Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Breaking down the draft class: Amara Darboh & Shaquill Griffin

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

A Seattle-type of receiver

It’s very easy to see why the Seahawks liked Amara Darboh.

“He was one of those guys that we were laying in the weeds on him a little bit… They give you so much information on him and he checks so many boxes that he was one of those guys that you didn’t really have to spend a ton of extra time on.”

Those were the words of John Schneider shortly after the third round concluded.

When you run through ways to define a Seahawks receiver, Darboh ticks all the boxes:

— Gritty backstory
— Battled adversity
— Good route runner
— Willing blocker
— Good awareness when working back to the QB
— Ample size

He’s also clearly the best overall athlete they’ve drafted at receiver. His SPARQ score was a 127. PauL Richardson was previously the best athlete they’d drafted with a 118. All of Seattle’s drafted receivers apart from Kenny Lawler have been in the 111-118 range for SPARQ. That translates to the 50-60th percentile range in terms of NFL athleticism.

Darboh is in the 84th percentile.

According to SPARQ he’s the most athletic receiver they’ve had since Ricardo Lockette. Not the quickest or the most sudden — but the most athletic overall. Will he be tasked to fill Lockette’s shoes? Someone who can make the occasional big play on offense but more importantly provide an immediate intensity on special teams?

There are similarities between the two. Lockette is 6-2 and 211lbs compared to Darboh’s 6-2 and 214lbs. Lockette’s forty time (4.41) is marginally quicker than Darboh’s (4.45). There’s a three inch difference between their broad and vertical jumps.

The Seahawks spread their targets around but everyone knows Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are going to get the lions share. Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett are going to eat up most of the rest (health permitting). Darboh’s primary focus in 2017 could be special teams and trying to recreate everything Lockette brought to the roster despite his minimal role on offense.

So what do you see on the field?

On occasions he was let down by an inaccurate quarterback at Michigan. The Ohio State game was a classic example of this. It felt like he was constantly having to adjust to catch the football. Throws behind, throws too high or low. Initially he showed great concentration to haul in a couple of circus catches on poorly thrown balls but eventually his luck ran out.

On one route he perfectly dissected the Ohio State secondary to find a soft spot in the zone. He was wide open — but the throw was high and wide to his left. He tried to adjust and got both hands on the ball but it fell incomplete. On the next drive Wilton Speight tossed an ugly interception with a minute to go in the third quarterback. Ohio State rapidly turned the pick into seven points on offense and a straight forward 17-7 lead suddenly turned to 17-14 in a flash.

How would they respond? A quick three-and-out after the Speight threw an easy slant on third down behind Darboh for an incompletion.

The good news is Darboh was clearly the go-to receiver for most of the game. He had a handful of vital third down conversions and the play of the game from a Michigan perspective.

Ohio State had a seven point lead in overtime and it was fourth down for Michigan. Fail to score a touchdown here and it’s game over. Darboh was being covered by this years #11 overall pick Marshon Lattimore. He absolute destroys him with a clever side-step to the outside before firing inside on a slant. He creates immediate separation and gets open for the touchdown. It’s not a great throw (low and awkward) but he brings it in with two hands.

If he can make it look that easy against Lattimore — Darboh has a shot in the NFL. Any scout who was banging the table for Darboh over the last few months probably went to that tape over and over again.

What else did he show in the three Michigan games I watched for this piece?

Concentration is the thing that stands out — catching the awkward throws and the savviness he shows in running routes. He isn’t particularly sudden and he won’t create separation sprinting downfield on a go-route. He wins with instinct and technique and his route transition is very good.

Working back to the quarterback is so important in Seattle’s offense, especially on the scramble drills. Darboh gets nice depth on his routes and reads the situation before reacting to provide his QB with a target when the play breaks down. This is a big plus for the Seahawks.

He had a fantastic route working the seem vs Illinois. On this occasion the throw by Speight was perfect, dissecting three defensive backs. Darboh lined up in the slot, sprinted to the gap in the zone coverage and made a difficult catch in traffic while anticipating a big shot.

He sells the deep route well before breaking it off to work inside. Nice depth on his routes allows him to assess the best way to get open.

For Seattle’s offense it was also good to see him motion across the line (ala Doug Baldwin) on the option pass (although he was levelled by a defender on one of these vs Northwestern).

He also had some spectacular grabs at the sideline, showing off excellent body control to torque and make the completion while getting both feet in bounds.

There are some weaker areas too. There was very little evidence of any YAC potential. He’s not a sudden athlete and he’ll need to battle and be physical to get open at the next level as a consequence. His best routes were down the seem and the inside slant — he’ll need to find a way to be more effective down the field and perhaps try and become a bit quicker to nail the intermediate routes.

What does the future hold for him? The Seahawks can save $5m by cutting Jermaine Kearse in 2018 and they might feel that’s a necessary move to save money. If that happens — he has a year to show he can take on Kearse’s semi under-appreciated role. He’s a valuable blocker in the run game and while 2016 was a down season for Kearse — he’s had some of the biggest catches in franchise history.

It’s easy to look at Darboh’s size and physical profile and imagine this is a case of planning ahead. For now, he needs to show he can be something akin to Ricardo Lockette and help Seattle’s special teams take a step forward in 2017.

Shaquill Griffin — lot’s of potential but lot’s to learn

Seattle’s turnover numbers are shrinking. In 2016 they had 19 takeaways, one less than bottom dweller San Francisco and good for 22nd in the NFL overall. Let’s compare that to previous years:

2012 — 31 takeaways (#5)
2013 — 39 takeaways (#1)
2014 — 24 takeaways (#20)
2015 — 23 takeaways (#16)
2016 — 19 takeaways (#22)

It’s not a surprise that the numbers have fallen. The peak occurred when Seattle was on the rise and teams didn’t really have an answer for their defense. By week two of the 2014 season, Philip Rivers drew up the blueprint to slow down and limit the unit with a highly conservative, short passing, zone-busting antidote.

We may never see 39 takeaways again in a season with this group because teams just don’t test them in the same way anymore. And in fairness, they don’t need 35-40 turnovers. They do need more than 19, however, if they want to be better in 2017.

This draft class seems to be something of an attempt to rectify the situation.

For starters, the best way to create more opportunities for the secondary is to improve the four-man rush. Malik McDowell should provide some help in that regard and the upgraded D-line rotation should keep Seattle’s pass rush fresh and relatively consistent.

The second plan at a revival seems to be better depth in the secondary and adding playmakers.

Here’s the top-four defensive backs in college football last season in terms of passes defended:

#1 Tedric Thompson — 23
#2 Ahkello Witherspoon — 22
#3 Rashard Fant — 20
#4 Shaq Griffin — 19

Seattle drafted #1 and #4 on the list.

Thompson and Griffin shared 11 interceptions in 2016 and 31 PBU’s.

It’s probably not a coincidence they’re now both in Seattle.

There’s not a ton of Griffin tape available on Youtube. You can see him against Arkansas State and Michigan and quite frankly, watching either game is a bit of a waste of time. The UCF defensive scheme, if you can call it that, is one of the worst you’ll ever see. I can’t work out what they were trying to do. It’s maddening.

Hugh Millen did a good job summing up the problem on 950 KJR:

“I watched this kid. Good body, good frame, runs well. I think he’s been coached poorly.

He gives up the inside too much. The way he plays press, he has his hands-up at the line of scrimmage. Well, the Seahawks teach ‘hands-down’. He’s head-up or outside, why is he doing that? Seahawks teach ‘inside-eye’. There are a lot of things they’re going to do with him from a techniques standpoint.

He doesn’t process route concepts in front of him, he gets beat where he is stuttering his feet, and you ask ‘why is he doing that?’ He doesn’t understand how the slot receiver is impacting him even though he is covering the outside receiver. So there are a lot of signs to me that he doesn’t have the polish mentally about playing corner.

I think what Seattle feels like is ‘we’ll teach him the Seahawks way’. There are a lot of things he’ll do [differently] in their channeled outside coverage, like, he’s going to turn his ass to the QB, and he’s going to be playing inside-out, trying to stay on top, and he’ll never have to worry about deciphering those concepts.

So there are a lot of reasons for them to feel that this guy can play their brand of cornerback.”

Here’s what I saw watching the two UCF games. Time and time again Griffin would line up way-off in coverage, offering this enormous cushion to the receiver. He’d consistently give up a free release then show the receiver inside inviting him to attack this huge zone of open space. It made the safety isolated and asked so much of the cornerback to recover and play the ball.

The best way to describe it is it’s the polar opposite of the way Colorado’s much more effective defense plays. Colorado challenges the cornerback to win at the red-line narrowing the strike zone for the receiver and putting the advantage on the playmaking free safety (Tedric Thompson) to play the ball.

UCF’s safety had no chance. They were caught in no-man’s land. And it’s virtually impossible to judge Griffin based on this tape because of the way he’s asked to play.

Furthermore — you see blown coverages, DB’s running into each other, bad angles from the safety. The secondary is a mess.

In the Arkansas State game Griffin gives up one of the worst touchdowns you’ll ever see. He offers a free release on an inside slant. The receiver just runs into the space between the safety and cornerback, it’s an easy pitch-and-catch and the WR just saunters in for the score. They never even give themselves a chance.

There are a couple of occasions where he really flashes as an athlete. On one free-release over the middle he makes up so much ground to undercut the route and the play the ball. On a deep ball he ‘ran the route’ as you often see with Richard Sherman and made a nice PBU. He can hit and his frame is quite stout for a taller, longer cornerback.

It’ll be really interesting to read the first few reports from training camp on how’s he picking up the technique because this will probably be a complete ‘start from scratch’ situation. It’s hard to be optimistic about his chances of starting as a rookie but he is a 4.38 runner at 6-0 and 194lbs with an 11-0 broad and a 38.5 inch vertical. He’s a special athlete. Hopefully that will give him a leg-up in the pro’s.

Looking at their previous draft picks at cornerback — Griffin is by far the most athletic they’ve added. It’s no coincidence he’s also their earliest pick at cornerback too. The potential is enormous in terms of physical profile. This coaching staff has worked its magic on DB’s in the past. It might take a little time for Griffin to be in a position to start but when he gets there, he has the upside to be a very interesting player.

Breaking down the draft class: Delano Hill & Tedric Thompson

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Delano Hill loves to tackle

If you want to know what Delano Hill is all about, watch the video above. It’s his performance against Ohio State at the end of last season.

One thing stands out — he’s a tackling machine.

Hill wore a number of hats at Michigan, lining up as a single high safety and in a two-deep zone, handling the LOS and covering the slot.

Tackling and versatility are his calling cards.

That’s not such a bad thing because in 2017 he’s going to provide competition and security. He’s not going to unseat Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas and the Seahawks seem to really like Bradley McDougald as a ‘big nickel’.

Hill is one for the future. Chancellor didn’t start as a rookie either. They needed options and depth.

Let’s start with what he does well.

He’s an adept tackler. In the Michigan games I revisited for this piece I didn’t notice a single missed tackle. PFF ranked him tenth for tackling efficiency in 2016. It’s a surprise he’s only tenth.

Frequently he was the last line of defense as a deep safety needing to make a crucial stop. There were plenty of times, strangely considering Michigan’s talent on defense, where a QB, RB or WR managed to break into the open field for a big gain. On every occasion Hill eventually made the tackle.

Whether it’s close-range or in space, Hill squares up nicely and hits the mark consistently.

There weren’t any crunching hits of note but that’s probably in part due to his measured tackling form. He’s not a heat-seeking missile but he’s technically very assured. Don’t mistake that for a lack of physicality. He isn’t Kam but who is?

His speed shows on the rare occasions that he blitzes. Against Michigan State he levelled the quarterback on a blitz from deep safety, forcing an incompletion. When he can put his head down and go from 0-60 that’s when you see the 4.47 speed he had at the combine.

It also shows when he’s covering the flat. Several Michigan opponents tried to clear out the outside zone with an inside route isolating the safety against a quicker receiver. On each occasion, without fail, Hill read the play quickly, sprinted to the ball carrier and delivered a big tackle.

There are instances too where he showed well covering the slot. He surprisingly handled Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel on the two occasions they went 1v1. The first play was a hitch route from Samuel — Hill was touch-tight and even though the pass was errant, had it been on target Hill was in position to make a play. Here’s the coverage on the second play. It’s flagged but it’s an example of how well he stayed with Samuel (who ran a 4.31 at the combine):

He doesn’t make a lot of plays lined up at the LOS but there was one really good play against the read-option vs Michigan State. He had the awareness and speed to take away the option to the running back, forcing the QB to hesitate. He then levelled the QB for a TFL.

He also did a good job covering tight ends from the slot, was never boxed out and had no issue mirroring crossing routes against a bigger target.

Hill’s size is also a big positive. He’s 6-1 and 216lbs with 32 1/8 inch arms. His wingspan is even more impressive at 77 1/2 inches.

How good is that? See how some of the longer cornerbacks in the 2017 class compare:

Kevin King — 77 7/8
Gareon Conley — 76
Quincy Wilson — 75 7/8

Richard Sherman’s wingspan is half an inch longer than Hill’s.

Essentially, he has ideal Seahawks length.

Now onto some of his limitations.

We’ll come on to Tedric Thompson in a moment and really the two players are polar opposites. Hill has 4.47 speed but looks stiff when he lines up at free safety and needs to cover a large area of the field. Thompson ran a 4.60 but is rangy and quick.

Teams didn’t test Michigan deep all that often and it’s possible he was told to hold position and play quite a restrained role (like Jabrill Peppers at LB). Still, you’d like to at least see a handful of plays where he’s matching-up in space and making a break on the ball. On the few occasions when he was asked to handle the deep pass, he was a little bit stiff.

The stats lend weight to this argument:

Tedric Thompson PBU’s in 2016: 16
Delano Hill PBU’s in 2016: 3

He’s also not a physical tone setter when he lines up in the box and there were instances where he got blocked out of plays relatively comfortably by TE’s. He occasionally takes poor angles to the ball carrier when playing deep. He seems to be better working through traffic from the slot and he did a decent job containing the outside when he lined up at nickel.

Essentially he does most things very well but he’s more solid than spectacular. He’s a tackling machine who doesn’t miss — but he might not provide many big plays or turnovers.

Even so, there’s plenty for the Seahawks to work with here. Chancellor wasn’t the finished product as a fifth round pick in 2010 and Hill likely wasn’t drafted to start straight away. He has the straight-line speed and length they like, the character and attitude and he’s versatile. His highlight reel won’t be as interesting as Justin Evans or Budda Baker — but he might be the more rounded football player.

Tedric Thompson is faster than he tests

There’s one area where Thompson and Hill are very similar — and that’s their ability to cover the flat. They were uncannily similar when opponents tried to clear out the outside zone.

Apart from that, they are quite different players.

Sometimes a player plays faster than he tests. Thompson never looks like a 4.4 runner (he ran a 4.60 at the combine) but somehow, he still manages to fly around the field and make plays. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. He isn’t a twitched up dynamic athlete. Yet there he is, time and time again, playing the ball.

In fairness part of it is down to Colorado’s well coached secondary. The cornerbacks consistently win at the red line, narrowing the strike zone for quarterbacks and opening up major opportunities for the safety’s. If the receiver is getting caught up against the sideline, it just increases the space for Thompson to read, react and play the ball. Two of his picks from last year were 50% on his range and ability and 50% on the job of the cornerback.

Seattle also preaches red-line defense so hopefully he’ll get the same kind of advantage if he ever starts for the Seahawks.

Teams were reluctant to throw the ball downfield against Colorado. Stanford only attempted a handful of downfield passes with disastrous consequences:

1st deep shot — incomplete, tight coverage with safety help

2nd deep shot — Thompson interception by the left sideline, ball slightly overthrown and Thompson lays out to make a spectacular diving catch.

3rd deep shot — Thompson’s second interception. He’s playing centerfield in a three-deep zone, he makes himself small in coverage to deceive the quarterback and sits on a seem pass. Textbook safety play.

One of the big advantages Seattle has is the unwillingness of most opponents to challenge Earl Thomas. Colorado benefitted in a similar fashion with Thompson. Those who tried it on were generally punished.

Overall his performance against Stanford was very good. On one play he lined up at the LOS and took on the tight end, fighting off the block and drawing a holding call before dumping Christian McCaffrey on a stretch-run for a TFL.

He’s not the most explosive player but he’s tough. His tackling technique isn’t Delano Hill-good but I didn’t see him miss a tackle in the four games I watched for this piece. He’s not a big hitter but he seems to get the job done.

Against Utah he flashed exceptional red-zone cover skills working against the tight end. Utah schemed a clever route for the TE to block down and then sit behind the D-line uncovered. Thompson saw the play developing and broke on the ball, tipping it into the air and almost forcing a turnover on third down. The TE just stood in stunned contemplation, wondering how he hadn’t scored.

In the fourth quarter of the same game he covered the tight on an inside slant, again making a great break on the ball after gaining position early in the route.

And, unsurprisingly, he had his customary rangy interception with 10 minutes left in the game — running from centerfield to the right sideline to pick off a deep shot (think Earl Thomas vs Atlanta, 2012). He also picked off a hail mary against the Utes.

Thompson might not be the same type of athlete as Earl Thomas — but you’re going to think twice about taking him on.

Production wise, there wasn’t a better defensive back in college football in 2016. He led the nation in defended passes with 23, averaging 1.64 a game. That average is significantly better than his peers — Tre’Davious White for example at LSU only managed 1.33 defended passes a game.

Thompson’s seven interceptions trailed only Rasul Douglas and Tavarus McFadden (eight) and he ranked fourth in the nation for pass break-ups (16).

The Seahawks struggled to make big plays and force turnovers in the secondary in 2016. It’s probably not a coincidence they drafted not only Thompson but also Shaquill Griffin (four picks, 15 PBU’s, 19 passes defended — #4 in the NCAA).

Thompson’s best fit is at free safety and while he might be simply a reserve option to Earl Thomas — the Seahawks can at least feel better about the depth they have behind their all-pro. Nobody will ever fully be able to replace Earl if he gets injured again — Thompson at least gives them a better opportunity to avoid a complete collapse in a worst case scenario.

Breaking down the draft class: Malik McDowell & Nazair Jones

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

A lot of the reaction to the Seahawks draft class has been based around one question:

This was a great draft for cornerbacks. Why did they wait until pick #90 to take one?

The answer lies in the first sentence. It was a really deep, solid group of cornerbacks. This was a year where you could find one in round three. It wasn’t a draft littered with interior defensive linemen. If you wanted one, you had to get in there early.

Let’s use the NFL.com gradings (compiled by Lance Zierlein) as an example:

Interior D-line grades for players available in the #26-35 range:

Malik McDowell — 6.2
Chris Wormley — 5.8
Demarcus Walker — 5.6

Interior D-line grades from pick #90:

Montravius Adams — 5.6
Nazair Jones — 5.5
Jaleel Johnson — 5.6

Cornerback grades for players available in the #26-35 range

Kevin King — 5.8
Quincy Wilson — 5.7
Ahkello Witherspoon — 5.7
Fabian Moreau — 5.7

Cornerback grades from pick #90:

Shaquill Griffin — 5.6
Cordrea Tankersley — 5.7
Cam Sutton — 5.6

If they’d drafted Kevin King (5.8) and Montravius Adams (5.6) the total grade value is 0.4 weaker than Malik McDowell (6.2) and Shaquill Griffin (5.6).

That’s not insignificant.

The aim had to be to come out of this deep class with more than one potential defensive starter. By drafting the D-liner first and using the depth at cornerback to your advantage — the Seahawks addressed two positions in a satisfactory way.

Furthermore, they weren’t the only team to use this approach. The Dallas Cowboys, despite an extreme need in the secondary, took Taco Charlton with their first pick despite admitting they had a second round grade on him. The reason? They knew they could get cornerbacks later. They couldn’t get a pass rusher they liked later.

I mentioned this in our draft review on Saturday — but it feels like we all got caught up in the ‘cornerback depth hype’. When you’re constantly told by the pundits that it’s a great cornerback class, there’s a tendency to let it re-shape your opinion on what the Seahawks should or shouldn’t do.

Following the defeat to Atlanta in the playoffs a lot of people were talking about improving the O-line as a priority and possibly targeting Calais Campbell in free agency. Cornerback was seen as a need because of the Deshawn Shead injury — but we also knew how the Seahawks operated. Wait until the mid or later rounds and draft to develop.

Somewhere between January and April, a lot of people (myself included) determined cornerback (slot or outside) was the main need.

It absolutely was one of the needs — but not any more or less important than interior pass rush of the offensive line.

If you could go back in time and tell yourself the Seahawks would draft a player the coach and GM specifically compared to Calais Campbell and a technically gifted offensive lineman from the SEC — the January version of you would probably be doing cartwheels.

Furthermore, Shaquill Griffin isn’t just a guy they found among the scraps of a good cornerback class. In 2016 he ranked fourth for passes defended in the NCAA:

#1 Tedric Thompson — 23
#2 Ahkello Witherspoon — 22
#3 Rashard Fant — 20
#4 Shaq Griffin — 19

Notice Seattle drafted #1 and #4 in passes defended. Griffin also ranked sixth in the nation for pass break-ups (15) and he had four picks.

So while we can quibble about McDowell’s perceived effort problems in 2016 or the boom-or-bust nature of this pick — let’s also realise there’s a very clear method behind what the Seahawks did on Friday.

Ten days before the draft I wrote a piece about McDowell visiting Seattle, noting I didn’t think he would be picked by the Seahawks because of his personality and nature. A typical Seahawk is Nazair Jones (who we’ll come onto in a minute) — all fire and brimstone. McDowell didn’t really fit the bill.

Ultimately I called that one very wrong. McDowell’s potential and upside, plus Seattle’s relentless search for a dynamic inside/out rusher, was much more important than the personality he expressed to the media.

In fairness we did acknowledge that he could be a target if they traded down:

If they do ultimately draft him, they’ll believe in the size and quickness — they’ll think he’s possibly worth the risk because his talent is extreme. If they did select him you’d give them the benefit of the doubt because of his extreme ceiling. D-liners don’t have to be press conference stars but they do need to be ready to go to war every week. We saw Nkemdiche in Arizona in 2016 with his great physical profile basically be a total non-factor as a rookie. The fear has to be that McDowell could be similar.

That said — there aren’t many players with the ability to anchor and bull rush inside combined with the quickness to play the edge and get to the QB. He could be really good. Can you trust him to be great though? And if he falls to #26 with this physical profile, isn’t that in itself a warning sign?

It might be that they’re willing to trade down, possibly into early round two, and that could be the type of range where they feel comfortable taking a chance on McDowell.

It’s time to put those words into practise and give the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt. You’d never question his potential — it was always about his character fit in Seattle. Now that they’ve actually drafted him, it’s time to focus on what he brings to the team.

For starters, he’s always had a very natural and rare athleticism for his size. Here’s a recruitment video from Rivals before he committed to Michigan State. Immediately you can see why he’s different:

McDowell makes it look so easy. He was already listed at 6-6 and 292lbs when he entered college. He was a legit 5-star recruit, garnering offers from Alabama, Florida State, Florida, Oregon, Notre Dame, USC and UCLA. When you see all of the big names on the list — you know he’s special.

Really that’s what you see in his MSU tape too. When McDowell’s playing at his best, he makes it look ridiculously easy. Teams will throw a double team at him and he has the foot speed and quickness to just side-step both blocks and break into the backfield. On other occasions he’ll drive the double team into the backfield. He bends the arc as an EDGE rusher better than most 260lbs rushers and there’s evidence of him one-arm bull-rushing a guard into the quarterback’s lap.

In one play against Purdue in 2015 he lines up opposite the left guard and has the foot-speed to stunt to the outside, round the left tackle, draw a holding penalty and destroy a pulling tight end who came in to support the tackle. He made the sack. It’s an incredible play for a player with his size.

In a 2015 play against Oregon, McDowell drove the center three yards deep his own backfield on fourth and goal leading to a turnover on downs. The rest of the LOS remained stationery.

When pundits say he can be absolutely dominant at the next level and one of the top players in the NFL — they aren’t exaggerating. That’s his ceiling.

So why did he last to pick #35?

You don’t really need me to point it out by now. He slouched through the back-end of a bad season for MSU in 2016. The sight of him walking around in the backfield as heated rival Michigan scored a touchdown was the straw that broke the camels back. He started the year being touted as a top-10 lock. By December nobody was talking about him.

Still, he had a chance to regain some momentum during the off-season. Yet the reports from the combine were not positive:

“Worst interview we did,” said one team. Added another: “Awful interview. Awful.”

“Does he love football? Is he going to work? I can’t figure out what makes this kid tick. He might be the type who, maybe he falls and it lights a fire under him. I don’t know. But I need that light on more often, and he didn’t like it when we asked him about that. McDowell might never fully show his full skill, but passing on him also means you’re missing out on a potentially rare talent.”

This is maybe where the Seahawks have an advantage in their approach. Some teams will pair his introverted personality with a questionable love for the game. Carroll and co. likely just see another opportunity to develop a unique talent.

‘Learn the learner’ as Carroll said in one of the press conferences during the draft.

After all — there aren’t any reports of any off-field incidents. He’s never been arrested. He’s never been kicked off the practise field, fought with a teammate or failed a drugs test. There are just some sloppy games at the end of a bad season.

There are some technical flaws that are well advertised. His pass rush repertoire is quite basic. He generally plays out of control, going all-out to get into the backfield while often ceding a running lane or failing to handle his assigned gap. His over-exuberance was well highlighted in a rush against Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramcyzk when he put his head down and charged at Ramcyzk, who just nudged him to the ground using his momentum against him. The running back piled on top and took him out of the play. It was too easy.

There are possibly justifiable reasons why McDowell struggled with technique. His stance isn’t particularly good when lining up inside — but then he was asked to play nose tackle for MSU. It’s an ill-fit for a 6-6, 295lbs lineman and likely only came about because he was the only player on the roster capable of absorbing double teams. It’s not unfair to suggest he compensated on technique just to survive — because despite his unique size and talent, he’s not a nose tackle.

Because he’s shown evidence of a productive bull-rush, extreme power and fantastic heavy hands — it’d be nice to see him first and foremost develop a consistent power move. This could help him create more splash plays and play within himself more. You don’t always have to have a clean run to the QB if you can shove the guard or center into the quarterback. You’re also better placed to keep your eyes up and read what the running back is doing.

These are fairly minor things overall and you’d expect a 20-year-old to need some guidance. Coming to work every day with Michael Bennett could be the best thing that ever happens to McDowell. It should also help him come out of his shell a little bit as a character too.

He’s one of the most natural, rare athletes at 6-6 and 295lbs. Considering there aren’t many really good interior rushers in the NFL — you can certainly argue this was a shot worth taking. Especially given Seattle’s desperate need for an interior rusher stretching back many years.

The Seahawks ranked third in sacks last season with 42. The team in first place, Arizona, had 48. They blitz a ton so it’s understandable — but they also had Calais Campbell anchoring the line and controlling the offense. It’ll take time for McDowell to get anywhere near that level — but if he can disrupt the interior, command extra blockers and make life easier for the edge rushers — watch out.

Seattle wants to use a four man rush to make plays in the secondary. When they put McDowell, Bennett, Clark and Avril on the field — they might have the most dangerous four-man rush in football.

Notes on Nazair Jones

For this study I watched two games — Duke and Stanford.

The first thing to notice about Jones is his personality. It seems Red Bryant-esque. It’s hard to know for sure but watching the North Carolina games he looked like the emotional leader. High intensity, big personality. The type of BAMF a lot of us wanted to see drafted this year.

It’s fun to think about Jarran Reed playing next to Naz Jones in base. That’s a couple of dog’s right there. It’s even more fun to think about Malik McDowell and Quinton Jefferson rotating in for passing downs. The future of Seattle’s D-line appears to be in good shape.

Jones’ length really stands out on tape. Like McDowell he has nearly 35 inch arms. He can press a blocker and keep his frame clean. He’s got a really nice initial punch to jolt O-liners off balance. It helps him control his gap and make plays in the run game — plus quite often he disengages to make plays in the backfield. He had 9.5 TFL’s in 2016 and broke up three passes.

He’s tailor made to play inside. He’s strong in the lower body with minimal bad weight. He carries 304lbs very well on a 6-5 frame. He’s not too heavy and that helps when he occasionally has to work down the line and chase down a running back.

We highlighted after the draft that short-area quickness appears to be important for Seattle’s D-liners. Jones ran a 4.63 short shuttle and Malik McDowell a 4.53. Jordan Hill ran a 4.51 in 2013 and Jaye Howard a 4.47 in 2012. Quinton Jefferson ran a superb 4.37.

While Jones is the slowest of the group in this area, he still flashes that sudden change of direction and ability to exploit gaps when he wins with initial contact. There was one play against Duke where he just won with get-off to break into the backfield and before the quarterback had time to think, Jones was hitting him for the sack.

It was assumed he might just be a Tony McDaniel replacement — someone who can be stout and anchor the LOS on first and second down. There’s at least some potential for Jones to be more than that. If nothing else, he’ll likely be more of a threat on those early downs to create some pressure.

He can also compete. In the Bowl game against Stanford (the one where Solomon Thomas dominated) Jones had a really strong performance. On one sack he fights through traffic, ploughing through the center and one of the guards to get to the QB.

His get off can be really good. You see examples where he times the snap count to perfection and just wins because he’s the first man off the ball.

Jones is also patient and importantly for this scheme — his gap control is good. He allows plays to develop before reading the running back and making the stop.

It’s possible I just watched Jones’ best two games of the season. I’ve seen it suggested he needs to be more consistent, that he doesn’t have effective counters and he isn’t much of a pass rusher. I didn’t see much evidence of that and I think playing within a loaded D-line rotation will mean he can be a better pass rusher than people realise.

I feel a little bit guilty for not spending more time on him during the draft season because his play and intensity is a good fit for the personality of this defense. I’ll admit I was put off by his lack of explosive traits (8-5 broad, 24.5 inch vertical). With a stream of brilliant, explosive D-line athletes entering the league — Jones tested very poorly. We missed out on discussing a really fun player due to a red herring on athleticism, so that’s on me.

That’s possibly one of the reasons he was available in the late third round.

Jones has the attitude and skills to be a valuable addition. He appears to have the character to develop into a strong voice in the locker room over time.

When Seattle won the Super Bowl in 2013 they had a loaded D-line rotation. For the first time since 2013, they seem to have the same kind of depth following this draft.

Breaking down the draft class: Ethan Pocic

Monday, May 1st, 2017

John Schneider and Pete Carroll were quick to highlight Ethan Pocic’s versatility and ability to play multiple positions. This is already being construed as a negative by some of the media. ‘Why can’t they just put a guy in a position and keep him there‘. It’s a legit question to ask overall — but arguably not so with Pocic.

The Seahawks are facing a bit of a dilemma over the next 12 months. Justin Britt played very well at center in 2016 and there’s no reason to suspect we’ll see any regression this year.

In free agency the O-line market exploded. It wasn’t a big surprise to see Kevin Zeitler get a five-year, $60m contract. What followed, however, was a shock:

Russell Okung — four years, $53m
Matt Kalil — five years, $55m
Ricky Wagner — five years, $47.5m
Andrew Whitworth — three years, $36m
T.J. Lang — three years, $28.5m
Kelvin Beachum — three years, $24m
Larry Warford — four years, $34m
Ronald Leary — four years, $35m
Mike Remmers — five years, $30m

Such is the desperation for even average O-line play, the NFL emptied their wallets in a mad rush of OTT spending.

What did Kelvin Beachum do in his one year with the Jaguars to justify $8m a year? Has Matt Kalil ever looked like an $11m a year left tackle?

Much of this was provoked by a mediocre O-line draft short on solutions. However, there’s nothing to suggest 2018 will be much better. There isn’t a cluster of top-notch O-liners ready to turn pro. Next years spending could be very similar.

For that reason, it pays for the Seahawks to be prepared to lose Britt.

If he has two solid years as a starting center, it’s not improbable someone will be willing to pay him at least $8-10m a year. The Seahawks are very clinical in how they view the value of their own players. They’ve let others walk for less in the past.

They also face a difficult cap situation. According to Spotrac, they’re projected to have $28.5m in free cap next year. They can save another $11m by cutting Jeremy Lane and Jermaine Kearse — but how much of that free room is going to be used to keep Kam Chancellor and Jimmy Graham?

If you take $8-10m off the board to keep Britt, you probably aren’t re-signing Chancellor and Graham together.

There are other players to consider too. If Luke Joeckel delivers on the potential that made him the #2 overall pick in 2013, wouldn’t you want to re-sign him? What about if Eddie Lacy has a big year? Or Bradley McDougald?

There are multiple players on this roster competing for a payday in 2018.

This doesn’t mean Britt is definitely going to leave. If he has a fantastic 2017 season an $8-10m contract could be justified. He might hit the market and find his value is in the $6m range — and that’s totally affordable.

But it’s not the worst idea in the world to have a contingency plan. By drafting Pocic they essentially have a player who could start at guard or tackle in 2017 and be your center of the future by 2018.

If you re-sign Britt, he stays at tackle or guard.

The benefits are obvious. You aren’t desperately searching for a new center in 2018 and facing the prospect of having to start a rookie. You can start someone with intimate knowledge of Seattle’s scheme.

In this instance — it seems like Pocic’s versatility isn’t just a case of being able to move him up and down the line. It’s a case of being prepared for all eventualities with Britt.

Let’s get into Pocic on the field. I watched three games over the last couple of days — Alabama, Missouri and Auburn.

Here are my notes:

According to PFF, Pocic hasn’t given up a sack or a QB hit since 11/7/2015 (16 consecutive games). He’s a controlled, balanced blocker and his best aspect is his hand use. It’s really top notch. When he locks on to a block, you rarely see a defensive lineman disengage. He locks his hands inside with ideal placement and executes time and time again.

— Because his hand-technique is so adept, he’s quite a ‘subtle but successful’ blocker in the run game. He’ll turn and control the defender and open up running lanes. He has the hip-torque to manoeuvre defensive linemen when engaged and even against bigger, stronger nose tackles he had success opening up lanes right at the heart of the LOS. Many of LSU’s best runs for both Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice came right up the gut.

— LSU pulled the center fairly regularly, something you don’t often see. Pocic shows good mobility and patience, managing to get to the second level relatively comfortably. When he gets there he isn’t Garett Bolles. He’s not burying linebackers and safety’s — but he’ll wait for his block to develop and execute. If the Seahawks want to get him on the move at the next level as a pulling guard, he can do it.

— Against Auburn, LSU actually pulled Pocic and had Fournette run behind him to the perimeter (using Pocic as a lead blocker). It’s to Pocic’s credit that he looked completely comfortable in this role.

— There were two issues that showed up regularly enough to mention. Against bigger nose tackles he can be pushed into the backfield. When he has to plant his feet and drop the anchor he can struggle. He doesn’t have the greatest power base in his lower body and it’s an area where he can improve. His height doesn’t help and he will lose leverage from time to time. Montravius Adams had a couple of big wins vs Pocic for Auburn, so did the Missouri interior D-line.

— It’s not a lost cause situation — on a couple of occasions he handled Missouri’s massive nose tackle Josh Augusta (who signed with the Patriots as an UDFA) with great hand placement and hip torque to turn the defender out of the play (leading to big runs for Derrius Guice). With a bit of extra strength in the lower and upper body he can make improvements here. Better to need to work on core strength than teach hand placement and technique from scratch.

— The second problem came against elite get-off. He can be a step slow off the snap at times and if a defender can guess the snap-count or just burst off the LOS he has a hard time recovering even with a guard lined up either side of him. This could be an issue if he ends up moving out to tackle.

— I was expecting a bad performance against Alabama because for the second year in a row LSU were completely shut down in the run game. Leonard Fournette only really had two unproductive games in his college career, both because Alabama’s D-line mercilessly dominated LSU’s O-line for four quarters. Upon reflection, the production probably had more to do with a lack of respect for LSU’s passing game than anything the blockers did wrong up front. Pocic certainly didn’t have a bad game. There were multiple occasions where he played beyond the whistle, blocking down and showed a nasty streak. LSU’s handful of good runs in the game came running behind Pocic at center. He wasn’t shoved back once against ‘Bama which was a contrast to the Missouri/Auburn games. This was a positive performance against the best D-line rotation in college football.

— If anyone was wondering if the Seahawks will be adjusting their scheme any time soon — think again. LSU ran a very clear ZBS and Pocic is the definition of a zone blocker. He’s better in space, he’s more mobile/agile than physical/big and he’s a technique blocker. He’s not a mauler.

— We spent a lot of time talking about explosive traits (and with good reason based on Seattle’s recent drafts). Pocic scored a 2.81 in TEF which was good enough to crack the top 10 for explosive traits this year but it’s quite a bit lower than their previous draft picks. It might not signal a sea change in philosophy but it perhaps suggests they needed this type of skill set on their O-line.

— It’s believed they were interested in Ryan Kelly a year ago. His TEF score was very similar to Pocic’s (2.84) and he too was a very technically sound blocker. He’s perhaps a little less scheme-dependant (Kelly could play man or zone, Pocic looks like a pure zone) but it’s possible Seattle has been looking for this type of technical, athletic, agile blocker. It’s perhaps indicative of how raw they feel they’ve been in recent years — taking very inexperienced, physically superior projects and trying to coach them up. Pocic is much more polished.

— Pocic’s vertical jump and broad jump are very similar to Alex Mack’s.

— For some time now Seahawks fans have been asking for this type of player to be picked. If you wanted them to focus on a technically gifted blocker who will carry less of a learning curve but maybe isn’t quite as explosive or with a ridiculous ceiling, you’re getting your wish. Pocic isn’t going to be Lane Johnson at the next level. He might be a more athletic Max Unger.

— What is his best position? It’s hard to say. He has the agility and footwork plus the hands to potentially play tackle. You do worry how he’ll cope against the elite EDGE rushers of the NFL, especially if they can combine a great get-off with an effective bull rush. As an interior player he does a good job opening up subtle running lanes and he seems very comfortable working inside. Guard for 2017 and possibly center for the long term would be my early projection.

A quick note to finish — Seattle’s most expensive UDFA was Purdue offensive lineman Jordan Roos:

Carroll and Schneider spoke very highly of Roos immediately after the draft, stating he had a draftable grade.

He scored a 3.38 in TEF so there’s a lot of athletic potential here. He would’ve been the most explosive O-liner at the combine (topping Forrest Lamp’s 3.23). His score is so high because of a terrific performance in the bench press at his pro-day:

But perhaps the most interesting thing about Roos is the way his appearance changed so dramatically during his time at Purdue:

Carroll and Schneider were very positive about his potential. He’s a name to watch in camp. Seattle might lack a big name, top of the range left tackle. They have a lot of solid competition on their O-line overall though.

Tomorrow I’m going to write-up Malik McDowell and Nazair Jones.

Here’s a nice video breaking down what Pocic does well:

10 names to watch for the 2018 NFL draft

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

Firstly, don’t forget to check out our review of Seattle’s 2017 draft class from yesterday. It’s a detailed look at not just the players drafted but also the thought process on what should be considered a positive class overall.

I’m starting to get into the 2017 group and will have some notes in the coming days. In the meantime, I put this together a couple of weeks ago.

Ten names for 2018…

Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
If they can both stay healthy, the 2018 draft could be dominated by two really exciting running backs. It’s hard to separate the two names at the top of this list. If you want to know how Penn State suddenly returned to relevance in 2016, look no further than Saquon Barkley. He’s a genuine X-factor at running back with freakish power and athleticism. He can do a 600lbs squad and reportedly managed a 4.38 forty on campus to go along with a 4.00 short shuttle, a 10-1 broad jump and a 380lbs bench. Stud.

Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
Guice is a fantastic talent capable of being a Heisman candidate if LSU can cobble together a passing game and remain relevant deep into the season. He’s incredibly sudden and explosive with enough size (5-11, 212lbs) to get the hard yards. He plays with a Thomas Rawls level of intensity. His performances against Texas A&M and Arkansas when Leonard Fournette was injured were incredible. Guice is must-watch TV. He ran a 4.38 forty on campus two years ago at a heavier 219lbs. You see that breakaway speed on tape along with incredible cut-back and change of direction ability and he can stop on a dime and accelerate unlike virtually any other running back in college football. He is incredible.

Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
With so many Huskies turning pro this year, it was a bit of a surprise that Vea didn’t join them. There’s every chance he would’ve been a top-15 pick. Players like Vea are rare. Not only does he have the size and length to control the LOS and anchor as a nose tackle — he also has plus athleticism at 6-5 and 332lbs to impact plays in the backfield. He had five sacks last season. Reports suggested he was informed by NFL sources to get in peak shape and enter the 2018 draft. If he achieves this, a top-10 grade is entirely possible for a player who could be the next Haloti Ngata.

Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
It was a major surprise when Chubb announced he wouldn’t be turning pro this year. Last season he recorded 21.5 TFL’s and 10 sacks and there’s a very good chance he would’ve been a first round pick. He’s a high-intensity pass rusher with a great personality. He’s the cousin of Georgia running back Nick Chubb. If he can match Nick’s SPARQ-destroying performance before his knee injury, he could land in the top-10 next year. At 6-4 and 275lbs he’s versatile can rush inside or out. His standout performance might’ve been the ‘Hurricane Bowl’ against Notre Dame last year. He dealt with the conditions better than anyone.

Arden Key (EDGE, LSU)
In high school Key was already benching 245lbs and squatting 410lbs. He has gradually become a major impact player for LSU, setting a school record for sacks in 2016 with 12, accumulating 14.5 TFL’s. Recent reports had Key stepping away from the program for ‘personal reasons’ but he recently confirmed he wouldn’t be sitting out the season. Teams will be looking into the situation as he prepares to turn pro in the next year — but there’s no doubting his potential at 6-6 and 238lbs with room to grow. He’s similar to Leonard Floyd (top-10 pick a year ago) but could stand to add extra weight.

Trey Adams (T, Washington)
Big, long and athletic — Trey Adams is one of the few emerging left tackles with a big opportunity to forge a successful pro-career. He plays in a good offense to judge his potential and he’s big — listed at 6-8 and 309lbs but more likely in the 6-6 range (where you want him to be). He moves well on his feet for his size and shows the ability to get into position, set and finish blocks. He plays with toughness and enjoys run blocking. If there were more players like Adams in college football, the NFL would feel a lot happier.

Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
With so many studs on the Alabama defense it’s difficult to stand out sometimes. Fitzpatrick managed it multiple times in 2016. He had six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), five TFL’s, seven PBU’s and a forced fumble. He ran a 4.05 short shuttle at the 2013 SPARQ combine while jumping a 37.5 inch vertical. He’s an intelligent, savvy ballhawk who could be a major leader and component of Alabama’s defense next season with so many big names departing for the NFL this year.

Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
The same thing happens every year. We pour over the quarterbacks in a draft class and declare next years crop to be better. Darnold is the latest example of a prospect being vaulted into the spotlight a little prematurely. He’s a converted linebacker and hasn’t even been a college starter for a full season. At times his play is majestic and he clearly has an innate, natural flair for the position. He extends plays, he has the arm strength and accuracy. There is so much to like. He also has some erraticism to his play and there are ‘Jake Locker moments’. He has a ton of potential but he’ll be under a lot of pressure to live up to the hype this year.

Connor Williams (T, Texas)
A former High School teammate of Solomon Thomas, Williams has really blossomed from a three-star recruit to a genuine NFL prospect. Measurables will be key for Williams. He isn’t big — listed at 6-6 and 288lbs last season. He needs to get into that 305lbs range and he doesn’t look incredibly long in the arms. He’s a very willing run blocker with natural bend and foot speed. There’s a major edge to his play, built off an intriguing backstory. He and Trey Adams have much higher ceilings than the more often discussed Mike McGlinchey at Notre Dame.

Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
He’s only really scratching the surface of what he’s capable of. In 2016 he emerged as a highly impactful, mostly two-down defender. He had 10.5 TFL’s and six sacks. He and Demarcus Walker lived in the backfield and played off each other. Nnadi has the power to handle the run and the quickness, power and an effective swim/rip to break into the backfield. He’s 6-1 and 312lbs so perfectly sized to act as a disruptive interior presence.

Seahawks focus: Notes on Peppers, Wilson, Charlton & Evans

Friday, April 21st, 2017

If you missed the podcast this week, check it out here.

Here are four players widely mocked to be available in the 20’s who we’ve not covered extensively outside of the podcasts or the comments section.

Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
The narrative on his lack of production is hugely misplaced. He was challenged at Michigan to exclusively set an edge vs the run and provide speed at outside linebacker to force runners back inside. That’s it. Watch the games.

Peppers is incredible gritty. He’s battled adversity and tragedy to have a football career (as explained in this video). His personality is engaging and lights up a room without being overbearing. He’ll become a leader very quickly as a pro.

He accepts and talks openly about not being the biggest or the most athletic player. He’s a shade under 5-11 and 213lbs. He has short arms (30 3/4 inches) and a short wingspan (only 74 inches). His physical profile is good but not great — he’s a 4.46 runner, jumping 36.5 inches in the vertical and a 10-8 in the broad jump. His short shuttle is pretty good (4.11).

Is he a fit in Seattle? In terms of his ability to be a special teams factor, yes. He could provide a kick return benefit immediately. His character is also ‘Seahawky’ and his personality fits this defense.

I have some reservations about his fit schematically, though.

Peppers is probably going to be at his best as an attack dog at strong safety. Let him read/react, play up at the LOS and use his physicality. If you put him at nickel as a ‘Buffalo’ he’s going to have to cover crossing routes, handle quick breaks and excel in mismatch situations. I’m not sure he’s suited to that role. He’s highly athletic, fast and elusive with the ball in hand and he’s competitive. Yet he does have a tendency to be a little tight when he drops.

With Obi Melifonwu, Justin Evans, Budda Baker and others — you see them covering across the middle and running freely.

You wouldn’t write Peppers off for that type of role. Some teams might wish to try him as a big nickel. Yet his best fit, arguably, will be as an attacking strong safety. If your the Seahawks, how do you get him on the field while ever you have Kam Chancellor?

Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
My view on Wilson is the opposite to the national draft media. A few months ago he was regarded by many as the #1 corner in the draft and a probable top-20 pick. Now you’ll find people projecting he’ll go in the late second or even third round.

I wasn’t a big fan of Wilson initially but he grew on me the more I watched. Now I think he genuinely warrants round one consideration.

This isn’t a class with a lot of ‘dogs’ in it. There are some — particularly at the safety position (including mid/late round prospects like Shalom Luani and Rayshawn Jenkins). By that I mean an aggressive playing style. A swagger combined with a physical attitude. That Bruce Irvin, Kam Chancellor type of character.

Wilson seems like he might be of that mindset.

His physical profile is a mixture of pro’s and con’s. He has good size (6-1, 211lbs), he has 32 1/4 inch arms and he ran a superb 4.02 short shuttle. It’s that short area quickness, combined with his size, that really strikes you on tape.

On the other hand he jumped a disappointing vertical (32 inches) and broad jump (9-10), his wingspan (75 5/8) is distinctly average and his forty (4.54) is only OK. It’s quite weird that he’s a combination of exceptional (short shuttle) and mediocre (broad/vertical).

Even so, on the field he’s all attitude and confidence and quality coverage. You’ll see him gain position and force the receiver to the sideline, narrowing the strike zone. You’ll see him box out to make a play. He has the size to be good in run support and he talks like he belongs.

He’s another player you can imagine fitting into Seattle’s locker room. You can also imagine him playing outside corner in this defense. Yet there are some other things to consider:

— Seattle hasn’t drafted an outside cornerback with a sub-77.5 inch wingspan
— Seattle hasn’t drafted a cornerback with such a mediocre broad jump
— Seattle hasn’t drafted a cornerback period before round four

There’s a chance they might like and admire Wilson and possibly even grade him quite highly. It doesn’t mean they’ll draft him with their first pick though.

Taco Charlton (DE, Michigan)
As an EDGE rusher it really was a good year for Charlton. His pièce de résistance was a superb performance against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. He was the standout player for Michigan on the night and looked like a first rounder.

His size, length and ability to get into the backfield was reminiscent of an Aldon Smith, Carlos Dunlap or Chandler Jones type. They’re not the most athletic players but they’re quick, explosive and long. That impacts games at the next level.

It’s likely Charlton will go in the top-20. Teams want pass rushers and Charlton is a good one. Yes he only ran a 4.92 forty but he tested well in other drills like the vertical and broad jump. His TEF score is 3.23 which is good for his size.

He’s really quick with good change of direction skills. His 4.39 short shuttle is really good at 277lbs. Haason Reddick ran a 4.37 at 237lbs. It’s not Frank Clark’s unreal 4.05 but Frank’s a freak of nature. Charlton’s combination of explosive power and short-area quickness is first-round worthy. Without doubt.

He could be a classic example of a ‘media faller’. A player who a few weeks ago was expected to go at #9 to Cincinnati or #11 to New Orleans, dropping for no apparent reason (decent short shuttle times don’t create headlines). There’s every chance he will still go at #9 or #11. With only a handful of good EDGE rushers available, they’re unlikely to stay on the board for long.

What about his potential fit in Seattle?

He was at his best at Michigan as a pure EDGE. And while he has the length and size to kick inside, it’s not as simple as having the frame to do it. Charlton plays like a base DE or OLB. In all of the Michigan games I watched from 2016, I never got a sense that this was a guy who would particularly excel working inside trying to push guards into the backfield.

That doesn’t mean they won’t take him to try and mould him into this type of role (or draft him just to play the EDGE) but there are serious questions about his ability to play inside/out and it kind of feels like that’s what the Seahawks are looking for.

Nevertheless, he’s good with a lot of potential.

Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Here’s another ‘forgotten man’ of this draft class. In October, Evans was being tipped as a top-20 pick by anonymous executives. Now he frequently gets talked about as a second or third rounder.

There aren’t many more explosive players in this draft. Evans’ 41.5 inch vertical really shows in the games. He is a punishing hitter, delivering some of the more devastating hits you’ll see. He’s also mastered the art of hitting hard in the right spot of the body to avoid flags. He’s not as careless as a Calvin Pryor (for example).

He seems to get dinged for missed tackles and whiffs, which is fair to an extent. You know who else misses tackles fairly frequently? Earl Thomas. Evans doesn’t have Thomas’ range and suddenness but they have similar intensity and physicality. You can live with the occasional missed tackle if it’s offset by a series of tone-setting hits.

Here’s what you get with Evans aside from the hits — the short area quickness of a dynamic slot receiver, the athleticism and leaping ability to play the ball and make interceptions that are improbable, and the length and physicality to match-up against bigger targets. He’s a shade under 6-0 and 200lbs with 32 inch arms and a 76.5 inch wingspan.

He was impacted by a quad injury at his pro-day so didn’t do a lot of the workouts. This is possibly one of the reasons he only ran a 4.57 forty despite looking faster on tape. He has a skill set and mentality that lends itself to working as a big nickel, free safety or strong safety.

Evans plays the game with attitude and he helps establish a tone. If the Seahawks wanted to add another safety and a possible ‘big nickel’ with plus coverage skills he could be a target. He’d certainly add a fear factor this defense has occasionally lacked recently on crossing routes (especially when Kam Chancellor has been hurt).

I want to finish with a quick call to the community. I’m looking for a graphics expert to help me put together an aesthetically pleasing ‘big board’ graphic to post on Twitter before the draft. I want to publish it as a visual aid for fans watching the draft.

I’d like to list forty players in five tiers. It needs to be done in Seahawks colours.

If there are any graphic designers willing to put something like this together for me, send me an email to rob@seahawksdraftblog.com. I’d also like to consider doing one for rounds 2-3.

Why isn’t Evan Engram getting more credit?

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

We’re recording the latest podcast today so stay tuned. In the meantime, I wanted to put a few thoughts out about one of the more underrated players in the draft.

The first player we really focused on this year (back in early October) was Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram:

Engram is a little bit like Jordan Reed albeit 10lbs lighter. He can line up anywhere — inline TE, detached, slot, H-back. He’s a mismatch. At a listed 6-3 and 227lbs you could just use him as an out-and-out bigger receiver if you wanted. He has the agility, fluidity and athleticism to make it work.

We talk a lot about mismatches these days. Engram is a perfect example. Yet he doesn’t get that much hype.

That probably needs to change.

Yesterday I paired him with the Giants at #23. New York needs a tight end and with O.J. Howard and David Njoku likely gone, Engram could be an ideal fit.

It shouldn’t be considered a reach either.

One of the more dynamic receivers in the NFL currently is Mike Evans. Let’s compare his physical profile to Engram’s:

Mike Evans
Height: 6-5
Weight: 231
Arms: 35 1/8
Hands: 9 5/8
Forty: 4.53
Vertical: 37
Broad: DNP
Short shuttle: 4.26
Three-cone: 7.08

Evan Engram
Height: 6-3
Weight: 234
Arms: 33 1/2
Hands: 10
Forty: 4.42
Vertical: 36
Broad: 10-5
Short shuttle: 4.23
Three-cone: 6.92

Engram is shorter and isn’t quite as long — but he’s quicker, has superior long speed and he’s equally explosive.

Evans was the #7 overall pick in 2014 but it’s worth noting not everyone projected him to go that early. This profile by Nolan Narwocki listed him as a borderline first round pick (the same as Engram):

A prep hoopster with shooting-guard size, Evans combined with Johnny Manziel to form one of the most dominant quarterback-receiver connections in the nation the last two seasons. He’s a big, physical, strong-handed, West Coast possession receiver with playmaking ability who projects as a No. 2 in the pros where he will make his money as a chain mover and red-zone target.

It doesn’t mean Engram’s going to go in the top-10. The comparison feels somewhat legit though — and a smart team might get a similar player at a cheaper price.

Evans spends a lot of his time in the slot acting as a mismatch. This is how you’d likely use Engram. He’s not so much a tight end as a dynamic big target. Put him up against a safety or linebacker and he’ll have success.

The 2017 draft is going to be unpredictable. More so than in previous years. There are a bunch of players with similar grades. It wouldn’t be a huge shock if Engram went a lot earlier than most are currently projecting — especially if Howard and Njoku are both gone in the top-15.

The talent at tight end could also work against the receiver class. Howard, Njoku and Engram are explosive, highly athletic playmakers. And they’re healthy. Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross don’t have that.

Would the Seahawks take Engram at #26? As good as he is, they’re already struggling to utilise the tight ends they’ve got. Even if you view him as a mismatch receiver — Seattle’s problem isn’t a lack of targets on offense.

Even if they were planning ahead with Graham and Willson out of contract in 2018, wouldn’t they just be better off franchising Graham? It’s not like there’d be any less pressure to feed Engram the ball as a first round pick.

For it to happen they’d have to be pretty down on the defensive talent available.

He’s very good though — and if they were going BPA he wouldn’t be a bad choice. It’s likely lesser players will be off the board before Engram. I’m going to revise my tiered rankings before next week and Engram will be in the third tier as one of the best twenty or so players in the class.

Top-40 big board (includes tiers, with a Seahawks slant)

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Quincy Wilson — suddenly underrated and in tier four

The names listed in each tier are not ranked, they are grouped.

Tier one (4)

Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Solomon Thomas (DL, Stanford)
Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)

Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas are two of the most explosive defensive linemen to enter the league in a generation. Here’s how they compare to other great defensive linemen using TEF:

Myles Garrett — 4.21
Mario Williams — 3.97
Solomon Thomas — 3.83
J.J. Watt — 3.82
Khalil Mack — 3.81
Aaron Donald — 3.53
Jadeveon Clowney — 3.50

O.J. Howard could be the most complete tight end to enter the NFL, possibly ever. He’s a 4.50 runner at 250lbs, has textbook blocking technique and can be the ultimate weapon at the next level.

Leonard Fournette is a beast. Pure and simple. Like all running backs the environment he plays in is crucial. If he lands on a team committed to running the ball with at least an average offensive line, he has superstar potential.

Tier two (5)

Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Garett Bolles (T, Utah)

Haason Reddick is a modern day defensive dynamo. He flies to the football, plays with great intensity, gets sideline to sideline and can rush the passer. He could be Ryan Shazier working inside or Von Miller lite at OLB.

Marlon Humphrey is the best cornerback in the draft in my opinion. For some reason there’s too much focus on his ball-tracking skills (can be improved) and not enough on his physicality, athleticism and coverage ability.

Whenever you get a chance to draft someone with Earl Thomas’ range and nose for the ball, you should seriously consider it. Malik Hooker is cut from the same cloth and while he probably lacks Earl’s quirky intensity — he’ll allow teams to play single-high and exploit the benefits of nickel base.

Jonathan Allen is a bad ass. He isn’t twitchy and he isn’t going to dominate like Aaron Donald at the next level. He will, however, absorb blocks and set the tone up front. He’s a finisher when he gets sight of the quarterback.

Garett Bolles plays like he’s pissed off with the world. You want your linemen to have an edge and Bolles is as nasty as they come on the field. He’s also incredibly athletic — capable of locking on to a D-liner, winning with leverage and possessing the hip-torque to turn his man in the run game to open up huge lanes.

Tier three (6)

Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
John Ross (WR, Washington)

Patrick Willis? Ray Lewis? These comps are not unfair for Jarrad Davis. He’s that good. Plays his tail off, great athlete, fantastic character.

Adoree’ Jackson is the ultimate playmaker and a first round pick in any draft. He’s a threat to score any time he touches the ball. He could be one of the all-time great kick returners. Fantastic character and a willing tackler despite his lack of size.

Christian McCaffrey is another player perfectly matched for the modern game. He can line up in the backfield, split out wide and cause constant headaches for a defense. He could be Julian Edelman or Doug Baldwin in the slot and he’s a sudden, physical runner in the backfield.

Jabrill Peppers might be the most misunderstood player in the draft. His entire role at Michigan was to contain the edge in the run game. The whole ‘one interception’ thing is such a misplaced narrative. He’s a dynamic, gritty strong safety or big nickel and a plus return man.

Reuben Foster could slip due to character concerns but these appear to be mostly related to the company he keeps. It’s hard to judge him on that — especially if you were considering moving him to the other side of America. He’s highly athletic and hits like a sledgehammer.

John Ross isn’t just a 4.22 runner down the field only capable of separating on a go-route or deep post. He consistently wins at the snap, creating early separation in his routes. In the modern NFL he can be a genuine threat lined up outside or in the slot, capable of Antonio Brown-style mass production in the right offense.

Tier four (15)

Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Kevin King (CB, Washington)
Chidobe Awuzie (CB, Colorado)
Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Marson Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
David Njoku (TE, Miami)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
T.J. Watt (LB, Wisconsin)
Tyus Bowser (EDGE, Houston)
Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)

The more I watched Quincy Wilson, the more I liked. He has good size, mirrors receivers very well and anticipates routes to play the ball. He’s confident and cocky (in a good way) with the size to be physical in the run game.

Kevin King is a freak of nature. There just aren’t many 6-3, 200lbs cornerbacks capable of running a 4.43, jumping a 39.5 inch vertical and flashing the kind of agility he showed in the short shuttle (3.89) and three cone (6.56). There are ways he can improve at the next level but any coach worth his salt is going to want to work with this physical profile.

Chidobe Awuzie is what the league needs as it moves ever closer to a consensus nickel base. He has the athleticism to cover the slot, the awareness and physicality to be an effective blitzer and the football IQ to line up at safety, outside corner or inside. He can be a hybrid starting at nickel and dropping into a two-deep zone in certain looks.

Forrest Lamp was the most explosive offensive lineman at the combine. He lacks the length to be an obvious fit at tackle but he could be an early starter at guard or center. Great character and attitude. The type of player teams love for their O-lines.

There are a lot of reasons to like Gareon Conley — size, length, athleticism, fantastic positional awareness. There is one minor quibble though — he didn’t use his hands enough at Ohio State. He can’t get away with conceding so many free releases at the next level and he has to learn how to jam and re-route.

There isn’t a ton of difference between Marshon Lattimore and Conley. Lattimore is the better athlete but there are concerns about his long term health (hamstring issues).

Taco Charlton is a really fun player to watch. He was finally being used properly as a Senior, lining up as a pure EDGE and attacking the LOS. He could be Chandler Jones as a fair comparison and his ceiling is possibly Aldon Smith.

David Njoku is a sensational athlete at the tight end position. A true mismatch target. He can line up outside or as a joker. His blocking is better than advertised. He will dominate smaller cornerbacks and safety’s. Only scratched the surface of his potential at Miami. Would like to see more of an edge.

Budda Baker is a 5-10 defensive back who plays like he’s 6-4 and 225lbs. Intense, physical, fast. Very few players can sift through traffic and explode into the backfield like Baker. There will be concerns about his size if you want to play him in the slot but if anyone can make it work it’s Budda.

The league is going through a phase where teams are utilising multiple-WR sets and emphasising the tight end in the slot. The counter punch is the 4-2-5 formation and the use of the big nickel. Obi Melifonwu could set a new standard for one of the most important positions in the modern NFL.

T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser are almost identical physically. Let’s add a third name into the equation — Khalil Mack. Look at how they compare to the reigning NFL defensive MVP. You’ll be surprised how they similar they are.

Evan Engram sometimes gets lost in the wash but he might be Mike Evans (Tampa Bay receiver). He’s a 4.42 runner at 234lbs. People raved about Melifonwu’s 4.40 at 225lbs. Engram thoroughly deserves a first round grade.

Jamal Adams is a good football player but is he really special? His pro-day was considerably better than his combine which is always suspicious. He’s not an overly physical hitter and he’s not as rangy as Hooker. He’s a good leader though and made some big plays at LSU.

Mike Williams isn’t a great athlete and might be more Alshon Jeffrey than DeAndre Hopkins. Jeffrey is still a really good player though and Williams is capable of similar production in the NFL.

Tier five (10)

Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
Takk McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Jourdan Lewis (CB, Michigan)
Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Cordrea Tankersley (CB, Clemson)
Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)

Yes, the missed tackles are a concern for Justin Evans. They are for Earl Thomas too. I’m willing to live with that a little to tap into Evans’ explosive athleticism, bone-jarring hits and special plays.

Cam Robinson is a good offensive linemen. However, there has to be a legit feeling that he’ll end up moving inside to guard where you can make the most of his size and power — because he isn’t explosive, mobile or particularly athletic.

Takk McKinley has a lot of potential. He’s a 1.60 10-yard runner and his motor never stops. He’s relentless. His technique needs some fine-tuning and he might have a Ziggy Ansah learning curve but he has a ton of upside.

Charles Harris really boosted his stock at the Mizzou pro-day with better results in tests like the vertical jump. He performed well during the positional drills at the combine too. Highly athletic EDGE rusher and his best football is ahead of him.

The #18 jersey at LSU is coveted, saved for a player with special personal and leadership qualities. Tre’Davious White has worn the #18 for the last two seasons. He’s not a twitchy athlete but he’s tough, fast enough and is a playmaker in the return game. Dependable.

Jourdan Lewis is toughness personified. He never backs down, he’s sticky in coverage and plays well above his size in the run game. He’s a specialist slot cornerback with grit and intensity. Consistently made plays at Michigan.

Corey Davis hasn’t done any workouts this off-season due to injury. He has some concentration drops and he’s better after the catch than he is running routes or creating separation. Might be a bit of a Jordan Matthews at the next level.

Zach Cunningham isn’t a sideline-to-sideline, super fast Ryan Shazier type linebacker. He is explosive and tough, ideally suited to playing the MIKE. He’ll be a tackle machine for several years.

Cordrea Tankersley is savvy, physical and has some really good tape against tough opponents. He dominated Bucky Hodges at Virginia Tech. He undercuts routes, jams with authority and anticipates throws to make interceptions.

Chris Wormley can be inconsistent and it’s unclear whether he’ll ever be a truly dynamic pass rusher. However, he has really good size and length — plus a strong motor and great attitude. He might not be a headline maker at the next level but he might be a solid, underrated starter.

Key names not included (and why)

The quarterbacks
The Seahawks have a franchise quarterback so there was little point including them here. I will say though — I like Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky. I’m not sure why they’re considerably less hyped than Jared Goff.

Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State) & Joe Mixon (RB, Oklahoma)
Just a personal opinion (and it’s my board after all). If they’re good, they can be good somewhere else. Zero sleep lost.

Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
He was a zero-star recruit, he quit football once already and while you have to give him respect for coming back and making a career out of this in the end — he’s now recovering after surgery on a torn labrum and hasn’t done any off-season work-outs. He doesn’t wow you on tape and he isn’t a dominant run blocker. I’m willing to risk him being really good somewhere else.

Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
Jones is a really good player but achilles injuries are legit. The chances are he won’t play in 2017. I’d consider him after round two as a redshirt but look at all the injured players San Francisco used to draft and stash. How many worked out?

Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
Short arms, mediocre athleticism, small size. It’s not a great combination. Barnett plays hard every week and had some great moments in Tennessee. Is he going to be able to re-create that at the next level with his limited physical profile?

Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
Without the character concerns, he’s a first rounder. When a player constantly admits his mistakes and keeps making them — that’s a problem. He’s good but is he worth the risk in the top-50?

Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)
He tore his pec at the UCLA pro-day. His athleticism and frame are better suited in the slot but he struggled working inside. He’s been injured a lot in his career.

15 names for later on (Day 2-3, UDFA)

Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
Noble Nwachukwu (DE, West Virginia)
Nico Siragusa (G, San Diego State)
Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
George Kittle (TE, Iowa)
Michael Davis (CB, BYU)
Rayshawn Jenkins (S, Miami)
Samson Ebukam (EDGE, Eastern Washington)
Scott Orndoff (TE, Pittsburgh)
Daeshon Hall (EDGE, Texas A&M)
Brandon Wilson (CB, Houston)
Deangelo Yancey (WR, Purdue)
Adrian Colbert (S, Miami)
Damore’ea Stringfellow (WR, Ole Miss)
Dylan Cole (LB, Missouri State)

Slot vs outside cornerback & notes on Lewis, Wormley

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Jourdan Lewis visits Seattle — what it tells us

According to the man himself, he’s either visited the Seahawks or will do in the near future.

This is significant for two reasons:

1. It reinforces the belief Seattle is going to focus strongly on the slot cornerback / nickel position rather than outside cornerback

2. It suggests length is not as crucial in the slot

On the first point, here are some of the reasons why the Seahawks might be more likely to draft a slot cornerback at #26 instead of the more popular prediction of an outside cornerback:

Our piece on wingspans highlights this isn’t a great draft for long cornerbacks. The Seahawks have never drafted a cornerback with a sub-77.5 inch wingspan. There are only six cornerbacks in this entire draft class with a +77.5 inch wingspan. The only two ‘fits’ expected to be drafted during the first two days are Kevin King and Ahkello Witherspoon (and Witherspoon is allergic to tackling as noted here). It’s possible their only serious outside cornerback target at #26 is Kevin King.

— It’s worth remembering how the Seahawks have filled the #2 cornerback spot over the years (and as of today, Richard Sherman doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to being traded, so they are looking for a #2). They used Brandon Browner (ex-CFL), Byron Maxwell (6th rounder), Cary Williams (free agent) and Deshawn Shead (UDFA). So the idea of Jeremy Lane, Neiko Thorpe, Pierre Desir or a returning Shead starting across from Sherman is not fanciful or unrealistic.

— It’s still likely they will draft an outside cornerback at some stage but is it likely to be their first two picks? Or is it more likely to be someone in round three or in the later rounds? Remember — they’ve not previously drafted a cornerback earlier than the fourth round. They’ve consistently waited until day three.

— We know the Seahawks played a lot of 4-2-5 last season (explained here). With Jeremy Lane at least temporarily moving to outside corner (in Pete Carroll’s words) there’s an opening at the ‘fifth DB’ position. That position was a 71% defensive snap role in 2016. It could be even more significant in 2017 as the Seahawks appear open to adopting a nickel base moving forward.

— This draft class is strong at safety and slot cornerback. Some of the best options at #26 are likely to be players who can act as a big nickel or orthodox slot corner. Obi Melifonwu, Adoree’ Jackson, Chidobe Awuzie, Justin Evans and Budda Baker are among the really enticing options.

This brings us onto point #2 — length.

Jackson, Awuzie, Baker all have sub-32 inch arms and short wingspans. We know the Seahawks have strictly drafted long cornerbacks in the past. Is this vital in the slot?

Their two all-world safety’s don’t have particularly long wingspan’s (Earl Thomas — 74.5, Kam Chancellor, 76.5). And the way the league is adapting, the ‘fifth DB’ position is pretty much a safety/corner hybrid.

The meeting with Jourdan Lewis kind of confirms length isn’t as important for this role. He has 31 5/8 inch arms. He’s also small — listed at 5-10 and 188lbs. He’s in the Adoree’/Budda bracket for size.

It might be a coincidence but Pete Carroll attended the USC pro-day (Jackson) and Kris Richard was at UCLA (Fabian Moreau). Now there’s the Lewis visit and Melifonwu has been in Seattle for a meeting too.

A lot of the mounting evidence points to the slot cornerback/big nickel role being a major target — arguably more so than outside corner.

And this shouldn’t be a surprise given the way the league is trending and Carroll’s lukewarm assessment of Jeremy Lane’s performance in 2016.

More on Jourdan Lewis

Having a more open mind on size/length has opened up a lot of new options to assess. As noted yesterday, Chidobe Awuzie is a diamond. He just isn’t long. If that doesn’t matter in the slot he could easily be Seattle’s first pick.

Awuzie is one of those players who could go in the top-15 or last into the early 30’s. There’s a few in this class. If he’s off the board — and if Melifonwu, Jackson and King are too — the Seahawks could do with alternative targets.

And that’s arguably where Jourdan Lewis comes into play.

I sat down to focus on him today for the first time, watching three games initially. Here are things that really stand out:

— He is ultra competitive despite his lack of size. Awuzie has the kind of gritty personality that matches this team but Lewis takes it up another notch.

— Lewis is nearly always in position to make the play. He lives in the WR’s hip pocket. Even when he gives up some separation downfield, he finds a way to get a hand in there to make the play. Despite his relatively short arms (31 3/8 inches) he actually has a 75 1/8 inch wingspan. It’s not elite length but it’s good for his size.

— He’s possibly the toughest little b*****d in the draft. Considering his size, it was a joy to watch him in run support. He gives absolutely everything, leaves it all on the field, never shies away from contact, tackles competently and does a far superior job than any of the big cornerbacks in this draft (this CB class is lacking in run support overall).

— Solid run support in this ‘fifth DB’ role is absolutely crucial.

— He had the interception of the season to win a game for Michigan against Wisconsin. It was Odell Beckham Jr-esque:

— You can clearly see he isn’t the same type of athlete as Adoree’ Jackson, Justin Evans or Chidobe Awuzie. He is very much a gritty, well drilled, well coached, loves the game type of player. That lower grade of athleticism is probably what separates him from the pack. Yet there’s not a huge drop-off in performance.

Lewis ran a 4.45 forty at his pro-day with a 4.29 short shuttle and a 6.88 three cone. At the combine he jumped a 10-1 broad and a 34.5 inch vertical. Not great numbers but not a problem either.

I think it’s highly likely he’ll be a top-50 pick.

In a scenario where the likes of Awuzie and Jackson are off the board — or if the Seahawks have some kind of a plan that involves a real desire to trade down — Lewis makes a ton of sense. Alternatively, they could look to trade up from #58 to target Lewis and take a pass rusher (for example) with their top pick (eg Bowser or Watt).

If you were impressed with Awuzie’s character yesterday, there’s more of the same here. This is an interview he did at the Senior Bowl:

Is Chris Wormley an option too?

The Seahawks seem to like and appreciate the Michigan defense. It’s not a big surprise. Despite the often heated rivalry between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh, there also lay a kind of mutual respect.

And while Lewis could legitimately be an option for them at slot corner, versatile D-liner Chris Wormley is another possible target too.

I wrote a brief piece about Wormley when I visited Seattle last November. Here are some of the notes:

For starters his gap discipline is excellent and that’s pretty much one of the most important things if you’re going to play D-line for the Seahawks. They put a high priority on players who can execute their jobs, control the situation and work against the run. Wormley is very good here with plus strength and the ability to handle 1v1 blocks consistently well if he lines up inside or out. He plays with heavy hands in the run-game.

He’s nearly always on the field for Michigan (doesn’t get subbed very often) but he’s still willing to string plays out and work in pursuit. He plays with an edge and he’s tough.

As a pass rusher nobody would say he’s twitchy but he does have a decent get-off. He had 6.5 sacks last season and 14.5 TFL’s. This year he already has 7.5 sacks and 7.5 TFL’s. You can’t argue with his production. He’s savvy with the push-pull move and he has enough power to drive blockers into the backfield to impact snaps even when he doesn’t get on the stat sheet.

Wormley has classic size to be a potential inside/out rusher (DE in base, kick inside on third down). He’s 6-5 and 298lbs with 34 1/8 inch arms and a 82 3/4 inch wingspan (he’s the fourth longest interior D-liner in the draft).

He didn’t work out at the combine but managed a lightning quick 4.84 forty, a 31.5 inch vertical and a 9-2 broad.

The key workout to focus on might be the short shuttle. The two pass rush DT’s the Seahawks have drafted since 2010 are Jordan Hill and Jaye Howard. Hill ran a really good 4.51 shuttle and Howard a 4.47. Wormley is right in that ballpark with a 4.55.

Howard also ran a 1.68 10-yard split (good for his size) while Wormley ran a 1.67.

Wormley’s three cone time (7.08) is also considerably faster than any of the DT’s Seattle has drafted in the Carroll era (the best was Howard’s 7.32).

He’s also an authority figure, speaking like a grown man in interviews with a striking maturity and business-like attitude.

He does have a tendency to be a little inconsistent on tape but if the Seahawks do want to add another inside-out rusher, this could be their best bet.

Could they trade down at #26 and then trade up at #58 to land Lewis and Wormley with their first two picks?

I wouldn’t bet against it.

It feels like there’s a strong possibility they’ll add a slot corner/big nickel and a pass rusher in the first two rounds.

Chidobe Awuzie could be on Seattle’s radar & a new podcast

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

In this weeks podcast, Kenny and I get into a number of topics including the importance of wingspan and the likelihood of the Seahawks focusing on the nickel/slot position. Check it out:

Today I wanted to build on what we discussed yesterday — the key to this draft could be what Seattle does at the nickel/slot position.

There’s a consensus among draft analysts that the Seahawks will take either an O-liner or an outside cornerback. It’s possible for sure, depending on who’s available.

Yet with the Seahawks shifting towards more of a 4-2-5 formation (and as we highlighted yesterday, it perfectly suits Seattle’s defense) adding a dynamic ‘fifth DB’ could be much more of a priority than people realise.

There’s a relatively high chance they will be attracted to Obi Melifonwu and Adoree’ Jackson for this role — but it’s entirely possible neither will be there at #26.

So today I wanted to look at another option.

Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie.

If you didn’t see this yesterday, take a look…

Before you even get into what he shows on the field, isn’t this just about the most impressive video you’ve seen this year highlighting the football IQ of a draft prospect?

If the Seahawks do draft a ‘big nickel’ in round one, that player is going to need a strong awareness of safety and cornerback duties. You’re basically a match-up weapon — playing at the LOS, blitzing, covering across the middle, dropping into a two-safety deep zone. You might end up travelling to the outside. It’s a complex job requiring a strong understanding of different techniques.

So right off the bat, Awuzie ticks that particular box.

We learnt yesterday how the 4-2-5 looks to utilise blitzing — in particular with the fifth DB. The Seahawks have experimented with the CB Blitz since Kris Richard became defensive coordinator. Awuzie attacks the backfield better than anyone (or at least at the same level as Budda Baker). He had four sacks in 2016 and six TFL’s. In his college career he had an astonishing 226 total tackles.

He isn’t the biggest but he compares to Bradley McDougald in terms of size. He’s 6-0 and 202lbs while McDougald is fractionally taller (6-1) and a little bigger (209lbs). Awuzie on the other hand is much faster (4.43 speed), more agile (4.13 short shuttle) and more explosive (39.5 inch vertical, 11-0 broad). If they’re willing to play McDougald as a big nickel, Awuzie is basically a more athletic version.

Is wingspan a problem? Arguably not considering he’s essentially acting as a ‘third safety’ or a hybrid CB/S. Earl Thomas has a 74.5 inch wingspan, Awuzie’s is 74 1/8 inches. We’ll find out in this draft class how important wingspan is considering the massive difference between the short cornerback group and the long safety group.

What do you see on tape? He’s good in run support with the requisite physicality and aggressiveness. There is absolutely zero doubt he’s a fit in that regard. Awuzie plays with the kind of attitude you expect from Seattle’s defense.

Unlike Adoree’ Jackson he’s not a particularly sudden runner and he does give up separation to more dynamic receivers. That said, he’s competitive to work back and recover and there’s a reason he has 28 PBU’s in his college career.

Awuzie is an instinctive player and he clearly does his homework. His one interception in 2016 came on a play he identified, made himself disappear in coverage and was then able to explode to the ball having anticipated the throw.

I liked in the video above that he basically had a chip on his shoulder about his athletic profile, even giving Daniel Jeremiah some grief for his pre-combine view of his speed.

He might not have the dynamic raw playmaking skills of Adoree’ Jackson or the standard-setting physical profile of Obi Melifonwu — but there’s a ton to like about Awuzie. It’s very easy to imagine him in Seattle’s defense — his personality fits them like a glove and if he needed to he could probably adjust to free safety in an emergency. He has the talent, grit and athleticism to be a starter as a big nickel/slot hybrid.

He’s another player in this class who could easily go in the top-20 or last into range for Seattle. He is a must-consider though for all Seahawks fans at #26. Put him on your radar, add him to the list. He’s a legit option.

While a lot of focus has gone on the offensive line and outside cornerback, it’s worth remembering a few things:

— Seattle likes their young group of O-liners and has already signed two veteran players to support the developing unit

— The Seahawks still have Richard Sherman and while many assume they’re going to want a dynamic #2 or eventual replacement for Sherman, look at how they’ve actually filled that job in the past (Browner — free agent from the CFL, Maxwell — sixth round pick, Williams — free agent, Shead — UDFA converted safety)

— Jeremy Lane has played outside cornerback, they seem to like Neiko Thorpe and Pierre Desir and Deshawn Shead is working to return — this is how Seattle has filled that #2 corner position in the past

— While a case can be made that Bradley McDougald could be the starting ‘big nickel’, as discussed yesterday his signing looks like a hedge

— If McDougald ends up just being a backup safety that’s no bad thing because there is literally zero depth on the roster behind Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at the moment apart from McDougald

The Seahawks appear to have a pretty strict wingspan ideal and if Kevin King is off the board at #26, it’s hard to find an alternative who matches what they like (unless they want to start Melifonwu at corner)

It’s entirely possible Seattle addresses the following positions in this kind of order:

R1 — Big nickel or slot cornerback
R2 — Pass rusher
R3 x 3 — Safety depth, tight end, receiver, D-line, cornerback or linebacker

So while there’s currently a lot of focus on the Seahawks drafting an outside corner or O-liner with their first pick, that might not be the case.