West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White stood out in week one against Alabama. The Mountaineers flirted with an upset and most of that was down to White. He had nine catches, 143 yards and a touchdown (see the video above). For a player who’s suffered with confidence issues in the past, it was the perfect start. A launchpad.
After four games only Amari Cooper has been more productive in the NCAA. White is a legit candidate for the Biletnikoff and his stock is growing. I’m not convinced he’s the 6-3 210lbs listed by ESPN, but he ticks a lot of boxes. He’s got excellent acceleration, he high-points the football, he makes difficult grabs and he knows where to sit and find the soft spot in zone. He has a shot at the next level.
The big concern, sadly, may be those confidence issues. He’s extremely softly spoken to the point of being quite shy. He’s no fool, far from it. But he’s shy. One of the big things we learnt this year is Seattle wants players who can survive in their ultra-competitive locker room. This is a question we have to ask now about every player, including White. Can they have a rocky session against the Legion of Boom during camp and come back the next day with amnesia? Can they take the talking, the physical challenge? Can they thrive in the environment of this team? Can White?
If there are questions to be asked there, you’ll struggle to find many regarding his on-field performance. Against Maryland he had 13 catches for 216 yards. Watch the tape below and tell me you’re not impressed. At the very least check out the following plays:
2:13 — An explosive catch and run on a WR screen, breaking off a 44-yard sprint through traffic.
2:58 — Competent run blocking at the perimeter, sealing his man and allowing the running back to get a first down and make a significant gain.
3:51 — Complete trust from the quarterback. On play action he steps into the pocket and throws into blanket double coverage. Against two defenders White goes up and plucks the ball out of the air. It’s textbook stuff.
5:25 — Excellent catch again in good coverage. White tracks the ball superbly and somehow makes the completion and gets both feet down.
He’s a smooth athlete, he competes for the ball and he can make big plays. It’s hard to judge his stock right now and he’ll need to maintain consistency throughout the year. He’s an exciting player though, certainly the most impressive prospect to emerge in the early stages of the 2014 season. He’s putting up numbers against good teams too — Alabama in week one, Oklahoma last week (10 catches, 173 yards and a touchdown).
I’m not convinced he’s as good as DeAndre Hopkins — a very underrated receiver who thoroughly deserved to go in round one. They share similar traits though.
West Virginia don’t play this weekend but White will get another opportunity to impress on October 4th against 2-1 Kansas.
This isn’t about the read option and running quarterbacks. It’s about elusiveness, playmaking and extending plays.
Robert Griffin III is a classic case on how not to handle and athletic, skilled quarterback. His ability to run is an asset, but that still needs to be managed. It has to be an accent, used to extend plays and provide moments of inspiration. When Pete Carroll talks about his desire to be the best scrambling team in the league it’s with good reason. Mobile quarterbacks who make plays when seemingly bottled up are incredibly difficult to defend.
RGIII seemingly wasn’t used in such a way (aka a point guard). The read-option became a staple of the Washington offense and the quarterback was asked to do too much running — even when clearly injured. We all know the consequences of that. The injuries are one thing, the more serious issue could be Griffin’s continued preference to run after one or two quick reads. The Shanahan’s never truly tackled that.
Seattle rarely uses the read-option. It’s added to specific game-plans but only in the same way they might emphasise the tight end against a favourable match-up or offer a specific look on defense. Russell Wilson runs, scrambles and makes plays. But you never sense any real recklessness. It’s managed by the team and he knows how to protect himself. The same can easily be said for Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and Cam Newton in Carolina.
Being able to scramble is a vital component in the NFL these days. As we’ve debated many times, the best high school and college athletes are playing defense. Fewer elite athletes are playing on the offensive line. It’s why the top offensive tackles in each draft get snapped up so quickly. It’s why teams in the NCAA and NFL are moving defensive linemen to the offense in an attempt to get better athletes on the OL. It’s becoming increasingly harder to contain all of the explosive athletes rushing the passer.
That’s not to say you can’t be an orthodox pocket passer these days, but fewer quarterbacks can survive like that. You need to buy time. You need to offer the threat to run. You need to be able to get out of the pocket, avoid the rush and extend plays.
Mariota will no doubt be criticised by the old-school brigade for being mobile, athletic and exciting and not a 245lbs statue with simply a cannon arm. In reality he’s perfectly suited to the modern NFL. He’s an accomplished passer who ticks every physical box but he’s also elusive and capable of making plays outside of the pocket.
There are other positives too — he isn’t a careless runner, he doesn’t turn the ball over and you only hear good things about his character. Yes the Oregon offense is wide open, designed to create enormous passing windows and overmatch opponents with all the speed the Ducks have at receiver/running back. He’ll need to adjust to a pro-offense at the next level, but in 2014 he’s playing in an environment that almost guarantees huge numbers.
Teams will fall over themselves to draft Mariota and make him the face of their franchise. It probably won’t even be a close run thing. I suspect he’ll be seen as a Kaepernick clone with the potential to be a better passer. He is destined to be the #1 pick next year unless a team with a newly drafted or established quarterback owns the pick, which seems unlikely in 2015.
A lot of people are talking up the running back class. I just can’t buy into running backs in round one. Not any more.
Trent Richardson looked sensational at Alabama. Big, strong, fast, decisive. He was the complete package. Nobody was criticising him leading into the draft, nobody was projecting the totally underwhelming career he’d have at the next level.
LeSean McCoy — 2nd rounder
Matt Forte — 2nd rounder
Jamaal Charles — 3rd rounder
Alfred Morris — 6th rounder
Adrian Peterson — 1st rounder
Marshawn Lynch — 1st rounder initially, but traded to Seattle for a late round package
Ryan Mathews — 1st rounder
Eddie Lacy — 2nd rounder
Frank Gore — 3rd rounder
DeMarco Murray — 3rd rounder
Of the group, only freak-of-nature Adrian Peterson and Ryan Mathews cost their current team a first round pick. Mathews, until 2013, had been a total bust.
It’s not just Trent Richardson that’ll be scaring off teams either. Doug Martin and David Wilson were both first rounders in 2012 too. Wilson has since retired from football due to injury and Martin missed the 2013 season with a torn labrum.
Remember Mark Ingram? Former Heisman winner and another fantastic Alabama running back. He’s been a total shocking bust too and another former first rounder who appeared destined for big things.
The risk factor is too high unless you truly believes you’re getting another Peterson. Equally, the value later on is too good to go digging for a running back in round one.
Melvin Gordon is fun to watch and one of my favourite players going into the new season. He has speed, he’s competitive and patient. He’s such a graceful runner and he makes excellent cuts. He’s well spoken. Yet he offers precious little in the passing game and he’ll need time to adjust in protection. His best asset is his ability to avoid contact and act as a home run hitter. That’s not quite as easy to do at the next level. A fine player, certainly worthy of a high second round grade at least. If anyone can make it in 2015 it’s probably this guy.
Todd Gurley is a beast at Georgia — 6-1 and 226lbs, he runs with authority and can be a playmaker. You just wonder though if he’ll be quite as fearsome at the next level. Has he got the speed, fight and power to really challenge teams? People compare him to Marshawn Lynch but that’s unfair. Lynch is a unique player, we’ll not see another running back like that possibly ever. Gurley is big but with Lynch it isn’t about size — it’s about Beast Mode. It’s about being tough to bring down. It’s the attitude, the skill, the patience, the cut back ability. Lynch is a marvel. Does Gurley deserve a better grade than Eddie Lacy, a second rounder? Perhaps not.
T.J. Yeldon looked terrific when he burst onto the scene at Alabama. Since then he’s suffered ball-security issues and he looks lean. I’m not convinced he’s a special athlete, so what are you really getting? Someone who won’t operate as a between the tackles threat, but can work to the sideline and cut. He can be effective in the passing game. I’m just not sure you can get behind the idea of drafting him in the first round — especially if he keeps fumbling. Ideally he comes in to work with a power guy as a change of pace player, before possibly earning a greater role.
This trio is ‘the big three’ in terms of name recognition. Will any go in the first round? You’d have to be a really good team to justify it. Hey, you don’t rule it out in August. But I think we need to temper some of the expectation. Running backs going in round one should be a dying breed.
Of the defensive players I’ve watched so far I’m most excited about Missouri’s Markus Golden, Florida’s Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley at Clemson and Washington’s Marcus Peters.
Golden will get a ton of opportunities this year given the defensive exodus on Mizzou’s D-line. He’s fast, athletic, strong and he makes plays. Watch out for this guy because he’s the real deal.
Fowler can line up at linebacker or end. He really flies to the ball and can take on a left tackle, initiate contact and release. If he gets a sniff of a gap he’ll shoot through it to blow up a play. He forces fumbles, he has such fluid mobility. He can also work through traffic and line up inside. He’s an exciting talent.
We all know about Beasley by know and while he is undersized, you just can’t match-up to his speed off the edge. It’s explosive — and he should test well at next years combine. He didn’t declare for the 2014 draft but let’s not knock him for that. Undersized, nickel pass-rushers are no longer a no-no in round one. He can work the edge and he’ll have a big year for Clemson.
Peters just looks like a Seahawks cornerback. He’ll take chances and some teams won’t like that — yet he plays with such physicality and attitude. He’s big and fast and playing on a loaded defense at Washington.
There are others too — Baylor’s intriguing (and massive) Shawn Oakman plus Peters’ team mates Hau’oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson. A lot of people are talking up USC’s Leonard Williams and Nebraska’s Randy Gregory. I’d like to see more this year from both of those players.
There’s another crop of 4-5 good left tackle’s so expect another early rush — Cedric Ogbuehi, Brandon Scherff, La’el Collins and Cameron Erving could’ve been day one picks this year. Andrus Peat is highly rated but Stanford offensive linemen are just so difficult to grade for the NFL. It should be a better center class in 2015 with Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu and Auburn’s Reese Dismukes.
The receiver group appears underwhelming — a stark contract to 2014. Amari Cooper has natural talent but just made too many mental mistakes last season. He’s also undersized and that didn’t help Robert Woods or Marqise Lee. Nelson Agholor is a decent player but I just can’t see anything but a limited draft grade. Austin Hill is one to watch at Arizona but has durability issues. I’m not a big fan of Jalen Strong at Arizona State.
Dorial Green-Beckham is the big X-factor having transferred to Oklahoma. Will he play in 2014? Will he declare for the draft? What will teams make of his character background? In terms of talent and physical stature he’s a sure-fire first rounder, but there are so many question marks and potential red flags.
Keep an eye on Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell and Tennessee’s Pig Howard for multi-dimensional playmakers.
And what about Jameis Winston? Wear contact lenses, keep your nose clean and hope teams can trust you. I’m not sure I could. He has the talent, but he’s a long way off being ready for the NFL.
Missouri’s Markus Golden could be the best pass rusher in the SEC next season
We’ll get back into the current draft class tomorrow but I wanted to have a quick look at the 2014 college season and put down a few players to monitor over the summer months.
Obviously it’s too early to get a firm handle on who we’ll be talking about in 2015 but there is one name in particular I wanted to put out there.
Markus Golden — defensive end, Missouri.
He’s listed at 6-3 and 260lbs and had 6.5 sacks as a junior last season playing behind Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. He chose not to declare for last weeks draft because he wanted a year as a starter. Golden’s a former JUCO transfer from Hutchinson where in a single season he registered 26 TFL’s, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions. He played mostly special teams in 2012 for Mizzou before taking on a bigger role in 2013.
He’s an outstanding athlete with great burst off the line. He can hold his own too as you’ll see in the tape below — on one play he kicked inside, held off two blockers to make a play on the running back at the LOS. He’s got a real nose for the ball and plays with a relentless effort. It’s hard not to appreciate a play like this:
It’s not just the pick six. He shoves the quarterback a good 15-yards just for the hell of it. The guys a beast and could easily be the best pass rusher in the SEC this year.
Need more evidence? Golden was the only player I saw on tape that flustered Ja’Wuan James last season. James went in the top-20 this year because he’s solid with great technique, balance and footwork. Nobody played him like Golden (#33 in the tape below).
We also know after the 2014 draft that the Seahawks are putting a big emphasis on character and the ability to fit into Seattle’s locker room. That’ll be no issue here — he’s a mature, competitive character who speaks well during interviews.
Pass rusher could be a target area for the Seahawks in a years time. Cliff Avril will be a free agent and in an off-season where Russell Wilson will sign an enormous new contract — he could be difficult to keep. Even if Avril re-signs, Seattle could use even more options up front. They’re banking on younger players like Benson Mayowa, Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh stepping up to the plate this year.
For me Golden has all the makings of a potential top-15 pick if he stays healthy and productive — so he might not be in range for the Seahawks anyway all being well. But if you want a player to get excited about over the summer — this is a good place to start. You can see some coaches tape below and a list of suggested 2015 prospects to get into during the off-season.
Other potential 2015 prospects to study
Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
A good bet to go first overall next year. Mariota is a toolsy quarterback who made a big decision to return for one more year at Oregon. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he’s a thoroughly modern QB and a threat to run. Also has none of the character baggage Jameis Winston possesses.
Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
As noted above, he could be the best pass rusher in the SEC next season. A relentless athlete with top-tier potential. A very exciting prospect and one to monitor.
Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Could’ve been a first round pick this year but chose to emulate Jake Matthews and return to the Aggies to play left tackle. Handled Dee Ford in the Auburn game. The complete package and another top-10 pick in the making for Texas A&M.
Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
I’m not a fan of Stanford linemen. The scheme is too clinical and players get way overrated every year. Yet Peat might break that trend. He’s 6-7 and 312lbs with long arms and a great attitude on and off the field. Could be a high pick.
Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Converted defensive lineman who also chose not to declare for 2014. Expect another cluster of tackles to be the making of this class and Erving is a powerful, athletic OT who watches Jameis Winston’s blindside.
La’el Collins (T, LSU)
The third tackle on this list who made a late decision not to declare for the the 2014 draft. The Tigers offense lost a lot of talent this year, so we’ll see if it has any impact on Collins’ stock. Ideal size at 6-5 and 315lbs.
Leonard Williams (DL, USC)
Former 4-star recruit who can play end or tackle. Great size at 6-5 and 290lbs. Needs to break a trend of disappointing Trojan prospects who get a lot of hype but sink like a stone. He’s a playmaker but needs to get stronger, can be pushed back working inside.
Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
Great competitor on the field, a playmaker and gun slinger. Yet there are so many question marks. Off the field he’s a disaster zone. He needs to grow up and show some responsibility. Can he quicken up a slow release and avoid distractions?
Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Typical Iowa offensive lineman. Well coached, blue collar attitude. Just goes out and plays. 6-5 and 315lbs. No nonsense offensive lineman who excels in the run game. Not quite as adept against speed but will make a great right tackle.
Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
Gets banged up too much and his personality is pretty aloof. Awkward public speaker. And yet on the field an absolute beast when healthy. Not many running backs with his size return kicks for touchdowns. Big time prospect if he stays focused, avoids injuries and matures.
Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
Long, physical corner who played Brandin Cooks as well as anyone in the PAC-12 last season. Loads of potential and along with Shaq Thompson and Hau’oli Kikaha — could make the Huskies draft-relevant in 2015.
Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Explosive first step, great burst off the snap. Not the biggest or strongest but teams love guys like this that fly around the edge. Would’ve been a high pick this year in a disappointing class for edge rushers.
Landon Collins (S, Alabama) — could easily be the next big defensive back prospect off the Nick Saban production line.
Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska) — former JUCO transfer, 10.5 sacks last season and has the length (6-6) to be a big time threat off the edge.
Chaz Green (T, Florida) — has all the tools to be a great left tackle but injuries and inconsistent play haven’t helped.
Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) — under sized and had a disappointing 2013 season. Natural catcher though but is he another Woods/Lee?
T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama) — playmaker who fumbles way too much. Ball security must improve.
Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami) — exciting linebacker who received a third round grade this year but could be set for a big rise.
Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin) — missed a trick by not declaring this year. Looks like he could be a solid player at the next level.
Doriel Green-Beckham (WR, Unknown) — kicked out of Missouri. Major character red flags. And yet immensely talented. Has time to bounce back.
Brett Hundley (QB, UCLA) — did the right thing not declaring for 2014 and needs time on the field at UCLA. Makes too many mistakes.
Cassius Marsh could be the next big steal in Seattle
Cassius Marsh might be my favourite pick from Seattle’s 2014 draft class. We’ll get onto why in a moment. First there’s this…
Justin Britt #68
Cassius Marsh #91
Kevin Norwood #81
Eric Pinkins #39
Paul Richardson #10
I’m not sure if this is deliberate or not, but these are the roster numbers issued to some of the rookies. Britt has been given Breno Giacomini’s old number, Marsh gets Chris Clemons’ #91, Norwood will sport Golden Tate’s #81 and Pinkins gets Brandon Browner’s #39.
Richardson gets the #10 jersey — the same as DeSean Jackson. Coincidence? Perhaps not.
Obviously there’s no way of confirming if this is some kind of motivational tool to the class of 2014. Either way it’s a nice touch. It’ll be ever nicer if the Seahawks can find the new Gicomini/Clemons/Tate/Browner/Jackson from this group.
Let’s get into Marsh. I had to do him next because of all the videos I’ve watched since the draft, his play stood out the most.
He might have Clemons’ number, but he looks like a very different player. I doubt the Seahawks plan to turn him into a LEO. He can play end, but he’s really effective working inside. He’s a really versatile rusher and will probably line up in multiple different looks.
And there’s so much to like about his play.
I had to go back and double check his bench press number from the combine. Fourteen reps? Seriously? Because on tape you’d never guess it. He’s a strong dude. I’m not sure what he weighed in 2012 but he held his own working inside — more so than 2013 when I believe he dropped weight. He has strong hands, he holds his position and doesn’t get pushed around. He can disengage and work to the ball carrier. Perhaps the most exciting thing about Marsh is what he can do when he builds that core strength. If he can get even stronger, watch out.
Part of the excitement is built around his already sound hand technique. Sometimes I think it’s a major advantage to not be an elite speed rusher in college. If you just consistently beat guys off the edge with speed you don’t really have to develop your technique. If you’re jumping snaps and rounding the corner to be effective — what are you really learning? At the next level it’s so much harder to do. Tackles are quicker and stronger. You need to be able to mix it up, get off a block, counter. There’s been so many first round defensive end busts in recent years and in nearly every case it’s an athlete with little technique who just can’t adapt.
Marsh is a 4.89 runner at 252lbs, so he doesn’t have blazing long speed. He had a 1.66 ten-yard split — the same as Kony Ealy. It’s a pretty good get off but nothing special. Marcus Smith — a first rounder — had a 1.57. Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack both had 1.56′s. Smith and Mack both weighed 251lbs at the combine, while Clowney was 266lbs. You can see why he went first overall and the difference between the first and fourth rounds right there.
(Incidentally, Jackson Jeffcoat had a 1.60 ten yard split in the one forty he ran at the combine. He managed that at 247lbs.)
In college Marsh had to find other ways to be effective. He couldn’t rely on pure speed.
Hand technique is the #1 underrated characteristic in defensive ends for me. It doesn’t get talked about enough. You need a few strings to your bow. Cliff Avril is an exceptional pass rusher because he has 4.51 speed off the edge and he’s also incredibly strong with good hands. He can bull rush, he can get off a block. He can swim and rip. He sets up blockers and you really see him convert speed to power. He has a great lateral pursuit. He’s close to the perfect package.
Marsh will never have Avril’s burst but he’s well on the way to ticking the other boxes. His hand placement is excellent — whether it’s gaining leverage working inside, setting up for a club/rip off the edge or just using power to shove a lineman into the pocket. He loves a scrap — he loves to initiate contact and win 1v1 battles. Even when he over extends and stretches, he seems to generate a fair amount of power. Again, if he can get even stronger you could be looking at a really special player.
You’ve got to love his motor which never stops. When the play isn’t coming right at him, he’ll disengage and go looking for the ball carrier. He doesn’t seem to tire easily and he keeps going. You can tell he loves the game, loves the competition. He constantly plays on the edge of what’s legal — he’s pretty much the Breno Giacomini of defense. He’ll take some frustrating penalties but in the grand scheme of things he’s having an impact.
Out of all the day three picks Seattle made on Saturday — Marsh is the one that I’m most looking forward to watching during the pre-season. When he gets pro-guidance and can concentrate exclusively on development, he could make immediate and drastic improvements to what was already a pretty solid college career. It’s going to be hard work. He didn’t look in great shape at the combine despite slimming down to 252lbs. He could gain another 10-15lbs and look better for it. If he’s prepared to put in the graft he could be an exciting player.
Arizona State (2012)
There are two big plays in this game that really show what Marsh is all about. The main one comes at 3:06. He’s lined up over the A gap, initiates contact with the left guard and drives him into his own end zone. The quarterback senses the pressure immediately and panics — Marsh disengages from the guard and closes in on the sack/safety. The QB desperately tries to get rid of the football and throws an interception, turning the ball over in his own red zone.
Marsh didn’t record a stat for this play but it was all on him. Brute power to drive back the guard, the ability to disengage and force the mistake/turnover. This is brilliant, textbook interior rush play — befitting any of the top three techniques. It’s not always about pure speed and exploding through gaps — in the NFL you need plays like this where you just win in combat.
At 0:26 we see another example where he keeps his feet moving to drive back the center into the quarterback, again collapsing the pocket. He shows active, violent hands. I’m a sucker for interior rush plays like this where you drive the lineman back into his own QB. Speed’s fun to watch, but this is just a great exhibition of power and flat out wanting it more. It’s about desire.
Look at those two plays and remember this is a 14-reps guy on the bench. Now imagine what a summer in the weight room at the VMAC could lead to.
It’s not just about power either. Look at the quick hands at 4:12 and 5:03. If you want to see Marsh’s daft penalty for the game, head to 4:30 for a late hit out of bounds. He plays almost the entire game inside and doesn’t get blown up until 5:16 on 4th and 1 — a situation he wouldn’t face at the next level (not working inside, anyway).
I watched two other games — New Mexico from 2013 and Houston from 2012. It’s not all great. When he played at a lighter weight last season he didn’t appear to be quite as stout in the middle. He’s not an explosive edge rusher — he’s more of an effort and motor guy. He’s never going to be Clemons working the edge and putting up 11-12 sacks a year.
But the Seahawks have got something to work with here. Something to really develop. A player who can work against the run off the edge, who will provide some pressure at end. A player who can slip inside and hold his own while providing some pocket-collapsing ability even on early downs.
Yet more than anything he’s just a fantastic competitor. A really sparky, zoned in brawler who isn’t scared to mix it up. He could develop into another strong leader and personality for this defense. This first summer is vital though. If he can improve physically and put in some big work in the weight room — you could see an impact even in year one as part of the rotation. He has to make the most of every day leading into camp.
Providing he does this — if I was putting money on the next day three diamond this team uncovers, it’d go on Marsh.
And oh yeah, he can even take the occasional snap on offense too as a red zone receiver/tight end.
It’s not often a pick is tipped by an existing member of the team on local radio, but it emphasises Paul Richardson’s fit in Seattle that Doug Baldwin name checked him in an interview on Friday.
Fast forward to 12:52:
I recall hearing this and thinking, “nah”. The Seahawks needed a bigger receiver, not another lithe 5-11/6-0 type. This was all about a jump ball specialist with a great wingspan — and a red zone threat.
That’s where I/we went wrong this year. And it’s why Baldwin wasn’t disclosing any inside information in that piece — he just knew better than us. As a Seattle receiver he knows what they want, what they look for. He admits they’d like to get a bigger receiver, but they also want rare athleticism, shiftiness and a lack of stiffness. Pete Carroll made the same point himself in Friday’s press conference. They love size at receiver, but it’s tough to match up size with quickness.
But he isn’t shifty or smooth. He is a little stiff. He doesn’t glide like Paul Richardson.
Any big wide out they’re going to take better be able to move. They can’t take an age to get up through the gears. It has to be initial explosion and not gradual acceleration. They need to be able to explode out of their breaks and get open. It’s clearer now that they’re looking for guys who do it all — not just high point the football and compete.
Ultimately size doesn’t matter. Being something akin to the complete package does. Speed, hands, length, routes, big plays. Even then you need to match it all with the character, drive and determination to fit into Seattle’s intense locker room. The weak won’t survive. Schneider’s said it. Baldwin said it in that KJR interview. Carroll’s taking the ‘always compete’ mantra to a new level. I’ve never heard a team talk so openly in this way before. Multiple warnings that you better go hard or go home.
Schneider pointed out before the draft that they used a lot of visits this year to see how players acted in the VMAC. How did they approach the staff? They had meetings with the club psychologist to test whether they were mentally strong enough to deal with being ‘all-in’. This goes beyond thorough. Schneider suggested it was in part due to mistakes made in the past on players who didn’t have the will to succeed in this ultra-competitive environment.
He appeared on the NFL Network hours before Seattle took him at #45:
You might ask whether it’s too difficult to judge a man’s character based on media interviews. I’d suggest if you’re uncomfortable talking to a middle aged journalist on a practise field you’re unlikely to ooze confidence sat in front of a NFL Head Coach, a GM and several scouts. Richardson filled every criteria — including the character test — and that’s why, according to Schneider, they were willing to take him at #32 without the Minnesota trade.
That’s not to say the pick will necessarily be a roaring success. Not all of Seattle’s ideal fits have panned out. They’ve had some major success stories (obviously) but also a few misses too. There’s a danger sometimes in placing too much faith in what you believe is a perfect fit. Tim Ruskell was so zoned into what he wanted (senior, big school, zero red flags) he forgot the most important thing — adding good players to your team. You can lose sight over what essentially makes a good roster. Pure talent. Seattle’s current front office aren’t anywhere close to Ruskell in terms of vision — but it seems they too are starting to become quite restrictive in terms of what they’re looking for.
The approach to the offensive line is a good example of this. It appears Tom Cable has the ultimate say on who he wants/doesn’t want. And that’s why you see a guy like Justin Britt going in round two. Cable likes his wrestling background, attitude and upside. He likes how he matched up with Jadeveon Clowney. But he’s a player Mike Mayock had in round five based on the tape. If Britt succeeds it’ll validate the plan. If he fails, an offensive line that ranked poorly over the last couple of years could get even worse having lost Breno Giacomini to the Jets. And some would argue there appeared to be more talented players on the board.
It’ll be fascinating to see if they can keep the hit rate going over the next few years.
Yet at the same time, they’re only going after what has worked so far. Ruskell’s vision wasn’t built on a foundation of success. It was just personal preference. Schneider and Carroll are being restrictive because guys like Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin and others are so amped, driven and focused. They live, breathe and sleep football. Searching for more of the same, in this instance, is totally justifiable. Not that they need any seal of approval from me.
Richardson didn’t have much impact against USC in what ended up being a convincing blowout victory for the Trojans. But there is one area I want to touch on.
He’s an excellent route runner as we’ll see later on. But in this game two snaps were a little frustrating. At 0:51 he runs a laboured route, giving it away too easily and almost jogging into the break. The defender has an easy read and he needs to do a better job here selling the deep route before snapping back inside. Get the corner turned. Otherwise he’ll break passes up like this all day.
At 2:09 we see a similar issue. He fails to get separation over the middle and ends up well covered on a crosser. These routes always give an advantage to the receiver if they can sell it in the break. Once again he fails to do that. The quarterback hits him in stride but the presence of the defender behind Richardson leads to a soft incompletion.
This is better:
He engages the route and almost gives the impression he’ll be run blocking. He then darts inside leaving the defender on his heels to get a first down. More of this, less of the routes we saw above.
Cal plays a really soft coverage on Richardson in this game — allowing him to make four easy catches in the first five minutes. The cushion’s too big in zone (see 0:21) and when the corner plays up at the line (0:29) they don’t do anything to disrupt his route. It sets up a deep shot at 1:08 where he gets separation with pure speed down the middle the field. If the quarterback puts a bit more on this it’s a touchdown. Instead it’s just a big gain. But again it really is an appalling coverage job. Enormous cushion, watch him run past you and struggle to recover. Poor defense.
We’ll see later on in the Arizona tape that you just can’t afford to do this against Richardson. If he gets a cushion he’ll just run away from you and find the open spot downfield. This won’t change in the NFL and he’ll draw attention from the free safety on many snaps as a consequence. His big task at the next level will be dealing with press — but there’s also enough evidence on tape where he’s shifty enough to stutter-step and elude contact.
The best play on the Cal tape where he actually wins vs being gifted an easy catch comes at 2:55. Colorado lines up two receivers to the left including Richardson. They both run downfield with #87 getting passed off to the safety by the outside corner. Richardson sticks his foot into the ground and drives to the sideline really doing a good job selling the deep ball. He’s wide open when he makes the catch — and this time it’s on technique and not a terrible defensive scheme.
He also makes a nice sideline grab at 3:53. Good route, nice catch in a tight spot. Just gets one foot in. It follows a failed deep shot on 3:43 where Richardson runs away from the safety and the QB just misses. He can certianly take the top off a defense that’s for sure. Russell Wilson won’t miss shots like this.
There are two plays that really stand out against Oregon (three if you count his touchdown throw at 0:43) and one ugly drop.
First the positives. Richardson’s first catch is another example of solid route running. He starts in the slot and shapes to run to the right sideline. He then turns and runs a go-route downfield. The corner completely bites on the outside move and he can’t recover. Richardson’s wide open when the quarterback throws for a big gain. This is a very technically accomplished play.
At 2:11 he makes a superb one-handed catch. Not only does he track the ball over his shoulder and secure it while leaping in mid-air — he’s also being dragged back on a clear pass interference by the corner. I remember watching this game live and thinking it was a catch-of-the-season candidate.
Sadly there’s a bad drop to even it out. At 3:14 he does the hard part — shaking off the corner with ease and rushing down the right sideline. He’s wide open. The throw this time is on the money. It’s an easy catch for a huge gain. And he drops it. Whether he takes his eye off the ball or hears footsteps I’m not sure. It’s a poor drop. On the plus side the little stutter-step to get open was textbook receiver play — but you’ve got to have that one.
He does have a second drop in the game at 4:08. The QB is hit while he throws and the ball loops kindly to Richardson. Again, he just drops the ball. There’s no excuse because he’s under no pressure.
There were two issues in the USC tape running over the middle. Not so here. At 0:25 he runs a much better route inside creating separation and making a difficult grab. It sets up the kind of play that warrants comparisons to DeSean Jackson.
At 0:38 he’s given a huge cushion and he just explodes into the open space downfield. As soon as the corner turns (his cousin as it happens, Shaq Richardson) it’s over. He has to turn because he fears the go route down the sideline. As soon as Richardson sees the switch he cuts across the middle. The corner can’t recover. This is the D-Jax style play. It’s what he’s famous for. And when he makes the catch he finishes it — running clear into the end zone. Hopefully Richardson will force pro-corners to respect his deep speed in the same way. If he can get them turned, he’ll work the middle. If they don’t turn he’ll beat them in a foot race and compete for the ball. This is a great example of technique and explosive athleticism working together for a big play.
This was a pretty spectacular game for Richardson. At 2:24 he makes an acrobatic one handed catch similar to the one Percy Harvin made against Minnesota last season. It’s tight coverage, he palms it up in the air with one hand and comes down with the grab.
He also hurt his lower leg/ankle in this game and didn’t play most of the final quarter.
I’m not big on posting highlight videos to show what a player is capable of — it’s a small sample of extremely positive plays. But I also think the four games available online don’t really do his playmaking quality justice.
As you can see he’s a big play artist. The Seahawks love that, along with the speed.
I can see why they wanted to add a deep threat to the offense. For all his athletic brilliance Percy Harvin has never been a true downfield receiver. He does his damage with YAC and getting the ball in his hands quickly. He’s going to operate mostly in the slot and the backfield — getting the ball on a quick hitter and going to work or using the jet sweep/end around’s.
By adding Richardson you’re adding another weapon the defense has to account for. You’ve got Marshawn Lynch running the ball so do you drop the safety into the box? You’ve got Percy Harvin lined up in the backfield drawing attention. Russell Wilson’s running ability adds another dimension. And now you’ve got a genuine deep threat to keep a defense honest. Until now the Seahawks never really had a true field-stretching playmaker.
He’s probably not going to be a 1000 yard receiver — in the same way Baldwin, Tate and Rice never topped that mark in Seattle. Harvin will get the opportunity if he stays healthy because you’ve got to feed him the ball. Richardson isn’t a production machine in the waiting. But he will make chunk plays and his mere presence on the field will make life easier for the other weapons on the offense.
It’s a thoroughly understandable pick. Not the orthodox split end we expected but the thinking behind the selection is clear.
– Fantastic speed, glides downfield and has similar physical skills to DeSean Jackson
– Technically gifted, knows how to get the corner turned and use that to his advantage, explosive out of his breaks most of the time
– Catches the ball away from his body with relative ease
– Despite a lack of size he competes for the ball, good leaping ability and clear evidence on tape that he’ll try to high point the football
– Driven personality fits the team
– Even if he’s not making a play, his presence can help keep a defense honest
– Doesn’t drop many passes but the ones he does spill tend to be easily avoidable
– Will need to show he can avoid press at the next level, might have games where he’s shoved around and can’t back down, quick feet and shiftiness will help him avoid contact
– Very little experience as a return man so immediate impact could be limited
– Small hands (sub 9 inch) that aren’t the strongest, good ball skills but doesn’t absorb the football
– Even beyond his rookie season, Richardson’s role could be fairly limited if he isn’t making big plays or acting as a decoy
I still believe seven receivers will go in the first round:
Odell Beckham Jr
In that situation it might be hard to justify taking a wide out at #32. It’s possible, I suppose, that they could look at the supreme athletic potential of a Martavis Bryant or Donte Moncrief, the size of a Brandon Coleman or the ‘go up and get it’ ability of Davante Adams. But there might just be better options elsewhere at that point.
There will be some nice options at #64 and beyond. The re-signing of Sidney Rice takes away some of the immediate pressure to add a receiver, but they’ll almost certainly look to add one at some point. Coleman’s freaky size and potential continues to be intriguing and if he makes it to #64 he’s one to watch. There are others too.
But if they wait even further — Alabama’s Kevin Norwood could be a consolation prize.
He was thoroughly dependable for the Crimson Tide but never really developed into a dynamic playmaker. He has modest size (6-2, 198lbs) and decent speed (4.48). There’s nothing particularly exciting about him athletically and with so many good receivers in this class he might struggle to crack day two.
Having said that, he does seem to fit the kind of receiver the Seahawks look for later on.
Alabama are a run first team obviously and even when they had Julio Jones a few years back — they stuck with their identity. They challenge their receivers to make big plays and be consistent. It’s very similar to Seattle’s philosophy. Norwood wasn’t a big-time production guy and in some games only received one or two targets. But when the ball was coming his way — he needed to make the most of it. And usually, he did.
That’s pretty much Seattle’s way of doing things too.
Look at the way Jermaine Kearse has been utilised. Last season he had eight games with 0-2 targets. The Seahawks aren’t throwing a bunch and Kearse as the #3 or #4 receiver isn’t going to get a ton of looks. Yet when it comes his way — they challenge him to make a big play. It’s about maximising opportunities.
That’s why they want players with strong, reliable hands who can win at the red line and high point the football. Amid all the talk this week about whether Cody Latimer can separate — that might bother some teams, but probably not Seattle. They’ll throw the ball to tight coverage because they expect their WR’s to win 1v1 battles. This isn’t a precise, timing offense. This is a smack you in the face with the run game then beat you with play action offense.
Kearse isn’t driving off cornerbacks, getting wide open and making nice easy catches. He’s high pointing the football for a touchdown in Carolina, winning that flea flicker in Atlanta, making a difficult grab in the end zone in the NFC Championship game and catching the ball in traffic versus the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Norwood can come in and be a role player for Seattle. And he might only get 1-2 targets in a game at best. But he’ll get you 17 yards on that catch or make a tough sideline grab under pressure. He’ll move the chains once or twice a game or get a drive rolling with a difficult catch.
So while his value is limited to a lot of teams in the league and he’s not blowing anyone away physically — as a third day pick for the Seahawks he could have some appeal and make his way into the rotation fairly quickly.
Fast forward to 1:41 in the video below:
This was a frustrating game for Alabama. They were toiling against an over-matched Kentucky team. They turned the ball over (T.J. Yeldon fumble) in the red zone. Another drive stalled a few yards out and they had to settle for a field goal. They were making mistakes.
A.J. McCarron — emphasising the frustration of the first quarter — just throws one up for grabs downfield as he tries to make any kind of play. Norwood is in double coverage and after play action, McCarron really shouldn’t be throwing this pass. Norwood bails him out by high pointing the football between the two defenders and making a huge gain.
After this play Alabama coasted along to a big win. That catch changed the game. It was Norwood’s first meaningful contribution too — and the most important by any player on the day.
He’s also pretty good in the scramble drill (and remember, the Seahawks want to be the best scrambling team in the NFL according to Pete Carroll). McCarron isn’t Russell Wilson but he did have a few moments running around trying to extend plays in 2013. More often than not he looked for Norwood in these situations.
Fast forward to 2:48 in the video below:
McCarron buys himself some time and directs traffic — telling Norwood to sprint downfield to the left sideline. He throws a nice pass into an area where only the receiver can make a play — and Norwood obliges with a terrific diving catch.
Doug Baldwin’s party piece is the improbable grab. How many times does Wilson lob one up only for Baldwin to make a highlight reel play down the sideline? While ever Seattle has Wilson, they need receivers who can do this. They need players who just know where to be — have a natural feel for finding the right spot. Being on the same wave length as the quarterback.
Seattle loved Wilson in 2012 but were prepared to risk losing him to stick with their board and grades.
Kearse and Baldwin both went undrafted in a weaker class for receivers. Even if they really like Norwood, I bet they’d be willing to miss out altogether rather than feel the need to make a big reach. I suspect he’ll be available much later than the second round.
If they don’t get a receiver nice and early, keep an eye on this guy.
Dominique Easley at #32 to Seattle. Is it unrealistic? Maybe. Is it totally out of the question? Perhaps not.
You can’t get away from the two serious ACL injuries and the flags attached to that situation. If the medical checks say he has a high risk of further setbacks or he’ll lose some of his elite quickness and get off — he won’t be considered by anyone in round one.
Yet over the last couple of weeks I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the debate of Seattle considering him at #32. I’m not saying it will happen, but here’s the reasons why it possibly could:
– Other players have recovered from two major knee injuries in college to forge successful pro careers. Frank Gore had exactly the same experience — suffering ACL injuries to both knees in separate seasons before entering the draft. He’s been one of the most durable players in the NFL since 2005 — despite playing the position that takes the biggest beating. If Gore can make it work, why not Easley?
– Make no mistake, Easley is a high pick without the injuries. You’re talking about an explosive difference maker who can line up anywhere on the defensive line. He’ll consistently collapse the pocket, impacting the run and the pass. Even if he’s not recording the sack, see how often the quarterback has to escape the pocket because he’s quickly into the backfield with an incredible burst. Despite lacking ideal size or arm length — he holds the point against the run and has the lateral agility to move down the line and stretch out running plays. He has a relentless sparky motor, a tone setter on defense and an incredible competitor. Don’t underestimate the character he’s shown trying to fight through two serious injuries. You’ll see a tape breakdown vs Toldeo (2013) at the bottom of this article.
– The Seahawks have an insider when it comes to Easley. Dan Quinn spent two years as Florida’s defensive coordinator before rejoining the Seahawks. He’ll know all about the pro’s and con’s. Sometimes familiarity means you judge with a more critical eye. There’s no guarantee Quinn is banging the table for Easley — for all we know the opposite is true. But what if he is in there, fighting his corner despite the injuries? After all — the coaches in Florida made him a team captain.
– Matt Elam, last years #32 pick, has a cap hit peak of $2.15m on his rookie contract. It builds up to that number in year four from a starting point of $1.2m. The Ravens have a fifth year option on the deal. There’s no financial risk in taking Easley with the final pick in round one. If you grade him in the top-20 and you get positive news on his recovery, it’s not even that much of a gamble.
– Some people might argue taking Easley would be a luxury given the needs on the roster. However, could they target a receiver at #64 (eg, Brandon Coleman) and load up on offensive linemen using Cable’s later-round list? You could still fill your needs, while also getting a major impact player for your defensive line.
– The 49ers drafted Tank Carradine with the #40 pick last year — a player in a similar situation. Unlike Carradine, however, Easley is much further along in his rehab and shouldn’t need to be redshirted during the first year of his contract. For me, Easley’s also a better prospect.
– A reader named Thorson posted this a couple of days ago in relation to Easley’s injury issues. It’s worth a read:
As an orthopedic surgeon, I can perhaps add some insight into Easley’s knee. Typically, when fixing an ACL, we use a graft to replace the torn ligament. Sometimes we use a patient’s own tissue. Often, however, when dealing with an elite athlete, we use cadaver graft. That way we don’t compromise any function a patient might lose by taking a tendon from them. Also, recovery is quicker with banked, cadaver tissue since we don’t have to damage a patient’s leg harvesting the graft. So, assuming the tunnels we use to pass the graft were placed correctly, the hardware we use to fix the graft is easy to remove and probably most important that there is no underlying arthritis or significant damage to the meniscal cartilages, then there isn’t that much difference between recovery after ACL #1 or #2 (or #3 for that matter.) Again, the wild card is the status of the meniscal and joint cartilage. With each subsequent injury, there is more risk to these underlying structures.
This is a somewhat simplified look at things, but if his meniscal cartilages are OK and if he doesn’t have a great deal of arthritis, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose him if available.
I’m still sceptical the Seahawks would draft a player with two serious knee injuries in round one. He may just be one of many options at #64 or he might be off their board completely.
It’s not just the injuries either — they do prefer length on both sides of the line. Easley’s arms a shade under 33 inches (32 7/8 inches to be precise). Even Jordan Hill — drafted in round three last year — had 33 1/2 inch arms.
There’s a counter though. You know whose arms are even shorter than Easley’s?
Aaron Donald — 32 5/8 inches in length.
If you’re telling me the Seahawks wouldn’t draft Donald at #32 because of arm length, I’m here to tell you you’re probably wrong. Sometimes just being an explosive, gritty, determined individual who makes plays is enough to see beyond size.
Ask Russell Wilson.
It’s not often you get a chance to draft such an explosive player at the end of round one. A player who, if healthy, might not get past the likes of Chicago at #14 or Dallas at #16.
If the Seahawks are planning another surprise on draft day — maybe, just maybe, this could be it.
Take a look at the tape below vs Toldeo from 2013. There’s no volume until around the 1:45 mark:
0:20 — If you want to see how he wins against the run despite a lack of great size, this is a good example. He cuts to the left, shoots the gap and then locates the ball carrier. One area he can work on at the next level is finding the man with the ball and completing the play. On this occasion — no problem.
0:28 — Engages the center, gets off the block (shoving him to the ground in the process) and loops around to the right to force the quarterback to pull the ball down and run. The edge rushers were contained for the most part and only came into play once Easley had forced the QB to tuck and run. This is the kind of splash play that doesn’t show up in the stat column.
0:53 — Here he lines up as the nose tackle on 1st and 10 and dominates the center. He wins with leverage and strength. If you pause it at 0:58 — look at the penetration he’s created while still engaged with the center. Rushing from the interior isn’t just about a swim move, speed, shooting the gap and forcing a sack/TFL. A tackle can collapse the pocket by shoving the guard or center into the backfield to impact the play. This is a run and the RB does well to make the most out of the play. Against the pass, this kind of bull rush forces the quarterback to throw quickly or move from his spot.
1:45 — Easley blows this up before the center’s even snapped the ball fully to the quarterback. On fourth and inches they line him up against the center. At 288lbs. That says everything about how highly Florida valued his ability against the run in crucial short-yardage situations.
1:59 — On this play he’s well blocked on a double team. Yet after the QB completes a pass to the RB — look at the effort to race after the ball carrier as he runs downfield. Even if the cornerback wasn’t there to make the tackle, Easley would’ve made the play down the sideline. How many defensive tackles can do this?
2:50 — More dominance of the center, lined up as the nose on 2nd and 2.
4:32 — Another example of a splash play that doesn’t go down in the stat column. Easley explodes off the snap and shoots the gap between the center and right guard. The quarterback has no time to react and throws an inaccurate pass to thin air in the red zone — forcing a field goal on third down.
4:56 — Back to back plays in this segment of the tape where he bursts into the backfield forcing the quarterback into a quick throw. Watch and enjoy.
5:29 — Easley adjusts his position and lines up between the guard and center. He’s into the backfield before the guard’s even out of his stance — that’s elite get off. With the guard desperately trying to hold him, he drags down the running back with one hand for a TFL. It’s an incredible play.
6:01 — In this play by my watch the quarterback has 1.03 seconds before Easley is in his line of vision. He’s still getting into his drop, so he can’t step into the throw (notice the placement of his back foot). If Easley is blocked well, the quarterback can step up into the pocket and avoid the two closing edge rushers. Instead he’s held in position like a sitting duck. It all starts with the interior rush.
6:25 — Easley forces the guard into the pocket, is clearly held as he tries to disengage and forces the QB (no edge pressure this time) to scramble as he’s going through his progressions. He doesn’t get a sack, but if the left end contains his edge it’s a big win for the defense.
8:09 — I guess if you’re getting your ass kicked, you can just trip him up — right?
There are plays where he’s well covered by a double team. I counted two occasions where he was blocked 1v1 and gave up a decent run as a consequence. I think you can live with that given the number of snaps he faced and the overall impact he had on the game.
Very few players truly deserve to be referred to as ‘living in the backfield’. For Easley, it’s the best way to describe him.
Forget about the draft pick for a second. If I offered you the chance to sign an explosive player coming off an ACL injury on a contract worth $1.2-2.1m per year. Would you be interested?
So much depends on the medical reports on the most recent knee injury. Even then you’re putting faith in his ability to stay healthy. If you take the chance and that faith is rewarded, you could be left with a top-tier interior pass rusher. And those types of players aren’t usually available in the late first round.
*** Update ***
Medical report on Easley turned out well. Rehab has been positive and is making progress to be ready at some point during training camp.
There’s no guarantee the rest of the league operates in the same way as Jones, but it was interesting to see how the Cowboys broke down and structured their board.
Teams don’t just rank players 1-300 and make their picks using a giant list. They identify and shortlist the players they’re willing to take in the first, second, third round (etc). You might only have 15-20 first round grades come draft day. Players are taken off the board too for a multitude of reasons — injury, character, scheme fit.
Dallas traded down from the #18 pick and selected a player they graded as a second round prospect (Travis Frederick) with the #31 pick in 2013. By the time they were on the clock — all of their first round players had been drafted.
It made me realise that there’s every chance Seattle drafts a player with a second round grade at #32. Unless they’ve given out 32 or more first round grades it could be pretty likely.
I tried to put together a version of Dallas’ board for Seattle. I only included first and second round picks because let’s be right — who can project beyond that with this team? (see: Luke Willson)
I also don’t have any deluded expectations that this is similar to the real thing. The Seahawks love to think outside of the box and they love explosive players with major potential. They also have ways of doing things that just aren’t predictable. I think they thrive on being able to keep people guessing. But I wanted to compile the list anyway if only to show what it might look like.
The names in red are players with injury records who haven’t been totally taken off the board. In 2010 I believe they had a second round grade on Walter Thurmond but took him in round four. So while Dominique Easley is graded in round one here — it doesn’t necessarily mean they’d draft him that early.
Here’s a position-by-position breakdown:
Johnny Manziel gets a first round grade for his competitive spirit and field-tilting ability. If they needed a quarterback I think they’d see Manziel as a potential point guard and difference maker. I’m not convinced they’d draft Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater in round one. Seahawks fans should be grateful they don’t have to debate this position over the next few years.
It’s not a great class for running backs and I didn’t feel the need to include any here. The Seahawks are set with a proven starter (Marshawn Lynch), a capable backup (Robert Turbin) and an X-factor with the potential to one day become one of the NFL’s best playmakers (Christine Michael). Which back in this class gets even a second round grade from this team?
I noted eight receivers with a first round grade. This is the position of strength in round one. I truly believe there’s a chance they’ll see Cody Latimer as the 4th or 5th best receiver in this draft with a firm round one grade. Donte Moncrief is exactly the type of explosive athlete they love to develop. Kelvin Benjamin looks like one of Pete Carroll’s ‘big men’ and deserves to be listed here. I tried to be conservative with this position and still came up with eight names in round one. Davante Adams, Martavis Bryant and Brandon Coleman could be options at #32 if the board falls a certain way. I’d say Allen Robinson and Jordan Matthews are more likely to be considered at #64. I wanted to include Jarvis Landry — but I think this team will give him a third round grade at best.
This is pretty straight forward. Eric Ebron gets the only first round grade. The other three big name tight ends are slated as round two picks.
This includes guards and tackles. Joel Bitonio and Morgan Moses both look like realistic options for Seattle in round one. I’m going to assume none of the other first round names fall anywhere close to #32. If the top prospects are all gone they could consider dipping into their second round options (again, depending on how the board falls elsewhere). This was a hard position to grade because there are players like Billy Turner or Laurent Duvernay-Tardif who could get high grades based on appealing physical attributes. Is either player likely to be graded in round two? Perhaps not. I think they’ll really like Bitonio and that’s why he’s down as the #4 tackle/guard here.
Not a lot of depth this year. I didn’t include Timmy Jernigan because for me he’s a third round prospect and I’m not sure Seattle will disagree with that. Anthony Barr, Demarcus Lawrence and Marcus Smith aren’t 4.5 runners but all have nice 10-yard splits and could be considered at #32. Dominique Easley gets the red font due to injury concerns. This means he’s a first round level talent who hasn’t been taken off the board — but the round you take him in will be impacted due to the health issues. When do you roll the dice? Brent Urban, one of my favourite players in the whole draft, gets a second round grade.
Unless Ryan Shazier falls to #32 — I think this is an area they’ll wait on until UDFA.
Opinions are all over the place on this cornerback group. For me none of them are worth genuine first round grades. Bradley Roby would be highest on my board due to potential. If I really needed a corner in round one he would be me guy. But the Seahawks don’t really need a corner and they are comfortable enough developing players taken later in the draft. Justin Gilbert’s tape is all over the place and while he has the length, speed and playmaking ability this team covets — they also appreciate disciplined, structured cornerback play that screams preparation. Gilbert wings it way too much for a high grade. I know a lot of people think he’ll go in the top half of round one. I might be wrong, but that’ll surprise me.
I don’t expect the Seahawks to draft a safety early. So although Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gets an early grade it’s just a token gesture. The Mark Barron talk in 2012 was a little overblown and probably shouldn’t be used to make ‘safety’ an annual early-round option for Seattle. Firstly, he was never falling to the #12 pick — whether they liked him or not. Secondly, none of the players in this class play like Barron.
Whether this list is fairly accurate, highly inaccurate or somewhere in between — this is what it comes down to. The Seahawks are probably going to look at WR, OT and DL early in this draft at #32 and #64. Unless a rare athlete like Ryan Shazier drops, there aren’t many alternatives.
Chris Maragos replacement?
Heading out to Seattle to visit with the Seahawks… Can't wait to talk football with the coaches… #LOB
Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is the latest player to visit the Seahawks. He’s likely an UDFA prospect — but I can’t help but feel he’d make a nice replacement for Chris Maragos as a backup safety and special teams demon.
30 players to attend NFL Draft
The NFL has released a list of 30 players who have agreed to attend the 2014 NFL draft in New York:
Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Blake Bortles (QB, USF)
Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, Eastern Illinois)
Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
If they’re going to draft an offensive lineman early — it’s going to be someone with plus athletic skills and upside who can play multiple positions. It also probably needs to be a player who can fill in at left tackle and potentially one day replace Russell Okung if he can’t be resigned after the 2015 season (as discussed here).
I’ve seen some online scouting reports knocking Bitonio’s arm length and consigning him to a role as a pure guard. I’m not sure they realise he has the same arm length as 6-7 Taylor Lewan (33 7/8 inches) and he has longer arms than Jake Matthews (33 3/8 inches).
Not only that — he tested just as well at the combine as the top 3-4 tackles. His 9.6 in the broad jump ranked #2 behind Lewan and just ahead of Greg Robinson. He beat both of those players in the three cone (7.37) and had the second best vertical jump amongst offensive lineman.
He had the fourth best forty yard dash (4.97).
For me the question isn’t whether he’s an option for Seattle at #32 — it’s whether he’ll even last that long. I’m a big Zack Martin fan — but I’m yet to hear any logical explanation as to why he’s a consensus top-25 pick and Bitonio ‘might’ sneak into the first.
Aside from the athletic positives — his versatility will be attractive to the Seahawks. He could easily start in year one at right tackle or left guard. You open up the competition in camp and let Alvin Bailey, James Carpenter, Michael Bowie and Bitonio fight for two spots (plus any other rookies you add to the roster).
In this scenario, Bitonio also becomes your backup left tackle.
They don’t have to go in this direction (drafting a tackle early) even if he lasts until #32. I feel like they’ll be more than comfortable drafting a couple of tackles between rounds 2-7 and letting Carpenter, Bowie and Bailey compete for the guard spot. For those sleeping on Carpenter — check out this photograph he posted on Instagram today. He’s never been in better shape.
There’s tackle depth in the draft this year — meaning they could look at a talented receiver class in round one or potential wild card options such as Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier (who I think will be a top-25 pick, but you never know…).
But I still expect a rush on receivers in round one. And if that happens, it could make for a relatively easy decision at #32.
I’ve also included two trades in the top ten this week. I’ll do a broader trade-mock with multiple deals within the next couple of weeks.
#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a very creative quarterback. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year if they find a solution here.
TRADE #2 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Doesn’t it just seem inevitable? Thomas Dimitroff and Les Snead are close. The Rams want to move down. The Falcons need a pass rusher like Clowney.
TRADE #3 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The Lions appear to be enamoured by Watkins. They also want to set up a dominant passing game. The Jags might be willing to move down for a reasonable price.
#4 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Just take the best player on the board. Robinson would dominate at right tackle or guard. Make the offensive line your identity and run the ball.
#5 Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
I suspect they’d love a shot at Watkins. They might look at Mike Evans. Or they might try and get a pass rusher who can have a quick impact.
TRADE #6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Jeff Fisher knows the Matthews family. They’ve seen Mack and Watkins leave the board. The pick makes sense in this scenario.
#7 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Josh McCown had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey last year. If they’ve signed McCown to start, give him Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans this year.
#8 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
He won countless awards in college, had major production and lit up the combine. Mike Zimmer might see Geno Atkins in Donald.
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
The addition of Mike Williams gives Buffalo some breathing space to add another offensive lineman at #9.
TRADE #10 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Having dropped down from #3, the Jaguars get a fantastic competitor to lead their offense. I suspect Gus Bradley will love Manziel’s fiery character.
#11 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Not a huge need but this is all about value. Benjamin would make a great tandem with Kendall Wright. He possesses freakish upside.
#12 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Finding more targets for Eli Manning has to be a priority. It’s easy to forget how dominant Lee was in 2012.
#13 Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
In the NFC West you need speed at linebacker. Pairing Shazier with Alec Ogletree would add to St. Louis’ terrifying front seven.
#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
They’ve added Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen up front, now they need to improve the secondary.
#15 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Receiver is a big need for the Steelers. They need someone who can come in and have a quick impact. Out of all the WR’s in this class, Beckham Jr is best served to hit the ground running.
#16 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
I wouldn’t draft Barr this early, but the Cowboys are stuck without moving up or down. After bringing in Henry Melton, they need an edge rusher. They have no alternative.
#17 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Getting another big target who can work the seam will be attractive to Baltimore. It’d also be good value in this spot.
#18 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
They need to keep adding playmakers. Rex Ryan will get the defense going. The offense can’t rely on just Eric Decker. It needs a spark.
#19 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
Miami needs to keep repairing its offensive line. Branden Albert is a good start. Why not add a bookend here with Moses slotting in at right tackle?
#20 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
They don’t have a lot of remaining needs — apart from finding a long term answer at quarterback. Even so, Hageman is a value pick at this point. They can add a developmental QB later.
#21 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
They invested free agent money in the defense. That could mean a receiver here — because their options are a little depleted these days. Moncrief has a ton of upside.
#22 Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
A physical, competitive receiver who run blocks superbly and competes for the ball in the air. He’ll make Nick Foles look good by winning plenty of 50/50 throws.
#23 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
With the receivers leaving the board early the Chiefs might look at safety in a scenario like this. Pryor would be a nice compliment to Eric Berry.
#24 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
A player who divides opinion. A year ago he would’ve been a high pick. It wouldn’t be a shock if he’s the first corner off the board.
#25 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
They need to bring in a nose tackle. Nix isn’t Dontari Poe or B.J. Raji in terms of athleticism, but he can hold the point and absorb blockers.
#26 Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
There’s a lot of talk about Carr and the Browns — so I’m going for the ‘no smoke without fire’ approach here. Twitter loves Teddy Bridgewater, but Carr might have the higher upside.
#27 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Nearly benched last season and overrated after a great combine. He is the ideal athlete for the position though — and that could keep him in the first round.
#28 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
I’m not sure how Carolina has allowed a situation to occur where they’re suddenly desperate at receiver and the offensive line.
#29 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
This could be a good spot for a team trading back into the first. New England have gone after Alabama linebackers in the past and could use Mosley inside.
#30 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
Has a little Randy Moss to his game. Could excel playing in a power offense with a big-armed quarterback. He’ll beat you deep and can be an X-factor.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Terrific player. Compares favourably to all of the top offensive tackles in this class. Can play on the left or right — and could be another Logan Mankins at guard.
Ryan Shazier -- fits the bill as a developmental coaches dream
Having written a couple of mock drafts where a lot of potential Seahawks are off the board before #32, I wanted to highlight some of the players I think will be options with the last pick in round one.
Pete Carroll is on the record as referring to his coaching staff as “developmental coaches”. They look for unique qualities they can enhance and develop. While a lot of other teams think conventionally, the Seahawks are at least willing to consider high-ceiling, gritty prospects who are far from finished products.
It appears their goal is to look at what a player can become and then help him to get there. Obviously the opportunities are broader when you’ve got a prospect with a much higher upside. The names below aren’t being touted much by the media, but that’s OK.
Some national pundits wants to go with what they understand — because that’s how a lot of the teams operate. They want to be able to judge based on what they can see and assess with some degree of surety. They want to rely on what has worked in the past.
Anything foreign or unconventional sets off an alarm.
I don’t think Seattle looks at it that way. In fact I’m convinced they don’t. They’ll consider all of that. But I also think they look for rare qualities — usually a combination of athleticism, size, speed, explosiveness and competitiveness. At the end of the day, it’s easier to take an insane athlete, identify what his peak potential could be and strive to get there than it is to turn an average prospect into a great player.
The thing is — that average player might save another GM’s job. If he plays to a certain level you probably look OK. You didn’t draft a bust. You’re not being ridiculed for a titanic mistake. You got a fairly decent player. Congrats.
The Seahawks front office aren’t concerned by stuff like that. They’ve been trusted by the owner to shoot for the fences. Carroll repeatedly refers to this being the catalyst for his return to the NFL.
And they’re even less likely to be concerned with a Super Bowl trophy tucked away in the cupboard. You can’t even call this a gamble. A gamble would be drafting a raw prospect and hoping for the best.
That isn’t Seattle.
Seattle = development
I’m not trying to suggest I have all the answers. For all I know the names below aren’t on Seattle’s radar at all.
But I think these players are more likely than a lot of the names you’re seeing posted in the media, so here are six suggestions.
I could’ve listed more. I haven’t included the following players because I expect they’ll be off the board by #32: Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State), Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU), Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh), Marqise Lee (WR, USC), Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M).
Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
He’s a supreme athlete with a big frame (6-2, 221lbs). There’s so much to work with and develop here. He’s not just a 4.40 runner with a 39.5 inch vertical — he chews up a cushion quickly, drives off the corner and consistently creates separation. He can get deep and challenge a secondary downfield. When he really wants to block — he’s nasty. The challenge will be to get that motor running consistently, because he can be Jermaine Kearse-good as a blocker when he’s at it. He could easily develop into a genuine #1 and he’s got the skills to work as a better YAC threat than we saw in college. The 2012 tape hints at a fantastic NFL receiver. The 2013 tape is frustrating enough that he could be available at #32. Some of it’s on him, most of it’s on Ole Miss’ bizarre offense.
Areas for concern
He needs to do a better job winning 50/50 throws. This is a big one, especially with Seattle’s penchant for taking shots and asking their receivers to high point the football to make contested catches. He’s more than capable of making the necessary improvements so it’s not like you take him off the board or anything. But there are other receivers who are better at this than Moncrief.
Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Totally underrated. Bitonio compares favourably to all of the top tackles in this class athletically. His 10-yard split of 1.68 is right up there with Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan. He had the third best short shuttle among offensive linemen. His broad and vertical jumps also rank right at the top of the class. His arms are exactly the same length as 6-7 Lewan’s. On tape he comfortably dealt with UCLA’s Anthony Barr, completely held his own against Florida State and demolished several lesser opponents. I agree with Mike Mayock — let him prove he can’t play left tackle. If teams are foolish enough to let him drop — a franchise that already has a proven blind-side blocker can slot him in at left guard. He’s almost identical to Logan Mankins entering the NFL. Blue-collar attitude, zero sense of entitlement.
Areas for concern
I dunno, maybe you don’t think much of his beard? As someone who’s currently in the process of sporting a beard myself (it’s very fashionable for 2014) I’m not even going to try and write something here for the sake of it. Bitonio is a top-20 talent in my book and would be a steal at #32.
Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
Not the same kind of fluid athlete as Moncrief, but Latimer’s a devilish competitor. The best run blocking receiver in the class without a doubt. He’ll drive defenders out of the way to create running lanes. When he latches out to a smaller corner, it’s over. It’s not just a nice positive to Latimer’s game, it’s a major plus point. You can rely on this guy to put his heart and soul into the ugly side of the game — and that could be huge for a team that loves to run the ball. He benched 23 reps — more than any other wide out at the combine. Then you throw in the way he contests the ball in the air, a 39 inch vertical, incredibly strong hands and 4.4 speed. He’s a wildcard to watch out for at #32. He’s a fighter who can handle physical corners and make explosive plays, plus a reliable target.
Areas for concern
He’s a straight-line runner. He doesn’t eliminate the cushion like Moncrief or Martavis Bryant and a lot of his catches are contested because he fails to create the same level of separation. Latimer can move, but he’s stiff. He’s probably going to be an up-and-down type and the dilemma will be if he can’t win the same 50/50 battles against pro-defensive backs, there’s not much more to his game. But he’s also a reliable and competitive target who makes more than enough ‘wow’ plays to make up for it.
Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Shazier didn’t run at the combine, but he clocked an unofficial 4.36 at his pro-day. Put that alongside a 42 inch vertical and a ridiculous 10.10 broad jump. That’s the definition of explosive. He needs protecting because he has a tendency to get caught in traffic and get washed out of plays. But as a possible WILL in Seattle’s scheme he could become an extreme playmaker — competing in space and just reacting to the football. He’s a four-down player who also carries special teams value and he’s considered by most observers to be a highly competitive player. You can see that in his tackling — he uncoils on contact and sets the tone. He has the range to work in coverage and the untapped potential to be an effective pass rusher.
Areas for concern
How badly does Seattle really need a first round linebacker? Yes, Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright are free agents next year. But there’s every chance one or both players are re-signed and we’re talking about a seventh and fourth rounder here. What’s stopping Seattle finding mid-to-late round replacements (if necessary) in either the 2014 or 2015 draft? This might be a bit of a luxury pick all things considered, if indeed Shazier did manage to last until #32.
Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
The best word to describe Bryant is ‘dynamic’. Speed kills with this guy — he consistently creates separation with solid technique. All Clemson receivers are well coached. Bryant’s head movement and body shape sells the deep route. When he gets the corner turned, he’ll stick his foot in the ground and break off to get open. Tajh Boyd’s inept accuracy wasted many of these moves in 2013, but the sky’s the limit for Bryant if he lands on a team with a good quarterback. He has the potential to glide past cornerbacks, compete for the ball in the air and do a decent job as a blocker. He’s an explosive athlete with major upside. There’s a little Randy Moss to his game.
Areas for concern
Bryant was left out of the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl and told to stay at home by Dabo Sweeney. Faced with the prospect of wasting his career — and with a young child to provide for — the light finally switched on. He knuckled down, started to attend class and finally had an impact. If he continues to work at his craft and be dedicated to football, he can be a fantastic player. But you better do your homework to see if this was a one-year effort with so much on the line.
Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
It’s impossible to discuss Coleman without first highlighting how miserable the Rutgers passing game has been since Tom Savage opted to transfer. I’m not sure any receiver could sufficiently develop in that system. It’s not an excuse, but it goes some way to describing Coleman’s strangely inconsistent numbers in college. Really it comes down to this — if you’re willing to invest the time and effort to develop this guy, you could end up looking very smart down the line. There just aren’t many 6-6/225lbs humans on the planet who can do what Coleman does (eg run away from defenders for 80-yard touchdowns). Technically he needs work, but he’s big, strong (21 reps), fast (4.56) and possesses a massive catching radius (34 inch arms). He’s a big-time red zone threat who can make chunk plays. He had 10 touchdowns in 2012.
Areas for concern
Technically he requires a lot of work. He has shown the ability to high point the football and make difficult grabs, but he’s also got a lot of mistakes on film. How much of that is down to playing with Gary Nova — and how much is on Coleman? Patience will be key here. If you’re willing to accept you’re not going to get the finished product in year one, you could end up with a Josh Gordon style break out season in year two.
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