Jourdan Lewis visits Seattle — what it tells us
According to the man himself, he’s either visited the Seahawks or will do in the near future.
This is significant for two reasons:
1. It reinforces the belief Seattle is going to focus strongly on the slot cornerback / nickel position rather than outside cornerback
2. It suggests length is not as crucial in the slot
On the first point, here are some of the reasons why the Seahawks might be more likely to draft a slot cornerback at #26 instead of the more popular prediction of an outside cornerback:
— Our piece on wingspans highlights this isn’t a great draft for long cornerbacks. The Seahawks have never drafted a cornerback with a sub-77.5 inch wingspan. There are only six cornerbacks in this entire draft class with a +77.5 inch wingspan. The only two ‘fits’ expected to be drafted during the first two days are Kevin King and Ahkello Witherspoon (and Witherspoon is allergic to tackling as noted here). It’s possible their only serious outside cornerback target at #26 is Kevin King.
— It’s worth remembering how the Seahawks have filled the #2 cornerback spot over the years (and as of today, Richard Sherman doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to being traded, so they are looking for a #2). They used Brandon Browner (ex-CFL), Byron Maxwell (6th rounder), Cary Williams (free agent) and Deshawn Shead (UDFA). So the idea of Jeremy Lane, Neiko Thorpe, Pierre Desir or a returning Shead starting across from Sherman is not fanciful or unrealistic.
— It’s still likely they will draft an outside cornerback at some stage but is it likely to be their first two picks? Or is it more likely to be someone in round three or in the later rounds? Remember — they’ve not previously drafted a cornerback earlier than the fourth round. They’ve consistently waited until day three.
— We know the Seahawks played a lot of 4-2-5 last season (explained here). With Jeremy Lane at least temporarily moving to outside corner (in Pete Carroll’s words) there’s an opening at the ‘fifth DB’ position. That position was a 71% defensive snap role in 2016. It could be even more significant in 2017 as the Seahawks appear open to adopting a nickel base moving forward.
— This draft class is strong at safety and slot cornerback. Some of the best options at #26 are likely to be players who can act as a big nickel or orthodox slot corner. Obi Melifonwu, Adoree’ Jackson, Chidobe Awuzie, Justin Evans and Budda Baker are among the really enticing options.
This brings us onto point #2 — length.
Jackson, Awuzie, Baker all have sub-32 inch arms and short wingspans. We know the Seahawks have strictly drafted long cornerbacks in the past. Is this vital in the slot?
Their two all-world safety’s don’t have particularly long wingspan’s (Earl Thomas — 74.5, Kam Chancellor, 76.5). And the way the league is adapting, the ‘fifth DB’ position is pretty much a safety/corner hybrid.
The meeting with Jourdan Lewis kind of confirms length isn’t as important for this role. He has 31 5/8 inch arms. He’s also small — listed at 5-10 and 188lbs. He’s in the Adoree’/Budda bracket for size.
It might be a coincidence but Pete Carroll attended the USC pro-day (Jackson) and Kris Richard was at UCLA (Fabian Moreau). Now there’s the Lewis visit and Melifonwu has been in Seattle for a meeting too.
A lot of the mounting evidence points to the slot cornerback/big nickel role being a major target — arguably more so than outside corner.
And this shouldn’t be a surprise given the way the league is trending and Carroll’s lukewarm assessment of Jeremy Lane’s performance in 2016.
More on Jourdan Lewis
Having a more open mind on size/length has opened up a lot of new options to assess. As noted yesterday, Chidobe Awuzie is a diamond. He just isn’t long. If that doesn’t matter in the slot he could easily be Seattle’s first pick.
Awuzie is one of those players who could go in the top-15 or last into the early 30’s. There’s a few in this class. If he’s off the board — and if Melifonwu, Jackson and King are too — the Seahawks could do with alternative targets.
And that’s arguably where Jourdan Lewis comes into play.
I sat down to focus on him today for the first time, watching three games initially. Here are things that really stand out:
— He is ultra competitive despite his lack of size. Awuzie has the kind of gritty personality that matches this team but Lewis takes it up another notch.
— Lewis is nearly always in position to make the play. He lives in the WR’s hip pocket. Even when he gives up some separation downfield, he finds a way to get a hand in there to make the play. Despite his relatively short arms (31 3/8 inches) he actually has a 75 1/8 inch wingspan. It’s not elite length but it’s good for his size.
— He’s possibly the toughest little b*****d in the draft. Considering his size, it was a joy to watch him in run support. He gives absolutely everything, leaves it all on the field, never shies away from contact, tackles competently and does a far superior job than any of the big cornerbacks in this draft (this CB class is lacking in run support overall).
— Solid run support in this ‘fifth DB’ role is absolutely crucial.
— He had the interception of the season to win a game for Michigan against Wisconsin. It was Odell Beckham Jr-esque:
— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValencia_WiB) March 16, 2017
— You can clearly see he isn’t the same type of athlete as Adoree’ Jackson, Justin Evans or Chidobe Awuzie. He is very much a gritty, well drilled, well coached, loves the game type of player. That lower grade of athleticism is probably what separates him from the pack. Yet there’s not a huge drop-off in performance.
Lewis ran a 4.45 forty at his pro-day with a 4.29 short shuttle and a 6.88 three cone. At the combine he jumped a 10-1 broad and a 34.5 inch vertical. Not great numbers but not a problem either.
I think it’s highly likely he’ll be a top-50 pick.
In a scenario where the likes of Awuzie and Jackson are off the board — or if the Seahawks have some kind of a plan that involves a real desire to trade down — Lewis makes a ton of sense. Alternatively, they could look to trade up from #58 to target Lewis and take a pass rusher (for example) with their top pick (eg Bowser or Watt).
If you were impressed with Awuzie’s character yesterday, there’s more of the same here. This is an interview he did at the Senior Bowl:
Is Chris Wormley an option too?
The Seahawks seem to like and appreciate the Michigan defense. It’s not a big surprise. Despite the often heated rivalry between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh, there also lay a kind of mutual respect.
And while Lewis could legitimately be an option for them at slot corner, versatile D-liner Chris Wormley is another possible target too.
I wrote a brief piece about Wormley when I visited Seattle last November. Here are some of the notes:
For starters his gap discipline is excellent and that’s pretty much one of the most important things if you’re going to play D-line for the Seahawks. They put a high priority on players who can execute their jobs, control the situation and work against the run. Wormley is very good here with plus strength and the ability to handle 1v1 blocks consistently well if he lines up inside or out. He plays with heavy hands in the run-game.
He’s nearly always on the field for Michigan (doesn’t get subbed very often) but he’s still willing to string plays out and work in pursuit. He plays with an edge and he’s tough.
As a pass rusher nobody would say he’s twitchy but he does have a decent get-off. He had 6.5 sacks last season and 14.5 TFL’s. This year he already has 7.5 sacks and 7.5 TFL’s. You can’t argue with his production. He’s savvy with the push-pull move and he has enough power to drive blockers into the backfield to impact snaps even when he doesn’t get on the stat sheet.
Wormley has classic size to be a potential inside/out rusher (DE in base, kick inside on third down). He’s 6-5 and 298lbs with 34 1/8 inch arms and a 82 3/4 inch wingspan (he’s the fourth longest interior D-liner in the draft).
He didn’t work out at the combine but managed a lightning quick 4.84 forty, a 31.5 inch vertical and a 9-2 broad.
The key workout to focus on might be the short shuttle. The two pass rush DT’s the Seahawks have drafted since 2010 are Jordan Hill and Jaye Howard. Hill ran a really good 4.51 shuttle and Howard a 4.47. Wormley is right in that ballpark with a 4.55.
Howard also ran a 1.68 10-yard split (good for his size) while Wormley ran a 1.67.
Wormley’s three cone time (7.08) is also considerably faster than any of the DT’s Seattle has drafted in the Carroll era (the best was Howard’s 7.32).
He’s also an authority figure, speaking like a grown man in interviews with a striking maturity and business-like attitude.
He does have a tendency to be a little inconsistent on tape but if the Seahawks do want to add another inside-out rusher, this could be their best bet.
Could they trade down at #26 and then trade up at #58 to land Lewis and Wormley with their first two picks?
I wouldn’t bet against it.
It feels like there’s a strong possibility they’ll add a slot corner/big nickel and a pass rusher in the first two rounds.