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Breaking down Daniel Jeremiah’s two round mock draft

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Will the Seahawks replace James Carpenter with a player who looks a lot like James Carpenter?

There’s enough movement here to suggest this is more than just guesswork. For example, Daniel Jeremiah has consistently put Kevin White ahead of Amari Cooper in his top-50 big board. I think all of his previous four mock drafts had White being taken before Cooper. Today — Cooper goes first. There’s no reason to make this kind of late switch without a bit of inside info.

A lot of other moves coincide with some of the ‘vibes’ doing the rounds recently. Marcus Mariota is at #2 with the feeling it won’t be Tennessee making the pick. Cedric Ogbuehi goes in the early second — we’ve been hearing he’ll go earlier than many expect. Mario Edwards Jr is at #40 — representing his high placing according to several recent reports. Nelson Agholor goes in the top #20. The whole mock is pretty much a representation of current trends.

It also sums up perfectly the situation facing the Seahawks at #63.

For many weeks we’ve talked about the likely options for Seattle. Here’s a quick refresher:

1. Trade up in round two using the fourth round pick acquired in the Jimmy Graham trade. Realistically this could get you into the #48-52 range. Philadelphia made a similar move last year to draft Jordan Matthews. The target here would be one of the top-8 receivers.

2. Stay put and draft the best remaining receiver.

3. Stay put and take the best offensive lineman on your board.

The interest in this receiver class will likely make the options pretty thin at #63. Jeremiah has Carolina at #57 and Baltimore at #58 drafting for the position (Devin Smith & Devin Funchess). By the time Seattle was on the clock ten had been drafted.

We’ve spent a lot of time debating whether they could trade up for Dorial Green-Beckham, who is taken by the Jets at #37. The pick makes a lot of sense. In some of my own recent mock drafts I’ve had New York drafting Kevin White at #6, eliminating the need to take a receiver in round two. If the Jets go defense early, DGB is a viable option at #37.

Having said that, if he gets past the Jets the fall out of the top-50 is possible. Seattle would likely need to jump both Carolina and Baltimore — and while we’ve discussed the likelihood of either franchise taking a receiver with Green-Beckham’s specific off-field red flags, I believe this won’t be an issue. Jeremiah — who used to work for the Ravens — specifically states: “The Ravens are looking for a big, athletic target for Joe Flacco.” DGB fits like a glove and could be the pick if he lasts long enough.

Trading in front of Carolina and Baltimore won’t be a problem for the sake of the fourth rounder. Trading up to #37 is a bit too rich. It would cost you possibly an additional fourth rounder or maybe a future third. The Seahawks can afford to sacrifice one of their three fourth rounders, but surely not two. The depth on the offensive and defensive line in that range probably won’t allow it.

Would they trade up for Smith or Funchess? I’m not convinced. I’m a big fan of Smith’s big play ability and he has some DeSean Jackson to his game as a downfield threat. You can find receivers like this later in the draft, however. Funchess, at least physically, would offer the kind of taller ‘box-out’ receiver they currently lack. Yet he had such an underwhelming career at Michigan and lacks the kind of tenacity and grit you usually see in a Seahawks receiver. He also had a sluggish combine and didn’t look sudden enough to be a force at the next level. He’s kind of a poor mans Big Mike Williams.

Conceding a fourth for the huge upside of a DGB is one thing. Conceding it for a player like Funchess just seems unlikely.

They could stay put and gamble on Sammie Coates — although the drops are a major concern there. They could take Tyler Lockett — but again you can probably find a smaller, shiftier receiver and kick returner later on. If they aren’t moving up and they’re presented with a board like this, taking the top offensive lineman available is probably the best plan.

Cue Jeremiah pairing Seattle with South Carolina guard A.J. Cann at #63.

The Seahawks have taken a pure guard in this range before — trading down from the late second round before taking John Moffitt in 2011. Cann is very much a guard-only prospect. He has 32 5/8 inch arms, he’s 6-3, 313lbs and runs in the mid 5.4’s. There’s little to get excited about in terms of athleticism or size. He’s just a really solid, plug-in-and-play guard. That won’t be unattractive for the Seahawks as they attempt to fill two big holes on the O-line. Cann’s also the type of player they haven’t really shown interest in since the Moffitt pick.

He isn’t a big second-level blocker although that’s sometimes used to beat a prospect in terms of the ZBS. Some schemes don’t call for it. You’re not going to rush to the second level if you’re instructed to do the opposite. He’s pretty hard to move off the spot and he doesn’t get bull-rushed. You see some real power at times. Seattle likes mobility and athleticism to a point but they’ve always used a big powerful guy at left guard under Tom Cable.

The football purists will love the move. Solid, no-thrills guard. Meat and potatoes. Not entirely Seahawky, though. But if he’s top of their board, isn’t that the point? That’s what the plan calls for.

There are alternatives of course. Ty Sambrailo is available. He too has the massive size Seattle likes for the left guard position but he has the added bonus of some tackle experience. He was also tested at center during a recent visit to Seattle. Florida State’s Tre Jackson is on the board and has a little more upside (arguably) than Cann. He too has the size (330lbs) and if anything could stand to lose some weight. He’s fleshy. The last thing the Seahawks need is another ill-conditioned left guard.

There are several fast risers to consider too. Missouri’s Mitch Morse is gaining a ton of momentum. Ditto West Virginia’s Mark Glowinski. You’ve got Jamon Brown at Louisville and of course Ali Marpet from Hobart. It’s fair to say all would be a reach in the late second — but didn’t they draft Justin Britt in that exact range a year ago?

The difference between this year and last of course is the third round pick plus a bevvy of picks in rounds 4-5. Seattle didn’t have that luxury a year ago — and there wasn’t the fantastic O-line depth we’re seeing this year.

Jeremiah’s mock does a good job painting the situation for Seahawks fans. If they can’t move up for someone like DGB and the receiver options aren’t great at #63, they kind of have to just take the best O-liner. It might not be a flashy pick. It might be a reach. It is what it is. The #63 spot isn’t a great time to enter the draft. You’re caught between some good value at the top of round two and some decent value in the middle of round three. You can make a case for moving down — but who really wants to move up? And do you need any more late rounders when you already have 11 picks — most of which come on day three?

The volume of picks and the poor value at #63 calls for one to be sacrificed in a second round trade. I suspect it’s what they’d like to do. Yet if the player you want isn’t in range — there’s very little you can do. If a potentially elite, dynamic receiver with some flaws like DGB goes in the top-40, you kind of have to take it on the chin. If he lasts up towards pick #50 — watch out. And there is some sentiment that he could fall out of the top-50. If it doesn’t happen, it increases the likelihood of an O-line pick in round two.

Seattle’s visit with Mario Edwards Jr. also adds a layer of intrigue. The defensive options later in this draft are thinner than the O-line options. Could they move up for a defender if DGB is out of reach?

If they take an offensive lineman at #63 I think we could see a defensive lineman drafted at the back end of round three (is Frank Clark a possibility?). Then in round four you can focus on drafting from a large pool of athletic offensive linemen, you can look at running back and finding a receiver/kick returner.

Possible round 2-4 projection based on Jeremiah’s mock

Round 2: O-lineman
Round 3: D-lineman
Round 4: Running back
Round 4: O-lineman (center?)
Round 4: Receiver/return man

Would the Seahawks trade Michael Bennett? (No, but…)

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Michael Bennett disputed reports he wants a trade, but he does want more money

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt following the Carroll/Schneider regime it’s to expect the unexpected. The high profile trades, the intriguing draft picks, starting a 5-10 rookie quarterback and winning a Super Bowl with him a year later.

Nothing is off the table.

Remember how shocked you were when you found out Percy Harvin was going to the Jets for a late round pick? Remember how shocked you were when you read about the Jimmy Graham deal? Remember how shocked you were when it appeared Marshawn Lynch was on the way out, only for a long drawn-out U-turn and eventual re-signing?

Very little about the last five years has been predictable. And that’s why I’m writing this piece today.

I don’t expect the Seahawks to trade Michael Bennett. In fact it’d be pretty dumb. He really is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. Possibly top-five. He was probably the best player on the field in the Super Bowl. The image of him riding a bicycle around Century Link Field after the NFC Championship game is one of the most iconic in Seahawks history. A surreal yet fitting conclusion to a weird afternoon in Seattle.

I’m not sure why Clarence Hill’s sources indicated Bennett wanted a trade to Atlanta and a new contract. I do think, however, that it’d be wrong to write off that report as nonsense simply because the Seahawks and Bennett have denied it.

The Alex Boone/Jim Harbaugh situation is a gentle reminder of the type of thing that goes on in the NFL. If you missed the story, Boone gave a passionate defense of Harbaugh during the season, stating:

“I’m really kind of sick of everybody talking about my coach, especially because he’s like a brother to me. So if I were everybody I’d just keep their mouth shut because they don’t want me coming after them. Especially Jay Glazer, Deion, all these guys. I’m kind of sick of it. Leave my coach alone.”

Here’s what Boone told Andrea Kramer following Harbaugh’s departure:

“He does a great job of giving you that spark, that initial boom… But after a while, you just want to kick his ass… He just keeps pushing you, and you’re like, ‘Dude, we got over the mountain. Stop. Let go.’ He kind of wore out his welcome… I think he just pushed guys too far. He wanted too much, demanded too much, expected too much. You know, ‘We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this.’ And you’d be like, ‘This guy might be clinically insane. He’s crazy.’… I think that if you’re stuck in your ways enough, eventually people are just going to say, ‘Listen, we just can’t work with this.’”

I don’t think Bennett was lying when he disputed the report suggesting he wanted a trade. I do think NFL players generally know how to play the media game. At least the intelligent ones do. Especially the intelligent ones hoping to be paid more money.

Now we’re being told Bennett won’t attend the teams voluntary workouts. It’s not a big deal. They are voluntary after all. Are we really expecting Marshawn Lynch to show up? Yet there’s still this bubbling unrest it seems specifically with Michael Bennett.

There really is no obvious solution to this. Bennett can continue to be dissatisfied with a contract he signed only a year ago. He can hold out. It won’t change the situation. He’s contracted until the end of the 2017 season. Seattle set a precedent by not giving in to Lynch’s annual demands for more money. The earliest Bennett can expect to get a new deal is late 2016/early 2017 — when he’ll be 31. By that point the Seahawks might have little interest in extending his contract deep into his mid-30’s.

Trading him could create the kind of bad precedent they want to avoid. While they don’t want to be renegotiating deals with every key player a year or two down the line, they also don’t want to give the impression you can complain your out of Seattle. What’s stopping Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril or anyone else pulling a similar stunt in the future?

Even so, it was interesting to see the Seahawks being linked with Mario Edwards Jr recently — a player who can line up inside and out. There seems to be little chance he lasts until #63 — but what if the Seahawks acquired an earlier pick?

Again, let me be clear. I do NOT expect Seattle to trade Bennett. I’m not trying to argue it WILL happen. It’s the 20th April and we need something to talk about over the next ten days. As unlikely as this appears, we would’ve said the same about a “will they trade Percy Harvin?” article after the Cowboys game last year.

You never know what’s going to happen next.

It would cost the Seahawks a dead money cap hit of $6m to trade Bennett. That makes such a move even more unlikely — but it would free up an extra $7.5m in 2016 cap room and $9.5m in 2017. Considering extensions for Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner are likely to be thin up front in 2015, you can probably make a case either way. The Seahawks had no problem taking a major cap hit after trading Harvin — although there’s no evidence to suggest Bennett is the same kind of locker-room headache that Harvin proved to be.

If the Falcons were willing to cough up their second round pick (#42) and a 2016 pick (possibly another second rounder) would it be a tempting deal? Only if you believe you can pick up the slack. Seattle’s depth on the defensive line isn’t great. You’d need to replace your best pass rusher in a draft where the value is at receiver and the offensive line. If Edwards Jr is even there at #42, he’d have to seriously improve his performance rushing the edge. It’d be the same for Owa Odighizuwa.

You also wouldn’t be receiving any immediate benefit for the trade if you used the #42 pick to directly replace Bennett. You’d essentially be swapping a proven commodity for an unproven rookie while paying a large sum of money for the privilege. It could make some sense, however, if you believed you could replace Bennett at #63 (or lower) and the #42 pick enabled you to target a different position of greater strength in this class (eg wide receiver, O-line). In that scenario you might be able to survive on defense, improve the offense and receive cap and draft stock benefit in 2016.

It’s very unlikely to happen. I know it. You know it. We all know it. Stranger things have happened though. You just never know what’ll happen next with this team.

Elsewhere…

— The Seahawks re-signed Lemuel Jeanpierre today. They needed the extra depth at center and this gives them some flexibility going into the draft. It’s fair to say, however, they’ll almost certainly prioritize adding a new center at some point in a loaded draft class at the position.

Tony Pauline published his updated rankings today. Pauline is one of the most sourced draft insiders in the biz, so this is worth noting. It’s interesting he now has Ty Sambrailo graded in round three just behind Daryl Williams. It suggests there’s a possibility he’ll make it to #63 if the Seahawks want to add a tackle/guard/center project. Pauline only has one pure center graded in day two (Grasu) and he has Mitch Morse in round five. Also of interest — Dorial Green-Beckham has a round 2/3 grade.

— Pauline also reports the Cleveland Browns are pressing hard to move up to #2 to draft Marcus Mariota and that Frank Clark will be drafted in the top-125 picks.

— With ten days to go my opinion on what the Seahawks do at #63 hasn’t really changed. If there’s a chance to move up for one of the top-8 receivers I suspect they’ll consider it using the fourth rounder acquired from New Orleans. They could just take a receiver in the late second. If not, I think they’ll take the best offensive lineman on their board.

— Mark Glowinski & Chris Conley visited the Seahawks. For a list of visits (defense and offense) check out Davis Hsu’s Twitter timeline:

Stefen Wisniewski agrees one-year deal with Jacksonville

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

A shoulder injury (and subsequent surgery) clearly impacted Wisniewski’s stock. We’ll never know how it affected Seattle’s interest. Pete Carroll not only admitted interest in the player during the initial burst of free agency, he also suggested they were “recruiting” and “battling” for Wisniewski. It all went very quiet after that.

He wasn’t the only veteran center Seattle met with. Chris Myers also took a visit. That meeting now looks like a fact-finding mission. How do the veteran options compare to this loaded rookie group? Player A could be capable of starting in year one. Player B might need a little guidance or competition. Last year Eric Winston came in to compete with Justin Britt.

Ultimately they should be able to find a long term option in this class. Missouri’s Mitch Morse remains a strong candidate. He’s also the type of prospect where you consider bringing in a veteran alternative. He’d be switching back inside from tackle. There’s every chance, like Britt, he’d grow into the role. Unlike Britt he would be responsible for a lot of the calls up front. That’s why you potentially bring in a Myers — just in case he needs that extra time to master the position.

It was optimistic to suggest the Seahawks could get Morse in round five of my last seven round mock two weeks ago. His versatility, athleticism, playing style and character could easily put him ahead of most of the center class. Hroniss Grasu’s lingering injury concerns could even put Morse at #2 to Cam Erving. It wouldn’t be a shock if Morse and Ali Marpet were battling to be the next off the board in round three.

If the Seahawks want him, that’s the round they might have to take him. That’s if he’s even there. That would mean potentially trading up for a receiver in the second, taking Morse to play center in round three and then going after a running back, a kick returner, a defensive player or another offensive lineman with the two late picks in round four.

Breaking down Mel Kiper’s three-round mock draft

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Mel Kiper has the Seahawks going corner and center in rounds 2-3

Mel Kiper insists this isn’t a projection (using capitals for emphasis) but it does give us another projection, errr, I mean list of names to run through as we consider options for the Seahawks in rounds two and three.

There’s a pay wall involved but basically we need to concentrate on the range from pick #45 up to #63 and then the end of the third. Kiper’s piece again highlights the possible attraction in moving up in the second frame versus staying put.

At #45 the Vikings take Dorial Green-Beckham. This could be the earliest he starts to garner consideration. We’re going to see a cluster or receivers go in the first round and that doesn’t help DGB. The likes of Nelson Agholor are going to be seen as athletic, consistent and safe. Good solid first round picks who can contribute early. Phillip Dorsett also falls into this category. Kiper has Agholor at #14 to the Dolphins and Dorsett at #31 to the Saints. Both picks could happen.

Eventually Green-Beckham is just going to provide too much value, too much upside. I’m sure several teams are going to be looking at moving up for him.

The Seahawks might be able to get into this range for the cost of the fourth round pick acquired from the Saints in the Jimmy Graham trade. It depends what counter offers are out there. It depends on a teams determination to move down. A team like Cleveland at #43 might be willing to move down if, for example, they give up their two first round picks to move up for Marcus Mariota. However, the latest report from Jason Cole has the Chargers moving up for the Oregon quarterback.

What a deal that would be for the Titans. You get the #17 pick, some change and Phillip Rivers? Talk about a bounty. At the same time, it could be a smart move by the Chargers too. Rivers is soon out of contract. It’s not often you get to replace an ageing long term quarterback with a highly rated prospect like Mariota. By accepting the situation they can solidify their long term future at the position for some initial growing pains. And they don’t even lose a single first rounder to make the move. Look how much it cost Washington to move from #6 to #2 for RGIII in comparison.

Back to the topic at hand. Can the Seahawks jump the Vikings for DGB? Again, yes if the right team likes the deal enough to drop deep into the late second. It’s a solid class with O-line depth in particular stretching into round three. Is that enough to consider dropping twenty spots in round two? Unlikely but not impossible. It might take a bit of extra spice to get it done.

Kiper has Devin Funchess leaving the board at #48, Tyler Lockett at #52 to Philadelphia and Sammie Coates to Carolina at #57. You can see the second run on receivers, leaving limited options for Seattle at #63. If they want to attack the receiver position in round two, they almost have to move up. It’s looking that simple. For a fourth and some change you have a chance to acquire a first round talent — a field-tilter according to Mike Mayock (DGB).

It’s an enticing proposition.

In this mock the top receivers are gone at #63 and Kiper isn’t including trades. For me in this position they’re likely to take the best O-liner on their board. Ty Sambrailo has the potential to play multiple spots on the O-line and would be a nice fallback option here. He leaves the board at #84 (Philadelphia) but could easily be a second round target for the Seahawks.

Instead Kiper has Seattle taking Florida State corner Ronald Derby. It’s an interesting pick because while he has plenty of athletic qualities and the ability to work the slot — he’s also fairly limited to that role. The nick corner is more important today than at any point in the leagues history. Is this a priority though? Derby tested very well at the combine but for a team that has consistently found starting corners later on, this seems like a high pick. You wouldn’t rule it out though.

The mock again emphasizes how difficult it could be to fill the greatest needs at #63 (receiver, guard, tackle). Unless they are smitten with Sambrailo, it could be a tough sell. Without wanting to labor the point, this is why it’s very easy to see them moving up this year. They haven’t done it often under Schneider and Carroll, but this might be as good a time as any.

In round three (#95) they get Oregon center Hroniss Grasu which appears to be great value and shows that they don’t necessarily need to go O-line at #63. The options in the middle rounds this year are pretty much as good as it gets. Grasu has nice length and size, he’s a technically gifted player and he’s a good fit for the ZBS.

In terms of my most recent seven-round mock, there’s some crossover here. I had the Seahawks moving up to take one of DGB, Lockett or Coates in round two (all somewhat attainable) and then taking South Carolina running back Mike Davis in round three. Davis is still on the board in Kiper’s mock at #95.

We don’t have to wait too much longer to find out what the Seahawks are going to do on day two. Finding ways to manipulate picks to get their key targets at center, guard and receiver seems like the key.

Mario Edwards Jr. to meet with the Seahawks

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

This is an intriguing development. As Garafolo notes, the Seahawks would probably have to trade up to have any shot at drafting him. So what’s the deal?

Jason La Canfora wrote a piece recently suggesting the media were missing a trick by not mocking Edwards Jr. in the first round:

“Why aren’t any of you guys writing about Mario Edwards?” one evaluator asked. “I look around the Internet at these mock drafts and I don’t think I’ve seen him in the first round in one of them. He’s not showing up in any of them. I think you’re missing on him. He’s going to surprise some people. I think he goes in the first round. In this [not overly talented] draft, he’s definitely a first-rounder for me.”

For what it’s worth, in my years of dealing with this particular scout, he has been overwhelmingly right. He’s a big reason why I called for Deone Buchannon going in the first round before last year’s draft. The hard-hitting safety largely was considered a mid-round guy who ended up going 27th overall. And this phenomenon occurs seemingly every year, be it Bruce Irvin or Tyson Alualu or Kyle Long. It’s part of the process, and reactions I got from some evaluators regarding Edwards was pretty telling.

Some were loathe to talk about him because, well, they would prefer I not write this column. They would prefer no one shine a light on Edwards. When the same names of defensive linemen show up over and over in mock drafts, you get a lot of smiles in the scouting community. They’re perfectly fine with it. They don’t want a lot of hype about a kid who they think may be falling through the cracks.

La Canfora suggests Edwards Jr. could be a top twenty pick, naming the Minnesota Vikings at #11 as a possible landing spot.

I haven’t mocked him in any of my two-round projections because, quite frankly, his 2014 tape is incredibly average. He isn’t a good pass rusher. Yet nobody can deny his potential and upside. If you want evidence of his freakish athleticism, well here you go:

Mike Mayock recently named him as one of the biggest draft risers:

“Back in August, he was over 300 pounds. At the combine, 279 — 272 at his pro day. Now he looks like a base defensive end who can kick inside on sub-packages. That gets some teams excited.”

However, Mayock also adds:

“The question is, though, now that you’re paying him as a second-round pick, which guy are you getting, the 300-pounder or the 272-pounder with an edge?”

So La Canfora is saying potential top-20, Mayock round two. If teams are having that kind of debate internally, why wouldn’t the Seahawks take a look? Is he intriguing enough to consider moving up for? We’ve debated a lot about how they might trade up for one of the top eight receivers in the class. If they are starting to believe none of those options will fall beyond the #50 pick (allowing them to spend one fourth rounder to move up 10-12 spots) are they looking for alternatives?

Are they of the opinion that none of the realistic options at #63 provide value so moving up is what they want to do? Whether it’s for a receiver or another position?

If that is the case, it makes absolute sense to take a look. According to La Canfora there’s little chance Edwards Jr. drops beyond pick #50. If he’s a second rounder as Mayock projects (and a second rounder with some question marks) — it’s a possible target.

Just not, in my opinion, at defensive end.

He’s 6-2 and a half, and ran a 4.84 at the combine at 279lbs. He’s since slimmed down to 272lbs. He has 33-and-a-quarter inch arms and recorded a 10′ in the broad jump. He’s not a sack artist (7.5 in three seasons) and that is the main issue here. He doesn’t look like a natural pass rusher. At all. In terms of size and athleticism, he’s interesting. But is he just another typical FSU defensive end who’s all style and no substance?

His dad played corner in the NFL so the bloodlines are there. You just wonder if they view him as a project to work inside — perhaps as a full time three-tech. He has the ideal height and weight for that (if he gets back up to the 285lbs range). He plays the run well enough and he ticks the right boxes in terms of arm length (minimum 33-inches). He’d still be a bit of a project but he offers so little excitement as an edge guy.

If we’re talking about a pure DE I’d put him behind even the likes of Frank Clark (see below). He’s a better 3-4 end where the stoutness would provide some benefit against the run. As a 4-3 D-end? I’d pass in round three. There’s just nothing off the snap, no juice. No great get-off or speed. Clark’s a bigger pass rusher but still finds a way to impact a game with splash plays. Edwards Jr’s total lack of production at FSU isn’t a coincidence. Was he too big? Very possible. But it’s a gamble to assume he can be effective 20lbs lighter. You might still be left with a weak edge rusher who suddenly isn’t as effective versus the run.

You don’t see great hand usage — the most underrated skill (in my opinion) for a D-end. If he isn’t winning with speed or get off let’s see a great bull rush or the ability to swipe away a tackle and compete to the quarterback or ball carrier. Too often he just gets tangled up in a pointless battle out of the play, failing to disengage.

Part of these visits will be to really find out what you’re getting. I suspect Seattle met with South Carolina running back Mike Davis because his 2013 tape is vastly superior to the 2014 stuff. He’s struggled with conditioning. So how good is he? How dedicated is he? Bringing him in could be about answering those questions. This could be the same situation with Edwards Jr.

Even if he falls a bit, they’d have to believe he’s one heck of a three technique in the making. It still feels somewhat inevitable that Seattle’s first pick in this 2015 draft will involve a move up to get a receiver or the best offensive lineman on their board at #63.

Let’s also not rule out the possibility of a smokescreen or some advanced scouting. Is he a well known target for another member of the NFC West? You can never rule anything out — although Seattle has consistently drafted from their pool of visits. I imagine they’re genuinely intrigued by Edwards Jr. and want to find out more.

I also wanted to pass on this article by Matt Hardman. He has Dorial Green-Beckham rated as his #1 receiver in this class:

He certainly runs more routes than given credit for, and that was apparent in his Reception Perception study. Even with inconsistent route running technique, he effortlessly separates from coverage. Those same movement skills translate to when he has the ball in his hands. If he is put in the right role, Green-Beckham will amass up a ton of yards after the catch in the NFL. It would certainly help if he had some better route and technical skills, but even without them, there is nothing he cannot do on the football field.

We’ve debated DGB’s ‘special’ qualities and how they compare to several other more athletic receivers in this 2015 group. Essentially, none of them can do what DGB does. None ’tilt the field’ like DGB (Mike Mayock used that term to describe him). He may not fall into range beyond pick #50 (although there’s every chance). Out of all the receivers the Seahawks might trade up for, he remains the one to monitor the closest.

Jaelen Strong’s stock could be impacted by the news he’s fractured a bone in his wrist. Ian Rapoport says Strong will need surgery at some point this year.

We mentioned Frank Clark earlier…

Last month we discussed Clark in two articles here and here. He could go anywhere from rounds 2-5 (or even later depending on how teams view the red flags). He is a terrific pass rusher though.

ULL’s prolific pass rusher Christian Ringo also has a visit scheduled in Seattle. Here’s some tape:

A final note today — Virginia Tech’s athletic offensive tackle Laurence Gibson will meet with the Seahawks. He only has one year of starting experience but excelled at the combine and could easily be a day three target.

Under Carroll & Schneider, Seahawks draft for the offense

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Since 2010, Seattle’s early picks have been consistently invested in the teams offense

Given Pete Carroll is a defensive minded coach, it’s not surprising that the Seahawks have been overwhelmingly offensive-minded in the first two rounds of the draft since 2010.

You often see examples of this. A defensive coach knows what he wants. He’ll back himself to produce a capable unit. The Seahawks found stars at cornerback, linebacker and safety shopping in day three. They fit key free agents into the defensive line. They’ve crafted the #1 defense in the NFL without investing a lot of draft stock.

Carroll’s expertise isn’t offense — although it’s very much his vision on that side of the ball too. By means of compensation it appears they’ve focused the draft to build the offense. Just look at the ratio in the first two rounds since Carroll’s arrival:

First round picks

2010 — LT, FS
2011 — RT
2012 — DE
2013 — WR (Harvin)
2014 — WR (after trading down)
2015 — TE (Graham)

Ratio: 5:2 to the offense

Second round picks

2010 — WR
2011 — G (after trading down)
2012 — LB
2013 — RB
2014 — RT

Ratio: 4:1 to the offense

They’ve spent three times as many first and second round picks on the offense compared to the defense. If you included the third round it’d be even more significant. Seattle invested their 2011 third rounder in quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, their 2012 pick in Russell Wilson and their 2014 pick was used in the Percy Harvin trade. So far they’ve only spent one third rounder on a defender — Jordan Hill in 2013. They didn’t own a third round pick in 2010 because the previous regime used it to draft Deon Butler.

I’m not big on trends because you have to judge every class on its merits. You also have to judge shifting needs, injuries, free agent signings and more. So much goes into impacting what you do in a draft. Yet it’s somewhat interesting that Seattle has focused so much stock on the offense.

That isn’t about to change either.

They’ve already spent their 2015 first rounder on Jimmy Graham. They’re likely to focus on the offensive line and wide receiver in this class. All signs point to the #63 pick being used either on a receiver or the top offensive lineman on their board. It also remains a distinct possibility that they’ll move up to target a specific wide out should the right player fall into range.

The Seahawks also maintain the #1 defense in the NFL and haven’t lost any significant parts this off-season. Replacing O’Brien Schofield is achievable on day three (he had two sacks in 2014). The addition of Cary Williams allows them to target cornerbacks between rounds 4-7 (where they’ve had so much success before). Signing Ahtyba Rubin takes some of the pressure off drafting depth in the interior D-line.

On offense the needs are much stronger. They have to find competition to start at guard and center. Luckily this is a rich draft for both positions and they should have no issue addressing those needs, even if they wait until the fourth round. They need a kick return specialist who can double up as a role player on offense — essentially filling the shoes of the largely ineffective Bryan Walters.

They also need a receiver who can grow and develop with Russell Wilson over the next 5-6 years. Jermaine Kearse could be gone in a year, while Doug Baldwin is only contracted until the end of the 2016 season. Paul Richardson’s future is in doubt after a second serious knee injury in his career. Kevin Norwood and Chris Matthews are still in the ‘prove it’ category. It would make a lot of sense to target a dynamic receiver who can contribute in 2015 while growing into a preferred and reliable target over time.

Let’s also remember — Jimmy Graham is 29 in November. He should be able to play to a high standard for at least another 2-3 years but it’s possible he’s not a long term addition. Is he another Tony Gonzalez? Or will that 6-7 frame start to gradually break down in his early 30’s like a lot of other tight ends?

Does Wilson need ‘his guy’? Does he need someone he can have a real chemistry with? Maybe, maybe not. It’s inevitable though that he faces greater pressure as an eventual $100m quarterback. That pressure will only grow with further responsibility — something he has to expect when Marshawn Lynch retires. It doesn’t mean Seattle will suddenly start throwing more. They might have to make more of the times they do throw, however, with Lynch no longer wearing out defenses.

When they’ve got their O-liners (the fourth round still looks like a sweet spot there) they can look at the gems on defense. A possible pass rusher for the edge and inside. A corner. They will probably consider adding a safety (although Dion Bailey showed promise last year). This will fill out the depth.

Essentially there’s not a great deal the Seahawks can do to improve defensively. Even though they ranked 5th overall on offense (according to Football Outsiders), there are still obvious potential improvements. The high ranking was based around a prolific run attack. Reaching the #1 spot on offense and defense is achievable next year if they can improve the passing game.

If you doubt whether the Seahawks will consider drafting a specialist kick returner — consider the #19 ranking on special teams. That was a considerable drop from 2014 (#5). Part of it was injuries hitting the depth. Part of it was the total lack of even a moderate kick-return threat. Walters was a fair catch specialist (only half joking). Adding a legit return man and gaining a little more fortune with injuries presents the greatest possible opportunity for improvement in 2015. The Seahawks could prioritize this area given it’s such a fixable issue.

I sense there’s still room for a ‘luxury’ pick. And by luxury what I really mean is ‘planning wisely ahead’. A player who won’t contribute much this year but potentially has a vital impact in 2016. Although the Seahawks have generally attacked needs early in each of the PCJS drafts, they showed in 2013 with the addition of Christine Michael two things:

1) They know how difficult it’s going to be to replace Marshawn Lynch and are being especially prepared for that eventuality

2) They have no issue drafting a possible ‘running back of the future’ early

If they see a running back they like, if the value fits, if it means being particularly prepared one year before Robert Turbin is a free agent and Lynch possibly quits, I think they’ll be willing to take that step. The stars possibly don’t align to make this a reality. It certainly can’t be ruled out, however, just because football rhetoric in 2015 undermines the role of a great running back. Seattle’s offense will always be focused on the run. That’s not the case for most other teams.

If you missed it, here’s my most recent seven-round Seahawks mock draft.

Mike Mayock has eight receivers with a first round grade

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Mike Mayock likes the 2015 class of receivers

In a business that demands accuracy, Mike Mayock’s rankings and grades have become a little more ‘informed’ over the last couple of years. Can you really blame him?

It’s no surprise that Mayock’s infectious passion for the game has afforded him the opportunity to become close to a number of coaches and executives. Neither is it a surprise they’re willing to share information. He’s never one to seek approval or be ‘first’ (like it even matters). He delivers draft information in a way nobody else can. He’s a national treasure.

This week he revealed he had eight receivers with a first round grade. That may well be true — but we could interpret this as their are eight receivers that could go in round one. Not all of them will, of course. Only five went in the first frame last year despite a historically talented class.

With John Schneider declaring he’d given out 16 first round grades this year, I think it’s unlikely Mayock would commit eight names at one position (unless 50% of Schneider’s list is filled with receivers). Again, this is probably a big hint that teams like the group overall and many are considering taking a receiver early. I think we’ll see five or six taken on day one. The question is — who?

In his recent top-five’s list at each position he had Breshad Perriman moving up to #4. This is developing into a consensus view. There’s often no smoke without fire and the likes of Mayock, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay do speak to teams and scouts. They’re all touting Perriman in round one. They don’t get everything right — but when certain bits of information catch fire this late in the process, it’s often accurate. It seems like teams have done their homework on Perriman and have determined he warrants a top-20 selection. We’ll probably see Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Devante Parker join him in that range — with the only debating point whether it’s Cooper or White to leave the board first.

There’s growing momentum that Nelson Agholor will go in round one. He was linked to the Eagles last week. Now Mayock is listing him as one of the biggest risers in the class. Again — as teams have done their work and started to finalize their boards, it appears Agholor has been graded highly. If there really are only 16-18 genuine first rounders this year — it opens up the possibility for a prospect like Agholor to rise. He’s very athletic, consistent, hard working and he has special teams value. He’s a solid pick with a high percentage chance to contribute.

The Eagles can probably move down a few spots and take him in the 20’s, with several teams jockeying for position with an expected late first round rush on offensive linemen.

Let’s say Cooper, White, Parker, Perriman and Agholor are gone by the #25 mark. Is there room for one more? Absolutely. It could be Jaelen Strong — an athlete with great ball-skills who struggles to generate separation. It could be Phillip Dorsett — a sprinter who does a very good job at getting open but lacks size. Or it could be Dorial Green-Beckham — the wildcard.

And this is where it gets interesting. Mayock’s thoughts on DGB add another layer to our recent debates. He is talented, no question. But where is he going to go? There’s very little first round buzz — but it could happen. If teams share Mayock’s concern, he could legitimately fall into the deep second round. Yet he’s still regarded as a first round talent:

“I have no idea what to do with him. He has no clue and he didn’t play in 2014 — but he tilts the field.” — Mike Mayock

Herein lies the intrigue for me. Some teams will look at him and nod in agreement at the “no clue” remark. They’ll agree that they don’t know what to do with him. But there it is. “He tilts the field.” A phrase we hear so often from Seattle’s two power-brokers.

Christine Michael was in a similar situation. He fell out with the coaches at Texas A&M and landed in the dog house. He lacked maturity. Yet he tilted the field with extreme athletic brilliance. They took him in round two. I suspect several teams didn’t even have him on their board.

That pick hasn’t worked out, but I don’t think it’ll make the Seahawks gun-shy. Green-Beckham isn’t Michael. He has different issues, different demons to battle. Bob Stoops and the coaches at Oklahoma have done nothing but praise the guy — and they gave him a ton of visible support at his pro-day despite the fact he turned his back on the Sooners without playing a single down.

If there is a team that will take on this challenge, I think it could be Seattle. It’s just a case of whether he falls far enough to become an option. Mayock grades him as a first rounder. It hints at a dilemma within several war rooms about where he should be selected. It’ll only take one team to end any possibility he lands with the Seahawks.

If you were wondering, though, why they might trade up to take him — this is the evidence. Mayock has him as a first round talent for a reason. And he’s keeping him in that range for a reason too. He could’ve just played it safe and said seven first round grades. Green-Beckham is basically Seattle’s only chance to get a first round level talent in the late second. Possibly their only chance to get a player who genuinely “tilts the field”.

Every one of Mayock’s ‘elite eight’ could be gone by pick #40. If that happens, there’s not much you can do. You probably take the best offensive lineman on your board at #63. However — you have to believe the Seahawks would love to add a truly dynamic receiver. They don’t need depth at the position, or another specialist. They need a potential game changer. They need ‘the man’. That’s what DGB could be.

You also have to wonder about the curious timing of Mayock dropping Jameis Winston below Marcus Mariota. Have the Buccs done a bit of digging here? Followed him around for a while? Have they found some information they don’t like? I don’t think it’s something to just write off, that’s for sure.

What kind of receiver does Seattle need?

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Kenny Bell could be an option — but he’s more of a specialist

Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell is popular within this community and for good reason. He’s a 4.38-4.42 runner with great character. You see flashes of real tenacity in his play. I think his blocking ability is slightly overstated but he’s certainly willing. He’s competitive, wins the contested ball and ticks all the character boxes.

I also think he’s a good example of a ‘specialist’ receiver.

Bell, essentially, is a role player. He’s more of a straight line runner. He won a lot of 1v1 battles in college due to the threat of his speed. He was afforded a decent cushion and it opened up the comeback or the back shoulder for the quarterback. There was the occasional deep shot too and he made some vital plays. At the next level his speed will be less of a factor against biggest, faster, more physical players. He will be challenged at the LOS — consistently. He’s going to need more of a counter, he’s going to need to develop several ways to get open. He’s 6-1 and sub-200lbs. He’s skinny.

The Seahawks have maximized players like this. Ricardo Lockette drifts in and out a season. He was the key target on a successful downfield bomb against Denver in week three. He was also the beneficiary of Seattle’s read-option ‘pop-pass’ in week one. In the biggest play of the biggest game of the season — they were throwing at Lockette. Yet he’s never been a consistent feature, despite his fantastic size/speed combination.

Bell’s role in Seattle would probably be similar. And that’s fine. If you draft him later on and are realistic with your expectations, there’s nothing wrong with drafting Kenny Bell. He could theoretically replace the soon-to-be 29-year-old Lockette. This piece isn’t an argument against Seattle drafting Bell because he does carry the kind of characteristics the Seahawks admire. It’s an argument against this type of receiver being the missing link alone.

Instead of a younger, cheaper, skinnier Lockette — they need someone who can be more than a role player.

I’m not sure the addition of Jimmy Graham is the last attempt by this team to dramatically improve the passing game. And that’s why I think there’s a realistic chance they move up in round two.

Doug Baldwin is contracted until the end of the 2016 season. Jermaine Kearse is set to play under a restricted free agent tender. Paul Richardson is recovering from the second serious knee injury of his career. There are long-term question marks about your three key receivers on the roster. The likes of Kevin Norwood and Chris Matthews have a chance to develop their roles going forward — but they’ve got to prove it. Are they likely to develop into legit game changers? They both turn 26 this year.

Receiver is quietly a long term need. There are no assurances over Richardson’s return. Kearse could be gone next year and Baldwin will probably want to test free agency in 2017 (his contract was set up to make it a possibility during his prime). Chemistry between receiver and quarterback cannot be underestimated. It makes sense to try and bring in a player who can work with Russell Wilson and establish a partnership that lasts over the next 5-7 years.

And not just any player, either.

While the Seahawks have reached two Super Bowls mainly using the core of Baldwin and Kearse (they did have Golden Tate in 2013) it’s also one of the few positions on a loaded roster where you can make a genuine case for dramatic improvement. Just because Seattle has won with a bunch of overachievers doesn’t mean they can’t be even better with established difference makers. They’ve been trying ever since Pete Carroll arrived to add a dynamic target — Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin. Now they have Jimmy Graham. Why stop there?

Imagine the offense with a game-changer on the outside to go alongside with Graham working the inside? It wouldn’t even be a luxury. Seattle has a franchise quarterback, the number one defense in the NFL and a number of key stars signed up for the long haul. They trust Tom Cable to put together a functioning offensive line and the depth is there in the later rounds this year to find starters on day three. Receiver is one of the few areas of the team they can upgrade.

Yes — Matthews could be the guy. I’m not sure you can assume that’ll happen based on one game. At the very least it would make sense to proceed as if he won’t be the answer, while letting him compete to fill the role. Let’s see if he can win the job, not just hand it to him because of one game (even if it was the Super Bowl).

Taking all this into account, I suspect the Seahawks will at least leave the door open for the potential to move up and target one of the top 5-9 receivers in a great group. As of today, I see it playing out one of three ways in round two:

1. Trade up using a fourth round pick (as Philadelphia did last year) to target a specific impact receiver

2. Stay at #63 and assess the remaining options at receiver

3. Take the best offensive lineman on the board

Trading up isn’t as simple as just having the intention to do it. You’ve got to find a willing trade partner and agree to a deal. The right player has to fall to a certain point. A few things have to land for this to become a possibility.

There’s every chance the right deal doesn’t materialize or the right player doesn’t fall. That’s the draft — and it’s why taking a player like Ty Sambrailo (for example) is still a distinct possibility at pick #63.

If the right receiver is within your grasp though — why not be the aggressor for once? You’ve got eleven picks. You didn’t lose a pick in the Graham trade, you just swapped a first for a fourth. Whether you pick ten times or eleven times, you’re going to have the opportunity to fill a few needs. Whether it’s Mitch Morse, Terry Poole or another — you will find attractive O-line options in the middle rounds.

So what is the ‘right’ kind of receiver?

Again it comes back to the earlier talk about Kenny Bell being more of a ‘specialist’. The Seahawks have used a few players like that. What if you can get someone who can be that consistent force on the outside? Someone who is either the true #1 or someone who just finds a way to consistently make big plays in the way Golden Tate did? This isn’t just about size and speed (although that would help). It’s about finding a true difference maker, whatever the skill set. Nelson Agholor and Phillip Dorsett could just as easily fill that role as a big receiver. I just happen to think they’ll both be long gone by the early second round.

The player most likely to fill the role remains Dorial Green-Beckham.

Are you ever truly gambling on a player towards the end of the second round? Perhaps. It’s still a reasonably high pick. What isn’t a gamble in that range? Let’s look at Seattle’s recent history in round two:

2010 — Golden Tate
2011 — traded out, took John Moffitt
2012 — Bobby Wagner
2013 — Christine Michael
2014 — Paul Richardson & Justin Britt

They went with what constitutes a ‘safe pick’ in football rhetoric — a meat-and-potatoes guard in 2011. Moffitt is out of the league. They’ve genuinely benefited from the Tate and Wagner picks and yet haven’t suffered after taking a chance on Michael.

The Seahawks will draft from a position of strength for the next few years. There will always be a need or two (this year is a good example of that) and they will need to replace certain players who are sacrificed to keep the core together. Yet while ever that core remains, they will feel good about their chances of contending. Very few teams can take the kind of chances Seattle can afford right now.

The big thing is not to add a disruptive force to the locker room or anything that will further impact team chemistry.

Personally I don’t think DGB is that kind of player. He didn’t have a stable upbringing and some of the things he was accused of during his time in Missouri are troubling. He also kept his nose clean during his year in Oklahoma and you wonder if moving away helped. Did the Mizzou exit act as a wake-up call?

I suspect Green-Beckham is a bigger risk to himself rather than Seattle’s locker room (or anyone else’s for that matter). Will he let himself down? Will he let the team down? Those are the questions to ask — not whether he’s another Percy Harvin-style disruptive enigma. I think we can say with some confidence that he isn’t.

Tony Pauline told us he wouldn’t take DGB in the top-50 and I think a lot of younger, less competitive teams will take that stance. The key contenders with veteran locker rooms will consider drafting him, albeit outside of the top-50 picks. There are too many established teams from #50-#63 for Green-Beckham to last until the Seahawks. If you want him, you probably have to move up a bit.

What is the worst case and best case scenario for such a move?

Best case
You draft a player who looked like a world beater in high-school with limitless potential. You could end up with a genuine #1 receiver to compliment Jimmy Graham. You can still find good offensive linemen in the middle rounds in this draft.

Worst case
Green-Beckham gets into trouble, the decision to draft him is criticized and you wasted a second round pick plus a fourth to move up on a player who already had red flags attached.

Can the Seahawks risk the worst case scenario trying to make the best case a reality? Again, they’re one of the few who can. They’re not scared to be criticized either — that much is clear.

For me the off-field concerns with DGB don’t sit well but the risk factor (at least in terms of expense) is less severe in round two. He’d take up a cap hit of less than a million dollars in his first two years, never going higher than around $1.2m during his first contract. Financially it’s a not a concern. It’s a high pick but as the Moffitt situation showed — even when you go the ‘safe’ route it can backfire.

Sometimes taking a chance does pay off. It certainly did for Seattle with Marshawn Lynch and for Dallas with Dez Bryant.

Look at the draft last year. Martavis Bryant fell to the fourth round due to character concerns. Would he last until the fourth round in a re-draft? I think we know the answer. Sometimes you have to be willing to take a calculated risk. Is the second round too early for that? It’s debatable.

I’d go as far to say the character concerns come a distant second to DGB’s issues against press coverage. He’s too easily re-routed, he doesn’t always play up to his size. He dominates and frustrates in equal measure. You could easily see his will destroyed during his first camp against the LOB. Or, alternatively, he could grow and mature in the face of that challenge. That’s probably what the Seahawks are trying to work out as they edge closer to the draft.

The thing is — he’s 6-5 and 237lbs while running in the 4.4’s. He could probably drop 10lbs and go faster, while not suffering any negative impact to his game. When he gets into full stride he has that gliding effect — a rare quality for a big receiver like this. He has surprising mobility in the open field plus a genuine ability to take the top off a defense. That’s so rare for a player of this size. If he can get stronger and become more physical — watch out. The potential is limitless.

Kenny Bell or Tre McBride or Stefon Diggs or Justin Hardy later in the draft might be able to come in and contribute in a smaller way, possibly eventually replacing one of the existing role players. Imagine this offense though with not just one dynamic game changer — but a pair of size/speed dynamo’s to go with a thriving running attack and a prolific quarterback?

You’re not likely to find that in any of the names mentioned above. The middle rounds could be saved for the offensive line — the options are good and it’ll be a nice sweet spot for tackle converts moving inside with plus athleticism. Even if the Seahawks go with a Ty Sambrailo at #63, it would make sense to still utilize the O-line value in rounds 4-5.

It’s often said Seattle don’t need special receivers because they don’t throw as much. On the contrary — they actually need to be better than average. If you’re throwing less, the margin for error is smaller. You need to max out the opportunities. Some of Seattle’s more agonizing defeats in recent years came as a consequence of bad receiver play.

Role players will always have a part to play in Seattle’s offense and the likes of Bell could be drafted for that reason. But the Seahawks can genuinely improve at receiver — and become a very scary team indeed — by finding ‘the man’. Their #1.

First round mock draft with trades

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Could Phillip Dorsett be a first round target for several teams picking late in the second?

Just for fun.

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
A foregone conclusion for some time, Winston will be trusted to get the most out of a potent arsenal of receiving options. The question is — will the Buccs trade back into round one to get an offensive tackle to protect their new quarterback?

#2 TRADE Cleveland Browns — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
The Browns have been chasing a franchise quarterback for some time. They spent first round picks on Brandon Weeden (2012) and Johnny Manziel (2014). They’re still trying to fill this void. They have the ammunition to move up with two first round picks. The Titans collect the #12 and #19 picks plus a mid-round selection and a conditional 2016 pick based on Mariota’s performance as a rookie.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
Some teams will grade Cooper as one of the top two prospects in the draft alongside Leonard Williams. He’s a very natural receiver with the technical qualities and grit to have an immediate impact. He offers Blake Bortles a true #1 receiver. The Jags had the sixth best pass rush in the NFL last year. They can manufacture pressure. They need to help their young quarterback.

#4 Oakland Raiders — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
The Raiders would like Cooper in this projection but he’s off the board. Williams remains. They take him as the best player available with the intention of going receiver in round two. They could even trade back into the first to get their guy.

#5 TRADE Miami Dolphins — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
The Dolphins reportedly want to make a splash. They can get a receiver at #14 but they won’t get one of the top two. The Redskins are said to be looking to move down. They luck out and get a deal similar to Sammy Watkins trade a year ago. The Dolphins — in win-now mode — give up their 2016 first rounder to jump above the Jets.

#6 New York Jets — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
They would’ve liked a shot at the top two receivers but fall back on Fowler Jr. The defense is pretty set in New York — solid up the middle, talented at corner. They just need an edge rusher. Fowler Jr is the missing piece for a formidable unit.

#7 Chicago Bears — Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska)
There are definite similarities between Gregory and Aldon Smith. Both were quite green entering the league with major upside potential. Vic Fangio worked wonders with Smith and might see a similar project with Gregory. They need a true 3-4 linebacker.

#8 Atlanta Falcons — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
The Falcons watch the receivers and quarterbacks go early and smile. They know they’ll get a nice defensive option here. Beasley is a dynamo off the edge with elite burst and athleticism. He’s stronger than you’d expect for his size. A pure stud.

#9 New York Giants — Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon)
The Giants love size and length. Armstead can line up inside and out — playing some three-tech and some edge too. He’s a really versatile compliment to the other players on New York’s defensive line.

#10 St. Louis Rams — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Whether they play him at guard or tackle this makes a lot of sense. The Rams need to make the O-line their priority and could even use their second round pick to make a further addition. Would they even consider moving back into the first for the right player? It’s time for St. Louis to deliver and be a bit more aggressive.

#11 Minnesota Vikings — Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
The Bengals drafted multiple first round corners for Mike Zimmer and the Vikings could use a similar approach. Waynes is a nice fit for the scheme — he’s physical, long and fast.

#12 Tennesee Titans — Bud Dupree (LB, Kentucky)
They traded down to this spot from #2, possibly with the intention of revamping their defense. Dick LeBeau is on board and this is going to be a rebuild based on the Steelers. Dupree is athletic, tough and would be an ideal fit at linebacker in that scheme.

#13 New Orleans — Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
Some of the over-the-top hype on Shelton has died down. He’s still a solid addition, especially for a team prioritizing defense. The Saints lack a hard-nosed, mobile nose tackle for their 3-4 scheme.

#14 Washington Redskins — Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)
Jones is an incredible athlete and the tape isn’t bad either. Don’t be shocked if a team falls in love and drafts him in the top-15.

#15 San Francisco 49ers — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
They brought in Torrey Smith but need to keep adding players for Colin Kaepernick. They can’t rely on Anquan Boldin forever and Vernon Davis is nearing the end. Parker’s length, consistency and speed will appeal.

#16 Houston Texans — La’el Collins (T, LSU)
They can use him at right tackle or guard. A very versatile, talented lineman who doesn’t always drive people off the line but has enough overall quality and upside to go in the top-20. He looked great at the combine.

#17 San Diego Chargers — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
Somebody has to bite in round one. The Chargers need a playmaker and while Gurley probably starts the year on the PUP list he’s a legit top-10 talent without the knee injury.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Breshad Perriman (WR, UCF)
His stock is rising and it looks like he’s going to go in round one. The Chiefs signed Jeremy Maclin but could double-dip to fully solve their problem at receiver.

#19 Tennessee Titans — Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
Their second pick acquired from the Cleveland Browns. Tennessee has a need at corner and Peters’ physical style, ability to play the ball and penchant for turnovers will appeal to a team that has to face Andrew Luck twice a year.

#20 TRADE Carolina Panthers — D.J. Humphries (T, Florida)
The Panthers move up and swap picks with Philadelphia for the price of a mid-round pick. The Eagles know they can get their guy at #25 and the Panthers want to jump ahead of Cincinnati to get the player best suited in this class to play left tackle.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
The Bengals might prefer Flowers to Humphries anyway. He’s extremely underrated. Technique wise he isn’t orthodox with a slightly odd kick-slide but he’s a punishing blocker with great size and loves to drive defenders off the line.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
This would be a great pick for the Steelers. Collins is the best safety in a weak class. For that reason he could easily land in the top-15. Troy Polamalu is coming close to the end. Collins has a similar attitude to the game with terrific range.

#23 TRADE Baltimore Ravens — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Harold just seems like a Ravens type of player. Intense, incredibly athletic, great leadership qualities. He could easily be a top-tier pass rusher in a couple of years. The Ravens flip picks with Detroit to get ahead of Arizona, giving up a modest outlay (mid-rounder). The two teams have previous (Haloti Ngata trade) and the Ravens did trade up for Michael Oher in 2009.

#24 Arizona Cardinals — Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
They need an edge rusher but the Ravens have taken Harold off the board. They could fall back on Shane Ray. However, they also have a need at corner. Collins provides too much value here.

#25 Philadelphia Eagles — Nelson Agholor (WR, USC)
The Eagles moved down knowing they could still land Agholor here. They acquire an extra pick in the process. He replaces Jeremy Maclin, providing speed, good hands and underrated big-play ability.

#26 TRADE Jacksonville Jaguars — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
The Lions trade down into the top-end of the second frame. They know the options will be good on the O-line and at defensive tackle. The Jaguars give up a 4th rounder to jump ahead of the Dallas Cowboys to select Melvin Gordon. They need a feature runner. Imagine how explosive that Jaguars offense could be with Amari Cooper, Melvin Gordon and Julius Thomas supporting Blake Bortles.

#27 Dallas Cowboys — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
With Gordon off the board this becomes an easy pick for the Cowboys. They take Brown to improve their interior pass rush. They can wait until the second or third round to get another running back with Gordon off the board.

#28 TRADE Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
There’s a bit of buzz this week with Mel Kiper and Lance Zierlein both quoting sources claiming Ogbuehi will go in the first round. We’ll run with it for now. The player says he’ll be ready for training camp despite an ACL injury at the end of the season. He needs to get stronger but he has the mobility and supreme length to play left tackle for a long time. The Broncos move down for an extra fourth.

#29 Indianapolis Colts — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
He’s a really odd shape — bottom heavy without definition. That could be a concern for teams as he doesn’t really look the part of a left tackle. On tape, however, he’s a very natural blind side blocker. The type Indy needs.

#30 TRADE Oakland Raiders — Phillip Dorsett (WR, Miami)
The Raiders wanted to sign Randall Cobb. Dorsett isn’t an identical comparison but they share similar traits (safe hands, extremely fast, know how to get open). The Packers probably want to move down before taking the top inside linebacker on their board. Reggie McKenzie knows enough people in Green Bay’s front office to make this happen for a modest outlay.

#31 New Orleans — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
The issue for Shane Ray is I suspect many teams will like him — they just won’t love him. He’s undersized and had a disappointing workout at the Missouri pro-day. He might slip a little as teams address bigger needs and debate what his best fit is.

#32 New England Patriots — Eric Rowe (CB, Utah)
The Pats watched their two starting corners walk away in free agency. Rowe is big and athletic. They need to address this position early or risk missing out altogether.

The players dropping into round two

T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
I wanted to fit him in somewhere. There’s just too much upside to ignore. However, if the likes of Cedric Ogbuehi are being rated in the first round again — someone has to fall out. It’s unlikely to be Andrus Peat. Clemmings needs time and that works against him. He looked very raw at the Senior Bowl.

Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
Another player that deserves to go in the first round based on upside. Defensive tackle isn’t a position you see drafted too early too often unless a player really stands out. Goldman is a very good run stopper and flashes enough pass rush ability. Is he a game-changer or just a really good player? And are there enough teams with vital needs at defensive tackle?

What it would mean for the Seahawks

Six receivers are off the board. The likes of Jaelen Strong, Devin Smith, Dorial-Green Beckham, Tyler Lockett and Sammie Coates remain. There are enough options left to make a trade-up possible. A lot of the teams needing a receiver have already addressed the position. At least a couple of good options are likely to remain on the board beyond the #50 pick. That’s the range where the Seahawks can consider using one of their fourth rounders to move up.

With the likes of T.J. Clemmings, Cam Erving and Jake Fisher lasting into round two it also increases the chance of Ty Sambrailo lasting until pick #63. Earlier today Adam Caplan put out the following Tweet:

Caplan also suggested the Seahawks were in the running to sign Charles Tillman before he signed a one-year deal with the Panthers today.

Waiting on the O-line & addressing needs the Seahawks way

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Prospects like Mitch Morse provide the Seahawks with a lot of flexibility

Part of the planning that goes into a draft is working out when and where to solve certain problems. Last years draft is a great example of this.

The Seahawks didn’t own a third round pick due to the Percy Harvin trade. It seems they wanted to accumulate extra picks in the fourth round to target specific players (Cassius Marsh, Kevin Norwood, Kevin Pierre-Louis) before taking a receiver and a right tackle with their first two picks.

They got their receiver in Paul Richardson — that was the easy part. It was a rich class of receivers. They could trade down twice from #32 and still find an option they liked. In truth they probably could’ve traded down again and either still landed Richardson or found an alternative. We all know how good that 2014 class of wide outs was.

The tough part was getting the tackle. They’d passed on the likes of Joel Bitonio by trading down from #32 to target Richardson. At pick #64 they were left hoping and waiting. Justin Britt was a surprise choice. Graded by many as a later round prospect, nobody expected to hear his name at the end of the second. Without the third round pick the Seahawks knew if they didn’t take a tackle at that spot they’d have to wait until the fourth round. By that point Britt could be gone — and the picks they’d earmarked for Marsh, Norwood and Pierre-Louis would have to be used elsewhere.

They’d pretty much decided to take the best tackle on their board at #64 whatever the situation. I think at the time Tom Cable was quoted as saying they needed to take a guy they liked with that pick — or simply risk missing out altogether. So they took Britt.

The Seahawks have done this quite a few times. I recall being told by a source before the 2012 draft to expect a pass rusher in round one. No alternatives. They were able to trade down to #15 and have their pick of the entire pass rush class. They made a conscious decision to go in that direction. They’d identified the sweet spot for that position.

Speed at linebacker was also said to be a priority in the first two rounds — so we projected Mychal Kendricks to Seattle in the second frame. Personally I didn’t expect Bobby Wagner to remain on the board as a fringe first round prospect. As it happens he was there for the Seahawks and Kendricks was not. Again — they had a need, the options were good. They earmarked that range to address the position.

It comes down to identifying rounds where you can problem solve. Finding the sweet spot in a draft that allows you address a number of different issues.

Looking at this year, it’d be easy to point at guard as the biggest need, or center. It doesn’t mean you necessarily go in that direction with your first or second pick. If the options in rounds 3-5 are strong and you know you can wait to fill a need with another player you like, it’s something to consider. The Seahawks probably won’t feel the pressure they did a year ago when they drafted Britt in round two. The O-line depth is particularly strong in this class.

The Seahawks, in fairness, have done a better job than most finding the right spots in a specific class to target key positions. They have forced things at times (Britt) but they’ve also found unique value (Sherman, Chancellor, Maxwell, Wilson, Wright).

The 2012 draft was perfectly executed. While a lot of people expected the Seahawks to target a quarterback early (prior to the Matt Flynn signing) or go after a guard like David De Castro — they knew what they wanted to do. Irvin was considered a major reach but he fit what they were looking for early. They believed the options in the front seven (speed, speed, speed) were better in the first two rounds. Quarterback — despite being the huge gaping void on the roster — well they waited until the third round. They knew that would be the sweet spot for the guy they really wanted (Russell Wilson). Instead of taking a guard early (like many expected or hoped for) they take J.R. Sweezy in the seventh round. A D-line convert. He’s since become Seattle’s most consistent offensive lineman.

I think we’ll see a similar situation in this draft when approaching the offensive line. They could use the overall depth to find their guys on day three. There’s a cluster of really good, athletic, high-character O-liners likely to be available in that range.

The hype surrounding Missouri’s Mitch Morse is legit. The more you watch the more you see a classic developmental lineman who can play guard or center. He has the tackle experience Seattle likes, the athletic qualities they need and the maturity you expect from a Tom Cable project. He’s very much in the Britt/Sweezy camp in terms of grit, character, athleticism and street-fighter style.

Mike Mayock called him a ten-year starter at the Mizzou pro-day.

The Seahawks will know all about him — he’s tight with Britt (see the video below) and I suspect they’ve spent a lot of time watching Mizzouri over the last couple of years. It’s become a NFL production line in recent years.

It wouldn’t be a big shock if they targeted Morse in round three if they are concerned about an interested party in round four. Again, it’ll be about finding the range where you can land a prospect like this. Rounds 3-5 seems like a fair projection. And if you can’t land him — you just move on to the next guy on your list. There’s a cluster of mid-round options from Terry Poole to Laurence Gibson to Ali Marpet and so on.

In fact they could double down on the interior O-line in round four — perhaps targeting a Morse and Poole pairing? If you think it’s a reach, well that’s just part of the approach. How many times have the Seahawks been accused of reaching? I’m just using those two players as an example. They’ll identify the sweet spot for guards and centers and go for it — regardless of the reaction. I’m not convinced that sweet spot will be pick #63 in the second round.

This is the reason I had them going receiver and running back early in my recent seven-round mock. I think with hindsight it was optimistic to expect Morse to last until the fifth. I went WR/RB early not because I felt those were Seattle’s biggest needs — I just think they can find great value (in their mind) at those two positions in rounds 2-3. Plus the O-line value later will also appeal.

We’ve discussed the depth at receiver and the options there. Yet if you’re going to save rounds 3-4 to address the lines, you’re inevitably going to miss out on some of the value at receiver. Again, it’s about the plan you formulate. If you can move up a few spots from #63 and get a receiver you really like — and still get your guys on the O-line in rounds three or four — isn’t that a water-tight solution to the three biggest needs on this team?

It’s very easy to say you would rather wait on a receiver. If you’ve decided as a team the guys you really like on the O-line are third or fourth rounders (in the same way the quarterback you really wanted in 2012 was a third rounder) you’re not going to have the same opportunity to look at the receivers going in that range.

Those picks are already spent.

This could all change of course if there’s a major first round rush on the wide outs. By pick #50 if all of the good options are gone there’s not much you can do. I’m not sure I expect all of the options to be gone — but it could create more of a BPA approach to the late second in that scenario. I think we saw that in 2013 — running back (Christine Michael) wasn’t a big need after all. Still — by now teams should have a good idea on how things are going to play out. They can formulate a plan for that scenario too. I think a good receiver option will linger in the late second and you can get a guy you really like for the cost of a fourth rounder to move up. If not — Ty Sambrailo (if available) looks like a very good alternative. In that case you can look at receivers in the middle rounds because a pick is free’d up.

Let’s expect another structured game plan this year — targeting certain positions in the correct sweet spots and not being a slave to the biggest needs at pick #63. The Seahawks have succeeded with this kind of approach so far.