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Breaking down Lance Zierlein’s mock draft

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017’s Lance Zierlein posted his second mock draft today. Time to compare it to the one we published yesterday and see who was available for Seattle at #26.

Zierlein’s pick for the Seahawks: Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)

“Brantley has some of the same play traits that former Seahawk Brandon Mebane had, but I think Brantley has a chance to be an even more impactful player.”

Brantley’s stats were only so-so in 2016 (2.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL’s) but he’s a highly disruptive presence at his best. The problem is, he tends to drift in and out. There are games where you barely notice he’s on the field. At other times, he was unstoppable.

A lot of fans want the Seahawks to add a dynamic interior pass rusher but Seattle’s 4-3 under scheme emphasises gap control and discipline from the starting defensive tackles. The Seahawks want to stop the run, create lanes for the linebackers to make plays and force teams to be aggressive against an opportunistic secondary. Their best interior rushers have been specialists — Clinton McDonald in 2013 and Jordan Hill in 2014. This isn’t a position the Seahawks have drafted early in Pete Carroll’s tenure — and it wasn’t one of the positions he named as a priority need at the end of the season (CB, LB, OL).

Haason Reddick is off the board at #22 to Miami, Garett Bolles lasts until Houston at #25 and Ryan Ramcyzk is drafted at #23 by the Giants. If they get this close to #26, this might be the year to move up. Bolles is probably going to go in the top-15 if not the top-10. Reddick and Ramcyzk could also go in the top-20.

Players available at #26 in Zierlein’s mock who were off the board in our latest projection:

Deshone Kizer (QB, Notre Dame)
John Ross (WR, Washington)
David Njoku (TE, Miami)
Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)

Obviously the Seahawks won’t be in the market for a quarterback — but if Kizer and Mahomes were still on the board at #26 it might create an opportunity to trade down.

John Ross is getting knocked at the moment due to his injury history. This will likely change when he runs a 4.2 or 4.3 at the combine.

This mock is indicative of the kind of options that could be available to the Seahawks at #26. Good players will fall. It’s just a shame in this case it’s Ross, Njoku and Harris and not players at the stated priority needs (CB, LB, OT).

Other players also available to Seattle:

Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Adoree’ Jackson (CB, LSU)
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
Kevin King (CB, Washington)
Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
Rasul Douglas (CB, West Virginia)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Cordrea Tankersley (CB, Clemson)
Dorian Johnson (G, Pittsburgh)
Tyus Bowser (LB, Houston)

There are a lot of nice options available. If they wanted to go linebacker they could consider Jarrad Davis, Zach Cunningham or Tyus Bowser. There are options at cornerback with Kevin King, Gareon Conley, Quincy Wilson, Rasul Douglas, Adoree’ Jackson and others. If they wanted to draft a ‘Buffalo’ nickel, Obi Melifonwu, Budda Baker and Justin Evans are still on the board.

This highlights that even if great options like Bolles and Reddick aren’t there for Seattle, they’ll still have plenty of options. And if they’re gone — trading down seems likely with so many possibilities out there at positions of need.

On a different topic, this is unfortunately going to severely impact Takk McKinley’s draft stock:

Although he’ll perform at the combine, he’ll be racing to be healthy for the start of the season.

Field Gulls are posting a combine preview I wrote so keep an eye out for that. A combine podcast will also be dropping with the UK Seahawkers hopefully before the weekend (recorded yesterday).

Updated two-round mock draft: 22nd February

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

This image sums up the way Haason Reddick plays

I did a combine-related podcast with the UK Seahawkers earlier today that’ll drop tomorrow. In the meantime here’s an updated two-round mock draft.

The projection contains trades. Explanations below…

Trades explained

San Francisco trades #2 to Washington for Kirk Cousins
Daniel Jeremiah suggested yesterday there’s a greater than 50% chance Kirk Cousins is traded to San Francisco. If it happens this year, it’ll have to be for the #2 pick won’t it? And if a parting with Washington is inevitable next year, aren’t they better off getting what they can now?

Arizona trades #13 and a third round pick to Cincinnati for #9
The Bengals are happy to move down and the Cardinals want to get ahead of Buffalo to select a quarterback.

Cleveland trades #33 to New England for Jimmy Garoppolo
The Browns need an answer at quarterback and sweeten this deal by offering a conditional 2018 pick too.

Round one

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 Washington (via San Fran) — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Chicago — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#4 Jacksonville — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#5 Tennessee — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#6 New York Jets — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
#7 LA Chargers — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#8 Carolina — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#9 Arizona (via Cin) — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#10 Buffalo — Deshone Kizer (QB, Notre Dame)
#11 New Orleans — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
#12 Cleveland — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#13 Cincinnati (via Ari) — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#14 Indianapolis — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#15 Philadelphia (via Min) — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
#16 Baltimore — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#17 Washington — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#18 Tennessee — Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
#19 Tampa Bay — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
#20 Denver — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#21 Detroit — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Miami — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
#23 New York Giants — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#24 Oakland — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
#25 Houston — Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
#26 Seattle — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#27 Kansas City — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
#28 Dallas — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
#29 Green Bay — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#30 Pittsburgh — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
#31 Atlanta — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
#32 New England — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, LSU)

Round two

33. New England (via Cle) — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
34. San Francisco — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
35. Jacksonville — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
36. Chicago — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
37. LA Rams — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
38. LA Chargers — Malik McDowell (DT, Michigan State)
39. New York Jets — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
40. Carolina — Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
41. Cincinnati — Alvin Kamara (RB, Tennessee)
42. Philadelphia — Rasul Douglas (CB, West Virginia)
43. Buffalo — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
44. New Orleans — T.J. Watt (LB, Wisconsin)
45. Arizona — Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
46. Baltimore — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
47. Indianapolis — Cordrea Tankersley (CB, Clemson)
48. Minnesota — Dorian Johnson (G, Pittsburgh)
49. Washington — Tyus Bowser (LB, Houston)
50. Denver — Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
51. Cleveland — D’Onta Foreman (RB, Texas)
52. Tampa Bay — Marcus Williams (S, Utah)
53. Detroit — Teez Tabor (CB, Florida)
54. Miami — Ryan Anderson (LB, Miami)
55. New York Giants — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
56. Oakland — Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
57. Houston — Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
58. Seattle — Taylor Moton (T, Western Michigan)
59. Kansas City — Dan Feeney (G, Indiana)
60. Dallas — Chidobe Awuzie (CB, Colorado)
61. Green Bay — Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)
62. Pittsburgh — Curtis Samuel (WR, Ohio State)
63. Atlanta — Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)
64. New England — Gerald Everett (TE, South Alabama)

Seahawks round three picks (native pick & Bruce Irvin compensatory pick)

Howard Wilson (CB, Houston)
Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)

Seahawks notes

— The Seahawks address all of Pete Carroll’s stated needs (CB, LB, OL) in the first three rounds by taking Reddick, Moton, Wilson and Luani.

— Why is Reddick arguably the ideal pick at #26? He can line up the SAM, he can spell Wagner or Wright at the MIKE and WILL. He can rush the passer when asked, he can cover. He has the gritty backstory. He’s 6-1 and 237lbs — Bobby Wagner was 6-0, 241lbs entering the league. Carroll stated he wanted a guy to compete with their two studs at linebacker — Reddick can do this and fill the void left by Bruce Irvin.

— Seattle is stuck either side of the first and second rush on cornerbacks. We know, however, they are comfortable waiting on this position. They haven’t drafted a cornerback earlier than the fourth round under Carroll and John Schneider. Here they take one in round three.

— Taylor Moton might be better suited at guard but he has similar length and size to Justin Britt who they tried at right tackle. He can compete at 2-3 different spots, an aspect Seattle values.

— If Haason Reddick and Jarrad Davis weren’t there at #26, trading down would appeal. Seattle could move down a few spots and still target one of Kevin King, Quincy Wilson, Rasul Douglas, Obi Melifonwu, Budda Baker or Zach Cunningham (to name a few). So while the Seahawks don’t trade down in this projection — you can see how likely it might be if the likes of Reddick, Davis, Bolles and Ramcyzk are gone.

— I spent a bit more time studying Quincy Wilson yesterday and feel like I’ve been underrating him. However, the 4.6 he ran at the 2013 Nike combine (and his 32-inch vertical) could end up being a tie-breaker in a deep CB class. If he performs a lot better in Indianapolis keep an eye on him. He’s physical (unlike a lot of CB’s in this draft), long, has production (allowed fewer than 40% completions when challenged) and the confidence of a pro-corner.

Seahawks off-season predictions & possibilities

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Supporting Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright could be a key off-season target

— No big splash in free agency. The Seahawks have some cap room but it’s the 24th most in the league according to Spotrac. A big move for someone like Calais Campbell isn’t impossible but it’s unrealistic. Campbell earned $11.25m, $14.75m and $15.25m in the last three seasons and he’s good enough to justify a continuation of that level of salary.

— Seek value on the O-line. The Seahawks are not known for signing second rate players on first rate money. Spending $10m a year on a player like Ricky Wagner hasn’t been their thing. With the likes of Russell Okung expected to be available and possibly Jason Peters and Jared Valdheer, Seattle can check out different options and hunt for value. It might not be what fans want to hear — but they genuinely might be willing to continue developing their own guys instead of signing an ageing veteran with injury history just to appease the masses.

— If there’s going to be a creative move it might be on the O-line. Is there a trade out there to be made, possibly involving one of their third round picks (assuming they receive a third round comp pick for Bruce Irvin)? The only problem is — the dearth of talent at offensive tackle becomes so obvious when you start to scour the depth charts for possible targets. The league has a left tackle problem.

— Add depth to the D-line in free agency. The Seahawks have consistently had success bringing in cheap veterans in this area. There are some nice options this year that might not break the bank — such as Dallas’ Terrell McClain. Would they also consider adding another EDGE — for example Jabaal Sheard or Connor Barwin if he leaves Philadelphia?

— There’s a desire among the fan base to see a dynamic interior rusher added. Seattle’s defensive scheme, however, places a large responsibility on gap control and discipline. While the Seahawks need that 5-6 sack presence they had in 2013 (Clinton McDonald) and 2014 (Jordan Hill) they might be focusing on finding a cost-effective solution considering the lack of options in free agency and the early rounds of the draft. Finding someone who is relatively cheap to compete with Quinton Jefferson might be the plan.

— What veteran running backs are available? If the Panthers cut Jonathan Stewart, he’d be intriguing. Pete Carroll has often spoke of his respect for Stewart going back to the USC vs Oregon days.

— Pay Kam Chancellor. Without doubt Chancellor proved in 2016 he is the beating heart of this team. With cap room available, the priority needs to be paying Chancellor even if it’s a deal similar to Marshawn Lynch’s golden handshake before retirement. Seattle needs Kam.

— Let Jimmy Graham play out the final year of his deal. There’s little reason to do anything else right now. If you want to move on in 12 months you’ll likely get a nice comp pick down the line. The franchise tag for tight ends in 2016 was $9.118m. This is less than Graham’s 2017 cap hit. If they want to retain him beyond 2017 and can’t agree on a long term deal, they can simply use the tag.

— When Carroll talked in detail about his desire to draft another linebacker, this was arguably the most revealing nugget in his end of season press conference. Bobby Wagner (99.35%) and K.J. Wright (97.41%) played virtually every defensive snap in 2016. Keeping them fresh — not just for 2017 but to extend their careers — might be a bigger priority than fans imagine.

— This could match up with how the Seahawks view the first round of the draft. Yes they have other needs (CB, OT). The best option at #26 might clearly be a linebacker. The top two tackles (Bolles & Ramcyzk) could be off the board. Five or six corners might be gone by Seattle’s pick. And while the CB depth extends deep into day two, that isn’t the case at LB. Simply put — if Haason Reddick, Jarrad Davis and/or Zach Cunningham are there, it might be an obvious case of BPA at a position of need.

— We know the Seahawks are comfortable drafting cornerbacks without spending first round picks. So unless a player like Kevin King proves to be an athletic freak or Adoree’ Jackson actually is 5-11 and has the requisite length, they might be willing to wait on this position until day two. With as many as 6-7 cornerbacks possibly going in round one — the key for Seattle is to identify when the second wave occurs.

— Haason Reddick in many ways is the ideal pick at #26. He has the athletic profile, production and gritty backstory. He’s a sound fit at the SAM but he’s capable of spelling Wagner or Wright at the MIKE/WILL. Jarrad Davis is more of a MIKE/WILL but is highly athletic, intense and plays with the same ferocity as Wagner/Wright. Both Reddick (6-1, 237lbs) and Davis (6-2, 238lbs) have similar size to Wagner (6-0, 241lbs) entering the league and a similar athletic profile.

— The wildcard is the notion of a ‘Buffalo’ or ‘Big nickel’. It could be that Reddick and Davis aren’t there at #26 or they might simply love the potential of Obi Melifonwu, Budda Baker, Justin Evans or another. Jeremy Lane (71.39%) played the fifth most snaps on defense in 2016 so they played a lot of nickel. Spending a first round pick on this position wouldn’t be a luxury. It could also help the Seahawks provide greater depth at safety and tap into arguably the superior positional class in this draft.

— Melifonwu, Baker and Evans appeal for different reasons. Melifonwu is a greek god type of athlete, Baker plays like a Seahawks defender while Evans is expected to dominate the combine and he’s a ferocious hitter. All possess the range and athleticism to play in a 4-2-5. If the linebackers and offensive tackles are gone — this type of player feels like a very possible option at #26.

— Keep an eye on Washington State’s Shalom Luani. They might be able to add a ‘big nickel’ later on. He might be as good as the names listed above. Deone Bucannon is tipping Luani to emulate his role in Arizona at the next level. It’s not unrealistic for the Seahawks to get their ‘Buffalo’ without spending a first round pick.

— While the Seahawks might not be able to get at the likes of Garett Bolles or Ryan Ramcyzk in round one — and overall it isn’t a good O-line draft — there will still be some options on days 2/3. Dorian Johnson, Antonio Garcia, Roderick Johnson, Taylor Moton, Dion Dawkins, Chad Wheeler and others exist. We’ll learn more about potential targets at the combine thanks to TEF.

— There will be options at linebacker in round two but then there might be a drop. Houston’s Tyus Bowser is a name to monitor.

— A possible plan could be: R1 — Linebacker, R2 — O-line or cornerback, R3 — O-line or cornerback, R3 (comp) — Shalom Luani. This would address the key needs emphasised by Pete Carroll in his press conference within the first three rounds.

Guest post: Kenny Sloth on linebackers

Monday, February 20th, 2017

This article was written by contributor Kenny Sloth

Every year at his end of the season conference, Pete Carroll has stated several target areas he has in mind for the upcoming draft. One of these target areas was extrapolated upon, at length, by Carroll, who had a great deal to say about his linebacker depth and the competition behind his all-everything starters. And Pete would never lie to us, so they are definitely, definitely, for sure, going to pull the trigger on a LB. 100% positive.

To better prepare myself for that eventuality (and to give you guys a reason to think I’m cool), I took to the Draft Breakdown archives, in an effort to familiarize myself with some of these players’ traits and skill levels before having quantifiable athletic traits to apply to each tester and wanted to share my findings. Note; I reviewed only prospects that had at least some 2016 game tape available at Draft Breakdown and were listed as ‘pure’ LBs (hence Haason Reddick’s notable absence).

As always, the views below are based on my own observations and evaluations and do not reflect any insider information or Rob’s own opinions of these prospects.


1. Reuben Foster, Alabama- Great fit in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense seems destined for the top 12. Cerebral and a leader. A true Blue Chip Draft Prospect. Just pray he doesn’t end up in the NFC West somehow.

2. Jarrad Davis, Florida- 4-3 MIKE or 3-4 WILL. This guy is a plug and play LB that can feature at MLB or WLB in Seattle’s 4-3 under. Could slip slightly and would be a steal at our native pick.

3. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt- 3-4 ILB or 4-3 OLB. Cunningham is a very smooth athlete which lends itself nicely to his versatility. He reminds me of KJ Wright because of his incredibly long arms. Can play soft and quiet at times, which is wild because there are some hitters on that Vandy D — but rarely is Cunningham out of position. Sidesteps most blocks instead of stacking-and-shedding. A leader on that defense. He maybe can’t play SAM as well as some would hope but I personally view the strongside as better for the lengthy, slower, KJ Wright, while a more athletic WLB would have better range than the hyper-cerebral Wright.

4. Kendell Beckwith, LSU- One of the best options for 3-4 ILB in this draft. Listed at 255lbs with the giant bubble to match; Beckwith is the definition of Thicc. Sneaky quick with an eyebrow raising ability to knife into the backfield. Great strength to fight off blocks, never more evident than against Wisconsin’s semi-pro OL. Needs to clean up his tackling technique (he tackles like Earl with 40 extra pounds, diving for the ankles).

5. Jordan Evans, Oklahoma- 4-3 OLB, 4-3 ILB, 3-4 ILB, 3-4 OLB. If we happen to miss out on Zach Cunningham, I’ve recently stumbled upon under-the-radar prospect Jordan Evans. Hard to believe there is so little hype around such a well-respected player on a championship contender — but such is draft analysis. I digress. Evans plays with ferocious attitude making tackles from his knees and always leaving everything on the field. In his obvious athleticism, I believe he could play anywhere among a LB corps (with the right coaches). Oklahoma used him as a moveable chess piece at LB last year. Watch him single-handedly blow up that fumblerooski against Auburn in the Sugar Bowl to see how he can be used in different positions. Later in the same game he has an astounding redzone, 3rd down stop against a flying Auburn QB. The more I watch, the more I’m screaming “Why is no-one talking about this guy?!”.

6. Paul Magloire Jr., Arizona- 3-4 OLB or 3-4 ILB. A potential fit for the Seahawks at SAM or WILL, I don’t think Magloire has the chops to play inside at the next level. Decent get-off but gets stymied by blockers occasionally. He can be blocked out of plays with relative ease. Excellent second effort and pursuit, never count him out of a play. Hard tackler — needs to work on his coverage but showed well enough in that department at the Shrine Game to warrant his selection.

7. Anthony Walker Jr., Northwestern- Seems capable of playing 4-3 MLB or 4-3 OLB — he works decently at the line but I like this type of player off the ball. Recommended to the blog by several users, Walker Jr. is anomalous to me. He has excellent feet and seems quite intelligent in his on-field communication. He displays a highly competitive style and has a high motor. And yet, despite his obvious knowledge of the game, he is often out of position or over-pursuing. He strikes me as a leader and perhaps the thrill of being a rookie and doing one job will emend these bad habits.

8. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee- 4-3 WOLB. Twitchy, athletic LB, closes in a hurry. One to watch at the combine. Great feel for zone coverage. Great leaping ability but lacks the strength to attack the line of scrimmage.

9. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State- Possibly limited to a pure 3-4 MLB. Real issues with backside pursuit. When he is allowed to patrol the A gaps he is a great run-stuffer but seems ultimately limited by his inability to recognize developing plays. Strong at the point of contact and has great feet. Expect him to perform very modestly at the combine. Really sloppy technique in coverage.

10. Isaako Savaiinaea, UCLA- 4-3 OLB, 3-4 ILB, 4-3 ILB. The best fit for this player would be a 4-3 MLB position with a strong pass rush in front of him. Has some of the best coverage instincts in this class. I would consider him if you wanted to run some Tampa 2. Rips away from blockers and finishes plays, Savaiinaea (I’d love to hear Kenneth Arthur try to pronounce that one ;P ) has great instincts and could grow into a starting role.

11. Brandon Bell, Penn State- 4-3 OLB 3-4 OLB. High intensity, pursuit-type LB. Very short limbs and struggles to disengage. Athletic but limited by an inability to disengage which I find hard to see developing. His ceiling doesn’t go much higher.

12. Steven Taylor, Houston- 4-3 OLB only. Undersized, understrength, underspeed, understand? Did not see much to like at all from Taylor.

The Seahawks have consistently targeted the exact needs Carroll points out during his end of the year presser and we cannot expect this year to be any different. With the overall depth at LB, though, I’m not convinced they will feel like they are forced to take a LB on day one. That being said, if one of Davis, or, god-willing, Rueben Foster are sitting there at 26, I don’t see any reason to not expect them to be dominant players at the next level. Don’t sleep on Jordan Evans. If we did draft Hassan Reddick, I would consider him a Bruce Irvin type his rookie year. Although, I think Reddick can be much better than Bruce.​

Player I missed? Evaluation you disagree with? Let me know in the comments who you like in general and who you think would be a good fit for the Seahawks.

The Buffalo nickel — Melifonwu, Baker, Evans & Luani

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing how the Seahawks could use a prospect like Obi Melifonwu. One of the suggestions is he could be used as a ‘big nickel’ working against larger receivers and tight ends.

The Panthers drafted Shaq Thompson at #25 in 2015 and have used him as a SAM linebacker and ‘Buffalo’ nickel. So what is a Buffalo?

Essentially it’s a hybrid linebacker/safety, used instead of a traditional DB to counteract big targets and help vs the run.

Bucky Brooks noted two and a half years ago that the ‘big nickel’ look was the hottest trend in the NFL:

“The defensive coordinator will instead bring on an extra safety who acts as a hybrid linebacker/cornerback. While the nickel safety is also assigned to cover tight ends and receivers in the slot, he is a more effective run defender and possesses the size, strength and length to match up with the league’s increasing number of big-bodied, pass-catching tight ends. Thus, the coordinator has a better option for defending opponents who prefer to play “12” personnel (one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers) as their primary offense.

“With three safeties on the field, it becomes tougher for the quarterback to identify potential rushers from the second level. The constant movement and deking creates confusion at the line of scrimmage, leading to blown protection calls and misreads in the passing game. The big nickel package is also effective against the run, due to the presence of better athletes near the line of scrimmage. The overall speed and quickness of the defense improves with more defensive backs on the field, and safeties — more so than most cornerbacks — are comfortable playing in the box and taking on blockers due to their role in eight-man fronts on early (running) downs.”

There’s a defensive scheme based around the concept, as explained by John Turney:

“Buffalo was a 4-2-5 defense that showed a Cover-3 look with a post safety (or middle-of-the-field safety).”

“Nickel defense was the same personnel, but it was a 4-2-5 defense that showed a Cover-2 look, with the safeties near the hashes.”

It’s unclear how prepared the Seahawks are to adopt this type of formation. By now we know what they are — a 4-3 under defense focussing on execution.

That said, the Buffalo defense isn’t straying too much from Seattle’s current scheme. As Thurney notes, it’s a single-high safety cover-3 concept. The only difference is instead of a SAM you’re fielding a nickel. This DB still has some of the responsibilities of the SAM (defend the run, cover the TE) but you’re giving up some size to have a better athlete on the field.

This wouldn’t be a great departure for the Seahawks considering how often they fielded two linebackers and a nickel corner (Jeremy Lane) in 2016.

And while they might prefer to simply acquire a really good SAM (eg Haason Reddick) — if that player isn’t available, this seems like an alternative.

They’ve at least flirted with the possibility of using a ‘Buffalo’ type of player in the past. The Eric Pinkins project (moving him from safety to linebacker) and Brandon Browner’s return hints that they’ve considered having this type of weapon on defense. Neither was able to nail down a role on the roster.

It’s also interesting that Brooks in his piece talked about ‘big nickels’ and listed the following examples:

Aaron Williams — 6-0, 199lbs
Tyrann Mathieu — 5-8, 186lbs
Kenny Vaccaro — 6-0, 214lbs
Antrel Rolle — 6-0, 206lbs
Eric Berry — 6-0, 212lbs

None of these are players are 6-4, 219lbs like Melifonwu.

Two thoughts come to mind here:

1.) Melifonwu’s excellent size and length could make him an especially effective ‘Buffalo’. Physically he’s a closer match to the big WR/TE he’ll be competing with.

2.) The concept allows us to contemplate other players. Budda Baker (5-10, 180lbs), Justin Evans (6-0, 193lbs) and Shalom Luani (6-0, 201lbs) are physically similar to the players listed above.

All three play with a rabid intensity that fits Seattle’s defense. It might be difficult to project Baker defending big WR’s and TE’s at the next level at his size — but he’s a competitor and Tyrann Mathieu manages it. He’s also really good at making plays in the backfield and vs the run (10 TFL’s in 2016, three sacks). Evans will be one of the stars of the combine and has a reputation for jarring, punishing hits. Luani might an option beyond the first round.

You can easily imagine the Seahawks liking all three.

This does, however, detract from what Pete Carroll stated in his end of season press conference about team needs. He was quite specific about tapping into the cornerback class, adding linebackers similar to Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright in the draft and looking at offensive linemen. Unless you’re willing to call this suggestion a nickel corner, it doesn’t chime with the specified target needs.

Indeed they might be more inclined to draft one of the orthodox linebackers (Haason Reddick, Jarrad Davis, Zach Cunningham) early and work them into the line-up with Wagner and Wright. We know they are comfortable with Wright playing the SAM — it’s not a ridiculous thought to imagine Jarrad Davis and Wright rotating positions or a nice overall rotation coming into play, with the Seahawks simply continuing to use their nickel formations whenever they choose.

They could also just draft a pure nickel or outside corner at #26.

But the Buffalo concept is intriguing to the extent that it opens up the discussion on Melifonwu, Baker, Evans or Luani and how they might fit in Seattle if selected.

Is Kevin King set to run a 4.45?

Friday, February 17th, 2017

A few weeks ago we discussed the possibility of Seattle drafting Kevin King (CB, Washington) in the first round — with one caveat.

He had to have a great combine.

It’s well advertised the Seahawks haven’t drafted a cornerback earlier than the fourth round in the seven years of the Pete Carroll era. Two questions come to mind:

1. How easy is it to continue doing that?

2. What would it take to change that trend?

To answer question one, it is becoming increasingly difficult. Lance Zierlein highlights the problem:

“Speed matters, but more teams are beginning to trend toward length and takeaways over all else at the position. While there have always been teams who covet size at cornerback (including Green Bay), Seattle’s combination of Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman from years ago had to be an eye-opener for teams.”

Pretty much since 2013, teams have been looking to mimic Seattle’s approach to defensive backs. Richard Sherman likely wouldn’t be available in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. He was right there for them in 2011.

This week Kyle Shanahan talked about copying Seattle’s defense in San Francisco.

‘Their guys’ are going earlier.

Question two comes down to two things. The first is a need at the position. For a long time Seattle had good depth at corner. Unless the likes of Pierre Desir, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and DeAndre Elliott step forward in 2017, that isn’t going to be the case this year. Deshawn Shead’s injury increases the urgency to find a starter.

Secondly, it’s down to whether there’s a freaky enough athlete at #26. They’re not breaking this trend for Mr. Average, especially at cornerback. We know what the Seahawks like in round one — traits.

Kevin King has freaky potential.

At the 2016 Husky Combine he ran a 4.02 short shuttle, a 6.40 three-cone, jumped 39.5 inches in the vertical and 10-10 in the broad. If he repeats that three-cone at the NFL combine it’ll be the fastest by any player at any position. His broad jump would’ve matched Vernon Hargreaves’ effort a year ago for third best among cornerbacks. His 39.5 inch vertical would’ve also ranked third.

The only question mark is long speed.

According to Tony Pauline, that might not be a problem:

“I’m told the big corner has been running under 4.4 seconds hand-timed during combine training. When converted to electronic timing, King has spanned the 40 yards in about 4.45 seconds.

And while 4.45 is by no means an extraordinary time, it beats any expectations scouts had of King’s foot speed.

Consider the fact that scouts believed King to be a high-4.5 second corner in the 4.58-second range and that, throughout the season, speed was the sole criticism I heard about his game. The conversations usually went something to the extent of, “He [King] has the size and ball skills but can’t run.”

If he’s able to break into the mid-4.4s on the final day of combine workouts, King will cement himself as a top-45 selection.”

The average forty time of the cornerbacks drafted by Pete Carroll is 4.51. If King runs in the 4.4’s with outstanding height and length, incredible short-area quickness and explosive physical traits — he could be in contention at #26.

His tape isn’t bad either. In five games I didn’t see him beaten over the top once. He’s adept at covering crossing routes and comfortably lined up in the slot a year ago. He broke up 15 passes in 2016 — as many as Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley and one less than Tre’Davious White and Adoree’ Jackson.

Like a lot of corners in this draft he can be more physical and improve his tackling.

There are reasons why King at #26 might not happen even if he does run a 4.4. The depth at the cornerback in this draft could allow Seattle to wait until rounds 2-3 for someone like Rasul Douglas, Howard Wilson or Ahkello Witherspoon. If Haason Reddick is there at #26, he’d be tough to pass up. Obi Melifonwu might be bigger, faster and freakier. If a slot corner is the priority maybe they consider Budda Baker, Adoree’ Jackson or a Justin Evans?

Yet King remains a very intriguing option for Seattle. And if he really does run in the 4.4’s, he will be one of the big winners at the combine.

Thursday draft notes — Jarrad Davis is under-appreciated

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Tony Pauline reports Shalom Luani looks ‘very quick’ as he prepares for the combine. We’ve talked a lot about Luani and he’s one to keep an eye on in Indianapolis. His gritty background, athleticism, versatility and intensity could be an ideal fit in Seattle. He doesn’t get much of a mention in the national draft coverage — but Luani is really good.

— If you don’t include KJ Wright and his 4.71 — Seattle has drafted five linebackers in the Pete Carroll era running an average forty time of 4.48. Clearly they are willing to overlook a lack of great speed if a player has other valuable traits (Wright had unnatural length) — but it’s a safe bet that any future Seattle linebacker is going to have speed as an asset. Bobby Wagner and Malcolm Smith ran in the 4.4’s, Bruce Irvin (4.50), Korey Toomer (4.53) and Kevin Pierre-Louis (4.51) just missed out. It’s worth noting Haason Reddick reportedly ran a 4.47 at his junior pro-day and Jarrad Davis has been timed in the 4.5’s.

— Speaking of Florida’s Davis, he’s under-appreciated. His intensity, attitude and closing speed is as good as it gets. Mel Kiper mocked him to Arizona at #13 but he’s in the minority rating him that highly. Look at what he’s capable of:

Bench pressing Ryan Kelly (#18 pick last year):

Closing speed:

Coverage skills:

He’s an A* character:

If he really does run in the 4.5’s (link here) — what’s stopping him going a lot earlier than people realise?

In terms of Kiper’s mock, Haason Reddick was available to the Seahawks at #26 — as was Zach Cunningham, Ryan Ramcyzk and Obi Melifonwu. Five cornerbacks were off the board. This is why it might be difficult to justify a pick at corner unless a freaky ‘under the radar’ athlete emerges. That could be Kevin King if he repeats his 2016 Husky Combine performance in Indianapolis. The value at cornerback might be better in rounds 2-3 for Seattle — and it might be better at linebacker, safety and offensive tackle at #26.

Washington’s Psalm Wooching has announced he’s retiring from football to take up rugby. As a big rugby fan I look forward to seeing if he can make the transition and achieve his goal of playing in the Olympics.

New mock draft with trades: 15th February

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Firstly, if you missed this weeks podcast you can check it out here:

There’s a lot of speculation about quarterbacks at the moment. Jason La Canfora believes Arizona would likely need to trade up from #13 to draft Deshaun Watson — and he believes #25 and Houston might be Patrick Mahomes’ floor.

On the other hand, there’s a developing thought that maybe Cleveland would be willing to give New England the #12 pick for Jimmy Garoppolo.

I wanted to run through some quarterback scenarios and then present a mock draft to judge impact.

Cleveland — trades the #12 pick for Jimmy Garoppolo
The Browns can wait forever for ‘the guy’ and continue to lose, or they can be aggressive. They’re likely going to take Myles Garrett at #1 and Trubisky and Watson might not be there at #12. The solution might be to trade for the 25-year-old Garoppolo and hope he isn’t Kevin Kolb.

San Francisco — draft
See the mock below. The 49ers might be willing to bring in a veteran stop gap like Matt Schaub and take their punishment in 2017. The roster is bare and there’s little hope of a quick turnaround. Kyle Shanahan needs to get a QB ingrained in his system. If they want offense to be their identity, don’t they have to do this ASAP?

Chicago — sign Tyrod Taylor in free agency
There isn’t a more conservative coach in the NFL than John Fox and he’s going to want a veteran quarterback. They need it too — this is a GM and Head Coach needing to win now. They won’t get 2-3 years to develop a young QB. If the Browns want Garoppolo and are willing to spend the #12 pick, the Bears can’t compete. If they’re unwilling to shell out for Tony Romo — Tyrod Taylor could be an alternative option.

New York Jets — sign Mike Glennon in free agency
The Jets are in the middle of a transition. They need to get younger and keep adding talent. Glennon might be a worthwhile bridge to the future even if he isn’t the definite answer. There has been talk linking the Jets with Glennon.

Buffalo — draft
It’s bizarre that the Bills, despite Tyrod Taylor playing quite well, are seemingly willing to let him walk. If they have any sense they’ll keep hold of Taylor and keep drafting to develop. If he leaves they’ll need to add another veteran at a big cost or address the need in the draft. They’ve been aggressive in the past — the mock below has them being aggressive again.

Kansas City — trades for Tony Romo
The Chiefs are in win-now mode and yet every time they get to the playoffs, they never really threaten. Alex Smith isn’t a bad quarterback but he plays within himself too often. The Chiefs might be aggressive to take the next step.

Arizona — draft
The front office is already talking about life after Carson Palmer. Now might be the time to act and redshirt a rookie. If they can’t get at the top two QB’s at #13 they might be willing to move down and target QB3.

Mock draft with trades

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
This feels like a done deal, even if Garrett hopes Jerry Jones picks up the phone.

#2 San Francisco — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
It’s hard to predict which QB Kyle Shanahan would prefer. Both Trubisky and Watson are mobile and capable of playing in his system.

#3 Chicago — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
The Bears’ GM stated he wants to address the secondary as a priority.

#4 Jacksonville — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
Hooker has a chance to be Earl Thomas good.

#5 TRADE 1 Buffalo (via Ten) — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
Fearing the Jets and a possible move by Arizona, Buffalo finds a willing trade partner in Tennessee and goes up to get Watson. We’ve seen the Bills be aggressive before — and the Titans were happy to accumulate picks a year ago.

#6 New York Jets — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Mike Maccagnan is dedicated to BPA and if Fournette drops this far it’s a no brainer.

#7 LA Chargers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
He doesn’t have Hooker’s range but the Chargers miss a leader in the secondary.

#8 Carolina — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
The Panthers luck out and get a really, really good player.

#9 Cincinnati — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Allen’s ceiling isn’t as high as the likes of Fournette and Thomas so he might last.

#10 TRADE 1 Tennessee (via Buf) — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
The Titans move down and still get the best CB available, filling their biggest need.

#11 New Orleans — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
The Saints will probably look at corner and EDGE. Sidney Jones is legit.

#12 TRADE 2 New England (via Cle) — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
The rich get richer. This would be a huge get for the Pats if they can turn Jimmy Garoppolo into the #12 pick.

#13 TRADE 3 Denver (via Ari) — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
The Broncos need a long term answer at left tackle and work out a deal with Arizona.

#14 Indianapolis — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
They need to find some pass rush and Charlton has a little Aldon Smith to his game.

#15 Philadelphia (via Min) — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
In this scenario they fill their WR need in free agency and target a dynamic feature running back here.

#16 Baltimore — John Ross (WR, Washington)
They’re losing Steve Smith and Mike Wallace is due $8m in 2017. They can save nearly $6m by cutting Wallace and drafting his replacement.

#17 Washington — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
They could pretty much draft for any position on defense — but this is a CB draft and that could be the focus early and often.

#18 Tennessee — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
Having addressed their big need at cornerback, the Titans now add a target for Marcus Mariota.

#19 Tampa Bay — Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
The Buccs need to put more weapons around Jameis Winston.

#20 TRADE 3 Arizona (via Den) — Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
Having moved down seven spots the Cardinals draft Mahomes as the QB heir apparent.

#21 Detroit — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
EDGE is the biggest need in Detroit and somebody will take a chance on Bennett’s college production translating to the next level.

#22 Miami — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
They need a linebacker badly but Adam Gase loves to utilise a dynamic tight end and guys like Howard are rare.

#23 New York Giants — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
Not being able to test and only one year of tape keeps Ramcyzk on the board.

#24 Oakland — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
They rely too much on Khalil Mack for sacks. Harris can solve that problem.

#25 Houston — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
If they lose A.J. Buoye they’ll need a replacement.

#26 Seattle — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
Gritty, highly athletic and very productive.

#27 Kansas City — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Underrated tone setter and an athletic heart and soul type.

#28 Dallas — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Evans will have a sensational combine and boost his stock tremendously.

#29 Green Bay — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Need matches value here for the Packers.

#30 Pittsburgh — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
Some lingering injury concerns keep McKinley on the board.

#31 Atlanta — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
The Falcons pair Melifonwu with Keanu Neal and set up their secondary.

#32 TRADE 4 San Francisco — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
The 49ers trade up to get a much needed wide out.


— Haason Reddick is one of two possible ‘ideal’ picks for the Seahawks, along with Garett Bolles (T, Utah). Both players are gritty, have battled adversity, have great athleticism and fill needs stated by Pete Carroll. The Seahawks never truly addressed the void left by Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith. Reddick can fill it, with the ability to feature at the WILL or MIKE if required.

— If the Seahawks don’t go linebacker in round one, they could look at Obi Melifonwu, Kevin King or Budda Baker. Tyus Boswer could be a second round LB target. There will be great options at cornerback and safety from round two onwards.

Here are some other names to monitor in preparation for the combine:

Ahkello Witherspoon (CB, Colorado)
Tedric Thompson (S, Colorado)
Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
Rasul Douglas (CB, West Virginia)
Harold Wilson (CB, Houston)
John Johnson (S, Boston College)
Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)
Treston Decoud (CB, Oregon State)

— No Zach Cunningham in round one? It might be that the linebackers, as good as they are, last a little longer due to the depth of talent elsewhere. This would be good news for the Seahawks and I wanted to represent that in a mock.

— No Jabrill Peppers? There’s every chance he finds a home in round one. This weeks mock represents the sentiment that he might fall.

— Could Mike Williams really drop? He’s a good player but he isn’t expected to have a great combine. He had ten games in 2016 without topping 100 yards, despite playing in an explosive, National Championship-winning offense.

— The thing I like least about this mock draft is Leonard Fournette, Solomon Thomas and Marlon Humphrey lasting as long as they do.

Tony Pauline reported today that Wyoming running back Brian Hill has tipped the scales at 220lbs and could run in the 4.4’s at the combine. The Seahawks have a ‘type’ at running back — and this combination of size and speed is right in their zone. It’ll be interesting to see Hill and the likes of Elijah Hood work out in Indianapolis.

Breaking down Charley Casserly’s mock draft

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Charley Casserly used to be the GM in Houston. He’s worked at the NFL Network since 2006. Today he published a first round mock draft.

It’s interesting for a few reasons. Casserly is connected within the league and there’s a chance this projection reflects some of the consensus thinking on certain prospects.

Here are some points worth raising:

John Ross at #16 overall
A number of good sources have suggested Ross is destined for the top-20 and Casserly reflects that here. With the potential to run in the 4.2’s or 4.3’s at the combine, Ross could easily leave the board in this range. Yes a laundry list of injuries are a concern. Teams will do their homework. Yet the combination of an explosive release, the ability to get open and separate and take the top of the defense make Ross a DeSean Jackson type talent with none of the character headaches. Someone is going to roll the dice on his health.

Leonard Fournette at #4 overall
People are falling over themselves to knock Fournette, a genuinely fantastic talent capable of defining an offense over the next few years. And for all the talk of a diminished value in the running game — if Todd Gurley, fresh from a torn ACL, can go #10 overall — Fournette isn’t escaping the top-10. According to Casserly: “In my opinion, Fournette does some things better than Adrian Peterson.” Preach.

Cornerbacks come off the board quickly
This feels inevitable with the only challenge determining which names come off the board first. Casserly goes Marshon Lattimore, Sidney Jones, Marlon Humphrey, Teez Tabor, Gareon Conley and Tre’Davious White (in that order) in the top-25. Quincy Wilson and Adoree’ Jackson also go in round one. That’s eight cornerbacks in the first frame and it doesn’t feel unlikely this year. He also touches on some scenarios we’ve often discussed, like Humphrey and Jones being likely top-15 picks and Jackson going to Atlanta in the late first round.

Offensive tackles leave the board in a similar range
Personally I think Garett Bolles will work his way into the top-10 but Casserly’s scenario isn’t unlikely either. He has the Giants trading up to #18 to take Ryan Ramcyzk, the Broncos selecting Bolles at #20 and the Lions (potentially needing to replace Riley Reiff and Larry Warford) taking Cam Robinson at #21. Either way, the chances of Seattle getting an attractive OT option at #26 are slim.

Charles Harris goes in the top-20
He doesn’t get talked about much (possibly due to Mizzou’s poor 2016 campaign) but Harris is the real deal. He’s the type of pass rusher teams fall in love with. Great burst and balance, the ability to attack the edge consistently and you’d expect a really good 10-yard split at the combine. It feels inevitable that someone in the top-25 will take a chance on him.

The Pats get a fantastic deal for Jimmy Garoppolo
The Browns trade the #12 pick in Casserly’s mock to New England for Garoppolo. Cleveland should be made to make a formal apology to the rest of the league if they give the defending Super Bowl champions a top-15 pick. Even so, it seems Garoppolo is a target for a number of teams. And if the likes of Chicago prepare an aggressive move — Cleveland has the ammunition to beat any offer because of that high bonus R1 pick from Philadelphia.

No Haason Reddick in round one
With his supreme athletic profile, incredible production, top performance at the Senior Bowl and clear leadership qualities — it seems improbable that Reddick won’t be a day one pick. Casserly doesn’t include him in this projection. It’s not unlikely that Reddick’s floor is pick #26.

Taco Charlton drops to #30
Charlton flashed his incredible talent in the Orange Bowl against Florida State and with an Aldon Smith level of potential, it would be a major shock if he dropped this far in round one. If anything, he could force his way into the top-10.

Solomon Thomas drops to #17
It’d be an absolute gift for Washington. Thomas will have one of the more dynamic combines and with his size, versatility and character — he appears destined for the top-10. It’s always good for a prospect to go into the draft with momentum — and Thomas’ last game was a JJ Watt-esque performance against North Carolina. It won’t be a shock if the Niners take him at #2.

No David Njoku in the first frame
Njoku is just a fantastic prospect. With tight end size and receiver mobility, you can line him up anywhere at the next level. He’s the most exciting and enticing tight end prospect to enter the draft in a few years. It could be argued he’s a better prospect than any of the receivers available — and he might be a more dynamic target. Casserly also has O.J. Howard lasting until pick #32 (like the Pats need any more help after the Browns trade).

What about the Seahawks pick at #26?

Casserly has them taking Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, stating: “Thomas Rawls has proven he can’t be reliable.”

It’s easy to imagine the Seahawks liking McCaffrey because, well, what isn’t to like?

He’s highly athletic, a lot more sudden than people give him credit for, he’s tough and dynamic in equal measure, he’s effective as a runner, receiver and returner. The rest of the league needs to pray he doesn’t end up in New England with Tom Brady.

The thing is, it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks taking a running back this early who is lighter than C.J. Prosise but with a very similar set of skills. It’d be an admission they’re virtually giving up on their preferred style of physical offense. With first and third round picks invested in two running backs of this style, they’d be changing the identity of the offense probably forever.

What’s more, we know Pete Carroll recently stated Seattle’s priority needs as cornerback, linebacker and offensive line. He also stated his confidence in Thomas Rawls. The Seahawks probably will add another running back in the off-season — but the first round feels unlikely.

Who else was available? Here’s a list:

Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Rasul Douglas (CB, West Virginia)
Kevin King (CB, Washington)
Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)

The scenario Casserly projects lends itself to a trade down. Mitch Trubisky is the only quarterback taken in round one so there’s a possibility someone would move up for a QB. The Seahawks could move down into the top of round two and still secure all but one (Cunningham) of this group according to Casserly’s mock.

One other quick thing to consider on this — you might be rooting for the QB’s to fall to present a favourable trade down scenario. Yet there are major benefits in terms of players dropping to #26 if they go early.

Jason La Canfora had an interesting report a few days ago. He suggested the Cardinals covet Deshaun Watson but would likely need ‘a significant trade up’ to get him. They have the #13 pick — so it sounds like he won’t be leaving the top-10.

La Canfora also had this to say about Patrick Mahomes:

At worst he’s the third quarterback taken in the draft and I wouldn’t rule him out as a top-three pick, either, depending on what quarterback-starved teams like the 49ers, Browns and Bears do in the trade or free agent market. I don’t think he gets past the Texans in the first round.

So it’s possible Mahomes and Watson go very early — and per this report, at least before Seattle’s pick. Assuming Trubisky also leaves the board, that could lead to some nice options dropping to #26.

In my next mock draft I might look at this kind of scenario with three QB’s going early plus a bunch of cornerbacks and what it could mean for Seattle.

This is a really fun draft class. It’s easy to pine for about 5-6 different players in round one and there’ll be a ton of options in the mid/late rounds too.

Saturday notes on Ahkello Witherspoon & Budda Baker

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

Colorado is a fun team to watch with a handful of intriguing defenders on their roster. Yesterday we discussed safety Tedric Thompson. Today it’s time to focus a bit more on his team mate.

Ahkello Witherspoon is a great example of why length is important at cornerback. There are times when he concedes position on a route (it’s going to happen) but his ability to recover and make a play on the ball is really consistent. So often he’ll get a hand in there to break it up.

He’s shown the awareness to squeeze the sideline and narrow the target zone for a QB. There’s evidence he can develop into a good red-line defender and with his size and length, any throw to a tight sideline is defendable.

His statement performance came against Washington and John Ross (see the video below). I’m not sure I’ve seen a corner defend Ross better than Witherspoon in 2016. He didn’t get beat over the top and was able to stay with him downfield. One of the things Ross is really good at is creating initial separation with an explosive release. Witherspoon, again, was able to recover and get a paw to the ball.

The one area of his game that needs work is tackling. This is a similar complaint within this cornerback class. There’s a lot of really good cover corners but there isn’t a fierce, jarring hitter. There’s no Brandon Browner type, at least not based on what I’ve seen so far. Witherspoon’s tackle form is generally poor and it’s not even like he’s overly aggressive and just whiffs. You’re going to need to spend time working on this area of his game.

The good news is he has the length and cover skills to make a worthwhile project. He’s one of a number of CB’s capable of rising quickly with a strong combine.

Assessing the potential fit of Budda Baker in Seattle

We’ve talked a lot recently about the possibility of Obi Melifonwu in Seattle. At 6-4, 219lbs and with expectations of a supreme combine performance, Melifonwu is seen as a chess-piece defender. He can be challenged to cover big tight ends and wide receivers. Melifonwu could eventually work his way from safety to corner (aka the Deshawn Shead transition).

In the ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ stakes this kind of pick makes sense — especially with Melifonwu impressing scouts at the Senior Bowl and earning rave reviews from his Head Coach at Connecticut. Even the critics have to concede, this is the type of early pick we’ve seen Seattle make in the past.

Budda Baker has a very different physical profile but might also be on Seattle’s radar. It’s difficult to gauge how interested they’d be.

On the one hand he lacks the size and therefore some of the versatility that Melifonwu offers. If you’re considering Melifonwu because he can cover big targets, potentially play some outside corner, play single high, play strong safety (etc etc) that’s quite a lot of options. Baker might be limited to free safety and slot corner. If he isn’t successful defending the slot, you’ve essentially got a backup safety.

On the other hand he appears to be highly athletic with a great passion and love for the game. He’s a high intensity local player with an explosive element. Some of what makes Earl Thomas great exists in Budda Baker. You can imagine him playing for the Seahawks (or the Falcons and Dan Quinn).

If he ended up being Seattle’s first round pick, it’d make a lot of people happy. There’d be an excitement and buzz around that selection. It’d be intriguing to see how the Seahawks intended to use him — and it’d be intriguing to see another defender just flying to the ball and making plays on this defense.

If I made a list of 15-20 players I most enjoyed watching in 2016, Baker would definitely be on there.

It’s just working out if he’s likely to be on the radar. It could go either way.

His role would probably need to be similar to Tyrann Mathieu’s in Arizona. Sam Monson analysed how Arizona used Mathieu a year ago, noting the following:

The Cardinals list Mathieu as a safety, because in base defense, that’s what he plays most of the time. In their base 3-4 defense, Mathieu lines up as a safety 77.6 percent of the time—but the Cardinals only play base defense on 33 percent of their defensive snaps.

In almost all other sub-packages, Mathieu plays cornerback, primarily, though he has played in pretty much every position in the back seven at one point this season.

Overall, he has been on the field for 720 defensive snaps this season. Of those 720 snaps, 66.7 percent of them have been at cornerback (mostly slot), with just 24.4 percent at strong safety, and 8.9 percent at free safety.

Mathieu is a special player. At LSU he was phenomenal — the ultimate playmaker. And if not for a highly publicised battle with marijuana, he likely would’ve been a very high draft pick.

There really isn’t anyone like the Honey Badger.

That doesn’t mean Baker cannot do Mathieu’s role — but he’s as unique as they come.

The Seahawks would need to feel comfortable with him playing a high percentage of snaps in the slot. At least he did it in college. Baker was listed by Washington as a free safety (and he refers to himself as such) but he spent a lot of time with the Huskies operating in the slot. And he had success. You see the speed, read-and-react and the ability to close and finish. He’s a really effective blitzer too from this position and made a number of plays in the backfield in 2016.

The issue is, he’s around 5-10 and about 180lbs. Teams can scheme against that, either by putting a TE in the slot or moving their key target inside and forcing Baker to stay put or move outside. There’s a mismatch to be found here and you might always need to have that in mind. There could be entire games where you almost have to accept he won’t be a factor.

That’s the benefit of Melifonwu at 6-4 and 219lbs. If he runs as quickly as expected at the combine and shines in the agility tests — in what scenario are you fearful of a physical mismatch? How often do you have to take him off the field? He’s only three pounds lighter than Deion Jones in Atlanta. He can probably line up at linebacker, safety or in the slot. If he has to travel outside, he can probably do that too.

Also if we’re going to consider Baker as an option, we probably need to do the same for Texas A&M’s Justin Evans. He’s a similar size, hits like a hammer and is expected to have an exceptional combine too (possibly one of the best at any position). If we’re looking at undersized, athletic safety’s, Evans and Baker really have an equal résumé.

Pete Carroll’s lukewarm review of Jeremy Lane’s performance in 2016 suggests a need for competition here. That could be in the form of one of these highly athletic safety converts, it could be an explosive cornerback (even someone lacking ideal length, such as Adoree’ Jackson) or it could be someone like Howard Wilson who we discussed yesterday.

Baker has an ‘IT’ factor to his game and is the type of player you can imagine the Seahawks really admiring. Whether they’re prepared to take him with their first pick, however, is going to be a challenging question over the next couple of months.