Just a few notes from the three games I watched on Saturday. Firstly though — if you’re in the UK I’ll be on national radio again tonight covering all of the early games and then commentary on San Diego @ Atlanta, check it out if you get a chance. Here’s the link to the show and you should be able to listen live online from 7:30pm UK time.
— Leonard Fournette showed this week why he needs to be legitimately considered as the #1 overall pick. Yes the RB position has weakened in value over the years. Yet any team that needs an identity — an offensive weapon that will DEMAND attention week after week — they have to consider Fournette. He benefitted from some excellent blocking vs Ole Miss but he ran away from the defense on three occasions for huge touchdowns. He had 284 yards on just 16 carries (!!!). I can’t recall a player with Fournette’s combination of burst, suddenness, power and size (235lbs). I’ve never wanted the Seahawks to trade multiple first round picks but you could probably twist my arm on the suggestion for Fournette. He is the Julio Jones of the running back position.
— It wasn’t a good day for Ole Miss but Marquis Haynes had a sack/fumble and looks like a legit candidate to play LB/EDGE. He is a very intriguing player and if the Seahawks want to add someone to compete for the Mike Morgan/KPL/Marsh position, Haynes would be a really solid bet. Plus he should be available in the middle rounds. He’s a playmaker.
— The Ole Miss offense had a horrible day. It’s shocking that anyone has ever mocked Chad Kelly in the first round. His second pick vs LSU looked like his first read was the DB. I guess he was wide open. He is a mistake-prone turnover machine.
— Evan Engram had his first quiet game of the season against a good opponent. LSU keyed in on him — on some occasions using three guys to cover him. He had a bad drop in the red zone but why Chad Kelly threw him the ball with three defenders around him only he knows. Even if he makes the catch he probably doesn’t get in. Statistically he only had 15 yards but the respect he commanded by LSU all night is indicative of his talent.
— Auburn’s Carl Lawson looked really good against Arkansas. He was blatantly held on numerous occasions (wasn’t called) had half a sack (looked like a full one) and an interception wiped off for an offside flag. He doesn’t have the sudden get-off you see from Myles Garrett, Tim Williams and Dawuane Smoot but his ability to avoid blocks and work into the backfield is impressive. He has 6.5 sacks this season and is a strong candidate to go in round one.
— The Alabama defense was incredible against Texas A&M. Where to start? Jonathan Allen had arguably his best game of the season with a flying ‘Superman’ sack, a fumble recovery for his second TD of the year and numerous pressures. He was a grown man out there competing against an overmatched A&M O-line. Tim Williams exploded for two huge sacks with fantastic athleticism and burst, Ryan Anderson is consistently very good without being flashy and Marlon Humphrey had a fantastic interception. Reuben Foster was also flying around to the tune of 12 tackles.
— It’s very possible that Allen, Williams, Foster and Humphrey all go in the top 10/12 picks. Seriously.
— One other quick note — we’ve talked about Joe Mixon before. Against Texas Tech’s weak defense he had 263 rushing yards, 114 receiving yards and FIVE total touchdowns.
The Seahawks have a way of judging athletes and it’s probable they have their own version of SPARQ. Extreme athleticism is more important at certain positions than others — but running back appears to be an area where they value explosive traits.
That’s not to say it’s the be-all and end-all. Marshawn Lynch was characterised by his toughness and not his ability to run away from people. Spencer Ware had a similar running style and wasn’t known for great speed or lateral mobility.
Yet they’ve also been quite consistent with the running backs they’ve drafted.
Robert Turbin, Spencer Ware, Christine Michael and C.J. Prosise (all drafted between 2012-2016) are similar in size. Turbin, Ware and Michael are 5-10, Prosise is 6-0.
Prosise and Michael were listed at 220lbs at the combine. Turbin is 222lbs and Ware 228lbs.
Ware didn’t compete at the combine but the other three excelled in the following workouts:
As you can see all three players share a very similar physical profile. The chances are unless the Seahawks just find another incredible specimen (basically another Lynch) they’re going to stick to these ideals. The profile of a Seattle running back is about 5-10, 220lbs with a good forty, strength and is capable of jumping through the roof.
It is possible to predict how college prospects will perform at the combine courtesy of the Nike SPARQ Combines that take place nationwide every year. Some of the top prospects participate and they go through some of the combine drills (forty, vertical, shuttle etc).
For example, Derrick Henry when he attended Yulee High School took part in the 2012 Orlando Nike Combine. He ran a 4.58 at 240lbs and recorded a 40.3 inch vertical and a 4.15 in the short shuttle.
At the 2016 NFL Combine, Henry ran a 4.54 at 247lbs, had a 37 inch vertical and a 4.38 short shuttle. The faster sprint at a greater size is probably indicative of the training he did to run the headline-grabbing forty. The slightly poorer (but still exceptional) vertical and short shuttle is probably indicative of the extra bulk.
Essentially, Henry’s excellent combine wasn’t a surprise. We could’ve forecasted it based on what happened in 2012. Not all prospects will retain or improve their athletic profile as they mature and attend an elite college but at the very least we can use it as a benchmark.
Some of the 2017 class of running backs took part in the 2013 Nike Combine series. The results are fascinating.
Florida State’s Dalvin Cook looks like a supreme athlete on the field with a great burst and the ability to be a home run hitter. Leonard Fournette is a monster and looks like a generational talent. Neither lit up the Nike workouts:
Vertical: 29.9 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.30
Cook’s forty time is good but at a light 196lbs (he’s listed by Florida State at 213lbs). If he’s now 17lbs heavier (debatable) how will that impact his time? A vertical of just under 31 inches is disappointing and while his short shuttle is good, will the extra size have an impact?
Fournette chose not to run a forty but only managed a vertical jump under 30 inches. His short shuttle of 4.30 is similar to Robert Turbin’s at his pro-combine and they’re a similar weight too. He’s a long way off Christine Michael’s sensational 4.02.
You can look for certain prospects using this link here. Interestingly LSU receiver Malachi Dupre had a 42.4 inch vertical (!!!). USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster on the other hand had a disappointing performance with a 4.71 forty and a 32.7 inch vertical.
Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon performed only OK. He had a 4.53 forty at 6-1 and 209lbs. His 31.3 inch vertical was disappointing but he did manage a 4.19 short shuttle. You’d expect better.
North Carolina RB Elijah Hood might be someone to monitor. He’s 6-0 and 221lbs which is right in Seattle’s ball park. He ran a 4.48 (same as Prosise) with a 4.20 short shuttle and a 36.3 inch vertical. Hood isn’t Christine Michael explosive but he has a skill set that could warrant a third or fourth round grade like Prosise.
Oregon’s Royce Freeman also did fairly well. At 5-11 and 227lbs he ran a 4.58 and managed a 33.6 inch vertical. They aren’t great numbers but his 4.07 in the short shuttle is exceptional.
I want to feature a different prospect today though.
At the 2013 Nike Combine, Georgia’s Nick Chubb put in a performance which blows away Cook and Fournette and even tops Elijah Hood’s impressive effort.
Vertical: 40.8 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.12
Chubb’s SPARQ score is an incredible 143.91. Anything over 130 is considered exceptional. He was faster than Christine Michael at a similar height/weight, as explosive in the vertical jump and had a similar shuttle time.
This isn’t just a good performance. It’s a phenomenal performance.
Nick Chubb is a rare athletic freak.
He’s currently listed at 228lbs by Georgia so he’s added weight and for that reason his numbers might suffer. There is every chance he will slim down to 220lbs for the combine in order to max out his workout.
The injury factor has to be considered. Chubb suffered a horrific knee injury a year ago and it’s unclear how this has impacted him overall. He might be incapable of the numbers he posted three years ago. We’ll have to wait and see.
It’s pretty clear though that he’s a rare beast. His SEC production and athletic profile probably would’ve led to a top-20 grade without the injury. If it causes him to fall into round two or three that will only benefit a team like the Seahawks searching for value. He might still go in round one.
Chubb ticks every box based on what the Seahawks have looked for in the past:
The Seahawks adding another running back in 2017 isn’t unlikely. It’s looking like a decent class and they’ve done a good job over the years identifying where the value is. Michael is a free agent in 2017 and Thomas Rawls has so far been unable to stay healthy. Alex Collins had two really nice plays against Atlanta but hasn’t had much of a role despite the injuries to Rawls and Prosise.
Even if it’s just a case of needing to replace Michael, they could be in the market for a new runner.
If there’s one back they might be more likely to target than the rest in this class, keep an eye on Nick Chubb. Health permitting of course.
I’ve never felt comfortable doing a mock draft this early before, not since 2008 when I started writing this blog. Of course it’s way too early to try and get any of this right — it’s just a chance to highlight the depth in this class and certain prospects who are worth watching during the college season. But this is possibly the most interesting group we’ve covered so far.
The 2017 draft has the potential to be one of the best in recent years. That’s not an overreaction.
Greg Gaines (DT, Washington)
Dawuane Smoot (EDGE, Illinois)
Derek Barnett (EDGE, Tennessee)
Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, USC)
Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU)
Dan Feeney (G, Indiana)
Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame) — has stated he wont declare
Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
Lowell Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Josey Jewell (LB, Iowa)
Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Alvin Kamara (RB, Tennessee)
Damore’ea Stringfellow (WR, Ole Miss)
Thoughts on Seattle’s pick
Engram is having an incredible season and could move into top-20 contention by the end of the season. His combination of size, athleticism, incredible hands, the ability to high point and create mismatches and production deserves a lot more attention.
Rather than just repeat myself I’ll refer back to the piece on Engram from last week (click here).
Luke Willson is a free agent at the end of the season and Jimmy Graham’s contract only lasts until the end of 2017.
Check out these three plays in the video below:
3:05 — Chad Kelly throws into double coverage (almost triple coverage) and Engram makes the play. It’s a lofted pass, a jump ball. Placement is fairly good from Kelly (back shoulder) and Engram is able to locate the football and make a play. The coverage is pretty good but Engram’s body control, size and ability to locate the football makes him a really difficult matchup. Explosive pass completion for about 40-yards.
5:28 — Underthrown pass from Chad Kelly. Look how Engram adjusts and attacks the football, showing off a fantastic vertical jump and high-pointing the ball above the cornerback. A better throw (hitting Engram in stride) could’ve led to a massive gain — the safety has a bad angle and it legitimately could’ve been a touchdown with space along the sideline. Without Engram’s play it could’ve been a pick. This is just a fantastic catch. Go watch it. Now.
6:42 — Straight forward touchdown. The defense stands off Engram in the slot giving him way too much of a cushion. He settles down underneath and runs it in. I wanted to highlight it because it a.) it’s a score and b.) he makes a defender miss, albeit far too easily.
No offensive linemen?
This is not a good class if you want to improve your O-line in the early rounds. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey says he won’t declare. He could change his mind (Will Fuller made a similar remark a year ago). Cam Robinson looks the part and is a good run blocker but carries serious character risks.
There’s a decent collection of guards but how often do you see the position drafted in round one?
This has been brewing for a while. The top High School recruits want to play defense. The colleges want the top recruits so accommodate their wishes. Some get moved to the O-line after a year or two (eg Cam Erving). The rest play defense. There’s a serious mismatch between the O-lines and D-lines in college and the dearth of talent is starting to translate to the NFL.
The top-100 lists compiled by the NFL Network usually only have 4-5 offensive linemen named. Most of the league is scrambling around to find an answer at left tackle. Teams like Seattle are taking on projects like ex-Basketball star George Fant because what’s the alternative? There isn’t one unless you’re picking in the top ten.
The league is littered with bad pass protection and the best teams are finding ways to manage the problem. Minnesota are a good example — they’re 5-0 and playing without their starting left and right tackles at the moment, yet Sam Bradford isn’t feeling the impact. You can game-plan around these issues — but the entire NFL would surely rather see more quality left tackles coming through the college ranks. The well is dry at the moment.
If you watched Tennessee’s games against Florida and Georgia — you’ll struggle to imagine anything could top those two for comebacks. However — this one against Texas A&M was a game of the season contender. An instant classic — containing one of the greatest defensive plays you’ll ever see.
We’ll come to that in a minute.
Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara was sensational. He had 127 yards rushing and 161 receiving including two scores.
He’s listed at 5-10 and 215lbs which is right in the ballpark for Seattle running backs. He gets skinny between the tackles but keeps his legs moving on contact to push the pile. He’s tough to bring down but also has a really nice burst. He’s not an exceptional ‘wow’ athlete but he takes very sudden, short steps and gets upfield quickly.
Kamara showed off really good hands in the passing game. On more than one occasion he was tossed an awkward looking screen pass (low to the turf, wide of the target) and managed to grab control of the football without breaking stride.
He kept the game alive in the fourth quarter with a brilliant 36-yard run on fourth and 1. He punched in the score shortly after to make it 35-28 and give the Vols a chance with time running out.
Cue the play of the weekend.
Texas A&M were driving to kill clock and close out the contest. Then suddenly — the running back breaks free. Game over? Surely.
What a play. Instead of game over, Tennessee gets the ball at the 20. And Kamara was there again helping the Vols drive 80-yards before tying the game with another great catch and run — driving through tackles to cross the goal line:
It all counted for nothing in the end as the Aggies won 45-38 in overtime but what a game. And it shouldn’t diminish Kamara’s efforts or the remarkable play by Foreman. This was a classic.
I’m sure Kamara’s tape will be on Draft Breakdown soon it was that impressive. Watch him for the rest of the season. If the Seahawks look to add another back to their stable in 2017 — Kamara ticks a lot of the boxes they look for. Physical, multi-dimensional, athletic and quick. He’s tough and has the size they look for. Plus he’s not a bad blocker either:
He’s a former four-star recruit and was being touted as a NFL prospect before the season started. He looked the part today and has done in flashes during TEN’s other close SEC games. For balance he did have a fumble (one of seven Tennessee turnovers in the game) after a long +50-yard catch-and-run. It was careless but typically followed a great initial play.
Elsewhere, Texas A&M safety Justin Evans had another terrific game. He’s a top-20 pick. His key plays included an interception and a crucial (at the time) third down pass break-up over the middle (WR caught it, Evans jarred it loose with the hit). He is very similar to Karl Joseph the #14 pick this year.
Tennessee EDGE Derek Barnett didn’t have the kind of impact he had against Florida or Georgia but had a consistent if not explosive game. He had a couple of pressures but surprisingly also did a lot of dropping into coverage. On one play he dropped to cover the slot receiver, mirrored him downfield and had the pass break-up. Nobody would accuse Barnett of being a fluid athlete but he actually did a good job here tracking for a good 20-yards. Could he be more impressive at the combine than expected?
Texas A&M EDGE Myles Garrett came into the game hurt and it showed — he battled through but had to be spelled and was limping at the end. He still managed some impact plays including an early sack/fumble. He stood out playing at probably around 50% healthy with an ankle problem.
Garrett’s partner on the opposite side Daeshon Hall also had a good game and he’s finding some momentum. I’m not sure on the official numbers but he had at least one sack, two passes deflected and a fumble recovery. He came into the game with three sacks in the previous two weeks. He’s long at 6-6 and about 260lbs and he could do with adding another 15lbs and becoming more of an inside/out type on the D-line. He’s not a special speed rusher off the edge but has a nice combination of burst, length and size.
He’d make a great DE/DT type if he can carry the extra weight. He’s from Seattle for what it’s worth and has a cool personality. He could be an interesting project for the Seahawks. He has the edge to his game, the physicality. He plays with heavy hands and contains the edge well vs the run. His hand placement could be better. You’ve got to have good hand technique at the next level if you’re not Myles Garrett as an athlete. Here are some highlights:
I endured Notre Dame vs NC State earlier — played during Hurricane Matthew with a storm to match. The game should’ve been postponed. It’s impossible to judge most of the players as a consequence. Yet NC State’s running back Matt Dayes had the star turn — somehow running for 126 yards at 5.5 YPC. That might as well be 1000 yards at 176 YPC given the conditions. He carried the offense on his back and like Kamara has a nice squatty, physical frame with good burst and the ability to get skinny through the tackles but still play with power.
A lot of people will focus on the big names in this RB class but don’t sleep on Kamara and Dayes. Both could work into the second or third round range.
I’ll also say — this is starting to look like a potentially loaded 2017 draft class with star talent at the top of round one and plenty of depth. The only position without a great deal of depth is offensive tackle — and that’s part of the problem the entire NFL is having right now. There just aren’t that many good offensive tackles in college — and there certainly aren’t many playing in the pro’s. This issue is not just confined to the Pacific North West — and it’s why the Seahawks are working so closely with projects like Garry Gilliam and George Fant.
Another quick note — blog favourite Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan) scored a nice touchdown today vs Rutgers:
Joe Mixon is a controversial figure in college football
The last time we discussed a topic like this it was Frank Clark — long before the Seahawks took him in the second round. The community here handled the debate with maturity and I hope that’ll be the case again.
Please be sensitive and respectful in the comments section.
It reads like a who’s who of 2017 draft prospects. The best of the best in college football. It’s unusual for the top-20 to have so many names destined not just for the NFL — but as high draft picks. Mixon being at #8 in this group says a lot about his potential.
On tape he is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most impressive prospects you’ll watch this year. Oklahoma’s offense/team is a bit of a mess — but when Mixon is involved it’s must-see TV. Jenni Carlson wrote this piece calling — no demanding — the Sooners feature Mixon instead of persisting with a committee involving fellow running back Samaje Perine.
Mixon has everything you look for. Breakaway speed and the ability to accelerate at the second level, toughness and the willingness to finish runs, ability in the passing game, the physicality to push the pile and break tackles plus the elusiveness to make people miss. As a bonus he’s also a terrific kick returner. Mixon is 6-1 and 226lbs — the same height and 9lbs heavier than Adrian Peterson at the 2007 combine.
He has the freaky athleticism the Seahawks seem to love — plus the suddenness, physicality and ability to turn a good play into a scoring play.
When I wrote about Frank Clark in 2015 — I said something like this: He’s an explosive talent, one of the best in the draft. His tape is incredibly underrated and he dominates. He is a first round, top-20 talent based on what you see on the field. Yet his well publicised character flags involving domestic violence will make him undraftable for many — and some fans and the media will be uncomfortable and find it unacceptable if the Seahawks were to draft him.
This is, unfortunately, a similar situation with Mixon.
“Our organization has an in-depth understanding of Frank Clark’s situation and background… We have done a ton of research on this young man. There hasn’t been one player in this draft that we have spent more time researching and scrutinizing more than Frank. That’s why we have provided Frank with this opportunity and are looking forward to him succeeding in our culture here in Seattle.”
It was a decision that led to an initial backlash, especially at a time when the league was handling the high-profile Ray Rice domestic violence case. This article on Deadspin used the headline: ‘The Seahawks Didn’t Care Whether Frank Clark Punched A Woman‘
Two years ago Mixon entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor assault charge for punching Amelia Molitor in response to her pushing and hitting him. The incident happened on July 25, 2014.
The plea allowed him to maintain his innocence while also admitting that the prosecution had enough evidence to convict.
As a consequence Mixon received a one-year deferred sentence and was required to perform 100 hours of community service and undergo counselling. He was suspended for the entire 2014 season by the Sooners although he was allowed to take classes and keep his financial aid but not take part in any team activities.
Mixon was reinstated by the team on February 14th 2015 and played last season. He was kept away from media duties and didn’t talk at all throughout the season — until he was required to speak per the rules of the Orange Bowl. It appears he was advised not to discuss the incident:
There’s a very obvious legal case for why he shouldn’t be talking to the media but some have argued the moment was not handled well by the Sooners:
The footage of the press conference isn’t particularly easy to watch. A well prepared apology or signs of sincere regret upon his return would’ve been preferable — instead this delayed, awkward and forced exchange really didn’t aid the situation.
Mixon hasn’t spoken to reporters since the Orange Bowl in December 2015 but last month Bob Stoops suggested he might be set to speak again:
“It’s something we’ve talked about… I’ve talked about it with the administration. We’re working on that. So there’s a possibility.”
Brady Vardeman notes, ‘It’s unlikely Mixon’s lawyers would allow him to talk about his incident with Molitor given the ongoing civil suit filed by her legal team in July.’
It’s impossible to know how the NFL will handle this. Frank Clark was dismissed by Michigan immediately after his incident but still attended the combine and then became a second round pick. He started his pro-career with no limitations, suspensions or sanctions and people rarely refer to what happened anymore.
Mixon wasn’t dismissed by Oklahoma but did sit out a whole season. In context it really isn’t much of a ‘punishment’ but will it conveniently allow the league or specific teams to judge the situation as at least partially addressed?
Clark didn’t fall much by going in round two. Who knows what’ll happen to Mixon — a legitimate first or second round talent. He could fall completely off the radar and never get a chance, he could be an UDFA or like Clark he could still be an early pick.
Teams will investigate. They will research the incident, the legal case and Mixon as an individual.
As the writer of this blog all I try to do is highlight the talent in college football so we can discuss possible Seahawks picks in the draft. I don’t know if Seattle or any other team would entertain drafting Mixon. This isn’t any kind of endorsement — but the Clark situation suggests we also shouldn’t avoid the subject. Talking about Clark pre-draft at least gave the readers of this website an insight into his backstory before the team subsequently selected him.
Mixon truly has the ability to be one of the great playmakers in the NFL. Seriously. We’ll see if the NFL decides he deserves a chance to prove it.
One other note on Mixon — when asked who his mentors were during a pre-college interview, the first name he gave was Marshawn Lynch:
Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
Maye is a lot closer to the brilliant Keanu Neal than I think many people realise. He’s 6-0 and 216lbs so he’s right in the range to be a safety/linebacker hybrid (Deone Bucannon was 6-1 and 211lbs at his combine). Maye’s field awareness and read/react skills are superb. He had five forced fumbles last year and already has a sack, a pick and three PD’s in 2016. He has the speed and size to line up vs tight ends and his ability to direct traffic and get to the ball carrier is a good sign for any possible move to hybrid LB/S. There’s evidence of him being able to line up in the box and even set an edge. Great character and the QB of Florida’s secondary. In the video above Maye is #20 and Neal #42.
Azeem Victor (LB, Washington)
I stayed up until the early hours to watch Washington’s demolition of Stanford and it was worth it to watch the Huskies defense properly for the first time this year. Greg Gaines’ mobility for his size on his sack jumped off the screen, I could watch Vita Vea and Elijah Qualls all day and Joe Mathis might be undersized but he had the game of a lifetime rushing the passer. No wonder John Schneider attended in person. Yet the player who stood out most after Mathis was linebacker Azeem Victor. His range and closing ability stood out constantly — he was always around the ball. He took the right angles, didn’t miss a tackle and just kept a lid on things all night. At the 2015 Husky combine he ran a 4.10 short shuttle — that would’ve been the third fastest time by a linebacker at the 2016 NFL combine (Alex McCallister 4.00, Nick Vigil 4.00). This is a loaded defense without even mentioned Sidney Jones or Budda Baker.
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
He’s been superb in the last two games and he’s one of the main reasons Tennessee somehow remains unbeaten. His sack/fumble led to a touchdown against Georgia (he had two sacks on the day) and he took over the second half vs Florida (registering two more sacks). Great effort player but not a slouch athletically. Is he twitchy enough to go top-25? That’s going to be the question — but there’s a bit of Everson Griffen to his playing style and Griffen didn’t blow up the 2010 combine. Barnett plays with his hair on fire and that’ll make up for some of his possible physical limitations. He has good size for the Seahawks EDGE (6-3, 265bs) but his frame on tape looks more than capable of some inside work too.
Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
Florida State’s defense is a mess but Walker is one of the few to come away with his reputation enhanced. His 4.5 sack performance vs Ole Miss was a sight to behold and he was the only FSU defender capable of containing Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. He’s an inside/out D-liner (6-4, 280lbs) with violent hands and the ability to disengage and then explode to the QB. He could play with more consistent intensity but players like this are valuable in the modern NFL. His swim/rip move is excellent and he can win in multiple ways — technique, speed, power. He’ll set the edge playing DE vs the run and collapse the interior as a pass rusher. For more check out this post from a few weeks ago.
Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)
Impressive range and blitzing ability. Flies to the quarterback when asked to rush and showed potential in coverage vs Tennessee. Plays with intensity and is well respected by the coaches at Florida. Looks a lot like Clay Matthews at USC and not just the hair. Not the SPARQiest player during recruiting — only posting a 108.9 (Darron Lee had a 135.94 pre-draft). Matthews only ran a 4.67 at his combine but had a good split. Anzalone is so similar. You’d like to see Florida use him more as a rusher — against the Vols he was almost exclusively used in coverage and played well. Matthews had a similar issue at USC and then started piling up sacks at the next level.
Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
He’s putting it together this year (as noted yesterday — check out the piece) with big performances against CFB’s elite. Impressive vertical, mobility and speed. A genuine modern day X-factor who lines up in multiple positions to create mismatches. Good character and well spoken. Vastly underrated. Averaging 16.25 yards a catch against top opponents including Alabama is not easy. Incredible hands. Love the guy. One of my favourite prospects to watch so far in 2016. Don’t undersell his athleticism and while he’s only around 6-3 and 227lbs — he shows up as a blocker and he can handle work in the slot or split out wide. Just draft him.
Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
It isn’t a good tackle draft unless others emerge and McGlinchey might be the best available. He definitely looks the part and he’s a chiseled 6-7/310lbs. Former basketball player with the kind of mobility you’d expect — he’s also a well spoken, intelligent individual (something Tom Cable admitted was important after the 2016 draft). Struggled a bit vs Malik McDowell but that’s understandable. Looked at ease vs Duke and Syracuse. Decent balance and ability to set quickly. Kick slide isn’t explosive but good enough and he’s technically sound. Might never be one of the greats but certainly capable of being a starter for a long time in the NFL. He might be the only first round tackle in 2017.
Dan Feeney (G, Indiana)
The Seahawks look set at this position but Feeney still warrants a mention. He’s adept at pulling and hitting the target at the second level. His pass protection and run blocking is equally good working in a phone booth at the LOS and he plays with the kind of aggression you want to see. Finishes plays. Another impressive, modest individual. Speaks well. Technically sound as well as powerful — shows well driving at the line but also capable of subtle hand use to turn the DL and create a running lane.
Carl Lawson (DE, Auburn)
I’ve not had a chance to watch Lawson or Auburn properly this year but I’m really keen to watch him down the line. His injury history is a problem and could really impact his stock. He missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL and missed six games last year with a hip injury (the details of which were suspiciously vague). He has four sacks already this season and if he’s finally healthy he could be set for a major rise. Based on what we’ve seen in the past — in terms of physicality, intensity, ability vs the run and ability to convert speed-to-power Lawson is one of the best 2017 prospects. His size fits Seattle’s EDGE profile (6-2, 258lbs) and he plays big — but does he have the required length? Lawson is a tone setter who plays through the whistle and fits the personality of this defense. Former 5-star recruit.
Evan Engram — underrated and very, very interesting
Jimmy Graham is borderline unstoppable at the moment. His blossoming chemistry with Russell Wilson is exciting for Seattle’s offense and he’s starting to look like the 1200 yards, 10-15 touchdown TE we saw in New Orleans.
Nick Vannett’s return to health makes the tight end position quite a strength for Seattle. Luke Willson is a very solid #2 while Brandon Williams is a decent blocker and core special teamer.
Tanner McEvoy is also on the roster and had his first career pass (and touchdown) yesterday. He’s essentially a WR/TE hybrid and a project who could end up permanently at either position.
The Seahawks seem to like McEvoy while their receivers are all signed up for the long haul. Graham isn’t going anywhere and they just drafted Vannett. Yet Willson and Williams are both free agents in 2017 and if both depart — that leaves at least one opening in the off-season.
Is there room for another crazy athletic big target on the roster in the future?
The line between receiver and tight end is becoming increasingly blurred these days. Big, explosive TE’s with a massive catching radius are all the rage — occasionally taking the place of the ‘orthodox’ #1 receiver. Complimenting these seam-busting giants are the smaller, sudden receivers who work as well in the slot as they do hugging the sideline (eg OBJ, Antonio Brown, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and lately Will Fuller).
The idea of two truly dynamic TE’s has been intriguing since the Gronk/Aaron Hernandez days in New England. It was incredibly difficult to defend. Gronk was the all-round monster and Hernandez more of the ‘joker’ style receiver or H-back. There’s a chance Graham and Willson could develop a similar dual-threat partnership this year — but if that happens it’ll be harder to re-sign Willson.
Vannett could be pencilled in for such a role too but appears to be more of a traditional TE that can be used as an extra blocker. Even in that role he’d be an asset in this physical offense. Theoretically you could see all three TE’s on the field at the same time later in the year — with Graham in the slot or out wide and Willson/Vannett book-ending the OL.
The point I’m making is multiple TE sets and TE/WR hybrids appear to be here to stay and they might lose a couple of TE’s in free agency. So why not spend a bit of time looking at a player who is extremely underrated today?
Ole Miss’ Evan Engram is a little bit like Jordan Reed albeit 10lbs lighter. He can line up anywhere — inline TE, detached, slot, H-back. He’s a mismatch. At a listed 6-3 and 227lbs you could just use him as an out-and-out bigger receiver if you wanted. He has the agility, fluidity and athleticism to make it work.
So far in 2016 Engram has averaged 95.8 yards per game and 17.3 yards per catch. He is Ole Miss’ leading receiver with a healthy 174-yard lead over #2 target Damore’ea Stringfellow. Engram also has four touchdowns in five games.
These numbers are even more impressive when you consider his poorest statistical performance came in a week two walkover against Wofford. Presumably he didn’t play many snaps in the 38-13 victory where the Rebels never got out of second gear. Here are the collective numbers he put up in the other four games against Florida State, Alabama, Georgia and Memphis:
Receiving yards: 436
Receiving yards average per game: 109
Yards per catch: 16.25
That’s an impressive return against tough opponents — and Engram is well on his way to a +1000 yard season with +10 touchdowns.
It’s easy to see why he’s so productive… those hands…
Now fast forward to 0:38 in the video below. Doesn’t this catch just remind you of Jimmy Graham’s brilliant one-handed grab against the Jets yesterday?
How athletic is he? Expect an incredible vertical leap at the combine. Check out his touchdown vs Georgia at 1:41 in the video below:
Check out 0:48 and 1:31 below from the Florida State game to see his capabilities as a blocker, helping to spring a couple of really nice runs by sealing the edge. He also has a nice touchdown at 2:17, running a crisp route and showing he’s in sync with the QB on a timing throw:
In terms of his personality/character — he also seems personable and intelligent:
If he runs well — and there’s no reason to doubt that — I suspect Engram will go a lot higher than people are currently projecting. Athleticism + size + character + production in the SEC = high draft grade.
It’s worth putting him near the top of your watch list this season.
I did a bit more digging on Ballage — a player I haven’t focused on much because he works in a committee and has never really been the lead guy. He had just 653 yards last season but did average 5.2 YPC. He scored just four times.
This season he already has 193 yards, nine scores and 8.4 YPC in two games.
One of those four touchdowns from last season included this against UCLA:
Physicality, effectiveness, speed, size. This guy is intriguing.
His character and personality is even more impressive. Listen to his demeanour in this interview, or the way he handled the on-the-field post game reaction to his record setting night (it’s at the end of the video at the top of the page).
Character is big for the Seahawks. So is difference making physical qualities. If Ballage continues to produce, he could be a name to keep an eye on. After all, Christine Michael’s contract expires next year and as the Seahawks transition towards more of a committee approach — they’ll be looking to add bodies at running back all the time.
I’m going to be attending the Washington vs Arizona State game in November so will get the opportunity to watch Ballage live.
He at least has the potential to get into the second round mix. Oregon’s Royce Freeman is a similar bigger back with plus speed. They could both go in a similar range. Right now you’d also have to put Nick Chubb in that bracket. Keep an eye on NC State’s Matt Dayes too. Leonard Fournette is a shoe-in for the top five picks while Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook could also find a home in round one.
So we’re at the end of another draft season. I want to thank everyone who is part of this increasingly active community for making this such a great blog. It’s incredible that as traffic has grown — the comments section has remained a mature place to discuss football matters (even when disagreements occur).
In case you’re interested, between January and the end of the draft we had 18,076,727 hits. We had 606,134 hits during the first round of the draft alone.
This is usually where I take a break. It’s been virtually an article a day since September and it’s time to focus on the day job and family. We’ll get things going again in the summer and begin to preview the new college and NFL season.
In the meantime here’s a list of 50 names to chew on for 2017.
The top ten
These are the players we can say with some degree of certainty will be generating most of the draft headlines this year.
Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Just an incredible football player. He could very easily be the #1 overall pick next year. There are no flaws. An absolute beast.
Myles Garrett (DE, Texas A&M)
Really dynamic edge rusher with speed, bend and technique. Looks like a sure fire top-five pick.
Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
Some possible character issues that’ll need to be looked into — but there’s no denying his talent. Fast, powerful and dynamic. Only a notch below Fournette.
Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Modern day linebacker who jumped off the screen while watching Jonathan Bullard and Keanu Neal. A candidate to go very early.
Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
Superior to some of the previous Alabama left tackles to enter the league. Ideal size and has a chance to be the top 2017 tackle.
DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
A genuine playmaker with room to continue improving. Elusive and improvises well. Can he take the next step and secure himself as the top QB prospect?
Tim Williams (DE, Alabama)
He could’ve been a top-20 pick this year. Terrific edge rusher with fantastic athleticism. Major talent.
Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Really productive and physical — has the size to play DE in a 3-4 or 4-3. A nice compliment to Williams for ‘Bama.
Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Would’ve been an early pick this year but decided to return to LSU. Great character, great athlete, good kick returner. Top-15 potential.
Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
Better than Vernon Hargreaves who went in the top-12. Has the size (6-1, 191lbs) and length teams crave. Could be another top-15 talent.
Five personal favourites
Players who stood out during the 2014 and 2015 season that are eligible for the 2017 draft.
Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
Great size (6-3, 207lbs) with room to add weight. Owned Vernon Hargreaves in the Citrus Bowl. Returned an opening kick off 96-yard for a TD against Northwestern. Underrated.
Harold Brantley (DT, Missouri)
A car crash kept him out for the 2015 season but he’ll be healthy and ready to return this year. Fantastic three-technique interior rusher.
Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
A stud athlete, Sutton glides around the field. He’s a playmaker, a kick returner and he could’ve gone in round one this year. So fluid.
Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
A modern day weapon. Ten years ago he wouldn’t go early — in 2017? This is the type of player teams are looking for. Shifty rather than fast.
Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
It was a bit surprising he didn’t declare this year. Will likely move to guard in the NFL but he could be another Evan Mathis.
Looking to take the next step
The following group are fairly established college players who can really help their stock with a good 2016 season.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, USC)
A few recent USC receivers haven’t lived up to expectations in the NFL. JuJu is bigger and more physical. He’s lost his quarterback though (Cody Kessler).
Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
‘Rolls’ Royce isn’t Fournette or Freeman but don’t sleep on his potential. Well sized with good athleticism if not elite speed.
Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma)
A different type of back to the ones listed above. Perine is big and physical but has enough speed to make plays.
O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
He exploded in the National Championship game after an underwhelming start to his college career. His size/speed combo could secure a first round grade next year.
Eddie Jackson (S, Alabama)
Very agile safety prospect with some decent size (6-0, 194lbs). Scored two touchdowns in 2015 and had three big interception returns.
Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Horrible injury ended his 2015 season and it looked as bad as Jaylon Smith’s. If he returns to 100% — he has a chance to go early. Extremely competitive.
Brad Kaaya (QB, Miami)
Considered a possible school saviour when he was drafted, Kaaya hasn’t really matched the hype. 2016 is his chance to boost a weak looking QB class.
Charles Walker (DT, Oklahoma)
Classic three-technique. Sets up his blocks and wins with a great swim move and quickness. Had six sacks last year.
Ethan Pocic (C, LSU)
Received a second round grade from the committee but chose not to declare this year. Absolutely massive (6-7, 309lbs). Very solid.
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
Already has 20 sacks in just two seasons with the Vols. Built like a pro already. Big thick frame — a bit like Shaq Lawson.
Adoree Jackson (CB/WR, USC)
Incredible athlete. Crown him 2017’s top combine performer today. Needs to nail down one specific position. Might be better on offense.
Carl Lawson (DE, Auburn)
Finally healthy. Laremy Tunsil said at the combine Lawson was his toughest college opponent. Tough to block but needs to put together a strong (full) season.
Jabrill Peppers (CB, Michigan)
Former big time recruit. Ideal length and athleticism for the position. A modern day prototype at corner.
Desmond King (CB, Iowa)
Very productive in Iowa’s 2015 run but maybe a little overrated in terms of the pro’s. Is he big enough to go early?
Guys to keep an eye on
This is a list of prospects who are moving into starting roles for the first time or could be ready for a breakout season.
Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
Had a big impact in 2015 forcing five fumbles and collecting two interceptions. He’ll take on an even greater role with Keanu Neal now in the NFL.
Denzil Ware (DE, Kentucky)
Lacks elite size (6-2, 255lbs) but just started to put things together at the back end of last season.
David Sharpe (LT, Florida)
Good size and length for the position. Moving into his third season as a starter. Passes the eye test.
Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
Former top five star recruit who doesn’t get much attention due to the team he plays for. A new coaching staff at Virginia could help change that.
Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama)
Expect Hand to fill the hole created by ‘Bama’s D-line exodus. He could play a similar role to D.J. Pettway and he’s a far superior athlete.
Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
Not short on confidence but needs to be more productive. Has the talent and size. Disruptive.
Bo Scarbrough (RB, Alabama)
Massive running back. Could replace Derrick Henry. Dubbed the next big thing at Alabama but we’ll see how his role develops this year.
Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Receives lofty praise but could do with a consistent season where he makes a number of plays and stands out.
Daeshon Hall (DE, Texas A&M)
Exploded to start 2015 with a four-sack game to start the season vs Arizona State. Looked the part there but needs to be an every-week performer. Has length and size.
Devonte Fields (DE, Louisville)
Always seemed to be near the action when watching Sheldon Rankins tape. Long, fluid athlete. Can he perform with Rankins in the NFL?
Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
Took over from Nick Chubb and might end up remaining in the starting role to start 2016. Michel, like Chubb, was a big time recruit.
Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU)
Wiry, thin receiver but capable of big plays. Suffers because of the mess at QB. Can he add some weight?
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Tabor will get the praise but don’t sleep on Wilson — another talented Florida CB off the production line.
Raekwon McMillan (LB, Ohio State)
Wasn’t quite as enamoured by McMillan as some others — but he’ll have to be a playmaker for the Buckeye’s this year with all the talent they’ve lost to the NFL.
Charles Harris (DE, Missouri)
Raw as anything you’ll see but recorded major TFL stats in 2015 and could be the next top-tier EDGE from Mizzou.
Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
Had three picks in 2015 and his responsibility will expand this year. Could develop into another Nick Saban early round DB.
Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)
He posted 6.5 sacks last year and like everyone at Michigan will only continue to improve with Jim Harbaugh.
Skai Moore (LB, South Carolina)
Tackle machine and developed into a playmaker for the Gamecocks. Smaller linebacker in the Darron Lee mould.
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Rangy tackler with decent size and length. Former four-star recruit who drew attention from several top schools.
Davon Godchaux (DT, LSU)
Has looked really good at times. Stood out in the win against Auburn last year. Certainly capable of drawing NFL attention.
Roderick Johnson (T, Florida State)
Big, long and well proportioned left tackle prospect. Doesn’t play with his hair on fire though. Too passive.
Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
Who really expected Reed to last until pick #49? We had him at #16 in our final mock draft to the Detroit Lions.
The Seahawks love to be unconventional and so it proved again this year. While the rest of the NFL sought three-down prospects who can play in a world dominated by nickel defense and high-octane passing offenses — the Seahawks took a fierce run-defender and a blocking tight end (Nick Vannett) before the end of day two.
Having dragged the entire league into a new modern era — the Seahawks seem to be re-establishing the core foundation of what really made them successful. For all the new-age thinking and the many ways they’ve revolutionised the NFL — the Seahawks’ style of play is classical all the way.
Run the ball. Stop the run. Force turnovers. Protect the ball.
If you like tough football dripping with blood and sweat in the trenches — you’ll love Jarran Reed. I watched four games in the last 24 hours and didn’t see a single play where he lost leverage or was shoved into the backfield.
I’ve watched a lot of defensive linemen since starting the blog in 2008. Only Ndamukong Suh had quite this level of toughness up front.
Now let’s get one thing straight here — Reed is not Suh. For such an immovable object at the LOS he’s not the most effective bull rusher. He does have better athleticism than you’d think — and he played some DE as well as lining up inside. He can get into the backfield and chase down a quarterback.
He just isn’t Suh.
And that doesn’t matter.
In Seattle he’s going to be a run defender. I suspect he’ll continue to play some DE mixed in with most of his snaps at DT. He’s an absolute beast vs the run. He locks out brilliantly, controlling one or sometimes two blockers while somehow managing to locate the ball and make the tackle. He had more tackles than any other Alabama defensive lineman in 2014 and 2015 and it’s easy to see why.
Even as he controls the LOS he disengages like a savvy veteran. It’s a thing of beauty. You hardly ever see him linger on a block for more than a split second. When he needs to get clean and go chase the football — he’ll do it. When he finds the ball carrier he can pursue and finish and he’s a powerful form-tackler.
You never see him knocked off balance or on the turf. When he sets position and plants his legs — you’re not going to move him. He took on several double teams vs LSU and Clemson in particular and just maintained the original LOS. There’s no push. On one snap vs Tennessee he held up two blockers allowing linebacker Reggie Ragland a clean route to hammer the running back for a jarring hit.
Watching him next to A’Shawn Robinson is ideal. Robinson is passive and doesn’t play with the same level of sheer intensity. Reed is the tone-setter, the natural leader. His motor never stopped while Robinson was too often happy to stay blocked.
It helped that Reed was used in a heavy rotation and played about 60-70% of the snaps. The Seahawks would be wise to use him in the same way — and they can afford to with their new-found depth up front.
Watch the video below and fast forward to 2:09:10. This is the fourth quarter of the Senior Bowl — a showpiece finale to the more important week of workouts and drills.
Jarran Reed had just played in the National Championship game a couple of weeks earlier and didn’t even need to show up in Mobile (Ryan Kelly the center chose not to attend and compete). In the game he’d already made a big splash — chasing down Carson Wentz on one eye-catching play in the first quarter. Yet even with the game won and with just over five minutes to play — this is the kind of impact he was having:
Snap 1 — 2nd and 15
Reed disengages, chases down Jeff Driskel and tackles him from behind for a short gain. He dances in celebration.
Snap 2 — 3rd and 12
Short throw to Tyler Ervin. Jarran Reed disengages, retreats and again makes the tackle from behind to prevent the first down.
Snap 3 — 4th an 1
Tyler Ervin runs to try and make the first down. Reed escapes his block and helps stop the RB for a loss. Turnover on downs.
The Seahawks value gap discipline and he’s adept here. He does his job first and foremost and then looks for the ball. He’s not a one-gap penetrator but again — the Seahawks don’t need him to be. They’ll get their pass rush from Bennett, Avril, Clemons, Clark and hopefully Jefferson and Hill.
If he can control the LOS and absorb blocks like he did at the college level (that remains to be seen) it’ll create a lot of 1v1 opportunities for the DE working his side of the field plus Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.
Reed barely has any flaws. He’s just not a prolific pass rusher. The modern NFL has deemed that isn’t valuable enough to go early. The Seahawks saw an opportunity and grabbed it. More power to them.
If they wanted to become the bully again in 2016 — this was the guy to draft. Nobody embodies that identity more than Jarran Reed.
Rees Odhiambo (T, Boise State)
I could only find one video for Odhiambo (vs Virginia) so it’s difficult to judge him (the usual minimum is three games). Even so, here’s what I noted…
In terms of agility you can see why the Seahawks’ sport science guys supposedly really value his upside. At 6-4 and 314lbs he moves really well. He has one of the best kick-slides you’ll see in this class and he had no issues at all setting his stance, re-setting, keeping the defender in front and mirroring.
There’s a lot to like about his fit in the ZBS. He’s an athlete for sure.
His upper body power was obvious and looks like another key characteristic the Seahawks valued. He delivered several jolts and he can hand-fight. As a run blocker he stoned a couple of defenders with a really nice piece of hand-use, gaining leverage and finishing.
Combining strength and mobility appears to be a major emphasis at the moment. It’s almost like a return to the ZBS roots albeit with size thrown into the mix (Joey Hunt, a classic ZBS center, is the exception).
On the slightly negative side though there wasn’t a clear edge to Odhimabo’s play and you’d love to see him knocking some helmet’s like we saw from Shon Coleman at Auburn. At tackle he’s a bit of a lunger and he sometimes overextends. Moving him inside will limit some of his weaknesses and bring out his power/agility.
To that extent he’s an exciting project for Tom Cable. He’s big, strong and mobile. Everything you hear about him suggests he’s a quick learner, he’s intelligent and a good worker. There’s no real pressure for him to start immediately (Mark Glowsinki appears to be pencilled in at left guard) and in a years time he could be really pushing to be the long term answer at that position.
Even though he’s better suited inside — like Ifedi he also has some swing-tackle benefits.
The key is health. He’s missed at least four games in each of the last three seasons. Injuries have been an issue for the Seahawks O-line in the past due to the physical nature of the scheme and their running style.
If he can avoid injuries he has a shot. John Schneider suggested this week he could’ve been a top-45 prospect without the health problems. At the very least it’ll be good to see legitimate competition across the O-line this summer — something the Seahawks badly lacked a year ago.
If you missed any of our other reviews so far, here’s the list:
C.J. Prosise is someone we often discussed during the season and in the early part of the post-season. His role has been pretty much established as the third down back. He has excellent burst to the second level, is capable of taking a run to the house but he also has plenty of experience running routes as a former receiver. Expect him to wind up being the running back in the two minute drill.
Tyvis Powell has genuine Deone Bucannon potential. Brandin Bryant’s tape is fantastic and matches up with a tremendous pre-draft workout. He might be their most exciting UDFA signing if they can tap into his potential.
Cornerback DeAndre Elliott is someone we identified post-combine as a real candidate for Seattle — he ticks all the boxes in terms of playing style, size, length and range. George Fant could be the next Garry Gilliam while Christian French and Steve Longa will battle with the existing linebackers in one of the more intriguing camp battles.
Tanner McEvoy is 6-5, 231lbs and an amazing athlete. He could be their next Jameson Konz-style project because he doesn’t really have a set position. Montese Overton and David Perkins have a shot to make the team and who would rule out Trevone Boykin landing as a future backup for Russell Wilson?
The sheer depth of numbers and quality from the 2016 draft and UDFA could create a 2013 level of depth for the Seahawks.
I’ll be posting a 2017 top-25 summer watch list tomorrow and then taking a break. If anything happens (a podcast or radio appearance, some breaking news) I’ll make sure it’s posted on the blog.
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