Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category

Seahawks looking at Wake Forest safety?

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Tony Pauline is reporting that the Seahawks are ‘looking hard’ at Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III:

Eyebrows were raised when Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III announced he was entering the draft, but this was primarily from people unfamiliar with his game.

Bates’ film is impressive — he’s an athletic center fielder who plays with excellent speed, displays great range and really stands out in pass coverage.

Though he’s just a redshirt sophomore, Bates plays disciplined, assignment football and is never out of position.

There are some who feel his ball skills are good enough that a move to corner is possible. While I don’t necessarily agree with this, I do believe Bates is the type of safety who can line up over the slot receiver when necessary.

While we presently stamp Bates with a fifth-round grade, there are a few teams who believe he could go as early as the third round. The Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers are two of the teams looking hard at Bates.

Anyone getting deja vu?

Back in 2010 Earl Thomas was often described as an athletic centre fielder with great speed and range. Thomas was also touted as a possible cornerback convert and he declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore.

Bates III is listed at 6-2 and 195lbs. That’s clearly bigger than Thomas. So we’re not talking about a like-for-like player but good luck ever finding another Earl. He’s one of a kind.

People will read the report and automatically make the connection to Thomas’ uncertain future in Seattle. And that might be the right thing to do. Who truly knows what’s going to happen there? It’s impossible to speak with any certainty or authority on that topic. We just have to wait and see. Yet it seems, one way or another, something is going to be resolved in the next couple of months. Either he signs a new contract or he’s moving on.

Yet the reported interest in someone like Bates III could just be a nod to the need to prepare for the future.

So what is he all about?

I quickly went and dug out some Wake Forest games and he is a very interesting prospect. It was hard to believe some of the plays he was making as a freshman. He could read an offense, react to the quarterback and use his range to play the ball. Disciplined, decisive and a player who executes.

He had five interceptions as a redshirt freshman and two touchdowns. Teams seemed to be wary of his presence in 2017.

In one play against Florida State last September, the Seminoles broke off a run from their own one-yard line. The running back gets into the open field and has a clean run for a 99-yard score. Bates III chases him down at the Wake Forest 30 to save the touchdown.

In the same game he also had this excellent play in coverage:

He showed well running upfield to play the run, delivering a number of clean tackles when a back found the edge. Overall his tackling appears sound and he often tries to rip the ball out once contact is secured.

Bates’ is also a finisher when he gets his hands on the ball. He had a return for a touchdown in college and a couple of pick sixes:

There are big differences between Bates III and Earl though as you’d expect. He’s nowhere near as sudden and quick. Earl runs like a heat-seeking missile and plays with a relentless intensity you just barely ever see from players of any position. Bates III is more measured and he’s athletic rather than extremely fast.

Earl’s athleticism is probably his greatest asset. For Bates III it’s the ability to work out the defense and make sure he’s in the right place at the right time. He’ll read the QB’s eyes and break on the ball. He’ll identify a certain route pre-snap and put himself in a position to make a play. His range is good — but Earl’s on a totally different level (again though, that shouldn’t be a big surprise).

Bates III also looks big. Not Kam Chancellor big — but tall and long for a safety. Their body types are very different.

He appears to be a good character:

Pauline says he might be a third round target (and it’s another hint that one way or another the Seahawks are going to be acquiring picks on day two of the draft).

Increasingly I think we could see something like this for Seattle during the off-season:

— Substantial change to the roster as predicted/reported by many. John Clayton said earlier today he expects Michael Bennett to be released within the month. Gee Scott suggested ‘jaw dropping’ changes were coming. It really feels like he’ll be proven right.

— Focus on value in free agency with players being brought in on short-term contracts to see if they can become part of a new core. Possible targets could be people like Carlos Hyde, Eric Reid, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the large group of talented receivers.

— Regardless of what picks they have, the early portion of the draft could focus on improving the running game (including a high pick on a running back). The second half of the draft could be about finding young defensive talent.

On that final point — it makes sense for a couple of reasons. The early part of the draft provides good value at running back and interior O-line. The defensive options from round three onwards are capable of providing some value. One of the things I talked about in the Field Gulls podcast (listen below) is the weak edge rush options early in the draft and the possibility of some D-line/front seven gems later on:

Kentavius Street (DE, NC State)
Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
Duke Ejiofor (DE, Wake Forest)
Chad Thomas (DE, Miami)
Kemoko Turay (DE, Rutgers)
Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama)
Andrew Brown (DT, Virginia)
Darius Leonard (LB, South Carolina State)
Justin Jones (DT, NC State)
Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State)
Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
Jeff Holland (DE, Auburn)

This is just a sample too. The combine will reveal more possible/probable targets.

If you missed yesterday’s podcast, have a listen here:

2018 Running backs in review

Monday, February 5th, 2018

When I put together an updated top-50 a few weeks ago, eight running backs were included:

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Ronald Jones II (USC)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Sony Michel (Georgia)
Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)

It’s a strong class. There will be some depth heading into day three but the best of the talent will go quickly. It’s possible all of the names above could go in the top-75 if not the first two rounds.

We’ve already featured several of these players in greater detail but I wanted to offer some short-form reviews for each, discussing their suitability in Seattle:

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)

Pro’s: Perfect modern day running back. Barkley is a swiss army knife and provides so many options. A defense has to be constantly alert to where he is on the field. Whenever he has the ball he’s a threat to score. Has the size of a power back (5-11, 228) but the skills of an Alvin Kamara. He could get Andrew Luck grades. Big, explosive, fantastic character. Amazing talent and as good as advertised.

Con’s: Looks really quick on the field but it’ll be a surprise if he runs the 4.3 times he reportedly manages at Penn State. He only ran a 4.63 at the SPARQ combine. The media will over analyse his forty time but he’s more explosive than fast — and that’s more important for a RB anyway. Expect a +40 inch vertical (he topped 38 inches in High School and he’s more explosive now).

Pro-comparisons: Barry Sanders, Ezekiel Elliott

Fit in Seattle: He’d be perfect but he’s going to go in the top-five if not #1 overall. So it’s not happening.

Predicted draft range: Top-five lock

Ronald Jones II (USC)

Pro’s: He’s Jamaal Charles 2.0. The two players are stunningly similar and look almost identical in terms of body type, competitiveness, athleticism and playing style. Despite only being around 6-0 and 203lbs, Jones II is incredibly tough and finishes runs. He has a sensational ability to avoid pressure in the backfield, work through traffic, cut and accelerate. In the open field he’s as exciting as any player in college football. A star in the making and a legit first round talent.

Con’s: You’d think he’d be great in the passing game given his skill set but he barely got involved at USC. It’s unclear why. There’s no evidence of any development in pass protection. He isn’t 225lbs so you might need to manage his workload.

Fit in Seattle: In terms of drafting history under Carroll/Schneider, they’ve consistently gone after backs that are approximately 210-225lbs. Jones II is smaller but he also looks like a phenomenal talent capable of genuine stardom. Put him next to a bigger back (Chris Carson? Carlos Hyde?) and you might have your answer to Ingram & Kamara. He looks special and the Seahawks love tilt-the-room types.

Pro-comparison: Jamaal Charles

Predicted draft range: First round, possibly top-20

Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)

Pro’s: It’s easily forgotten but for two weeks Auburn looked like the team to beat in college football. They absolutely destroyed Georgia and then beat Alabama convincingly. Johnson and a ferocious defense were the reason. He’s well sized (6-0, 212) with a similar body type and playing style to Chris Carson. He’s incredibly patient in the backfield and has drawn legitimate comparisons to Le’Veon Bell. Plays with toughness, he’s an asset in the passing game and has been a workhorse for Auburn.

Con’s: Johnson has a very upright running style and it’s problematic. He’s not squatty, plays tall and has been a walking target for big hits. Ronnie Harrison absolutely hammered him in the Iron Bowl and essentially prevented him from being anywhere near 100% in the SEC Championship. Does a good job falling forward but not the most elusive when backed into a corner.

Fit in Seattle: Considering how high they were on Carson, it stands to reason they’ll like Johnson too. They share some striking similarities. He matches up with their size ideal, he’s carried an offense and he’s tough. Do they want another back like Carson, however?

Pro-comparisons: Chris Carson, Le’Veon Bell

Predicted draft range: First or second round

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)

Pro’s: Incredibly tough running back who plays with a chip on his shoulder. Perfect size (5-11, 228) and capable of setting the tone. Classic north/south runner but doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to find space and make things happen. Not just an up-the-gut runner. Surprising speed when he gets going. Pre-injury he was one of the best athletes to ever test at the Nike SPARQ combine (143.91) and if he’s back to that level, watch out. He ran a 4.47 and managed a 41-inch vertical. Can force opponents to commit to defending the inside run.

Con’s: The injury was career threatening and in 2016 he didn’t look quite the same player. By 2017 he regained some of the explosive physicality and hopefully he’ll keep getting stronger with time. He rushed back in 2016 and lost a significant amount of weight in recovery. Not a multi-dimensional back you want to feature in the passing game. He’ll likely need to be paired with a more versatile compadre.

Fit in Seattle: They love tough, physical, gritty backs that have battled adversity. He’s a no-nonsense, 24/7 football man with a laser focus. He fits their size ideal and he’s as explosive as they like. If he’s physically back to his best and passes all the combine medical checks, he could be their guy. They also like to seek value and if Chubb drops because of the injury history, it possibly works into their favour.

Pro-comparisons: Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, Mark Ingram

Predicted draft range: If he tests well, rounds 1-2

Sony Michel (Georgia)

Pro’s: Really came on in 2017 and found a consistent role within the offense. Extremely high character and good size (5-10, 220). Plays like a much lighter runner but is bigger and sturdier than you think. Incredible footwork and balance and finds improbable ways to dodge defenders on the perimeter and break off big gains. Only needs an opening to make a long run and can be a home-run hitter. Better working outside than inside.

Con’s: Despite his size, Michel isn’t a particularly impressive inside runner and isn’t likely to get many short-yardage carries. Not the passing game dynamo you might expect — he only had nine (!!!) catches for 96 yards in 2017. Ran a similar forty time to Nick Chubb at the Nike combine (4.46) but wasn’t as explosive (his 30.5 inch vertical was 10.5 inches weaker than Chubb’s). Not as elusive as you might expect.

Fit in Seattle: The combine will be important. He has the size they like but they value explosive traits over speed. He’ll need to do better in the vertical jump. Is he more of a compliment than a feature runner?

Pro-comparisons: Knowshon Moreno, Maurice Morris

Predicted draft range: Round 2

Derrius Guice (LSU)

Pro’s: Guice runs with his hair on fire. He’s tough, leaves his mark on the field and competes. He’s difficult to bring down and builds as the game goes on. Capable of breaking off long runs and taking a high number of carries. Did a good job spotting Leonard Fournette in 2016 when he was fully healthy and at times looked like he was destined for big things. Not overly active in the passing game but showed some potential.

Con’s: 2017 season was, in fairness, a disappointment. He was banged up but also showed some limitations. Guice isn’t a great athlete and his success is born out of sheer determination. Forget the spurious ‘reports’ suggesting he’s been running in the low 4.4’s. He ran a 4.61 at the Nike combine, managed an appalling 4.66 short shuttle and only a 30-inch vertical. He’s not a bad player, far from it, but he has limited physical potential. Guice had a tough upbringing and it’s something teams will spend time on.

Fit in Seattle: There’ll come a point in the draft where Guice could present great value. He’s intense, physical and tough. If he drifts into the second or even the early third — the athletic limitations are less of a problem. You take him and feel happy about it. The Seahawks could love his attitude to running the ball and he’s very similar to Thomas Rawls in personality and size. He likely won’t be an explosive tester though.

Pro-comparisons: Thomas Rawls

Predicted draft range: Round 2

Royce Freeman (Oregon)

Pro’s: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some teams are going to really like what Freeman offers. Of all the running backs in this draft, he might get the broadest variety of grades. For a bigger back (5-11 ½, 234) he can really shift. If he gets an opening he can turn a good run into a great one and has shown the ability to get outside. Has the frame to be an early-down back and has been ultra-productive even during Oregon’s recent down-period.

Con’s: Doesn’t play to his size and you’re often left wanting more. He’s good — but you’d love to see a little more punishment dished out. He’s the opposite of Kerryon Johnson who always seems to find a way to fall forward. Freeman isn’t the best cut-back runner and will fit some schemes better than others. Will need to work on his effectiveness in the passing game.

Fit in Seattle: The Seahawks might be one of the teams who aren’t overly enamoured by Freeman. He isn’t going to help them set a tone up front and he isn’t a cut-back runner. He’s bigger than the backs they’ve drafted so far and might not be the most explosive tester (34 inch vertical at the Nike combine).

Pro-comparisons: D’Onta Foreman, Jordan Howard

Predicted draft range: Round 2

Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)

Pro’s: Good size (5-11, 220lbs) and incredibly versatile. Exciting player. Penny runs hard but with control and skill. He’s shifty enough to make people miss and if you give him a lane he’ll capitalise. Highly productive kick returner. Showed his potential at the Senior Bowl by having a relatively quiet practise week and then went about making big plays in the game. Has shown patience in the backfield. Exceptional production.

Con’s: It’s hard to imagine a middle ground with Penny. It feels like he’s either going to come into the league and be the next Kareem Hunt or he’s going to be overwhelmed. It’s hard to pick holes in his play but there’s something preventing you going all-in. Competition was weak in college and it shows on tape. Pass-pro needs serious work. Was a bit disappointing during the catching drills in Mobile which was a surprise.

Fit in Seattle: He fits the size ideal. The combine is important. They like explosive athletes at running back. How he tests in the vertical and broad jumps could be the determining factor on whether he truly fits.

Pro-comparisons: Jay Ajayi

Predicted draft range: Round 2

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Super Bowl open thread

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

Eagles. Patriots. Whatever.

Rain City Redemption (Episode XLVIII) from William Cornell on Vimeo.

Friday notes: O-line first?

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Despite all the mock drafts touting defense for Seattle in round one, there are some quite realistic options on offense. We’ve talked a lot about running backs. Today I wanted to talk about interior offensive linemen.

There are three real strengths of the draft in rounds 1-3 — running back, O-line and defensive front seven.

It’s quite possible the Seahawks are done investing high pick after high pick in their O-line. It might be time for a scheme tweak, a fresh voice and some development of the players on the roster rather than just endlessly seeking an upgrade. They’ve already spent so much stock on the offensive line.

That said, if there’s a player worthy of consideration it shouldn’t be ruled out. And in this draft class, there are certainly players worthy of consideration.

I re-visited some Nick Chubb games last night and (again) was constantly drawn to #77. Isaiah Wynn just oozes class. He does everything well — footwork, balance, hand placement, control. He was the most consistent performer at the Senior Bowl. Technically it’s hard to find players at his level in college. He’s not the biggest or most physically impressive but he just looks so competent. If you were able to trade down and still get him in the late first or early second round, how could you not feel very comfortable with that decision?

Here’s a reminder of his week in Mobile:

If Wynn isn’t a first round talent, what are you looking for? Especially with the league so desperate for good offensive linemen these days.

The other prospect who really stands out is Billy Price at Ohio State. Not only is he really aggressive and a tone-setter, he also looks like a terrific athlete. In his NFL.com bio he’s described as having ‘Freaky strength and explosiveness‘ and an anonymous AFC pro-personnel Director said this about him:

“Man he is a different kind of guy altogether. Has a lot of edge for sure. Love his toughness and his grit and wait until you see him at the combine. He might hit 40 on the bench and he’s going to run well too.”

You’re talking about a player with attitude, intensity, physicality. He’s occasionally a little too eager and aggressive. I’ll take a bit of that for the way he blocks. He was credited with re-focusing the team after Ohio State’s heavy loss to Iowa with a stirring post-game speech.

Urban Meyer raves about him:

The national consensus has him lasting into the late first or early second round. If that’s the case (I suspect he’ll go much earlier) then he represents another great option.

You could add others to the list. Will Hernandez, Connor Williams, Frank Ragnow, Braden Smith. There are some real options there and Tony Pauline has also been connecting Seattle to Nevada’s Austin Corbett.

Many will argue the O-line should be the priority anyway. I don’t necessarily agree there. I think it’s a bit of everything — improvements up front (might be possible with a new coach and approach), better running backs and a more focused running attack. If they go O-line early it won’t or shouldn’t be because they ‘have to’. It’ll be because the options warrant it.

So while it might be a case of going Ronald Jones II first and an O-liner (Corbett?) with their next pick, they could also work out a situation where they trade down, get an O-liner (eg Wynn or Price) and then get the running back with the second pick. And if that proves to be the case, Georgia’s Chubb remains a realistic option given his running style, size and explosive physicality.

We’ve gone through the list of options at RB — but the late first or second round could be a real sweet spot there. Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny, Derrius Guice, Royce Freeman. I think it’s unlikely but Ronald Jones II might last too (although increasingly I think he’s a top-25 lock).

I’ve posted the video below not just for the benefit of watching a lot of Chubb’s best plays from 2017. It’s also a chance to look at some of Wynn’s best plays too…

Wednesday notes: Free agency and Malik Jefferson

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

— If the Seahawks are making sweeping changes to the roster, they’re not going to be able fill every hole in the draft. Some of the solutions are going to have to come in free agency. There’s a precedent for short term deals at relative value and that could be the target again. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks two free agents in San Francisco could land in Seattle:

“You’ve got to wonder for both guys whether the NFC West team to the north of us, the Seattle Seahawks could be the landing place. Kam Chancellor probably is not going to play again up there. Eric Reid obviously plays that exact spot. He’s still young too, he’s 26 years old, just turned 26 this past month. The other part with the Seahawks is that they desperately need a running game. That’s been a big missing element ever since Marshawn Lynch left Seattle. So they’ve seen Carlos Hyde. Carlos Hyde went over 100 yards this season once. Guess what team it was against? The Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 I think it was. Both of those guys seem to fit big needs up in Seattle.”

The article also touches on the market for both players and why they could provide some value. A loaded running back class in the draft is unlikely to do much for Carlos Hyde’s bargaining leverage. The running back position has also experienced a financial squeeze. The highest earners are on out of date contracts (LeSean McCoy, Jonathan Stewart, Doug Martin, Chris Ivory) or they recently entered the league as high picks (Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette). Nobody is earning more than $8.25m a year although this will change when Le’Veon Bell has a new deal.

Devonta Freeman is currently the highest paid back in the league, unsurprising given his production in Atlanta. LeSean McCoy and Jonathan Stewart are #2 and #3 — both players are coming to the end of their contracts. The Dolphins practically gave Jay Ajayi to the Eagles. The position isn’t getting much love at the moment.

Hyde is a physical runner with good size and attitude. He’s 28 in 2018 though and hasn’t had a 1000 yard or 16-game season in his career. His stock might be limited to a short term, one or two year contract at a modest price. That could interest the Seahawks, particularly as a hedge for the draft.

Eric Reid, apparently, isn’t guaranteed to start in San Francisco because they prefer Jaquiski Tartt. He’s also turned into one of the faces of the protest movement in the NFL. The league might be disinterested due to his recent activism but we know the Seahawks haven’t been bothered by that. Reid is only 26-years-old and doesn’t turn 27 until December. He’s at a good age and if his price is reduced, could be a candidate to come in on a one or two year prove-it deal to replace Kam Chancellor.

When we’ve talked about Derwin James, we’ve compared him to Eric Reid. Here’s Reid’s combine workout in 2013:

Height: 6-1
Weight: 213lbs
Arm length: 33 5/8 inches
Hands: 10 inches
Forty: 4.53
Vertical: 40 inches
Broad: 11-2
Short shuttle: 4.22
3-cone: 6.99

That’s an exceptional athletic profile. James will do well to match that. If the Seahawks want a big, athletic strong safety to replace Kam, Reid could be an option.

— What else might they do in free agency? Any move for Andrew Norwell feels like a pipe dream. Dave Gettleman reportedly is determined to re-sign his former UDFA signing and will pretty much write a blank cheque. If it’s not the Giants, the 49ers, Colts, Jets, Buccs, Texans and Vikings all have more than $50m to spend in free agency. The Niners have $114m currently. This one is a long shot.

— A more likely scenario is to keep seeking value on short term deals. Minimal commitment with the chance to extend in the future. It didn’t work out for Eddie Lacy or Luke Joeckel but it did for Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bradley McDougald. If Seattle loses Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson they’re going to need some touchdown makers in the passing game. The strong group of free agent receivers could dilute the market. A year ago Alshon Jeffrey and Terrelle Pryor both had to sign one-year prove-it deals. The Seahawks could seek a similar opportunity with one of the big names available — Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Marqise Lee and Pryor. They could look for a similar short-term option at tight end, possibly with Austin Seferian-Jenkins or often-injured Tyler Eifert.

— One prospect we haven’t really discussed so far is Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson. I spent a bit of time watching him this week. If you want a name that might really shoot up the board after the combine, Jefferson is one to watch.

For starters, he might have the most impressive workout in Indianapolis. At the SPARQ combine he ran a 4.39 at 6-2 and 215lbs. He also managed a 4.12 short shuttle and a 40-inch vertical. His 145.65 SPARQ score is elite and the highest of any player who tested and declared for the draft. He’s now 240lbs and that might impact how fast he runs — but if he’s in the 4.4’s or 4.5’s and nails the short shuttle and the jumps he’ll make headlines.

We’re talking about a comparable athlete to Bobby Wagner here.

Wagner went in round two and currently that’s where I’d expect Jefferson to go but he has massive potential. On tape you see a player who looks better the more you watch. He’s not a majorly impactful prospect, producing splash plays, sacks and interceptions. He didn’t manage a single pick in his college career. The work he does around the LOS, however, is mightily impressive.

That tweet more or less sums him up. He’s a solid force with the range, strength and explosive athleticism to do the little things right. He’ll fill a gap in the running game, he’ll sprint to the outside to make an important tackle and he hits with a thump.

He’s subtly impactful and you have to watch very carefully to realise how good he can be. Take this play for example. Watch how he competes with the offensive line to get through the traffic, then deliver one big jolt to the chest of the offensive tackle to disengage and make the play:

Range? Really good:

How committed is he? Look at this block on special teams:

His combination of power, explosive physicality, speed and ability to compete at the LOS and hit people is really intriguing.

There are some flaws too.

When Jefferson is asked to drop into coverage you see stiffness working in space. He plays with tight hips and sometimes changing direction is tricky. It’s not the biggest surprise considering he’s now 240lbs — but he’s far better working at the LOS than he is in coverage.

He also has some moments where he switches off, for example:

On this play he’s too eager, committing to the runner on the read option and gifting the QB the look he wants. If he holds his position the play breaks down. Texas has the RB covered out wide and the middle is clogged up too. It’s a little mistake and only led to a reasonable gain but it indicates he might need to learn how to let a play develop sometimes rather than sticking his helmet in there.

When he gets it right though, this is what happens:

He had 10 TFL’s in 2017 and 18.5 in the last two seasons. If he gets a crease and can play in attack mode, you see moments like this.

The Seahawks still need to add some young depth and quality at the linebacker position. Jefferson might be too suited to the MIKE or WILL to seriously consider, especially in round two. He’s not a SAM/LEO. Yet he has the incredible upside, physicality, attitude and leadership qualities this team might be looking to add as they reshape the defense.

And they’re going to give Ken Norton Jr someone to work with for sure.

Having two players with Wagner’s size/athletic traits wouldn’t be a bad thing.

— Tony Pauline noted during the Senior Bowl that the Seahawks were taking a shine to Austin Corbett. Today, Pauline again connected Seattle to the Nevada offensive linemen:

Austin Corbett of Nevada had a dominant week in Mobile, and his versatility has pushed him into the second day of the draft. As we reported, Corbett dominated just about everybody at center, guard and right tackle. Depending on what they do in free agency, the Seattle Seahawks are one of the teams that could target Corbett in the second round.

It’d be a curious move, considering they currently don’t have a second rounder. I haven’t studied Corbett enough to judge his play. I’ve only watched one game against Notre Dame from 2016. There are a lot of potentially appealing second round interior linemen — including the likes of Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez and Frank Ragnow. We’ll see how this plays out. Pauline has an exceptional track record in pairing the Seahawks with linemen.

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Breaking down Lance Zierlein’s mock draft

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Another day, another national pundit projecting Derwin James to the Seahawks at #18. This time it’s the turn of Lance Zierlein.

All three of NFL.com’s draft bods (Zierlein, Brooks, Jeremiah) have Seattle taking a defensive back. Mel Kiper also had them taking James in his opening gambit.

This is a popular pick among the talking heads.

Here’s Zierlein’s note on James to the Seahawks:

“James feels like a perfect fit in Seattle, and he’s a positive influence in the locker room, too.”

We’ve debated this topic a lot so I don’t want to go over old ground too much. I do want to recap a few things though and also share a few further thoughts on the fit.

I’m certainly not opposed to the pick. As noted ten days ago, James has a better athletic profile than first thought. Pete Carroll is a master secondary coach and has only drafted one defensive back in the first two rounds since he arrived in Seattle eight years ago (Earl Thomas). If he makes it two this year, it’ll say a lot about Derwin James’ potential. Carroll knows DB’s.

There are other things too. The blurb in Zierlein’s player profile catches your attention:

“Absolute alpha in the locker room. Comes up to handle film sessions on weekends. When he talks, players listen.”

This quote from an anonymous NFC Scouting Director is also interesting:

“He is going to be the dude in any locker room he ends up in. That’s his makeup. Physically, he’s probably more talented than Jamal Adams but Adams was more consistent as a player. Derwin is still learning so he has a sky-high projection if his play can catch up to the talent.”

The Seahawks are going to lose some alpha’s this year. It’s more likely than not that Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril won’t be on the roster in 2018. Earl Thomas might be traded. Who knows what happens with Richard Sherman? And while Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright will likely remain and new voices are emerging (eg Jarran Reed) they’re going to lose the key architects of the LOB era.

Perhaps Derwin James can help fill the void?

He is a good player. Whenever I talked about him in the past as ‘overrated’ — that’s because he was being projected as a top-10 lock. For me, he was always a mid-to-late first round type. The term I liked to use was ‘he’s more Eric Reid than Eric Berry‘. Funnily enough Reid was the #18 pick in 2013.

Now the national consensus is that James will also go in that range. It feels like a fair value for a player of his talents. He’s physical, delivers punishing hits, flashes occasional big-time athletic ability and he has the size to be physical at the line of scrimmage. He is what he is though — a box safety.

It’s worth considering at #18. Undoubtedly. There are also some factors that make me question how likely it is they’ll actually go in this direction.

For starters, if the Seahawks are able to re-sign Bradley McDougald and don’t trade Earl Thomas, they’re much less likely to consider drafting a safety early (if at all).

Carroll has only spent one high pick on a defensive back of any description and that was Earl Thomas. He and John Schneider have emphatically found later round value at cornerback and safety. Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Shaq Griffin, Jeremy Lane, Justin Coleman, Walter Thurmond. The free agent addition of Bradley McDougald.

It’s going to take something truly special for the Seahawks to take a DB in round one. James, for all his physical potential and leadership skills, didn’t make enough plays in college. At least not enough to be completely convinced he can be a X-factor on your defense. Thomas, in comparison, had eight picks in his final season at Texas.

Carroll might think James has untapped potential. It’s equally possible he thinks he can fill this role without needing to spend a top-20 pick.

For example, how much is Eric Reid going to cost on the open market? I’ve got some thoughts on that coming tomorrow (plus some other notes on free agency). If you can get Reid without breaking the bank, is the difference between Reid and James that significant?

Zierlein compares James to Eric Berry in his prospect write-up. Berry was the #5 overall pick in 2010. If James truly is a comparable talent, he likely won’t last to #18. Which makes me wonder if the comp to Reid is more fitting.

Carroll has also highlighted the importance of repairing the running game and that really has to be the priority. Two years of horrible production isn’t going to cut it. Seattle desperately needs their running game back. It’s central to everything Carroll holds sacred.

He possibly (probably?) believes he can coach up a defense, develop talent and put together a strong unit. They’ve struggled to do that with the running game. One way or another, this is likely to be addressed first and foremost.

If they trade Earl Thomas for a high pick, clearly it opens up the opportunity to address both the defense and the running game early. Until that happens, however, it’s hard to imagine they’d take a safety at #18 and then wait until the second half of round four to do anything about the offense.

It’s also worth noting these mocks don’t include trades, so the writers are somewhat hamstrung in what they can/can’t project. Zierlein’s scenario would present an ideal opportunity to trade down.

Big name defensive players remaining available works in Seattle’s favour. Earlier this week I posted a mock draft where Atlanta traded up from #26 to select Maurice Hurst. The idea was the Falcons jump ahead of Dallas for Hurst. Zierlein has the Cowboys taking him at #19 — so it’s not an implausible suggestion.

Not only that, Marcus Davenport and Derwin James are available too. With Dallas (#19), Detroit (#20) and Buffalo (#21, #22) possibly focusing on defense, it’s a good spot for the Seahawks to field offers.

Furthermore, Zierlein only has one running back (Saquon Barkley) going in the first round. So the Seahawks could trade down once or twice and still address their run game.

One name stands out more than most — USC’s Ronald Jones II.

I think he has a star quality you see from time to time in college football. Odell Beckham Jr had it. DeAndre Hopkins had it. It’s a combination of physical quality, attitude, athleticism, the ability to make the improbable happen and the character that befits a top pro.

The comparison that we’ve discussed over and over is Jamaal Charles. And Jones II isn’t just a little bit like Charles. They are eerily similar. If you missed the piece a few weeks ago, watch their college highlight tapes back to back.

Having the opportunity to move down into the early 30’s, acquire extra picks and take Jones II would be a great start to a new era of Seahawks football. Increasingly, however, I think the chances are he won’t last that long.

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Projecting prospects from the Senior Bowl

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Yesterday we posted a mock draft that had the Seahawks trading down twice, moving from #18 to #33 and acquiring third and fourth round picks in the process. We didn’t, however, pair them with any players. So today I wanted to look at potential options and project where they might go pre-combine.

All of the players included attended the Senior Bowl apart from Nick Chubb, who was invited but didn’t participate.

Below you’ll find my own notes on each prospect and the range they’re currently being projected according to NFL.com (via Lance Zierlein).

Darius Leonard (LB, South Carolina State)
He did it all at the Senior Bowl — plugging gaps vs the run in the game, playing with range at the second level, performing well in coverage drills and delivering a couple of solid hits. If he has a big day at the combine he could easily land in the second round as teams look for the next Deion Jones. The video at the top of this article feature a collection of Leonard’s highlights from the game in Mobile.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
Multiple reasons. K.J. Wright’s contract expires in a year. The depth at the position is still lacking. They don’t have a possible impact player they can use at SAM. They just re-hired Ken Norton Jr. He has +34 inch arms, +10 inch hands and an incredible wingspan of 82 inches. The Seahawks loved K.J. Wright’s length (34 3/4 inch arms) and Leonard is similar. He’ll need to run well in the forty and the short shuttle.

SDB projection: Round 2 (with a good combine)
NFL.com projection: Rounds 2-3

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
For some reason everyone seems to be down on Chubb at the moment. Yes there are some concerns. His medial check at the combine is important and it’ll be interesting to see how much the knee injury has impacted his athletic profile. He’s a north/south runner and not exactly Alvin Kamara. There’s still a lot to like. Pre-injury he was one of the best athletes ever to test at the SPARQ workouts and in 2017 he looked more like his usual self. He runs tough and with physicality. He’s surprisingly quick in the open field. There’s still a home for a Jonathan Stewart or Frank Gore type in this league.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
They value explosive power and athleticism over speed at running back (at least they have until this point). If Chubb tests anywhere near his pre-injury level he’ll be one of the most explosive players to enter the league in a long time. He’s a Christine Michael level athlete with none of Michael’s lack of focus. Seattle wants an old school running game and Chubb represents that. He was also coached by Brian Schottenheimer at Georgia.

SDB projection: Round 2 (medical checks are important though)
NFL.com projection: Rounds 3-4

D.J. Chark (WR, LSU)
Chark isn’t the biggest (around 6-2 and 196lbs) but he has a knack of getting open and showed off a genuine suddenness at the Senior Bowl. He regularly beat a weak looking crop of defensive backs in Mobile and turned it on during the game. Defenders give him a big cushion and he uses it to his advantage. If his forty time matches his apparent playing speed he could be a big riser. At the Nike combine he ran a 4.46, jumped a 37-inch vertical and had a SPARQ score of 108.7.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
Paul Richardson is a free agent and there’s a lack of quality behind Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett (a free agent in 12 months). The Seahawks have regularly spent high picks on the position — Golden Tate, Percy Harvin, Richardson. They might have bigger needs this year though.

SDB Projection: Rounds 2-3
NFL.com Projection: Rounds 2-3

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE, Oklahoma)
It seems like the draft media are holding back on Okoronkwo due to his height. It really shouldn’t be that much of a deal. He has 34 1/2 inch arms so while he’s not the tallest, length is certainly not an issue. His wingspan is pushing 80-inches. He has longer arms than Brian O’Neill for example. Simply put, he’s one of the best pass rushers in the draft. He tried a bit too hard on the first practise day at the Senior Bowl but then settled down and had a productive week.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
The last sentence in the paragraph above sums it up. He can get after the quarterback. A good combine will really help his stock. In Seattle he might have to be a specialist pass rusher or even a SAM/LEO at 243lbs. For that reason, he’ll have to be quick and test well in the forty and 10-yard split.

SDB projection: Rounds 2-3
NFL.com projection: Rounds 4-5

Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama)
The former #1 recruit in 2014, Hand was rated even higher than Myles Garrett. His career in Alabama never lived up to expectations. Other big names like A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne made the headlines. Hand merely made the rotation. That said, the physical potential is still there. At the Nike combine he jumped 35 inches in the vertical and posted a 100.38 SPARQ score.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
They need to find defensive linemen they can build with. In the past they’ve found value in free agency, now they could do with finding some talent in the draft. Hand is 6-4 and 282lbs so can play some inside/out. He also has +34 inch arms and a strong 81-inch wingspan. Someone will take a shot on this guy.

SDB projection: Round 3
NFL.com Projection: Rounds 2-3

Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
Haynes is a flat out playmaker. At 6-3 and 233lbs he isn’t the biggest and he’s likely going to need to be moved around or even limited to a specialist role. However, he consistently impacted games in college and did the same in Mobile. He forced a strip-sack for a touchdown and on another play absolutely destroyed Brian O’Neill with a bull rush. He had 39.5 TFL’s in his Ole Miss career and 32 sacks.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
As with a lot of these players, the combine is big. Haynes will likely need to be a certain level of athlete if he’s going to be considered a SAM/LEO in Seattle. That said, it’s rare to find a player with his history of playmaking quality outside of the top-two rounds.

SDB projection: Round 3
NFL.com projection: Rounds 3-4

Durham Smythe (TE, Notre Dame)
Widely considered the best ‘Y’ tight end in the draft, Smythe’s blocking will appeal to many teams. College football just isn’t producing many traditional TE’s any more. For teams determined to run the ball and feature their tight end as a blocker, Smythe is a collectors item. Zierlein suggests he plays ‘like an offensive linemen’ in his blurb. He also had a terrific Senior Bowl, showing he’s much more than a mere blocker. Former four-star recruit.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
Seattle gushed about Nick Vannett’s blocking ability when they drafted him in 2016. Clearly this has been a point of focus. With Jimmy Graham’s days in Seattle seemingly numbered, getting a player who could be Zach Miller-lite in the future could be appealing. The only concern? He has great size but short 31 1/2 inch arms.

SDB projection: Rounds 3-4
NFL.com projection: Round 4

Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State)
Despite some negative reviews elsewhere, I thought Lewis had a good Senior Bowl week. He showed versatility and an ability to rush inside/out. He made a splash in the 1v1 drills and in the game itself. He’s a tough character, well spoken and seems focused. He’s a shade under 6-3 and 276lbs but he has a near 80-inch wingspan. Lewis has some explosive physical skills — he jumped a 37-inch vertical at the Nike combine and managed a 108.57 SPARQ score.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
They need to find at least another unheralded gem for the D-line rotation. If this is the end for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in Seattle, they’re going to have to look for alternatives in free agency and the draft. Lewis rushed the EDGE well in Mobile but also had some success stunting inside.

SDB projection: Round 4
NFL.com projection: Rounds 5-6

Austin Corbett (T, Nevada)
Tenacious and smart, Corbett was incredibly durable and started 49 of 50 games during his college career. At times in Mobile you saw him really get after defenders, work well on double teams and play with the kind of attitude you want from your O-liners. At 6-4 and 310lbs he’ll likely kick inside to guard (he has +33 inch arms).

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
If they don’t want to spend yet another high pick on the O-line, they could invest in a player who’s been compared to Joel Bitonio by Mike Mayock. We’ll see if Corbett can get anywhere near Bitonio’s impressive combine numbers — but he’s a versatile player with experience at multiple positions (and we know the Seahawks like that).

SDB projection: Round 4
NFL.com projection: Rounds 3-4

Andrew Brown (DT, Virginia)
There were moments during the Senior Bowl were Brown wowed you. There were also moments where he barely registered. He’s a former top-10 recruit with a ton of athletic potential. He’s 6-4 and 295lbs with +35 inch arms and a wingspan of +82 inches. In High School he was already 6-4 and 295lbs and ran a 5.06 forty at the Nike combine with a 4.47 short shuttle and a SPARQ score of 103.11 (highest among DT’s).

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
Consistency is his big problem. Talent is not. The Seahawks love to back themselves to get the most of untapped talent. With that kind of size, length, speed and power, Brown could be a useful rotational defensive linemen and at the very least could provide a cheap interior run stopper.

SDB projection: Round 5
NFL.com projection: Rounds 6-7

Kemoko Turay (DE, Rutgers)
Turay stood out during practise week in Mobile, just looking quicker and more explosive than most of the other players working the EDGE. He was noticeable and had several good snaps in the 1v1 drills. He’s had some injuries in his career and at times his technique was suspect (little in terms of hand-use and not much of a counter). Yet in terms of pure potential, there’s something to work with here. He’s 6-4 and 252lbs with nearly 34-inch arms and an 80-inch wingspan.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?
Stop me if you’ve heard this before but the Seahawks need to find cheap talent to bolster their defensive front seven. Turay looks like he might genuinely have the speed and quicks to play DE or SAM/LEO.

SDB projection: Round 6
NFL.com projection: Rounds 6-7

This is just a collection of some of the players I could’ve included from Mobile. There are also a number of intriguing players who didn’t attend the Senior Bowl or declared as underclassmen.

I also wanted to highlight two tweets today:

If Isaiah Wynn doesn’t go in the first round, something isn’t right.

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Updated mock draft: 28th January

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

I want these to be about scenarios rather than prospects. So in this mock draft, I wanted to represent what happened at the Senior Bowl and look at a situation where Ronald Jones II is off the board before pick #18.

This mock includes trades. Notes are underneath.

The trades

Buffalo trades #21, #22 & #53 to Indianapolis for #3
The Bills move up to draft Sam Darnold

Arizona trades #15, #47 & 2019 R1 to Cleveland for #4
The Cardinals move up to draft Josh Rosen

Atlanta trades #26 & R3 to Seattle for #18
The Falcons move up to draft Maurice Hurst

Cleveland trades #33 & R4 to Seattle for #26
The Browns trade up to draft Da’Ron Payne

The mock

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 New York Giants — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#3 Buffalo (via Indy) — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#4 Arizona (via Cle, Hou) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#5 Denver — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#6 New York Jets — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Chicago — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#9 San Francisco — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#10 Oakland — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#11 Miami — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#12 Cincinnati — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
#13 Washington — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#14 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#15 Cleveland (via Ari) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
#16 Baltimore — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#17 LA Chargers — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#18 Atlanta (via Sea) — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#19 Dallas — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#20 Detroit — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#21 Indianapolis (via Buf) — Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
#22 Indianapolis (via Buf, KC) — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#23 LA Rams — Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#25 Tennessee — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
#26 Cleveland (via Sea, Atl) — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#27 New Orleans — James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State)
#28 Pittsburgh — Harold Landry (LB, Boston College)
#29 Jacksonville — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#30 Minnesota — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#31 New England — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#32 Philadelphia — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)

Notes

— Josh Allen at #1 number represents two thoughts. Firstly, that John Dorsey will likely add a veteran quarterback such as Alex Smith. Whoever they take at #1 surely isn’t going to be tasked with immediately leading the Browns back to relevance? Smith instantly made Kansas City competitive after they ‘earned’ the #1 overall pick in 2013. A move like that buys Allen time. And if you’re drafting to develop a QB, Allen is the prototype. Great size, mobility, arm strength, hand size, the ability to make gains on the ground. Fans and media might prefer the bigger names but it’s completely plausible that GM’s and coaches will look at Allen as the ultimate lump of clay to mould.

— Saquon Barkley is so good, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s receiving Andrew Luck level grades from some teams. I don’t think it’s automatic that the Giants just draft a QB to eventually replace Eli. Dave Gettleman is determined to repair the O-line and will reportedly do whatever it takes to sign Andrew Norwell. If he gets it right up front, imagine how potent the Giants could be with Odell Beckham Jr, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. They also have enough talent on defense to be competitive. Are they thinking long term, or about the opportunity to win immediately?

— Teams were aggressive in trading up for quarterbacks a year ago. This mock represents the possibility that this could happen again, with the Bills and Cardinals making big moves to get Darnold and Rosen.

— A lot of mocks only have one running back — Saquon Barkley — going in the first round. Ronald Jones II is certainly talented enough to go very early, possibly top-20. I gave him to the Browns here because John Dorsey had first hand experience of Jamaal Charles’ impact at Kansas City. Jones II is Charles 2.0. I still think it’s possible Kerryon Johnson goes in round one too. He ran with toughness, legitimised Auburn’s season in 2017 and shares Le’Veon Bell’s patience in the backfield. Josh McDaniels spent a top-15 pick on Knowshon Moreno when he was in charge in Denver. He could push for another talented runner if his new team trades down.

— I made some picks that I don’t necessarily agree with. I think Billy Price is one of the best players in the class but many others see him as a borderline first rounder. Having him go at #20 was a compromise between the two positions. Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State) is expected to have a sensational combine and that could propel him in a week year at cornerback. It also felt like the right time to move Isaiah Wynn up the board. Following his sensational Senior Bowl and superb 2017 season, he thoroughly deserves to go in the first round. What a talent.

Notes on the Seahawks

— As I said at the start, I want these to be about scenarios not players for now. That’s why I deliberately didn’t place Seattle with an individual at #18 or after the two trades. That said, there are appealing options left on the board at running back, the O-line and defensive front seven. Will Hernandez and Frank Ragnow are there. Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny are there. There’s a whole host of defensive possibilities, including the find of the Senior Bowl Darius Leonard.

— I wanted to do a mock where the Seahawks don’t get a golden ticket offer via trade. Fans have talked a lot about doing a deal for a couple of second round picks, or a second and a third. It’s possible such an offer isn’t available — especially with this being a draft with minimal legit first round picks. Here the Seahawks are forced to trade down twice just to get a third and a high fourth. They end up with pick #33 but could feel obliged to move down again.

— If there’s one running back I think the Seahawks might consider taking at #18, it’s Ronald Jones II. He’s different to any of the backs Seattle has drafted in the Pete Carroll era so far but he has a special quality. He could be a star. He’s off the board here so it takes that option away. They trade down instead.

— This scenario raises what I think is a key point — the likely need to hedge at running back. They’ll possibly sign a veteran RB of some description. Whether that’s a Carlos Hyde type or someone a lot less high profile, they probably have to at least prepare for needing to wait on the running backs longer than they might prefer.

— They might need to add to multiple positions. D-line, linebacker, cornerback, safety, receiver, tight end, O-line, running back. This would be exercise in finding value and identifying the pockets of talent available at each position. For example, how long can you wait on a running back? Are Nick Chubb and Rashaad Penny, for example, second or third rounders? How early do you want to add a receiver? Do you wait until day three or consider D.J. Chark (one of the big risers in Mobile) earlier? How early is Durham Smythe going to go and could he have some appeal as a ‘Y’ tight end? When do you start re-stocking on defense and who are the players that can help make up your next core? How early is Darius Leonard going to be taken? Do you need to find a safety? And will you have enough room for the customary fifth or sixth round cornerback pick?

— A lot of the questions above are difficult to answer. And there are more. For example, can anyone say with any confidence where they think Marquis Haynes, Tyquan Lewis, Andrew Brown, B.J. Hill, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Lorenzo Carter, Jeff Holland, Terrell Edmunds, Justin Jones, Da’Shawn Hand, Kyzir White and others are going to go? You could list more. The combine will provide some answers. Yet there are a long list of defensive prospects (and some offensive ones too) where the stock could be anywhere from round two to round five. We know the Seahawks are going to try and start re-shaping the defense. Projecting who might go where is the challenging part.

— Durham Smythe (TE, Notre Dame), Darius Leonard (LB, SC State), D.J. Chark (WR, LSU), Austin Corbett (T, Nevada), Marquise Haynes (LB, Ole Miss) and Tyquan Smith (DE, Ohio State) gave off quite a ‘Seahawky’ vibe at the Senior Bowl. We’ll see how they test at the combine.

— One other thing I’ve noticed doing these mocks this year is there’s something slightly unsatisfying about the projections. That’s indicative of where the Seahawks are right now. In previous years they’ve had one or two needs. It’s been possible to identify someone they might like or at least someone fans can agree would fill a need. This year, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done to the roster. You’re unlikely to take solace in any mock draft over the next few weeks, pairing Seattle with one name at #18. You’re probably going to be more reassured by an overall assessment of what’s actually out there in this draft class. The positions of strength, the options, the possible targets. So that’s what we should aim to cover over the next few weeks.

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Senior Bowl game notes

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

Top performers

Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming) — He came out for the second half against expectations and led two terrific touchdown drives. Allen showed why he could be the #1 overall pick. He has a fantastic arm but can also throw with touch, he’s mobile and can extend plays plus make gains with his legs. He played with aggression and attitude and looked the part. This was a statement performance by Allen that will have teams mightily impressed.

D.J. Chark (WR, LSU) — Of all the players on the field, Chark arguably boosted his stock the most. He looked sudden and he consistently found ways to get open. He made downfield catches and looked like an X-factor — but also made a tackle on special teams as a gunner (which he celebrated with gusto). It has to be said, he looked like a Seahawks-type receiver. Slightly unheralded, a little bit undersized. Yet he’s highly athletic, he’s a nuanced route runner, he plays with intensity and he makes explosive chunk plays.

Durham Smythe (TE, Notre Dame) — Ian Thomas had his moments too but of all the tight ends to boost their stock, it feels like Smythe did the most this week. He was excellent in the game. Smythe is well established as the most natural ‘Y’ tight end in the class. He’s considered a good blocker. In this game he showed what he can do as a receiver, getting open on a well timed wheel route to grab one of Josh Allen’s touchdowns. Smythe could be a third rounder.

Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss) — All he does is make plays. Despite being modestly sized at around 6-3 and 233lbs, he ran over Pittsburgh tackle Brian O’Neill early in the game and later beat Brett Toth with a classic speed rush. Haynes had a sack fumble that led to a touchdown. He consistently impacts games. Whether he’s a nickel rusher or a SAM/LEO type — Haynes will likely provide great value because he’s such a playmaker.

Kyle Lauletta (QB, Richmond) — Western Kentucky’s Mike White also played well but Lauletta had a terrific second half. He extended plays, made a superb downfield throw close to the right sideline, scored three touchdowns and finished his work off with a highly accurate red zone pass to Marcell Ateman. Lauletta is worth a camp this summer.

Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA) — For all the talk of Davenport being laid back and maybe being a bit hit and miss in practise, this game showed why he’ll be a high first round pick. He destroyed Brian O’Neill on one snap and easily turned the corner against a variety of the lesser tackles. He had a fumble recovery for a touchdown too. There just aren’t many players with this kind of length, speed, power and upside.

Rashaad Penny (RB, San Diego State) — After a relatively quiet practise week for Penny, he had two really good plays in the game. A nice burst up the middle led to a significant early gain and then he caught a pass on a scramble drill for a long touchdown. Penny might not be a tone-setting back at the next level you use as a feature runner. He will, however, be the type of player who makes big chunk plays fairly regularly — as a runner, receiver or returner.

Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State) — Whether he was rushing the edge, stunting inside or attacking the B-gap, Lewis had a day. He combined with Ogbonnia Okoronkwo on one sack/fumble and was a constant threat. Powerful and quick, Lewis has plenty of upside and could work in a rotation at the next level.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (EDGE, Oklahoma) — In the process of trying to work out what his best position is, I think this game summed it up. He’s a pass rusher. He isn’t agile enough to play as a linebacker and cover and he’s not a base end. Yet put him up 1v1 off the edge and he makes plays. Great quickness, excellent hand use and he has a nice spin move to counter. He’ll likely be a role player at the next level but he could contribute 8-10 sacks. Think 2012 Bruce Irvin. This was a big performance by Okoronkwo.

Darius Leonard (LB, South Carolina State) — Wow. Superb size, athleticism, tenacity and unique length. Leonard flew around the field, made shoestring tackles, clattered Kalen Ballage in the open field and was clogging gaps in the run game. He is the modern day NFL linebacker. His upside is so high for the next level and with the kind of guidance and coaching he’d get in Seattle, he could end up being a big deal.

Game notes (posted live during the Senior Bowl)

— The first big play of the game came from first round pick Marcus Davenport. He crushed Pittsburgh tackle Brian O’Neill, putting his blocker on skates and walking him back into Baker Mayfield for the sack. It was a perfect illustration of Davenport’s talents. He isn’t just a speed rusher who excelled against weaker opponents — he can win in multiple ways. It also highlighted how O’Neill is quite overrated. He has upside — but he’s raw and needs major work on his technique, hand use and set. It was an ugly rep for O’Neill. On the previous down Jaleel Scott (WR, New Mexico State) dropped an easy pass from Mayfield that was right on the money.

— Rashaad Penny made the first big play on offense. Ian Thomas (TE, Indiana) came across the line to make a key block on Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, the O-line all connected on their blocks and together it created a huge running lane. Penny took advantage, running right up the middle and making a 34-yard gain. Mike White (QB, Western Kentucky) looked really good on the drive, completing two big passes including a touchdown to UCF’s Tre’Quan Smith.

— On the North’s subsequent drive, there were three key plays. Firstly, Will Hernandez pulled from the left guard position, locked onto the linebacker and allowed Kalen Ballage to make a 16-yard gain. It wasn’t a pretty move by Hernandez — he doesn’t look overly comfortable in space. It was strangely effective though. Shortly after Ballage was running free again thanks to two key blocks from Virginia Tech’s Wyatt Teller and Mason Cole. And then as the drive stalled, 233lbs Marquis Haynes bull rushed Brian O’Neill into Baker Mayfield forcing an incomplete pass. O’Neill has really struggled on the first two drives.

— Mike White has enjoyed a really strong start at quarterback for the South team. He completed a deep pass to LSU’s D.J. Chark in single coverage. Chark beat his guy and got open by the left sideline. Nice throw, route and catch. Tyquan Lewis stalled the drive by sacking White on an edge rush from the right side. He bull rushed the tackle and managed to trip up White. He had a good week in Mobile. Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson had an ugly looking field goal attempt drift wide of the upright. Oh dear.

— We talked about Kemoko Turay (EDGE, Rutgers) during the week. He had two really good rushes before the end of the first quarter. On the second occasion he easily beat Alex Cappa. Mike White just got the ball out before Turay sacked him. White has looked sharp, poised and accurate. They switch possessions at the end of each half and he led a nice two-minute drill. Daniel Carlson, having missed the easier kick earlier, then nailed a difficult 53-yarder. Go figure.

— The first big play of the second quarter involved Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis again. What a get off, rushing the B-gap and absolutely hammering Rashaad Penny in the backfield for a loss. Lewis is worth keeping an eye on here. The same can’t be said for the two big name quarterbacks so far. Neither Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen have played particularly well. Kurt Benkert of Virginia stepped up to the plate after Mike White’s fast start. Benkert scrambled to the right and from a different throwing angle, dropped a perfect pass into Rashaad Penny who took it the distance for a big touchdown. Great improvisation from the QB, great finish by the RB. Penny looks like a weapon.

— With the greatest respect to Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage, anybody watching this game actually wants to view it, rather than listen to interviews. I’m not sure why the NFL Network is trying to grab the casual viewer — or that the casual viewer wants to see a game broadcast interrupted by interviews — but it’s quite frustrating.

— Will Hernandez just had a great battle with Virginia’s Andrew Brown. 340lbs vs 294lbs — and after a great tussle Hernandez won, sending Brown to the turf. Great hands and power from Hernandez, affording Tanner Lee to make a throw to the tight end Mike Gesicki. The catch is initially made until Quin Blanding tackles Gesicki and he drops the pass. They call it incomplete. Gesicki should’ve made the catch, it was a bad miss. On the next snap Brown gets revenge with a wonderful get off and swim move to beat Wyatt Teller and force some pressure. Darius Leonard helps about by tackling Kalen Ballage in the open field. There are two names to monitor — Leonard and Brown.

— LSU’s Darrel Williams just had a beastmode run. Nice initial cut, pushed the pile and kept his legs moving for a nice gain. Great run. He could be a Seahawks target later on in the draft or UDFA. Mike Mayock noted on the broadcast he was named LSU’s MVP in 2017. His team mate D.J. Chark also had a nice run on an end-around. Chark looked sudden, decisive and quick.

— Darius Leonard is flying to the ball. He’s working to plug gaps in the run game, he just chased down Mike Gesicki after he caught a pass, he’s roaming to the ball carrier. Leonard looks fast, explosive and physical. Huge potential. Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo recorded a sack beating Alex Cappa with a standard edge rush. It looked like he lined up in a wide-9 stance and Cappa never had sufficient depth in his drop to stand a chance at preventing the sack. Okoronkwo role in the NFL is going to be difficult to work out. He’s not a SAM. He arguably doesn’t have the size to be a base end. Can he play 3-4 OLB? Debatable. He might be a nickel rusher — but he’s good at it. Stanford’s Harrison Phillips made a play before half time, hitting the quarterback after beating Skyler Phillips of Idaho State.

— Nevada tackle Austin Corbett gave up an ugly sack before half time. Jayln Holmes of Ohio State worked to the outside then beat him with a spin move inside. Corbett had no answer. Holmes had a pretty underwhelming week in Mobile but he had Corbett’s lunch money there.

— At half time the South team led 18-3. Bill O’Brien and the Houston staff had their team ready to play with the unheralded quarterbacks impressing. Vance Joseph’s Denver staff had the North team playing, ‘differently’, to put it mildly.

— Josh Allen started the half making a good throw to Durham Smythe. The Notre Dame tight end has looked good this week and has made a couple of good grabs so far. Certainly one to monitor. Marcus Davenport appeared to hurt his ankle on a good edge rush vs Army’s Brett Toth. Davenport has played well today. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton has had two bad drops. Kalen Ballage is getting outside with speed and quickness — then turning upfield. Ballage really looks the part. You just wish he did more at Arizona State. He also left the field with an apparent injury. Oren Burks was a late call up to the Senior Bowl. He’s a linebacker from Vanderbilt. He’s making some plays, he looks quick and physical.

— The first drive of the second half was a big one for Wyoming’s Josh Allen. After a disappointing first half, he was allowed another series (he wasn’t expected to play in the third quarter). Allen converted a fourth down to Mike Gesicki, made a third down with his legs and ended the drive with a wonderful touch pass to Tyler Conklin for a TD. He played angry, aggressive and made a statement there. Listen, he has a lot to work on. Nobody would deny that. But he has the perfect frame, arm, hand size, mobility and the ability to complete a range of throws. And if the Browns bring in a veteran like Alex Smith, it’s highly possible they take Allen as the eventual heir apparent with the #1 pick.

— Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (it’s fun typing that out several times during a live blog) and Tyquan Lewis just combined to make a great play. Lewis bull rushes the left tackle right into the quarterbacks lap, while Okoronkwo went up and under Brandon Parker the right tackle and had a meeting with Lewis in the backfield. The ball was fumbled by the QB and gathered by the offense. Okoronkwo and Lewis have put on a show and look like the two most distinguished pass rushers in the game.

— Back to complaining about the NFL Network now. They somehow managed to time a promotional fluff interview with a guy from Reese’s telling us about a new chocolate product called ‘the Outrageous’. Well, you know what’s even more outrageous than some chocolate, peanut butter and caramel in bar form? Missing two fantastic touchdowns because we’re basically watching an advert while the game is going on.

— Wow, Josh Allen. He completed a great play action pass to Michael Gallup for 31 yards and then followed it up with a great touch pass to Durham Smythe who got open on a wheel route for a touchdown. Two plays in the drive, two big passes and a score. This is Allen competing. Staying in the game, making big plays, flashing what he’s all about. I’ve already put together a mock draft to go live after the Senior Bowl. Allen was going to stay at #1 to Cleveland and that isn’t changing after this performance. The pass to Gallup was particularly strong. Great work on the PA, then a rocket into a tight window right on the money. Smythe is also putting on a show too. Any hope that he might be there on day three, that’s diminishing. He is the tight end separating here. He is the one who looks the part.

— Immediately afterwards, the South team responded with a huge downfield pass from Kyle Lauletta to D.J. Chark. The LSU receiver is another player having a huge day. He just gets open, he looks sudden and his finish was superb — running away from the defensive back. He has an attitude I think the Seahawks will like. On the opening kick off of the half he was the gunner and took great joy in making the special teams tackle. He has long limbs, he looks like a great route runner. Big day and he’ll be rising up boards after this.

— Poona Ford forced had a sack fumble. Will Hernandez tried to chip him and run to the second level as they tried to set up a screen. Ford was barely disrupted and just had a straight run to Josh Allen. Big hit, forced fumble although it was recovered by the offense. It stalled the drive so on third down they just ran the ball with Akrum Wadley. Mike Gesicki barely tried to block Darius Leonard. The linebacker dodged him easily and made the tackle. This is the problem with a lot of the names in this tight end class. They can’t or won’t block. That’s what’ll set Durham Smythe apart.

— Big play by Marquis Haynes. He easily beat Toth off the edge, hammered the quarterback and forced a fumble. It was scooped up by Marcus Davenport who ran it in for a touchdown. Haynes won with power and speed today. He’s only 233lbs but he made plays against O’Neill and Toth and he just finds a way to have an impact. Great quickness and finish to make the strip sack. Daniel Carlson, who missed a straight forward field goal earlier, missed the extra point. He does not look like the solution at kicker for the Seahawks based on this evidence.

— The North team imploded late on. Marcus Davenport pressured him after beating the left tackle and forced a bad throw from Tanner Lee that was picked off. Davenport clubbed the hands of the left tackle Jamil Demby and just caught Lee’s arm as he pulled the trigger.

— Quarterbacks Josh Allen and Mike White both played well — so did Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta. He had three touchdown passes and looked incredibly sharp. He found Marcell Ateman in a really tight window in the red zone for his final score — but made a variety of completions including a terrific deep ball down the right sideline. Lauletta has something about him. Interesting prospect.

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Observations on the draft post Senior Bowl week

Friday, January 26th, 2018

— To me the week of practise in Mobile confirmed a few things about this draft class. Firstly, it’s light on legit first round talent. Secondly, while there are going to be pockets of value at different positions in various rounds — I’m not sure it’s a nice, thick class all the way through. There will be good options on the interior O-line in rounds 2-3. There will likely be a run on running backs in that same range. We’ll see a cluster of quarterbacks go early. And day three will have some appealing defensive and receiver projects. It also feels like you could write down 7-8 good ‘fourth or fifth round’ options and half of them will go in round three because the depth of talent overall isn’t that great.

— I think this assertion is backed up by how aggressive Seattle was in making trades during the season. They’ve never done that before. The Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham deals came pre-draft, where they could make a considered decision judging the draft options vs the potential to acquire veteran talent. It’s quite possible they just felt the deals for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown presented excellent value. Yet the decision to go into the off-season with only one pick in the first three rounds perhaps suggests they too believed this class was a little light in certain areas.

— Here are the players I thought impressed based on what I saw at the Senior Bowl:

Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Unsurprisingly, a fantastic week. It emerged yesterday that Wynn practised with a torn labrum too and will have surgery next week. He probably won’t be at the combine but he’ll be ready for camp. To play as well as he did given the injury (and his decision to compete) is really something. Don’t be shocked if he sneaks into round one. Power, control, footwork, finish, subtle technique. He is a terrific prospect. ESPN’s Louis Riddick called him the most impressive player in Mobile. Agreed.

Justin Jones (DT, NC State)
Practised with intensity, power and explosion. Good size (6-2, 311lbs) with impressive length (33 5/8 inch arms plus big 10-inch hands). Attacked his gaps with vigour and could be a useful rotational pass rusher in the NFL. Looked really good.

B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)
Jones’ team mate also came away with an impressive week of work. He’s bigger at 6-3 and 321lbs and is a very different player to Jones. On the one hand you’ve got a possible third-down pass rusher capable of two-gapping and attacking from different angles. Hill is tough, strong and shakes off blockers.

Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
One of the few players who could work into first round consideration. He had a terrific first day looking like the best player in Mobile. He overpowered players, showed a genuine edge and attitude and surprising agility on his feet (a slight concern going into the week). Impressive and at the very least a second round prospect.

Durham Smythe (TE, Notre Dame)
I hadn’t watched any of his tape going into the week but read a lot of reports suggesting he was the best ‘Y’ tight end in the class. Blocking is going to be a big deal for the Seahawks at this position. That said, he really flashed as a pass catcher on Thursday and looks the part. The only concern might be his short 31 1/2 inch arms. Good character, got open in the TE vs S drills and made one terrific catch on a fade against Kyzir White.

Brett Toth (T, Army)
I hadn’t really written about Toth during the week because he’s in the army. Last year they incorporated a rule that basically made it a lot harder for recruits to play in the NFL without undertaking two years of service. Apparently, there might be a way around this. If he can go to the NFL in 2018, Toth is one to keep an eye on. He’s tough, in control and had some big moments as a blocker. Could be a mid-rounder and play right tackle or guard.

Kemoko Turay (DE, Rutgers)
He’s had two years of injury issues and he’s raw. However, Turay will be a nice project for someone as a late round pick or UDFA. He looked really quick and sharp in Mobile. He’s quick off the snap, showed good bend and footwork. Technique wise he needs some work — he needs to learn proper hand-use and develop ways to get off a block. He’ll be worth a camp though.

Bradley Bozeman (C, Alabama)
On Tuesday he was great. He controlled defenders with great hand placement and leverage — plus he had the strength to finish. He wasn’t quite as effective on day two. For some reason all of the great technique went by the wayside in the 1v1 drills. However, he’s a tough, competitive interior lineman with good size (6-4, 317lbs). At the very least could be a strong backup.

Darius Leonard (LB, South Carolina State)
He’ll be a project — but what a project. Fluid hips, great speed, ideal size (6-2, 229lbs) and great length (34 1/8 inch arms plus 10 3/8 inch hands). Get Leonard on the roster. He started the week struggling in coverage but on Thursday showed major strides. He loves a hit too — he absolutely demolished one of the running backs towards the end of the day yesterday on a pass into the flat. He’ll need time but Leonard is a modern day NFL linebacker with a ton of potential.

Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
Haynes is a playmaker, always has been. And while his role at the next level might be limited to nickel pass rush duties, he did a lot this week to prove he’s worth considering. He moves well in space, he showed well in the pass rush drills (great quickness, flashed a counter and was willing to use power in the bull rush). It’s hard to determine what round he’ll land — but he’ll be worth a shot to be an impact rotational player.

Kalen Ballage (RB, Arizona State)
The tough thing to work out with Ballage is whether all of the positivity he built up this week is ever going to lead to anything. He’s a sensational talent, looked like a receiver running routes and he’s a natural athlete. But when the grind of a 16-game season is ongoing, is he going to be there for you? That’s the big question. In Mobile he looked terrific.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (LB, Oklahoma)
He seemed to be trying too hard on day one but once he settled in he showed what he does best — get after the quarterback. He beat Tyrell Crosby on back-to-back snaps using an outside speed rush and then an inside spin move. He has great length (34 1/2 inch arms) and he’s versatile.

Darrell Williams (RB, LSU)
Yesterday was my first opportunity to watch the running backs and Williams stood out. He’s sturdy and well built and right in Seattle’s wheelhouse for RB’s (5-11, 229lbs). Downhill runner with power but intriguing quickness. Was stuck behind Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice at LSU. Could be a later round value pick.

Austin Corbett (T, Nevada)
I thought he looked a bit sluggish on Wednesday but in the team drills yesterday he took no prisoners. He was driving defenders off the LOS, attacking the second level, working well with Bradley Bozeman on double teams. Top performance.

Da’Shawn Hand (DT, Alabama)
Hand looked good when he was able to avoid Isaiah Wynn. The standout moment for me was a rush he had at defensive end during team drills on Thursday. He stunted inside and just blew past the interior linemen to get into the backfield. Marcus Davenport also rushed the edge and the two met the QB at the same time. It was a flash of genuine quality and showed why Hand was once the #1 overall recruit.

— I remain relatively convinced that acquiring talent at running back will be a significant draft priority for Seattle (especially given the quality of player available). Pete Carroll pretty much spelled that out when he spoke at the end of the season. Adding at least two backs from this class seems likely.

Daniel Jeremiah listed Nick Chubb at #49 on his top-50 list. That would suggest a R2-3 type range. Lance Zierlein on the other hand lists him in R3-4. If he has a clean medical check and the kind of combine we know he’s capable of, I think he’ll be nearer round one than round four. Frank Gore lasted into round three after seriously injuring his knee in college. Chubb might provide similar value and toughness. It’d certainly give Seattle’s running game a shot in the arm if they were able to get Ronald Jones II and Nick Chubb. How likely that is, I don’t know. It’s a fun thought.

— Both Jeremiah and Zierlein have Billy Price rated in the late first/early second round range. I think he’s a top-15 talent. If Price, Will Hernandez, Isaiah Wynn and Frank Ragnow were available it’d be very easy to feel quite positive about getting one to potentially play left guard. However, there might be a reason why they’re looking at players like Austin Corbett. Firstly, they already have a first rounder, two second rounders and a player who cost a second and third round pick starting on their O-line. At what point is it down to Mike Solari to make this work, while focusing on other areas? Secondly, they might want (or need) to focus on RB and defensive front seven.

— Ultimately I don’t think there’s a right or wrong approach for Seattle at #18 (even though fans will, inevitably, pick a side on the debate). There is some value in staying put — especially if they think as highly of Ronald Jones II as I do (for whatever that’s worth) and several others do (Jeremiah and Zierlein). There’s also some benefit in trading down and being able to address several needs instead of one. If I could try and shape the debate within this community for the next few weeks I would propose the following. Debate the pro’s and con’s of both, rather than argue vehemently for one or the other.

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