indianapolis — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
#15 Philadelphia (via Minnesota) — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
#16 Baltimore — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
#17 Washington — Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
#18 Tennessee — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#19 Tampa Bay — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
#20 Denver — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#21 Detroit — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Miami — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
#23 New York Giants — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
#24 Oakland — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#25 Houston — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
#26 Seattle — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
#27 Green Bay — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#28 Pittsburgh — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#29 Atlanta — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
#30 Kansas City — Deshone Kizer (QB, Notre Dame)
#31 Dallas — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
#32 New England — Chidobe Awuzie (CB, Colorado)

Round two

33. Cleveland — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
34. San Francisco — Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
35. Jacksonville — Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
36. Chicago — Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
37. Los Angeles — Antonio Garcia (T, Troy)
38. San Diego — Malik McDowell (DT, Michigan State)
39. New York Jets — Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
40. Carolina — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
41. Cincinnati — Carl Lawson (EDGE, Auburn)
42. New Orleans — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
43. Philadelphia — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
44. Buffalo — Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
45. Arizona — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
46. Indianapolis — Raekwon McMillan (LB, Ohio State)
47. Baltimore — Dan Feeney (G, Indiana)
48. Minnesota — D’Onta Foreman (RB, Texas)
49. Washington — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
50. Tampa Bay — JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, USC)
51. Denver — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
52. Cleveland — Brad Kaaya (QB, Miami)
53. Detroit — Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
54. Miami — Raekwon McMillan (LB, Ohio State)
55. New York Giants — Cordrea Tankersley (CB, Clemson)
56. Oakland — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
57. Houston — Elijah Qualls (DT, Washington)
58. Seattle — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
59. Green Bay — Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)
60. Pittsburgh — Ryan Anderson (LB, Alabama)
61. Atlanta — Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)
62. Kansas City — Curtis Samuel (WR, Ohio State)
63. Dallas — Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
64. New England — Marcus Maye (S, Florida)

(Note — we’ll come back to this in a minute. I know you’re going to want an explanation for Seattle’s first round pick)

Now click here to go and check out Tony Pauline’s mock draft at his new site Draft Analyst. Tony is without doubt the #1 draft insider, the undisputed best in the business, and updates his new website daily with the best info you’ll find on the internet. It’s also worth noting he’s been extremely accurate with his info on the Seahawks in recent years.

I like to compare mock drafts because sometimes if I’m high on a player, I tend to count them out too easily for the Seahawks. The players available after pick #20 in Tony’s projection that were off the board in mine are as follows:

Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)

This highlights what an intriguing draft class this is going to be. There are plenty of options there. If they want to be aggressive in adding to the O-line and running game, they have an opportunity to do that. They’d probably feel quite comfortable moving down. But look at the defensive talent on the board: Jamal Adams, Takk McKinley, Charles Harris, Demarcus Walker, Taco Charlton, Budda Baker, Zach Cunningham, Quincy Wilson, Adoree’ Jackson. Nice.

Pauline’s mock also highlights how unlikely it is Garett Bolles will be available to the Seahawks. We spent most of the college football season mocking him to Seattle, while acknowledging he would eventually gain national attention and move up the board.

Bolles is a top-15 talent for sure and could easily land in the top ten. He’s too good to last into the bottom third of the first round.

Whether Seattle picks at #21 or #32, there’s a good chance they’ll be looking at a heavy defensive board. That doesn’t mean they won’t or can’t select an offensive player. There will be offensive lineman they might consider, running backs (possibly) and maybe even a wild card like a receiver or tight end (see below). But the defensive depth in this draft is outstanding.

So what about that Seahawks first round pick in my own mock? David Njoku, Miami.

I would urge people not to read too much into it. We’re at that pre-combine, pre-Senior Bowl stage. Knowledge and numbers are sadly lacking. Let’s see the O-line class, D-line class. Let’s get the info we need to have better discussions about what they might do. Let’s get into free agency and see how aggressive they are to fill needs.

Until then I’m going to start running through different options and creating different talking points. Because… why not?

Clearly tight end is not a big need. There’s enough hand-wringing about the use of one athletic 6-7 monster on this roster already. Adding a second might cause Twitter to explode (that might not be such a bad thing).

Please consider this though — the Seahawks don’t draft average athletes. They shoot for major, titanic sized upside. And if they are able to make some moves in free agency, considering a 6-4, 245lbs target who reportedly runs in the 4.4’s isn’t totally unrealistic.

Njoku received a second round grade from the draft committee. If the Seahawks have the #26 overall pick, they’ll likely be drafting a player with a second round grade.

So no — a tight end in round one doesn’t come close to addressing Seattle’s big needs. But it’s January 5th. Free agency hasn’t started. The combine invites haven’t even been sent out. And Njoku is an absolute beast.

Stanford’s Solomon Thomas is going in the top-15

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Solomon Thomas declared for the draft today. Don’t expect him to be available for the Seahawks.

Thomas took part in the 2013 Nike Sparq Combine and look at the results:

Height: 6-3
Weight: 261lbs
Forty: 4.95s
Short shuttle: 4.25s
Powerball: 44
Vertical: 36.7 inches
SPARQ: 121.77

Only the following players had a better SPARQ score in the 2013 event:

Curtis Samuel (WR, Ohio State) — 126.78
Speedy Noil (WR, Texas A&M) — 153.51
Ed Paris (CB, LSU) — 130.8
Christian Miller (LB, Alabama) — 124.17
Terry McLaurin (WR, Ohio State) — 141.96
Trey Marshall (CB, Florida State) — 126.99
Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC) — 122.77
Elijiah Hood (RB, North Carolina) — 133.47
Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia) — 143.91
Shaun Hamilton (LB, Alabama) — 123.84
Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia) — 129.75
Tony Brown (CB, Alabama) — 136.2
Braxton Berrios (WR, Miami) — 131.37
Dillon Bates (LB, Tennessee) — 126.69
Joey Alfieri (LB, Stanford) — 131.28
Kavin Alexander (CB, Arkansas State) — 123.78

Notice the lack of defensive linemen on that list? Of those taking part in the nationwide Nike combines, Thomas was by far the most athletic D-liner. His SPARQ number is superior to the following:

Jamal Adams (S, LSU) — 117.63
Budda Baker (S, Washington) — 110.94
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee) — 109.92
Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State) — 110.64
Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU) — 120.72
Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon) — 121.17
Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) — 115.83
Deshone Kizer (QB, Notre Dame) — 74.88
Joe Mixon (RB, Oklahoma) — 105.33
Cam Robinson (T, Alabama) — 97.5
Travis Rudolph (WR, Florida State) — 107.01
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, USC) — 94.35
Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida) — 93.69
DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson) — 96.93
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida) — 97.65

His time in the short shuttle (4.25 seconds) would’ve been the fourth best time at the 2016 NFL combine for defensive linemen. Only Alex McCalister (4.00), Joey Bosa (4.21) and Shaq Lawson (4.21) ran faster than a 4.25.

Thomas’ vertical jump of 36.7 inches would’ve come second only to Dadi Nicolas’ 41 inch effort. The second best effort was Emmanuel Ogbah’s 35.5 inches.

The powerball is arguably a greater test of translatable strength compared to the bench press. Thomas’ score of 44 was only beaten at the 2013 Nike combines by Dante Booker Jr. (45.5).

The only think stopping him reaching the freakish SPARQ score of +130 is an average forty yard dash of 4.95 seconds. It’s worth noting that Joey Bosa only ran a 4.85 and Robert Nkemdiche a 4.87. Thomas ran this time at a lighter 261lbs. He’s currently listed at 273lbs but would ideally get into the 4.8’s after specific pre-combine speed training.

It’s not even that important really. Ultimately his 10-yard split time is the thing to keep an eye on.

This is a very intriguing pre-college physical profile and there’s every chance he’s more athletic now after a few years at Stanford.

Thomas took over the Sun Bowl against North Carolina with a statement performance. He lived in the backfield, winning with quickness off the edge, power working the interior and creating several splash plays. He had the play of the game — crashing into the backfield on a two-point attempt with UNC trying to tie with seconds remaining.

On this evidence he’s a top-15 lock and the top ten isn’t unrealistic either.

He lines up at DT a lot and moves around. In one sack against Notre Dame he engages the right guard and then uses the center/DT battling to his right almost as a shield to loop around and get to Deshone Kizer. It’s a creative way to get to the QB — highlighting his game awareness and not just his physicality.

Notre Dame often doubled teamed him in that game. He drew two false start flags on the same drive.

This is Thomas at his best working the interior:

That said, you do occasionally find plays like this:

It’s hard to imagine Alamaba’s Jonathan Allen toiling with a tiny running back sent in to help out an overmatched O-liner. In fairness the running back does a good job here and really helps out the lineman — but Thomas needs to throw him to one side.

When he plays with the fire and attitude we saw against North Carolina he was virtually unstoppable. Playing with that level of intensity snap-by-snap is crucial to deliver on his massive potential. Let’s see that nasty edge every week. If he maintains that spark — he can be a special player at the next level.

Tuesday notes: Free agency & turning pro

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

We’ve talked recently about Seattle’e estimated $37m in cap space for 2017. There is an opportunity, for the first time in a few years, for the Seahawks to add a significant contributor from another team.

That said, here are some points that are worth considering:

1. With the cap rising, other teams also have more to spend

Seattle’s estimated cap space for 2017 puts them 20th only in the NFL per spotrac. So 19 other teams will have more to spend. And while it might be difficult for the Cleveland Browns at #1 ($108m in cap space) to attract free agents, here are some of the other teams with major money available:

#1 Cleveland ($108m)
#2 San Francisco ($87m)
#3 Tampa Bay ($84m)
#4 Tennessee ($74m)
#5 New England ($72m)
#6 Washington ($67m)
#7 Jacksonville ($67m)
#8 Carolina ($63m)
#9 Chicago ($63m)
#10 Indianapolis ($60m)

Teams like San Francisco could be aggressive in free agency as they try and rejuvenate the roster and avoid a repeat of 2-14. Jacksonville were big spenders a year ago. Contenders like New England and Carolina could make a splash — while teams like Washington, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Indianapolis will feel they can take a step forward with a strong off-season.

Only New England can compare to Seattle in terms of track record and an opportunity to win a Super Bowl — but players will realise that the likes of Carolina and Tampa Bay aren’t a million miles away. If it becomes a battle of finance, the Seahawks might get priced out.

2. Teams have room to retain the big names

If the Bengals wish to keep Kevin Zeitler, they have $47m to spend. If the Cardinals really like Calais Campbell, they have $39m to spend. If the Panthers want to retain Kawann Short, they have $63m to spend.

In the case of Zeitler and Short, the franchise tag is very much in play. A franchise tag at defensive tackle in 2016 was worth $13.6m. Something similar in 2017 would be a bargain for Short considering Mo Wilkerson’s average salary is $17.2m a year.

The Bengals, a notoriously thrifty organisation, might be less willing to pay a $13-14m O-line tender for Zeitler — but with the highest paid guard in the NFL (Kelechi Osemele) earning $11.7m a year and those just below getting around $10m, they have a nice benchmark to begin negotiations.

3. Who could be available?

Calais Campbell and Arizona will be an interesting case. This year his cap hit was $15.25m and he earned $14.75m in 2015 and $11.25m in 2014. He’s a similar age to Michael Bennett with a similar reputation — and it doesn’t appear Bennett will touch those types of numbers on his new contract.

Will Campbell appreciate the situation and work on a reduced pay extension to stay with Arizona? Possibly. He might also wish to see if he can continue to earn around $14-15m on the open market, considering the way D-line salaries have ballooned in recent years.

That doesn’t mean he’d get that type of money as a free agent — but if it gets that far, teams will have the opportunity to lure him away from Arizona even if it’s for $10-12m instead of $14-15m. With the way Campbell played in 2016 — he’s worth every penny of the salary he received this year.

Bruce Arians stated in his end of season press conference they will franchise tag Chandler Jones if they can’t agree a contract extension. That will be costly.

The Ravens might make a business decision on right tackle Ricky Wagner. They only have $19m to spend in 2017 and will likely prioritise defensive tackle Brandon Williams. It’s possible Williams eats up a large portion of that $19m — making it likely Wagner reaches free agency.

The Kansas City Chiefs have a bit of a cap problem. They currently have around $4m to spend in 2017. That will rise when they cut backup quarterback Nick Foles to save $10.75m. Cutting injury plagued Jamaal Charles saves them a further $7m.

That would create enough room to sign Eric Berry to a contract extension. They would have to make further cuts to try and retain defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

4. As the cap rises, so will contracts

Remember a year ago when every fan base was discussing the possibility of adding Olivier Vernon? He was considered a value option. He had 7.5 sacks in 2015, had 6.5 the year before. Maybe you could get him on a Cliff Avril type deal for a couple of seasons?

Vernon eventually agreed a contract with the Giants worth $17m a year.

Kelechi Osemele’s big contract in Oakland showed this wasn’t just a D-line craze. Teams have more money to spend than ever with the cap increasing rapidly every year. It’ll be interesting to see if the market steadies in 2017 or continues to boom. Who’d bet against another big pay rise for those available? And will that price out the Seahawks at the top end of the market?

5. What could be an alternative for Seattle?

Veteran trades can eliminate the need to negotiate a contract. The Seahawks dealt for Jimmy Graham knowing what his salary was for the next three years. They did sign a contract extension with Percy Harvin — but he was towards the end of his rookie deal.

We’ve seen this team be creative before. Would the Niners be willing to allow Joe Staley to move on as rumoured a few weeks ago? His deal is worth $11m in 2017 but drops to $7.7m in 2018 and 2019. If the Panthers draft one of Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook with the #8 overall pick — would they consider dealing Jonathan Stewart? His cap hit is $8.25m in 2017 but drops to $2.5m in 2018.

The Seahawks don’t have a ton of draft capital to spend but Over The Cap is estimating they’ll receive compensatory picks in rounds three and five. For the first time in 2017, teams will be able to trade compensatory picks. Would they gave up the third rounder for a veteran?

Elsewhere…

Several big name prospects declared for the draft in the last 24 hours including:

Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma)
John Ross (WR, Washington)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Elijah Qualls (DT, Washington)
Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
T.J. Watt (LB, Wisconsin)
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)

By the time you’ve read this there’ll be others to add to the list. It’s that time of year, with only the National Championship game left to play in the college season.

Two players to keep an eye on during the draft process are David Sharpe (T, Florida) and David Njoku (TE, Miami). Sharpe has quite an interesting frame and played well at times this year. We highlighted him at the start of the season as someone who could rise amid a poor overall offensive tackle class. With so little depth at the position this year, Sharpe has a chance to really bolster his stock with a good combine.

Njoku meanwhile is an absolute freak. Until his decision I didn’t know he was intending to turn pro. He’s a big time athlete at 6-4 and 245lbs and could be a winner at the combine. This highlights video will give you a flavour of what he’s capable of:

The Seahawks might not be in the market for another tight end having drafted Nick Vannett in 2016 and with Jimmy Graham still under contract. They could also try and re-sign Luke Willson. Yet Njoku looks destined to have an impact at the next level and could be the next big ‘move’ TE. He might even get some first round love by the end of the draft process.

One final name to monitor is Bradley Chubb at NC State. Earlier today I watched Louisville’s blow out victory against NC State from a few weeks ago. Despite the one-sided scoreline Chubb did as good a job as anyone corralling Lamar Jackson in the open field and had a sack working the interior rush. He’s the cousin of Nick Chubb — and we know he’s a special athlete.

Chubb’s 21.5 TFL’s in 2016 is second all time at NC State — only beaten by Mario Williams’ final year before becoming the #1 pick in 2006. At 6-4 and 275lbs — he has inside/out rusher potential but also experience playing linebacker.

In a loaded year for defensive ends and EDGE rushers, Chubb might provide some value.

2017 NFL draft order set

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

With the top-20 of the draft settled… here’s an updated mock draft (also accounts for Malik Hooker and John Ross declaring today)…

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
#3 Chicago — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#4 Jacksonville — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#5 Tennessee — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#6 New York Jets — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#7 San Diego — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#8 Carolina — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
#9 Cincinnati — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#10 Buffalo — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#11 New Orleans — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#12 Cleveland (via Philadelphia) — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#13 Arizona — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#14 Indianapolis — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
#15 Philadelphia (via Minnesota) — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
#16 Baltimore — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
#17 Washington — Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
#18 Tennessee — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#19 Tampa Bay — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
#20 Denver — John Ross (WR, Washington)

Next five (order not set)

#21 Detroit — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Miami — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#23 New York Giants — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
#24 Oakland — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
#25 Houston — Budda Baker (S, Washington)

Finally a quick note on the Seahawks, this piece by Mike Sando ranks the playoff teams after consulting with a variety of anonymous NFL types. Seattle comes in tied seventh. One source highlights:

“Seattle’s run game is shaky, the quarterback is beat up, the offensive line is poor and the defense hasn’t been able to pitch shutouts without Earl Thomas. They have been exposed. Earl was the eraser for a lot of things on the defensive side. You have ‘Sherm’ [Richard Sherman] and [Bobby] Wagner and K.J. Wright as the main guys, but it is not the same defense, even at home.”

Missing Earl Thomas has been significant and could be one of the things addressed this off-season (better depth at safety). It’s perhaps unlikely the Seahawks will take a safety with their first pick given their collection of needs — but it does lend credence to the feeling they might target someone like Shalom Luani earlier than most are currently projecting.

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Niners, claim #3 seed

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

The Seahawks started the day competing for the #2 seed in the NFC, they finished the day clinging on to the #3 seed.

Last weeks loss to Arizona cost Seattle a first round bye and an easier potential route through the playoffs. The best case scenario now is they’ll win at home in the Wildcard before heading to a rested Atlanta.

At times against lowly San Francisco, simply winning next weekend looked like a tall order.

Despite playing a 2-13 opponent with a miserable run defense — the Seahawks again struggled to establish a running game. The defense had a slow start — with two ‘hot knife through butter’ scoring drives bookended by costly 49er fumbles. Special teams had another rough outing with a sixth blocked PAT of the season and a wild snap that led to a safety.

It was hoped this was going to be a comfortable victory, building momentum going into the playoffs.

And just as things started to head that way with a nine-point advantage in the fourth quarter, Pete Carroll pulled several starters and suddenly it was game on again after a quick 49er touchdown.

It felt like a strange decision at the time considering the game was far from won. Being #3 instead of #4 isn’t insignificant. Let’s say the Seahawks do find some form in the post season and win next week before defeating Atlanta. They’re a Dallas loss away from hosting the NFC Championship game.

Carroll could argue that’s not a concern of his — keeping Russell Wilson et al healthy is the priority. It’s a fair point. Yet had the Seahawks lost to the 2-13 Niners, flopped to 9-6-1 and dropped to the #4 seed — the negativity to follow would’ve been significant. The second guessing extreme. The questions asked pointed.

It would’ve led to a week of avoidable drama.

Nevertheless, Trevone Boykin actually did well in relief. So did several others to finish the game off on offense. It’s a good job too — because they were a punt away from quite possibly losing the game.

What about some positives?

The defense — and especially the front seven — eventually did a good job establishing order and creating pressure. Bobby Wagner in particular was spectacular, as was Frank Clark and Michael Bennett. Russell Wilson was efficient and Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham had some nice plays.

An ankle injury to Nolan Frese might mean the Seahawks go and find a replacement long snapper. That could provoke a call to the guy who did the job competently with minimal drama for years — Clint Gresham.

For the second week in a row Alex Collins looked like Seattle’s best running back. It’s unclear why it took so long to get him involved in the game.

There’s not much else to say about an instantly forgettable seventh straight win against a former heated rival. We know what the Seahawks are now. They’re a talented roster for sure — with the players capable of launching a run.

Yet the common traits of a Super Bowl Champion are the ability to play well defensively, run the ball and be healthier than some of the other contenders. The Seahawks are capable of great defense but they’re inconsistent. They don’t have a threatening running game. They are missing key players like Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett — and Russell Wilson certainly isn’t 100% either.

The way they’ve started the last three games has to be a concern too. Against a high-octane offense (and that’s what they’ll be facing the rest of the way) there’s a real threat we’ll see a repeat of the Green Bay debacle if they start as poorly as they have against LA, Arizona and San Francisco.

The hope has to be that they can find a spark now that every week is a potential season-ender. This is still the only team to beat New England with Tom Brady at quarterback this season. We’ve seen the heights they’re capable of. Now’s the time to show some metal.

Whatever happens, it feels like we’re edging closer to arguably the most important off-season in Pete Carroll’s tenure — potentially determining how much longer this group can stay near the top.

Seahawks @ Niners open thread

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

I’m doing national radio in the UK on week 17 so instant reaction will be a little less ‘instant’ today. Here’s an open thread for now.