Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Post-combine mock draft (two rounds): 26th February

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Lot’s of changes as you’d expect after the combine. I’ve also added a second round.

Scroll down for some thoughts on the key moves, including Seattle’s pick (which is a bit of a u-turn on my behalf).

FIRST ROUND

#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
If they believe they can build around Bortles, there’s every chance he’s the guy. He did every drill at the combine and reports say he impressed in interviews.
#2 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Robinson made some money at the combine. Every measurement screamed ‘physical freak’. He’s the most exciting offensive tackle prospect to enter the league in years.
#3 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
When the Jaguars met with Manziel, he needed to show them he was the ultimate competitor. I have little doubt he succeeded in that. He’s just not Bill O’Brien’s guy.
#4 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
With the top two quarterbacks off the board and this insane talent still hanging around, they make the pick and wait on a signal caller.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The best receiver prospect to enter the league since A.J. Green and Julio Jones. You can build around a talent like this. Get a quarterback later.
#6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
If the Falcons don’t move up to get a shot at Clowney, this looks like a great match.
#7 Khalil Mack (DE, Buffalo)
The Buccs need an edge rusher. Mack is versatile and can line up in multiple positions. This is another team that could move up for Clowney.
#8 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Teddy Bridgewater isn’t a Norv Turner quarterback and Aaron Donald probably reminds Mike Zimmer of a certain Geno Atkins. He deserves to go this high.
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Some believe he’s a bit of a phony tough guy. Others really like him. It’s would be worth a shot here.
#10 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Put him alongside Megatron and let it rip. Isn’t this why the Lions appointed Jim Coldwell? To dominate with a great passing game?
#11 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Nothing Ken Whisenhunt has said makes you think he trusts Jake Locker. They snap up this opportunity and put their faith in Teddy.
#12 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Speed, length and playmaking ability. Exactly what New York lacks at cornerback.
#13 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
The Rams need to keep adding talent where they can. A rangy safety at the back-end makes a lot of sense here.
#14 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Chicago’s defense was a shambles at times this year. It starts up front, especially if they lose Henry Melton. Hageman has unreal upside.
#15 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Potential stud. Does everything well. Flawless character. Insane competitor. HUGE hands. Absolutely deserves to go this early.
#16 Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
His three cone drill at the combine was among the best in recent history. He can play inside and out. Dallas needs to rebuild its defensive front.
#17 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Forget the forty time. He did all the other drills perfectly and he’s a fighter. This is what Baltimore needs more of on offense.
#18 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Adding a massive target like this with a large catching radius would make life so much easier for Geno Smith.
#19 Zack Martin (G, Notre Dame)
An absolutely superb tackle in college, but expected to move to guard in the NFL. Could play left guard next to prospective free agent signing Brandon Albert at tackle.
#20 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
If they miss out on Branden Albert in free agency, they have to consider adding a left tackle here.
#21 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Perhaps not quite ‘can’t miss’ enough to go in the top-15. He’d excel in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers.
#22 Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)
He’s a work in progress, but Chip Kelly appreciates length and they need another pass rusher.
#23 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
Andy Reid made sure he got a good luck at the top two safety’s, putting his big sandwich down to sit in the stands.
#24 Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Shazier’s vertical and broad jump were off the charts. Stunning athlete with insane potential.
#25 Xavier S’ua-Filo (G, UCLA)
Major upside prospect who’s separated himself as the top guard. Has the potential to be one of the best at his position.
#26 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
What? No quarterback? The Browns can’t force this. They wait until round two for a signal caller and add a partner for Josh Gordon.
#27 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Rob Ryan likes competitive, sparky corners who can blitz. This is a big need for the Saints.
#28 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
Just about sticks in round one. Press corner, matches Carolina’s physical defense. Gets dinged up though.
#29 Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)
Missed the combine but we’re talking about major upside here. He could be J.J. Watt-lite. Belichick loves versatility up front.
#30 Jimmie Ward (S, Northern Illinois)
Aggressive, wiry safety. Would fill a need for the Niners. Didn’t work out at the combine due to injury.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move.
#32 Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
Size, length and versatility. Disappointing 2013 season but could play the five technique and the three. Size matters in the NFC West.

SECOND ROUND

#33 Houston Texans — C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
#34 Washington Redskins — Marcus Martin (C, USC)
#35 Cleveland Browns — Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, Eastern Illinois)
#36 Oakland Raiders — Terrence Brooks (S, Florida State)
#37 Atlanta Falcons — Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
#38 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame)
#39 Jacksonville Jaguars — Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)
#40 Minnesota Vikings — Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech)
#41 Buffalo Bills — Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State)
#42 Tennessee Titans — Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
#43 New York Giants — Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
#44 St. Louis Rams — Keith McGill (CB, Utah)
#45 Detroit Lions — Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
#46 Pittsburgh Steelers — Antonio Robinson (T, Tennessee)
#47 Dallas Cowboys — Caraun Reid (DT, Princeton)
#48 Baltimore Ravens — Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
#49 New York Jets — Paul Richardson (WR, Colorado)
#50 Miami Dolphins — Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
#51 Chicago Bears — Ego Ferguson (DT, LSU)
#52 Arizona Cardinals — Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
#53 Green Bay Packers — Deone Bucannon (S, Washington State)
#54 Philadelphia Eages — Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
#55 Cincinnati Bengals — Marcus Roberson (CB, Florida)
#56 San Francisco 49ers — Ed Stinson (DE, Alabama)
#57 San Diego Chargers — Jeremiah Attaochu (OLB, Georgia Tech)
#58 New Orleans Saints — Ja’Wuan James (T, Tennessee)
#59 Indianapolis Colts — Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
#60 Carolina Panthers — Davante Adams (WR, Fresno State)
#61 San Francisco 49ers — David Yankey (G, Stanford)
#62 New England Patriots — Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington)
#63 Denver Broncos — Brandon Thomas (T, Clemson)
#64 Seattle Seahawks — Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)

Seattle’s priority beyond the first two rounds: OL depth

Notable players not included:

Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama) — failed medical/knee arthritis is a major red flag. Will sink like a stone, sadly.

Dominique Easley (DT, Florida) — two ACL injuries are a red flag. Brilliant player, but he’s unlikely to be drafted early.

Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State) — not as good as advertised. Considering which other QB’s dropped last year, a similar fall wouldn’t be a shock.

A.J. McCarron (QB, Alabama) — has given off a very negative, slightly entitled vibe this off-season.

Further notes on the key moves

Jadeveon Clowney to Cleveland at #4

This isn’t a reaction to the over-the-top negativity involving Clowney over the weekend.

It’s becoming apparent there’s a very real chance Houston will draft a quarterback at #1, and Blake Bortles is emerging as a realistic option.

St. Louis simply can’t afford to pass on Greg Robinson if they keep the #2 pick, so Jacksonville would then be deciding between Clowney and, in this projection, Johnny Manziel.

I went with Manziel.

Ultimately, Gus Bradley wants a fierce competitor at every position. He wants someone who’s going to fight until he bleeds.

I get the impression — and I could be very wrong — that Manziel went into his meetings over the weekend and did a heck of a lot of convincing. And then you go back and watch that Duke tape…

People talk about his off-field lifestyle. In Seattle, they don’t try to stop you being yourself — as long as it doesn’t impact the team. Did Manziel’s bizarre time at Texas A&M ever impact on-field performance? Absolutely not.

If Bradley and the Jags adopt Seattle’s way of thinking, they might be all-in on Manziel. And as talented as Clowney is, nobody could ever accuse him of being “pissed off for greatness”.

No quarterback for the Browns in round one

It’s really down to circumstance. Eventually, someone just has to take Clowney.

In this projection, that team is Cleveland.

So we move on to their second pick. The top three QB’s are gone by #26. And despite all the annual debate about teams pinching the second tier quarterbacks by trading back into round one — it rarely happens. Cincinnati got Andy Dalton in 2011 by sitting tight — despite all the bluster about him being a late first rounder.

Cleveland can get a quarterback in round two if there’s a guy they really like. In this projection there is, and that quarterback walks onto a team with Clowney and Brandin Cooks already added to it.

Seattle takes… a guy you said you weren’t crazy about???

I’m not a huge Stephon Tuitt fan based on his 2013 tape.

But then I looked at the measurements at the combine…

Nearly 35 inch arms. 6-5 and a slimmed down 304lbs. That’s hard to ignore. He’s a freak, even if he was overweight last season.

I don’t think the Seahawks will feel like they need to replace Red Bryant (if he is actually cut) because I think they’ll be prepared to adapt and modify their defense.

But imagine plugging a guy with Tuitt’s size into the five-tech.

He’s not a great pass rusher, but it’d be an upgrade over Big Red. He’s supremely strong (some say ‘country strong’) and managed 31 reps on the bench press despite his long arms.

And hey, you need big boys up front in the NFC West. He kind of fits Seattle’s penchant for unique size and athleticism.

If you’re drafting him to be a great pass rusher in an orthodox four man front, forget about it. If you’re willing to play him all over the line mainly as a run stopper and enforcer — I’m willing to reconsider the idea of taking Tuitt in the late first.

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Closing thoughts on the combine & major salary cap news

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Justin Gilbert had the most impressive display among DB's

First, a reflection on what we saw today involving the defensive backs.

Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
The first thing that stood out with Gilbert is just how much of an athlete he is. He looks in fantastic shape and backed it up with the fastest forty yard dash (4.38). He managed 10.6 on the broad jump and a 35.5 inch vertical. Yet the most impressive aspect was his length. He had the longest arms in the DB group at 33 1/8 inches. When people talk about ‘Seattle style’ corners, they think 6-3. That’s not accurate. It’s about length and ball skills. Byron Maxwell was only 6-0 and 202lbs at the 2011 combine. But he ran a 4.46 and has 33 1/2 inch arms. Gilbert is exactly the same height/weight as Maxwell and pretty much the definition of a Seattle corner in terms of physical make-up. Plus he’s a ball hawk (seven interceptions in 2013). There’s only one concern — how dedicated is he to his craft? He admitted during his press conference that he didn’t know who Aqib Talib was. That’s scary.

Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
The other thing Seattle likes to see is grit. Verrett lacks size at 5-9 and 189lbs. He doesn’t have great length with 30 5/8 inch arms. Yet he’s a tremendous athlete and he plays with a major chip on his shoulder. He ran the second fastest forty at 4.38, had the fourth best three cone (6.67) managed a superb 39 inch vertical and added a 10.8 in the broad jump. That vertical is important — it shows he can high point against bigger receivers despite a serious height disadvantage. In the drills he stayed low in his back-pedal, had decent snap in his transition and moved very smoothly. You expect that with a small corner, but Verrett ticked every box today. And perhaps more importantly, he looked completely healthy. He might not crack the first round but whoever gets this guy will have a terrific competitor who won’t back down.

Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
This was always going to be a nice stage for Roby. A year ago he was considered a potential top-15 pick. He was convinced by his family to stay at Ohio State for another season — and he had a classic down year as a consequence. On tape he has all the physical skills you want to see. Yet his on-field IQ leaves a lot to be desired. He struggles against the double move, he’ll let receivers get in behind and he struggles to recover. Every now and again he’ll peak into the backfield and get caught. The big question is — can you coach him up? Because there’s a lot to like — quick hips, loose runner, capable blitzer, plays the ball. Today he had a chance to show off how much of an athlete he is — running a 4.39 with a stunning 1.47 ten yard split. His vertical (32 inches) and broad jump (10.4) were pretty good. He doesn’t have great length at 5-11, 194lbs and 31 1/2 inch arms. There’s also a character red flag after he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery last July.

Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
Deion Sanders told Dennard in an interview he thought he looked stiff during drills. I didn’t really see too much evidence of that personally — although Sanders’ second point was absolutely true. Dennard is a press-man corner. He likes to get into a receivers pads and he’s strong, so he’ll translate well in any scheme that prioritises physicality. I liked his work out and thought he transitioned well, ran smoothly in the open field and did a good job tracking the ball in the air. But here’s the thing — he’s not a ‘must have’ type of player. He’s 5-11 and 199lbs, but lacks length (30 1/4 inch arms) and top end speed (4.51). You can’t bang the table for those numbers. He also didn’t do the vertical or broad jump due to a minor hamstring problem he picked up during drills. Durability is another concern. Is he a first rounder? Debatable.

Keith McGill (CB, Utah)
When he ran an unofficial 4.47 and 4.44 — you sat up in your chair. The biggest defensive back put up two of the fastest times at 6-3 and 211lbs. His official time was later adjusted to a 4.51 — but that’s still mighty impressive. He reminds me somewhat of another former Utah corner — Sean Smith (now with the Chiefs). Smith was 6-3 and 214lbs at the 2009 combine and ran a 4.50. He went in the late second round. McGill actually had a superior vertical (39 inches vs 34) and broad jump (10.9 vs 9.11). McGill’s vertical was the third best on the day among DB’s, his broad jump ranked second. We’re talking about a big-time athlete here, the type Seattle typically shows interest in. I suspect he might go in the same range as Smith, perhaps even a little earlier. People are going to tout a switch to safety — and he did look a little stiff in some of the drills today (it’s tough to stay low and smooth in the back-pedal at 6-3). But before anyone crowns him the next Kam Chancellor — there is one issue. Chancellor is an enforcer, who plays every snap like the Super Bowl’s on the line. On tape McGill doesn’t play with anywhere near the same physicality. He isn’t ‘Bam Bam Kam’. Not by a long stretch.

Bashaud Breeland (CB, Clemson)
He wasn’t as long as he looks on screen — 5-11, 197lbs with 31 3/4 inch arms. It’s not bad size, but it isn’t great either. I noted in the live blog earlier that he had nice length — so it was pretty surprising to see the official measurements. He ran a pretty pedestrian 4.62, had a vertical of 34.5 inches and a broad jump of 10.3. He came into the combine with a bit of positive momentum, but the showing didn’t back it up. Perhaps the national media are trying too hard to find ‘Seattle style’ cornerbacks? Let’s hope other teams try too hard too. At the end of the day, development is king. The Seahawks didn’t just stumble across a cluster of excellent defensive backs. They coached them into productive starters. You can try and draft as many long cornerbacks as you want, but you’ve still got to develop them.

Jonathan Dowling (S, Western Kentucky)
Here’s an interesting prospect. He’s just under 6-3 and 190lbs. That’s slim, but he doesn’t look too skinny and has room to add weight. He had the longest arms in the group alongside Justin Gilbert (33 1/8 inches). He ran a 4.52, which is comparable to Keith McGill. Yet his vertical (33.5 inches) and broad jump (9.10) were both disappointing. In the drills I thought he looked quite fluid for his size. He put in a good performance based on what the NFL.com feed was willing to show us. Here’s the issue though. He’s a former four-star recruit who played two games as a Freshman at Florida. He got kicked off the team by Urban Meyer, and transferred to Western Kentucky. It wasn’t abundantly clear why at the time, but he says it was over a dispute with a positional coach who he found to be too negative. I’m not sure Meyer would give up on a player over that alone, although he admitted he skipped practise as a consequence of the coach’s criticisms. It’s not a good look. I’d do some homework on this guy.

Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)
The Fuller family have deep NFL routes — Kyle has already discussed joining his brother Corey on the Detroit Lions roster. I actually really like Kendall Fuller — a 2013 Freshman also at Virginia Tech who had some big games as a first-year starter. He has a ton of potential. But so does his brother Kyle. He’s 5-11 and 190lbs with the fourth longest arms in the group (32 7/8 inches). He had a 38.5 inch vertical — sixth best on the day. His broad jump of 10.8 was the third best recorded among DB’s. In the drills he looked like a natural corner — good technique, sound fundamentals. He might not be the most spectacular player at the next level, but he’ll be a nice addition to someone’s secondary and he should be a day two pick.

Other players of note

Mo Alexander (S, Utah State) — One to monitor for the Seahawks. He’s 6-1 and 220lbs, ran a 4.54 and has nice length (6th longest arms in the class). He also had a 38 inch vertical and a 10.3 broad jump. A definite later round candidate for Seattle.

Brock Vereen (S, Minnesota) — he was one of the big winners with a 4.47 forty, a 6.90 three cone and 25 reps on the bench press. He excelled in drills and the brother of New England’s Shane Vereen is one to keep an eye on.

Jaylen Watkins (CB, Florida) — speaking of brothers, Sammy Watkins’ older sibling ran a 4.41 despite carrying a strained achilles. He’s got short arms, but put up 22 reps on the bench. We know he’s got good DNA.

Deone Bucannon (S, Washington State) — he looked in great shape today and did himself the power of good with a really solid work out. Decent size (6-1, 211lbs) and might be a bit of a safety-tweener, but this was a good day for Bucannon.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama) — he didn’t do anything spectacular. We’re not talking about Earl Thomas here, and I’m not convinced he’s Mark Barron either despite the physical comparisons. But he ran faster than Kenny Vaccaro a year ago and there are teams in the mid-first who really could use a safety upgrade. A lack of depth at the position helps Clinton-Dix.

Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville) — he’s a big hitting safety who’s likely to be a walking yellow flag as a rookie. He ran a 4.58 just like Clinton-Dix and they look very similar — physically and during work outs. This is likely to be a pick your poison situation.

Final thoughts on the DB’s

Overall it’s not a great defensive back class. There’s a lack of obvious first round talent — in fact it’s not unbelievable to think Justin Gilbert might be the only first rounder.

I’d like to be Alterraun Verner or Aqib Talib right now. If they aren’t franchised, they’re both set for a bumper pay day when free agency begins on March 11th.

In terms of the Seahawks, there aren’t a lot of obvious options here for their next later round project at corner. Last year it was fairly simple to identify Tharold Simon — nice length, style of play, 4.5 speed. There’s not a great deal of length/speed in this class.

Justin Gilbert sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s almost too good to be true in terms of physical fit for this team. Of course, he’ll be long gone by #32 unless something seriously went wrong during interviews at the combine.

The one thing Seattle expects is dedication. I’m not talking about the coaches here necessarily — I’m talking about the players. Richard Sherman took it upon himself to become the most prepared cornerback in the league. He critiques his own play, he studies the film.

I’ve no doubt he took his cue from Earl Thomas. Byron Maxwell has been credited for adopting Sherman’s approach to the game. The entire Legion of Boom are film room junkies as much as they are great players.

You can’t expect to survive in that defensive back meeting room unless you’re going to work your tail off. When I hear Gilbert say he doesn’t know who Aqib Talib is, I wonder whether he’s going to know what his next opponent likes to do with route concepts. What are the looks you’re going to get? What does a quarterback like to do to a certain coverage? How can you find the edge, find the way to make a play?

So many of Sherman’s big plays are down to study and hard work. If Gilbert drops into Seattle’s range, it’ll not be because of a lack of talent. It’ll be because he scares the crap out of teams picking early. In that scenario, would they believe he could change with the right influence surrounding him? Or would they merely be the next team to say, “no thanks”.

We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt today. An outstanding work out deserves some credit, and that was a top-15 performance out there.

Further thoughts on the receiver group

Some extra thoughts having sifted through the numbers from Saturday…

Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Only eight players recorded a superior vertical jump (38.5 inches) to Beckham Jr — and he’s 5-11. He also recorded a 4.43 forty with a 1.50 ten yard split. His three cone (6.69) was in the top six for receivers. On the field he competes for everything, high points the ball consistently and makes plays as a wide out or return man. Listen to any of his interviews and you’ll come away impressed. In many ways, he’s the perfect Seahawks prospect. It’s just a shame he’ll be long gone by #32.

Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Many of the headlines discussed Lee’s average forty yard dash (4.52). It could’ve been better, no doubt about that. He’s a hair under 6-0 and sub-200lbs — and players without great size are expected to be able to run. Here’s the thing though — Lee makes up for it elsewhere. He had a 38 inch vertical — like Beckham Jr, among the best in the class. He had the second best broad jump at 10.7. In both those two categories, he beat Sammy Watkins. He’s also a terrific competitor on the field — a real ‘heart and soul’ type. He doesn’t know when he’s beaten and at the back end of the season made some incredible plays at less than 100% health. The forty times aren’t the be-all and end-all for these players. Carroll recruited him and would probably love a shot at him at #32, it’s unlikely though.

Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
Physically this guy is right up Seattle’s street. He’s a shade under 6-4, weighing 211lbs. He runs a 4.42 and his vertical jump of 39 inches was only beaten by two other receivers (Tevin Reese & Damian Copeland). He also recorded one of the best broad jumps at 10.4. You can work with a guy like this. Yet he’s also been labelled a ‘knucklehead’ and just doesn’t seem like a confident character at all. His interviews are shy and retiring, and he doesn’t go into technical detail on routes or defenses like former Clemson team mates Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Having seen how competitive those two players are, you’d think it might rub off on Bryant. It didn’t, and his college career was wildly underwhelming. “Pissed off for greatness” just isn’t the vibe you get. And yet athletically he’s so impressive.

Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)
I was almost ready to dismiss Robinson as an option for Seattle after seeing a mediocre 4.60 forty. Then I looked at some of the other numbers — tied third best vertical (39 inches), 10.7 broad jump, a 1.54 ten yard split on his forty. He’s not an explosive runner, but he’s not a bad all-round athlete by any means. I still don’t think the Seahawks would pick a 4.60 receiver in round one unless he has Kelvin Benjamin’s size, but Robinson isn’t a total lost cause. If he’s there in round two, it might be one to monitor.

Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Personally, I just think Pete Carroll would love to wheel out a 6-5, 240lbs receiver who looks as good as Benjamin. There’s a definite ‘win getting off the bus’ mentality to Carroll’s set-up, and Benjamin carries 240lbs better than anybody you’ll ever come across. He has long arms at 34 7/8 inches and a terrific catching radius. And yet compared to Mike Evans, there’s a little disappointment too. Evans had an incredible 37 inch vertical. Benjamin’s is 32.5. He’s big and tall, but he doesn’t have a ton of hop. Only six receivers had a worse vertical jump. He’s an impressive looking guy, but he’s not mind blowing.

Michael Campanaro (WR, Wake Forest)
I’m not crazy about 5-9 receivers for an offense that highlights chunk plays, jump balls and tries to exploit single coverage — but this guy is different. He ran a 4.46, recorded an outstanding 39 inch vertical (same as Martavis Bryant), had a 6.77 three cone, a 10.4 broad jump and even benched 20 reps at 225lbs. I’ll remind you again, he’s 5-9 and 192lbs. That’s one impressive dwarf.

Players with first round potential who looked kind of Seahawky at the combine

Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Decorated, all-round tackle and possible top-ten pick. Wowed with an athletic display for the ages. High character, high motor individual.

Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Basically, the prototype player Seattle goes for. Undersized by conventional wisdom, and yet plays way above those limitations. It also helps he showed he’s a big time athlete with incredible numbers in the vertical and broad jump. Huge hands.

Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Not the other-world athlete we expected. He aint Megatron. But he’s the type of player Seattle loves to field — incredible size. And while his vertical wasn’t great, you can’t help but drool at the prospect of him competing in the red zone with that 6-5, 240lbs frame.

Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
We’re led to believe Seattle really looks at the three cone drill, as do a lot of teams. Ealy’s three cone of 6.83 wasn’t just the best this year — historically it was one of the best for a defensive lineman. It’s comparable to Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril and J.J. Watt. And while he ran a 4.92, Michael Bennett once ran a 5.00. They could possibly get him up to 280lbs and use him as a versatile pass rusher.

Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Do the Seahawks need a linebacker? No. But how can you ignore Shazier’s incredible 42 inch vertical (he’s 6-1), an equally impressive 10.10 broad jump and a 6.91 three cone? The Seahawks could lose K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith after the 2014 season. They like insane athlete’s, and Shazier appears to be one.

Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Length, size and a top notch vertical. That’s what Hageman showed at the combine. It’s hard to imagine they won’t have serious interest here, given their penchant for guys that are 6-6 and 310lbs. His interviews will have been crucial though.

Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
They seem to want length at tackle. Moses flashed 6-6 and 314lbs size, with 35 3/8 inch arms — third longest among offensive linemen.

Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
The other thing they’ve gone for on the offensive line is abnormal size. Richardson was the biggest tackle on display at nearly 6-6 and 332lbs. He didn’t look good during the drills and some pundits have suggested he’s set for a fall. People also said the same about James Carpenter during the 2011 combine. He has 35 inch arms. There’s a lot to work with here.

Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Just the perfect example of ballhawking skills, raw athleticism and length. He’d fit like a glove, if he had any chance of reaching the #32 pick.

Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame)
He looked really stiff during drills and wussed out of the forty. And yet he has the body of a Greek God. The Gronk comparisons are overblown — he’s not a 4.6 runner. But he could develop into an upper echelon blocker with the right guidance. He’ll provide a major threat with his height (6-6) size (270lbs) and reach (34 1/8 inch arms). His vertical jump (32 inches) matched Eric Ebron’s.

Salary cap set for a huge rise?

This is welcome news.

Initial reports suggested the cap would rise by $7m to $130m. That would’ve significantly boosted Seattle’s chances of keeping the likes of Michael Bennett, Golden Tate and others.

Now Mike Florio is reporting that the cap could go beyond $130m — potentially by millions.

His suggestion is a total of around $135m — a $12m increase from 2013. If the Seahawks do eventually cut Sidney Rice and Red Bryant, they’d be looking at around $24m in cap space.

When you consider the potential savings elsewhere (Chris Clemons, Zach Miller) — Seattle could eventually find itself in a very healthy position in it’s quest to keep the band together.

Essentially the NFL and the NFLPA had to act. The new CBA has absolutely killed the free agent market, as we saw in full view last year. The new deal was supposed to reward proven veterans, while limiting the crippling financial cost at the top end of the draft.

What’s actually happened is teams are making major savings on cheap rookies and they’re not reinvesting the money into the open market.

Under the old system, everyone got paid. Rookies and vets. So paying out for a proven commodity made financial sense.

Now, an influx of players enter the league every year being paid a relative pittance. And it’s revolutionised the market.

Faced with the option of signing Cliff Avril to a substantial five-year contract or waiting to take their chances in the draft, teams are focusing on the draft.

When they are spending, they’re spending on quarterbacks. Teams like Baltimore, Green Bay, Atlanta and New Orleans have given out big contracts to signal callers, limiting how much money there is to spend elsewhere.

The business model as it was planned is failing. And the only solution is to create even more cap space.

It’s kind of like a fiscal economic plan. Speculate to accumulate.

What they’ll hope is — teams paying major money on quarterbacks will still be able to invest in other positions. Teams who were coming into the off-season with major cap room, now have even more incentive to be pro-active.

And teams like Seattle who were up against their budget, can still be financial players.

It won’t surprise me if the total cap increases again and again from here on in. It could be upwards of $150m by 2015.

Whether the plan works or not, we’ll wait and see. But they had to do something — because all the power belonged to the teams. They were having their cake in the draft and eating it in free agency.

The lack of clarity on the final cap for 2014 may also be the reason why Sidney Rice and Red Bryant are yet to be officially released, despite recent national media reports and in Rice’s case a farewell Tweet.

And if the cap increases every year, there shouldn’t be any issues paying Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman.

Why they might keep Chris Clemons for another year

Just look at what’s available in this draft.

Sure, it’s a deep class. But not for ideal LEO rushers.

There are some options later on, such as Louisville’s excellent Marcus Smith.

But unless you plan on moving up for Jadeveon Clowney, you won’t find a solution early.

It might be a case of going with what you’ve got and what you know. The Seahawks had a formidable post-season pass rush with Avril, Bennett and Clemons working in tandem — even if the latter wasn’t quite at his best across 2013.

And finally…

It’s been a long but enjoyable last three days, spending hours sat in front of a computer screen watching and reporting on the combine. But now that it’s over, I need something else to watch in order to unwind.

This ought to do it…

Tomorrow’s assignment: a post-combine mock draft. See you then.

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Combine Sunday review: thoughts on the receivers

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell worked out the QB's and WR's today

Today provided more questions than answers.

First of all — how good is this receiver class? I mean, really?

There’s a heck of a lot of depth — enough to extend into the second round before a considerable drop in talent. That’s one major positive to come out of the day.

The other was Odell Beckham Jr — who put on a clinic during the Group 1 receiver drills.

He ran an official 4.43 and looked impressive in every session. He’s always been a top-20 talent. Go and watch the Mississippi State tape from 2013 if you have any doubts.

Yet his performance today provided a rare moment of clarity.

Here’s what we can say with some certainty. Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Beckham Jr all deserve to be top-20 picks.

Can we agree on that?

In terms of the rest — well, we could see 8-9 receivers go in the first round. That’d be a new record.

Or we could see as little as four — an underwhelming suggestion given how many people are praising this receiver class.

In many cases, there are plenty of question marks.

Let’s start with the three we can feel confident about…

Sammy Watkins
Didn’t run as fast as expected (official 4.43) but didn’t harm his stock after a superb on-field work out. He was silky smooth throughout — running crisp, effortless routes and catching the ball with natural ease. You have to assume he’ll be the first receiver taken.

Mike Evans
He ran a 4.53 which is perfectly acceptable for a 231lbs receiver. It isn’t the 4.41 Vincent Jackson managed at 241lbs however, probably ending any chance he usurps Watkins to be the first receiver taken. Here’s the major positive though — he has 35 1/8 inch arms and recorded a 37 inch vertical jump. That’s some catching radius.

Odell Beckham Jr.
He’s a superb football player who’ll be able to start very quickly. It’s not just the physical qualities either, he’s technically a gifted receiver. There’s a little Golden Tate to his game — he’ll be able to work the sideline despite a lack of size (5-11, 198lbs). He has 10-inch hands that absorb the football. He’s a fantastic competitor, an explosive return man and he high points the ball better than anyone in this class.

And here’s the rest…

Kelvin Benjamin
He ran a 4.61 at 240lbs. Which is fine. But we mentioned Vincent Jackson with Mike Evans — and he managed a 4.41 at a similar height/weight to Benjamin. Jackson was the 61st pick in 2005. I’m not suggesting Benjamin will fall that far, because he won’t. But can we really say with any confidence he’ll be the top-20 lock we’d started to predict? He’ll be a 23-year-old rookie, he had some ugly drops in college. He had the worst three-cone drill along with Brandon Coleman (7.33). And yet he’s the prototype size for a #1 receiver and has almost no body fat at 240lbs. I could see him going in the top-15, I could see him going in the 20′s or 30′s.

Marqise Lee
The NFL Network had a camera on Pete Carroll during Lee’s forty yard dash (see the video here). When the timer showed a 4.5, Carroll mouthed “wow”. Everyone expected him to run faster, especially the guy who recruited him to USC. He’s only 5-11 and 196lbs and with an official 4.52 he isn’t going to go as early as expected. Lee didn’t have a great 2013 season — he was injury-hit, the Trojans imploded and he had a high drop percentage. We all saw Robert Woods as a top-15 guy at one time. He ran a 4.42 at 6-0, 201lbs and was pick #41 last year. Lee might suffer a similar fate, but he is better than Woods. Would you be shocked if the Jets took him at #18? I wouldn’t be.

Brandon Coleman
I noted earlier in the live blog that this was ‘job done’ for Coleman. He had his knee cleared. He had 21 reps on the bench press and looked in fantastic shape at 6-6 and 225lbs. He ran an official 4.56 which is only 0.03 slower than Mike Evans. But he also had the joint worst three cone at 7.33 (with Kelvin Benjamin). That’s a big deal for teams like Seattle, who DO take combine drills very seriously. How do you balance out a nice forty with a disappointing three cone? We’re talking about a guy with mountains of potential, an insane ceiling. There aren’t many players capable of doing what he does. But he’s a complex mix of extreme highs (size, forty, upside) and lows (inconsistency even in a crappy offense, lousy three cone, technical flaws). He could go anywhere — round one, round two, lower. Who knows?

Martavis Bryant
Bob McGinn reported today that Bryant could slip into the first round mix. Athletically, it’s not impossible. He’s 6-4 and 211lbs running a 4.42. He completely looks the part of at least a high second rounder. And yet McGinn’s report also labels him a “knucklehead” and someone you wouldn’t want to grab in the first round. Despite his good showing in the forty, his three cone time of 7.18 is lower tier and worse than Mike Evans. He has shorter arms than Odell Beckham Jr. He did post a 39 inch vertical jump — third best for receivers. The tape isn’t great. Another guy who really could be anything to anyone.

Brandin Cooks
He ran a 4.33 and with his massive production in 2013, it won’t be a shock if he goes in round one. He’s also in-between 5-9 and 5-10 and only 189lbs. With guys like this, you have to create a gameplan around them. Brian Schottenheimer in St. Louis refused to do that for Tavon Austin, and the results were a mediocre rookie year with only flashes of brilliance. A creative coach picking in the early 20′s might fancy a shot here. But what if Odell Beckham Jr is still on the board? His floor will be round two, he could go in the first — but nothing’s certain.

Jordan Matthews
I don’t think anyone expected him to run a 4.46. He followed it up with a 35.5 inch vertical and a 6.95 three cone. Very few players did more to help themselves than Matthews today. Understandably, it’s kicked off the first round talk again. I don’t think you can rule it out. But I’m still not sure the tape indicates much more than a solid #2 receiver. He just looks pretty good. He isn’t overly physical, contesting (and winning) passes down the sideline. He’s a crisp route runner with a ton of savvy working the middle of the field. That has some value, but I’m not sure anyone bangs the table for him in round one. He is a hard worker though, with the right attitude. You can’t help but like him, but it’s hard to get too excited at the same time.

Davante Adams
I think he got a bit too much hype during the season. He lacks size at 6-0 and 212lbs. Watch the San Jose State game and tell me he didn’t benefit from a serious lack of quality opposition last year. Fresno State were found out by a pretty average USC team, the one opponent of any quality they faced. And yet despite the lack of speed for his size (4.56) he pulls out a 39.5 inch vertical jump — third best among receivers. His three cone was in the top-15. It’s probably not enough to get him in the top-50, but he has a weird blend of fantastic jumping ability and middling speed.

Allen Robinson
He just isn’t an explosive player, and nobody should’ve expected more than a 4.60 forty today. He’s a shifty open field runner, a tremendous competitor and a really level headed prospect. The big question is — can he continue to be elusive and a YAC threat at the next level? Can he get downfield to take the top off a defense? I’m not convinced. Everything is faster in the NFL. And watching the Penn State tape, you can’t help but wonder if he can remain effective. There’s only one nagging thing in the back of my mind. I didn’t really like Keenan Allen, and he wasn’t a burner either. Allen’s a former 5-star recruit, so he was still a vastly superior athlete to Robinson. But still, fool me once –shame on you etc.

Donte Moncrief
He’s not quite as big as expected (6-2, 221lbs) but he promised a decent forty time and he delivered a 4.40. His 39.5 inch vertical is equal to Davante Adams’ — tied-third best among receivers. He had a 7.02 three cone. And yet during the drills he looked exactly like he does on tape — kind of cumbersome, going through the motions. There’s a really good player in this guy waiting to break free. Someone needs to light a rocket up his ass and he might actually deliver on his potential. Nobody in this class has more self-confidence than Moncrief. That can be a good and a bad thing, I think in his case he needs to realise what is he right now — and what he could potentially become if he just worked that bit harder.

So yeah, we could see 8-9 receivers in the first round. It wouldn’t be a major shock. It’s a good group.

But it also wouldn’t be a big surprise if by the end of day one — most of these names were still on the board, with a rush on the position commencing shortly after round two begins.

I’ll also add — after yesterday’s underwhelming performance by the tight ends, we might only see one Eric Ebron drafted in the first frame.

How the Seahawks might approach this receiver class

Assuming they retain Golden Tate (increasingly likely with the cap set to be extended to $130-132m), they simply don’t need another sub-6-0 receiver. Neither do they need a relatively well sized, technically gifted 6-1/6-2 type.

What they need is a beast. A guy with the size to develop into a true #1. Someone who can win jump balls downfield, dominate the red-line and be a much needed force in the red zone.

Seattle doesn’t have that right now.

Mike Evans will be gone. Kelvin Benjamin could be gone. They both look like classic #1 receivers, the type Pete Carroll admires.

So it could come down to how they view the remaining options. Do they see Coleman as a player worthy of the first round? They’ve shown they’re not afraid to draft for athletic potential early in the draft. And it was reported earlier today that Seattle has shown genuine interest in Coleman.

Do they like Bryant enough, with all of his scary athleticism, to take a major chance on him at #32?

If they don’t see a big receiver worthy of a first round pick left on the board, I think they’ll simply look at other positions. I doubt they’ll take another receiver just for the sake of this being a good class.

The way they judge needs is to grade where they can get the biggest on-field improvement. With Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse — they don’t need to add to the group for the sake of it. They need what they don’t have — a 6-4/6-5, +225lbs monster.

If that guy isn’t there, I think they’ll simply look at other positions.

Time for the defense to shine

With a lack of great front seven depth beyond the first round or two, we might see teams prioritise the defensive talent early.

Unlike at receiver, where you can get a good one in round two — that probably won’t be the case up front on defense.

Here are the players I’m particularly keen to see work out.

Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State)
Ideal length for a LEO, 6-3 and 250lbs. Long arms. On tape he has speed to burn, a relentless attitude and he gets to the quarterback. He needs to prove he has top-end speed with a solid 10-yard split. I touted him for Seattle in my pre-combine mock draft and he’s someone we should be taking very seriously. I just wonder if he could be set for a Chandler Jones-style rise — respected within war rooms for some time, but doesn’t get any media attention until late in the process.

Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)
Another player with the kind of length Seattle loves on the defensive line — 6-7, 295lbs and 34 1/4 inch arms. Looks the part on tape. Had to leave the Senior Bowl with an injury, so this is a good chance to get some momentum going as a potential first round pick. I’ve said many times he could be the steal of the draft. Get him in the weight room and try to turn him into J.J. Watt-lite. He has a ton of potential.

Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
A former basketball player, Hageman has the odd moment where he looks unstoppable on tape. Can he prove he’s worthy of a top-25 grade tomorrow? Another player with ‘Seattle length’. You could see him going to Arizona or Green Bay. He could be another Mohammed Wilkerson. I thought he’d blow up the Senior Bowl, but he left that to Aaron Donald. Now this is Hageman’s time to make a statement.

Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
He’s lost weight for the combine. Some pundits rank him in the third round, others say he’s too athletic for the size not to be a day one pick. I’m leaning towards him being in the round 2-3 range, but if he runs a 4.8 tomorrow at 6-5, 304lbs — I have to reconsider. Big guys who can run don’t last long. So let’s see if he can run.

Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
I’ve not seen anything on tape to get really excited about. I’m not sure what he is — a 4-3 end? A poor man’s version of Michael Bennett? Does he need to play inside as a nickel pass rusher? Some people think he could play outside linebacker. The fact is, however, that if he performs well at the combine at 6-4 and 273lbs — someone will take him early. You can work with a guy like that.

Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
For me, you could take him as early as you wanted. Terrific football player, without doubt one of the best in the draft. He has nothing to prove tomorrow. But can he be the star of the show? Tony Pauline has been reporting all week he could run in the 4.6/4.7 range. If he manages it, he’ll be a top-15 pick. He should be anyway.

Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Apparently he dropped 20lbs for the combine. How on earth did he get up to 350lbs? And why? He won’t run like Dontari Poe, but it’s not that long ago people considered him a top-15 pick as a rare 3-4 nose tackle. Let’s see if he can give his dwindling stock a boost.

Closing notes

Tony Pauline has the latest on Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ foot injury:

Doctors x-rayed Seferian-Jenkins left foot with the sole intention of examining the ankle which he sprained a year ago and kept him on the sidelines during a small portion of the 2012 season. In reviewing the x-rays doctors noticed what seemed to be a potential small fracture in the foot and ordered more tests. I’m told Seferian-Jenkins was getting ready to take the field for his workout when he was pulled from the line and told additional tests were needed. The big tight end was as surprised as anyone as he’d never experienced pain in his left foot to that point. Seferian-Jenkins combine weight of 262-pounds is a number significantly lower than his playing weight of 2013. I’m told Seferian-Jenkins had been timing in the 4.6’s during recent training.

– Blake Bortles looked good today throwing the ball, but is he really #1 pick material? Johnny Manziel won’t suit every team — and might not fit the club picking first overall. But he’s the only quarterback in this draft I’d really want to build around.

I sympathise with those saying they’re not sure Bortles or Bridgewater are top-ten locks. I know the QB position is important, but there’s a ton of value at offensive tackle (Robinson, Lewan, Matthews), defensive end (Clowney) and receiver (Watkins, Evans). If I’m Houston or Cleveland, I consider taking Manziel. If I’m Jacksonville or Oakland, I’m not sure I force a quarterback pick. Keep building. Draft smart.

– This could be the end for Big Red…

“We all we got, we all we need”

This would save $5.5m, to go with the $7.3m saved when they officially release Sidney Rice. There could be more painful cuts to come. Keeping Michael Bennett is a priority, and so it should be. Re-signing Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman is a priority. There’s a handful of other free agents you’d ideally keep. Any why not at least have the option to look at the open market?

– And what a strange story this is…

Tomorrow we’ll be live blogging all throughout the drills, starting at 6AM PST.

See you then.

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The only scenario I’d want to go offensive line at #32

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Breno Giacomini -- underrated, under appreciated, our guy

By now I think you know my stance on drafting an offensive lineman at #32, but here’s a quick recap…

– Whatever o-line you put on the field, Russell Wilson is going to get hit. That’s not to say he didn’t get hit too often in 2013, but he’s always going to get more punishment than other quarterbacks. Pete Carroll wants to be the best scrambling team in the league. His words. That comes with a cost.

– Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco are going to create pressure. That’s an unavoidable fact. Russell Wilson is going to get sacked by these teams, because the NFC West is loaded with defensive talent. You simply cannot shut down Robert Quinn AND Chris Long. You can’t dominate San Francisco’s excellent front seven. And the Cardinals were ranked #2 on defense by DVOA. The 49ers have the best o-line in the division and they can’t stop Colin Kaepernick getting hit. The defenses are too good.

– I think it’s a poor draft for guards, outside of Notre Dame’s Zack Martin moving inside from tackle. Even then, you wonder how he’d react to a positional switch. The likes of Cyril Richardson and Gabe Jackson were found out at the Senior Bowl, while Xavier S’ua-Filo is more upside over proven ability. David Yankey looks like a classic Stanford lineman — technically gifted within that system, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the next level.

– I think it’s a very good draft for offensive tackles. Yet three out of the first four picks last year went on offensive linemen. SIX of the first eleven picks in 2013 were either tackles or guards. Any top-tier talent on the o-line isn’t going to hang around. Teams are putting these guys right up there with the quarterbacks. By the time Seattle’s on the board at #32, it’s a major stretch to think there’s going to be a really good offensive tackle just sitting there waiting to be snapped up.

– I know people disagree, but I reckon the Tom Cable project is working. J.R. Sweezy continues to develop and let’s remember, 2013 was only his second year as an offensive lineman and his first as the unquestioned starter. We’re seeing a lot of potential in Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie. I’d let Cable try and add a couple more later round/UDFA players to the group while further developing the current incumbents.

One final point, and it’s the one that winds people up the most — I don’t think you need a brilliant, elite offensive line to win a title.

A lot of people complain about Seattle’s line, yet they’re Super Bowl champs.

Name me the last team who won a Championship and the offensive line was considered ‘great’.

It certainly isn’t Seattle, Baltimore, New York, Green Bay, New Orleans or Pittsburgh — the last six Super Bowl winners.

Denver won the AFC this year without their stud left tackle playing more than two games.

For me, it’s all about managing situations and finding ways to win. Seattle spent most of the year in damage-limitation mode, reeling from a spate of injuries to Russell Okung, Max Unger and Breno Giacomini.

Wilson got hit too much in their absence, but they still won games.

Why?

Because they managed the situation, working their gameplan to suit. It didn’t always look pretty — but they lost only one game during the OL injury crisis.

I often hear people quote where Seattle’s line was ranked by PFF or some other format. Do these rankings take into account who was starting for most of the season? It’s OK saying they were only 17th for run blocking. But that’s 17th for run blocking with your left tackle, center and right tackle missing multiple games.

An average end-of-season ranking for run blocking when you’re fielding a line of McQuistan-Carpenter-Jeanpierre-Sweezy-Bowie for part of it could actually be perceived as a positive.

I actually think if this unit can stay healthy, they can thrive. They’re well coached by Cable. They know the scheme (such an underrated factor) and each other.

Drafting in the late first round doesn’t always guarantee results (see: James Carpenter) and throwing another rookie into the mix might actually have a negative impact next year.

Do you really want a late first round tackle trying to stop Robert Quinn, Calais Campbell, Chris Long, Aldon Smith etc etc?

*shudders*

In an ideal world they re-sign the underrated Breno Giacomini and pick up one or two more guys for Cable to work with.

But what if they can’t keep Giacomini?

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility he’ll get a relatively attractive offer in free agency. He’s a solid right tackle who plays with attitude — and he’s now a Super Bowl champion. There’s a few teams out there with plenty of cap room who can afford to maintain the average of his 2012/2013 salary (around $3.5m).

I suspect age (he turns 29 in September) plus the strength of the tackle class in the draft might put teams off, and he could end up being a bargain re-sign for Seattle.

If he does walk, that’s when I think you start looking at the position at #32.

Bowie, for me at least, looked a lot more comfortable at guard against Arizona and New Orleans (playoffs). At times he struggled at tackle, particularly the game on the road against the Cardinals.

The fact Bailey sat while Bowie played is a hint the Seahawks don’t see Bailey as a right tackle.

If you lose Breno, you have to replace him.

But will there be a guy sitting there at #32? This is the big question.

As noted earlier, the league is placing a high premium on offensive linemen. Will there be any left?

I’d need to see one of Cyrus Kouandjio, Morgan Moses or Antonio Richardson waiting there to even consider it. I’m going to do more work on Richardson before the combine because I’ve seen quite a lot of negativity on him recently.

Kouandjio is likely to be long gone, while Moses could be snapped up by Baltimore, Miami or Arizona.

If anything the likelihood of a rush on tackles would make me even more determined to re-sign Giacomini.

I’m not being blasé about the offensive line. I just feel better luck with injuries can provide the biggest boost in 2014.

It’ll be a major improvement if they simply aren’t forced to start Paul McQuistan at left tackle for weeks on end, put a 7th round rookie at right tackle and fit in a 2010 undrafted free agent to replace you’re Pro Bowl center.

For me, a healthy line of Okung-Bailey/Bowie/Carpenter-Unger-Sweezy-Giacomini… works just fine.

But if they lose Giacomini, I have to respect tackle becomes a much greater need.

Yet it’s just as likely we’ll see major changes to the defensive line due to free agency and cuts (Bennett? McDaniel? McDonald? Clemons? Bryant?).

Let’s not forget what made this team the best. Even if you manage to keep Michael Bennett, the others would need to be replaced.

And if the receivers and offensive tackles go early this year, it increases the chances of a really good defensive lineman making it to #32.

Food for thought.

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Debate: Should Seattle make defense a draft priority?

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Would it make sense to keep building up the NFL's #1 defense with a guy like Brent Urban?

I really like this years receiver class.

Who wouldn’t?

The need for a big wide out kind of goes hand-in-hand with what’s available. Mike Evans, Brandon Coleman, Kelvin Benjamin. It’s a good year to want a pure #1 receiver.

Yet there’s another thought I can’t get out of my head.

Wouldn’t it make sense to continue to add to this defense, with the intention of making it even better?

The performance against Denver will go down as one of the best in Super Bowl history, mainly due to the way Seattle shut down such a prolific offense.

But I get the feeling this defense hasn’t even peaked yet.

And with one or two further additions they could get even better.

Why not?

Here’s the argument for going defense in round one this year.

1. The defense is the identity

It feels like the Legion of Boom isn’t just about four guys any more, or even just the secondary unit.

It’s the whole team.

They hit Peyton Manning, they hit the receivers and running backs. They all laid the boom in the Super Bowl.

In 10-15 years time there’s every chance people will still be talking about Seattle’s ‘L.O.B.’. Even if they don’t win another title, they left a mark last Sunday.

Keeping the defense at the forefront of what Seattle is about could keep this franchise right at the top.

2. The current pass rush isn’t tied up

There’s actually a fair amount of short termism about the defensive line.

Michael Bennett is a free agent this year. So is Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald.

Cliff Avril’s contract only runs through 2014. Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane won’t be around forever, while Chris Clemons could be a cap casualty this off-season.

The entire pass rush could look totally different in two seasons time.

Throwing a cheap, late first round talent into the mix who’s guaranteed to be here for at least four years might not be such a bad idea.

In fact it could be an absolute necessity.

3. The offense is already pretty good

Amid all the media noise of ‘mediocrity’, it’s easy to forget Seattle’s offense ranked #7 in DVOA in 2013.

Owning a top-ten unit with this defense basically means Championship football.

If they re-sign Golden Tate and tender Doug Baldwin, they’ll essentially be keeping the same group of receivers that won a Super Bowl.

The running game isn’t going anywhere, even if we’re looking at maybe only another year or two out of Marshawn Lynch at his very best.

They’ve already started to make contingency plans there by drafting Christine Michael and he might see more time with Robert Turbin next season.

Russell Wilson is only going to keep getting better.

It’s not like Seattle has to desperately upgrade the offense this off-season.

4. Percy time

There’s no guarantee Percy Harvin will be fully healthy in 2014, but this team made a significant investment in him a year ago.

Clearly they believe over the long term he can take this offense to another level.

And he can, if he’s on the field.

Harvin’s presence alone will be significant. He’s a big-time X-Factor and one of the game’s truly elite players when he’s out there.

The fact he didn’t feature much at all in 2013 almost makes him a new addition for next season.

Harvin, Tate, Baldwin, Kearse and Lockette.

Looks good to me, however much I’d like to add an Evans, Coleman or Benjamin to the group.

5. Is LEO a need?

Avril has one more year. Clemons could be a goner. Benson Mayowa is still a bit of an unknown.

Bruce Irvin, once touted as the “ideal LEO” by Pete Carroll, has now made a permanent switch to linebacker.

This could be a long term need for the Seahawks.

Aside from that, you can never have too many pass rushers.

This might be a good time to add another edge player. They wouldn’t be under too much pressure to have an instant impact.

And Seattle needs to save some money somewhere, because it might be difficult to re-sign Avril in a year.

6. The NFC West aint going anywhere

This division really is scary when it comes to defense.

The Rams have their two fierce edge rushers in Chris Long and Robert Quinn.

The Cardinals had the second best unit in the league according to DVOA and leaned on their defense to win in Seattle.

The 49ers have a loaded front seven and enough picks in the upcoming draft to improve their secondary.

At the same time all three teams have some issues on offense.

St. Louis is still hoping Sam Bradford can be the answer.

Arizona is going to be starting Carson Palmer again next season, in is 35th year after throwing 22 interceptions in 2013.

And the Niners have to be hoping Colin Kaepernick continues to develop as a passer, to go with his electrifying athletic qualities.

It’s basically a division where defense is king.

As much as we want to believe adding another receiver or offensive lineman to Seattle’s roster will help, I’m not sure you’ll ever have it easy against these teams.

It’s a war of attrition in the west, based around great defense.

Keeping the Legion of Boom at the top of the pack could be vital going forward.

Of course, there are counters to this debate as well. The obvious one being the only way to combat these great defenses is to keep giving more weapons to Russell Wilson or improving the offensive line.

Despite my preference to mock a receiver to Seattle in recent weeks, I firmly believe continuing to stockpile defensive lineman would also be a good idea.

If the Seahawks pass on a big receiver at #32 or even with their first two picks — I wouldn’t bat an eye lid.

Especially if they continue to pump up the defense.

At the combine we should be looking at tall defensive lineman with length and long arms. Speed helps, but probably isn’t vital if we’re talking interior guys.

I wouldn’t rule out a player like Aaron Donald either, who really jump off the tape even if he lacks ideal size.

With the LEO prospects speed matters much more, but length is also important. Hand-use is also a crucial and underrated aspect — just look at the way Avril turned on the bull rush in the post season to great effect.

Aside from the players I’ve already spent considerable time on (Brent Urban, Ra-Shede Hageman) I intend to take a closer look at Jeremiah Attaochu, Kony Ealy, Stephon Tuitt (who’s never really impressed me so far) and a few others before the combine.

It’s not a great class for defensive lineman by any means, but there are some interesting options for Seattle. I’m particularly high on Virginia’s Urban and I like the upside of Hageman.

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Can the Seahawks chase Jared Allen? Plus a new mock draft

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Get this man in Seattle

Could it happen?

I’m fascinated by the idea of Seattle adding Jared Allen in free agency.

Pete Carroll says this team doesn’t have a big need outside of the current group. It’s more about inner improvement and keeping this Championship roster together.

But we know Carroll well enough by now to still expect a few fireworks along the way.

I remember going into the 2013 off-season expecting a quiet free agency. They needed to save cap money to roll over for future re-signings.

Surely they wouldn’t make a big splash. Could they afford it?

Then they go and trade for Percy Harvin and find a way to bring in the top two pass rushers on the market — Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

We’re unlikely to see that level of headline making again, but when has this team ever drifted quietly through free agency?

Whether it’s the public courting of Brandon Marshall, the big-money additions of Sidney Rice and Zach Miller, the Matt Flynn signing or the business twelve months ago — they’ve always been active.

Maybe the big story this year will be about just keeping the likes of Bennett, Golden Tate and Breno Giacomini, while penning Earl Thomas and maybe Richard Sherman to extensions?

Or perhaps there will be another gem or two along the way as the Seahawks look to get even better in 2014.

Out of all the free agents hitting the market this year, Allen is the most intriguing to me (possibly alongside Oakland’s Lamar Houston).

He turns 32 in April but still managed 11.5 sacks on a bad Vikings team this season. He’s only two years removed from a 22-sack campaign, he has 128.5 career sacks and whether he wins a title or not — there’s every chance he’s destined for the Hall of Fame.

Allen signed a 6-year, $73m deal in Minnesota (now expired). While he may still be motivated by financial gain, you wonder how much of a priority that is as he approaches the twighlight of a ring-less career.

And what better way to try and win a Championship than joining the team that just dominated the Super Bowl?

He still has plenty of tread on the tires, at least for another year or two. He seems to have the kind of personality that fits well with the Seahawks locker room and he’s played here the last two years — so he knows about the homefield advantage.

Previous interest in Allen was reported by Adam Schefter on the day of the trade deadline.

It also wouldn’t hurt to have a few extra hungry players on the roster amid a team of reigning Champions.

And yeah, he bumped into Darrell Bevell at a Taylor Swift concert. And divulged that information. So they must be tight…

Doesn’t it just seem like the perfect storm?

So how viable is it for the Seahawks to go after a guy like Allen?

Looking at the current cap situation, not viable at all. They’re right up against the budget with some big deals to be done over the next couple of years (Thomas, Sherman, Wilson…).

In order to keep their own key free agents, they’re going to need to create some room. Let alone to go after any other big names.

Yet I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to sign Allen, either.

Essentially it comes down to two things.

1. A series of cuts to the existing roster (contradicting Carroll’s penchant to keep the band together) in order to free up significant funds

2. Relying on a player being willing to accept a smaller contract in order to join the trendy Seahawks

Let’s start with #1.

Cutting Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Chris Clemons will save approximately $20m.

Rice didn’t contribute much in 2013, so it won’t be too painful to depart with his near $10m salary. Miller and Clemons on the other hand are key veterans.

The issue with Miller’s deal is he’s being grossly overpaid. He earned $11m in 2013 and gets another $7m in 2014.

That’s considerably more than a healthy and productive Rob Gronkowski would earn, even with his big new contract.

Jimmy Graham will struggle to top $11m for a single season when he signs a new deal in New Orleans.

Nobody wants to lose Miller, but it’s about priorities. Can you replace him for considerably less money, and can you re-invest his salary in keeping a player like Michael Bennett?

Yes.

Nobody wants to lose Clemons either, but he’s seen better days. It’d be a painful cut, but perhaps a necessary one. Especially if we’re trying to come up with a way to go after Jared Allen.

These three cuts save you $19.6m. That should be enough to re-sign Bennett, Tate and Giacomini at least — while also tendering Doug Baldwin as a RFA.

It probably wouldn’t be enough, however, to also sign Allen plus other players such as Steven Hauschka, Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel.

Where can you make other savings?

Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane could be asked to restructure their deals. They’re both arguably earning too much ($8.5m & $5m) in 2014 and because the dead money involved is so small, you can maybe force their hand a little.

Russell Okung’s cap hit is $11m in 2014 and only $7.28m the following year — so there’s maybe a way to even that out.

Breno Giacomini — who earned over $4m this season — could be re-signed for less.

Any new contract for Earl Thomas could be structured so that the cap hit in 2014 is similar to (or even lower than) the $5.5m he’s already due on his current deal.

You might be able to conjure up another $7m or so. That’d give you a shot at Allen, but not the other free agents you’d ideally keep. That brings us onto point #2…

Relying on a player being willing to accept a smaller contract in order to join the Seahawks.

Seattle has never been more fashionable within the NFL. Suddenly, they have some serious chops in the open market.

Players enjoy playing here and the outsiders know it.

When you couple all the success with the enjoyment factor — that’s a winning combo.

I wonder how many prospective free agents watched that parade on the NFL Network yesterday and pined to be part of this franchise.

Then you throw in the other factors — the 12th man, the VMAC facilities and Pete Carroll’s user-friendly coaching style.

Players might be willing to take a financial discount to be part of this thing.

Some will, some won’t.

Those approaching the back end of their careers like Allen, might be willing to consider it more than others.

He earned $17m in 2013. His first year in Minnesota cost $3.3m, but after that he never took less than $11m.

Presuming you’re only signing him to a one or two year deal, he’d have to take a massive pay cut.

He also has to consider what’s realistic at this stage of his career.

32-year-old Osi Umenyiora signed a 2-year deal with Atlanta that paid him $3.75m in 2013 and brings in $4.75m in 2014.

However, he struggled to generate any early free agency interest and ended up settling on this deal.

Not only is Allen a better player, there’s every chance he won’t go through the slow dance Umenyiora faced.

The Seahawks would need to hope his market starts relatively cold (as we saw with Bennett and Avril) and then they’d need to hope he really wanted to play in Seattle.

If that’s the case, maybe he works for $4-5m over a year or two? To get that elusive ring?

That would still give you the necessary room to sign up your rookie class and make a few choice signings — perhaps keeping Hauschka and one of the defensive tackles.

It’s probably a long shot, but it’s interesting to consider nonetheless.

Of course you’d have to replace the departing players. Allen is your like-for-like switch for Clemons. With it being a strong draft for receivers you could replace Sidney Rice in round one (Brandon Coleman? Kelvin Benjamin?) and possibly target a tight end in round two to replace Miller (Austin Seferian-Jenkins? Troy Niklas?).

It’s food for thought at a time when everyone’s wondering ‘what’s next?’.

***UPDATE***

This also helps…

An extra $4m in cap room would be well received.

And while we dwell on what could happen over the next few weeks, here’s a new mock draft…

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#1 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)

The best playmaker in the draft. If they’re going quarterback here, take Manziel.

#2 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)

Robinson is already a dominating run blocker. He has the limitless upside to develop into a great pass protector too.

#3 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)

This is a no brainer if he lasts to #3.

#4 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)

I’m becoming less and less convinced by all the ‘Cleveland loves Johnny’ talk. It could be a smokescreen.

#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)

You can build around this guy. Do they emulate Cincinnati in 2011 by going WR-round one, QB-round two?

#6 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)

Some teams will rate Lewan much higher than others. Atlanta needs to get tougher in the trenches.

#7 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)

He might end up at right tackle for the long term.

#8 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)

He’s not a prototype passer for Norv Turner’s offense, but they need a quarterback badly.

#9 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)

The more I watch Evans, the more convinced I am he’s a top ten pick and a true #1 receiver.

#10 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)

Just a really good, competitive football player. Would look great alongside Megatron.

#11 Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)

I’m still not overly convinced by Barr. Ray Horton’s arrival as defensive coordinator means they need a 3-4 OLB.

#12 Khalil Mack (DE, Buffalo)

Might be set for a Bruce Irvin-style switch to linebacker. Make the defense this teams identity.

#13 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)

He’d be a guard in St. Louis. Doubling up on the O-line isn’t a terrible idea. A Robinson-Martin left side would be a huge asset for this offense.

#14 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)

Every team in the league is looking for a rangy safety. The Bears need one badly.

#15 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)

Terrific athlete with the potential to be the next big time tight end.

#16 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)

I really like Kouandjio’s potential. He’s too good to fall deep into round one.

#17 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)

I’m now a believer. Donald’s worthy of a grade in this range for me, despite a lack of pure size.

#18 Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)

Intelligent, grounded receiver with YAC value. Surprisingly not an elite speed guy though, so won’t WOW at the combine.

#19 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)

Massive tackle prospect who could easily go higher than this. Miami desperately needs a left tackle.

#20 Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)

With 10-wins and an elite defense, they might feel comfortable investing in the future. Carson Palmer in 2015 will be due $12m aged 36.

#21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)

Green Bay needs to keep adding toughness to that defense. It’s way too soft at the moment and holding them back.

#22 Brent Urban (DE, Virginia)

Chip Kelly likes defenders with length and speed. Underrated prospect who will look great at the combine.

#23 Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)

Big, third down converting tight end. Would have an instant impact in this offense.

#24 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)

It’s not a great class for cornerbacks, but Dennard looks like the best available.

#25 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)

Had a productive season and turned a few heads in 2013.

#26 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)

Could provide a dynamic double threat with Josh Gordon. Definite first round talent for me. Playmaker and a safety net.

#27 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)

Charles Brown is a free agent, and they had too much insecurity at left tackle in 2013.

#28 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)

Imagine this offense with a difference-making big target to aim at. Put him alongside Steve Smith and enjoy.

#29 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)

Major upside interior lineman. Big-time athlete whose best football lies ahead.

#30 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)

Don’t be too surprised if he suffers a fall. 2013 was a big let down for Nix.

#31 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)

The Broncos really need to add a safety to that secondary.

#32 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)

I think you take a shot on a guy with this frame (6-6, 220lbs) and potentially 4-4/4-5 speed. Major upside.

Nine potential Seahawks for the #32 pick

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Brent Urban is very much 'one to watch' for Seattle

These are some of the early names I reckon could be on the radar with pick #32.

Remember, we’re talking about the final pick in round one here. You’re unlikely to find a flawless talent in this range, not unless you get lucky.

I’m searching for guys who fill a positional need with major athletic upside and the potential to be great down the line.

Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)
Modern three technique with length and size (6-7, 298lbs). Very good athlete with the strength to drive blockers back into the pocket. J.J.Watt-like ability to tip passes at the LOS. If the Seahawks lose Tony McDaniel in free agency, Urban could be an option to replace him in the draft. He’s not being talked about much due to his lack of ‘stats’ but watch any tape you can get your hands on. He has an impact. There aren’t many players with his insane upside in this draft class. The guy is a monster who could be special.

Why he could be available at #32
A lack of production in terms of hard stats. Teams running orthodox schemes (unlike Seattle) will question where he fits. He has some injury history (ACL).

Why he fits in Seattle
Tony McDaniel will need to be replaced if he moves on in free agency. This team loves length at tackle. He’d be a great compliment to the pass rushers on the roster — consistently collapses the pocket, even if he’s not the one recording the sack. Make no mistake — Brent Urban could be one of the steals of the 2014 draft. Put this player on your radar.

Jeremiah Attaochu (LB, Georgia Tech)
He had 12.5 sacks in 2013. I started to watch some of Attaochu’s tape last week and wondered whether he could be one to monitor. He’s 6-3 and 252lbs with a little Cliff Avril to his game. He’s one to develop rather than expect instant results, but I’m going to keep watching his games to finalise my opinion. The combine is going to be big — is he going to run a 4.51 like Avril with a 1.50 split? That’s going to be telling. It’ll be really interesting to see how he performs in Indianapolis.

Why he could be available at #32
It’s the age old debate about whether he’s best suited to a 3-4 scheme at OLB and that could put some teams off. Despite his production this season, I still think he’s a developmental guy who needs time. He’s best used in year one as a rotational, impact pass rusher.

Why he fits in Seattle
The Seahawks might find some cap relief in reluctantly moving on from Chris Clemons — a real warrior for the Seahawks over the years. It might be tough to re-sign Cliff Avril after 2014, while Bruce Irvin has switched to linebacker full time. They need to plan ahead with these pass rushers — which is why they redshirted Benson Mayowa.

Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
People love to judge players based on what they’ve been, not what they can become. Coleman isn’t the finished article — far from it. But the offense at Rutgers wasn’t exactly conducive to big production at the receiver position. There simply aren’t many guys with his athleticism at 6-6 and 220lbs. He is a freak of nature with the potential to be another Josh Gordon a year or two down the line. I’d be surprised if drafting a big receiver wasn’t a huge priority for this team.

Why he could be available at #32
He’s performed in fits and starts. Coleman is capable of remarkable, game changing plays. In college he also had spells where he wouldn’t do anything for weeks. For me he’s one of those players you’d worry about taking in the top-20, but based on his upside I’m taking a swing at the end of round one.

Why he fits in Seattle
They need a big receiver. Mike Sando wrote a great piece this week about Carroll’s vision on offense, including his desire to acquire “a power running back, a risk-averse quarterback and a big, physical receiver.” Only one of that trio is missing.

Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Like Coleman, he’s a big receiver and would fill the teams greatest need (as things stand). On a good day Benjamin looks like a top-15 pick. He has ideal size and speed for the position and flashes so much talent. But then there are the things he needs to improve — avoiding ridiculous drops, running sharper routes and not giving up on plays. With a bit more polish he could become a top NFL receiver.

Why he could be available at #32
At the end of the day, however good you are physically, you need to be a reliable catcher. Benjamin has been guilty of some shocking plays this year, belittling his incredible talent. With a deep class of receivers available this year, there may just be more reliable players out there.

Why he fits in Seattle
If the Seahawks expect to get a brilliant physical talent who catches well every time, they better start considering a move up the board. For all of Benjamin’s flaws, he has elite potential and could be a fantastic game changer if he eliminates the errors. He’s worth gambling on at #32 — if he makes it that far.

Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
I hate the idea of replacing proven veterans with rookies, just because you can’t afford to keep the vet. Yet this is the situation that might be forced on Seattle going forward. Golden Tate is a free agent, but can they keep him? If Beckham Jr is there at #32, he could easily be the best player available. He’s a fantastic receiver who high points the football, has an X-factor as a playmaker and plays with real grit. You can’t justify drafting him unless Tate departs. But what a player.

Why he could be available at #32
He’s just shy of 6-0 and around 190lbs. Teams are often reluctant to draft receivers with that lack of size unless they’re really explosive. Beckham is great, but he wasn’t Percy Harvin or Tavon Austin in college.

Why he fits in Seattle
Huge hands despite his lack of overall size, plays with grit and determination, high points the football. He plays with the same edge as Tate or Doug Baldwin. You’d rather just keep those two and not have to draft a replacement. But if Tate walks, you’d have to fight against putting Beckham Jr on your target board.

Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
When I went back to watch Donald’s 2013 tape, I was blown away. We’re talking about a relentless pass rusher who lives in the backfield. He’s not the biggest defensive tackle at 6-0 and 285lbs, but he plays with fantastic leverage and you can’t help but wonder if he’s the next Geno Atkins. If this guy can’t make it at his size, we might as well stop trying to find another Atkins and just accept he’s a freak. Donald followed up a great year by blowing up the Senior Bowl work outs.

Why he could be available at #32
Purely down to size. He has the production and the great tape. Medieval conventional wisdom about his size is the only thing that could be a problem. I fully expect he’ll go in the top-25.

Why he fits in Seattle
Clinton McDonald had a major impact this year with several key sacks. He’ll be a big loss if he departs in free agency. Donald plays with the type of attitude this team likes, and they drafted an undersized defensive tackle in Jordan Hill last year.

Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)
His tape from the Senior Bowl game looked great and reports have suggested he’ll run a 4.4 at the combine. He doesn’t have the length or size (6-2, 240lbs) Seattle has looked for in a pass rusher, but they also love speed off the edge. He seems to have it in abundance. The only concern is whether he’s a little one-dimensional. Cliff Avril’s ability to bull rush has been huge in both the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl. Can Ford mix it up, or is he totally reliant on speed and featuring in a wide-9 role?

Why he could be available at #32
Size is the main issue and he didn’t always dominate in the SEC. He failed to register much impact against Alabama — that’s a game scouts will gravitate towards when they put on the tape. He didn’t spend any time working as a 3-4 OLB at the Senior Bowl and he might be too small to work as a 4-3 end at the next level.

Why he fits in Seattle
Again it comes down to long term planning at the LEO. Ford doesn’t necessarily look like a LEO in terms of length, but he has the speed this team values plus a character they will love.

Ra’shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
He’s something of an enigma. At times his tape is flat out crazy — he looks like a terror at defensive tackle. He can be unstoppable. But he’s simply too inconsistent. Everyone expected him to dominate at the Senior Bowl against a weak offensive line group, but he was completely overshadowed by guys like Aaron Donald. Anyone hoping Hageman would fall to Seattle should be pleased about that, but I guess you can also ask — how good is he really?

Why he could be available at #32
Production isn’t great and he’s too inconsistent. He’s lived a difficult life, that can be a positive or a negative. Has a few character issues in college that need checking out.

Why he fits in Seattle
Simply put he’s a fantastic athlete and if you can coach him up and get him into your system, he will have an impact. It’s pretty hard not to get excited about a more rounded and consistent Hageman featuring in this defense. He’s 6-6 and 318lbs. Length, size, athleticism = Seahawks. But how badly does he want to be great?

Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
The only interior line prospect I’d personally want to consider in round one. He has some experience at tackle but looks like a pure guard at the next level. He’s a fantastic athlete with excellent core strength. He’s not the big, dominating player many want at left guard — and I’m not totally sold he’s a Tom Cable-guy. But he’s a decent fit in the ZBS with a lot of upside going forward. If they want athletes, Su’a-Filo fits the bill.

Why he could be available at #32
He’s not Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack. Guards generally don’t go early and he’s going to be a late first or second rounder at best.

Why he fits in Seattle
I don’t think the Seahawks will take a guard in round one. For the purpose of this piece, here’s why they would. They haven’t really settled on one guy for the left spot and who knows whether they believe James Carpenter, Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey can grab it long term. I think a long term starter emerges from that group in 2014.

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All help is really appreciated.

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Super Bowl mock draft: 29th January

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

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Time to mix things up a bit after the Senior Bowl.

A lot of you will linger on the fact I have Seattle picking at #31 and Denver at #32.

Don’t.

I’ve done it this way for so many weeks now, I’m not going to change. This isn’t a Super Bowl prediction. Don’t see it that way.

Call it superstition or whatever. The two picks would be the same if I flipped the teams anyway.

Let’s get straight into it.

#1 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
They have to make the most of this pick. And that means taking Clowney, and not reaching for a QB.
#2 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
Jeff Fisher traditionally hasn’t drafted offensive linemen early. If they believe in Sam Bradford, give him Sammy Watkins.
#3 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
He could be the sparky competitor Gus Bradley needs at QB to continue the rebuilding job in Jacksonville.
#4 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
I’m becoming less and less convinced by all the ‘Cleveland loves Johnny’ talk. It could be a smokescreen.
#5 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Just a fantastic talent who they can build around going forward. A genuine building block for the Raiders.
#6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
The Falcons could consider moving up for Clowney, but tackle is their next biggest need.
#7 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Some teams will rate Lewan much higher than others. He could still land in the top ten.
#8 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
He’s not a prototype passer for Norv Turner’s offense, but they need a quarterback badly.
#9 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
The more I watch Evans, the more convinced I am he’s a top ten pick and a true #1 receiver.
#10 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Just a really good, competitive football player. Would look great alongside Megatron.
#11 Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)
I’m still not overly convinced by Barr. Ray Horton’s arrival as defensive coordinator means they need a 3-4 OLB.
#12 Khalil Mack (DE, Buffalo)
Might be set for a Bruce Irvin-style switch to linebacker. Make the defense this teams identity.
#13 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
The Rams might wait on a tackle at #2 because of the depth at the position. I like Kouandjio more than most.
#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Every team in the league is looking for a rangy safety. The Bears need one badly.
#15 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Terrific athlete with the potential to be the next big time tight end.
#16 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
Terrific football player, totally underrated. Could play guard or tackle. The Ravens know what they’re doing.
#17 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
I’m now a believer. Donald’s worthy of a grade in this range for me, despite a lack of size.
#18 Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)
Intelligent, grounded receiver with YAC value. Surprisingly not an elite speed guy though, so won’t WOW at the combine.
#19 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
Massive tackle prospect who could easily go higher than this. Miami desperately needs a left tackle.
#20 Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
With 10-wins and an elite defense, they might feel comfortable investing in the future. Carson Palmer in 2015 will be due $12m aged 36.
#21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Green Bay needs to keep adding toughness to that defense. It’s way too soft at the moment and holding them back.
#22 Brent Urban (DE, Virginia)
Chip Kelly likes defenders with length and speed. Underrated prospect who will look good at the combine.
#23 Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
Big, third down converting tight end. Would have an instant impact in this offense.
#24 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
It’s not a great class for cornerbacks, but Dennard looks like the best available.
#25 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Had a productive season and turned a few heads in 2013.
#26 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Could provide a dynamic double threat with Josh Gordon. Definite first round talent for me. Playmaker and a safety net.
#27 Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)
The Saints could use an edge rusher. To go this high, Ford needs to prove he has 4.4 speed.
#28 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Insane potential. Give him a year and he could be another Josh Gordon. Seriously.
#29 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
Major upside interior lineman. Big-time athlete whose best football lies ahead.
#30 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Don’t be too surprised if he suffers a fall. 2013 was a big let down for Nix.
#31 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Benjamin frustrates the hell out of me, but his upside potential is phenomenal. Seattle needs a receiver with his size.
#32 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
They’ve finally moved on from that play against Baltimore last season, but the Broncos still need a safety.

Aaron Donald is much better than I thought

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Yeah -- time for a rethink

I’m not sure how I got it so wrong.

My first impression of Aaron Donald was pretty middling. Sometimes when you watch full games instead of tape cuts, it’s hard to notice consistently good play.

That’s the excuse I’ll roll with, but at the end of the day I just made a bad call.

Donald can play.

And he could be a first round pick.

In going back to re-access his potential I wanted to focus on two games against very different opponents.

I wanted to see how he faired against the best of the best — National Champions Florida State. And I wanted to watch him against a much less polished opponent — Bowling Green State.

On both occasions he was superb. I couldn’t have been more impressed.

Again — how did I miss on this guy so badly?

I’ll get to the positives in a moment, but first here’s one lingering issue. You will be able to have some success in the run game versus Donald.

As good as he is at getting into the backfield and having an impact, you can scheme against him in the run.

He’s not an immovable object, and you wouldn’t expect that at 6-0 and 288lbs.

When you face off against him 1v1 — he nearly always wins with leverage because of the size. Being small is actually a positive in that sense. He also has the hands and lower body power to excel in that type of situation.

Yet when blockers take a different angle and try to stretch a run out wide, he can be moved. When he can’t set and get the hands up, the lack of size shows. That opens up cut back lanes and there are a few occasions where you think at the next level that would be exploited.

Whoever drafts Donald is probably just going to have to live with the fact he’ll give up the odd big hole/run play.

Even so, it might be worth it for all the positives you get as a pocket collapsing, dominating interior force.

I liked Jordan Hill a lot last year and was pleased to see Seattle spend a third round pick bringing him in — even if his rookie year has been severely hampered with injuries.

Donald is kind of like a top of the range version of Hill. In some ways they have a very similar game. But where as Hill flashed as a playmaker in the backfield, Donald practically lives there.

Time and time again he collapses the pocket. He ended the year with 11 sacks but was probably responsible for a lot more. In the two games I watched he was consistently having an impact — driving blockers into the backfield, forcing quarterbacks to move out of the pocket and recording a splash.

When he doesn’t get the sack, he’ll at least force a bad throw or get a teammate on the stat sheet.

It’s been a while since I saw a defensive lineman this busy, causing so many problems for two very different opponents.

In the FSU game I actually think he could’ve done a better job finishing, but the fact of the matter is he was there time and time again in position to make a play.

I wanted to see how he coped against the best in college football and it was interesting to see how much success he had against the Seminoles. He was the only one causing Jameis Winston any problems. And Winston had a day for the ages — a truly sensational quarterbacking performance.

He needed it too, with the way Donald was playing.

Then I put on the BGSU tape hoping to see him clean up against a much weaker team.

He did just that.

It’s unusual to see a defensive lineman just rag-doll a blocker, but there was Donald going to work. On a couple of occasions he practically tossed the guard or center into the quarterbacks lap.

Remember the way we looked at the three technique position last year? I wrote this piece in February 2013 titled ‘The Bill Walsh defensive tackle’.

It contains notes from Matt Waldman detailing what Walsh looked for when drafting players.

We know Pete Carroll’s links to Walsh and there’s some crossover between the two styles of coaching. This line quoted in the piece has stayed with me, referring to what he wanted in a DT:

The best defensive tackles move the offensive guard back into the quarterback. (emphasis mine) They won’t have nearly as many sacks as others, but if they can move the guard back into the quarterback, then the quarterback has to avoid his own lineman as if he were a pass rusher before he throws the ball. So this is a key ability.

This is Donald.

Even when he’s not getting on the stat sheet, he’s going to make life easy for the edge rushers. He’ll get the quarterback on the move, trying to make reads on the hop.

He uses his hands well, makes the most of his leverage advantage, has a strong lower base that generates plenty of power, his first step quickness is right up there and he’s capable of slipping blockers with a quick swim move.

Every time an undersized pass rusher like this comes onto the scene he gets compared to Geno Atkins.

Perhaps for the first time, that comparison may be legit.

Donald may never ever get anywhere near that kind of impact. There’s a reason Atkins is a bit of a freak of nature.

But if there’s one player capable of getting into the league and actually making it happen at this size, Donald is your guy.

One more time — I’m not sure how I got it so wrong before.

A good team should consider him late in the first.

A team with some edge rushers to compliment his ability to collapse the pocket.

A team that can rotate their defensive linemen and limit some of the issues he’ll have against the run.

In many ways Seattle would perfect for him. I think we should put him on the radar — especially if they lose Clinton McDonald to free agency. McDonald’s impact this year is really underrated — he had 5.5 sacks and it’d be an upset if other teams weren’t willing to reward him for that.

In fact I’d put money on him ending up in Jacksonville.

Spending a first rounder to replace McDonald might be overkill — but I do think it’ll be an option. You could argue Jordan Hill may be tagged for that role — and nobody should write him off after one year.

But if Donald’s there in the late first, you have to consider it.

One of Seattle’s biggest off-season priorities has to be getting a big bodied receiver for Russell Wilson to compliment the current group.

If Kelvin Benjamin or Brandon Coleman are there at #31/32 they have to be in play. It’s the one area Seattle can really take a tangible step forward, particularly with the way they’re structuring the offense.

They want to run the ball and hit big plays downfield off play action. Not having a starting receiver over 6-0/6-1 is conducive to that.

A bigger red zone threat would also be nice, especially considering the struggles they’ve had recently inside the 20.

Benjamin and Coleman aren’t just big — both have limitless potential. They’re also far from the finished article and need time. I’ll take a chance on either in the late first.

If they’re both gone, then you look down the list at other needs. And maintaining the depth and quality of the defensive line has to be up there.

Remember — McDonald isn’t the only free agent in waiting. Tony McDaniel and Michael Bennett are also set to hit the market.

Donald is a really exciting player to watch. He could go in the top-25. His size could also see him last into the second round.

Either way — I wouldn’t bet against him having a lot of success in the NFL.

Exciting player.

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Game tape vs Florida State & Bowling Green State:

Further thoughts & tape on Brandon Coleman

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Oh, for a 6-6 receiver this weekend.

The Seahawks #1 need right now is a big target for Russell Wilson.

Consistency, speed, competitiveness. He’s throwing to a solid group.

But he hasn’t got someone who can be a mismatch in the redzone and generally dominate with height and speed. A possession receiver-plus, so to speak.

I am convinced Brandon Coleman is a great option for the Seahawks with their first round pick this year.

Sometimes we have to look beyond the numbers or even the tape. What is a player capable of? What can he become?

Rutgers have barely had a functioning passing game for two years. Mediocre would be a compliment.

If Coleman played for Florida State I truly believe he’d be seen in a totally different light. Give him a Heisman winner at quarterback and a power house unbeaten supporting cast and he’d be flying.

I don’t think we realise how difficult it is to make technical improvements at receiver when the guy throwing you the ball just isn’t good enough.

He has to take some of the blame too, I appreciate that. Does he do a good enough job high pointing the football? No. Although in fairness a lot of the throws he gets aren’t catchable anyway.

It’s not like there’s tape of 10-15 throws you can say — he should’ve high pointed that. It’s more like 3-4 because they just don’t attempt all that many deep shots.

If he can learn this skill, the sky really is the limit for Coleman.

He has a size/speed combo that reminds me a ton of Josh Gordon. I’ve used that comparison before. Just look at Gordon after a year learning the ropes. He was the most productive wide out in the NFL playing in Cleveland. Cleveland.

It was reassuring to see Dan Pompei report last week that an unnamed National Scout viewed Coleman as a late first rounder.

That’s exactly how I see it.

Physically he’s a top ten pick. Yet because of the offensive struggles at Rutgers and the lack of development, he’s more of a late first rounder.

In that range you can’t expect to draft the complete package. If you want a great player, you have to take a shot.

Whoever you take in the late first is going to be somewhat flawed. And that’s why guys like Coleman and Kelvin Benjamin will go in the 20′s or 30′s and why Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins are top-15 locks.

The game against Notre Dame at the top of this page is a fantastic review of the situation.

Rutgers started the game by throwing away from Coleman — their best offensive weapon. Work that one out.

The below average Gary Nova had been replaced under center by the possibly even worse Chas Dodd (who completed 10/28 throwing and had three picks).

You have to wait six snaps into the video before Coleman gets his first target — a 51-yard downfield bomb. He’s beats the cornerback down the sideline with pure speed, creates separation and hauls in the catch.

That’s what I’m talking about. There aren’t many 6-6 receivers who can do that.

On his next snap he runs a perfect route to the corner of the end zone, beating a pair of defensive backs, and scoring the touchdown. The ball is thrown behind Coleman, but he adjusts to make the grab.

That’s the potential I’m talking about. That’s the positive side of his game. A reason to believe in him, even as a first round pick. You know he can do it.

And yet people turn off. Why? After those two catches, he didn’t register on the stat sheet again.

Draftnik types generally want to buy into production when it comes to receivers. They’ll overrate players with major stats. They’ll look beyond players who don’t have the right numbers.

The thing is, I come back to the offense and the quarterback situation again.

Look at the play at 1:58. Coleman isn’t even into his route before Dodd — without pressure — throws it his way. He’s not ready for that football, he’s still running the damn route. The quarterback deserves that pick. That throw was never on.

At 2:29 Coleman should’ve had another touchdown — but it’s yet another terrible throw. He beats the corner and has position. The ball is thrown just as Coleman reaches the end zone so if you throw that out in front of him it’s an easy six.

Dodd throws it behind the receiver, almost like a back shoulder throw, and nearly gets picked again.

That is insanely poor quarterback play.

At 3:21 they try a gimmick play and let the running back throw it. Can he do any worse? Yes, yes he can. He throws it behind Coleman (again) and it’s picked off. Just awful.

At 3:31 we see the big area for improvement. That’s a pass Coleman can high point and do a better job challenging for. It’s at a good height, and if he leaps up and reaches out he can make a difficult play. He doesn’t and it’s incomplete instead.

At 3:45 he beats the corner and is pulled back in a blatant pass interference call. Better to give up yards than a touchdown, but it’s another example of a 6-6 man looking more agile and athletic than a Notre Dame corner half his size.

It’s this kind of play that makes me say — OK — we need to work on the high pointing. He can do better there. But my god I have to get the chance to work with a player who has this size, movement, control and flat out deep speed.

Put his ability to get open in this video alongside the highlight reel plays we’ve seen him make — running away from defensive backs for 80-yard scores and looking potentially like one of the best playmakers to enter the NFL in recent memory.

There’s no doubt in my mind that he can be big time with a good quarterback and offense.

And I implore you to see past the lack of stats and buy into the upside. Because this guy has it in spades.