Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Seahawks unlikely to find defensive line help in first two rounds

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Henry Anderson could provide a cheaper option to Tony McDaniel

If you missed today’s combine live blog you can recap the day here. It includes workout notes, winners & losers, measurements, breaking news and a lot more

We’ll come onto the Seahawks in a moment. Firstly — this is a good class of defensive linemen but it’s also a top heavy group. It’s safe to say after watching today’s workouts there are twelve prospect with legitimate hopes of going in the top-25:

Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
He didn’t jump particularly well with a 29.5 inch vertical (worse than Danny Shelton and Jordan Phillips) and an 8’10” in the broad jump. But a 4.97 in the forty and a good performance in the drills cements his place firmly within the top five. Richard Seymour is a good comparison — he ran a 4.95 in 2001 at 6-6 and 299lbs. Williams is a shade under 6-5 and 302lbs. He could go at #2 to Tennessee or #3 to Jacksonville.

Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
Another prospect who didn’t jump particularly well — and this matters to some teams who want to see that explosive lower body. He jumped a 32.5 inch vertical and a 9’4″ broad. But he has length (arms just under 34 inches) and a 4.60 forty is good enough. A 1.56 ten yard split should attract a team like Jacksonville. Fowler Jr is a pure playmaker who can line up anywhere to rush the passer — even inside.

Randy Gregory (LB, Nebraska)
He’s far from the finished article and people knock him for a lack of production. At Nebraska he didn’t do a lot of edge rush — he played in the open field and read the offense. 3-4 teams will salivate over his skill set. He’s 6-5 and 235lbs but should be able to add weight. He has 34 inch arms and managed a 36.5 inch vertical. He jumped 10’5″ in the broad and ran a 4.64 with a 1.60 split. He had a great day in the drills, particularly when asked to change direction. Gregory has the hips of a defensive back.

Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
He didn’t work out today due to injury but he shouldn’t lose any momentum as a consequence. Ray was a monster all season long for Missouri and answered a few questions without performing. He’s closer to 6-3 than 6-2, he has 33 1/8 inch arms and he’s 245lbs. He’s not the biggest but he’s hardly small and plays above his size. At worst you’d expect a time in the 4.6’s. He’s a gritty, competitive player who should be able to stick in a 4-3 rotation.

Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
This was Harold’s opportunity to announce himself to a mass audience. On tape he flashed explosive pass-rushing qualities, dynamic closing speed, the ability to convert speed-to-power with ease and a relentless motor. He ran a 4.60 with a 1.56 split, jumped 35 inches in the vertial and a 10’3″ in the broad jump. He’s 6-3 with 33 inch arms. He’s the complete package of length, speed and grit. He’s an ideal LEO candidate and should be considered by the Atlanta Falcons at #8 as they build a new defense based on the Seahawks model.

Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
Shelton is lazily compared to Haloti Ngata, which is unfair. Ngata was a physical freak and ran a 5.13 with a 1.73 split. Shelton’s official time was a 5.64 with a 1.89 split. As pure athletes they don’t compare and it’s wrong to set the bar this high. That doesn’t mean Shelton can’t get around a football field — he flashed impressive mobility and footwork during drills. He is not a rare athlete for his size and he will have limitations. But any 3-4 team looking for a nose tackle will seriously consider drafting Shelton early. He jumped a 30.5 inch vertical and had 34 reps on the bench press. He has 32 inch arms.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Criticized as small and weak by some, Beasley set out to prove the doubters wrong today. After putting up 35 reps on the bench press, he ran the fastest time by a defensive lineman at 4.53 with a 1.59 ten yard split. He added a 41-inch vertical and a 10’10” in the broad jump. He has 32 and a half inch arms which isn’t ideal, but it’s only a shade under Shane Ray and Eli Harold. On tape he looked great for three years, putting up major numbers for Clemson.

Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon)
He chose to play defense instead of left tackle in college and teams are clearly intrigued by his size (6-7, 292lbs). You’d think he’d have longer arms (33 inches). He ran a 5.10 with a 1.76 split which is pretty average, with a 34 inch vertical and a 9’9″ broad. None of these numbers scream physical freak, but you don’t find many players who look this good at this size. Any team looking for a 3-4 end (it’s a big need in New Orleans) will have to consider Armstead with the idea of developing him into another Calais Campbell.

Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
He flew under the radar a bit today — doing well in all the tests and drills without making any headlines. He ran a 5.05 with a 1.75 split at 6-2 and 319lbs. He could probably drop to 310lbs and play with ideal size for a three technique. He doesn’t have amazing length with 32 and a half inch arms. He flashes constantly on tape and lives in the backfield. He’s also a dependable character guy with a wife and two kids already. Teams needing an every down interior rusher will give Brown a long hard look.

Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
He didn’t work out due to injury but he wowed the media in the interview room. All of the Florida State guys are very talkative and confident. He’s an absolute beast at 6-4 and 336lbs with 33 1/8 inch arms. He’s a superb run defender who can act as a nose tackle in a 3-4 but he also has the technique to disengage and explode into the backfield. Like Brown he’s a former 5-star recruit and he was probably FSU’s best player in 2014.

Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
He didn’t put in the Dontari Poe-type performance we thought he was capable of, but at 6-5 and 329lbs he ran a 5.17 with a 1.84 split. He also recorded a 30 inch vertical and put up 28 reps on the bench press despite having nearly 35 inch arms. The biggest threat to Phillips is a history of back injuries that’ll need to be checked out by any team thinking of drafting him early.

Bud Dupree (LB, Kentucky)
One of the few linebackers to make an impression today, even if he didn’t do drills citing a groin injury. At 6-4 and 269lbs he ran a 4.56 with a 1.60 split. He posted a 42 inch vertical and an 11’6″ in the broad jump. You see that athleticism translate to the tape and he flies around for Kentucky. The problem is — he isn’t a great edge rusher. He doesn’t do a good job rounding the tackle and often runs himself out of contention. He doesn’t always diagnose the play correctly. He might be best used as a Bruce Irvin LB/DE hybrid.

That’s a talent rich group of players. Unfortunately, none of the dozen are likely to make it to #31.

So what’s left?

Seattle loves speed. Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril are in the top-five for defensive linemen in the forty yard dash over the last 12 years. They both posted incredible 1.50 ten yard splits. If you’re going to play LEO for the Seahawks, you need to be long, fast and tenacious.

If the top prospects are off the board, we’re likely concentrating on rounds three and four. The only defensive line prospect Seattle has drafted in the top two rounds since 2010 is Bruce Irvin (who subsequently moved to linebacker). Given the options on the offensive line and receiver, we’re unlikely to see that change in April.

Last year they drafted Cassius Marsh in the fourth round. He didn’t post a great forty time (4.89) but he had a 1.60 ten yard split. Jordan Hill (a third round pick in 2013) managed a 1.75 split at 303lbs (he also had long 33.5 inch arms). If we’re looking at edge rushers, they probably need to be running a similar split to Marsh. Interior rushers need to compare to Hill in terms of length and burst.

Scanning through the results today, these are the few prospects that are in the range for consideration:

Henry Anderson (Stanford)
Ran a 5.03 at 6-6 and 293lbs. Impressed at the Senior Bowl. He recorded a 1.63 ten yard split which is explosive given his size. He managed a 30-inch vertical and has 33.5 inch arms. The most impressive part of his day? Probably a 4.19 short shuttle — tied for first among all defensive linemen. He could be a candidate to replace 6-7, 305lbs Tony McDaniel if he’s cut to save $3m in cap space.

Zach Hodges (Harvard)
He’s nice and long with 34 1/4 inch arms at 6-2 and 250lbs. He ran a 4.68 with a 1.61 split. It’s not overly explosive but he’s a depth option later in the draft or in the UDFA market. He posted a 33.5 inch vertical and a 10’5″ broad jump. He has a terrific back-story.

Danielle Hunter (LSU)
Bit of a ‘looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane’ candidate. He’s 6-5 and 252lbs with 34 1/4 inch arms. He ran a 4.57 with a 1.58 split. He didn’t attempt the vertical or broad jump for some reason. He was too easily blocked at LSU and had a 1.5 sack season in 2014. There’s no denying his potential, but he’s likely to be over-drafted.

Owa Odighizuwa (UCLA)
He had an incredible day, running a 4.62 with a 1.62 split at 6-3 and 267lbs. He also posted a 39 inch vertical and a 10’7″ in the broad jump. He has 33 3/4 inch arms and ran a superb 4.19 in the short shuttle (tied with Henry Anderson). Medical checks are the key with Odighizuwa — previous hip problems will be a concern and need to be checked out. If he’s cleared, he’s one of the combine’s big winners. He needs major work on his technique as an edge rusher, but he’s adept at collapsing the interior.

Preston Smith (Mississippi State)
He’s 6-5, 271lbs with 34 inch arms. He ran a 4.74 with a 1.63 split. He jumped 34 inches in the vertical and recorded a 10’1″ in the broad. He also had an impressive 4.28 in the short shuttle and a 7.07 in the three cone. Smith’s tape drifts between very good and average, but he has the potential to be a terror in the right scheme. I’m not sure where he fits in Seattle’s defense. With Bennett and Marsh, do they need another end who kicks inside?

Anthony Chickillo (Miami)
We’ll need to get a check on his split. In his first attempt at the forty he recorded a 1.59, but in the second attempt he was given a 1.70. His official forty time is a 4.79. He’s 6-3 and 267lbs with 33.5 inch arms. He jumped 34.5 inches in the vertical but only a 9’6″ in the broad. His three cone (7.17) was also impressive. He played out of position in Miami.

Carl Davis (Iowa)
One of the standouts at the Senior Bowl, Davis is just under 6-5 and 320lbs with 34 5/8 inch arms. He ran a 5.07 with a 1.73 split. He also had a 33 inch vertical jump. His tape is flat out bad for the most part. You need to work out whether he can be the guy in Mobile more often than the guy at Iowa. Plays without an edge but he has the size, speed and length Seattle likes inside.

Grady Jarrett (Clemson)
Lacks length and that could be an issue. He’s 6-0 with 32 3/8 inch arms and that might be too short for the Seahawks. On tape he explodes off the screen in some games and today he ran a 5.06 with a 1.69 split at 304lbs. In the middle rounds he’s a value interior pass rusher who can hold his own in the run game. Posted a 31 inch vertical. Could sneak into round two.

Derrick Lott (Tennessee-Chatt)
He’s 6-4 and 314lbs with 33 5/8 inch arms. He ran a 4.99 with a 1.77 split. He didn’t jump particularly well but the speed and length is intriguing enough to search for some tape. One to take a look at.

Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Southern Miss)
6-2 and 307lbs — ideal size to work inside. Only has 32 5/8 inch arms and that might be a problem. He ran a 1.72 split and a 5.02 forty. He also managed a really impressive 34 inch vertical. Another one to monitor moving forward.

Marcus Hardison (Arizona State) and Christian Covington (Rice) didn’t participate.

You might ask about Davis Tull at Tennessee-Chatt who had an excellent workout even though he didn’t run a forty yard dash. He posted a 42.5 inch vertical and an 11′ in the broad jump. The problem is — he’s 6-2 and 246lbs with 31 1/4 inch arms. The Seahawks aren’t drafting a player with such paltry length to rush the edge. Mike Mayock suggested he’ll be a SAM linebacker at the next level.

None of the names above particularly appeal at #31 considering the possible sweet spot on the offensive line and the overall depth of quality at receiver. I would expect Carl Davis and Owa Odighizuwa to be off the board by #63, possibly Preston Smith and Grady Jarrett too. If the Seahawks go OL/WR (or vice-versa) with their first two picks, Henry Anderson could be an option in round three. He is the #88 ranked prospect according to ESPN.

If you need help on the defensive line and you’re picking in the top-15, this is a great draft. Many teams in the second half of round one will miss out. With so many attractive free agents hitting the open market, we could see plenty of interest from the clubs picking between #20-32.

Barring any unforeseen falls, the Seahawks are unlikely to find defensive line value at #31. Is it really that much of a need anyway? Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are a pass rush duo most teams can only dream of. Bruce Irvin has developed into one of the better defensive playmakers in the NFL. Brandon Mebane, Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh will return. They could keep Tony McDaniel. There’s every opportunity they’ll add a veteran presence to replace Kevin Williams.

Three days ago Darnell Dockett was hinting at a move within the NFC West:

Adding Dockett on a team-friendly deal could be the best way to improve Seattle’s interior pass rush. You might be able to give him McDaniel’s salary and then draft a guy like Anderson in the third. How much can a soon-to-be 34-year-old pass rusher expect to earn as a free agent coming off an ACL? Like him or loathe him, his competitive personality would really mesh with Seattle’s defense.

Of course, Arizona has to cut him for this to have any legs.

There are some players we can possibly rule out today. The early round talk on Nate Orchard seemed premature after the Senior Bowl. He has the length (33 3/4 inch arms) but a 4.80 forty was unimpressive today at just 250lbs. He only had a 31.5 inch vertical too. He’s just not a special enough athlete. Xavier Cooper had a good workout and ran a 4.86 with a 1.68 split at 293lbs. The problem? 31 1/2 inch arms. The Seahawks would need to be willing to make a concession there. Markus Golden is an easy player to root for but he has 31 1/8 inch arms and ran a 4.90 at 260lbs.

The less said about today’s group of linebackers the better. I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to draft any of the prospects we saw today. They have depth at the position and will probably look for athletic options in UDFA.

Free agency can change things very quickly but are we seeing some clarity on what might be the plan this off-season? Here’s my best projection for the 22nd February:

— Use any free cap room to target a dynamic pass-catcher like Julius Thomas (this could include cutting Zach Miller to save $3m)

— Draft an offensive lineman and a receiver with your first two picks, replacing James Carpenter and adding another weapon for Russell Wilson

— Consider adding a defensive lineman in round three

That would essentially leave one hole to fill — cornerback. This could be the greatest off-season challenge.

Tomorrow the defensive backs workout. Very few prospects fit Seattle’s size ideal (32 inch arms, long). UConn’s Byron Jones — a possible candidate — is recovering from a torn labrum and might not participate. There’s also a real lack of depth and quality at the position — and free agency will be an expensive market to dabble in. It could be a case of searching through the second wave of available veterans — or even looking to make a trade for a player buried on someone else’s depth chart.

The Seahawks are the best team in the league at developing cornerbacks but they’ll need to pull a rabbit out of a hat to replace Byron Maxwell this year. Tomorrow should be interesting, if not a little scary.

Receivers impress at the combine — where does it leave Seattle?

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Tre McBride ran a 4.41 and recorded a 38 inch vertical jump

If you missed today’s combine live blog, you can recap the day here. It includes workout notes, winners & losers, measurements, breaking news and a lot more

The #1 thing we learned today? This receiver class has everything. Explosive athleticism, freakish size and speed, suddenness and most of all — depth.

While a hyped-up running back class chugged it’s way through a bitterly disappointing, average workout — the receivers lit up Indianapolis with a series of dynamic performances.

Nineteen players ran sub-4.4. Thirteen players jumped above 37 inches in the vertical. If you’re a team in need of a receiver or two — congratulations. The Seahawks happen to need a receiver or two.

It’s hard to read too much into the body language of coaches at the combine. Some sit in the stands with their own stopwatch (Tom Coughlin). Others kick back and let their scouts do most of the data-recording. Jason Garrett joined the NFL Network crew for an interview as Jerry Jones attempted to type forty-times into an Ipad.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider stayed glued to their seats in the Seahawks booth — side-by-side. And they paid particular attention to the receivers. Carroll was seen scribbling notes at a pace. Schneider was deep in conversation, binoculars in hand. The room was a hive of activity. When the running backs started to workout, they sipped soda and looked positively relaxed. No notes were being taken. For once, I think we can read into this.

Rand Getlin is reporting the Seahawks have offered Marshawn Lynch a contract extension worth over $20m for the next two years. It’s a significant offer. If Lynch wants to be the best paid back in the league, this is his opportunity. If Adrian Peterson departs Minnesota he might have to take a pay cut (especially if he wants to join his favorite team in Dallas). Peterson is the only challenger to Lynch in terms of salary if he signs this new deal.

Assuming it gets done, there’s very little reason for the Seahawks to draft a running back. It’s going to be hard enough for eleven or more rookies to make the roster without asking a mid or late round pick to beat out Robert Turbin or Christine Michael. Secure Lynch and you can focus elsewhere. The average performance today of the running backs — where most just looked sluggish and slow — just compounds the situation. Do what it takes to keep Lynch and move on.

They can focus on other needs — receiver, tight end, cornerback, offensive line and defensive line.

I think the Seahawks will address the tight end position in free agency as they look to bring in that elusive second level mismatch for Russell Wilson. They need a guy who draws attention in the way Rob Gronkowski did in the Super Bowl. They need a red zone threat in the passing game. They need someone who can run the seam route and make big plays. All signs point to Julius Thomas — a player they tried to acquire during the season. While he has his critics and doubters, there’s no mistaking his physical quality, speed and production (24 touchdowns in 2013/2014). He’s the type of player who demands respect from a defense and constant attention.

If they sign Thomas (and there’s no comparable TE mismatch in this draft class), the focus turns to receiver, the offensive line, cornerback and the defensive line.

Cornerback could be a problem area. The options in the draft are limited. The 2015 prospects were measured today and we know the Seahawks like their outside cornerbacks to have 32-inch arms. Here’s a full list of defensive backs with +32 inch arms:

Adrian Amos
Alex Carter
Jalen Collins
Kurtis Drummond
Durrell Eskridge
Gerod Holliman
Byron Jones
Cody Prewitt
Jordan Richards
James Sample
Tye Smith
Jaquiski Tartt
Julian Wilson

That’s it. And they’re not all corner prospects either, there’s a few safety’s in there. You can pretty much limit your Monday viewing to this group when the DB’s workout.

(Note — Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will also go through cornerback drills. He has 32 1/8 inch arms and ran a 4.54 today)

Tony Pauline gave Byron Jones a fourth or fifth round grade last summer but he’s been steadily rising. He’s a press-corner coming off a torn labrum. Alex Carter flashed at times for Stanford. There’s some debate whether Adrian Amos is a safety or a corner, but he’s another to monitor.

The top-talent on the list is clearly Jalen Collins. I suspect he’ll end up going in the top-20. This is a bad group and teams know it. The good cornerbacks will go early. The other possible first rounders — Trae Waynes and Marcus Peters, don’t pass the 32-inch arms test. Neither does Utah’s Eric Rowe or Georgia’s Damian Swann.

This is why Byron Maxwell is going to get $10m (too much, in my opinion) on the open market and why he’ll be priced out of a return to Seattle. It’s a really rough year if you have a need at the position. We probably need to scour the free agent market for a diamond in the rough. I’ve always liked Brandon Flowers but he’s short and lacks length — plus he could be costly. 2015 will provide the greatest test to Seattle’s vaunted cornerback production line.

Assuming they don’t go cornerback early, that leaves receiver, defensive line and offensive line as the most likely options at #31. We’ll see the defenders workout tomorrow. I’m not sure the D-line is quite the dramatic need some people believe. Brandon Mebane and Jordan Hill are under contract. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are both signed-up. Cassius Marsh will return. Tony McDaniel is under contract. They’ve done a good job finding defensive line value in the free agent market. Players like Brian Orakpo might be willing to work on a cheap prove-it deal. There are other candidates too.

There’s also a good chance of a first round rush on defensive linemen. Eli Harold is one to watch out for — a good fit for Seattle’s LEO position. Shane Ray wont perform due to injury. We could see Harold, Ray, Leonard Williams, Dante Fowler Jr, Danny Shelton, Jordan Phillips, Eddie Goldman, Malcom Brown, Arik Armstead, Vic Beasley, and Bud Dupree off the board by #31, limiting the available options.

We’ll see if tomorrow changes anything, but I’m leaning towards receiver and offensive line being a likely bet for Seattle’s first two picks in this draft as we edge towards free agency.

I noted at the start of today’s live blog that #31 could be a sweet spot for the O-line. With the reports today that James Carpenter will be a target for the New York Jets, it’s looking increasingly likely the Seahawks will need to fill a hole at left guard. While the receivers are flying up the board today (more on that in a moment) — several good O-line prospects could be available at #31 or even after a small trade down. Ereck Flowers, Cameron Erving, Jake Fisher, La’el Collins. Players who could, theoretically, play guard or tackle. There’s enough OL depth in this draft to wait and let Tom Cable bring in his guys to fill out the roster. But there’s even more depth at receiver.

The top three wide outs all confirmed their status as probable top-18 picks today. Kevin White’s official 4.35 was as unexpected as it was impressive. He’s not a quick-twitch receiver but he has great acceleration and long speed. He has the frame and hands to win in the short game and the ability to get deep and take the top off a defense. He’s smaller than Larry Fitzgerald but plays with a similar physicality. And he’s faster.

Amari Cooper is a naturally gifted receiver — the smoothest wide out to enter the league since A.J. Green. The fact he also ran a 4.42 shows he’s no slouch either. But he doesn’t have great height or length and he suffered with drops in college. White has possibly usurped Cooper as the top receiver — and he’ll be a candidate to go fourth overall to Oakland. Cooper shouldn’t last beyond Minnesota (#11) and Cleveland (#12).

That leaves DeVante Parker, who also performed well today (4.45 forty, 36.5 vert, 10’5″ broad). He could go ahead of Cooper if it comes down to personal preference. Greater size/athleticism versus polish. It’s also worth noting Parker is curt and introverted while Cooper is well-spoken and competitive. Either way, there’s a chance both players will be off the board by San Francisco at #15. The worst case scenario is Kansas City at #18.

Here’s the possible problem for Seattle. If White, Cooper and Parker are off the board by #12 or #15, we have to assume Kansas City will take the next best receiver available. That could be Jaelen Strong — who had a fantastic combine performance (4.42 forty, 42-inch vert, 10’3″ broad). With the likelihood of four receivers leaving the board in the top-20, you’re looking at taking the 5th or 6th best receiver at #31. There’s probably ten players with similar grades vying to be #5 and #6. The value at #31 will be pretty similar to the value at #55.

Theoretically, you could trade down from #31 and fill a need on the offensive line — then trade up from #63 to get a receiver you like. You run the risk of losing picks, but you also have the chance to make a cumulative gain and get the players you really want.

So who are the ten if White, Cooper, Parker and Strong are off the board?

Nelson Agholor (USC)
Ran an impressive 4.41 with the top ten-yard split (1.53). He makes up for a lack of size (6-0, 198lbs) with suddenness, catching technique, good hands, leaping ability and grit. He’s an effective kick returner too. It’d be more of the same for Seattle, but this is the type of receiver they’ve shown interest in. If they sign a big target (eg Julius Thomas) in free agency, this could be an option.

Sammie Coates (Auburn)
He was as advertised today. Coates is a physical freak with fantastic muscle tone and a T.O. style frame. He ran a 4.43 with a 41-inch vertical, 10’11” broad jump and he put up 23 reps on the bench press. Physically he’s a top ten pick. Catching the ball he might be an UDFA. During drills he struggled to track the deep ball and had some drops. For all the potential, he’s likely to be a frustrating player at the next level. Very boom or bust.

Phillip Dorsett (Miami)
He’s a really effective deep-receiver with 4.33 size. He posted a 37-inch vertical today with a 10’2″ broad jump. He’s not just a sprinter playing football — he’s very much a football player. He uses his athleticism to get open and does a good job catching the ball. Can he win in the short game? He showed flashes at Miami. He’s a competitive player but he’s only 5-9 and 183lbs. How many receivers with that size become anything more than a sparky role-player?

Devin Funchess (Michigan)
Funchess really should’ve worked out with the tight ends yesterday. Instead of shining as the obvious top athlete among a bad group, he just looked like a slow receiver today. He’s always been a build-up-speed player at 6-4 and 232lbs — but a 4.70 was considerably worse than Dorial Green-Beckham’s 4.49 at a similar size. He did have a 38-inch vertical to fall back on. He lacks suddenness (1.67 ten yard split) and won’t win off the snap. He needs to be used as a mismatch in the slot or working the seam. He is adept at boxing off defenders, the head-fake and making difficult grabs.

Dorial Green-Beckham (Oklahoma)
DGB has a very peculiar body shape. He’s 6-5 and 237lbs but only has 32 and a half inch arms. He doesn’t appear long despite the height. If anything he looked quite stocky. He only has nine inch hands. Running a 4.49 at that size was impressive, but he only managed a mediocre 33.5 inch vertical and a 9’11” in the broad jump. He’s fast but he doesn’t have a great catching radius or wingspan. The off-field concerns are legit and he didn’t do a convincing job in front of the media. Tall but not long, fast but can’t jump.

Rashad Greene (Florida State)
Mr. Consistent for FSU but doesn’t seem like a fit for Seattle. He’s only 5-11 and 182lbs, ran a 4.53 today and posted a 36.5 inch vertical and a 10’2″ broad jump. He catches everything and any offense needing a reliable slot receiver will consider Greene on day two. But the Seahawks don’t need a 4.5 runner at 5-11. The ten-yard split on his first forty yard dash matched Nelson Agholor’s 1.53. He has nine inch hands and 31 5/8 inch arms. He’s a competitive player with lots of production.

Tyler Lockett (Kansas State)
After a fantastic Senior Bowl, Lockett further improved his stock at the combine. He’s just under 5-10 and 182lbs (similar size to Rashad Greene) with 30 inch arms and sub-9 inch hands. That’s not a great mix and he too might be out of contention for the Seahawks. But he looked sharp running a 4.40 forty and he also posted a 35.5 inch vertical and a 10’1″ broad jump. He showed spectacular hands in Mobile and he has some kick return potential. His stock has risen so high he’s probably drifted out of any reasonable consideration for Seattle.

Tre McBride (Williams & Mary)
A Seahawks Draft Blog favorite coming into the combine — McBride showed up big time. He’s 6-0 and 210lbs and ran a 4.41 with a 38 inch vertical, a 10’2″ broad jump and a 4.08 short shuttle (top five among WR’s). On tape he makes numerous circus catches — flashing excellent catching technique and the ability to make plays in the short game and downfield. He’s a kick return specialist too. He has average height at 6-0 but plays big with a nice thick frame. He could play at 215lbs comfortably. He has A+ character — he’s well spoken and polite during interviews, gritty and fun on the field. He’s rising and could be a legit second round option for the Seahawks.

Breshad Perriman (UCF)
He didn’t workout at the combine due to injury. He’s very much flavor of the month among draft pundits. Mel Kiper recently put him at #15 in a mock draft. Mike Mayock has also discussed his possible rise up the board. He’s 6-2 and 212lbs with NFL bloodlines. On tape he’s comparable to Sammie Coates — capable of big plays and equally capable of some horrendous drops. Neither player is going to be on a quarterbacks Christmas Card list. He does have enough potential to entice a team to take a shot on day two. The first round would be a significant reach in my opinion.

Devin Smith (Ohio State)
The expected contest with Phillip Dorsett never really materialized but a 4.42 is still a decent time for a 6-0, 196lbs receiver. He’s a smooth, fluid runner — very natural with no wasted steps. You can see why he’s such an effective downfield catcher. He posted a 39-inch vertical with a 10’2″ broad jump. He made several Odell Beckham Jr-style catches for the Buckeye’s. He doesn’t have ODB’s unreal hand size (only nine inches) but they share similar athletic traits. He’s a fantastic high point catcher and a big play artist. He also has genuine special teams value as a gunner.

You might have to take Nelson Agholor, Devin Smith or Devin Funchess at #31 or in the top-40 if you trade down. You might be able to get Tre McBride in the #55-63 range. That’s what you have to consider here. Where is the best value coinciding with the best way to upgrade the existing roster? There are likely two sweet spots at this position — #4-15 and then #35-50.

The Seahawks manipulated the situation last year to get the player they wanted (Paul Richardson) in the right range. I can see a similar situation here. Either take the guy they like after a small trade down, or find a way to get the receiver you want in the late second round. The alternative, of course, is to make a Julio Jones-style trade into the top ten to target Kevin White. Can anyone really see that happening?

Last year the value at #32 was probably leaning towards the offensive line (Joel Bitonio) and at #64 towards receiver. It might be a similar situation again this year. The Seahawks kind of fought the board a little bit — especially in admitting they took Justin Britt in the second round to avoid missing out altogether on a right tackle they liked (they didn’t own a third rounder). That’s what the Seahawks do — they draft for their roster and not for the league.

With four solid fits at receiver likely to leave the board before the #31 pick — going OL with the first pick and WR with the second could make a great deal of sense. And who would rule out some movement up and down the board to make it happen?

One receiver we need to go back and have a look at — Georgia’s Chris Conley. At just under 6-2 and 213lbs he ran a 4.35 forty, recorded a 45 inch vertical, an 11’7″ in the broad jump and even had 18 reps on the bench press. Oh yeah, he also has 33 3/4 inch arms and just under ten inch hands. That’s incredible size, length, speed and athleticism. I’ve scanned through some clips and there’s a lot to like here. He can separate, high point the football, get behind the defense and make big plays. He appears to be well respected with tremendous character. Can’t wait to see more.

Also today the quarterbacks and running backs went through drills. Jameis Winston put on a masterclass — on and off the field. He gave a superstar interview with the NFL Network, took on a leadership role within the QB group and was the clear vocal leader on the field. Greg Knapp working the drills took a clear shine to him. He nailed a tough media conference last night and just looks the part of a #1 overall pick. It’s not a done deal, but you get a real vibe that Tampa Bay is going to take Winston with the first pick. Everything is trending that way. I mean, how impressive is this?

Marcus Mariota also performed well but faded into Winston’s shadow when they both appeared on the NFL Network and the same thing happened on the field. He’s not a loud person and prefers to lead by example. He will be a high pick, but you sense he’s losing ground to Winston in the race to go first overall. The big question could be — will Tennessee take Mariota at #2, or will they take a defensive prospect like Leonard Williams? If Mariota lasts until the #5 pick, will that encourage a team like Cleveland or Philadelphia to trade up? If the Eagles are being aggressive at cornerback (willing to pay Maxwell), they could be laying the foundations for a big trade up on draft day.

The running back workouts were miserably average. It’s shocking how slow the group looked. Even Melvin Gordon put in a disappointing performance — running a 4.53 and recording a 35 inch vertical. During drills they nearly all looked sluggish. T.J. Yeldon is too big, Gordon was stiffer than expected, Duke Johnson was slow, Josh Robinson was even slower and David Cobb pulled a quad. Jay Ajayi and Ameer Abdullah both posted impressive vertical jumps (39 and 42 inches respectively) but that’s about as good as it gets for this years crop. This was a total anti-climax.

For all the combine data from today, click here.

And one final note to close out the day — Vic Beasley put up 35 reps on the bench press. That’s more than Danny Shelton (34). Incredible. We’ll be live again from 6AM PST tomorrow with coverage of the defensive linemen and linebacker drills.

Thoughts on Oregon’s Jake Fisher and his fit in Seattle

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Jake Fisher stole the show at the combine today

If you missed today’s combine live blog, you can recap the day here. It includes workout notes, winners & losers, measurements, breaking news and a lot more

There were several key performers today but nobody had a better athletic performance than Oregon’s Jake Fisher. His 7.25 in the 3-cone and 4.33 in the short shuttle were top-five for OT’s over the last decade. He ran an official 5.01 in the forty yard dash with a 1.75 ten yard split and posted a 32.5 in the vertical jump.

Nobody came close to that kind of performance this year. It brought back memories of Joel Bitonio twelve months ago and Kyle Long in 2013. Both players went in the top-40 of their subsequent drafts. Fisher might be on the fast track to a similar result this April.

I’ve spent the last hour digging through some Oregon TV tape to have another look at him. Here’s some thoughts before we get into his potential fit in Seattle…

He doesn’t jump off the screen like Bitonio, but then it’s easy to forget just how accomplished Bitonio looked at Nevada. Against top-tier opponents in 2013, he excelled (National Champions Florida State, Anthony Barr and co at UCLA). He mirrored well in pass protection, drove people off the ball in the running game, loved to get to the second level and played with a constant edge. I recall one play against Fresno State where he dumped a linebacker on his backside. He finished plays every game.

I guess you’d call Fisher more ‘finesse’, but that’s really just a kind way of saying he doesn’t play with the same level of intensity. He’ll do his job on each given play to a reasonable level. But he rarely goes above and beyond — rushing to the second level, finishing a block with a little extra spice or driving someone out of a play after the whistle. He’s very grabby and gets a ton of flags (six for holding in 2014 alone). You don’t see the same kind of raw attitude. He’s a converted tight end and plays up to that.

One thing he does really well is recover. In the National Championship against Ohio State there were at least two occasions where he got beat on an inside move in the run game. He had a nice counter — pushing the defensive end into the pile and creating a new crease off the edge. In one particular play it created a huge lane for the running back. You can’t expect him to dominate every snap so it’s good that he’s alert and intelligent enough to counter-attack.

He’s an effortless lateral mover — that’s no surprise given what he achieved at the combine today. He’ll be able to cope with speed. There’s very little tightness in his hips and that’ll bode well if a team decides to keep him at tackle (more on that later).

Sadly, though, he is not a great run blocker. Not yet, anyway. He lacks punch and very rarely pushes people off the LOS. He can hold position nicely, but you don’t see those ‘wow’ blocks where the defensive lineman just gets jolted back. His footwork, while good when he tries to set in pass protection, is inconsistent in the running game. He needs to keep moving and work the defender, using his speed and size as an advantage. Too often when he initiates contact he stops and tries to win purely with upper-body power and this is where he struggles. He should get better here over time, but for now it is what it is. He must continue to get stronger.

Both Bitonio and Long showed more snap on tape. For that reason it might be worth pumping the breaks on his sky-rocketing stock. Yet the fact is — there just isn’t anyone with his level of athletic upside available at offensive tackle this year. There’s no Greg Robinson or Taylor Lewan. No Bitonio sitting there in round two. We’ve talked about this a lot — the top college athletes are gravitating towards defense. It’s been happening for a while. And it’s putting a premium on athletic offensive linemen who can match-up at the next level. It’s why Eric Fisher jumped Luke Joeckel as the first pick in 2013 — and it’s why Lane Johnson went in the top five.

There’s a big market for players like Jake Fisher in the league, however much work they require. A top-40 grade feels right today, but you’d still expect several other offensive linemen to leave the board first (including Andrus Peat, T.J. Clemmings, La’el Collins, Brandon Scherff and the blossoming D.J. Humphries).

So what about his fit in Seattle?

Some people believe a long-term plan is required on the offensive line, essentially to prepare for life after Russell Okung. I’m not one of those people. For me, Okung is a core guy on the offense. I don’t think he’s in the top echelon of NFL left tackles, but he’s probably in the next tier. It’s incredibly difficult to find even a solid starting left tackle and they usually cost a top-ten pick. The Seahawks have their guy and depending on what they do in free agency, they should work to extend his contract which expires after the 2015 season.

Of course, this all depends on what happens in free agency. If the Seahawks make an improbable move for Ndamukong Suh, they’re going to have to make savings somewhere. Signing Suh is attractive but still only a dream at this point. I’d expect Seattle to be active in free agency — probably to add a veteran receiver or tight end and maybe some depth to the defensive line — without spending mega-money.

There’s a theory that Okung is too banged up — and he has missed games. A bit of context is required though. Okung has never missed a full season or even most of a season. His most injury hit campaign was 2013 when he played eight regular season games. It’s easy to forget how poorly the O-line played in his absence with Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie at tackle. He returned late in the season to help the Seahawks win their first Super Bowl. He was needed.

In 2014 he missed two games. In 2012 he missed one game. Bobby Wagner has missed seven games in the last two seasons. Players are going to get injured. Had Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas picked up their late-season injuries earlier, they probably go on I.R. in 2014. Okung has a tendency to get banged up, but it’s more a case of frustrating niggling injuries instead of anything career threatening. This is part of the game and for me, it’s overstated when people talk about Okung. Especially when you consider every member of Seattle’s starting offensive line has missed time in the last two seasons.

The idea you could draft a tackle at #31 and use that player to replace Okung down the line is slightly fanciful for me looking at this crop of players. None get close to the kind of quality Okung showed entering the league. You’d be banking on serious development at the next level. I’d rather look into a Jared Veldheer type extension for Okung like Davis Hsu has suggested — he penned a 5-year, $35m deal with the Cardinals.

Of course it’s not just about potentially replacing Okung. James Carpenter is a free agent and might not be retained, creating a hole at left guard. I’m not convinced Alvin Bailey will simply step in to replace Carpenter. Even if he does, they need to add depth to the offensive line.

You could draft Fisher and move him to left guard. The switch to guard worked well for Kyle Long. You could put Fisher at right tackle and move Justin Britt inside. Would either move appeal?

Firstly, Fisher is a very different player to both Carpenter and Bailey. I’m not sure if Seattle is totally focused on massive size and length at left guard, but that’s what the current incumbents provide. Carpenter is 6-5 and 321lbs. Bailey is 6-3 and listed at 320lbs (but looks bigger). I quite like the size they bring even if performances have been inconsistent. Long is 6-6 and had to work to get to 306lbs for the combine. Run blocking, as discussed above, is not his calling card. The Seahawks do run a zone blocking scheme at heart, but they’ve also used players like Okung, Carpenter, Bailey and Giacomini to offer some power/size and grit. I suspect they’d like to retain that edge. With Fisher, Sweezy and Britt all starting on the line — there’s a real danger they’d get over-matched against tougher opponents (eg Arizona).

The Seahawks want to run the ball as their identity — I’m not sure getting lighter at guard will aid that cause.

Would you move Britt inside? Possibly. He had a mixed first year at tackle and has similar size to Carpenter (6-6, 325lbs). He also has short arms and might even suit the switch. The Seahawks like their guards to have tackle experience. It makes some sense. It would also mean two high picks at right tackle (Carpenter, Britt) who lasted a year before needing to move inside. If Fisher is also better suited to guard, are you going for the hat-trick? How many high picks do you want to spend trying to solve a position (RT) that most teams fill without the big price tag?

I wonder whether Fisher’s best role at the next level might be at right guard — just like Kyle Long and Seattle’s own J.R. Sweezy. He’s smart enough to play the position and teams seem to like extra mobility in that area. Of course, the Seahawks already have a long term starter there (and J.R. Sweezy is almost assured of a contract extension considering how much Pete Carroll gushes about his performances).

Ultimately I think it comes down to this — how much of an upgrade are you getting swapping Carpenter for Fisher (if any), versus swapping him for someone like Terry Poole who also enjoyed a good combine workout? Tony Pauline reported at the Senior Bowl that Seattle has interest in Poole. He also has tackle experience. He has similar size to Fisher (shade under 6-5, 307lbs, 33 1/4 inch arms) and also tested well (1.79 split, 5.09 forty, 31 inch vertical, 7.90 3 cone and 4.66 short shuttle). Poole could be had in the mid-to-late rounds but if you want Fisher, it might be #31 or bust.

There could be other options in the late first round based on today’s workouts. Ereck Flowers performed poorly in drills but he’s a terrific drive blocker who plays with an edge. On tape you really see him finish blocks — in one game he drove a right end to the left sideline and played beyond the whistle. He gets a nice push at the LOS in the run game. He has experience playing both tackle spots, he has size (6-6, 324lbs) and enough foot speed to evolve into a ZBS tackle or guard.

Today’s sluggish display could cost Flowers a place in the top-25, but is he be an alternative choice to someone like Fisher? He has 34 and a half inch arms. His official 5.31 forty time isn’t great, but it’s better than Ju’Wuan James’ last year (5.34) and he looked the part of an established NFL tackle in 2014.

Cameron Erving is also an intriguing option. He’s versatile enough to play guard, center or right tackle. The NFL Network pundits repeatedly compared his physical skill set to Eric Wood — which is no bad thing. He ran well — posting a 5.15 at 6-5 and 313lbs. He has 34 and 1/8 inch arms. He’s a work in progress as a converted defensive lineman who only kicked inside last season after starting at left tackle. He’ll be a tremendous project for the offensive line coach who gets to work with him at the next level.

And then there’s La’el Collins, who had a really good day today. He looked good in the Senior Bowl game, if not during the daily workouts. I’ve flip-flopped on Collins, originally seeing him as a top-five prospect in this class, then feeling he would be better at guard and more of a top-15 selection as a consequence. The all-22 tape against Alabama exposed some flaws (lack of push off the line, tendency to lunge) and suggested he simply had to move inside. But then you see this workout and can’t help but be impressed. He looked superb carrying very little bad weight. He moved around in the drills with a lot of grace for his size. He ran a nice 5.12 at 6-4 and 305lbs. I think he’ll go in the top-25.

Don’t sleep on Rob Crisp by the way — a player we highlighted during the college season. Nobody dealt with Vic Beasley better than NC State’s Crisp last year. He’s 6-6 and 5/8th’s, 301lbs, has 34 and a half inch arms and had an impressive 32.5 inch vertical jump plus a good 4.60 in the short shuttle.

Players like Crisp and Poole offer some depth to this class, not to mention other performers today like Mitch Morse, Ali Marpet, Takoby Cofield, Jamil Douglas, Donovan Smith and Jeremiah Poutasi. There is real depth on the OL to go with the options at WR, RB and DL. Seattle can afford to let Tom Cable keep adding his guys, even if Fisher’s performance today warrants greater attention moving forward. On the other hand, the #31 pick has the potential to be a bit of a sweet spot for offensive linemen.

Maxx Williams: Forty time will not make or break his stock

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

What makes a first round tight end? It’s not as simple as you think.

If you look at the last ten years a real cluster of very different tight ends have been drafted in the first frame. You’d expect to see a bunch of big guys with incredible speed. That isn’t quite the case. Here’s every tight end drafted in the first round since 2005 alongside their forty yard dash time.

There are nine in total:

Eric Ebron (#10, 2014) — 4.60
Tyler Eifert (#21, 2013) — 4.68
Jermaine Gresham (#21, 2010) — 4.66
Brandon Pettigrew (#20, 2009) — 4.83
Dustin Keller (#30, 2008) — 4.53
Greg Olsen (#31, 2007) — 4.51
Vernon Davis (#6, 2006) — 4.38
Marcedes Lewis (#28, 2006) — 4.80
Heath Miller (#30, 2005) — 4.77

Vernon Davis is the only genuine ‘freak of nature’ drafted in the last ten years — he also had a 42 inch vertical to go along with that 4.38 forty. He was 6-3 and 250lbs. It’s no wonder he was a top-ten pick. After that, there were a couple of ‘great’ athletes for their size. Greg Olsen and Dustin Keller both ran in the early 4.5’s — Olsen at 6-6, 254lbs and Keller at 6-3, 242lbs.

Three players ran in the 4.6’s. Eric Ebron almost cracked the 4.5’s but still went in the top ten last year (one pick ahead of Odell Beckham Jr). Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham both ran ‘good but not great’ times in the high 4.6’s. And then you have the downright sluggish times recorded by Brandon Pettigrew, Marcedes Lewis and Heath Miller.

You’re looking at one incredible physical specimen out of nine. The Lewis/Miller/Pettigrew trio were drafted as much for what they did on the field in college as they were for their athleticism. You could pretty much say the same about Eifert (Gresham’s forty time was seen as a surprise, given the athleticism he flashed on the field for Oklahoma).

When you put all this into context — what does it say for Maxx Williams’ chances of going in round one? He’s the only 2015 prospect with any shot at being a day one pick. This is a tremendously weak looking TE class — and that could impact the free agent market for Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron (if they even make it that far).

It’s very difficult to judge how quick Williams is. On tape he looks relatively slow — as he’s running away from defensive backs. It’s a contradictory sentence but still sort of makes sense. “He’s very slowly getting away”. (That’s a Simpsons reference by the way, not to be taken seriously if you happen to stumble across this piece during a Google search Maxx).

Look at the first play in the video below:

He runs right down the seam and is thrown the ball at the 35-yard line. He finishes the play, sprinting home despite being chased by two safety’s and a cornerback. Touchdown. The second play he shows good initial quickness to settle into the underneath zone for a nice gain (before dragging a cornerback downfield for extra yardage). The third play is a touchdown on a wheel route down the left side line. He motions from right-to-left and just beats the linebacker who is far too stiff and slow to react to the play call. Having seen Seattle get beat a few times on TE-wheel routes in 2014, this play felt familiar.

So you seem some quickness, the ability to make YAC and get open on the second level. The fourth play in the video he struggles to gain separation and looks labored. He still makes an incredible one-handed catch for a big first down.

At 6-4 and 250lbs — I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran a 4.7 at the combine. I felt going into this week that his forty time would probably determine if he can make it into round one. Looking at the history of first round tight ends in the last ten years, now I’m not so sure. Clearly teams are willing to consider taking slower TE’s in the first frame — if they provide unique qualities. And I think Williams has shown plenty of these. Plus an average forty time doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad athlete. I think this play proves he’s a good athlete, if not a brilliant straight-line runner:

One of the things that made Kevin Norwood stand out last year was his ability to maximize his targets. He didn’t play in a high-volume passing attack. This was the pre-Lane Kiffin Alabama offense. When they did throw, Amari Cooper received most of the attention.

Norwood made several difficult grabs, was adept in the scramble drill and kept making chunk plays for decent yardage. He was consistent, impactful, showed good hands and became a safety net on broken plays. Seattle wants to have the best scrambling offense in the league and that’s why Norwood was so appealing. He also ran a 4.48 and had ten inch hands.

The more I watch Maxx Williams, I think he shares similar traits. Not so much on the broken plays — the passing game is a virtual afterthought at Minnesota and they don’t have the quarterback extending many plays. But when they did throw to Williams at tight end, he just had a knack of making it count. Touchdowns, big plays, third down conversions, difficult leaping grabs, one-handed catches. He doesn’t drop the ball.

Williams led all college tight ends with nine explosive catches (25-plus yards) last season. If you want to believe he’s a possible Seahawks target — the chunk plays, character, consistency, bloodlines and red-zone potential all add up. The only caveat is they took Norwood in the fourth round. Will this combination of skills make up for a lack of game-changing size or speed to warrant a possible three round jump?

I don’t think anyone should judge him for not being a Gronk or Jimmy Graham clone. That’s not what he’s about. Those types of players are so rare. If you’re looking for a guy who can max out his targets, convert a few key third downs, run the seam and show up in the red zone — Williams ticks those boxes. And these are all money situations during a game. He isn’t going to be a 1000-yard monster but he might be a consistent feature, worthy of a few 800-yard seasons pushing 8-10 touchdowns. Throw in above-average blocking skills on a modest CBA-salary and you can see some worth in the latter part of the first round. Especially when you know the depth at the position is so weak in this years class.

I’ve seen comparisons to Olsen (one of the more underrated players in the NFL since he came into the league) and Lane Zierlein went a step further suggesting he compares to Jeremy Shockey. I’m not sure about either comparison personally. He’s a really good player with some physical limitations. I think he can get stronger without losing any speed, adding some extra tone to the upper body. That should make him an even more effective blocker.

The other thing he has going for him of course is the NFL bloodlines. Both his father and grandfather played in the NFL. You better believe teams pay attention to stuff like that. Williams’ mother was also an excellent athlete. He speaks like a player who spent a childhood growing up in a NFL locker room. He’s admitted in interviews he’s tight with Michael Strahan because of the years he spent following his dad’s career with the Giants. He’s not going to be intimidated by ‘the rookie experience’ and will know what to expect. He speaks with eloquence and confidence — plus a passion for the game:

Speed won’t be the deciding factor for Williams. There are so many other strings to his bow. The clutch-catching, the explosive plays, the athleticism shown during that touchdown against Missouri, the consistency and good hands, the character and the bloodlines. It all adds up. All of these traits are easily transferable to the next level. I’m more interested in his vert and broad jump (explosion), hand size and arm length (catching radius).

He won’t be the flashiest player drafted. He won’t have an exciting SPARQ rating. He won’t be the Gronk. But there is so much to like about his overall game. He’s a second round player at the very worst and he has every chance to go in round one — even if he runs an average forty time. I’m not convinced he’ll be Seattle’s pick at #31, but I could see someone else taking him in that kind of range (top-40).

And speaking of tight ends — get ready for Devin Funchess to have a big week in Indianapolis…

Thought I didn't have it. I guess I still do @carislevert @dw10_

A video posted by Devin Funchess (@dfunch) on

William & Mary’s Tre McBride definitely one to watch

Friday, February 13th, 2015

So far the 2015 class of receivers have carried a similar theme. Outside of the top three (with Amari Cooper looking like the most natural wide out to enter the league since A.J. Green), nearly every prospect has a pretty obvious flaw. Here are some examples:

— Jaelen Strong is a terrific high-point catcher who frequently takes the ball away from a defender. He could have an eye-catching vertical at the combine (basketball roots in his family) but a lack of suddenness going into breaks (and urgency), the inability to separate and the relative dependence on circus catches to make plays is problematic.

— Sammie Coates and Breshad Perriman are both incredible physical talents. Coates is ripped and has the look of a leaner T.O. Perriman is big, bulked up and explosive. They flash first round athleticism and late round hands. You can’t trust either player. Sure, they’ll make difficult grabs look easy, get you a few chunk plays. And then they’ll kill a drive with a really lousy drop.

— Dorial Green-Beckham has everything you’d want in a #1 receiver — size, length, hands, speed and he’s a YAC-threat. If Cooper is the most natural receiver since Green, DGB has the highest ceiling since Julio Jones. He should be a top-15 pick. But he probably won’t be because the off-field concerns are legit and serious.

— Devin Smith, Phillip Dorsett, Nelson Agholor and Tyler Lockett all make plays. Smith and Dorsett are incredible athletes capable of making catches downfield. Agholor is just a really competitive, athletic player and Mr. Consistency for USC. Lockett had a terrific Senior Bowl and will be a nice option for someone. Yet all four players are small and could be one-dimensional (Smith/Dorsett downfield receivers, Agholor/Lockett slot receivers).

Whoever you choose you’re going to be taking a preference. A team that needs a good possession receiver who can make plays in the red zone might be able to look beyond Jaelen Strong’s lack of suddenness. If you lack explosion on the outside and are willing to gamble on upside, Coates and Perriman will be attractive. If you do your homework and feel comfortable rolling the dice on DGB — the upside potential is huge (but so is the possible downside).

It was refreshing to finally find a prospect who is quite rounded.

Tre McBride at William & Mary is a fun player to watch. He’s not enormous at 6-2 and around 205-210lbs. It’s about the same size as Sammie Coates. He does appear to have good length (long arms) and he looks big on the field. Aside from length he is supposedly capable of running a sub 4.4-forty. I’m not sure about that, but if he can time in the 4.4’s it’s good enough.

Hands? Very good and consistent. He’ll make several circus grabs and will fight for the ball and pluck it out of the air. He seems to have similar body control to Strong — locating the ball, gaining position and timing his jump to beat the defender.

Look what he did to West Virginia in 2013:

You need to work on his routes but that’s not surprising. He should do more with the double move on the first grab in the video above but that’s teachable. He’s competitive and sparky — he’ll celebrate after a big play. Look at 0:39 in the highlight video at the top of the piece and notice the red zone catch where he tees the ball up using his foot like a soccer player. You’ve got to love that level of improvisation to score a touchdown. Talk about doing whatever it takes.

I’ve seen three games and he’s made two bad plays in the lot — two late drops against Richmond that spoiled an otherwise terrific game. I’m still searching for other negative plays.

It’s very difficult to find a prospect with this level of control and timing. It’s why Strong remains somewhat appealing despite his lack of wheels. Throw in what looks like a good wingspan and you’re talking about a big catch-radius. It’s not just about competing for the ball either — he’ll settle into a zone and fight for extra yardage. He can improve as a run blocker but you see the willingness to do it and the want to get involved. In one play he knocked a guy on his backside. He also returned kicks for W&M (2013 CAA Special Teams player of the year).

He made an impression in the Shrine week with Chris Kouffman observing:

“One could easily argue that McBride not only looked like the most talented receiver during week, but also the most polished. That is an amazing accolade for an FCS player. His speed and precise footwork were noteworthy. He showed the most consistency in separating from man coverage and catching the ball.”

The scary thing is — you’d expect he can get better. He’s said to have tremendous speed (we’ll find out at the combine) — let’s see even more explosion on those breaks especially on shorter routes to create openings. Let’s see him beat a guy consistently deep to take the top off a defense. He’s willing to work over the middle and take hits — at the very worst he can work in the slot or the seam. Based on what I’ve seen I think he can blossom into a more rounded receiver and line up anywhere. It just might take a year to get him there.

And the final point is the character. There’s a lot of unimpressive interview footage out there involving this class of receivers. Strong is quite surly. Perriman is a bit of a goofball. Devin Smith is hit and miss. McBride is well spoken, polite and offers thoughtful answers. Take a look:

I hope he tests well enough to be in contention for the Seahawks. He seems like the kind of guy you can work with. I’ll wait until after the combine to make a projection on where he might go, but he has the athletic/character qualities to warrant some attention and development. With a lot of the receivers in this class you’ll end up having to live with a trait you don’t like (lack of speed, drops, character concerns). McBride at least gives you a more rounded starting point. There are other wide outs with bigger upside in this draft. He’s not going to be an early pick. But he has a shot to make it and he’d be a nice project for a team needing a receiver.

Pick #31: Updated Seahawks watch list (pre-combine)

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
Length, size and speed — Collins is the complete physical prospect. He’s a fluid runner with fantastic change of direction skills. He flashes excellent recovery/closing speed and the ability to play the ball at it’s highest point. He’s raw but shares similar traits to Richard Sherman. Barely gave up any yards during the 2015 season. Limited starts could impact his stock (10) but he was awarded a high grade by the draft committee. Not talkative or brash, more reserved. Might be for the best if he was going to become a fledgling member of the LOB. With the right coaching he could be special.

Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
The complete package as a LEO prospect — superb length, long arms, explosive first step, ability to convert speed-to-power, deep repertoire. Gritty individual who battled adversity and personal loss. A former 5-star recruit who had his pick of the big schools (Florida, LSU, Ohio State) but decided to stay local. Passionate player who stood up for coach Mike London during interviews. Production is strong — 29.5 TFL’s in the last two seasons including 15.5 sacks. Showed he can take over a game versus Louisville in 2014. Rich in talent and could destroy the combine. Won’t fit every scheme because he played at 250lbs. He’s ideal for the LEO.

Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
Rampaging battering-ram of a running back with the speed to be a home-run threat. Has more potential than any back entering the league in the last few years. Plays with the ferocity of a 230lbs monster but runs with the agility of a much smaller athlete. Underrated pass-catcher out of the backfield. Just an amazing specimen who also returned kicks for Georgia (scoring twice, with another called back on a lousy flag). Suffered an ACL injury in mid-November. Would’ve been a likely top-10 pick without the setback. He might need a redshirt year in 2015 but over the long term he could be the generational back everyone’s been waiting for.

Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Runs like a gazelle. Nobody will out-work Gordon — he’s a dedicated gym-rat and it shows in his physique. Well respected. Notoriously used to send late night texts to his team mates during an impromptu work-out reminding them he was getting better while they were doing something else. Came within a matter of yards of breaking the NCAA single-season rushing record. Scored 32 total touchdowns in 2014. Had big performances against SEC-powerhouses Auburn and LSU. Should be better as a pass-catcher and not a good between-the-tackles runner — but give him a crease and he’s a threat to score.

Wide receiver
I want to put a receiver here because I think there’s a very good chance they take a wide-out at #31. But who? The two best options are likely to be long gone.

Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
Such a sudden, natural receiver who find ways to get open. He works back to the quarterback, is quicker than people want to believe. He makes explosive downfield plays. In 2014 he had receptions worth 79, 80 and 75 yards. He had a 99-yard scoring reception against Auburn in 2013. He will outrun defenders, high-point the football. He is a complete receiver — the most natural to enter the league since A.J. Green. He’s all business during interviews — well spoken, intelligent and determined. He could be a star.

Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
Exploded onto the scene in week one against Alabama and appeared unstoppable until mid-season. He has the deep speed to get downfield and the size, length and physicality to win contested balls. He’s a dynamic red zone target. Underrated YAC value — he can take a short pass and explode into space for a big gain. Developed into the heart of the West Virginia offense with his slogan ‘Easy’. Has been known to suffer with a lack of confidence, doubting himself. Might need some reassurance at the next level if he has a poor game. At his best he’s a fierce competitor.

Can you get to Cooper or White?
You’d have to trade up for either player. Neither is in the Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr class of a year ago — although Cooper is very close. To make a deal worthwhile I think you’d need one of them to drop into the teens, otherwise you’re talking about future first rounders. For that reason it makes a deal unlikely — but the idea of Russell Wilson growing with Amari Cooper for the long term is appealing. I’m not convinced it’s appealing enough to part with your 2016 first rounder.

There are still possibilities if you don’t move up. Each different player offers one striking positive, with several flaws. Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State) is a fantastic high-point catcher with nice size, but he isn’t sudden (to put it mildly) and struggles to get open. Sammie Coates (WR, Auburn) has T.O. size, he’s a beast of an athlete. But he’s a first round physical specimen and a late round receiver — he’s so inconsistent catching the ball. Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State) is a remarkable downfield receiver who makes ODB style grabs. But he’s undersized and might not be the type of wide-out the Seahawks need at this stage. Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri) has unreal talent but serious and legitimate off-field concerns. Can he be trusted? You can add others — Phillip Dorsett (WR, Miami), Nelson Agholor (WR, USC), Justin Hardy (WR, East Carolina).

Other options

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Explosive athlete and uber-productive pass rusher. Under-sized but knows how to battle. Can be a chess-piece like Bruce Irvin.

Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
Will need to convince teams he’s not a headcase, but he’s a long, physical corner with a nose for the ball.

Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
Long offensive lineman who could work either tackle spot or kick inside. I think he should be a top-15 choice but plenty have him ranked lower. The Seahawks like their guards to have tackle experience it seems.

Jalen Collins, LSU cornerback, is a special talent

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Every now and again you come across a player who just jumps off the screen. Jalen Collins is one of those players.

Is he the finished article? Absolutely not. Does he possess tremendous upside and potential plus every single athletic and physical trait you want in a #1 corner? Oh yes. The idea of this coaching staff getting the opportunity to work with Collins is tantalizing. If it’s going to take a special cornerback for Seattle to consider spending a first round pick, consider me convinced. Collins is the real deal.

When you watch the video above, don’t be disappointed when you see Notre Dame complete a couple of slants against Collins. Consider this instead. That’s two games against supposed high power offenses. How many big plays does he give up? How much yardage does he concede in those games? Then head over to Draft Breakdown and watch his performance against Alabama and Wisconsin. Play after play he’s right there — ultra tight coverage.

Physically he has the works — height (6-2), size (198lbs), long arms and general length. He has soft feet and great hips to drive on the ball and change direction with fluidity and snap. Recovery speed is vital for any corner and he has it — when he loses track on a route he’ll react and regain position. He has the leaping ability and arm length to play the ball in the air and the instinct working in zone to read the play and break on the defender. We’re talking about a naturally gifted corner with very few flaws.

The problem is — he only has ten starts. Ideally he stays in school for another year and builds on what we see above — but he received a very favorable grade from the draft committee (no surprise). Sometimes you can see the lack of experience show up on tape — there are technique issues working in press and he can be a bit more patient at times. Nobody should be concerned about that. The Seahawks have the best secondary coaches in the league led by the ultimate #1 defensive backs coach in Pete Carroll.

Collins is everything you look for in a corner — the height, the speed. He’s not a crazy run defender but he’s willing to get involved. Because of the emergence of the Legion of Boom and the lack of great depth at the position, it won’t be a total shock if Collins goes much earlier than people expect. If he’s there at #31 — I sincerely hope the Seahawks consider pulling the trigger presuming Byron Maxwell walks. Yes — the offense needs help. But the identity of the team is really down to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the LOB. Pay the first two, replace Maxwell and that is maintained. Collins’ arrival would secure all four secondary spots for the next four years, delivering consistency to a key group.

He’s not the only player with exciting physical talent — Virginia’s Eli Harold would be a great addition to the defensive line and has the length, burst, speed-to-power conversion and grit the Seahawks like. I could see a home for Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon in Seattle depending on the situation with Lynch. But none of the receivers or offensive linemen appear to rival Collins and Howard for upside, potential, scheme fit, physical ideals and pure talent.

It’ll be fascinating to see how fast he runs at the combine. Richard Sherman ran a 4.56. I almost hope Collins manages a similar effort to keep his stock under control. I suspect he’ll break the 4.4’s. Any team looking for a prospect with comparable physical traits to Sherman will look at Collins. He’ll need some work but any self-respecting coach would back themselves to deliver with these tools at hand. Collins could be special.

What else is happening today…

Jason Cole — he of the ‘Pete Carroll and John Schneider don’t see eye to eye’ rumors of yesteryear — is suggesting Ndamukong Suh wants to play in Seattle. He also admits it’s a pipe dream. Suh is expected to earn a contract worth over $100m as one of the truly special defensive linemen currently in the game. With so many teams loaded with cap space (Raiders, Jaguars) he will have the opportunity to earn a monster salary. Big market teams like the Jets also have around $45m to play with. Seattle’s at $23m according to Spotrac — and that’s before any new contracts for Wilson, Lynch, Wagner, Sweezy, Maxwell, Carpenter, Irvin, Okung or whoever else you want to pay. Adding Suh would be an incredible move for an already elite defense. But you’d have to risk so much to get it done, if it’s even possible. The only chance could be if Suh was willing to take a one-year deal (why would he?) with the Seahawks back-loading Wilson’s contract. It’s a nice thought, but totally unlikely.

Derek Stephens has written up a piece on Field Gulls listing his wide receiver rankings. He also includes a Seahawks-focused list of options for #31 with Jaelen Strong in the top spot. Stephens: “Strong’s unique ability to repeatedly make the circus play or the tough catch in traffic despite lacking cleanliness in his routes and fluidity in his movement, make him someone I could see the Seahawks taking a strong interest in.” My own personal take? Strong made ridiculous catches all year and shows fantastic hands, high pointing skills and control. The big issue is — he rarely creates separation forcing the need to make difficult grabs, he lacks explosion running over the middle and is he strong enough to get off press? It’ll be very interesting to see Strong’s bench press and forty time at the combine — they could make or break his chances of going in round one.

And finally — if I made a list of realistic options at #31 who really stand out (I will do soon) — Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown would be included:

Top five Seahawks draft needs & players who “jump out”

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

LSU cornerback Jalen Collins jumps out as a possible Seahawks target

Seattle’s top off-season needs

#1 Receiver / tight end

The Seahawks just need more talent here. In the last twelve months they’ve lost Golden Tate, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. Paul Richardson might not play in 2015 and if he does, he’ll miss a whole off-season of work with Russell Wilson. How much will he realistically contribute? There’s at least some possibility Zach Miller is a cap casualty, saving $3m if he’s cut. You cannot lose that much talent in a year and not address it.

Seattle paid big money to land Rice hoping he would be the ultimate difference maker. They went even bigger to get Harvin. They previously flirted with Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson. They are clearly invested in finding a true match-up nightmare — a player with unique qualities. I don’t see why that would change now. Why would it? They have to keep searching.

With Russell Wilson set to become the highest paid player in the NFL (at least until Andrew Luck pens a new contract with the Colts) — more than ever he needs an injection of quality at receiver. The Seahawks are always going to be a run-first team. But you still have to throw the ball effectively. Never was that more obvious than the Super Bowl. Whether it’s a dynamic pass-catching tight end or a new go-to target at receiver — this has to be addressed.

#2 Cornerback

Byron Maxwell has played his last game for the Seahawks. That’s a safe assumption. He’s the best cornerback hitting free agency and it’s not a deep draft at the position. There are teams in the NFL crying out for help at corner — teams like Jacksonville who also have masses of unused cap space. There’s very little Seattle can do here.

The more pressing concern is there doesn’t appear to be a ready made replacement. You felt comfortable watching Walter Thurmond and then Maxwell stepping in for Brandon Browner. Tharold Simon has had his moments in what is essentially his first proper year in the NFL. Can he take the next step? I’m not totally sold. Jeremy Lane just needs to concentrate on getting healthy. This is a group that could use another player capable of competing for a start quickly.

I think the three most important things about this team are Russell Wilson, the running game (aka Marshawn Lynch) and the secondary. You secure the first two by paying Wilson and Lynch. You need to make sure the LOB remains at the top by adequately replacing Maxwell.

#3 Offensive line

A lot of people like to bag on James Carpenter and at times it’s warranted. But he’s not been a totally useless pick and he’s one of the few players who consistently worked over Justin Smith during his career. He provides genuine size on the line and the ability to move his man off the spot in the running game. If he departs he’ll need to be replaced.

The question is how do you replace him? Do you really want to go early again on the offensive line? Spending first round picks on Russell Okung and James Carpenter, a second round pick on Justin Britt and a third rounder on John Moffitt hasn’t provided an elite line. In fact Seattle’s most consistent offensive lineman over the last two years has been a converted defensive lineman taken in the 7th round.

There is one other angle of course. Okung is a free agent after 2015. How easy is it going to be to extend his contract? Do you plan ahead now by investing an early pick on a guard/tackle who can potentially man the blind side in 2016? That’s easier said than done. There’s a reason Okung went in the top ten and why the best tackles consistently go that early. Replacing Carpenter in 2015 with a guy like Ty Sambrailo and expecting him to replace Okung the year after looks like a sure-fire way to weaken an already average O-line.

#4 Defensive line

Depth is an issue here but with an asterisk. It’s OK pointing at the absence of Cliff Avril in the second half of the Super Bowl and stating it’s a reason for going big on another defensive end in the draft. Injuries happen to key players and you can’t always have a first round backup. Why not draft a first round QB to backup Wilson? Or a linebacker to backup Wagner? Spending a first round pick on a corner would be to replace a starter and fill a hole with Maxwell likely departing. Spending a first round pick on a receiver would be about adding a potential impact player. Spending a first round pick on a D-end would be going big on a #3. Isn’t that a luxury?

Of course, that’s not to say a defensive end would simply be a backup. The rotation would get them involved. Not many teams, however, carry three very talented edge rushers. I think they could use one more, but I’m not convinced it needs to be a high pick. Find someone who can contribute in the middle or later rounds. An athletic rusher who needs some refinement.

At the end of the day you’re still going to roll out Avril and Bennett as starters. I put the D-line at #4 because I don’t think they have an adequate starting corner on the roster behind Maxwell or enough talent at receiver/tight end. I also feel somewhat comfortable with the interior D-line too. Jordan Hill took a major step forward this season and will be back. It’s safe to presume Brandon Mebane will return. Tony McDaniel should return. Kevin Williams might even return — and if not, they’ve shown they can fill holes here. Hill and Mebane are the key players and both are contracted for 2015.

#5 Running back

This one’s short and sweet. If they extend Marshawn Lynch’s contract, they don’t need to draft a running back. If he departs, this could be a top-three need.

Thoughts on the likely options at #31

Fast forward to 35:15 in the audio below. It’s an interview Pete Carroll conducted on the Brock & Salk show on Tuesday:

You’re always looking for the guy that jumps out. The player in the draft. That may or may not happen. But we’ll go about it to just get better.

If you want to try and consider who they might take at #31 or #63 or wherever, you’re really looking for the player that jumps out. The combine is a useful tool because it can focus your attention. We know they like speed and length at certain positions (receiver, TE, corner, OL, DL). Then it’s about finding the player who stands out among the crowd. The difference maker. Bruce Irvin was a difference maker, so was Earl Thomas. Golden Tate. Even James Carpenter if you go back and watch the Mark Ingram era at Alabama. Production, to an extent, also appears to be key.

Let’s focus on the first round today:

Tight end / receiver

I would expect Amari Cooper, Devante Parker and Kevin White to be off the board. You’re left with a situation where the smaller-style receivers are more appealing at #31 compared to some of the bigger options. For example, Jaelen Strong is a nice big target who makes circus catches and contends for the ball in the air. But he struggles mightily to gain separation against even below-average college DB’s. He just isn’t very sudden and he doesn’t have great deep speed. My concern is at the next level he doesn’t maintain that knack of making the spectacular, difficult grab and what you’re left with is just a really average, slow possession receiver without difference-making size.

On the other hand, I think there are very appealing traits in Devin Smith and Phillip Dorsett. People love to bag on Smith because he was used predominantly as a deep threat at Ohio State. And? The guy is the most prolific downfield receiver in college football over the last four years. His YPC average is off the charts, he competes for the ball at the highest point and he has big-time special teams value to boot. I’m not even afraid to make the comparison to Odell Beckham Jr. He isn’t ODB — don’t get me wrong. But he has similar characteristics and athleticism.

See for yourself:

He doesn’t have the short-game Beckham Jr flashed at LSU or the massive hands. He’s very much a diluted ‘diet’ version of ODB. But that’s the difference between the #11 overall pick and potentially being around at #31. I still think you use Smith in the same way — as an all-round receiver who can make big plays down the sideline and act as a genuine playmaker despite a lack of size. He also has a bit of DeSean Jackson about his play.

Dorsett is a different player with incredible speed to get downfield, explode out of his breaks and consistently create separation. He’s a joy to watch at times. And I won’t hesitate to consider him as a top-50 pick in this draft.

You just have to ask yourself — how comfortable are you spending another high pick on another small receiver? We saw what Chris Matthews added to the offense simply through sheer height, catching radius and size. Russell Wilson is a tremendous deep-ball thrower and a couple of rangy targets with size would really open up the offense. It could also provide a major shot in the arm to the red zone production. This is also why tight end is a big need. The Seahawks are crying out for a difference maker here — with unnatural size, working the seam and scoring touchdowns.

They might be able to find a solution in free agency. If they’re able to acquire a Vincent Jackson (somehow) or bring in a Jordan Cameron, this kind of move might be more palatable. It would mean spending a third consecutive first pick on a receiver. That shouldn’t matter — a need’s a need. But we all know some people won’t be able to live with that thought.

In terms of the bigger receivers or tight ends in the draft, I still believe Dorial Green-Beckham will prove too much of a risk in the first round for any club in the post-Rice/Peterson NFL. Devin Funchess would give Seattle a seam-busting tight end with fantastic size, catching radius and big-play ability. He’s very attractive in that regard. But his tape at Michigan is so thoroughly underwhelming. He looks like a guy who needs to be constantly pushed — and that doesn’t feel like the type of player to mesh with Seattle’s bunch of self-motivators.

Sammie Coates has good size and freaky athleticism — but he’s just so inconsistent. Maxx Williams has gone from being very underrated to quite a bit overrated. He’s a very solid player who will make a fine pick for someone. But he’s not an exceptional athlete with unique size. I suspect he’ll be a very reliable albeit modest tight end at the next level. I’m willing to be proven wrong if he takes over the combine later this month.

There is some depth at receiver — so there’s no real pressure to go first round or bust. I think rounds 2-3 will offer a sweet-spot. There also may be opportunities for Seattle in free agency, depending on cost. This story is interesting:

Cornerback

I wrote about this yesterday, but I’ve spoken to people who would know about this kind of thing and they say Seattle will only take a corner in round one if it’s a truly special prospect. That makes sense. They found Richard Sherman in round five, Brandon Browner in the CFL, Walter Thurmond in round four and Byron Maxwell in round six. They know what to look for. Yet for the first time the well appears to have run dry. They don’t want to miss a beat if they lose Maxwell as expected. And corner could provide the best value in the top-40.

There are three players to focus on at the combine I think. Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters and Jalen Collins. Waynes is grabby and will need technique work, but he’s very fast and long (6-1). Peters is 6-0 with similar length, has a real nose for the ball and plays with a physical edge. Collins is a super-fluid athlete at 6-2 who works well in run support. He oozes class.

Out of the three, I like Collins the most. He’s raw and only started ten games at LSU. But he looks like a guy they can work on. I spent a bit of time today watching all three players and I see the most upside in Collins. His frame screams Seahawks and he just ticks so many boxes — light on his feet, changes direction effortlessly, sticks in coverage and has long arms to play the ball. One play sticks out from 2014 and it’s not even a coverage play. Fast forward to 4:06 in the video below:

That’s Melvin Gordon — supreme athlete and expected to run a very fast forty time — being caught in a downfield chase by Collins. He never gives up on the play, is clearly faster than Gordon. I haven’t seen anyone chase him down like that. Nobody. That is elite speed. Throw in the length and size and hey — we’ve potentially found one of those players who jump out.

I’m not even going to hide it — Collins might be my favorite realistic option at #31. And we shouldn’t expect him to last even that long. He’s Lance Zierlein’s #25 overall prospect. Todd McShay has him at #32. I’m not sure you’ll find a better upside prospect to slot into the LOB this year. It’s just whether or not they’ve identified another 5th round sleeper who can come in with the same potential at a cheaper price.

Is Collins special enough to warrant early attention by the top dogs for DB development? I think so. Tony Pauline recently reported he was one of the few corners who could handle Odell Beckham at LSU.

Another thing worth noting — Peters might fall due to character concerns. Zierlein compares him to Aqib Talib: “Both entered the draft with off-field concerns. They show similar body language when things don’t go their way on the field and are both volatile, but their playing styles are similar, too. They both love to attack the ball and sit down on routes to try to make things happen.” If Seattle’s locker room is as volatile as suggested earlier in the season — would they be prepared to take him in the first two days?

Offensive line

This is a toughie. A lot of fans would be happy if Seattle spent every one of their first round picks on the offensive line. Personally I feel like they’ve pumped enough into that group — and any further early picks really need to enhance the level of play substantially. I don’t want any more early OL picks for the sake of it. I liked Joel Bitonio a lot last year because I believed he could really enhance the performance of the line at guard or tackle. When I look at Tony Pauline’s newly published big board for O-liners today, I’m not sure I see a similar type of player.

Pauline grades Brandon Scherff and Andrus Peat as his only two clear-cut first rounders. T.J. Clemmings gets a round 1/2 grade. Taking those grades on face value, that could put Clemmings in range. They clearly like tackles who can play guard (and vice versa) — see Carpenter, Britt, Bailey, Bowie. Clemmings has the length they love and could play right tackle, left tackle or guard. He’d be a nice pick for upside. But you have to expect — with such a big premium on long, athletic tackles — that he won’t be there at #31.

I rate Ereck Flowers much higher than Pauline (he says third round) so for the sake of this piece I’m going to rule him out for now — although he would be a nice possibility if available and a possible long-term replacement for Okung if that situation materialized. Pauline’s next three linemen (all with second round grades) are Ty Sambrailo, Cedric Ogbuehi and Daryl Williams. He previously reported Seattle interest in Sambrailo. Would they take him at #31? I think he’d fit nicely into Carpenter’s position and they have similar size. I’m just not convinced he’d take the line to the next level. It’d be a sideways step. And in round one I kind of want more than that. Pauline has Jake Fisher in round three, Corey Robinson in round four and Rob Crisp as an UDFA — all more appealing in my opinion in those rounds vs Sambrailo in the late first or early second after a move down.

I’m not a fan of Ogbuehi’s and wouldn’t have him on my board after the ACL injury. Oklahoma’s Williams I’m much more open too — another massive tackle similar to Carpenter who might be available at #63. That would be decent value.

It would have to be a special player falling to warrant a first round pick here for what amounts to an interior lineman unless you want to move Britt inside. Scherff’s run blocking will appeal, for example. Peat is a classic blind-side pass-protector. Clemmings is all about the upside. If you’re willing to accept Clemmings has as much chance to be a total disaster as a perennial all-pro — then by all means take the shot. He is the most attractive option here, but Tom Cable would need to be ready to coach him up.

There is some depth in this area and I’d be willing to play for value later on.

Defensive line

This is a pretty good class for pass rushers. But here’s the thing. Seattle has a very specific type of pass rusher they target. Length is key, so is the ten-yard split. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin are both long athletes running spectacular 1.50 ten-yard splits. Let’s wait for the combine to be 100% sure, but when I watch Bud Dupree, Nate Orchard, Hau’Oli Kikaha and others — I just don’t see either the speed, the length or both.

Eli Harold sticks out like a sore thumb and if he doesn’t fly up the board (for me he’s a top-15 level prospect) I’d be ready to pull the trigger. He’s long, athletic with a great burst. He converts speed to power easily. He’s been productive. He’s a gritty individual who’s faced adversity. He’s a former 5-star recruit. He’s another player who jumps out to you. I just don’t see any way he’s there at #31. See for yourself:

If I’m not getting a player like that — I’m waiting and seeing what’s available later. After all — this is a DEPTH pick. Not many teams have two pass rushers like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. The need for a third is not vital — it’s just about stacking the rotation. If a special player like Harold is there I’m game. But while Orchard and Kikaha have been productive in the PAC-12, I’m not convinced either is worth the big spend just to put another body behind Avril/Bennett. Vic Beasley might be another one to monitor. He’s a better fighter than he gets credit for, he’s been very productive at Clemson and he has track speed.

In the interior, I do expect Danny Shelton and Jordan Phillips to be gone. Both are unique enough to fit into the ‘jump out’ category. I’ve shifted my position on Shelton after viewing his Oregon tape. I’m a big fan of two former 5-star recruits in Eddie Goldman and Malcom Brown but expect both to be off the board, leaving the options to be pretty thin the rest of the way.

Running back

This is all about Marshawn Lynch. Will he stay or will he go? If he goes, this becomes a big need unless you fancy the idea of a Robert Turbin led running game (with Christine Michael spelling). Two players jump out to you of course — Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley. The ACL injury doesn’t bother me with Gurley — I’ll take my chances because he’s that good. I don’t expect either player to be available at #31.

I do think they’ll find a way to keep Lynch, taking this off the list of needs.

Players who jump out at the five ‘need’ positions so far

Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State)
Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)

Post-Super Bowl mock draft: 4th February

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Here’s what I think it comes down to. Tampa Bay is taking a quarterback. They’ll meet with both. Study the tape like crazy. And they’ll feel more comfortable and confident building around the safer investment. Mariota it is.

#2 Tennessee Titans — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
I’ve battled with this one because I think Winston has to prove he can be trusted. Ruston Webster is a Tim Ruskell disciple so you know he values character. But this is a team crying out for identity and quality. They have nothing to build around. Winston at least offers some hope.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
Peat is a natural pass protector perfectly suited to the left tackle position. After spending the #3 pick on Blake Bortles, they have to build around him. Drafting two receivers early last year was a start, now it’s about better line play up front.

#4 Oakland Raiders — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
He’s just a flat out playmaker. You can line him up anywhere — D-end, inside, linebacker. He just makes plays. Throw in a terrific motor, great attitude and plus-athleticism and you have the makings of a perennial Pro Bowler.

#5 Washington Redskins — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
He’ll win at the combine with speed and explosion. Expect a big-time ten yard split. That’ll be enough to convince the Redskins this is their guy — they badly need defensive talent and are likely to lose Brian Orakpo.

#6 New York Jets — Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska)
He’s a project wherever he goes. Length, athleticism. Some have compared his upside to that of Aldon Smith. But right now he’s at his best as a blitzing linebacker, not a natural edge rusher. Still, he fits the 3-4 and it’s a need for the Jets in Todd Bowles’ scheme.

#7 Chicago Bears — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
I’m not quite as sold on Williams as a lot of other people but the Bears will likely focus on defense this off-season. They need to repair the whole unit and a pick like this makes a lot of sense.

#8 Atlanta Falcons — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Expect a huge rise for Harold. He’s a former 5-star recruit with insane athletic qualities, length and grit. He knows how to convert speed-to-power. He could go even earlier than this. There’s some Barkevious Mingo to his game, some Brian Orakpo. With the right guidance he could be a top player at the next level.

#9 New York Giants — Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
I watched the Oregon tape today and came away much more impressed than I expected. I’m not too proud to admit when I make mistakes. On that evidence, he does deserve to go earlier than I initially projected.

#10 St. Louis Rams — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
After Peat, he’s the best pass-protector in this class. They’re similar prospects — both combine great length and foot-speed with ample power and hand use. They both need to avoid lunging but it’s workable. Flowers would further bolster the Rams O-line.

#11 Minnesota Vikings — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
He’s shown he has the deep speed this year to make up for a lack of elite size. He’s the most naturally gifted receiver to enter the draft since A.J. Green. Very focused individual and not a diva. Pairing Cooper with Teddy Bridgewater seems like a smart move.

#12 Cleveland Browns — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
When Phillips rocks up at the combine and runs a 4.8-4.9 he’ll start to fly up the boards. He has better tape than Dontari Poe but has the same kind of rare size and speed. He has an injury history and that’ll need to be checked out. If he’s cleared — watch out for Phillips. He declared for a reason.

#13 New Orleans — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
I thought he had a disappointing Senior Bowl but the fact of the matter is — athletic tackles with length go early. They always do. The Saints back themselves to coach him up knowing the worst case scenario is he moves inside to guard.

#14 Miami Dolphins — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
He’ll be a SPARQ demon at the combine and could force his way into the top ten. Collins had a big season, proving he can cover and hit. He’s better than Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who went in the first round last year.

#15 San Francisco 49ers — Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon)
Assuming Justin Smith does retire, the 49ers are going to need to fill out that D-line. Armstead has unreal size and upside. There’s every chance he’ll go early purely based on potential. He wasn’t the finished article at Oregon. Far from it.

#16 Houston Texans — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
There’s no quarterback solution here so they might as well keep padding the defensive line. They need a good run stopper to work the interior. Goldman is superb working against the run and he has untapped potential as a pass rusher. Former 5-star recruit.

#17 San Diego Chargers — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Having switched D.J. Fluker to guard, San Diego desperately needs to add a quality tackle. They don’t see a solution here so go with a playmaker at running back instead. Opinions are mixed on Gordon, but I can see a few teams really buying into his skill-set and unreal work ethic.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
Receiver is such a big need here. Alex Smith can win you games but he needs weapons. Parker offers the kind of dynamic receiving threat the Chiefs currently lack. You get the feeling they’ll go all-in to find a solution here and might even move up for Amari Cooper.

#19 Cleveland Browns — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
Big, classic 3-4 inside linebacker who set the tone for Miss. State in 2014. He could be the player everybody expected Rolando McClain to be. The Browns have a defensive Head Coach and need to develop an identity on that side of the ball after wasting two first round picks a year ago. Will they trade up for a quarterback? Maybe.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles — Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
Corner is a need and Waynes will impress at the combine. He’s physical and might need to tone it down at the next level to avoid penalties — but it’s his size and speed that will entice teams to take him early.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
A lack of size might be a hindrance although he should run a good forty time and ten yard split. Beasley has been ultra-productive at Clemson and the Bengals need someone who can get to the quarterback.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
The guy just looks like a Steeler — and it’s more than just the Iowa uniforms. Lunch-pail worker who drives people off the ball in the running game. Right tackle is a huge need for Pittsburgh and Scherff would be a day one starter.

#23 Detroit Lions — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
He looked good at tackle last season — and looked even better at center in 2014. The Lions would get a player who can start immediately at center and back up every other position on the O-line. He’s a defensive line convert with massive potential.

#24 Arizona Cardinals — Hau’Oli Kikaha (DE, Washington)
This is a hunch. The Cardinals need a pass rusher to work the edge in a big way. Kikaha has great hands and probably needs to work in space. His production is off the charts. It just seems like a fit. And I think the Cards will be prepared to reach a bit to make this happen.

#25 Carolina Panthers — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
Since Dave Gettleman took over as GM he’s let the draft come to him. He’s looked for value and avoided reaching. They have bigger needs than receiver, but White falls a bit and they capitalize. It’s been suggested he loses confidence quickly and worries. That could provoke a slight drop down the board.

#26 Baltimore Ravens — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
A top ten pick without the injury, Gurley falls to an ideal spot. The Ravens re-sign Justin Forsett and stash Gurley away for the future. Another brilliant pick by a franchise that just gets it year after year.

#27 Dallas Cowboys — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
Terrific defensive tackle prospect who could go much earlier than this. Another former 5-star recruit. Adept at knifing into the backfield to make plays. Classic three-technique with the size to hold up against the run.

#28 Denver Broncos — Carl Davis (DT, Iowa)
If they lose Terrance Knighton they’ll need an interior force on the defensive line. Davis had a tremendous Senior Bowl. The tape is a bit ‘meh’ but he showed what he’s capable of in Mobile. Coaches will love the upside here.

#29 Indianapolis Colts — La’el Collins (G, LSU)
Watching the all-22 against Alabama gave me a new perspective on Collins. He’s not as good as I first thought and will need to move inside to guard. He’s good in the run game and will slot in straight away. But he’s not as good as Joel Bitonio.

#30 Green Bay Packers — Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE, UCLA)
I really, really like Odighizuwa. He’s not much of an edge rusher but the way he dips inside and uses brute force to decimate the interior is a sight to behold. For that reason he might be best acting as a 3-4 end with some outside rush duties thrown in.

#31 Seattle Seahawks — Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
I go into more detail below.

#32 New England Patriots — Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
You have to like his attitude, leadership and playmaking. He’s just not that great rushing the edge. I can see him working in New England’s defense by lining up in multiple positions and having an impact. He’d be a great fit here.

Notes on the Seahawks pick at #31

1. Why no receiver?

Yes, it’s a big need. But I just get the sense rounds 2-3 will be the sweet spot at the position this year. There are plenty of guys I think could go in the late first, but it’s more likely we see a host of second and third rounders like Devin Smith, Phillip Dorsett, Justin Hardy, Jaelen Strong, Sammie Coates, Nelson Agholor, Devin Funchess, Tyler Lockett. This is also the area I think Dorial Green-Beckham will fall to.

As much as the Seahawks need to fill this role, I don’t think you fight the board for the sake of it. If you want a tall, rangy wide receiver or tight end the options are limited. You’re probably going to have to be creative in free agency. Goodness knows how given the players you want to re-sign in Seattle. But are you really going to buy into a guy like Jaelen Strong in round one and feel he’s the answer? I wouldn’t want to do that. Ditto Sammie Coates. Ditto Devin Funchess. And as much as I like Devin Smith and Phillip Dorsett, I’m not totally sold on them in round one given their stature. Seattle needs someone who can box off a defender and make the kind of plays Chris Matthews made on Sunday — and I retain that belief even if you think Matthews can be a role-player in 2015.

I would rather take my chances seeing who is there in rounds 2-3 looking at the group available. Don’t ask me how they make it happen, but I just have to hope they have some kind of solution to address this need in a cost-effective way in free agency. Whether it’s Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas or trading for Vincent Jackson. Maybe they make some surprise cuts to free up room? Maybe they pull off a ‘go get a ring’ deal? I don’t know. Jackson is still the one I want.

2. Why a corner?

I’ve said a few times — and this opinion stems from speaking to people who would know — that I don’t think the Seahawks will ever go corner early unless it’s a really special player. I do think they had some interest in Bradley Roby a year ago. This was a guy coming off a down year who was previously regarded as a top-15 pick. He had some length and quicks. An ideal slot receiver at the very least. I think he might’ve been special enough. We’ll never know. I suspect they knew well before the draft he wouldn’t make it to #32.

I’m not sure if Marcus Peters will be considered ‘special’ enough. I do like his tape for the most part. I like his nose for the ball. I think he’s ideally suited for this scheme. I look at the other needs (WR, DL, OL, TE) and think this might be their best opportunity to get a player who stands out. A cornerstone pick who starts quickly and for multiple years. Someone you’d love to coach up and develop but can still feature in week one. I think he will tick a lot of the boxes. I just want to see his long speed at the combine.

Then there’s the character concerns. After all, he was kicked off the team at Washington.

I think putting him in a situation where he almost has to work for the LOB would be a good thing for Peters. He wouldn’t be able to pull any crap around Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. I don’t think they’d be scared off by his connection to Marshawn Lynch (a close family friend). In fact it might just help keep him in line (a bit like Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson). Maybe it would be a problem? We have no way of knowing. But while a lot of teams might be scared off by the risk-factor with Peters (and that’s why he’d even be available at #31) the Seahawks might feel they have the setup to deal with a player like this. Carroll knows he’ll get a fair and honest assessment of his character from Steve Sarkisian.

Corner became a bigger need than I think we all thought watching the Super Bowl. And while I think we all trust this team to continue to find later round gems, they face the possibility of having to start a mid-to-late round rookie in 2015 or one of Tharold Simon or (health permitting) Jeremy Lane. I think the three key strengths of this team are Russell Wilson, the running game and the secondary. You solidify two of those strengths by paying Wilson and Lynch. You solidify the third by making sure you aren’t caught short when Byron Maxwell inevitably signs elsewhere.

Why would you risk Peters and not Green-Beckham? Simple. If DGB is a problem child it’s another headache for Wilson after the whole Percy Harvin fiasco. Asking Wilson to set him straight might be too much for one man. You have three veterans (Chancellor, Thomas and Sherman) to guide Peters, plus a proven DB coaching setup that will aid his development.

Want an alternative? How about LSU’s Jalen Collins. Tall (6-1), speedy. Far from the finished article but with a ton of upside.

In this scenario you target WR/TE, OL and DL in the next two rounds. Obviously if you were able to acquire someone like Vincent Jackson you can focus on the two lines. Perhaps you go R1-Peters or Collins, R2-Sambrailo, R3-Lockett. I think they’ll be less inclined to go D-line after signing up Cliff Avril. They will get Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh back.

Like I said, I don’t know if Peters will be considered special enough to warrant Seattle’s first round pick. We’ll probably find out at the combine. But it does make some sense.

Will the Seahawks target Melvin Gordon & can they land him?

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Melvin Gordon, a Heisman finalist, ran for 2587 yards in 2014 — scoring 32 total TD’s

If you’re struggling to imagine life without Marshawn Lynch, or consider a mutual parting of ways this off-season to be a dumb mistake, remember this — the Lynch era in Seattle is almost certainly done in 2016 anyway. He’ll be out of contract barring an extension. He’ll be into his 30’s. He’s already being rested to start games. What some might consider to be a preposterous move might actually just be sound judgement — accepting the situation for what it is and making a difficult decision one year earlier than you might prefer.

So why might the Super Bowl be his final game for the Seahawks on Sunday?

Firstly, he’s asked for more money in each of the last two off-seasons. I don’t see any reason why this won’t be an issue again in 2015. Lynch wants to be paid an amount he feels, not unfairly, he deserves. The Seahawks were willing to pay Percy Harvin more money to join the club. They will hand Russell Wilson probably the most expensive contract in the NFL in a few weeks. Lynch has done as much as anyone to establish the identity of this team under Pete Carroll — and he knows it.

The position of the front office is equally understandable. They only handed Lynch a new contract in 2012, worth $30m ($17m guaranteed). Nobody forced Lynch to sign that deal. And yet his representatives have a counter — the subsequent addition of Harvin on mega-money for example. His continued production and performance — leading the team to two Super Bowls. Or the fact there are five other running backs on better contracts (according to Spotrac). Assuming DeMarco Murray receives a handsome contract in free agency, Lynch could be the 7th best paid running back in the league. There are not seven better running backs than Lynch in the NFL.

Ultimately we return to a familiar crossroads. An unhappy Lynch wanting his due, a team insisting he’s under contract for 2015. I think it’d be naive to think the two parties will just continue on in harmony without some form of pay increase or extension. I can’t imagine Wilson’s +$20m a year deal will have a positive impact here. I also can’t imagine there’s much appetite for another dose of hold outs and uneasiness — leading to more weekly national news coverage.

A report this week suggested the Seahawks are prepared to welcome him back. That’s an upgrade from a prior report suggesting Lynch and members of Seattle’s front office were expecting to part ways. But any return is almost certainly based on either the team conceding their position and paying up or Lynch accepting he won’t be getting any more money. Is that a step either party is willing to take?

It’s a tough one, because Lynch is still such a fantastic player. He is much loved by his team mates. But such is the business of football — and the dynamic of the team will change when Russell Wilson signs a contract worth over $100m. If Lynch is willing to accept his salary for 2015 — there’s no reason to believe he won’t return. I just have a hard time imagining that happening. And ultimately it might be decided it’s best for both parties to go their separate ways — as agonizing as that would be I’m sure. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. The run against Arizona, the touchdowns against the Giants. The crotch-grabbing, media-snubbing enigma. I think everyone would like to see one more year. But for the purpose of this article — I’m going to take the position that we’re, sadly, coming close to the end.

So what would happen next?

Finding a replacement could be seen as a big priority. Especially considering how important the run game is to Seattle’s offense. We should also expect the Seahawks to place a high priority on adding players that will mesh with Wilson. That means a similar work ethic and love of the game. Possibly similar characters. You can never force two people to become great friends, but you can take steps to avoid the opposite happening.

Building around Wilson is going to be absolutely crucial when he signs his new contract. They have to add players that will follow his lead, not resent his new found wealth. Will they place anything in Turbin and Wilson’s close bond? Wilson regularly refers to Turbin as his best friend on the team. They room together on road trips. Turbin ended the season with 10 carries against Arizona and 11 against St. Louis. He might have the inside track to replace Lynch. But the jury’s out as to whether he can be an effective starter. The Seahawks don’t have many X-Factor playmakers — and they’ll lose a big one if Lynch moves on.

If they do decide to draft another running back to act as a ‘feature’ back — I keep returning to Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. He’s the polar opposite of Lynch — not a great between-the-tackles runner, but an explosive home-run hitter who only needs a small crease to explode and break off big runs. That doesn’t mean he can’t get the tough yards — and anyone doubting the credentials of another productive Big-10 runner needs only to watch his two games against LSU and Auburn. He has a different running style to Lynch, but he’s no less effective.

Gordon appeals because he pretty much ticks every box. He’s a dynamic athlete and a dedicated gym-rat. There are legendary stories on campus about Gordon’s love for a work-out, as ESPN’s Chris Low explains:

It’s nearing 3 A.M. in Madison, Wisconsin, and many of Melvin Gordon’s teammates are lounging at home after a June night out — splayed on couches, winding down, getting ready to call it a night. Gordon is not. To find him, you’d need to look to the front yard, where the 6-foot-1 junior has tossed a rope ladder to the ground and chosen this time, as good a time as any, to run a few agility drills. Bouncing on his toes, knees raised high, legs pumping like pistons, soaked in sweat, he’s darting between each rung, an athlete’s version of hopscotch. Leftrightleftright, ininoutout, leftrightleftright, ininoutout. If you didn’t know better, you might think he was chasing something.

Gordon pauses, just long enough to catch his breath, and fires off a Snapchat to Kenzel Doe, a senior receiver for the Badgers: “Are you sleeping or getting better? I’m getting better.”

Doe knows the routine well. “We’ll all be hanging out, and Melvin will go home … and do drills before he goes to bed,” Doe says. “He’s always going to do a little bit extra, something to help him get to where he’s going.”

It sounds kind of Wilson-esque. We’re talking about a likable, hard-working individual with a passion for the game. And another former Badger. You can see why the Seahawks might have a lot of interest in creating a potential Wilson/Gordon partnership.

Ian Rapoport hinted that the Seahawks were interested in Gordon while reporting on Lynch’s future back in November:

“I would expect them to target a running back high in the draft. Pay attention to Melvin Gordon, who just set the national rushing record. He’s from Wisconsin, (Seahawks GM) John Schneider (is) from Wisconsin …”

The Seahawks aren’t known for tipping their hand to reporters in terms of what they plan to do in the draft, but I’m not prepared to 100% write this off as mere speculation. Chris Mortensen told Russell Wilson he was going to be a Seattle Seahawk on the set of ESPN’s NFL32 prior to the 2012 draft:

Mortensen knew of Seattle’s strong interest in Wilson, he just didn’t report anything. But that information was probably doing the rounds within league circles. And it’s not that big a stretch to wonder if similar noises are being made about possible interest in Gordon this year.

Even so, he’s considered a top 10-15 prospect. So how will the Seahawks, selecting at #31 or #32, have any shot at getting him?

Daniel Jeremiah ranks him as the tenth best player in the draft, but had him dropping to #27 overall and the Dallas Cowboys in his first mock draft. It’s quite a good review of the situation. Gordon is considered by many (not all) to be one of the top prospects in the draft. But he plays a position that recently has been ignored in the first round with only a few exceptions. Would it be a big shock if he lasts into the 20’s? Honestly, no.

Draft Tek uses a group of local experts to rank team needs for all 32 clubs. Here are the teams they rate as having a ‘priority’ (Grade ‘1’), ‘great need’ (Grade ‘2’) or starter required (Grade ‘3’) at the position:

Baltimore Ravens (Grade ‘3’)
A legit consideration given the overall quality of their roster and the recent Ray Rice fiasco. They were able to ride Justin Forsett for a year, which makes you wonder if they’ll be confident enough to avoid using a first round pick at the position. Draft Tek says they have similar needs at receiver, guard and corner (all rated Grade ‘3’). They see a 3-4 DE (or 5-technique) as a greater need (Grade ‘2’)

Buffalo Bills (Grade ‘3’)
The Bills don’t have a first round pick following the Sammy Watkins trade last year.

Denver Broncos (Grade ‘3’)
They recently spent a second round pick on another Wisconsin back (Montee Ball) and got some use out of 2013 UDFA C.J. Anderson this season. The Josh McDaniels regime spent a high first round pick on Knowshon Moreno in 2010. According to Draft Tek they have similar needs at right tackle, guard and free safety (all rated Grade ‘3’). It could be an option, especially if Peyton Manning retires and they have to build around Brock Osweiler or another quarterback.

Jacksonville Jaguars (Grade ‘2’)
The Jags need a feature runner and could be a candidate to jump back into the first round if a player like Gordon or Todd Gurley lasts long enough to make a deal viable. They almost certainly won’t draft a runner with the #3 overall pick. Without moving up, they’re no threat to any team picking late in the first round who might be targeting a running back. Draft Tek says they have a bigger need at defensive end (Grade ‘1’) — an area they could address in the top-five.

Minnesota Vikings (Grade ‘3’)
You have to assume whoever made this grade did so believing Adrian Peterson would not be on the team next year. At the moment I’m not sure why anyone would expect that. Are they seriously going to cut him? I think it’s doubtful. And considering he will play again for someone, it might as well be the team that currently employs him. Inside linebacker is considered a bigger need according to Draft Tek (Grade ‘2’) with receiver and strong safety seen as needs of equal priority (Grade ‘3’).

New York Giants (Grade ‘3’)
New York’s big problems are all on defense. They run the risk of losing Jason Pierre-Paul in free agency. Their defensive line is a shadow of its former self. They could use extra help at linebacker and in the secondary. Plus they have a few issues on the offensive line. Given the relative production of Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, I think it’s unlikely they’d spend the #9 overall pick on a running back.

Washington Redskins (Grade ‘3’)
The Redskins pick on day one of the draft for the first time since 2012. Considering the major holes they have all over the defense (plus the likely loss of Brian Orakpo), spending the #5 pick on a running back is a nailed on certainty not to happen. Like Jacksonville, they could trade up. But I don’t think replacing Alfred Morris will be deemed enough of a priority for a team that is desperately lacking at at defensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback and safety. Yes, I just listed every defensive position.

There are others who might consider a ‘best player available’ approach — Miami (#14), Houston (#16), San Diego (#17), Arizona (#24), Dallas (#27) and Indianapolis (#29). But the point is — it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Gordon even as a consensus top-10/15 prospect lasts into the late 20’s as Daniel Jeremiah predicted.

Would the Seahawks trade up five or six spots in a scenario like that? For the sake of making life easier after Marshawn Lynch they might. In 2013, the Atlanta Falcons traded from #30 overall to #22 overall with St. Louis to take Desmond Trufant. It cost them a third round pick and the swapping of 6th and 7th rounders. That was to move eight spots. In 2012 Tampa Bay traded from #36 to #31 with Denver to draft Doug Martin. The two teams merely swapped fourth round picks. That was for a jump of five spots. Basically, you can throw out the outdated draft chart. Such a deal could be expensive or a bargain — it really comes down to a teams desire to move up or down. It’d be impossible to predict what Seattle might have to cough up to go from #31 or #32 to get to about #25 or #26. The point is, it doesn’t have to be much. And the Seahawks could have 11 picks this year.

I’m not completely convinced Seattle would take a running back in round one, let alone move up for one. I suspect it’s one of those positions — and by that I mean it’d take a special talent to make an exception. Because of their track record developing cornerbacks, I can’t see them taking one in the first round unless it’s a spectacular player they just can’t refuse. I think the same would apply to the defensive tackle position. Gordon might just have enough about him to warrant that ‘special’ tag.