Louisiana Tech DT Vernon Butler could go in the first round
Before we get into the Senior Bowl highlights from yesterday, here are some observations I made watching games yesterday:
— Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) is the most intriguing interior defensive linemen in the class. I watched him against Rice and Kansas State and you could see him playing for the Seahawks. His gap discipline is excellent and that’s a big deal for Seattle. They preach doing your job up front and it helps them dominate vs the run. There aren’t many DT’s with length (34 inch arms), size (325lbs) and this type of mobility/athleticism. They like unique players — Butler has a rare physical combination. He carries the size well with a nice blend of lower/upper body power. He’ll soak up a double team on one play allowing the linebacker to break through on a blitz. On the next down he’ll stretch out a run play and work to the sideline. Here’s the thing though — he isn’t a great pass rusher. He just isn’t. And that’s underlined by a poor stat-sheet against some below-par opponents in 2015 (three sacks). So while he has the potential to become a very impressive, solid pro-DT at the next level — is he likely to improve upon what the Seahawks already have? That said, I’m not sure there’s a DT I’d want to take earlier than Butler in the entire class.
— When I do my next mock draft, Kyler Fackrell (DE/OLB, Utah State) will be in the top-25. I can see why PFF graded him as one of the most underrated pass rushers in college football in 2015. Unlike Vernon Butler, his middling statistics (four sacks) don’t do him justice. He’s a splash play artist — constantly impacting snaps and forcing mistakes. He’s a relentless rusher responsible for so many bad throws, picks and poor decisions. Whether you want to use him in the 3-4 at linebacker, off the edge in a 4-3 or in a Jamie Collins type role — he’ll be able to make plays. He’s one of the most fun players you’ll see in this class — with the attitude, intensity and football character that will make him incredibly attractive to teams. If the Dallas Cowboys wanted to draw a line under the ugly Greg Hardy episode, Fackrell would be an ideal replacement. They won’t take him with the #4 pick — but if they trade down with a club looking to draft one of the top QB’s, it could be possible.
— Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville) is getting a lot of attention after what appears to be a terrific first day of practise at the Senior Bowl. I saw one clip where he embarrassed Graham Glasgow with a fantastic spin move. It was quick-twitch, fluid technique at its best. He apparently had a similar move against Evan Boehm. I recall not being overly impressed with his tape — so I went back yesterday to review that initial take. And I came away unimpressed again. Perhaps the nature of the drills and the 1v1 nature of the plays suit Rankins? There’s no denying he has an attractive combination of quick feet and compact size (6-2, around 300lbs) that you want to see in an orthodox 4-3 three technique (not that the Seahawks feature that type of player). Yet on tape he doesn’t beat anyone with the spin move, he doesn’t shoot gaps and penetrate. He hasn’t got that first step quickness to work into the backfield. He doesn’t get pushed around and he looks strong at the POA, he’ll hold his ground and occasionally force running backs to bounce outside. He can move along the line. But he’s not going to the NFL to be a run-stuffer. And there has to at least be some concern that he’ll always look great in these Senior Bowl drills — but will it translate to the NFL? I’m not overly convinced — but will try and watch another couple of different games soon.
Senior Bowl highlights
Jon Ledyard says Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma) had a good day (among his extensive notes). “His hands are deadly when he utilizes them, just has to get precision down. I thought Tapper had an impressive all-around day, and his thick build lends itself to a strong-side 4-3 defensive end who is pretty immovable against the run.”
Pauline also praised Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky), Malcolm Mitchell (WR, Georgia) and Jordan Jenkins (OLB/DE, Georgia) on his Twitter timeline. On Jenkins: “(He) has been unstoppable. A man among boys.”
Jihad Ward is 6-5, 295lbs and would add some competition inside
I used Tony Pauline’s rankings to try and piece together a range for each prospect. The idea was to try to enhance the pass rush, the physical toughness/size in the trenches and deliver an edge.
This projection follows a free agency period where the Seahawks let Russell Okung and Bruce Irvin walk. I’ll leave it open for you to decide what happens with the rest. I want to focus on the prospects not necessarily the fate of the free agents in this discussion.
Round 1 — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
He’d bring an instant edge to the O-line that has been missing since Breno Giacomini left for New York. He punishes linebackers at the second level and he’s chippy. He’ll have a word in your ear after driving you downfield six yards. There are so many passive college offensive linemen — not Coleman. He has the attitude the Seahawks are looking to re-establish in 2016. They could open up a competition to see who starts at left tackle between Garry Gilliam and Coleman. He has the length and size they like and they haven’t been put off by age in the past (he’s 24, the same age as Bruce Irvin when Seattle took him with the #15 pick).
Pauline has given Coleman a round two grade, meaning he was available to pair with the #26 pick here.
Round 2 — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
If the Seahawks want to upgrade their pass rush, this could be an option. They generally haven’t drafted bigger, power ends early in the draft. It’s hard to imagine them going after a Shaq Lawson type to play the edge. It’d be equally surprising to see them draft a defensive tackle who doesn’t have unique physical or athletic traits. They have placed a premium on speed and athleticism in their front seven early. Frank Clark was a monster athlete. Spence wouldn’t replace Bruce Irvin at the SAM — but he would replace his role as the extra pass rusher on key downs. He could also be trained to be a long term successor to Cliff Avril, who turns 30 in April.
Pauline has given Spence a third round grade, meaning he was available for the Seahawks at the end of round two.
R3 — Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
I’m not totally convinced the Seahawks will look to draft a center early. The red shirting of Kristjan Sokoli suggests they are willing to give that project time. Their decision to start Drew Nowak also indicates they’re keen to have a truly athletic center at the heart of the O-line. They could add a veteran ‘place holder’ for 2-3 years to solidify this position. Glasgow could be moved to left guard. He plays with a real determination and edge. He isn’t going to back down at the next level. He stands his ground, plants his feet and stones interior rushers. He’s capable of driving people off the line and put on a clinic at the Shrine game practises. If the Seahawks want to add tough guys to their O-line, Graham is a good candidate. He could add 10lbs and be close to the ideal size for their left guard preference (they seem to like ‘huge’ at LG). Adding Coleman and Glasgow to the O-line, with a veteran too preferably, would instantly upgrade the toughness of that unit.
Pauline has given Graham a fifth round grade but admitted he improved his stock (possibly by two rounds) at the Shrine game. We’ll say he’s available for Seattle’s first pick in round three.
Round 3 — William Jackson (CB, Houston)
The Seahawks haven’t taken a cornerback prospect this early. Walter Thurmond is their highest corner pick in round four. That said, it might time to replenish the depth of this group and make an investment of sorts. If Jeremy Lane departs it’ll increase the pressure on Seattle to find another gem in this draft. Jackson, who pulled out of the Senior Bowl at the last minute, is 6-1 and 197lbs with long arms. He had five picks in 2015 (two returned for touchdowns). He’s not a speed demon but he’s a fluid mover — Seattle seems to be comfortable with their CB’s running in the 4.5’s. With a nice batch of corners available earlier, it might be possible for Jackson to slip into range for Seattle’s comp pick here.
Pauline has given Jackson a fourth round grade, meaning he was available for this mock.
ALTERNATIVE ROUND 3 PICK — Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)
If the Seahawks decide to do what it takes to keep Jeremy Lane — they might be satisfied with their depth at corner with DeShawn Shead and Tharold Simon returning along with a crop of young players. In that case, this could be a sweet spot at running back. For me the Seahawks need a third down back to compliment Thomas Rawls and compete for #2 snaps with Christine Michael. Perkins has the pass-catching talent to be a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. His blocking needs work but that’s the same for most college RB’s. He also has a fantastic cut-and-run ability with superb balance. He doesn’t go down on first contact either despite a lack of great size. Perkins is also a well-spoken student of the game. He’d look great in Seattle.
Pauline has given Perkins a third round grade
Round 4 — Rashard Higgins (WR, Colorado State)
If Jermaine Kearse joins a new team in free agency, the chances are the Seahawks will draft a receiver at some point. They’ve drafted three receivers in the fourth round since 2010 — Kris Durham, Chris Harper and Kevin Norwood. Although none of those three picks worked out, it’s unlikely to dissuade them going WR in this round again. Higgins has nice college production (something they value) and has shown the ability to separate and play with suddenness (another thing they like). He might not last until the late fourth but there will be plenty of other options.
Pauline has given Higgins a fifth round grade, making him available for this pick.
R5 — Jihad Ward (DT, Illinois)
In this little scenario we’re playing here, the Seahawks maybe lost Okung, Irvin, Kearse and Lane. Which would make some free cash available to make some choice additions in the free agent market. That doesn’t mean a splurge. More likely some savvy veteran experience to bolster the trenches, be it at center, left guard or the defensive line. They’ve consistently found pieces on the interior D-line to their credit — whether it’s Clinton McDonald, Athyba Rubin, Kevin Williams, Tony McDaniel and others. They know what to look for and should be able to enhance their rotation without breaking the bank. This pick might just add to the competition even if the player doesn’t make the team in year one. Ward is 6-5 and 295lbs and built to add some presence. He had 11 tackles (9 solo) against Rose Bowl finalist Iowa. He isn’t McDaniel in terms of persona but he’s similar in size and could turn into a comparable piece of the rotation. The oldest child in a single-parent household, Ward became a father figure for his siblings.
Pauline has graded Ward in the fifth or sixth round.
R6 — Fahn Cooper (T, Ole Miss)
There were two options here. Cooper — who I like a lot and don’t think will be available in round six — and Le’Raven Clark of Texas Tech — who might be one of the more overrated players in the draft. Pauline grades him as a seventh rounder and while that might be extreme — I’d certainly lean more towards that than the current first round projection (to the Seahawks no less) by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. Clark’s tape against LSU was frankly embarrassing and showed a player with almost no future at left tackle in the NFL. He has the footwork, length and agility but almost no punch or counter, his set is inconsistent and he looks like a major project. Cooper is much more polished and accomplished. He held the fort at left tackle for Ole Miss during Laremy Tunsil’s suspension. He’s a born leader who speaks like a pro. I’d want him on my team and if I can get him this late in the draft — even better.
I suspect he will end up going in the middle rounds — yet for now Pauline has him graded in round six so I took him.
R7 — Travis Feeney (LB, Washington)
This follows on from the thought yesterday that the Seahawks might not prioritise filling the SAM spot in the draft if Bruce Irvin departs. Opening up a competition involving a draft pick, maybe an UDFA and the likes of Eric Pinkins, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Mike Morgan might be the way to go. It allows them to focus on upgrading the trenches and other areas. Feeney has had multiple shoulder surgeries and that could be enough to put him into the UDFA pool. That might be the preferred route for the Seahawks and they’ve successfully recruited former Huskies in free agency in the past. It’s unlikely he’d start in 2016 at the WILL but he could see some playing time while contributing on special teams.
Pauline is currently projecting Feeney as a sixth or seventh round pick.
R7 — Ronald Blair III (DE, Appalachian State)
I want to see what this guy can do at the combine. I’m trying to work out how and why he ended up at Appalachian State having seemingly drawn a fair amount of interest from the SEC at High School. He’s a really disruptive pass rusher who can work inside or out. For me his best role might be to gain another 10lbs and act as an orthodox three-technique (not the Athyba Rubin type). His performance against Clemson in 2015 showed he can do it against the best in college football. If you’re looking for a sleeper pick who can maybe act as an interior disruptor — Blair III could be your guy.
Pauline is projecting he will go undrafted.
Senior Bowl weigh in notes
— Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) and Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State) both have really nice length. Both players are pushing 6-4 in height with 34 inch arms. Butler is 325lbs (!!!) and Washington 295lbs. It’s a bit surprising to see Butler is carrying that much weight.
— At 6-4, 299lbs and sub 33-inch arms, Joe Dahl (T, Washington State) is definitely moving inside to guard or center.
— I’ve never been a fan of Sheldon Day (DT, Notre Dame) but he measured in at 6-0 and 286lbs which is incredibly small and light.
— Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech) has 36 and 1/4 inch arms at nearly 6-6 and 312lbs. He has a fantastic tackle body. It’s just a shame his tape is so disappointing (see notes above)
— Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State) is best suited to center. That was confirmed today when he measured only 31 and 3/8 inch arms. He’s a T-Rex. He took some snaps in practise today at center.
— According to Tony Pauline, some teams are put off by Graham Glasgow’s height. He’s 6-6 and 306lbs with 33 and 1/8 inch arms. The Seahawks aren’t concerned by height at center. Max Unger is 6-5, Drew Nowak 6-3 and Kristjan Sokoli 6-5. Glasgow could play guard for Seattle too (see above).
— Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky) has to look electric and fast because he isn’t long. He’s under 6-3 and 254lbs with only 31 inch arms.
— Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma) is a shade under 6-3, 276lbs and has +34 inch arms. There’s a lot to like about his ability to rush inside and out.
— Deiondre Hall (CB, Northern Iowa) has nearly 35 inch arms (!!!) at a shade under 6-2 and 192lbs. Intriguing.
Here’s what I’m going to be looking for from certain players on both squads:
Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
He’s so good in space so let’s see some of that during drills and in the game. He was underused by the Buckeyes — will he get a chance to shine here?
Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
He’s generating a lot of buzz and rightly so — but this is his chance to cement his placing in the top-15 with Paxton Lynch and possibly Jared Goff. Can he look like he belongs playing next to a better standard of college talent?
Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah)
There’s no doubting Miles’ passion for the game, his speed and pursuit. Further tape study showed too many missed tackles and a few bad angles. Can he iron out the wrinkles here? And will he get some looks at linebacker?
Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
This guy is very intriguing. V12 made a comparison to Jamie Collins and it’s pretty fair. He can rush the edge or be more of an orthodox SAM. His forty time, 10-yard split and overall combine performance will determine how likely he is to be a Seahawk. Could they turn him into a pure edge rusher?
Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford)
Quite simply — what shape is he in? He looks big on tape.
Joe Dahl (T, Washington State)
Firstly — is he 100% recovered from the foot injury? Secondly — where is he used? Does he stay at tackle? Will he be tried at guard and/or center?
Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
He’s not his brother but neither is he the total opposite of Zack. There are things to like about his game — the question is will he ever be 100% after a serious knee injury that clearly impacted his explosion. Can he impress enough to live up to Tony Pauline’s first or second round projection?
Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
He’s tall and long and looks like a tackle — but will he be comfortable in the 1v1 drills in pass-pro? He needs to avoid the inside counter and use his length.
Aaron Burbidge (WR, Michigan State)
Can he perform as well in the game as Tyler Lockett did a year ago? He moved the chains for MSU in 2015. Can he have a nice, consistent week?
Sheldon Day (DT, Notre Dame)
I was never overly impressed with Day in college but the Senior Bowl is ideal for linemen on both sides of the ball to improve their stock. Can he swim/rip naturally and show some flair?
Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)
He has the potential to go off in Mobile. He’s a terrific interior rusher when he’s on it. The problem is — he’s very streaky. Of all the DT’s here he might be the one who leaves with the biggest boost IF he performs consistently.
Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
Perhaps the most interesting guy to monitor. Is he as good as some will have you believe? We’ll find out.
Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
He’s a terrific athlete and a really fluid runner who would be a natural fit at the WILL. He has limited starting experience — can he prove he’s ready here in Mobile?
Sterling Shephard (WR, Oklahoma)
He has everything going for him — production, the bloodlines, the right attitude. Can he show some suddenness and explosion out of his breaks?
Jacoby Brissett (QB, NC State)
There were flashes in his college career where you could be forgiven for wondering if he was a first round talent. It didn’t happen enough. How will he look next to Dak Prescott?
Dak Prescott (QB, Mississippi State)
Speaking of which — if the Seahawks are looking for a cheap, mobile backup for Russell Wilson — should we keep an eye on Prescott’s performance this week?
Jeremy Cash (S, Duke)
How good is he? I’ve never quite been able to settle on Jeremy Cash. This will be a nice test for him.
Jalen Mills (CB, LSU)
Another player I’ve never quite settled on. How long is he? where do they use him?
Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
How big is he for a start? He always looked undersized but played big. He’s an intense, sparky athlete who makes constant plays. He should thrive in Mobile with a chance to impress.
Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
Do they instantly kick him inside to guard (his natural NFL position) or even center? Or does he get looks at tackle first? He could leave the week with a top-20 grade if he performs.
Connor McGovern (T, Missouri)
The next Mizzou left tackle who is likely to move inside. Justin Britt has flopped but Mitch Morse had a very good rookie season. McGovern likely plays guard or center.
Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech)
His tape against LSU from 2015 is so bad you want to slam down your computer screen. Yet the Senior Bowl is made for long, nimble left tackles to make money. Can he use his natural bend and athleticism — plus his length — to prove he deserves a chance to be someone’s left tackle?
Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
Following reports of a productive Shrine week, can Glasgow follow it up here and continue his ascent up the board?
Evan Boehm (C, Missouri)
Teams are going to love meeting with Boehm and his gritty attitude and desire to finish blocks will stick out. He is top-heavy though and pretty squatty, which will put some teams off.
Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)
He has a genuine talent to rush the passer lining up inside or out. This could be a big week for Tapper who doesn’t get anywhere near enough attention.
Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
The forgotten man. Nobody can deny Oakman’s insane physical appearance — but he plays like a pussy cat. That needs to change. Right now.
Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
The most interesting thing with Spence will be to see if reports emerge on how teams feel about his character and background.
— In trying to work out what they do at linebacker next year, I did have this thought. What if they just open it up to a competition? They’re unlikely to find another Bruce Irvin so will they bring in some athletes and let them go at it with Kevin Pierre-Louis, Eric Pinkins and Mike Morgan? Rather than going big to replace Irvin, do they give an opportunity to a Travis Feeney (maybe as an UDFA), a Deion Jones from LSU or a safety convert with speed? I’m not convinced this has to be a position where they go big early in the draft, especially if they want to get tougher in the trenches. It might take a back seat.
— We had a nice reminder this week from community member Steve that John Schneider referenced the Seahawks not exactly being ‘the bullies’ of the NFL this year. That’s probably true. They weren’t far off — but a lack of depth on the D-line and maybe a lack of Breno on the O-line is noticeable. So how do they regain that edge with rookies? I still think Shon Coleman is the toughest, edgiest tackle I’ve seen this year (punishes at the second level, talks trash, finishes blocks). This is a really hard-nosed group of centers with several tough guys. And yet what they really need is a left guard with size who can move people off the ball and hold their own 1v1. It’s a bit harder to find those types in college. Is there a veteran who can do it?
— Likewise on the D-line, it’s easy to point to the 2013 group and try to mimic that. It’s worth noting the number of seasoned vets on the team that are no longer in Seattle. Denver’s D-line is fearsome but again — it’s a veteran group. It’s going to be really tough with the team tight against the cap — but it kind of feels like they need to work that old magic by finding value in the free agent market.
Hsu also calculates the Seahawks will need to save $4-5m for the rookie class and $5m to re-up the four restricted free agents. The $18m also includes having addressed special teams needs.
Pete Carroll made it clear in his end of season press conference that he wanted to keep the team together. They won’t be able to keep everyone, of course. So the first question to consider is — who’s the priority?
They want to try and create a consistent O-line in 2016. If they let Russell Okung walk, they face the prospect of starting Garry Gilliam at left tackle or a rookie. Either way you’re taking a chance.
J.R. Sweezy didn’t have a great 2015 season but he performed well enough to earn praise from Pete Carroll in the two previous seasons. How much of his performance was effected by the overall struggles of the O-line? And if Okung departs, can they afford to lose their two most experienced linemen?
Bear in mind, if there’s only $18m available — there isn’t really the cash to go and bring in any other moderately expensive veteran offensive linemen.
So keeping Okung and Sweezy is the priority, right?
Keeping one or both and upgrading other positions on the line (eg left guard) would be the best way to retain some level of consistency so there’s little chance of any growing pains going into 2016. But if it costs $8-9m APY to sign Okung and $4-5m to keep Sweezy — there’s not much left to sign your other free agents. With a strong looking O-line draft coming up — it might be an area they once again try to rebuild.
We recently discussed the possibility of Phil Loadholt being an option for the Seahawks if he’s a cap casualty in Minnesota. After missing so much time through injury he might only command a modest salary. He could add some tackle competition and he has the size they like at left guard and right tackle.
If they’re comfortable with Mark Glowinski at right guard (he played well in week 17 but it is only one game) they might be prepared to move on from Sweezy. Likewise their faith in Gilliam to adapt to the left side might tempt them to allow Okung to depart.
If they both leave you still have $18m to try and keep Rubin, Irvin, Mebane, Lane and Kearse.
Mebane and Rubin might be willing to take around $3-4m. That would constitute a raise for Rubin ($2.6m) and a drop for Mebane ($5.7m). It’s unlikely Mebane, who turned 31 on January 15th, would command $5m anywhere else.
Kearse is an interesting case. Doug Baldwin’s second contract in the NFL paid him $4.3m APY and he signed that deal aged 25. Kearse is 26 in February. Unless he gets a really tempting offer elsewhere — a similar three-year contract paying him $3.5-4m APY makes sense. I’m not sure they’d prioritise keeping Kearse over others — but if the money is available it’s worth keeping a player who just makes big plays.
Bruce Irvin is hard to work out. The Atlanta Falcons only have $19m total cap to play with and might not have the cash to throw big money at Irvin. If he wants to be an edge rusher, they also just drafted Vic Beasley. Are they really willing to carry two undersized speed rushers?
There are other potential suitors of course. The Raiders might be willing to play him at DE/LEO and they have plenty of free cap ($60m). The Chicago Bears are rebuilding their defense and have $54m to play with. He’d play OLB in the 3-4 in Chicago.
Age could be an issue (Irvin turns 29 this year). With at least a couple of good years left though he might get an offer too tempting for the Seahawks to match.
If you only re-sign Rubin, Mebane and Kearse you might have as much as $7-8m to spend on Jeremy Lane and any other business you want to do. And that brings us to perhaps the biggest dilemma.
The Seahawks really suffered on defense with Cary Williams in the line-up and the improvement was obvious when he was replaced by Lane and DeShawn Shead. Tharold Simon is set to return and they also seem to like the younger players at corner. Tye Smith for example received a red-shirt year and could push for playing time next season. It’s a risky strategy though — especially with diminished depth in the secondary these days.
Lane is a talented player with the ability to play outside and in the slot. He’s likely to receive a fair bit of attention in free agency. And while he won’t get $10.5m APY like Byron Maxwell, he might get more than we expect.
The best case scenario for the Seahawks is a one or two year deal with the chance to be a starter and really enhance his stock. He’s only 25 and Maxwell received his new deal approaching age 27. It’s not totally out of the question but it’ll only take one team being seriously interested to make it a pipe dream.
They might need to commit here. We could be talking $6-8m APY. And it might be too much. Yet overpaying to keep a good corner and avoiding further issues there next season might be worth it.
That wouldn’t leave much room to do anything else. A deal for Olivier Vernon or Alex Mack would be out of the question. Ask yourself though — would you rather have either player instead of Jeremy Lane? What gives the Seahawks the best chance to win in 2016? Not needing to replace Lane, adding Vernon as a rotational pass rusher or upgrading from Patrick Lewis to Mack?
Of course, if they let Kearse walk they would have enough room to possibly bring Vernon in on a Michael Bennet style contract if his market is lukewarm. Jabaal Sheard is earning $5.5m APY with the Patriots on a two-year deal. His first year cap hit was $4m. Vernon for Kearse? That’s a different story. But there’s nothing to suggest Vernon won’t get bigger offers.
The big counter to this could be Carroll’s comments on the pass rush when asked last Monday. He said he hoped to find some help there — but then said it’d depend on the options in the draft. It’s perhaps another indicator that any big moves in free agency are unlikely — especially if they want to try and keep a large pool of UFA’s together.
Perhaps I’m overestimating the value of the players? Maybe Lane only commands $4m APY, Kearse $2.5m, Mebane and Rubin in the $2.5m-3m range. Maybe. The rest of the NFL isn’t exactly disinterested in Seattle’s free agents though. Look at the deals for Maxwell, James Carpenter and others.
If they sign Lane, Rubin and Mebane (and maybe Vernon, if the stars align) — the draft needs would be pretty clear. They’d need at least a couple of offensive line picks and a linebacker to replace Irvin. They could add a receiver later on to compete with Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams. They will probably look to draft a running back plus further depth on the D-line and at corner.
Signing a veteran O-liner like Loadholt (there will be alternative options) to a modest deal would take some of the pressure off. They’ve done something like this before (signing Eric Winston to compete with Justin Britt). On that occasion it was security against Britt being able to nail down the starting role. Here it would allow them to go into the draft with a little more flexibility — even if they’d probably have to add at least two more linemen in the draft.
It’s also worth nothing they can offer pay rises/contract extensions to the likes of Doug Baldwin and Michael Bennett without increasing their 2016 cap hit.
For the first time since Sunday — I’ve contemplated the Seahawks not taking an offensive lineman in round one.
This class has some really interesting hidden gems.
There’s a lot of value to be had here — and that’s a good thing. A lot of the top prospects could be off the board by pick #26. Not having to force anything would be beneficial to the Seahawks. It’s not unrealistic to think five or six linemen could be gone by the time they’re on the clock.
Their philosophy has been to shoot for athletic, upside linemen. I want to highlight two prospects I’ve watched in the last 24 hours that appear to fit that approach.
Alex Lewis (T, Nebraska)
After rave reviews at the Shrine Game, I put on USC vs Nebraska from the 2014 season. Lewis showed excellent hand placement, a more than adequate kick-slide and enough athleticism and mobility. He even scored a touchdown in the game — working as an eligible receiver. He’s had some issues and that will limit his stock. He was jailed for 28 days in 2014. According to ESPN’s Mitch Sherman, “witnesses said Lewis repeatedly slammed the head of 22-year-old Lee Bussey into a brick wall and punched the Air Force cadet, who was knocked unconscious.” He also had a bizarre Twitter rant against Nebraska’s fans in 2015 after they criticised him for a personal foul penalty. There’s no denying his upside though — and he seems to be turning over a new leaf. He’s 6-6 and 302lbs with 33.5 inch arms. He could play right tackle.
Fahn Cooper (T, Ole Miss)
I was blown away by Cooper when I went back and watched two Ole Miss games. He’s a thoroughly competent blocker who filled in on the left side when Laremy Tunsil was unavailable. Watching interviews — he’s a well spoken, intelligent tackle who understands scheme and his role. He’s a good size — 6-5, 304lbs with 34.5 inch arms. He’s an athletic player who’d be worth a look on the blind side. He has a natural knee bend (so does Lewis) and he’s adept at working 1v1. Every year there’s a tackle who just flies under the radar and ends up being a real value pick. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Cooper is that guy. I’m not convinced the drop off from players like Jason Spriggs is all that far. And while you’d rather have a Tunsil if possible — it isn’t going to work out that way for the Seahawks.
When you also factor in the emergence of Michigan center/guard Graham Glasgow — there is a realistic way for the Seahawks to add some depth and competition to their line without necessarily having to force things if the right guy isn’t there at #26. Could upgrades and competition come in rounds 3-5 via players like Lewis, Cooper, Graham, Connor McGovern or others?
It could theoretically allow them to look at a pass rusher in round one — or a cornerback or linebacker. I haven’t done that in this updated mock draft but it’s food for thought.
Contributor ‘bobbyk’ also raised the possibility of Seattle looking at Minnesota’s Phil Loadholt. He turned 30 today and has a cap hit of $7.75m in 2016. He didn’t play a single game in 2015 and missed five games in 2014. Loadholt is a possible cap casualty in Minnesota. Darrell Bevell was on the Vikings staff when he was drafted in the second round.
The Seahawks like size at right tackle (Breno Giacomini was very tall) and they’ve also looked for size at left guard (James Carpenter). Loadholt, if he’s released, could be a relatively cheap, veteran addition.
First round mock draft
I’ve included three trades in the projection…
#1 Tennessee — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
They already have two top-11 picks on their offensive line (Taylor Lewan, Chance Warmack). They have Marcus Mariota and Dorial Green-Beckham to build around. It’s time to add a defensive focal point.
#2 Cleveland — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. He’s big, mobile, accurate and led a Memphis team to a winning season against the odds. A poor man’s Cam Newton.
#3 San Diego — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
He missed most of the 2015 season but played well against Texas A&M’s explosive pass-rusher Myles Garrett.
**TRADE** #4 St. Louis — Jared Goff (QB, California
The Rams trade up to try and find an answer at quarterback. They’re moving to L.A. and need to take a step forward. They aren’t doing that with Case Keenum.
#5 Jacksonville — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
The Jags welcome back Dante Fowler in 2016 and pair him with their answer to Michael Bennett. Buckner is a disruptive force that can line up inside and out.
#6 Baltimore — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Length, speed and smarts. NFL teams will view Apple as an ideal corner prospect to develop. He doesn’t get beat deep and keeps everything in front.
**TRADE** #7 Philadelphia — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
The Niners give Colin Kaepernick another shot and trade with the Eagles. Philly turns the page on the Chip Kelly era by giving Doug Pederson his own QB.
#8 Miami — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
The Dolphins need to improve their secondary. Alexander is a fiery competitor who loves to talk. He plays above his listed size.
#9 Tampa Bay — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
Jack is an explosive athlete recovering from a knee injury. The Buccs put him next to Levonte David and behind block-absorbing Gerald McCoy.
#10 New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
A well spoken leader who looks like a 4.4 runner with great instinct. He could be a big-time riser over the next couple of months.
#11 Chicago — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
He drops a bit due to injury but not too far. Smith is an exceptional player and someone you can truly build around on defense. Could be the top talent in the draft.
#12 New Orleans — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
The Saints need a nose tackle and they’ve been looking for a while. Billings is all brute strength and if he tests well could go in this range.
**TRADE** #13 San Francisco — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
After moving down six spots, the Niners bring in a new tackle. With Anthony Davis retired and Alex Boone likely departing — they need to repair that O-line.
#14 Oakland — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
He’s a tweener. Does he have the hips and quicks to match up with elite suddenness? Or is he a permanent safety?
**TRADE** #15 Dallas — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
The Cowboys are never afraid to roll the dice. Nkemdiche might be a head-case but he’s talented. Jerry Jones approves.
#16 Detroit — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
He’s overrated but admittedly there is some pass-pro upside. Someone will take a shot. He doesn’t get to the second level or play with an edge.
#17 Atlanta — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
Imagine pairing Treadwell with Julio Jones. If the Falcons can upgrade their defense in free agency — they can afford a pick like this.
#18 Indianapolis — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Just a hard-nosed, blue-collar tough guy who fought his way into this range as a walk-on at MSU. Not an amazing athlete — but someone teams will love.
#19 Buffalo — Leonard Floyd (OLB, Georgia)
A tall, thin linebacker suited to the 3-4. He could easily be another Aaron Maybin. The Bills do need to find players that fit the Rex Ryan scheme.
#20 New York Jets — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
He could be a superstar in New York. Chris Ivory is a free agent and went off the boil in 2015 after a good start.
#21 Washington — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
The minute they sign Kirk Cousins to a mega-deal, they have to put weapons around him. Coleman could replace DeSean Jackson if he’s cut.
#22 Houston — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
Fuller is a dynamite playmaker. Picking this late limits their ability to get at the QB’s. Whoever starts at QB might as well throw to Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins.
#23 Minnesota — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Maybe Coleman won’t rise into the top-10 where he belongs? He’s still an awesome lineman. He should go much earlier.
#24 Cincinnati — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
A brutish defensive tackle who excels in the run game. They add another layer of toughness to their defensive front.
#25 Pittsburgh — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Their secondary is a mess and needs addressing. Fuller is recovering from injury but has the bloodlines and the talent to go in this range.
#26 Seattle — Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
The Seahawks take the technically gifted, athletic Whitehair and plug him in at either left guard or center.
#27 Green Bay — Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
The Packers need more athleticism at linebacker and somebody who can cover and rush. Fackrell feels like a Green Bay type of player.
**TRADE** #28 Cleveland — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
The Browns move up from #32 to #28, swapping picks with the Chiefs, to add a much needed receiver. Thomas is a big target with great agility.
#29 Denver — Germain Ifedi (T, Mississippi State)
Some people think he’ll drop into the middle rounds. He’s very muscular and in good shape. There’s plenty to work with here at tackle or guard.
#30 Arizona — Adolphus Washington (DE, Ohio State)
Flits in and out of games. Goes from impactful to anonymous. Projects well to DE in the 3-4. Fits Arizona’s scheme.
#31 Carolina — Jeremy Cash (S, Duke)
They could use some youth and an upgrade at safety. It’s not a great class overall but Cash seems to be rising.
Some players of interest after round one
Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)
Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
Marquez North (WR, Tennessee)
Ronald Blair (DE, Appalachian State)
Justin Zimmer (DE, Ferris State)
Zack Sanchez (CB, Oklahoma)
Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
Xavien Howard (CB, Baylor)
Fahn Cooper (T, Ole Miss)
Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
Alex Lewis (T, Nebraska)
Joe Dahl (T, Washington State)
Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah)
Connor McGovern (T, Missouri)
Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)
Further thoughts on the Seahawks
I sense they had a fair bit of interest in Mitch Morse last year. He was taken by Kansas City a few picks before Seattle were on the clock in round two. Having the opportunity to draft Whitehair would give them a chance to move him inside to left guard or center.
There are some similarities to Zack Martin. At Notre Dame, Martin was the left tackle due to his superior athletic qualities and technical brilliance. Whitehair was put on the blind side for the same reasons — and even though he lacks great length he was still a big success in 2015.
Martin was destined to be a first rounder from the moment he stepped on campus at Notre Dame. Whitehair is more of a self-made man — but that shouldn’t be any concern.
Whether he fits in at left guard (replacing Justin Britt) or center (replacing Patrick Lewis) probably depends on what else they’re able to do. The intention in this mock scenario would be to add possibly two more offensive linemen.
With draft depth on the O-line (and the possibility they will move on from Russell Okung, thus saving money) — they might have the ability to do what they’ve done so well in the past — add a free agent pass rusher. Whether it’s Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril or the failed attempts to land Henry Melton and Jared Allen — the Seahawks have looked to use the market to bolster their pass rush.
Miami’s Olivier Vernon could be one to watch. He had 7.5 sacks in 2015 (and 29 in a four-year career so far). He might command big dollars on the open market. If, like Bennett and Avril, it’s not as hot as he thought — he might consider a one or two-year prove-it deal. He’s only 25 so time’s on his side.
You could argue — why not just use any free cash to keep Bruce Irvin? It could be a combination of age (he turns 29 this year) and a possible desire to adapt that position (do they go for a safety hybrid?). They might also need any free money to put a package together to keep Jeremy Lane. 2015 showed they need cornerbacks that understand the scheme to operate effectively. Losing Lane would be a potential disaster — and if they overpay to keep any of their own FA’s, it might be Lane.
This is going to be the biggest talking point of the off-season. Finding consistency on the O-line is the greatest priority for this team per Pete Carroll — and nobody is going to rush to dispute that.
It’s also a difficult and complex conundrum to solve with Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy becoming free agents.
Letting Sweezy and Okung walk would probably make a lot of Seahawks fans happy. Be careful what you wish for. Continuity is a almost as important as talent when it comes to forging a good offensive line. Starting over at square one every offseason is not a great way to build a group that can dominate. It is a surefire way to begin the season with a struggling unit once again.
So much about line play, especially pass protection, has to do with communication and recognition. No two players on the Seahawks line this year had played a snap next to the either player that flanked them before this season started. That is about the worst-case scenario.
Consistency and continuity is the most underrated characteristic of an offensive line. Ploughing high picks or expensive free agents into an O-line isn’t a solution on its own. The Seahawks, for example, have spent as much on their O-line since Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle as any team in the league. Two first rounders (including a #6 pick), a second rounder, a third rounder and two fourth rounders last year. They also signed Robert Gallery in 2011.
People have called for that level of investment again — almost forgetting that the Seahawks have tried, in vain, to create a fantastic line using high picks in the draft.
Talent is important — but an O-line is at its best when five guys function as one. When they have the timing, understanding end execution down to a tee. When that happens — you can have success. Even if you aren’t fielding Zack Martin and Tyron Smith.
Changes up front (losing Unger, Giacomini, McQuistan, Carpenter) have prevented a cohesive unit coming together. And while it might sound attractive to simply replace Okung and Sweezy with picks or a big name free agent — it might just add to further growing pains in 2016.
At the same time, it’s not as simple as going out and re-signing Okung and Sweezy. They’re unlikely to overpay to keep either — and both players might have to enter free agency and talk to other teams to establish their true market. If the price goes beyond the Seahawks’ value — they probably move on. And who could blame them?
That doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to replace. Rookies don’t offer any guarantee to come in and play at a high level. They’re not able to replace Okung with another top-ten draft pick after all. Big name free agents don’t always pan out — and they have to be able to fit Seattle’s blocking scheme.
It’s also worth noting that one of the key free agents people want the Seahawks to sign — Alex Boone — was an undrafted free agent in 2009. You can find pieces for an O-line at any stage in the draft if you know what to look for. The Cowboys and their three first rounders up front are the exception and not the rule — and that supposed elite line in Dallas hasn’t prevented Tony Romo from missing considerable time through injury.
That said — if consistency and improved performance up front is the priority — are you going to start entrusting UDFA’s and late-round rookies to get you there? There’s also no guarantee a lineman taken at #26 will be any better than the guy they took at #25 in 2011 (James Carpenter).
So yeah, it’s a dilemma all right. And one they absolutely have to get right.
Here are three different scenarios, debating what might happen up front…
‘Evolution, not revolution’
Re-sign Okung ($7-8m APY as projected by John Clayton)
Draft Cody Whitehair at #26
Draft a guard or center
The line didn’t play too badly in the second half of the year. It’s never going to be possible to shut out Aaron Donald if that is your expectation. This plan builds on what you’ve got while solidifying either the center position long term or replacing Justin Britt at left guard. Whitehair has been compared to Zack Martin. You could draft him and Graham Glasgow and let Glasgow compete with Patrick Lewis. Pete Carroll has expressed a desire to keep their players together. This would go along with that.
LT — Russell Okung
LG — Cody Whitehair
C — Graham Glasgow or Patrick Lewis
RG — J.R. Sweezy
RT — Garry Gilliam
So what’s the problem?
It’ll be a challenge to keep Okung. He’s in a weird spot as a not-elite-but-still-pretty-good tackle in a league facing a left tackle crisis. He’s suffered a cluster of minor injuries in his career but nothing like a torn ACL. What is his market value? He probably needs to find out before the Seahawks can act.
This is arguably the best way to combine consistency with an upgrade. Therefore it’s arguably Seattle’s best way to achieve their #1 off-season priority. Yet all signs point to Okung moving on at the moment, leaving a big hole at tackle that would need to be addressed one way or another.
‘Blow it up and start again’
Let Russell Okung walk
Let J.R. Sweezy walk
Sign a veteran center (Alex Mack)
Draft a right tackle in the first round
Draft a guard in the middle rounds
This represents a major shift with possibly every position changing from 2015. Garry Gilliam moves to left tackle and is replaced on the right side by a rookie. You’re using the Okung/Sweezy money to put a new veteran at center and starting Mark Glowinski at right guard. By drafting a guard you’re also giving Justin Britt some competition. You’d possibly have to wait until the middle rounds to do so — with tackle being a high priority with Okung moving on.
LT — Garry Gilliam
LG — Graham Glasgow or Justin Britt
C — Alex Mack
RG — Mark Glowinski
RT — Shon Coleman
So what’s the problem?
It’s a complete overhaul — and that could be a recipe for growing pains. If there’s one thing the Seahawks want to avoid it’s another six weeks of transition on their O-line. You’d be relying on Gilliam and a rookie to secure the tackle spots, Glowinski to prove his performance against Arizona wasn’t a flash in the pan and a rookie to upgrade the left guard spot. Alex Mack would also need to mesh with an incredibly young group of linemen as the richest (and oldest) member of the unit. There would be so many question marks here. Can Gilliam switch to the left? Can two rookies perform?
‘The bit of both scenario’
Let Russell Okung walk
Re-sign J.R. Sweezy
Use the Okung money to sign a veteran center or guard (Alex Mack or Alex Boone)
Draft a tackle early
Draft a center or guard
This plan keeps J.R. Sweezy and Garry Gilliam in the line-up. You’re adding a veteran interior O-liner to upgrade a big need area and using your first round pick to replace Okung. If you sign Mack, you’re looking at guards in the draft to compete with Justin Britt. If you sign Boone, perhaps you draft a Graham Glasgow to compete with Patrick Lewis? This would still be some considerable change but with fewer question marks.
LT — Garry Gilliam
LG — Alex Boone or Graham Glasgow
C — Alex Mack or Graham Glasgow
RG — J.R. Sweezy
RT — Shon Coleman
So what’s the problem?
How motivated are the Seahawks to make a big splash on an outside free agent? Alex Boone is only 28 and could easily command $8m APY like Mike Iupati. You’d be asking him to play with two rookies, a raw left tackle and Sweezy. It seems like an ill-fit and defies what Pete Carroll said about keeping the team together. They haven’t made a big outside FA acquisition on the OL since Robert Gallery. Their willingness to just plug guys in at left guard (Carpenter, Bailey, Britt, McQuistan) also makes you wonder if center will be a bigger priority if they do bring in an outsider. It’s a shame Adam Bisnowaty seemingly didn’t declare — he could’ve been an ideal mid-round pick.
It might be wrong to assume they’ll draft an offensive tackle in round one if Okung walks. After all, the starting right tackle in 2015 was an UDFA and we’re discussing whether he’ll switch to the blindside. Who ever heard of Breno Giacomini before the Seahawks made him a starter?
They might look at the interior with a Cody Whitehair type — or even draft a pass rusher or linebacker. There’s at least some chance their next starting right tackle is a long, SPARQ’d up mid-to-late rounder we’re not even discussing yet.
The tricky thing to work out is how do they find the balance between changes and simple improvement? Clearing out most of the existing line and starting again doesn’t seem very likely. Subtle additions with a sense of priority and increased competition appears to be the way forward. That’ll be hard to achieve if both Okung and Sweezy walk because you’re replacing as many as three or four fifths of your line.
My best guess? Sweezy re-signs, Okung gets a nice offer somewhere else. Gilliam moves to the left. They draft either Whitehair or a right tackle in the first round and use some middle round picks to add competition. There’s no reason to completely rule out the addition of a veteran center — especially if they save money on Okung.
Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan) continues to shine at the Shrine practises…
WOW. Graham Glasgow/Michigan just pulled across the line of scrimmage and drove Terrance Smith/FSU into the ground.
He’s also not a major athlete and relies on power over quicks. The Seahawks tried to force the Drew Nowak project and kept Kristjan Sokoli on the roster. That suggests they want unique athleticism at the position. The problems on the O-line this year could force their hand to be adaptable and put that plan to one side. Glasgow arguably suits power vs the ZBS — but there’s enough second-level willingness to think he can fit either scheme.
Seattle’s willingness to draft Shrine Game stand-outs makes Glasgow one to monitor. With two late third round picks — that could be the range he leaves the board.
Kyler Fackrell is intriguing
With the likelihood of Bruce Irvin moving on to pastures new, the Seahawks are going to need to fill a hole at SAM linebacker.
Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell is certainly one to monitor.
At +34.4 he is our highest graded 3-4 OLB, with the highest grade as a pass rusher, against the run, and sixth-highest in coverage just for good measure.
He missed most of the 2014 season with a serious knee injury before returning this season. He only had four sacks but PFF seems to like what he did (although some of their grades can be a little hard to fathom). He’s 6-5 and 250lbs.
Based on what I’ve watched so far he gets around the field, has some talent working the edge and getting off blocks. He occasionally whiffs in coverage against quicker receivers but he’s not a lost cause.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh also rates his chances of making it at the next level: “Graham Glasgow, what an amazing player… He could be a first-round pick, the way he played, the way he’s played all year.”
Whether Glasgow propels himself into the first round remains to be seen — but this is a nice boost. He’s a former walk-on and he’s listed at 6-6 and 303lbs. In comparison, Max Unger was 6-5 and 302lbs — so they’re similar. Glasgow has a brother (Ryan) who also walked-on and made the team as a nose tackle.
There are always late risers, especially on the O-line. Mitch Morse is a good example last year. Who’d rule out Glasgow working himself into the second or third round? With the Seahawks expected to focus on the offensive line early he could be an option.
I’ve not watched the video below yet — but it’s Michigan’s O-line vs Maryland from 2015. Glasgow is #61.
Kevin Dodd better than Shaq Lawson?
A lot of people are grading Clemson pass rusher Shaq Lawson in the first round. I’m not entirely convinced. He had 12.5 sacks in 2015 and embarrassed Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley on October 3rd. The issue I have is natural speed, quickness and get-off. He’s very good at disengaging and finishing — but is he going to be able to win with explosion and speed-to-power at the next level? Plus, he’s a bigger guy (listed at 275lbs) so is he better at DE in the 3-4 or is he a power end in the 4-3?
Tony Pauline is reporting that a number of teams are rating his team mate Kevin Dodd above Lawson. I can see why. Dodd suffers a similar issue to Lawson (get-off) and while he abused the Alabama right tackle in the National Chamionship — you can’t help but wonder if he’ll be able to get off blocks and finish in the same way he does at Clemson.
Pauline notes: “The consensus is Lawson is being overrated while Dodd is underrated.” I think that’s probably fair — but what range are they going to go? I’m not convinced the Seahawks will have much interest here unless they turn up at the combine and put on a show. They could both go in round two.
Marquez North a receiver to monitor
Tennessee receiver Marquez North is immensely talented. In his first year with the Vols he looked like the real deal. His career since has been hampered by injury and ineffective play.
For that reason he won’t be a high pick. He might even go undrafted. Yet at 6-3 and 229lbs with enough speed and the ability to make highlight reel catches — he could be one to work with and develop. I’m leaning towards the Seahawks re-signing Jermaine Kearse, trusting Paul Richardson to return and utilising Kevin Smith in 2016 — pushing receiver down the list of needs (Doug Baldwin will also surely receive a new contract). North could be had in the later rounds.
Watch out for Ronald Blair III
Hat-tip to valued member of the SDB community Volume 12 for highlighting Appalachian State’s Ronald Blair. Take a look for yourself:
And look at this pick six (29 seconds in):
He’s received a combine invite and it’ll be fascinating to see if he tests as fast as he looks on tape. He’s 6-4 and 270lbs. I wonder if he can get up to 275-280lbs and act as another inside-and-out player for the Seahawks?
There’s no great secret to successful pass rushers. If they live in the backfield, win with quickness and get-off, have a repertoire and utilise speed-to-power it usually translates. Blair appears to tick all the necessary boxes. If the Seahawks want to keep adding pass rushers, ‘RBIII’ could be an option.
I’ve watched two Louisiana Tech games from 2015. I wouldn’t say I was blown away but there is a lot of upside. Butler is very mobile and gets around. He seems to have a good motor and there’s evidence to suggest he can grow and develop into an effective rusher. He isn’t there yet — and that’s the issue I’d have putting him in round one.
In 2015 he only had three sacks. Those sacks came against Louisiana Lafayette, Texas San Antonio and Rice. It’d be unfair to judge him purely on production — but it highlights the point that he’s far from the finished product.
The Seahawks want difference making special athletes they can coach up. If they see Butler as a dynamic pass-rusher in the making they will almost certainly consider him. I just wonder if they also want to see striking evidence of production to match upside. Bruce Irvin, after all, was the most prolific pass rusher in college football in 2010 and 2011. Frank Clark is a tremendous athlete but he flashed first round talent on tape too. Butler doesn’t have that same fantastic tape or numbers.
Lance Zierlein has compared him to Muhammed Wilkerson — which is lofty praise. Wilkerson was only the #30 pick in the 2011 draft (the Seahawks passed on the chance to take him with their #25 pick). It’s worth noting that Wilkerson had 10 sacks as a junior at Temple and looked the part on tape. He also had long 35 1/4 inch arms and ran a 4.96 at 315lbs. Butler will do well to match that combine performance. He’s still one to monitor.
A lot of good offensive linemen are off the board at #26 in Jeremiah’s mock draft but Shon Coleman (T, Auburn), Cody Whitehair (T/G/C, Kansas State) and Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M) are all available.
An early prediction on what the Seahawks will target
It is still very early — and this is a subject I won’t to talk about in more detail in other articles this week. However, I want to put down some early thoughts to generate a debate.
Based on what Pete Carroll said to the media yesterday — targeting the offensive and defensive line early feels like a safe bet. Departing UFA’s will have an impact there too. If they lose Bruce Irvin for example and a top linebacker is available in the first three rounds, that could also be an area they look at.
My personal prediction is that Russell Okung will test the market to establish his value. The Seahawks will be open to him returning — but I doubt they aggressively compete if the market is hot. Okung departing would open up a slot at left or right tackle (depending on whether you move Garry Gilliam to LT).
I sense they would at least like to add some competition at left guard after a year of Justin Britt. The center position is also an area of focus. Carroll described Patrick Lewis as a solid player yesterday, essentially stating, ‘we didn’t need him to be the best center in the NFL’. I don’t anticipate the Seahawks viewing Lewis as a long-term option. He’s thoroughly replaceable but could also hold the fort for another year if required.
There are going to be good offensive linemen available to the Seahawks in this class. Even if the top prospects depart, they’re going to have options.
They can plug Shon Coleman in immediately at left or right tackle. They’re not afraid of extreme height (see: Breno Giacomini) so 6-8 Taylor Decker could be an option at right tackle if he lasts.
Germain Ifedi looks like a tremendous athletic specimen (and he’s enormous) and could work at tackle or left guard. If they want hulking size at left guard again with James Carpenter now in New York — Ifedi could be an option. Cody Whitehair is smaller and athletic but could be an option at center despite playing left tackle for Kansas State. Missouri’s Connor McGovern is another prospect who figures to kick inside to guard or center. He has a very attractive athletic profile.
Washington State’s Joe Dahl and Indiana’s Jason Spriggs could be options too. Then there’s Graham Glasgow at center — a player we talked about earlier.
Yes, it’s possible the Seahawks use free agency to fill a hole or two. As they analyse why they struggled so early in 2015 up front — inexperience and a lack of quality at center might be one of the main issues. There’s no reason to rule out interest in Alex Mack if he voids his contract. It would solidify the center position. However — they also seem to want to continue what they’re building up front. They might prefer to use the draft to increase competition across the board and set up camp battles at numerous positions.
O-line will be the early favourite at #26 with an extra pass rusher perhaps the second most likely option. With four picks in the first three rounds they might look to draft two O-liners and a D-liner. They will also surely consider linebackers and running backs — with receiver and cornerback saved for day three.
If you want a D-liner to consider after the first round, take a look at Okalhoma’s Charles Tapper (could add some size and develop into an interior rusher) along with Ronald Blair.
Today I want to focus on the future — because by now you’re probably tired of analysing what happened yesterday. If you’re like me you want to look forward. And let’s face it — you’re visiting a draft blog. You want to look forward.
Pete Carroll appeared on the Brock and Salk Show this morning on ESPN 710. There are lots of nuggets to get into here…
Improved O-line play is the priority
Pete Carroll doesn’t deal in vagueness. When he was asked about his teams greatest need following the 2010 season, he clearly identified improving the run game and O-line. After 2011 he talked about speed in the front seven. Both areas were addressed. When asked a similar question by Brock and Salk he clearly stated O-line consistency.
He also touched on the pass rush and making improvements there, specifically stating, “We’ll see what happens in the draft.” On this evidence, I suspect the trenches will get a lot of attention in the early rounds.
He wants to keep the band together
Towards the end he was asked about the numerous players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. Carroll was quite firm in stating, “We aren’t looking for big changes.” He made reference to keeping the group together. The Seahawks are set for around $30m in cap space ($36.5m if Marshawn Lynch is cut or traded). It sounds like most of that might be used to keep this team together.
Of course there will be obvious exceptions. You’re not going to pay beyond someone’s market value for the sake of consistency. And that’s why it might be difficult to re-sign Russell Okung. He might have to become a free agent to establish what his market value is.
Kam Chancellor isn’t going anywhere
It’s time to end this talk once and for all. Carroll mentioned three players he wants to train to a master level — Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Those are the three he picked out. He went on to speak glowingly about the way Chancellor returned to the team following his hold-out. There was zero bitterness here. He mentioned Chancellor was “really pissed” about yesterday’s loss — again picking him out when he could’ve said any name (I’m guessing they were all ‘really pissed’).
Strong leadership is going to be crucial to the Seahawks. This is still a young group and they need a leader. Chancellor made a mistake last year. But it’s impossible to listen to Carroll and draw the conclusion we’re witnessing the end of Chancellor’s time in Seattle. I’m guessing they find a way to resolve any lasting issue with a contract restructure.
What about Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham?
Carroll was nonspecific in his Lynch answer, stating it was too early to comment. We know the answer anyway. Yesterday was the final act for Beast Mode in Seattle. Jay Glazer made that clear after the game and John Clayton gave a “100%” guarantee on ESPN 710 today. They’re ready to move on. They kind of already have. The only question now is whether he retires, is traded or cut.
Carroll said there was a chance Graham could be back for training camp. That’s an optimistic statement — but he spoke about getting Graham and Rawls back for next season. There was nothing but positivity here. Since the injury Carroll has talked about Graham being here for a long time. I think they’ll give him every opportunity to recover and return. He’s too good a player to give up on after one serious injury.
What about some other predictions for the off-season?
— Doug Baldwin has one year left on his contract. Over the course of the next few weeks I think he’ll get a handsome extension. He’s a legit core player.
— Jermaine Kearse isn’t flashy but he’s made some of the most important plays in franchise history. I fully expect him to get a new contract if the price is right (and it probably will be).
— If they slightly overpay anyone this off-season I think it could be Jeremy Lane. The Cary Williams experiment showed they need players who know and understand the scheme. Seattle’s secondary needs to work as a single entity. Keeping Lane buys them a bit of time. Perhaps they can get him on a one or two year contract? He’s only 25 and Byron Maxwell signed his big deal aged 27. Give him the incentive to cash in down the line. Even if you keep Lane in the slot — that’s a vital position in the modern NFL.
— Michael Bennett is an elite defensive lineman. His average annual salary is currently $7.125m. Derek Wolfe just signed an extension in Denver with a $9.175m average. It might be time to reward Bennett for playing on despite his dissatisfaction. He’s certainly earned a pay rise — and he’s developed into an integral leader.
— Can the Seahawks get more pass rush in the interior? Yes, absolutely. Does that mean they need to rid themselves of Athyba Rubin and Brandon Mebane? Absolutely not. They need to enhance this unit, not diminish it. This is an elite run-stopping group. They didn’t allow a single 100-yard rusher in the regular season. Re-signing this pair would be wise if the price isn’t ridiculous (and why would it be?). Then it’s about adding a piece or two in the draft.
— It’s difficult to work out what they’ll do on the offensive line. The more players they keep (Kearse, Lane, Mebane, Rubin) the harder it’ll be to make a big splash. They could look at Cleveland duo Alex Mack (likely to void his contract) and Joe Thomas (hinted at the possibility of a trade). Hue Jackson also looks like the kind of coach that can recruit guys to buy in. The Seahawks have been very aggressive in addressing needs via trade and free agency in the past — but I’m not sure they’re interested in expensive outsiders for this group. They trust Tom Cable. For that reason, an early dose of OL in the draft seems like the most likely scenario. People will cringe at the prospect of no major changes — but consistency is important for a line. A couple of decent draft picks to increase competition and quality addresses the issue without a sea change.
— Bruce Irvin is a curious one. I’m not totally convinced teams will be lining up to sign him. To some he’ll be a tweener. He’s 29 this year. Obviously there’s a connection in Atlanta with Dan Quinn (it’s also Irvin’s home city). If he tests the market and it’s lukewarm, he could easily return. I’m not sure they’ll break the bank. If he leaves, how do they replace him?
A week ago Pete Carroll asked his team if you could win a game in the first quarter. Today, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’.
It felt like a bad dream. Carolina came flying out of the traps. The Seahawks were reeling. The game plan went out the window within minutes of the game beginning.
The Panthers were emphatic, brilliant and dominant. The Seahawks have come back from slow starts before — but this was on a different level.
On offense they got behind so quickly they were never able to establish whatever plan they had. You can’t run the ball and control things at 14-0, 21-0 and 24-0. The offensive line resorted to early season form, giving Russell Wilson no time at all. Wilson wilted as a consequence — throwing two horrendous interceptions including a pick-six.
Defensively they couldn’t limit the run or put Cam Newton under any pressure. Even with a four-man rush Carolina relentlessly found open receivers. When they needed a bit of luck — a Cameron Artis-Payne fumble for example — the ball bounced favourably for the Panthers.
On key deciding factors in any playoff game — turnovers, third down conversion — the Panthers held the edge.
The momentum just spiraled, Carolina’s offense and defense feeding off each other. The Seahawks were like a boxer taking a couple of big early shots, hoping to hear the bell. Yet in no time at all the score was 31-0.
It was stunning and embarrassing for Carroll. He looked on, aghast, trying to figure out what was unfolding. They had no time to adjust as Carolina kept coming. Kept throwing punches. They needed half time after five minutes.
When the game finally settled down we saw that both teams are actually quite evenly matched. The Panthers aren’t 31 points better than the Seahawks. This was the ultimate fast start and it won Carolina the game.
Seattle needed to limit the damage during this wave. 10-14 points is manageable.
31 is not.
It is so typical of this team that they still fought back. There was no giving up. It wasn’t going to be enough with such a mountain to climb — but there’s no quit in this group. That’s the encouraging thing going into the off-season.
This has been a year of adversity. Having to deal with the Super Bowl loss, hold-outs and injuries. Making the post-season was an achievement. Having to win on the road three times to return to the Super Bowl was a step too far.
This is a crucial next few months for this team to re-stock, reload and get the house in order for another tilt next season. Even so, it’s a gruelling thought that we have to wait until September for the next challenge. Or that this team will not claim redemption for last years agonising finale.
Here are some key points as we look ahead to the off-season:
— It’s not the end anybody anticipated but Marshawn Lynch’s final act in Seattle never got more interesting than a hashtag titled #buswatch. What a way for an era to end. Six carries for 20 yards.
— It could be a similar story for Russell Okung. Annually banged up — his Seahawks career possibly ended with another injury today. He left the game in the first half.
— The Seahawks can’t afford another six weeks of trouble on the O-line in 2016 and they can’t afford to be pushed around like they were here in the first half. Do you move on from Okung and/or J.R. Sweezy? Do you replace Justin Britt or Patrick Lewis? Is Garry Gilliam a left tackle candidate? How do they turn this group into a strength?
— What is Kam Chancellor’s next move after his 2015 hold out? This defeat and the season overall surely won’t strengthen his position?
— How do the Seahawks rediscover what made them so formidable at Century Link? They finished 5-3 at home. They were 3-3 in the NFC West — that’s another area for improvement.
— What’s the plan on defense? Brandon Mebane, Athyba Rubin, Jeremy Lane and Bruce Irvin are free agents. None of them are necessarily ‘core’ players — but they’ll all need replacing with some importance if they leave.
— Jermaine Kearse deserves a new contract. He just does.
— Seattle’s identity is based around finishing and coming from behind when needed. However, they’ve started slowly in several big games now. Here, Minnesota, the Arizona home game, the Super Bowl last season, the NFC Championship game against the Packers. It feels like this needs to be addressed. How you start does matter.
The Seahawks have the #26 overall pick in the draft following Pittsburgh’s loss to Denver.
“Fuller will run low 4.4s, high 4.3s,” one scout said. “Better player than Devin Smith, who went top of the second (No. 37) last year. Just a better overall receiver.”
Fuller is arguably the most dynamic offensive player in the class. Pure speed — he’s a game-changer with incredible upside. The Seahawks like special athleticism and Fuller fits the bill.
On Laremy Tunsil:
“Tunsil is a good athlete with strong hands,” said one scout. “Little bit of a finesse guy. They (Ole Miss) are almost like the Oregon teams now. They’re really not physical players.”
He doesn’t play with the same edge as Shon Coleman — and that’s why I prefer Coleman. Tunsil is technically very good and he’s a nice athlete. But you want to see that nasty streak.
On Ronnie Stanley:
Stanley, according to the scout, isn’t regarded as a great worker off the field and doesn’t always play hard. “He needs to get stronger,” another scout said. “But he’s really good technically as a pass blocker.”
He was embarrassed by Clemson’s Shaq Lawson and doesn’t show any desire to get to the second level. There’s no edge to him. He has the upside — but is he ever going to push himself? I wouldn’t spend a first round pick here unless I absolutely had to have a pass protector and he was the last one available.
On Jack Conklin:
“He played left tackle and can probably survive there, but eventually I think you’ll want a better athlete,” one scout said. “I think he’s a right tackle. Kind of a self-made guy who kind of grew into his body.”
He’s no slouch but he’s also not a special athlete with a ton of upside. You can plug him in at right tackle or guard. Low ceiling, high floor.
On Germain Ifedi:
“He’s just real inconsistent,” one scout said. “Effort level is down. I don’t think he’s playing as well as a year ago. He’ll work out well so somebody will take him in the second.”
Superb frame with minimal body fat. A great specimen and his play wasn’t as bad as some will tell you. Could easily find a home in the late first as a right tackle.
On Paxton Lynch:
“There’s stuff Lynch doesn’t see but then he makes some plays that look like he knows what he’s doing,” one scout said. “But, boy, is he a great athlete for a big guy. He’s going to run in the 4.5s. He’s got good feet and can make all the throws.”
Yes he had a poor Bowl game. Memphis also lost their Head Coach before the game and what was at stake? Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. Big, athletic, accurate quarterbacks go early. It’s trendy to want to go with Jared Goff — Lynch is the safer bet for me.
On Jared Goff:
“In terms of arm talent, he’ll be like (Jay) Cutler,” said one scout. “Skinny kid. Gets hit a bunch. Doesn’t see everything. Accuracy is off at times. But he can really spin it and has really good feet.”
The Cutler talk is fair. Nice arm talent and capable of making some pretty mid-range passes. He also struggled in Cal’s big games — completing 44% of his passes against Oregon, throwing five picks against Utah and two more in a loss to USC.
On the running backs available after round one:
Utah’s Devontae Booker (5-11, 210) is versatile but is prone to injury and fumbles too much. He’s in the second-third round range with juniors C.J. Prosise (6-1, 220) of Notre Dame, Paul Perkins (5-10, 212) of UCLA and Alex Collins (5-11, 220) of Arkansas.
Perkins and Collins intrigue me the most. Perkins has tremendous character, a deadly cut and some upside in the passing game. Collins is a work-horse with surprising speed. The Seahawks need a third-down/passing back to pair with Rawls and Perkins looks like the best fit.
On Robert Nkemdiche:
“He’s really athletic and he’s got strength,” one scout said. “He’s really a different kid. He may scare some people. He’s strange strange.”
This article was published before the bizarre window incident and subsequent Bowl game suspension. If Nkemdiche was considered ‘strange strange’ before it happened — you have to wonder what teams are thinking now. Can you seriously take him in round one?
On Jonathan Bullard:
“Bullard isn’t special.”
Bullard says he returned to Florida this year to prove he’s better than the draft committee suggested a year ago. He had some nice plays — but the scout is right. He isn’t special. The Seahawks don’t draft unspectacular athletes early.
On Alabama’s D-line trio:
“(A’Shawn) Robinson is a giant,” said one scout. “Big run stuffer with pass-rush ability. Top-15 pick. (Jarran) Reed got in a lot better shape this year than he was as a junior. He was more in the 330 range. Excellent run-down player, and he’s showing a little bit more of a push in the pass game. Top 25. (Jonathan) Allen spells them and is more of a pass rusher. Kind of an in-betweener. End and outside linebacker. He’ll go late first, early second.”
I’m not sold on Robinson as a pass rusher. You barely see any evidence he can do it consistently on tape. Reed is tough as nails but he’s a pure run stuffer. I’m not sure what Allen is at the next level. I’d put all three in round two. I think it’d be surprising if the Seahawks took any of them early — they clearly value stopping the run but they’re getting production out of Brandon Mebane and Athyba Rubin.
On Kenny Clark & Andrew Billings:
“Clark’s probably the best run stopper,” said one scout. “They bill Billings there as the strongest college-football player. He’s a limited athlete but he’s got incredible strength.”
Aside from the odd flash, I thought Clark was an unspectacular player whenever I watched UCLA. The kind you find in a lot of drafts. Billings might be the best at getting into the backfield but even then — I’m not convinced he’s a natural rusher. I’m generally wary of Baylor linemen (both sides of the ball).
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