Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Do the Seahawks need a new right tackle?

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Justin Britt has had a mixed rookie season at right tackle

Justin Britt is fourteen games into his NFL career. Some would argue it’s too early to judge his performance. He’s a rookie. He’s learning a new position and scheme. He’s also faced some of the top pass rushers in the league — whether it’s Denver’s Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware combo or the prolific blitz attack of the Arizona Cardinals. This has been the proverbial baptism of fire.

Inexperience could be used as a legitimate excuse. He could improve with time. Look at the way Jordan Hill has suddenly exploded onto the scene towards the back-end of his second season in Seattle. It’s taken Tharold Simon time to get healthy and have an impact. Golden Tate was a slow burner and even Kam Chancellor sat as a rookie to learn the ropes.

Britt hasn’t been afforded that luxury. The Seahawks needed a right tackle after losing Breno Giacomini. When they reached the final pick in the second round of the draft — they simply had to take one.

By pick #64, seven offensive tackles had been drafted. When the Indianapolis Colts took Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort at #59 (a possible Seahawks target), Seattle faced a dilemma. They didn’t have a third round pick — they coughed it up in the ill-fated Percy Harvin trade. They were next on the board at pick #108 at the top of round four. If they didn’t take Britt at #64, they were probably not going to come away with a guy they liked at right tackle.

Britt is a Tom Cable type of guy. No nonsense. Former wrestler. Tough as nails. The Seahawks have leaned on their offensive line coach for advice in the draft — he appeared to be instrumental in the decision to select James Carpenter and John Moffitt months after arriving in Seattle. They also signed one of his former Oakland players — Robert Gallery — to further bolster the line. They even allowed him to draft a defensive lineman, convert him to guard, and start him in the first game of his rookie season. J.R. Sweezy has since become a mainstay on the O-line.

It’d be easy to look at the acquired group (including Britt) with indifference. The results, however, speak volumes. Pete Carroll wants the best running game in the NFL and that’s what he has — with Cable pulling the strings. For all the complaints over pass protection, before week 15 Seattle ranked only four places below the celebrated Dallas Cowboys offensive line according to Football Outsiders. I suspect both Carroll and Cable are quite satisfied to have a highly ranked run-blocking unit, even if the pass-pro is distinctly average.

That’s part of the reason Britt was drafted in round two. I watched two Missouri games over the summer where he played the run superbly — but looked awkward in pass protection. He played at left tackle but looked far from a natural.

I doubt they planned on rolling out a finished article in 2014. Losing Zach Miller — perhaps the best blocking tight end in the league — hasn’t helped. His presence on the right side would’ve taken the pressure off Britt in his first year. Instead he’s had to get out there and take on the best. It hasn’t been pretty.

In Sunday’s win over San Francisco, Ahmad Brooks had him for dinner. On more than one occasion he had a free run to Russell Wilson. Britt didn’t even lay a finger on him. Giacomini was a brawler and far from perfect in pass protection but he usually did enough to buy his quarterback a bit of extra time. Britt has to develop that kind of effectiveness. He’s never going to be the natural pass blocker who kick-slides with ease and ushers the top DE’s out of danger. But he needs to be disruptive, get into the pads and at least buy Wilson a second or two.

Life won’t get any easier in the final two weeks of the regular season. A rematch with the Cardinals in Arizona — and then St. Louis’ all-star D-line. Ouch.

With every struggling performance you wonder how Seattle’s front office and coaching staff will assess this situation. Will they feel Britt can take the next step in year two? Can he grow just like J.R. Sweezy and others. Can he lock down the position for years to come?

Or is he better off moving inside — just as James Carpenter did after a tough rookie season — and trying his hand at guard?

If the Seahawks were willing to give up on the #25 overall pick at right tackle after one year, you better believe they’ll do the same with the #64 pick. Carpenter’s pending free agency status adds another dimension to this debate. If he walks they could let Britt battle with Alvin Bailey for the left guard spot. The other player, theoretically, could start at tackle. Or they could bring in a new body.

Should they decide to bring in a new tackle — what are the options?

It’s another good class for offensive linemen, even if there isn’t that sure-fire top-five pick heading the group. Depth is the key here — and that’s a good thing for the Seahawks. They’ll be picking in the 20’s or 30’s if they make the playoffs. And there’s every chance they’ll have the opportunity to get a solid player if they want to add another early pick to this unit.

La’el Collins (T/G, LSU) divides opinion. For me he needs to kick inside to guard at the next level — but he has a chance to turn into a perennial Pro-Bowler at that position. Could he operate at right tackle? Perhaps. But you’d be wasting a damn fine guard.

T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh) is the most intriguing tackle in the class. A converted defensive lineman, he’s looked terrific this year playing at right tackle. He’s mobile, athletic, loves to get to the second level. He has the potential to dominate in the run game. He could work his way into being the first or second tackle off the board.

Two of the bigger names — Cedric Oguehi (T, Texas A&M) and Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa) are a bit overrated. Ogbuehi in particular has struggled this year after moving to left tackle. Scherff might be better suited to guard — he’s another player with the potential to excel in the run game but is he good enough in pass protection?

It’s debatable whether Andrus Peat (T, Stanford) and Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame) will declare. If either does, they have a shot to be among the top-15 picks. Peat is a natural in pass-pro and the best pure left tackle eligible for this draft. Tyrus Thompson (T, Oklahoma), Corey Robinson (T, South Carolina) and Ty Sambrailo (T, Colorado State) could all be options too. The depth extends to Cameron Erving (T/C, Florida State), Chaz Green (T, Florida), Jake Fisher (T, Oregon) and Daryl Williams (T, Oklahoma).

Here’s the issue though. Is replacing a struggling rookie with another first-year player the answer? Spending a first round pick on a right tackle (Carpenter) didn’t provide a solution. Spending a second round pick on a right tackle (Britt) hasn’t paid off so far. Do you keep throwing picks at a non-premium position in the hope you finally strike it lucky?

And yes — it is a non-premium position. If Zach Miller returns in 2015, Britt will get the kind of help he currently desperately needs. The Seahawks have won a whole host of games in the last two years starting Michael Bowie and Britt. Their most productive starting right tackle under Carroll and Cable has been a 5th round pick signed off the Packers practice squad.

It would be unprecedented for a team to spend two first round picks and a second round pick within a five year span trying to get a long term starting right tackle.

If they’re going to sign another player, wouldn’t they be better off adding a competent veteran tackle to the roster? Playing it safe at a slightly greater cost? Doug Free could be a cap casualty in Dallas as they try to re-sign DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant. He has his critics in Dallas — but he is the kind of player who could become available.

Alternatively, there is one not insignificant reason to draft a first round tackle. Russell Okung will enter the final year of his rookie deal in 2015. His cap hit is just $7m — a relative bargain for a player of his ability. But what happens after 2015? He could be a difficult keep. On the one hand he made a Pro-Bowl in 2012 and is a highly respected member of the roster. A team leader and a consistent feature during the Carroll revolution. He’s also struggled to stay healthy and might generate serious money on the open market.

Is a first round left tackle necessary? More often than not, yes. Defenses are getting faster. The top, athletic O-liners go early. It’s why Carroll’s first pick in Seattle was a top-ten tackle.

Would they draft a player to initially feature at right tackle, providing security on the left side if Okung walks? Possibly.

Of course, there’s every chance time will be a healer with Justin Britt. And it’s also very possible the Seahawks re-sign Okung. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing either. Again — the Seahawks want the best run-blocking line in the NFL. They’ve set out to draft run blockers. They know they have a scrambling quarterback who can evade pressure — they want to be a scrambling team. Wilson is a difficult guy to block for and it should be no surprise that the top two pass-protecting lines in the NFL according to FO are Denver and New England. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are easier to block for and they both have a super-quick release.

Don’t underestimate consistency either. Keeping a line together is vital — more vital than endless high picks at the position hoping something eventually clicks.

The play of Britt didn’t cost Seattle in any of their four defeats. Let’s hear that perspective. There’s every chance he will improve in year two. But it’ll be interesting to see how they approach this situation in the off-season. Does he switch to guard? What do they do with Carpenter? And would they be prepared to spend yet another early pick trying to find a long term option at right tackle?

T.J. Clemmings vs Miami

Ty Sambrailo vs Boston College

Jake Fisher vs Washington

Brandon Scherff vs Maryland

The curious case of Auburn’s Sammie Coates

Friday, December 12th, 2014

In our first 2015 mock draft yesterday, some of you asked why we had Seattle taking D’haquille ‘Duke’ Williams over his Auburn team mate Sammie Coates.

It’s a fair question. Coates is a tremendous athlete and a safe bet to be one of the combine’s winners in February (if he decides to turn pro as a redshirt junior). In Bruce Feldman’s annual ‘Freaks’ list, this year he had Coates at #1:

Asked about Coates’ 40-time, Russell (Ryan Russell, Auburn strength coach) said they use hand times (which are often faster than electronic times) and they clocked him eight times, dropped out the highest and lowest and said he was at 4.25. Coates’ vertical jump: 44 inches. He benches 405 pounds. Maybe even more impressively, Russell said, the wideout did three strict chin-up reps despite have three 45-pound plates strapped to a weight belt around his waist. “He’s just a stud,” said Russell.

You just have to look at the guy to realize he’s as advertised. Coates is ripped. The extreme speed shows when he’s running downfield. At 6-2 and 201lbs he’s big enough. Simply put, he’s an outstanding athlete.

The type Seattle loves.

Ever since the 2012 draft they’ve focused on big-time, difference making athleticism. Bruce Irvin in the first round, followed by Bobby Wagner. In 2013 they traded the farm for Percy Harvin and followed it up by drafting Christine Michael in round two. This year they went after Paul Richardson with their top pick. You can see a theme emerging.

A lot of people wondered why we didn’t put a defensive tackle with the Seahawks yesterday. I don’t think they’d do it to be honest. I think they’ll continue to look for special athletic potential. Kind of like a modified Al Davis view of the game. Go after the stud’s in the early rounds — get your meat and potatoes type’s later on.

If SPARQ is such a big factor — ask yourself this. How many defensive tackles are great SPARQ athletes? Very few. The ones who are go early (see: Aaron Donald). Too early for a competitor. I think they’ll continue to look for the run stoppers, the interior defensive (and offensive) linemen later in the draft — mid-to-late rounds and UDFA. I don’t think they’re going to change, even if the Irvin pick provided mix results and the Michael selection is yet to pay off.

Coates the athlete is practically already wearing College Navy and Wolf Grey. But is Coates the football player worthy of consideration? That’s the big question.

We identified several big-time athletes at the wide receiver position prior to the 2014 draft. Guys like Cody Latimer, Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant. None landed in Seattle. We can speculate why — was Latimer the type of character to mesh in an intense locker room? Perhaps not. Moncrief’s play jumped between frustrating and fine. He underwhelmed at Ole Miss despite such incredible potential. Bryant was a potential head-case (albeit a talented potential head-case).

There are no character questions with Coates — and this is a good example as to why:

But what about his play on the field? Well, it’s underwhelming. Could be better.

For starters he’s earned a reputation for making big plays. Against Alabama in the Iron Bowl he had 206 yards from just five receptions. He had similar games against LSU (four catches, 144 yards) and Ole Miss (five catches, 122 yards). In those three games he recorded 472 yards and four touchdowns. In the other eight games he played this year he totaled just 245 yards and zero touchdowns. His 2014 season basically came down to three big games. The rest was a whole lot of nothing.

Well, ‘a whole lot of nothing’ might be a positive review. He dropped passes, couldn’t get open and was at times a non-factor. It’s telling that one of the more creative offenses in college football couldn’t find a way to get him more involved. Why was that? He didn’t have a single rushing attempt from a reverse or trick play. He was pretty much a guy who ran downfield and tried to make a big gain. And not much more.

You have to qualify that by pointing out he started the year struggling with a knee injury and didn’t get healthy until a few weeks into the season. He missed the second game against San Jose State.

I want to focus on his ability as a downfield receiver — because I think it’s his greatest strength and perhaps also his biggest problem.

When Coates has made his big plays this year, they’ve all been a little strange. For example, against LSU (see the video at the top of the piece) he made a difficult catch between two defenders for a big gain. And yet he barely left the ground. The pass was underthrown and he had time to adjust to the ball, track it in the air and go get it. Instead he took the catch into his body as he fell to the turf. Ideally you see him go up and get the football at its highest point. Let’s see the great vertical leap and some catching technique. We see none of that. You can’t criticize too much because he made the play — but it was almost inexplicable how it wasn’t defended.

Later in the game he made another big play over the middle — again he has time to track the ball, adjust and make the catch. And again it’s taken at chest-height despite the presence of two defenders. I’m not sure I’ve seen two catches like this completed in the same game. You want to throw something at the screen because his catching technique is so poor — and yet there he is making huge downfield catches for major yardage. How do you complain about that?

The more you watch the tape, the more you see plays like this. Look at this catch against Texas A&M. Almost exactly the same. He collects the ball falling backwards into double coverage:

It’s almost like his signature move. “Here’s Coates — it looks like he’s going for the ‘stands still and catches it falling backwards between two defenders move’ — HE IS! HE GOT IT! SAMMIE COATES WINS THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP!”

In the Iron Bowl he made yet another of these plays right before half time to set up a last gasp field goal. It’s quite incredible:

Maybe he goes to the NFL and just continues to make plays this way? Who knows? I suspect, however, that it’s one of the first things he’ll need to work on. If you can track the football in the air, if you have leverage over the defensive back — just go up and get the football. Don’t wait for it to come to you. We know he can do it:

Because Coates’ biggest strength is also a major area for improvement, it’s hard to judge him as a prospect. There’s no tape of him working in the short passing game. There’s no tape of him making explosive special teams plays. There’s no tape of him running after the catch or being utilized via screens. As good an athlete as he is with so much potential — he might just be a great athlete. He might not be a good football player.

That’s the great conundrum here. If you’re able to get him some plays as a rookie and find a role — then work with him over time — you could be left with one of the more exciting players in the league. Or you could be left with a SPARQ champion who is no use at all.

The Seahawks love their difference making athletes — but they’re not daft. They don’t just look at a list of times and measurements. Bruce Irvin was the best pass rusher in college football during the 2010 season at West Virginia. He followed it up with another good year in 2011. Christine Michael had plenty of production before falling out with the coaches at Texas A&M. Paul Richardson had 1343 yards at Colorado last year and ten touchdowns.

Coates’ best production came last season — a 902-yard, seven touchdown campaign. This included four +100-yard outings but also two games with less than 20-yards (vs Ole Miss & Tennessee). He ticks a lot of boxes in terms of raw potential and athleticism. But is he a good enough football player to warrant early consideration?

That’s the question we’ll be asking if he does indeed declare for the draft.

The first 2015 mock draft: 10th December

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

D’haquille Williams — possible first round pick

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon)
#2 Tennessee Titans — Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska)
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
#4 New York Jets — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
#5 Oakland Raiders — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
#6 Washington Redskins — Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
#7 New York Giants — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
#8 Carolina Panthers — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
#9 Chicago Bears — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
#10 New Orleans Saints — La’el Collins (G, LSU)
#11 Minnesota Vikings — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
#12 St. Louis Rams — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
#13 Houston Texans — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
#14 Cleveland Browns — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
#15 San Francisco 49ers — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
#16 Miami Dolphins — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
#17 Cleveland Browns — Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
#19 Baltimore Ravens — Tevin Coleman (RB, Indiana)
#20 Dallas Cowboys — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
#21 Atlanta Falcons — Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
#23 San Diego Chargers — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
#24 Cincinnati Bengals — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
#25 Detroit Lions — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
#26 Indianapolis Colts — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
#27 Philadelphia Eagles — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
#28 Seattle Seahawks — D’haquille Williams (WR, Auburn)
#29 Green Bay Packers — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
#30 New England Patriots — Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
#31 Arizona Cardinals — T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama)
#32 Denver Broncos — Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)

Thoughts on pick #28

I’m not in love with the idea of giving the Seahawks another wide out. If you count Percy Harvin in 2013, it’d be a hat-trick of first picks spent on the position. That’s a lot. But is it a good enough reason to pass on a particular player if it’s still a need?

Seattle will make Russell Wilson the latest $100m quarterback in the next few months. With that new contract will come extra responsibility, especially if Marshawn Lynch is gone. The Seahawks will remain a run-focused offense, of course they will. But they’ll need to pick up the slack if they lose an almost irreplaceable player like Lynch. The passing game will have to improve. The best way for it to improve is to give Wilson better weapons.

This pick wouldn’t be about adding a pure #1 receiver, throwing the ball more and making one player the focal point of the attack. It’d be about adding a physical possession receiver who can win in the red zone, dominate the seam and make plays on the red line. The Seahawks have clearly lacked that bigger target and they know it. We all saw the reports claiming they asked about Vincent Jackson, Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron and Coby Fleener. It wasn’t a coincidence.

In the last six months they’vr lost Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. They added Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. Jermaine Kearse is a RFA and will almost certainly stick around in 2015 — but after that, who knows? Lockette will be 29 next year. There’s room for one more.

Ideally they pick up the phone, work out a deal with Tampa Bay and acquire Vincent Jackson. He’d need to re-work his contract. You wouldn’t want to give up too much for a 32-year-old receiver. But he’d offer that proven veteran impact to the offense allowing you to focus on other needs in the draft. Who knows how likely that is? If the Buccs are breaking in a new quarterback (eg Marcus Mariota) they might be best served keeping hold of Jackson for another year.

So what does D’haquille Williams bring to the table? For starters, there’s this:

He’s an alpha male — something I guess you need to be to compete with the LOB every day. Against Alabama in the Iron Bowl — the biggest game of his career — he’s dancing in between plays. He’s loose. He’s confident. He had the ear of his JUCO team. Based on the available information — he at least looks like he could live in Seattle’s locker room. That was something Pete Carroll and John Schneider made a point of stressing after the last draft.

Despite recently being compared to Alshon Jeffrey and Mike Evans, he doesn’t possess the same kind of size. He’s listed at 6-2 and 216lbs. He looks like he could comfortably play at 220lbs — matching the size of Dez Bryant. It’s not all about height. Williams has great length. You can see in the first video below — he’ll go up and extend to get the football in tight coverage. Against Alabama he made one incredible grab leaping between two defenders (including Landon Collins) to snatch the ball out of the air. He has big hands and has shown to be a reliable target.

He’s not a blazer but has enough speed to be effective. In the Iron Bowl he ran straight past one Alabama defensive back on an overthrown deep shot in the first quarter. On another play he lined up in the slot, ate up the cushion against the corner and exploded into a crossing route creating immediate separation to make the completion. He’s not going to be a 4.4 runner at the combine. That’s not why you’d draft him. He was a 5-star recruit leaving the JUCO ranks and was coveted by all the big SEC schools.

There are some issues too. His catching technique lurches from textbook to less than ideal. There are times when he’ll let a pass get into his body. On a couple of plays against Alabama he got his body into a poor position to make a possible touchdown grab. There’s not much evidence of any real YAC quality and the Seahawks this year have really gone after the short pass and screen game. With just a years experience in the SEC is he polished enough to have an impact? Or can his natural ability as a receiver get him through a possible tough rookie campaign? Let’s not forget — several rookies have excelled in the NFL this season. Kelvin Benjamin only had two seasons at Florida State (30 catches, 495 yards in 2012 — 54 catches, 1011 yards in 2013).

There’s no clear indication yet on whether he’ll turn pro. Much will depend on what he hears between now and decision time. There’s every chance he won’t declare. But if he hears first round talk, it’ll be hard to ignore. It always is.

This is one of the toughest first mock drafts I’ve had to do from a Seahawks perspective. It would’ve been easy to manipulate the board to put a running back or defensive end at #28. I want to keep challenging different scenarios with these mocks and this week — this is just how it played out.

Take a look at Williams’ JUCO tape below, plus his first game for Auburn against Arkansas:

Would the Seahawks consider Dorial Green-Beckham?

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Dorial Green-Beckham could be great. Or he could be a nightmare.

Imagine what Russell Wilson could do with a couple of top-end targets?

That’s a question a lot of Seahawks fans have been asking recently. I’m not sure the offense would change much. First and foremost this is a running team that wants to limit turnovers. They’re never going to field a mass-production receiver because, ideally, they won’t have to throw enough for that to happen.

And yet this is an offense that has lacked an explosive edge in the passing game this year. Wilson hasn’t taken as many shots. I’m not sure whether this is a lack of options or Wilson just being especially careful. He talked in the off-season about a slightly unrealistic completion percentage (above 70% I think). Last year they were willing to challenge the receivers 1v1 or even throw into double coverage. We haven’t seen that this year.

It’s fascinating to consider what an explosive target could do for the offense. The Seahawks have clearly battled to find that elusive superstar. They coveted Brandon Marshall, they paid big money to Sidney Rice and they traded for Percy Harvin. And here they are. Minus Golden Tate and still lacking that true #1.

The draft is likely to be Seattle’s best bet to scratch this particular itch. It’s going to be difficult to tempt big name free agents to come and play in a run-focused scheme. We’ve said this many times. Receivers love to win, but they love to win putting up crazy numbers in the process. Is Demaryius Thomas really going to swap Denver’s offense and Peyton Manning to try and become Pete Carroll’s first 1000 yard receiver in Seattle? What about Dez Bryant? Is he passing on Tony Romo and a comfortable statistical situation in Dallas?

The only way it happens is if you overpay. That’s what brought Sidney Rice to the Seahawks and to a certain extent Zach Miller. But that was a time when Seattle had a lot of free cap room. Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and others have now been paid. Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner are next. There’s likely going to be money available to make free agency work, but not in the way that’ll get a superstar to Seattle.

Having pumped so much draft stock into the receiver position recently (the Harvin trade cost three picks, plus a second rounder on Paul Richardson), it’s frustrating to think it could be an early target again. I suppose they could reignite talks with Tampa Bay over Vincent Jackson but the compensation would have to be favorable and he’d need to take a pay cut. Going after a tight end is possible too.

If they do look at the draft, we’ve already spent a lot of time talking about Kevin White and others. So what about Dorial Green-Beckham — a player we’ve not touched on much?

Here’s a quick refresher on why we haven’t spent much time on DGB. He was kicked out of Missouri last year and wound up transferring to Oklahoma. The NCAA ruled not to allow him to play in 2014. I suspect his aim was to spend one year with a contender and then turn pro. Now he has a decision to make. He’s not offered any indication on whether he’ll bolt for the NFL without playing a snap for the Sooners.

In a year where the NFL has had to deal with high profile domestic abuse cases, Green-Beckham’s departure from Mizzou had a similar theme. After multiple incidents involving Marijuana (one suspension, one arrest that was later dismissed), he reportedly forced his way into an apartment and pushed a female down some stairs. He wasn’t arrested, but it was the final straw for Gary Pinkel and the Tigers.

When the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson controversies were dominating the headlines, I think we all considered what it meant for Green-Beckham. Would teams be less likely to take a chance in light of what’s happened this year? Who knows. Only today Frank Tarkenton said he didn’t think Rice and Peterson should be allowed back into the league. Green-Beckham has obvious talent but is he a problem waiting to happen?

The Seahawks in particular aren’t just dealing with a changing NFL that is under pressure to be tougher on domestic abuse. They’re dealing with a season heavily impacted by a problematic wide receiver. After spending so much on Harvin, are they less inclined to take a risk on a guy like DGB?

There’s absolutely no doubt at all about his talent. He’s a rare, 6-5/6-6 receiver with an ideal 225lbs frame, good speed and a fantastic ability to go up and get the ball. He’s not quite as explosive as Josh Gordon but he is a go-up-and-get-it wide-out who makes plays in the red zone. Without the off-field flags he’s likely a top-15 pick, if not top ten.

I think the Seahawks — and many other teams — would probably consider a flier in the middle rounds. Maybe even as early as the second round. But what about the first? What if you know you can fill this crucial need, that DGB is a former 5-star recruit with everything you look for (he’ll probably be a top SPARQ talent) and there are teams behind you possibly willing to take him? Do you have to consider it? Or do you let him sink like a stone and if he’s there later on or even in UDFA, you assess the situation? How do you balance out risk vs need after the Harvin mess?

Look at the video below. Watch the way he high points the ball in the end zone.

This is exactly the type of player Seattle currently lacks. Big time. Someone you can overthrow in the red zone and he’ll still make a play on the ball. If the Seahawks want to be conservative but still take shots 1v1 — they need a long, tall receiver like this. If Green-Beckham was a flawless diamond they’d have no shot to draft him. The fact he is a perceived walking disaster zone offers them an opportunity to get a player with his potential and help get him on the right track.

If he came into the league and actually had no issues off the field, he wouldn’t be the first. Any moderate NFL fan can think of a troublesome receiver in college who carried a bad reputation throughout their career and still produced. The new CBA also makes it less of a financial risk. A late first rounder doesn’t earn more than $2m until the final year of a rookie contract. A second rounder earns even less.

In the aftermath of the Harvin trade to New York, John Schneider said the Seahawks would continue to take their shots. They aren’t afraid to make bold moves as we’ve seen. If they felt they could manage DGB within the locker room, they might consider it. Of course it would take a whole lot of homework to feel comfortable about that. The last thing they need is another headache. But if it works out? They could land a fantastic talent.

We don’t know enough about the situation to make a firm projection right now. Has the move to Oklahoma acted as a wake up call? Will he declare? How are teams projecting him? He’s an interesting case though. And if you believe you can trust him — who knows? He could be the answer to Seattle’s red zone woes. Or he could be just another headache.

Malcom Brown & Eddie Goldman should be first rounders

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

FSU’s Eddie Goldman is destined for round one

The 2015 draft is going to be loaded with edge rushers. And yet we don’t hear that much about two key defensive tackle prospects.

That is going to change soon, presuming they declare.

Malcom Brown (DT, Texas) recently admitted he could be tempted to go pro — he has a wife and kids to provide for despite his tender age. Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State) has enjoyed the kind of season that could propel him into the top-15. We saw a record number of underclassmen declare for this years draft. The NFL has become a race to the second contract where the big money is earned. Rather than persuade players not to turn pro early, the new CBA virtually encourages it.

Both players are former 5-star recruits. Goldman was rated as the #7 overall recruit by Rivals in 2012 — behind, among others, Dorial Green-Beckham and Shaq Thompson. Brown ranked at #26 — just ahead of Dante Fowler Jr and a few spots behind SPARQ demon Landon Collins. Understandably they were both coveted by all the major programs. Goldman visited Alabama and Auburn before choosing FSU. Brown drew interest from USC before opting for home-state Texas.

I’ve spent a bit of time over the last week or so studying both players. I don’t see any reason why they can’t work their way into top-20 consideration. Possibly higher.

Brown is the best 2015 eligible prospect nobody talks about. He has an ideal body type to play as a one or three technique. He’s squat at 6-2 but carries 320lbs with almost no bad weight. He’s built like a cannonball — winning with leverage and power. He’s difficult to move in the run game. Against Oklahoma he was all over the LOS — moving to end for a few snaps and working over the right guard stunting inside. He deflected passes, forced his way into the backfield. It was a terrific overall performance. Against BYU we see more of the same — he gets a couple of sacks and provides a rare bright spot in a miserable Texas performance.

He has 6.5 sacks for the season and 12.5 TFL’s. Texas has quietly established a decent run of interior pass rushers and Brown is the best since Lamarr Houston. He doesn’t have an exceptional get-off and this is an area for improvement. It’s what perhaps separates him from former top-15 picks like Sheldon Richardson and Aaron Donald. For that reason he might last a little longer in round one as a decent pass-rusher but better run stopper. He is capable of swiping away an interior linemen and getting into the backfield though. He can be productive.

One problem area could be arm length. It impacted Shariff Floyd’s stock. I’ve not seen any evidence of it being an issue but teams will take it seriously if he measures poorly. He manages to do a good job keeping blockers away from his pads because he uses leverage so well. Can he rip and swim effectively with shorter arms, extend to keep blockers at bay and avoid getting blocked out? It’ll take further study to make a firm conclusion there, but I really like Brown as a prospect. He has a legit shot to be an early pick.

Florida State have produced a number of overrated defensive linemen in recent years. I was never a big fan of Tank Carradine even before the ACL injury. Timmy Jernigan just looked really average. You could go back to Everette Brown too. So many players who flattered to deceive. Eddie Goldman is different.

You put on the tape and consistently his number jumps off the screen. He has the get-off that Brown lacks and he’s into the backfield with an initial quick step and the athleticism to catch a linemen off guard. He’s taller than Brown (6-3/6-4) and 315lbs — but again carries the weight well. He’s totaled four sacks in 2014 and eight TFL’s. He’s also a terrific run defender.

Goldman has no trouble plugging holes and remaining stout to shut down lanes. His speed off the snap works equally well here — having watched the Louisville and Clemson games again today he was forcing running backs to bounce outside with immediate penetration into the backfield. He’s pretty close to the complete interior defensive lineman.

I’m not convinced he’ll be quite the athlete Donald was this year. He has at least a decent chance of emulating Sheldon Richardson though — and should be good for a slot in the top-20 if he does turn pro. There just aren’t that many players who can line up in any down/distance and work the run and pass as well as Goldman. Effective interior pass rushers are like gold dust. Any chance you get to bring in a pocket-collapsing dynamo who makes life easier for the edge rushers should be taken. It was shocking to see Richardson last as long as he did in 2013.

Being an effective defensive tackle isn’t all about getting off a block and making it into the backfield. You can be equally useful pushing a center or guard back into the pocket. You need to be able to work across the line to stretch plays out. One of the great things about Brandon Mebane is his mobility to get across to a sideline to make a play. It’s not just about penetration and a clean swim move. It’s also about power and agility, even if you’re not constantly winning 1v1 battles. Both players excel in this area too.

Brown is a figurehead for Texas and might feel loyal enough to give Charlie Strong another year. Nobody would blame him if he headed for the NFL. Goldman might see FSU’s window closing after a year where they’ve flirted with multiple losses and yet remain undefeated. If Jameis Winston turns pro, he’ll leave a hole — however erratic he’s been this year. There’s also very little for Goldman to prove.

Sooner or later these two players are going to be talked about. People will rave about them. And they could easily go in the first round. They should do. The Seahawks could use another interior rusher and might look in this direction next April. They’ll be lucky to have a shot at either player.

Mock scenario: What if Oakland goes after Harbaugh?

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Here’s Jim Harbaugh, perhaps praying he doesn’t have to take the Raiders gig

How could the NFL draft be impacted if Oakland decides to pursue Jim Harbaugh? The 49ers are expected to try and gain some level of compensation. How could it play out?

This is just a bit of fun. Do not take this seriously. I mean it. Please believe me when I say I mean it. Unless it comes off, then actually I was deadly serious. I know this is lowest common denominator blogging. But hey — I’m not starting the weekly mock drafts for a while yet. Really this is an opportunity to discuss certain prospects and put some thoughts down in a post. So here’s a first round scenario with the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia all involved in a deal that keeps Harbaugh in the Bay Area. There’s an explanation on how this shenanigans goes off later on.

#1 Philadelphia Eagles (via Oakland) — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
See below for details on how I have this playing out. Is it unlikely? Sure. But Chip Kelly won’t get another chance to go after his protégé at Oregon. He still hasn’t brought in a quarterback who truly fits his scheme perfectly. Mariota would be that guy — and he could take the Eagles to another level.

#2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska)
Gregory’s run defense is suspect (he had a nightmare against Wisconsin in Melvin Gordon’s record-breaking performance). And yet he has ideal length (6-6) and the frame to add more size. Some have compared him to Aldon Smith.

#3 Tennessee Titans — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
Personally, I’m not blown away by Williams. I think he could easily fall a bit. There’s no denying his frame and athletic potential are right up there. He’s not had a bad year but neither has he truly dominated any USC game I’ve seen.

#4 Jacksonville Jaguars — Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
Love this guy. Bud Dupree is everything you want in a football player. Fantastic athleticism, dynamic pass rusher, heart and soul leader. He’s set for a big-time career at the next level.

#5 New York Jets — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
Not only is Cooper a mature and intelligent football player, he’s also a terrific playmaker. He just keeps making big plays. He’s shown enough speed to make up for a lack of brilliant size (around 6-1/6-2) but he high points the ball and knows how to get open. The most natural receiver to enter the league since A.J. Green.

#6 Washington Redskins — La’el Collins (G, LSU)
I think he’ll be a guard at the next level, but he’s shown he can make a fist of it at tackle this year. Every week he’s blowing people off the LOS. A team captain and emotional leader, Collins could play for +10 years inside.

#7 New York Giants — Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
Thompson is the very definition of a modern day linebacker. He gets around the field, makes impact plays. You can trust him in coverage and get him blitzing to impact the quarterback. He has the range you’re looking for. He has a ton of upside — the only thing that might hurt is the position he plays. It’s not exactly a premium.

#8 Carolina Panthers — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
The Panthers need a left tackle and Peat is the more natural blind-side blocker in this class. He’s not flawless but he’s the best pass protector available.

#9 Minnesota Vikings — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
I actually like Markus Golden more but Ray has the potential to set alight the combine. Great edge rusher who knows how to mix it up. Does a good job stunting inside. Plays with fire. Are there concerns about his size against the run? Perhaps.

#10 New Orleans Saints — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
Defensive convert who took his time but finally appears to be on the right track at tackle. This would be an investment in potential. The risk-reward factor is high here — he still needs a lot of work. A good O-line coach will back himself to turn Clemmings into a stud.

#11 Chicago Bears — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Great speed rusher with a tremendous get-off. Insane production over the last three seasons. Will be a liability against the run but he’ll make his money on third down. The Bears need to create more pressure in the pass-happy NFC North.

#12 St. Louis Rams — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
Potential SPARQ demon who flies around the field. Well built despite his athleticism and can deliver a hit. Would be a good partner for Mark Barron in the secondary — could even move to linebacker or be used like Deone Bucannon.

#13 Houston Texans — Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Oklahoma)
DGB will need to convince teams he’s a changed man if he declares. He has a back-catalog of off-field problems, including a recent domestic abuse incident. Physically he’s a freak of nature. He could be the next superstar receiver if he can just stay out of trouble. That’s a pretty big if.

#14 Miami Dolphins — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Gordon has real momentum and if he continues to run the ball with authority someone will take a shot early. He runs like a gazelle and is a genuine home-run threat when he finds the edge. Can he run up the gut and get the tough yards? Debatable. There’s real star potential here though.

#15 Cleveland Browns — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
Fowler Jr has been a rare bright spot for Florida during the Will Muschamp days. He can effortlessly shift inside and rush the interior. You can line him up anywhere. He will play his best football at the next level.

#16 Pittsburgh Steelers — Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
Golden is a big time prospect. Fast, powerful, aggressive. He’s maturing nicely and is having a fantastic year. Along with Shane Ray he’ll get a chance to make a major statement in the SEC title game. Nobody else gave Ju’Wan James fits last season. Just Golden.

#17 Baltimore Ravens — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
This has been a really disappointing season for Ogbuehi, who started the year as a top-ten candidate. It’s hard to imagine any team drafting him to start quickly at left tackle. A return to the right side seems inevitable. He’s still got plenty of upside, but he hasn’t followed the path of Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.

#18 Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo) — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
Difficult to cover and made for a high-octane passing offense. He lacks bulk (around 205-210lbs) but has nice height and appears to have long arms. He won’t fit every offense but with a good quarterback he’ll put up numbers.

#19 San Francisco 49ers — Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
Oakman could go in the top ten. You don’t get many human beings who look this good at 6-8 and 280lbs. The tape is miserable at times though. The 49ers could groom him into their rotation slowly.

#20 Dallas Cowboys — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
McKinney is the player Rolando McClain should’ve been. If they lose McClain, this would be a nice replacement. Similar size, but McKinney is at least somewhat reliable. He’s a big reason why Miss. State have succeeded this year.

#21 Atlanta Falcons — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Might be better at guard. Like Ogbuehi, hasn’t always looked comfortable as a pass protector. He excels in the running game. The Falcons need to get more physical. Scherff can provide that edge up front.

#22 Kansas City Chiefs — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
High points the ball nicely, competed well against some tough opponents this year. Production has dropped off a bit recently. Doesn’t have ideal size but plays big. Has been an X-factor in several games.

#23 Indianapolis Colts — Corey Robinson (T, South Carolina)
In a down year for his team, Robinson has quietly put together a solid season and seems to have momentum. With such a premium on the offensive tackle position, don’t be surprised if he slips into the back end of round one.

#24 Detroit Lions — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
Goldman has impressed on a few occasions this year. He isn’t overly dominating and has played some weak opponents. Yet he does a nice job getting off blocks and into the backfield. He’s a decent pass rush prospect working the interior.

#25 San Diego Chargers — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
A move to center is paying dividends for Erving. He looks comfortable. He still has a shot to get into this range if he finishes the year strongly. San Diego has had a revolving door at center all season. Erving can probably play guard too and act as a backup tackle.

#26 Seattle Seahawks — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
If the Seahawks move on from Marshawn Lynch, running back becomes a need. If they keep him — the off-season priority should be the defensive line and getting a big target for Russell Wilson. Brown can be Clinton McDonald-plus for Seattle’s defense.

#27 Cincinnati Bengals — Tyrus Thompson (T, Oklahoma)
Cincy seems to like size on the offensive line. Thompson certainly provides that. Whether or not he’s a fit at left tackle at the next level is a serious question. But the Bengals will be lucky to find an ace pass-protector this late in the first round.

#28 San Francisco 49ers (via Oakland & Philadelpia) — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
The 49ers are one of the few teams who can afford, in this scenario, to red-shirt Gurley and let him make a full and proper recovery from his ACL injury.

#29 Denver Broncos — Leonard Floyd (DE, Georgia)
I’m not a big fan of Floyd’s. He’s skinny — and has a little Aaron Maybin to his style. He hasn’t had a big year in terms of production. He would probably benefit from another year to add strength and experience. The Broncos might be prepared to let him act as a specialist in year one and develop slowly.

#30 Green Bay Packers — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
Big nose tackle with surprising athleticism. He’s a good combine away from getting into this range. Makes plays and is difficult to move off the ball. Might not declare but had injury issues last year. Could strike while the iron is hot.

#31 Arizona Cardinals — Tevin Coleman (RB, Indiana)
Exceptional talent and might be the best running back from the class a few years down the line. If he lands with the right team he can provide a major jolt to the offense. Arizona is crying out for a player like Coleman.

#32 New England Patriots — Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon)
He’s had a mostly disappointing season. His future might be in the slot — but it’s an increasingly vital position especially if you’re trying to usurp Denver as the AFC’s top dog.

How the hell does Philly get Mariota?

As well as Mark Sanchez has played recently, Chip Kelly needs his quarterback. He inherited Nick Foles and took a punt on Sanchez. This is a rare chance to draft the player he groomed at Oregon and fits the Eagles offense perfectly. So how do they make it happen? A three-team trade, of course…

— The Raiders, targeting a trade with San Francisco to get Jim Harbaugh, make an early off-season deal with the Eagles for the #1 pick. Philly feels comfortable making the move given Kelly’s history with Mariota. The Raiders jump all the way down to #28 but also get Philly’s second round pick and a first rounder in 2016.

— Oakland gives the #28 pick to San Francisco for Jim Harbaugh. They too feel comfortable with the deal, knowing they have two second round picks in 2015 to make up for a lack of a first rounder and an extra first in the following draft.

Convoluted? Yep. Likely? Almost certainly not. Is this supposed to be taken seriously? Of course not. But it’s fun to speculate.

No Jameis Winston?

Winston has thrown 17 interceptions this year and only 21 touchdowns. He’s been the cause and solution to many of Florida State’s problems. Technically he has a long winding release and he just takes too many chances. Can you rely on him to scan the field and make the right play for the situation at the next level? I’m not convinced.

Then you go back to the laundry list of off-field problems and questions over his maturity. The idea of a team looking at this guy and thinking, “this is the man to lead our franchise” is so completely far-fetched. Based on his 2014 performance, he simply won’t be worth the risk.

The Seahawks draft…. who?

A few different readers brought Malcom Brown (DT, Texas) to my attention. I had a look and was blown away by his potential. He’s a former 5-star recruit and if he decides to turn pro (he’s admitted he is considering his options) he could be set to make a rapid rise up the boards. Watch out for this guy. We could be talking top-15 potential by the spring.

Brown does a terrific job holding the point, he has the required swim and rip moves to act as an effective interior rusher. He looks superb carrying a 6-2 320lbs frame (very compact frame, minimal bad weight). Height is key here — he’s well built in the lower body and has a strong base making him hard to move off the point. He consistently wins with leverage at that height. Arm length will be interesting — it doesn’t look like he has great length (not a surprise at 6-2). That will put some teams off. It impacted Sharrif Floyd. Yet he’s shown more than enough potential to make up for this possible weakness.

A good three-technique doesn’t necessarily have to live in the backfield like Sheldon Richardson at Mizzou. It’s about impacting the pocket in different ways — pushing the guard back into the quarterback, getting the QB to move off his spot. You need to be able to hold position and fill holes. Brown isn’t Aaron Donald by any stretch of the imagination — but he would provide a very useful rotational cog to Seattle’s D-line rotation.

He’s the best player nobody talks about. Let’s hope it stays that way even if he declares and somehow lasts until the late first round.

Tevin Coleman is a stud plus college football open thread

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Tevin Coleman is 6-1 and 201lbs. We’ve talked him up for a while now, but there’s no doubt in my mind he’s right up there with Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley (who tore his ACL last week).

The run in the GIF above is a 90-yard sprint against Ohio State. Look how he sticks his foot in the ground and explodes. In a losing effort (Indiana ran the Buckeye’s close today) he recorded 228 rushing yards on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns. That’s not playing with a brilliant offensive line like Gordon. That’s not playing against an over-matched opponent (again, like Gordon vs Nebraska). Coleman can flat out play. He’s a stud. He’s making things happen on a weekly basis for the Hoosiers.

For the year he has 1908 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. He also put up 132 against Michigan State, 219 against Iowa and 307 against Rutgers. He’s put up massive numbers in some tough contests this year. He has the size, the breakaway speed. He can play tough and run up the gut, but he’s also a playmaker in space. I suspect someone is going to draft this guy in the top two rounds.

He has a pretty interesting backstory too. He was born three months premature and given a 20% chance of surviving. He comes from a close family and seems like a level headed guy. There’s no ego here. He’s a former three-star recruit. Coleman’s one to monitor with or without all the Marshawn Lynch speculation.

Feel free to use this as an open thread for any observations you want to make watching college football this weekend. I’m watching Mizzou @ Tennessee, USC/UCLA is on record.

Duke’s Issac Blakeney a big target to monitor

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Isaac Blakeney is 6-6 and could be an option for a team needing a big target

The Seahawks know they need to acquire a big receiver. That’s why they reportedly contemplated a trade for Vincent Jackson. It’s why they also supposedly contacted Denver, Cleveland and Indianapolis to ask about Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron and Coby Fleener respectively.

Whether it’s a tight end or a big bodied wide out, they need to give Russell Wilson a player who can create a mismatch. Whether that’s over the middle running the seam or winning at the red line. It’s an absolute must for 2015.

Nobody should expect Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas to hit the open market. It’s also unlikely Julius Thomas and Jordan Camerson reach free agency (the franchise tag at TE is favorable, Cleveland also has millions in free cap space). It could leave the Seahawks in a bit of a situation. Either make another trade or turn to the draft.

There aren’t many 2015 eligible receivers with size. Amari Cooper is 6-1. Kevin White is listed at 6-3 but on tape looks like a solid 6-2. Devante Parker is 6-2, Rashad Greene 5-11 and Jaelen Strong looks 6-2 as well. The Seahawks don’t need 6-2. They need bigger.

Devin Funchess is 6-4/6-5 and about 235lbs. He’s played tight end and receiver. He could be an option based on pure physical potential. He’s inconsistent on the field, however. So was Eric Ebron and he ended up in the top ten. There’s every chance Funchess will go earlier than people expect if he tests well at the combine. Dorial Green-Beckham (6-5, 225lbs) could turn pro without playing a snap at Oklahoma — but you have to wonder how much interest he’d generate in the modern NFL given his background at Missouri (including domestic abuse).

As you can see the options aren’t great. I don’t necessarily expect the Seahawks to spend their highest pick on a receiver for the third year in a row (Harvin ’13, Richardson ’14). If they do wait until later, Duke’s Issac Blakeney could be one to monitor.

He’s 6-6 and 220lbs and has room to add more muscle without suffering any consequences in terms of speed. He’s very raw technically — he doesn’t high point the football and has a tendency to body catch. He doesn’t set up his routes particularly well and gets himself into awkward positions, creating difficult catching angles. He’s not a plug in and play receiver — which is kind of what Seattle needs. But they can’t force the situation and if it means playing the slow game with a guy like Blakeney — what choice do they have?

It’s no real surprise he’s raw. Duke spent years trying to work out his best position. He started at defensive end before spending time at safety. He then moved to offense and played tight end and slot receiver. It took four years — his entire time in college — to work out he’s best as an outside receiver. That’s a lot of wasted snaps and development.

The plus side is he’s incredibly difficult to cover. Look at the touchdown in the second video vs Syracuse and fast forward to 2:37. The quarterback loops one up for grabs in a 1v1 situation. The cornerback does a good job in coverage — he’s water tight on the receiver. And still Blakeney goes up and gets the football, destroying the corner and walking in for a touchdown. Seattle needs a guy who can make a play like that.

He appears to have long arms and he’s lean — he’ll have a fantastic catching radius. He looks like he could run in the late 4.5’s and if not — he’s a solid 4.6. He has enough speed to get downfield (see 1:46 in the Troy video). He’s not going to be a high pick but he’s a decent project. He’s also a well-spoken, intelligent player. Devante Parker and Devin Funchess are awkward during interviews, particularly Parker. There’s a temptation to read too much into stuff like this, but the Seahawks favor sparky, competitive players. They don’t mind outspoken. There are very few shy and retiring members of Seattle’s roster. Blakeney could be an option for the Seahawks.

You can watch Blakeney & Duke vs North Carolina on Thursday night.

Melvin Gordon tape vs Nebraska & more on Marshawn’s future

Monday, November 17th, 2014

This could be the future of Seattle’s offense. Or maybe not. It depends what you want to believe.

The whole ‘Marshawn Lynch could be released’ dynamic still confuses me. Chris Mortensen and Ian Rapoport aren’t just random journalists trying to make a name here. The chances are there’s a fire at the heart of all this billowing smoke. Nobody’s reported the opposite have they? Nobody’s denying anything.

Pete Carroll spoke about his relationship with Lynch on Brock and Salk this morning. He was candid. He essentially admitted there was an issue relating to his contract and the hold out this year. Take a listen yourself:

It was a rare moment where Carroll let his media guard down. Not in a bad way. He’s adept at the ‘saying a lot without really saying anything’ approach all good coaches master. This was the real deal. As close to an admittance of some tension as you were going to get. And even then he made a point to add they’ll do their best to work through it this year.

But what about next year? That’s the key. There was certainly no denial here. No insistence that Lynch isn’t going anywhere. And considering he’s under contract for 2015 and still a fantastic and productive feature for the offense — it was an easy thing to say. “He isn’t going anywhere”. That reassurance never came.

So we go on wondering what the future holds. The reality is you better savor every one of those two yards runs that end up going for six or seven. You better enjoy those formal handshakes with the offensive line in the end zone. You better live through these six games because after that Beast Mode might be “all about that action” elsewhere.

It’s still unthinkable right now, especially with the way he’s playing. You hope there’s a way to make this work. Surely there has to be? Why would you cut your best offensive player, creating an extra hole that’d need to be filled? Yet we’re forced to dwell on this possibility every week because it keeps racing back into our lives — usually in the form of a national media report hours before the latest game.

As we’ve said on more than one occasion now (and I appreciate it’s stating the obvious) — replacing him won’t be easy. You’re making up for more than just the loss of a top, elite running back. You either need to put another really effective back in his place, or you need to bolster that passing game and bring in 2-3 players to compensate.

Hey — they might need 2-3 players anyway. It’d be foolish to expect Russell Wilson to perform miracles with a new contract worth around $20m a year. He’s lost Golden Tate, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice this year. Throw the loss of Zach Miller into the equation too. He needs more at the receiver and tight end position. The Seahawks need to get back to winning the red line and challenging their receivers to make plays. For that they need the bigger bodies, they need a vertical threat too. They have to hope Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood develop — they also have to find more options in the draft or free agency.

Even after some surgery to the passing game, you’d be left needing to restore the balance and maintain your running identity. And that’s why Melvin Gordon remains a distinct possibility for the Seahawks in round one. At USC Carroll used a committee approach filled with 5-star recruits at running back. In Seattle, you get the sense they’ll only ever be as good as their top running back on offense.

I think this probably becomes a one-horse race in that regard. Todd Gurley is a fantastic player but an ACL injury this late in the season will almost certainly mean no combine or sufficient work out pre-draft. He could sneak into the back end of round one but it’d be a good team taking a gamble. After a couple of so-so drafts and the botched Harvin trade, I’m not sure the Seahawks can afford to start taking first round risks on an injured running back.

I pondered Gordon’s stock last night and still feel, even despite Gurley’s injury, a grade in the 16-32 range is fair. It’s a deep class and teams won’t feel totally pressured to go big at the position early (unless they’re trying to replace Marshawn Lynch, of course). It’s not beyond the realms of possibility Seattle ends up picking in the late teens — even if we hope it’s much later. That would put them in a good position to target Gordon.

The video above shows his record breaking 408-yard performance against Nebraska. As you can see, he’s a very different back to Lynch. He’s a lot closer to Jamaal Charles in style. There’s no dragging a defender an extra yard or two or a punishing stiff arm to extend a run. That has been Seattle’s staple for four seasons. Gordon will not replicate that wherever he lands in the NFL.

However, find him a lane and he’ll explode through it. Seattle has gone out of its way to draft run blocking offensive linemen. They’re good at it too. You can imagine Gordon playing for the Seahawks and having a lot of runs in the 0-2 yard range before breaking off a 40-yarder. He’d be a home run hitter and a chunk play specialist. He wouldn’t be a punishing inside runner. It would be a very different offense. But different doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

It’s still early and this topic doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Have a look at Gordon vs Nebraska for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments section.

A way too early thought on what the top-25 could look like

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I’m not labeling this a mock draft, even if it looks like one. I haven’t gone deep into positional need. It’s more an exercise in offering a take on the players I think have impressed this year, for those who give a crap.

The draft order used here is lifted from the current ‘league’ standings on NFL.com.

Yes, Seattle are pinned next to a running back. No, don’t read much into it. I will make this point though. Seattle has two offensive superstars — Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. However much the pass rush looks like a huge need right now, if Lynch does indeed depart next off-season — they can’t pay Wilson $100m and expect miracles. He’s going to need help. They need an impact player to replace Lynch.

Robert Turbin has not done enough to suggest he’s the heir apparent to Lynch. We can say with some confidence he isn’t. I’m not convinced Seattle has ever trusted Christine Michael. Despite his clear potential, he’s constantly been kept at arm’s length. And then this yesterday:

The running backs coach is on the radio saying Michael isn’t “fundamentally sound”. For what it’s worth, I understand his pain. Watch any college football game this weekend. You’ll see running backs with no future at the next level switching the ball from right to left as they head to the sideline. It’s such a basic thing.

The idea that Michael suddenly becomes the feature back appears fanciful. A best case scenario is probably he’s part of a committee next year.

They’re going to bring in a running back if Lynch goes. And I’m not convinced in the slightest they’ll be satisfied going after a mid-to-late round plodder who just adds to the competition. Replacing Lynch will be the toughest thing Pete Carroll does post-Super Bowl. Seriously.

Does this mean they’ll draft a running back in round one? Not necessarily. But I think they’ll consider it for the right player. I bet they’d love to have Todd Gurley — one of the best players to turn pro in several years in my opinion (and I started the season as a skeptic). I can see some interest in Melvin Gordon too. I’m not arguing for this or anything — it’s a take. The defensive line remains the #1 off-season priority unless there’s a major improvement in the second half of the season. But we should at least discuss alternatives.

1 OAK — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
2 NYJ — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
3 JAC — Randy Gregory (LB, Nebraska)
4 TB — La’el Collins (T/G, LSU)
5 TEN — Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
6 ATL — Alvin ‘Bud’ Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
7 STL — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
8 WAS — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
9 MIN — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
10 CHI — Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
11 NYG — Dante Fowler Jr (Florida)
12 NO — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
13 CAR — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
14 HOU — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
15 SEA — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
16 SF — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
17 MIA — Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
18 KC — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
20 CLE — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
21 SD — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
22 PIT — Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon)
23 IND — Corey Robinson (T, South Carolina)
24 GB — Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
25 CLE — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)