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Seahawks seven round mock draft: 3rd April

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Will Ty Montgomery be returning kicks for Seattle in 2015?

The Seahawks are still meeting with veteran players and we could see another addition before the draft. It’ll probably be an experienced center or another defensive linemen. They could use an edge rusher to replace O’Brien Schofield and they’ve met with Chris Myers and Stefen Wisniewski.

For the purpose of this mock let’s assume they bring in a veteran center.

Second round pick
Seahawks trade up for a receiver using pick #112
They’d make a move like this for two key reasons — they need better talent at receiver and the cost to move up is minimal. Seattle can deal the fourth round pick they acquired from New Orleans to move up. Philadelphia jumped from #54 to #42 last year for the price of a fourth rounder. The Seahawks would still pick four times in rounds 4-5 — enough to make multiple additions to the offensive line. Jermaine Kearse is a free agent in 2016, Paul Richardson’s health is a genuine concern and the likes of Kevin Norwood and Chris Matthews are virtual unknowns. Be optimistic over Matthews if you wish — but one swallow doesn’t make a summer. There are likely to be good options in rounds 3-6 but this is all about grading. Let’s say a receiver drops into range in round two who not only grades significantly higher than the others in the class — but also grades well compared to your existing roster. For the measly price of a fourth rounder you can go up and get another big prize for the offense and Russell Wilson. It’s not about changing your offensive identity, this is about putting better talent around Wilson (your future +$100m quarterback). We discussed the possibility of a second round trade in more detail here. In my second round mock this week, Dorial Green-Beckham, Tyler Lockett and Sammie Coates were in striking distance. I’ll let you decide which of those options they might prefer.

If the deal isn’t right or the guy you’ve got your eye on doesn’t fall into range — I think you take the best offensive lineman on your board. I’m curious why the Seahawks have tried to acquire an early fourth round pick on two occasions (Harvin trade, Graham trade). The Eagles used pick #122 to move up twelve spots in 2014. The #112 pick could get you up the board 10-15 places.

Perhaps it’s coincidence, or maybe there’s a plan for that pick?

Third round pick #95
Mike Davis (RB, South Carolina)
I can already feel the angry bashing of keyboards in the comments section. A receiver and running back with the first two picks? Are you insane? I wrote a blog post yesterday arguing why this could be a possibility. In twelve months time the only contracted running back on the Seahawks roster could be Christine Michael. Marshawn Lynch is the new Brett Favre when it comes to retirement and Robert Turbin is a free agent in 2016. I don’t believe they trust Michael enough to make him the unchallenged starter next year. I also think they’d rather be overly prepared for life after Lynch — not needing to force an early pick on a running back in the future. The solution is to draft one this year — a player you really like with the potential to start in 2016. You can carry five running backs — they actually did it in 2013 (Lynch, Turbin, Michael, Ware, Coleman). If you’re prepared to stash a ‘full back/running back of the future’ in Spencer Ware that year — making some tough cuts in the process — you better believe they’d be willing to stash a future Lynch replacement. The odds are against Coleman and Will Tukuafu both making the cut. They can carry five running backs this year, easily. That would present, as a worst case scenario, two contracted running backs to compete for the job in 2016 plus a further opportunity to add. That to me seems like a very viable scenario. I’m not a big Mike Davis fan — I saw plenty of average performances last year. I’m making this pick because the Seahawks are clearly intrigued. He’s making a VMAC visit soon, just like Michael did in 2013. It doesn’t mean they’ll take him but it could mean they’re trying to work out just how good he is. This mock isn’t about picking ten or eleven players I like. It’s about a projection. I might not like Davis that much. You might not like Davis that much. All that really matters is whether the Seahawks like him.

A quick note on the first two picks. You could argue you can get a receiver or running back later on. And you’d be right. You can. But you have to consider the following:

What if…

1. You’re grading the wide receivers in round two in the 5.7-6.0 range and the receivers in the mid-to-late round in the 5.2-5.5 range

2. You’re grading most of the offensive line class in the 5.5-5.8 range

There’s depth in both areas but you might get a player in round two at receiver with a much better grade than the guy you’re taking in round four. The offensive lineman you take at #63 as a fall back if you can’t/don’t trade up could easily have a similar grade to the O-liner you take in round four.

Basically I’m trying to emphasize the overall depth on the offensive line. It’s significant enough to allow you to make one or even two luxury picks to kick things off. And while I flagrantly use the term ‘luxury’ — there won’t be anything luxurious about either pick if Mike Davis is the starting running back in 2016 and Dorial Green-Beckham is enjoying a breakout year as the teams #1 receiver.

Fourth round pick (original selection #130)
Terry Poole (T/G/C San Diego State)
When I watched Terry Poole at the combine, his body shape and posture really stood out. He looked like an ideal interior lineman with a nice straight back, hand technique and solid footwork. He’s a bit of a project for sure but he’s also athletic enough for the scheme with nice size (6-5, 307lbs) and there’s a lot to work with here. Tom Cable has drifted towards project-type linemen in recent years. He moved J.R. Sweezy from defense to offense, brought in the raw Justin Britt and has tried to develop a cluster of other lineman with unique size or athleticism. The Seahawks seem to like players with tackle experience that they can move inside. Poole ticks that box. It’d be an eyebrow raiser for the media — immediately calling this a reach. We have to remember that the Seahawks just DNGAF. They drafted Jimmy Staten in round five last year. Heck, some people were calling Britt a seventh round prospect and he went at #64. They’ll take whoever they think has the best shot to fit in. If that’s Poole and they can guarantee him here, they’ll do it. If you haven’t noticed Cable has a lot of sway in Seattle. He’s trusted to bring in his guys, develop them and start them quickly.

Fourth round pick (compensatory selection #134)
Ty Montgomery (WR, Seahawks)
Look, it’s the fourth round of the draft. While we all like to believe you can find these major impact players in this range (and the Seahawks have a good record on day three) the reality is if you can find a contributor at all you’re doing well. You don’t draft Montgomery here to be a dynamo at receiver putting up major yardage. You draft him to be a return specialist. He takes up the Bryan Walters roster spot — limited snaps on offense but handles every punt and kick return. He scored four touchdowns on returns in 2013-14. Over time you can work him into the offense to see if he contributes there. As a worst case scenario you get a cheap return man on a four-year deal. The Seahawks basically played without a return game last season and spending a fourth round pick to turn that around would be a wise investment. He’s a genuine game-changer on returns. Montgomery is scheduled to visit with the Seahawks.

Fifth round pick (original selection #167)
Shaquille Riddick (DE, West Virginia)
You’re waiting until round five to make your first defensive pick? Of course. The Seahawks put out the #1 defense in terms of yardage and scoring the last two years and are retaining all of their key starters apart from Byron Maxwell (who they’ve already replaced). Seattle doesn’t need that much on defense. They need to replace Jerron Johnson — something they can probably do in UDFA (or just give Dion Bailey his shot). They need to add another cornerback. They need some extra depth for the interior defensive line. They can fill those needs on day three of the draft — starting here with O’Brien Schofield’s replacement. Riddick is very raw — he transferred to West Virginia from Gardner-Webb and faced the same fate as Bruce Irvin. Both players ended up playing the five-technique in WVU’s slightly odd three-man front. It didn’t suit Irvin and it didn’t suit Riddick. He struggled for production but here’s what you need to know — he ran a 1.57 ten yard split at his pro-day, ran an insane 6.67 three-cone, jumped a 36-inch vert and a 10-4 broad. He’s 6-6 and 244lbs. He’s a project and might not last this far. If he does, the Seahawks can take a chance and fit him into the rotation immediately as a specialist.

Fifth round pick (compensatory selection #170)
Mitch Morse (T,G,C, Missouri)
This is why you can afford to wait on offensive linemen this year. Morse isn’t a big name but he doesn’t half play with grit and determination. If the Seahawks are willing to take his former team mate and close friend Justin Britt in round two, they have to at least be willing to consider Morse in this range. For me he’s a project center. He has almost identical size to Max Unger (6-5, 305lbs) and you could redshirt him this year behind a Chris Myers before starting him in 2016. He’s strong at the point and matches up well 1v1, he’s strong (36 reps on the bench) and looks like a really solid fit at center. He will look to get to the second level and he’s enough of an athlete to work into the ZBS. With a bit of seasoning he could develop into a legit starter. On tape you’ll be more impressed with an Andy Gallik at Boston College but Gallik is a limited athlete with marginal upside. Morse has a much higher ceiling and again that all important tackle experience. I have a hard time imagining the Seahawks going with a conventional college center like Gallik or B.J. Finney when they can tap into the upside of a Morse who is bigger and more athletic with just as much (if not more) grit.

Sixth round pick (Percy Harvin trade #180)
Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT, Southern Miss)
Considering his performance against Alabama last season he might go a lot earlier than this. There aren’t many really intriguing interior pass rushers. Nunez-Roches gave Bama’s O-line fits — consistently knifing into the backfield to make plays. He fires off the snap and wins a lot of the time with a quick get-off. His motor and relentless effort stood out against Alabama — here he was playing on a losing team and still bringing it every down. He won’t fit every scheme at 6-2 and 307lbs. His arms are a shade under Seattle’s apparent ideal of 33 inches but he’s possibly close enough. The Seahawks have enough beef up front with Mebane, McDaniel and Rubin. They need another three-technique who can spell/backup Jordan Hill. Nunez-Roches is the best later-round option available by some distance.

Sixth round pick (compensatory selection #209)
Tray Walker (CB, Texas Southern)
If there’s a rush on cornerbacks in round one (I think there will be) the options are going to be really diluted by even the third round. Players like Alex Carter are going to go higher than initially thought and it’ll leave the Seahawks searching far and wide for their next corner project. Tray Walker is taking a VMAC visit and he’s 6-3 and 189lbs. According to Tony Pauline he’s the biggest corner in the draft with the longest wingspan. He ran in the 4.5’s at his pro-day but only managed a 32.5 inch vertical according to NFL.com. He’d be a project much like the Jeremy Lane’s of yesteryear but this is the market Seattle’s shopping in and it’s why they made such a big push for Cary Williams. The top corners will go early before even Seattle’s first pick at #63. They will be forced to look for project players. Walker with his speed and length at least looks the part.

Sixth round pick (compensatory selection #214)
Rob Crisp (T, NC State)
I’ve been a Rob Crisp fan for some time. Go and watch his performance against Vic Beasley if you’re not convinced he has a future in the NFL. He’s pushing 6-7 and over 300lbs. He managed a 32.5 inch vertical which was the joint highest for offensive linemen at the combine. He’s a really good football player with legit blindside potential. So why is he available here? Persistent injury issues. The Seahawks took a chance on Jesse Williams and they’d be taking a chance on Crisp too. He’s had concussion problems and suffered a broken tailbone. He could still go in the middle rounds — he’s certainly talented enough, tough enough and he really can play left tackle. If he falls because teams are worried about whether he can stay healthy, he’d be an absolute bargain here. He’d provide depth in year one and he’d have an outside chance to replace Russell Okung one day if they can’t re-sign him.

Seventh round pick (original selection #248)
Quinton Spain (G, West Virginia)
He ran a 5.02 at his pro-day despite weighing 332lbs. You’re talking about a massive, athletic offensive guard with horrible hand-technique. He needs a ton of coaching in terms of hand placement, leverage and learning to anchor properly. You see flashes of genuine quality here but a lot of teams will prefer the more polished ‘finished articles’ available earlier in the draft. Even so, we know the Seahawks love this kind of size and he could come in and immediately compete to start at guard. When you can get this type of value later on (Spain is being graded as an UDFA or seventh rounder) you don’t have to rush things with the O-line. You can add other players with higher grades, look at a variety of needs and still find guys for Cable to coach up. A lot of people will prefer the bigger names but guys like Poole and Spain are determined, physical blockers with size and athleticism plus the right attitude. They also have room to grow. That’s what Seattle appears to be looking for.

Overall draft class

Wide receiver (DGB, LOCKETT OR COATES)
Mike Davis RB
Terry Poole G/T
Ty Montgomery WR/KR
Shaquille Riddick DE
Mitch Morse C/G
Rakeem Nunez-Roches DT
Tray Walker CB
Rob Crisp LT
Quinton Spain G

With this class you’d be starting Poole, Spain or Alvin Bailey at guard in 2016. You’d be signing a veteran center with the plan to develop Morse for the role long term. You’ve brought in another dynamic weapon for Russell Wilson in round two after a small trade up and dramatically improved the return game for the cost of a fourth rounder. You have a possible starting running back for 2016, extra defensive line depth for the edge and the interior. You also get a project left tackle and another corner with length and speed.

It won’t please everybody, it’s unconventional. But it fills quite a few short and long term needs.

Don’t rule out a running back for Seattle (possibly early…)

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Robert Turbin is out of contract in 2016

Is drafting a running back early this year a luxury? Sure. The Seahawks have three already, including Marshawn Lynch.

You can’t rule it out though — and here’s why…

— Marshawn Lynch has a new three year contract but nobody knows what he’s planning. That’s a scary situation for the Seahawks.

— Robert Turbin is entering the final year of his contract.

— Christine Michael is entering the penultimate year of his contract.

In twelve months you could be left with only Christine Michael entering a contract year. Some people will embrace that situation. It is difficult, however, to describe Michael as anything other than a disappointment so far. Surely they didn’t intend to spend a second round pick (their first in the 2013 draft) on a #3 running back? He hasn’t been able to usurp Robert Turbin as the #2 and it’s optimistic at this stage to expect he’ll be the feature runner in 2016.

It’s not about writing him off. Yet even if the Seahawks do maintain some internal faith in his NFL future, they’re unlikely to go into a situation where he’s the unchallenged starter. They’ll want to see him competing and beating out a team mate for the job. And not just some camp body either — a legit starter candidate.

Seattle could wait to draft a running back in 2016. That makes sense — they’ll know exactly where they are with Lynch and Turbin.

However, you also have to do some forward planning. You certainly don’t want to be handcuffed in the draft next year, needing to take a running back with an early pick.

That brings us to this 2015 class of runners. It’s not a bad group, some would argue it’s very deep. Nobody performed exceptionally well at the combine but the sentiment during the season was that this is a great class. John Schneider will know what some of the options are in 2016 and he might feel it’s better to address this situation now.

You might suggest they can draft Ezekiel Elliott in a year. If he plays as well as he did for Ohio State in the playoffs he might be a very high pick in 2016. What if he gets injured? These are things you have to consider and you can’t rely on one possible target.

If you’re Schneider and you see a running back in this class who you really believe can be a long-term franchise back for this team why wouldn’t you consider it? You have to take the opportunities when they come. That’s how important the running game is in Seattle.

Yes they have other needs at guard, center and wide receiver. They need further depth at corner and the defensive line. Personally I think there is room for at least one ‘luxury’ pick in rounds two or three. You have eleven total picks including three in round four. You’ll have ample opportunity to bring in some O-liners for Tom Cable in a deep class plus a receiver, not to mention another corner and a defensive lineman or two.

Let’s not forget — Seattle’s biggest need going into the 2013 draft wasn’t a running back and they still drafted Michael. They also took him knowing he probably wouldn’t start in year one. If you’re wondering how likely they are to draft a ‘running back for the future’ with an early pick — there’s your answer. They’re clearly more than comfortable doing it.

The offense will change significantly when Lynch departs and I suspect the Seahawks will want to cover that eventuality with a great plan. They won’t want to leave it to chance. They won’t want to risk the running game taking a step backwards.

It could mean drafting a running back this year and next. They drafted Turbin and Michael in back-to-back years after all.

The point of this piece isn’t to argue it’ll definitely happen. It’s really just to bring up the possibility Seattle will consider a running back at any stage in the draft. It won’t just necessarily be a late round flier. If they’ve identified a guy who is a potential Lynch replacement and he can be had at #63 or #95 — they’d be daft not to at least consider it. Better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

So who could they consider?

Let’s assume the top two are long gone (Gurley & Gordon). Any player after that is probably fair game. The buzz around one player in particular though is quite notable:

So Davis is going to visit the VMAC — just like Christine Michael in 2013.

Unlike Michael, however, he’s not a workout warrior. It’s always funny seeing the huge discrepancy between pro-day and combine forty times. He ran a 4.61 at the combine and a 4.38 at the South Carolina pro-day according to Rapoport. He’s quick in space and accelerates very well — but I don’t think he’s a 4.3 runner. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle (all the running backs ran surprisingly slow times in Indianapolis — it could be a slow track). NFL.com has his pro-day time at 4.52 which seems fair.

Davis does provide grit, character and explosion in some areas. He ran a 1.58 split which highlights the burst he shows on tape. He’s a worker who needs a lot of carries, not a flashy sports car with questionable steering.

At times he really underwhelmed in college. There are several games where he just failed to have an impact. He struggled against Clemson, was banged up in the opener against Texas A&M and just looked sluggish and ineffective against Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. We get a ton of access to the SEC over here and I watched a lot of South Carolina’s games. I always seemed to catch him on a bad or average day. Conditioning is also a concern — and there’s a history for that kind of thing at SCAR (Jeffrey, Clowney).

He also had some big games against Kentucky, Missouri and Auburn. I suspect part of the visit will be to find out exactly how good (or average) he really is. He’s one of the toughest projections for the next level. He’s stout at 5-9 and 217lbs and doesn’t always push the pile. He’s not a spectacular running back but he can be effective. He’s not bad in pass protection and he’s capable of wearing a defense down.

We’ll have to see how the Seahawks view him — but they’re showing some interest with that official visit. If they believe he is a possible starter for 2016 they might take him with a nod to the future. It also wouldn’t be a total stunner if he went in rounds two or three the way he’s generating a buzz.

It’s something to consider as we edge closer to the draft.

Second round mock draft: 1st April

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Could Cedric Ogbuehi be an option for the Seahawks?

If you missed yesterday’s first round you’ll find it here.

For me it comes down to two areas for Seattle in round two — offensive line and receiver. I think they’d ideally take a wide out here. John Schneider’s background is in Green Bay where they regularly stock up on receivers in the second round. In Seattle they’ve already taken Golden Tate and Paul Richardson in that range. It’s a good year for the position and I think there’s a chance they move up a few spots to get ‘their guy’ (whoever it may be).

Because they’re picking late in the round there’s also a chance we see a rush on the position and maybe the options aren’t great beyond pick #50?. In that scenario I think they’ll end up taking the best offensive lineman left on their board. They did it with Justin Britt a year ago and they’ll know they can fill a hole at guard or center at #63, even if they make a bit of a reach.

What about the other positions? I just don’t see a defensive line pick this early. There aren’t any standout options here and as we discussed with Tony Pauline recently, there’s going to be a few rough diamonds available in the mid-to-late rounds. By signing Ahtyba Rubin and Demarcus Dobbs they’ve replenished some of the depth up front. We could see Kevin Williams return. There are still veteran edge options on the market and they could bring in a Frank Clark or another D-liner later on.

Let’s not forget — they haven’t lost any key defensive linemen this year. Twelve months ago Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald went out the door. The depth compared to 2014, if anything, is actually improved with the addition of Rubin. Yes they need to replace O’Brien Schofield but he had two sacks last season and minimal impact. They might be banking on Cassius Marsh picking up the slack. They will add here — I just don’t expect it to be early. Schneider and Carroll have a much better hit rate on defense in the later rounds.

I don’t see any reason to go corner in round two and after that — you’d have to be talking about a player you just can’t pass up. They drafted Christine Michael in the late second round in 2013. I doubt there’s anyone that enticing where they blow needs and just go for it — but you never know. I’m struggling to even think of a candidate where that would be possible. I wouldn’t expect them to push it for Maxx Williams for example and Shaq Thompson had a disappointing combine even if he’s very versatile.

I’ve not included any trades in this second round projection but I do believe it’ll be an option for Seattle, especially considering they own eleven picks and five in rounds 4-5. You can still exploit the value in those rounds with four picks. You still have a late third rounder. If conceding one fourth rounder is the difference between getting a player you really like in round two and simply a player who fills a need — you have to consider it.

#33 Tennessee Titans — Breshad Perriman (WR, UCF)
The drops still bother me, even if he had an explosive pro-day. We always knew he was a great athlete. Still, the Titans don’t have enough game changers on offense. If they’re really trying to build around Zach Mettenberger, they need to give him a variety of weapons.

#34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
I could see the Buccs moving back into the first round to make this move. They take Winston with the first pick, they have great options at receiver. Now they need to protect the investment. Erving snapped to Winston in college — doesn’t it just make a great deal of sense if he’s there?

#35 Oakland Raiders — Ronald Derby (CB, Florida State)
The Raiders take a corner capable of playing in the slot or outside. He’s not the biggest but adds a nice option to a defense that faces three short-passing attacks in the AFC West with a lot of crossing routes.

#36 Jacksonville Jaguars — Tevin Coleman (RB, Indiana)
The Jags lack a feature back and while Coleman isn’t the kind of burrowing power-runner Gus Bradley watched in Seattle, he’s a dynamic playmaker with the ability to make plays every week. He can carry the load when he needs to.

#37 New York Jets — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
The Jets have a gaping hole at outside linebacker. McKinney has the power and speed to work inside but a few teams have considered using him in space. This would actually be a nice fit and another complimentary addition to what could be a very good unit in 2015.

#38 Washington Redskins — Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
The Redskins add a pass rusher in the first round and now bring in a much needed addition to the offensive line. You might argue this is too low for Fisher — but Joel Bitonio was very similar physically and lasted until pick #35 a year ago.

#39 Chicago Bears — Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State)
They traded away Brandon Marshall and that opens the door to take a receiver with one of their first two picks. They could go with the speed of Phillip Dorsett — but they already brought in former Jay Cutler favorite Eddie Royal to act as a smaller target. Strong is a more natural replacement for Marshall.

#40 New York Giants — Carl Davis (DT Iowa)
He had a terrific Senior Bowl and this would be a nice pick-up for the Giants. They can plug him inside on early downs. He has the size to combat the run and the quick feet and get-off to cause problems as a pass rusher. He needs to be more consistent.

#41 St. Louis Rams — A.J. Cann (G, South Carolina)
I can see the Rams making a big commitment to the offensive line this year. They take Scherff to book-end Greg Robinson and then add a center or guard in round two. They have a few options here but Cann seems to be generating some nice buzz recently.

#42 Atlanta Falcons — Grady Jarrett (DT, Clemson)
Dan Quinn is there to rebuild a bad defense. They get Leonard Williams in round one and come straight back to the D-line for Grady Jarrett. He’s a disruptive pass rusher with enough about him to work against the run. He’s incredibly stout for such a good interior rusher.

#43 Cleveland Browns — Quinten Rollins (S, Miami Ohio)
I don’t think Rollins showed enough at the combine to be considered a corner. Even so, he has the ball skills and stop-start ability to become a terrific NFL safety. This would fill a need in Cleveland as the options at safety are pretty thin this year.

#44 New Orleans Saints — Phillip Dorsett (WR, Miami)
We might see a very different Saints offense next year. It could be a lot more run based with speed the crucial factor at receiver. They have bigger targets even without Jimmy Graham — imagine trying to cover Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett?

#45 Minnesota Vikings — Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami)
Perryman just looks like a Mike Zimmer linebacker. Not a flashy physical talent but plays his ass off, puts his head on the line and hits like a sledgehammer. Not an exciting player but certainly a very effective one.

#46 San Francisco 49ers — Eric Kendricks (LB, UCLA)
We could see a little run on linebackers here. There’s no reason to try and justify this — they’ve lost two possible starters to retirement this off-season and simply have to address this need in the draft.

#47 Miami Dolphins — Stephone Anthony (LB, Clemson)
With all the off-season moves so far the Dolphins have created a bit of a hole at inside linebacker themselves. Anthony has turned a few heads recently and could be a candidate to slip into round one (Green Bay?).

#48 San Diego Chargers — Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State)
Eddie Royal isn’t a great player or anything, but he had a role in San Diego. Smith can replace Royal and add a little extra as a downfield threat. Nobody matched Smith’s production on the deep ball in college football the last few years.

#49 Kansas City Chiefs — Nelson Agholor (WR, USC)
They avoid the position in round one because the options here are good enough to do it. Agholor seems like an Andy Reid type player — athletic, intelligent, versatile. He wins in the short game and that’s necessary when Alex Smith is playing quarterback.

#50 Buffalo Bills — Ty Sambrailo (T/G, Colorado State)
The Bills want to run with power and could use another addition to the offensive line. Sambrailo is big and athletic and has the attitude and personality Rex Ryan will like. He’d be an immediate starter at either right tackle or guard.

#51 Houston Texans — Sammie Coates (WR, Auburn)
Coates is pretty much the anti-Andre Johnson but the Texans need some speed and playmaking on the outside. Someone is going to take a chance on Coates, despite all of the drops and errors. If you get him right he can be special. It’s just an absolutely titanic-sized ‘IF’.

#52 Philadelphia Eagles — Shaq Thompson (LB/S/RB, Washington)
I can just see Chip Kelly drafting this guy and playing him all over the place. The Eagles need a safety and that’s a good starting point. Would you be shocked if he played a little running back too? It just seems like a Kelly move.

#53 Cincinnati Bengals — Tyler Lockett (WR, Kansas State)
Fantastic character, knows how to get open, explosive lower body, deep threat, return man. Lockett ticks a lot of boxes and had a good Senior Bowl. The Bengals use a smaller receiver in their offense and could do with an upgrade.

#54 Detroit Lions — Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State)
They’re pretty much re-building their defensive front. Smith can play the edge and kick inside. He’s big and they’ll need that without Suh and Fairley. They’ve gone from a stout, incredibly disruptive D-line to a shell. They can address the O-line later.

#55 Arizona Cardinals — T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama)
The Cards want a bigger running back who can carry the load — but who? They have a few options in this draft. Yeldon has 5-star recruit talent but underwhelmed at Alabama. He has a ton of potential.

#56 Pittsburgh Steelers — Henry Anderson (DE, Stanford)
Anderson seems like a typical Steelers pick. No-nonsense, stout as anything and tackles well. The Steelers are needing to get younger and re-charge on defense. The offense is set up. Anderson isn’t a flashy player but you can build around players like this.

#57 Carolina Panthers — Owa Odighizuwa (DE, UCLA)
It’ll be interesting to see how teams view Odighizuwa. When he loops inside and attacks the interior he’s a ferocious, effective pass rusher. Working the edge he’s a total non-factor. They need to do something here though with Greg Hardy now in Dallas.

#58 Baltimore Ravens — Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri)
They need a receiver with Torrey Smith in San Francisco and Steve Smith in his mid-30’s. DGB carries a risk-factor but he also has a lot of potential. He needs to land in a veteran, mature locker-room. This is a great fit.

#59 Denver Broncos — Paul Dawson (LB, TCU)
Not a great athlete by his own admission and that could impact where he goes. Yet on tape he’s a production machine and he’ll have an immediate impact at the next level. The Broncos don’t have too many major needs.

#60 Dallas Cowboys — Jay Ajayi (RB, Boise State)
It seems inevitable they’ll take a running back early. Does anyone really see Darren McFadden as the answer? They invested so much in becoming a power-run team they need a back who will maintain that philosophy.

#61 Indianapolis Colts — Derron Smith (S, Fresno State)
The Colts have to do something about their defense. Safety is a big need and so is slot corner. Smith can fill both positions and he’s capable of starting quickly. The Colts won’t take the next step unless they improve on defense.

#62 Green Bay Packers — Maxx Williams (TE, Minnesota)
Williams just looks, sounds and acts like a Green Bay Packer. They don’t always go for the big-time athletes — and Williams has that mature, self-confident personality they seem to like. He’s a sure-handed target and would excel playing with Aaron Rodgers.

#63 Seattle Seahawks — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Essentially it comes down to the offensive line or receiver. If they don’t move up they might have to take the best offensive lineman on their board. I’ve put down some more considered thoughts below as to why this pick could make sense.

#64 New England Patriots — Michael Bennett (DT, Ohio State)
They need to keep adding depth at defensive tackle. I think Bennett’s a little overrated and that’s why I have him going here. The Patriots are going to struggle to get another Vince Wilfork and might need to go smaller and quicker up front to improve what remains a pretty average pass rush.

Further thoughts on the Seahawks pick at #63

In this scenario the opportunity to move up for a receiver is virtually limited to Dorial Green-Beckham. If you use the fourth round pick acquired from New Orleans, I think you’re looking at a 10-12 pick jump at best. I wouldn’t rule out that kind of trade. If Baltimore’s locker room is a good fit for DGB, I think Seattle is similar in that regard. You’re taking a small swing on a big — albeit troubled — talent. He’s a possible difference maker with unique size/speed.

There are also well advertised concerns not just with his character background but also his fit. He destroyed Kentucky and Auburn but struggled against the tighter coverage used by teams like Ole Miss. You’d need to be convinced he’s ready to compete against Seattle’s big dogs in the secondary. I agree with Tony Pauline when he says he wouldn’t touch him in the top-50. After that? It’s something to consider. It’d only take a small jump up the board to make this work.

I can’t see them moving up for the defensive options available. There are reasons to like Owa Odighizuwa and Preston Smith but essentially both play the Michael Bennett/Cassius Marsh role. It’s not really a need area.

If they stand pat (and we’re not including trades here) I think they’ll take the best offensive lineman on their board and just roll with it.

Cedric Ogbuehi had a rough 2014 season after moving to left tackle. He gave up sacks, he reportedly wasn’t the best worker. Then he picked up an ACL injury in Texas A&M’s bowl game. It’s not really been discussed much but his decision not to declare for the 2014 draft has been something of a disaster.

You can also understand it. He saw Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews go in the top ten after playing left tackle for the Aggies. Ultimately though it’s hard to imagine teams watching the 2014 tape and noting the injury and slotting him into the top-50.

So why would he appeal to the Seahawks?

Ogbuehi needs major technical refinement to play left tackle at the next level but the potential is clearly there. He looked terrific in the less-pressurized environment of right tackle, physically dominating first rounder Dee Ford in 2013. He has experience at tackle and guard — something the Seahawks like. If you’re prepared to be patient and if you’re confident he’ll make a full return to health — you could be looking at a project with a lot of upside.

He says he can be healthy for training camp. If that’s true, you fit him in at left guard in year one and you let the situation play out. Eventually he could kick outside to right tackle if you want to move Justin Britt inside. There’s also the possibility he replaces Russell Okung at left tackle. And that’s what makes this pick intriguing.

The Seahawks are going to make Russell Wilson the highest paid player in the NFL between now and September. They’re also likely to make Bobby Wagner the highest paid linebacker. Throw in the top contracts you’re paying Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham and eventually you’re going to have to make a saving. I suspect they’ll view J.R. Sweezy as a priority keep and they’ll probably want to extend Bruce Irvin too.

Okung is also a core player and ideally you find a way to extend his deal. However, his extension is likely to be more costly than Irvin’s and Sweezy’s. If he is looking for a top offensive tackle salary, it might be too costly for the Seahawks. They’ve shown they’re willing to skimp on the O-line — allowing Breno Giacomini and James Carpenter to walk and trading Max Unger. Okung might be end up being a sacrifice down the line.

You could get three years of Ogbuehi at left tackle at a late second round salary before you need to make a decision. By that point some of the bigger contracts you’ve paid out will be coming to a conclusion. Lynch will presumably be gone, Graham will be nearing the end of his deal.

Even if you work out a new deal for Okung it doesn’t stop you just continuing to use Ogbuehi at guard. It just gives you that extra bit of flexibility because he can play multiple positions.

He’d need to get stronger, much stronger. Hand placement can be improved as can his base when setting his feet to work the edge. You see flashes but not a lot of consistency. He does have ideal left tackle size (6-5, 305lbs) and enormous arms (almost 36 inches). Teams are going to love that kind of length and look beyond some of the flaws. You’ve got to love his kick slide and mirror skills when he’s really on it and he can handle speed.

I’m not totally sold on the Seahawks going in this direction but it’s a possibility we should consider and discuss. If they can’t trade up to target a receiver or if they choose not to — someone like Ogbuehi could offer you a cheap alternative to Okung for the long term and at the very least a capable addition to the interior offensive line.

I think ideally you find a way to get a receiver here (trade or no trade), eventually re-sign Okung and go with a cluster of offensive line picks later on. There are so many good, athletic options for Seattle and Tom Cable in rounds 3-7. Yet as noted, even if you keep Okung for a few more years, there’s nothing stopping Ogbuehi playing guard. If you can’t get a second round receiver, this at least makes some degree of sense.

First round mock draft: 31st April

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Cornerback Byron Jones feels like a first round lock

Last year five cornerbacks were taken in the first round. It wasn’t a particularly great class for corners — but it’s quickly becoming a premium position in the NFL. We’re not just seeing the usual 2-3 brilliant tall, athletic corners going in the top-15. Teams are scrambling to address needs here.

There’s almost a perfect storm brewing in this draft. The thin options in free agency will put a lot of emphasis on a select group of rookie corners. Those with the length, speed and talent are going to go early — then we’ll possibly see a major drop off. If you want a cornerback you might have to consider taking one in round one.

In this latest projection I want to look at how this could shape things. Tomorrow I’ll post a second round mock with a blurb for each pick and then we’ll look into a Seahawks seven-rounder. Here’s the first round with a few notes underneath:

first round mock

— I have Cleveland trading their two picks in round one to Tennessee for Marcus Mariota for the second mock in a row. There seems to be some validity to this — Mary Kay Cabot touched on the subject this week. The Browns have had such a nondescript off-season and that’s unusual for this owner and for a team still mired in mediocrity. It’s looking increasingly likely that Johnny Manziel isn’t the answer. We know that Josh McCown certainly isn’t. The Titans get two picks to rebuild their defense, the Browns get a quarterback.

— I don’t see Leonard Williams dropping to #8 as a big deal. He’s not an elite athlete and didn’t test brilliantly at the combine. It’s still unclear what exactly his best position is at the next level. It’s almost universally received that he’s going to be a top-two pick but let’s not jump to that assumption too quickly.

— Byron Jones reportedly ran in the 4.3/4.4 range at the UConn pro-day today. The height, length, speed and overall athleticism is off the charts. It’s hard to imagine he doesn’t go in the top-20. You’re talking about athleticism beyond even Patrick Peterson’s level — and he’s not a bad football player either.

— I think there’s a chance another receiver or two finds their way into round one. However, there’s so much depth at the position I think teams will be tempted to wait until the second day, especially when the top three prospects (Cooper, White and Parker) leave the board. For example, it’s going to be harder for the Kansas City Chiefs to find a solid O-line addition or cornerback in round two. It’ll be much easier to find an impact receiver.

— I think the following receivers have a shot at going in round two: Perriman, Strong, Dorsett, Lockett, Agholor, D. Smith, Green-Beckham, Coates. If all of these names are still on the board after day one, it could increase the chances of Seattle moving up from #63 using one of their fourth round picks.

— There aren’t many key absentees in this first round projection. You might ask about someone like Jake Fisher — but let’s not forget Joel Bitonio was an early second rounder. Fisher and Bitonio had very similar combines and I personally think Bitonio is/was the better player.

Will the Seahawks trade up from #63?

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Will John Schneider and Pete Carroll be aggressive to target an impact player in round two?

Yesterday I started writing the first draft of a two-round mock. It’ll be on the blog some time this week, with a seven-round Seahawks projection to follow.

How good are the options at #63? Well, it depends. There are one or two nice options that we’ve talked about. Ty Sambrailo would be a good fit moving inside to guard or even center. He’s mobile with good footwork, has the kind of size to replace James Carpenter and he’s well suited to the ZBS. Tyler Lockett has the production, grit, kick return skills and ability to consistently get open that should appeal.

What if neither player is available? It’s a topic we haven’t really talked about.

When I spoke to Tony Pauline a couple of weeks ago he said Sambrailo would be good value in the late second. In a non-direct way he inferred there’s a chance he won’t be there at #63. While many other projections have Sambrailo available in the third or even fourth round, Pauline had him as a late first rounder before a substandard off-season. He doesn’t see a drop into the third.

Lockett also has enough appeal to be gone by #63. Unlike Sambrailo his stock is trending upwards. He had a terrific Senior Bowl and matched it with a good combine. With all the records he broke at Kansas State, the bloodlines, the character. With an expected rush on receivers in round two he could be long gone by Seattle’s pick.

In the mock I started to put together yesterday both were off the board. The alternatives weren’t great and the value just wasn’t there. Sure, there were options. Some of them risky. We’ll get into those when I publish the mock. It does raise the question of a move up the board.

I don’t think we should expect any major, bold moves. The value in the middle rounds is still very good, particularly at Seattle’s positions of need. They can add to the interior offensive line, receiver and possibly corner and the D-line. They have some holes to fill too — especially at guard and center. You’re not going to give away picks to go chasing one player. The Seahawks made their big move when they traded Jimmy Graham.

If they’re going to consider moving up it’s probably going to be a small jump to target a specific player. It could even be a Sambrailo or Lockett. It could be one of the other receivers. Yes it’s a rich class, but if you can get an impact player to finally round off the passing game — would you make a deal? While the Seahawks are never going to be a pass happy offense, there’s going to come a time when Marshawn Lynch is no longer there and greater responsibility will be on the teams $100m quarterback. Russell Wilson has never had a bevy of upper echelon targets. He’s been given a group of plucky overachievers.

With Jermaine Kearse a free agent in 2016 and no certainty over the future of Paul Richardson, adding another receiver he can grow with over the next 4-6 years could be just as vital as finding a starting center or guard.

What receivers could you go up for? Devin Smith, Dorial Green-Beckham, Phillip Dorsett, Nelson Agholor, Tyler Lockett. It really depends what you’re looking to add to the offense.

This is where the offensive line depth in this draft becomes a big bonus. You can find a center in the middle rounds — whether it’s Ali Marpet, B.J. Finney, Hronnis Grasu, Andy Gallik or a convert like Mitch Morse or Terry Poole. There are others too. Ditto at guard. You can fill these holes with a third and fourth round pick in this draft. The possibility of adding Chris Myers (as discussed here) or another veteran center also takes some of the pressure off. A rookie could still win the job as we saw with Justin Britt going head-to-head with Eric Winston last year. At least you have the option of a proven commodity like Myers and won’t feel you have to force things in the draft.

So what kind of compensation would you be willing to forfeit?

With eleven total picks and six between rounds 3-5, you can afford to lose one of the fourth rounders. You’ve got an early selection in that round from New Orleans, your own pick at the back end and then a compensatory selection that can’t be dealt. If you negotiate with teams about moving up 6-12 spots they’ll want the early fourth rounder.

In the 2014 draft Philadelphia traded from #54 to #42 with Tennessee for the price of a late fourth round pick. Funnily enough this was to target a receiver (Jordan Matthews). It’s unclear whether Seattle can get that type of value for the price of a fourth rounder — jumping twelve spots is a bit of a gift. Yet the options in that #50-55 range could be a lot more appealing than the options at #63.

With the draft trade chart fairly prehistoric these days, the Seahawks could point to a recent precedent for a move like this. And with the perceived value available in the middle rounds this year — a team like Buffalo at #50, Philly at #52 and Carolina at #57 could be a target area. All three teams are likely to consider adding to their interior offensive line in the draft. Acquiring an extra fourth rounder could be intriguing. It’s probably why the Seahawks wouldn’t deal their late third round pick — allowing them to make a trade like this and still ‘jump the queue’ so to speak.

It’d create a situation where essentially you gave up the #31 pick and Max Unger for Jimmy Graham and the opportunity to draft a possible impact player in round two. It’s not a bad deal overall, especially if you adequately replace Unger with a cheaper longer term solution (albeit with a possible shorter term veteran fix). You still get to pick twice in the fourth. A move like this could go some way to making the offense in Seattle almost as scary as the historically good defense.

Chris Myers visiting with the Seahawks, Guion stays in GB

Monday, March 30th, 2015

I’ll have a new post later today discussing the possibility of Seattle moving up in round two. For the time being I thought I’d leave this here. Guion’s deal in Green Bay is worth $2.75m according to Adam Caplan — so somebody (possibly Seattle) made a decent push to tempt him away.

With that option no longer on the table Myers appears to be the next veteran option. Of course, even if he signs he’s no guarantee to make the team. Eric Winston was brought in to compete with Justin Britt a year ago. Britt won the job, Winston was cut. The same could happen at center this year. It could also be a review of the situation with Stefen Wisniewski, which also remains unresolved.

Frank Clark’s tape vs Northwestern very impressive

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

We’ve talked about the off-field concerns with Frank Clark and they aren’t going away. You can’t ignore them. He may well have impressed teams during interviews at the combine — but we weren’t privy to those talks. Whoever drafts Clark, there’s going to be a portion of the fan base where this just doesn’t sit comfortably. And that’s totally understandable.

By discussing his tape against Northwestern here, we’re not endorsing his character. We’re not saying the Seahawks should draft him. We’re just talking about the football side of this debate. I want to make that clear.

With that in mind I’m going to say Clark provides the best possible opportunity to add an impact defensive player after the second round.

This is just a masterclass performance against Northwestern. He’s not a speed rusher at 6-3 and 271lbs and he only ran a 4.79 at the combine. Yet he finds ways to make an impact despite a lack of natural quick’s. He plays with a relentless motor, he shifts off blocks and knows when to rush the backfield or to hold position and try to tip a pass. Unlike Danielle Hunter — who seems like a tipped-pass specialist only — Clark gets a handful of TFL’s and splash plays in this game.

His ability to change direction is very impressive. He’s a thick, well set player but moves like a much smaller and nimbler athlete. You see that with the rest of his combine workout — a 38.5 inch vertical, a 7.08 three cone and an explosive 4.05 in the short shuttle. He’s never going to round the edge with a pure speed rush and beat NFL tackles. He can drive into the backfield with a nasty bull rush, dodge cut blocks, sell the outside rush before dipping inside and there’s evidence of a productive spin move.

He looks like a second round talent with an UDFA character flag. If you trust him — or if you can make yourself believe you can trust him — you’re going to get a guy who can play quickly, will excel against the run and make plays even as a rookie.

Look at the way he combats the read option or QB fake — he tracks down the ball carrier with ferocity and has the field IQ to diagnose plays quickly.

The Seahawks currently only have Cassius Marsh legitimately backing up Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. If they want an impact defensive player in this class — Clark could be a solution. With the obvious asterisk of the character and whether you can justify to yourself taking a player with his background.

Here’s a few key notes from the tape above:

0:23 — Shows to the outside before swimming inside, shedding the blocker and collapsing the pocket from the edge. Forces the QB to scramble for a short gain.

1:06 — pursues down the line, taking out one blocker and forcing the running back inside into traffic on third down (he doesn’t convert).

2:11 — Read option play. Notices the QB has it very quickly, leaps up and deflects the pass into the air for a near interception.

2:29 — Bull rushes the right tackle into his own quarterback for a big sack on third down. Pure power and he’s taking over the game.

2:50 — Explodes into the backfield and brushes off a terrible attempt at a block by the full back. The QB panics because he’s in his own end zone and throws straight at Clark who blocks his second pass of the game.

3:08 — Another dominating bull rush. He somehow manages to get his arm up to tip his third pass and this time it’s intercepted by a defensive tackle. Sensational play from Clark.

3:48 — Read option. Clark diagnoses that it’s a trick-play end-around and sees it all the way. He destroys the ball carrier, rag-dolling him to the ground for a big loss.

6:30 — Spin move to get away from the tackle, forces the QB to get the pass away too quickly. Incomplete.

The right tackle in this game was clearly over-matched but don’t take anything away from Clark’s performance. This was a thoroughly brilliant display.

Letroy Guion visits the Seahawks, what does it mean?

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Per Rob Demovsky, the meeting was set up immediately after a case of marijuana possession against Guion was settled. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he paid a $5000 fine:

Seth Katz, Guion’s agent, said Guion won’t be prosecuted, and thus will not face probation or have a criminal record from his Feb. 3 arrest in Starke, Fla.

“The case was settled. Case closed,” Katz said. “Letroy’s relieved at this point. He’s relieved it’s behind him and he can focus on getting back to football.”

Guion was pulled over for a failure to maintain a single lane, at which point police found 357 grams of marijuana, a registered gun and $190,028.81 in cash. Guion has maintained the cash came from football paychecks.

Katz said Guion reached a plea deal Tuesday in which he paid a $5,000 fine, and as a first-time offender the charges were dismissed.

His record will be cleared as a consequence but he could still receive punishment from the league.

The Seahawks recently signed Ahtyba Rubin to a one-year contract carrying a $2.5m cap hit. According to Pete Carroll, talks continue with Kevin Williams. They’ve also been linked with the likes of Chris Canty — who re-signed with the Baltimore Ravens.

This could just be a review of the draft. Will they focus on receiver, the offensive line and cornerback in rounds 2-5? They’ve had more success adding veteran defensive lineman in free agency and the defensive tackle options in the middle rounds might not provide sufficient value.

It could also be a big hint that Brandon Mebane is going to have to lower his salary or face the axe. Mebane was arguably having a career year in 2014 before a hamstring injury ended his season.

Mebane’s cap hit is $5.7m in 2015 and he turned 30 in January. It’s the final year of his contract. In comparison, 28-year-old Terrance Knighton signed a deal in Washington with a $4.45m cap hit. With the Seahawks tight against the cap and needing to extend the contracts of Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and J.R. Sweezy, Mebane’s salary is a little too rich.

Ultimately he can do a Zach Miller and add an extra year to the deal and spread out the hit. It gives him an opportunity to still earn a sizable amount in 2015 and potentially 2016 while staying with the Seahawks. He could, of course, stand his ground and force the team to make a decision. However, he’s not in the best bargaining position as he recovers from a serious hamstring problem.

Only two players predate the Carroll/Schneider era on Seattle’s roster — Mebane and Jon Ryan. This regime also gave Mebane his second contract in 2011. He’s been a consistent feature. At the right price I’m sure this wouldn’t be a talking point. At $5.7m it’s a talking point. Simply put, you can find good run stoppers at a cost-effective price.

Remember when the media thought Seattle’s run defense would collapse after Mebane went on I.R.? After a tough outing in Kansas City, Bobby Wagner returned and the rest is history. Seattle never played tougher or stouter. They coped with a combination of Kevin Williams and Tony McDaniel. As good as Mebane is, he’s not irreplaceable. You’d rather not lose him — but you’d rather not lose Chris Clemons a year ago. Sometimes it’s just a case of needs must.

Guion is 28 in June and 6-4, 315lbs. He was a fifth round pick by the Vikings in 2008. He started for the Packers last year after B.J. Raji tore a bicep in training camp. He excelled — recording 3.5 sacks and playing well against the run. Mike McCarthy certainly had a lot of praise for him after the regular season:

“I think Letroy has been everything we thought he was going to be. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Letroy in Minnesota. I think he’s come over to us, and I think he’s taken his game up a notch. He’s an excellent fit in the locker room, teammates love him, he’s an excellent teammate, and he’s a damn good football player.”

There’s no guarantee he signs in Seattle. The Packers remain interested and he could take further visits. However, the Seahawks might be able to get Rubin and Guion for the price of Mebane. They’ll save $5m against the cap if they part ways with Mebane and Rubin cost $2.5m in 2015. Two healthy, younger players or one Mebane?

It might not come to that of course. They could get both, restructure Mebane and have extremely good depth up front. They could consider cutting Tony McDaniel to save $3m. There are lots of options on the table.

Yet it’s Mebane’s contract that appears to be under the greatest threat. It’s also perhaps a further indication that receiver, guard and center will be the draft priorities.

Randy Gregory fails a drugs test, is it a big deal?

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Should a failed drugs test (marijuana) lead to a draft fall for Randy Gregory?

The big news today is that Nebraska linebacker Randy Gregory failed a drugs test at the combine. He tested positive for marijuana.

The assumption is this will damage his draft stock.

Lance Zierlein published a mock draft on NFL.com today titled: “Gregory slides out of the top 10“. The headline on the draft section of the NFL.com website goes a step further

“Gregory plummets in Zierlein’s mock”

“Plummets” is a poor choice of words. A fall to #13 is hardly a “plummet”. He’s expected to go in the top ten but he’s far from the finished article. A drop into the teens wouldn’t be a shock. Nobody said Brian Orakpo “plummeted” down the board in 2009. He was taken with the #13 pick that year.

In another piece for NFL.com, Bucky Brooks answers questions on the subject with the following quotes:

“From a team perspective, Gregory’s admission to a failed test in January 2014 and April 2014 is a huge concern. He was coming off a sensational sophomore season that captivated the attention of scouts; several evaluators viewed him as a potential first-round prospect heading into the season. The fact that he had multiple positive tests in his most important season and that he continued to use marijuana despite being one strike away from being booted off the team suggests a deep-rooted problem with the drug.”

He goes on to add:

“It’s no secret the NFL has some marijuana users on its teams, but teams have problems accepting players who prioritize their recreational habits over football preparation.”

Brooks makes some fair points on the decision making and potential impact given what was at stake. I would ask, however, whether it’s fair to assume a player isn’t prioritizing football because he smokes pot? Is it as clear cut as that?

I understand clubs want their players to be clean, upstanding individuals. Any player who has a serious issue with drugs, well that is rightly going to be an issue. Does Gregory have a major problem? Or does he smoke pot for medicinal reasons? Is it slightly outdated to associate marijuana simply as a problematic substance, rather than a benefit in some cases? What are the facts here?

The NFL outlaws marijuana and punishes players severely if they break the rules. That counts if you smoke one joint or one hundred. Fail a drugs test and you’re immediately in stage one of the NFL’s substance abuse program.

The league is arguably correct to take a hard-line stance when you consider smoking pot is illegal in most states. Yet if you smoke pot legally in Washington State and are tested as a member of the Seahawks, you are still placed on the substance abuse program.

The obvious case to look at is that of Josh Gordan. During the course of his career he’s faced suspensions lasting two games, one season (reduced to ten games) and now one full season. All due to substance abuse. Greg Hardy in comparison is expected to face a six game suspension this year through the NFL’s new personal conduct policy.

How is that right?

If you missed the issue regarding Hardy, here’s a breakdown of the situation:

A district judge in Mecklenburg County found Hardy guilty in July of assaulting and threatening to kill ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder during an early-morning altercation at Hardy’s uptown condo last May.

Hardy immediately appealed the decision and was granted a jury trial, which was scheduled to begin Feb. 9.

The morning of the trial, however, prosecutors told the judge they were dropping the charges because multiple attempts to find Holder – including setting up surveillance at her new residence – were unsuccessful.

District attorney Andrew Murray said Hardy had reached a settlement with Holder for an undisclosed amount to settle any civil claims.

The Guardian notes the NFL’s new personal conduct policy rules:

The NFL’s new personal conduct policy, approved by owners after Hardy’s conviction, calls for a six-game suspension for first-time violations involving assault, sexual assault and domestic violence. Previously, first-time offenders typically received two-game suspensions.

Josh Gordon has so far missed twelve games. By the end of the 2015 season, he’ll have missed 28. Hardy will likely miss six and then return to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

In 2013 Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond served a four game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Prior to the change in personal conduct policy, you would serve half that suspension if you found yourself in a deplorable situation like Hardy’s.

That’s a difficult one to explain.

Sigmund Bloom raises a fair point, whether you agree or not. Is it time for the league to have this discussion? Otherwise the assumption will always be a player like Gregory is a serious character concern, fair or not.

For what it’s worth Gregory has addressed the matter in an interview with Kimberly Jones:

“I don’t wake up every day saying, I’d really love to go smoke,” he said. “It’s not a struggle for me every day (now), it really isn’t. In the past, hell yeah, it’s been a struggle. It really has been. Now, I’m focused on my dream.

“I want people to really understand that I know I made a mistake, for one,” Gregory said. “That I knew what I had coming up (the combine), and I still made that mistake. That was dumb.

“I want people to understand I’m not some dumb jock pothead. I’m not,” he added. “I’m intelligent. I love the people who help me, I love my family, I love my support group. I love football. I love winning. And I don’t want to be labeled as some bust that couldn’t make it because he smoked. And I won’t be labeled as that.

“So I just want people to understand that. This may be a setback. You may look at me a certain way, but at the end, I’m still going to be on top. I’m still going to do well.”

I think it comes down to this:

1. Is marijuana such a problem for Gregory that it will have a serious impact on his career?

2. Can he quit?

3. Should he have to quit, or should the NFL adjust it’s stance on marijuana?

Ultimately Randy Gregory hasn’t harmed anyone but himself (stock and health). This is something that perhaps needs to be remembered by the 32 NFL teams — some of which entertained the idea of signing Greg Hardy.

Frank Clark and his likely second chance in the NFL

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Frank Clark could be a top-100 pick according to reports

At what point does sporting success pale into insignificance?

We’ve just seen Greg Hardy join the Dallas Cowboys, a situation that has provided heated exchanges on both sides of the debate. Yet as Jason La Canfora notes, Ray Rice is without a team and faces the end of his career:

“In a league of second chances, at a time when Greg Hardy, who faced heinous domestic violence allegations, just signed with a new team before the NFL had even meted out its full discipline on him, Ray Rice remains a pariah. The former Pro Bowl running back can’t get a phone call to invite him to a tryout, let alone a contract offer. His football future looks beyond bleak.”

There’s a simple explanation to why Hardy has a new contract and Rice remains on the outside. Hardy is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL playing through his peak years. Rice looked finished even before his headline-making departure from Baltimore.

Is it safe to assume if you’re good enough, you’ll get a chance? Whatever the situation?

Is that right?

It’ll sit uncomfortably with many fans but it’s hard to know what a team should do. At the end of the day, they’re in the business of winning games. If you can add a player to help you win more games, don’t you have to at least consider it? You’re also in the business of representing thousands of people — a community. You represent fans with families and wives and mothers and sisters. That surely plays a part too?

Many teams could afford Hardy’s non-guaranteed prove-it contract, yet only the Cowboys really stepped up to the plate.

What is the right decision to make on cases like this?

If Hardy was joining the Seahawks instead, it would’ve created a heated discussion among fans for and against the move. The same thing will happen if they draft Dorial Green-Beckham or Frank Clark — the player I want to focus on today.

Clark was dismissed by Michigan in November after a disturbing domestic abuse incident. This piece from Sam Cooper, including notes from the Detroit Free Press, paints an ugly picture. I’ve taken some select quotes below:

One officer, Martin Curran, arrived at the scene and saw Clark (Michigan had a bye this week) in the hotel parking lot. Curran approached Clark. Clark told Curran that there was “a disturbance.”

Clark told Curran that he “didn’t touch” the woman, his girlfriend, involved in the alleged assault.

After Curran and another officer surveyed the scene, they arrested Clark on two first-class misdemeanor charges – one for domestic violence and one for assault. Curran also determined that Clark was intoxicated.

When Curran entered the hotel room, Clark’s girlfriend, 20-year-old Diamond Hurt, was there.

“We went up to the room, there was a damaged lamp on the table, a damaged lamp on the wall and she’s got a large welt on the side of her cheek, she’s got marks on her neck,” Curran told the Free-Press. “She had what looked like rug burn on her one thigh. We have pictures of everything.”

“We had people from other rooms that were witnesses to this,” Curran said. “That’s how this started, somebody in different room heard screaming and yelling, heard noises come out of the room, they thought something was going on and they opened up their door and little kids come running out of the hotel room that Frank was in and screaming Frank is … the witness came out basically saying, ‘Frank is killing our sister.’ They go over there and they knock on the door, they look inside and see this girl on the ground unconscious and they said that Frank is yelling and screaming at people and they call the front desk and the front desk, she sees the girl on the ground, the damage to the room and that’s how we ended up getting called.”

Hurt “refused a trip to the hospital and did not want to press charges.” Curran informed her that when there are signs of domestic violence, in the state of Ohio, officers can still arrest the offender even if the victim does not want to pursue charges.

Clark was still invited to and was allowed to attend this years combine. He had the opportunity to address the media, as noted by SI.com here:

Clark told the media he’s been in counseling and has been doing things “to strengthen my mindset.” He said he “broke down and cried” when he received an invite to the combine and called it a “shock.”

Whatever he said to teams in Indianapolis, it seemed to help his stock:

Zierlein wasn’t the only one to believe Clark would go undrafted. Mike Mayock made a similar remark in the build up to the combine while Scouts Inc dropped his grade into the undrafted range. Yet here we are, now discussing the possibility he could go in the top-100 — meaning an early fourth round grade as a possible worse case scenario.

Should he get the opportunity? As a fan are you comfortable cheering for a person like this? Or are you willing to offer the second chance?

Whether he gets the opportunity or not will probably come down to talent — as appears to be the case with the Hardy and Rice situation. Clark on tape is an absolute dynamo, which indicates he probably will get that second chance — rightly or wrongly.

In Clark’s NFL.com write-up there’s a quote from an unnamed NFC Executive:

“I don’t think he gets past the 4th round at the latest. Our team felt like he gave honest answers regarding previous incidents and we came away feeling much better about him after speaking to him.”

At the combine he ran a 4.79 at 271lbs and a shade under 6-3. It’s not an amazing time but look at the other numbers — a 38.5 inch vertical, a 7.08 in the three cone and an explosive 4.05 in the short shuttle. He’s not a sprinter by any means but that’s elite short area quickness and lower body explosion. Throw in 34.5 inch arms and you’re talking about a guy with the length and quick’s to be a real threat off the edge. He plays with a relentless motor too.

It’s easy to forget that Hardy had a whole host of character concerns going into the 2010 draft. He came into the 2009 college season touted as a first round pick. He slipped, Carolina benefited until the point they couldn’t justify keeping him around.

Of course, the Panthers weren’t making the decision off the back of the kind of headlines Clark made in 2014. Especially not at a time where Hardy, Rice and Adrian Peterson were causing headaches within the league office and damaging the image of the game worldwide.

Someone will give Clark an opportunity. The Seahawks will surely be doing their due diligence the same as everyone else. By now they probably know whether he stays on the draft board or not.

Whether you’d be comfortable with the selection or not is a personal decision. He is a very talented football player with a legitimate shot at making it in the NFL. Whether he deserves to get that opportunity or not is another question. It’s an issue the league is yet to truly come to terms with.