Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Frank Clark’s tape vs Northwestern very impressive

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

We’ve talked about the off-field concerns with Frank Clark and they aren’t going away. You can’t ignore them. He may well have impressed teams during interviews at the combine — but we weren’t privy to those talks. Whoever drafts Clark, there’s going to be a portion of the fan base where this just doesn’t sit comfortably. And that’s totally understandable.

By discussing his tape against Northwestern here, we’re not endorsing his character. We’re not saying the Seahawks should draft him. We’re just talking about the football side of this debate. I want to make that clear.

With that in mind I’m going to say Clark provides the best possible opportunity to add an impact defensive player after the second round.

This is just a masterclass performance against Northwestern. He’s not a speed rusher at 6-3 and 271lbs and he only ran a 4.79 at the combine. Yet he finds ways to make an impact despite a lack of natural quick’s. He plays with a relentless motor, he shifts off blocks and knows when to rush the backfield or to hold position and try to tip a pass. Unlike Danielle Hunter — who seems like a tipped-pass specialist only — Clark gets a handful of TFL’s and splash plays in this game.

His ability to change direction is very impressive. He’s a thick, well set player but moves like a much smaller and nimbler athlete. You see that with the rest of his combine workout — a 38.5 inch vertical, a 7.08 three cone and an explosive 4.05 in the short shuttle. He’s never going to round the edge with a pure speed rush and beat NFL tackles. He can drive into the backfield with a nasty bull rush, dodge cut blocks, sell the outside rush before dipping inside and there’s evidence of a productive spin move.

He looks like a second round talent with an UDFA character flag. If you trust him — or if you can make yourself believe you can trust him — you’re going to get a guy who can play quickly, will excel against the run and make plays even as a rookie.

Look at the way he combats the read option or QB fake — he tracks down the ball carrier with ferocity and has the field IQ to diagnose plays quickly.

The Seahawks currently only have Cassius Marsh legitimately backing up Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. If they want an impact defensive player in this class — Clark could be a solution. With the obvious asterisk of the character and whether you can justify to yourself taking a player with his background.

Here’s a few key notes from the tape above:

0:23 — Shows to the outside before swimming inside, shedding the blocker and collapsing the pocket from the edge. Forces the QB to scramble for a short gain.

1:06 — pursues down the line, taking out one blocker and forcing the running back inside into traffic on third down (he doesn’t convert).

2:11 — Read option play. Notices the QB has it very quickly, leaps up and deflects the pass into the air for a near interception.

2:29 — Bull rushes the right tackle into his own quarterback for a big sack on third down. Pure power and he’s taking over the game.

2:50 — Explodes into the backfield and brushes off a terrible attempt at a block by the full back. The QB panics because he’s in his own end zone and throws straight at Clark who blocks his second pass of the game.

3:08 — Another dominating bull rush. He somehow manages to get his arm up to tip his third pass and this time it’s intercepted by a defensive tackle. Sensational play from Clark.

3:48 — Read option. Clark diagnoses that it’s a trick-play end-around and sees it all the way. He destroys the ball carrier, rag-dolling him to the ground for a big loss.

6:30 — Spin move to get away from the tackle, forces the QB to get the pass away too quickly. Incomplete.

The right tackle in this game was clearly over-matched but don’t take anything away from Clark’s performance. This was a thoroughly brilliant display.

Two-round mock draft: Free agency edition

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Future Cleveland Browns quarterback?

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
Winston reportedly met with Roger Goodell last week. Not so discretely, it seems all parties are preparing to introduce him as the #1 pick.

#2 **TRADE** Cleveland Browns — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
The Browns have done absolutely nothing in free agency to lift the spirits of a desperate fan base. It’s clear Manziel is a bust. They need some hope, something to build around. Here they trade the #12, #19 and a future pick in 2016 to the Titans to make Mariota the future.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
They’ve beefed up the interior and have their version of the 5-tech in Jared Odrick. Chris Clemons is their best edge rusher and he’s 34 this year. Fowler is the top of the class here — a genuine playmaker. Gus Bradley will love his energy.

#4 Oakland Raiders — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
Cooper vs White. Cooper gets the nod because he’s a little more adept at getting open in the short game and technically he’s extremely polished as a route runner. He’s the most natural looking receiver to enter the league since A.J. Green.

#5 Washington Redskins — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
They’ve bolstered the interior with a cluster of big bodies (Knighton, Paea, Jean-Francois). Now they need an edge rusher to replace Brian Orakpo. Beasley had an insane combine and has a chance to emulate Von Miller coming into the league.

#6 New York Jets — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
With Revis and Cromartie back in New York, they’re set up to run Todd Bowles’ scheme. Remember, he didn’t have a fantastic edge rusher in Arizona either. They have enough D-line talent to succeed. Attention should turn to the offense. Yes they have Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker — but they need more.

#7 Chicago Bears — Randy Gregory (OLB, Nebraska)
Vic Fangio relaunched the San Francisco defense when they drafted Aldon Smith. Gregory has similar upside to Smith without any of the off-field drama. He’s far from the finished product but Fangio is a fantastic coach. They need a proper 3-4 outside backer more than anything.

#8 Atlanta Falcons — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
In my early mocks I had Williams falling a bit and I’m going back to it. He’s a very accomplished player but what is his best fit at the next level? He is not close to the same type of athlete as J.J. Watt who lasted until pick #11. I don’t see a top-three lock.

#9 New York Giants — Bud Dupree (OLB, Kentucky)
No team has brought in more free agents than the Giants so far. They haven’t really added anything major to the defensive line, however. Dupree could be their answer to Bruce Irvin — playing the WILL and moving down to the LOS to rush the edge. Dupree has the range and athleticism to make it work.

#10 St. Louis Rams — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Personally I prefer Ereck Flowers. Scherff is more athletic and just looks like the type of guy you’d expect Jeff Fisher to covet. After all the moves in free agency, O-line is the big need for the Rams. This could end up being a lock.

#11 Minnesota Vikings — Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
A superb combine performance has Waynes pushing towards the top ten. This could launch a rush on the position in round one. Minnesota traded for Mike Wallace today, taking away the need to go with Devante Parker here. They need to keep re-building the defense for Mike Zimmer.

#12 Tennessee Titans — Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
After re-signing Derrick Morgan and adding Brian Orakpo today, the Titans are starting to put together a competent defense. Putting Shelton next to Jurrell Casey just screams Dick Le Beau. Tennessee’s defense will be tough to beat with this double-act leading the way.

#13 New Orleans Saints — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
There are many different opinions on Ray’s stock and no real consensus on where he’ll go. That could be the same in several war-rooms too. What is his best fit? Can he play in the 4-3? Can you deal with a lack of true size/length? Eventually he’ll come off the board.

#14 Miami Dolphins — DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville)
They’ve added some pieces to the offense in Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron. Jarvis Landry had a great rookie campaign. They do lack a true #1 receiver though. If they’re going for it this year, giving Ryan Tannehill as many weapons as possible is a must.

#15 San Francisco 49ers — Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon)
This looks like the early stages of a rebuild. Armstead has incredible size and would be an immediate starter/replacement for Justin Smith. They need to start working on the defense after losing so many key players. It starts up front.

#16 Houston Texans — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
Brilliant personality and probably FSU’s best player in 2014. He has the size to play the nose, he’s a superb run-defender and he still offers plenty as a pass rusher. Simply a brilliant talent, rich in potential and set for a nice career. Former 5-star recruit.

#17 San Diego Chargers — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
They’re in win-now mode and lost Ryan Mathews to the Eagles. They need to keep adding X-factor players to take the strain away from Philip Rivers. Gordon will be a much coveted player — he’s a playmaker with incredible character and work ethic.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs — D.J. Humphries (T, Florida)
They’ve addressed the need at receiver with Jeremy Maclin and now they can be a bit more flexible here. Eric Fisher has been a flop so far and is better suited at right tackle. Humphries has left tackle-mobility and major upside.

#19 Tennessee Titans — Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
Collins is long, talented and filled with potential. It’s no exaggeration to say he has the potential to be a leading corner in the NFL. I’d take him ahead of Waynes. This would be a fantastic pick for the Titans.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles — Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
Chip Kelly’s love affair with former Pac-12 players continues. The Eagles added Byron Maxwell but he needs a partner in crime. Walter Thurmond will cover the slot. If this is an attempt to mimic the Seahawks, Peters is a perfect fit with his physical style and press-man skills.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
Another former 5-star recruit with major potential. His stock would be much higher if Texas hadn’t fallen away as a national contender. Lives in the backfield — he’s an absolute terror. Put him next to Geno Atkins and enjoy.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
Eventually the day will come when they need to replace Troy Polamalu. That day feels like it’s close. Collins is physical, rangy and loves to hit. He’d have some big shoes to fill, but he’s the same style of safety.

#23 Detroit Lions — La’el Collins (T, LSU)
A lot of the top defensive tackles are off the board so they go in a different direction. Collins can play tackle or guard. He looked in superb shape at the combine. He could go earlier than this.

#24 Arizona Cardinals — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
They’ve missed out on Brian Orakpo to the Titans and haven’t really filled that edge-rush hole. Harold is the definition of ‘pissed off for greatness’ and would be a classic fit in the Cardinals’ sparky defense.

#25 Carolina Panthers — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
He looks like a prototype on tape but at the combine his body shape was pretty strange — enormous lower body, smaller upper body. It could put some teams off. If he falls, Carolina will pounce on the value here.

#26 Baltimore Ravens — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
They’ve re-signed Justin Forsett on a modest deal. They can now add Gurley, redshirt him and dominate the AFC North from 2016.

#27 Dallas Cowboys — Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)
This has to be a defensive pick surely? Jones’ stunning combine should push him into the first frame. Dallas can take a player at pretty much any position on defense and you can make a case to justify it.

#28 Denver Broncos — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
I’m a big fan of Flowers and think he could go a lot earlier than this. Whether you move him inside to guard or start him at right tackle — he plays with a mean edge, drives defenders off the line in the running game and just gets the job done.

#29 Indianapolis Colts — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
He has incredible upside and for that reason could go in the top-20 easily. And yet he’s such a work in progress. He might not offer much as a rookie. The Colts ideally go defense here but can they afford to pass on value like this? He’s worth a shot. Great character too.

#30 Green Bay Packers — Stephone Anthony (LB, Clemson)
His stock has exploded after a good combine and even better pro-day. The Packers need to add a centerpiece at the heart of their defense. They can’t afford to get cute if they want Anthony and might just take him here — or after a small trade out of the first round.

#31 New Orleans Saints — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
After taking an edge rusher at #13 they add a nose tackle to anchor their 3-4 defense. This really depends on the health of Phillips’ back. He has the athleticism and power to be a special player if it all clicks at the next level.

#32 New England Patriots — Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)
There’s a bit of a drop after Johnson so the Pats — in desperate need of talent at cornerback — have to consider this. How do you lose Revis and Browner in one off-season and not think about the position here?

Round two

#33 Tennessee Titans — Breshad Perriman (WR, USF)
#34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
#35 Oakland Raiders — Carl Davis (DT, Iowa)
#36 Jacksonville Jaguars — Erick Kendricks (LB, UCLA)
#37 New York Jets — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
#38 Washington Redskins — Ronald Darby (CB, Florida State)
#39 Chicago Bears — Owa Odighizuwa (DE, UCLA)
#40 New York Giants — Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State)
#41 St. Louis Rams — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
#42 Atlanta Falcons — Phillip Dorsett (WR, Miami)
#43 Cleveland Browns — Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State)
#44 New Orleans Saints — Devin Funchess (WR, Michigan)
#45 Minnesota Vikings — Paul Dawson (LB, TCU)
#46 San Francisco 49ers — Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami)
#47 Miami Dolphins — Shaq Thompson (LB/S, Washington)
#48 San Diego Chargers — Grady Jarrett (DT, Clemson)
#49 Kansas City Chiefs — Nelson Agholor (WR, USC)
#50 Buffalo Bills — A.J. Cann (G, South Carolina)
#51 Houston Texans — Maxx Williams (TE, Minnesota)
#52 Philadelphia Eagles — Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State)
#53 Cincinnati Bengals — Tyler Lockett (WR, Kansas State)
#54 Detroit Lions — Michael Bennett (DT, Ohio State)
#55 Arizona Cardinals — T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama)
#56 Pittsburgh Steelers — Steven Nelson (CB, Oregon State)
#57 Carolina Panthers — Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri)
#58 Baltimore Ravens — Henry Anderson (DE, Stanford)
#59 Denver Broncos — Tevin Coleman (RB, Indiana)
#60 Dallas Cowboys — Jay Ajayi (RB, Boise State)
#61 Indianapolis Colts — Eric Rowe (CB, Utah)
#62 Green Bay Packers — P.J. Williams (CB, Florida State)
#63 Seattle Seahawks — Ty Sambrailo (T/G, Colorado State)
#64 New England Patriots — Sammie Coates (WR, Auburn)

A quick thought on Seattle’s pick. I suspect we’ll see a lot of receivers come off the board at the start of day two meaning the options are fairly limited at #63. You’re not likely to trade up and give away valuable mid-round picks — not this year anyway. With Tyler Lockett and Henry Anderson off the board it was pretty simple to take Ty Sambrailo here. It’s probably a round early for most teams — but the Seahawks won’t care. He’s an ideal scheme fit. Tom Cable combines a zone blocking scheme with size for the power running game. Sambrailo has nimble feet and great mobility — plus the size to fill the enormous hole left by James Carpenter. It’s a great fit.

Having addressed the key needs on offense (dynamic big target) and defense (cornerback) the next big issue is the offensive line. They’ve lost two starters (Carpenter & Max Unger) and need to be proactive here. Sambrailo offers a day one starter at guard. The Seahawks seem to like tackle converts — he ticks that box too.

I suspect Tyler Lockett will be highly desirable as a possible kick-returner and contributor to the passing game. He’s off the board at #53 to Cincinnati. There’s good enough depth at the position to wait until rounds 3-4, where they could target Tre McBride.

Seahawks seven round mock draft

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

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

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

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

Confused? You will be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall draft class

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

Some of the other players I considered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts

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

Seahawks unlikely to find defensive line help in first two rounds

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Henry Anderson could provide a cheaper option to Tony McDaniel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s left?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Consider adding a defensive lineman in round three

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For all the combine data from today, click here.

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

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

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Jake Fisher stole the show at the combine today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what about his fit in Seattle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

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

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

There are nine in total:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at the first play in the video below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A video posted by Devin Funchess (@dfunch) on

William & Mary’s Tre McBride definitely one to watch

Friday, February 13th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look what he did to West Virginia in 2013:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 9th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other options

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

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

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

Jalen Collins, LSU cornerback, is a special talent

Friday, February 6th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else is happening today…

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

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

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