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Tuesday notes: Shrine, Jeremiah, O-line & more

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

First of all, if you missed the podcast this week check it out. We did a mailbag episode answering a ton of questions on the future of the Seahawks.

There are so many things I want to get into so I’m just going to throw a lot of them into this article.

Shrine game stand out

The East-West Shrine game is this week and it’s something to keep an eye on. The Seahawks have drafted quite a few players who attended the game in recent years:

2015: Terry Poole, Mark Glowinski, Tye Smith
2014: Justin Britt, Cassius Marsh
2013: Christine Michael

One player appears to be standing out so far — Michigan center Graham Glasgow.

Pauline graded Glasgow in the fifth round in his recently published positional rankings.

Mike Mayock also gave Glasgow a nice reference at the Shrine practises, noting: “He was the guy who really stood out to me… It’s a strong year for centers, but he looks like an NFL starter. Very strong. He could compete at the Senior Bowl.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh also rates his chances of making it at the next level: “Graham Glasgow, what an amazing player… He could be a first-round pick, the way he played, the way he’s played all year.”

Whether Glasgow propels himself into the first round remains to be seen — but this is a nice boost. He’s a former walk-on and he’s listed at 6-6 and 303lbs. In comparison, Max Unger was 6-5 and 302lbs — so they’re similar. Glasgow has a brother (Ryan) who also walked-on and made the team as a nose tackle.

There are always late risers, especially on the O-line. Mitch Morse is a good example last year. Who’d rule out Glasgow working himself into the second or third round? With the Seahawks expected to focus on the offensive line early he could be an option.

I’ve not watched the video below yet — but it’s Michigan’s O-line vs Maryland from 2015. Glasgow is #61.

Kevin Dodd better than Shaq Lawson?

A lot of people are grading Clemson pass rusher Shaq Lawson in the first round. I’m not entirely convinced. He had 12.5 sacks in 2015 and embarrassed Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley on October 3rd. The issue I have is natural speed, quickness and get-off. He’s very good at disengaging and finishing — but is he going to be able to win with explosion and speed-to-power at the next level? Plus, he’s a bigger guy (listed at 275lbs) so is he better at DE in the 3-4 or is he a power end in the 4-3?

Tony Pauline is reporting that a number of teams are rating his team mate Kevin Dodd above Lawson. I can see why. Dodd suffers a similar issue to Lawson (get-off) and while he abused the Alabama right tackle in the National Chamionship — you can’t help but wonder if he’ll be able to get off blocks and finish in the same way he does at Clemson.

Pauline notes: “The consensus is Lawson is being overrated while Dodd is underrated.” I think that’s probably fair — but what range are they going to go? I’m not convinced the Seahawks will have much interest here unless they turn up at the combine and put on a show. They could both go in round two.

Marquez North a receiver to monitor

Tennessee receiver Marquez North is immensely talented. In his first year with the Vols he looked like the real deal. His career since has been hampered by injury and ineffective play.

He made a late decision to enter the 2016 draft. It’s a surprise considering he only lodged six catches during the 2015 season. He has zero momentum.

For that reason he won’t be a high pick. He might even go undrafted. Yet at 6-3 and 229lbs with enough speed and the ability to make highlight reel catches — he could be one to work with and develop. I’m leaning towards the Seahawks re-signing Jermaine Kearse, trusting Paul Richardson to return and utilising Kevin Smith in 2016 — pushing receiver down the list of needs (Doug Baldwin will also surely receive a new contract). North could be had in the later rounds.

Watch out for Ronald Blair III

Hat-tip to valued member of the SDB community Volume 12 for highlighting Appalachian State’s Ronald Blair. Take a look for yourself:

And look at this pick six (29 seconds in):

He’s received a combine invite and it’ll be fascinating to see if he tests as fast as he looks on tape. He’s 6-4 and 270lbs. I wonder if he can get up to 275-280lbs and act as another inside-and-out player for the Seahawks?

There’s no great secret to successful pass rushers. If they live in the backfield, win with quickness and get-off, have a repertoire and utilise speed-to-power it usually translates. Blair appears to tick all the necessary boxes. If the Seahawks want to keep adding pass rushers, ‘RBIII’ could be an option.

Daniel Jeremiah publishes his first mock draft

The Seahawks take Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) with the #26 pick. According to Jeremiah: “Butler is gaining a lot of steam in personnel circles and he’d look great in this scheme.”

I’ve watched two Louisiana Tech games from 2015. I wouldn’t say I was blown away but there is a lot of upside. Butler is very mobile and gets around. He seems to have a good motor and there’s evidence to suggest he can grow and develop into an effective rusher. He isn’t there yet — and that’s the issue I’d have putting him in round one.

In 2015 he only had three sacks. Those sacks came against Louisiana Lafayette, Texas San Antonio and Rice. It’d be unfair to judge him purely on production — but it highlights the point that he’s far from the finished product.

The Seahawks want difference making special athletes they can coach up. If they see Butler as a dynamic pass-rusher in the making they will almost certainly consider him. I just wonder if they also want to see striking evidence of production to match upside. Bruce Irvin, after all, was the most prolific pass rusher in college football in 2010 and 2011. Frank Clark is a tremendous athlete but he flashed first round talent on tape too. Butler doesn’t have that same fantastic tape or numbers.

Lance Zierlein has compared him to Muhammed Wilkerson — which is lofty praise. Wilkerson was only the #30 pick in the 2011 draft (the Seahawks passed on the chance to take him with their #25 pick). It’s worth noting that Wilkerson had 10 sacks as a junior at Temple and looked the part on tape. He also had long 35 1/4 inch arms and ran a 4.96 at 315lbs. Butler will do well to match that combine performance. He’s still one to monitor.

A lot of good offensive linemen are off the board at #26 in Jeremiah’s mock draft but Shon Coleman (T, Auburn), Cody Whitehair (T/G/C, Kansas State) and Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M) are all available.

An early prediction on what the Seahawks will target

It is still very early — and this is a subject I won’t to talk about in more detail in other articles this week. However, I want to put down some early thoughts to generate a debate.

Based on what Pete Carroll said to the media yesterday — targeting the offensive and defensive line early feels like a safe bet. Departing UFA’s will have an impact there too. If they lose Bruce Irvin for example and a top linebacker is available in the first three rounds, that could also be an area they look at.

My personal prediction is that Russell Okung will test the market to establish his value. The Seahawks will be open to him returning — but I doubt they aggressively compete if the market is hot. Okung departing would open up a slot at left or right tackle (depending on whether you move Garry Gilliam to LT).

I sense they would at least like to add some competition at left guard after a year of Justin Britt. The center position is also an area of focus. Carroll described Patrick Lewis as a solid player yesterday, essentially stating, ‘we didn’t need him to be the best center in the NFL’. I don’t anticipate the Seahawks viewing Lewis as a long-term option. He’s thoroughly replaceable but could also hold the fort for another year if required.

There are going to be good offensive linemen available to the Seahawks in this class. Even if the top prospects depart, they’re going to have options.

They can plug Shon Coleman in immediately at left or right tackle. They’re not afraid of extreme height (see: Breno Giacomini) so 6-8 Taylor Decker could be an option at right tackle if he lasts.

Germain Ifedi looks like a tremendous athletic specimen (and he’s enormous) and could work at tackle or left guard. If they want hulking size at left guard again with James Carpenter now in New York — Ifedi could be an option. Cody Whitehair is smaller and athletic but could be an option at center despite playing left tackle for Kansas State. Missouri’s Connor McGovern is another prospect who figures to kick inside to guard or center. He has a very attractive athletic profile.

Washington State’s Joe Dahl and Indiana’s Jason Spriggs could be options too. Then there’s Graham Glasgow at center — a player we talked about earlier.

Yes, it’s possible the Seahawks use free agency to fill a hole or two. As they analyse why they struggled so early in 2015 up front — inexperience and a lack of quality at center might be one of the main issues. There’s no reason to rule out interest in Alex Mack if he voids his contract. It would solidify the center position. However — they also seem to want to continue what they’re building up front. They might prefer to use the draft to increase competition across the board and set up camp battles at numerous positions.

O-line will be the early favourite at #26 with an extra pass rusher perhaps the second most likely option. With four picks in the first three rounds they might look to draft two O-liners and a D-liner. They will also surely consider linebackers and running backs — with receiver and cornerback saved for day three.

If you want a D-liner to consider after the first round, take a look at Okalhoma’s Charles Tapper (could add some size and develop into an interior rusher) along with Ronald Blair.

Mock scenario

Round 1 (#26) — O-line (tackle?)
Round 2 — Pass-rusher
Round 3 — Linebacker/Running back/OL
Round 3 (comp) — Linebacker/Running back/OL

Predictions: Let the Seahawks off-season begin

Monday, January 18th, 2016

There is so much to get into this week. Daniel Jeremiah’s first mock draft is out and we’ll look at the options available at #26. Tony Pauline has started to publish his positional grades on Draft Insider. I’m going to do a different type of mock draft where I abandon my own personal views on certain prospects and focus on what teams might see in players I dislike. We’re also recording the podcast tonight.

Today I want to focus on the future — because by now you’re probably tired of analysing what happened yesterday. If you’re like me you want to look forward. And let’s face it — you’re visiting a draft blog. You want to look forward.

Pete Carroll appeared on the Brock and Salk Show this morning on ESPN 710. There are lots of nuggets to get into here…

Improved O-line play is the priority

Pete Carroll doesn’t deal in vagueness. When he was asked about his teams greatest need following the 2010 season, he clearly identified improving the run game and O-line. After 2011 he talked about speed in the front seven. Both areas were addressed. When asked a similar question by Brock and Salk he clearly stated O-line consistency.

He also touched on the pass rush and making improvements there, specifically stating, “We’ll see what happens in the draft.” On this evidence, I suspect the trenches will get a lot of attention in the early rounds.

He wants to keep the band together

Towards the end he was asked about the numerous players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. Carroll was quite firm in stating, “We aren’t looking for big changes.” He made reference to keeping the group together. The Seahawks are set for around $30m in cap space ($36.5m if Marshawn Lynch is cut or traded). It sounds like most of that might be used to keep this team together.

Of course there will be obvious exceptions. You’re not going to pay beyond someone’s market value for the sake of consistency. And that’s why it might be difficult to re-sign Russell Okung. He might have to become a free agent to establish what his market value is.

Kam Chancellor isn’t going anywhere

It’s time to end this talk once and for all. Carroll mentioned three players he wants to train to a master level — Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Those are the three he picked out. He went on to speak glowingly about the way Chancellor returned to the team following his hold-out. There was zero bitterness here. He mentioned Chancellor was “really pissed” about yesterday’s loss — again picking him out when he could’ve said any name (I’m guessing they were all ‘really pissed’).

Strong leadership is going to be crucial to the Seahawks. This is still a young group and they need a leader. Chancellor made a mistake last year. But it’s impossible to listen to Carroll and draw the conclusion we’re witnessing the end of Chancellor’s time in Seattle. I’m guessing they find a way to resolve any lasting issue with a contract restructure.

What about Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham?

Carroll was nonspecific in his Lynch answer, stating it was too early to comment. We know the answer anyway. Yesterday was the final act for Beast Mode in Seattle. Jay Glazer made that clear after the game and John Clayton gave a “100%” guarantee on ESPN 710 today. They’re ready to move on. They kind of already have. The only question now is whether he retires, is traded or cut.

Carroll said there was a chance Graham could be back for training camp. That’s an optimistic statement — but he spoke about getting Graham and Rawls back for next season. There was nothing but positivity here. Since the injury Carroll has talked about Graham being here for a long time. I think they’ll give him every opportunity to recover and return. He’s too good a player to give up on after one serious injury.

What about some other predictions for the off-season?

— Doug Baldwin has one year left on his contract. Over the course of the next few weeks I think he’ll get a handsome extension. He’s a legit core player.

— Jermaine Kearse isn’t flashy but he’s made some of the most important plays in franchise history. I fully expect him to get a new contract if the price is right (and it probably will be).

— If they slightly overpay anyone this off-season I think it could be Jeremy Lane. The Cary Williams experiment showed they need players who know and understand the scheme. Seattle’s secondary needs to work as a single entity. Keeping Lane buys them a bit of time. Perhaps they can get him on a one or two year contract? He’s only 25 and Byron Maxwell signed his big deal aged 27. Give him the incentive to cash in down the line. Even if you keep Lane in the slot — that’s a vital position in the modern NFL.

— Michael Bennett is an elite defensive lineman. His average annual salary is currently $7.125m. Derek Wolfe just signed an extension in Denver with a $9.175m average. It might be time to reward Bennett for playing on despite his dissatisfaction. He’s certainly earned a pay rise — and he’s developed into an integral leader.

— Can the Seahawks get more pass rush in the interior? Yes, absolutely. Does that mean they need to rid themselves of Athyba Rubin and Brandon Mebane? Absolutely not. They need to enhance this unit, not diminish it. This is an elite run-stopping group. They didn’t allow a single 100-yard rusher in the regular season. Re-signing this pair would be wise if the price isn’t ridiculous (and why would it be?). Then it’s about adding a piece or two in the draft.

— It’s difficult to work out what they’ll do on the offensive line. The more players they keep (Kearse, Lane, Mebane, Rubin) the harder it’ll be to make a big splash. They could look at Cleveland duo Alex Mack (likely to void his contract) and Joe Thomas (hinted at the possibility of a trade). Hue Jackson also looks like the kind of coach that can recruit guys to buy in. The Seahawks have been very aggressive in addressing needs via trade and free agency in the past — but I’m not sure they’re interested in expensive outsiders for this group. They trust Tom Cable. For that reason, an early dose of OL in the draft seems like the most likely scenario. People will cringe at the prospect of no major changes — but consistency is important for a line. A couple of decent draft picks to increase competition and quality addresses the issue without a sea change.

— Bruce Irvin is a curious one. I’m not totally convinced teams will be lining up to sign him. To some he’ll be a tweener. He’s 29 this year. Obviously there’s a connection in Atlanta with Dan Quinn (it’s also Irvin’s home city). If he tests the market and it’s lukewarm, he could easily return. I’m not sure they’ll break the bank. If he leaves, how do they replace him?

Instant reaction: Seahawks comeback not enough

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

A week ago Pete Carroll asked his team if you could win a game in the first quarter. Today, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’.

It felt like a bad dream. Carolina came flying out of the traps. The Seahawks were reeling. The game plan went out the window within minutes of the game beginning.

The Panthers were emphatic, brilliant and dominant. The Seahawks have come back from slow starts before — but this was on a different level.

On offense they got behind so quickly they were never able to establish whatever plan they had. You can’t run the ball and control things at 14-0, 21-0 and 24-0. The offensive line resorted to early season form, giving Russell Wilson no time at all. Wilson wilted as a consequence — throwing two horrendous interceptions including a pick-six.

Defensively they couldn’t limit the run or put Cam Newton under any pressure. Even with a four-man rush Carolina relentlessly found open receivers. When they needed a bit of luck — a Cameron Artis-Payne fumble for example — the ball bounced favourably for the Panthers.

On key deciding factors in any playoff game — turnovers, third down conversion — the Panthers held the edge.

The momentum just spiraled, Carolina’s offense and defense feeding off each other. The Seahawks were like a boxer taking a couple of big early shots, hoping to hear the bell. Yet in no time at all the score was 31-0.

It was stunning and embarrassing for Carroll. He looked on, aghast, trying to figure out what was unfolding. They had no time to adjust as Carolina kept coming. Kept throwing punches. They needed half time after five minutes.

When the game finally settled down we saw that both teams are actually quite evenly matched. The Panthers aren’t 31 points better than the Seahawks. This was the ultimate fast start and it won Carolina the game.

Seattle needed to limit the damage during this wave. 10-14 points is manageable.

31 is not.

It is so typical of this team that they still fought back. There was no giving up. It wasn’t going to be enough with such a mountain to climb — but there’s no quit in this group. That’s the encouraging thing going into the off-season.

This has been a year of adversity. Having to deal with the Super Bowl loss, hold-outs and injuries. Making the post-season was an achievement. Having to win on the road three times to return to the Super Bowl was a step too far.

This is a crucial next few months for this team to re-stock, reload and get the house in order for another tilt next season. Even so, it’s a gruelling thought that we have to wait until September for the next challenge. Or that this team will not claim redemption for last years agonising finale.

Here are some key points as we look ahead to the off-season:

— It’s not the end anybody anticipated but Marshawn Lynch’s final act in Seattle never got more interesting than a hashtag titled #buswatch. What a way for an era to end. Six carries for 20 yards.

— It could be a similar story for Russell Okung. Annually banged up — his Seahawks career possibly ended with another injury today. He left the game in the first half.

— The Seahawks can’t afford another six weeks of trouble on the O-line in 2016 and they can’t afford to be pushed around like they were here in the first half. Do you move on from Okung and/or J.R. Sweezy? Do you replace Justin Britt or Patrick Lewis? Is Garry Gilliam a left tackle candidate? How do they turn this group into a strength?

— What is Kam Chancellor’s next move after his 2015 hold out? This defeat and the season overall surely won’t strengthen his position?

— How do the Seahawks rediscover what made them so formidable at Century Link? They finished 5-3 at home. They were 3-3 in the NFC West — that’s another area for improvement.

— What’s the plan on defense? Brandon Mebane, Athyba Rubin, Jeremy Lane and Bruce Irvin are free agents. None of them are necessarily ‘core’ players — but they’ll all need replacing with some importance if they leave.

— Jermaine Kearse deserves a new contract. He just does.

— Seattle’s identity is based around finishing and coming from behind when needed. However, they’ve started slowly in several big games now. Here, Minnesota, the Arizona home game, the Super Bowl last season, the NFC Championship game against the Packers. It feels like this needs to be addressed. How you start does matter.

The Seahawks have the #26 overall pick in the draft following Pittsburgh’s loss to Denver.

Bob McGinn’s draft nuggets on key prospects

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Florida’s Jonathan Bullard ‘isn’t special’ according to one scout

This piece came out in December — but it’s worth exploring. Bob McGinn puts out an annual ‘early look’ at the draft using unnamed scouting sources. Here are some of the highlights:

On Will Fuller:

“Fuller will run low 4.4s, high 4.3s,” one scout said. “Better player than Devin Smith, who went top of the second (No. 37) last year. Just a better overall receiver.”

My take
Fuller is arguably the most dynamic offensive player in the class. Pure speed — he’s a game-changer with incredible upside. The Seahawks like special athleticism and Fuller fits the bill.

On Laremy Tunsil:

“Tunsil is a good athlete with strong hands,” said one scout. “Little bit of a finesse guy. They (Ole Miss) are almost like the Oregon teams now. They’re really not physical players.”

My take
He doesn’t play with the same edge as Shon Coleman — and that’s why I prefer Coleman. Tunsil is technically very good and he’s a nice athlete. But you want to see that nasty streak.

On Ronnie Stanley:

Stanley, according to the scout, isn’t regarded as a great worker off the field and doesn’t always play hard. “He needs to get stronger,” another scout said. “But he’s really good technically as a pass blocker.”

My take
He was embarrassed by Clemson’s Shaq Lawson and doesn’t show any desire to get to the second level. There’s no edge to him. He has the upside — but is he ever going to push himself? I wouldn’t spend a first round pick here unless I absolutely had to have a pass protector and he was the last one available.

On Jack Conklin:

“He played left tackle and can probably survive there, but eventually I think you’ll want a better athlete,” one scout said. “I think he’s a right tackle. Kind of a self-made guy who kind of grew into his body.”

My take
He’s no slouch but he’s also not a special athlete with a ton of upside. You can plug him in at right tackle or guard. Low ceiling, high floor.

On Germain Ifedi:

“He’s just real inconsistent,” one scout said. “Effort level is down. I don’t think he’s playing as well as a year ago. He’ll work out well so somebody will take him in the second.”

My take
Superb frame with minimal body fat. A great specimen and his play wasn’t as bad as some will tell you. Could easily find a home in the late first as a right tackle.

On Paxton Lynch:

“There’s stuff Lynch doesn’t see but then he makes some plays that look like he knows what he’s doing,” one scout said. “But, boy, is he a great athlete for a big guy. He’s going to run in the 4.5s. He’s got good feet and can make all the throws.”

My take
Yes he had a poor Bowl game. Memphis also lost their Head Coach before the game and what was at stake? Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. Big, athletic, accurate quarterbacks go early. It’s trendy to want to go with Jared Goff — Lynch is the safer bet for me.

On Jared Goff:

“In terms of arm talent, he’ll be like (Jay) Cutler,” said one scout. “Skinny kid. Gets hit a bunch. Doesn’t see everything. Accuracy is off at times. But he can really spin it and has really good feet.”

My take
The Cutler talk is fair. Nice arm talent and capable of making some pretty mid-range passes. He also struggled in Cal’s big games — completing 44% of his passes against Oregon, throwing five picks against Utah and two more in a loss to USC.

On the running backs available after round one:

Utah’s Devontae Booker (5-11, 210) is versatile but is prone to injury and fumbles too much. He’s in the second-third round range with juniors C.J. Prosise (6-1, 220) of Notre Dame, Paul Perkins (5-10, 212) of UCLA and Alex Collins (5-11, 220) of Arkansas.

My take
Perkins and Collins intrigue me the most. Perkins has tremendous character, a deadly cut and some upside in the passing game. Collins is a work-horse with surprising speed. The Seahawks need a third-down/passing back to pair with Rawls and Perkins looks like the best fit.

On Robert Nkemdiche:

“He’s really athletic and he’s got strength,” one scout said. “He’s really a different kid. He may scare some people. He’s strange strange.”

My take
This article was published before the bizarre window incident and subsequent Bowl game suspension. If Nkemdiche was considered ‘strange strange’ before it happened — you have to wonder what teams are thinking now. Can you seriously take him in round one?

On Jonathan Bullard:

“Bullard isn’t special.”

My take
Bullard says he returned to Florida this year to prove he’s better than the draft committee suggested a year ago. He had some nice plays — but the scout is right. He isn’t special. The Seahawks don’t draft unspectacular athletes early.

On Alabama’s D-line trio:

“(A’Shawn) Robinson is a giant,” said one scout. “Big run stuffer with pass-rush ability. Top-15 pick. (Jarran) Reed got in a lot better shape this year than he was as a junior. He was more in the 330 range. Excellent run-down player, and he’s showing a little bit more of a push in the pass game. Top 25. (Jonathan) Allen spells them and is more of a pass rusher. Kind of an in-betweener. End and outside linebacker. He’ll go late first, early second.”

My take
I’m not sold on Robinson as a pass rusher. You barely see any evidence he can do it consistently on tape. Reed is tough as nails but he’s a pure run stuffer. I’m not sure what Allen is at the next level. I’d put all three in round two. I think it’d be surprising if the Seahawks took any of them early — they clearly value stopping the run but they’re getting production out of Brandon Mebane and Athyba Rubin.

On Kenny Clark & Andrew Billings:

“Clark’s probably the best run stopper,” said one scout. “They bill Billings there as the strongest college-football player. He’s a limited athlete but he’s got incredible strength.”

My take
Aside from the odd flash, I thought Clark was an unspectacular player whenever I watched UCLA. The kind you find in a lot of drafts. Billings might be the best at getting into the backfield but even then — I’m not convinced he’s a natural rusher. I’m generally wary of Baylor linemen (both sides of the ball).

Mel Kiper’s mock: Who was available for the Seahawks?

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

First of all, if you missed this weeks podcast don’t forget to check it out (see below). We had Matt Brown on (he attended the National Championship game) and talked about the Seahawks/Panthers game this weekend.

Mel Kiper published his first 2016 mock draft today. I’ll keep using the ESPN mock drafts (via Kiper and Todd McShay) to look at players we aren’t considering because we assume they won’t be available.

For example, I personally believe Shon Coleman is worthy of a high grade and don’t expect him to get out of the top-20. I also appreciate many others feel differently — whether that’s down to his age (24) or battle with cancer.

Both Kiper and McShay had Coleman available for the Seahawks in their respective initial projections.

I broke down McShay’s first mock here. Today let’s look at Kiper’s mock to see who was unavailable to the Seahawks in my projection last week:

Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
My projection: #5 overall
Kiper pairs the Seahawks with Apple using the #26 pick. I think this would be a fantastic get for Seattle. Although they trust their ability to find and develop cornerbacks in the later rounds, Apple appears to be a good fit for this team. He doesn’t get beat deep and keeps everything in front — plus he’s long and athletic. He generally tackles well in the open field. Plugging Apple into the position across from Richard Sherman would prevent the almost annual problem solving they need to do at cornerback.

Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
My projection: #6 overall
He’s officially declared for the draft now and I’m still shocked people aren’t looking at him as a viable early first round pick. I believe he is eligible for the Senior Bowl and hopefully he receives an invite. Coleman has everything you want in a tackle prospect — nimble feet, a decent kick-slide, the ability to lock-on and finish, the desire to reach the second level and punish linebackers and he plays with an edge. His age (24) doesn’t bother me. If you get five good years out of him it’ll be worth it.

Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
My projection: #8 overall
White is still deciding whether or not to declare. I still believe he’s destined to be a fine pro with the upside to be excellent. He’s very athletic and a typical cover corner. He offers something as a kick returner and was singled out for the coveted #18 jersey (reserved annually at LSU for the most respected, high character player on the team). He’s not quite as long as Eli Apple but if he does declare it’s hard to imagine him not going in the first frame. Coaches will want Tre’Davious White on their team.

Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
My projection: #10 overall
Kiper doesn’t have Lee in the first round, which is pretty surprising given the way he performed in 2015. If there’s one player ready and waiting to launch his stock into the top-15 it’s this guy. On the field he flashes great instinct and patience — but he also has the closing speed and burst to race to the ball and finish. He’s an effective blitzer and can cover with ease. Character wise he’s perfect — a well spoken, mature individual. He’s a perfect package for any team needing a defensive cornerstone and could easily fit into Seattle’s defense.

Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
My projection: #17 overall
At times in 2015 he looked unstoppable — a genuine game-changer with a unique skill set. His ability to make all kinds of catches (contested, deep, explosive break, high-point) made him a Heisman contender. Then Baylor’s quarterback got injured and his production fell off a cliff. He went from record-setting numbers to M.I.A. The big test now is to find out whether he’s the brilliant athlete he appeared to be in college. Can he run in the 4.3/4.4 range? If so — the flair and quality he showed in the first half of the season could tempt a team to see if he can be another X-factor receiver.

Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
My projection: #21 overall
With decent size (6-3, 210lbs) and deceptive mobility — Thomas could easily wind up as a productive NFL receiver. Urban Mayer doesn’t use a wide-open air raid offense ideal for mass production. Thomas’ stats aren’t outstanding — but he always seemed to be making key plays for Ohio State in 2015. He basically pulled down Kendall Fuller’s pants in week one with a brilliant stop-and-go route for a touchdown. He showed tremendous agility on a juking lunge to the end zone against Notre Dame. The Seahawks might consider an athletic, big receiver if they lose Jermaine Kearse.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
My projection: #22 overall
A player who makes things happen. Unlike Derrick Henry he doesn’t require huge gaping lanes and a seam to run into and accelerate. Elliott takes the hit and moves the pile. He’s adept at blocking in pass protection and he’s a useful tool in the passing game. He’s a physical runner with the ability and speed to be a home-run hitter too. The Seahawks are going to be moving on from Marshawn Lynch. It’s perhaps unlikely they seek to pair Thomas Rawls with a first round partner — but Elliott is a talented prospect.

These are probably the positions to monitor based on Seattle’s possible needs. With Russell Okung (T), Jeremy Lane (CB), Bruce Irvin (LB) and J.R. Sweezy (G) the big-name free agents in waiting — they might need to replenish at one or two key positions.

It’s also worth noting today that Tennessee cornerback Cam Sutton and Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams both officially announced they aren’t turning pro. They could both easily be top-15 picks in 2017.

Instant reaction: Seahawks survive, beat Vikings

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

This wasn’t a good Seahawks performance. They spent three quarters adjusting to the freezing conditions. They struggled on offense from start to finish.

It took a missed chip-shot field goal by Blair Walsh to secure a 10-9 win that wasn’t exactly deserved.

But a win’s a win.

It was a real battle of endurance. Neither team played particularly well in the conditions but Minnesota did a better job overall. The Seahawks seemed to be trying to work it out on the run.

As the offense suffered they couldn’t find a couple of wrinkles to move the ball. The first points of the day were surrendered after a botched punt. When another snap troubled Jon Ryan — they started trying to convert on fourth down instead of playing field position. One of those fourth down attempts led to an interception and subsequent return.

The Seahawks were completely discombobulated on offense.

Things didn’t really improve. It took another botched snap and some Russell Wilson magic to provoke a touchdown drive to make it 9-7. Kam Chancellor’s timely forced fumble shortly after gave them the lead.

Even then, with the game on the line, the offense stalled. They had two more drives after going 10-9 ahead. One was a quick three-and-out. The other went to 3rd and 5 and a conversion would’ve virtually iced the game. No dice.

It was mildly reminiscent of the Cincinnati road game earlier in the year. They just couldn’t finish it off. They gave Minnesota life. They almost took full advantage.

A slightly dubious P.I. call on Kam Chancellor and a big catch-and-run from Kyle Rudolph set up a likely Vikings win. Walsh kicked their hopes wide of the post.

Kenny’s wit punctuated the immediate celebrations.

Was it the pressure? Was it the cold? Was it the placement of the football? Or was it just a team getting very lucky at the crucial time?

Wilson looked like a block of ice moving out of the pocket. He had a permanent grimace on his face. His deep throws fluttered in the bitter air. The offense couldn’t play like the Seahawks of recent weeks — and they didn’t really have much of a counter. They particularly struggled on third downs — an issue they solved several weeks ago.

This wasn’t fun — but they won’t face conditions like this again.

That’s not to say there weren’t some bright spots. Wilson’s broken-play magic, Christine Michael’s overall performance and this piece of brilliance by Doug Baldwin were highlights:

The defense had a fantastic day. Adrian Peterson was again bottled up for just 45 yards on 23 carries (plus the fumble). Teddy Bridgewater only threw for 146 yards with 24 coming on Rudolph’s late catch and run. It’s an encouraging sign going into next weeks trip to Carolina.

The Seahawks have won six in a row on the road. In that run they’ve given up just one offensive touchdown (vs Arizona).

The mere fact they won’t be playing in conditions akin to the arctic circle will be a big plus. This was a let off — but the season continues for another week at least.

Some thoughts on the Marshawn Lynch withdrawal

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

The Tweet above from Danny Kelly sums it up perfectly. Can anyone say they’re surprised by this latest drama?

After a week of positives, Marshawn Lynch was declared ready to go by Pete Carroll, Tom Cable and Darrell Bevell. They all expressed a similar sentiment — he wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t ready.

Something changed on Friday. He didn’t board the bus to the airport. He didn’t travel to Minnesota. He will not play against the Vikings.

ESPN’s Ed Werder quoted a Seahawks source suggesting the u-turn “seemed very sudden”. It’s unclear what kind of connections Michael Irvin has to the Seahawks or Lynch — but he is reportedly claiming Lynch isn’t playing due to friction between the player and the team.

Those quotes and the dramatic nature of the decision hinted at a degree of subterfuge. After preparing all week to play — this all feels very strange.

And really, nobody is wrong for wondering what the heck is going on. Danny O’Neil put it perfectly in these Tweets:

Several reports have suggested the Seahawks and Lynch have endured a strained relationship. That is why the circus definition is fair. The Seahawks have essentially done everything to accommodate Lynch. Hold outs, days off, time away, new contracts. Which other player would be allowed to go and recover from a hernia and train off-site for multiple weeks?

To an outsider, it feels like none of this has ever been enough for Lynch. The Seahawks traded for him when he was buried deep on Buffalo’s depth chart. They made him the focal point of the team. They gave him the opportunity to thrive. He took it with both hands, ran through three tackles and scored. It’s a relationship that has been supremely prosperous for both parties.

One party, however, seems to want to sock it to the man. Fiercely loyal to his team mates but carrying an issue with authority. Maybe that’s just the way Lynch rolls.

Tom Cable recently suggested Lynch would have to “adapt to this football team” when he returned to health. “In the way it is, the way it acts and the way it’s moving right now, collectively.” These were interesting remarks.

That’s not to say he’s pulling some trick this weekend. That would be a bizarre way to end his story in Seattle. A very peculiar message to send to a team that has coped just fine without him for several weeks. The whole drama lends itself to speculation though. As O’Neil suggests, it “sure seems something went sideways between him and the Seahawks in (the) past 24 (hours)”.

Others have been quick to diffuse the situation. Michael Robinson told the NFL Network Lynch “wasn’t explosive” during the week and “he’s not going to get on the field until he feels like he’s right.” Lynch’s agent told Dave Mahler: “He simply had a setback Friday and was unable to go.”

It’d actually be refreshing if Lynch has done the honorable thing. If he felt he was going to hinder the running game — he’s right not to play. Christine Michael and Bryce Brown filled in nicely against Arizona. Lynch isn’t the type of back to be spelled. You don’t feel the benefit if he only has 8-10 carries.

The nature of the admittance though — in the dying stages of the week after all the preparation — makes for a slightly disappointing outcome.

So what now?

The Seahawks have a decision to make after the weekend. If they win in Minnesota and the Michael/Brown combo thrives — it might be best to go with what they’ve got. Lynch could always return if Seattle reaches the Super Bowl — but if they win three road playoff games without him — would you go back? Is it healthy to have the continuous ‘will-he-won’t-he’ speculation if they keep winning? Is it time to permanently make this Russell Wilson’s team and put him on I.R.?

It’s a virtual certainty Lynch will not return to Seattle next season. Will he play anywhere else? Could this be the end?

Hopefully this latest story won’t be too disruptive ahead of a tough game against the Vikings. And that’s where being a circus comes in handy. The Seahawks are used to this drama. It’s simply another day at the office.

Justin Zimmer (DL, Ferris State) is one to watch

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

This week draft insider Tony Pauline threw a new name into the mix:

Everybody loves a sleeper come draft time and the name of Justin Zimmer from Ferris State has been quietly spoken about in scouting circles.

Unmentioned by scouts prior to the season, Zimmer posted 81 tackles, 13 sacks and broke up 5 passes this season. The thee time Academic All American who measures 6-feet/3-inches and a shade over 290-pounds, has reportedly timed under 4.8-seconds in the forty and completed 46 reps on the bench press last summer.

The hope is Zimmer gets a last minute invite to one of this months All Star games but draft junkies best start watching film on this dominant defender and keep an eye on his pro-day workout.

Nearly every year a small school prospect gets mentioned. I recall being underwhelmed by Brandon Williams from Missouri Southern State (a 2013 third round pick by the Ravens). Hobart’s Ali Marpet has just completed a very solid rookie season for Tampa Bay after being taken in round two in 2015.

As soon as you look at Zimmer’s tape, it’s hard not to be impressed.

You want to see a possible NFL prospect dominating against small school opponents. They need to look like ringers. In the video above Zimmer consistently explodes into the backfield, sheds blocks and works across the line to make plays against the pass and run. He’s seen hurdling a blocker at 290lbs, he’s disengaging blocks with ease and he finishes plays.

He looks like a terrific athlete with excellent power and physicality. What’s more, he’s doing it from multiple positions. He’s rushing the edge, he’s collapsing the pocket from the inside. On one play he drops into coverage and actually breaks up a pass over the middle.

Zimmer has excellent closing speed and when he works into space he’s like a magnet to the ball carrier. You see genuine evidence of him converting speed-to-power. He can swim and rip — and win with speed off the edge.

The only thing he might lack is great length. Watching the clip of him doing 46 reps on the bench (see below) — his arms look a bit on the short side:

This shouldn’t be a major concern as long as you’re willing to use him inside. At DE it’ll be a problem — you want to see length so he can keep a tackle from getting into his pads and driving him out of contention. Working inside it’s not the same kind of issue if you’re shooting gaps and winning with power and get-off.

Aaron Donald only has 32 5/8 inch arms. He ran a 4.68 at 285lbs and had 36 reps on the bench. Pauline notes that Zimmer is capable of a 4.8 at 290lbs.

It’d be great to see him at the Shrine game and possibly the combine. Ali Marpet made it to the combine due to some late buzz in scouting circles. If people in the league are talking about Zimmer — it’d be useful to see how he compares to the rest of the 2016 class.

He also seems pretty level headed. The only interview I could find is at the back end of this clip:

Knowing the Seahawks as we do — it wouldn’t be a total shocker if they looked at Zimmer as a possible convert candidate for the interior offensive line. Although he’s a much more refined pass rusher than Kristjan Sokoli.

He’s one to monitor going forward along with Southern Utah safety Miles Killebrew — who has already received an invite to this months Senior Bowl.

With the 2016 draft order set, here’s a new mock draft

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

#1 Tennessee — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
They already have two top-11 picks on their offensive line (Taylor Lewan, Chance Warmack). They have Marcus Mariota and Dorial Green-Beckham to build around. It’s time to add a defensive focal point.

#2 Cleveland — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. He’s big, mobile, accurate and led a Memphis team to a winning season against the odds. A poor man’s Cam Newton.

#3 San Diego — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
He missed most of the 2015 season but played well against Texas A&M’s explosive pass-rusher Myles Garrett.

#4 Dallas — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
Smith will undergo reconstructive left knee surgery. And? The Cowboys are good enough to stash him away and think long term. He could be the best talent in the entire draft.

#5 Jacksonville — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Length, quickness and intelligence. Apple is a fantastic corner. He doesn’t get beat deep and keeps everything in front.

#6 Baltimore — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
The best tackle in college football. Coleman plays with an edge and loves to punish linebackers at the second level.

#7 San Francisco — Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
I’ve got a feeling they’ll give Colin Kaepernick one more chance with a new coach. Sutton is an explosive athlete. A future game-changer at corner.

#8 Miami — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
White is a fabulous talent. He’s a tremendous cover-corner, a superb kick-returner and he was awarded the coveted #18 jersey by LSU.

#9 Tampa Bay — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
Not an explosive athlete but a productive pass rusher (double digit sacks this season). He can work inside or the edge.

#10 New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
A well spoken leader who looks like a 4.4 runner with great instinct. He could be a big-time riser over the next couple of months.

#11 Chicago — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
Recovering from a knee injury but another athletic, versatile linebacker. The Bears need to keep adding pieces to their defense.

#12 New Orleans — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
He could go in the top-10. The Saints tried to get physical at corner with Brandon Browner. Alexander can fill that role.

#13 Philadelphia — Jared Goff (QB, California)
Whoever takes over, they’re going to need a quarterback. Is Sam Bradford really the answer? A coach like Adam Gase would be perfect for Goff.

#14 Oakland — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
He’s a tweener. Does he have the hips and quicks to match-up with elite suddenness? Or is he a permanent safety?

#15 St. Louis — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
They could go receiver or O-line. Funny, aren’t those two of the areas they’ve already pumped a ton of stock?

#16 Detroit — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
He could go much earlier. People underestimate his athleticism. He is tall though — Decker’s listed at 6-8. That causes problems with leverage.

#17 Atlanta — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
Imagine pairing Coleman with Julio Jones. If the Falcons can upgrade their defense in free agency — they can afford a pick like this.

#18 Indianapolis — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Just a hard-nosed, blue-collar tough guy who fought his way into this range as a walk-on at MSU. Not an amazing athlete — but someone teams will love.

#19 Buffalo — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
Some coaches will say, ‘Let somebody else take a chance on him’. Rex Ryan will say, ‘Let’s draft him and go eat a goddamn snack’.

#20 New York Jets — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
I suspect the Jets are aware they need to start developing the future at QB. This would be ideal for Wentz. Sit for a year or two, then step in for Ryan Fitzpatrick.

#21 Washington — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
Teams will covet Thomas’ combination of mobility, size and catching radius. He moves very well for a big guy. Thomas has a ton of upside.

#22 Houston — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
By making the playoffs they make it harder to draft a quarterback. Elliott can help lead the offense while they search for a solution. He makes things happen.

#23 Pittsburgh — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Arguably the best of the Fuller brothers. His college debut? Against Amari Cooper and Alabama. He excelled. He’s also recovering from an injury.

#24 Seattle — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
He chose to turn pro in the end. He has electric speed and suddenness. He’s a legit downfield threat but also creates separation with explosive breaks.

#25 Green Bay — Leonard Floyd (LB, Georgia)
Floyd has loads of upside but his college career was pretty ‘meh’. Green Bay needs someone who can cover and rush at OLB.

#26 Kansas City — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
Stanley offers no second-level blocking and relies too much on his natural athleticism. Clemson’s Shaq Lawson embarrassed him. He could drop into round two.

#27 Minnesota — Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
I spent some time watching him today and there’s a lot to like. A natural athlete with good size and mobility. He should kick inside to guard.

#28 Cincinnati — De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
Similar to Kelvin Benjamin and could provide a nice alternative to A.J. Green. Good luck stopping Green, Eifert and Wilson in the red zone.

#29 Denver — Germain Ifedi (T, Mississippi State)
Some people think he’ll drop into the middle rounds. He’s very muscular and in good shape. There’s plenty to work with here at tackle or guard.

#30 Arizona — Adolphus Washington (DE, Ohio State)
Flits in and out of games. Goes from impactful to anonymous. Projects well to DE in the 3-4. Fits Arizona’s scheme.

#31 Carolina — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)
He’s just a really clever receiver. He won’t run as fast as some of the others but he knows how to get open consistently.

Further thoughts on the Seahawks

I’m not ready to move off Will Fuller yet.

I’ll stress again — since 2012 the Seahawks have drafted dynamic athletes early. Irvin, Wagner, Michael, Richardson, Clark and Lockett. They traded for Harvin and Graham. This is too much of a trend to ignore.

It feels like philosophy. Much in the way they’ve also allowed Tom Cable to identify and draft ‘his guys’ to build the O-line. One of Cable’s guys might be there at the end of round one. If he isn’t, I don’t think they’ll force anything to fill the tackle need if Russell Okung departs.

I’ve become mildly obsessed (only half joking) with the idea of speed and suddenness at receiver. Watching the Steelers’ trio of Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant has sold me on speed, quick twitch, separation and grit. It’s the modern NFL. It’s incredibly difficult to defend. And I freaking love it.

The idea of being able to field a combination of Tyler Lockett, Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson and Will Fuller alongside Jimmy Graham on any given snap is salivating. And if the Seahawks O-line can continue to protect Wilson the way it has since the bye week — it could be a frightening proposition for the rest of the league.

There are some legitimate concerns about Fuller’s hands. He does body catch in mid-air too often and he doesn’t always pluck the ball at its highest point. He also makes some excellent, tricky grabs in coverage. I’d be comfortable working on this area and there’s no real pressure for an immediate impact (see: Paul Richardson in 2014).

It could be classified as a luxury. There’s every chance they keep Jermaine Kearse with a new contract. Kearse isn’t a trendy player but he’s constantly made big plays for this team and appears to have a flawless attitude and chemistry with Wilson. On the other hand, Kearse could move on and Baldwin’s contract only lasts until the end of next season. Richardson also hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

Everything about Fuller intrigues me. His personality, his ability to adjust to the ball in the air, his rare speed and the way it scares teams so much he frequently finds open space underneath.

Watch this:

Look at the way he kicks through the gears to beat the corner — and then lays out to make the catch.

With Russell Wilson continuing to develop and flirting with the possibility of becoming the NFL’s best quarterback one day — this is the type of player that can help him get there. If the Seahawks don’t take him, the Cardinals probably will.

A lot of the better offensive linemen, linebackers and cornerbacks are gone in this projection. When Mel Kiper publishes his first mock next week we’ll run through some of the options available to Seattle and look at alternatives to Fuller.

There’s enough depth on the O-line (possible options beyond round one include
Adam Bisnowaty, Joe Dahl and Jason Spriggs), at defensive tackle, linebacker and running back. They can fill several needs with value to boot. I’m not sure a player like Fuller will be available after round one.

Seahawks: Top-five off-season needs

Monday, January 4th, 2016

#1 Offensive tackle

It’s hard to specify whether it’ll be a left or right tackle. The Seahawks are expected to have around $34m in free cap room this off-season. It’s more than enough to re-sign Russell Okung. However, he’s missed 24 games in a six-year career and might command a top-tier salary. If he departs they’ll need to add a new tackle — even if Garry Gilliam is moved to the blind side. Making sure Russell Wilson is well protected for 16 games and not seven has to be Seattle’s top priority going into 2016. If Okung signs a new contract, we can pretty much strike this off the list of needs.

Possible first round OT’s: Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), Shon Coleman (Auburn), Taylor Decker (Ohio State), Jack Conklin (Michigan State), Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)

#2 Cornerback

Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead are both free agents in waiting. Good cornerbacks are hard to find and Byron Maxwell struggling in Philadelphia is unlikely to dissuade teams from adding a former Seahawks DB. Neither of these two are likely to get close to Maxwell’s salary — but they might get offers that are a little rich for the Seahawks. Lane is only 25 and might be best signing a new one-year deal in Seattle to return as a starter with the intention of maximising his stock for 2017. Either way, the conveyor belt of talent is running out of talent and Seattle’s depth at corner is weak. The failed Cary Williams experiment could put them off free agency. They might need to make an early pick at corner this year.

Possible first round CB’s: Eli Apple (Ohio State), Tre’Davious White (LSU), Cam Sutton (Tennessee), Mackensie Alexander (Clemson), Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Zack Sanchex (CB, Oklahoma)

#3 Linebacker

This is another need based on what happens with a prospective free agent. That’s testament to Seattle’s balanced roster. Bruce Irvin isn’t just a starter — he’s a potential playmaker. He had fewer big impact plays this year (5.5 sacks, one FF, no picks) but there isn’t anyone like Irvin in the league. He can rush the passer, cover, play to the sideline. He’s a unique swiss army knife of a linebacker. By choosing not to take up his affordable 2015 contract option, they made it clear they were willing to risk losing him. He’s 29 next year so what is his value? Is it greater to the Seahawks than anyone else? Maybe. If he walks (possibly to rejoin Dan Quinn in Atlanta) they’ll need a replacement. Kevin Pierre-Louis did an unconvincing job in spot starts this season. If they’re lucky someone like Ohio State’s Darron Lee could be available (unlikely). Oklahoma’s Eric Striker is an option. They could also look to convert an athletic safety in the mould of Deone Bucannon.

Possible first round LB’s: Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame), Darron Lee (Ohio State), Myles Jack (UCLA)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)

#4 Wide receiver

Jermaine Kearse isn’t a big stat guy. He’ll never be considered an elite receiver. Yet he’s made some of the most significant catches in Seattle’s franchise history. He won’t be easy to replace and could easily wind up being a priority keep this off-season. Doug Baldwin’s contract expires after 2016 and he too is due an extension. The lack of security here — plus Paul Richardson’s injury habit — puts receiver on the need list. College football is consistently producing pro-ready wide outs these days. The idea that it’s a bad position to draft early is a thing of the past. If the Seahawks can add another dynamic pass-catcher with suddenness, explosiveness and the ability to get open — they have to consider it. Especially if Kearse moves on.

Possible first round WR’s: Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss), Corey Coleman (Baylor), Will Fuller (Notre Dame), Michael Thomas (Ohio State), Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh), De’Runnya Wilson (Mississippi State)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)

#5 Running back

Marshawn Lynch is due $11.5m in 2016 and it feels almost certain this will be his final season in Seattle. The Seahawks have an heir-apparent in Thomas Rawls at a much cheaper cost. They can use the draft to find a supporting runner. It’s time for both parties to move on, hopefully after one more fruitful playoff push together. This looks like a good draft for runners. Seattle could target rounds 2-4 (as they have in the past) to look at the position. UCLA’s Paul Perkins and Arkansas’ Alex Collins are personal favourites.

Possible first round RB’s: Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)

So what do they do?

The Seahawks have recently looked to draft and develop athletic offensive linemen in the mid-to-late rounds while adding dynamic athletes in the early rounds. They could easily go receiver or linebacker first and offensive tackle later.

That said, the entire 2015 season was influenced dramatically by the state of Seattle’s O-line. When they struggled earlier in the year, so did the Seahawks offense. Badly. As this young group developed and found some chemistry — Russell Wilson was able to play at an elite level.

The absolute number one priority for the 2016 season has to be to create an environment where Wilson can prosper for a full 16-games. This could happen in a number of ways. They might re-sign Okung and J.R. Sweezy. They might choose to replace Okung in the draft and move Gilliam across. They might upgrade the interior line in free agency by signing someone like Alex Mack. They might even look into the possibility of trading for Joe Thomas.

Whatever they do, they can’t have the same growing pains next year. They don’t have to go O-line in the first round — but the line generally has to be the key.

Highlighted prospect at each position

Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Still the best tackle in college football for me in 2015. Coleman is a complete tackle. He kick-slides with ease and has ideal length and size. When he locks onto a defender it’s over with excellent hand placement and upper body power. Coleman loves to finish — driving pass-rushers off the ball and usually onto the turf. He matched up well against the best the SEC had to offer (Myles Garrett). He also frequently gets to the second level and seeks out linebackers to smash. His stock could be impacted by age (24) and the fact he’s battled cancer. If he lasts until the late first round, more fool the rest of the league.

Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
I’m a big admirer of Apple, Tre’Davious White and Cam Sutton. All three have the upside to be special at the next level. I’m highlighting Apple because he might be the best fit for the Seahawks. He has the size, length and athleticism to be a star — but it’s his on-field savvy and game-smarts that are most intriguing. Apple doesn’t get beat over the top, keeps everything in front and manages the explosive play. He’ll give up 5-6 yards to avoid giving up 50. That’s OK. He’s a solid open-field tackler, he will make the occasional break on the football and he’s fundamentally sound across the board. Compare that to the streaky (and overrated) Vernon Hargreaves — a corner that is a hopeless open-field tackler and inconsistent in coverage.

Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
There’s just something really fun and unique to Lee’s game. He’s not a stunning athlete like Ryan Shazier but he’s well above average. He could run in the 4.4’s. His natural instinct and flair for the game shines through on tape. Lee knows how to disguise and time a blitz — but he also has the acceleration and closing speed to be effective. He’s very good working in space and making tackles despite a lack of excellent size. He’s a well spoken, intelligent individual destined to be a leader at the next level. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he went in the top-12 picks. Not in the slightest. He’ll be a fine addition to any roster and a genuine safe pick.

Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
Russell Wilson appears to be more comfortable throwing to sudden receivers who create obvious separation. It sounds like a fairly obvious thing to say — but it’s arguably partly why he seemed unwilling to trust Jimmy Graham in tight coverage at times. Graham has never been a guy who gets open per se — he wins match-ups. I’m not sure it’s in Wilson’s psyche to throw passes with a high degree of perceived risk. Fuller is a thoroughly dynamic, sudden athlete who creates separation in the short game with crisp breaks. He also has the deep speed to get downfield and be an X-Factor. Imagining adding him to the offense, especially with Paul Richardson’s injury history, is a salivating thought. If you need more convincing, click here. He could be a big riser over the next two or three months.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
I’m not convinced the Seahawks have much interest in a genuine two-headed monster at running back. They need a supporting cast for Thomas Rawls. Some competition — but really someone who can work third downs and the two-minute drill and provide some relief. Are you going to take that type of back in round one? That’s not taking anything away from Elliott — who looks the part of a dynamic runner. He explodes through an open lane and has the sprinter-speed to finish runs. He’s tough to bring down, keeps his legs moving and doesn’t flop over on contact. Elliott consistently makes things happen even when the blocking isn’t perfect or the defense finds an edge. He has a shot to crack the top-25.