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Slot vs outside cornerback & notes on Lewis, Wormley

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Jourdan Lewis visits Seattle — what it tells us

According to the man himself, he’s either visited the Seahawks or will do in the near future.

This is significant for two reasons:

1. It reinforces the belief Seattle is going to focus strongly on the slot cornerback / nickel position rather than outside cornerback

2. It suggests length is not as crucial in the slot

On the first point, here are some of the reasons why the Seahawks might be more likely to draft a slot cornerback at #26 instead of the more popular prediction of an outside cornerback:

Our piece on wingspans highlights this isn’t a great draft for long cornerbacks. The Seahawks have never drafted a cornerback with a sub-77.5 inch wingspan. There are only six cornerbacks in this entire draft class with a +77.5 inch wingspan. The only two ‘fits’ expected to be drafted during the first two days are Kevin King and Ahkello Witherspoon (and Witherspoon is allergic to tackling as noted here). It’s possible their only serious outside cornerback target at #26 is Kevin King.

— It’s worth remembering how the Seahawks have filled the #2 cornerback spot over the years (and as of today, Richard Sherman doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to being traded, so they are looking for a #2). They used Brandon Browner (ex-CFL), Byron Maxwell (6th rounder), Cary Williams (free agent) and Deshawn Shead (UDFA). So the idea of Jeremy Lane, Neiko Thorpe, Pierre Desir or a returning Shead starting across from Sherman is not fanciful or unrealistic.

— It’s still likely they will draft an outside cornerback at some stage but is it likely to be their first two picks? Or is it more likely to be someone in round three or in the later rounds? Remember — they’ve not previously drafted a cornerback earlier than the fourth round. They’ve consistently waited until day three.

— We know the Seahawks played a lot of 4-2-5 last season (explained here). With Jeremy Lane at least temporarily moving to outside corner (in Pete Carroll’s words) there’s an opening at the ‘fifth DB’ position. That position was a 71% defensive snap role in 2016. It could be even more significant in 2017 as the Seahawks appear open to adopting a nickel base moving forward.

— This draft class is strong at safety and slot cornerback. Some of the best options at #26 are likely to be players who can act as a big nickel or orthodox slot corner. Obi Melifonwu, Adoree’ Jackson, Chidobe Awuzie, Justin Evans and Budda Baker are among the really enticing options.

This brings us onto point #2 — length.

Jackson, Awuzie, Baker all have sub-32 inch arms and short wingspans. We know the Seahawks have strictly drafted long cornerbacks in the past. Is this vital in the slot?

Their two all-world safety’s don’t have particularly long wingspan’s (Earl Thomas — 74.5, Kam Chancellor, 76.5). And the way the league is adapting, the ‘fifth DB’ position is pretty much a safety/corner hybrid.

The meeting with Jourdan Lewis kind of confirms length isn’t as important for this role. He has 31 5/8 inch arms. He’s also small — listed at 5-10 and 188lbs. He’s in the Adoree’/Budda bracket for size.

It might be a coincidence but Pete Carroll attended the USC pro-day (Jackson) and Kris Richard was at UCLA (Fabian Moreau). Now there’s the Lewis visit and Melifonwu has been in Seattle for a meeting too.

A lot of the mounting evidence points to the slot cornerback/big nickel role being a major target — arguably more so than outside corner.

And this shouldn’t be a surprise given the way the league is trending and Carroll’s lukewarm assessment of Jeremy Lane’s performance in 2016.

More on Jourdan Lewis

Having a more open mind on size/length has opened up a lot of new options to assess. As noted yesterday, Chidobe Awuzie is a diamond. He just isn’t long. If that doesn’t matter in the slot he could easily be Seattle’s first pick.

Awuzie is one of those players who could go in the top-15 or last into the early 30’s. There’s a few in this class. If he’s off the board — and if Melifonwu, Jackson and King are too — the Seahawks could do with alternative targets.

And that’s arguably where Jourdan Lewis comes into play.

I sat down to focus on him today for the first time, watching three games initially. Here are things that really stand out:

— He is ultra competitive despite his lack of size. Awuzie has the kind of gritty personality that matches this team but Lewis takes it up another notch.

— Lewis is nearly always in position to make the play. He lives in the WR’s hip pocket. Even when he gives up some separation downfield, he finds a way to get a hand in there to make the play. Despite his relatively short arms (31 3/8 inches) he actually has a 75 1/8 inch wingspan. It’s not elite length but it’s good for his size.

— He’s possibly the toughest little b*****d in the draft. Considering his size, it was a joy to watch him in run support. He gives absolutely everything, leaves it all on the field, never shies away from contact, tackles competently and does a far superior job than any of the big cornerbacks in this draft (this CB class is lacking in run support overall).

— Solid run support in this ‘fifth DB’ role is absolutely crucial.

— He had the interception of the season to win a game for Michigan against Wisconsin. It was Odell Beckham Jr-esque:

— You can clearly see he isn’t the same type of athlete as Adoree’ Jackson, Justin Evans or Chidobe Awuzie. He is very much a gritty, well drilled, well coached, loves the game type of player. That lower grade of athleticism is probably what separates him from the pack. Yet there’s not a huge drop-off in performance.

Lewis ran a 4.45 forty at his pro-day with a 4.29 short shuttle and a 6.88 three cone. At the combine he jumped a 10-1 broad and a 34.5 inch vertical. Not great numbers but not a problem either.

I think it’s highly likely he’ll be a top-50 pick.

In a scenario where the likes of Awuzie and Jackson are off the board — or if the Seahawks have some kind of a plan that involves a real desire to trade down — Lewis makes a ton of sense. Alternatively, they could look to trade up from #58 to target Lewis and take a pass rusher (for example) with their top pick (eg Bowser or Watt).

If you were impressed with Awuzie’s character yesterday, there’s more of the same here. This is an interview he did at the Senior Bowl:

Is Chris Wormley an option too?

The Seahawks seem to like and appreciate the Michigan defense. It’s not a big surprise. Despite the often heated rivalry between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh, there also lay a kind of mutual respect.

And while Lewis could legitimately be an option for them at slot corner, versatile D-liner Chris Wormley is another possible target too.

I wrote a brief piece about Wormley when I visited Seattle last November. Here are some of the notes:

For starters his gap discipline is excellent and that’s pretty much one of the most important things if you’re going to play D-line for the Seahawks. They put a high priority on players who can execute their jobs, control the situation and work against the run. Wormley is very good here with plus strength and the ability to handle 1v1 blocks consistently well if he lines up inside or out. He plays with heavy hands in the run-game.

He’s nearly always on the field for Michigan (doesn’t get subbed very often) but he’s still willing to string plays out and work in pursuit. He plays with an edge and he’s tough.

As a pass rusher nobody would say he’s twitchy but he does have a decent get-off. He had 6.5 sacks last season and 14.5 TFL’s. This year he already has 7.5 sacks and 7.5 TFL’s. You can’t argue with his production. He’s savvy with the push-pull move and he has enough power to drive blockers into the backfield to impact snaps even when he doesn’t get on the stat sheet.

Wormley has classic size to be a potential inside/out rusher (DE in base, kick inside on third down). He’s 6-5 and 298lbs with 34 1/8 inch arms and a 82 3/4 inch wingspan (he’s the fourth longest interior D-liner in the draft).

He didn’t work out at the combine but managed a lightning quick 4.84 forty, a 31.5 inch vertical and a 9-2 broad.

The key workout to focus on might be the short shuttle. The two pass rush DT’s the Seahawks have drafted since 2010 are Jordan Hill and Jaye Howard. Hill ran a really good 4.51 shuttle and Howard a 4.47. Wormley is right in that ballpark with a 4.55.

Howard also ran a 1.68 10-yard split (good for his size) while Wormley ran a 1.67.

Wormley’s three cone time (7.08) is also considerably faster than any of the DT’s Seattle has drafted in the Carroll era (the best was Howard’s 7.32).

He’s also an authority figure, speaking like a grown man in interviews with a striking maturity and business-like attitude.

He does have a tendency to be a little inconsistent on tape but if the Seahawks do want to add another inside-out rusher, this could be their best bet.

Could they trade down at #26 and then trade up at #58 to land Lewis and Wormley with their first two picks?

I wouldn’t bet against it.

It feels like there’s a strong possibility they’ll add a slot corner/big nickel and a pass rusher in the first two rounds.

Chidobe Awuzie could be on Seattle’s radar & a new podcast

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

In this weeks podcast, Kenny and I get into a number of topics including the importance of wingspan and the likelihood of the Seahawks focusing on the nickel/slot position. Check it out:

Today I wanted to build on what we discussed yesterday — the key to this draft could be what Seattle does at the nickel/slot position.

There’s a consensus among draft analysts that the Seahawks will take either an O-liner or an outside cornerback. It’s possible for sure, depending on who’s available.

Yet with the Seahawks shifting towards more of a 4-2-5 formation (and as we highlighted yesterday, it perfectly suits Seattle’s defense) adding a dynamic ‘fifth DB’ could be much more of a priority than people realise.

There’s a relatively high chance they will be attracted to Obi Melifonwu and Adoree’ Jackson for this role — but it’s entirely possible neither will be there at #26.

So today I wanted to look at another option.

Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie.

If you didn’t see this yesterday, take a look…

Before you even get into what he shows on the field, isn’t this just about the most impressive video you’ve seen this year highlighting the football IQ of a draft prospect?

If the Seahawks do draft a ‘big nickel’ in round one, that player is going to need a strong awareness of safety and cornerback duties. You’re basically a match-up weapon — playing at the LOS, blitzing, covering across the middle, dropping into a two-safety deep zone. You might end up travelling to the outside. It’s a complex job requiring a strong understanding of different techniques.

So right off the bat, Awuzie ticks that particular box.

We learnt yesterday how the 4-2-5 looks to utilise blitzing — in particular with the fifth DB. The Seahawks have experimented with the CB Blitz since Kris Richard became defensive coordinator. Awuzie attacks the backfield better than anyone (or at least at the same level as Budda Baker). He had four sacks in 2016 and six TFL’s. In his college career he had an astonishing 226 total tackles.

He isn’t the biggest but he compares to Bradley McDougald in terms of size. He’s 6-0 and 202lbs while McDougald is fractionally taller (6-1) and a little bigger (209lbs). Awuzie on the other hand is much faster (4.43 speed), more agile (4.13 short shuttle) and more explosive (39.5 inch vertical, 11-0 broad). If they’re willing to play McDougald as a big nickel, Awuzie is basically a more athletic version.

Is wingspan a problem? Arguably not considering he’s essentially acting as a ‘third safety’ or a hybrid CB/S. Earl Thomas has a 74.5 inch wingspan, Awuzie’s is 74 1/8 inches. We’ll find out in this draft class how important wingspan is considering the massive difference between the short cornerback group and the long safety group.

What do you see on tape? He’s good in run support with the requisite physicality and aggressiveness. There is absolutely zero doubt he’s a fit in that regard. Awuzie plays with the kind of attitude you expect from Seattle’s defense.

Unlike Adoree’ Jackson he’s not a particularly sudden runner and he does give up separation to more dynamic receivers. That said, he’s competitive to work back and recover and there’s a reason he has 28 PBU’s in his college career.

Awuzie is an instinctive player and he clearly does his homework. His one interception in 2016 came on a play he identified, made himself disappear in coverage and was then able to explode to the ball having anticipated the throw.

I liked in the video above that he basically had a chip on his shoulder about his athletic profile, even giving Daniel Jeremiah some grief for his pre-combine view of his speed.

He might not have the dynamic raw playmaking skills of Adoree’ Jackson or the standard-setting physical profile of Obi Melifonwu — but there’s a ton to like about Awuzie. It’s very easy to imagine him in Seattle’s defense — his personality fits them like a glove and if he needed to he could probably adjust to free safety in an emergency. He has the talent, grit and athleticism to be a starter as a big nickel/slot hybrid.

He’s another player in this class who could easily go in the top-20 or last into range for Seattle. He is a must-consider though for all Seahawks fans at #26. Put him on your radar, add him to the list. He’s a legit option.

While a lot of focus has gone on the offensive line and outside cornerback, it’s worth remembering a few things:

— Seattle likes their young group of O-liners and has already signed two veteran players to support the developing unit

— The Seahawks still have Richard Sherman and while many assume they’re going to want a dynamic #2 or eventual replacement for Sherman, look at how they’ve actually filled that job in the past (Browner — free agent from the CFL, Maxwell — sixth round pick, Williams — free agent, Shead — UDFA converted safety)

— Jeremy Lane has played outside cornerback, they seem to like Neiko Thorpe and Pierre Desir and Deshawn Shead is working to return — this is how Seattle has filled that #2 corner position in the past

— While a case can be made that Bradley McDougald could be the starting ‘big nickel’, as discussed yesterday his signing looks like a hedge

— If McDougald ends up just being a backup safety that’s no bad thing because there is literally zero depth on the roster behind Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at the moment apart from McDougald

The Seahawks appear to have a pretty strict wingspan ideal and if Kevin King is off the board at #26, it’s hard to find an alternative who matches what they like (unless they want to start Melifonwu at corner)

It’s entirely possible Seattle addresses the following positions in this kind of order:

R1 — Big nickel or slot cornerback
R2 — Pass rusher
R3 x 3 — Safety depth, tight end, receiver, D-line, cornerback or linebacker

So while there’s currently a lot of focus on the Seahawks drafting an outside corner or O-liner with their first pick, that might not be the case.

Seahawks sign former #3 overall pick Dion Jordan

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

The Seahawks now have the #2 and #3 overall picks from the 2013 draft on their roster (Luke Joeckel, Dion Jordan).

File this under ‘why not?’. There’s very little to lose from this signing. The Seahawks will likely add another pass rusher in the draft too, potentially with their second pick. Later on I’ll post a new Seahawks seven-round projection looking at this scenario.

Seattle’s defensive future lies in the 4-2-5 and here’s why

Monday, April 10th, 2017

For quite some time now we’ve been discussing Seattle’s use of the 4-2-5 formation and why it might feature even more prominently in the future.

Here’s a quick recap on some of the main points:

— Seattle ran a lot of 4-2-5 last season with Jeremy Lane playing 71% of the defensive snaps as the nickel cornerback

— Lane replaced the SAM linebacker as the Seahawks, like a lot of teams, moved towards a ‘nickel base’

— Frequently a 4-2-5 is a Cover-3 look with a post safety or middle-of-the-field safety

— This formation puts the Nickel and the Strong Safety close to the line of scrimmage, leaving the Free Safety aligned in the middle third

— You can also switch into a look that puts the Nickel next to the Free Safety aligned in a two-deep look

— In other words, this is very ‘Seahawks’

— Pete Carroll’s lukewarm review of Jeremy Lane’s play as the starting nickel led us to wonder whether that would be considered a key target area in the draft

— Carroll recently suggested they are willing to use a formation with three safety’s on the field at the same time

— This is a strong draft class at safety

— The Seahawks have not drafted an orthodox cornerback earlier than the fourth round in the Carroll era, so a ‘Buffalo’, ‘Big Nickel’ or ‘Slot’ drafted in the first round arguably would chime with this existing trend

An article was brought to my attention today that further reveals why the Seahawks might be trending towards a permanent switch to the 4-2-5. The piece was written by the TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson, detailing the benefits of the formation and why he’s used it during his career.

Every single word from Patterson is solid gold. I originally intended to highlight some select quotes but basically I’d have to copy and paste the whole thing to do it justice. You’ll read the first couple of paragraphs and I guarantee you’ll be nodding along, fully understanding why the Seahawks are embracing this 4-2-5 concept.

Here’s the Cliffs Notes version of its intentions:

— Provide a simple scheme that promotes execution and athleticism

— Take away an opponents run game

— Establish an eight-man front

— Find a way to counter-punch while playing ‘bend-but-don’t-break’

— Out-hit the opponent, create takeaways and eliminate big plays

— Find ways to blitz using your DB’s

I’ve basically just bullet-pointed Seattle’s defensive plan. Patterson writes about the 4-2-5 like he’s just finished watching the Seahawks defense.

And when you consider the ‘Buffalo’ (a 4-2-5 with a third safety on the field, explained here) is a single-high safety cover-3 scheme anyway — it all makes perfect sense.

This is why I think it’s highly likely the Seahawks will draft Obi Melifonwu if he’s available at #26.

He appears set to be the poster child for the ‘big nickel’ moving forward. If you were to create an ideal prospect for the position, he’d look like Melifonwu. The 4.40 speed, the 6-4, 225lbs size, the 79 1/4 inch wingspan, the 4.09 short shuttle.

For a position of growing importance in the NFL, Melifonwu is essentially the ideal. It’s no surprise the Seahawks’ top brass got excited watching him at the combine.

We already know they love unique traits and freakish athleticism. For this specific role he is the ultimate prospect.

Of course, there are likely other teams with similar intentions. Don’t be surprised if Melifonwu is off the board by #26 as a consequence. He could set a new standard for the trendiest defensive position in the modern NFL.

Carroll recently asserted Bradley McDougald could be used as a ‘third safety’ or ‘big nickel’ in 2017. I suspect he was brought in as a hedge. If the Seahawks really want to run this type of scheme, they couldn’t go into the draft knowing they might miss out and then have to re-think everything they want to do.

The McDougald signing means they can use a 4-2-5 next season with a big nickel. The question now is whether Melifonwu or someone else will end up taking that job as a first round pick.

Melifonwu isn’t the only option. Chidobe Awuzie was 6-0 and 202lbs at the combine. McDougald is listed at 6-1 and 209lbs. It’s entirely possible Awuzie could be drafted to compete for that job.

And despite his lack of size there seems little point in betting against Budda Baker also being a consideration — or Adoree’ Jackson for that matter considering his extreme kick return qualities and rare athleticism.

For some McDougald’s presence on the roster will be interpreted as the Seahawks having ‘got their man’ and now they can look at other positions. Possibly so. Yet their willingness to play the waiting game before eventually getting him for a mere $1.8m would be a curious and cheap way of landing a vital starter.

The price feels like a hedge. And they do need depth at safety as well. So if he’s beaten to the ‘big nickel’ job by a rookie, it’s hardly a wasted signing.

Either way, it still feels like this circled position…

… is the key to the Seahawks plans on defense this year.

And if they don’t take a ‘Big Nickel’ with their first pick, keep an eye on Shalom Luani later on.

Other notes

Jason La Canfora is reporting Gareon Conley is going to be drafted in the top half of round one.

This isn’t a big surprise. Conley is a prototype outside cornerback who had a very good combine, a solid final season at Ohio State and he has zero character concerns.

The question is — how quickly will Kevin King, Obi Melifonwu and Adoree’ Jackson follow after him (assuming Marshon Lattimore and Marlon Humphrey are the first two CB’s off the board)?

Teams generally aren’t stupid. When you have rare physical traits, way beyond the norm, you’re going to go early. Teams will look at King and Melifonwu and see how unique they are and they’ll take a shot. Jackson is an explosive, incredible playmaker.

The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have impacted the league. A player you’d consider ‘Seahawky’ these days is attractive to virtually the entire NFL.

As we discussed above, increasingly this is a match-up league and finding players that can give you a match-up advantage is incredibly important. The best way to create a match-up advantage is to draft for extreme physical upside.

So while there’s been an assumption for a long time that Melifonwu, King, Conley and Jackson will last to #26, do not be shocked if that isn’t the case and the Seahawks have to consider alternatives like Chidobe Awuzie, Budda Baker, Tyus Bowser, T.J. Watt or Justin Evans.

I wanted to finish with a quick word on Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. As we highlighted over the weekend, there are actually very few cornerbacks in this draft class that match Seattle’s previous length barometers.

Witherspoon is one of the few that does.

I watched three of his games again over the weekend and there are so many things to like. He’s terrific in coverage — regularly extending to break up passes. He has the short-area quickness, feel for the route and the deep speed to be a very effective cover-corner.

Only one player in the country defended more passes than Witherspoon in 2016 — his Colorado team mate Tedric Thompson.

However, his play against the run is so bad it’s frankly impossible to imagine him in Seattle’s defense.

When I say bad, I mean Indiana Jones 4 bad. There are literally plays where Witherspoon moves out of the way to avoid contact. He shows zero willingness to even set a strong edge to push the play back inside. His mere presence would be enough at times — he doesn’t need to get off a block and tackle like Richard Sherman. Just hold the point at your side, force the run back inside and let the other players do their work.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t even do that. This isn’t about tackling technique (which also isn’t great) or a couple of things that need tweaking. This is about want and desire. And sadly, as good as he is in coverage, you’re going to give up a ton of plays if Witherspoon plays this way at the next level. Teams will key to his side all day long — whether it’s running the ball, bubble screens, WR screens or whatever.

So unless he can convince teams that he has it within him to change, it’s hard to imagine him being much of a consideration for a club like Seattle that places such a strong emphasis on defending the run and tackling.

The 2017 cornerback class has a wingspan problem

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Ahkello Witherspoon is one of only a handful of CB’s with Seattle’s preferred wingspan

Every cornerback drafted during the Pete Carroll era has had 32 inch arms. They have acquired a cornerback with sub-32 inch arms (Marcus Burley) but he was considered a slot-corner only.

With the Seahawks seemingly prepared to continue playing predominantly in nickel (4-2-5) it looks like addressing the ‘fifth DB’ is a priority (either a big nickel or orthodox slot cornerback) so we’ll see how important arm length is if they address this early in the draft (Adoree’ Jackson and Chidobe Awuzie could easily be on their radar).

However, at the very least they view length as vital at outside cornerback. So are we right to focus on pure arm length or is wingspan the more important feature?

Wingspan is defined as the length between the tip of your middle finger on one outstretched arm to the other.

The average NFL cornerback has a wingspan of 75.5 inches (31.5 inch arm length).

Here’s the arm length and wingspan data for some of Seattle’s draftees, acquisitions and starters since 2010:

Richard Sherman — 32 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Brandon Browner — 33 (arms) 80 (wingspan)
Byron Maxwell — 33.5 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Jeremy Lane — 32.5 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Tye Smith — 32 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
DeAndre Elliott — 32 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Neiko Thorpe — 31 3/4 (arms) 78 1/2 (wingspan)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste — 32 3/8 (arms) 78 3/8 (wingspan)
Pierre Desir — 33 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)

All of these players have at least been tried at outside corner (Lane started as a rookie at outside corner and is currently ‘next man up’ to replace Deshawn Shead).

The Seahawks appear to be less concerned about wingspan at safety. For example, Earl Thomas’ wingspan is only 74.5 inches and Kam Chancellor’s wingspan is 76.5 inches. This is possibly one of the reasons why they might draft a slot corner/big nickel with shorter arms.

Yet if you’re looking at outside corner, the Seahawks have a very consistent ‘type’. They’re adding players with at least 32 inch arms and a wingspan of 77 inches.

Surprisingly, this isn’t a great draft for cornerbacks who fit Seattle’s preference in terms of wingspan. It might be another reason why John Schneider was lukewarm about this class.

Here’s a list of most of the ‘big name’ corner’s in the draft and all of the cornerbacks with 32 inch arms and a +77 inch wingspan. Any names not included here don’t have the necessary arm length or wingspan. The cornerbacks who match each marker are highlighted in bold:

Marshon Lattimore — 31 1/4 (arms) 74 7/8 (wingspan)
Marlon Humphrey — 32 1/4 (arms) 76 1/4 (wingspan)
Tre’Davious White — 32 1/8 (arms) 75 3/4 (wingspan)
Gareon Conley — 33 (arms) 76 (wingspan)
Fabian Moreau — 31 3/8 (arms) 75 3/4 (wingspan)
Kevin King — 32 (arms) 77 7/8 (wingspan)
Jalen Tabor — 32 (arms) 76 5/8 (wingspan)
Cordrea Tankersley — 32 1/4 (arms) 76 1/4 (wingspan)
Adoree’ Jackson — 31 3/8 (arms) 74 (wingspan)
Ahkello Witherspoon — 33 (arms) 79 3/8 (wingspan)
Sidney Jones — 31.5 (arms) 71 7/8 (wingspan)
Rasul Douglas — 32 3/8 (arms) 76 7/8 (wingspan)
Shaq Griffin — 32 3/8 (arms) 74 3/4 (wingspan)
Chidobe Awuzie — 30 5/8 (arms) 74 1/8 (wingspan)
Marquez White — 32 1/8 (arms) 77 3/8 (wingspan)
Treston Decoud — 33 (arms) 77 1/4 (wingspan)
Brian Allen — 34 (arms) 78.5 (wingspan)
Michael Davis — 32 1/4 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Quincy Wilson — 32 1/4 (arms) 75 7/8 (wingspan)

Only six cornerbacks in the entire class have 32 inch arms and a +77 inch wingspan.

There are some very surprising notes here:

— Despite having 33 inch arms, Gareon Conley’s wingspan is a relatively modest 76 inches — comparable to Fabian Moreau despite his much shorter arms (31 3/8 inches)

— Sidney Jones has average arm length by NFL standards (31.5 inches) but his wingspan is incredibly just 71 7/8 inches

— If wingspan is really important, Ahkello Witherspoon (79 3/8 inches) could be a key target (especially considering how well he performed overall at the combine)

— It’s not unfair to suggest they might only be interested in Kevin King and Ahkello Witherspoon early in the draft in terms of outside cornerbacks

— Despite having 32 3/8 inch arms, Shaq Griffin’s wingspan (74 3/4) is comparable to shorter cornerbacks like Adoree’ Jackson

The mediocre length on offer among the cornerbacks is even more striking when you looking at the safety class:

Malik Hooker — 32 1/4 (arms) 77 3/4 (wingspan)
Jamal Adams — 33 3/8 (arms) 75 1/2 (wingspan)
Budda Baker — 30 3/4 (arms) 71 3/4 (wingspan)
Jabrill Peppers — 30 3/4 (arms) 74 (wingspan)
Josh Jones — 32 (arms) 76 1/4 (wingspan)
Marcus Maye — 32 1/2 (arms) 77 1/4 (wingspan)
Obi Melifonwu — 32 1/2 (arms) 79 1/4 (wingspan)
Justin Evans — 32 (arms) 76 5/8 (wingspan)
Delano Hill — 32 1/8 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Jadar Johnson — 32 (arms) 77 3/8 (wingspan)
Eddie Jackson — 32 1/4 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Rayshawn Jenkins — 32 3/4 (arms) 77 3/8 (wingspan)
Josh Harvey-Clemons — 35 3/8 (arms) 82 5/8 (wingspan)
Damarius Travis — 31 3/4 (arms) 78 1/8 (wingspan)
Montae Nicholson — 33 3/8 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Chuck Clark — 32 1/4 (arms) 77 1/8 (wingspan)
David Jones — 31 5/8 (arms) 77 3/4 (wingspan)

Shalom Luani — 32 (arms) 74.5 (wingspan)
Leon McQuay — 31 7/8 (arms) 77 1/4 (wingspan)

Cornerbacks with 32 inch arms & a 77 inch wingspan: 6
Safety’s with 32 inch arms & a 77 inch wingspan: 13

There are more than twice as many safety’s than cornerbacks in this draft with Seattle’s preferred length.

I’ve not included every safety in the draft here — but those who aren’t listed above don’t have 32 inch arms or a +77 inch wingspan.

This might be one of the reasons why teams are seriously considering moving Obi Melifonwu to cornerback. Not only does he have the speed and agility to work outside, he also has supreme length.

If the Seahawks are tied to a wingspan number (77 inches) as they appear to be with arm length (32 inches), the options are relatively limited in this draft at outside corner.

If Kevin King is off the board at #26 or they see Melifonwu as a corner, they might focus on the nickel ‘fifth DB’ position unless they’re really high on Ahkello Witherspoon and want to take him with their first pick.

It’s arguably further evidence that a ‘slot’ pick (big nickel or cornerback) could be the choice if they take a defensive back early.

Kirwan & Miller present intriguing mock scenario

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller of SiriusXM NFL Radio have put together a two round mock draft that included quite an aggressive approach by the Seahawks:

Here’s a breakdown of Seattle’s moves:

— Traded Richard Sherman and pick #106 to Tennessee for the #18 pick

— Traded pick #26 to the Titans (who’d already moved down from #5 to #11), receiving picks #41, #77 and #106 in exchange

— Traded picks #58 and #77 to the New York Jets for pick #39

So after all that, they moved Richard Sherman and picked three times in the top-40.

It’s all a bit Madden ’17 but it’s still pretty fun and interesting.

Here’s how they used the picks and what they had left:

#18 — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#39 — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
#41 — Ahkello Witherspoon (CB, Colorado)
#90 (R3)
#102 (R3 comp)
#106 (R3 comp)
#210 (R6)
#226 (R7)

There are obviously a few things to contend here. For starters, I wouldn’t expect Adoree’ Jackson to last this long. Marlon Humphrey, Kevin King, Chidobe Awuzie and Jarrad Davis also fall into round two. And if the Seahawks were being aggressive in trading up twice, going up to get Humphrey or King would appear to be the stronger play rather than trading up for Ahkello Witherspoon.

The mock overall though highlights a possible talent drop-off in the late second round — and part of John Schneider’s lukewarm review of the draft class might be in part due to this. Are they going to have to be aggressive to try and manipulate extra picks in the top-50 this year, or risk coming away with a class without impact players? Maybe.

That said, this would be quite an interesting way to possibly upgrade the roster despite losing a player of Richard Sherman’s undoubted quality. You get an addition at left or right tackle (Kirwan has Seattle taking Ramcyzk but they could’ve picked Bolles or Lamp too), you get one of the most dynamic impact players in the draft (Jackson) to play the slot and you get a tall athletic outside corner (Witherspoon).

And if you moved into position to get Humphrey or King instead of Witherspoon, even better.

If you get a talented outside corner to replace Sherman, Jackson in the slot and further bolstered your O-line — that’s a semblance of a plan to try and galvanise this team minus Sherman.

Of course it’d be quite unprecedented to see a team make this many trades. It’s something to ponder though, especially if Seattle does end up dealing their #1 cornerback.

Meanwhile, I’d highly recommend reading this piece by Jason La Canfora on the Sherman/Marshawn Lynch situation. La Canfora has a reputation for accurate reporting on the Seahawks and this article contains quotes from John Schneider.

Here’s the most interesting part:

You can only pay three of your four starting defensive backs top-of-the-market money for so long and the Seahawks could use more balance in the cap and cash spending. They still have a big need along the offensive line and redirecting resources there over the next few years to preserve franchise quarterback Russell Wilson is in order. That money has to come from somewhere.

Sherman just turned 29 and is one of the highest-paid corners in the game and that’s a position where Seattle should be best positioned to turn another mid-round pick into a potential impact starter. In the age of Moneyball, that’s an efficiency they should be able to cash-in on. They might not find another Sherman, but, for a tenth of the money, maybe they get something fairly close over the next year or two.

So if this is an educated guess instead of a mere assertion, we might see more money spent on the O-line (or at least further draft stock) and a confidence from within Seattle’s front office to find an adequate replacement for Sherman.

And if nothing else, the article does little to quell the recent talk of a potential trade.

John Schneider prefers the 2016 draft

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

John Schneider spoke on Brock and Salk yesterday and had this to say about the 2017 draft class:

“I don’t like it quite as much as I liked it last year. I think there’s different parts of it that I do like and that we want to pick in that range. We have, what? Two weeks left… so we have some time to kind of get back with everybody but just sitting there by myself staring at it at night… I’m not there yet. Last year I just felt like it was kind of thick all the way through and we were willing to pick players all the way through. This year it seems that there’s some gaps in there that you may be able to… which for us not having a fourth and a fifth this year may work out in our favour.”

So what can we take from this? Here’s my best guess:

— Does the quality of the draft class drop off a cliff before, around or just after Seattle’s three third round picks? The Seahawks own picks #90, #102 and #106.

— Schneider more or less spells this out: “…not having a fourth and a fifth this year may work out in our favour.” However, if he merely didn’t see value in those rounds he probably would’ve been more positive about the situation. After all, they don’t have any picks in rounds four or five. Yet he still offers a lukewarm review of the class. It’s possible he doesn’t expect to get great value in the late third.

— The Timmy Jernigan trade is perhaps indicative of this situation. The Ravens, knowing they were unlikely to pay Jernigan big money at the end of his contract, traded him to Philadelphia to move from #99 to #74. It possibly highlights how teams are viewing this class. Is it relatively deep up to the #75-90 range, followed by a big drop off?

— This could be impacting how they view the value of pick #26. They might want to trade down but if the return is a third, fourth or fifth round pick they’re not really interested in, is it worth moving down?

— If they don’t like their options in round three, it could tempt them to use their extra picks to trade up at some point, or acquire 2018 stock.

—- Some of Schneider’s disappointment might be influenced by a desire to increase depth and competition in a number of areas. This draft might present an opportunity to get a couple of early contributors but it might be light on overall depth once you get out of the top 75-100. And Seattle’s best work under Schneider and Carroll has come between rounds 3-7.

— It’s also possible, as we touched on yesterday, that some of the players we previously expected to be there at #26 are gradually moving up draft boards. It’s at least somewhat possible Obi Melifonwu, Kevin King and Adoree’ Jackson won’t be there, plus some other blog favourites. That could also be provoking a tinge of disappointment. There will still be good options though — such as (possibly) Tyus Bowser, T.J. Watt or Chidobe Awuzie.

— I spent a bit of extra time watching Awuzie yesterday. He’s a warrior for sure. And while he’s nowhere near the sudden, spectacular athlete Adoree’ Jackson is — he’s more of a threat screaming off the edge, making plays in the backfield and he’s an underrated playmaker. Awuzie is also big-time in terms of character. His interviews are possibly the second best I’ve seen this year behind only Jarrad Davis. He’s one to keep in your thoughts.

Looking at a scenario where Seattle goes EDGE early

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

It was at least a little bit interesting last week when Pete Carroll suddenly added ‘pass rusher’ to the list of possible draft options for the Seahawks. He’d previously listed cornerback, linebacker and O-line as the priorities for the off-season. He made reference to CB and LB again — but swapped out the OL following the additions of Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi.

That’s not to say the Seahawks won’t go O-line at #26. If one of the big names falls into range, a Bolles or Lamp for example, they could easily be the pick.

However, I wanted to look at a scenario where the Seahawks consider a pass rusher earlier than we’ve been discussing:

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Cincinnati (Trade) — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#4 Jacksonville — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#5 Tennessee — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#6 New York Jets — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#7 LA Chargers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#8 Carolina — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#9 Chicago (Trade) — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#10 Buffalo — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#11 New Orleans — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#12 Cleveland — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#13 Arizona — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#14 Philadelphia (via Min) — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
#15 Indianapolis — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
#16 Baltimore — Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
#17 Washington — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#18 Tennessee — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#19 Tampa Bay — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
#20 Denver — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#21 Detroit — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
#22 Miami — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#23 New York Giants — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#24 Oakland — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
#25 Houston — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)

You might say it’s unlikely that Obi Melifonwu, Kevin King, Adoree’ Jackson and Gareon Conley are all off the board before pick #26.

Maybe it is?

Here’s the thing though — it isn’t that improbable and here’s why:

— Melifonwu is the definition of what teams are looking for on defense in 2017. A 6-4, 225lbs defender with the short-area quickness and agility to cover the slot, the size and explosive traits to defend the run and the versatility to line-up in various different match-ups and positions. He could be a corner, a strong safety or a ‘Buffalo’. Simply put, there aren’t many human beings with his physical profile on the planet. He could set a new standard at the big nickel.

— There aren’t many cornerbacks ever that have possessed King’s combination of size, length and athleticism. He has the deep speed to cover outside, the size to handle true #1 receivers and unnatural short-area quickness and agility to work in the slot despite his 6-3, 200lbs frame. When interviewed he talks about the intricacies of the offense he’s facing and what he learned during tape study. He had 16 passes defended in 2016 — as many as any of the top cornerbacks in this draft — and one incredible interception against Arizona State that will have teams salivating at his potential.

— Jackson is a first round pick in any draft class. A genuine, true game-changer. He can handle the slot at a time when teams are predominantly using nickel in base. He has the potential to be one of the all-time greats as a kick returner. He can handle a package on offense. Every time he’s around the ball he’s a threat to score. Furthermore, he was a team captain at USC and despite his lack of size — he doesn’t shirk a tackle. I’ll say it again — he’s Percy Harvin on defense without the hassle.

— Conley isn’t quite as freaky as the other three and he has some issues with hand use, offering far too many free releases in college. He’ll need to learn to jam and re-route and get a feel for when a receiver is breaking without getting flagged. There will be a learning curve. That said, he’s pretty much everything you want from a starting outside corner. He has the size, length, speed and instinct. His positional play — knowing where to position himself to break on the ball — is exceptional. Cornerback is a vital position and Conley has a shot to be a high-end starter in the NFL.

When you actually consider the talent, production, physical profile and positional value of the four players — it’s very easy to make a case that they won’t get out of the top-25.

What is more likely, after all? That Tennessee’s Derek Barnett remains in the top-25 despite being a short-armed, undersized defensive end with a middling physical profile? Or that teams instead look at the extreme potential and ability of the four names above?

I’m not trying to argue that this is definitely going to happen. It will be Seattle’s good fortune if one or more of the four DB’s fall into range. It’s not something we’ve really considered though — that they won’t be there. And whether it’s likely or not, it’s at least possible.

In the top-25 projection above the top O-liners are also off the board and a possible consolation prize like Jarrad Davis is also gone at #24 to Oakland.

So what happens in this situation?

Have the Seahawks been planning for this scenario?

— Pete Carroll recently noted Bradley McDougald could act as a ‘big nickel’ or ‘Buffalo’. Seattle needed safety depth anyway — but if depth was the key, this draft is loaded with good safety’s. Was McDougald brought in because they feel Melifonwu, a possible target to play as a ‘big nickel’, now won’t be available at #26?

— If they were hoping to draft Adoree’ Jackson but he’s now expected to go earlier than originally expected (top-20 is NOT a stretch), this might explain why the Seahawks had a good look at Houston’s Brandon Wilson at his pro-day last week as a possible later round alternative:

— Carroll stated that Germain Ifedi is moving to right tackle and Luke Joeckel will get a chance to win the left tackle job. Is this an admittance that they don’t believe the top tackles will reach #26?

— A final interesting nugget from Carroll’s conversation with John Clayton last week was Jeremy Lane moving to outside corner as the ‘next man up’ in replacing Deshawn Shead. It essentially cleared the way for McDougald to be the new ‘nickel’ and perhaps signals Seattle’s intention to let their existing corners battle it out to start across from Richard Sherman, rather than bring in a first round pick to start immediately.

Admittedly, a fair bit of dot-connecting is going on here. Yet it doesn’t feel entirely implausible either. The Seahawks generally set themselves up for every draft class and have a pretty good idea of who will/won’t be available at their various picks.

And if this type of situation arises, maybe they will take an EDGE rusher early?

A top-25 like this presents a few different options:

— Trade down (Mahomes and Webb are still on the board as trade bait)

— Continue the rush on defensive backs with Budda Baker, Chidobe Awuzie, Cordrea Tankersley, Justin Evans or one of the many other options

— Take a pass rusher such as T.J. Watt, Tyus Bowser, Takk McKinley, Jordan Willis or Charles Harris

I’m going to make a case in this piece for Tyus Bowser and T.J. Watt.

This piece highlights how similar they both are physically to Khalil Mack.

Here’s the key info from the article:

Ten yard splits
T.J. Watt — 1.59
Tyus Bowser — 1.59
Khalil Mack — 1.64

Short shuttle
T.J. Watt — 4.13
Tyus Bowser — 4.40 (Pro day)
Khalil Mack — 4.18

Three cone
T.J. Watt — 6.79
Tyus Bowser — 6.75
Khalil Mack — 7.08

Vertical jump
T.J. Watt — 37
Tyus Bowser — 37.5
Khalil Mack — 40

Broad jump
T.J. Watt — 10-8
Tyus Bowser — 10-6
Khalil Mack — 10-8

Forty yard dash
T.J. Watt — 4.69
Tyus Bowser — 4.65
Khalil Mack — 4.65

Production (final college season)
Khalil Mack (2013) — 10.5 sacks, 18 TFL’s
Tyus Bowser (2016) — 8.5 sacks, 12 TFL’s (in just eight games)
T.J. Watt (2016) — 11.5 sacks, 15.5 TFL’s

Watch this footage of Bowser at the combine. Look how quick, fluid, twitchy and ripped he looks:

Here’s Watt’s workout as a comparison:

We know both players ran a 1.5 split (Seattle likes that), we know both ran exceptionally well in the agility tests (Seattle likes that) and we know they’re both really explosive, productive and passionate about the game (Seattle especially likes that).

Even in a worst-case scenario with so many good defensive backs flying off the board, there’s still a really attractive, freaky upside alternative in these two.

And with the great depth at cornerback and safety in this class — the Seahawks should be able to find options at both positions in rounds 2-3.

If you’re feeling a little bit down after reading about the top DB’s potentially being off the board at #26, this’ll cheer you up. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay ran through a two-round projection today. Kiper had Seattle drafting Marlon Humphrey and T.J. Watt with their first two picks. That would be a haul.

Here’s another player to keep an eye on too as a possible day-three option. Noble Nwachukwu (DL, West Virginia). Gritty backstory, basketball background, good length, grown man. Could be an inside/out type rusher.

Linebacker 10-yard split times highlight some good options

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

Despite signing some veteran linebackers in free agency, Pete Carroll still stated his desire to draft for the position when speaking to John Clayton last week.

Recently we highlighted how important the short shuttle times appear to be for Seattle. Now it’s time to look a how significant the 10-yard splits are.

Here are the times for Seattle’s draftees since 2010:

Kevin Pierre-Louis — 1.53
Mike Morgan (UDFA) — 1.54
Bruce Irvin — 1.55
Bobby Wagner — 1.57
Brock Coyle (UDFA) — 1.60
Malcolm Smith — 1.61
Korey Toomer — 1.61
K.J. Wright — 1.66

K.J. Wright is an exception but everyone else has ran a really good split. Anything faster than a 1.60 is considered elite.

For example, here are the ten yard splits for some of the top DB’s in the 2017 draft:

Jamal Adams — 1.60
Budda Baker — 1.56
Jabrill Peppers — 1.54
Josh Jones — 1.58
Marcus Maye — 1.56
Marcus Williams — 1.61
Gareon Conley — 1.56
Chidobe Awuzie — 1.64
Cordrea Tankersley — 1.56

Seattle’s linebackers ran similar times to some of the DB’s in this loaded draft. Get-off, explosion and short-area quickness appears to be just as important as agility.

There weren’t many fantastic forty times among the linebackers at the combine. However, there were some impressive short shuttle times and the 10-yard splits are also better than expected.

Here are all the linebackers in the 2017 class who ran faster than a 1.65 split either at the combine or at their pro-day:

Dylan Cole — 1.54
Jarrad Davis — 1.54
Duke Riley — 1.56
Anthony Walker — 1.57
Zach Cunningham — 1.58
Alex Anzalone — 1.59
Tyus Boswer — 1.59
Jayon Brown — 1.59
Jordan Evans — 1.59
Haason Reddick — 1.59
T.J. Watt — 1.59
Elijah Lee — 1.60
Blair Brown — 1.61
Brooks Ellis — 1.61
Raekwon McMillan — 1.61
Marquel Lee — 1.62
Paul Magloire — 1.62
Hardy Nickerson — 1.62
Tanner Vallejo — 1.62
Vince Biegel — 1.64
Pita Taumepenu — 1.64

As you can see, there’s a long list of really quick linebackers.

Jarrad Davis stands out at the top. His closing speed shows up time and time again on tape and it’s validated here. Considering his size, quickness, athleticism, tenacity and character it’s impossible to imagine him not going in the first round. He could go in the top-20.

Would the Seahawks consider him? I think they’d have to. And while there might be an alternative defensive back or offensive lineman that wins the day due to need — you at least have to make Davis part of the conversation. He’s that good.

He also managed a 4.29 short shuttle at his pro-day so there’s another positive mark. Bobby Wagner ran a 4.28 at his pro-day.

Of the list of names above, here are the prospects who ran a sub-4.30 short shuttle and a sub-1.65 10-yard split:

Dylan Cole — 4.08 & 1.54
Jarrad Davis — 4.29 & 1.54
Duke Riley — 4.21 & 1.56
Zach Cunningham — 4.29 & 1.58
Alex Anzalone — 4.25 & 1.59
Tyus Boswer — DNP & 1.59
T.J. Watt — 4.13 & 1.59
Blair Brown — 4.18 & 1.61
Brooks Ellis — 4.25 & 1.61
Paul Magloire — 4.28 & 1.62
Vince Biegel — 4.16 & 1.64

That’s not to say the Seahawks wouldn’t draft a linebacker with a +4.30 short shuttle time — but the players they have added since 2010 ran the following times:

Korey Toomer — 4.00
Kevin Pierre-Louis — 4.02
Bruce Irvin — 4.03
Bobby Wagner — 4.28
K.J. Wright — 4.35
Malcolm Smith — 4.54

Smith was a seventh round pick and compensated with a 1.61 split, a 4.44 forty and a 39 inch vertical (he also had knowledge of Pete Carroll’s system at the start of the new regime).

There may not be any 4.44 runners in the 2017 class of linebackers but there’s enough burst and quickness to imagine the Seahawks will come across some attractive options.

And if they want to draft Obi Melifonwu to act as a big nickel or safety/linebacker hybrid — he ran a 1.51 split and a 4.09 short shuttle at 6-4 and 225lbs.

Seahawks first round big board & Tony Pauline’s mock

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Earlier today Field Gulls published a piece I wrote for them looking at possible options at #26. It’s written in a ‘big board’ style. Check it out and let me know what you think, either in the comments section here or on the FG site.

You might also want to check out Tony Pauline’s new three-round mock draft. He has the Seahawks taking Chidobe Awuzie at #26:

“The Seahawks like to play five defensive backs and the versatile Awuzie can play corner, nickel and/or safety. The fact he scored a 35 on his wonderlic at the combine makes him that much more appealing.”

Awuzie is gritty, athletic and had a better combine that a lot of people expected. When we talk about players in this draft who could go anywhere from the teens to the early 40’s, Awuzie is that type of player.

He is undersized — but if the Seahawks are looking for a slot corner that might not be so much of an issue. We don’t have the data to sufficiently judge such a pick. It seems a bit rich though to consider the possibility of Seattle drafting Budda Baker to play as a third safety/nickel and not consider the likes of Awuzie or Adoree’ Jackson.

Personally I think Jackson, who was available in Pauline’s mock, could be more attractive to the Seahawks if they are looking for a slot specialist. His special teams value, freaky athleticism and ability to score every time he touches the ball screams ‘Pete Carroll favourite’.

That said, Awuzie plays with great toughness for his size and he made several big plays in the backfield in 2016. He’d be a creative blitz option and not just a coverage specialist. He has high character and fits the mentality of Seattle’s defense perfectly. He could be a serious option.

Here’s a video if you’re unfamiliar with Awuzie’s playing style: