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Here are four players widely mocked to be available in the 20’s who we’ve not covered extensively outside of the podcasts or the comments section.
Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
The narrative on his lack of production is hugely misplaced. He was challenged at Michigan to exclusively set an edge vs the run and provide speed at outside linebacker to force runners back inside. That’s it. Watch the games.
Peppers is incredible gritty. He’s battled adversity and tragedy to have a football career (as explained in this video). His personality is engaging and lights up a room without being overbearing. He’ll become a leader very quickly as a pro.
He accepts and talks openly about not being the biggest or the most athletic player. He’s a shade under 5-11 and 213lbs. He has short arms (30 3/4 inches) and a short wingspan (only 74 inches). His physical profile is good but not great — he’s a 4.46 runner, jumping 36.5 inches in the vertical and a 10-8 in the broad jump. His short shuttle is pretty good (4.11).
Is he a fit in Seattle? In terms of his ability to be a special teams factor, yes. He could provide a kick return benefit immediately. His character is also ‘Seahawky’ and his personality fits this defense.
I have some reservations about his fit schematically, though.
Peppers is probably going to be at his best as an attack dog at strong safety. Let him read/react, play up at the LOS and use his physicality. If you put him at nickel as a ‘Buffalo’ he’s going to have to cover crossing routes, handle quick breaks and excel in mismatch situations. I’m not sure he’s suited to that role. He’s highly athletic, fast and elusive with the ball in hand and he’s competitive. Yet he does have a tendency to be a little tight when he drops.
With Obi Melifonwu, Justin Evans, Budda Baker and others — you see them covering across the middle and running freely.
You wouldn’t write Peppers off for that type of role. Some teams might wish to try him as a big nickel. Yet his best fit, arguably, will be as an attacking strong safety. If your the Seahawks, how do you get him on the field while ever you have Kam Chancellor?
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
My view on Wilson is the opposite to the national draft media. A few months ago he was regarded by many as the #1 corner in the draft and a probable top-20 pick. Now you’ll find people projecting he’ll go in the late second or even third round.
I wasn’t a big fan of Wilson initially but he grew on me the more I watched. Now I think he genuinely warrants round one consideration.
This isn’t a class with a lot of ‘dogs’ in it. There are some — particularly at the safety position (including mid/late round prospects like Shalom Luani and Rayshawn Jenkins). By that I mean an aggressive playing style. A swagger combined with a physical attitude. That Bruce Irvin, Kam Chancellor type of character.
Wilson seems like he might be of that mindset.
His physical profile is a mixture of pro’s and con’s. He has good size (6-1, 211lbs), he has 32 1/4 inch arms and he ran a superb 4.02 short shuttle. It’s that short area quickness, combined with his size, that really strikes you on tape.
On the other hand he jumped a disappointing vertical (32 inches) and broad jump (9-10), his wingspan (75 5/8) is distinctly average and his forty (4.54) is only OK. It’s quite weird that he’s a combination of exceptional (short shuttle) and mediocre (broad/vertical).
Even so, on the field he’s all attitude and confidence and quality coverage. You’ll see him gain position and force the receiver to the sideline, narrowing the strike zone. You’ll see him box out to make a play. He has the size to be good in run support and he talks like he belongs.
He’s another player you can imagine fitting into Seattle’s locker room. You can also imagine him playing outside corner in this defense. Yet there are some other things to consider:
— Seattle hasn’t drafted an outside cornerback with a sub-77.5 inch wingspan
— Seattle hasn’t drafted a cornerback with such a mediocre broad jump
— Seattle hasn’t drafted a cornerback period before round four
There’s a chance they might like and admire Wilson and possibly even grade him quite highly. It doesn’t mean they’ll draft him with their first pick though.
Taco Charlton (DE, Michigan)
As an EDGE rusher it really was a good year for Charlton. His pièce de résistance was a superb performance against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. He was the standout player for Michigan on the night and looked like a first rounder.
His size, length and ability to get into the backfield was reminiscent of an Aldon Smith, Carlos Dunlap or Chandler Jones type. They’re not the most athletic players but they’re quick, explosive and long. That impacts games at the next level.
It’s likely Charlton will go in the top-20. Teams want pass rushers and Charlton is a good one. Yes he only ran a 4.92 forty but he tested well in other drills like the vertical and broad jump. His TEF score is 3.23 which is good for his size.
He’s really quick with good change of direction skills. His 4.39 short shuttle is really good at 277lbs. Haason Reddick ran a 4.37 at 237lbs. It’s not Frank Clark’s unreal 4.05 but Frank’s a freak of nature. Charlton’s combination of explosive power and short-area quickness is first-round worthy. Without doubt.
He could be a classic example of a ‘media faller’. A player who a few weeks ago was expected to go at #9 to Cincinnati or #11 to New Orleans, dropping for no apparent reason (decent short shuttle times don’t create headlines). There’s every chance he will still go at #9 or #11. With only a handful of good EDGE rushers available, they’re unlikely to stay on the board for long.
What about his potential fit in Seattle?
He was at his best at Michigan as a pure EDGE. And while he has the length and size to kick inside, it’s not as simple as having the frame to do it. Charlton plays like a base DE or OLB. In all of the Michigan games I watched from 2016, I never got a sense that this was a guy who would particularly excel working inside trying to push guards into the backfield.
That doesn’t mean they won’t take him to try and mould him into this type of role (or draft him just to play the EDGE) but there are serious questions about his ability to play inside/out and it kind of feels like that’s what the Seahawks are looking for.
Nevertheless, he’s good with a lot of potential.
Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Here’s another ‘forgotten man’ of this draft class. In October, Evans was being tipped as a top-20 pick by anonymous executives. Now he frequently gets talked about as a second or third rounder.
There aren’t many more explosive players in this draft. Evans’ 41.5 inch vertical really shows in the games. He is a punishing hitter, delivering some of the more devastating hits you’ll see. He’s also mastered the art of hitting hard in the right spot of the body to avoid flags. He’s not as careless as a Calvin Pryor (for example).
He seems to get dinged for missed tackles and whiffs, which is fair to an extent. You know who else misses tackles fairly frequently? Earl Thomas. Evans doesn’t have Thomas’ range and suddenness but they have similar intensity and physicality. You can live with the occasional missed tackle if it’s offset by a series of tone-setting hits.
Here’s what you get with Evans aside from the hits — the short area quickness of a dynamic slot receiver, the athleticism and leaping ability to play the ball and make interceptions that are improbable, and the length and physicality to match-up against bigger targets. He’s a shade under 6-0 and 200lbs with 32 inch arms and a 76.5 inch wingspan.
He was impacted by a quad injury at his pro-day so didn’t do a lot of the workouts. This is possibly one of the reasons he only ran a 4.57 forty despite looking faster on tape. He has a skill set and mentality that lends itself to working as a big nickel, free safety or strong safety.
Evans plays the game with attitude and he helps establish a tone. If the Seahawks wanted to add another safety and a possible ‘big nickel’ with plus coverage skills he could be a target. He’d certainly add a fear factor this defense has occasionally lacked recently on crossing routes (especially when Kam Chancellor has been hurt).
I want to finish with a quick call to the community. I’m looking for a graphics expert to help me put together an aesthetically pleasing ‘big board’ graphic to post on Twitter before the draft. I want to publish it as a visual aid for fans watching the draft.
I’d like to list forty players in five tiers. It needs to be done in Seahawks colours.
If there are any graphic designers willing to put something like this together for me, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d also like to consider doing one for rounds 2-3.