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Maybe, just maybe, they won’t go RB early

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

We’ve talked a lot about the fixing the running game. And rightly so. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have stated, clearly, it’s a priority this off-season.

Carroll’s brand of football requires a strong running game. It connects everything together. And the last two years haven’t been good enough. Especially 2017. No rushing touchdowns inside the red zone and only one by a (sort of) running back overall isn’t going to cut it.

So whatever happens in the draft, this is the focal point. Whether it’s with new, young personnel added in two weeks or with the existing group. They simply have to get this running game back on track.

I also think we were right to focus on the prospects that would improve this area of the team. Whether that was a lengthy analysis of the running backs or a study of the interior offensive linemen available. Both were needs going into the off-season. Both positions are particularly strong in the top-50.

If they don’t focus on the running game early, it could be a mistake. Could be. If they continue to struggle to run the ball in 2018, there won’t really be an excuse. This draft class is tailor made for a team looking to give their running game a shot in the arm.

Plenty of people wondered why Seattle didn’t seriously look at Dalvin Cook, Kareem Hunt or Alvin Kamara last year. Imagine the prospect of 6-8 running backs next season having an impact and the Seahawks not owning any of them? It’ll be galling if it coincides with further injuries to Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise.

That said…

When people have suggested in the comments section that the Seahawks might ‘wait’ on a running back, I’ve often dismissed it. I think, with hindsight, that was unfair.

So today I wanted to consider some of the reasons why they might do something different…

1. Where can you get your guys?

To me as an outsider, it looks like the Seahawks have done a good job over the years identifying ‘their guys’ and where they can get them. Whether that’s having the patience to wait on Russell Wilson in round three, trading down to get Paul Richardson, Germain Ifedi and Malik McDowell or knowing when the cornerback ‘cliff’ was last year so they could still land Shaquill Griffin in the late third round.

You might question the players they targeted. You can’t really argue that they did a masterful job moving around just enough to get their guys.

Of course, it’s also possible they were too cute a couple of times. They’ve admitted as much in the past. Tom Cable admitted they had their eye on another player in 2014 before taking Justin Britt. However, in this instance they didn’t trade down and miss out. They simply took Britt with their native pick.

After studying this running back class it’s possible their ‘guy’ at the position isn’t one of the top six projected to go in the top-50. And while they know they need to fix the run and know they need to add another running back — their ‘guy’ might not be a second round pick.

If that’s the case, they’ll likely work the board to make sure they get their guy in the spot they think he should go.

2. Is Kalen Ballage deemed better value?

Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Sony Michel, Derrius Guice are all going to be early picks. They could all go in the top-50. We’re talking about a highly talented bunch.

That said, they all have their own little issues. Jones II is undersized and despite his clear and obvious star potential (and fantastic tape) he’s not had a good draft process (injury, reports of bad meetings). Johnson is an upright runner and dropped as low as 206lbs at his pro-day. With Guice it’s character concerns and maturity. Michel has never been a #1 and fumbles too much. Chubb is solid but is he quite the sensational talent we saw pre-knee injury?

Kalen Ballage also has his issues. He underachieved in college and never separated from the rest of the backs at Arizona State.

It might be the wrong approach to take (especially considering the other players produced so much more than Ballage) — but perhaps they feel like any back they take is going to need some work?

Ballage fits their physical preference perfectly. He’s an explosive tester who performed well in the vertical and broad jump. He’s 6-1 and 228lbs. That’s their type of back. He’s also shown some aggression as a runner, albeit not always consistently.

The private workout involving Ballage, Christian Kirk and Kyle Allen was extremely revealing. I don’t recall a time when both Pete Carroll and John Schneider attended such a workout. It might’ve happened many times, we just didn’t hear about it. But it did hint that they’re seriously considering adding all three players.

3. Individual talent vs positional depth

It’s possible the Seahawks have looked closely at this group and have come to the following conclusion:

‘We can get a running back we like in a later round but we can’t get a receiver/pass rusher/defensive back/tight end’

Perhaps they believe the drop off from the top 6-8 backs to Kalen Ballage isn’t as significant as the drop off from Christian Kirk to the other receivers or Isaiah Oliver to the other corners?

With so many needs to fill, identifying where you can get value at numerous positions is as important as ever.

One way to look at it is this. While the early round depth at running back is stronger than any other position there are individual players of a similar level.

For example, Austin Corbett is a fantastic talent. One of my personal top five favourites in this draft class. Is he a lesser player than the top running backs? No.

I’ve spent some time studying Christian Kirk and Isaiah Oliver since Seattle’s apparent interest became known. The receivers and cornerbacks collectively in round two don’t match the depth at running back. Are these two players on a level par if not better than some of the runners? You can definitely make that case.

Knowing where the cliffs are, identifying the range where the well runs dry — it’s vital for any team. If they end up drafting Ballage as their ‘key’ addition at running back — it might not be a review of the top runners as much as it’s a review of some of the other weaker positions in this draft.

4. Compiling alternatives

There’s a correlation between the players Seattle has met with/worked out. Many of them are similar in terms of position or physicality, yet are expected to go at opposite ends of the draft.

Justin Reid >>> Natrell Jamerson
Isaiah Oliver >>> Holton Hill
Ronald Jones II >>> Chase Edmonds/Ito Smith
Maurice Hurst >>> Poona Ford
Austin Corbett >>> Cole Madison
Kemoko Turay/Josh Sweat >>> Dorance Armstrong
Andrew Brown >>> Breeland Speaks

These could be some of the names to focus on as an ‘either or’ scenario. For example, Holton Hill could easily be the hedge for Isaiah Oliver. Get one or the other.

There aren’t any obvious comparisons for Ronnie Harrison, Christian Kirk or Dallas Goedert but that could just be a case of an unconfirmed meeting/workout/visit or they purposely want to keep interest in certain players quiet.

It could also mean if they really like those particular players, there isn’t a viable alternative available later (thus increasing the pressure to take said player early).

The Seahawks are expected to trade down from #18 into a range where the likes of the names on the left are going to be available (#25-50). It’s interesting that only one name, Ronald Jones II, is a running back. He remains a very viable option for the Seahawks. But the names above could indicate they’re going to focus on other positions (defensive back, D-line etc) early — possibly with the intention to draft Ballage in rounds 3-4 and another back on day three.

5. The ramifications of an Earl Thomas trade

There’s increasing chatter that Dez Bryant’s exit in Dallas is a precursor to a trade for Earl Thomas:

For some time now there’s been almost an inevitable feel to this. Eventually someone, probably Dallas, would make an acceptable offer. Now they have less than two weeks to make it happen — but cutting Dez Bryant at least creates the cap room to make it viable.

Mike Fisher says the #50 pick could/should be offered. It’s not the kind of haul Seattle would’ve hoped for but the trade market for Thomas is decidedly lukewarm. He turns 29 on May 7th and wants a big new contract.

Whether you agree with it or not, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that the Seahawks appear ready to deal Thomas. And if that’s the case, getting what you can now — a second round pick in a year when the second round is loaded with talent — wouldn’t be a terrible return.

It wouldn’t be a satisfying conclusion to Thomas’ career in Seattle. But neither was the end for Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and, eventually, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril.

Leaving that aside for now, lets briefly look at what a trade could mean.

The Seahawks are rumoured to be willing to trade the #18 pick to Cleveland. This would, presumably, see them net the #33 and #64 pick in return.

If they had #33, #50 and #64 in this draft class — that would be a really positive thing.

The second round is golden this year. It’ll be the round of the draft. The names that go in the second frame are going to be tantalising.

Pick three from:

Isaiah Oliver
Ronald Jones II
Christian Kirk
Austin Corbett
Josh Sweat
Justin Reid
Maurice Hurst
Andrew Brown
Kemoko Turay
Dallas Goedert

Feel free to add your own suggestions too. These are just some of the names connected to Seattle.

Despite the need to fix the running game, if the Seahawks came away with a second round haul that consisted of: Isaiah Oliver, Christian Kirk and Ian Thomas — you can’t really question the talent they’ll be adding. You can question the decision to address these specific positions — but the players themselves are very good.

And when you’re in the midst of a roster re-tool — adding talent at multiple positions isn’t illogical.

You might be able to land three players with the same grade as the guy going at #25.

So after weeks of saying fixing the run will be the early draft focus — here’s me now saying maybe we need to keep an open mind. And actually, getting three of the best value prospects available in round two might be the best way to benefit from this draft class. That could still mean a running back and a tight end early — it just might not. I need to acknowledge that.

If you missed our interview with Tony Pauline from Draft Analyst this week, make sure to check it out below…

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Notes on Seattle’s VMAC & workout prospects

Friday, April 13th, 2018

So far, 24 of Seattle’s 30 official ‘visits’ have been made public (either by the players themselves or via various reports).

Seven off-site workouts have also been revealed.

Here are notes on most of the players the Seahawks have met with…

‘Official 30’ visitors

Justin Reid (S, Stanford)
Ran a 4.40 forty at 6-0 and 207lbs. Despite that speed, he isn’t a natural rangy free safety. He does his best work up at the line like his brother. It doesn’t mean he can’t develop into a viable single-high option but there’s not a lot of that on tape. High character, strong personality. If the Seahawks end up trading Earl Thomas they might consider Reid or Wake Forest’s Jesse Bates III with an early pick.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Some people like the guy but I think they like him because of his brother… I just didn’t see it. I don’t know why the guy came out. He’s got some ball skills but he misses a lot of tackles.”

Likely range: Could easily go in the 20’s based on bloodlines and speed. Worst-case scenario is probably early round two.

Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
Only ran a 4.58 at his Pro-day at 6-2 and 207lbs. Does possess a +80 inch wingspan though and had decent explosive testing numbers at the combine (34 vertical, 10-0 broad). His hit on Kerryon Johnson in the Iron Bowl potentially changed the course of the SEC in 2017. Very much a strong safety. With a potential Earl Thomas trade in the pipeline, it’s no surprise the Seahawks are looking at the available options.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Tough guy… Plays the game the right way. Got to be coming forward. More of a box guy.”

Likely range: It won’t be a shock if he sneaks into the late first round but a safe projection is round two.

Kemoko Turay (DE, Rutgers)
Classic EDGE type and when he’s healthy and on it, Turay looks the part. He had a terrific Senior Bowl and ended the practise week as a big winner. Didn’t complete all the drills at the combine due to a hamstring injury. Didn’t do anything other than the bench at pro-day. Ran a 1.62 10-yard split at 253lbs. It’s not the ideal 1.5 but he was hampered by that hamstring issue. Comparisons to Yannick Ngakoue aren’t without merit.

Lance Zierlein: “Explosive edge defender with the coveted traits of an NFL pass rusher.”

Likely range: He’s a day two pick, possibly round three but could land somewhere in round two due to the weak pass rush options this year.

Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
A stud. Pure and simple. As we highlighted a month ago, Vander Esch compares physically to all of the top linebackers in the league. He’s one of the top 15-20 players in the draft. Explosive, instinctive, intense and quick. He doesn’t get the same hype as Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds but he might have a better career. LVE could play SAM in year one and eventually replace K.J. Wright at the WILL.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Very instinctive… Alert, active, aggressive. Square tackler. Got good range. These guys don’t get blocked because they have such a great first step.”

Likely range: Probably won’t make it to #18

Austin Corbett (T, Nevada)
He’s similar to Isaiah Wynn. They both played left tackle in college, they’re both expected to kick inside to guard. Yet neither got beat very often at tackle. Wynn and Corbett played better than Kolton Miller in 2017. Miller will be drafted first purely because he projects to tackle. We wrote about Corbett in depth here. Like Wynn, he’s a stone-cold stud. One of my five favourite players in the class.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Day one starter… He’s similar to the (Joel) Bitonio guy that came out of there (2014, second round, Browns). He doesn’t look like he should be a left tackle but just very, very, very productive. Competitive, smart (Wonderlic of 27), good athlete, good strength for his size. Just a really good player. First round.”

Likely range: He’s so good it won’t be a shock if he goes late first round. If he’s there in round two — it’s a steal.

Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
If draft grades were given out for physical measurements and testing, Sweat would be a top-five lock. He has everything — a 1.55 10-yard split, 34.5 inch arms, a 4.53 forty, a near 40 inch vertical and a 4.28 short shuttle. Quickness, length, explosive traits. Injury history (knee) and a tendency to be late off the snap are the negatives but there’s a lot to work with here. Mature, high-character player. Would be a LEO/EDGE in Seattle.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “He reminds me of the guy from there who went to the Ravens. Peter Boulware. Built like him. He’s got that kind of take-off.”

Likely range: It’ll depend on how willing teams are to take a chance on his health and how desperate they are to get a pass rusher given the limited options. Top-45 isn’t out of the question.

Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Some will view him as arguably the best defensive tackle in the draft (he’s certainly the best interior pass rusher). Others won’t like the scheme fit. Hurst is dynamite as a one-gap penetrative force. Physically though nothing stands out. His frame (6-1, 292lbs) and length (32 inch arms) could be a problem defending the run and might limit him to a role as a specialist rusher. His pro-day marks were nothing special — 4.95 forty, 1.69 10-yard split, 4.64 short shuttle. High character. Could be a Clinton McDonald type.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “I could never take the guy in the first round… He’ll get hammered if he has to play two gaps. He’s a quick penetrator. He‘s just got to fit your system.”

Likely range: A team like Atlanta could show serious interest at #26. It’s also possible he lasts into round two.

Andrew Brown (DT, Virginia)
Former 5-star big-time recruit. Neither Brown or Quin Blanding lived up to the billing at Virginia. Was that down to them or circumstance? It wasn’t for a lack of effort though. Brown gives everything on the field. He had a terrific Senior Bowl and really looked the part. Super quick short shuttle (4.48) for a 6-3, 296lbs lineman. An underrated player with a lot of potential. A possible Michael Bennett replacement.

NFL.com sources: “Great football character and he goes hard all the time. I think he has a chance to be a good pro because he’ll play inside full time and he’s got some quickness to beat guards.”

Likely range: I think he’ll go a lot earlier than expected. Possibly rounds 2-3.

Breeland Speaks (DE, Ole Miss)
Watching a Speaks highlight video feels like you’re watching a first rounder. His mobility and quickness working the edge at 6-3 and 287lbs is impressive. He rushes like a pure EDGE at times. Sadly the full game tape shows inconsistent play to go with the occasional flash. Even so, he ran a 1.65 10-yard split at his size and that can’t be ignored. Another possible Michael Bennett replacement.

Lance Zierlein: “He can be chippy and emotional on the field and needs to mature, but he has the talent and ability to continue getting better.”

Likely range: Middle rounds — but the type that could end up turning into a valued starter.

Holton Hill (CB, Texas)
Hill looks like a Seahawks corner. He’s nearly 6-2 and 195lbs with that wiry, long frame they like (32 inch arms). His short shuttle (4.15) was very good — an important test at this position. There seems to be some concern about his maturity but it’s difficult to find specific examples of this. Didn’t have a great combine in terms of the drills but it was a lousy CB session overall. I like him and he played well against Oklahoma State’s James Washington. The Seahawks often take a day three corner to develop and Hill could be the guy.

NFL.com sources: “He will fall further than he should because you can’t trust him. He needed a clean, productive season to rehab the perception around him and I felt like he should have gone back to school. He can play. He’s a Day 2 talent, but I doubt he goes there.”

Likely range: Fourth or fifth round. Ideal for Seattle.

Isaiah Oliver (CB, Colorado)
There’s a ton to like about Oliver. He’s good in press, he’s 6-2 and 201lbs and he has fantastic length (33.5 inch arms). He’ll cover a huge radius and will be able to compete with bigger receivers. At his pro-day he ran a 4.00 short shuttle which is outstanding. He looks and plays like a Seahawks corner. But how early are you willing to take a corner? Because he will not last long due to his testing numbers and size. He’s going to be an early pick.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “He’s really good in press… Off, he needs a lot of work. He’s got a lot of skills. Got good length. Not very strong. He might go in the first round.”

Likely range: A few weeks ago the third round felt likely. Now? First or second.

Dorance Armstrong (DE, Kansas)
AKA one of the guys who instigated Baker Mayfield’s infamous ‘gesture’ during the Oklahoma vs Kansas game. Shaking the cage didn’t have the impact they hoped for that day. This was a curious workout and perhaps hints at the lack of pass rush options in this draft. Armstrong ran a 4.87 forty at the combine despite weighing 257lbs. He then ran a 4.88 at his pro-day. So he’s not especially quick (1.69 10-yard split). He is a natural pass rusher though.

Lance Zierlein: “Armstrong has the tools and upside to become a complete player and good NFL starter.”

Likely range: It’s difficult to say. A drop in production last year and a mediocre combine could push him into day three.

Jacob Pugh (LB, Florida State)
Former four-star recruit who chose FSU over Alabama and Florida. Major explosive traits. He managed a near 40 inch vertical plus a 10-2 broad jump. He’s 6-3 and 246lbs with great length (34.5 inch arms). In terms of a physical prospect he’s one to watch. He’s had concussions and this will limit his stock. The Seahawks need young depth at linebacker and could see Pugh as a priority free agent.

Lance Zierlein: “Pugh needs a strong lead-up to the draft because his tape is uneven and his career production has been unimpressive. There are some traits to work with, but finding the right positional fit may be a challenge.”

Likely range: Undrafted

Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
Ford wasn’t invited to the combine and that seemed to tick him off. He’s only 5-11 but that’s not as much of a problem when you have 33.5 inch arms. He’ll win a lot of leverage battles at that height and unusually, for a shorter DT he’ll be able to extend and keep blockers off his frame. He might be a diamond in the rough as a pass rusher. Ford has a tremendous motor and plays with great effort.

Lance Zierlein: “While Ford flashed the ability to stack blocks and play with some strength at the point of attack, his lack of overall mass could make it tough for teams to see him in anything other than a penetrating, 4-3 scheme.”

Likely range: Day three is likely, somewhere between rounds 5-7

Other ‘official-30’ visitors: Foyesade Oluokun, Ito Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Khalid Hill, Devron Davis, Cole Madison, Kyle Allen, Simeon Thomas, Julian Taylor, Edward Shockely

Off-site workouts

Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State)
It’s a weird year at the tight end position. It doesn’t look like a horrendous class by any stretch. It’s just not particularly exciting. And for a lot of the bigger names, Goedert included, it’s difficult to work out where they should go. He performed well at his pro-day — jumping a 35 inch vertical and a 10-1 broad. He also had an eye-catching 4.06 short shuttle and a 6.87 three cone at 6-5 and 256lbs. The Seahawks are very likely to be in the market for a young tight end.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “He’s getting a lot of hype but I don’t quite understand why… I guess it’s just because there is nobody else. He’s just kind of a small-school guy.”

Likely range: It’s so hard to say. Some think late first. There was a time when it looked like no tight ends would be drafted in the first two rounds, though.

Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M)
If the Seahawks want to draft the complete opposite of Malik McDowell they might turn to Christian Kirk. Zero character issues, ideal attitude, consistent college performer. If they just want a good football player with minimal bust potential, Kirk’s the man. He’s a downfield dynamo and a good fit for an Air Coryell-type offense. He uncovers well in the scramble drill and he’s a special teams force as a returner. Solid but unspectacular testing numbers.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Big-time player… Excellent returner on punts and kickoffs. Explosive. Only thing that hurt him this year was the quarterback didn’t throw well. Only negative is his height. He’s well-built. Good hands. Extends and lays out. Really strong.”

Likely range: He’s trending upwards and could be a late first or early second round pick.

Kalen Ballage (RB, Arizona State)
Tony Pauline said in our conversation this week that Ballage looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane. Ballage promised a lot at Arizona State and was unable to deliver. That said, Tony also told us he’d heard Ballage’s pro-day performance was one of the best his sources had ever seen. He can run with toughness and he’s an excellent threat in the passing game. Is he ever going to be more than a compliment though? Ballage fits Seattle’s prototype at the position (size, explosive traits) perfectly.

Lance Zierlein: “Ballage can do a little of this and a little of that, but a team will need to have a clear-cut plan for how to use him.”

Likely range: Rounds 3-4

Other off-site workouts: Demone Harris, Abdullah Anderson, Manase Hungalu, Kyle Allen

If you missed our interview with Tony Pauline from Draft Analyst yesterday, make sure to check it out below…

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LISTEN: Tony Pauline on the Seahawks and the 2018 draft

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

This week I had the opportunity to speak with Tony Pauline from Draft Analyst. We talked about a number of different Seahawks topics including:

— How many times do the Seahawks want to pick in this draft?

— What does Tony think of the running back class?

– What’s the deal with Derrius Guice?

— What is a realistic trade involving Earl Thomas?

Have a listen…

Thoughts as the Seahawks workout Ballage, Kirk & Allen

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Ten days before the 2017 draft, the Seahawks worked out Malik McDowell and Obi Melifonwu. They took McDowell with their first pick.

This doesn’t mean the Seahawks are definitely going to draft one (or more) or Christian Kirk, Kalen Ballage and Kyle Allen. It’s interesting though.

They didn’t just workout Allen in Arizona either. He then made his way to Seattle for an official visit…

There’s suddenly a buzz around Allen. A former five-star recruit, his career at Texas A&M collapsed when he and others stopped seeing eye-to-eye with Kevin Sumlin. He transferred to Houston where he was benched after six games.

College career over.

He’s always had physical talent. It just hasn’t been unwrapped. He’s someone we’ll need to look at over the next few days. Clearly the Seahawks have seen something in him. He could be a late rounder or priority UDFA competing to be this years backup.

Today I wanted to focus on Kirk and Ballage.

Firstly, it shouldn’t be a major surprise if the Seahawks take both. Kirk fits the ‘all football’ style they’re looking for. He’s athletic, fits their profile at receiver and is a big play specialist. He offers special teams value and could be a compliment to Tyler Lockett or a future replacement (Lockett’s contract expires at the end of the season).

In terms of physical profile and personality, he’s the kind of player they’re looking to add. He’s probably one of the ‘safer’ prospects in the draft (if such a thing exists).

Equally Ballage fits their profile at running back. He’s 6-1 and 228lbs. He jumped a 37 inch vertical at his pro-day. He also had a 10-2 broad jump at the combine, a 4.46 forty and a 6.91 three cone.

If draft grades were based on looking the part, Ballage would be top-five.

He also had a terrific Senior Bowl. In the catching drills he looked like a natural receiver. He excelled all week in practise and during the game he delivered some of the hard running he’s occasionally flashed in college. He had a great week.

Ballage is also expected to be available at the end of day two or even day three. So theoretically, targeting him would allow the Seahawks to take a player like Christian Kirk with their first pick and still address the running back need.

If they want both players, they should be able to find a way to make it happen.

It’d be a logical plan. If the Seahawks are going to use an offense similar to ‘Air Coryell’ next season, Kirk’s ability to stretch the field would be a huge positive. He’s also adept at disappearing at the second level and becoming ‘invisible’. In the scramble drill this is vital and Kirk made plenty of big plays finding space and providing a target when the initial play broke down.

We discussed Kirk as a player in more detail here.

Ballage fits their profile at running back. We’ve often talked about Seattle having a body type at the position. Ballage ticks every box — height, weight, explosive traits. He’s also a pass-catching weapon and he plays, at times, with real aggression.

He’s always had massive potential. In September 2016 I wrote this piece highlighting him as a player to monitor:

Physicality, effectiveness, speed, size. This guy is intriguing.

His character and personality is even more impressive… Character is big for the Seahawks. So is difference making physical qualities. If Ballage continues to produce, he could be a name to keep an eye on.

Ballage made this play during the 2016 season:

Watch him on the right day and he looks terrific.

Sadly, that’s the point I want to come on to now.

Seattle’s current group of running backs don’t lack potential or upside. Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise are both fantastic athletes and had some flashes in college.

The problem with both is they just haven’t been reliable.

Carson played four games in 2017 before getting injured. In 2016 while playing for Oklahoma State he had only 82 carries. In 2015 he was a bit-part player.

Prosise has had two injury plagued seasons as a pro. Some of his injuries haven’t been overly serious leading to questions about his ability to tough it out. Is he ever going to make it through a regular season? It’s hard to have any confidence there.

Two players with major promise but for one reason or another, just haven’t been able to pair consistent production with good health.

Ballage, to be frank, would provide more of the same. Major athletic promise and a player with everything you want in a running back physically. Yet his production has been so inconsistent. I’ve watched him live in person and on TV. More often than not you’re left wanting more.

He was never the feature back at Arizona State. He was always destined for big things but never actually delivered.

His college career was underwhelming.

There are other runners in this strong RB draft that have been able to produce consistently. It doesn’t guarantee they’ll come into the league, stay healthy and become Seattle’s feature runner. At least they’ve shown they’re capable of doing it.

Ballage might succeed where Prosise and Carson (so far) haven’t. It’d also be wrong to accuse Prosise and Carson of being bad players. They’re not. When available they’ve flashed. Availability and consistency, though, is where they’ve been lacking.

Will Kirk and Ballage help the Seahawks turn back into a run-first, dominant, aggressive offense? Will they help ‘fix the run’?

The jury’s out there. Although it’s very possible they wouldn’t be relying on Ballage to be the answer at running back. They took three running backs in 2016. They could take multiple backs this year. The class is good enough to justify it.

They also have a number of different needs to fill and a limited number of picks to get the job done.

Both Kirk and Ballage have potential and talent. The Seahawks are not afraid to draft for potential and trust their coaches to get the best out of a player.

Yet this would feel like a continuation of the way they’ve done things for a while now. You couldn’t accuse the Seahawks of focusing too much on a hard-nosed, physical approach on offense. The Jimmy Graham trade, the addition of smaller, quicker receivers. The over-reliance on Russell Wilson and the collapse of the running game.

For two years they’ve been finesse. And as good as Kirk and Ballage could eventually be, we’re talking about a stretch-the-field deep threat and an athlete playing running back whose best characteristic might be his ability in the passing game.

A year ago we talked about Malik McDowell with trepidation. He was visiting Seattle, he had talent. You could see him becoming a Seahawk even if personally I didn’t expect it and doubted it. I was wrong, they took him and it didn’t work.

There aren’t any character concerns with Kirk and Ballage. They’re the complete opposite to McDowell in that regard. We’ll see if this information is anything more than interest. It’s worth taking seriously though if both Pete Carroll and John Schneider were present at the workout session.

They’ve also met or are meeting with Ronald Jones II, Josh Sweat, Maurice Hurst, Leighton Vander Esch, Justin Reid, Dallas Goedert and others. It’s possible both Carroll and Schneider were present at those meetings too.

We need to keep Kirk, Ballage and Allen in our minds though. They could easily be an early round, mid round and late round pickup in two weeks.

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Tony Pauline’s new mock draft

Monday, April 9th, 2018

When it comes to draft insiders, Tony Pauline is the best in the business. If you’re not already (and you should be) I’d highly recommend checking out his website.

Today Tony posted an updated mock draft with some interesting scenarios to consider. The Seahawks pick Harold Landry at #18. At some point they need to add another pass rusher so the pick makes sense.

The chances are, however, they’ll trade down and fill the void between pick #18 and #120. Pauline mentions this in his mock, noting he believes they’ll move down to acquire extra picks.

I wanted to focus on the round two options — assuming the Seahawks do trade down to try and regain some of their lost stock.

Pauline predicts a second round rush on running backs (as we’ve talked about a lot on here). Nick Chubb goes at #34 and is the second runner off the board. Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Kerryon Johnson and Ronald Jones II follow (in that order) and all are gone by pick #51.

We’ve been discussing the possibility of six being off the board by pick #50. Here it’s by pick #51. Close enough. The two projections match up and show why it’ll be difficult to get a top running back if you ignore the position in the top-50.

Rashaad Penny and Royce Freeman are both on the board at the end of the second round. Both are talented runners. I’m not convinced either fits Seattle or will fix the running game.

So if they trade back and want to get one of the top running backs, the top-50 is likely the range they’ll have to work in. And then it’s just a case of identifying who they want and how far you can drop.

If they traded the #18 pick to Cleveland for #33 and #64 as speculated — they would have their pick of the running backs in Tony’s mock.

At #64 they would miss out on a number of edge rushers. Sam Hubbard and Josh Sweat are gone — as is Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand. Dallas Goedert and Christian Kirk are taken off the board at #42 and #43. This kind of scenario could present a situation where they move down again. It could also bring into play a tight end like Ian Thomas who we talked about yesterday.

You only have to look at the names available in round two to see the fantastic value on offer in that round. The difference between the player at #18 and the players going in the 40’s is minimal.

This is a point further emphasised by Gil Brandt in today’s MMQB:

“This is a draft where 13 to 17 guys I could point to and say for sure, This guy’s a first-round pick. After that, there’s a lot of starting-type players who could go anywhere. Let me put it to you this way: My guy who I have 21st overall on my list could go 64th. The guy I rank 47th could go 19th.”

That’s this draft class summed up perfectly.

So why would a team want to trade for #18? Simple. If there are only two offensive tackles worthy of going in the first round and you don’t want to miss out — you move up. If you’re worried Dallas are going to take a valued receiver or linebacker off the board at #19 — you move up. If one of the top 5-6 quarterbacks are still available — you move up.

Sometimes it’s not about getting the player you want in the spot you feel he deserves to go. Sometimes it’s about addressing a need you cannot ignore. The league knows Seattle is open for business due to their lack of picks. They will make an amenable trade partner.

There’d also be no need to panic if they did go RB and TE early. This is a draft class that will provide plenty of day three value, talent and potential on defense. They will have options in the front seven and secondary. No doubt about it.

The other possible question mark is where do they take a quarterback, if at all? In Tony’s mock Mason Rudolph, Luke Falk and Kyle Lauletta are available at the end of round two.

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No, the Seahawks won’t draft a corner at #18

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

We know the Seahawks have a very strict policy on cornerback arm length. They’ve never drafted a corner with sub-32 inch arms. It’s a golden rule, alongside height.

Seattle’s defensive scheme allows them to utilise a certain profile at corner. Michael Lombardi spelled it out a year ago during the 2017 Richard Sherman saga:

“…they put all that money in the corner position in a defense where, we feel you can draft players that fit that scheme.

…the scheme in Seattle allows you to find corners especially size/speed corners of which there’s a bundle of them in this draft that can play deep third of the defense, they’ll tackle and they can play within the scheme.”

Walter Thurmond, Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell, DeShawn Shead, Shaquill Griffin.

All players drafted in the mid/late rounds or signed as cheap free agents. The Pete Carroll era has virtually been defined by excellent secondary play and yet they’ve only spent one high pick on the unit (Earl Thomas, 2010).

Fit the body type into your scheme and coach them up. They haven’t drafted a corner before the third round for a reason. It’s just not necessary within this scheme.

The Seahawks constantly get mocked with Iowa’s Josh Jackson at #18. He has 31 1/8 inch arms. Well below the 32 inch threshold.

Are they really going to buck a consistent trend in terms of draft policy and physical requirements to grab Jackson?

With so many areas of the team suddenly needing to be addressed, are they now going to spend a first round pick on the one position they’ve been able to identify day three talent?

The answer is almost certainly ‘no’.

The Seahawks will identify the cornerbacks that fit their profile and they’ll draft, develop and plug in. As per usual.

And let’s be clear — arm length does matter. 100% of multiple first team All-Pro cornerbacks drafted since 1998 have had +32 inch arms.

Here’s the arm length and wingspan data for some of Seattle’s draftees, acquisitions and starters since 2010:

Richard Sherman — 32 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Brandon Browner — 33 (arms) 80 (wingspan)
Byron Maxwell — 33.5 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Jeremy Lane — 32.5 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Tye Smith — 32 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
DeAndre Elliott — 32 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Neiko Thorpe — 31 3/4 (arms) 78 1/2 (wingspan)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste — 32 3/8 (arms) 78 3/8 (wingspan)
Pierre Desir — 33 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Shaquill Griffin — 32.5 (arms) 74 3/4 (wingspan)

The average NFL cornerback has a wingspan of 75.5 inches (31.5 inch arm length). As you can see above, the Seahawks have sought players with above average length with the only exception being Shaquill Griffin.

So what about the 2018 draft class?

The following players have an above average wingspan:

Isaiah Oliver: 33 1/2 arms — 80 5/8 wingspan
Carlton Davis: 32 3/4 arms — 79 3/8 wingspan
Isaac Yiadom: 32 1/4 arms — 75 3/4 wingspan
Holton Hill: 32 arms — 77 1/4 wingspan
Quenton Meeks: 31 3/4 arms — 76 1/4 wingspan
Tarvarus McFadden: 32 1/2 arms — 78 wingspan
Levi Wallace: 32 3/4 arms — 77 3/8 wingspan
Christian Campbell: 33 1/2 arms — 79 wingspan
Davontae Harris: 31 1/8 arms — 75 3/4 wingspan
Arrion Springs: 31 3/4 arms — 75 7/8 wingspan
D’Montre Wade: 32 3/8 arms — 76 7/8 wingspan
Andre Chachere: 31 3/8 arms — 75 3/4 wingspan
Brandon Facyson: 32 5/8 arms — 78 1/2 wingspan
Kamrin Moore: 31 3/8 arms — 75 7/8 wingspan
Chandon Sullivan: 32 3/8 arms — 76 3/4 wingspan
Jordan Thomas: 32 arms — 77 3/4 wingspan
Tremon Smith: 31 3/8 arms — 76 1/8 wingspan
Charvarius Ward: 32 1/4 arms — 77 1/4 wingspan
Keion Crossen: 30 1/8 arms — 75 7/8 wingspan
JaMarcus King: 32 7/8 arms — 78 3/8 wingspan
Aaron Davis: 30 3/4 arms — 76 1/8 wingspan
Donovan Olumba: 32 7/8 arms — 77 7/8 wingspan
Malik Reaves: 32 1/2 arms — 76 7/8 wingspan
Chris Jones: 32 3/4 arms — 78 1/4 wingspan
Jaylen Dunlap: 31 1/2 arms — 76 3/8 wingspan

We can rule out a few names here. The Seahawks might be willing to overlook a player with 31 3/4 inch arms, especially if they have an above average wingspan. They’re unlikely to take someone with 30-31 inch arms, however. So that leaves us with this revised list:

Isaiah Oliver: 33 1/2 arms — 80 5/8 wingspan
Carlton Davis: 32 3/4 arms — 79 3/8 wingspan
Isaac Yiadom: 32 1/4 arms — 75 3/4 wingspan
Holton Hill: 32 arms — 77 1/4 wingspan
Quenton Meeks: 31 3/4 arms — 76 1/4 wingspan
Tarvarus McFadden: 32 1/2 arms — 78 wingspan
Levi Wallace: 32 3/4 arms — 77 3/8 wingspan
Christian Campbell: 33 1/2 arms — 79 wingspan
Arrion Springs: 31 3/4 arms — 75 7/8 wingspan
D’Montre Wade: 32 3/8 arms — 76 7/8 wingspan
Brandon Facyson: 32 5/8 arms — 78 1/2 wingspan
Chandon Sullivan: 32 3/8 arms — 76 3/4 wingspan
Jordan Thomas: 32 arms — 77 3/4 wingspan
Charvarius Ward: 32 1/4 arms — 77 1/4 wingspan
JaMarcus King: 32 7/8 arms — 78 3/8 wingspan
Donovan Olumba: 32 7/8 arms — 77 7/8 wingspan
Malik Reaves: 32 1/2 arms — 76 7/8 wingspan
Chris Jones: 32 3/4 arms — 78 1/4 wingspan

We also know from their willingness to draft Shaquill Griffin, that they’ll draft a cornerback with a below average wingspan if they still have 32 inch arms.

That brings a player like San Diego State’s Kameron Kelly into play (32 inch arms — 74 5/8 wingspan).

Seattle will likely draft a cornerback at some point, even if they eventually re-sign Byron Maxwell. There’s a pretty good chance the player(s) will be on the list above (including Kameron Kelly).

Most of the listed cornerbacks will likely be available in round four or later. The only exceptions are Isaiah Oliver and Carlton Davis. They’re both talented prospects with plenty of upside. Are they significantly better than Isaac Yiadom, Kameron Kelly or Quenton Meeks? Arguably not.

There’s not a convincing argument to suggest the Seahawks will go corner early.

You can’t be too critical of national mock drafts. They see Sherman depart, Maxwell remain unsigned and cornerback is a need. Followers of the Seahawks know, however, that they have a way of addressing this position. And it doesn’t include a top-20 pick with short arms.

They’ll likely do what they always do. Draft their ‘type’ of corner and fit them into the scheme.

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What’s going on with Earl Thomas and Russell Wilson?

Friday, April 6th, 2018

Updates on the Earl Thomas situation are few and far between but Jason La Canfora is still suggesting a trade is on the cards:

The Giants are not inclined to pay Beckham what the market will yield him elsewhere, and, likewise, Thomas is not in line to get another payday from Seattle at this point. Both teams are transitioning – if not rebuilding – and holding on to these star players won’t make much sense. Beckham’s holdout would be a mess for the Giants, and while Thomas won’t fetch the first-and-third the Seahawks hoped for, he’ll land multiple other picks.

La Canfora predicts Thomas will be dealt before the start of the draft — in three weeks time.

This still feels like a stalemate. The Seahawks are clearly open to offers but don’t want to lose a future Hall-of-Famer on the cheap. Interested parties know the Seahawks are re-tooling and need picks. The longer they wait, the more likely it is the price comes down.

So the wait goes on. And it could go on beyond the draft. ‘No deal’ is a possibility. It has to be. You can’t just give Thomas away. Then the Seahawks run the risk of losing Thomas in free agency for no more than a comp pick in 2019. Franchising him is an option — but this is a team seemingly unwilling to hand out big contracts at the moment.

You might say, why don’t they just keep him? And they might. But I think we can say with some certainty now — they won’t be giving him a third contract. So one way or another a parting of ways is on the cards. Whether that’s in the next three weeks, a year or two years.

Why would they even entertain moving him? It’s not an easy question to answer on the outside looking in. But it looks like it comes down to two things:

1. A desire to avoid long, expensive contracts for ageing players

2. A need to replenish the lost draft stock

What about Russell Wilson?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about his future. First Jason La Canfora suggested both parties might be considering their options over the next 12 months:

Will the Seahawks be talking about a five-year deal worth $30M a year for Wilson come this time a year from now? If not, will there be trade rumblings? (Given the supply/demand problems in the quarterback market, a hypothetical Wilson trade would have to be the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, right?) Is Carroll, the oldest coach in the NFC, inching closer to retirement by then if this team is outside the playoffs again?

Personally, I have a hard time seeing a generational talent at quarterback like this leaving the team that originally drafted him in his prime, and Schneider has displayed the ability in the past to kickstart a rebuild with a single draft. I wouldn’t bet on him being down for long, but with the draft just over a month away and spring finally upon us, the Seahawks can’t be considered among the handful of Lombardi favorites for the first time in a long time, and much work remains to be done to return to the lofty perch their fans have come to expect during the Carroll/Schneider era.

After this report, John Schneider was seen actively attending the USC and Wyoming pro-days to watch, among others, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen.

Now Jim Trotter is discussing a possible parting of ways next year:

Trotter repeated this during three separate NFL Network hits in the same day.

Trotter clearly has connections within the Seahawks organisation. Here he is discussing Wilson’s last contract situation, along with the future of Bobby Wagner:

So what do we make to all this?

I think you can file it in the ‘no smoke without fire’ category. Clearly the ideal scenario is Wilson has a fantastic season, the Seahawks make the playoffs and the quarterback signs a big extension. Knowing how difficult the negotiations were last time, however, plus the transitioning of the roster, this might be unlikely.

Furthermore, Wilson has seen Kirk Cousins gambling on himself and making a lot more money as a consequence. The franchise tag, for quarterbacks, no longer looks such a daunting prospect. And with unproven players like Jimmy Garoppolo also earning close to $30m a year — future negotiations are going to be tricky for a number of teams. The Seahawks (Wilson), Falcons (Matt Ryan) and Packers (Aaron Rodgers) must all be a little bit anxious about what happens next.

The chances are all three will find a way to make it work. You don’t let franchise quarterbacks walk out the building. Look how much it cost the Jets just to have an opportunity to find out whether Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield is actually any good.

However, preparing for all eventualities is important. That’s why I mocked the Seahawks drafting a quarterback in round three this week. It wasn’t an attempt to fill a hole at backup QB. It was an attempt to create some insurance.

Take a quarterback this year. Spend a year with them. See what they’re capable of and how the players act around them. Find out if they have starter potential.

If all you get out of it is a backup quarterback — well at least you’ve solved that issue for a few years on the cheap. Down the line you might get a trade offer or a comp pick anyway.

At least you’re prepared for a scenario where things get difficult with Wilson. If moving on somehow becomes a realistic proposition, you might have a solution. Or at least you tried to find one.

So if that’s Luke Falk, Kyle Lauletta or another. See what they’ve got. Cover those bases.

The last time Seattle took a quarterback in round three it worked out pretty well. Now might be the time to see if lightning can strike twice.

A quick final note for today. Here’s the latest example of moderate weirdness regarding Derrius Guice.

If this didn’t actually happen, then what’s going on?

It follows this report from Tony Pauline detailing character concerns with Guice:

I’m told Guice did nothing to move the needle in his favor today and documented off-field issues are weighing heavily on his draft grade. Several teams do not hold a positive view of Guice and some have characterized the talented ball carrier as a “loose cannon.”

Will his on-field talent be enough to offset character concerns?

Dan Hatman tweeted similar concerns while Bob McGinn’s sources also provided this note:

“He’s got a lot of off-field stuff you’ve got to worry about.”

For a team seemingly trying to do things differently this year after the Malik McDowell mess — Guice increasingly feels like an unlikely pick for the Seahawks.

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Ronald Jones II workout details

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Ronald Jones II was limited at the combine after hurting his hamstring running the forty yard dash. He did jump a 36.5 inch vertical but didn’t do any of the running back drills or agility tests.

Today he ran a new forty, managing a 4.48.

I contacted USC to check on his weight and he’s up to 208lbs:

He’s now only five pounds lighter than Kerryon Johnson but ran a slightly faster time (4.48 vs 4.54). Both players are highly explosive and aggressive in their running style.

The only question mark for the Seahawks is size. They’ve had a ‘type’ for a long time — approximately 5-11, 220lbs. They’ve shown interest in Ito Smith and Chase Edmonds this off-season so it’s possible they’re now looking for a different type of back. They seem to at least be considering adding a smaller, dynamic runner.

As we’ve often discussed, Jones II is a fantastic talent. It’d be remiss of them to count him out for size. And as we’ve seen with Russell Wilson, they’re willing to make an exception for the right player.

Even so, the size factor exists. He isn’t 215-220lbs. And it’s part of the evaluation they and other teams have to consider.

One thing to remember though. Alvin Kamara is only six pounds heavier than Ronald Jones II and he ran a 4.56. Kamara is highly explosive. He managed a 39.5 inch vertical and his game is based around suddenness and explosive traits, not straight line speed. Jones II is quicker and a little less explosive — but he’s tougher to bring down.

Re-creating New Orleans’ two-headed monster with Mark Ingram and Kamara wouldn’t be a bad idea for a team looking to fix its running game. One of Chris Carson or Mike Davis could act as Ingram, with Jones II as Kamara.

That would make sense for the Seahawks. Of course, it’s also possible another team takes Jones II off the board before Seattle’s first pick (assuming they trade down).

Here’s a tweet from his agent…

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VMAC visits so far, meetings & Ronald Jones II update

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

While teams are starting to conduct their final draft meetings and put together their boards, we’re also seeing players making top-30 visits. Each team is allowed 30 official visits in the pre-draft period.

So what exactly happens on a visit?

They’re also able to have unlimited meetings with local prospects. For example, the Los Angeles Chargers are visiting with Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen and neither is counting against their top-30 quota. Seattle can have any of the Washington/Washington State players come to the VMAC.

So far we’ve come to learn ten of Seattle’s top-30 visits:

Justin Reid (S, Stanford)
Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Foyesade Oluokun (LB/S, Yale)
Ito Smith (RB, Southern Miss)
Keith Kirkwood (WR, Temple)
Khalid Hill (FB, Michigan)
Devron Davis (CB, UTSA)
Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)

Teams are also allowed to conduct off-site workouts. Three of these have been reported or confirmed:

Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M)
Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State)
Demone Harris (DE, Buffalo)
Zaire Franklin (LB, Syracuse)
Abdullah Anderson (DT, Bucknell)
Manase Hungalu (LB, Oregon State)

The Seahawks reportedly met with the following players:

Nick Nelson (CB, Wisconsin) (after pro-day)
Natrell Jamerson (S, Wisconsin) (after pro-day)
Shaquem Griffin (LB, USF) (at the combine)
Tony Brown (CB, Alabama) (pro-day)
Chris Seisay (CB, Portland State) (pro-day)
Ronald Jones (RB, USC)

And they’ve reportedly shown interest in:

Austin Corbett (T, Nevada)
Jessie Bates III (S, Wake Forest)
J.T. Gray (S, Mississippi State)
Tee Sims (DE, Appalachian State)

I wanted to post this list as a point of reference. New names have been added pretty much every day and that will continue.

Meanwhile there’s good news for Ronald Jones II:

The tweet above is from Jones II’s agent. Tomorrow he’ll finally workout. We’ll see if he runs a forty and does some of the other tests.

It was the LSU pro-day today and Tony Pauline posted this interesting report, including news on the stock of Derrius Guice:

It was a rather uneven day for the Tigers other running back, Derrius Guice.

I’m told Guice did nothing to move the needle in his favor today and documented off the field issues are weighing heavily on his draft grade. Several teams do not hold a positive view of Guice and some have characterized the talented ball carrier as a “loose cannon.”

Will his on the field talent be enough to offset character concerns?

It seems the character issues with Guice are starting to become more of a talking point. Add Pauline’s note here to a recent Tweet by Dan Hatman and Bob McGinn’s scouting sources.

If you missed it yesterday, don’t forget to check out our updated mock draft.

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New two round mock draft: 3rd April

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Time for a new mock draft. This one includes trades (detailed below), a second round projection and a full Seahawks seven-round mock.

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#3 NY Jets (via Ind) — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#5 Buffalo (via Den) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#6 Indianapolis (via NYJ) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#7 Tampa Bay — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#8 Chicago — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#10 Oakland — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#11 Miami — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#12 Denver (via Buf, Cin) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#13 Washington — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#14 Green Bay — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#15 Arizona — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#16 Baltimore — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#17 LA Chargers — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Kolton Miller (T, UCLA)
#19 Dallas — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#20 Detroit — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#21 Cincinnati (via Buf) — Justin Reid (S, Stanford)
#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Harold Landry (DE, Boston College)
#23 New England (via LA) — Jaire Alexander (CB, Louisville)
#24 Carolina — Rasheem Green (DE, USC)
#25 Tennessee — Sam Hubbard (DE, Ohio State)
#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#27 New Orleans — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
#28 Pittsburgh — Jessie Bates III (S, Wake Forest)
#29 Jacksonville — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#30 Minnesota — Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
#31 New York Giants (via NE) — Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
#32 Philadelphia — Austin Corbett (G, Nevada)

#33 Seattle (via Cle) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
#34 New England (via NYG) — Mason Rudolph (QB, Oklahoma State)
#35 Cleveland — Carlton Davis (CB, Auburn)
#36 Indianapolis — Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
#37 Indianapolis — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#38 Tampa Bay — Derrius Guice (RB, Tampa Bay)
#39 Chicago — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#40 Denver — Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
#41 Oakland — Hayden Hurst (TE, South Carolina)
#42 Miami — James Daniels (C, Iowa)
#43 New England (via SF) — D.J. Moore (WR, Maryland)
#44 Washington — Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
#45 Green Bay — Isaiah Oliver (CB, Colorado)
#46 Cincinnati — Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
#47 Arizona — Mike Hughes (CB, UCF)
#48 LA Chargers — B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)
#49 Indianapolis — Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
#50 Dallas — Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas)
#51 Detroit — Connor Williams (T, Texas)
#52 Baltimore — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#53 Denver (via Buf) — Geron Christian (T, Louisville)
#54 Kansas City — Donte Jackson (CB, LSU)
#55 Carolina — Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M)
#56 Buffalo (via LAR) — Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford)
#57 Tennessee — Rashaad Penny (RB, San Diego State)
#58 Atlanta — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#59 San Francisco (via NO) — Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
#60 Pittsburgh — Andrew Brown (DT, Virginia)
#61 Jacksonville — Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State)
#62 Minnesota — Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
#63 New England — Brian O’Neill (T, Pittsburgh)
#64 Cincinnati (via Sea, Cle, Phi) — Tyrell Crosby (T, Oregon)

Just missed: Braden Smith (G, Auburn), D.J. Chark (WR, LSU), Arden Key (DE, LSU), Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma), James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State), Mike Gesicki (TE, Penn State), Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia), Dante Pettis (WR, Washington)

Trades

Buffalo trades #12, #22, #53 & 2019 R2 to Denver for #5
Cleveland trades #33, #64 & #150 to Seattle for #18
New York Giants trade #34 & #108 to New England for #31
Cincinnati trades #77 & #112 to Seattle for #64

Today the Rams traded the #23 pick to New England for Brandin Cooks.

Seven round Seahawks mock

R2 (33) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
R3 (77) — Luke Falk (QB, Washington State)
R4 (112) — Shaquem Griffin (LB, UCF)
R4 (120) — Kameron Kelly (DB, San Diego State)
R5 (141) — Quenton Meeks (CB, Stanford)
R5 (146) — Leon Jacobs (LB, Wisconsin)
R5 (150) — Will Dissly (TE, Washington)
R5 (156) — Natrell Jamerson (S, Wisconsin)
R5 (168) — Chase Edmonds (RB, Fordham)
R7 (226) — Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
R7 (248) — Khalid Hill (FB, Michigan)

So, why a quarterback in round three?

We’re just running through scenarios here. This is one we haven’t talked about.

The Seahawks currently don’t have a backup on the roster. That’ll likely change before training camp. A veteran backup is necessary, even if they draft a rookie QB.

In the next 18 months the Seahawks will likely begin negotiating a new contract with Russell Wilson. Last time it ended up being trickier than expected. Wilson didn’t agree terms until right before training camp. I think they were surprised how long it took, how much Wilson’s agent dug in. All’s well that ends well — but they need to be prepared for round two.

The chances are Wilson will agree an extension and will continue his career in Seattle — possibly until he finishes playing. You don’t take a franchise quarterback for granted. It still makes sense for the Seahawks to cover their bases. Draft a quarterback, have them under contract for four years and buy yourself some security.

Quarterbacks generally don’t lose value. Mike Glennon is a good example. A year ago Chicago paid him a fortune to be a bridge to Mitch Trubisky. So even if your young QB isn’t a valuable trade chip, comp picks are a possibility down the line.

Is it a little rich to spend a third round pick on a quarterback during a transition?

Possibly.

However, consistent winning teams have often planned ahead at quarterback. The New England Patriots drafted Ryan Mallett and Jacoby Brissett in round three and spent a second rounder on Jimmy Garoppolo during the Brady era. Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 as the presumed heir apparent to Brett Favre. Yet in 2008 they also spent a second round pick on Brian Brohm — the year Rodgers took over from Favre. Again, they were covering their bases.

The Seahawks haven’t drafted a quarterback since taking Wilson in 2012. Now might be the time to start some forward planning.

So why Luke Falk?

The main reason is because he’s the best one available in this mock. The top five go in round one as expected and Mason Rudolph comes off the board in round two. After that there’s not a lot left.

Falk is a very different quarterback to Wilson but so was Charlie Whitehurst, Matt Flynn and Austin Davis. Ideally you’d draft a player with a similar skill set to avoid too much change if Wilson gets hurt. Unless Lamar Jackson suffers a dramatic and unexpected fall that isn’t going to be possible here.

I’ve liked Falk for some time. He’s a gutty quarterback, willing to sit in the pocket and deliver accurate throws in the face of pressure. He’s intelligent, measured and has dealt with a lot in his college career. He did have some ugly games but he also elevated Washington State into contention in the PAC-12 North.

It’s not an unfair criticism to suggest he didn’t quite take the next step in 2017, pushing himself firmly into the round two range. Yet he hardly had a bad year either. In the third round you’re not taking much of a gamble. Falk has talent in a league desperate for good quarterback play. If he isn’t starting for the Seahawks in five years, he might be starting for someone else.

Why waste a pick on a QB this early though?

There aren’t many alternatives. Seattle’s lack of picks is a problem and likely a main reason why they’re willing to contemplate trading Earl Thomas for a bounty.

At pick #33 in the mock above a lot of the best pass rushers were gone. So I had them take a running back, addressing their self-confessed biggest need (fixing the run). If I’d had them passing on a runner at #33, they would’ve missed out on the top eight altogether.

Sometimes the board falls this way. Ideally I would’ve had the Seahawks taking a runner and a pass rusher. It didn’t work out. So I had them trading down from #64 and thought it’d be interesting to bring up the possibility of taking a QB.

What happens to the pass rush though?

A few key points here:

— The Seahawks do have Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo and Marcus Smith. Cliff Avril is expected to retire but as of today, remains part of the roster. It hasn’t been completely ruled out that he’ll play again. There’s also at least some possibility Malik McDowell will return this year.

— In 2010-11 the Seahawks relied heavily on Chris Clemons to provide a pass rush, aided by Raheem Brock. In 2012 they added Bruce Irvin. It wasn’t until 2013 that they signed Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. They waited for the right players to become available. They might be willing to roll with Clark, Jordan, Mingo and Smith this year.

— The 2019 draft class looks like it could be a defensive line special. You’ve got the Clemson quartet of Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant. Nick Bosa (Joey’s brother) is eligible to turn pro. Houston’s Ed Oliver has already stated he’ll be declaring for the draft. Michigan’s Rashan Gary is eligible. Teams plan ahead and it won’t be a surprise if the Seahawks are thinking 2019 could be the year to focus on pass rushers.

It’s also possible the draft falls a bit differently in round one and the Seahawks find a way to draft a pass rusher with an early pick. I’m not ruling it out — I’m just looking at a different scenario today.

And for what it’s worth, I do have them adding Shaquem Griffin and Leon Jacobs on day three. Griffin is a nickel linebacker and pass rush specialist. Jacobs is capable of acting as a SAM/LEO and providing some edge pressure.

Why Ronald Jones II?

You can make arguments for and against the pick. On the positive side, Jones II is truly one of the most dynamic players in the draft. A legit top-20 talent. His aggressive running style, vision, incredible suddenness and ability to make a deadly cut and explode to the second level is highly impressive. Simply put, his tape is fantastic. He has genuine star potential and the comparisons to Jamaal Charles, as we’ve said many times before, are warranted.

On the negative side of things, he’s only 205lbs. That’s below Seattle’s apparent prototype for the position. He was highly productive and tough at USC but at the next level he might need to be part of a duo. Which is fine. Think Mark Ingram & Alvin Kamara. Seattle’s version could be Chris Carson & Ronald Jones II.

Even so, if you want a reason to be wary of taking Jones II — that’s it. And the Seahawks might prefer someone who is bigger (such as Nick Chubb or Kerryon Johnson). Jones II is incredibly talented, explosive and dynamic and the type of athlete they’ve added in the past. But it doesn’t mean he’s a guaranteed fit.

If the Seahawks were wavering on his size, this could also be a factor:

When you aren’t an absolutely perfect fit (and Jones II isn’t because he’s not a sturdy 220lbs) — you don’t want to give a team another reason to pass.

That said, he’s not a bad guy. This isn’t a true character ‘flag’. It’s just a thing that, as Lance notes, caught teams off guard. Because he comes across as a good talker and a personable, determined character.

Jones II is a special player with a ceiling that includes greatness. He has to be a consideration.

Why no offensive linemen?

It’s quite simple. In the last two years the Seahawks have spent a first round pick on Germain Ifedi, a second round pick on Ethan Pocic, a third round pick on Rees Odhiambo, a second and a third round pick on Duane Brown and they extended the contract of 2014 second round pick Justin Britt.

The Seahawks have poured resources into their O-line. And alone it hasn’t been a solution. Pete Carroll and John Schneider drafted these players and it appears they still believe they’re capable of forming a cohesive group.

They’ve changed coaches. They’re tweaking the scheme. They’ve signed D.J. Fluker. They’ll be getting George Fant back. More highly drafted rookies aren’t always the solution. This group needs better guidance to execute and communicate and function. Now it’s up to Mike Solari to deliver.

Final thoughts

Predicting what the Seahawks will do is even harder than usual this year because of their lack of picks. We’re not just projecting possible targets — we’re also trying to guess how they’ll move around the board to fill the gigantic hole between pick #18 and #120.

I do think they will target a running back early. It doesn’t have to be their first pick but it’ll probably be one of their first two. I think they will look to add speed across the board. I think they will also target players with strong special teams value.

That’s what I’ve tried to do with this projection. From Ronald Jones II to Shaquem Griffin to Leon Jacobs to Natrell Jamerson — there’s a lot of speed. The Seahawks would be a faster team on both sides of the ball.

I’ve also tried to identify players with grit, toughness and intelligence.

There are always names you’d like to include too. Isaiah Wynn, Austin Corbett, Christian Kirk, Maurice Hurst, Andrew Brown, Jessie Bates III. All intelligent, tough players with high talent. I’ve grown to appreciate Dallas Goedert more after further study this week. Nick Chubb and Kerryon Johnson are both appealing alternatives at running back and there are players like Nick Nelson that don’t fit Seattle’s prototype but still jump off the screen.

With the draft just over three weeks away we’ll continue to look at different scenarios and possibilities.

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