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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.

Friday draft notes: Tedric Thompson & Howard Wilson

Friday, February 10th, 2017

There’s a reason why people are talking about the DB’s in this draft. Depth, talent at the top end and throughout the first three rounds. Some diamonds to find in day three. It’s an ideal opportunity for a team (see: Seahawks) to reload and try to rekindle some of that magic on defense.

Two players I watched yesterday were Colorado safety Tedric Thompson and Houston cornerback Howard Wilson.

Thompson jumped off the screen. He’s a really instinctive safety with the closing speed to make big plays in the passing game. That shows up with his seven interceptions in 2016 and 16 PBU’s. That’s as many PBU’s as cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Adoree’ Jackson, and one more than Kevin King and Coredrea Tankersley.

He looks like he’ll have a great vertical at the combine (more on that in a moment). He frequently just goes up and gets the ball. Combine that with his ability to shift through the gears and close, read and react and play the ball. He’s ideally suited to be a rangy single-high safety.

Give him a lane to the ball carrier and he’ll get there. Throw it deep? You’re taking a chance against this type of speed. On the mid-range throws he’ll break on the ball and make a play with instinct and athleticism. It’s very difficult to fit throws into small windows at the second level with Thompson lurking. His field awareness is also good, putting him in a position to make plays and deceive quarterbacks.

This is kind of what we saw from Earl Thomas at Texas. He had eight picks in his final season in college. While Thompson will find it difficult to match Thomas’ level in the NFL — as a backup worthy of being developed over time, there are worse projects the Seahawks can take on.

It’ll be very interesting to see just how athletic he is. Tedric’s brother Cedric was a recent 5th round pick by the Dolphins and managed a 4.48 forty, a 40.5 inch vertical and a 10-2 in the broad jump.

A similar performance could put Tedric on Seattle’s radar. Getting a supremely athletic, productive developmental free safety could be a consideration, especially with Thomas missing games for the first time in his career in 2016.

It’s this type of prospect that ultimately makes this draft so intriguing for safety’s. You’ve got the big names (Adams, Hooker, Peppers, Baker) and then a second and third tier including Obi Melifonwu, Justin Evans, Tedric Thompson, Marcus Maye, John Johnson, Shalom Luani and Eddie Jackson. It doesn’t stop there, with other names to monitor before the combine.

Houston’s Howard Wilson is intriguing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he looks like he has long arms. We know the Seahawks have a cut-off point of 32 inches. Secondly, he takes the ball away.

The Seahawks, for whatever reason, have struggled for turnovers in the last couple of seasons. Adding players with production in this area (forcing turnovers or completing them) could be a priority. So how about this stat — Wilson averaged an interception every 15 targets at Houston. He had five in total in 2016.

He’s not the biggest player at 6-1 and 185lbs but he has the potential to add weight and could end up like Byron Maxwell (6-1, 203lbs). At the moment he’s not too far off Jeremy Lane for size (6-1, 190lbs) and it stands to reason that the Seahawks will look to push Lane this off-season after a relatively middling 2016.

Wilson’s a good looking athlete so a strong combine shouldn’t be an issue. If he can add weight he might be a legit outside corner option. And while he won’t necessarily be an immediate starter outside, he could be a project for two years down the line where you’re looking at a productive core player.

It’s hard to determine what his range will be. There are so many cornerbacks and potentially as many as 20 could go in the first 3-4 rounds. Wilson could be a mid-round target especially if the Seahawks don’t add a CB in rounds 1-2.

I’ve posted highlight videos for both players below. Check them out. This is a good year to think about adding players to the secondary:

Other quick notes

Here’s an interesting quote on Obi Melifonwu courtesy of an anonymous NFL personnel executive: “Overall, this is the best group of DBs we’ve had in several years. Specifically, I love the safety depth. I keep watching one good player after another. The UConn kid (Obi Melifonwu) was a revelation at the Senior Bowl.”

— Why isn’t Zach Cunningham in Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 board? NFL.com colleague Bucky Brooks looked into it: “While scouts frequently view players in different lights, I found it interesting that Cunningham didn’t make the cut despite the buzz that’s been surrounding his name throughout the fall. I recently had an AFC scout tell me that Cunningham “might be the best inside linebacker in the 2017 class” when it’s all said and done. When I challenged him on that assessment, he told me that he wasn’t alone based on his conversations with other scouts in the Southeast. Wow.

Tony Pauline is reporting that John Ross (WR, Washington) and Jeremy McNichols (RB, Boise State) will have labrum surgery after the combine.

Analysing Daniel Jeremiah’s mock draft 2.0

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Daniel Jeremiah’s mock draft 2.0

Our latest projection

Jeremiah’s pick for Seattle at #26
Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)

Jeremiah’s notes
“Humphrey has the ideal size and length to excel in the Seahawks’ scheme.”

Where we had Humphrey
#11 overall to New Orleans

Analysis
If a prospect has supreme athletic traits, excellent character and has performed well at the college level — usually they go very early.

There is a tendency in the media scouting community to focus on flaws and downgrade players as a consequence. We see it every year. It’s why the likes of Sheldon Rankins and Keanu Neal were rated in the #25-50 range a year ago but both went in the top-20.

Humphrey is knocked for the way he defends the long ball. The thing is, this is a technical/scheme flaw which is fixable. It’s not due to any lack of athleticism or recovery speed. Humphrey has the physical appearance of an Olympic sprinter and teams will know if they can iron out the kinks, they’ll be left with a high character, high quality cornerback. For that reason, it’s hard to imagine Humphrey falling as far as many mock drafts are currently projecting and that’s why we put him at #11.

Check out this report by Tony Pauline:

Just about everyone has Marlon Humphrey as the top rated cornerback on the board while some teams grade Desmond King at safety.

Another PAC 12 corner drawing rave reviews is Fabian Moreau of UCLA. While his grades are scattered some teams have stamped Moreau as a second day pick and feel a good combine workout, including a forty times in the low 4.4’s, will secure his position as a top seventy five selection.

Pauline wrote this in December and everything else has come to fruition. Since the Senior Bowl there’s increasing chatter about King having to move to safety and we’ve seen buzz surrounding Fabian Moreau.

It’s very possible teams are grading Humphrey a lot higher than the media.

That said, he’d be a fine selection for the Seahawks. He has extreme potential and athleticism and appears to have the kind of length they like. We’ll find out for sure at the combine. It just seems highly likely someone will take him long before pick #26.

Who else was available?

Here’s a list of prospects available at #26 that weren’t available for Seattle in our latest mock draft:

#11 Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#16 Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#17 Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#21 Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)

Also available was Budda Baker, Obi Melifonwu and Jarrad Davis.

This would be an ideal situation for the Seahawks. There are enough viable options to consider trading down. Alternatively, they’d have their pick of a strong group of DB’s and linebackers.

Reddick screams Seahawks and will likely continue to ascend. Media pundits are starting to move him into the late first round after his great Senior Bowl. When he runs a 4.4 at the combine and tests well in every drill, we’ll likely see him move up even higher.

If he does last until #26, it could be a no-brainer for Settle. He’d be a supreme fit as a SAM with the flexibility to fill in at the MIKE and WILL for Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright if required. He’s a complete, modern day linebacker and would be a tremendous asset to the Seahawks. And he can rush the passer.

Zach Cunningham and Jarrad Davis likely would be attractive alternatives. They’re both three-down linebackers like Wagner and Wright, they’d be on the field for week one and would allow the Seahawks to be flexible with their two stud LB’s (as Pete Carroll asserted was a priority in his end of season press conference).

Melifonwu also remains appealing if he tests as well as expected. He’d be a dynamic chess-piece in the defensive backfield, capable of playing in several situations and maybe eventually settling at corner or strong safety long term. He’s the type of dynamic athlete often drafted by the Seahawks in the first round.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on whether Kevin King, Rasul Douglas or Fabian Moreau have exceptional workouts to warrant early round consideration.

Wednesday notes: Top-50’s, McShay’s mock and Calvin Pryor

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Don’t read too much into top-50’s

There was some positivity in the comments section yesterday when Daniel Jeremiah updated his top-50 board. Garett Bolles was at #26, Haason Reddick was at #41 and Zach Cunningham (see video above) wasn’t even listed.

However, here’s a top-50 board Jeremiah wrote on April 26th, 2016 — shortly before last years draft.

The following prospects were ranked beyond Seattle’s pick at #26 but still weren’t available for the Seahawks on the day:

Sheldon Rankins — ranked #26, drafted #12
Will Fuller — ranked #29, drafted #21
Taylor Decker — ranked #31, drafted #16
William Jackson III — ranked #32, drafted #24
Karl Joseph — ranked #33, drafted #14
Josh Doctson — ranked #36, drafted #22
Keanu Neal — ranked #46, drafted #17
Artie Burns — ranked #49, drafted #25

So while it’s fun to consider Garett Bolles or Haason Reddick lasting until #26, it’s impossible to take anything out of these types of lists.

Ultimately it comes down to this — offensive tackles with Bolles’ tenacity and extreme athleticism and linebackers with Reddick’s speed, versatility and major production don’t generally get out of the top-20.

Unfortunately.

Parsing Pete Carroll

I went back again yesterday to review exactly what Pete Carroll said about needs in his end of season press conference:

“We gotta get Earl back, we gotta get the corner thing squared away. I think that’s one of them. We’ll certainly be looking at that in the draft. That’ll be one of the areas. We need some youth at the linebacker spot now. Bobby and K.J. played thousands of plays this year between the two of them and were extremely successful but we need to address that. We didn’t get anybody that really made a difference in the last couple of years to really fight to take those guys jobs. Think if somebody can battle K.J. and Bobby for the starting now — that’s what we need to draft towards so we’ll be looking there. The offensive line will continue to be an area of focus and it will be. We’re looking at everything — but those — I’m trying to give you guys something you can walk out of here with. That’s kind of probably the obvious focal points.”

This is worth another quick do-over.

— It’s interesting that Carroll specifically mentions the draft when talking about cornerbacks and the linebacker position — with no mention of free agency. He doesn’t specify where they will seek additions on the O-line.

— Carroll went into some depth to explain why he felt they needed help at linebacker. It’s intriguing that he made this point. The Seahawks don’t desperately need a player to challenge Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. At any point in 2016 did you think, ‘if only there was someone pushing these two guys’? It suggests they have their eye on the position in general. Perhaps they’ve simply decided they want to tap into the depth of talent available? It’s a good LB class.

— This feeling might’ve changed slightly since the Senior Bowl with Haason Reddick receiving rave reviews (and the same could happen for Zach Cunningham, Jarrad Davis and Tyus Bowser down the line). When Carroll spoke (pre-Senior Bowl) Reddick was a bit of an afterthought. We might’ve mocked him to Seattle in round one in December — but no national pundits, draft media experts or insiders were talking about Reddick. It’s possible they felt confident a few weeks ago they could get him or one of the other top LB prospects at #26. That feeling might by changing.

— If you want an example of how quickly things can change, look at Trent Williams in 2010. Considered a right tackle-only prospect by the media throughout his final year at Oklahoma and receiving only lukewarm mid-first round reviews, he shot into the top five after a great combine. He was taken at #4 overall and he’s been one of the top LT’s in the league ever since. There’s every chance the Seahawks were targeting Williams early in 2010 and maybe even felt confident about landing him at #6 or #14. Things can change dramatically.

— This might be why a player like Obi Melifonwu ultimately becomes appealing to the Seahawks. If Reddick, Cunningham and Davis are gone (not out of the question) and considering their strict physical preferences at cornerback — a highly athletic, Greek God of a defensive chess-piece doesn’t look like such an unlikely alternative in round one. That is the type of move this team makes.

Todd McShay’s new mock draft

ESPN’s McShay has the Seahawks taking Cam Robinson (T, Alabama) in round one. So how likely is it to happen?

Our Trench Explosion Formula (explained here) helped identify a consistent physical profile for the offensive linemen drafted by Seattle. It helped explain the Justin Britt pick (inexplicable at the time) in 2014 and it helped us project Germain Ifedi as Seattle’s first round pick a year ago.

Seattle’s five starters that ended the 2016 season were all explosive athletes. If Cam Robinson is going to be a Seahawk, he’s probably going to need to match that.

It seems unlikely.

At the 2013 Nike Sparq Combine he jumped a 27-inch vertical which is well below the mark for TEF. An average or bad vertical rarely translates to a good broad jump (the other key explosive test). So it’s fair to assume he’s not going to hit the TEF mark.

There’s always a possible exception to the rule where they draft a non-ideal early. A 5-10 quarterback is the key example — yet Wilson was exceptional in virtually every gradable aspect apart from height. Even then, they didn’t take him in the first round.

Is Robinson exceptional enough in other areas to make up for a lack of explosion?

He’s certainly got the kind of size they like but his footwork is sluggish and choppy. An anonymous scout in this piece referred to him as “talented but he gets lazy” and Tony Pauline noted the following on Monday:

I’m not saying Robinson won’t be a good tackle in the NFL;, I just don’t think it will be on the left side.

Robinson looked dominant on film but he also looked stiff, displayed poor footwork and will have trouble protecting the edge on Sunday. In my opinion, it adds up to a move to right tackle or possibly guard for Robinson.

The last thing the Seahawks need is another tackle prospect kicking inside, failing to address their greatest need on the O-line. They’ve been there three times before with Carpenter, Britt and now Ifedi.

So who else was available at #26 in McShay’s mock that wasn’t in our latest projection on Sunday?

Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey and linebackers Haason Reddick and Zach Cunningham were all available. Florida’s Jarrad Davis is off the board to Oakland at #24, with Garett Bolles going at #25 to Houston.

I hope I’m 100% wrong — but it will be quite astonishing if these four all last into the mid-20’s. It’s improbable.

The league-wide need at left tackle will likely force one team in the top-20 to invest in the sensational Bolles. Reddick is basically a more productive version of Ryan Shazier — a player taken at #15 three years ago. Cunningham is expected to be a very impressive tester at the combine and will probably appeal to teams in the late teens or early 20’s. Marlon Humphrey has the physique of an Olympic sprinter and despite some flaws in his deep coverage, someone in the top-15 could/should take a shot on his extreme potential.

All four players have exceptional football and personal character too. When you have a really productive, highly athletic player with great college production and character — they don’t last. They jump off the screen and the scouting report and they get drafted early.

See: Keanu Neal, Sheldon Rankins a year ago.

Are the Seahawks interested in Calvin Pryor?

There’s probably nothing in this but we’ll throw it out there and you can make up your own mind.

This piece courtesy of NJ.com is linking the Seahawks with a potential trade for New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor:

Pryor, the Jets’ 2014 first-round pick, is entering Year 4. He hasn’t been a huge difference maker so far. The Jets have to decide this offseason whether to pick up his fifth-year option for 2018 (which doesn’t become a meaningful, binding decision until next offseason). They could also trade him. One trade possibility floated by a league source: Pryor to the Seahawks for Germain Ifedi, a first-round pick last year. Ifedi was Seattle’s right guard last season, but he has a background at right tackle. The Jets are expected to cut right tackle Breno Giacomini. And this draft’s tackle class is weak, remember.

Is there anything in this? In a word, no.

Ifedi has a $5.185m dead cap hit. Trading him would actually cost the Seahawks $4m.

Considering Pryor’s cap hit is $2.7m in 2017 — you’d be eating $7m of cap to have Pryor instead of Ifedi on your roster.

That isn’t happening.

It doesn’t mean the Seahawks wouldn’t be interested in a move for Pryor though.

Who knows if this league source was just throwing a dart — but we know the Seahawks want to add to their secondary. Pryor is a tone-setting, hard-hitting safety. He had a good year in 2015 but regressed with the rest of the Jets roster in 2016.

He’s not a fantastic athlete but he plays with the kind of intensity Seattle likes. He’s also only three years removed from being the #18 pick in the draft.

At the right price, it wouldn’t be a total shocker if they made a call. Pryor would provide some quality depth behind Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and free up the Seahawks to consider cornerback and linebacker with their first two picks (or a hybrid like Obi Melifonwu).

Jarrad Davis won’t work out at the combine

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

This is disappointing. Having been touted as a potential mid-4.5 runner, it’ll be a shame not to see Davis compete against the likes of Haason Reddick and Zach Cunningham.

It likely helps him in terms of running a faster time, though. Florida, like most big schools, has a fast track. In 2010 Joe Haden ran a 4.62 at the combine but managed a 4.43 at the Gators pro-day.

Atlanta’s Deion Jones secured a second round grade after running a 4.38 at LSU’s pro-day a year ago. His time at the combine? 4.59.

With Jones putting on a show in the Super Bowl, many teams will be looking for their own version. Fast linebackers that fly to the ball are going to be en vogue in this draft.

It’s interesting that Rapoport refers to Davis as a ‘top-2 LB prospect’. It’s certainly possible. His intensity, closing speed, versatility and extremely good character will make him an attractive pick. Davis is a leader on the field, reportedly treats every practise with extreme importance and will be a coaches dream.

It wouldn’t be a shock if a team like Washington at #17 picks him to play MIKE, or Miami at #22.

Florida’s pro-day is on March 28th.

Meanwhile, take a look at this tweet from Mike Mayock if you’re still not convinced Garett Bolles could go in the top-10:

Post-Super Bowl draft notes

Monday, February 6th, 2017

1. Can the Seahawks find a Deion Jones?

He’s listed as the MIKE on Atlanta’s depth chart — but Jones’ versatility, speed and range were on full show in the Super Bowl. Can the Seahawks add another player with this type of skill set?

Haason Reddick and Zach Cunningham appear capable of playing all three linebacker positions. Jarrad Davis might be another. All three are in the 230-240lbs range.

A wildcard suggestion could be Obi Melifonwu. Jones is only listed at 6-1 and 222lbs. Melifonwu at the Senior Bowl was 6-4 and 219lbs. He also has Jones’ range and extreme athleticism.

That’s not to say Melifonwu would likely become a full time linebacker. It is, however, another string to his bow as a hybrid. If you can leave him on the field believing he can cover a TE, play contain, defend the run and occasionally blitz from the SAM you can build a stronger case for taking him at #26.

That’s on top of his potential ability to be a chess-piece in the secondary, offer depth at safety and maybe over time develop into an outside corner.

2. What do we need to consider when projecting a SAM?

The Seahawks run a 4-3 under and previously used Bruce Irvin as the SAM linebacker. This year, Mike Morgan had a varied week-to-week role at the position, with Cassius Marsh also seeing some snaps.

It’d be interesting to definitively know Seattle’s approach to the position — specifically the importance of the SAM to be able to rush the passer.

Danny Kelly wrote about Carroll’s 4-3 under in 2011, noting this about the SAM:

It’s the same basic alignment but as you can see, the SAM linebacker comes up closer to the line to play hard contain and the weakside LEO is pushed out a bit, maybe a yard off of the weakside tackle. The LEO’s main job is to control the C gap while rushing the passer like a wild banshee and the SAM plays contain against the TE, runs in pass coverage with him, or rushes the passer in some situations.

This suggests that a varied skill-set is possible, it doesn’t have to be essentially a 3-4 OLB (even if that’s the preference). A high degree of athleticism, some length and at least the potential to rush the passer is possibly required though — unless you rotate.

In 2013 the Seahawks rotated Malcolm Smith with Bruce Irvin. I don’t have playoff snap counts but here’s Smith vs Irvin at the end of the 2013 regular season:

Game 13 @ San Francisco
Smith — 79.4%
Irvin — 66.2%

Game 14 @ New York Giants
Smith — 74.5%
Irvin — 65.5%

Game 15 vs Arizona
Smith — 92%
Irvin — 70.7%

Game 16 vs St. Louis
Smith — 92.5%
Irvin — 66%

You can see how Smith’s role grew as the season concluded, culminating in him winning the Super Bowl MVP.

Smith was better in coverage and it showed with the plays he was able to make (four picks at the end of the 2013 season, two touchdowns). He was a 4.51 runner at the 2011 USC pro-day. Mike Morgan, the non-pass rushing linebacker in 2016, ran a 4.47 at his pro-day.

It seems possible they could draft a SAM with extreme speed, coverage ability and instincts and rotate in Cassius Marsh or another player. If they were willing to play Malcolm Smith for +90% of the snaps, they might be willing to use a high pick in that kind of role too.

Haason Reddick would be an obvious solution because of his incredible speed and range, his ability to rush the passer and probably run in the 4.4’s.

Zach Cunningham isn’t the pass rusher Reddick is — but he has the speed, length, range and run defending skills to be a starter.

Jarrad Davis is probably better suited to playing the MIKE or WILL — but he reportedly can run in the mid 4.5’s and might be the type of player who is too good to pass if he’s there.

(Carolina uses Shaq Thompson as a SAM in their 4-3, Davis has been compared to Thompson).

It’s worth keeping Houston’s Tyus Bowser in your thoughts too as we’ve been discussing a lot recently. He’s not the finished article but his ceiling is incredible to do a bit of everything — cover, play the run, rush the passer.

The first round isn’t out of the question for Bowser. We know the Seahawks love twitchy athletes. He’ll likely make a statement at the combine. Plus one other thing to consider is production. Bowser only played in eight games in 2016. If you projected his stats over 13 games he was on for 22.5 TFL’s and 15.5 sacks.

3. What can we learn from Atlanta’s D-line?

Here’s the make-up of Atlanta’s defensive front and their cap hit APY:

Tyson Jackson — $5m
Brooks Reed — $4.4m
Jonathan Babineaux — $3m
Adrian Clayborn — $4.25m
Ra’Shede Hageman (rookie contract) — $1.3m
Grady Jarrett (rookie contract) — $631k
Courtney Upshaw — $1.25m
Dwight Feeney — $1m

The cumulative total salary for this group is just over $20m. It’s a cost-effective, experienced group mostly brought together through free agency but aided by a couple of hits in the draft.

The Seahawks have, for the most part, followed a similar path. If Ra’Shede Hageman has worked for Atlanta, Frank Clark is better. Jarrett only had one sack as a rookie in 2015 and three in 2016 — so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility Jarran Reed can develop into a similar impact player.

Seattle has had success in free agency, adding Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Athyba Rubin and Tony McDaniel control their gaps and really, that’s their job.

The big difference between the two really is depth. The Seahawks rely on Bennett and Avril to play a large number of snaps. Bennett, when healthy, rarely plays less than 90% of the snaps. Avril played 77% in 2016 with Frank Clark at 63%.

Alternatively, Cassius Marsh played just 36% of the defensive snaps. Having a couple more players capable of rotating in and out effectively could be the key to progress in 2017.

Quinton Jefferson might be able to help there after a short-lived rookie season. And while the clamour is to get a big name free agent to take this team over the top, it might not be realistic nor necessarily the best method.

If they paid an outsider like Calais Campbell $12-14m APY (for example) — how will that be received by the rest of the roster? Only two players (Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman) are due to earn more than $11m in 2017.

It might not be the flashy, attractive approach — but increasing the quality of D-line depth might be the way they go.

Dallas’ Terrell McClain could be a relatively cost-effective rotational piece. Jabaal Sheard looks set to leave New England. Can the Kansas City Chiefs afford to keep Dontari Poe? Jacksonville’s Abry Jones is an intriguing free agent-to-be and so is Philadelphia’s Bennie Logan, Baltimore’s Brandon Williams, Denver’s Sly Williams, Carolina’s Mario Addison and Tennessee’s Karl Klug.

Some of these names will get big money because that’s the nature of free agency at the moment. There also stands to be some value in the second wave — and that’s where the Seahawks have had success in the past.

There are also potential cap casualties to add to the pool. Atlanta might release Tyson Jackson to save around $4m, Sharrif Floyd could be cut to save $6.75m in Minnesota and the Jags may wish to trim the fat on their D-line by parting ways with Jared Odrick to save $8.5m.

Connor Barwin could be one to monitor too. He isn’t considered a great fit in Philly’s defense and can save the Eagles $7.75m if he’s traded or cut. It’s easy to forget Barwin is only 30 and ran a 4.47 at his combine. He’d be a nice, veteran rotation piece for the Seahawks.

4. Will the Seahawks do what Atlanta did in the 2016 draft?

The Falcons selected Keanu Neal (safety) in round one and Deion Jones (linebacker) in round two.

The positions might switch in terms of order drafted — but it feels like a safe projection for the Seahawks at this early stage.

It could be one of Obi Melifonwu, Kevin King, Rasul Douglas or Budda Baker to fill the DB need and one of Haason Reddick, Zach Cunningham, Jarrad Davis or Tyus Bowser at linebacker.

Super Bowl mock draft: 5th February

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Feel free to use this as an open thread for the Super Bowl. And if you’re struggling to handle a Seahawks-free Super Bowl — here’s a mock draft to talk about instead.

Scroll down for notes.

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Chicago — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#4 Jacksonville — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#5 Tennessee — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#6 Jets — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#7 LA Chargers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#8 Carolina — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#9 Cincinnati — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#10 Buffalo — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#11 New Orleans — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#12 Cleveland — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
#13 Arizona — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
#14 Indianapolis — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#15 Eagles — Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
#16 Baltimore — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#17 Washington — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#18 Tennessee — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
#19 Tampa Bay — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#20 Denver — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#21 Detroit — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Miami — Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
#23 New York Giants — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
#24 Oakland — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
#25 Houston — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
#26 Cleveland — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
#27 Kansas City — Deshaun Watson (QB, 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 — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
#32 New England — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)

This projection highlights the recent talk of teams not being enamoured with the quarterback class. Today, the 49ers were added to the growing list of suitors for Jimmy Garoppolo. Apparently Matt Schaub (!!!) is an alternative option while the Jets are reportedly eyeing Mike Glennon.

Is this unrealistic?

San Francisco — Matt Schaub
Chicago — Jimmy Garoppolo
Jets — Mike Glennon
Buffalo — Tony Romo

It’d have a major impact on the top of the draft, with potentially Cleveland (not an attractive proposition for any of the names above) being left to consider their options.

In a scenario like the one above, moving back into the first round might appeal to the Browns — having already landed the drafts best pass rusher and arguably the best corner too, they can still land a QB.

They might want to get ahead of Kansas City. The Chiefs need a long term answer at QB with Alex Smith turning 33 in May and seemingly incapable of leading a deep playoff run.

Using the draft trade chart, this type of deal could make sense:

Cleveland gets:

R1 #26 — 700
R2 #58 — 320
Total trade value = 1020

Seattle gets:

R2 #33 — 580
R2 #51 — 390
R5 — 44
Total = 1014

It’s just a bit of manoeuvring by both teams. The Browns jump from #33 to #26 to get a quarterback. Cleveland owns Tennessee’s second round pick (#51) so they swap with Seattle (#58) and throw in a fifth round pick to match up the value.

The Browns have two fifth rounders anyway (acquiring a second from New England) so it’s not much of a sacrifice on their behalf to get a possible answer at quarterback.

It also gives the Seahawks a better chance of landing two of the names below at #33 and #51.

Players still on the board at need positions:

Obi Melifonwu (DB, Connecticut)
Kevin King (CB, Washington)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Rasul Douglas (CB, West Virginia)
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)
Cordrea Tankersley (CB, Clemson)
Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Tyus Bowser (LB, Houston)
Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)
Dorian Johnson (G/T, Pittsburgh)

What would you do in this situation?

Let me know in the comments section.

Rapoport: Seahawks unlikely to lose second round pick

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Saturday draft links: Bolles, Reddick, Melifonwu updates

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Firstly, congratulations to Kenny Easley. If you missed BobbyK’s article yesterday, check it out here.

Tony Pauline has some interesting info on Garett Bolles (T, Utah) and Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M):

The buzz continues to build around offensive tackle Garett Bolles. As posted earlier this week Bolles has been stamped the superior athlete from this year’s offensive tackle class and several people have told me for a month now he’s the best left tackle in the draft.

Bolles is likely to measure a shade under 6-feet/5-inches at the combine, which may turn a few teams off, but from what I’m hearing don’t be surprised if he lands in the top half of round one.

I’m told Evans, who had two solid practices at the Senior Bowl before sitting out Thursday with injury, is expected to blow up the combine and put up Byron Jones type numbers.

The belief is Evans could land in the late part of round one and I’ve heard his name linked with the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys presently have four defensive backs up for free agency including two safety’s, starter Barry Church and JJ Wilcox.

Bolles could end up in the top-10 as the best left tackle in college football in 2016. Evans’ athleticism and intensity shows up on tape and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he rose like Karl Joseph a year ago and found his way into the top-25.

Daniel Jeremiah says teams are not excited by this years quarterback class:

I couldn’t find a scout or executive who was excited about DeShone Kizer or Mitch Trubisky. When you’re talking to teams that already have an established signal-caller, there’s no reason for them to feed me false information. In fact, it would benefit them if these quarterbacks went early, dropping talented players at other positions into their lap.

Sometimes the NFL is hard to figure out. The lack of interest in Deshaun Watson compared to the building buzz around Jared Goff a year ago is bizarre.

Jeremiah has also info on Haason Reddick’s stock:

Most impressively, he showed excellent run instincts and the ability to sort through the trash and find the ball carrier in team drills. Reuben Foster is the top inside linebacker in this draft class, but Reddick is putting some pressure on Florida’s Jarrad Davis for the No. 2 spot.

After the combine Reddick will probably be considered a clear top-22 pick. There just aren’t many players with his combination of size, extreme athleticism and versatility. He can play any of the three linebacker spots and rush the edge. He’s an incredible player.

It’s interesting though that Jeremiah notes he’s closing in on Jarrad Davis as the #2 inside linebacker. It goes to show that even if Reddick moves up boards — it might just create a different opportunity for the Seahawks if they want to take an athletic linebacker in round one, be it Davis or Zach Cunningham for example.

Reddick, however, is pretty much the perfect type of prospect for the Seahawks. It’s a shame to think he’ll be off the board by #26.

Bucky Brooks offers some insider info on two players we discussed during the Senior Bowl week — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut) and John Johnson (S, Boston College):

“They did a nice job at both spots,” said an AFC college scouting director. “I wouldn’t want them to play outside extensively, but they are certainly capable of playing on the island in spots. … Every team is looking for a guy who can (handle) dual responsibilities in this league.”

Both players could be on Seattle’s radar.

This video of Melifonwu was posted on Draft Breakdown yesterday.

The NFL.com draft tracker was updated today with reports on some of the Senior Bowl competitors.

Melifonwu got the following review from a AFC Pro-Personnel Director: “He’s a freak. He’s going to blow away the combine. He’s fast and will post some of the best vertical and broad numbers at his position. He’s going to get a lot better in the pros and he has that elite size that will get him overdrafted.”

Lance Zierlein added: “Big and athletic, he may lack the coverage qualities and instincts needed to work as a “last line of defense” player in a pass-happy division. Melifonwu is an effective downhill tackler who has the ability to match up against tight ends and make a living near the line of scrimmage. His football instincts aren’t up to par, but the size and traits will be extremely enticing for teams who covet traits first.”

The Seahawks don’t necessarily consider ‘traits first’ — but they’re an important part of what they look for in the early rounds.

Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida) got a positive review with a NFC Personnel Director stating: “You saw at (Senior Bowl) practice how gifted he is athletically. He just has to prove he can stay on the field.”

There’s no doubt Anzalone could be an intriguing player. His issues staying healthy are the only concern, otherwise he’d potentially be a first round possibility. Having only checked today, I wasn’t aware he was a former 5-star recruit according to Rivals.

Boston College safety John Johnson is a player to keep an eye on. A NFC Secondary Coach said of Johnson: “He’s really caught my eye out here. Had to go look him up with one of our scouts to find out more about the kid. Way more athletic than a lot of the safeties you see out at this game.”

He excelled during Senior Bowl drills.

Guest article: Kenny Easley in the HoF, what about Earl & Kam?

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Written by BobbyK

Although the season has been over for almost three weeks, there is still hope for one final victory prior to Super Bowl LI.

Tomorrow we learn if Kenny Easley, Godfather of the Legion of Boom, will become the latest Seahawks player enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

While most content on this blog is focused on what may happen in the future, today is appropriate for looking back at a Seahawks draft nearly 36 years ago.

The date was Saturday, April 28, 1981. The Seahawks had a decision to make with the fourth overall pick. The choice was between two defensive backs, Kenny Easley and Ronnie Lott.

“We went back and forth,” said former Seahawks coach Jack Patera in an interview last spring. “There wasn’t a whole lot that separated the two.”

Easley had been a four-time all-conference selection and three-time consensus All-American at UCLA. Lott was coming off a brilliant senior campaign at USC and was taken by the San Francisco 49ers four picks later.

Former safety Eugene Robinson had 57 career interceptions and his vote for best of all-time at his position was Easley and Lott. Robinson emphatically added, “No matter what era.”

The biggest criticism of Easley’s Hall of Fame candidacy is he only played seven seasons. Put into context, current Seahawks safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are seven-year veterans.

Would Chancellor or Thomas be considered for the Hall of Fame if they retired today? It’s possible for Thomas and not likely for Chancellor.

A difference in comparing seven-year careers is Easley did not need a rookie season to develop. He took the league by storm from day one and was AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year 1981 and played at a high level until his final professional game in the Pro Bowl.

Thomas started as a rookie in 2010 but didn’t become a force until his sophomore campaign.

Thomas shared a story of his rookie struggles with former Texas Longhorns teammate Kenny Vaccaro after he had been benched by the New Orleans Saints in 2014. The story was printed in The New Orleans Advocate on January 28, 2015.

“He was real down on himself and I was telling him the story of when coach [Pete] Carroll almost benched me,” Thomas said. “We played the Giants my rookie year. We got blown out and I was giving up touchdowns left and right.”

Chancellor did not start a game as a rookie while serving as backup to veteran Lawyer Milloy.

Although Thomas and Chancellor are seven year veterans, they have not dominated the way Easley did in an equal amount consecutive seasons.

Team success isn’t supposed to be Hall of Fame criteria but numbers indicate chances of being inducted are greater if players were part of championship teams. Thomas and Chancellor were part of Seattle’s only Super Bowl victory.

The flip side is neither player has won an NFL Defensive MVP Award and the Hall of Fame is supposedly about individual greatness – not team success.

Opposing offensive coordinators learned early in his rookie season they had better account for number forty-five. Similarly, Easley had to be accounted for through his final game which was a Wild Card loss to the Houston Oilers on January 3, 1988. He was only 28 years old.

While plenty of Hall of Fame players lasted 10+ seasons, many did not dominate the way Easley did in seven consecutive years.

Earl Campbell and his eight-year career is an example. By his seventh season, Campbell was a shell of his former self, merely averaging 3.2 yard per carry and rushing for only 468 yards in 14 games.

Lynn Swann played nine years but averaged less than a catch per game as a rookie in 1974 and his career concluded in 1982 with only 18 receptions and no touchdowns.

Do some players get “credit” from Hall of Fame voters for having played in the NFL even if they did not impact games early in their careers like Swann or in their twilight years such as Campbell and Swann? There is no arguing the Hall of Fame credentials of Campbell or Swann, but it isn’t correct to insinuate each were more dominant than Easley for any seven consecutive years of their careers.

Tomorrow we find out if Kenny Easley gets his overdue call into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and joins Lott in safety immortality. It would also be fitting if Thomas and Chancellor continue to play at a high level to eventually join Easley in Canton.

Although their season has been over for almost three weeks, there is still hope for one final Seahawks victory.