Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Cornerback class in review & Pete Carroll notes

Monday, January 16th, 2017

I’m splitting this article into two parts. Firstly, some notes and quotes from Pete Carroll’s final press conference. Secondly, some thoughts after studying the top ranked cornerbacks in the 2017 draft.

Pete Carroll’s final press conference

On Seattle’s needs going into the off-season, Carroll listed the following:

— Secondary
— Young depth at linebacker
— O-line

Carroll has been very honest about off-season needs in the past. After the 2010 season he highlighted the need to dramatically improve the running game and they spent their first two picks on run blocking O-liners (James Carpenter, John Moffitt). Before the 2012 season he stated more speed in the front seven was the big need. They drafted Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner.

It doesn’t expel them from targeting a different area of the team (eg, if the opportunity to sign Calais Campbell presents itself). Yet the needs listed today will likely be prioritised.

On Jimmy Graham: “I’m excited for him to come back.”

There’s no need to continue debating his presence on the roster. The Seahawks have $40m in cap space, more than enough to compete for additions. They don’t need to save an extra $10m and they certainly don’t need to create an unnecessary void at tight end by moving one of the NFL’s best players.

When asked if they should spend more money on the offensive line, Carroll explained why they’d essentially been forced to go with a younger O-line this year, before adding: “We’re not going to spend a ton of money on one guy to save the day… I don’t think you can buy your way to it.”

Carroll admitted Germain Ifedi has the ability to play guard or tackle but will remain at right guard for the sake of continuity.

Not making a host of changes was a common theme. “(It’s a) chance to come back with the same group… but we’ll challenge them.” Carroll talked about adding one or possibly two offensive linemen in the draft and also made a reference to free agency. It didn’t sound like a major O-line rebuild was in the works.

On George Fant: “He made a big impact on us.” It sounds like he’s the future at left tackle, at least for now. Rees Odhiambo could compete for that job.

He admitted some concern about the durability of C.J. Prosise: “He has to show it.” Carroll seemed less concerned about Thomas Rawls’ injury problems, referencing the incidental nature of his broken leg and previous broken ankle.

He talked positively about the running back group, name checking Rawls, Prosise and Alex Collins, “plus whatever else comes up.” Adding a running back to the competition seems likely — but it didn’t sound like a major priority either.

When asked about criticism of Darrell Bevell and certain fans wanting a change, Carroll fired back, “They don’t know what they’re talking about. Darrell does a great job.” He also ruled out any other coaching changes unless Tom Cable becomes the Head Coach in San Francisco.

Unsurprisingly he also made reference to the run/pass balance: “I don’t like how it split this year. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.” Expect a greater commitment to the running game in 2017. A healthy Russell Wilson and Thomas Rawls will help.

We know what to focus on now. Defensive backs, offensive linemen, linebacker depth. Here are two possible early round targets at each identified need area:

OT — Garett Bolles (Utah), Ryan Ramczyck (Wisconsin)
LB — Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt), Haason Reddick (Temple)
DB — Adoree’ Jackson (USC), Kevin King (Washington)

Studying the cornerback class

I’ve been eager to look at this group. The Seahawks haven’t drafted a cornerback before the fourth round during the Pete Carroll era. Yet this is considered a deep draft at the position at a time when Seattle’s depth has never been lighter. They’re young and raw and incumbent starter Deshawn Shead could miss the start of next season with a serious knee injury.

Yesterday I watched at least one game of all of the top ranked corner’s according to draft media.

The lasting impression was it’s clearly a deep group of good cornerbacks. However, it wasn’t easy to find guys that leap off the screen. It’s very easy to throw on some Garett Bolles tape, watch Solomon Thomas’ Bowl game, enjoy Malik Hooker’s range or the relentless nature of several EDGE rushers in this draft and be wowed.

The cornerbacks all shared similar features. Generally they’re decent cover corners that aren’t physically imposing. Some of them are sub-6-0. The tackling form wasn’t great across the board. Run support was mixed.

I wanted to see a Jimmy Smith type — 6-2, 210lbs, physical, runs in the 4.4’s. Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey might be the closest thing if he declares — but he likely won’t last beyond the top-15.

The Seahawks have such a clear and defined approach with cornerbacks — draft and develop their own — that any potential early round pick at the position probably needs to be a physical freak with major upside. We also know they have a specific profile for size and length.

We’ll have a better idea of who they might target after the combine. There’s certainly potential within some of these prospects to be fantastic athletes. The Seahawks could always draft someone to play in the slot. Carroll offered a lukewarm assessment of Jeremy Lane’s season earlier. If they wanted to add some competition there that would possibly take away the need to focus on tremendous size/length and prioritise suddenness and athleticism.

The freakiest athlete could be Washington’s Kevin King. He’s 6-3 and 192lbs but look at how he performed at last years Husky combine:

4.02 short shuttle
6.40 3-cone
39.5 inch vert
10-10 broad

He’ll probably only run a similar forty time to Richard Sherman (4.56) but these are crazy numbers.

King’s three cone of 6.40 would’ve been easily the best by a cornerback at the 2016 combine. Maryland’s Sean Davis ran the fastest time a year ago with a 6.64.

If he repeats it at the NFL combine, it might be the best three-cone by a cornerback ever. Buster Skrine’s 6.44 is the current best mark since records began in 2006.

His broad jump of 10-10 matches Vernon Hargreaves’ effort and would’ve been the third best in 2016 (Jalen Ramsey was #1 with an 11-3). His vertical jump would’ve also been the third best at last years combine (DeAndre Elliott incidentally had a 41 inch vertical).

His short shuttle would’ve ranked at #6.

If King can replicate these numbers in Indianapolis, he could easily find a home in the first round.

In November Tony Pauline reported teams were ‘salivating’ over King.

Long speed is a concern and pre-draft forty times are critical but as told to me by one insider, King is a typical Seattle Seahawks type of cornerback who will be selected during the second day of the draft.

Pauline added on December 13th he believes King could be a top-45 pick.

In terms of prototype Seahawks size and length for an outside corner, he ticks the boxes. In terms of freakish athleticism, he has that too.

He also had a productive 2016 season. King defended 15 passes, tied for #16 in the country (level with Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley). He also had two interceptions. He was targeted a lot as teams generally avoided Sidney Jones on the opposite side of the field. This is useful experience if he does end up playing across from Richard Sherman.

If they’re going to take a cornerback in round one, it could easily be Kevin King.

In terms of the rest of the class, I liked Ohio State’s Gareon Conley more than I expected. He doesn’t have insane size but there doesn’t appear to be much of a talent difference between Conley and team mate Marshon Lattimore. It was fun watching him match-up against Clemson’s Mike Williams. Both players had their moments.

Adoree’ Jackson is clearly a tremendous athlete. His 16 passes defended was tied 11th in the country with LSU’s Tre’Davious White. At the 2013 Nike SPARQ combine Jackson managed a 4.44 forty and a 37-inch vertical. His SPARQ score was a decent 122.7. He’s petit but could be an option as an explosive slot corner/safety hybrid. If providing competition for Jeremy Lane is a priority — Jackson could be a key target.

Two players I enjoyed watching again were the aforementioned White and Tennessee’s Cam Sutton. Both have a lot of value in the kicking game, they’re good athletes and respected leaders. In terms of character they’re top of the draft class at CB. White has had the coveted #18 jersey at LSU for the last two seasons. Sutton is a tremendous public speaker with a great backstory related to Hurricane Katrina. I think teams will like him.

The issue with both is size and length. They’re in that 5-10-5-11 range which is borderline for Seattle. We know the Seahawks want +32 inches in arm length. I’ll be rooting for both players at the combine. Sutton in particular is a very intriguing prospect overall.

Two players I expected more from were Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor. Wilson looks thick set and lacks suddenness. Tabor equally didn’t stand out as an athlete. I went back and looked at the 2013 Nike combine numbers and they were revealing:

Quincy Wilson — 4.60 forty, 32 inch vertical
Teez Tabor — 4.64 forty, 35 inch vertical

They’ll need to do a lot better than that at the NFL combine. For whatever reason, a string of Florida Gator cornerbacks have not performed well in these testing events. Even Vernon Hargreaves last year ran an underwhelming 4.50.

Teams avoided throwing at Washington’s Sidney Jones all season — he was targeted only 48 times. It was clear to see, especially watching him live against Arizona State. He’s an athletic, technically gifted cornerback with major pro talent. He looks dinky in size — but so did Hargreaves and Eli Apple last year. It won’t be a surprise at all if he lands in the top-20.

Cordea Tankerlsey is intriguing but how much of an athlete is he? Tankersley can really bolster his stock with a good combine.

I’m going to spend more time looking at the group after the combine and Senior Bowl when we have measurements and physical profiles to work with. However, at this point I would project the following players have a good chance to go in the top-25:

Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)
Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State)
Sidney Jones (Washington)
Adoree’ Jackson (USC)

The following players could also work their way into the first round:

Kevin King (Washington)
Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)
Gareon Conley (Ohio State)

I’m going to reserve judgement on Wilson and Tabor until after the combine and further study. Wilson is technically sound and can be physical. He’s cocky in a good way. He has a pro cornerback mentality. But he has to do more than a 4.6 and a 32 inch vertical to get ahead of some of these players.

None of this group are as exciting as Marcus Peters was entering the league. Arguably the NFL’s best cornerback these days, Peters just looked like a stud — size, length, physicality, ball skills, athleticism, attitude.

So it’s a deep class of good cornerbacks instead of 2-3 studs at the top of round one. If the Seahawks truly wanted to invest in the secondary, they should be able to get two solid defensive backs in the first four rounds.

I’m sure other names will emerge during the process. We’ll keep monitoring this class and I haven’t watched everyone yet. Colorado’s Akhello Witherspoon needs to work on his tackling — but he did a decent job covering John Ross. He could be a later round option at 6-3 and around 190lbs. Witherspoon was #2 in the country for passes defended (22).

The big stars of the 2017 draft might come at other positions. It’s a fantastic safety class and Malik Hooker in particular has a chance to be special. Whenever you watch Washington Budda Baker jumps off the screen. He’s a fantastic, underrated talent.

It could end up being a really productive group of defensive linemen and edge rushers. Solomon Thomas has generational potential. It’s easy to imagine Taco Charlton and Charles Harris having a big impact quickly in the league. Jonathan Allen is consistently disruptive at Alabama, while Takk McKinley has some DeMarcus Ware and some Ziggy Ansah to his play. Tim Williams has character flags to check out — but he had a tremendous career at Alabama.

The top two running backs — Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook — appear destined for greatness. Garett Bolles has a chance to be a really good offensive tackle in a league desperate for quality at the position. The top two tight ends — O.J. Howard and David Njoku — can also have a major impact.

And at linebacker — Reuben Foster could be another Luke Kuechly or Bobby Wagner. Zach Cunningham is another tremendous talent and Raekwon McMillan looked better on a second glance at Ohio State yesterday. Florida’s Jarrad Davis is one to watch.

Three round projection based on what we heard today:

R1 — Kevin King (Outside CB, Washington) or Adoree’ Jackson (Slot CB, USC)
R2 — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
R3 — Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
R3 — Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)

And with approximately $37m in free cap space — they’ll have an opportunity to add to the D-line, O-line and possibly running back.

Stanford’s Solomon Thomas is going in the top-15

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Solomon Thomas declared for the draft today. Don’t expect him to be available for the Seahawks.

Thomas took part in the 2013 Nike Sparq Combine and look at the results:

Height: 6-3
Weight: 261lbs
Forty: 4.95s
Short shuttle: 4.25s
Powerball: 44
Vertical: 36.7 inches
SPARQ: 121.77

Only the following players had a better SPARQ score in the 2013 event:

Curtis Samuel (WR, Ohio State) — 126.78
Speedy Noil (WR, Texas A&M) — 153.51
Ed Paris (CB, LSU) — 130.8
Christian Miller (LB, Alabama) — 124.17
Terry McLaurin (WR, Ohio State) — 141.96
Trey Marshall (CB, Florida State) — 126.99
Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC) — 122.77
Elijiah Hood (RB, North Carolina) — 133.47
Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia) — 143.91
Shaun Hamilton (LB, Alabama) — 123.84
Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia) — 129.75
Tony Brown (CB, Alabama) — 136.2
Braxton Berrios (WR, Miami) — 131.37
Dillon Bates (LB, Tennessee) — 126.69
Joey Alfieri (LB, Stanford) — 131.28
Kavin Alexander (CB, Arkansas State) — 123.78

Notice the lack of defensive linemen on that list? Of those taking part in the nationwide Nike combines, Thomas was by far the most athletic D-liner. His SPARQ number is superior to the following:

Jamal Adams (S, LSU) — 117.63
Budda Baker (S, Washington) — 110.94
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee) — 109.92
Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State) — 110.64
Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU) — 120.72
Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon) — 121.17
Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) — 115.83
Deshone Kizer (QB, Notre Dame) — 74.88
Joe Mixon (RB, Oklahoma) — 105.33
Cam Robinson (T, Alabama) — 97.5
Travis Rudolph (WR, Florida State) — 107.01
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, USC) — 94.35
Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida) — 93.69
DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson) — 96.93
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida) — 97.65

His time in the short shuttle (4.25 seconds) would’ve been the fourth best time at the 2016 NFL combine for defensive linemen. Only Alex McCalister (4.00), Joey Bosa (4.21) and Shaq Lawson (4.21) ran faster than a 4.25.

Thomas’ vertical jump of 36.7 inches would’ve come second only to Dadi Nicolas’ 41 inch effort. The second best effort was Emmanuel Ogbah’s 35.5 inches.

The powerball is arguably a greater test of translatable strength compared to the bench press. Thomas’ score of 44 was only beaten at the 2013 Nike combines by Dante Booker Jr. (45.5).

The only think stopping him reaching the freakish SPARQ score of +130 is an average forty yard dash of 4.95 seconds. It’s worth noting that Joey Bosa only ran a 4.85 and Robert Nkemdiche a 4.87. Thomas ran this time at a lighter 261lbs. He’s currently listed at 273lbs but would ideally get into the 4.8’s after specific pre-combine speed training.

It’s not even that important really. Ultimately his 10-yard split time is the thing to keep an eye on.

This is a very intriguing pre-college physical profile and there’s every chance he’s more athletic now after a few years at Stanford.

Thomas took over the Sun Bowl against North Carolina with a statement performance. He lived in the backfield, winning with quickness off the edge, power working the interior and creating several splash plays. He had the play of the game — crashing into the backfield on a two-point attempt with UNC trying to tie with seconds remaining.

On this evidence he’s a top-15 lock and the top ten isn’t unrealistic either.

He lines up at DT a lot and moves around. In one sack against Notre Dame he engages the right guard and then uses the center/DT battling to his right almost as a shield to loop around and get to Deshone Kizer. It’s a creative way to get to the QB — highlighting his game awareness and not just his physicality.

Notre Dame often doubled teamed him in that game. He drew two false start flags on the same drive.

This is Thomas at his best working the interior:

That said, you do occasionally find plays like this:

It’s hard to imagine Alamaba’s Jonathan Allen toiling with a tiny running back sent in to help out an overmatched O-liner. In fairness the running back does a good job here and really helps out the lineman — but Thomas needs to throw him to one side.

When he plays with the fire and attitude we saw against North Carolina he was virtually unstoppable. Playing with that level of intensity snap-by-snap is crucial to deliver on his massive potential. Let’s see that nasty edge every week. If he maintains that spark — he can be a special player at the next level.

Some thoughts on Adoree’ Jackson & D’Onta Foreman

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

I’ve had to battle a bit with these two.

USC’s Adoree’ Jackson is arguably the most athletic player in college football — but until recently he was the guy with major potential rather than someone who mastered his craft at a set position.

His instinct, technique and recognition skills have long appeared to be a work in progress. When he can just show off his extreme speed and twitchy athleticism — he looks incredible. That’s what you see when he returns kicks and he can just fly — he averaged 30.5 yards on kick-offs in 2016 (scoring twice) and managed 302 punt yards (with a further score).

I’ve been reluctant to grade him much higher than a second rounder with potential to get into the first frame — but he had four interceptions at cornerback this year and I wanted to go back and review his play towards the end of the season.

Jackson has certainly made improvements in terms of recognition and there were a couple of plays where he mirrored the receiver perfectly and was in position to play the ball almost as the intended receiver. His elite speed and recovery ability frequently put him in position to make a play on the ball. He can go deep and cover a guy like John Ross, but he was also exceptional at covering ground quickly even when he lost initial leverage.

There were clear improvements compared to his 2015 tape and the early 2016 stuff. In terms of pure potential and upside — he’s right up there. His size (5-11, 185lbs) might prevent him from going too early but he’s a candidate for round one. No doubt about that.

He might actually suit a switch to safety where he can play deep, read the play and react. His closing speed is special and he’ll cover ground very quickly. You’re also putting him in space where he can really show off his athleticism. At corner there’s a chance he’ll get manhandled at the line or overpowered playing the ball. At safety you’re probably maxing out his athleticism and range.

Alternatively he could be a full-time slot corner (an important position these days) or a bit of a jack-of-all-trades (slot, outside corner, FS, some offense). However you’d have to be a good team drafting him in round one to justify taking a ‘Mr. Versatile’.

One thing is for sure — he can have an immediate impact on special teams. Jackson truly is one of the best returners you’ll ever see. He glides — and somehow manages to turn any kind of kick into a big return. He will dictate game plans and win you field position because teams will waste time during the week working out how to avoid kicking him the ball.

His personality is warm and engaging too. He was a captain at USC this year and this video featuring his mother is just great:

We’ve talked about Seattle’s needs and a cornerback isn’t really a high priority. The Seahawks have also avoided early picks at corner and let’s be honest — is that really likely to change any time soon?

That said, they also love love love special athletes with limitless upside. Jackson has that in his locker. The Seahawks love to get their hands on extreme potential and coach it up. If they see a DB with exceptional, unique upside and grit — they’ll be interested. It’s very easy to imagine Adoree’ Jackson being on their radar — especially with his major flair for special teams.

So while the chances might be slim that he lands in Seattle, you just never know. It’ll be really fun to watch him at the combine (assuming he declares).

Speaking of the combine, there are few players I want to see perform more than Texas running back D’Onta Foreman.

The more I watch, the more I want to buy into him. I’m sceptical that he’s the listed 249lbs. He’s probably more like 235-240lbs. Yet his lateral ability and suddenness at that size is impressive. And while he’s faced a collection of truly horrendous defenses this year — it’s still not easy for guys his size to run away from defensive backs (which he does quite regularly).

It’s the opponents he’s faced that bothers me. The Big 12 is a total joke show when it comes to defense. It’s getting worse every year. 300-yard rushing performances are not a surprise anymore — and it’s hard to be that impressed when Foreman, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon run all over teams like Texas Tech.

Foreman’s out-of-conference opponents really only add to the problem. Texas faced Cal’s laughably bad defense, Notre Dame’s isn’t much better in 2016 and he didn’t play against UTEP.

It’s hard to knock a 2028-yard, 15-touchdown season — but this is probably the least challenging 2028-yard, 15-touchdown season you’ll ever see. It feels really strange writing that.

Nevertheless, there’s nothing else to judge him on. Texas aren’t Bowl eligible so he’s done now. College career over.

I’ve seen comparisons on Twitter to Marshawn Lynch and Jonathan Stewart. Lynch is unique and really nobody should ever be compared to him. People forget he was only 215lbs at his combine. Lynch played with the power of a 260lber at 215lbs. He was rare and should be a Hall of Famer. There will never be another Marshawn.

Stewart ran a 4.46 at 235lbs (Lynch also had a 4.46 funnily enough). Let’s see if Foreman can match that because physically they look quite similar and play with a similar attitude.

We know Pete Carroll likes Stewart — he makes reference to it every time the Seahawks play Carolina (which has been quite often over the years).

It’s also worth noting that both Lynch and Stewart went in the top-15. If Foreman runs in the 4.4’s there’s every chance he’ll go that early too.

He does hit the LOS with authority and you can lean on him, as Texas often did, to carry the load. Yet it’s his ability to bounce outside and hit the home run that is so impressive for a player with his size. A big back rarely has that ability to be explosive and sudden. Foreman has that. I just wish he had the chance to prove he can do it against LSU or a similar opponent.

The Seahawks could easily be in the market for a new runner to add to their collection. I can imagine the Seahawks liking him. His personality is pretty cool — kind of chilled out but with a hint of serious in there too.

They might have to take him in round one if they want him — and that might be the issue, especially considering the following:

— They might prefer to go O-line early if someone like Garett Bolles is available
— They might prefer to add a DL that can add some interior pass rush and disruption
— They might have to replace Earl Thomas if he’s really serious about potentially retiring

However, they need to do something to make sure they have a consistent run-game in 2017. This is the identity of the team we’re talking about. Tough running, physical play, great defense, point guard quarterback.

If they really like Foreman — and considering the injury problems with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise this year — this could be a possibility. Let’s see how he performs at the combine (and let’s especially hope he runs the forty).

Having said all this, when Pete Carroll recently referenced his ideal running back would have Thomas Rawls’ style at 240lbs — it’s hard not to think of this guy first and foremost.

Here’s Foreman’s tape vs California:

Derrick Nnadi could be a first round prospect

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Derrick Nnadi. Beast.

“Derrick just gets better and better and better and better. He has no idea how good he can be.”

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Head Coach

Yesterday we discussed the possibility of Derrick Nnadi being a potential second round target for the Seahawks. Today we’ll discuss if he could work his way into round one.

Every now and again you watch a game and a player just jumps off the screen. That was the case watching Utah left tackle Garret Bolles. It was exactly the same with Nnadi.

Do the Seahawks need another defensive tackle? Yes, probably. Pete Carroll admitted recently they brought in John Jenkins to try and find an interior rush — and yet he’s ideally sized to be a big, powerful nose tackle. They released Jordan Hill and then lost Quinton Jefferson to I.R.

They’re giving up 100.2 rushing YPG (#14 in the league). In 2015 they gave up 81.5 YPG (#1 in the league). To be fair their pass rushing numbers (especially sacks) have increased dramatically this season — but for whatever reason the run defense has regressed statistically.

That fits the eye test too. They didn’t give up a single 100-yard rusher in the regular season in 2015. It’s a different story this year.

It could be the departure of Brandon Mebane. What they ideally need is someone with the incredible base and power of Mebane that is also capable of providing some pass rush. They don’t necessarily need a 10-sack guy (that’d be nice but it’s unrealistic). Is there someone who offers the production of Clinton McDonald and Jordan Hill in 2013 and 2014 (6.5 sacks)?

Nnadi is a candidate. He’s 6-1 and 312lbs. His height and size is ideal to win with leverage as he frequently does. Here are some of the highlights on tape:

— Collapses the pocket with low pad level, drives the guard into the backfield and moves the QB off his spot (Demarcus Walker has benefited a LOT)

— Superb bull rush at times, for example:

— Good initial jolt with his hands and shows quickness to create separation from the blocker, like this:

— Incredibly powerful lower body, explodes out of his stance, firing off the ball

— Regularly gains position, anchors and controls the run (even vs double teams)

— Controls his gaps nicely and shows the ability to run down the line and string out plays (seemingly important in Seattle’s defense)

— Increasingly flashes as a pass rusher — he looks quicker this year and spends considerable time in the backfield:

He’s a great big ball of power with a squatty, compact frame. There is some work to do on his overall hand use (he can disengage quicker when he gets caught up in a hands battle) but his base power, ability to control the line and offer some pass rush might be a nice combination for Seattle.

Is he unique enough? I wouldn’t expect an insane workout at the combine. He won’t run a special forty yard dash, he likely won’t own the short shuttle. It’ll be interesting to see his vertical though given his terrific base. He can squat 750lbs and that should translate to some lower body explosion. He can reportedly bench 525. That’s pretty freaky.

The D-line is a potential early round need, along with the O-line of course and the possibility of adding another inside/out rusher, a SAM/LEO, an EDGE, a multi-faceted weapon like Obi Melifonwu, a bell cow running back or even a wide receiver. I think we’re seeing recently that the Seahawks still probably lack a really dynamic bigger target on the outside — not that there are a ton of options in this class.

Nnadi could help them improve their run defense, provide more physical brutality and power inside and possibly add an extra pass rushing dimension.

Kawann Short plays at 315lbs — a similar weight to Nnadi. He looks longer (6-3, nearly 35 inch arms) and that could be a deal breaker between the two. Short is pretty unique with his overall size, power, length and quickness off the snap. That’s why he has 19 career sacks and is likely facing a big pay day in the future.

Nnadi is more squatty and we’ll have to see his measurements. It’s unlikely he’ll posses the same kind of length (Short has vines for arms). That said — he has 5.5 sacks this year and Short had 6.5 and 7.5 in his last two seasons at Purdue respectively. There was a feeling coming into the league that he was only scratching the surface of his potential and that’s the same for Nnadi.

I wrote this piece about Short in 2013, suggesting he’d be a really good option with Seattle’s #25 pick (later traded to Minnesota for Percy Harvin). Nnadi might provide similar value for someone.

When Jimbo Fisher says he doesn’t realise how good he could be — I think the same can be said for the wider public. Nnadi has something about him. A bit of a X-factor. If he declares as a junior for the 2017 draft — he could be set for a very impressive pro-career and maybe a first round grade.

Seahawks seven round mock draft

Monday, November 28th, 2016

The Seahawks are more or less in the same position they were a year ago. Their biggest needs are in the trenches. They still need to reassert themselves as the bullies of the NFC.

That’s not a big shock. With hindsight it was probably always going to be a two-draft rebuild to become the bullies again. It was never going to be easy to rebuild the O-line, replace the presence of Marshawn Lynch and also replace the likes of Brandon Mebane on defense (while also finding another inside/out rusher).

This seven-round mock is never going to be accurate at the end of November, long before we even discover who will/won’t declare or boost their stock at the Senior Bowl or Combine. That said, it’s an opportunity to highlight some names and talk about something other than the disappointing game in Tampa Bay.

Before I get into the seven-rounder, here’s a top-40 projection:

1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
2. San Francisco 49ers — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
4. Chicago Bears — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
5. New York Jets — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
6. Cincinnati Bengals — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
7. Carolina Panthers — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
8. Tennessee Titans (via LA) — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
9. Green Bay Packers — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
10. New Orleans Saints — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
11. San Diego Chargers — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
12. Arizona Cardinals — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
13. Tennessee Titans — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
14. Baltimore Ravens — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
15. Indianapolis Colts — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Dawuane Smoot (EDGE, Illinois)
17. Buffalo Bills — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
18. Cleveland Browns (via Eagles) — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
19. Philadelphia eagles (via Vikings) — John Ross (WR, Washington)
20. Miami Dolphins — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
21. Pittsburgh Steelers — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
22. Atlanta Falcons — Malik McDowell (DE, Michigan State)
23. Detroit Lions — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
24. Houston Texans — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
25. Washington — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
26. Kansas City Chiefs — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
27. New York Giants — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
28. Denver Broncos — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
29. Seattle Seahawks — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
30. New England Patriots — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
31. Oakland Raiders — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
32. Dallas Cowboys — Carl Lawson (EDGE, Auburn)
33. Cleveland Browns — Ryan Anderson (LB, Alabama)
34. San Francisco 49ers — Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)
35. Chicago Bears — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
36. Jacksonville Jaguars — Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
37. New York Jets — Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
38. Cincinnati Bengals — Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
39. Los Angeles Rams — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
40. Green Bay Packers — Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)

Seahawks seven round projection

Round 1 — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)

I’ve talked a lot about Bolles already — but here’s a quick refresher on why he could be an ideal pick for the Seahawks. He’s battled adversity throughout his life, facing a difficult childhood before being arrested for vandalism. He was kicked out of the house by his father and taken in by another family. He’s since completely turned his life around in a similar fashion to Bruce Irvin — going through the JUCO’s and being courted by virtually every major college in the NCAA.

There’s no question in my mind that Bolles is the best left tackle in college football and is destined to go in round one. Is it realistic he falls to the Seahawks if he declares? Possibly not. What works in their favour is the fact he turns 25 next May so he’s not necessarily a 10-year option in the NFL. With this looking like a particularly loaded defensive draft he might slip through the cracks.

Bolles could play left or right tackle at the next level. He’s a physical tone-setter — a terrific run blocker with the balance, loose hips and athletic profile to excel in pass-pro too. He’s a bully on the field and now a family man off it, expecting his first child with his wife. He just screams ‘Seahawks’.

The need is also abundantly clear too. Neither Garry Gilliam or Bradley Sowell look like a long-term option at right tackle and it’s still too early to judge George Fant’s staying power.

Round 2 — Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Alabama) or Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)

Tomlinson ticks several boxes. He’s a former four-star recruit with a background including track & field and wrestling. He’s a punishing, physical tough guy with good gap control. He has great length and size (6-3, 308lbs, 33 1/4 inch arms, 10 inch hands) and he has a terrific physique with minimal bad weight.

Importantly, he’s also battled adversity and has an interesting personality. Tomlinson’s father died when he was five and his mother passed away in 2011. This article by Terrin Waack highlights his backstory and why he might also interest the Seahawks.

Tomlinson isn’t just a great athlete — he’s also a talented musician and an artist. You know that has to appeal to Pete Carroll.

The Seahawks did draft Jarran Reed a year ago and you could argue Tomlinson is too similar. He’s not much of a pass rusher and the Seahawks have been trying to find some interior pressure (Jordan Hill, Quinton Jefferson, Damontre Moore, John Jenkins). You can never have too many solid D-liners though for your rotation — and with the likes of Takk McKinley likely to go very early (possibly top-10) they might not be able to lean on the draft to get an inside/out rusher.

Tomlinson’s frame isn’t totally unsuited to playing DE/DT and he might be able to develop into that type of role in the future.

Nnadi on the other hand has shown to be more of a pass rush threat. He’s been an absolute terror for Florida State all season. He and Demarcus Walker have provided a formidable duo — helping to turn FSU’s floundering defense into virtually a top unit over the course of the season.

He has 5.5 sacks in 2016 plus 9.5 TFL’s. You’ll often find Nnadi a split-second behind Walker in the backfield — and frequently the pair combine to provide stats for each other.

Nnadi is well sized to work as an inside rusher. He’s squatty with an incredibly powerful base. He’s 6-1 and 312lbs and carries the weight really well. He’ll bull-rush his way into the backfield but he’s also capable of flashing a swim/rip or winning with a quick get-off.

It’s his supreme strength and power that sets him apart from other prospects though. We know the Seahawks love unique traits. How about this for Nnadi, per Ryan S. Clark:

Nnadi now can bench 525 pounds and squat an amazing 750. In other words, he’s about 30 pounds away from being able to bench Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield (182 pounds) and Bobo Wilson (184 pounds) all at the same time.

And as for the 750 pounds? It’s like squatting two of freshman offensive lineman Mike Arnold (339 pounds) — and that’s still 72 pounds below his max.

“He’s the strongest guy I’ve ever met in my life,” redshirt sophomore tight end Ryan Izzo said. “When he goes to do max, he fills up the whole bar [with plates]. The bar is bending. When he touches [his butt] on the ground, he’s probably the strongest guy I’ve seen honestly.”

You see this freakish power every week and on virtually every snap. He’s a player that impacts games. He’s a disruptor — a splash play specialist with core production in terms of sacks.

At the next level at the very least you’ll get a guy who can absorb double teams and provide the occasional spark. His upside could be a Kawann Short-style stat-collector. He has a similar size and playing style to Short. They also share a similar concern entering the league. Short’s stamina was seen as an issue at Purdue and Nnadi is spelled a lot more than Walker (who plays virtually every snap). Those troubles haven’t prevented Short making an impact in Carolina — and won’t necessarily be a problem for Nnadi either.

It wouldn’t be a total shock if Nnadi worked his way into late first round contention — if he declares.

Round 3 — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)

The Seahawks love freaky athletes. At his junior pro-day, Reddick reportedly ran a 4.47 at 6-1 and 235lbs. He also supposedly had a 10-10 in the broad jump and a 36-inch vertical. That’s special.

His production is exceptional too. In 2016 he has 21.5 TFL’s in 12 games, 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He’s a hybrid linebacker/DE and could fit in nicely as a SAM/LEO in Seattle.

He’s a former walk-on who was told there was no place for him on the team. A change of coaching staff at Temple led to one last chance and he took it and eventually earned a scholarship.

Like Bolles and Tomlinson — Reddick hasn’t had it easy. And yet here he is — on the brink of a pro-career and proving people wrong. The guy’s a grown man, you watch his interviews and feel like he’d fit in Seattle’s locker room. Production + athleticism + grit + battling adversity = a potential Seahawk.

Round 3 — Elijah Hood (RB, North Carolina)

Compensatory pick — Bruce Irvin

It feels likely the Seahawks will add a running back at some point during the 2016 draft. The injuries they’ve faced this year and the sudden departure of Christine Michael has tested the depth — and that’s despite coming into the year with some nice options at RB.

We know the Seahawks have a ‘type’ at running back. And while Pete Carroll did admittedly discuss an ‘ideal’ frame during a recent press conference (making reference to a stud athlete at around 230lbs) — they’ve consistently drafted players in the 5-10/220lbs range:

Robert Turbin — 5-10, 222lbs
Spencer Ware — 5-10, 228lbs
Christine Michael — 5-10, 220lbs
C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs
Alex Collins — 5-10, 217lbs

As noted in this piece I wrote for Field Gulls, they also focus on explosive athleticism. Turbin, Michael and Prosise are all very similar athletes.

Assuming the Seahawks don’t get a shot at the holy grail (Leonard Fournette), they might look to add another runner in the middle rounds.

Elijah Hood competed at the 2013 Nike SPARQ combine and at 6-0 and 221lbs, he ran a 4.48, jumped a 42.5-inch vertical and had a 4.2 in the short shuttle. His SPARQ score is an incredible 133.47 (anything over 130 is considered pretty special).

Hood fits perfectly with the type of runner the Seahawks have drafted in the past. He also has major production — 25 touchdowns in the last two seasons and well over 2000 rushing yards.

You see on tape his willingness to finish runs (also important) and not dip out of bounds voluntarily. He is sudden and capable of breaking off big gains at the second level but he also has the size to run up the gut. His personality is engaging and chatty without being overbearing. If the Seahawks remain consistent in the running backs they target — Hood could easily be on their radar.

Round 6 — Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)

Pete Carroll was asked about the Apple Cup last week and mentioned that they (the Seahawks) had watched a lot of Washington State this year. It might be because they’ve fallen for safety Shalom Luani.

Again, we know the Seahawks love athletes who show grit and fight to make a career out of football. Luani, originally from American Samoa, basically travelled to the U.S. alone with no house, no scholarship and about $400 in his pocket trying to realise his dream of playing college football.

This article highlights how he ended up living in a garage in a house homing 20 players. When they were evicted, a chance encounter led to an opportunity in the JUCO’s and then eventually a shot in the NCAA. It’s an incredible journey and I’d highly recommend checking out the article linked at the beginning of this paragraph.

Luani has played safety and nickel so he has some versatility. He’s been touted as a possible ‘deathbacker’ too — earning praise from the man who virtually invented the position (Deone Bucannon). I watched a couple of games of Wazzu before the Apple Cup and he’s a playmaker — he has eight interceptions in the last two seasons, he hits like a hammer and he could contribute on special teams immediately.

He could go a lot earlier than this but I wanted to include him in this initial seven-round mock — plus Tony Pauline noted him as an UDFA candidate in his pre-season rankings so it’s not totally improbable he could last well into day three.

Round 6 — Kevin King (CB, Washington)

Compensatory pick — J.R. Sweezy

King has great size and like Luani might end up going a lot earlier than this. Tony Pauline projected him in this range during pre-season and a loaded class of corners could see him last a little longer than perhaps his talent warrants.

He’s a bit boom-or-bust at times. There’s no doubting his athletic profile and size (6-3, 195lbs). He’s a playmaker too — his incredible one-handed interception against Arizona State was testament to that. It was only his second pick of the season though and there have been times when teams have had success against King when they try and avoid Sidney Jones on the opposite side of the field.

He could be a nice project for the Seahawks and we know they like to wait until the later rounds or UDFA to draft and develop their cornerbacks.

Round 7 — Dante Pettis (WR, Washington)

The Seahawks have been willing to bring in later round or UDFA receivers — especially from Washington. Pettis isn’t likely to be an early round pick at 6-1 and 190lbs. Like Jermaine Kearse he’s made a lot of nice plays for the Huskies but that didn’t stop him going undrafted.

He is a touchdown maker (14 in 2016) and could be the next Husky given an opportunity to make the roster in Seattle. A lack of great size didn’t put off the Seahawks drafting Kenny Lawler in the seventh round and he had a similarly productive final season for Cal in 2015 (13 touchdowns).

— Other potential targets include:

John Ross (WR, Washington)
Possible range: Round 1
The Seahawks love explosive speed and playmaking quality. Ross has 17 total touchdowns this season with at least one more game to go. He’s battled adversity to come back even stronger after injury setbacks. He’s a twitchy, speedy, scoring machine. They already have Tyler Lockett but one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL (Sunday excluded) is never going to turn their nose up at a guy like this. He probably goes top-20 but if he falls into range, he could be a ‘Hawk.

Dawuane Smoot (EDGE, Illinois)
Possible range: Round 1
He fires off the edge like a cannon and plays with a great intensity. He looks like a LEO prospect who could develop into a SAM like Bruce Irvin. With players like Takk McKinley potentially rising up into the top-12 — prospects like Smoot could last into range for Seattle. The likes of Carl Lawson, Charles Harris and Demarcus Walker are also possibilities.

Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
Possible range: Round 1
Compared to former UConn safety Byron Jones as an athlete, Melifonwu has lined up in the slot, as a single high safety, at strong safety and blitzing from the SAM this season. He’s an instinctive, big-hitting sure-tackler with the range and size to play multiple positions. He could be tried at corner, he could be used at strong safety or even linebacker like Mark Barron. Expect a big combine performance and a major rise up the boards.

Any of Washington’s defensive front
Possible range: Round 2
Watching them live last week sold me on the potential of this trio (plus Budda Baker was brilliant too). Vita Vea, Elijah Qualls and Greg Gaines are the real deal. I’m not sure which, if any, will declare for the draft — but they all provide a great combination of size, surprising athleticism and tenacity vs the run. Gaines is built like a nose but gets off blocks exceptionally well, Vea looked like the best pass rusher vs ASU but Qualls also has his qualities. Chris Peterson has a good group on both sides of the ball and it’ll be a surprise if the Seahawks don’t tap into this talent stream in 2017.

Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
Possible range: Rounds 2-4
A receiver who does it all — he has special teams value as a gunner or returner, he’s a tremendous run blocker and he can be a clutch receiver. The Seahawks still lack size on the outside at receiver and Chesson could be a good-value, developmental option in this draft class. His run-blocking and special teams ability will get him on the field early in his career.

Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
Possible range: Rounds 3-5
Ideally suited to kick inside to guard, Bisnowaty was a four-star recruit with a wrestling and basketball background. He’s a tough guy with plus athleticism who plays a bit like Ethan Mathis. Mark Glowinski hasn’t been fantastic so far at left guard and they might look to add some competition there. Bisnowaty’s play has increasingly improved as the season progressed.

Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
Possible range: Rounds 4-6
A playmaker for the Rebels with 10 TFL’s, six sacks and eight QB hurries in 2016. He also has three forced fumbles and an interception. If he tests well at the combine he could be a potential SAM/LEO target.

Note — The Seahawks traded their fourth round pick to the Patriots for the chance to draft Quinton Jefferson in 2016. They were also stripped of their fifth round pick due to OTA violations.

It’s also worth remembering there will likely be some money to spend in free agency. According to Spotrac, the Seahawks are estimated to have $27.2m in free cap room in 2017. While some of that will likely go towards rewarding Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and possibly Cliff Avril — it likely won’t preclude the Seahawks from being able to fill one or two needs using the open market.

UConn’s Obi Melifonwu is a name to monitor

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Obi Melifonwu — great tackling form, fantastic range, big frame

First of all, thanks to contributor ‘McGruff’ for the heads up on this guy. He was recently name-checked in one of Daniel Jeremiah’s ‘Ask 5’ articles on NFL.com. In this particular piece, Jeremiah asked five different executives to name the college prospect they believed had the most upside. He was looking for a lesser known player.

One executive suggested Obi Melifonwu, a safety from Connecticut:

“The UConn safety is really intriguing. He’s freaky athletic and he’s going to put up big-time testing numbers. He’ll run low 4.4s (in the 40-yard dash) and jump over 40 inches. He can play in the slot as well. Huge upside.”

I hadn’t come across Melifonwu unlike the other names mentioned (Bucky Hodges, Seth Russell, Daeshon Hall, Travis Dural). Having seen the other four — none really jump off the screen. There’s certainly some potential with Hall’s frame and pass-rushing ability and Hodges is another big-bodied TE (a jump-ball 1v1 specialist rather than a separation guy).

Melifonwu was intriguing though. A 6-3, 220lbs safety that runs a 4.4 and jumps 40 inches?

At the 2015 combine, UConn safety Byron Jones broke a 46-year-old broad jump world record (12-3). He also had a 44.5 inch vertical and at his pro-day, reportedly ran in the 4.36-4.39 range.

Jones was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the #27 overall pick.

So how do the two players compare? Here’s the UConn Head Coach Bob Diaco:

“Obi’s the best safety in America”

That’s possibly hyperbolic considering Jabrill Peppers is going to be on the final list of Heisman candidates and the depth at safety across the board has arguably never been stronger. We could see five or six safety’s drafted in the first round in 2017 — and that’s no exaggeration.

That said, none of the group look anything like Melifonwu. There aren’t many humans in the world capable of running a 4.40 forty and jumping +40 inches at 6-3 and 220lbs. If his work out is even remotely close to Jones (listed at 6-1 and 199lbs at his combine) — then there’s a chance he could be one of the big risers over the coming months.

Diaco is clearly very positive about Melifonwu. Only last week he offered another gushing assessment — stopping himself at one point from comparing him to a big name currently in the NFL:

As we’re all aware, there’s only one really fantastic safety in the league listed at around 6-3 and 220lbs.

If Diaco was referring to Kam Chancellor in the video above — it’s important to add one disclaimer. Chancellor’s success isn’t just down to his combination of size and athleticism. It’s a mental thing too. His attitude, his ability to lead, his personality. He’s a person people naturally gravitate towards. That’s not something you can teach. It’s either in you or it isn’t. It’s a stretch to think Melifonwu can provide those same benefits because in all honesty, Kam’s probably one of a very small group capable of achieving it.

Volume 12 mentioned in the comments section recently that Kam is Seattle’s Ray Lewis. He’s right. It’s that level of intensity, personality and leadership. Those types of players are extremely rare. They’re generational.

Not only that, Kam has also mastered Seattle’s defense and seems to be the one orchestrating the checks, lining everyone up and taking control of the situation. Again, that’s not always a role left to the strong safety. There’s a reason why the Seahawks turn to Kam. He’s a student of the game at the next level — and while many college players reference a similar work ethic, it’s easier said than done when you start facing the complexities of a pro-offense.

So let’s just accept from the top — Melifonwu is unlikely to be the second coming of Kam. Who is ever going to achieve that? What he can offer a team — including the Seahawks — is still extremely useful.

I watched the 2016 Virginia vs UConn game (see below) to see what he offers. Usually I wouldn’t pass judgement until after watching three games — but I’m not anticipating a ton of UConn tape hitting the internet any time soon.

Melifonwu lines up in several very intriguing looks. He’s the deep safety on some snaps, he lines up in the slot covering wide receivers, he’ll blitz off the edge on occasions and he’ll sit at the second level in a ‘deathbacker’ style position.

The thing that leaps off the tape is his range, closing speed and wrap-up tackling ability. On one play (5:40) he is the single high safety and breaks up a deep ball to the right sideline with a jarring hit. His ability to read the play, make up ground and force an incompletion (with a bit of physicality thrown in) is Earl Thomas-esque.

He did a great job in coverage on one throw over the middle (1:49). The play was flagged but it looked like a textbook piece of coverage. He was working against the slot option (looked like a big WR but could’ve been a TE) and was flagged for PI — but it looked like a bad call.

As noted his tackling form was solid throughout — he generally wrapped up and completed every tackle he was required to make. One of his assets is the ability to sift through traffic and deliver a big hit. Look at the way he moves through a crowd to hammer the running back at 4:19. He’s lined up at safety and sprints 15-yards to hit the ball carrier for no gain. This is a fantastic play — thoroughly showing off his read/react qualities, his range and speed plus his ability to form-tackle.

On this evidence he has the versatility to play free or strong safety, line up vs TE’s in the slot, possibly play some outside corner and provide an option at deathbacker or SAM.

He has four interceptions this season, 94 tackles and two TFL’s.

This is a really impressive safety class overall — but Melifonwu is without doubt a name to monitor. Byron Jones’ workout for the ages only helped him become the #27 overall pick — so even if Melifonwu has a similar combine performance, he won’t necessarily leap into the top-20.

The 2017 draft class is really starting to look very interesting. Players like Takk McKinley, Garett Bolles and Obi Melifonwu are providing genuine freaky athleticism to a big-name group of prospects. Exciting times.

Three players in focus: Anderson, Chesson, Chubb

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

It’s still too early to get a proper handle on what Seattle’s future needs are. An upturn in the running game or accomplishing the desire to become the bullies again would change things. The Seahawks are a good team but they’re not bullies.

It feels like we should be looking at Ifedi and Reed types again. Attitude, grown men, big men. Nasty edge.

It’s why I’m focussing a lot on Utah tackle Garett Bolles (a guy who looks like he was made to play for this team). He would provide even more physicality, size, grit and edge in the trenches. This looks like a strong draft for defensive linemen and linebackers so a DE/DT or a LEO/LB type could also be on the radar in the first few rounds. Extra running back competition (bell-cow even?) seems likely. They’re also good enough and deep enough overall to focus on players who just fit what they look for regardless of positional need.

I wanted to write about three players today. One I’ve focussed on before, one is a new name and one we’ve only really discussed in the comments section.

Ryan Anderson (DE, Alabama)
I’m not sure whether Anderson is long enough or twitchy enough for the Seahawks, although he was a four-star recruit. Either way, the guy has just consistently made plays for ‘Bama this year. Every single week he turns up. His stat-line is incredible — 12.5 TFL’s in just nine games, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, seven more QB hurries and countless other splash plays.

As a pass-rusher he fires off the LOS with a great burst (his split could be good), he understands leverage and hand-use. He’s not an explosive athlete but he converts speed-to-power well and he’ll dip his inside shoulder before winning to the outside. He attacks the edge and he’ll stunt inside. His effort is fantastic, he plays with his hair on fire.

He reportedly has 31-inch arms and you can see he has issues disengaging at times when a blocker really locks on. He also appears to have average range and there’ll be some concern if he’s asked to play more as an OLB/DE hybrid that he could be exposed in coverage. As a pass-rusher he’s just so fun to watch though — and he’s a valuable locker room presence (good for quotes, bit of a joker, leader, grown man). Only last week he discussed changing his number to #4 to honour injured safety Eddie Jackson. He’s well matched to the AFC North. His value for Seattle will depend on his combine performance but his production, edge, nasty play and grit are unquestionably ‘Seahawky’. You could imagine his personality in Seattle’s locker room. It’s just a question of his fit as an athlete.

Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
One of my favourite players coming into the season, Chesson has been relatively quiet so far. He has 416 receiving yards and just two touchdowns. That’s actually similar to last year — before he exploded into life in November. Last weeks 112-yard, one-score performance vs Maryland suggests it could happen again.

The great thing about Chesson is his value in multiple facets of the game. He’s a terrific gunner with great speed to be a major player on special teams. He’s scored a touchdown as a returner too (vs Northwestern, 2015). He’s possibly the best blocking receiver in college football and a real asset to the running game. He leaves everything on the field as a blocker — just throws himself into it and he’s big and strong enough to sustain blocks. He also has terrific speed and quickness. If he works on the unnecessary extra steps he takes occasionally coming out of his breaks he could be an explosive receiver. He’ll chew up a cushion easily and he’ll be able to fight against man coverage.

Chesson is the perfect compliment of athlete and competitor. He’s a well spoken, personable individual who doesn’t complain about his role on the team and does the dirty work every week without much of the reward. He has tremendous football character and a clear love for the game. Stats or no stats — the guy screams Seahawks. Receiver isn’t a major need but if they want a longer target who can contribute in so many different ways — Chesson could be a second day option.

Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
I’ve watched a fair bit of NC State this year and Chubb has stood out on each occasion. He really impressed during the farcical Notre Dame game (played in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew). The conditions were about as bad as you’ll see at a football game and that clearly impacted the two offenses. A five-yard run was a minor miracle. Chubb still played well and collected three sacks through sheer effort and physicality. He succeeded against Mike McGlinchey too.

Overall he has 13.5 TFL’s in nine games, six sacks and two forced fumbles. He’s added weight over time, going from about 225lbs as a three-star recruit to a listed 275lbs now. I think his playing weight is probably nearer to 265lbs and he’s an EDGE rather than an inside-out DE/DT type.

He’s the cousin of Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia). At the Nike SPARQ Combine in 2013 Nick had an elite performance. I’m not suggesting Bradley is capable of anything similar — but it will be interesting to see how he works out if he declares in the off-season (he’s a junior). Bradley’s brother is a linebacker on the Lions practise squad (Brandon was an UDFA this year). He ran a 4.68 at his pro-day at 235lbs with a 1.60 split. If Bradley gets a split in the 1.5’s or at 1.60 he becomes very interesting.

He does show a nice get-off, he’s quick to accelerate off the snap and he contains the edge well in the running game. Chubb works well to finish when he gets into the backfield — he’s tough to shake off and he handles space well (he did a good job on a TFL vs Dalvin Cook last weekend, Cook couldn’t dodge him even with so much space available to make a move or bounce out wide). He’s the impact player on NC State’s defense with a nice blend of attitude, edge, power and quicks. Much will depend on his workout (forty, split, three-cone, explosive tests) but if he’s a good enough athlete he could be one to monitor. It’s worth noting that Rivals listed Alabama among interested parties during recruitment. With so many twitchy EDGE rushers going early (Garrett, Williams, Smoot etc) Chubb could be a second rounder with value.

Pre-Monday Night Football Garett Bolles post

Monday, November 7th, 2016

I spent a bit of time today ahead of MNF watching more Utah tape specifically to see left tackle Garett Bolles.

The Utah @ UCLA game is on Youtube (as is nearly every CFB game these days and some are even condensed into 30 minutes) and you can watch it above. I also found the Arizona game.

I didn’t realise initially how good he is getting to the second level — but Bolles vs UCLA repeatedly dominated here, stayed square on the linebacker or safety, had excellent hand placement on the inside shoulder and buried his guy. It led to two huge touchdown runs for Joe Williams and several other nice gains.

On one inside reach play he engaged with the DL with a ferocious initial punch, gained immediate leverage through his hand placement (again on the inside shoulder) and just turned the defender with a flick of the hips. He was in complete control of the block and just planted his legs in the turf and it was over. Along with a terrific block by the left guard it created a huge running touchdown. Power, technique, athleticism, control, balance — it was all on show. It’s so rare to see a tackle do all of this well. Usually you’ll see a guy win with power but struggle to flip his hips and turn the defender. Bolles does this — and looks completely natural in the process.

He’s a special, special talent. The type that college football is crying out for — and the NFL is in desperate need of. He just has the perfect compliment of athleticism and control in pass protection, the agility to pull and connect with blocks on the move, the nastiness and edge to finish, the ability to handle counter moves and stay on a block, the willingness to not only get to the second level but destroy opponents when he gets there.

He’ll press a guy and stun with an initial jolt of power and he has the natural ability to set and control the block to finish. When a DE tries to work-in a spin move after losing initial leverage or position, he just stays on the block and finishes. He always finishes.

He plays with such an edge, he plays to the whistle and sometimes beyond. He fits the style of a J.R. Sweezy, Justin Britt, Germain Ifedi or Breno Giacomini in terms of attitude. He’s a Tom Cable offensive lineman. He has to be.

Bolles plays with fantastic leg drive in the run game but he also has a smooth kick step (could still use a little refinement), he’s plenty agile and looks like a plus athlete who should impress at his combine.

I want to highlight two plays where he excels at the second level. I’m using highlight footage because it’s easier to locate vs the three hour tape above:

Play 1 (1:58 in the video)
Bolles pulls from the left tackle position (he’s #72) and just executes this block perfectly. He hits the hole and locates the safety at the second level, before dumping him on his ass to spring Joe Williams for the big touchdown run. Perfection. So many college tackles are willing to get to the second level but don’t execute. They’ll half block the guy or try to just get in the way. Bolles destroys his man here, buries him into the turf.

Play 2 (2:13 in the video)
Bolles pulls into the centre and connects with a linebacker two yards beyond the LOS. Joe Williams follows him and reaches the second level. Bolles drives the linebacker 13 yards downfield before sending him to the turf. Williams scores another long touchdown run.

Williams the running back was playing in his second game after reversing his decision to retire. He had 332 rushing yards in this game. People have asked in the comments section about him — and he’s quick, sharp and has nice suddenness. But he gets the insane yardage here because of his offensive line. Bolles in particular is integral.

He had a similar impact pulling from left tackle against Arizona (during Williams’ short retirement). He had three false starts but he dominated in the run game. Armand Shyne had a big touchdown running to the left with Bolles turning the end inside (similar technique as noted above vs UCLA) and the guard pulled to take out the linebacker springing the big hole.

There is absolutely no doubt that in this era of struggling college O-lines and NFL teams desperately seeking help in the trenches that Bolles is a first round talent. Everything about him screams ‘Seahawks’. They’ll be lucky if they’re in a position to draft him one day. If you missed it last week check out our piece touching on the way he battled adversity (grit = Seahawks).

If he turns pro and heads to the combine it’ll be interesting to see if he passes our TEF (Trench Explosion Formula) test. His play for Utah suggests he will conquer it easily and is destined for the top-32.

Will he turn pro? He can stay at Utah for another year if he wishes but he’s 25 next summer. The Seahawks drafted Bruce Irvin in round one when he was a similar age. Tony Pauline recently suggested Bolles will consider turning pro if he gets a first round grade.

Garett Bolles could be a first rounder, future Seahawk

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Utah Garett Bolles could be destined for round one

It’s well advertised that this is a bad year for offensive tackles. At a time when NFL teams (not just the Seahawks) are desperate for quality linemen, supply has never been weaker.

Alabama’s Cam Robinson frequently is placed in round one but his technique in pass pro is sloppy, he’s not the greatest athlete and he has character flags that need to be investigated. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey insists he won’t turn pro at the end of the season. Temple’s Dion Dawkins is a solid all-rounder but arguably lacks the freaky athleticism to warrant a first round mark.

Yet the idea of no first round offensive tackles is so foreign, it’s worth continuing to look for an emerging star.

It could be this guy.

Utah’s Garett Bolles looks the part physically and on tape. He has an interesting backstory and he plays with a nasty edge. He could be destined for the first round and could be a player the Seahawks show interest in.

Seattle will go into the off-season needing further improvements to the O-line. Bradley Sowell is unlikely to be a long term solution. George Fant has the high ceiling to possibly emerge as a starter but Garry Gilliam hasn’t taken a step forward and Rees Odhiambo isn’t pushing anyone as a rookie.

At the very least a new tackle would be challenging to start on the right side, if not the left.

GM John Schneider talked openly about ‘being the bully’ again this year. Selecting an enormous, edgy offensive lineman (Germain Ifedi) and a nasty, brutish defensive tackle (Jarran Reed) were a signal of intent. Even so, after seven games they are not the bully. It’s not really close so far.

Unless that changes, this is likely to be the focus again for 2017.

As I’ve been going through draft eligible prospects I’ve tried to find players that possess a mean streak. The Seahawks are always going to look for unique traits and twitchy athleticism — but I sense they also want ‘edge’ more than ever. Junkyard dogs. We saw that with Ifedi and Reed.

Garett Bolles matches this profile perfectly.

So who is he?

Bolles has a backstory similar to Bruce Irvin’s. According to this piece in the Salt Lake Tribune he had a troubled upbringing, got involved in drugs and was arrested for vandalism.

His dad kicked him out and he ended up living with another family. They laid out some strict ground rules and he took a job in garage repair. He turned his life around (now married and expecting his first child) and then turned his life to football.

Like Irvin, Bolles joined a JUCO college. He played for Snow College and received four and five star ratings for his performances.

According to Rivals he received interest from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Oregon and USC. He originally committed to BYU before switching to Utah.

He’s starting at left tackle in year one in the PAC-12.

Bolles might not declare for the 2017 draft but he turns 25 in May. If he wants to max out his draft stock he might need to consider going pro immediately. Tony Pauline suggested over the weekend he will consider the NFL if he has a chance at cracking the first round.

So what about the fit in Seattle?

The Seahawks don’t appear to be overly concerned about age having drafted Irvin in his mid-20’s. They love players that have battled adversity and ‘lived’ — showing grit to accomplish success. As we’ve discussed, they’re likely to be looking for nasty, mean, physical types with great size (6-5, 300lbs) and athleticism.

Bolles ticks every box. The grit, the backstory, the physical profile, the mean streak.

Here’s the Utah vs USC game. Bolles is wearing #72.

Here’s what I see from him:

— Superb balance and ability to set in pass protection, lock on and finish

— Nasty edge as a blocker, will dump players onto the deck and play through the whistle

— Fantastic leg drive in the run game, capable of locking on and blowing defenders off the LOS to create running lanes

— Smooth kick step that could still use a little refinement but he’s plenty agile and looks like a plus athlete

— Defenders unable to shake him once contact initiated

— Has shown the ability to get to the second level, locate and connect with a linebacker

His age and physical maturity could be playing a part here. A 24-year-old will often dominate a 19-year-old so that has to be taken into account. Yet you see the full package here — strength, length, minimal body fat despite his size, aggressiveness, wants to finish blocks and play to the whistle, productivity in the run/pass game, a good kick step and mobility/balance.

He could genuinely work himself into the top-20 picks given the dearth of talent at LT. If the age factor and his previous run-ins with the law work against him — he could be the kind of physical tone-setter the Seahawks are looking for and a valuable option at left or right tackle.

When I do my next mock draft, Bolles will likely be paired with the Seahawks (although he could easily warrant a place in the top-20).

Quick draft notes for Sunday

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Just a few notes from the three games I watched on Saturday. Firstly though — if you’re in the UK I’ll be on national radio again tonight covering all of the early games and then commentary on San Diego @ Atlanta, check it out if you get a chance. Here’s the link to the show and you should be able to listen live online from 7:30pm UK time.

— Leonard Fournette showed this week why he needs to be legitimately considered as the #1 overall pick. Yes the RB position has weakened in value over the years. Yet any team that needs an identity — an offensive weapon that will DEMAND attention week after week — they have to consider Fournette. He benefitted from some excellent blocking vs Ole Miss but he ran away from the defense on three occasions for huge touchdowns. He had 284 yards on just 16 carries (!!!). I can’t recall a player with Fournette’s combination of burst, suddenness, power and size (235lbs). I’ve never wanted the Seahawks to trade multiple first round picks but you could probably twist my arm on the suggestion for Fournette. He is the Julio Jones of the running back position.

— It wasn’t a good day for Ole Miss but Marquis Haynes had a sack/fumble and looks like a legit candidate to play LB/EDGE. He is a very intriguing player and if the Seahawks want to add someone to compete for the Mike Morgan/KPL/Marsh position, Haynes would be a really solid bet. Plus he should be available in the middle rounds. He’s a playmaker.

— The Ole Miss offense had a horrible day. It’s shocking that anyone has ever mocked Chad Kelly in the first round. His second pick vs LSU looked like his first read was the DB. I guess he was wide open. He is a mistake-prone turnover machine.

— Evan Engram had his first quiet game of the season against a good opponent. LSU keyed in on him — on some occasions using three guys to cover him. He had a bad drop in the red zone but why Chad Kelly threw him the ball with three defenders around him only he knows. Even if he makes the catch he probably doesn’t get in. Statistically he only had 15 yards but the respect he commanded by LSU all night is indicative of his talent.

— Auburn’s Carl Lawson looked really good against Arkansas. He was blatantly held on numerous occasions (wasn’t called) had half a sack (looked like a full one) and an interception wiped off for an offside flag. He doesn’t have the sudden get-off you see from Myles Garrett, Tim Williams and Dawuane Smoot but his ability to avoid blocks and work into the backfield is impressive. He has 6.5 sacks this season and is a strong candidate to go in round one.

— The Alabama defense was incredible against Texas A&M. Where to start? Jonathan Allen had arguably his best game of the season with a flying ‘Superman’ sack, a fumble recovery for his second TD of the year and numerous pressures. He was a grown man out there competing against an overmatched A&M O-line. Tim Williams exploded for two huge sacks with fantastic athleticism and burst, Ryan Anderson is consistently very good without being flashy and Marlon Humphrey had a fantastic interception. Reuben Foster was also flying around to the tune of 12 tackles.

— It’s very possible that Allen, Williams, Foster and Humphrey all go in the top 10/12 picks. Seriously.

— One other quick note — we’ve talked about Joe Mixon before. Against Texas Tech’s weak defense he had 263 rushing yards, 114 receiving yards and FIVE total touchdowns.