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Breshad Perriman: Athletic, but can you trust him?

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Breshad Perriman is getting a good press this week — but can you trust his hands?

The current flavor of the month prospect is UCF’s Breshad Perriman. Mel Kiper had him going 15th overall to the 49ers in his latest mock draft, stating:

One of the bigger sleepers in the 2015 draft class at this point, Perriman is a player I’ve grown to really like as I’ve spent more time going through his tape. At one time I had him as a likely second-round pick, but now I see him as a close call in terms of overall ability next to the top few wide receivers in this class. He’s got size, and strength, and is going to run really fast at the combine and be a guy who can both stretch defenses vertically and also make plays over the middle and in traffic. He’s also got great bloodlines, as I scouted his father (Brett) when he played for Miami.

Today Gil Brandt tweeted his interest in Perriman, suggesting he could be a first round pick. Greg Cosell went a step further, comparing his “size and movement” to Julio Jones.

Here’s the issue with Perriman — and it’s a big one. Drops. At the end of the day, you can have all the size and speed in the world. If you’re not a reliable hands catcher, how high are you going to go in the draft? I mean, you better have some pretty serious athletic qualities to make up for the number of drops Perriman had in college. According to Steve Palazzolo he had seven drops from 54 catchable passes in 2014 — a drop percentage of nearly 13%. That’s just too high. Palazzolo clarified they don’t count drops on bad throws — these are basic passes that should’ve been hauled in.

As Lance Zierlein puts it, “His drops will drive teams crazy.”

A year ago another big, athletic receiver was getting similar attention. Cody Latimer didn’t work out at the combine due to injury — but at his pro-day he recorded a 39-inch vertical jump, a sub-4.4 forty, he benched 23 reps and looked the part at 6-3 and 215lbs. Physically he was quite the talent. Then you throw on the tape and he had excellent, secure hands — he could high point the football and he showed dedication as a blocker and special teams contributor.

Getting behind Latimer was easy and although he eventually settled into a second round slot (drafted by Denver) — the growing hype was understandable. Perriman might have similar physical tools but he’s nothing like the reliable pass-catcher Latimer proved to be in college. For that reason it’s hard to invest too much stock in a high first round grade.

The receiver position is more important than ever with teams throwing a ton and building around the passing game. For that reason I can see Perriman going earlier than Latimer — who had the misfortune of declaring in a freakishly loaded year at the position. If there’s an early rush (Cooper, White, Parker) — teams might start reaching. Let’s say all three are gone before Kansas City is on the clock at #18. Can they afford to wait until round two, praying a receiver is there that they like? Possibly not. A small reach in the first round can be forgiven. I’m not sure missing out altogether will be in KC. What about San Francisco at #15? You have Cleveland at #19 (receiver is a BIG need for the Browns), Carolina at #25 (still need more), Seattle at #31 and New England at #32. So you can imagine a situation where someone like Perriman gets vaulted up the board.

The two videos below are both positive examples of his game. There are two drops combined, but also some pretty eye-catching grabs where he shows good catching technique. The quarterback situation post-Blake Bortles wasn’t great at UCF and you see a real lack of accuracy at times — throws behind or just off target. That’s no excuse for the big missed opportunity against ECU (1:43 in the second video), where he just straight drops a perfect throw and takes a touchdown off the board.

Ultimately I think Perriman will be a second or third round pick. It won’t be a shock if he goes earlier, but it’s hard to bang the table for him in Seattle unless you convince yourself he can get over the drops and make big improvements in that area.

Meanwhile…

Mike Mayock revealed his first set of positional rankings this week. His top five at receiver reads: White, Cooper, Parker, Green-Beckham and Funchess.

Thoughts on Devin Funchess, Mel Kiper’s latest mock & more

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Devin Funchess — the best big man in the draft, but is he gritty enough for Seattle?

Devin Funchess is a tough player to work out. He has great size and knows how to get open. At times he flashes good catching technique and he can box off defenders to make plays downfield and in the red zone. But there’s just something about him that makes you want to hold back.

If there’s one thing the Seahawks would probably like to add to this offense, it’s a hulking tight end/receiver mismatch that can work the seam, provide a safety net and just win with sheer size/speed. That rare player who draws a linebacker in coverage and just dominates (see: Gronk vs K.J. Wright).

It’s so difficult to judge these types of prospect. The Detroit Lions chose Eric Ebron with the #10 pick a year ago ahead of Odell Beckham Jr. Think about that for a moment. Detroit could have Megatron, Golden Tate and ODB. Instead they get Ebron — an athletic, mobile (and ultimately disappointing) tight end. Hey, he’s only a rookie. Time is on his side. But so far he looks like the next Jermaine Gresham or Brandon Pettigrew. Flashes in college but isn’t so special at the next level. The recent history of big WR/TE types taken in the first round is pretty sketchy.

Rob Gronkowski was a second rounder mainly due to injury problems (back). Look where Jimmy Graham, Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas were taken. Or Antonio Gates for that matter. You almost need to search for the diamond in the rough. I think Seattle accepted that when they took Luke Willson in 2013. Look for the size, speed and potential — not so much the tape or production. That’s not to say the next big WR/TE drafted in the first round can’t succeed. That’s why you keep searching.

So you look at Funchess and you need to decide whether you can live with the flaws and accentuate the positives. Some teams will be all over the opportunity to work with a prospect with this skill set, others will feel very differently.

Here’s what Bob McGinn’s anonymous sources within the league said about him:

“He’s not unlike Jared Cook, who’s with the Rams,” one scout said. “Pretty talented kid. Will he be your split-out tight end-H-back or a bigger wideout? I lean more toward the mismatch at tight end. He’s going to be kind of a hybrid player.”

Here’s what I think teams will like:

He shows good footwork and quickness for a big target and finds ways to get open. Considering he’s listed at 6-5 and 230lbs, this is impressive. Fast forward to 0:41 in the video below:

Look at the replay from this touchdown play. That is just a perfectly executed double move — selling the safety with a wonderful head-nod to the right before cutting inside. He’s wide open in the end zone. Quick feet, understanding how to sell a fake. This is textbook coaching and execution. Having watched four 2014 games now, this isn’t the only example of Funchess using his head to sell a fake. He has ways to get open and doesn’t rely on speed.

Here he is battling possible first round pick Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State) (all Vine’s in this thread courtesy of @JoeGoodberry — a recommended follow).

He doesn’t make the catch in the end, but look how he works to get open against a top-cornerback prospect. He darts to the outside before cutting inside. It’s not elite suddenness by any stretch, but he knows how to set the defender one way before working to the left. He’s fighting there and it’s a great effort. It’s a poor throw by the quarterback, but he still lays out to try and make the grab.

For the most part he high-points the football nicely and plucks it out of the air. He does flash solid catching technique (cupping the hands together, snagging it). He has the size to box off a defender and gain position — and it’s hard to overthrow him. Take a look:

There’s a further example in the video below at 0:33:

Watching the replays from the play in the video above, there’s never any doubt this was going to be a catch despite the 50-50 element of the deep throw. The cornerback can’t get around his big frame to play the ball. It’s exactly what Seattle has lacked for so long — a receiver or tight end who just wins through sheer size. Throw it up and go let him make a play. All Funchess has to do here is run the route, locate the football and the rest is history. He has position, he boxes off the defender. He makes it look easy.

He has a big catching radius due to his height and length. Russell Wilson has had issues with overthrows — it might just be part of an overly-conservative offense that preaches ball control and turnover differential. With Funchess you can deliberately overthrow and he’ll still go up and make a play.

Need someone to run the seam and make a difficult catch? He can do that too. Fast forward to 3:39 in the video below:

Despite the presence of four defenders, Funchess finds the soft spot. It’s another bad throw behind the receiver — but he still makes a tough catch under pressure. You can line him up anywhere — as a tight end, in the slot, out wide. You’d want to get him working against linebackers if possible but he can also work over nickel corners. In the red zone he can be effective too and he even showed some potential on screens and quick hitters. He’s not a big YAC guy obviously, but he can get you five yards on a shooter to the outside.

So what about the things that aren’t so appealing?

His whole career at Michigan just felt so underwhelming. Granted, he always played in a disappointing passing offense. The Wolverines were truly awful in 2014 and as the offense imploded, Funchess disappeared. You look at a player like Kelvin Benjamin and despite some of the mental lapses and bad drops at Florida State — he still had some beastly performances and big production. Would Funchess put up the big stats with Jameis Winston throwing the darts? Maybe. But he never took over a game like Benjamin at FSU and never played with the same level of intensity.

He’s very much a build-up speed receiver. When he gets moving he can accelerate and kick up a gear — but while his short-area quickness and footwork is impressive, he’s not quick to get into his breaks and he won’t separate on a go or post route.

Can he act as a conventional tight end? Perhaps most worrying for the Seahawks is he’s a terrible in-line blocker and shows little interest in the open-field to finish a block. You want to see more attitude here. You want him to line up at tight end because this is where he’ll really hurt teams — working the mismatch at the second level and down the seam. If he can’t execute the blocking duties can you even consider him at TE? You can take some of the pressure off by playing him in the slot (a lot of move-TE’s line up in the slot these days) — but he doesn’t have the short area quickness to stay there full time.

He lurches between circus-catcher and frustrating dropper. The stat sheet shows 20 drops in three seasons. He will make plenty of head-scratching decisions. There are also times where his effort, not just in blocking, is really sloppy.

Look at the interception at 4:03 below:

What is he doing here? It’s a half-baked attempt at a one-handed catch that ends up costing his team a turnover. It’s this kind of maddening play that turns you off Funchess. You know he’s capable of so much more — so what’s going through his mind as that ball leaves the quarterbacks hand?

There aren’t many human beings that can do what Devin Funchess can do and in many ways the positives outweigh the negatives. I can see why he gets a lot of first round attention and if the Seahawks want a big target who can make chunk plays and win over the middle — this is an option. But there are so many frustrating aspects to his game too. Will he be quite as effective downfield against faster DB’s? Will he dominate smaller opponents and continue to make tough grabs? Can he be a next-level dynamo in a way he never was in college — instead of another underwhelming move-TE like Jermaine Gresham (a superior athlete)? Does he have the potential to dominate like a Gronk or Graham and take over games — or is he going to be a 5-week-a-season wonder? McGinn’s scout says Jared Cook. Another player who promises so much but flatters to deceive.

His ability to get open with head movement and effort keeps me intrigued — even though I’m not convinced the Seahawks will think about drafting him early. The combine will be big for Funchess. If he shows difference making physical traits even if the forty isn’t great — he could be a big riser. But the only real reason I think Seattle would consider him is the size factor. If they can’t land a veteran receiver and if they don’t acquire a big move-TE like Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas or Jermaine Gresham — Funchess can fill that role. There is a ‘Big Mike Williams’ vibe to his game. But the lack of blocking talent, the question marks about his ability to line up consistently at tight end and the boom-or-bust nature of his play might be a turn-off for a team that loves suddenness and grit.

Elsewhere today…

Mel Kiper has put together a new mock draft, with the Seahawks taking Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett at #31.

Kiper: “Dorsett would offer Seattle something they simply don’t have on the roster right now, which is a player who can consistently create space with quickness in the passing game. The Seahawks are simply far too reliant on Russell Wilson’s ability to extend plays and allow wide receivers time to get open, and Dorsett is a Porsche in terms of acceleration and the ability to start fast and stop quickly.”

There are seven first round receivers in Kiper’s mock including Breshad Perriman (UCF) at #15 to San Francisco. Depending on what happens in free agency, the Seahawks might feel obliged to reach a little bit on a wide-out at #31 (especially if they see five already off the board when they’re on the clock). We saw it with Justin Britt a year ago — are you prepared to miss out altogether if you wait until #63 and nine or ten receivers are gone? That’s why it’s important to consider other projections. Whether you think seven first round wide outs is likely or not, Kiper has brought an interesting talking point to the discussion.

I like Dorsett — he has genuine speed and suddenness and should run the best forty time at the combine. He uses a second gear to separate and he can beat you downfield. Whether the Seahawks are looking for this type of receiver is another question. In Kiper’s projection they would have alternative options in the form of Funchess or Jaelen Strong if they wanted to go big. If they were willing to wait on a receiver, Eli Harold and Todd Gurley are both available.

Charles Davis has also published his first mock draft on NFL.com. He has the Seahawks taking Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. He’s a beast — the nearest thing to Dontari Poe in the last couple of years. For that reason I expect he’ll go early, assuming he passes the medical checks (he’s had back problems — a concern).

Lance Zierlein has put together a list of the fastest players expected to impress at the combine. SDB favorite Jalen Collins is named here. A source is quoted as saying he could run a 4.4. If that happens — he should be a top-20 pick. The guy has so much potential.

In the next few days I plan to do a piece on USC’s Nelson Agholor. In many ways he is Seahawky. Plays above his size, good catching technique, knows how to separate, some initial suddenness, established punt returner, good character. He’s not a big target by any means, but among the receiver options Seattle might consider early — he’s worth monitoring. And he can dunk:

Ndamukong Suh: Seattle’s full-on aggressive off-season

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

According to this article by Omar Kelly, the Seahawks can look forward to $25m in free cap space this off-season. It’s certainly enough to do whatever they want with their current in-house crew. Russell Wilson will get a new deal. They can afford to give Marshawn Lynch a pay-rise. They can talk contract with Bobby Wagner and J.R. Sweezy. The cost to keep Byron Maxwell probably outweighs his actual value — but you can’t expect to keep everyone.

The idea that on top of all of this you can add a genuine superstar like Ndamukong Suh is, frankly, a little dirty. Yet according to Davis Hsu in the Tweets above — it’s not the pipe dream we perhaps first imagined. You’d have to make cuts elsewhere. But Hsu has calculated you would be able to keep Brandon Mebane in 2015. Presumably it would mean cutting ties with Zach Miller and Tony McDaniel to raise an additional $6m. That seems like an acceptable trade-off.

The problems emerge in 2016 and beyond. You’d be under intense pressure to draft well to fill holes. You’d be tight against the cap for a few seasons. Your depth could take a hit. That’s why Hsu offered this note of caution:

But this is Seattle’s Championship window. And it’s not often you get the chance to consider adding a player of Suh’s quality.

This would be the ultimate power move — and also the kind of swing-for-the-fences job this front office had been willing to undertake. Acquiring Sidney Rice in 2011 was seen as a coup at the time. Ditto Zach Miller. The blockbuster trade for Percy Harvin left the league gasping for air. When there’s a big move to be made, the Carroll/Schneider regime have often been bold enough to make it.

As Brian Nemhauser opines in this well put together piece:

“It is extremely rare to have a chance to add a franchise level defensive tackle. Suh is the most unique talent on the market, and happens to address an area the Seahawks have not done a good job of filling via the draft. Spending the money here would make the draft highly focused on offensive options, and that might be the right move anyway.”

Nemhauser is right. The Seahawks haven’t done a good job adding defensive line talent in the draft. They relied on Chris Clemons (via trade) to provide a pass rush for three years. They inherited Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were free agent acquisitions. They moved Bruce Irvin to linebacker. The only moderate success story so far is Jordan Hill — and he provided several weeks of dynamic interior rush before a season-ending injury.

Instead of worrying about life after Mebane or the lack of inside pressure (never more obvious than in the Super Bowl) — here’s your opportunity to land one of this generations top defensive talents. A legitimate star to rival the Gerald McCoy’s and J.J. Watt’s out there. A chance to put a disruptive, stone-walling force of nature alongside Avril, Bennett, Irvin, Mebane and Hill. An opportunity to make your linebackers and secondary even more threatening.

The Seahawks, according to Hsu, can offer the kind of $15m average-per-year salary Suh would command — and still keep most of their existing team together.

And better yet — if you believe Jason Cole’s recent report — the guy actually wants to play in Seattle. “This is his number one choice — because Suh is from the northwest area, grew up in Portland, he’d like to be there.”

Sure, there’s every chance they’d be outbid and this will amount to nothing more than a talking point designed to help us all move on from that interception. But look at the other teams with more cap room than Seattle according to Kelly: Jacksonville, Oakland, Cleveland, Tennessee, the New York Jets. A who’s who of the NFL’s bottom-dwellers. Suh can be rich and a possible Champion or even richer and go through the motions until the end of his career. After all, he’s 28-years-old now. This contract could be his last. Will four or five years in Cleveland or Oakland provide the ideal final course to a brilliant starter and main?

How about a few years in your native Pacific North West fighting for Championships and maybe even winning a couple?

The move is so tantalizingly attractive you almost have to save yourself from getting sucked in. Suh in Seattle. Imagine it. With Sherman, Thomas, Bennett, Chancellor, Wagner and Avril (his former team mate in Detroit). A collection of talent for the ages. And yet we’re still a month away from the start of free agency. Lions ownership recently expressed some confidence they’d be able to re-sign Suh, with team President Tom Lewand stating: “I think there’s a very, very good chance that we can get something done with him in the next few weeks.” That’s unusually chipper considering everyone expects he’ll be leaving Detroit (they have $15m in cap space to play with).

So what would it mean if they did make a blockbuster move like this? Ultimately, get ready for an almost exclusively offensive-based draft.

They’d have to find a way to replace Byron Maxwell. Even if that was an internal move (Tharold Simon for example) they’d need to add a corner at some stage. There’s nothing stopping them adding a prospect like LSU’s Jalen Collins in round one — a scary proposition for anyone facing the Seahawks defense in 2015. But at some point they’d have to turn it over to the offense. Adding another ‘Seahawks-style’ corner in the mid-to-late rounds is likely, especially if you’re fielding a front four that includes a force like Suh.

That would enable them to focus on drafting for the offense. Receiver would be an early priority. They’d have to look at replacements for Zach Miller at tight end and James Carpenter (potentially) at guard. But this wouldn’t be a problem. The bulk of your offensive line would remain intact. You’d still have Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. You’d still have the receivers and tight ends you had for the bulk of the 2014 season. You’d simply be adding more talent to that group.

Pick your poison. Want to add the high-pointing skills of Jaelen Strong at #31? Want to bring in a hulking seam-busting move-TE like Devin Funchess? Want to go after rare athleticism (Sammie Coates), speed (Phillip Dorsett), chunk plays (Devin Smith) or all-round solidity (Maxx Williams)? You can bring in Ty Sambrailo to play guard if you like. You have all of those options. You are only adding talent. And all the while you look across at that defense…

For all the discussion we’ve had about adding a veteran presence to the receiver’s meeting room and bolstering the weapons for Russell Wilson — nobody would match the impact of Suh in Seattle. Landing him still seems so unlikely and yet so thoroughly attractive. And as Nemhauser points out in his piece on the subject — an offensive-focused draft wouldn’t be such a bad thing anyway.

Pick #31: Updated Seahawks watch list (pre-combine)

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
Length, size and speed — Collins is the complete physical prospect. He’s a fluid runner with fantastic change of direction skills. He flashes excellent recovery/closing speed and the ability to play the ball at it’s highest point. He’s raw but shares similar traits to Richard Sherman. Barely gave up any yards during the 2015 season. Limited starts could impact his stock (10) but he was awarded a high grade by the draft committee. Not talkative or brash, more reserved. Might be for the best if he was going to become a fledgling member of the LOB. With the right coaching he could be special.

Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
The complete package as a LEO prospect — superb length, long arms, explosive first step, ability to convert speed-to-power, deep repertoire. Gritty individual who battled adversity and personal loss. A former 5-star recruit who had his pick of the big schools (Florida, LSU, Ohio State) but decided to stay local. Passionate player who stood up for coach Mike London during interviews. Production is strong — 29.5 TFL’s in the last two seasons including 15.5 sacks. Showed he can take over a game versus Louisville in 2014. Rich in talent and could destroy the combine. Won’t fit every scheme because he played at 250lbs. He’s ideal for the LEO.

Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
Rampaging battering-ram of a running back with the speed to be a home-run threat. Has more potential than any back entering the league in the last few years. Plays with the ferocity of a 230lbs monster but runs with the agility of a much smaller athlete. Underrated pass-catcher out of the backfield. Just an amazing specimen who also returned kicks for Georgia (scoring twice, with another called back on a lousy flag). Suffered an ACL injury in mid-November. Would’ve been a likely top-10 pick without the setback. He might need a redshirt year in 2015 but over the long term he could be the generational back everyone’s been waiting for.

Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Runs like a gazelle. Nobody will out-work Gordon — he’s a dedicated gym-rat and it shows in his physique. Well respected. Notoriously used to send late night texts to his team mates during an impromptu work-out reminding them he was getting better while they were doing something else. Came within a matter of yards of breaking the NCAA single-season rushing record. Scored 32 total touchdowns in 2014. Had big performances against SEC-powerhouses Auburn and LSU. Should be better as a pass-catcher and not a good between-the-tackles runner — but give him a crease and he’s a threat to score.

Wide receiver
I want to put a receiver here because I think there’s a very good chance they take a wide-out at #31. But who? The two best options are likely to be long gone.

Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
Such a sudden, natural receiver who find ways to get open. He works back to the quarterback, is quicker than people want to believe. He makes explosive downfield plays. In 2014 he had receptions worth 79, 80 and 75 yards. He had a 99-yard scoring reception against Auburn in 2013. He will outrun defenders, high-point the football. He is a complete receiver — the most natural to enter the league since A.J. Green. He’s all business during interviews — well spoken, intelligent and determined. He could be a star.

Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
Exploded onto the scene in week one against Alabama and appeared unstoppable until mid-season. He has the deep speed to get downfield and the size, length and physicality to win contested balls. He’s a dynamic red zone target. Underrated YAC value — he can take a short pass and explode into space for a big gain. Developed into the heart of the West Virginia offense with his slogan ‘Easy’. Has been known to suffer with a lack of confidence, doubting himself. Might need some reassurance at the next level if he has a poor game. At his best he’s a fierce competitor.

Can you get to Cooper or White?
You’d have to trade up for either player. Neither is in the Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr class of a year ago — although Cooper is very close. To make a deal worthwhile I think you’d need one of them to drop into the teens, otherwise you’re talking about future first rounders. For that reason it makes a deal unlikely — but the idea of Russell Wilson growing with Amari Cooper for the long term is appealing. I’m not convinced it’s appealing enough to part with your 2016 first rounder.

There are still possibilities if you don’t move up. Each different player offers one striking positive, with several flaws. Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State) is a fantastic high-point catcher with nice size, but he isn’t sudden (to put it mildly) and struggles to get open. Sammie Coates (WR, Auburn) has T.O. size, he’s a beast of an athlete. But he’s a first round physical specimen and a late round receiver — he’s so inconsistent catching the ball. Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State) is a remarkable downfield receiver who makes ODB style grabs. But he’s undersized and might not be the type of wide-out the Seahawks need at this stage. Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri) has unreal talent but serious and legitimate off-field concerns. Can he be trusted? You can add others — Phillip Dorsett (WR, Miami), Nelson Agholor (WR, USC), Justin Hardy (WR, East Carolina).

Other options

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Explosive athlete and uber-productive pass rusher. Under-sized but knows how to battle. Can be a chess-piece like Bruce Irvin.

Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
Will need to convince teams he’s not a headcase, but he’s a long, physical corner with a nose for the ball.

Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
Long offensive lineman who could work either tackle spot or kick inside. I think he should be a top-15 choice but plenty have him ranked lower. The Seahawks like their guards to have tackle experience it seems.

Seattle’s wide receiver conundrum

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Jaelen Strong — not a player I’m crazy about. The Seahawks might disagree.

A year ago, the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos were beaten and bruised and trying to plot a way back to the Super Bowl. They’d come close, but not close enough. It was time to make a move.

The Broncos aggressively pursued the free agent market — landing Aqib Talib to fill a hole at corner, T.J. Ward to feature at safety and Emmanuel Sanders to replace the departing Eric Decker. The Patriots — having lost Talib to Denver — went big on the cornerback position. They brought in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.

How much of this was down to a rapidly closing window? It had to play a part. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are pushing 40. The opportunity to win a title isn’t going to get any easier with every passing year. We’ve seen how quickly it can diminish in the case of Manning. But this was also about making the necessary moves to close the gap and eventually cross the line. In the case of the Patriots — it worked. The impact of Revis and Browner cannot be underestimated. One perfectly executed jam at the LOS by Browner was worth every penny of his $2.715m cap hit.

When you get so close the urge to be aggressive eats away at you. “What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Nobody will ever get closer to a Super Bowl Championship than the 2014 Seahawks. And now they’re faced with a similar conundrum. What are they going to do at wide receiver (or tight end?) — and how aggressive do they want to be?

It’s the biggest need on two levels. For starters, it’s a pure numbers game. Jermaine Kearse is a restricted free agent. Doug Baldwin, Kevin Norwood and Chris Matthews are under contract. Paul Richardson might be set for a Navarro Bowman style ‘red shirt’ year. Ricardo Lockette is an exclusive rights free agent. Basically, you need another receiver. Secondly — you just need to get better here. Never was that more obvious than the decision to target Lockette on the decisive play to try and win a Super Bowl. You can’t lose Golden Tate, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and expect to be OK in the talent department.

This isn’t about throwing the ball more or diverting from a run-first identity. It’s about making the most out of the times you do throw. Nearly all of Seattle’s 2013 and 2014 defeats carried a similar theme — man coverage in the secondary and receivers not getting open, with a stacked box attacking the offensive line to pressure Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks are crying out for a receiver who warrants considered attention even within a run-based offense. Or at least a guy who can make plays when he’s covered.

The front office identified this need when they were trying to shop Harvin during the season. They tried to deal him for Juluis Thomas, Jordan Cameron or Coby Fleener. They later had talks with Tampa Bay over Vincent Jackson — the Buccs were interested in a trade, but wanted too much.

Ever since Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle they’ve been searching for an X-Factor. In 2010 they talked to Brandon Marshall and considered a move for Jackson. In 2011 they went big to sign Rice and Zach Miller. By 2013 they pulled off the big trade for Harvin. Now they face re-opening the search. They have to keep looking.

A dynamic receiver or tight end who demands attention and game-planning is crucial to take this offense to the next level. It’ll take some of the up-front pressure away from Wilson and the O-line if it forces teams into more considered coverage looks — it’ll also help open up the running game. The big shots Wilson took in the Super Bowl to Matthews? Wouldn’t it be great if they had a receiver who could do that on a regular basis? And that’s not to say Matthews won’t be able to — but we only have one game’s evidence from a player who turns 26 in October. It’s also one thing to exploit Kyle Arrington — Matthews had less success going up against Browner.

There are other ways this team can be ‘aggressive’ of course. People will argue about bolstering the offensive line — although I’m not sure how you’re going to do that in free agency. I’d also argue the replacement of James Carpenter with a first round pick in this class will have a marginal overall impact on the offense. The conversation this week has focused on Ndamukong Suh. It’s not impossible but would take a major clear-out (Mebane, McDaniel, Miller) to stand any chance. It would also create problems down the line if you want to re-sign some of your home-grown stars. It’s more likely he signs a +$100m contract elsewhere.

Eventually you come back to WR/TE as the most likely focus. This is an aggressive front office. They will go after key needs. In 2011 they made it clear improving the league worst rushing offense was the key — so they draft James Carpenter and John Moffitt and sign Robert Gallery. They wanted better targets so landed Rice and Miller. In 2012 they said they wanted speed in the front seven so they go out and draft Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner. A year later they make a splash for Harvin and also sign Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

The only off-season where they haven’t been overly active was 2014 — weeks after they won the Super Bowl. This is not a front office that has ever stood still or been complacent with a need.

So how do they approach the WR/TE situation?

1. Wouldn’t it be great if Russell Wilson had a target he can grow with? Someone with a similar attitude and love for the game. Someone who wants to create a chemistry comparable to Romo/Bryant or Brady/Gronk. Someone who won’t question the quarterback, someone who won’t be divisive in the locker room. Wilson’s guy.

2. How badly do they need a veteran presence in that wide receiver room? While drafting a receiver to work with Wilson is preferable — Doug Baldwin’s recent antics hint at a position group that is crying out for a leader. Finding a proven receiver is also the best way to deliver an instant impact. You won’t have to go through the inevitable rookie growing pains — although Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr, Kelvin Benjamin and several others showed it’s possible to succeed early in your career.

Spending a high draft pick on a receiver would be the cost effective way of dealing with this situation — and that might be necessary with so many looming contract to renew. But they do have $23m in cap space according to Spotrac and that will only increase if they cut Zach Miller ($3m saving), Tony McDaniel ($3m saving) or Brandon Mebane ($5.5m saving). Ideally you’d keep Mebane, but they’ll have to judge how serious his hamstring injury is. Essentially you could lose Miller and McDaniel and put $6m towards a free agent receiver or tight end. Of course, you also make a $7m saving if Marshawn Lynch departs.

Let’s look at some of the possibilities:

Free agency

The two names that stand out are Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. There’s almost no chance Bryant reaches the open market — Jerry Jones would cut half his team if it means they keep Dez. Thomas is also unlikely to make it out of Denver considering the Broncos have $26.6m in cap space to play with.

After that the options aren’t great. Nobody should expect the Seahawks to sign Michael Crabtree. Jeremy Maclin isn’t getting out of Philadelphia. Randall Cobb probably has no interest in leaving Green Bay — plus they can easily re-sign him with $24m in cap space.

The best option might be Torrey Smith (Baltimore has only $3m to play with at the moment). He’s a frustrating player who flirts with genuine brilliance and then disappears for several weeks. It’s hard to determine how much he can expect to receive on the open market.

Even if the big names reached free agency — the Seahawks are unlikely to be an appealing option. The passing game takes a back seat and you might only get 3-4 targets in a game. They will be able to offer the opportunity to play for a contender, but you’d expect they’d have to overpay to seal the deal. And they don’t have the cash to overpay.

The tight end position might provide some relief here. Jordan Cameron reportedly wants out in Cleveland while the Broncos might struggle to pay Demaryius and Julius Thomas (particularly with an extension looming for Von Miller). Jermaine Gresham will almost certainly test free agency. For $6-8m (the price of Miller and McDaniel) you might be able to lure Thomas or Cameron to Seattle. When healthy, both players offer genuine dynamism over the middle and in the red zone. But both players carry significant health risks. Last year you could franchise tag a tight end for $7.035m. Cleveland and Denver could go down that route.

Veteran cuts

There are mixed reports on whether Brandon Marshall will be cut in Chicago. Some people are suggesting it’s a done deal while others believe he will stay with the Bears. They have enough cap room to keep him ($23m) and still improve a terrible defense.

Marshall is a fierce competitor and the type of receiver Seattle lacks. But he can also be a divisive figure. This piece by Rick Morrissey from the Chicago Sun-Times sums up some of the feeling he’s generated over the last 12 months. Is he capable of being the calming force in the receiver’s meeting room? Can he lead by example? Will he take pressure away from Russell Wilson instead of creating more drama for the young quarterback?

Larry Fitzgerald would be the ideal addition. His cap hit in 2015 is a remarkable $23.6m and it never dips lower than $17.35m between now and the end of the 2018 season. There’s very little room for Arizona to re-work this deal and as things stand they’re $8.6m OVER the salary cap for 2015. They have to make savings somewhere — and this might be a difficult, painful and inevitable decision.

If Fitzgerald enters the market, nearly every team in the league will want to meet with him. Even in his 32nd year he’s still a remarkable physical talent. He’s definitely one of the hardest working players in the league. As his role in the Arizona offense shockingly diminished — he didn’t complain. He is the definition of a model pro.

The Seahawks need someone like Fitzgerald to lead their group of young receivers, rally behind Wilson at quarterback and be a go-to target for the next 2-3 years. Would he make the move? After a few frustrating years with the Cardinals, will he seek out a high-octane passing offense? As a fiercely loyal player would he dare join a bitter division rival in the midst of a Championship window? Are there teams out there who can pay him a lot more money? How much will he be motivated by chasing a ring?

The Minnesota Vikings make a great deal of sense with their $18m cap room and need for a receiver like this. He can return home, leave the NFC West and move on. The Seahawks would surely have interest in Fitzgerald if he reaches the open market. He’s the ideal option. But would he be able to stomach competing for one of Arizona’s division rivals?

Trades

I doubt the Seahawks would consider another blockbuster trade, but a modest deal for the right receiver seems possible. One option stands out and that’s Vincent Jackson. The Buccaneers fielded calls for V-Jax during the season and Seattle were one of the teams to show interest. Will their demands lower this off-season? It’s hard to say.

Tampa Bay will select a quarterback with the #1 pick and there’s every chance that rookie will start this year. It’d make sense to let him throw to Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Jackson as he eases into the pro-game. But did Evans’ brilliant rookie season make Jackson expendable? The Buccs had a fire sale before the trade deadline as they re-shaped the roster. If they want to get younger, dealing V-Jax for a mid-round pick makes sense — even with $23m in free cap space.

The big issue is Jackson’s contract. Whoever deals for him will want to re-work his salary. He’s 32 and set to earn $12.2m in 2015 and 2016. That’s too much. To force a trade and play for a contender, you’d have to expect he’d be open to a deal. The Buccs might just cut him and save $8m — he has to know that is possible.

For two or three years Jackson could be a really effective weapon for a team. He can still get downfield, he goes up and makes plays and he’s a big time red zone option. If you can get his salary down — he’d be a key addition.

The draft

There’s another reason why I think this could end up being the most likely solution. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the value to be had at corner (Jalen Collins), defensive end (Eli Harold), running back (Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon) and other positions. But over the years the Seahawks haven’t been afraid to reach to fill needs. I actually really liked James Carpenter and Bruce Irvin in college (physical brilliance + production). But both picks were cited as reaches. The Seahawks didn’t really care.

Even last year — Justin Britt in round two was a clear reach. But they knew, without a third round pick, it was now or never to get a right tackle they liked. There’s every chance the Seahawks will simply identify a receiver they like who will be available at #31 and take the guy. Address the situation and don’t look back. It’s what they’ve done before.

What if a lot of the other appealing options are gone? Let’s say they like the guys we’ve talked about — Collins, Harold, Gurley and others. They could all be gone by #31 anyway.

Personally I’d rather acquire one of the veterans above and hunt for a younger receiver later on. The value appears to be much stronger in rounds 2-4 this year (Agholor, Lockett, Dorsett, Hardy, Mayle). You could argue there’s only three receivers worthy of going in the first round (Cooper, Parker, White). But if your hand is forced? Who are we talking about?

I’m not crazy about Devin Funchess — a huge target who should be better than he is. He’d offer everything the Seahawks lack in terms of size. He could split out wide, play move-TE. He should dominate over the seam. But he’s just so underwhelming. I can’t imagine him playing for the Seahawks. Not within this group. Sammie Coates has T.O. size, fantastic athleticism and muscle tone. He’s strong. He has a good character. But the inconsistency he flashes is beyond frustrating. Would they take a chance on potential? Maybe. I wouldn’t be shocked. But you’d be taking a big risk on a prospect with so many flaws in his catching technique.

I’m a big Devin Smith fan and I don’t buy all the snobbery over his downfield production vs conventional routes. The guy makes chunk plays and that’s not always easy. He high points the football. He makes circus catches look easy. He flashes a bit of DeSean Jackson, a bit of OBJ. You can work on the shorter routes. If he was brilliant working over the middle on slants he’d be going in the top-15. It’s like critiquing any player who goes late first vs early first. You can’t expect the finished product in that range. But is another smaller, sudden athlete the answer for Seattle’s offense? After watching Matthews in the Super Bowl — do they need to go bigger?

We’ve talked enough about Dorial Green-Beckham to avoid going over old ground. Teams will do their homework. I think there’s more to the situation in Missouri than a couple of run-ins with the law and that’s that. We’ll see. He has all the talent in the world but if he’s still there at #31 that speaks volumes.

And that brings us to Jaelen Strong. Not a player I’m all that fond of. He’s a bit of a plodder in terms of speed. He lacks suddenness getting into his breaks. He struggles to separate on short or long routes and every catch seems to be contested. Yet he is adept at high pointing the ball, making spectacular grabs and you can’t fault his production (2287 yards, 17 TD’s in two seasons). I like his character — modest, mature, well spoken. He could mesh with Wilson. He’s not my favorite player in the draft — but he might end up being Seattle’s.

I don’t currently see a tight end worthy of going at #31. Maxx Williams is a really solid prospect who does everything well — but he doesn’t have difference making size or speed. I think he’ll end up being a good pro — but it’s hard to imagine he’ll offer a passing game the kind of jolt Seattle is looking for. I think he’ll be a second round pick.

The Seahawks are going to address receiver and/or tight end with some gusto — I’m sure of that. We could see a Cameron or Thomas arrive in free agency, with the #31 pick going on the best receiver available. It might be an even bigger splash — trading up for example, or making a deal with Larry Fitzgerald. Either way, this seems like the position to focus on the most heading into free agency next month. And from there, we’ll have a better idea on what they intend to do in the draft.

Jalen Collins, LSU cornerback, is a special talent

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Every now and again you come across a player who just jumps off the screen. Jalen Collins is one of those players.

Is he the finished article? Absolutely not. Does he possess tremendous upside and potential plus every single athletic and physical trait you want in a #1 corner? Oh yes. The idea of this coaching staff getting the opportunity to work with Collins is tantalizing. If it’s going to take a special cornerback for Seattle to consider spending a first round pick, consider me convinced. Collins is the real deal.

When you watch the video above, don’t be disappointed when you see Notre Dame complete a couple of slants against Collins. Consider this instead. That’s two games against supposed high power offenses. How many big plays does he give up? How much yardage does he concede in those games? Then head over to Draft Breakdown and watch his performance against Alabama and Wisconsin. Play after play he’s right there — ultra tight coverage.

Physically he has the works — height (6-2), size (198lbs), long arms and general length. He has soft feet and great hips to drive on the ball and change direction with fluidity and snap. Recovery speed is vital for any corner and he has it — when he loses track on a route he’ll react and regain position. He has the leaping ability and arm length to play the ball in the air and the instinct working in zone to read the play and break on the defender. We’re talking about a naturally gifted corner with very few flaws.

The problem is — he only has ten starts. Ideally he stays in school for another year and builds on what we see above — but he received a very favorable grade from the draft committee (no surprise). Sometimes you can see the lack of experience show up on tape — there are technique issues working in press and he can be a bit more patient at times. Nobody should be concerned about that. The Seahawks have the best secondary coaches in the league led by the ultimate #1 defensive backs coach in Pete Carroll.

Collins is everything you look for in a corner — the height, the speed. He’s not a crazy run defender but he’s willing to get involved. Because of the emergence of the Legion of Boom and the lack of great depth at the position, it won’t be a total shock if Collins goes much earlier than people expect. If he’s there at #31 — I sincerely hope the Seahawks consider pulling the trigger presuming Byron Maxwell walks. Yes — the offense needs help. But the identity of the team is really down to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the LOB. Pay the first two, replace Maxwell and that is maintained. Collins’ arrival would secure all four secondary spots for the next four years, delivering consistency to a key group.

He’s not the only player with exciting physical talent — Virginia’s Eli Harold would be a great addition to the defensive line and has the length, burst, speed-to-power conversion and grit the Seahawks like. I could see a home for Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon in Seattle depending on the situation with Lynch. But none of the receivers or offensive linemen appear to rival Collins and Howard for upside, potential, scheme fit, physical ideals and pure talent.

It’ll be fascinating to see how fast he runs at the combine. Richard Sherman ran a 4.56. I almost hope Collins manages a similar effort to keep his stock under control. I suspect he’ll break the 4.4’s. Any team looking for a prospect with comparable physical traits to Sherman will look at Collins. He’ll need some work but any self-respecting coach would back themselves to deliver with these tools at hand. Collins could be special.

What else is happening today…

Jason Cole — he of the ‘Pete Carroll and John Schneider don’t see eye to eye’ rumors of yesteryear — is suggesting Ndamukong Suh wants to play in Seattle. He also admits it’s a pipe dream. Suh is expected to earn a contract worth over $100m as one of the truly special defensive linemen currently in the game. With so many teams loaded with cap space (Raiders, Jaguars) he will have the opportunity to earn a monster salary. Big market teams like the Jets also have around $45m to play with. Seattle’s at $23m according to Spotrac — and that’s before any new contracts for Wilson, Lynch, Wagner, Sweezy, Maxwell, Carpenter, Irvin, Okung or whoever else you want to pay. Adding Suh would be an incredible move for an already elite defense. But you’d have to risk so much to get it done, if it’s even possible. The only chance could be if Suh was willing to take a one-year deal (why would he?) with the Seahawks back-loading Wilson’s contract. It’s a nice thought, but totally unlikely.

Derek Stephens has written up a piece on Field Gulls listing his wide receiver rankings. He also includes a Seahawks-focused list of options for #31 with Jaelen Strong in the top spot. Stephens: “Strong’s unique ability to repeatedly make the circus play or the tough catch in traffic despite lacking cleanliness in his routes and fluidity in his movement, make him someone I could see the Seahawks taking a strong interest in.” My own personal take? Strong made ridiculous catches all year and shows fantastic hands, high pointing skills and control. The big issue is — he rarely creates separation forcing the need to make difficult grabs, he lacks explosion running over the middle and is he strong enough to get off press? It’ll be very interesting to see Strong’s bench press and forty time at the combine — they could make or break his chances of going in round one.

And finally — if I made a list of realistic options at #31 who really stand out (I will do soon) — Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown would be included:

Breaking down McShay’s mock, more Jalen Collins and WR talk

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Todd McShay published his second 2015 mock draft today and had the Seahawks taking Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia) with the #31 pick. Here’s the blurb:

It’s been rumored recently that the Seahawks could sign Marshawn Lynch to a long-term deal this offseason (he’s entering the final year of his contract), but I’ll believe that when I see it. If Lynch isn’t with Seattle beyond the 2015 season, Gurley is a perfect replacement. He was a top-15 talent in this class prior to tearing his ACL this season, a powerful downhill runner who also has excellent speed — the best NFL comparison I can come up with for Gurley is Lynch. The Seahawks would have to be comfortable with his health situation, but he could be an ideal successor to Lynch. They could also look to address offensive or defensive line here.

McShay is clearly skeptical about Seattle’s ability (or desire) to extend Marshawn Lynch’s contract, but this isn’t a pick made to immediately replace Beast Mode. He says “if Lynch isn’t with Seattle beyond the 2015 season” — so he’s making this move with Lynch finishing out his contract.

I don’t know. Given the volatility of the situation the idea of paying Lynch or even just keeping him for 2015 and then drafting a running back in the first round kind of feels like you’re asking for trouble. Can you imagine the reaction? You can see the headlines now — Seattle plots to replace Lynch.

At the same time, Gurley might need a redshirt year as he battles back from a torn ACL. I can’t think of a better player to replace Lynch long term. You’d sure need some man-management skills to get the team to buy into this. But heck, it’s the Seattle Seahawks not the Seattle Marshawn Lynch’s. Consider this too — as much as this team clearly appreciates Robert Turbin and he’s Russell Wilson’s BFF, can you begin to imagine a backfield next year with Lynch and Gurley? That’s scary.

Another point. How many people right now are talking about Seattle’s redundant kick return game? Gurley, even with his size, is a return specialist — scoring two touchdowns in his short Georgia career and having a third called back last season on a bad call. Even if you want to pace him in year one as a running back, he could offer an immediate impact on special teams (health permitting).

Quite frankly I’d be prepared to go through some of the strife because Gurley is a fantastic talent. I’ve no doubt he’d be a top-15 pick (maybe top ten) without the injury. He is that good. To get him at #31 knowing you had a really good post-Marshawn contingency plan is ideal. Let me refer you to this Lynch-related article by Mike Florio.

This quote stood out to me:

Lynch, who turns 29 in April, is definitely closer to the end of the road than the start of it. Unless the Seahawks can find a solid alternative to Lynch, they’ll be far closer to the end of their road as contenders than the start of it, too.

He’s kind of right, isn’t he? Russell Wilson’s great, but the Seahawks aren’t built like a lot of other teams. The run game is an afterthought for other clubs. Not in Seattle. Wilson, as good as he is, thrives on a situation where the run (via play action, read option etc) is such a threat he can work off it and exploit the commitment teams make up front. I don’t think we’ll ever see the Seahawks or Wilson at his most effective with a JAG running the ball. Maybe I’m wrong. But Lynch is to the Seahawks what Rob Gronkowski is to the Patriots. Replacing him will be the single toughest thing John Schneider has to do over the next few years. It’s probably why they’re even considering a substantial pay increase and contract extension. Delay the inevitable.

Gurley has the talent and punishing running style to be Beast Mode 2.0. They’re different players — Lynch is freakishly strong for a back without amazing size. Gurley is a big back with freakish speed. But the end product is still the same — they’ll beat you up.

It’d be really something to go down this road with so many other needs on the roster — but that’s why you have 10-11 picks and a free agency period. If they want a special player at #31 and a guy who jumps out — Gurley fits the bill.

Here are the other players available at #31 in McShay’s mock that were off the board in mine:

Jordan Phillips (DT, Okahoma)
Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
Hau’Oli Kikaha (DE, Washington)
Carl Davis (DT, Iowa)
Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE, UCLA)

When I look at this list, there’s nobody I’d prefer to have over Gurley. McKinney isn’t needed as a hulking 3-4 inside backer, while Kikaha probably lacks the length/ten yard split to interest Seattle in round one. Erving can play multiple spots on the offensive line — but there’s some O-line depth in this draft. Davis and Phillips offer incredible size and in Phillips’ case — rare speed and athleticism. But he has an injury history (back) — as does Odighizuwa (hip).

In this scenario it’s hard to argue with McShay’s pick. And as long as you can create some degree of harmony within the locker room after essentially drafting Lynch’s replacement — it’d be a wise investment for the future.

Jalen Collins is really, really impressive

The more I watch of this guy the more I hope he’s even available for the Seahawks at #31. There are two defensive prospects I’d like to see reach the bottom of the first round — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia) and Jalen Collins (CB, LSU). By the combine I think both players might be considered top-20 picks.

McShay has Collins at #26 to Baltimore. I can see it. The more LSU tape you watch the more you convince yourself. He has the complete package. Length, deep speed, recovery speed, fluid change of direction, the ability to high point the ball, excellent form defending the run, he’s a good tackler. The only thing he lacks is game-experience and a bit of technical refinement. The idea of this team and this staff getting to work with Collins is salivating. Hey — I really like the potential of someone like Damian Swann at Georgia. I’d like to see what they could do with him as a later round option. But Collins has legitimate potential to be one of the games top corners. That’s how highly I rate him based on what I’ve seen so far. It doesn’t mean he’ll definitely get there, but he has a shot.

Right now there aren’t many players I’d rather have than Collins from this class. If I had to rank a list of top options it would include Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon — depending on what happens with Lynch. Harold and Collins would be on it too. That might be it for now heading into the combine.

A few thoughts on the situation at receiver

In listing key needs yesterday, I put receiver/tight end at #1 and for good reason. But the more I look at this situation the less convinced I am that the #31 pick is a good spot to take a receiver. McShay’s mock kind of proves that. Cooper, White, Parker, Smith and Green-Beckham are all gone. Even if the first three names are off the board, I’m not totally convinced they’d take DGB in the first or Smith for that matter.

It’s also a position that could probably use a veteran presence. A calming influence. Doug Baldwin’s ridiculous celebration and subsequent penalty in the Super Bowl smacked of immaturity. Since Sidney Rice departed who has been that leading experienced figure in the WR meeting room? Take Zach Miller out of the equation (potentially) and it’s a group desperate for some experience.

Ideally — and it won’t be easy — you add a veteran receiver or tight end who can act almost as a #1 target. It’s going to be hard but not impossible. For example, Davis Hsu today tweeted a way Seattle could acquire Jordan Cameron for $4m in 2015. It means cutting Miller (saving $3m) and not re-signing James Carpenter. You’re banking on Cameron avoiding further concussions and staying healthy. But you would be bringing in a genuine dynamic receiving threat and a legit red zone/seam target.

I’m not sure you can bring in a Vincent Jackson or Larry Fitzgerald for the same kind of cost. In fact I think we all know it’s almost impossible. You’d have to make other savings or be creative. I’m not convinced Fitzgerald could stomach joining a division rival either, but he’d be the ideal character guy this team needs at the receiver position — plus the dynamic big target Wilson requires. Jackson isn’t quite the same leader, but he’s a brilliant downfield/seam threat even at this stage in his career.

If you can make an addition in free agency, you can shoot for value at receiver. Phillip Dorsett would provide game-changing speed on the outside and downfield, but could also act a kick returner. Tyler Lockett was superb at the Senior Bowl and is another good kick returner. Nelson Agholor has returned kicks at USC and is an underrated receiver in this class. These are players that could go in the second or third round range. Justin Hardy is another name to look out for at the combine — and of course Sammie Coates. Personally I also believe Jaelen Strong, Devin Funchess and Dorial Green-Beckham will be available on day two if you want to take a bigger receiver instead with no kick return qualities.

I don’t think you can go wrong with Dorsett, Lockett, Agholor or Hardy. Even Coates has an explosive, physical element you’d love to have — you just need to work on his consistency.

You can really upgrade the receiver/tight end positions without spending the first pick. There will be a sweet spot in rounds 2-3 here. I think you almost have to manipulate a way to bring in a veteran, before looking at day two of the draft. This free’s you up to potentially look at a Todd Gurley/Melvin Gordon/Jalen Collins/Eli Howard in round one.

Top five Seahawks draft needs & players who “jump out”

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

LSU cornerback Jalen Collins jumps out as a possible Seahawks target

Seattle’s top off-season needs

#1 Receiver / tight end

The Seahawks just need more talent here. In the last twelve months they’ve lost Golden Tate, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. Paul Richardson might not play in 2015 and if he does, he’ll miss a whole off-season of work with Russell Wilson. How much will he realistically contribute? There’s at least some possibility Zach Miller is a cap casualty, saving $3m if he’s cut. You cannot lose that much talent in a year and not address it.

Seattle paid big money to land Rice hoping he would be the ultimate difference maker. They went even bigger to get Harvin. They previously flirted with Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson. They are clearly invested in finding a true match-up nightmare — a player with unique qualities. I don’t see why that would change now. Why would it? They have to keep searching.

With Russell Wilson set to become the highest paid player in the NFL (at least until Andrew Luck pens a new contract with the Colts) — more than ever he needs an injection of quality at receiver. The Seahawks are always going to be a run-first team. But you still have to throw the ball effectively. Never was that more obvious than the Super Bowl. Whether it’s a dynamic pass-catching tight end or a new go-to target at receiver — this has to be addressed.

#2 Cornerback

Byron Maxwell has played his last game for the Seahawks. That’s a safe assumption. He’s the best cornerback hitting free agency and it’s not a deep draft at the position. There are teams in the NFL crying out for help at corner — teams like Jacksonville who also have masses of unused cap space. There’s very little Seattle can do here.

The more pressing concern is there doesn’t appear to be a ready made replacement. You felt comfortable watching Walter Thurmond and then Maxwell stepping in for Brandon Browner. Tharold Simon has had his moments in what is essentially his first proper year in the NFL. Can he take the next step? I’m not totally sold. Jeremy Lane just needs to concentrate on getting healthy. This is a group that could use another player capable of competing for a start quickly.

I think the three most important things about this team are Russell Wilson, the running game (aka Marshawn Lynch) and the secondary. You secure the first two by paying Wilson and Lynch. You need to make sure the LOB remains at the top by adequately replacing Maxwell.

#3 Offensive line

A lot of people like to bag on James Carpenter and at times it’s warranted. But he’s not been a totally useless pick and he’s one of the few players who consistently worked over Justin Smith during his career. He provides genuine size on the line and the ability to move his man off the spot in the running game. If he departs he’ll need to be replaced.

The question is how do you replace him? Do you really want to go early again on the offensive line? Spending first round picks on Russell Okung and James Carpenter, a second round pick on Justin Britt and a third rounder on John Moffitt hasn’t provided an elite line. In fact Seattle’s most consistent offensive lineman over the last two years has been a converted defensive lineman taken in the 7th round.

There is one other angle of course. Okung is a free agent after 2015. How easy is it going to be to extend his contract? Do you plan ahead now by investing an early pick on a guard/tackle who can potentially man the blind side in 2016? That’s easier said than done. There’s a reason Okung went in the top ten and why the best tackles consistently go that early. Replacing Carpenter in 2015 with a guy like Ty Sambrailo and expecting him to replace Okung the year after looks like a sure-fire way to weaken an already average O-line.

#4 Defensive line

Depth is an issue here but with an asterisk. It’s OK pointing at the absence of Cliff Avril in the second half of the Super Bowl and stating it’s a reason for going big on another defensive end in the draft. Injuries happen to key players and you can’t always have a first round backup. Why not draft a first round QB to backup Wilson? Or a linebacker to backup Wagner? Spending a first round pick on a corner would be to replace a starter and fill a hole with Maxwell likely departing. Spending a first round pick on a receiver would be about adding a potential impact player. Spending a first round pick on a D-end would be going big on a #3. Isn’t that a luxury?

Of course, that’s not to say a defensive end would simply be a backup. The rotation would get them involved. Not many teams, however, carry three very talented edge rushers. I think they could use one more, but I’m not convinced it needs to be a high pick. Find someone who can contribute in the middle or later rounds. An athletic rusher who needs some refinement.

At the end of the day you’re still going to roll out Avril and Bennett as starters. I put the D-line at #4 because I don’t think they have an adequate starting corner on the roster behind Maxwell or enough talent at receiver/tight end. I also feel somewhat comfortable with the interior D-line too. Jordan Hill took a major step forward this season and will be back. It’s safe to presume Brandon Mebane will return. Tony McDaniel should return. Kevin Williams might even return — and if not, they’ve shown they can fill holes here. Hill and Mebane are the key players and both are contracted for 2015.

#5 Running back

This one’s short and sweet. If they extend Marshawn Lynch’s contract, they don’t need to draft a running back. If he departs, this could be a top-three need.

Thoughts on the likely options at #31

Fast forward to 35:15 in the audio below. It’s an interview Pete Carroll conducted on the Brock & Salk show on Tuesday:

You’re always looking for the guy that jumps out. The player in the draft. That may or may not happen. But we’ll go about it to just get better.

If you want to try and consider who they might take at #31 or #63 or wherever, you’re really looking for the player that jumps out. The combine is a useful tool because it can focus your attention. We know they like speed and length at certain positions (receiver, TE, corner, OL, DL). Then it’s about finding the player who stands out among the crowd. The difference maker. Bruce Irvin was a difference maker, so was Earl Thomas. Golden Tate. Even James Carpenter if you go back and watch the Mark Ingram era at Alabama. Production, to an extent, also appears to be key.

Let’s focus on the first round today:

Tight end / receiver

I would expect Amari Cooper, Devante Parker and Kevin White to be off the board. You’re left with a situation where the smaller-style receivers are more appealing at #31 compared to some of the bigger options. For example, Jaelen Strong is a nice big target who makes circus catches and contends for the ball in the air. But he struggles mightily to gain separation against even below-average college DB’s. He just isn’t very sudden and he doesn’t have great deep speed. My concern is at the next level he doesn’t maintain that knack of making the spectacular, difficult grab and what you’re left with is just a really average, slow possession receiver without difference-making size.

On the other hand, I think there are very appealing traits in Devin Smith and Phillip Dorsett. People love to bag on Smith because he was used predominantly as a deep threat at Ohio State. And? The guy is the most prolific downfield receiver in college football over the last four years. His YPC average is off the charts, he competes for the ball at the highest point and he has big-time special teams value to boot. I’m not even afraid to make the comparison to Odell Beckham Jr. He isn’t ODB — don’t get me wrong. But he has similar characteristics and athleticism.

See for yourself:

He doesn’t have the short-game Beckham Jr flashed at LSU or the massive hands. He’s very much a diluted ‘diet’ version of ODB. But that’s the difference between the #11 overall pick and potentially being around at #31. I still think you use Smith in the same way — as an all-round receiver who can make big plays down the sideline and act as a genuine playmaker despite a lack of size. He also has a bit of DeSean Jackson about his play.

Dorsett is a different player with incredible speed to get downfield, explode out of his breaks and consistently create separation. He’s a joy to watch at times. And I won’t hesitate to consider him as a top-50 pick in this draft.

You just have to ask yourself — how comfortable are you spending another high pick on another small receiver? We saw what Chris Matthews added to the offense simply through sheer height, catching radius and size. Russell Wilson is a tremendous deep-ball thrower and a couple of rangy targets with size would really open up the offense. It could also provide a major shot in the arm to the red zone production. This is also why tight end is a big need. The Seahawks are crying out for a difference maker here — with unnatural size, working the seam and scoring touchdowns.

They might be able to find a solution in free agency. If they’re able to acquire a Vincent Jackson (somehow) or bring in a Jordan Cameron, this kind of move might be more palatable. It would mean spending a third consecutive first pick on a receiver. That shouldn’t matter — a need’s a need. But we all know some people won’t be able to live with that thought.

In terms of the bigger receivers or tight ends in the draft, I still believe Dorial Green-Beckham will prove too much of a risk in the first round for any club in the post-Rice/Peterson NFL. Devin Funchess would give Seattle a seam-busting tight end with fantastic size, catching radius and big-play ability. He’s very attractive in that regard. But his tape at Michigan is so thoroughly underwhelming. He looks like a guy who needs to be constantly pushed — and that doesn’t feel like the type of player to mesh with Seattle’s bunch of self-motivators.

Sammie Coates has good size and freaky athleticism — but he’s just so inconsistent. Maxx Williams has gone from being very underrated to quite a bit overrated. He’s a very solid player who will make a fine pick for someone. But he’s not an exceptional athlete with unique size. I suspect he’ll be a very reliable albeit modest tight end at the next level. I’m willing to be proven wrong if he takes over the combine later this month.

There is some depth at receiver — so there’s no real pressure to go first round or bust. I think rounds 2-3 will offer a sweet-spot. There also may be opportunities for Seattle in free agency, depending on cost. This story is interesting:

Cornerback

I wrote about this yesterday, but I’ve spoken to people who would know about this kind of thing and they say Seattle will only take a corner in round one if it’s a truly special prospect. That makes sense. They found Richard Sherman in round five, Brandon Browner in the CFL, Walter Thurmond in round four and Byron Maxwell in round six. They know what to look for. Yet for the first time the well appears to have run dry. They don’t want to miss a beat if they lose Maxwell as expected. And corner could provide the best value in the top-40.

There are three players to focus on at the combine I think. Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters and Jalen Collins. Waynes is grabby and will need technique work, but he’s very fast and long (6-1). Peters is 6-0 with similar length, has a real nose for the ball and plays with a physical edge. Collins is a super-fluid athlete at 6-2 who works well in run support. He oozes class.

Out of the three, I like Collins the most. He’s raw and only started ten games at LSU. But he looks like a guy they can work on. I spent a bit of time today watching all three players and I see the most upside in Collins. His frame screams Seahawks and he just ticks so many boxes — light on his feet, changes direction effortlessly, sticks in coverage and has long arms to play the ball. One play sticks out from 2014 and it’s not even a coverage play. Fast forward to 4:06 in the video below:

That’s Melvin Gordon — supreme athlete and expected to run a very fast forty time — being caught in a downfield chase by Collins. He never gives up on the play, is clearly faster than Gordon. I haven’t seen anyone chase him down like that. Nobody. That is elite speed. Throw in the length and size and hey — we’ve potentially found one of those players who jump out.

I’m not even going to hide it — Collins might be my favorite realistic option at #31. And we shouldn’t expect him to last even that long. He’s Lance Zierlein’s #25 overall prospect. Todd McShay has him at #32. I’m not sure you’ll find a better upside prospect to slot into the LOB this year. It’s just whether or not they’ve identified another 5th round sleeper who can come in with the same potential at a cheaper price.

Is Collins special enough to warrant early attention by the top dogs for DB development? I think so. Tony Pauline recently reported he was one of the few corners who could handle Odell Beckham at LSU.

Another thing worth noting — Peters might fall due to character concerns. Zierlein compares him to Aqib Talib: “Both entered the draft with off-field concerns. They show similar body language when things don’t go their way on the field and are both volatile, but their playing styles are similar, too. They both love to attack the ball and sit down on routes to try to make things happen.” If Seattle’s locker room is as volatile as suggested earlier in the season — would they be prepared to take him in the first two days?

Offensive line

This is a toughie. A lot of fans would be happy if Seattle spent every one of their first round picks on the offensive line. Personally I feel like they’ve pumped enough into that group — and any further early picks really need to enhance the level of play substantially. I don’t want any more early OL picks for the sake of it. I liked Joel Bitonio a lot last year because I believed he could really enhance the performance of the line at guard or tackle. When I look at Tony Pauline’s newly published big board for O-liners today, I’m not sure I see a similar type of player.

Pauline grades Brandon Scherff and Andrus Peat as his only two clear-cut first rounders. T.J. Clemmings gets a round 1/2 grade. Taking those grades on face value, that could put Clemmings in range. They clearly like tackles who can play guard (and vice versa) — see Carpenter, Britt, Bailey, Bowie. Clemmings has the length they love and could play right tackle, left tackle or guard. He’d be a nice pick for upside. But you have to expect — with such a big premium on long, athletic tackles — that he won’t be there at #31.

I rate Ereck Flowers much higher than Pauline (he says third round) so for the sake of this piece I’m going to rule him out for now — although he would be a nice possibility if available and a possible long-term replacement for Okung if that situation materialized. Pauline’s next three linemen (all with second round grades) are Ty Sambrailo, Cedric Ogbuehi and Daryl Williams. He previously reported Seattle interest in Sambrailo. Would they take him at #31? I think he’d fit nicely into Carpenter’s position and they have similar size. I’m just not convinced he’d take the line to the next level. It’d be a sideways step. And in round one I kind of want more than that. Pauline has Jake Fisher in round three, Corey Robinson in round four and Rob Crisp as an UDFA — all more appealing in my opinion in those rounds vs Sambrailo in the late first or early second after a move down.

I’m not a fan of Ogbuehi’s and wouldn’t have him on my board after the ACL injury. Oklahoma’s Williams I’m much more open too — another massive tackle similar to Carpenter who might be available at #63. That would be decent value.

It would have to be a special player falling to warrant a first round pick here for what amounts to an interior lineman unless you want to move Britt inside. Scherff’s run blocking will appeal, for example. Peat is a classic blind-side pass-protector. Clemmings is all about the upside. If you’re willing to accept Clemmings has as much chance to be a total disaster as a perennial all-pro — then by all means take the shot. He is the most attractive option here, but Tom Cable would need to be ready to coach him up.

There is some depth in this area and I’d be willing to play for value later on.

Defensive line

This is a pretty good class for pass rushers. But here’s the thing. Seattle has a very specific type of pass rusher they target. Length is key, so is the ten-yard split. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin are both long athletes running spectacular 1.50 ten-yard splits. Let’s wait for the combine to be 100% sure, but when I watch Bud Dupree, Nate Orchard, Hau’Oli Kikaha and others — I just don’t see either the speed, the length or both.

Eli Harold sticks out like a sore thumb and if he doesn’t fly up the board (for me he’s a top-15 level prospect) I’d be ready to pull the trigger. He’s long, athletic with a great burst. He converts speed to power easily. He’s been productive. He’s a gritty individual who’s faced adversity. He’s a former 5-star recruit. He’s another player who jumps out to you. I just don’t see any way he’s there at #31. See for yourself:

If I’m not getting a player like that — I’m waiting and seeing what’s available later. After all — this is a DEPTH pick. Not many teams have two pass rushers like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. The need for a third is not vital — it’s just about stacking the rotation. If a special player like Harold is there I’m game. But while Orchard and Kikaha have been productive in the PAC-12, I’m not convinced either is worth the big spend just to put another body behind Avril/Bennett. Vic Beasley might be another one to monitor. He’s a better fighter than he gets credit for, he’s been very productive at Clemson and he has track speed.

In the interior, I do expect Danny Shelton and Jordan Phillips to be gone. Both are unique enough to fit into the ‘jump out’ category. I’ve shifted my position on Shelton after viewing his Oregon tape. I’m a big fan of two former 5-star recruits in Eddie Goldman and Malcom Brown but expect both to be off the board, leaving the options to be pretty thin the rest of the way.

Running back

This is all about Marshawn Lynch. Will he stay or will he go? If he goes, this becomes a big need unless you fancy the idea of a Robert Turbin led running game (with Christine Michael spelling). Two players jump out to you of course — Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley. The ACL injury doesn’t bother me with Gurley — I’ll take my chances because he’s that good. I don’t expect either player to be available at #31.

I do think they’ll find a way to keep Lynch, taking this off the list of needs.

Players who jump out at the five ‘need’ positions so far

Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State)
Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)

Post-Super Bowl mock draft: 4th February

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Here’s what I think it comes down to. Tampa Bay is taking a quarterback. They’ll meet with both. Study the tape like crazy. And they’ll feel more comfortable and confident building around the safer investment. Mariota it is.

#2 Tennessee Titans — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
I’ve battled with this one because I think Winston has to prove he can be trusted. Ruston Webster is a Tim Ruskell disciple so you know he values character. But this is a team crying out for identity and quality. They have nothing to build around. Winston at least offers some hope.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
Peat is a natural pass protector perfectly suited to the left tackle position. After spending the #3 pick on Blake Bortles, they have to build around him. Drafting two receivers early last year was a start, now it’s about better line play up front.

#4 Oakland Raiders — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
He’s just a flat out playmaker. You can line him up anywhere — D-end, inside, linebacker. He just makes plays. Throw in a terrific motor, great attitude and plus-athleticism and you have the makings of a perennial Pro Bowler.

#5 Washington Redskins — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
He’ll win at the combine with speed and explosion. Expect a big-time ten yard split. That’ll be enough to convince the Redskins this is their guy — they badly need defensive talent and are likely to lose Brian Orakpo.

#6 New York Jets — Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska)
He’s a project wherever he goes. Length, athleticism. Some have compared his upside to that of Aldon Smith. But right now he’s at his best as a blitzing linebacker, not a natural edge rusher. Still, he fits the 3-4 and it’s a need for the Jets in Todd Bowles’ scheme.

#7 Chicago Bears — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
I’m not quite as sold on Williams as a lot of other people but the Bears will likely focus on defense this off-season. They need to repair the whole unit and a pick like this makes a lot of sense.

#8 Atlanta Falcons — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Expect a huge rise for Harold. He’s a former 5-star recruit with insane athletic qualities, length and grit. He knows how to convert speed-to-power. He could go even earlier than this. There’s some Barkevious Mingo to his game, some Brian Orakpo. With the right guidance he could be a top player at the next level.

#9 New York Giants — Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
I watched the Oregon tape today and came away much more impressed than I expected. I’m not too proud to admit when I make mistakes. On that evidence, he does deserve to go earlier than I initially projected.

#10 St. Louis Rams — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
After Peat, he’s the best pass-protector in this class. They’re similar prospects — both combine great length and foot-speed with ample power and hand use. They both need to avoid lunging but it’s workable. Flowers would further bolster the Rams O-line.

#11 Minnesota Vikings — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
He’s shown he has the deep speed this year to make up for a lack of elite size. He’s the most naturally gifted receiver to enter the draft since A.J. Green. Very focused individual and not a diva. Pairing Cooper with Teddy Bridgewater seems like a smart move.

#12 Cleveland Browns — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
When Phillips rocks up at the combine and runs a 4.8-4.9 he’ll start to fly up the boards. He has better tape than Dontari Poe but has the same kind of rare size and speed. He has an injury history and that’ll need to be checked out. If he’s cleared — watch out for Phillips. He declared for a reason.

#13 New Orleans — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
I thought he had a disappointing Senior Bowl but the fact of the matter is — athletic tackles with length go early. They always do. The Saints back themselves to coach him up knowing the worst case scenario is he moves inside to guard.

#14 Miami Dolphins — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
He’ll be a SPARQ demon at the combine and could force his way into the top ten. Collins had a big season, proving he can cover and hit. He’s better than Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who went in the first round last year.

#15 San Francisco 49ers — Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon)
Assuming Justin Smith does retire, the 49ers are going to need to fill out that D-line. Armstead has unreal size and upside. There’s every chance he’ll go early purely based on potential. He wasn’t the finished article at Oregon. Far from it.

#16 Houston Texans — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
There’s no quarterback solution here so they might as well keep padding the defensive line. They need a good run stopper to work the interior. Goldman is superb working against the run and he has untapped potential as a pass rusher. Former 5-star recruit.

#17 San Diego Chargers — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Having switched D.J. Fluker to guard, San Diego desperately needs to add a quality tackle. They don’t see a solution here so go with a playmaker at running back instead. Opinions are mixed on Gordon, but I can see a few teams really buying into his skill-set and unreal work ethic.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
Receiver is such a big need here. Alex Smith can win you games but he needs weapons. Parker offers the kind of dynamic receiving threat the Chiefs currently lack. You get the feeling they’ll go all-in to find a solution here and might even move up for Amari Cooper.

#19 Cleveland Browns — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
Big, classic 3-4 inside linebacker who set the tone for Miss. State in 2014. He could be the player everybody expected Rolando McClain to be. The Browns have a defensive Head Coach and need to develop an identity on that side of the ball after wasting two first round picks a year ago. Will they trade up for a quarterback? Maybe.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles — Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
Corner is a need and Waynes will impress at the combine. He’s physical and might need to tone it down at the next level to avoid penalties — but it’s his size and speed that will entice teams to take him early.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
A lack of size might be a hindrance although he should run a good forty time and ten yard split. Beasley has been ultra-productive at Clemson and the Bengals need someone who can get to the quarterback.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
The guy just looks like a Steeler — and it’s more than just the Iowa uniforms. Lunch-pail worker who drives people off the ball in the running game. Right tackle is a huge need for Pittsburgh and Scherff would be a day one starter.

#23 Detroit Lions — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
He looked good at tackle last season — and looked even better at center in 2014. The Lions would get a player who can start immediately at center and back up every other position on the O-line. He’s a defensive line convert with massive potential.

#24 Arizona Cardinals — Hau’Oli Kikaha (DE, Washington)
This is a hunch. The Cardinals need a pass rusher to work the edge in a big way. Kikaha has great hands and probably needs to work in space. His production is off the charts. It just seems like a fit. And I think the Cards will be prepared to reach a bit to make this happen.

#25 Carolina Panthers — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
Since Dave Gettleman took over as GM he’s let the draft come to him. He’s looked for value and avoided reaching. They have bigger needs than receiver, but White falls a bit and they capitalize. It’s been suggested he loses confidence quickly and worries. That could provoke a slight drop down the board.

#26 Baltimore Ravens — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
A top ten pick without the injury, Gurley falls to an ideal spot. The Ravens re-sign Justin Forsett and stash Gurley away for the future. Another brilliant pick by a franchise that just gets it year after year.

#27 Dallas Cowboys — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
Terrific defensive tackle prospect who could go much earlier than this. Another former 5-star recruit. Adept at knifing into the backfield to make plays. Classic three-technique with the size to hold up against the run.

#28 Denver Broncos — Carl Davis (DT, Iowa)
If they lose Terrance Knighton they’ll need an interior force on the defensive line. Davis had a tremendous Senior Bowl. The tape is a bit ‘meh’ but he showed what he’s capable of in Mobile. Coaches will love the upside here.

#29 Indianapolis Colts — La’el Collins (G, LSU)
Watching the all-22 against Alabama gave me a new perspective on Collins. He’s not as good as I first thought and will need to move inside to guard. He’s good in the run game and will slot in straight away. But he’s not as good as Joel Bitonio.

#30 Green Bay Packers — Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE, UCLA)
I really, really like Odighizuwa. He’s not much of an edge rusher but the way he dips inside and uses brute force to decimate the interior is a sight to behold. For that reason he might be best acting as a 3-4 end with some outside rush duties thrown in.

#31 Seattle Seahawks — Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
I go into more detail below.

#32 New England Patriots — Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
You have to like his attitude, leadership and playmaking. He’s just not that great rushing the edge. I can see him working in New England’s defense by lining up in multiple positions and having an impact. He’d be a great fit here.

Notes on the Seahawks pick at #31

1. Why no receiver?

Yes, it’s a big need. But I just get the sense rounds 2-3 will be the sweet spot at the position this year. There are plenty of guys I think could go in the late first, but it’s more likely we see a host of second and third rounders like Devin Smith, Phillip Dorsett, Justin Hardy, Jaelen Strong, Sammie Coates, Nelson Agholor, Devin Funchess, Tyler Lockett. This is also the area I think Dorial Green-Beckham will fall to.

As much as the Seahawks need to fill this role, I don’t think you fight the board for the sake of it. If you want a tall, rangy wide receiver or tight end the options are limited. You’re probably going to have to be creative in free agency. Goodness knows how given the players you want to re-sign in Seattle. But are you really going to buy into a guy like Jaelen Strong in round one and feel he’s the answer? I wouldn’t want to do that. Ditto Sammie Coates. Ditto Devin Funchess. And as much as I like Devin Smith and Phillip Dorsett, I’m not totally sold on them in round one given their stature. Seattle needs someone who can box off a defender and make the kind of plays Chris Matthews made on Sunday — and I retain that belief even if you think Matthews can be a role-player in 2015.

I would rather take my chances seeing who is there in rounds 2-3 looking at the group available. Don’t ask me how they make it happen, but I just have to hope they have some kind of solution to address this need in a cost-effective way in free agency. Whether it’s Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas or trading for Vincent Jackson. Maybe they make some surprise cuts to free up room? Maybe they pull off a ‘go get a ring’ deal? I don’t know. Jackson is still the one I want.

2. Why a corner?

I’ve said a few times — and this opinion stems from speaking to people who would know — that I don’t think the Seahawks will ever go corner early unless it’s a really special player. I do think they had some interest in Bradley Roby a year ago. This was a guy coming off a down year who was previously regarded as a top-15 pick. He had some length and quicks. An ideal slot receiver at the very least. I think he might’ve been special enough. We’ll never know. I suspect they knew well before the draft he wouldn’t make it to #32.

I’m not sure if Marcus Peters will be considered ‘special’ enough. I do like his tape for the most part. I like his nose for the ball. I think he’s ideally suited for this scheme. I look at the other needs (WR, DL, OL, TE) and think this might be their best opportunity to get a player who stands out. A cornerstone pick who starts quickly and for multiple years. Someone you’d love to coach up and develop but can still feature in week one. I think he will tick a lot of the boxes. I just want to see his long speed at the combine.

Then there’s the character concerns. After all, he was kicked off the team at Washington.

I think putting him in a situation where he almost has to work for the LOB would be a good thing for Peters. He wouldn’t be able to pull any crap around Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. I don’t think they’d be scared off by his connection to Marshawn Lynch (a close family friend). In fact it might just help keep him in line (a bit like Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson). Maybe it would be a problem? We have no way of knowing. But while a lot of teams might be scared off by the risk-factor with Peters (and that’s why he’d even be available at #31) the Seahawks might feel they have the setup to deal with a player like this. Carroll knows he’ll get a fair and honest assessment of his character from Steve Sarkisian.

Corner became a bigger need than I think we all thought watching the Super Bowl. And while I think we all trust this team to continue to find later round gems, they face the possibility of having to start a mid-to-late round rookie in 2015 or one of Tharold Simon or (health permitting) Jeremy Lane. I think the three key strengths of this team are Russell Wilson, the running game and the secondary. You solidify two of those strengths by paying Wilson and Lynch. You solidify the third by making sure you aren’t caught short when Byron Maxwell inevitably signs elsewhere.

Why would you risk Peters and not Green-Beckham? Simple. If DGB is a problem child it’s another headache for Wilson after the whole Percy Harvin fiasco. Asking Wilson to set him straight might be too much for one man. You have three veterans (Chancellor, Thomas and Sherman) to guide Peters, plus a proven DB coaching setup that will aid his development.

Want an alternative? How about LSU’s Jalen Collins. Tall (6-1), speedy. Far from the finished article but with a ton of upside.

In this scenario you target WR/TE, OL and DL in the next two rounds. Obviously if you were able to acquire someone like Vincent Jackson you can focus on the two lines. Perhaps you go R1-Peters or Collins, R2-Sambrailo, R3-Lockett. I think they’ll be less inclined to go D-line after signing up Cliff Avril. They will get Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh back.

Like I said, I don’t know if Peters will be considered special enough to warrant Seattle’s first round pick. We’ll probably find out at the combine. But it does make some sense.

The day after the night before thread — MOVING FORWARD

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

I know you’re hurting. I am too. After watching the Super Bowl I went straight to work. As I type it’s 9:14pm and I still haven’t been to bed. I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. The Seahawks were a yard away from immortality. An off-season of dynasty talk, debate as to whether they can make it three in a row. Their place in history secured forever.

Instead the Patriots are getting the glory and the celebration and all anyone wants to talk about is one play. One play. One questionable play call, one superb break on the ball by Malcolm Butler. You know what? It was never about just one play. That will not define this team, these coaches, this FRANCHISE. The Seahawks aren’t going anywhere. The NFC West? Weaker. The NFC challengers? Who scares you?

Russell Wilson. Earl Thomas. Richard Sherman. Michael Bennett. Beast mode? Why not? They’ll be ready. You’re going to let one play break this bond? You’re going to dedicate all of your energy to one play — however crucial?

Look through the game and you’ll find it was more than just a solitary slant to the inside. It was four consecutive scoreless offensive drives to end the game. It was giving up 14 fourth quarter points when you were in total control at 24-14. It’s about dropped passes when you’re driving to extend your lead. It’s about a first quarter where your quarterback doesn’t complete a pass and your receivers can’t get open. It’s about injuries — lots of them. Those who could make the field were banged up. It’s about a lack of pass rush outside of the sensational Bennett. It’s about leaving K.J. Wright to cover Rob Gronkowski on an island twice, once for a big touchdown. It’s about 3rd and 14 conversions and off-side penalties. It’s about deciding the world stage is your opportunity to simulate taking a dump to “prove a point” and pick up a dumb penalty.

That play? Decisive. Clinching. But not the only reason for defeat. Over time I think perspective will combat anger and prove victorious.

This was a messy game by the Seahawks across the board and they almost found a way to win anyway. That’s so Seahawks. They should’ve won it. But they didn’t. Not this time.

What’s next?

That was the battle cry from Red Bryant when they won a Super Bowl. It needs to be shouted louder than ever today.

The Seahawks played a messy game against a legendary coach and quarterback combo and still should’ve won a Super Bowl. Can you imagine being offered that scenario at the start of 2010? With one title already secured. Yes it hurts. Sure it does. Would you rather be debating Mariota or Winston this week? Or whether you should give Sam Bradford one last chance? Or whether a coaching team led by Jim Tomsula, Eric Mangini and Geep Chryst is really actually seriously going to take over from Jim Harbaugh?

Week one. Century Link Field. On it.

The disappointment will never go away but it is what it is. This is a great team. A young team. And they have to find a way to channel this anguish into a positive. They need to have the best off-season of their lives — AGAIN. And they need to get back to the big game and make it count this time.

Healthier, cleaner and ready to execute.

And now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at the big talking points going forward:

Receiver has to be a priority

It’s a debate we’ve had many times, but never has it been more obvious that the Seahawks need extra talent at receiver. For all the protestation of Doug Baldwin, he and Jermaine Kearse are not capable of leading this group alone. They need help — and so does Russell Wilson. It’s blindingly obvious.

Chris Matthews’ performance simply highlights the absolute need for a dynamic big target. Wilson is accurate enough with the deep ball to give his receiver a shot. Matthews obliged to the tune of 100 yards with sheer positioning, control, size and catching technique. Wilson is capable of so much more as a passer but his development is being held back because he’s being forced to work with a weaker group of receivers every year. This team has lost Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Percy Harvin and one of the replacements — Paul Richardson — might be set for a Navarro Bowman ‘off year’ as he recovers from a serious knee injury. This is need numero uno. It was painful to watch Wilson get 8-10 seconds to end the first quarter and nobody could get open. It was up to Matthews — a guy plucked off the practice squad — to open the passing game up. And on the biggest play of the night they go to Ricardo Lockette.

How can that be right? Where’s your go-to receiver for that type of situation?

Maybe Matthews will prove to be part of the solution? They still need to get another. And it MUST be a player with the capability of making the kind of plays we saw yesterday. Downfield, size and reach advantage, high pointing the football, boxing off defenders and making plays in the red zone. Badwin is a savvy, sometimes explosive receiver and a key part of the team. But he’s not a #1.

But how do you find that in this draft? And can you seriously even begin to contemplate bringing in a veteran (trade or free agency) if you intend to give Marshawn Lynch a pay rise? This is where you’ll end up with a headache. If you were ever going to move up the board to go and get a receiver — last year was the year to do it. Not this year. And the likely options at #31 are not going to be great. They won’t be any better at #63. I just feel there will be some form of ‘splash’ here. High pick, key acquisition, trade. Something.

I just don’t know what it is.

Let’s tone down the Bevell hate

Curse him all you want, but let’s have some perspective here. The St. Louis Rams cannot find an offensive coordinator. The Cleveland Browns couldn’t find one. The San Francisco 49ers had to settle on Geep Chryst because they couldn’t find one.

There is not a deep talent pool of offensive coordinators out there. That doesn’t excuse or validate Darrell Bevell, but there’s a genuine tendency among Seahawks fans to shut off any positives and heap so much damning criticism and blame on his shoulders. There’s a reason why so many defensive minded coordinators received Head Coaching positions at the end of the season. There’s a real dearth of quality play callers/designers. I don’t really fancy lounging around in no-man’s land like the Rams or simply appointing Tom Cable to the position and asking him to devise a superior passing game.

Whether you want to accept it or not, overall Bevell has had a positive impact on the Seahawks. He helped develop Wilson from a rookie to an established NFL quarterback over three years. Seattle’s offense has ranked #7 in 2013 and #5 in 2014 according to Football Outsiders. He’s not ultra conservative, he’s willing to consider the creative. He has flaws — no question. But your thirst for blood is unnecessary. He messed up. The Seahawks messed up. But why would a team that has made back-to-back Super Bowls and fielded a top-10 offense in both seasons make major unforced changes to its staff? I mean, honestly.

What’s more I trust Pete Carroll — and so should you.

Cornerback might be a bigger need than we thought

Unless Byron Maxwell receives an unexpected frosty market next month, he’s likely a gonna. The position is too important — and too weak in the draft — to not expect Maxwell to get paid (Jacksonville anyone?). Seattle’s vaunted production line has been able to produce so many cheap, talented corners. But now they’re in somewhat of a bind. Tharold Simon just doesn’t look good enough to start every week. Jeremy Lane is going to have to battle to start the season. This is a need.

Maybe they will find the next Maxwell, Browner or even Sherman in the draft? It’s one position they’ve had a lot of success with. But it’s hard to imagine this positional group not receiving some attention in the off-season — and it might be a bit more than a mere later round pick. But they’d need a reason to draft a corner early — and that might be an issue too. Who’s out there? The final day of the combine will be fascinating viewing.

What happens with Marshawn Lynch?

Ian Rapoport reported before the Super Bowl that Seattle would offer Lynch a big new contract extension. The thing is — if the report is accurate — there’s no guarantee Lynch will sign it.

How much does he want to continue? How much longer does he want to wage war on the media and the league? Will $10m in 2015 be seen as adequate compensation and enough respect? Will he ever be able to trust a coaching staff that put the game on Ricardo Lockette at the one yard line instead of their best offensive player?

I have a hard time imagining Lynch quitting the game. But I also have a hard time imaging a harmonious atmosphere between Lynch and his superiors. He’s a players player, not a coaches favorite. Will he have the motivation and desire to go and get hit several times repeatedly when he can set up a temporary store in Arizona and make $200,000 during Super Bowl week?

This is a situation that needs a conclusion ASAP. All the other domino’s won’t fall until the Seahawks know what’s happening with Lynch. Are they going to have $7.5m in cap space to play with (and a gigantic hole to fill) or will they lose some money against the cap and the opportunity to upgrade other positions in free agency?

I’ll probably do a mock draft tomorrow, or at least go through someone else’s and see what was available for Seattle. It’s draft time.