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Thursday draft notes: Legit R1’s & tight end talk

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

This isn’t a great year to pick early

The Jaguars probably partied long into the night when they pinched the #1 pick off the Jets. This might be one of the worst years to pick in the top-10 once Trevor Lawrence goes off the board.

There’s a severely limited pool of ‘legit’ first round prospects this year. Perhaps as few as 8-12.

Lawrence is a star in the making. Penei Sewell and Ja’Marr Chase would be legit top-10 picks in any year. I think Kyle Pitts did enough in 2020 to show he warrants a high grade.

DeVonta Smith will likely have a lot of admirers but a lack of size will lead to some second guessing his true value at the top of the board, especially if there’s a feeling he won’t run a lightning quick forty.

There could also be some size concerns regarding Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah but he’s so fast and explosive I think many will grade him in round one.

There’s a lot of social media speculation about Micah Parsons and possible character flags. We’ll see if there’s anything in that.

Teams will also grade certain players very highly against the consensus. Others, such as Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater, will be rated very highly by some and less so by others.

Overall though I think it’s a poor top-end of the draft. It’s perhaps not surprising Detroit snubbed the offer of the #8 pick from Carolina for Matt Stafford in favour of future, later first round picks from the Rams. They might be struggling enough as it is to work out what to do with #8.

The quarterback class is a complete mixed bag where you’ll have to talk yourself into making the pick. That will happen — it always does. Yet as much as I like Zach Wilson there are also moments of concern. Justin Fields lit up Clemson but also has a lot of fairly middling tape.

I’m not convinced either will fly off the board like the mock drafts are suggesting. I had both falling a bit in my last mock and I think that might end up being the consensus.

Then you’ve got Mac Jones — who looked like a class act at the Senior Bowl. His body language, confidence and relaxed state just oozed starting quarterback. He threw with poise, accuracy and touch. Yet he also can’t drive the ball downfield and his lack of zip showed up during red zone drills when he had to throw into tighter windows.

Trey Lance is a one-year starter who struggled in his only 2020 start and I think it’s a big assumption he will go in round one.

I like Davis Mills at Stanford and I’ve been saying for months that I think he’ll go earlier than most are projecting. He has all the tools you look for. Yet he only has a handful of starts in college.

Kellen Mond might be a better option if you’re drafting to develop someone and he’ll be available in rounds 2/3. He has the experience, he’s shown progression and he has a fantastic arm.

On top of this there aren’t any ‘sure things’ on the defensive line. There’s production from some and extreme athleticism with others — but also a lot of ‘could go either way’ types.

The group of cornerbacks carry a whole bunch of speed question marks.

What this draft does have, though, is depth on the O-line and at receiver. We might see several getting pushed up the board as a consequence.

There’s also a thick second and third tier. There might not be many players worthy of a top-10 placing but the player you take at #12 might have a similar grade as the player at #35.

In fact the very start of round two could be a veritable treat for the teams lucky enough to pick in that range.

Two tight ends to monitor

I’m not sure what Seattle’s approach will be at tight end this year. Greg Olsen is moving on. We’ll see about Jacob Hollister.

Reportedly the team really likes Colby Parkinson. When he was drafted we noted he was a victim of K.J. Costello’s Stanford meltdown. Parkinson had been considered by many as a fringe first round candidate until the Cardinal offense collapsed. He ended up in round four.

It would be a huge boost if he could deliver on his potential and become a fourth round starter.

Will Dissly didn’t quite look as sharp in 2020. Whether that was the injuries taking their toll or the Seahawks not wanting to stretch him too far, who knows? It might even be that they simply didn’t have any idea how to get their tight ends properly involved last season, despite the major investment in the position.

Nevertheless, it feels like there’s room in this offense for a dynamic tight end or slot to emerge in 2021.

Seattle has drafted five tight ends under Pete Carroll (if you don’t count Stephen Sullivan who was kind of picked as a player with no real set position):

Nick Vannett
Luke Willson
Anthony McCoy
Will Dissly
Colby Parkinson

They also traded for Jimmy Graham and signed Zach Miller and Greg Olsen.

All eight players are linked with a certain characteristic.

It appears the Seahawks view the short shuttle as an important drill:

Luke Willson — 4.29 at pro-day
Will Dissly — 4.40
Nick Vannett — 4.20
Anthony McCoy — 4.57
Colby Parkinson — 4.46
Zach Miller — 4.42
Jimmy Graham — 4.45
Greg Olsen — 4.48

We’ve talked about Gerald Everett as a possible free agent target. He’s familiar with Shane Waldren and has a great attitude but hasn’t delivered on the second round pick LA spent on him four years ago.

I’m not sure the Seahawks would covet a 6-3, 240lbs tight end with 33 inch arms and 8.5 inch hands — but he did run a 4.33 short shuttle and a 6.99 three cone at his combine.

There are two other possible candidates for day three in the draft.

Tre McKitty spent time at Florida State and Georgia in college. His 32 2/8 inch arms might be a problem for Seattle but he has 11 inch hands and it shows when he catches the ball. At the Senior Bowl he stood out with his catching — absorbing the football with his huge mitts including one spectacular one-handed catch. His blocking was also highly regarded.

He’s 6-4 and 247lbs but here’s the interesting part — he ran a 4.13 short shuttle at SPARQ. That’s an incredible time that would certainly catch Seattle’s eye if repeated during the draft process. He also jumped a 35 inch vertical.

Tommy Tremble is another option. He’s always been more of a blocker than a pass catcher for Notre Dame but he ran a 4.20 short shuttle and jumped a 36 inch vertical at SPARQ.

Some are even saying he could end up playing in the Kyle Juszczyk role as a dynamic full back who can be worked into the passing game as a mismatch weapon.

I don’t know whether the Seahawks will be in a position to use one of only three or four picks on a tight end. Yet when you get to day three, you really shouldn’t be looking to fill ‘holes’ in that range.

They need a solution. Over the cap updated their system today and estimated the Seahawks are $2m in the red for 2021 as things stand.

Something’s got to give.

If you missed my interview with Quinn Meinerz yesterday, check it out here…

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An interview with Senior Bowl star Quinn Meinerz

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

Watch this and tell me you don’t want him on your team…

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My off-season plan for the Seahawks

Monday, February 1st, 2021

Time for a change?

This isn’t a prediction, it’s an opinion piece.

This is what I would do. Or at least seriously consider doing.

The Seahawks are a good team. You expect that when you’re paying a quarterback $35m a year.

They’re not a great team, though.

It’s tempting to fall back on the comfort of winning seasons, while hoping that next year will be the year.

You also run the risk of being good enough to make the playoffs every season but not good enough to do much when you get there.

You’re hesitant to make changes because you fear the consequences. Yet it’s that calculated gamble that often enables you to achieve greatness.

I don’t like to make comparisons to the New England Patriots because you’ll never have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick working the controls. Yet the Patriots have been the masters of knowing when to move on from certain players, at least until the point they moved on from the quarterback.

They’ve taken some risks and most of them paid off, with the exception of Chandler Jones and the premature parting with Brady.

Their willingness to trade or release players at the right time has helped keep them at the top. They’ve always been prepared to reinvent themselves. The only two consistent pillars were the coach and the quarterback.

I don’t think the Seahawks are as close as their 12-4 record in 2020 suggests. I think they benefited from a favourable schedule. Their only keynote win was against the Rams in week 16 — the team that dumped them out of the playoffs a fortnight later.

Losing that game so convincingly highlighted Seattle’s weakness in the trenches. The Rams played with a horrible quarterback situation and Aaron Donald missed 50% of the defensive snaps. They still won, in part, because they dominated up front.

The regular season record should only serve to set the table for a playoff run. This is a team that should be judged on its post-season record. They’re on a run of one playoff win in four years, with the win coming against a mediocre Eagles team.

They need to mix things up and try something new to avoid the same disappointing conclusion year after year.

They need to do what the Patriots would probably do — be prepared to move popular and expensive players, to try something different.

Bringing back the same cast of characters with the only significant addition being the #56 pick in the draft feels like a recipe for a repeat performance.

Same old, same old.

Yes, there’s optimism that comes with a new offensive coordinator. If he’s able to deliver timely adjustments and superior game-planning, this will be a huge boost. I still think Shane Waldren needs personnel support to produce the results we all want to see. The offensive line in particular needs upgrading.

With that in mind, I set out three priorities for this plan:

1. Create cap space and get back into the draft

The Seahawks currently are projected to have $204,729 in effective cap space. They only have three or four draft picks, depending on the Perry Nickerson situation.

The starting center, cornerback, tight end, #2 tight end, left guard, SAM linebacker, #2 defensive end and #3 receiver are out of contract.

Poona Ford is a restricted free agent and will likely receive a second round tender.

They only have 47 contracted players for 2021.

They simply don’t have the resources to get things done and that needs to change.

2. Shift resources to key positions in the trenches

When the Pete Carroll era began, they spent their top pick on an offensive lineman in 2010 and 2011. They signed Robert Gallery. They re-signed Max Unger. They paid to bring in Breno Giacomini. By 2013, they had the most expensive O-line in the NFL.

They traded for Marshawn Lynch.

They drafted and signed young, hungry, cheap defenders with a killer attitude.

That plan worked. Maybe it’s time to give it another try?

The Seahawks have pumped resources into positions like linebacker and safety and squandered money on tight ends.

It’s time to get back to basics. If you want to be a team that wins in the trenches, it’s time to focus your money and picks on the O-line and D-line.

3. Experience on offense, youth and speed on defense

Seattle was at its best with a young, physical, brash defense. I would try to recreate that with cheap, hungry players with a point to prove.

At the same time, they’ve invested $35m a year in a quarterback.

Let’s finally acknowledge that investment and prioritise protecting him, truly fixing the running game and getting at least one more weapon.

If give and take is required, then I’ll settle for a cheaper defense.

The plan

If the NFL provides salary cap relief due to Covid, then some of the following moves will be unnecessary and I’ll revise the plan. It’s still not clear exactly how teams like New Orleans will be allowed to function. They need to raise a minimum of $110m in a short space of time to avoid being over the cap.

However, even if the league provides modest relief and creates around $20m extra for the Seahawks to spend, I still believe they need to adjust their thinking in terms of where they are investing their money and picks.

I’ve tried to stay on top of the details as much as possible. I’m sure in some instances you’ll be able to quibble over the finer points. However, let’s be honest about what this is. A bit of fun. An opinion on the off-season. Don’t take it too seriously.

Trade Bobby Wagner

Why are you trading a Seahawks legend?

To be brutally honest, I don’t think he warrants a $17m cap hit in 2021 and a $20.3m cap hit in 2022. The Seahawks would be better off spending this money somewhere else, such as the offensive line.

But we’re talking about Bobby Wagner here!

He’s in a complex spot in his career. I think the Seahawks were justified in extending his contract in 2019. He was 29-years-old and the linebacker market, at the time, had exploded. He was always going to get more than C.J. Mosley and Seattle rewarded a much-loved player coming off a great 2018 season.

However, as often happens in the NFL, I don’t think he’s worth the contract any more.

I doubt he will take a pay cut. Thus, I think he’s going to have to run down his contract in order to establish a realistic bargaining position in 2023 when he’ll be 33 and a free agent. That doesn’t help the Seahawks for the next two years.

Who replaces him though?

The Seahawks used their 2020 first round pick on Jordyn Brooks — a middle linebacker. It’s time to justify that investment.

He’s a high quality player though! Show some respect

He certainly is. PFF graded him as Seattle’s top performer on defense (86.2) in 2020. He was the #2 ranked linebacker. Wagner is extremely reliable and does his job very well. However, in 2020 he only produced three sacks and seven TFL’s. He didn’t force a single fumble or interception.

For his salary, you need more than reliable. The price is simply too high. He’ll always be a Seahawks legend but when you have no resources, tough decisions need to be taken. Right now, in my opinion, this team would be best served placing their faith in Jordyn Brooks and investing the money elsewhere.

The Seahawks have got to shake things up and try something new. They’ve won one playoff game in four years. Pumping resources into the O-line, rather than linebacker, is worth a try.

Why would anyone trade for him?

There are several franchises in a rebuilding stage. I think if you were a young team trying to build a culture, Wagner would be the ideal player to insert into your defense. His leadership qualities would be of critical importance.

Take the Jets for example, now led by former Seahawks defensive coach Robert Salah. What value is a 30-year-old Wagner in that situation? He could be the lynchpin to launch the start of a turnaround. He can help teach the scheme. He can organise on the field and deliver instant credibility.

To me, that would be highly valuable.

The Jets have two firsts, a second and two third rounders this year plus an extra first next year. They have the stock to make a deal.

Plus, they have $63,475,814 in available cap space in 2021 and $121,643,976 in 2022. So they can easily accommodate the remaining two years of his contract.

I think the thought process at least makes sense. The Jets will incorporate Seattle’s scheme and terminology. They have brought in Salah to shape a new culture. I can’t think of a better first move.

It doesn’t have to be New York. There’s value in his experience and reliability that will appeal to a handful of teams, much in the way Duane Brown appealed to Seattle despite his age.

Trade Jamal Adams

Are you nuts? You’re plundering the defense

As noted in my article last week, there are many strands to this. I don’t think Adams is a great scheme fit. I think the sack numbers are manufactured and a bit of a mirage. I don’t think he (or any safety) warrants a contract worth $18-20m a year.

Plus, he’s your most tradeable asset.

I won’t repeat all of the details that I wrote last week. I would encourage you to read that piece before passing judgement on this particular aspect of the plan.

So who replaces him?

This is very similar to the Jordyn Brooks situation. Two years ago the Seahawks spent a second round pick on Marquise Blair. He was the #47 pick in the draft. They took him before D.K. Metcalf.

It’s time to justify that investment, too. Play him at strong safety. Spending a first round pick on Brooks to play WILL and a second round pick on Blair to play big nickel isn’t a great use of resources.

Also — hasn’t Ugo Amadi done enough to warrant remaining at nickel?

You drafted them early. Time to develop them and make them starters.

You need blue chip players on defense though!

Do you? Pete Carroll and John Schneider once built an amazing defense with no big names and no highly paid players. I’m not for a second suggesting they should ‘just recreate the LOB’. That’s virtually impossible. But there’s something to be said for having a young, hungry, fast defense full of pissed off players.

No entitlement. No big salaries. No expectation. Just a point to prove.

If the compromise for having a great O-line is needing to save money on defense while getting younger and cheaper — so be it.

And let’s be right here — who were Seattle’s highest graded players on defense last year?

Here’s the top-eight according to PFF:

Bobby Wagner
Poona Ford (UDFA)
KJ Wright
DJ Reed (cheap free agent pickup)
Alton Robinson (5th round pick)
Ugo Amadi (4th round pick)
Shaquill Griffin (3rd round pick)
Quandre Diggs (traded for using a 5th round pick)

Seattle’s top performers were all players acquired on the cheap.

On top of this, adding Carlos Dunlap for a seventh rounder plus B.J. Finney practically transformed the defense.

Challenge yourself to find the next Ford as an UDFA, the next Amadi on day three and make a cheap trade to get the next Diggs or Dunlap.

Create the next group that is pissed off for greatness, not pissed off because you haven’t offered them a record-breaking contract.

But he recently said he’d run through a brick wall for Pete Carroll!

He did — but cast your mind back a year ago.

Adams was part of the NFL Network’s broadcast crew for the combine. He was on the field during drills assessing players yet spent time discussing his future with the Jets.

He said he was excited that he could be a Jet long-term and that he found the team’s recent support ‘uplifting’.

The support was General Manager Joe Dougals saying he wanted Adams to be in New York for life.

What changed? Contract talks.

If the Seahawks are unwilling to meet Adams’ demands, things will probably change very quickly. That’s the acid test here. Is Adams simply willing to take a contract that will pay him marginally more than Budda Baker to be the highest paid safety in the league? Or is he going to be looking for Jalen Ramsey, $20m a year money?

Because if he wants $20m a year, or even $18m, that’s going to be a problem.

The Seahawks will never do this — they just traded for him!

They also traded a second round pick for Sheldon Richardson and moved on when the price wasn’t right. They traded a third round pick for Jadeveon Clowney and moved on when the price wasn’t right. They spent a first and a third round pick on Percy Harvin and moved on when he wasn’t right.

They gave Michael Bennett a three-year $31.5 million contract extension on December 30th, 2016 — and then traded him just over a year later, absorbing a huge dead cap hit in the process.

The Seahawks, actually, have never been too proud to move on.

The Jamal Adams situation is different to the ones above, of course. But ultimately, he’s going to want a record breaking contract and the Seahawks, for me, should be spending their resources elsewhere.

They should set a strict limit and if Adams demands more, they need to be willing to make a trade.

Again — you drafted Brooks and Blair. Time to play them.

You’ll never get your picks back for him though!

True. You’re going to have to take this one on the chin to an extent.

I do think Adams has retained some value though. In the right scheme, he’s still a star player.

Cleveland are desperate for second-level impact on defense. Adams would be a perfect fit for any of the teams associated with the Belichick coaching tree. The Ravens and Buccs also run the kind of schemes where he would thrive.

The two most likely destinations, in my opinion, are Cleveland and Miami. They have the need and the cap space. Both teams are also looking to take a big step forward in terms of contending.

I think a first round pick this year and a third rounder next year would be a fair and realistic return.

So you’ve traded away two great players for the next Rashaad Penny!

First or second round picks aren’t the problem. Bad decision making is the problem.

Malik McDowell over T.J. Watt. Rashaad Penny over Nick Chubb. L.J. Collier over Deebo Samuel or A.J. Brown or D.K. Metcalf.

All avoidable errors. All players who ‘fit’ the Seahawks and their positional ideals — passed over for average alternatives.

Imagine if they’d made the right calls instead? How would you feel about late first round picks and their value then?

The Seahawks simply need to draft better, not less.

By making these trades you are back in the first two days of a draft with a strong offensive line class. The challenge? To make the most of those picks and acquire talent at a dirt cheap price. It is possible.

Use the cap savings to make upgrades to the O-line

OK, so what’s the idea here?

It’s time to make the offensive line a strength. The aim should be a top-10 unit.

You’ve got Duane Brown, Damian Lewis and Brandon Shell as locked in starters. Left guard and center should be a key target.

Enough of the penny-pinching with short-term contracts for retread veterans. It’s time to land a big catch.

I would be planning to go all-in on Brandon Scherff.

When the next game against the Rams kicks off, I want an interior line that has a punchers chance of stopping Aaron Donald taking over the game. I want a top, quality player anchoring the interior.

You have to play the guy at least twice a season. They need a better plan.

Here’s what PFF says about Scherff:

Scherff has never posted a PFF grade below 72.5 in his six-year NFL career. Over the last three seasons, Scherff ranks among the league’s best guards in nearly every key metric, including a 97th percentile ranking on true pass sets and 90th percentile ranking in percentage of positively graded plays. Both numbers are among the most important when projecting interior offensive linemen from year to year. In the run game, Scherff can do it all, showing the power at the point of attack and the quickness to make any block in space. He’s also one of the most polished pass protectors in the league, and he stands out as the best interior offensive lineman in this free agent class.

You know what you’re going to get. There won’t be any ‘wait and see’ in week one. Immediately and emphatically he will improve your line.

How much will he cost though?

His projected salary according to PFF is $15m. That’s similar to Jack Conklin’s deal in Cleveland. Conklin’s year-one cap hit was $8m — so the Seahawks could seek to structure a similar deal.

It’s expensive but look — you’ve tried everything else and what has it produced? One playoff win in four years.

You’ve just been dumped out of the playoffs because you’re not good enough in the trenches and you can’t adjust. Hopefully, Shane Waldren addresses the second problem.

You’re paying a quarterback $35m a year.

Maybe it’s time to try adding some pure quality on the O-line to help him?

What about center?

If you could structure low year-one cap hits to make the most of a projected $118,526,756 to spend in 2022 — you might be able to entice Corey Linsley away from Green Bay (PFF projects a salary of $11m a year).

David Andrews and Alex Mack are other veteran options.

However, I would aim to draft Quinn Meinerz in round two to start at center. He was superb at the Senior Bowl and ticks all of the boxes in terms of size, length, frame, explosive traits, physicality and attitude. He’s 6-3 and 320lbs with an 82 inch wingspan and 33 inch arms. He has 10 2/8 inch hands. He can dunk a basketball.

Ali Marpet was also a small-school guy who dominated at the Senior Bowl. He had great length, athleticism and he was explosive. Marpet was the #61 pick in 2015. It’s very possible Meinerz could be the guy at #56 (if he lasts that long).

Landon Dickerson is a viable alternative if you trust his medical checks.

This is a draft class to target the interior O-line. There are multiple attractive options at various points in the draft — including Ben Cleveland, Aaron Banks, Alex Leatherwood and others.

Bring in a top-class running back

Why do you need to do this?

The Seahawks have never truly replaced Marshawn Lynch. Every runner they’ve tried since has either had health issues, been inconsistent or just bad.

They whiffed on Nick Chubb, a mistake that probably still keeps them awake at night.

They need someone who can carry the load, stay on the field and provide Russell Wilson with a complementary running game.

So who are you targeting?

I would be open to drafting a running back early.

A lot of people will cringe at that thought — and I get why. Trading Jamal Adams to get back into round one, only to use the pick on a running back? Sections of Seahawks twitter would go ballistic.

Well, let them.

Najee Harris is an exceptional player with star potential. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he could join the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook and Nick Chubb as one of the best backs in the league.

While the Seahawks are featuring the running game as they are, I think adding someone like Harris — combined with a major investment in the O-line — would be a positive thing for the direction of this team.

It could unlock the true potential of the offense.

You’re also talking about a cap-hit for a starting running back that will be approximately $2m to start with and not surpass $4m for the next four years.

If Harris isn’t available, which is plausible, there are alternatives. We’ve talked a lot about Javonte Williams. He is the epitome of what the Seahawks look for in a runner and would be a fantastic addition. Personally, I think he will be a top-35 pick for sure. There’s also Travis Etienne — who had a slightly underwhelming 2020 season but has incredible explosive traits and speed to burn.

The thought of two big splashes on the O-line plus a new, dynamic feature runner excites me. Especially with Waldron coming in to coordinate the offense.

What about Chris Carson?

I think you leave the door open for Carson to return but strictly on a short-term contract with an appreciation that he will operate in a committee. The Seahawks were at their very best when they had a consistent, reliable, dominant runner. They can’t be babying Carson again to get him through a season.

If he moves on, my plan would be to bring back Mike Davis. He had a terrific 2020 season in Carolina. He was always very useful in Seattle. He can lead the rushing attack if needed but at the very least he’s a superb RB2.

I’d even be open to bringing Davis back as the starter if you wanted to go in a different direction in the draft.

Add two more weapons

If you save approximately $19m by trading Wagner and Adams and sign Scherff for a first-year cap hit of $8m — you still have money to spend in 2021.

I would try to bring in a cheap reclamation project at receiver such as John Ross. See if you can get a tune out of him and make the most of that 4.22 speed. Could you get him for $2m plus incentives? It’s a deep free agent market at receiver this year filled with big names who will soak up the early money.

I would also try to poach Gerald Everett from the Rams. PFF projects he will earn $5m a year. Offer him a three year contract with a lower year-one hit of approximately $3m. He’s familiar with Shane Waldren and the Rams’ way of doing things.

The Seahawks need a dynamic pass-catcher at tight end and Everett fits what they look for at the position. He ran a 4.33 short shuttle at the combine and a 6.99 three-cone. These are two tests they’ve paid a lot of attention over the years, as explained in my substantial combine preview a year ago.

So what are you left with after all this?

For the sake of sacrificing Wagner and Adams and trusting Brooks and Blair to start instead, you’ve transformed your offense.

Here’s what you’ve added…

Free agent additions:

Brandon Scherff
John Ross
Gerald Everett
Mike Davis

Draft additions:

Najee Harris, Javonte Williams or Travis Etienne
Quinn Meinerz
Additional O-line depth

My somewhat modest projection sees you create $19m in cap space, then spend approximately $15m on new signings in 2021.

If Everett’s contract is too rich — you probably just have to place your faith in Colby Parkinson and Will Dissly. There are also a couple of wildcard options in the draft. Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble is a tremendous run blocker. Some have suggested he could be developed into a Kyle Juszczyk type full back.

At SPARQ he ran a 4.20 short shuttle and jumped a 36 inch vertical.

Tre McKitty is also a name to watch. He earned positive reviews for a consistent week at the Senior Bowl for his catching and blocking. While he’s not the fastest in terms of straight line speed, he ran a 4.13 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 35 inch vertical.

Both could be available on day three, affording an opportunity to add depth and save money.

You could also target Pat ‘Baby Gronk’ Freiermuth earlier, or look at one of the dynamic slot receivers such as Elijah Moore of D’Wayne Eskridge.

Fill holes on the defense

There are still issues at linebacker and cornerback to resolve!

K.J. Wright and Shaquill Griffin are out of contract. You’re going to have to let them move on unless the price is surprisingly low.

The Seahawks went into the 2020 season paying Wager and Wright a combined $25m, on top of their first round investment in Jordyn Brooks having only recently traded up in round three for Cody Barton.

It’s simply too much for the linebacker position.

Unless Wright’s market is so cold that he’s willing to come back and finish his career in Seattle at an extremely reasonable price, it’s time to roll with Brooks and Barton — or bring in a cheap free agent or draft pick.

Big spending at linebacker hasn’t worked. Try something new.

The Niners have been able to find cheap, electric linebackers in the mid-to-late rounds. The Seahawks need to try and do the same.

It almost feels destined that Griffin will end up signing with the Jaguars and returning home to Florida. It would be a good fit for both parties.

I would like to find a way to bring back Richard Sherman to replace him. Perhaps on a two-year deal with a lower first year cap hit.

Sherman has earned $83m from his football contracts. I suspect there’s a compromise to be done here so he can finish in Seattle. That, to me, will probably be more important to Richard than a bit more money to play somewhere like Detroit.

I actually think this will happen. Bridges have not been burned in Seattle and just as it was with Marshawn Lynch in 2019, this is about more than money.

How are you going to fill other holes?

This is the point where I think you start working on contracts to free up more space. When you take Wagner’s $20.3m off the books in 2022 and you take away Adams’ likely $18-20m — you have so much more flexibility.

Jarran Reed’s cap hit is $13.5m next season. There’s a viable means to lower that through an extension if both parties are motivated to do so.

Carlos Dunlap’s cap hit is $14m in 2021. Again, I think at this point you could look to extend his deal to free up more space.

Committing 2022/23 salary to both is harder when you’re paying Wagner and Adams a combined $38-40m. Trade them and it’s plausible.

It may also be possible to work on a short extension for Duane Brown and/or Tyler Lockett.

Once you’ve found ways to create the room to fill out your roster, the approach should be to acquire cheap, hungry players in free agency.

Aren’t you just making the defense a bit… crap?

This is the compromise with this plan. It’s not without risk and by no means is the target to create a 2013-esque complete roster.

For me it’s about truly making the most of your investment in Wilson. It’s worth trying to be great on the O-line instead of linebacker and safety. I’m not even convinced the Seahawks have been ‘great’ at either position, despite the massive investment over the last two years.

I’ve set out to make the offense as dynamic as possible to help support the quarterback. The defense needs to be complementary.

How do you do that?

You challenge yourself to find the next D.J. Reed and Poona Ford. The next Quandre Diggs. The next Carlos Dunlap. The next Tony McDaniel if you can, or Chris Clemons.

Exploit opportunities. They’re going to be out there, especially this year. The league is facing a cap crunch. Some players will still get paid mega-money. The second and third wave of free agency, however, could be where a Championship is won in 2021.

Go big on offense initially. Then hunt for bargains on defense.

What’s the identity of the defense though with fewer stars?

Recreate the band-of-brothers. Set up a defense where ‘we all we got we all we need’ actually means something again.

It felt hollow listening to a former top recruit, who went to LSU, who was then drafted #6 overall say that phrase last season after an embarrassing defeat in Buffalo.

Red Bryant created it and it encapsulated everything about that blossoming LOB defense.

Jamal Adams saying it felt forced and wrong. It’s time to get a bunch of bandits on the defense who are fighting for their next pay cheque.

Re-create that 2010-11 mentality.

Maybe they can even come up with their own new slogan?

This isn’t a flawless plan, I’ll admit that. It isn’t without risk. This approach would excite me though.

I do think the Seahawks need to mix things up a bit. Every season finishes the same as the last one.

You know what they say about doing same thing over and over again but expecting different results…

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Curtis Allen’s off-season positional reviews: TE

Saturday, January 30th, 2021

This is the fourth part of a guest-post series written by Curtis Allen

#4 Tight Ends

Roster Notes

Players under contract for 2021: Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson

Players under contract for 2022: Colby Parkinson

Restricted Free Agents: none

Unrestricted Free Agents: Greg Olsen, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson, Stephen Sullivan

Exclusive Rights Free Agents: none

Practice Squad/Futures Candidates: Tyler Mabry

Salary Cap Notes

2021 Cap Commitment: $2.7 million (1.51% of $178m cap)

Available Free Agents

2020 Season Overview

What truly forgettable season for the tight end group.

The Seahawks employed a strong emphasis on the position group in the offseason.
They committed $10.25m –- almost 20% of their available cap room — to the position before the league year even started on Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister.
They had Will Dissly coming off another serious injury and earning raves for his rehab commitment, drafted Colby Parkinson and traded up for Steven Sullivan in April.

They then brought Luke Willson onto the roster for eight games at a prorated $1m number.

What were the results of their investment?

You should stop reading now if you are looking for good news.

Greg Olsen had the least productive season of his career. One touchdown catch and 16 first downs in 11 games. The pick-six that bounced off his hands in Week two was indicative of his entire season.

Jacob Hollister was practically unused. In 12 of his 16 games he had three or less targets.

Will Dissly produced worse receiving numbers in 16 games this year than he did in 5.5 games in 2019.

Luke Willson recorded ten offensive snaps — at least three of which were victory formation kneel downs. Yet he was frequently active on game day, occasionally preventing players who desperately needed NFL snaps to develop (Alton Robinson in particular).

Colby Parkinson was injured and blocked on the roster by the depth above him. His only meaningful reps were in garbage time in the Jets game blowout.

Steven Sullivan’s only active reps were on defense. Apparently, he was a great pass rusher in high school.

Where did the position group rank among NFL teams in terms of production?

Targets – 20th
Receptions – 20th
Receiving Yards – 22nd
Touchdowns – 21st
First Downs – 20th

Sensing a pattern here? Only 10-12 NFL teams got less production from their tight ends in 2020.

But in terms of cap dollars spent in 2020 on the position group? The Seahawks were eighth.

That’s right. Only seven teams in the NFL spent more than the Seahawks. Those are your teams paying Gronk, Weller, Ertz, Kelce, etc and making the tight end position a centerpiece of their offense.

$10 million dollars spent. That’s a Calais Campbell or a Jack Conklin.

Was this just a one-year anomaly? Were the coaching staff and Russell so focused on getting Metcalf and Lockett their targets they could not find touches for the group they had invested so much in?

Did everyone in the TE group just collectively have a terrible year?

Was the Olsen signing just a sop to Russell Wilson? And if so, was the $7m worth it?

How could it possibly be that this offense so frequently sputtered? Maybe because they were calling long-developing deep passes to David Moore on third and four and Russell Wilson was running for his life instead of targeting their first down makers?

With four active tight ends on most game days, why didn’t the staff employ some serious creativity in short yardage situations and have a multiplicity of ready options to bleed the clock, relieve a staggering defense or just plain put the game on ice? Was this a blind spot for Brian Schottenheimer?

Russell Wilson had a career-high 68.8 completion percentage. What could it have been if he had targeted the tight ends more?

Why couldn’t they blow defenses off the ball in the run game with 4 active tight ends? The answer to that of course is Willson, Hollister and even Olsen are nobody’s idea of road graders. So then, why collect 3 players with similar skill sets for a narrower-use position like tight end?

Were they so reactionary to their thin depth last year they zealously stocked their roster without considering what they would actually do with these players? Was Luke Willson’s ‘special spirit’ really so valuable during the no-fans COVID year they had to keep him on the active roster and never actually play him in games? They couldn’t have just signed him to the practice squad and had him deejay Techno Thursdays, while using his game day spot on players who could have contributed?

The Seahawks suffered a terrible amount of offensive confusion in 2020 despite their overall numbers. Nowhere was that confusion more readily evident than in the tight end group.

Offseason Questions to Address

1. So what do the Seahawks do now?

Do they get the band back together and bring Hollister back? What would motivate either side to do that?

What would it cost? Have the Seahawks set Hollister’s contract expectations at a $3m number with their tender?

Another season of collecting expensive players who are better pass catchers than blockers and then not throwing them passes is just as ridiculous as it sounds.

So what is the plan? Are Pete Carroll’s words about re-committing to the running game a signal that they will lean towards pursuing tight ends with better blocking skills?

Or will they be just as active pursuing pass catchers as they were last year? Can they solve their offensive woes with some off-season analysis and proper planning for 2021?

2. Is Will Dissly ever going to be the player we had hoped?

A season ending injury in 2018.

A season ending injury in 2019.

A dreary season in 2020.

It is very possible that his body needed 2020 to recover and he needed a season of practice and play to regain his trust in his legs after all those injuries.

He frequently was a key target for Russell in 2019 and they had some great trust and chemistry. Russell could throw a ball to Dissly when he was not widely separated from his defender and Dissly would come down with it.

Did having Greg Olsen on the roster disrupt that relationship? Or was Russell too enamoured with Metcalf? Or has Dissly lost a step and could not get into his breaks quickly enough to keep up with the rhythm and timing of the offense?

He is clearly the top option currently on the roster going into the offseason. A return to form and another full season in 2021 would be a huge step in the right direction and help the Seahawks maximize efficiency.

It would also be in his best financial interests. Dissly is a free agent in 2022.
He may never be a top end player but based on his ability and his play before those horrific injuries, he should be able to provide something far more impactful than he did in 2020.

It would appear he will have to find the same dedication he displayed in rehab and apply it to regaining some speed and his route-running ability this offseason.

3. What do they have in Parkinson? Do they bring Sullivan back?

Parkinson did not get much game action in 2020.

Sullivan got no tight end snaps, ended the season on the practice squad and is currently a free agent.

Pete Carroll has raved about both players.

Parkinson has gotten a lot of commendation for his blocking as well as his route running abilities. He had a couple nice catches in the Jets game and ran a seam route where he was wide open but not seen by the QB.

He seems on track to take the #2 tight end spot next year but currently he is not a known quantity. At the very least, he should have a role as a red zone box-out safety with his height, length and ball skills. One of those players that when he comes into the game, the defense knows he will be targeted but they still cannot stop him.

Sullivan has been modelled as a physical and testing ideal and a motivated player with an inspiring backstory. He had a strange journey in 2020. He was likely going to go undrafted but the Seahawks traded to snag him in the seventh round, signed him to a standard rookie 4-year deal and then cut and resigned him to the practice squad. Then they used him as an emergency pass rusher. Good night!

Sullivan is much closer to a project player than a useful piece you can plan on. We do not know the degree to which he stopped working as a tight end during the season and focused on being a pass rusher. Let’s hope that strange experiment hasn’t stunted his development.

Bsed on Carroll’s raves, they will try to bring him back in 2021. It is probably safe to assume he’ll be fighting for the 4th tight end spot in 2021 and may be a cut depending on roster construction.

Can these two players step onto the roster and give the team 15-20 quality snaps a game between them next year? The Seahawks are in a very tight cap situation. It would be a massive win for these two to join Will Dissly as their primary tight end group in 2021.

Rob’s Potential Draft Targets

Kyle Pitts is obviously going to go very early. I think Pat Freiermuth is a highly talented player who justifies the ‘baby Gronk’ moniker. He’s so fluid for his size, he contorts his body to make difficult catches and he has massive potential.

After that there are a couple of standout options. Brevin Jordan is a dynamic athlete and in the right offense has the potential to be highly productive. Kenny Yeboah is a big slot who does a great job creating a mismatch in the passing game.

A wild card option could be Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble. He’s not much of a pass-catcher but he’s a tremendous run blocker. They could add him simply to be a dynamic full back. At SPARQ he ran a 4.20 short shuttle and jumped a 36 inch vertical.

Tre McKitty also might be a name to watch. He earned positive reviews for a consistent week at the Senior Bowl for his catching and blocking. While he’s not the fastest in terms of straight line speed, he ran a 4.13 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 35 inch vertical.

It’s not a deep group though. The Seahawks need someone who can convert some third downs and a quality tight end should be a better option than we’ve seen in the Carroll era so far.

With so few picks I think they’d be better off signing Gerald Everett instead in free agency. The Seahawks place a lot of faith in agility at tight end. He ran a 4.33 short shuttle and a 6.99 three cone — both fantastic times. Plus he is familiar with Shane Waldron and the Rams offense and he plays with fire and a great attitude.

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Senior Bowl 2021 practise notes

Friday, January 29th, 2021

I’ve been able to watch a large portion of the Wednesday and Thursday practise sessions on ESPNU, plus some of Tuesday’s broadcast. However — and here’s the disclaimer — I have not had an opportunity to study every player in full. Most of my attention was focused on the offensive linemen.

The Senior Bowl will post complete practise footage at some point next week and this will include all reps. A year ago, my perspective on several players changed after watching these videos. I may well revise some of these thoughts down the line but these were my initial impressions…

Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama)

I was a little bit underwhelmed by Leatherwood. I thought we’d see more attitude and intensity. He was angry and aggressive at Rivals in High School, drew plenty of cheers for the way he performed and looked like the definitive BAMF. Here, he looked a lot more reserved and somewhat played within himself during the 1v1 reps.

He said he was only coming to Mobile to play left tackle but unfortunately, he looked like he might be better kicking inside to guard. His feet were sluggish at times. He lost a speed/power rep to Williams Bradley-King. He was jolted into the backfield with a chest punch and while he recovered after initially losing balance, he lost the rep.

By Thursday he’d rounded into sharper form but he was beaten on his last 1v1 opportunity against a speed rush and there lies the issue. He has the size and the frame to be a good NFL lineman. Yet he’s limited athletically and his foot-speed and agility could mean his future is at guard. I came away questioning whether he deserves to be a first round pick.

Deonte Brown (G, Alabama)

Brown came into the week as one of the more overrated players in the draft. When he weighed in at 364lbs, people saw that as a positive. Twitter was buzzing. There should’ve been the opposite reaction.

He’s simply too big. This was a lumbering performance from Brown. His footwork was non-existent. Whenever he’s attacked from an angle instead of square-on he struggles. Even Marvin Wilson easily beat him on a B gap pressure. I was surprised how he struggled to anchor for his size at times.

By Wednesday and Thursday you could tell he was starting to question himself. His body language was abysmal. After reps he would lollop around, head down. The coaches were trying to get him going again but he knew it wasn’t going well and he was getting frustrated. His effort started to suffer.

He can’t move properly at this size and he needs to shift some weight. He currently weighs 30lbs more than DJ Fluker did at his combine. Brown only has 32 3/8 inch arms and that’s problematic too. He has all the worst characteristics of Fluker and none of the redeeming features such as insane length. Frankly, there are too many superior options at guard to covet Brown in this draft.

Marlon Tuipulotu (DT, USC)

He looked really good on day one. Tuipulotu flashed quickness and an effective swim move. He had good hand placement on a rep against Deonte Brown and drove him deep into the backfield.

As the week went on though, he became more of a mixed bag. On day two there were times where he was easily blocked and couldn’t disengage. He was pushing the pocket but caught in a tangle and didn’t have a free arm. His lack of arm length creates issues because he can’t press and stay clean. He had rough reps against ECU’s D’Ante Smith and Grambling State’s David Moore. When you get into his frame he can’t disconnect.

Trey Smith (G, Tennessee)

In terms of pure aesthetics, Smith looks like a first round pick. If you wanted to draw a picture of an ideal NFL guard, he would be it. Stood next to the other linemen during reps he stuck out like a sore thumb. This is what teams are looking for when it comes to physical appearance. However, this was a much more mixed week than I think the broadcasters were suggesting.

On day two he got beat on a counter by an undersized edge rusher who took a rep inside. Wyatt Hubert is 6-2, 265, with 30 inch arms and a 77 wingspan. Smith did well initially to engage but the defender threw him off balance using his left arm, then switched inside.

This is concerning. He should be overwhelming guys like that, not being tossed aside. He did overwhelm Hubert on the second rep but the damage was done. The thought was already placed in my mind — ‘if this is what happens against a short-armed edge, what happens against Aaron Donald?’

Smith also lost fairly easily to Carlos Basham on another rep, lunging and reaching for Basham’s frame. He easily swam away and burst into the backfield. Smith looked like a man without a plan. He just went after his opponent who was two moves ahead on the board.

He did well against Chauncey Golston and Cam Sample, overwhelming both. But against the bigger, athletic guys he struggled. In a two minute drill session on day three he got beat again because his hands were nowhere. No punch. No engagement. He’s flailing his arms and he’s just so easy to swim against. At times it wasn’t good at all but on the TV, Louis Riddick declared he’d ‘pitched a shutout’.

You can get into his pads too and drive him back. On other occasions though, he looked like the best guard in Mobile. The athleticism is clearly there and he can move his feet well. When he connects and lands with his hands, he finishes. He blocked to the ground and played to the whistle on numerous occasions.

He has the frame and teams are going to be extremely tempted to get him in and sort out the problems. He has the upside. I’m just not sure I’d want to be the one taking the chance unless he drops to the middle rounds — especially with his history of health problems.

Ben Cleveland (G, Georgia)

He missed practise on Wednesday and Thursday with an injury unfortunately. On day one he showed his feet and hands work together. His footwork and athleticism are better than some people make out. He’s incredibly strong. He’s enormous but carrying minimal bad weight. There’s a lot to work with here. If you want someone to go into battle with, Cleveland is that type of guy. We didn’t get a chance to see it here but against Auburn, I saw their defensive linemen ready to surrender. They were giving up against him. Too strong. Too powerful. I want some of that.

Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame)

This wasn’t the week I necessarily expected from Banks. The most impressive thing he did was reach up to the second level in 11v11 drills on Wednesday and Thursday. He had some superb blocks working up to the linebackers. With his size, it’s not easy to operate in space like that. That’s a big positive and speaks to his upside.

However, I thought we’d see a bit more dominance square up. He gave up a pressure against Levi Onwuzurike on day one. Onwuzurike crossed his face and Banks lurched in a weak attempt at a block. He had trouble shifting his weight back to the right having set. It’s something to consider because although he anchors well — at that size you’ll give up pressures without better footwork and the ability to transfer your weight quickly.

Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma)

Initially he looked like a class act. His knee bend and control was impressive. He has strong hands that are connected to his feet. Yet as time went on some concerns emerged.

He needs to get his hands in the right spot off the snap. Too often he places his hands to the outside of the frame then fights to reposition inside.

Humphrey lost a rep to an Ohio State pass rusher by not landing with his hands initially, allowing the defender to keep his frame clean and wriggle through to the quarterback. It’s hard to win when your hand placement isn’t good.

He also had a terrible rep against Ta’Quon Graham where he basically just reached out his right arm to try and engage but there was no strength to the punch. He just extended his arm. Graham swiped it away and swam into the backfield.

He easily dealt with Patrick Jones two reps later — but who didn’t handle Patrick Jones? Humphrey’s short arms might knock him out of contention for Seattle and he needs to work out a better way to connect with his hands. Even so, he does a lot well and he’ll be a really solid top-50 pick.

Spencer Brown (T, Northern Iowa)

Unfortunately his footwork was all wrong. He points his outside leg and leaves open the inside counter. He needs a lot of work there. He also has a massive, 6-8 frame and it creates a huge target to punch and knock him off balance. Brown has athletic potential but he’s a major project on this evidence.

D’Ante Smith (T, East Carolina)

I thought he showed a ton of potential. He handled the big names (Basham, Roche). His footwork is light, he uses his length (35 1/4 inch arms, 85 inch wingspan) to extend to keep his frame clean but he retains balance and doesn’t overextend. He smothered Roche on a bull rush and recovered well when he didn’t win initially.

He was fun to watch and he displayed a physical edge. He’s 6-5 and 294lbs so clearly he could benefit from adding weight. Smith could be a nice developmental tackle or guard option. He didn’t practise on day three due to injury.

Quinn Meinerz (C, UWW)

Arguably the star of Mobile this year. He’s 6-3 and 320lbs with an 82 inch wingspan and 33 inch arms. He has 10 2/8 inch hands. He’s immensely strong and powerful. This was a ‘wow’ performance that could elevate him into the second round. Yes — he’s an option for the Seahawks.

For starters, those measurables are exactly what they look for. We also know they want explosive traits on the O-line. Well, this suggests to me that he would’ve delivered a really good vertical at the combine:

Meinerz really got after opponents. His technique at times was non-existent but he was still finding a way to win. He absolutely destroyed a couple of defenders, one of which was Levi Onwuzurike, in the running portion of an 11v11 drill.

When he’s jolted off balance he seems to straighten his back, bench press and recover. He contorts his body and just shows so much power and control. He lined up at guard and beasted Patrick Jones (again, who didn’t?) — dumping him right on his arse.

He has great feet with an easy slide, he connects and finishes. It wasn’t a perfect display and he lost a couple of reps to Onwuzurike, who used an effective swim/rip. Meinerz was left hanging on a bit. On another rep Onwuzurike threw him off after engaging contact. Still, this was against one of the top D-liners in the draft class.

Overall Meinerz combines a compact frame with power and good feet. He could slot in at center or guard but just look at his body. He was born to be a center. We know the Seahawks put a lot of faith in the Senior Bowl. A lot of their draft picks are players who performed well in Mobile. Meinerz is one to watch. He’s similar to Ali Marpet who was also a small-school guy who dominated at the Senior Bowl. He had great length, athleticism and he was explosive. Marpet was the #61 pick in 2015. It’s very possible Meinerz could be the guy at #56 (if he lasts that long).

David Moore (G, David Moore)

He showed good hand placement and is very strong. He made it difficult for defenders to disengage and brought some genuine intensity to the drills. He had a good week and there’s a lot of potential here. He only has 32 5/8 inch arms though.

Patrick Jones (DE, Pittsburgh)

Having talked him up all year, this was a total shocker. Jones was painfully disappointing. He had no pop, no quickness. He struggled in 1v1’s every day. He just offered nothing. It was one of the most underwhelming Senior Bowl performances I can recall.

At times, it was embarrassing to be brutally honest. He was on the turf constantly. He never showed any quickness to find the edge and win with speed. Whenever he engaged the tackle he’d usually be dumped on his backside. There was no strength in his hands and his lack of length (32 inch arms) showed up with opponents regularly getting into his frame. He offered no effective counter.

I had him in round one but I’m left wondering if he’s even a top-75 prospect based on this evidence.

Marvin Wilson (DT, Florida State)

He was so inconsistent. He’s very busy when he engages but takes an age to counter or disengage. He had a hilarious moment where he clubbed one of the coaches acting as the QB in 1v1’s and cracked him straight in the balls. The coach went down.

His conditioning concerns linger. He looked absolutely shot in his final rep of 1v1’s against David Moore.

If this was an opportunity to repair his plummeting stock I don’t think he took it. Much like Alex Leatherwood, he didn’t flash the same intensity and sheer quality that he showed at Rivals as a younger player.

D’Wayne Eskridge (WR, Western Michigan)

He was getting in and out of his breaks easily. He’s fluid, sudden and physical. Eskridge has a thick yet diminutive frame. He extends his hands and reaches out to pluck the football. You can’t give him a free release. Several corners couldn’t cover him and he beat Ambry Thomas. I thought he looked like the receiver with the most upside in Mobile and I think he’s a top-45 lock.

Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)

He knows how to create subtle separation in tight coverage and he was able to win easily in some reps too. Yet he lacked concentration when catching and had three drops on Wednesday. He gets a lot of hype in the media and he’s a good player. I’m just not sure he’s quite the can’t-miss prospect some are making out.

Nico Collins (WR, Michigan)

Just a natural receiver. He has great body control. He can high point on fades and box out in the red zone. He finds ways to make the catch when covered and consistently wins contested catches. Collins also has good hands and he runs silky routes. He just lacks a second gear and isn’t that fast. That could be a problem at the next level.

Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)

Fantastic performance that will have teams thoroughly reassured. He looked at home on the field — in total command and very relaxed. He passed with accuracy and touch across the middle. Everything looked crisp. Some issues were also present too. He can’t drive the ball into tight windows in the red zone and he lacks the arm strength to threaten deep. That said, he could easily have a Matt Hasselbeck type career in the right system.

Kellen Mond (QB, Texas A&M)

Unlike Jones, Mond had no trouble in the red zone or driving the ball downfield. He had great sharpness to his throws. They were direct and to the target quickly. He has the big arm and he flicks his wrist to generate velocity with a quick release. His red zone work was excellent. He led a superb two-minute drill for a touchdown and two-point conversion on Thursday. As a second or third round pick to draft and develop, he’s a great option for a team with an ageing QB.

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Why the Seahawks should trade Jamal Adams

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

Simply put — Jamal Adams is not worth $18-20m a year

Jamal Adams is a really good player.

When healthy, he can be truly dynamic. Clearly he has a passion for the game. He’s a downfield attacking force.

But the Seahawks should seriously consider trading him and I’m going to explain why.

Try and be open minded even if you disagree.

There’s nothing in the bank

Here’s the reality for the Seahawks this off-season.

Their starting running back, cornerback, center, tight end and SAM linebacker are all out of contract.

A number of other players, including their second best defensive end, their second best tight end, their second best running back, the starting left guard and their number three receiver are also set to reach free agency.

Poona Ford, one of their top performers this season, is a restricted free agent and will likely receive a second round tender.

Only 47 players are contracted for 2021 including a whole bunch of fringe ‘futures contract’ players.

According to Over the Cap they currently possess $142,229 in effective cap space.

In the draft they have three or four picks. The fourth depends on whether or not they still owe the Jets a seventh rounder for Perry Nickerson. They only have one pick in the first three rounds.

You can’t operate with these resources.

They’re going to have to do something.

Extending contracts is one solution. Restructuring is another.

Giving Carlos Dunlap an extension to lower his 2021 cap hit is tricky. How many extra years do you want to commit to a soon-to-be 32-year-old? Assuming they’re not about to offer him a four-year deal, the more you lower his $14.1m cap hit, the bigger the problem you’ll face down the road.

Tyler Lockett is 29 this year and looking at the dreaded ‘third contract’. A three-year extension is reasonable but Lockett would surely expect a pay increase. He’s currently on $10.25m a year. Cooper Kupp earns $15.75m and Robert Woods $16.25m. He’s well within his rights to be in that range.

You can lower his cap hit this year potentially but at what cost in the future if his yearly average rises by $5-6m?

You don’t want to get into the habit of committing big money and extra years to ageing players.

Yet if you restructure other contracts instead you also create problems down the line. You’re lending on the credit card.

Admittedly they’re going to have to do a bit of this. They have no choice.

It shouldn’t be the only move though.

Seahawks fans love to mock Seattle’s recent record in the first round and use it to justify getting rid of their picks in the Adams trade. Here’s the truth. First round picks are your greatest resource. They are the gateway to acquiring cheap talent with great club control.

The fact that Seattle took Malik McDowell over T.J. Watt, Rashaad Penny over Nick Chubb or L.J. Collier over Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown or D.K. Metcalf isn’t an argument for not having first round picks. It’s an argument for using them better.

The Seahawks only have three assets with a first round value. Russell Wilson, D.K. Metcalf and Jamal Adams.

I’m not sure anyone else would even net a second rounder.

Trading Adams creates $9m in cap space for 2021. It frees up about $18-20m in salary from 2022 onwards. It gets you back into the first round where you can fill out your draft board, build-up your roster and plug the numerous holes that exist.

No safety is worth $18-20m a year

We’ve seen what happens in these situations.

The Texans and Laremy Tunsil. The Rams and Jalen Ramsey.

When you trade multiple high picks for a player and don’t have a new contract ready to go, you cede all leverage when talks eventually begin.

Tunsil agreed a deal worth $22m a year. That was $6m more expensive than the next highest paid left tackle on $16m. The Texans either had to cave to Tunsil’s demands or risk losing a player they’d spent a fortune on in draft picks.

Ramsey signed a record contract for a cornerback worth $20m a year in LA. The previous highest paid corner was Darius Slay on $16.8m a year in Philadelphia. Again, the Rams had little choice but to accept Ramsey’s demands.

The current highest paid safety in the league is Budda Baker ($14.75m a year). Adams will expect, not unfairly, to smash that number.

He’s well within his rights to ask to match Ramsey’s $20m a year. He will argue he’s more than a safety. He’ll probably say he’s a playmaker. He broke the record for sacks by a defensive back, after all.

If $20m is the starting point in talks, what do you do if you’re the Seahawks? You might be able to get him down to $18m a year. Anything less seems unrealistic.

The team has no leverage.

If you don’t agree to a deal, what happens? It’s pie in the sky to think he will happily play for $9m this year on the fifth year of his rookie contract.

A holdout would be likely.

You can’t afford to go down that road. So the question is simple. Do you want to pay him in the $18-20m a year range or not?

I don’t think he’s worth that kind of money. Especially when you consider how much cumulative resource he will have taken up. Not only did he cost three draft picks (three cost-effective players) he’s also costing you the chance to add others in free agency.

Is Jamal Adams really worth five or six players on this roster?

Things can change quickly

Here’s a quote from Pete Carroll at the 2019 combine:

“Frankie will be with us, yeah… Frankie just turned 25. He’s still a very young football player. Made a huge step this year in terms of leadership, growth and maturity. It was so obvious. I was really proud of seeing that develop for Frank. He played great, too. Frank, he’s a very valuable football player.”

He was speaking about Frank Clark. Carroll made it clear. Clark “is a Seahawk” — another quote used.

The plan, at least initially, wasn’t to trade away their best pass rusher. A 25-year-old hitting his prime. A draft success story.

Things changed when Demarcus Lawrence signed his mega-deal with the Dallas Cowboys. Suddenly, the stakes were higher. Clark’s price rose and the Seahawks didn’t see value any more.

They couldn’t agree terms and eventually traded Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Seahawks may well intend to extend Jamal Adams’ contract this off-season. However, for the reasons listed above, it could be very expensive.

If he wants more than they’re willing to pay — the precedent is set. They’ll probably move him, just as they did with Clark.

That’s the right approach to take. Set a limit and stick to it.

At the absolute most Seattle’s limit should be fractionally higher than Budda Baker’s record setting contract. It’s just hard to imagine Jamal Adams accepting that.

The Seahawks have pooled their resources in the wrong areas

We all know what the Seahawks want to be. They tell us often enough.

So it’s strange how they’ve gone about constructing their roster.

Duane Brown aside, the offensive line has been built with cheap short-term contracts, rookies and projects.

They place great importance on the running game — but have struggled to truly ever replace Marshawn Lynch with a consistently good (and healthy) running back.

The Seahawks talk like they want to be a trenches team — yet the way they tried to fix the pass rush a year ago was confusing.

Instead they went into the 2020 season spending $25m of cap space on two veteran linebackers, having also used their top pick in the draft on a third linebacker. That was after trading up in the 2019 draft to select another linebacker in round three.

They spent a kings ransom to acquire Jamal Adams, a safety. That’s despite also trading for Quandre Diggs and his existing contract in Detroit and using a second round pick on Marquise Blair, while also paying to retain Bradley McDougald until the Adams deal.

They spent over $10m on two pass-catching tight ends in Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister and then didn’t really feature either player in the passing game.

If you want to be the kind of team who turns up and punches the opponent in the nose — don’t you have to focus on the trenches?

Look at the way the Giants and Rams kicked Seattle’s arse. They did it on both sides of the line. It covered up for the fact that neither team had an ideal quarterback situation.

Isn’t it time to redress the balance a bit?

Instead of paying big money to Jamal Adams for the next few years, wouldn’t that money be better off going to Brandon Scherff? He was PFF’s #4 ranked guard this year (86.3) behind only Zack Martin, Quenton Nelson and Wyatt Teller.

If you want to seriously take on Aaron Donald two or three times a season — wouldn’t spending big on the interior line be a better use of resources?

Even if you don’t want to pay the likely $15m a year for Scherff — what about using it to make a move for Leonard Williams in free agency? He destroyed the Seahawks. He had 11.5 sacks in 2020. He could be your answer to Donald.

You could still improve your offensive line in the draft. You could tap into an exceptional looking interior O-line class.

Look at the scenarios and tell me which is better for this team? And be honest.

Jamal Adams and the #56 pick this year?

Or having a full quota of draft picks in 2021, perhaps some replenished stock in 2022, plus significant funds to use in free agency both this year and next.

And more importantly — a chance to get better in the trenches.

The pathway to future success is arguably more likely to be paved in the form of a great offensive and defensive line combo than splashy moves at safety.

Shouldn’t they be spending their money and picks up front?

Are you that worse off for taking a chance on Keanu Neal — a free agent projected to earn $5m a year according to PFF — or even starting Marquise Blair at safety? While having the extra money and picks to quickly improve your two lines?

Is he even a good fit in Seattle?

The 2020 season was a weird one for Adams. He was dealt to a new team who play a totally different scheme. He had to make the move during a global pandemic. He suffered a string of injuries during the season.

That said, I still question whether he is a great fit for this defensive scheme.

The Seahawks blitzed 33.5% of the time this season. That was a significant increase from 26.9% in 2019 and 18.4% in 2018.

The fact is — when Seattle had Frank Clark they felt much more comfortable rushing with four and blitzed almost half as much as they did in 2020. The results were slightly worse this year despite being far more aggressive:

Blitz percentage — 18.4%
Sack percentage — 7.3%

Blitz percentage — 33.5%
Sack percentage — 6.4%

I think they felt obliged to blitz a lot. Firstly — to cover for the fact the front four pressure simply wasn’t good enough until Carlos Dunlap’s arrival. Secondly — to justify Adams’ presence.

The Seahawks slowed things down in the last two or three games. In his first six games with the team he blitzed 63 times. His average of 10.5 blitzes per game was by far the most in the league.

His end of season rate was still high. He ended up blitzing 98 times in 12 games.

So while many people bring up his sack numbers to justify the trade, this is the reality:

— He blitzed 8.2 times per game

— He registered 0.8 sacks per game

As Hugh Millen explains in the video below, the Seahawks were scheming ways to create free runs to the quarterback — often using Bobby Wagner as a decoy:

Almost one sack per game sounds really good without context. The reality is different. You are taking someone out of coverage and manufacturing a situation where they can freely rush the passer, usually without resistance.

When a defensive end wins off the edge against a tackle — that’s a 1v1 victory. When a safety blitzes — the quarterback is going to have an opportunity to capitalise.

It’s a risk. Some schemes thrive on that risk/reward. The Seahawks have never been one of those teams. They’ve always sought a four-man rush enabling their players to stick to their jobs, execute and fly to the ball at the second level.

The fact is — seven out of eight times Jamal Adams is vacating the secondary and not getting home. What happens on those plays?

I would argue in a 3-4 scheme, which Adams played in as a Jet, it’s easier to be creative. You feature four linebackers for a start. Your two edge players have to be able to drop in coverage. Todd Bowles and Gregg Williams can show pressure from different looks. They constantly keep you guessing. They’ll show a blitzing ILB then have them back out at the last minute, only for the safety to come screaming downfield. You might bring a linebacker and the safety and have your two OLB’s drop.

There are so many combinations.

The scheme is designed to create confusion. You never know where the pressure is coming from.

In Seattle, they often telegraphed Adams’ pressure. Anyone watching could see when he was up at the line of scrimmage, he was likely going to blitz.

It’s not as easy for Carlos Dunlap or Benson Mayowa or LJ Collier to drop into coverage. They are not 3-4 OLB’s. This is not a scheme where pressure could be coming from anywhere at any time.

Adams’ PFF grade (64.2) ranked 45th among qualifying safety’s. His coverage grade was a concerning 53.1.

I don’t think this is indicative of a bad player. I suspect it’s indicative of a poor scheme fit.

Aren’t they essentially stuck with him now though?

Not at all.

Brandin Cooks has changed teams three times. The total outlay spent on him is three first round picks and a second round pick.

Certain players retain value.

Jamal Adams is only 25. He’s approaching his second contract.

He’s a good enough player that if the Seahawks decided to shop him, there would be takers.

Any of the Belichick-tree coaches would probably love him. Their scheme thrives on hybrid, aggressive safeties.

The Miami Dolphins have two first round picks this year — #3 and #18. If they believe in Tua Tagovailoa (which admittedly is debatable) — then they just need to keep adding talent.

They also have plenty of cap space.

Would they deal #18, knowing they also have the luxury of owning Houston’s pick in the top-five? They might even throw in another pick this year or next.

Sure — it’s a discount on what you paid the Jets. So be it. You use #18 to move down, accumulate picks and tap into this great O-line class. You use the money you saved to further improve in the trenches. You follow through on your commitment to your chosen identity.

New England, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, the Giants. They’re all potential suitors. Cleveland needs a playmaker at the second level.

Increasingly I think the Adams trade was a highly aggressive, win-now move. An opportunity to see if he could come in and deliver the kind of major impact they’d been unable to acquire in free agency or the draft. The main motivation was to chase a title in 2020.

I suspect they knew they were investing in someone with retainable value and all options would remain on the table in the off-season.

The Seahawks have to make a big decision. They need to be honest with themselves.

There’s no room for pride. Equally, nobody should be too critical when a team takes a shot and misses. It’s OK to be both aggressive and then contemplative.

What the Seahawks don’t need right now is misplaced belief that Adams is in the same bracket as Aaron Donald when it comes to impact. Paying him like he is, after spending what they have in picks, would be doubling down on a misuse of resources.

If you want to be the kind of team the Seahawks want to be, you need to look to the first flush of the Carroll era for inspiration.

Between 2010 and 2012 Seattle used their top pick in the draft on an offensive or defensive lineman. They acquired Marshawn Lynch. They had the most expensive O-line in the league in 2013 when they won the Super Bowl.

They also had a cheap, young and aggressive defense.

You are paying $35m a year for a quarterback now. He is the heart of the team and will determine your ultimate success and failure. Give him a top-10 offensive line, an excellent running game and some weapons as a priority.

Invest in a good pass rush and find young, fast and aggressive players to feature at the second level.

Find a safety elsewhere. Either sign Keanu Neal or Malik Hooker or trust in Marquise Blair and/or Ugo Amadi.

It’s time to spend their resources on the trenches.

And that means, it’s time to think about trading Jamal Adams.

If you missed our podcast reacting to the hiring of Shane Waldren, check it out here:

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Reaction: Seahawks set to hire Shane Waldron

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

The Seahawks deserve a lot of praise for hiring Shane Waldron as their new offensive coordinator.

As they were busy interviewing the likes or Kirby Wilson and Anthony Lynn — with the constant threat of an internal hire looming — it was easy to fear the worst.

The appointment of a new offensive coordinator was going to be critical. Hire the wrong guy and the damage in the relationship between team and quarterback could’ve been irreparable.

With respect to Las Vegas’ running back coach — with no history of play-calling, no offensive coordinator interview in seven years and prior spells with Carroll in New England and USC — that wasn’t the kind of hire that was going to satisfy Russell Wilson.

It had to be someone that could connect everyone.

Wilson needs to believe the next coach can get him to where he wants to go in terms of legacy. He turns 33 this year. He might say he wants to play until he’s 45. In reality, he’ll be lucky to reach 39. Philip Rivers has just retired at that age. This sounds strange — but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we’ve already witnessed most of Wilson’s career.

He doesn’t want to have any regrets. Either in terms of personal achievement, statistics or winning.

It had to be someone Pete Carroll was going to let get on with the job. No Head Coach is going to cede 100% control to any coordinator. They’re always going to have input. There’s a difference though between discussing a plan days before a game and interfering on a crucial 4th and 1 call, leading to a delay of game.

It was easy to picture a scenario where Carroll was too hands on if this appointment wasn’t right.

So why does Shane Waldron potentially serve both of these needs?

Firstly, he’s from the Sean McVay tree. The LA Rams coach has proven himself to be one of the great minds in the NFL. He’s also surrounded himself with a growing list of exceptional coaches.

Matt LaFleur was his offensive coordinator in 2017. Sure, he might’ve had a rough day on Sunday in the NFC Championship game. Yet his arrival in Green Bay has lifted Aaron Rodgers to within a game of the Super Bowl and delivered another MVP.

Wade Phillips was McVay’s chosen defensive coordinator when he started with the Rams. It was an inspired choice. A young 31-year-old Head Coach needed an experienced partner on the sidelines. It was a home-run selection, helping the Rams reach the Super Bowl.

When it was time for Phillips to move on, McVay hand-picked Brandon Staley. He went on to produce the NFL’s top defense in 2020. After one year, he was offered arguably the most appealing Head Coaching gig available in Justin Herbert’s Chargers.

McVay is vibrant and intelligent and seems to surround himself with the right kind of people.

On top of that — he’s one of the NFL’s great schemers. One of the big complaints in Seattle is how predictable the offense is. It’s a fair concern. In the Carroll era they’ve often relied too much on star players — Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldin, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett — and not on game planning.

There’s no guarantee that Waldron is going to cook up solutions simply because he was attached to McVay for four seasons. It’s worth a shot though, isn’t it?

Furthermore, the McVay offense is predicated on getting the quarterback on the move and running the ball with great regularity. This should excite both Wilson and Carroll.

It’s also hard to imagine the Seahawks have just plucked an up-and-comer from a divisional rival without making this job as attractive as possible. Is Waldron really going to leave the comfort of McVay’s bosom to come and be told what to do by Carroll?

Or is he coming to Seattle thinking this is an opportunity to have a significant say in how the offense operates? Does he sense an opportunity to be Carroll’s heir apparent? Does he envisage a similar path to LaFleur? He left a similar job in LA to go and call plays in Tennessee and a year later was named Head Coach in Green Bay.

Presumably the Seahawks have had to sell this opportunity to him. It’s a division rival, after all. It hurts the Rams. In terms of intel, in terms of being less predictable, in terms of yet another member of staff leaving LA.

I’m guessing Waldron might’ve been a little sheepish calling McVay to give him the news. For these reasons, the move appears to be something of a coup.

And if you’re wondering what McVay thinks of his now former passing game coordinator, this is reassuring:

For me, this was a better appointment than Buffalo’s Ken Dorsey (for example). Neither individual has play-calling experience. Yet LA’s success is predicated on scheming. Jared Goff is not an exceptional quarterback. In Buffalo, a lot of their success this year is based on the physical brilliance of Josh Allen.

While Dorsey deserves credit for enabling Allen to reach a new level, the Seahawks don’t need a person to develop a young quarterback. They need someone who can cook up game-specific plans and avoid being too predictable. They need someone from one of the most creative, open-minded systems in the league.

It’s fine to have some reservations too. Is Carroll truly capable of getting out of the way? Waldron has never called plays, so there’s a bit of an unknown there. Had the Seahawks appointed someone experienced like Doug Pederson, there’d be no such concern.

Is it in any way telling that Staley didn’t try to lure Waldron to the Chargers? He made an approach for offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, which was rejected. He then appointed Joe Lombardi. Waldron’s name was never connected to the opening.

There’s also Zac Taylor, McVay’s former quarterbacks coach, who hasn’t had the best spell since replacing Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati. Not every apple on the tree has been ripe. Taylor, for what it’s worth, beat Waldron to the Bengals gig (both were interviewed).

Even so, this is an appointment that enables the Seahawks to begin a crucial off-season with some momentum. It’s an appointment fans can invest some faith in and presumably it’s someone that can connect Head Coach and quarterback.

The focus can now turn to roster construction. What changes need to be made to enable the new offense to thrive? Do they have to completely change up their blocking scheme and the O-line personnel? Frankly I think that’d be a shame given one of the strengths of the 2021 draft is big interior linemen. You don’t need to have smaller, quicker linemen to run a lot of play action and misdirection.

The bigger issue is creating resource. With only $142,229 in effective cap space and with only three or four draft picks — they’ve got some work to do.

The starting center, cornerback, running back, left guard, SAM linebacker and tight end are all free agents. They have numerous players on expiring one-year deals. Players such as Poona Ford are restricted free agents.

Something’s going to have to give in the next few days. I’ll have an article on what I think they should do next on the blog this week.

Robbie and I will be recording a new podcast on Wednesday discussing the Waldron hire.

If you missed my appearance on the Les Levine show in Cleveland talking about the draft and the Senior Bowl, check it out below. My bit starts at 36:27…

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Talking draft on

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

This week I was invited onto the Les Levine show in Cleveland to talk about the draft and the Senior Bowl. We cover a lot of ground. My bit starts at 36:27…

Key Senior Bowl measurements

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

If you missed my watch-list for the Senior Bowl yesterday, click here.

Below are some of the key measurements from today in Mobile.

The Seahawks generally avoid linemen who don’t have +33 inch arms:

Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 338
Wingspan: 82
Arms: 33 1/8
Hands: 10 1/8

Spencer Brown (T, Northern Iowa)
Height: 6-8
Weight: 314
Wingspan: 82 3/8
Arms: 34
Hands: 10 3/8

Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 312
Wingspan: 79 4/8
Arms: 31 6/8
Hands: 9 5/8

Deonte Brown (G, Alabama)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 364
Wingspan: 80 6/8
Arms: 32 3/8
Hands: 9 1/8

Ben Cleveland (G, Georgia)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 354
Wingspan: 79 1/8
Arms: 33
Hands: 9 6/8

Landon Dickerson (C, Alabama)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 326
Wingspan: 81
Arms: 32 4/8
Hands: 10 3/8

Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 312
Wingspan: 85 3/8
Arms: 34 3/8
Hands: 9 4/8

Trey Smith (G, Tennessee)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 331
Wingspan: 83 1/8
Arms: 33 6/8
Hands: 10

If Baron Browning doesn’t go in round one with this physical profile and the extreme athleticism we know he has, it’ll be a surprise:

Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 241
Wingspan: 81
Arms: 33
Hands: 10

Three defensive linemen who are expected to go early measured with sub-33 inch arms, which isn’t great news:

Levi Onwuzurike (DT, Washington)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 290
Wingspan: 80 1/8
Arms: 32 4/8
Hands: 10 2/8

Patrick Jones II (DE, Pittsburgh)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 264
Wingspan: 79 5/8
Arms: 32
Hands: 10

Carlos Basham (DE, Wake Forest)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 281
Wingspan: 81 1/8
Arms: 32 4/8
Hands: 9 1/8

Here’s one player I will definitely be going back to look at…

Janarius Robinson (DE, Florida State)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 266
Wingspan: 87
Arms: 35 6/8
Hands: 11

Robinson also ran a 4.27 short shuttle at SPARQ.

Here’s his FSU team mate:

Marvin Wilson (DT, Florida State)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 319
Wingspan: 82
Arms: 33
Hands: 10 1/8

Sadly, Ambry Thomas doesn’t have 32 inch arms:

Ambry Thomas (CB, Michigan)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 189
Wingspan: 76 4/8
Arms: 31 1/8
Hands: 8 4/8

Here are some of the skill players we identified:

D’Wayne Eskridge (WR, Western Michigan)
Height: 5-9
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 74 1/8
Arms: 30 1/8
Hands: 9

Trey Sermon (RB, Ohio State)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 213
Wingspan: 79
Arms: 32
Hands: 9 4/8

Rhamondre Stevenson (RB, Oklahoma)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 227
Wingspan: 75
Arms: 30
Hands: 9

Kenny Yeboah (TE, Ole Miss)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 247
Wingspan: 80 6/8
Arms: 33 2/8
Hands: 9 3/8

Kylin Hill (RB, Mississippi State)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 214
Wingspan: 73
Arms: 30 4/8
Hands: 9 5/8

Kadarius Tony (WR, Florida)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 189
Wingspan: 74 4/8
Arms: 30 4/8
Hands: 9 4/8

To finish, look at this monster:

Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 230
Wingspan: 81
Arms: 33 3/8
Hands: 10

That is a simply incredible physical profile.

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Senior Bowl Seahawks player watch-list

Monday, January 25th, 2021

Before getting into the list, if you missed my interview with Jim Nagy please check it out at the bottom of the page. Also, over the weekend I was invited onto a UK-based Seahawks podcast. Click here to listen to it. We get into a lot — from how I started following the Seahawks, the creation of this blog, the current state of the team and you’ll be amazed at my ability to predict the AFC and NFC Championship games…

Keep an eye out on too where I recently recorded a broadcast discussing a number of draft subjects. I’m always available for podcasts, radio/TV appearances or guest articles. Just send me an email to

Senior Bowl player watch list

These are some of the players I’ll be keeping an eye on in Mobile. Players on the National team (coached by Miami) have a red ‘N’ next to their name. Players on the American team (coached by Carolina) have a blue ‘A” next to their name.

D’Wayne Eskridge (WR, Wester Michigan) N
I was blown away watching him for the first time last week. He’s twitchy and has incredible acceleration. If he can consistently flash the ability to separate in drills and show good hands, he could fly up boards. The Senior Bowl has been a great stage for receivers in recent years. Eskridge is so sudden and diminutive — it’s easy to think Tyreek Hill as a comp.

Ben Cleveland (G, Georgia) A
He’s a mountain of a man (6-6, 335lbs) and you won’t find a stronger player in college football. The Georgia staff had to stop him at 45 reps at 225 on the bench press to prevent injury. There’s a good chance he would’ve beaten the combine record of 49. He’s also a better athlete than people give him credit for — running a 5.11 forty at SPARQ and registering an overall score of 97.32. He’s a former four-star recruit. If you want someone to maul blockers up front and set the tone, Cleveland’s your man.

Ambry Thomas (CB, Michigan) N
I think the two most talented cornerbacks in this draft are Thomas and Elijah Molden. Both are outstanding short-area athletes. Thomas ran a 3.90 short shuttle at SPARQ, then added a 4.43 forty and a 36 inch vertical. He’s not the biggest corner (6-0, 185lbs) but he competes for the ball and he tackles well too. He can stick in coverage. This is a great opportunity for the Michigan corner.

Levi Onwuzurike (DT, Washington) N
Jim Nagy is a big believer in Onwuzurike and believes he’ll land in the first round. I went back and watched the tape this week and there are a lot of things to like. He shows great quickness and agility at 6-3 and 293lbs to slip blocks and create interior pressure. He can use his hands to bench in order to keep his frame clean then read/react. When the ball is dumped off he’ll often hurry across the line and chase down the ballcarrier. The OL vs DL drills are box office in Mobile. He’ll be facing some top interior linemen. If he impresses, he’ll be one of the stars of the week.

Deonte Brown (G, Alabama) A
I’m not as sold on Brown as others. He’s an enormous blocker but quite squatty. When he squares up straight-on he can overpower defenders. Even when he’s asked to pull — if the target is right in front of him, he’ll dump a pass rusher on his backside. Yet when he has to move his feet to handle a quicker interior rusher his footwork is sluggish at best. Blocking from different angles is hard and he’s not much use at the second level. The 1v1 drills are set-up for quick defensive linemen to succeed so let’s see if I’m being too hard on a highly rated blocker.

Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame) N
I’m a huge fan of Aaron Banks. He’s 6-6 and 340lbs and Seattle’s type of guard. He’s physical and finishes his blocks. He has good mobility for his size and that showed when he had to fill-in at left tackle in one game this season. He drives open running lanes with power but he can settle down in pass-pro and engulf defenders.

Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma) N
He plays with a nasty streak and he does so much so well. His combo-blocking is really impressive. He reaches up to the second level with ease and shows great athleticism to latch onto blocks in space. He scored 94.17 at SPARQ in 2017. To go with his technique and athleticism is a real edge to his play. He’s also well sized and could be a long term starter at the next level.

Patrick Jones II (EDGE, Pittsburgh) N
A player well suited to the LEO, Jones took his game to a new level in 2020. He registered 13 TFL’s and nine sacks in 11 games. Pittsburgh had an inconsistent season but Jones visibly took on a leadership role. He plays with a good motor, can bend and straighten when rushing with speed but he’s useful with his hands too. Pitt had him drop and play in space sometimes to showcase his athleticism. He could have a big week in the pass rushing drills. Keep an eye out for his team mate Rashad Weaver too.

Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State) N
A great short shuttle, explosive testing and a great forty usually mean a high quality linebacker in the modern NFL. Browning ran a 4.18 short shuttle at SPARQ, a 4.56 forty and then jumped a 37 inch vertical. He moves around the field with ease. The Seahawks are not going to take a linebacker early again but on a personal level I can’t wait to see how Browning competes.

Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama) A
Tony Pauline thinks he’s a top-20 pick but Todd McShay has him graded in round three. Leatherwood isn’t an amazing athlete but he is a BAMF. His physical appearance and the way he carries himself remind me of Duane Brown. At the very least he can be an exceptional guard. I think he will shine at tackle during drills, elevating his stock. He was superb in the Rivals 1v1’s in High School. Strong, tough and doesn’t give an inch.

Kellen Mond (QB, Texas A&M) A
The Senior Bowl is often a king maker at quarterback and it’ll be interesting to see which of the group emerges. My money’s on Mond. He was a lot more consistent in 2020. He has a rocket arm and can drive the ball into tight spots. He played well against both Clemson and Alabama in his career. He reminds me of a less mobile but perhaps more accurate Colin Kaepernick.

Rhamondre Stevenson (RB, Oklahoma) N
I’m not sure what to make of Stevenson and I’m hoping the Senior Bowl provides some answers. He’s 6-0 and 246lbs but is really light on his feet. At SPARQ he ran a 4.30 short shuttle and it shows. His ability to pivot and change direction at his size is impressive. I’m just not sure if he’s explosive enough for Seattle. Why was he only ever a bit-part player at Oklahoma too?

Nico Collins (WR, Michigan) N
Collins does so much well. His body control to contort and adjust to the football is strong. He reads the ball well in the air. He makes contested catches. In the NFL though you’ve got to be able to separate. I’m not sure how fast he is and without a combine, we’re relying on seeing him create separation in drills to allay some fears.

Marvin Wilson (DT, Florida State) A
A sensational athlete who wowed at Rivals and SPARQ in High School, Wilson’s college career was a bit underwhelming. At 6-4 and 332lbs he clocked a 4.56 short shuttle which is insane. He also ran a 5.17. Yet his conditioning is a concern and there are some really ugly snaps on tape where he looks like a random dude has taken the field and needs to catch his breath. His upside is through the roof but he needs to impress.

Trey Smith (G, Tennessee) A
Smith has been hyped as a high pick for years, after receiving incredible recruiting buzz when he picked Tennessee. I don’t think he ever lived up to expectations and it concerns me a little bit that he spent considerable time last year ‘liking’ a lot of negative comments on twitter. He’s had health issues too. This is an opportunity to shine among an impressive group of interior linemen.

Kylin Hill (RB, Mississippi State) A
At 5-11 and 210lbs he’s just about in Seattle’s wheelhouse for size. He jumped a 38 inch vertical at SPARQ so he’s explosive and that’s what they look for. A 4.30 short shuttle also shows he can change direction well. His college career ended in a fallout with Mike Leach so we barely saw him in 2020. Let’s see if he can impress here and use his fresh legs to run hard in the game on Saturday.

Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida) A
Draft media has already anointed Toney a first round pick. Yet it’s worth remembering he ran a 4.69 forty at SPARQ. I obviously think he plays quicker than that but is he the kind of 4.3/4.4 runner some seem to think he is? Quick separation, nuanced routes and suddenness will help him in Mobile. He can leap up and get the ball — he’s jumped a 41.5 inch vertical.

Kenny Yeboah (TE, Ole Miss) N
He’s 6-5 and 240lbs and so fluid working in space. He’s a natural working downfield or attacking the seam. There’s very little wasted movement and he’s a matchup nightmare for linebackers or safeties. Even against Alabama’s loaded defense he managed seven catches for 181 yards and two scores. He can make a defender miss to gain major YAC. Ole Miss lined him up in the slot, they had him working across the formation, he’ll run sweeps, he’ll take a wheel-route or he can just run downfield or settle as a check-down option.

Spencer Brown (T, Northern Iowa) N
Enormous right tackle listed at 6-8 and 320lbs. Brown is a remarkable athlete and has developed at Northern Iowa, adding weight and turning himself into a legit NFL prospect. Tony Pauline believes he can move into the second round conversation with a good Senior Bowl. I think his high-cut frame create issues with leverage so we’ll see how he gets on.

Chazz Surratt (LB, North Carolina) N
Quarterback-turned-linebacker — Surratt is one of the more fascinating players in this draft class. It would’ve been interesting to see how he tested at the combine. You can see on tape that he’s still a bit raw and finding his feet but he pursues well to the ball, he’s very agile and he’s been productive.

Carlos Basham (DE, Wake Forest) A
One of the big names set to compete in Mobile. Basham is an athletic freak who has been timed in the 4.21 range in the short shuttle at 280lbs. He’s also jumped a 36 inch vertical. There’s a lot of average tape though, mixed in with some stunning highlight-reel moments.

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