Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Breaking down the draft class: Poona Ford

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Seattle’s Super Bowl team wasn’t built on first round picks. They were a bunch of disrespected and under-appreciated players with a point to prove.

The early picks played their part, especially Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Bruce Irvin. But the Seahawks succeeded because they found star players in unlikely areas. A franchise quarterback in round three, a lockdown corner in round five, a #1 receiver as an undrafted free agent, a legendary running back on the scrap heap in Buffalo.

Many of those players had clear talent. They simply didn’t fit in with conventional NFL wisdom. They were too short, too big, too slow, too difficult. The Seahawks gave them a chance to show they could excel anyway.

Poona Ford is in exactly the same situation.

I don’t often do write-ups on undrafted free agents. The Seahawks signed a bunch immediately after the draft. Two of the most talked about signings were Ka’Raun White and Taj Williams, two receivers. Both were cut almost immediately.

A draft pick will get a little more leeway.

In Ford’s case though, I wanted to put something together. I’ve already written about Shaquem Griffin here and it’s going to be hard to assess Michael Dickson and Tre Flowers. I’m no expert on punting and Flowers played safety for Oklahoma State. It’s hard enough to judge safeties using TV copy tape. It’s even harder to judge a cornerback convert.

So for that reason I thought I’d write about Ford — a player we often projected to the Seahawks in our seven round mocks.

Perhaps more than any of Seattle’s undrafted free agents, it feels like he has two things working for him:

1. A familiar burning desire to prove a point and a major chip on his shoulder

2. A worthwhile skill set, undersold by a lack of conventional size

Russell Wilson was too short. Richard Sherman too tall and slow. Kam Chancellor needed to convert to linebacker.

Players with something to offer — they just didn’t match a consensus positional ideal within the league.

For Ford, it’s his height.

You don’t see many 5-11 defensive tackles in college or the NFL. We’re seeing increasingly bigger, faster and more athletic interior linemen.

Ford can play. He didn’t suffer due to a lack of attention. He played for Texas. It’s just unusual to look at a 5-11 defensive tackle. The NFL isn’t looking for that.

Where does he fit in?

Is he a possible three technique or is he mainly a space-eating one tech? Does he have the necessary sand in his pants (303lbs) if you want him to play the nose?

The thing is, there is a lot to work with. And Ford has an unusual attribute that might make teams really regret their decision not to take a flyer on him in the later rounds.

Yes — Ford is 5-11. However, he does have 33 inch arms and a +80 inch wingspan. That isn’t normal. He has longer arms than Vita Vea and Taven Bryan. They’re 6-4 and 6-5 respectively.

In an interior battle, this is a fantastic weapon.

Ford’s height actually becomes something of a positive. Because he isn’t 6-4, offensive linemen are going to find it hard to win with leverage. There isn’t the big target to punch and jolt. You’ll struggle to get into his pads. The lower man usually wins in the trenches and Ford, by his nature, will often be the lower man.

The problem for shorter DT’s (at least the ones without the quickness of Aaron Donald or the explosive qualities of Sheldon Rankins) is they can often be overpowered. This is especially difficult if they have short arms. Even if you’re the lower man — if the other guy can keep you off his frame easily, you’re not going to win many battles.

Ford’s length and height will mean he’s not only able to win with leverage — he also has the length to hand-fight and combat guards/centers.

He’s not the most explosive tester or the quickest. That will be the challenge. At the next level can he still do all of the things we saw at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl?

At the very least he has a shot.

Case in point — watch him vs Will Hernandez (drafted #34 overall):

Hernandez has 32 inch arms. You can clearly see Ford engage, swim and get off the block. This snap highlights Hernandez’s occasional laboured footwork and he can’t recover. Ford wins, he’s into the backfield and absolutely nails the quarterback.

If he can win like this against Hernandez, a player the New York Giants liked enough to take with the second pick in round two, he has a chance to stick in the league.

Leverage really matters and this is going to be Ford’s calling card. His height and length make him a really unique player. Here’s another snap from the Senior Bowl. Look at the way he gets into the pads of the O-liner and just drives him deep into the backfield:

Can he counter? Yes he can:

Here’s another angle. It’s against Bradley Bozeman, the Alabama center:

When you see a snap like that, it’s hard to imagine how he went undrafted. Ford had a great Senior Bowl week:

And it merely followed up a stand-out performance at the Shrine Game:

Here’s what Tony Pauline noted about Ford at the Shrine Game:

Ford was not as dominant as Senat yet was pretty darn good. He was probably quicker off the snap, played with better leverage and displayed a wider variety of moves. He was impossible to stop and even hammered bigger opponents such as Cody O’Connell of Washington State on occasion. Ford has size and scheme limitations but will be playing on Sundays next year, which is pretty amazing considering he wasn’t even graded by scouts entering the season.

The size (height) and scheme issue is why he went undrafted. He isn’t going to be a five technique, he might not be able to anchor your run defense. He’s probably out for the 3-4 teams. You’re going to need him to be able to rush the passer at his size.

This isn’t a talent issue. It’s a conventional wisdom issue. One that might prevent him from having a successful pro career. But he offers a lot — he might just need an opportunity.

Here’s further evidence of his first-step quickness and then power/leverage to drive his blocker into the backfield:

It’s very hard to understand why someone didn’t give him a shot on day three.

And then there’s the chip on his shoulder. Why wasn’t he invited to the combine? The fact he went undrafted probably justifies the call. He saw the positive in the situation:

“I’m used to being at a disadvantage… I’m a strong person, and I use that to my advantage. God don’t give his biggest battles to the weakest person.”

His coach, Tom Herman, was a little more irked about it:

“Why Poona Ford wasn’t invited to the combine, I’ll never know”

Mike Mayock agreed:

“Here’s what I think about Poona Ford… A, he should have been invited to the combine. The Big 12 defensive lineman of the year, productive, tough. I think what’s happening is that so many juniors are coming out this year, they’re holding spots for juniors and kicking some of the seniors out. But there’s no doubt he should have been invited to the combine.

“You get drafted at one area if you’re a run-only defender, and you get drafted earlier if you can affect the pass game… I think that’s what people have to figure out about him.”

Herman also raved about Ford during an interview with Brock & Salk on 710 ESPN.

“He’s a captain. He’s going to be a 10-year starter in that league. I’ve been doing this a long time… there’s three defensive tackles in my 20-years of coaching that I’ve seen that I would say have elite, elite, elite work ethic, determination, drive — play after play after play. That would be Casey Hampton way back when I was a graduate assistant in 1999… the second one would be Ed Oliver who had the opportunity to coach for a year at the University of Houston… and then Poona Ford. He’s on that list. He’s explosive, he’s powerful, he’s so strong. To me he’s the perfect nose guard.”

The Seahawks have done it several times in the Pete Carroll era. Taking a chance on an underrated player due to his size? So Seahawky.

Poona Ford has a chance to make it. We’ll see if he can be Seattle’s next great find.

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Breaking down the draft class: Will Dissly

Friday, May 4th, 2018

One way or another, the Seahawks were going to draft a blocking tight end.

It was inevitable. A foregone conclusion. As likely as a big investment in the running back position.

We never even really looked at the ‘pass-catching’ tight ends in this class. And that’s pretty much the whole class. The number of blockers, once again, was decidedly low. A point emphasised by Pete Carroll immediately after the draft:

“It has been harder to find, John (Schneider) has been checking it for years. We’ve really had a difficult time finding a guy that can do both, who can catch the ball and run some routes for you but can be a strong blocker.”

The Seahawks made a big investment in Zach Miller seven years ago. With money to spend and having already signed Sidney Rice and Robert Gallery, they signed Miller to a five-year, $34m contract with $17m guaranteed.

It was a huge investment at the time.

He was familiar with Tom Cable (himself having just joined the Seahawks) and fans saw a former second round pick with 2712 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns already to his name.

He was going to be a big time playmaker, right?

It depends how you define the term ‘playmaker’. Miller ended up being the perfect compliment to the Marshawn Lynch running game. He was a terrific blocker — legitimately as good as a sixth offensive lineman. When they needed an important catch to move the chains, he was often there.

In four seasons with the Seahawks he never had more than 396 receiving yards in a single year. His production statistically was unimpressive. Yet his production in terms of impact on the field was hugely significant.

When he retired after the 2014 season, the Seahawks went in a very different direction. Possibly (probably) in a retaliation to what happened in the Super Bowl, they went after a different type of tight end. A red zone monster, more of a pass catcher and certainly not a blocker.

They traded for Jimmy Graham.

They then proceeded to spend two years seemingly trying to convert him into a capable blocker. Carroll would reference Graham’s potential to become a complete tight end. It never happened. In year three he was used almost exclusively as a big red zone target. It was too late. The Seahawks — and Graham — needed a fresh start.

I don’t buy into this idea that Seattle’s culture changed the moment they traded for Graham. You could argue it was ill-advised to try and turn him into something he wasn’t (a good blocker). But there was more going on than just Graham’s addition from 2015 onwards. We were witnessing the end of the Marshawn Lynch era in Seattle, the offensive line became a major weakness and the injuries took a toll on many offensive players.

Even so, moving on from Graham and Luke Willson this year while adding Ed Dickson and Will Dissly is a statement of intent to get back to the 2011 plan.

The Seahawks don’t need an 800-900 yard tight end who can haul in 10 touchdowns. That’d be a bonus. First and foremost they need someone who can do the job Miller did. Block well, provide a reliable target.

That’s Dissly down to a tee.

Over the course of the draft coverage I mocked Dissly, Dalton Schultz and Durham Smythe to the Seahawks — all for their blocking ability. These were the three players competing in something similar to a pro-style offense (or at least an offense that featured the run). I paired Dissly with Seattle in my final seven-rounder.

Lance Zielein projected him as a sixth round pick.

Even so, I’m glad the Seahawks took him where they did. There’s nothing wrong with getting ‘your guy’. Many teams wouldn’t have been interested in a blocking tight end with a limited physical profile. But the Seahawks aren’t drafting for the rest of the league. At this time in the Pete Carroll era, with fixing the run being the priority, it was absolutely the right time to go and get a tight end like Dissly.

Not Mike Gesicki. Not Mark Andrews.

They needed someone they could put out there, deliver a decent block to help the pass or run and catch a few balls. No fuss, no pressure to get him the football. A modest albeit important job.

More than anything next season it’ll be refreshing not to read the weekly analysis of how many receptions a certain player had. Throughout Graham’s time in Seattle there was almost a pressure to get him the football. On the days when he didn’t get more than a couple of targets, it became a ‘thing’. Questions would be asked, people would wonder why they weren’t making him a feature.

There’s not going to be any of that anymore. Nobody is going to question how many targets Ed Dickson and Will Dissly received in a game. The Seahawks can go back to what they were in the 2011-2014 years. A bunch of under-appreciated, ‘pedestrian’ pass catchers. Russell Wilson can spread the ball around and Seattle can feature the running game again.

Back to Seahawks football.

Getting a running back and a tight end was vital from this class. Carroll and Schneider, quite clearly, got the two guys they really wanted. They didn’t leave anything to chance. They had their pick of the running back class apart from Saquon Barkley and they took Dissly in a range where they were assured to get him — and then declared him the best blocking tight end in the draft.

Running back they want? Check

Blocking tight end? Check

Pass rusher? Check

The three most important needs in this draft, all checked off.

And while many will complain about the lack of yet another first round pick on the O-line (just to put last years early OL pick on the bench) or no cornerback drafted early (despite their history of success on day three and the re-signing of Byron Maxwell) — these were the real moves the Seahawks had to make.

Again, I’m not here to just cheerlead for the Seahawks. I think the fact we’ve talked about these things for months proves that isn’t the case. We focused on running backs and tight ends quite a lot. They had to come out of this class having added to those two positions with guys that fit their way of doing things. And they pulled it off, despite the lack of picks.

How do you criticise that?

They did what they set out to do. You can’t accuse them of a lack of focus or clarity here. They had one pick at #18 and turned it into two players that had been ranked in the top-50. They got their tight end. They added some really intriguing players in rounds 5-7.

This was a good draft for the Seahawks. Simple as that. It might not be enough to propel them into a far superior record in 2018. They might go 9-7 again. But it might be a more palatable 9-7 with belief restored that this team can compete again in the future.

And hey — if they can run the ball this year and with Russell Wilson at quarterback, we shouldn’t set any limitations for what they can achieve.

So what about Dissly?

An anonymous NFC West Scout had this to say about him:

“He’s a Peterson guy. All-in with his commitment to the team and what he has to do. He won’t blow you away with talent or athleticism, but he does his job.”

That’s exactly what the Seahawks were looking for. A committed team player, ready to come in and block and do his job.

Bob McGinn listed Dissly as an ‘unsung hero’ in his piece on the receivers and tight ends, noting:

A consensus choice as the best blocking tight end in the draft. “Somebody will take him late because he’s a blocking fool,” said one scout. “There’s no ‘Y’s’ (conventional tight ends) anymore. Everybody plays the spread.” Shifted from DE to TE late in the 2015 season. Adequate size (6-3 ½, 261), below-average speed (4.88) and 35 on the Wonderlic.

What do you see on tape? Nothing overly spectacular — just a large number of really solid, competent blocks. He does his job, down after down.

He plays with the kind of edge you’d expect from a converted D-liner. He’ll often finish his blocks:

John Schneider complimented Dissly’s catching ability but there aren’t too many examples to highlight. He only had 21 receptions as a Senior for 289 yards and a couple of scores. I saw him live against Oregon and he only had one reception for six yards.

Here’s the thing though — you don’t see many errors. Either as a blocker or catcher. He can certainly snatch a difficult pass out of the air:

In this game against Montana, Dissly also had a really good reception on a scramble drill. He uncovered from the right sideline and gave Jake Browning an option, collected the pass at the 15-yard line and then fought his way to the goal line, carrying defenders along the way.

This was the play that really caught my attention in that game. His ability to understand the moment, provide a target and then finish the run was very Zach Miller-esque. And it’s not like Washington has a scrambling quarterback and this was just second nature for Dissly. It showed he had a natural feel to get open, provide a target and give Jake Browning an option.

His ability to finish runs consistently shows up. Against Utah, Dissly caught a fairly simple pass to what would be the right hash in the NFL. He’s hit at the 12-yard line as he completes the pass, breaks the tackle and then drags another defender to the two-yard line.

Against Oregon State he caught a pass on an outside slant to the right sideline. He cut back inside, dodged two defenders and made a difficult first down. In the same game he caught a checkdown from Browning and it took six (SIX) defenders to halt his progress. He was pushing the pile on his own.

This was also a game where he showed a genuine ability to quickly race down the seam and provide an option. He had a really sharp break off the snap, got downfield with enough shiftiness and made a 25-yard completion.

In a game against Portland State he again took another checkdown to the right sideline, plowed through one tackle and then side-stepped another to score a touchdown.

We also know the Seahawks like the occasional trick play…

There’s no real art in judging what Dissly does well. He’s tough, physical, reliable as a catcher and blocker and has surprising power and an ability to get open.

While he didn’t run an outstanding forty time (4.87) he did manage a 4.40 short shuttle. That’s no mean feat at 6-4 and 262lbs. That agility shows up fairly often.

The other thing he has in his locker is experience playing defense. In the same way Richard Sherman had an advantage due to his time playing receiver, Dissly can think like a pass rusher. He knows what to expect, what a defender is looking to do.

We’re not going to be sat here in four years time toasting Dissly for passing Jimmy Graham as the most productive tight end in franchise history. That’s not why they drafted him. They will need to find a way to replace some of Graham’s scoring production. That doesn’t have to come from the tight ends though. Hopefully the running backs will score more than one touchdown this year.

Dissly’s here to help the Seahawks get back to their brand of football. Dissly, Rashaad Penny, D.J. Fluker, Mike Solari, Ed Dickson. All moves designed to get the balance back on this offense.

I wanted to finish today with a few words about Cliff Avril. He never quite made the headlines like Richard Sherman or Michael Bennett. He wasn’t outspoken, he just got on with the job. Yet when we look back at what pushed the Seahawks over the top in 2013 — Avril was every bit as important as Bennett.

I remember the day well when Avril signed. There was something special about that off-season. The Percy Harvin trade, Bennett and Avril signing. The Seahawks were unstoppable — on the field and in free agency.

Before he was drafted in 2008 he ran a sensational 1.50 10-yard split. That’s as good as it gets for a pass rusher. Avril will be the benchmark from which we compare every future possible DE addition to this team.

And it’s often forgotten that his rush off the left edge played at least some part in ‘the tip’.

Through his effort on the field, his charity work and the way he always came across well in interviews, Avril deserves everyone’s respect now that his career in Seattle has ended prematurely.

He was a fantastic Seahawk — and we’ll be lucky to see another pass rusher capable of combining his intensity and effort on the field with humility and charm off it.

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Breaking down the draft class: Rasheem Green

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Rasheem Green wasn’t supposed to be a third round pick

He chose to declare for the draft, somewhat surprisingly, and when he made that decision the initial reaction was positive. Lance Zierlein noted he could be a first or second round pick in his NFL.com bio. He gave him a 5.88 grade, putting him a notch below Billy Price and Josh Allen. He graded above Christian Kirk, Kerryon Johnson, Kolton Miller, Austin Corbett, Nick Chubb, Frank Ragnow and Rashaad Penny.

Clearly Green had been given advice that he would be an early pick. In a year with a real lack of pass rush options, it wasn’t an unrealistic proposition.

Initially I didn’t think there was much chance he would last into round three. On April 3rd I mocked him as high as #24 to Carolina. There wasn’t a lot of buzz around his stock leading into the draft and in my final mock I had him again to the Panthers but at #55.

You can tell when a player might be set to last longer than expected. They have no buzz going into the draft. Projections drop. Zierlein ended up giving him a final second or third round projection. Bob McGinn’s sources offered the same grade with this accompanying blurb:

Third-year junior played DE in a 3-4 defense and moved inside on passing downs. “He’s naturally an outside guy,” said one scout. “One of the reasons he’s leaving is there was word they planned on him continuing to work inside. He sees himself as a defensive end. He’s super talented and super young (will turn 21 in May). He needs to get stronger. Probably would have benefited staying in an extra year. His best football is ahead of him.” Finished with 117 tackles (20 for loss) and 16 ½ sacks. Two teams have major medical concerns about his knee. “Kind of a potential guy,” said a third scout. “He’s got some inside pass rush. He’s not quite man enough inside and doesn’t have quite the juice outside. You’re hoping to project him to 3-technique. He doesn’t like going inside because I don’t think he’s tough enough.” From Los Angeles.

His stock started high but never gained the kind of momentum where you felt he was going to go early. Seattle took advantage of that.

This was a bad class to find an EDGE

Bradley Chubb was always destined for the top-five but after that? It was Marcus Davenport and not much else. With limited options and always a need for pass rushers, it felt like Green, Sam Hubbard and others would go early. Perhaps earlier than they deserved to go.

That wasn’t the case.

Both Green and Hubbard dropped. Pete Carroll and John Schneider noted it was a knee issue with Green that led to his fall. Hubbard had a disappointing final year at Ohio State.

It was left to the likes of Harold Landry (#41) and Kemoko Turay (#52) to pick up the slack. If this was a New Orleans blog we’d probably be reflecting on the complete dearth of options as a reason why the Saints made such an aggressive move to get Davenport. If you wanted a pass rusher this year, good luck.

And Seattle needed a pass rusher. They really needed one. So why not take a chance with Green? They might’ve been especially careful with their draft board this year but this felt like the time to roll the dice a little. As long as the knee issue isn’t too serious, take the shot.

They traded down from #76 so did they want Hubbard and got cute?

I’ve seen this suggested on Twitter. Presumably this suggestions is based on either cynicism or Pete Carroll’s obscure ‘draft clues’. He posted a GIF of a monkey running off with a hubcap. It’s a bit vague to connect ‘HUBcap’ and ‘Hubbard’.

Instead, I think this was the situation. They picked at #76. They liked both Hubbard and Green. They knew at least one would be available by dropping down to #79. So they made the deal.

Why would both Green and Hubbard appeal?

Agility testing.

Quinton Jefferson (4.37), Jordan Hill (4.51), Jaye Howard (4.47) and Malik McDowell (4.53) all tested superbly in the short shuttle. Bruce Irvin (4.03) and Frank Clark (4.05) both ran incredible short shuttles. Cassius Marsh’s 4.25 and Obum Gwacham’s 4.28 were also really good.

Here are the top-five D-line testers in the short shuttle at this years combine:

Sam Hubbard — 4.32
James Looney — 4.37
Rasheem Green — 4.39
Bradley Chubb — 4.41
Marcus Davenport — 4.41

If the Seahawks do view the short shuttle as a vital test, here’s why they were likely interested in Hubbard and Green. They not only recorded the first and third fastest times, they also beat Chubb and Davenport.

Now here’s the top five three cone times:

Sam Hubbard — 6.84
Taven Bryan — 7.12
Marcus Davenport — 7.20
Rasheem Green — 7.24
B.J. Hill — 7.28

Hubbard’s time is the sixth fastest in the last 10 years of the combine.

So here were two players who were available in an ideal range for the Seahawks, testing in the area they were looking to add a defensive lineman.

Evidence of a well judged draft plan.

So this was the right way to go about this class?

We made this point in the Rashaad Penny review but essentially these were the options:

1. Harold Landry at #27 then Nyheim Hines, Mark Walton, Kalen Ballage or Chase Edmunds at running back

2. Rashaad Penny (the RB you want before the rush starts) and Rasheem Green

The Seahawks haven’t received positive grades for their draft class. Considering they had one pick at #18 and then nothing until #120 though, how can you criticize what they were able to do here? If fixing the run and adding a pass rusher was the priority, mission accomplished.

So what about Rasheem Green the player?

He’s not the finished article and that shows up on tape. Yet the upside is so high for a third round pick. That’s not me just being positive about everything the Seahawks do. That’s not how we operate here. I’ll always be honest. And my honest view is — this was a value pick.

Here’s what an anonymous AFC regional scout said about Green courtesy of NFL.com:

“I wanted him to go back to school because he probably would have been a top-10 pick next year. He’s not strong enough to handle NFL guys yet so this year may be a redshirt year for him. He’s got some serious juice though. He’s going to be a dude when it all comes together.”

This sums it up perfectly.

1. He has incredible, untapped potential — enough that he could’ve been a high first rounder next year

2. He needs time to get stronger and wiser

3. He could be very, very good

Seattle needs the aforementioned ‘dude‘. Someone to fill the massive void left by Michael Bennett.

Not that anyone should expect the second coming of Bennett. From arriving in Seattle as an UDFA and then moving to Tampa Bay — nothing about Bennett’s career was expected or orthodox. There were no great testing numbers. No rhyme or reason to what he does. He’s probably as rare as Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks couldn’t have asked for a better inside/out rusher to compliment their star-studded secondary during the glory years.

Green has a lot to do to get to that level. An awful lot. But it’s indicative of his potential that he might be able to get there one day.

One of the things Bennett had was an arsenal of moves. He could win with power or rush the edge, he knew how to set up a blocker over several snaps and he often out-thought as well as out-fought his opponent. Green, at the moment, is a little bit predictable. He needs a counter. You see the flash off the edge and he will win with speed and length. There are also times where he gets stalled and you’d love to see a club/swipe or a spin — just something to mix things up.

One of the reasons I liked Dalton Schultz a lot as a blocker was the way he battled with Green. At the next level, that needs to be a mismatch.

He could also be a bit edgier and rough around the edges. Bennett had a mean streak and an attitude that sometimes pushed the line of acceptability. Green is almost a bit too polite at the moment. Perhaps he can be the aggressor a bit more going forward? But he’s 20-years-old. If we’re saying the same things in five years, it’s a problem. Not now though.

That’s why the anonymous AFC regional scout said what he said above. When he gets stronger, wiser and a little bit more experienced — watch out. Because what he already does well is pretty exciting.

The Seahawks need a player who can rush from the inside on key downs. There is ample evidence that Green can do this while also playing with power and aggression when needed too.

As noted immediately after the pick, he was sometimes asked to play nose tackle. Malik McDowell had the same task at Michigan State. He should never have been asked to play as much nose tackle as he was at MSU. He still excelled. His one-arm bull rush was incredible. His combination of length and power was freakish. It’s why Seattle took the chance on McDowell.

Green shows some evidence of that same power/length combo. He’s a pure inside/out or EDGE pass rusher and yet he can anchor inside:

Just look at the way be bullies his way into the backfield from an interior position:

And I highlighted this one the other day. Nobody does this to Billy Price. I watched virtually all of Price’s 2017 games and this is a collector’s item:

Here he is winning with relative ease against UCLA using a club/rip:

This is why you get excited about this pick. If he’s succeeding from the interior like this already, that’s the exciting part.

He can rush the EDGE. You can find examples of that. Lots of players do this in college:

Yet more than anything the Seahawks need an inside/out threat. Those types are rare and difficult to find.

His effort and motor are also a major positive. He doesn’t stop, competes to the ball and makes plays:

It took Frank Clark a year to reach something close to his best in the NFL. It might take Green a year to get there too. But he’ll contribute quickly to Seattle’s rotation and his potential down the line is clear and obvious. As long as the health of his knee isn’t a big problem, he could be a key component of the new look Seahawks.

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Breaking down the draft class: Rashaad Penny

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Before getting into Rashaad Penny the player, a few thoughts on the pick:

1. The Seahawks took the guy they wanted not the consolation prize

Whatever your thoughts are on Seattle drafting a running back early, two points are indisputable. The Seahawks set out to fix the run as a priority. They appeared set on taking a running back with their first pick. And rather than keep trading back and ending up with their second, third or fourth choice, they took the guy they really wanted.

It’s refreshing to know they got their guy. We’ll never wonder if they missed out on target #1. With a pick of the whole running back class aside from Saquon Barkley, they genuinely wanted Penny. Not Nick Chubb. Not Sony Michel. Not Kerryon Johnson or Ronald Jones II or Derrius Guice. They landed the guy they sought the most. They didn’t get cute. Pete Carroll stated, emphatically:

“I don’t mind telling ya, this pick fires me up. I am jacked about this pick.”

It’s not uncommon for Pete to be ‘pumped’ or ‘jacked’. It’s fair to say though, this was an especially ‘jacked’ Carroll. They really wanted Rashaad Penny.

2. Rashaad Penny + Rasheem Green = better than the alternative

The Seahawks could’ve taken Harold Landry (overrated) or Taven Bryan at #27 and waited until round three to take a running back. That would’ve been fine if you were content with Nyheim Hines, Mark Walton, Kalen Ballage or Chase Edmunds being trusted to help ‘fix the run’. Those were the four running backs taken after pick #76.

So what would you rather have? Rashaad Penny, the running back they really wanted, and Rasheem Green — a player who, according to one unnamed AFC regional scout, “probably would have been a top-10 pick next year“? Or Harold Landry and Kalen Ballage?

I’ll go with option A.

3. The good running backs were always going to go early

How often did we talk about at least six running backs being off the board by pick 50?

#2 Saquon Barkley
#27 Rashaad Penny
#31 Sony Michel
#35 Nick Chubb
#38 Ronald Jones II
#43 Kerryon Johnson

Six were gone by #43. The predictable rush on running backs occurred right in the range everyone expected. Royce Freeman lasted until #71 (I personally thought he’d go in the top-65) and Derrius Guice dropped to #59 due to well publicized character concerns.

If you wanted one of the top runners you couldn’t hang about. The likes of John Kelly (sixth round) and Bo Scarborough (seventh round) clearly weren’t viewed positively by teams in the league. This was most definitely a case of ‘go early or miss out’.

The Seahawks acted accordingly.

4. Stick to your guns

I like to try and learn from every draft. There’s always a lesson. I’ve already mentioned my regret at being swayed to pick a cornerback (Isaiah Oliver) to be Seattle’s first pick after spending a whole draft season talking about the running game. Another lesson also became evident after a few days. One I should’ve already learnt from.

In 2012 the first player we talked about immediately after the 2011 draft was Bruce Irvin. Here’s the piece and here’s an exert:

He’s the best kept secret in college football. Last season he recorded 14 sacks and yet received virtually no hype. West Virginia pulled off a masterstroke appointing Dana Holgorsen as their offensive coordinator and future head coach. He was the mastermind behind Oklahoma State’s free-scoring offense which consistently churned out talent at running back and wide receiver. The Mountaineers will have a productive offense next season and with Irvin leading the way on defense they’re an outside pick to go unbeaten next year. That’ll help to put this guy firmly on the map.

Make no mistake this is the most devastating, dominating and exciting player you’ll watch during the 2011 college season.

Then when the college season started and West Virginia strangely used Irvin in a three man front, we only occasionally talked about him. And we projected him as a third round option by the 2012 draft like most people.

The ideal LEO, as Pete Carroll later called Irvin, had been identified almost a full year before the Seahawks drafted him. And rather than keep that thought firmly in our minds, we looked at other players at the business end of the draft coverage.

Six years on, history repeated.

The first running back we talked about during the 2017 season was Rashaad Penny. Here’s the piece and here are some of the notes:

San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny is a player to start paying attention to. Listed at 5-11 and 220lbs, he’s right in the ball park for Seattle’s size preference at the position…. A true all-rounder with great speed, thickness and athleticism — he’s a Senior running back to watch for the rest of 2017.

That was in September and in a follow up piece in November, there was this:

It’ll be interesting to see how Nick Chubb tests following his knee injury. We’ve often referenced his performance at one of the Nike SPARQ combines. If he gets anywhere near that again and the medical checks are OK, he could go very early.

There are others to mention — Bryce Love, Derrius Guice, Damien Harris, Ronald Jones and Royce Freeman to name a few. The one I’d keep an eye on the most at the moment is San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny.

He’s having a fantastic year with 1368 and 12 rushing touchdowns (plus 136/2 as a pass catcher). He has six career kick return touchdowns and he combines toughness, elusiveness and the ability to break off big plays. He’s in Seattle’s size bracket (5-11, 220lbs). He also talks well in interviews and is elevating his team to a strong season.

I’m not sure where Penny will go in terms of round. We’ll need to see how he tests. Yet if the Seahawks did move down into rounds 2-3 to accumulate more picks, I wouldn’t bet against Penny landing on this team.

We focused on Penny during the college season and then during the draft season spent more time on Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb and others. It’s something to remember and learn from going forward.

So, what does the tape say about Rashaad Penny?

The thing that really stands out is his burst and suddenness. His straight-line acceleration is impressive. When he finds a crease and gets to the second level, he’ll be a threat to break off big runs. He’s a different type of back than they’ve had in the past. Marshawn Lynch was a generational power back. Thomas Rawls was an angry, aggressive runner constantly seeking contact. Christine Michael was all lower body explosive power. Penny isn’t the most explosive player and he doesn’t have the Rawls running style. He’s a lot quicker though.

It might indicate a desire to have more explosive running plays. Even a year ago they seemed to be looking for a more physical approach. Eddie Lacy was supposed to provide size and power (but emphatically didn’t). Chris Carson was more explosive than fast (4.58 forty vs 37 inch vertical). Before he got injured Carson showed an ability to fall forward. He was tough to stop and physical rather than quick.

Penny has 4.47 speed. He’s a home run threat. And maybe they wanted someone who will do the fundamentals well but also provide that X-factor ability to score at any time?

He’s not just about ‘speed’ though. According to PFF he had 1295 yards after contact in college — more than any other running back in the 2018 draft. Not bad for a player who was only a one-year starter. He also led the class in missed tackles forced.

Put on the tape and plays like this are quite frequent:

Want to see a bit of Baby Beast Mode?

Or a bit of Baby Beast Mode Blocking?

Can he be an asset in the passing game? This play suggests he can:

So there’s plenty of the toughness you want to see. He also gets on with the job. Because while all the highlight runs are nice, perhaps the most exciting part of his game are plays like this:

It’s third and three against Stanford and they’ve got eight defenders lined up close to the LOS. They know it’s a run. They’re going for it anyway. ‘Hand it to #20’. He finds his gap, gets skinny through the hole and plows forward for a 14-yard gain.

How many 3rd and 3 conversions did the Seahawks have from their running game last season? Zero?

It’s not a big, gaping hole he exploits here. At one point it looks like #57 is going to make a play but Penny is just too quick. And then you see the physicality to finish the run and get the most out of the play.

This is what fires me up most about this pick. Not a play like this:

Or this:

Or the huge game he had against Arizona State:

Whenever you take a running back in the first round you expect some electricity. Penny will provide that in spades. He’ll be the proverbial threat to score any time he touches the ball.

But what I really like about his suddenness, finishing ability and toughness is the way he’ll effectively help Seattle sustain drives. Hopefully, he’ll provide the kind of balance that has been non-existent for two years.

Mike Mayock described him as a ‘weaver’. You can see why. He’s not an ankle breaker and certainly doesn’t possess anything like Saquon Barkley’s jump-cut (but who does?). He uses subtle motion to deceive defenders:

This is likely why one of Bob McGinn’s sources said of Penny:

“I don’t think he has good feel or a lot of niftiness.”

He’s still, essentially, a 220lbs runner. ‘Niftiness’ would be a rare trait. Another of McGinn’s sources added:

“Makes guys miss. Got great contact balance.”

And that sums it up. He isn’t going to be DeSean Jackson in a 1v1. He still makes guys miss in his own way. And that contact balance shows up time and time again with the way he finishes runs, gains the extra yards after contact and forces the broken tackles.

Overall this is what the Seahawks are getting:

1. A runner who can be in on any down or distance

2. A sudden, quick runner with burst and acceleration

3. A player who can be a legit returner on special teams

4. Someone who drives through contact and finishes

5. A patient runner who will work through traffic to convert short-yardage situations to extend drives

6. A threat to score any time he gets the ball in his hands

7. A player with ideal size for the position, above average speed for his frame and explosive traits

8. A player with no durability concerns

9. A possibly solution to their greatest single need — fixing the run

What does he need to work on? The usual stuff. Most running backs need to work on pass protection when they enter the league. Penny isn’t unique there. There aren’t many Ezekiel Elliott’s in college. Penny, in fairness, wasn’t even asked to do much pass-pro in college.

There are also occasions where he misses a cutback lane in the way Ronald Jones II doesn’t. That’s not to say he isn’t capable of dynamic cuts to make big gains. He is. But occasionally he’s more north-south and doesn’t feel the cut to make more of the run. It’s a minor quibble and an easy teaching point.

His vertical jump (32.5 inches) was a little lower than they’ve preferred in the past and was well below the attempts of Saquon Barkley (41 inches) Kerryon Johnson (40 inches), Nick Chubb (38.5 inches) and Ronald Jones II (36.5 inches). His broad jump (10-0) was only the joint 12th best among running backs at the combine. Chubb (10-8) and Johnson (10-6) both faired better.

Ideally this is an area where we’ll see some improvement once he enters a pro-training program.

Why did Seattle draft him ahead of some of the other runners available? Let’s run through the list:

Nick Chubb — highly explosive, ideal size, great attitude but one-paced, not a passing game threat, injury history with the knee

Kerryon Johnson — very powerful and physical runner and set the tone for Auburn in 2017 but high-cut frame and upright running style encourage injuries and he’s been banged up

Ronald Jones II — extremely quick and dynamic with star-potential but smaller than ideal size, there were some concerns about his pre-draft process (injuries, poor meetings) and might need to be part of a duo

Sony Michel — very versatile, mature and productive but legit concerns about bone-on-bone knee issue and lack of explosive traits

Derrius Guice — Tough, physical runner but major concerns about his maturity, focus, character and had a bizarre pre-draft period (and was banged up in 2017)

Royce Freeman — Very fluid, smooth and productive runner but unfortunately he’s a big back who runs like a smaller back

Then you look at Penny. He has ideal size, plus speed, enough explosive attributes, major production, high character, physicality, can catch the ball and he has no injury concerns.

Seattle needed a running back. They need to fix their running game. Rashaad Penny gives them an opportunity to create a ‘run-aissance’ as Kenny Sloth has been calling it in the comments section (nice work Kenny).

Rashaad Penny & Shaquem Griffin jerseys are now available via the NFL Shop. To purchase either, check the blog sidebar.

I promised podcasts and here are two. One with Kenny at Field Gulls and another with the Seahawkers. Both are running through the draft classes in full. Please listen to both if possible:

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Notes on Seattle’s VMAC & workout prospects

Friday, April 13th, 2018

So far, 24 of Seattle’s 30 official ‘visits’ have been made public (either by the players themselves or via various reports).

Seven off-site workouts have also been revealed.

Here are notes on most of the players the Seahawks have met with…

‘Official 30’ visitors

Justin Reid (S, Stanford)
Ran a 4.40 forty at 6-0 and 207lbs. Despite that speed, he isn’t a natural rangy free safety. He does his best work up at the line like his brother. It doesn’t mean he can’t develop into a viable single-high option but there’s not a lot of that on tape. High character, strong personality. If the Seahawks end up trading Earl Thomas they might consider Reid or Wake Forest’s Jesse Bates III with an early pick.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Some people like the guy but I think they like him because of his brother… I just didn’t see it. I don’t know why the guy came out. He’s got some ball skills but he misses a lot of tackles.”

Likely range: Could easily go in the 20’s based on bloodlines and speed. Worst-case scenario is probably early round two.

Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
Only ran a 4.58 at his Pro-day at 6-2 and 207lbs. Does possess a +80 inch wingspan though and had decent explosive testing numbers at the combine (34 vertical, 10-0 broad). His hit on Kerryon Johnson in the Iron Bowl potentially changed the course of the SEC in 2017. Very much a strong safety. With a potential Earl Thomas trade in the pipeline, it’s no surprise the Seahawks are looking at the available options.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Tough guy… Plays the game the right way. Got to be coming forward. More of a box guy.”

Likely range: It won’t be a shock if he sneaks into the late first round but a safe projection is round two.

Kemoko Turay (DE, Rutgers)
Classic EDGE type and when he’s healthy and on it, Turay looks the part. He had a terrific Senior Bowl and ended the practise week as a big winner. Didn’t complete all the drills at the combine due to a hamstring injury. Didn’t do anything other than the bench at pro-day. Ran a 1.62 10-yard split at 253lbs. It’s not the ideal 1.5 but he was hampered by that hamstring issue. Comparisons to Yannick Ngakoue aren’t without merit.

Lance Zierlein: “Explosive edge defender with the coveted traits of an NFL pass rusher.”

Likely range: He’s a day two pick, possibly round three but could land somewhere in round two due to the weak pass rush options this year.

Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
A stud. Pure and simple. As we highlighted a month ago, Vander Esch compares physically to all of the top linebackers in the league. He’s one of the top 15-20 players in the draft. Explosive, instinctive, intense and quick. He doesn’t get the same hype as Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds but he might have a better career. LVE could play SAM in year one and eventually replace K.J. Wright at the WILL.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Very instinctive… Alert, active, aggressive. Square tackler. Got good range. These guys don’t get blocked because they have such a great first step.”

Likely range: Probably won’t make it to #18

Austin Corbett (T, Nevada)
He’s similar to Isaiah Wynn. They both played left tackle in college, they’re both expected to kick inside to guard. Yet neither got beat very often at tackle. Wynn and Corbett played better than Kolton Miller in 2017. Miller will be drafted first purely because he projects to tackle. We wrote about Corbett in depth here. Like Wynn, he’s a stone-cold stud. One of my five favourite players in the class.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Day one starter… He’s similar to the (Joel) Bitonio guy that came out of there (2014, second round, Browns). He doesn’t look like he should be a left tackle but just very, very, very productive. Competitive, smart (Wonderlic of 27), good athlete, good strength for his size. Just a really good player. First round.”

Likely range: He’s so good it won’t be a shock if he goes late first round. If he’s there in round two — it’s a steal.

Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
If draft grades were given out for physical measurements and testing, Sweat would be a top-five lock. He has everything — a 1.55 10-yard split, 34.5 inch arms, a 4.53 forty, a near 40 inch vertical and a 4.28 short shuttle. Quickness, length, explosive traits. Injury history (knee) and a tendency to be late off the snap are the negatives but there’s a lot to work with here. Mature, high-character player. Would be a LEO/EDGE in Seattle.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “He reminds me of the guy from there who went to the Ravens. Peter Boulware. Built like him. He’s got that kind of take-off.”

Likely range: It’ll depend on how willing teams are to take a chance on his health and how desperate they are to get a pass rusher given the limited options. Top-45 isn’t out of the question.

Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Some will view him as arguably the best defensive tackle in the draft (he’s certainly the best interior pass rusher). Others won’t like the scheme fit. Hurst is dynamite as a one-gap penetrative force. Physically though nothing stands out. His frame (6-1, 292lbs) and length (32 inch arms) could be a problem defending the run and might limit him to a role as a specialist rusher. His pro-day marks were nothing special — 4.95 forty, 1.69 10-yard split, 4.64 short shuttle. High character. Could be a Clinton McDonald type.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “I could never take the guy in the first round… He’ll get hammered if he has to play two gaps. He’s a quick penetrator. He‘s just got to fit your system.”

Likely range: A team like Atlanta could show serious interest at #26. It’s also possible he lasts into round two.

Andrew Brown (DT, Virginia)
Former 5-star big-time recruit. Neither Brown or Quin Blanding lived up to the billing at Virginia. Was that down to them or circumstance? It wasn’t for a lack of effort though. Brown gives everything on the field. He had a terrific Senior Bowl and really looked the part. Super quick short shuttle (4.48) for a 6-3, 296lbs lineman. An underrated player with a lot of potential. A possible Michael Bennett replacement.

NFL.com sources: “Great football character and he goes hard all the time. I think he has a chance to be a good pro because he’ll play inside full time and he’s got some quickness to beat guards.”

Likely range: I think he’ll go a lot earlier than expected. Possibly rounds 2-3.

Breeland Speaks (DE, Ole Miss)
Watching a Speaks highlight video feels like you’re watching a first rounder. His mobility and quickness working the edge at 6-3 and 287lbs is impressive. He rushes like a pure EDGE at times. Sadly the full game tape shows inconsistent play to go with the occasional flash. Even so, he ran a 1.65 10-yard split at his size and that can’t be ignored. Another possible Michael Bennett replacement.

Lance Zierlein: “He can be chippy and emotional on the field and needs to mature, but he has the talent and ability to continue getting better.”

Likely range: Middle rounds — but the type that could end up turning into a valued starter.

Holton Hill (CB, Texas)
Hill looks like a Seahawks corner. He’s nearly 6-2 and 195lbs with that wiry, long frame they like (32 inch arms). His short shuttle (4.15) was very good — an important test at this position. There seems to be some concern about his maturity but it’s difficult to find specific examples of this. Didn’t have a great combine in terms of the drills but it was a lousy CB session overall. I like him and he played well against Oklahoma State’s James Washington. The Seahawks often take a day three corner to develop and Hill could be the guy.

NFL.com sources: “He will fall further than he should because you can’t trust him. He needed a clean, productive season to rehab the perception around him and I felt like he should have gone back to school. He can play. He’s a Day 2 talent, but I doubt he goes there.”

Likely range: Fourth or fifth round. Ideal for Seattle.

Isaiah Oliver (CB, Colorado)
There’s a ton to like about Oliver. He’s good in press, he’s 6-2 and 201lbs and he has fantastic length (33.5 inch arms). He’ll cover a huge radius and will be able to compete with bigger receivers. At his pro-day he ran a 4.00 short shuttle which is outstanding. He looks and plays like a Seahawks corner. But how early are you willing to take a corner? Because he will not last long due to his testing numbers and size. He’s going to be an early pick.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “He’s really good in press… Off, he needs a lot of work. He’s got a lot of skills. Got good length. Not very strong. He might go in the first round.”

Likely range: A few weeks ago the third round felt likely. Now? First or second.

Dorance Armstrong (DE, Kansas)
AKA one of the guys who instigated Baker Mayfield’s infamous ‘gesture’ during the Oklahoma vs Kansas game. Shaking the cage didn’t have the impact they hoped for that day. This was a curious workout and perhaps hints at the lack of pass rush options in this draft. Armstrong ran a 4.87 forty at the combine despite weighing 257lbs. He then ran a 4.88 at his pro-day. So he’s not especially quick (1.69 10-yard split). He is a natural pass rusher though.

Lance Zierlein: “Armstrong has the tools and upside to become a complete player and good NFL starter.”

Likely range: It’s difficult to say. A drop in production last year and a mediocre combine could push him into day three.

Jacob Pugh (LB, Florida State)
Former four-star recruit who chose FSU over Alabama and Florida. Major explosive traits. He managed a near 40 inch vertical plus a 10-2 broad jump. He’s 6-3 and 246lbs with great length (34.5 inch arms). In terms of a physical prospect he’s one to watch. He’s had concussions and this will limit his stock. The Seahawks need young depth at linebacker and could see Pugh as a priority free agent.

Lance Zierlein: “Pugh needs a strong lead-up to the draft because his tape is uneven and his career production has been unimpressive. There are some traits to work with, but finding the right positional fit may be a challenge.”

Likely range: Undrafted

Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
Ford wasn’t invited to the combine and that seemed to tick him off. He’s only 5-11 but that’s not as much of a problem when you have 33.5 inch arms. He’ll win a lot of leverage battles at that height and unusually, for a shorter DT he’ll be able to extend and keep blockers off his frame. He might be a diamond in the rough as a pass rusher. Ford has a tremendous motor and plays with great effort.

Lance Zierlein: “While Ford flashed the ability to stack blocks and play with some strength at the point of attack, his lack of overall mass could make it tough for teams to see him in anything other than a penetrating, 4-3 scheme.”

Likely range: Day three is likely, somewhere between rounds 5-7

Other ‘official-30’ visitors: Foyesade Oluokun, Ito Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Khalid Hill, Devron Davis, Cole Madison, Kyle Allen, Simeon Thomas, Julian Taylor, Edward Shockely

Off-site workouts

Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State)
It’s a weird year at the tight end position. It doesn’t look like a horrendous class by any stretch. It’s just not particularly exciting. And for a lot of the bigger names, Goedert included, it’s difficult to work out where they should go. He performed well at his pro-day — jumping a 35 inch vertical and a 10-1 broad. He also had an eye-catching 4.06 short shuttle and a 6.87 three cone at 6-5 and 256lbs. The Seahawks are very likely to be in the market for a young tight end.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “He’s getting a lot of hype but I don’t quite understand why… I guess it’s just because there is nobody else. He’s just kind of a small-school guy.”

Likely range: It’s so hard to say. Some think late first. There was a time when it looked like no tight ends would be drafted in the first two rounds, though.

Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M)
If the Seahawks want to draft the complete opposite of Malik McDowell they might turn to Christian Kirk. Zero character issues, ideal attitude, consistent college performer. If they just want a good football player with minimal bust potential, Kirk’s the man. He’s a downfield dynamo and a good fit for an Air Coryell-type offense. He uncovers well in the scramble drill and he’s a special teams force as a returner. Solid but unspectacular testing numbers.

Bob McGinn’s sources: “Big-time player… Excellent returner on punts and kickoffs. Explosive. Only thing that hurt him this year was the quarterback didn’t throw well. Only negative is his height. He’s well-built. Good hands. Extends and lays out. Really strong.”

Likely range: He’s trending upwards and could be a late first or early second round pick.

Kalen Ballage (RB, Arizona State)
Tony Pauline said in our conversation this week that Ballage looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane. Ballage promised a lot at Arizona State and was unable to deliver. That said, Tony also told us he’d heard Ballage’s pro-day performance was one of the best his sources had ever seen. He can run with toughness and he’s an excellent threat in the passing game. Is he ever going to be more than a compliment though? Ballage fits Seattle’s prototype at the position (size, explosive traits) perfectly.

Lance Zierlein: “Ballage can do a little of this and a little of that, but a team will need to have a clear-cut plan for how to use him.”

Likely range: Rounds 3-4

Other off-site workouts: Demone Harris, Abdullah Anderson, Manase Hungalu, Kyle Allen

If you missed our interview with Tony Pauline from Draft Analyst yesterday, make sure to check it out below…

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Ian Thomas is a name to watch for the Seahawks

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Despite signing Ed Dickson in free agency, the Seahawks could still draft a tight end.

Dickson is 31 in July and Nick Vannett is a question mark after an underwhelming two-years in the league so far.

Having lost both Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson, a rookie addition seems likely.

They could wait until the middle or later rounds and consider a strong blocking TE like Dalton Schultz, Durham Smythe or Will Dissly.

The Seahawks also reportedly scheduled a workout with Dallas Goedert.

Indiana’s Ian Thomas is another name to monitor.

Grit, adversity, athletic potential. Those are three words to sum up Thomas.

According to Joe Schad at the Palm Beach Post, he had a lot to deal with as a child:

On Thomas’ 8th birthday, his mother Martha died due to complications from an abscessed tooth.

One year later, his father Earl died following a heart attack.

“So I’m right in the middle,” Thomas said of the nine siblings. “As we were growing up, we were moving from place to place. I kind of lived with my uncle for a while. And he wanted to put us in foster care. So my older brother took us in. And he became my guardian. He got custody of us. And we’ve been with him ever since. We’ve just moved as a family all around.”

Clearly nothing has come easy to Thomas or his family.

Does he have a passion for the game? We know the Seahawks are seeking guys that are ‘all football’. According to Thomas’ bio on NFL.com (written by the superb Lance Zierlein):

‘In his building he’s known as “humble and focused” and scouts say he loves football’

That’s another box checked off.

This line is also interesting (listed as a weakness):

“Leaves yardage on the field with his overwhelming desire to punish rather than elude after the catch”

He’s also shown at least some potential to become a useful blocker according to Zierlein:

“Blocking got substantially better as season progressed and he was allowed to work more in-line than as a move blocker”

Here’s a good example. Michigan’s Rashan Gary is a possible top-10 pick next year. Watch how Thomas seals the edge on this running play for a big gain:

If he’s capable of that against Rashan Gary, NFL coaches will feel there’s something to work with here.

Here’s another example from the Senior Bowl. Thomas works across the line to deliver a wham block:

There’s also his athletic profile. At around 6-4 and 259lbs he ran a 4.74 at the combine (improved to a 4.65 at his pro-day). He also managed a 36 inch vertical, a 10-3 broad and a 4.20 short shuttle. Only two other tight ends came close to this kind of physical performance — Mike Gesicki and Tyler Conklin.

Thomas also has big 10 inch hands and a +80 inch wingspan (big catching radius).

He’s raw and you can clearly see that watching tape. There’s a reason why his most productive season (2017) totalled only 376 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

He was still capable of plays like this (selling a route to the sideline, then shooting upfield):

He can also work the seam, get open and finish:

He’s a threat in the redzone (without simply needing to box out and win jumps balls):

This play just seems so effortless. Great finish too:

And this is a really nice play from the Senior Bowl. Mobility, quickness, great hands, big gain:

There are also some things he needs to work on. There are occasions where he struggles to separate and given his athletic profile you’d expect that wouldn’t be an issue. He can’t shake off safety Quin Blanding here:

Thomas probably isn’t going to be the next Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowksi or Greg Olsen. He’s likely to be a more modest contributor at the next level — but he has almost an unheralded quality.

Give him time to develop and he could turn into a complete tight end. He’ll play with intensity and a willingness to block, plus he’ll provide a nice catching radius and the athletic profile to be a mismatch in the short and long game.

Tight end might not be Seattle’s #1 priority in the draft but it could be a lot higher up the list than people realise. It shouldn’t be a shock if they take a running back and tight end with their first two picks.

They’d likely need to take Thomas in the second or third round. Keep his name on your radar.

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New two round mock draft: 3rd April

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Time for a new mock draft. This one includes trades (detailed below), a second round projection and a full Seahawks seven-round mock.

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#3 NY Jets (via Ind) — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#5 Buffalo (via Den) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#6 Indianapolis (via NYJ) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#7 Tampa Bay — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#8 Chicago — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#10 Oakland — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#11 Miami — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#12 Denver (via Buf, Cin) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#13 Washington — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#14 Green Bay — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#15 Arizona — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#16 Baltimore — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#17 LA Chargers — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Kolton Miller (T, UCLA)
#19 Dallas — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#20 Detroit — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#21 Cincinnati (via Buf) — Justin Reid (S, Stanford)
#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Harold Landry (DE, Boston College)
#23 New England (via LA) — Jaire Alexander (CB, Louisville)
#24 Carolina — Rasheem Green (DE, USC)
#25 Tennessee — Sam Hubbard (DE, Ohio State)
#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#27 New Orleans — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
#28 Pittsburgh — Jessie Bates III (S, Wake Forest)
#29 Jacksonville — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#30 Minnesota — Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
#31 New York Giants (via NE) — Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
#32 Philadelphia — Austin Corbett (G, Nevada)

#33 Seattle (via Cle) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
#34 New England (via NYG) — Mason Rudolph (QB, Oklahoma State)
#35 Cleveland — Carlton Davis (CB, Auburn)
#36 Indianapolis — Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
#37 Indianapolis — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#38 Tampa Bay — Derrius Guice (RB, Tampa Bay)
#39 Chicago — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#40 Denver — Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
#41 Oakland — Hayden Hurst (TE, South Carolina)
#42 Miami — James Daniels (C, Iowa)
#43 New England (via SF) — D.J. Moore (WR, Maryland)
#44 Washington — Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
#45 Green Bay — Isaiah Oliver (CB, Colorado)
#46 Cincinnati — Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
#47 Arizona — Mike Hughes (CB, UCF)
#48 LA Chargers — B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)
#49 Indianapolis — Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
#50 Dallas — Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas)
#51 Detroit — Connor Williams (T, Texas)
#52 Baltimore — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#53 Denver (via Buf) — Geron Christian (T, Louisville)
#54 Kansas City — Donte Jackson (CB, LSU)
#55 Carolina — Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M)
#56 Buffalo (via LAR) — Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford)
#57 Tennessee — Rashaad Penny (RB, San Diego State)
#58 Atlanta — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#59 San Francisco (via NO) — Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
#60 Pittsburgh — Andrew Brown (DT, Virginia)
#61 Jacksonville — Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State)
#62 Minnesota — Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
#63 New England — Brian O’Neill (T, Pittsburgh)
#64 Cincinnati (via Sea, Cle, Phi) — Tyrell Crosby (T, Oregon)

Just missed: Braden Smith (G, Auburn), D.J. Chark (WR, LSU), Arden Key (DE, LSU), Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma), James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State), Mike Gesicki (TE, Penn State), Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia), Dante Pettis (WR, Washington)

Trades

Buffalo trades #12, #22, #53 & 2019 R2 to Denver for #5
Cleveland trades #33, #64 & #150 to Seattle for #18
New York Giants trade #34 & #108 to New England for #31
Cincinnati trades #77 & #112 to Seattle for #64

Today the Rams traded the #23 pick to New England for Brandin Cooks.

Seven round Seahawks mock

R2 (33) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
R3 (77) — Luke Falk (QB, Washington State)
R4 (112) — Shaquem Griffin (LB, UCF)
R4 (120) — Kameron Kelly (DB, San Diego State)
R5 (141) — Quenton Meeks (CB, Stanford)
R5 (146) — Leon Jacobs (LB, Wisconsin)
R5 (150) — Will Dissly (TE, Washington)
R5 (156) — Natrell Jamerson (S, Wisconsin)
R5 (168) — Chase Edmonds (RB, Fordham)
R7 (226) — Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
R7 (248) — Khalid Hill (FB, Michigan)

So, why a quarterback in round three?

We’re just running through scenarios here. This is one we haven’t talked about.

The Seahawks currently don’t have a backup on the roster. That’ll likely change before training camp. A veteran backup is necessary, even if they draft a rookie QB.

In the next 18 months the Seahawks will likely begin negotiating a new contract with Russell Wilson. Last time it ended up being trickier than expected. Wilson didn’t agree terms until right before training camp. I think they were surprised how long it took, how much Wilson’s agent dug in. All’s well that ends well — but they need to be prepared for round two.

The chances are Wilson will agree an extension and will continue his career in Seattle — possibly until he finishes playing. You don’t take a franchise quarterback for granted. It still makes sense for the Seahawks to cover their bases. Draft a quarterback, have them under contract for four years and buy yourself some security.

Quarterbacks generally don’t lose value. Mike Glennon is a good example. A year ago Chicago paid him a fortune to be a bridge to Mitch Trubisky. So even if your young QB isn’t a valuable trade chip, comp picks are a possibility down the line.

Is it a little rich to spend a third round pick on a quarterback during a transition?

Possibly.

However, consistent winning teams have often planned ahead at quarterback. The New England Patriots drafted Ryan Mallett and Jacoby Brissett in round three and spent a second rounder on Jimmy Garoppolo during the Brady era. Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 as the presumed heir apparent to Brett Favre. Yet in 2008 they also spent a second round pick on Brian Brohm — the year Rodgers took over from Favre. Again, they were covering their bases.

The Seahawks haven’t drafted a quarterback since taking Wilson in 2012. Now might be the time to start some forward planning.

So why Luke Falk?

The main reason is because he’s the best one available in this mock. The top five go in round one as expected and Mason Rudolph comes off the board in round two. After that there’s not a lot left.

Falk is a very different quarterback to Wilson but so was Charlie Whitehurst, Matt Flynn and Austin Davis. Ideally you’d draft a player with a similar skill set to avoid too much change if Wilson gets hurt. Unless Lamar Jackson suffers a dramatic and unexpected fall that isn’t going to be possible here.

I’ve liked Falk for some time. He’s a gutty quarterback, willing to sit in the pocket and deliver accurate throws in the face of pressure. He’s intelligent, measured and has dealt with a lot in his college career. He did have some ugly games but he also elevated Washington State into contention in the PAC-12 North.

It’s not an unfair criticism to suggest he didn’t quite take the next step in 2017, pushing himself firmly into the round two range. Yet he hardly had a bad year either. In the third round you’re not taking much of a gamble. Falk has talent in a league desperate for good quarterback play. If he isn’t starting for the Seahawks in five years, he might be starting for someone else.

Why waste a pick on a QB this early though?

There aren’t many alternatives. Seattle’s lack of picks is a problem and likely a main reason why they’re willing to contemplate trading Earl Thomas for a bounty.

At pick #33 in the mock above a lot of the best pass rushers were gone. So I had them take a running back, addressing their self-confessed biggest need (fixing the run). If I’d had them passing on a runner at #33, they would’ve missed out on the top eight altogether.

Sometimes the board falls this way. Ideally I would’ve had the Seahawks taking a runner and a pass rusher. It didn’t work out. So I had them trading down from #64 and thought it’d be interesting to bring up the possibility of taking a QB.

What happens to the pass rush though?

A few key points here:

— The Seahawks do have Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo and Marcus Smith. Cliff Avril is expected to retire but as of today, remains part of the roster. It hasn’t been completely ruled out that he’ll play again. There’s also at least some possibility Malik McDowell will return this year.

— In 2010-11 the Seahawks relied heavily on Chris Clemons to provide a pass rush, aided by Raheem Brock. In 2012 they added Bruce Irvin. It wasn’t until 2013 that they signed Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. They waited for the right players to become available. They might be willing to roll with Clark, Jordan, Mingo and Smith this year.

— The 2019 draft class looks like it could be a defensive line special. You’ve got the Clemson quartet of Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant. Nick Bosa (Joey’s brother) is eligible to turn pro. Houston’s Ed Oliver has already stated he’ll be declaring for the draft. Michigan’s Rashan Gary is eligible. Teams plan ahead and it won’t be a surprise if the Seahawks are thinking 2019 could be the year to focus on pass rushers.

It’s also possible the draft falls a bit differently in round one and the Seahawks find a way to draft a pass rusher with an early pick. I’m not ruling it out — I’m just looking at a different scenario today.

And for what it’s worth, I do have them adding Shaquem Griffin and Leon Jacobs on day three. Griffin is a nickel linebacker and pass rush specialist. Jacobs is capable of acting as a SAM/LEO and providing some edge pressure.

Why Ronald Jones II?

You can make arguments for and against the pick. On the positive side, Jones II is truly one of the most dynamic players in the draft. A legit top-20 talent. His aggressive running style, vision, incredible suddenness and ability to make a deadly cut and explode to the second level is highly impressive. Simply put, his tape is fantastic. He has genuine star potential and the comparisons to Jamaal Charles, as we’ve said many times before, are warranted.

On the negative side of things, he’s only 205lbs. That’s below Seattle’s apparent prototype for the position. He was highly productive and tough at USC but at the next level he might need to be part of a duo. Which is fine. Think Mark Ingram & Alvin Kamara. Seattle’s version could be Chris Carson & Ronald Jones II.

Even so, if you want a reason to be wary of taking Jones II — that’s it. And the Seahawks might prefer someone who is bigger (such as Nick Chubb or Kerryon Johnson). Jones II is incredibly talented, explosive and dynamic and the type of athlete they’ve added in the past. But it doesn’t mean he’s a guaranteed fit.

If the Seahawks were wavering on his size, this could also be a factor:

When you aren’t an absolutely perfect fit (and Jones II isn’t because he’s not a sturdy 220lbs) — you don’t want to give a team another reason to pass.

That said, he’s not a bad guy. This isn’t a true character ‘flag’. It’s just a thing that, as Lance notes, caught teams off guard. Because he comes across as a good talker and a personable, determined character.

Jones II is a special player with a ceiling that includes greatness. He has to be a consideration.

Why no offensive linemen?

It’s quite simple. In the last two years the Seahawks have spent a first round pick on Germain Ifedi, a second round pick on Ethan Pocic, a third round pick on Rees Odhiambo, a second and a third round pick on Duane Brown and they extended the contract of 2014 second round pick Justin Britt.

The Seahawks have poured resources into their O-line. And alone it hasn’t been a solution. Pete Carroll and John Schneider drafted these players and it appears they still believe they’re capable of forming a cohesive group.

They’ve changed coaches. They’re tweaking the scheme. They’ve signed D.J. Fluker. They’ll be getting George Fant back. More highly drafted rookies aren’t always the solution. This group needs better guidance to execute and communicate and function. Now it’s up to Mike Solari to deliver.

Final thoughts

Predicting what the Seahawks will do is even harder than usual this year because of their lack of picks. We’re not just projecting possible targets — we’re also trying to guess how they’ll move around the board to fill the gigantic hole between pick #18 and #120.

I do think they will target a running back early. It doesn’t have to be their first pick but it’ll probably be one of their first two. I think they will look to add speed across the board. I think they will also target players with strong special teams value.

That’s what I’ve tried to do with this projection. From Ronald Jones II to Shaquem Griffin to Leon Jacobs to Natrell Jamerson — there’s a lot of speed. The Seahawks would be a faster team on both sides of the ball.

I’ve also tried to identify players with grit, toughness and intelligence.

There are always names you’d like to include too. Isaiah Wynn, Austin Corbett, Christian Kirk, Maurice Hurst, Andrew Brown, Jessie Bates III. All intelligent, tough players with high talent. I’ve grown to appreciate Dallas Goedert more after further study this week. Nick Chubb and Kerryon Johnson are both appealing alternatives at running back and there are players like Nick Nelson that don’t fit Seattle’s prototype but still jump off the screen.

With the draft just over three weeks away we’ll continue to look at different scenarios and possibilities.

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New Seahawks seven round mock draft

Friday, March 30th, 2018

Twitter rumours.

Who knows if there’s anything in this but at least it presents a scenario to talk about.

In last weeks mock we had the Patriots trading up to #18 to take a left tackle. The Browns could also be targeting O-line.

There are two tackles expected to go in round one — Mike McGlinchey and Kolton Miller. When McGlinchey goes off the board (possibly in the top-15) it’ll create some anxiety.

Other teams in the teens might not be inclined to move down into the 30’s. The Seahawks, with no picks in rounds two or three, would presumably be very interested.

Cleveland and New England are also realistic trade partners because they own multiple second round picks. They can afford to be aggressive and still pick in round two.

So let’s say the Browns move up. Here’s a seven round Seahawks mock draft representing this scenario:

#33 — Running back (Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb or Kerryon Johnson)
#64 — Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
#120 — Kameron Kelly (DB, San Diego State)
#141 — Durham Smythe (TE, Notre Dame)
#146 — Leon Jacobs (LB, Wisconsin)
#150 — Natrell Jamerson (S, Wisconsin)
#156 — Dorian O’Daniel (LB, Clemson)
#168 — Chase Edmonds (RB, Fordham)
#226 — Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
#248 — Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR, USF)

#18 (R1) — Trade down with Cleveland
The Seahawks collect #33, #63 and #150. This turns #18 into two second round picks and another fifth rounder. The Browns move up to select Mike McGlinchey or Kolton Miller.

#33 (R2) — Draft a running back
This could be Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb or Kerryon Johnson. All three are explosive, physical running backs. Jones II is a Jamaal Charles clone, Chubb fits their physical profile perfectly and Johnson has a very similar running style to Chris Carson. The top running backs in this class will last until about pick #45-50. If you want to take one, you might have to do it here.

#64 (R2) — Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
The Seahawks like to draft ‘special’ athletes to rush the edge. Sweat is 6-5, 251lbs and has 34.5 inch arms. He ran an elite 1.55 10-yard split and a 4.53 forty. He also tested superbly in the vertical (39.5 inches) broad (10-4) and short shuttle (4.28). He has a top-10 physical profile and incredible upside ready to be unleashed. The medical checks on his knee will be crucial though. Can he play without a knee brace and improve his get-off?

#120 (R4) — Kameron Kelly (DB, San Diego State)
Kelly is a confident, physical defensive back with size (6-1, 204lbs) and length (32 inch arms). He’s a converted receiver with experience at safety and cornerback. Kelly won’t stand out to many but there’s just something about him that feels ‘Seahawky’. He also has terrific value on special teams. This will be a theme for the rest of the mock draft.

#141 (R5) — Durham Smythe (TE, Notre Dame)
Smythe is a classic Y-tight end who was predominantly asked to block at Notre Dame. He had an excellent Senior Bowl week, during practise and in the game itself. He doesn’t stand out physically and that could keep him on the board into the early fifth round but for the Seahawks he’d be a valued run blocker with some chain-moving ability.

#146 (R5) — Leon Jacobs (LB, Wisconsin)
The Seahawks love speed at linebacker and Jacobs has it. His combine performance deserves more attention — especially his 4.48 forty at 6-1 and 248lbs. He has good length (33.5 inch arms) and managed a 1.58 10-yard split (anything in the 1.5’s is money). The Seahawks could train him to play the WILL or MIKE or they could use him as a situational rusher. Jacobs plays with his hair on fire.

#150 (R5) — Natrell Jamerson (S, Wisconsin)
The Wisconsin defense was really good again last year. It would’ve been nice to find a way to get Nick Nelson into the mock too as competition for Justin Coleman. Jamerson is a free safety who ran a 4.40 at the combine. He also flashed as a kick returner and gunner. He could be an instant force on special teams.

#156 (R5) — Dorian O’Daniel (LB, Clemson)
O’Daniel quietly had an impact for Clemson last season and has been touted as a possible linebacker or safety at the next level. His forty time of 4.61 was nothing to write home about but he excelled in the important agility tests — running a blistering 4.07 short shuttle and a 6.64 three-cone. O’Daniel is also a skull-collector on special teams and would be worth the pick purely for that.

#168 (R5) — Chase Edmonds (RB, Fordham)
The Seahawks could easily draft multiple running backs this year. It’s that kind of class. And they’re paying particular attention to smaller, dynamic and explosive runners like Chase Edmonds and Ito Smith. Edmonds is tenacious and has even been compared to Devonta Freeman by some.

#226 (R7) — Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
I didn’t want to wait this long to draft a defensive tackle and I’ll talk more about that in a moment. Ford is set to visit the VMAC and freely admits his combine-snub has left a chip on his shoulder. He’s only 5-11 but he’s explosive (9-3 broad) and agile (4.47 short shuttle) with long arms (33 inches).

#248 (R7) — Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR, USF)
Speed seems to be the order of the day at receiver and MVS ran a superb 4.37 at 6-4 and 206lbs. He also has massive 10-inch hands. He’s a project but the Seahawks have often drafted day three receivers and given them time to develop.

Final thoughts

Since it became public that Maurice Hurst and Christian Kirk are visiting the VMAC, you almost want to find a way to squeeze in extra round two picks to include them in the mock. Both are terrific players but the reality is Seattle will be limited even if they trade down. They’re badly missing those second and third round picks.

The only way to get them back is to trade trade Earl Thomas. Increasingly it looks like Seattle is open for business but nobody is willing to meet the asking price. When #49 comes around (Seattle’s native pick in round two) you’ll be cringing about the names left on the board.

Hurst isn’t the only defensive lineman it would’ve been nice to include. The likes of B.J. Hill, Andrew Brown, Justin Jones, Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis might provide value in this draft. Kemoko Turay is a talented pass rusher too and could’ve been an alternative to Josh Sweat. If they wanted to wait on an EDGE, Duke Ejiofor is an option.

We talk about this a lot but the value from about 30-50 is going to be fantastic this year. That’s where the likes of Isaiah Wynn, Austin Corbett, as many as six running backs, Christian Kirk and others might land. The Colts, with three picks in that range, have a chance to come away with a great haul.

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Updated mock draft — two rounds

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Trades are again included. Thoughts are underneath.

Before starting, I was invited on the ‘Waxing Lyrical’ podcast this week (a UK based NFL show). Have a listen by clicking here. Chris Wesseling was also a guest.

#1 Cleveland — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#2 NY Giants — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#3 NY Jets (via Ind) — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#4 Buffalo (via Cle, Hou) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#5 Denver — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#6 Indianapolis (via NYJ) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Chicago — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#9 Miami (via SF) — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#10 Oakland — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#11 San Fran (via Mia) — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#12 Cleveland (via Buf, Cin) — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#13 Washington — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#14 Green Bay — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#15 Arizona — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#16 Baltimore — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#17 LA Chargers — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#18 New England (via Sea) — Kolton Miller (T, UCLA)
#19 Dallas — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
#20 Detroit — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#21 Cincinnati (via Buf) — James Daniels (C, Iowa)
#22 Cleveland (via Buf, KC) — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (DE, Boston College)
#24 Carolina — Rasheem Green (DE, USC)
#25 Tennessee — Taven Bryan (DE, Florida)
#26 Atlanta — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#27 New Orleans — Justin Reid (S, Stanford)
#28 Pittsburgh — Jessie Bates III (S, Wake Forest)
#29 Jacksonville — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#30 Minnesota — Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
#31 Seattle (via NE) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
#32 Indianapolis (via Phi) — Austin Corbett (G, Nevada)

#33 Cleveland — Jaire Alexander (CB, Louisville)
#34 NY Giants — Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
#35 Cleveland — Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
#36 Philadelphia (via Ind) — Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas)
#37 Indianapolis — Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
#38 Tampa Bay — Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
#39 Chicago — Connor Williams (T, Texas)
#40 Denver — Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
#41 Oakland — Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
#42 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#43 New England (via SF) — Mike Hughes (CB, UCF)
#44 Washington — Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
#45 Green Bay — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#46 Cincinnati — Hayden Hurst (TE, South Carolina)
#47 Arizona — Tyrell Crosby (T, Oregon)
#48 LA Chargers — Brian O’Neill (T, Pittsburgh)
#49 Indianapolis — D.J. Moore (WR, Maryland)
#50 Dallas — Carlton Davis (CB, Auburn)
#51 Detroit — Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
#52 Baltimore — B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)
#53 Cleveland (via Buf) — Sam Hubbard (DE, Ohio State)
#54 Kansas City — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#55 Carolina — Mike Gesicki (TE, Penn State)
#56 Buffalo (via LAR) — Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford)
#57 Tennessee — Lorenzo Carter (EDGE, Georgia)
#58 Atlanta — Andrew Brown (DT, Virginia)
#59 San Francisco (via NOR) — Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
#60 Pittsburgh — James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State)
#61 Jacksonville — D.J. Chark (WR, LSU)
#62 Minnesota — Geron Christian (T, Louisville)
#63 Seattle (via NE) — Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
#64 Cleveland (via Phi) — Donte Jackson (CB, LSU)

The trades

Buffalo trades #12, #22 and #53 picks to Cleveland for #4
The Bills are in a situation now where their trade partners are quite limited. If they want to move up for a quarterback — and they clearly do — they’ll have to pay a steep price.

Miami trades #11 and #73 to San Francisco for #9
Seeing an opportunity to jump up two spots and secure a long term solution at quarterback, the Dolphins pull the trigger with Arizona, Baltimore and Los Angeles lurking.

New England trades #31 and #63 to Seattle for #18
The Patriots use their extra second round pick to jump into the top-20 to secure a replacement for Nate Solder. The Seahawks get an extra pick in the top-60.

Indianapolis trades #36 and #140 to Philadelphia for #32
The Colts make a small jump back into round one to secure the underrated Austin Corbett.

Mock notes

— There are numerous possibilities in the top-four. New York trading Jason Pierre-Paul could bring Bradley Chubb into play at #2. The Giants could easily take a quarterback there. Either way, Barkley probably doesn’t drop any further than the #4 pick. My prediction is the quarterbacks could come off the board in this order — Darnold, Allen, Rosen, Mayfield.

— In this projection I’ve got two running backs going in round one and seven in the top-50. San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny is the one name I couldn’t find a spot for. He could easily go in the second round too.

— If there are two positions that might get pushed up the board due to lack of numbers it’s offensive tackle and defensive end. I’ve not really represented that here, although Mike McGlinchey at #12 and Kolton Miller at #18 does to some extent. The EDGE rushers might go quickly too. If you need one — you’ll need to take them early.

Notes on the Seahawks

— It’s much harder to project the Seahawks this year because of their lack of picks. It’s pretty certain they’ll trade down from #18 but predicting a deal isn’t easy. It’s even harder to work out how they might fill their most pressing needs.

— I went with Ronald Jones II first because he’s the type of dynamic, high-upside athlete they’ve targeted early (or via trade) in the past. Lance Zierlein’s tweet yesterday was interesting but this is the team that traded for Percy Harvin and Marshawn Lynch and drafted Malik McDowell. So I’m not sure how impacted they’ll be by this. And let’s be clear — the frustration about Jones II is nowhere near the kind of drama Seattle handled/tolerated with Harvin, Lynch and McDowell. Not even close. I’m just pointing out they’re not easily put off natural talent.

— We talked yesterday how they could go RB/DE or DE/RB. At #31 the defensive end options had pretty much gone in that range. Harold Landry and Rasheem Green were off the board in the 20’s. So running back in this situation felt like a fair choice.

— I considered writing in another trade down for Seattle. In that scenario they would’ve probably missed out on Ronald Jones II. Nick Chubb would’ve been option B.

— In the late second round there might be some appealing defensive line options. I paired Sweat with Seattle based on his profile. It was equally tempting to give them someone like B.J. Hill, Andrew Brown, Kemoko Turay or Jalyn Holmes.

— These two picks would allow the Seahawks to target linebacker (Leon Jacobs?), defensive line (Tyquan Lewis, Justin Jones?), defensive back (Natrell Jamerson?) and tight end (Schultz, Smythe or Dissly?) on day three. The lack of a third round pick could cost them an opportunity to draft some intriguing players, especially on the defensive line and at tight end.

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Why the Seahawks might not draft a guard early

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Here are three facts about this draft class:

1. It’s top heavy at running back
2. It’s thin at EDGE
3. There’s some talent at guard/center in the first two rounds

The Seahawks have the #18 pick and then nothing until #120. It’ll be virtually impossible to draft one of the best running backs, a top guard and a pass rusher before round four. Even if they trade down.

Let’s go through each position.

1. Running back

We could see 6-8 going in the top-60. It’s that kind of class. By the start of round three all eight of the top runners could be gone. Then there’s a drop-off.

The top eight are likely Saquon Barkley, Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny and Royce Freeman.

If you want to tap into this great running back group you’re probably going to have to take one in the top-50. And teams know that. Jay Gruden pretty much admitted the Redskins intend to. They won’t be alone.

2. Defensive end

Bradley Chubb and Marcus Davenport will go in the top-15. If you want an impact EDGE rusher with serious potential after that, you’re looking at Harold Landry, Josh Sweat and Kemoko Turay. Some teams might view Uchenna Nwosu, Lorenzo Carter and Leon Jacobs as EDGE options but they’re arguably better suited to SAM/LEO (where Seattle just added Barkevious Mingo). There are inside/out type rushers too (Rasheem Green) but there are some nice DE/DT types available later. That might be a role reserved for Dion Jordan. This could be about finding the next Cliff Avril.

A 1.5 10-yard split is usually a good indicator for a talented EDGE and only Landry (1.59) and Sweat (1.55) managed that. Turay ran a 1.62. Tulane’s Ade Aruna ran a 1.60 and had a very good combine workout but will likely need at least one redshirt year. To compare, Avril ran a 1.50 and Bruce Irvin a 1.55.

The Seahawks need some pass rushers. If Avril retires they’re currently relying on Frank Clark, Jordan and Mingo. They probably need to add a veteran and a rookie. If they don’t take an EDGE early they might miss out.

3. Guard/center

Quenton Nelson will go in the top-10 and then we could see a handful of interior offensive linemen drafted in the late first or early second round. That’s the range where Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez and Austin Corbett are slated to go. Iowa center James Daniels will also go quickly plus injured duo Frank Ragnow and Billy Price will probably be top-50 picks. Braden Smith could also go in round two.

As with the running back position, we’ll then see a drop-off.

If you had multiple picks between 20-60 you could address all three areas. The Colts own #6, #35, #36 and #49. They’ll be rubbing their hands looking at this class. Not only can they address DE early (Bradley Chubb) they’ll be in prime range to add a guard and a running back in the value zone and fill another need.

Jealous much?

The Seahawks are in a very different situation. They’re not going to be able to turn #18 into two early second round picks. At best they might be able to take advantage of New England (#31) and Cleveland (#33) owning multiple second round picks. A deal to move down 13-15 spots could net a late second.

They’re going to have to pick their poison.

Only a big trade involving Earl Thomas can change the situation. Even then, you’d be creating a void at safety that might need to be filled by a Jessie Bates III or Justin Reid. And currently, nothing appears imminent on Thomas. It’s over a week since Jason La Canfora’s tweet about interest in a deal.

By trading down significantly from #18 and acquiring a late second rounder or an early third rounder, they might be able to target two of the need positions.

So far they haven’t signed a defensive end. They re-signed Mike Davis today, although that’s likely a deal to provide competition and depth. The addition of D.J. Fluker as a likely starter suggests they won’t be drafting a guard early.

The focus instead could be RB + DE.

Reasons why they might’ve come to that conclusion

The Seahawks are only a year removed from drafting Ethan Pocic in round two. It’d be a big call to determine he isn’t good enough after just one season.

They’ve invested a ton of draft picks into their offensive line:

Duane Brown — 2018 R3 and 2019 R2
Ethan Pocic — 2017 R2
Justin Britt — 2014 R2
Germain Ifedi — 2016 R1
Rees Odhimabo — 2016 R3

Now they’ve signed D.J. Fluker too.

Eventually, you have to back your judgement and challenge the coaches to make the group function. Mike Solari hasn’t come in to blow up the personnel and create a new line. He’s here to work with the bulk of the existing group. The only new starter might be Fluker at right guard.

There could be some shifting around. George Fant might win the job at right tackle. Rees Odhiambo could compete at left guard. The Seahawks have already poured picks into their O-line. Now it’s time to get it working.

It can’t always be about ‘one more high pick’. The success or failure of the line is unlikely to be determined by the left guard alone. It’s one man in a group of five. Solari’s challenge is to improve communication and execution, particularly in the run game.

Time to deliver.

That’s not to say they wouldn’t benefit from having Isaiah Wynn, Austin Corbett or Will Hernandez lining up at left guard. It’d be great. But what’s the proposal? Bench Pocic and call it a wasted pick, while failing to properly address running back or defensive end? Or give Pocic a chance to take a step forward and fill the other two needs?

This is just part of building a roster. Every team has a call to make. Very few come into the draft with only one or two holes to fill. You’re nearly always working out the best combination.

Seattle drafted Pocic. They signed Fluker. They’ve not done anything significant at running back or defensive end. Things can change but right now those two positions seem to be the draft focus.

If nothing else, it’s logical.

And while some might suggest the Mike Davis signing addresses running back — you’re not passing on the top runners in this draft because of this news. You really aren’t. This is about making sure you’re not going into camp with just a rookie, Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise as your depth.

We should spend some time discussing combinations at running back + EDGE that fit for the Seahawks.

They could find a way to go Ronald Jones II then Josh Sweat. Or it could be Harold Landry and Nick Chubb.

Either scenario makes some sense.

They’d be taking a pass rusher that fits what they’ve gone for in the past (highly athletic, 1.5 10-yard split, good agility/explosive testing). If they want an EDGE with plus athleticism, Landry and Sweat are certainly options.

There are alternatives too. If they wanted to go with an inside/out rusher instead they could consider Rasheem Green. He’s projected in the late first or early second round. Sam Hubbard is another who could go in that range. Andrew Brown is rising quickly and could be a target as early as round two.

Jones II is a little lighter than they’ve drafted at running back but he’s that explosive, sudden, dynamic playmaker they’ve often coveted. He has star potential and looks every bit Jamaal Charles 2.0. That’s hard to ignore. He’s also much tougher and aggressive than some of the bigger backs in this class. If only Bo Scarborough played with Rojo’s intensity. He’d be going a lot earlier in the draft.

Chubb meanwhile is practically the definition of the type of running back they’ve previously drafted. About 5-10 and 225lbs, incredibly explosive and tough. Kerryon Johnson is another alternative.

Address these two needs early and you’re set up for the rest of the draft. You can fill out your D-line depth with the beef at Ohio State (Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes) and NC State (B.J. Hill, Justin Jones, Kentavius Street). You can look to bring in another blocking tight end (Dalton Schultz, Durham Smythe, Will Dissly). There are plenty of options at linebacker (Leon Jacobs, Fred Warner, Dorian O’Daniel, Oren Burks) and you can add some talent to the secondary (Natrell Jamerson, Nick Nelson, Tre Flowers, Isaac Yiadom, Brandon Facyson, Terrell Edmunds).

If there’s one other thing free agency is telling us, it’s that the Seahawks aren’t enamoured with the draft options at receiver. They’ve already added Marcus Johnson and Jaron Brown. Reportedly they’re still in the hunt for Terrelle Pryor. They might wait until the last round or UDFA although Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimious St. Brown are intriguing options from the combine.

Re-signing Bradley McDougald and adding Maurice Alexander could take strong safety off the board too, especially if Earl Thomas is retained at free safety.

EDIT — The Seahawks also re-signed Marcus Smith today. It’s valuable depth and he can be an EDGE. As with the Davis signing, I’m not sure it changes anything in terms of the overall discussion in this piece.

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