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Scenario: What if there’s a first round rush on cornerbacks?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

On top of the interest in Cary Williams, Bob McGinn is reporting that the Seahawks are interested in Green Bay’s Tramon Williams (set to hit the open market on Tuesday).

We’ve discussed the possibility of a veteran stopgap solution at cornerback, with Byron Maxwell set to depart on a projected $10m APY contract. This would allow the Seahawks to continue drafting developmental cornerbacks in the later rounds. It’s what they’ve always done under Carroll and Schneider.

It could also be a review of the situation. Receivers are more popular than ever in the draft, but so are cornerbacks. Are the two linked? Possibly. In the same way that pass rushers and pass blockers are equally vital to a team — it’s getting that way with wide outs and corners. A lot was made of five receivers being drafted in the first frame last year — five cornerbacks also left the board in round one. Four were drafted on day one in 2013. That’s nine in the last two years.

It’s not really surprising given the cost of a good veteran cornerback, receiver, pass rusher or offensive tackle. Teams are hunting for talent and value at the key positions.

There’s every chance we could see four or five cornerbacks go early again this year. If you don’t take one in the first round you could miss out. Trae Waynes and Jalen Collins are near locks for round one. Byron Jones is in the conversation following his explosive combine performance. Marcus Peters is talented enough and he’s saying all the right things this off-season (take note, DGB). Kevin Johnson is being touted as a first round pick by many different pundits (including Mel Kiper in his updated mock today).

If there’s a first round rush, it’s going to be difficult for the Seahawks to get at the second wave without reaching. We could see the next group going in rounds 2-3 — and that might be a bit rich to take an Eric Rowe or an Alex Carter. So for Seattle — and several other teams — it might be a case of ‘needs must’. Go hit the veteran market.

As you can see, the Seahawks aren’t the only suitor for Cary Williams. They might end up forking out $5m to bring in a 31-year-old. I guess this is what happens when the LOB production line finally has an off-year and you get a few serious injuries. For some teams the draft will provide a solution. Even perhaps Kansas City — who everyone assumes will go receiver in the first round. They’re actually in a good position at #18 to get a cornerback (another need) and take a receiver on day two.

You might say it’s unrealistic not to have someone like Jaelen Strong going to the Chiefs. I watched a couple of new Arizona State games this week. Yes, he had a tremendous combine. No, that combine performance doesn’t translate on the field. He really struggles to separate. The Chiefs can reach for him at #18 or they can fill another hole and use rounds 2-3 for the wide out. The options on day two are going to be phenomenal and it just makes sense to wait.

The Seahawks might kick off something of a rush if they do decide to take a receiver at #31. It won’t be totally unbelievable if every wide out not named Kevin White, Amari Cooper or Devante Parker is available. In 2012 the first pass rusher taken was Bruce Irvin at #15. Seattle launched a run that year and chose ‘their guy’. They could have some nice options in the late first this year. It’s the kind of scenario I think we need to at least consider. There are a lot more teams in front of Seattle with offensive line needs. And the cornerbacks going early could also have an impact on who’s available.

It could also lessen the need to pursue veteran receivers in the open market. Ultimately it’s a good draft for receivers and a bad draft for tight ends. Why fight it?

Andre Johnson is on the brink of being cut by Houston but he’s 34 this year and won’t be cheap. He’d need to be replaced in a year or two. The Bears are reportedly trying to trade Brandon Marshall for a mid-round pick. Good luck with that. If he’s cut perhaps he would be an option — but for all his talent and competitive nature, he’s also a possible distraction (when hasn’t he been?). The Seahawks don’t need another distraction. Dwayne Bowe is going to be released by Kansas City — but he’s also 31 this year and hasn’t done anything for four years.

Everything points towards the draft. The Seahawks need a receiver who can grow with Russell Wilson as he becomes a $100m quarterback. Ideally you get a couple in this deep class, whether it’s #31 and later on or two in the middle rounds (eg Tre McBride & Darren Waller).

Again, it’s a good draft for receivers and a bad one for tight ends. Which problem are you going to solve in free agency and which in the draft?

My projection is they go after Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron to try and add a dynamic tight end. They sign a veteran pass rusher (interior or edge). Matt Barrows is reporting the Seahawks have interest in Trent Cole. Based on the news regarding Cary/Tramon Williams, they also look to add a veteran stopgap starter at corner.

If any of this is correct, it opens up the draft to go WR and OL early (in whichever order) filling two other key needs. And as we’ve discussed, that’s where the value might be at #31 and #63.

Seahawks seven round mock draft

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

NC State’s Rob Crisp did an excellent job blocking Vic Beasley

The Seahawks are set to pick once in each round and according to they can expect four compensatory picks (one in the fourth round, two in the fifth round, one in the sixth round).

On top of this, I have the Seahawks trading out of the first round to acquire an extra fourth rounder. They subsequently use that pick to trade back into the third round.

Confused? You will be.

Free agency obviously plays a big part. I have the Seahawks signing one of Julius Thomas or Jordan Cameron plus an experienced defensive lineman at a modest price (either a one-year deal for a proven veteran or a prove-it style contract). That leaves the following key needs: Cornerback, Receiver, Guard.

I firmly believe Thomas will be a priority target to provide a much needed second level mismatch.

The Seahawks could cut some of their veteran players (eg Tony McDaniel) for extra cap relief. I’ve taken that into account too. I’m also using ESPN’s Scouts Inc to note where prospects are being projected in each round. I chose them because they’re one of the few outlets grading every prospect in the draft. They updated those grades this week.

Pick #31 — trade down
The Seahawks move back into the early second round
It’ll be harder this year without a Teddy Bridgewater sitting on the board, plus the value in rounds 2-4 is much greater than the late first. However, the 5th year contract option will remain attractive. Here are some recent examples of late first round trades:

— In 2014 Minnesota traded a fourth round pick to Seattle to move from #40 to #32 for Teddy Bridgewater
— In 2013 Minnesota traded third, fourth and seventh round picks to New England to move from #52 to #30 for Cordarelle Patterson
— In 2012 Tampa Bay traded into the 31st spot to take Doug Martin by swapping fourth round picks with Denver.
— In 2011 New Orleans traded a future first rounder and the #56 pick to New England to draft Mark Ingram at #29
— In 2010 Detroit swapped fourth rounders with Minnesota and gave away a 7th rounder to move from #34 to #30 for Jahvid Best
— In 2008 the Jets traded a fourth rounder to jump from #36 to #30 with Green Bay to select Dustin Keller

In the last seven drafts, only 2009’s edition hasn’t seen a trade involving the last four picks in the first round (#29-32). If you want to move out of the first, there’s usually a team willing to work out a deal. Here’s the interesting bit — 50% of the trades above involved moving up for a running back. Doug Martin, Mark Ingram and Jahvid Best aren’t exactly glowing references for a similar deal this year but it is a strong class of running backs.

What if Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley are still on the board at #31? What if they’re both gone and the #3 running back is generating a lot of interest in the early second round? New Orleans pick twelfth in the second round and are likely to lose Mark Ingram in free agency. Would they be willing to move into the late first for the sake of a fourth rounder? What about San Diego (16th pick in round two) or Atlanta (10th pick in round two)? The Vikings have traded back into the first round in the last two drafts. Could they make it a hat-trick to replace Adrian Peterson?

In this projection the Seahawks do find a trade partner to move down 8-10 spots and acquire an extra fourth rounder (a similar deal to last year, where they moved down eight spots for a fourth).

Second round pick (having traded down from #31)
Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
It’s hard to judge Peters’ stock. If we see a rush on cornerbacks in the first round he could be swallowed up. We might see two spells where the CB’s go — one each in the first two days of the draft. After that? Not much else. It’s a mediocre class overall. Peters lost some momentum with his combine performance (which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t as good as some of the other big names) but gained some momentum with a humble and honest press conference. He’s fronting up and taking responsibility for what happened at Washington. If he’s taking the same stance in team meetings it’ll ease some of the character concerns. But I suspect some GM’s/HC’s will remain wary of his ability to accept coaching and therefore he could be available in the first half of round two. Why does he fit for Seattle? His wingspan will make up for sub-32 inch arms (31.5 inches) but everything else about his game screams Seahawks. We previously mocked him at #31 for that reason. He plays with a swagger, he’s a press-man corner with a nose for the ball. He can start quickly. And the Seahawks have enough leaders in the secondary to feel confident he’ll know his place.

Second round pick (original selection, #63)
Henry Anderson (DT, Stanford)
Originally projected in the third or fourth round range, Anderson has real momentum after a superb Senior Bowl and a productive combine. He was pretty much unblockable in Mobile and really stood out in the drills. In Indianapolis he was one of the big winners — running a 5.03 with a 1.63 split and excelling in the three-cone and short shuttle. He’s long (6-6, 33.5 inch arms) and big (294lbs). He could be a cheaper alternative to Tony McDaniel, working the three-technique inside. One other thing working in his favor? He’s an excellent run defender. On tape he just doesn’t allow running backs any yards after contact. We know the Seahawks are willing to go a round early if necessary. Scouts Inc projects him at #83 overall, so he could be there in the late second. He probably won’t be there in the third.

Third round pick (SEA trades back into R3)
Tre McBride (WR, Williams & Mary)
I’m a big fan of McBride’s. He’s an alpha male on the field (an underrated aspect for a receiver) but appears mature and humble off it. He competes for the ball in the air with terrific technique and control. Has the short-area burst to win in zone but also enough size to deal with press. He has some kick-return ability and could have an immediate impact there. Excelled at the combine with a 4.41 at 6-0 and 210lbs. His 1.51 ten yard split is elite. Jumped a 38-inch vertical and a 10’2″ broad. He’s an explosive receiver who impressed against the big schools he faced. So will he last into the late third round? I don’t know. I could put him in round two I like him that much. But we also thought Martavis Bryant would go really early after his combine, likewise Donte Moncrief. They both lasted. And McBride is a small school prospect. The Seahawks might have to manipulate this one. This is the pick they acquired after moving down from #31. The Seahawks give up a sixth rounder (acquired in the Percy Harvin trade) to move from the early fourth round back into the third to make sure they get McBride. In the 2014 draft Jacksonville made a similar move to draft Brandon Linder.

Third round pick (original selection, #95)
Ty Sambrailo (G, Colorado State)
I’m not a fan of Sambrailo at tackle. He just doesn’t seem like a natural fit — his footwork is too busy, he doesn’t do a good enough job getting his hands on the edge rusher. When a D-end beats him off the snap he’s pretty much out of it, there’s no counter or recovery (something Jake Fisher is great at by the way). If you move him inside his lack of arm length (33 inches) is less of a problem, his active feet will be better working to the second level or pulling and he can play square without needing to kick-slide and position against the arc. It seems like an ideal fit. Will he last until the late third? Scouts Inc has him graded at #90 overall. I could actually see them drafting him in the late second because he’s that much of a fit. He has the mobility to work in the ZBS, he’s also a good size replacement for James Carpenter.

Fourth round pick (original selection)
Alex Carter (CB, Stanford)
He’s getting pumped up after a superb combine, but for me he’s a classic early day three cornerback. The tape is hit and miss. You watch one game and he’s tight in coverage, does a good job re-routing receivers and has the size to compete with physical wide outs. Yet he didn’t force turnovers at Stanford and had trouble playing the ball, his recovery speed is suspect and he’s more of a project in need technical refinement. Like Richard Sherman, he had trouble at times working against the double-move. He has the size (6-0, 196lbs) and length (32 1/8 inch arms) to live in Seattle’s secondary. He had an excellent 40 inch vertical at the combine. The tools are there. He just needs help. A team like Atlanta or Jacksonville might take him pretty early to try and mimic the Seahawks — but Dan Quinn and Gus Bradley are fully aware Seattle didn’t reach on guys like this. If he’s still there in the fourth he’d be a nice depth pick at corner. Scouts Inc has him as the #117 overall project — essentially the mid-to-late fourth round.

Fourth round pick (compensatory selection)
Darren Waller (WR, Georgia Tech)
He’s a Vincent Jackson clone when you look at his size, length, speed and hand size. Right across the board he’s almost identical to V-Jax. He’s one of two players who didn’t drop a single catchable pass in 2014. Not many 6-6, 238lbs receivers can run a 4.46, jump 37 inches vertically and manage a 10’5″ broad jump. He has a fantastic catching radius with 33 1/4 inch arms. He is a project though. He didn’t run many refined routes at Georgia Tech in the triple option — he was usually used as a decoy or deep route specialist. He’d find little holes in a defense cheating up against the run. He wasn’t asked to do a lot of conventional receiver work. He’s very polite and softly spoken — can he play with an edge? He needs time, but it took Vincent Jackson four years to have a major impact in the league. Waller might never live up to his physical numbers, but you bring him in and see if there’s something to work with and develop. If he works out, you’re getting the kind of big target Seattle has lacked in the Pete Carroll era. They’ve taken receivers in this range before trying to find the bigger guy. Scouts Inc has Waller at #192 — so this could be a ‘take him a round earlier’ type situation.

Fifth round pick (original selection)
Zach Hodges (DE, Harvard)
What a back story. He’s overcome so much to get not only to Harvard, but now the brink of the NFL. He lost his mother in high school, his father as a toddler and his grandfather (father figure) as a teenager. This is a guy you can root for — and therefore the type of guy Seattle loves to take a chance on. He was explosive at the level of college football he played at. He had a 1.61 ten yard split at the combine which is intriguing. He’s 250lbs and 6-2 1/2. He’s not the tallest but he’s long with incredible 34 1/4 inch arms. You know he’s going to give it his best shot. If he fails it won’t be for the lack of trying. He has a good spin move and he’s shown he can loop inside to attack the middle. He will need to improve his hand placement at the next level. There’s no real evidence he can translate speed-to-power well enough to have an immediate impact. The first year could be a tough one — but what do you expect from a late fifth rounder? He’s #179 on Scouts Inc’s list — so basically the kind of range Seattle picks in the fifth.

Fifth round pick (compensatory selection)
Kurtis Drummond (S, Michigan State)
He’s not the fastest (4.65) but he was the leader of the MSU secondary and is extremely mature and passionate about the game. He’s a field general. There’s nothing particularly flashy about his game but he’ll get out there and do a job. The Seahawks need reliable depth in the secondary and that’s what Drummond provides. He did manage a superb 39.5 inch vertical. He’s 6-0 and 208lbs. Just a really solid player within a bad group of safety’s. You don’t draft him expecting him to start for years but he does have range. Scouts Inc ranks him as a seventh rounder.

Fifth round pick (compensatory selection)
Laurence Gibson (T, Virginia Tech)
They’ve shown a tendency to take a punt on tall, long, athletic offensive linemen in this kind of range. Gibson only started one season for the Hokies with mixed results but look at the measurables — 6-6, 305lbs, 35 1/8 inch arms, 5.04 forty, 33.5 inch vertical, 9’5″ broad jump and a 4.56 short shuttle. He’s not Garrett Scott but that’s an impressive combine performance. Scott’s rare heart condition could put his career in jeopardy — it remains to be seen whether he’ll return. If you’re drafting Sambrailo to play guard, you need depth at tackle. Gibson would be a camp project to see if he can make it at the next level as a backup in the short term. He’s rated as an UDFA by Scouts Inc.

Sixth round pick (compensatory selection)
Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT, Southern Miss)
RNR missed the entire 2013 season with a knee injury but bounced back in 2014 to lead Southern Miss in TFL’s (14). He found a way to impact games. He’s 6-2 and 307lbs with a shade under 33 inch arms. He ran a 5.02 and posted a nice 34 inch vertical. He could sneak into the later rounds as a priority UDFA. At the combine he moved well during drills. You bring him in as a project with a shot to work into the rotation — possibly as early as this year. He plays with an edge. Scouts Inc suggests he’ll go in the seventh round.

Seventh round pick (original selection)
Rob Crisp (T, NC State)
Injuries impacted his college career but he has a ton of potential. He’s long — 6-7, 301lbs and has 34.5 inch arms. He ran a 5.26 and posted a 32.5 inch vertical (same as T.J. Clemmings). Crisp’s short shuttle was in the top-eight for offensive linemen at the combine. Nobody handled Vic Beasley better than this guy in 2014. I’m fascinated by what he can achieve with pro-coaching and a clean bill of health. I wouldn’t even rule out a starting role one day. He’s graded as a priority UDFA.

Overall draft class

Marcus Peters (CB)
Ty Sambrailo (G)
Henry Anderson (DT)
Tre McBride (WR)
Alex Carter (CB)
Darren Waller (WR)
Zach Hodges (DE)
Kurtis Drummond (S)
Laurence Gibson (T)
Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT)
Rob Crisp (T)

Some of the other players I considered

Steven Nelson (CB, Oregon State)
A really competitive cornerback who plays his ass off. Smaller and lacks length — would be a nickel corner in Seattle. He probably goes a bit too early for the Seahawks to consider (rounds 2-3).

Davis Tull (DE, Tenn-Chatt)
He’s going to convert to the SAM linebacker spot at the next level. Brilliant athlete and a ‘Mr. Football’ type. Again, probably goes a bit too early.

Terry Poole (T, San Diego State)
Ideal guard body and should convert inside. Really liked the way he moved at the combine. Could easily be an alternative to one of the OL prospects listed above.

Josh Shaw (S, USC)
More athletic than Drummond and might be more appealing for that reason. Off-field flags could push him into the UDFA range and perhaps he lands in Seattle as a free agent?

Nick Marshall (QB, Auburn)
If the Seahawks go corner early they might not take one in the round four range. If so, Nick Marshall is a late round option to convert from QB to CB.

Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
The worst case scenario with Fisher is you end up with a Kyle Long-lite. He doesn’t play with Long’s intensity but he’s a similar athlete. He’s nearly identical to Joel Bitonio. If you stick at #31 he could be an option.

Cameron Erving (C/G, Florida State)
A player who can slot into any interior O-line position. Converted defensive line prospect (like J.R. Sweezy). Could be available after a trade back into round two. Bags of potential.

Nelson Agholor (WR, USC)
Seattle doesn’t care about size if you play with grit, safe hands and compete for the ball. If they bring in a top free agent TE they might go for another leaner wide out at #31 or in round two. Agholor is incredibly athletic, reliable and he’s a great kick returner.

Karlos Williams (RB, Florida State)
I watched two games on Monday and like this guy. 6-0 and 230lbs — decent vision and patience with 4.48 speed. Off-field red flags are a major turn-off. Could last into free agency as a consequence.

Damian Swann (CB, Georgia)
He’s such a playmaker and with the right coaching could be a fine cornerback. He doesn’t have the length to play outside for Seattle — but I’d love to see this coaching staff try to get the best out of this classic ball-hawk. Can he play nickel?

Final thoughts

I didn’t take a running back. If they extend Marshawn Lynch’s contract and keep Robert Turbin and Christine Michael it’s a bit of a redundant pick — even if it’s a class you’d like to dip into. I suspect they’ll add an athletic linebacker for depth either in the later rounds or UDFA — but it won’t be someone from the combine. They might look at return specialists — I haven’t really studied the options there. I’ve picked relatively familiar names or at least players we’ve spent time discussing. We all know the Seahawks will probably draft a couple of unknowns (eg Eric Pinkins, Jimmy Staten). I don’t see any reason to draft a quarterback to develop within this class.

Wingspan and will the Seahawks go cornerback in round two?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

Richard Sherman, showing off his wingspan

Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s Seahawks haven’t drafted a cornerback with sub-32 inch arms. They love height and length at the position. Yet the 2015 class isn’t filled with long, tall cornerbacks. We listed some of the fits in this piece. You’re limiting yourself to basically Jalen Collins, Alex Carter, Byron Jones and Adrian Amos (a safety who might be able to play corner).

There were, however, a couple of interesting prospects with 31.5 inch arms. How important is half an inch? Are you going to strike a player off your draft board because of half an inch?

This is where wingspan comes in to play. According to Zach Whitman, an authority on SPARQ and measurables, the Seahawks have generally drafted cornerbacks with at least a 77.5 or 78-inch wingspan. So if they have 31.5 inch arms but have a long wingspan, they could still be in contention.

(Wingspan is the length between the tip of your middle finger on one outstretched arm to the other)

Clare Farnsworth did a piece on how wingspan translates to length and how it makes the Legion of Boom even taller when you include wingspan and height to create an overall reach:

“Browner checks in at 6 feet 8, fingertip of extended arm to fingertip of extended arm. Sherman is at 6-5½, Chancellor at 6-4½ and even Thomas “gains” 4½ inches to 6-2½.”

It’s not easy to find wingspan details for cornerbacks. A quick Google search revealed Jalen Collins has a 78 inch wingspan, but he already passes the 32-inch arms test. What about the two intriguing players with 31.5 inch arms?

Eric Rowe was given 32.5 inch arms at the Senior Bowl but they were measured slightly shorter at the combine (31.5 inches). Apparently these things change depending on who’s doing the test. Either way, scanning the internet revealed Rowe to have a 77.5-inch wingspan. So I guess we can include him as a contender. All of Rowe’s other characteristics were a fit (4.45 speed, 39 inch vertical, 10-5 broad jump, excellent three-cone and short shuttle). He isn’t an overly physical player but neither is Byron Maxwell. You don’t see great recovery speed on tape and he’s more of a toolsy developmental project who can be coached into a scheme.

Marcus Peters has 31.5 inch arms but plays like a Seahawks corner (physical, ball hawk, confident bordering on arrogant — in a good way). You can imagine him playing for the LOB. I couldn’t find a wingspan total for Peters, but this Tweet is intriguing if accurate. That would put him a notch below Brandon Browner in terms of overall length (if true). That would also surely put him in contention to be drafted by Seattle. Peters’ overall workout ticks all the right boxes for Seattle — 4.53 forty (faster than Sherman’s), 37.5 inch vertical, 10-1 broad jump, decent three-cone and short shuttle. I thought he handled his press conference very well at the combine — taking responsibility for his actions. He’s allowed to perform at the Washington pro-day — a significant development.

We’ve talked about the possibility of a veteran stopgap solution at corner or even just drafting ‘your guys’ in rounds 4-5 and opening up the competition. What about the possibility Seattle drafts a corner in round two or three to come in as an instant starter?

They could trade down from #31 to the #40 range, accumulate another pick or two in the process (just like last year) and take a cornerback in the first half of round two. They would have plenty of picks to attack the loaded depth at receiver in rounds 3-4. They could potentially use the #63 pick on a starter at guard to replace James Carpenter (eg Ty Sambrailo).

Jalen Collins and Byron Jones will likely be off the board — but Rowe and Peters could be available. In Rowe’s case he could stick into rounds 3-4, but we know the Seahawks are willing to go a round early to get their guys. Peters could still go in the first given the high demand for talented cornerbacks, but the early second round is a reasonable projection.

Taking either on day two wouldn’t prevent you returning to the position later in the draft to take a prospect like Alex Carter.

I still believe the Seahawks are likely to pursue one of the two dynamic tight ends in free agency (Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron). I think there’s a chance they’ll find a way to add some depth to the defensive line. This will leave them needing, as a priority — WR, CB, G. They could spend multiple picks filling these holes.

I could be wrong on that projection, but this is a good draft for receivers and there are plenty of athletic offensive linemen you can pick and develop. it’s not a deep class at corner. And if they don’t (somehow) find a starter to replace Byron Maxwell in free agency, they might be inclined to go early on the position in the draft (day two).

One final point — and I think it’s an important one. We can talk about height, length, speed or whatever. I don’t believe the Seahawks are a slave to ideals. Starting a 5-10 quarterback isn’t an ideal and yet the Seahawks have done it because Wilson is a difference maker for many other reasons. The offensive line is full of different shapes and sizes — from the massive (James Carpenter), to the long (Russell Okung), to the athletic (J.R. Sweezy) to the big-with-short-arms (Justin Britt). The receivers are generally smaller across the board but all play with ‘grit’.

Of all the positions, cornerback probably provides the strictest set of ideals. They know what they like and what they can develop. Pete Carroll is a secondary coach at heart. But that doesn’t mean they won’t bend the rules for a corner who isn’t over six foot and only has 31.5 inch arms — IF they are a good fit for other reasons.

Possible free agent targets for the Seahawks

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Can the Seahawks afford to land Julius Thomas?

The Seahawks are expected to have around $25m in cap space this year. It’s middle of the pack. In comparison the Colts have $45m to play with, Jacksonville $65m and the Raiders $55m. They’ll be able to spend the big bucks. The advantage Seattle has? They’re in the midst of a legitimate Championship window. Some players will value that over a little more cash in the hand.

The remaining cap space will be slightly impacted by Marshawn Lynch’s pay rise (assuming he agrees to it). They can save over $5m by cutting Zach Miller and Tony McDaniel. If they wanted to be even more ruthless, they can save $5.5m by cutting Brandon Mebane (a possible candidate for a pay cut).

They need to save room for Russell Wilson’s new deal (although the cap hit in 2015 won’t be too extreme) plus, potentially, a new contract for Bobby Wagner and/or J.R. Sweezy.

When you look at the numbers, a move for Ndamukong Suh is a pipe dream. Not impossible, but almost certainly too restrictive. He could easily be the best paid defensive player in the league in eight days time. He’d have to be willing to accept a sensational pay cut or a stunningly creative deal to end up in Seattle.

Suh wasn’t given the franchise tag by Detroit (no surprises there). Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Justin Houston, Stephen Gostkowski and Jason Pierre-Paul were tagged today. Miami gave tight end Charles Clay the transition tag — meaning he can negotiate with other teams and the Dolphins can choose to match the contract or let him walk (Cleveland did this with Alex Mack a year ago). If nobody offers him a contract — and if he doesn’t sign a new deal in Miami — he’ll earn $7.071m in 2015.

So who’s in play for the Seahawks in the open market?

I reached out to cap expert Davis Hsu to gauge what kind of free agents the Seahawks could realistically acquire:

Hsu suggests $6-7m APY as a projection for a medium-to-high type free agent acquisition. As he notes, with further cuts you could stretch higher. For example, if you go after one of the two high profile tight ends you’re unlikely to keep Zach Miller, creating another +$2m. Likewise if you wanted to try and improve the interior defensive line with a big name, cutting Tony McDaniel adds $3m to the stash.

This article on lists the top 101 NFL free agents. Here are perhaps some of the more realistic options:

The dynamic tight end
Available: Julius Thomas (Denver), Jordan Cameron (Cleveland)

Ask any NFL fan about this pair a year ago and the response would’ve been extremely positive. Thomas had a breakout season in 2013 as a dominating force at tight end — piling up touchdowns. Cameron put up 917 yards and scored seven times despite playing with Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell at quarterback.

The mere thought that either player would test the market in 2015 was unrealistic. What a difference a year makes. Both players had injury plagued 2014 seasons. Thomas still recorded 12 more touchdowns but halved his yardage total. Cameron spent a large portion of the year out with a concussion.

In terms of pure talent they’re arguably #3 and #4 behind Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Very few tight ends have their ability to line up pretty much anywhere, create a size/speed mismatch and make consistent plays. Both players are dominant in the red zone — an area Seattle can dramatically improve. The Seahawks have never truly had a dynamic chess piece like this to draw coverage away from the run game.

Thomas turned down a contract worth $8m APY last year because the guarantees weren’t to his satisfaction. He’s likely to receive major interest in the open market. Can the Seahawks compete? And can they convince him to join another contender instead of a team breaking in a young quarterback (Oakland, Jacksonville)? Cameron is likely to be cheaper but carries a greater risk with the concussion problems.

Signing a prolific tight end will take some of the pressure off drafting a receiver early. There’s also a dearth of TE options in the draft. The best way to provide a significant boost to the passing game is probably to sign one of these two (and then hope they stay healthy).

Seattle reportedly tried to trade for both players during the 2014 season.

The young defensive linemen hitting their peak
Available: Greg Hardy (Carolina), Jabaal Sheard (Cleveland), Stephen Paea (Chicago), Karl Klug (Tennessee)

Hardy is going to play football again, although nobody really knows when and who for. He missed last season due to a domestic abuse case, but the charges were dismissed on February 9th. A cloud still hangs over the player and in light of the Ray Rice/Adrian Peterson situation last season — a brave team is going to go all-in on Hardy. Such is the need for quality pass rushers (Hardy recorded 26 sacks in 2012-13) he might get a nice offer somewhere. Or he might be left to prove he’s totally focused on football in the form of a one year contract.

Some fans will not welcome Hardy to their club. I’m not entirely comfortable with it. But if Richie Incognito can get back into the league, so will Hardy. Eventually.

Sheard was a Seahawks Draft Blog favorite going into the 2011 draft. He enjoyed a productive start in Cleveland but is/was an ill-fit in the 3-4 at outside linebacker. He’s a LEO. Pure and simple. He only turns 26 in May and started his career with 21 sacks in three years. John Schneider once stated the #25 pick in the 2011 draft came down to James Carpenter, Andy Dalton and Sheard.

The thing is — Sheard isn’t that far off the talent level of Hardy without any of the character concerns. Teams like Atlanta and Jacksonville would be wise to invest major stock in his ability to rush the edge. He’s likely to garner significant interest, pushing the price up. Aside from the bizarre 2013 free agency where Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett faced an ice-cold market, talented pass rushers have been paid a kings ransom. Even the average pass rushers are getting paid. Do the Seahawks really want to carry three expensive edge rushers on their roster?

Stephen Paea is another favorite from 2011. He entered the league as a powerful brick wall of a run blocker. Last year he added a pass rushing angle — recording six sacks (a career high). He’s a really dependable, consistent force who could excel in the right scheme. Any team missing out on Ndamukong Suh could make Paea their second option. He wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.

He’s a better player than Clinton McDonald who received a contract worth $3m APY last year. He can expect to earn $4-5m APY on the open market, if not more. He could drift into Brandon Mebane territory ($5m APY). I suspect if the Seahawks are going to add to the defensive line it’ll be for an interior pass rusher. Paea is probably best suited for the Mebane role in Seattle’s scheme. He isn’t a three technique. If Mebane isn’t cut — and there’s no reason to think he will be — Paea might just be a bit of a luxury for this team.

I’ve always liked Klug and he could operate as a hybrid interior rusher in Seattle’s defense. He had seven sacks as a rookie for the Titans but never quite lived up to the early hype. A fresh start is required and he could offer a much cheaper (and potentially much more productive) alternative to some of the bigger name interior defensive linemen.

The veteran pass rusher
Available: Brian Orakpo (Washington), Henry Melton (Dallas), Dwight Freeney (San Diego), Darnell Dockett (Arizona)

Washington would like to keep Orakpo but at what price? Season-ending injuries in 2012 and 2014 have stalled a once promising career. He’s never topped 11 sacks in a season and he turns 29 in July. It’s tough to work out what kind of market he’ll receive.

At his age he really wants to cash in — but he has no momentum after suffering a torn pec in October. He was franchised a year ago at great expense. Now he’ll test the market. A one-year prove-it deal in Seattle isn’t out of the question if he wants to play for a great defense, regain some momentum and take on free agency next year. By that point he’ll be pushing 30, however. And for that reason he might seek less money for a longer term deal elsewhere.

The Seahawks wanted to sign Melton a year ago and at one stage a deal looked close. He eventually chose Dallas and put in a thoroughly mediocre season for the Cowboys. On a no-frills Dallas defense, he barely registered apart from the occasional play. It’s no surprise he was released and is again testing the market. He too is 29 this year and you have to wonder if his best football is in the past. He tore an ACL in 2013. Still, at the right price he could be an option. He fits the three technique.

Freeney is merely a situational pass rusher at 35-years-old and he only collected 3.5 sacks in 2014. He lacks the length Seattle likes at defensive end — but he is one of the modern greats in terms of production (111.5 career sacks). The Seahawks kicked the tires with other ageing pass rushers like John Abraham previously. Freeney needs a team where he can spell the starters and play a support role. In that sense he’d fit, but he wouldn’t be playing for much money. Has he still got enough juice to make it worthwhile?

Dockett is meeting with the 49ers today (having already been released by the Cardinals) and he might not leave. He’s also nearing his 34th birthday and coming off a torn ACL. He might be the most attractive option at the right price. For starters, he’s a fantastic interior rusher who competes like crazy. The type of warrior you need in the NFC West. He’s already stated his intention to win ‘comeback player of the year’ in 2015. The Seahawks will probably need to replace Kevin Williams and Dockett has the experience and talent to make it work. We’ll see if Seattle has any interest in competing with the Niners for his signature.

The veteran stopgap cornerback
Available: Perrish Cox (San Francisco), Walter Thurmond (New York Giants), Charles Tillman (Chicago)

Working out how the Seahawks will replace Byron Maxwell isn’t easy. Will they wait until the later rounds of the draft or be pro-active in the earlier rounds to identify a starter? Will they look for a veteran stopgap? In all cases the options aren’t great. And that’s why they might go the stopgap route.

Cox had a short spell in Seattle before joining the 49ers. 2014 was a career year for Cox — even though he played in 15 games for Denver back in 2010. Last year he took his play to another level and that could warrant a decent short-term contract with a team. He’s 28 years old and unlikely to get anything substantial or long term.

Thurmond possibly burnt bridges in Seattle. Remember, he was the player tasked with replacing the suspended Brandon Browner in 2013. With the team chasing a Super Bowl, he initially flourished. Then he got suspended himself. Byron Maxwell got an unlikely opportunity and never looked back. Thurmond paid for his mistake. Maxwell is now expected to be offered $10m APY on the open market. Thurmond will be scrambling around looking for a team. If the door remains open in Seattle, he has scheme familiarity. He also has a long list of injuries.

Tillman is long, competitive, passionate and an all-time great. The idea he’ll be playing for anyone other than Chicago is almost upsetting. And yet the same was said of Antoine Winfield in 2013 when he departed Minnesota to join the Seahawks. Sometimes the game just moves on. Tillman is 34 and missed most of last season with an injured triceps.

NOTE — I didn’t include a list of receivers. The draft is loaded with depth at the position — there really isn’t much need to consider making a big splash on a veteran receiver unless a player like Brandon Marshall is released by Chicago.


Mike Mayock has made a handful of changes to his ‘top-5’s’ list. La’el Collins is now the #1 ranked tackle, while Jaelen Strong is now the #4 receiver.

Gil Brandt says Eli Harold bolstered his stock at the Virginia pro-day: “Harold, who measured at 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, performed a 34 1/2-inch vertical jump and did 24 strength lifts of 225 pounds at the pro day. He stood on his other numbers from the combine.”

Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch claims Washington is interested in Harold: “They sent three scouts to U.Va. on Monday for the school’s annual pro day, including Director of Player Personnel Scott Campbell, who has overseen the team’s drafting in past years.”

Todd McShay appeared on the Brock and Salk show on ESPN 710 today to discuss the possibility of the Seahawks drafting Todd Gurley.

Can the Seahawks afford a luxury pick in round one?

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Todd Gurley would be a luxury pick for the Seahawks, so can they justify it?

The answer to the title is most definitely yes. They’re one of only a few who can justify a luxury pick. While we discuss, debate and (occasionally) fret about who will replace Byron Maxwell next season — it’s easy to forget the Seahawks have a good thing going.

They’ve already re-signed K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril for the long term. The only two significant starters they’re likely to lose (not including any imminent cuts) is Maxwell and James Carpenter. They could use reinforcements elsewhere but put it into context. More than half the teams in the league are going through some form of relevance-chase. Then there’s a cluster of teams like Detroit, San Diego, Carolina and Arizona that are close to contending but still seem pretty far away.

The Seahawks are part of a very small and elite group. The clan of legit contenders. New England is in the club. So is Green Bay. Baltimore is close but are they included? What about Dallas and Denver?

Very few teams in the league have it as good as Seattle — even without Maxwell and Carpenter. They have eleven picks in the 2015 draft and enough cap room to not feel completely restricted going into free agency.

A few problems will be solved in the open market. Darnell Docket has just been released by Arizona and could offer interior line depth while improving the pass rush. Julius Thomas or Jordan Cameron could provide the dynamic big target Wilson badly needs in the passing game. Those two additions alone would allow the Seahawks to enter the draft feeling confident. And they might even add a veteran corner or offensive lineman in the second wave of free agency.

With their eleven picks they can get a receiver or two, a replacement for Carpenter at guard, a cornerback or two with length, further depth at linebacker and safety, another defensive lineman. They can manipulate the board and fill out the roster.

They can save a pick for a ‘luxury’ and not jeopardize the short term goal of the team (to return to the Super Bowl next season).

So what would constitute a ‘luxury’ pick?

Todd Gurley. There’s your luxury.

In 2013 the Seahawks gave up a first round pick for Percy Harvin. They weren’t on the clock until the late second round. Even then, they traded down before selecting Christine Michael — a SPARQ demon with incredible physical skills. He wasn’t likely to challenge Marshawn Lynch for snaps and would have a job on replacing Robert Turbin as the #2 running back. This was a shot. The kind of move a team rich in depth (as the Seahawks were in 2013) can make with confidence. They were planning ahead at the running back position.

The depth isn’t quite the same these days — mainly because the 2013 and 2014 drafts haven’t thoroughly replenished the loss of certain individuals. The Harvin fiasco robbed the Seahawks of a first round talent and a third round pick in 2014. But it’s still a deep group. How else could they survive an injury plagued season to return to the Super Bowl?

There’s no reason to believe they won’t be bold again, with an eye to the future.

Todd Gurley probably won’t play football in 2015. He tore an ACL on November 15th in a game against Auburn. He didn’t work out at the combine and admitted he won’t be ready for the Georgia pro-day on March 18th. Unlike other prospects in recent years, he’s doing the sensible thing. Don’t rush back just to make a token performance pre-draft. Let the tape speak for itself and get healthy.

Scientific advances mean ACL injuries are no longer the career death sentence they used to be. Adrian Peterson made a spectacular comeback from a similar injury. Chris Clemons also returned for the Seahawks in 2013 with almost no obvious side effects. Dr. James Andrews is working on Gurley’s knee and recently stated he was ahead of schedule. He also shot down speculation over the health of the knee, after Gurley refused to be examined by medical teams at the combine:

“I heard some fuss that Gurley wouldn’t let teams examine him and that’s just totally misleading… The team physicians I have spoken with who are there — and I have spoken to a bunch of them — were all happy about what they saw. I mean, they’re smart enough to know you can’t have 32 teams pulling and tugging on a knee just 3½ months removed from surgery. But the doctors I spoke with said he looked great and I’d say he’s probably six weeks ahead with his recovery.”

Gurley needs to go to a team that is prepared to let this process play out. Rushing him back in 2015 is not the answer. Accept the situation for what it is, let him build up strength and prepare for a long career. That approach is significantly going to impact his draft stock, but it’s totally necessary. He could’ve been a top-15 pick without the knee injury. Instead he’s going to fall to the late first round or even the second round.

I think it’s fair to assume the Seahawks are going to get a deal done with Marshawn Lynch. A fairly relaxed appearance on Turkish Television (yep) this weekend didn’t feel like the final days of a players career. Despite denials from the players agent, Jason La Canfora continues to report a deal will be done. It feels like a matter of time. The Seahawks need to know if he’s accepting the offer before March 10th when free agency begins.

Even with a new contract in his pocket, there’s going to be an annual ‘will he or won’t he’ discussion on Lynch retiring until the decision is finally made. He’s the new Brett Favre. Eventually he will retire and it’s going to leave a massive void.

Robert Turbin is a free agent after the 2015 season. The market for running backs isn’t great financially, but Turbin has very little tread on the tires. He might be a difficult keep unless the Seahawks intend to make him the starter after Lynch.

You might lose both Lynch and Turbin in a years time. I’m not convinced this team has anywhere near enough faith in Christine Michael to become a starter. They don’t even trust him to contend for the kick returners role — a position he filled for Texas A&M.

Gurley would be a luxury pick in terms of 2015 — he wouldn’t take the field. But in 2016 he could be a vital addition — either in support of Lynch or as the bona fide starter.

The decision to draft or pass on Gurley really comes down to four things:

1. Do you believe he can make a full recovery?

2. Is he special enough to warrant a redshirt season?

3. Can you live with another first pick in the draft providing minimal or no impact as a rookie?

4. Is the running back position vital enough to draft one for the future?

The first question we’ll never know the answer to as mere observers. The second question? I certainly think he’s special enough. You just don’t find many players with Gurley’s combination of size, speed, patience, home-run hitting ability and pro-ready skills in the passing game. I think the third question, ultimately, is the big one for Seattle. Having received virtually no return from their first and second round picks in 2013 and only a minimal return on their first pick in 2014 — this would be a big decision.

The answer to the fourth question would probably be ‘no’ for most teams. Yet the Seahawks want to run the ball with style and substance. It’s their identity. Replacing Lynch is going to be one of the biggest challenges in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era. Having the opportunity to draft a player as talented as Gurley to eventually replace Lynch is attractive. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to do it — but you’d understand it if they did.

Nate Liss at Field Gulls has written an article arguing the case for Gurley in Seattle:

“Would you take him? With all the damage to our secondary and players leaving in free agency I wouldn’t put up a fight if you decided otherwise, but I think deep down inside the idea of transitioning from one Marshawn Lynch to the next sounds like a pretty incredible prospect to all of us.”

I wouldn’t be surprised by the move. The Seahawks are projected to receive compensatory picks in the fourth, fifth (x2) and sixth rounds. If you’re able to land Julius Thomas and some D-line help in free agency, you can target receivers, offensive linemen, cornerbacks and defensive linemen with the seven picks you have between rounds 2-5.

We’ve seen talented players drafted in the late first/early second round while recovering from ACL injuries. Dominique Easley would’ve been a top-20 pick — instead the New England Patriots drafted him at #29 a year ago. The 49ers drafted Tank Carradine with the #40 pick in 2013.

There’s also this:

It’s possible, due to the injury, that 2015 wouldn’t count as an accrued season. Meaning if you draft him at #31, you can control his contract for six years.

If the Seahawks are going to remain contenders for several years, they’re unlikely to get a shot at a talent like Gurley without some kind of red flag forcing him down the board. This would be an opportunistic pick — a calculated risk for the long term benefit of your running game. They were willing to roll the dice on Christine Michael with an early pick — a player with character flags and an injury history.

At the same time — this is a team looking to remain on top in the NFC. Their four first round picks between 2010-12 (Okung, Thomas, Carpenter, Irvin) all started or had an impact in year one. 2012 feels like a long time ago.

Do you need to plan for the long term at running back? Do you need a player of Lynch or Gurley’s quality to establish a top running game? Can you afford to wait out the Lynch situation and simply address the problem in 2016, 2017 or whenever he decides to retire?

Lynch reportedly took offense to Darrell Bevell’s suggestion of a ‘running back by committee’ approach in 2014. Given the fractious nature of the relationship between player and coaches/front office, would drafting a running back with the first pick open up old wounds?

Hey — sign the new contract we really need you! By the way, meet your replacement.

Gurley has a tendency to get banged up. Aside from the ACL tear, he missed three games in 2013 with an ankle injury and finished the season playing hurt. He was spelled in two other games due to ankle and hip issues. Lynch is a freak of nature with the strength of two men. He’s avoided serious injuries as a consequence. Gurley played at around 230lbs at Georgia but slimmed down to 222lbs for the combine. He’s marginally taller and 7lbs bigger than Lynch. It remains to be seen whether he can be as durable.

Running back is a short career. A redshirt year is unlikely to have much impact on Gurley playing into his 30’s — rare for most players at the position. Stashing him for an entire season might be a hard sell if you don’t think it’s likely to extend his career.

College football always churns out running backs. Yes — 2014 provided a disappointing crop. But this year there’s depth and quality. Next year’s class will likely be fronted by the excellent Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State. How important is it to take Gurley compared to waiting until 2016 or beyond?

Will he be there at #31? The Baltimore Ravens could redshirt Gurley and re-sign Justin Forsett for another season. Arizona, Dallas, Denver and Indianapolis could also be in the market for a running back. How determined are the Seahawks to trade down from #31 to accumulate further picks in the middle rounds? I still think a trade down from #31 is the most likely scenario as explained here.

Will they ever spend a first round pick on a running back? Some teams flat out refuse to. I suspect it’d take a special talent to warrant the investment, but that’s the same for all teams in this modern pass-happy NFL. I think it’s pretty clear Gurley is ‘special’ — but the injury situation clouds the situation.

You can make a strong case for or against drafting Gurley. The Seahawks are one of the few teams who can justify it — but they might be more interested in adding an immediate impact player. It’d be a luxury for 2015 but a possible life-saver for the running game when Lynch hangs up his cleats.

He’s good enough to warrant the pick. But how keen are the Seahawks to add a ‘running back of the future’?

John Schneider’s ideal trade scenario, Darnell Dockett & more

Friday, February 27th, 2015

“A first rounder to move back into round two? What’s the catch?”

In yesterday’s Field Gulls Podcast one of the things we touched on was the 2011 trade involving Mark Ingram. The New Orleans Saints traded their second round pick (#56 overall) and a 2012 first rounder to New England for the opportunity to take Ingram with the #28 pick. The Pats essentially traded down 28 spots and acquired what turned out to be the #27 pick in the following draft.

Isn’t this just John Schneider’s perfect trade scenario?

It makes you wonder if he harbored hopes of a similar deal last year when Teddy Bridgewater was still on the board. No mad scramble ensued and the Seahawks ended up moving down a few spots for a fourth rounder. He’s already made it clear he’d be open to trading down again this year.

A deal similar to the Ingram trade is unlikely of course. It’s rare to see a team place that much faith in a player that they’re willing to trade a future first rounder. Atlanta did it in 2011 but that involved moving from #26 to #6 to select Julio Jones. The Saints were buying back into the first using a late second rounder. Cleveland did something similar in 2007 to select Brady Quinn.

Let’s entertain the thought for one moment. If there is a possible scenario where a similar deal could materialize this year, I think this is. And it involves another running back (because there’s surely no way anyone is trading back into the first round for a quarterback this year).

Melvin Gordon didn’t have the kind of explosive workout we expected. But he is a coveted player with fantastic character and work habits. He should be a first round pick, but a few teams might be second guessing his value after the combine. If he drifts and is available at #31 — would a team be willing to move up and get him?

We’ve talked about the possibility of only 15-20 players being awarded first round grades this year (and that might be a generous review). Gordon will be rated as a first rounder on several boards. If you’re a team like San Diego — eager to win in a closing window under Phillip Rivers — would you be willing to go offensive tackle or defense at #17 and then trade back into the first for Gordon? The Chargers own the 16th pick in round two (#48 overall). Would they be willing to offer that pick and their 2016 first rounder to get another playmaker?

It’s very unrealistic given the depth at running back, but not totally ridiculous either. There weren’t too many people criticizing the Saints four years ago. If the Chargers intend to win it all next year or at least make a deep playoff run, they’d be aiming to be picking between #28-32 anyway. Gordon is a terrific player at a position of need.

It’s the teams in a ‘win now’ mentality that are more likely to be aggressive. The Chargers know time is ticking away to win a title in the Rivers/Antonio Gates era before the inevitable reboot. They’re not really that close right now, so a bold move to try and close the gap is something to consider. Whether they feel a running back is the the way to make it happen, well I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The Seahawks would be extremely fortunate to receive such an offer — just as they lucked out in 2009 with Denver’s bizarre move for Alphonso Smith. But it’s sometimes the team determined to make a deal that receives the deal. Everyone knows New England likes to move around and that’s perhaps why the Saints negotiated with the Pats in 2011. Schneider pretty much walked around Lucas Oil Field wearing a cut out shouting “Pick #31 for sale”.

Trading back into the late 40’s or 50’s would still allow the Seahawks to bring in a solid receiver, offensive lineman or defensive lineman. You might even move back up in the second round — Seattle traded back into the second to select Max Unger in 2009 after the Denver trade.

There are so many things that would have to connect for this to happen. Gordon slipping, a team wanting him badly enough, Seattle being the chosen recipient of the offer. But it’s something to consider as we move through this process. And you just know they’d love to move down 20-30 spots to get another first rounder next year.

Darnell Dockett is a free agent

A week ago Dockett tweeted he’d be playing in Arizona next season one way or another, adding “think about it”. He was clearly insinuating he would be joining a NFC West rival if he was cut. It doesn’t have to be the Seahawks, it just feels like that way. I’m not sure he’d be making such a excitable remark about joining the Rams or 49ers.

It could be a major assumption on his behalf or just a playful tease. He’ll turn 34 in May and he’s coming off an ACL injury. If the knee clears, he’d still be a terrific addition for this team. The Seahawks need a proven interior pass rusher to add to their rotation. They also need experienced depth up front. Kevin Williams is probably going to move on or retire. They met with Ricky-Jean Francois yesterday before he signed with the Redskins.

A healthy Dockett at the right price would be a coup for the Seahawks. And that’s the key. Is he healthy?

Daniel Jeremiah’s updated mock draft

It’s good to break down some of these mock drafts, compare them to the ones we do and see what players were available to the Seahawks at #31. You naturally have a tendency to overrate the players you like and take them out of contention for the late first round. So I had a look to see who was available in Daniel Jeremiah’s mock that wouldn’t be available in my own (both published this week).

The answer? Cameron Erving and Jake Fisher. The two players I have going at #31 and #32. Jeremiah’s top 30 players were the same as mine, just in a different order. It might be a similar reaction to the combine (eg Byron Jones in the first round) or it might be that obvious this year.

Jeremiah projected Dorial Green-Beckham to the Seahawks and Carl Davis to the Patriots:

“The Seahawks were a play away from winning consecutive Super Bowls. Green-Beckham is a play-making machine. If he passes the character tests, this would be a great value selection.”

I understand why Green-Beckham gets projected to Seattle. There’s a feeling within the national media that the Seahawks are willing to take chances. It’s an overstated feeling. Bruce Irvin was not a character concern entering the 2012 draft — in fact he’d turned his life around through football and kept his nose clean in the JUCO’s and at West Virginia. They traded for Percy Harvin — but that ill-fated move at least came from a position of experience (Darrell Bevell worked with him in Minnesota, Pete Carroll recruited him at USC).

There’s a bit of a difference between those two moves and taking a chance on Green-Beckham. Right now the NFL is embroiled in controversy over its handling of the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy cases relating to domestic abuse. You can argue about DGB’s case being dropped but I would urge everyone to read this article and assess the situation. It makes for a difficult read.

Personally I don’t think any team needs to deal with this right now. I suspect he’ll be crossed off several boards. A Randy Moss-esque combine performance would’ve helped but he didn’t have a great workout. He has an odd body shape — big and tall (6-5, 237lbs) but with shorter arms (32.5 inches) and small hands (nine inches). He ran a decent 4.49 but only managed a 33.5 inch vertical and a 9’11” broad jump. In comparison, 6-5, 305lbs Laurence Gibson also managed a 33.5 inch vertical and had a 9’5″ broad jump. So he has the size and some speed, but he doesn’t jump well and hasn’t got the long reach or big hands.

There’s a real thirst to talk him into physical freak status (I sense based on his history as a top high school recruit). In reality a player like Darren Waller is a much more exciting physical specimen. I don’t think he handled the media well at the combine. I don’t see any reason why the Seahawks would take a chance on him in this draft.

Who could be there at #31?

While we’re talking about mock drafts, I thought I’d quickly run through some of the players I think could be available at #31 that I had off the board in my post-combine projection:

Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State)
He had a surprisingly good overall workout, running a 4.44, posting a 42 inch vertical and a 10’3″ broad jump. He also had a good 1.57 ten yard split. Taking all that into account, why couldn’t he separate in college? He has every physical skill you need to win in the short game with suddenness. And yet he looks almost sluggish at times. He’s also only 6-2 (not the advertised 6-3) with nine inch hands. He could go in the top-20 but it’ll come down to whether you believe he can be coached up to take advantage of that explosive lower body power.

Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)
‘Senator Jones’ as he’s known at UConn broke records at the combine with his 12’3″ broad jump and remarkable 44.5 inch vertical. He isn’t even 100% because he’s still recovering from a torn labrum. He could easily be a top-15 pick because you just don’t see that level of explosion in the legs. He also has ideal size (6-1, 199lbs) and length (32 inch arms). He’s the complete package physically. His tape is boom or bust though. He can cover for sure, but he wasn’t a lockdown corner and that’s why nobody was really talking about him until the combine.

Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
I’m a big fan of Eli Harold’s but I also really liked Jabaal Sheard in 2011. He ended up going in the early second round and Harold could too. He had a nice combine but didn’t do anything extraordinary (35 inch vert, 4.60, 10’3″ broad jump). He did post a really good ten yard split (1.56) and an excellent short shuttle (4.16 — #3 among defensive linemen). To compare, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin both ran 1.50 over ten yards. He’s far better than Dee Ford who went at #23 last year. But I also believe Sheard is/was much better too.

Real in the Field Gulls Podcast appearance

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Today I joined Kenneth Arthur and Danny Kelly on the ‘Real in the Field (Gulls)’ Podcast. We talk draft and free agency — including thoughts on the combine, who the Seahawks might target and how to solve various holes on the roster (including cornerback and kick returner). We also touch on a topic I’m going to write about tomorrow — a 2011 trade that would’ve been very appealing to John Schneider.

Why Seahawks will trade down from #31, take ‘their’ guys

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Stanford’s Henry Anderson could be a target for the Seahawks

I put out an updated mock draft yesterday — but to be honest, I have very little faith in it. I think they’re going to trade down from #31.

The Seahawks manipulated the board in 2014 accumulating picks along the way. It seems they always intended to draft Paul Richardson with that first pick and knew the range they could move into to get him. I suspect the plan to draft Richardson was as much to do with trading down (and getting a guy they liked) as it was to draft any particular prospect with that top pick. Why? Because their main intention in round one last year was to use the #32 selection to make sure they got more picks for other targeted players later on.

Seattle traded down twice — acquiring an extra fourth rounder from Minnesota and a seventh from Detroit. They also swapped a fifth for a fourth with the Lions. That deal essentially allowed them to take Cassius Marsh, Kevin Norwood and Kevin Pierre-Louis in the same round. A calculated move — because all three screamed ‘Seahawks’ pre-draft. This wasn’t done on a whim. And you can’t draft all three without the carefully orchestrated trades.

I’m not sure Marsh or Norwood necessarily go in the fourth round unless Seattle takes them. They made sure they got the guys they liked. There are other examples. They knew at #64 they had to take a tackle or risk missing out altogether (they had no third round pick because of the Percy Harvin trade). So they took Justin Britt — a move that, in fairness, seemed like quite a reach.

Garrett Scott provided a physical upside at tackle (a SPARQ demon) in round six. Eric Pinkins was a total unknown, but also a total fit for what they look for in a defensive back. Does Jimmy Stated get drafted if the Seahawks don’t pick him in round five? Moves to get physical ideals onto the roster or obtain players they’d struggle to attract in UDFA.

There weren’t a lot of ‘big names’ on the 2014 list of draftees. There were a lot of players that made you say, “of course!” right after the pick when you looked at the measurables.

I suspect we’ll see something similar again this year. It’ll be a combination of hitting certain positional needs (and possibly reaching a little) in targeted rounds and selecting physical/character fits in other spots.

There’s every chance they’ll trade down again from the #31 pick to give themselves a chance to draft more of their ‘target list’. We get caught up names, we see players we like. The reality is there’s probably only 15-20 players in this draft that the teams will grade in the first round. Which means the player taken at #22 (for example) might not be graded that much higher than the player graded at #35. So if you’re John Schneider picking at #31, the motivation is there to move down.

Another lesson from last year — don’t overrate the combine too much. I think I’m already guilty of that, as I’ll explain in a moment. Donte Moncrief’s workout in Indianapolis a year ago was exceptional. Most people believed he’d be a third rounder before the 2014 combine. With a perfect blend of size, speed and vertical leaping ability — you had to mark him up. You go back to the tape and watch with a positive eye and you see what you want to see. I mocked him in the first round on more than one occasion, eventually settling on a second round grade. He went in the third — the original mark everyone expected.

It’s easy to sit here today and wonder if Tre McBride will go in the second (as I have) or whether Darren Waller with his Vincent Jackson physical comparison will get pumped up the board (guilty, again). It might happen, but is it more likely both players will settle into rounds 3-6? If they like either player enough they might be willing to go a round early. But that’s a big if. Just because they each had a good combine doesn’t mean they’re going to sky rocket into round two or higher.

So while we sit here and wonder what Seattle might do at #31 — it’s probably more worthwhile to simply identify a group of players that could be taken at any point. Prospects Seattle might like and will work out a way to collect.

Receiver might even be a position they’re willing to wait on. If they’re able to pull off a move for a free agent like Julius Thomas — they’ll be adding that elusive dynamic, tall receiving threat to the team. A guy who can work the middle, create a mismatch wherever he lines up, produce in the red zone and convert third downs.

If you sign Thomas as a free agent, you can afford to wait on ‘your guys’ because you’ve added the missing piece to the offense. And you can perhaps afford to develop McBride and Waller (if they’re on your target list) over time. It took V-Jax four years to post a 1000 yard season in San Diego.

They could take two receivers (Pete Carroll and Schneider looked particularly busy in their booth during the WR forty yard dash runs), two corners, two offensive linemen, a linebacker, a safety, a running back and a couple of defensive linemen. That’s a pure guess. The tight end class offered very little to get excited about — and if you sign Julius Thomas (or Jordan Cameron) it’s much less of a need.

Of course, if you’re trying to manipulate the board — you also might trade up for a certain player. They did it for Tharold Simon in 2013. I think it’s unlikely in round one, but certainly is a possibility from the #63 pick onwards.

Players they might manipulate the board to target:

Henry Anderson (DT, Stanford)
Similar size to Tony McDaniel at 6-6 and 294lbs — 33 1/2 inch arms. Ran a 5.03 with an impressive 1.63 ten yard split. He aced the short shuttle with a 4.19 — quickest among defensive linemen. Anderson performed very well at the Senior Bowl. Can play the five technique or work inside. Typical Stanford lineman, great attitude. He’s projecting in rounds 3-4.

Alex Carter (CB, Stanford)
One of the few corners in this class to tick the right boxes for Seattle. He’s 6-0, 196lbs with 32 1/8 inch arms (the Seahawks have not drafted a corner with sub-32 inch arms). He ran a 4.51 (Richard Sherman ran a 4.56). He tested well in the short shuttle and posted a 10’1″ in the broad jump. According to reports he aced interviews at the combine. He’s projecting in rounds 4-5 but might need to be taken earlier due to the weak overall cornerback class.

Ty Sambrailo (T/G, Colorado State)
Active blocker who will be a good fit in a zone scheme. Showed off his movement skills with a terrific 4.58 in the short shuttle (fifth overall among offensive linemen). 6-6 and 311lbs so compares to Carpenter/Britt in terms of size. Short arms so has to play guard. Tony Pauline reported in January that Seattle had interest in Sambrailo. He’s projecting anywhere from rounds 2-4.

Tre McBride (WR, Williams & Mary)
High character receiver. 6-0 and 210lbs with 32 1/8 inch arms. Smallish hands (nine inches) aren’t ideal but they’re bigger than Paul Richardson’s a year ago. Ran a 4.41 with a 1.51 split. Posted a 38 inch vertical and a 4.08 short shuttle. Kick return experience. Plays big on tape — high pointing the football and making contested catches downfield. Sparky on the field and respectful off it. Made ‘wow’ plays even against big school opponents. Recently projecting in rounds 3-4 but rising.

Zack Hodges (DE, Harvard)
Pass rusher with a relentless motor. 6-2 1/2, 250lbs with fantastic length (34 1/2 inch arms). 4.68 forty isn’t ideal for a LEO but a 1.61 split is intriguing. Showed explosiveness in the broad jump (10’5″). Incredible back-story. Lost his mother in high school after losing his father aged six and then his grandfather aged 14. Fought to get to Harvard. Will not quit on or off the field. Touted as a day two pick going into the Senior Bowl, a more modest expectation is mid-to-late round.

Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT, Southern Miss)
Missed the entire 2013 season with a knee injury but bounced back in 2014 to lead the team in TFL’s (14). Declared early after finding a way to impact games. He’s 6-2 and 307lbs with a shade under 33 inch arms. Ran a 5.02 and posted a nice 34 inch vertical. He could sneak into the later rounds as a priority UDFA. Moved well at the combine.

Rob Crisp (T, NC State)
Handled Vic Beasley better than any tackle in college football last season. Injury history is concerning but he’s 6-7, 301lbs and has 34.5 inch arms. Ran a 5.26 and posted a 32.5 inch vertical (same as T.J. Clemmings). Short shuttle was in the top-eight for offensive linemen at the combine. Could be a steal in the later rounds or UDFA.

Laurence Gibson (T, Virginia Tech)
Only started full-time for the Hokies in 2014 and considered a bit of a surprise invite to the combine in the media. He’s 6-6, 305lbs with vines for arms (35 1/8 inches). Ran an impressive 5.04 forty, posted a 33.5 inch vertical (best among offensive linemen) and a top-five short shuttle. Combine invite hints at respect within scouting circles. Could be a nice later round option ala Garrett Scott a year ago.

Terry Poole (T/G, San Diego State)
Another player linked to the Seahawks by Tony Pauline. Moved well in drills and looks like a big, mobile guard prospect at the next level. 6-5 and 307lbs with a good body shape. Ran a 5.09 forty with a good 1.79 split (Jake Fisher’s split was 1.75). 31 inch vertical and another lineman who put in a good short shuttle. Possible later round ball of clay for Tom Cable.

Kurtis Drummond (S, Michigan State)
Not the fastest (4.68) but showed explosion in the vertical jump (39.5 inches). 6-0 and 208lbs. As good as any safety not named Landon Collins in this mediocre class at the position. Showed genuine range on tape and seen as the organizer within Michigan State’s secondary. Performed well at the Senior Bowl before picking up a slight hamstring strain. Instinctive. Graded in the later rounds — the kind of range Seattle could target a safety.

Nelson Agholor (WR, USC)
Better athlete than people realize — click hear for evidence. Didn’t do the jumps at the combine after dislocating his finger during catching drills. Ran a 4.42 which is quicker than Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. Mr. Reliable for the Trojans. Chose to go to USC specifically to compete with Lee and Woods. Former big-time recruit. Tremendous 1.53 split. 6-0 and 198lbs — but the Seahawks will take receivers in that range. Productive return-man. Could be a top-40 pick.

Darren Waller (WR, Georgia Tech)
Almost identical size, speed, length, jumping ability to Vincent Jackson. It’s quite unbelievable how similar they are physically entering the league. 6-6 and 238lbs and still ran a 4.46. One of only two players in the NCAA not to drop a single catchable pass in 2014. 37 inch vertical with 33 1/4 inch arms — tremendous catching radius. Still growing into his body and production was poor in the triple option (no surprises there). Seen as a tight end project for some teams. Has the upside to go day two, more likely a day three selection.

Josh Shaw (S, USC)
The guy who lied about saving his drowning nephew. He doesn’t have the length to play corner in Seattle (6-0 but only 30 3/4 inch arms) but he could be a mobile safety project. He ran a 4.44 forty at 201lbs, jumped 37.5 inches in the vertical and 10’10” in the broad. Will go in the tail end of the draft if not UDFA.

Adrian Amos (CB, Penn State)
Is he a corner or a safety? He has the size, length and speed to play corner in Seattle (6-0, 32 1/4 inch arms, 4.56 forty). He is 218lbs though and that’s big. Jumped a 35.5 inch vertical and a 10’2″ broad jump. Passionate about the game. Apparently the Seahawks contacted his old High School coach to ask about him. This has legs it seems. Graded mainly in rounds 4-5 it seems.

Mitch Morse (T, Missouri)
6-5, 305lbs lineman with guard length (32 1/4 inch arms). Ran a 5.14 but more impressively posted the third best short shuttle (4.50) among linemen. Would be a later round guard project for Tom Cable. Missed the Senior Bowl after undergoing surgery on his index finger. Replaced Justin Britt at left tackle for the Tigers but also has experience at center.

Tony Lippett (Michigan State) & Nick Marshall (Auburn)
I’m listing both players together for a reason. I highly doubt Seattle drafts either to play receiver (Lippett) or quarterback (Marshall). But both players could be converted to cornerback. Marshall worked out at corner during the Senior Bowl. Lippett is 6-2 1/2 and 192lbs with nearly 33 inch arms. He ran a 4.61 with a 36 inch vertical. Marshall is 6-1 and 207lbs with 32 1/8 inch arms. He ran a 4.54 and posted a 37.5 inch vertical.

Chris Conley (WR, Georgia)
The combine freak of the year until Byron Jones showed up. On tape he actually makes some nice plays — but he clearly lacks refinement. Seemed to be one of the players leading the way at Georgia. He’s nearly 6-2, 213lbs with just under 34 inch arms and ten inch hands. He ran a 4.35, benched 18 reps, posted an insane 45 inch vertical and an 11’7″ on the broad jump. Going into the combine he wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Now? You wonder if he’ll be over-drafted.

Cameron Erving (G/C, Florida State)
Intelligent, edgy player and a converted defensive lineman (like J.R. Sweezy). Had a year and a bit at tackle before moving inside to center. Unlikely to go back to tackle but can easily cover three spots in the interior. 6-5 and 313lbs with 34 1/8 inch arms and ran a 5.15 in the forty. Managed 30 reps on the bench press, a 30.5 inch vertical and a 9’4″ in the broad jump (top five among offensive linemen). Also had an excellent three cone (7.48) and short shuttle (4.63). Would start at left guard you’d imagine. Expected to go in the top-50.

Eric Rowe (CB, Utah)
How long are his arms and how much does it matter? At the Senior Bowl he was measured with 32.5 inch arms. At the combine? 31.5 inches. Again, the time Seattle drafts a corner with sub-32 inch arms will be the first. Wingspan also matters — Rowe isn’t short or small (6-0, 205lbs). Another prospect who could play corner or safety. Ran a 4.45, jumped 39.5 inches in the vertical and 10’5″ in the broad. Originally considered a round 4-5 type prospect, Rowe’s impressive combine could lead to a rise.

Davis Tull (LB, Tenn-Chatt)
It’s a bad class of linebackers but this guy is athletic enough to warrant later round or UDFA consideration. He’s 6-2 and 246lbs, jumped a 42.5 inch vertical and posted an 11 in the broad. He played defensive end in college but should convert to the SAM linebacker spot at the next level. Didn’t run the forty at the combine due to injury.

Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
Converted tight end who lit up the combine last Friday. 6-6 and 306lbs but ran a 5.01, recorded a 32.5 inch vertical, posted incredible three-cone (7.25) and short shuttle (4.33) times. Had a 1.75 ten yard split. Arm length a shade under 34 inches. Tape isn’t as good as Joel Bitonio’s but they’re similar athletes. Could play guard or tackle. Following his workout in Indianapolis it’s probably #31 or bust if you want Fisher.

Buck Allen (RB, USC)
Cut-and-run specialist who had the best ten yard split among running backs at the combine (1.58). Ran a 4.53 at 6-0 221lbs. Doesn’t come close to the raw athleticism Christine Michael showed in 2013 but he’s a more technically sound runner. Only managed 11 reps on the bench press. Had a 10’1″ in the broad jump (top-five for running backs).

Kenny Bell (WR, Nebraska)
Ran faster than people expected (4.42) and also had a 41.5 inch vertical and a 10’9″ in the broad jump. Probably the best run blocking receiver in the draft. That won’t be reason enough to draft him, but the physical upside could make the entire package intriguing as a day three project. He’s 6-1 and 197lbs. He only had seven reps on the bench press with 31 5/8 inch arms.

Players not included because they’re unlikely to be available to Seattle: Eli Harold (DE, Virginia), Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut), Jalen Collins (CB, LSU), Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State), Ereck Flowers (T, Miami).

Getting a player like Cameron Erving at #31 (as projected yesterday) is all well and good, but the Seahawks might prefer to get as many players on a list similar to the one above versus just drafting one big name at #31. Especially if they are able to make a splash in free agency — beginning March 10th.

Post combine mock draft: 24th February

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

After running a 4.44 at 6-6, 238lbs — Darren Waller could be on his way to Seattle

For further thoughts on the Seahawks pick, scroll to the bottom of the piece. This includes opinions on what Seattle might do in rounds 2-4.

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
Winston stole the show at the combine. He spent the entire weekend playing the role of a superstar quarterback. He was confident, comfortable and in control. On the field he performed well. This just feels like it’s going to happen.

#2 Tennessee Titans — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
The Titans need a quarterback. They can stick with Zach Mettenberger if they want and be right back here next season. Leonard Williams is a nice option but this is a team that needs a focal point and a face of the franchise.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
He moved so well for a 300lbs-er. The Richard Seymour comparisons are fair. He can play end for the most part and kick inside for the nickel packages. It’s another building block for the slow moving rebuild in Jacksonville.

#4 Oakland Raiders — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
He competes for the ball in the air like Larry Fitzgerald and then runs a 4.35. He suffers with confidence issues and that needs to be looked into. Amari Cooper is a more natural receiver but White doesn’t drop passes like Cooper. He has the size of a #1 receiver.

#5 Washington Redskins — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
You can line him up anywhere — outside backer, defensive end, rushing from the inside. He’s a heartbeat player who just makes plays. Incredible talent with a great motor. He can make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. The Skins are likely to lose Brian Orakpo.

#6 New York Jets — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
What a performance at the combine. People questioned his weight — he turns up at 246lbs. People questioned his strength — he benches 35 reps (more than any other defensive lineman). How will he run with the extra size? A 4.53 — better than any other D-end or linebacker. Beasley was a sack machine in college too.

#7 Chicago Bears — Randy Gregory (OLB, Nebraska)
San Francisco rebuilt their defense with an outside linebacker in Aldon Smith with the #7 pick. Vic Fangio might suggest a similar path for the Bears as they transition to a 3-4. Gregory is lighter than Smith, but they share similar length and potential entering the league.

#8 Atlanta Falcons — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
If this was a question of length, Ray’s 33 1/8 inch arms should ease any concerns. He’s lean enough to play the LEO and even though he didn’t run at the combine due to injury — expect a big pro-day and eventually a top-ten grade.

#9 New York Giants — Danny Shelton (DT, New York Giants)
They have Johnathan Hankins but he’s not at Shelton’s level. He can rush the passer and that’s what the Giants need — a greater interior presence. They have to focus on rebuilding their defensive line to get back into contention.

#10 St. Louis Rams — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Scherff ran well at the combine even though he picked up a hamstring injury in the first drill. He was more athletic than I expected. The Rams will likely have their pick of the offensive linemen here and Scherff seems like a Jeff Fisher type player. He could play guard or tackle.

#11 Minnesota Vikings — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
This would be a bargain for the Vikes. Teddy Bridgewater needs a weapon to grow with. Cooper is a sparky, athletic playmaker with a great attitude. He lacks size but is the most natural receiver to enter the league since A.J. Green.

#12 Cleveland Browns — Bud Dupree (OLB, Kentucky)
They could lose Jabaal Sheard in free agency and he was an ill-fit in the 3-4 anyway. Dupree would step in and provide a jolt to the front seven. He’s passionate about the game and a playmaker. He’ll be a better edge rusher playing in space. They need a solid pick here after last years disaster.

#13 New Orleans Saints — Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
A lack of true length keeps him out of the top ten, but he’s still a physical 4.31 runner with a great attitude. The Saints could have holes all over their roster — they’re in a nightmarish cap situation.

#14 Miami Dolphins — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
They have needs at safety, defensive tackle, the offensive line and potentially receiver. Collins is a safe pick for them and an instant starter. They won’t find a solution at this position later in the draft.

#15 San Francisco 49ers — DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville)
Long receiver with good hands. Kind of a surly player who lacks the charisma of a #1 receiver, if not the skills. The 49ers are going to move on from Michael Crabtree and Colin Kaepernick needs a long term go-to target.

#16 Houston Texans — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
Terrific prospect. Didn’t workout at the combine but wowed the media with an engaging press conference. Former 5-star recruit. Excellent in the run game but also a capable pass rusher. Probably FSU’s best player in 2014. Has nose tackle size.

#17 San Diego Chargers — D.J. Humphries (T, Florida)
They can’t seem to make their mind up on whether D.J. Fluker’s a guard or a tackle. Stick him at guard and make Humphries the long term answer on the blindside. They’ll win or lose on the arm of Phillip Rivers. He has the weapons, he also needs a good offensive line.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State)
Strong enjoyed a surprisingly athletic combine, running a 4.44 and posting a 42-inch vertical. He struggled to separate in college but showed he has explosive upside in Indianapolis. He probably needs some route-refinement but the Chiefs are desperate for playmakers at receiver.

#19 Cleveland Browns — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
Another safe pick in the sense that Clemmings is a big-time character guy. He struggled at the Senior Bowl but he ticks every box — length, foot speed, aggressive nature. He can be a perfect bookend for Joe Thomas.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles — Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)
The headline maker at the combine for destroying the broad jump record (12’3″) and posting a 44.5 inch vertical — Jones is making a case to go in round one. Adding to his cause — the total lack of depth at the position. He has a great shot to go in round one.

#21 Cincinnati — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
Will Geno Atkins ever be the same again? Either way, Brown is a dynamic interior rusher who lives in the backfield. He also has great size to play the run. Line him up alongside Atkins and go to work. That’ll be tough to stop.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
He may be usurped by Byron Jones as the #2 corner, but Jalen Collins is still a terrific player with a huge upside. He has the length, size and speed to be a star at the next level. He’d be a bargain for the Steelers at this point.

#23 Detroit Lions — La’el Collins (T, LSU)
If they lose Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, defensive tackle becomes a crucial need. They seem determined to keep Suh. If they go in a different direction here, Collins makes sense at tackle or guard. For me he’s better off moving inside. He looked superb at the combine and Senior Bowl.

#24 Arizona Cardinals — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Harold did a great job at the combine — but was it good enough to overtake some of the bigger names in this class? His passion for the game, attitude, speed and length are a great fit in Arizona. This makes a ton of sense.

#25 Carolina Panthers — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
He’s a really odd shape. Small head, enormous lower body. He didn’t look like a natural left tackle. On the tape though — that’s exactly what he is. Someone will take a chance but it won’t be as early as I first thought. He didn’t stand out at the combine.

#26 Baltimore Ravens — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Outstanding player with an insane work ethic. Runs like a gazelle. Didn’t have the monster workout we expected and therefore might last into the 20’s. A smart team will take him off the board and the Ravens always find value.

#27 Dallas Cowboys — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
They could go after Adrian Peterson and that would change things here. If not, Gurley could be the long term replacement for Demarco Murray. We’re unlikely to see him in 2015, but a patient team will be rewarded handsomely. The Cowboys have made the run game a priority.

#28 Denver Broncos — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
He had a hit and miss combine but look at the tape. He puts people on their back, he’ll drive linemen off the ball in the run game and he can kick-slide effectively. Whether he lines up at tackle or guard, he’s a better football player than combine star.

#29 Indianapolis Colts — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
Back problems could be a concern. He didn’t put in a Dontari Poe-style performance at the combine. The Colts released Ricky-Jean Francois yesterday and need an anchor for a defense that gets pushed around too easily in key games.

#30 Green Bay Packers — Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon)
The Packers haven’t done such a good job in the first round in recent years. Armstead is big and has major potential — but he’ll need some coaching. Whoever drafts him will be trying to shape him into the next Calais Campbell.

#31 Seattle Seahawks — Cameron Erving (G/C, Florida State)
Converted defensive lineman who’s played left tackle and center. His days at tackle are over but he can start quickly at guard and be the backup center. Very intelligent/well spoken. Plays with an edge. Had a good combine with a 9’4″ broad jump, a 30.5 inch vertical and a 5.15 forty. Managed 30 reps on the bench press.

#32 New England Patriots — Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
Bill Belichick seems to like these tall, tight end-converts. Fisher might end up at guard like Kyle Long, or he could play right tackle. One of the early combine stars doing every test well. Needs to keep adding strength.

Explaining the pick at #31

Usually we see a premium on offensive linemen in the draft but this class is loaded with defensive talent. Instead of seeing the usual cluster of 3-4 offensive tackles going in the top-15, we could see a number of pass rushers and receivers taking in their place.

When we get to picks #17 (San Diego) and #19 (Cleveland) we could start to see the domino’s fall. The big question is — how quickly do the offensive lineman come off the board when the rush begins? We could see a bunch of o-liners go very quickly. Or we could see a bit of a sweet spot between picks 25-32. In this projection the Seahawks catch the tail end of the rush.

I’m anticipating Byron Maxwell and James Carpenter will depart in free agency, creating holes at corner and guard. They already have a need for a dynamic pass catching target at receiver or tight end. I suspect we could see Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron targeted in the open market.

Right now I’m thinking they’ll strongly consider the offensive line and receiver with their first two picks, before adding depth on the defensive line and eventually bringing in a corner or two. That just appears to be where the value is this year.

In this projection the Seahawks could move down into the late 30’s or early 40’s and select the best receiver on their board, before possibly targeting a player like Ty Sambrailo in round two. That would also make some sense.

Instead I have them taking Cameron Erving because I think the value dictates this to be a good range to take an offensive lineman. I also believe that once the top four receivers are off the board, there really isn’t much between the #5 receiver and the #10 receiver in a deep class. If you can get a similar quality player at #63 compared to #31 — why would you fight the board?

Erving’s days at tackle are in the past. He struggled manning the blindside in 2014 before an inspired switch to center. He looked very comfortable — finishing blocks in the run game, controlling the point of attack and doing a good job nullifying the interior rush. He has the potential to play any of the three interior spots. He can start at left guard replacing Carpenter and act as the main backup to Max Unger at center.

It’s hard to work out exactly what Tom Cable, John Schneider and Pete Carroll look for in a lineman. James Carpenter provided massive size and length plus proven run-game production at Alabama. John Moffitt also had reasonable length and size. Ditto for Justin Britt. None of the trio tested particularly well at the combine.

Their most athletic starting offensive lineman is J.R. Sweezy — a converted defensive lineman. He ran a 4.9 in the forty and posted a 38 inch vertical. He was a later round project who came good. They also went after a similar project in Garrett Scott in round six last year.

Many will pin Jake Fisher to the Seahawks because of his outstanding combine workout. It makes sense — a converted tight end with major athletic upside. He might have a future at tackle, a potential need if they don’t re-sign Russell Okung. But as we’ve seen with the Carpenter, Moffitt and Britt picks — major athletic potential is not something they’ve necessarily coveted in an offensive lineman in the early rounds. Instead they’ve looked for traits — such as Carpenter’s run blocking in college, Britt’s attitude and wrestling background or Moffitt’s mauler mentality.

Erving is somewhere between Fisher and the trio mentioned above. He’s 6-5 and 314lbs with 34 1/8 inch arms. He’s not as big or as long as Carpenter, but it’s close. He ran a 5.15 with a 1.84 split. He managed a 30.5 inch vertical and a 9’4″ broad jump. The only three offensive linemen to record a superior broad jump were Terry Poole, Laurence Gibson and Mark Glowinski (all posted a 9’5″). He’s not as athletic as Fisher, but he’s certainly no slouch.

What traits does he have that could specifically appeal to the Seahawks? Versatility to play multiple spots including center, fantastic character (incredibly well spoken and trusted by the FSU coaches) and he plays with an edge. Like Sweezy, he’s also a converted defensive lineman.

A final point on Erving vs Fisher. Stability and consistency is as important as anything for an offensive line. Replacing Carpenter like-for-like isn’t a sea-change in personnel. Moving Britt inside and asking him to learn a new position while starting yet another rookie at right tackle is much more disruptive. Unless you intend to switch Fisher to guard.

Regular visitors to the blog will know I’ve spent many posts arguing against the need to invest further high picks in the offensive line. It’s received more attention in the draft than any other position group on the roster. We could easily see a situation where Seattle lets Cable pick a couple of guys on day three to compete for a start. Let’s not forget, they were prepared to start Sweezy in the first game of his rookie season (a 7th round recent defensive convert). On this occasion I just believe the value matches need to warrant another high pick.

Providing they go O-line in the first frame, in round two I can imagine the Seahawks drafting a playmaking, physical receiver with speed. William & Mary’s Tre McBride makes a lot of sense at #63, especially as he offers some kick return value.

Want a wildcard alternative? Georgia Tech’s Darren Waller ran an official 4.46 which seems to have gone relatively unnoticed. We know the Seahawks admire Vincent Jackson. Waller and V-Jax are virtually identical players ten years apart:

Vincent Jackson (2005 draft)
4.44 forty
39 inch vertical
32 inch arms
9 5/8 inch hands

Darren Waller (2015 draft)
4.46 forty
38 inch vertical
33 1/4 inch arms
9 inch hands

Jackson was the #61 pick in 2005. Is Waller going to be the #63 pick in 2015? It’s probably too early. But if we see a second round rush on the position, I don’t see any reason why he won’t see a higher than expected selection. And if you’re worried about the hand size — a quick reminder that Calvin Johnson has 9 1/4 inch hands. I’ve seen no evidence on tape that Waller has an issue with drops.

Stanford’s Henry Anderson has the length and size (6-6, 294lbs, 33 1/2 inch arms) plus the athleticism (5.03 forty with a 1.64 split) to potentially offer a cheaper alternative to Tony McDaniel at defensive tackle. Is he a third round option? We could also see another Stanford prospect targeted on day three — cornerback Alex Carter has the length, size and speed to match Seattle’s ideals at the position. As for beyond, I’m still a fan of NC State left tackle Rob Crisp and Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond.

Seahawks face dilemma to replace Byron Maxwell in the draft

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Alex Carter is one of the few options for Seattle in this draft

Replacing Byron Maxwell is going to be the toughest challenge of the off-season.

He will leave, inevitably, to the highest bidder within hours of free agency starting. The word is he will command offers worth $10m a year. It’s an incredible sum of money and a perfect review of this cornerback class. It just isn’t very good, so teams will overpay for solutions elsewhere.

We’ll get onto how Seattle might address this situation in a moment. First, here’s the positive news from today’s defensive back workouts at the combine:

Trae Waynes had a big day and could move into the top-ten discussion. He’s a better player than Justin Gilbert a year ago without any of the character concerns (Cleveland really should’ve done their homework). He doesn’t have Gilbert’s length (31 inch arms) but he ran an official 4.31 at 6-0 and 186lbs. He also had a 38 inch vertical and a 10’2″ broad jump. On tape he’s a bit grabby but you can work on that. He’s physical, fast and professional. He won’t last long in the first round.

Jalen Collins will quickly follow. At 6-1 and 203lbs he ran a 4.48, adding a 36 inch vertical and a 10’4″ in the broad jump. He has excellent length (32 1/8 inch arms) and has so much potential. He only started 10 games at LSU but with the right coaching he’ll excel. There’s so much to like on tape — recovery speed, ball skills, physicality, edge.

After that? It’s a bit of a black hole — brightened ever so slightly by the star of the day. UConn’s Byron Jones is still recovering from a torn labrum and chose not to run. That aside, he smashed the broad jump record with a ridiculous 12’3″. He had one of the all-time best vertical jumps (44.5 inches). He also managed a superb 6.78 in the three cone and a 3.94 in the short shuttle. He’s 6-1 and 199lbs with 32 inch arms. He’s a brilliant forty away from being potentially the greatest athlete to ever test at the combine.

Why is any of this important? Speed isn’t the only factor in judging athleticism. A lot of teams (Seattle included) pay close attention to the broad and vertical jumps. It’s a great way to measure lower body explosion. Christine Michael had a 43 inch vertical in 2013 — it’s probably one of the main reasons he ended up with the Seahawks.

What kind of grade will Byron Jones receive after today? It’s hard to say. He was considered a mid-rounder at best going into the 2014 season. This adds a new dynamic. There’s not much tape available online, but this emerged in the last hour or so:

You see nice tight coverage and some decent recovery speed. There are a few plays where he’ll get flagged at the next level — or he’ll be punished by superior pro-receivers. We need to watch more to find out exactly what he’s capable of.

Teams will also need to check out his shoulder injury and look into whether it’s a serious long-term issue. Overall he’s very similar to Chris Conley. An incredible physical talent who flashes a bit on tape. Both players need refinement. How much is the potential worth to a team? How early do you back yourself or your coaches?

People who would know have told me in the past that Seattle will only consider spending an early pick on a cornerback if they possess the kind of physical upside we saw from Patrick Peterson. That’s how confident they are in developing later-round players. Jones jumps further and higher than Peterson. Can he match his 4.34 forty yard dash? If he does, he probably won’t be available to the Seahawks anyway.

He’s one of the few draftable options at corner. Zach Whitman, who does a lot of work with SPARQ, repeatedly makes the point that the Carroll/Schneider Seahawks have not drafted a corner with sub-32 inch arms. They want length. They don’t have to be tall — just long.

Aside from Jones, these are the guys who matched Seattle’s apparent physical ideals from a group of over 50 defensive backs:

Adrian Amos (Penn State)
There’s some debate over Amos’ position at the next level. Some think he’ll play safety and he’s big — 208lbs. It’s not too big, but still. He’s 6-0 with 32 1/4 inch arms. He ran a 4.56 which is identical to Richard Sherman. He posted a 35.5 inch vertical with a 10’2″ broad jump. He’s an athletic guy. I’m not sure he looked loose enough during drills to be a permanent cornerback but the Seahawks have made concessions there in the past. They’ll take a bit of stiffness if you’ve got the size, speed and length.

Alex Carter (Stanford)
He’s flashed on tape but he’s also had a few bad games. Does that remind you of another former Stanford corner? He looked terrific today. He’s 6-0 and 196lbs with 32 1/8 inch arms. He ran a 4.51 and jumped a 40 inch vertical. He also recorded a 10’1″ broad jump. He’s lean and long and the 4.51 is impressive. There’s a lot to work with here. Out of all the options he might be the most logical. Experience at the position, competitive, long, fast.

Jalen Collins (LSU)
It’s very unlikely he’ll be available for Seattle but he certainly fits the bill. We listed his data at the start of the piece but essentially he ran a 4.48 at 6-1 and 203lbs. He’s only going to get better at the next level with the right coaching. It’s a shame a player like this won’t last. That’s the price you pay for success. Every team in the league is looking for long and fast cornerbacks. He’s a stud.

There are others. Jaquiski Tartt ticks a lot of boxes but he’s 221lbs. Durrell Eskridge looked good in drills but an official 4.63 hurts. Kurtis Drummond is a very intriguing safety prospect to consider in the later rounds. Cody Prewitt could be another safety project.

Utah’s Eric Rowe is a curious case. When he was measured at the Senior Bowl, he had 32.5 inch arms. At the combine they measured him at 31.5 inches. I’m not sure which is accurate — or whether Seattle would refuse to draft a player who is half an inch below the ideal. For the record, Rowe is 6-0 and 205lbs, ran a 4.45 with a 39 inch vertical and a 10’5″ broad jump. It might be worth keeping him in our thoughts for now.

With so few options it’s hard to imagine how the Seahawks are going to solve this issue. Coming into the combine I thought they’d probably draft a couple of corners as a priority on day three. Watching this group makes you realize — that isn’t going to be easy. There are other possibilities — including small school prospects and players not attending the combine. Who among us can say they knew anything about Eric Pinkins a year ago? That was their guy. Their guy this year possibly wasn’t in Indianapolis.

Even if that’s the case, are we expecting a non-combine attendee to step in and start in week one? Are we expecting someone like Alex Carter to do that?

You can see the problem.

For a team that has constantly replenished the cornerback position, the well has run dry this year. There’s no Richard Sherman to replace Marcus Trufant. No Walter Thurmond to replace Brandon Browner. No Byron Maxwell to replace Walter Thurmond. Tharold Simon appeared to be out of his depth in the Super Bowl and might need off-season shoulder surgery. Jeremy Lane, a possible candidate to start, is facing a long road to recovery after breaking his wrist and tearing an ACL.

So what else can they do?

They could pony up for Maxwell. It would mean around 25-35% of your cap room for the next few years is tied up in four players — Maxwell, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. You might argue it’s in Seattle’s best interests to secure the entire starting secondary for the long haul. Isn’t it the identity of the team?

The thing is, Maxwell is only a possible $10m per-year player because the market dictates that in 2015. In the future, say next year, you might regret making that deal. It might mean you lose another one of the group (Irvin? Wagner?). You might miss out on a dynamic free agent you’d love to have (Julius Thomas?).

Overpaying Maxwell might mean you avoid a tricky situation this year — but you’re not planning to avoid issues in 2015. You’re building for several years into the future. I’m not convinced Maxwell is a player you just have to have because the options to replace him in 2015 aren’t great.

This might be about finding a one year solution and pushing the problem into 2016. A veteran stopgap. Accepting the situation for what it is. You still draft your guys later in the draft this year. Maybe one of them shines and even wins a starting job by the end of his rookie season? By 2016 you could have a long term, cheaper replacement for Maxwell. And if not, perhaps it’ll be a better class of corners in 12 months time?

Who that veteran option could be — I have no idea. Some have suggested a possible return for Walter Thurmond. He missed most of the 2014 season with a torn pec. His one-year deal in New York last season carried a $3m cap hit. There’s every chance he burned bridges in Seattle with multiple suspensions. He had a chance to be the one replacing Browner ahead of Maxwell and blew it. In a Super Bowl year no less. Can they trust him?

Veteran Charles Tillman had a triceps injury end his 2014 season. Would he consider a one-year stint in Seattle? He turned 34 today. He’s played for the Bears since 2003. The Seahawks have plugged in vets before — Kevin Williams is a good example of that in 2014. They also added Antoine Winfield before the 2013 season but he didn’t make the team.

This isn’t the year to chase cornerbacks in the draft and sometimes you just have to accept a situation for what it is. The Seahawks could go offensive line and receiver with their first two picks, then take a defensive lineman like Henry Anderson. After that, rounds 4-6 could be the area they bring in a corner or two. Alex Carter could be on the list after today’s performance. But you wouldn’t be expecting those players to start.

With Byron Maxwell possibly heading to Philadelphia if you believe certain reports, finding a veteran one-year rental for the LOB might be the best, or even only option.