Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Updated mock draft: 9th April

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

It’s taken until the second week in April, but finally Joel Bitonio is getting the attention he deserves.

In the last few days Lance Zierlein mocked him to Seattle in the first round, while Daniel Jeremiah is now saying he’s a potential late first round pickto the Seahawks no less.

I wrote this piece on February 27th suggesting Bitonio would be a good fit for Seattle. We first mocked him to the Seahawks on March 5th and if you missed this article the first time — check out how uncanny the comparison is between Bitonio and Logan Mankins.

If they’re going to draft an offensive lineman early — it’s going to be someone with plus athletic skills and upside who can play multiple positions. It also probably needs to be a player who can fill in at left tackle and potentially one day replace Russell Okung if he can’t be resigned after the 2015 season (as discussed here).

I’ve seen some online scouting reports knocking Bitonio’s arm length and consigning him to a role as a pure guard. I’m not sure they realise he has the same arm length as 6-7 Taylor Lewan (33 7/8 inches) and he has longer arms than Jake Matthews (33 3/8 inches).

Not only that — he tested just as well at the combine as the top 3-4 tackles. His 9.6 in the broad jump ranked #2 behind Lewan and just ahead of Greg Robinson. He beat both of those players in the three cone (7.37) and had the second best vertical jump amongst offensive lineman.

He had the fourth best forty yard dash (4.97).

For me the question isn’t whether he’s an option for Seattle at #32 — it’s whether he’ll even last that long. I’m a big Zack Martin fan — but I’m yet to hear any logical explanation as to why he’s a consensus top-25 pick and Bitonio ‘might’ sneak into the first.

Aside from the athletic positives — his versatility will be attractive to the Seahawks. He could easily start in year one at right tackle or left guard. You open up the competition in camp and let Alvin Bailey, James Carpenter, Michael Bowie and Bitonio fight for two spots (plus any other rookies you add to the roster).

In this scenario, Bitonio also becomes your backup left tackle.

They don’t have to go in this direction (drafting a tackle early) even if he lasts until #32. I feel like they’ll be more than comfortable drafting a couple of tackles between rounds 2-7 and letting Carpenter, Bowie and Bailey compete for the guard spot. For those sleeping on Carpenter — check out this photograph he posted on Instagram today. He’s never been in better shape.

There’s tackle depth in the draft this year — meaning they could look at a talented receiver class in round one or potential wild card options such as Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier (who I think will be a top-25 pick, but you never know…).

But I still expect a rush on receivers in round one. And if that happens, it could make for a relatively easy decision at #32.

I’ve also included two trades in the top ten this week. I’ll do a broader trade-mock with multiple deals within the next couple of weeks.

#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a very creative quarterback. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year if they find a solution here.
TRADE #2 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Doesn’t it just seem inevitable? Thomas Dimitroff and Les Snead are close. The Rams want to move down. The Falcons need a pass rusher like Clowney.
TRADE #3 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The Lions appear to be enamoured by Watkins. They also want to set up a dominant passing game. The Jags might be willing to move down for a reasonable price.
#4 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Just take the best player on the board. Robinson would dominate at right tackle or guard. Make the offensive line your identity and run the ball.
#5 Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
I suspect they’d love a shot at Watkins. They might look at Mike Evans. Or they might try and get a pass rusher who can have a quick impact.
TRADE #6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Jeff Fisher knows the Matthews family. They’ve seen Mack and Watkins leave the board. The pick makes sense in this scenario.
#7 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Josh McCown had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey last year. If they’ve signed McCown to start, give him Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans this year.
#8 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
He won countless awards in college, had major production and lit up the combine. Mike Zimmer might see Geno Atkins in Donald.
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
The addition of Mike Williams gives Buffalo some breathing space to add another offensive lineman at #9.
TRADE #10 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Having dropped down from #3, the Jaguars get a fantastic competitor to lead their offense. I suspect Gus Bradley will love Manziel’s fiery character.
#11 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Not a huge need but this is all about value. Benjamin would make a great tandem with Kendall Wright. He possesses freakish upside.
#12 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Finding more targets for Eli Manning has to be a priority. It’s easy to forget how dominant Lee was in 2012.
#13 Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
In the NFC West you need speed at linebacker. Pairing Shazier with Alec Ogletree would add to St. Louis’ terrifying front seven.
#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
They’ve added Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen up front, now they need to improve the secondary.
#15 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Receiver is a big need for the Steelers. They need someone who can come in and have a quick impact. Out of all the WR’s in this class, Beckham Jr is best served to hit the ground running.
#16 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
I wouldn’t draft Barr this early, but the Cowboys are stuck without moving up or down. After bringing in Henry Melton, they need an edge rusher. They have no alternative.
#17 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Getting another big target who can work the seam will be attractive to Baltimore. It’d also be good value in this spot.
#18 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
They need to keep adding playmakers. Rex Ryan will get the defense going. The offense can’t rely on just Eric Decker. It needs a spark.
#19 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
Miami needs to keep repairing its offensive line. Branden Albert is a good start. Why not add a bookend here with Moses slotting in at right tackle?
#20 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
They don’t have a lot of remaining needs — apart from finding a long term answer at quarterback. Even so, Hageman is a value pick at this point. They can add a developmental QB later.
#21 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
They invested free agent money in the defense. That could mean a receiver here — because their options are a little depleted these days. Moncrief has a ton of upside.
#22 Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
A physical, competitive receiver who run blocks superbly and competes for the ball in the air. He’ll make Nick Foles look good by winning plenty of 50/50 throws.
#23 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
With the receivers leaving the board early the Chiefs might look at safety in a scenario like this. Pryor would be a nice compliment to Eric Berry.
#24 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
A player who divides opinion. A year ago he would’ve been a high pick. It wouldn’t be a shock if he’s the first corner off the board.
#25 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
They need to bring in a nose tackle. Nix isn’t Dontari Poe or B.J. Raji in terms of athleticism, but he can hold the point and absorb blockers.
#26 Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
There’s a lot of talk about Carr and the Browns — so I’m going for the ‘no smoke without fire’ approach here. Twitter loves Teddy Bridgewater, but Carr might have the higher upside.
#27 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Nearly benched last season and overrated after a great combine. He is the ideal athlete for the position though — and that could keep him in the first round.
#28 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
I’m not sure how Carolina has allowed a situation to occur where they’re suddenly desperate at receiver and the offensive line.
#29 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
This could be a good spot for a team trading back into the first. New England have gone after Alabama linebackers in the past and could use Mosley inside.
#30 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
Has a little Randy Moss to his game. Could excel playing in a power offense with a big-armed quarterback. He’ll beat you deep and can be an X-factor.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Terrific player. Compares favourably to all of the top offensive tackles in this class. Can play on the left or right — and could be another Logan Mankins at guard.

Draft forecast: Six options for the Seahawks at #32

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Ryan Shazier -- fits the bill as a developmental coaches dream

Having written a couple of mock drafts where a lot of potential Seahawks are off the board before #32, I wanted to highlight some of the players I think will be options with the last pick in round one.

Pete Carroll is on the record as referring to his coaching staff as “developmental coaches”. They look for unique qualities they can enhance and develop. While a lot of other teams think conventionally, the Seahawks are at least willing to consider high-ceiling, gritty prospects who are far from finished products.

It appears their goal is to look at what a player can become and then help him to get there. Obviously the opportunities are broader when you’ve got a prospect with a much higher upside. The names below aren’t being touted much by the media, but that’s OK.

Some national pundits wants to go with what they understand — because that’s how a lot of the teams operate. They want to be able to judge based on what they can see and assess with some degree of surety. They want to rely on what has worked in the past.

Anything foreign or unconventional sets off an alarm.

I don’t think Seattle looks at it that way. In fact I’m convinced they don’t. They’ll consider all of that. But I also think they look for rare qualities — usually a combination of athleticism, size, speed, explosiveness and competitiveness. At the end of the day, it’s easier to take an insane athlete, identify what his peak potential could be and strive to get there than it is to turn an average prospect into a great player.

The thing is — that average player might save another GM’s job. If he plays to a certain level you probably look OK. You didn’t draft a bust. You’re not being ridiculed for a titanic mistake. You got a fairly decent player. Congrats.

The Seahawks front office aren’t concerned by stuff like that. They’ve been trusted by the owner to shoot for the fences. Carroll repeatedly refers to this being the catalyst for his return to the NFL.

And they’re even less likely to be concerned with a Super Bowl trophy tucked away in the cupboard. You can’t even call this a gamble. A gamble would be drafting a raw prospect and hoping for the best.

That isn’t Seattle.

Seattle = development

I’m not trying to suggest I have all the answers. For all I know the names below aren’t on Seattle’s radar at all.

But I think these players are more likely than a lot of the names you’re seeing posted in the media, so here are six suggestions.

I could’ve listed more. I haven’t included the following players because I expect they’ll be off the board by #32: Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State), Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU), Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh), Marqise Lee (WR, USC), Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M).

Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
He’s a supreme athlete with a big frame (6-2, 221lbs). There’s so much to work with and develop here. He’s not just a 4.40 runner with a 39.5 inch vertical — he chews up a cushion quickly, drives off the corner and consistently creates separation. He can get deep and challenge a secondary downfield. When he really wants to block — he’s nasty. The challenge will be to get that motor running consistently, because he can be Jermaine Kearse-good as a blocker when he’s at it. He could easily develop into a genuine #1 and he’s got the skills to work as a better YAC threat than we saw in college. The 2012 tape hints at a fantastic NFL receiver. The 2013 tape is frustrating enough that he could be available at #32. Some of it’s on him, most of it’s on Ole Miss’ bizarre offense.

Areas for concern
He needs to do a better job winning 50/50 throws. This is a big one, especially with Seattle’s penchant for taking shots and asking their receivers to high point the football to make contested catches. He’s more than capable of making the necessary improvements so it’s not like you take him off the board or anything. But there are other receivers who are better at this than Moncrief.

Game tape: Donte Moncrief vs LSU

Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Totally underrated. Bitonio compares favourably to all of the top tackles in this class athletically. His 10-yard split of 1.68 is right up there with Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan. He had the third best short shuttle among offensive linemen. His broad and vertical jumps also rank right at the top of the class. His arms are exactly the same length as 6-7 Lewan’s. On tape he comfortably dealt with UCLA’s Anthony Barr, completely held his own against Florida State and demolished several lesser opponents. I agree with Mike Mayock — let him prove he can’t play left tackle. If teams are foolish enough to let him drop — a franchise that already has a proven blind-side blocker can slot him in at left guard. He’s almost identical to Logan Mankins entering the NFL. Blue-collar attitude, zero sense of entitlement.

Areas for concern
I dunno, maybe you don’t think much of his beard? As someone who’s currently in the process of sporting a beard myself (it’s very fashionable for 2014) I’m not even going to try and write something here for the sake of it. Bitonio is a top-20 talent in my book and would be a steal at #32.

Game tape: Joel Bitonio vs Florida State

Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
Not the same kind of fluid athlete as Moncrief, but Latimer’s a devilish competitor. The best run blocking receiver in the class without a doubt. He’ll drive defenders out of the way to create running lanes. When he latches out to a smaller corner, it’s over. It’s not just a nice positive to Latimer’s game, it’s a major plus point. You can rely on this guy to put his heart and soul into the ugly side of the game — and that could be huge for a team that loves to run the ball. He benched 23 reps — more than any other wide out at the combine. Then you throw in the way he contests the ball in the air, a 39 inch vertical, incredibly strong hands and 4.4 speed. He’s a wildcard to watch out for at #32. He’s a fighter who can handle physical corners and make explosive plays, plus a reliable target.

Areas for concern
He’s a straight-line runner. He doesn’t eliminate the cushion like Moncrief or Martavis Bryant and a lot of his catches are contested because he fails to create the same level of separation. Latimer can move, but he’s stiff. He’s probably going to be an up-and-down type and the dilemma will be if he can’t win the same 50/50 battles against pro-defensive backs, there’s not much more to his game. But he’s also a reliable and competitive target who makes more than enough ‘wow’ plays to make up for it.

Game tape: Cody Latimer vs Penn State

Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Shazier didn’t run at the combine, but he clocked an unofficial 4.36 at his pro-day. Put that alongside a 42 inch vertical and a ridiculous 10.10 broad jump. That’s the definition of explosive. He needs protecting because he has a tendency to get caught in traffic and get washed out of plays. But as a possible WILL in Seattle’s scheme he could become an extreme playmaker — competing in space and just reacting to the football. He’s a four-down player who also carries special teams value and he’s considered by most observers to be a highly competitive player. You can see that in his tackling — he uncoils on contact and sets the tone. He has the range to work in coverage and the untapped potential to be an effective pass rusher.

Areas for concern
How badly does Seattle really need a first round linebacker? Yes, Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright are free agents next year. But there’s every chance one or both players are re-signed and we’re talking about a seventh and fourth rounder here. What’s stopping Seattle finding mid-to-late round replacements (if necessary) in either the 2014 or 2015 draft? This might be a bit of a luxury pick all things considered, if indeed Shazier did manage to last until #32.

Game tape: Ryan Shazier vs Clemson

Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
The best word to describe Bryant is ‘dynamic’. Speed kills with this guy — he consistently creates separation with solid technique. All Clemson receivers are well coached. Bryant’s head movement and body shape sells the deep route. When he gets the corner turned, he’ll stick his foot in the ground and break off to get open. Tajh Boyd’s inept accuracy wasted many of these moves in 2013, but the sky’s the limit for Bryant if he lands on a team with a good quarterback. He has the potential to glide past cornerbacks, compete for the ball in the air and do a decent job as a blocker. He’s an explosive athlete with major upside. There’s a little Randy Moss to his game.

Areas for concern
Bryant was left out of the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl and told to stay at home by Dabo Sweeney. Faced with the prospect of wasting his career — and with a young child to provide for — the light finally switched on. He knuckled down, started to attend class and finally had an impact. If he continues to work at his craft and be dedicated to football, he can be a fantastic player. But you better do your homework to see if this was a one-year effort with so much on the line.

Game Tape: Martavis Bryant vs Georgia Tech

Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
It’s impossible to discuss Coleman without first highlighting how miserable the Rutgers passing game has been since Tom Savage opted to transfer. I’m not sure any receiver could sufficiently develop in that system. It’s not an excuse, but it goes some way to describing Coleman’s strangely inconsistent numbers in college. Really it comes down to this — if you’re willing to invest the time and effort to develop this guy, you could end up looking very smart down the line. There just aren’t many 6-6/225lbs humans on the planet who can do what Coleman does (eg run away from defenders for 80-yard touchdowns). Technically he needs work, but he’s big, strong (21 reps), fast (4.56) and possesses a massive catching radius (34 inch arms). He’s a big-time red zone threat who can make chunk plays. He had 10 touchdowns in 2012.

Areas for concern
Technically he requires a lot of work. He has shown the ability to high point the football and make difficult grabs, but he’s also got a lot of mistakes on film. How much of that is down to playing with Gary Nova — and how much is on Coleman? Patience will be key here. If you’re willing to accept you’re not going to get the finished product in year one, you could end up with a Josh Gordon style break out season in year two.

Game tape: Brandon Coleman vs Louisville, Virginia Tech & Cincinnati

Indiana’s Cody Latimer another receiver to watch out for

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Cody Latimer, just another quality receiver to add to the list

Yeah, this receiver class is as good as we thought it was.

With every week that goes by, the decision to let Golden Tate walk makes more and more sense.

For a fraction of the price, the Seahawks are going to land a very talented player at some point in this draft. If they take a receiver at #32, they’ll be paying around $1.25-2.5m for his services for the next FIVE years.

Or around $4-5m less than Tate’s getting in Detroit.

That’s business.

Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Marqise Lee, Odell Beckham Jr, Kelvin Benjamin, Donte Moncrief, Brandin Cooks, Martavis Bryant, Jarvis Landry, Brandon Coleman, Allen Robinson, Davante Adams.

And now you can add Cody Latimer to the list of prospective first or second round picks.

I keep seeing people refer to the depth of this class and that players will drop to the middle rounds as a consequence.

Not for me.

I think we’ll see a ton of receivers going off the board in round one. As many as seven or eight, if not more. There’s no doubt whatsoever that the strength of this class is at receiver. And with so many teams needing a wide out, they’d have to fight the board not to make an early splash.

Any team thinking of handing DeSean Jackson a big contract needs to consider the options available. The Redskins make a lot of sense because they don’t have a first round pick. Their first pick is at #34 overall.

There’s every chance most of the top receivers will be long gone by then. Seriously.

Grab one early or risk missing out. That’s how I see it.

I might be wrong. But the more I watch of these receivers, the more impressed I am by the sheer strength in top-tier depth.

So what about Latimer?

He’s 6-2 and 215lbs. He’s been bothered by a foot injury so didn’t do anything at the combine other than the bench press. His 23 reps were the highest among receivers.

He’s since run a 4.43 at his pro-day and recorded a 39 inch vertical. He’s still to do any drills and that’s probably why the Seahawks are bringing him in for a visit:

Latimer’s a former basketball star who chose to pursue football for a career in High School: “I was leaning more toward basketball at first… But I love the contact.”

He isn’t kidding. Latimer’s one of the best blocking receivers you’ll see in college football. He’ll lock onto a target and drive a defensive back out of the play. As I went through the tape this weekend, he was pushing people ten yards downfield, shoving them into the end zone to spring a running touchdown and taking any opportunity to get involved.

I’ve seen it suggested that football isn’t his first love. Based on his passion for blocking, I’d say that’s irrelevant. If he’s on the field, he’s getting involved. Nobody can question his heart or commitment in that sense.

And if Basketball was his key passion, you can kind of see why…

Either way, he’s a football player now. That kind of leaping ability at 6-2 can’t be ignored.

Throw in the upper body power (he’s ripped, as the 23 reps on the bench press indicate) and you’re looking at a terrific possession receiver who has all the tools to compete down the red line, win jump balls and provide some value in the running game.

Basically — the kind of things Seattle looks for. The fact he’s a 4.43 runner is just a bonus.

Fast forward to 1:38 in the video beow:

That’s Darqueze Dennard covering Latimer — perhaps the most physical cornerback in the 2014 class. I’ve not spent a ton of time on Dennard because I don’t expect the Seahawks to take a corner in round one — but I haven’t seen anyone shield the football like this against him, gain position and make it look this easy.

Dennard was flat out schooled there — Latimer’s power, control and strong hands were too good.

This is what you want to see from a prospective red zone threat, especially against a first round talent (Dennard could be the first cornerback off the board).

It’s not the only example of strong hands either. I’ve not seen any ugly drops in three games against Michigan State, Michigan or Bowling Green. He’s a sure handed, reliable catcher who can high point the football and make a difficult grab.

He can get downfield as you’d expect from a 4.43 runner — but he’s not a truly explosive athlete or a shifty runner. He’s a straight line guy who tries to out-sprint an opponent, he won’t make many people miss in the open field. But then you wouldn’t be drafting him to be a YAC threat — that’s why you’re paying Percy Harvin $13.4m in 2014.

Latimer’s a pure possession receiver with plus speed and ideal strength. ‘Possession receiver’ shouldn’t be a negative. That is what Seattle needs to compliment the current group.

He also suffered in college — as many of these 2014 receivers did — via bad quarterback play. He’s right there alongside Moncrief, Coleman and even Bryant/Watkins in that regard (the more you watch Tajh Boyd, the more inaccurate you realise he is).

I’ve seen it suggested that Latimer could be anything from a late first rounder to a 5th rounder. For me he’s a solid second round grade with the potential to get into the first round mix. He isn’t the same athlete as a Moncrief or Bryant, but there’s a lot to work with here.

Some thoughts on Donte Moncrief

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Moncrief's leaping ability is pretty special

Donte Moncrief’s 2013 tape is pretty average and frustrating.

And it’s not really his fault. Not entirely.

I’m not sure what Ole Miss are trying to do on offense under Hugh Freeze. They spell in two quarterbacks, they do a little read option. They ask Bo Wallace to run the ball but he’s also predominantly a pocket passer.

It’s a bit of everything which ends up being pretty muddled and messy for the most part.

They’d almost be better off just committing to one or the other. Be a pro-style team or a run heavy option attack.

Moncrief’s form suffered as a consequence, and he probably wasn’t the only one. And while his situation is still a darn site better than the one Brandon Coleman found himself in at Rutgers, it’s not exactly been the ideal environment for a receiver to perform.

Having said that — he’s not entirely blameless either. He didn’t trouble Alabama’s secondary at all — and that’s a massive audition for the NFL. There were too many games last year where he left opportunities on the field and didn’t have enough of an impact — even if he did play on a disappointing offense.

I found his 2012 tape to be a lot better. And despite some of the frustrating moments last season, there’s definitely plenty to work with.

Moncrief can be a big-play artist. He’s got enough size (6-2, 221lbs) to compete in the air, plus the speed (4.40) to be a YAC or downfield threat.

There are more than a handful of examples on tape where he sidesteps a corner after a quick out and he’s gone. He’s not just a good athlete who can run, there’s so much natural ability to his game. You can throw a quick pass to him in the flat and he’s tough to bring down. He’ll get cheap yards on the quick throws (Seattle often used these to Golden Tate).

He’s extremely effective in chewing up a DB’s cushion, driving off a corner and creating separation (see 0:40 in the video below). He can get deep too. Both Moncrief and Martavis Bryant use speed as a decoy running routes — they’ll give the impression they’ll run deep, eliminate the cushion and get the corner turned. Then they’ll drive into a little crossing route or sit.

Both players have mastered this, and Moncrief’s done it without the top-notch coaching the Clemson receivers get.

He had a 39.5 inch vertical at the combine and an 11.0 broad jump. Only two players had a better vertical, and nobody topped 11.0 on the broad.

He also carries 221lbs very well. There’s no bad weight — and that’s quite a big frame for a 6-2 receiver.

It’s not all positive of course — and there’s one crucial area he’ll need to improve to be a potential Seahawk.

Winning jump balls and competing in the air is a must for this team. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin might not be +6-0, but they’re fantastic at going up and getting the football against bigger corners. I’d say Moncrief is average at best winning jump balls. And that’s a shame given his impressive vertical.

Part of it is inconsistent physicality. He’ll get pushed around sometimes. He doesn’t always show strong hands (his hands, incidentally, are on the small side at 9 1/8 inches).

This is kind of why he was so frustrating last year. There are examples where he does compete well in the air, or show genuine toughness.

His run blocking kind of sums him up perfectly. When he wants to block — he’s awesome. I’ve seen him throw some of the best blocks you’ll see from a college receiver — and he knows it. He celebrates the good blocks.

And then there are other times where he doesn’t want to know.

If you could get under his skin, get at him a little and make him play with a chip on his shoulder, you’ll get a better player. It really comes down to whether you can create that environment — and how will he respond to being challenged by his own team? Some thrive in that type of situation, others fold. Although I will say Moncrief appears to be mentally tough.

I suspect some teams are going to look at the 2012 tape and really buy into this guy. He could easily be the 3rd or 4th receiver on a few draft boards. The national pundits aren’t really discussing this, but for me he could easily be a first round pick. Easily.

And yet it wouldn’t surprise me either if he did stick around into the second frame.

Moncrief might not be a really dominating, prototypical big man like Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin might become — but he could be a guy who’s capable of making several big plays during a season and enough basic plays per-game to warrant a high pick.

For the Seahawks, I do think he’ll be an option at #32. His SPARQ rating will be through the roof and I think you can work on making him a little edgier.

(Just make him share a room with Doug Baldwin on road trips)

In fact his best fit might be on an offense like Seattle’s. They can take their shots using him downfield, they can use his leaping ability in jump ball situations and work on making him stronger in that department.

He could offer some of the X-factor qualities that Golden Tate provided, plus some of the factors Sidney Rice offered as a taller receiver in this system.

I would recommend checking out his 2012 tape — it is better than some of the 2013 stuff out there. Here’s a game against Texas where he should’ve had three highlight-reel touchdowns:

Thoughts on LSU’s Jarvis Landry

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Jarvis Landry is a terrific football player.

Out of this fantastic crop of receivers in the draft, if you needed one guy to make a key third down conversion — you’d probably choose Landry.

He’s a gutsy, ferocious competitor with massive 10 1/4 inch hands.

Landry just always seems to be involved. If he’s not catching a pass, he’ll be around the ball trying to throw a block or looking for someone to hit. He loves to hit people on special teams.

He’s exactly the type of player you can rely on. He’s a tough, gritty receiver — with the right attitude to the game.

But athletically, he’s nothing to shout about.

A lot of his catches in college were contested. Sometimes that’s a good thing — he’ll compete in the air to make a difficult conversion over the middle and you get out of your seat.

At times he also struggles to manufacture separation at the beginning of his routes with a lack of explosion. He won’t get beyond a defender and take the top off a defense. He’s not a downfield threat.

For an offense that loves to take shots (eg Seattle) — he’s not going to burn off a defense on play action and make the huge chunk play. He also lacks the height and reach (5-11, 31 1/4 inch arms) to be a great jump ball specialist.

That’s not to say he doesn’t make spectacular plays. He does. He’s definitely capable of ‘wow’ moments and he wins his fair share of 50/50 passes. Look at the video above and notice the one-hander against Arkansas in the back of the end zone at 2:57.

We just need to work out whether his skill set translates into what the Seahawks want to do.

He’s going to win by out-working a defender, using body control on shorter routes to get an edge and being a solid hands-catcher. He’s not a burner with great height and length.

Can he win the red-line? Sure. He’ll have an early impact on special teams too. But he’s not a deep receiver. And I’m not convinced he’ll be much of a red zone threat at the next level.

They’ve added toughness and consistency to the receiver position, but not with early picks or big free agent money. I get the sense they’ll really like Landry, but we need to work out what kind of grade he’ll be getting.

Landry had a poor combine, running one forty time of 4.77 before getting injured (hamstring). He tried to do the drills but pulled up after a solitary one-handed grab on a short route. The injury probably had an impact on a lousy 28.5 inch vertical.

He needs a good pro-day to recapture some momentum. And yet teams won’t be too concerned about that when they go back and watch the tape and see what a great competitor he is.

There isn’t a tougher receiver in this class.

Here’s how I’d look at it. If Seattle drafted Jarvis Landry in round one or round four I’d be thrilled. You want players like this on your team. And it’s not always about being the biggest or the fastest player — a seven yard completion on third down can be one of the most important plays in a game.

That’s the kind of thing Landry does well.

It’s hard to work out where his stock is right now — but a smart team will be ready to pounce if he falls.

Martavis Bryant is really good

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Martavis Bryant is better than a lot of people realise

On Wednesday I put Martavis Bryant in the first round of my latest mock draft.

I genuinely believe he could go that early. Certainly within the top 40 picks.

And he’s very much an option for the Seahawks at #32.

Earlier in the week I sat down and watched three Clemson games again — Syracuse, Maryland and Georgia Tech.

I want to highlight some plays to back up why he could be an early pick in May:

1:42 — Bryant eats up the cushion and gets the defensive back to turn his hips. He sells the route perfectly, giving the impression he’s running downfield. He’s looking straight on, his body is positioned to run beyond the corner. Instead he cuts inside, creating ample separation before making a difficult low grab. A better throw there (and it’s a shocker by Tajh Boyd) and you’re looking at major YAC.

1:48 — It’s a blown coverage, and that’s why he scores the touchdown. But I’m going to highlight scoring plays here too.

2:09 — This is what we want to see. He exploits another bad job in coverage, with the corner passing him off too easily. The safety’s coming over the top and Bryant can hear the footsteps. Even so he maintains concentration, completes the catch and absorbs a big hit. That’s one of the toughest things to do. Ask Vernon Davis.

0:16 — The Seahawks want to own the red line. This is a great example. Bryant is in complete control of this route. He knows where he wants to go, he knows he’s getting a back shoulder throw. The corner’s playing to his tune. The back shoulder is the toughest pass to defend as a DB. But you still have to set up, and Bryant does that here. It’s a really crisp route. He deliberately drives to the outside, making it seem like he’s running deep down the sideline. The corner is so concerned about getting beat, it’s relatively easy to adjust and catch the ball on the turn. Great technique.

0:27 — He doesn’t put the guy on his backside, but Bryant’s block here in the run game helped Clemson get a first down.

0:57 — Just a really smart corner route. Finds a soft zone between two defenders, dissects the pair and he’s wide open for the target. This is again about perfecting your craft. He’s not doing anything spectacular here, just his job. Clemson coach their receivers very well and you can see that with Bryant on this play. He knows what he needs to do to make a play. But that also takes work and time on the practise field.

1:09 — This is a terrible throw by Boyd and should’ve been picked. Bryant turns into the defender and manages to smack the ball out of the hands of the corner. This is a big time play, helping his team avoid a turnover. See the replay. Nobody can doubt his commitment and effort.

1:56 — Downfield shot. Doesn’t high point the football but still makes a difficult grab between two defenders for a big 41 yard gain. Seattle loves to take shots like this on play action. Look at the route again. Little stop and go at the top, then he flies downfield. The pass is actually badly under-thrown. Bryant beats the corner and if this is thrown deeper towards the end zone, it’s a touchdown.

0:10 — Again Bryant is let down by his quarterback. He’s got the guy beat on the right sideline. Boyd guides him out of bounds with a wayward pass. If this is thrown out in front of the receiver and into the end zone with a straighter trajectory, it’s a touchdown. Bryant flat out beats the guy and creates separation.

0:33 — Tight coverage downfield, but Bryant makes a difficult catch for a big 47 yard gain. I’m being a bit nitpicky here, but I reckon a softer, higher throw into the end zone and Bryant wins the foot race for a touchdown. It’s a very basic go route on this occasion, nothing special here. But he can make plays like this with his size and speed. And once again, it’s the type of shot Seattle loves to make. They want to go after single coverage.

1:05 — Beats the corner, gets separation and runs away from the defense for a big touchdown. The coverage is terrible — the safety doesn’t sense the danger and come across to help the cornerback. But look how Bryant capitalises for a 76 yard score. One little sniff of a chance and he’s racing into the end zone. And let’s be right — it’s bad safety play. But he completely dominates the corner with a little shimmy. If you look at the replay Clemson uses Sammy Watkins as a decoy in the backfield to draw the safety’s attention. He doesn’t bite, it’s just lousy coverage. But the Seahawks can use a similar play design with Percy Harvin in the backfield and Bryant flying downfield.

2:41 — Classic Seahawks-style shot. Running back comes up to block, Boyd throws down the right sideline trying to win versus single coverage. Bryant competes for the ball in the air and makes a really tough catch for a huge gain. How does he catch this ball? He’s fighting off a blatant hold, he’s got arms all over him. That is special.

I get the feeling Seattle’s been looking for a receiver like this. Not necessarily a pure big man. But a big man with wheels who can compete for the ball and make chunk plays.

Sidney Rice is not a traditional big receiver, but he competes like crazy and makes difficult grabs. He also had enough speed to win downfield (see: game-winner vs New England).

Bryant is like a taller version of Rice with Ricardo Lockette’s athleticism. He runs a 4.42 at nearly 6-4 and 211lbs. He’s competitive (as noted with the hit in the Syracuse game and the way he wins those 50/50 throws downfield in single coverage), but he’s a shade off Rice’s intense energy.

It’s no biggie, though.

There’s plenty of examples where he gets involved in the running game. And that’s what we need to see.

I like the example vs Ohio State below. Fast forward to 0:09:

Boyd takes it in for a score on a keeper. Even when he’s home and hosed, Bryant sprints to get involved and cuts across Ryan Shazier to get in his face and just make absolutely sure.

On the next play in that video, he makes a key block on the left hand sideline.

And while we’re getting into the Ohio State game, look at the fade for a touchdown at 1:34.

Do you need to see any more to believe in this guy?

I found this Tweet interesting today:

Don’t be shocked at all if he goes as high as #18. There’s a TON of potential here.

Bob McGinn quoted an unnamed scout referring to him as a “knucklehead”. Do your homework on him. See how he checks out.

Bryant’s definitely shy during interviews. He’s not a good talker like former teammates Sammy Watkins or Nuke Hopkins. His on-field personality is pretty much what you want to see, however. There’s a spark there.

He does have some drops on tape — it’s not all great. But overall there’s a lot to like here.

And some teams will want a bigger receiver. That’s just the way it is. Odell Beckham Jr and Brandin Cooks are very good football players. But they’re sub-6-0.

If you want size, you can get size in this draft. It doesn’t stop with Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin.

Some people think guys like Bryant and Donte Moncrief will last until rounds two or three. The more I study, they could easily be part of a mass exodus of receivers leaving the board on day one.

Seattle will be lucky to have Bryant as an option at #32. The more you watch of him, the more there is to like.

Sometimes it just takes a little longer to realise these things.

Q&A with Kenny

I conducted a Q&A session with Kenneth Arthur at Field Gulls. You’ll find a link in the Tweet above.

Check it out.

Latest Jared Allen news

Jay Glazer and Jared Allen are tight. This info is legit.

It seems the main motivation behind Allen’s return home for a good think is the other offers on the table.

Here’s my best guess:

— Seattle is offering less money than he wanted, perhaps substantially so. But they’ve also given a hard sell and he knows it’ll be a chance to play for a great team with an unmatched home-field advantage.

— Two teams not as close to contending are offering more money than Seattle. So in the end he has to decide whether to take the hit on the salary to play for a better club, go where the value is or simply do something else with his life.

Updated mock draft: 19th March

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

I’m feeling pretty confident the Seahawks are looking at receiver and the offensive line at #32 and #64.

Why wouldn’t they?

They’ve cut Sidney Rice and allowed Golden Tate to sign with Detroit.

And although they’ve apparently shown moderate interest in re-signing Rice (and they’ll meet with Kenny Britt) — these are only short term options.

You’re not re-signing Rice on a multi-year deal, fresh from a serious knee injury after his back-catalogue of issues.

The fact is they’ve lost two starting receivers this off-season — and Doug Baldwin is an unrestricted free agent next year too.

The offensive line needs depth. For all we know they’re very optimistic about Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey as potential starters, while James Carpenter remains on the roster.

They’ve lost Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan is talking to the Browns.

It seems fair to suggest they’ll spend at least one early pick on a player who can potentially start at left guard or right tackle.

****************

When I listened to Golden Tate’s interview with Bob and Groz yesterday, a thought crossed my mind. It’s like they already know how they’re going to replace him.

The derisory offer made to Tate — and that’s clearly how he felt about it — was almost a “thanks, but no thanks”.

The Seahawks always seem very focused on what they want to get out of a draft.

They wanted a tackle and a safety in 2010 — at one point in the process it looked like it could be Eric Berry and Trent Williams. They ended up with Russell Okung and Earl Thomas.

In 2011 they were desperate to improve the run game and the offensive line, so they grab a great college run blocker in James Carpenter.

In 2012 it was all about adding speed in the front seven and Pete Carroll knew all about his “ideal LEO” Bruce Irvin.

Call it a hunch, but maybe Carroll has spotted his “ideal receiver” in this terrific class? Or maybe they just see so much talent they’re willing to let Tate walk knowing they’ll be able to replace him at a much cheaper price?

If they’d re-signed Tate they were probably looking at a minimum pay out of $5m a year for the next 4-5 years.

If they take a receiver at #32 or #64, they’ll be paying a fraction of the cost over the same time frame.

****************

I wonder if we’re going to see a crazy rush on receivers in round one.

Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s a great year for the position. And the assumption is you’ll be able to wait until rounds two, three or four to get a great pick.

I’m not sure about that.

I think there’s a very good chance several teams will have eight or nine receivers with first round grades, and they’ll want to come away with one as early as possible.

Martavis Bryant could easily go in round one. The more I watch of him — the more I can see a team thinking, “We can work with this.”

He’s electric. Positively brilliant at times. And I get the issues — I’m not ignoring them — but the upside is incredible. It’s first round upside.

Donte Moncrief can be a frustrating watch. Greg Cosell this week compared him to a Demaryius Thomas or Josh Gordon style receiver. I kind of see that. He can develop into that. He’s a 6-2, 220lbs receiver who nearly jumped a 40 inch vertical and runs a 4.40.

I think back to Thomas and Gordon coming into the league and they were pretty frustrating to watch too, particularly Thomas.

Don’t be shocked if there’s a few teams out there with a first round grade on Moncrief.

In this weeks mock I’ve got eight receivers in round one.

I think the rush will continue into round two, involving players like Davante Adams, Brandon Coleman, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Paul Richardson and Jordan Matthews.

By round three, you might be looking at scraps.

****************

I think it’s a pretty fluid situation in terms of whether Seattle goes receiver or O-line in round one.

If eight wide outs are off the board by #32, it maybe forces your hand. If a few of the top group are still available — I could see them showing interest in a Beckham Jr, Moncrief or Bryant.

I still believe they’ll have a strong interest in Brandon Coleman, but may chance him being available at #64 if they go OL early. I also think they’ll love the competitive streak in Jarvis Landry — if not his performance at the combine.

One way or another though, unless things change dramatically, I’m preparing for a WR/OL or OL/WR combo with the first two picks.

****************

First round mock draft

#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a very creative quarterback. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year.
#2 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Hang your hat on this guy. I’m not sure why St. Louis is so desperate to trade this pick with Robinson available.
#3 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
The Jaguars have filled out their defense with veteran leaders (Bryant, Clemons). This is the perfect environment for Clowney to enter the league.
#4 Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo)
They’ve appointed a defensive minded Head Coach and with it looking increasingly unlikely they go QB here, Mack could be a nice bookend for Barkevious Mingo.
#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)
The Falcons should just sit tight and see what falls to #6. This looks like a great match. They need to protect Matt Ryan.
#7 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Tampa Bay is a strong candidate to move up for another pass rusher. If they stay put, they might consider adding another talented receiver.
#8 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Lee’s just a quality receiver, an insane competitor and he’s going to go early. The Vikings need to keep adding weapons on offense.
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Some believe he’s a bit of a phony tough guy. Others really like him. It’s worth a shot here.
#10 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
He’s had a fantastic off-season — and yet he was nearly benched by Oklahoma State during the season. He has all the tools to be a lockdown corner.
#11 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t appear to have any faith in Jake Locker. Manziel is going to find a home somewhere in the top-20.
#12 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
He should be a top-10 player in this draft. He ticks every box. The Giants can feel very fortunate if he’s still here at #12.
#13 Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Speed and physicality is king in the NFC West. Shazier is an insane athlete — the type you need at linebacker in this division.
#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Chicago’s defense was a shambles at times last season. They’ve added Lamarr Houston up front, now they need to improve that secondary.
#15 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
The Steelers don’t have a big man on the outside who can be a threat in the red zone. Benjamin’s potential is through the roof.
#16 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
The Cowboys need to keep adding to the defensive line. After bringing in Henry Melton, now they need an edge rusher.
#17 Ra’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
After losing Arthur Jones in free agency, the Ravens could use an athletic replacement up front. Hageman fits the bill as a possible five technique.
#18 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Incredible athlete, massive hands, return man, playmaker. Beckham Jr is the real deal and deserves to go in the top-20.
#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 Brandon Albert.
#20 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
Receiver isn’t a huge need for the Cards, but he’d add another dimension to the offense as an explosive playmaker. Keep Ted Ginn on returns.
#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. Very athletic but not out of this world.
#22 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
A physical corner who plays with an edge. Good blitzer. Philly wants tough football players on defense.
#23 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
They can’t rely on their current group of receivers. They need a big #1 type who can make plays and grow into Andy Reid’s offense.
#24 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Cornerback is a big need for this team. Roby needs to do a better job staying focused on the field. From an athletic point of view he jumps off the screen.
#25 Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
There just aren’t many players over 300lbs who can run a 4.8. Strong as an ox. Some teams will love his play.
#26 Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Two picks on defense and no QB? Perhaps. It’s entirely possible they wait until round two and keep building that D.
#27 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
This is all about value. If he checks out medically, Mosley is a plug in and play defender who can have a quick impact. New Orleans wants to get tougher.
#28 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
I’m not sure how Carolina has allowed a situation to occur where they’re suddenly desperate at receiver and the offensive line.
#29 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s a big bodied guy who’s tough to shift. He isn’t a fantastic athlete, and that’s why he might last until round two.
#30 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
The 49ers have plenty of possession style receivers. Why not add a home run hitter? You’ve got the quarterback to make it work.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Underrated, incredibly athletic tackle or guard. Versatile. Outstanding character. He’s a Logan Mankins clone. Can either replace Breno Giacomini or play left guard.

Joel Bitonio could be Logan Mankins

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Underrated.

I sat down and watched Joel Bitonio’s tape vs Fresno State today — and once again came away thoroughly impressed.

One thought stuck in my head…

‘This guy reminds me of someone’

Logan Mankins is 32 on Monday. He’s had a terrific career with the Patriots.

He’s been to six Pro Bowls. He’s a five-time All-Pro. He had the franchise tag in 2011 and he’s been to two Super Bowls.

There haven’t been many better left guards in the NFL in the last nine years.

And when I watch Bitonio for Nevada, I see Mankins.

I did a bit more digging and some of the comparisons are crazy:

College career
Mankins — Left Tackle for Fresno State in the MWC
Bitonio — Left Tackle for Nevada in the MWC

Combine numbers
Height: Mankins (6-4) — Bitonio (6-4)
Weight: Mankins (307lbs) — Bitonio (302lbs)
Arm length: Mankins (33 3/8) — Bitonio (33 7/8)
Forty yard dash: Mankins (5.06) — Bitonio (4.97)
Short shuttle: Mankins (4.45) — Bitonio (4.44)
Three cone: Mankins (7.54) — Bitonio (7.37)
Bench press: Mankins (21) — Bitonio (22)
Vertical jump: Mankins (31.5) — Bitonio (32)
Broad jump: Mankins (7.11) — Bitonio (9.6)

Look how similar those numbers are. An almost identical vertical, bench press and short shuttle. Bitonio actually grades higher in the broad jump and forty. He also has slightly longer arms.

Mankins was drafted with the #32 pick by the Super Bowl Champions with the intention of converting to left guard in the NFL.

Could Bitonio also be drafted by the reigning Champions with the intention of switching to left guard?

Mankins is a great finisher, capable of getting a defender off balance — driving open a running lane and completing the block. He was also an excellent pass-protector during his peak years.

You see so many similar traits with Bitonio.

He’s a slightly better athlete. And while he has the core strength, leg drive and technique you want to see — he’s also adept at pulling out of position and getting to the second level. He’s also a finisher who plays with a real edge.

Mankins has been one of the toughest players on the Pats roster over the last few years.

Bitonio is cut from the same cloth. He never backs down. He looks for people to punish.

He’s a coaches dream.

Every time you put on the tape, you can’t help but come away impressed with this guy.

Why is nobody talking about him?

Right now I’d be willing to give him a top-20 grade. I can’t think of 20 players in this draft I’d want ahead of Joel Bitonio.

Regular visitors to this blog know I’ve argued again and again about the obsession NFL fans have with offensive linemen.

‘Games are won in the trenches’ is the cliché. Games are actually won in many different ways. And several of the recent Super Bowl Champions (Seattle included) have not won because of an elite, dominating offensive line.

In fact I’ve been anti Seattle taking a guard in round one. I think there’s better value elsewhere and the likes of David Yankey are so overrated, he’ll probably still be around late into day two of the draft.

Forget all that.

Draft this guy.

If he’s there at #32, I’d run to the podium.

Bitonio has the potential to be great. And for whatever reason he continues to fly under the radar while other, weaker players get so much publicity.

I believe he can play tackle. Sure. But I want to kick him inside to guard. I want to see if he really is going to be the next Mankins.

He’s great in pass protection at left tackle. He can kick slide, mirror and defend against speed. He can deliver a nice solid punch to the chest of a D-end and win with power. There’s no reason why those skills can’t be translated to guard.

But it’s his work in the run game that has me most excited. He knows how to turn a defensive lineman to take him out of the play and free up running lanes. He’ll drive a guy backwards and dump him on his ass. He’ll pull around to the right and deliver a key block to turn a decent gain into a good gain.

I’ll say it again. He’s being hugely underrated.

Judge for yourself, here’s the Fresno State tape. I made some notes underneath.

1:35 — quick to recognise the blitz and pick it up. He’s got his eyes on the edge rusher who sits, he spots the interior blitzer and stops him getting to the quarterback. Excellent awareness, speed and power to execute. Not many college tackles can do this.

1:51 — drives his defender off the spot to the right hand side, dumps him on his backside and creates a running lane. Good defense in the secondary to react to the situation and limit the damage.

3:47 — gets to the second level, drives forward.

4:17 — finishes the block. Drives his guy downfield and keeps fighting, doesn’t back down. Edgy.

4:26 — kick slide, gives the edge rusher no chance to beat him. Quick feet at all times. Body position is ideal and always in control. Good hand use once engaging in the block. Can’t be beaten by power at this level.

4:39 — drives his man off the spot. Watch the replay. This is why he can play guard. Power at the point of attack, drives his man sideways and finishes the block by dumping the defender on his back side.

5:06 — great pull and then finishes the block for extra yardage.

5:28 — perfect kick slide on third down. Allows time in the pocket and the quarterback converts on third and six with a developing route down the seam.

5:39 — blocks and dominates his guy at the line of scrimmage while two other defensive linemen penetrate up the middle. Nice example of the difference in quality on that Nevada line.

6:20 — his guy (#31) doesn’t rush, so he goes and finds someone else to hit (#27). The pressure from the right side gets to the quarterback, but you can’t help but notice Bitonio’s determination to get involved and find someone to hammer.

6:57 — drives his man to the right and opens up a big hole on the left side for a strong run for a first down. Watch the replay to see just how much he moves the defender off his spot.

8:10 — great initial punch to win the block. Ends the contest with his first move. The protection is good enough to complete a touchdown pass.

8:59 — quick feet, good mirror on the pass rush.

There are very few players I’d draft ahead of Bitonio if he’s on the board at #32.

On a physical and athletic level he compares to the best tackles in this class — Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews. Check out my article from last week for more on that.

Move him to left guard and make him the backup left tackle if Russell Okung gets another injury. I think you’d finally tie up that position for the long term, with a player good enough to warrant the long term investment.

Whether he ends up being the next Logan Mankins or not — I’ll guess we’ll find out in time. He has a good shot.

Either way, I suspect he’s going to be a quality player at the next level.

Updated mock draft: 5th March

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Scroll to the bottom for a few notes on this week’s projection…

#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a creative quarterback who can be productive at the next level. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year.
#2 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Hang your hat on this guy. 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 at the combine, he needed to prove he was the ultimate competitor. I bet he succeeded in doing that.
#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 can grab a pass rusher in free agency, this looks like a great match. They need to protect Matt Ryan.
#7 Khalil Mack (DE, Buffalo)
The Buccs need an edge rusher. Mack is versatile and can line up in multiple positions. This is a vital need.
#8 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Teddy Bridgewater isn’t a Norv Turner quarterback and Aaron Donald will remind Mike Zimmer of 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 worth a shot here.
#10 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
People are down on Lee because of a 4.5 forty. Don’t sleep on this guy. He’s immensely talented and would be the perfect, fiery compliment to Calvin Johnson.
#11 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Ken Whisenhunt is not endorsing Jake Locker. He’s keeping all of his options open. In this projection they put their faith in Teddy.
#12 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Really talented, ideal big man who will compete for the ball in the air. Eli Manning needs a target like this — especially after last seasons pick-fest.
#13 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
The Rams will keep adding talent where they can. A rangy safety at the back-end makes a lot of sense here. Some people think he’s the real deal.
#14 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Chicago’s defense was a shambles at times last season. It all starts up front, especially if they lose Henry Melton. Hageman has unreal upside.
#15 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
The Steelers don’t have a big man on the outside who can be a threat in the red zone. It’s not their only hole, but it’s a viable option here.
#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 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
He does everything well. Flawless character. Insane competitor. HUGE hands. He absolutely deserves to go this early, if not earlier.
#18 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
A 4.3 forty and massive 2013 production puts him in the top-20 range. Some of the Steve Smith comparisons a bit odd. He’s more of an all-round playmaker.
#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.
#20 Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)
There are 2-3 logical left tackle options in free agency they can go after. Presuming they sign one, Barr comes into play as an outside rusher. Possible bust.
#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. Very athletic but not out of this world.
#22 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
Physical corner who plays with an edge. Good blitzer. Philly wants tough football players on defense.
#23 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
Andy Reid made sure he got a good look at the top two safety’s at the combine, 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 last week. Stunning athlete with insane potential. Needs to direct traffic better to make more plays.
#25 Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
They need more size up front. Tuitt can play end in a 3-4. Running a 4.8 at his pro-day this week helps his cause. Strong as an ox.
#26 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Two picks on defense and no QB? Perhaps. They have the third pick on day two with Houston (Bortles) and Washington (RGIII) ahead of them. It’s entirely possible they stand pat and keep building that D.
#27 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
He had an outstanding work out last week, but that’s not the whole story with Gilbert. There are a few concerns here. Reports say he was nearly benched by OKST last season.
#28 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
They’re about to undergo a forced major rebuild on the offensive line. It wouldn’t be a shock to see one of their first two picks go on a tackle or guard.
#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. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Underrated, incredibly athletic tackle or guard. Versatile. Outstanding character. Tom Cable would love this guy. Can either replace Breno Giacomini or play left guard.

Mock notes

Seahawks take Joel Bitonio at #32

The options on the defensive line weren’t great in this projection. But they aren’t great anyway once the likes of Aaron Donald leave the board.

At receiver, six players go in the first frame here. I suspect we’ll see a rush like this, then a pause, before a further rush in round two. The six players I’ve listed seem almost certain to be gone before Seattle’s pick.

Overall Bitonio just seemed to be the best fit. He ticks all the boxes.

I wrote this article last week detailing my thoughts on Bitonio, but plenty of people are sleeping on this guy.

From a physical stand point he’s right up there with Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews. Check the combine numbers. Then go look at his tape against UCLA (Anthony Barr) and Florida State (BCS Champs).

We’re talking about a seriously underrated, versatile lineman who could play left tackle for some teams.

In Seattle, he either replaces Breno Giacomini or starts at left guard.

I’ve not been a major advocate for taking an offensive lineman in round one this year. With Bitonio, he’s just too good to pass up.

He looks and sounds like a Tom Cable protégé.

If teams genuinely see him as a guard convert only — as Tony Pauline reported — he’ll continue to fly under the radar.

He’s a classic Carroll/Schneider pick. Gritty, competitive, insane athletic ability, under-appreciated and he’s a finisher.

Round two for half the league maybe, but round one for the Seahawks.

Justin Gilbert at #27?

After a combine, it’s easy to assume those who performed well will fly up the boards.

That’s not always the case.

There’s so much to like about Justin Gilbert’s length and speed. I can see why he’s gaining momentum as a prospective top-15 pick.

But there are other things to consider too.

Bob McGinn’s scouting notebook provides some of the best insider information you can get pre-draft. Here’s what he reported about Gilbert:

“He’s very perplexing to me,” said one scout. “Big knock on him is ball skills. He’s a big, long athlete that can run. He didn’t play real well last year. They were even going to bench him because of inconsistent play. I just don’t think he sees the ball real well. He has first-round talent but he’s just up and down.” The track record of Oklahoma State CBs in the NFL isn’t stellar. “Gilbert gets beat all the time,” a second scout said. “He’s got some interception production, but when you see the picks they’re not really legitimate ones.”

He has a ton of athletic potential, but he’s someone I want (and need) to do more work on.

Running well and having ideal length is not a precursor to going early in the draft.

Not if scouts think you’re a liability who’s going to get beat frequently at the next level.

And it’s worth remembering — for all of Seattle’s length and speed at corner — they’re also well coached, incredibly prepared and among the most technically gifted corners in the league.

It’s not just about running fast and having long arms.

Marqise Lee the #2 receiver

The knee-jerk reaction to make after the combine is — “Lee ran a 4.5? He’ll sink like a stone.”

He’s not big. He’s not tall. He’s not an elite speed guy.

But you know what? Nobody competes like Marqise Lee. He’s relentless. He makes impossible grabs look easy. He’s a stunning playmaker. He has special teams value.

Not every team is going to feel this way, but a lot of people will LOVE his tape. And it’s easy to forget just how dominant he was when completely healthy.

There’s no reason at all why he won’t be a top-15 pick.

Either way, he’s one of six receivers who won’t last long.

Sammy Watkins, Lee, Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Odell Beckham Jr and Brandin Cooks will almost certainly not make it to #32, severely limiting (and possibly ending) any hopes Seattle has of taking a receiver in round one.

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Is Joel Bitonio a first round option for the Seahawks?

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

I’d not watched any Nevada games live during the 2013 season and my access to the Senior Bowl was somewhere between non existent and limited this year.

After the combine, I felt obliged to make Joel Bitonio one of the first players I studied.

He’d gained a little momentum in Mobile as the only tackle who had success against Dee Ford. He followed it up by making a major statement at the combine on Saturday.

Here’s what he achieved:

— An official 4.97 forty yard dash, trailing only Taylor Lewan (4.87), Greg Robinson (4.92) and Trai Turner (4.93).

— The second best vertical jump (32 inches) by an offensive lineman. That topped Jake Matthews (30), Lewan (30) and Robinson (28.5).

— A 9.6 broad jump — again ranking second. Only Lewan beat him with a 9.9. Robinson managed a 9.5.

— The third highest three cone drill at 7.37 seconds. Gabe Ikard (7.30) and Matthews (7.34) were the only two to beat him. Lewan had a 7.39 and Robinson a 7.80.

— The third highest short shuttle at 4.44 seconds. Ikard had a 4.37 while Charles Leno Jr had a 4.40. Matthews had the 7th best shuttle and Lewan the 9th. Robinson was way down at #32.

The only area he didn’t grade in the top five was the bench press — managing 22 reps. In comparison Robinson had 32, Lewan 29 and Matthews 24. So he was still in touching distance.

Last years #1 pick Eric Fisher had 27 reps on the bench. Luke Joeckel also managed 27, while Lane Johnson had 28. Nate Solder had 21 reps in 2011

Bitonio’s 22 reps is hardly a cause for criticism.

He measured at 6-4 and 302lbs with 33 and 7/8 inch arms. He’s not freakishly long like Robinson or Morgan Moses, but his arm length compares favourably to Lewan (33 and 7/8’s) and Matthews (33 and 3/8’s).

Essentially, he stands up to all of the top offensive tackles in this class on a physical level. He doesn’t just match up in a couple of categories, we’re talking every single one.

How can we ignore that?

Think of all the praise heaped on Robinson and Lewan for their performance at the combine. Bitonio’s right up there with them.

Of course, it doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily play as well those guys — even if he’s a carbon copy athlete.

So I put on the tape.

Nevada played Florida State and UCLA in 2013 — perfect opponents for a critique.

The BCS Champs with a collection of top recruits on the defensive line.

The Bruins — one of the PAC-12’s best and with a prospective first round pass rusher in Anthony Barr.

How did he do? Judge for yourself:

I kept waiting for the moment where he’d be exposed. The play that showed him up as just a physical specimen without the skills to stand up to 2014’s top tackles.

That moment never arrived.

At one point in the UCLA video, he got beat by Barr and basically tried to tackle him to the ground in desperation. A couple of plays later (around the 5:10 mark in the video above) he drives him deep into the end zone from the 5-yard line. The rest of the offensive line was stuffed at the LOS.

Talk about a comeback.

Here’s what I think he showed on tape…

— Finishes blocks with attitude. Never oversteps the mark but makes his presence felt when going 1v1. Plays through the whistle. Shows plenty of tenacity.

— An ability to mirror and ride off speed rushers. Knows how to use a DE’s speed to his advantage, and will let them run themselves out of the play.

— When he gets his hands on a pass rusher, he’s able to contain and not give up too much ground. Maintains the pocket even when he loses a couple of steps.

— Takes any opportunity to advance to the second level. At times he might be a little too quick to progress and could play with more control, but it’s difficult not to respect any offensive lineman with this level of determination to get to the next level.

— Impressive lateral quickness. Bodes well if he ends up in a ZBS.

— Technique has room for improvement. Looks a bit grabby. Russell Okung had the same issues. He’ll be even better when he gets his hands straight on and into the right areas. Not the lankiest tackle, so he can make leverage work to his advantage with better hand placement.

— Good leg drive. Can push the pile in short yardage situations and also open up gaps for longer runs.

There’s a ton to work with here.

A lot of the talk is he could convert to guard at the next level. I’d love to see him get a shot at tackle, left or right.

To quote Mike Mayock from the combine, “I’d make him prove he couldn’t play on the left side first”.

I ran a Google search to find out more about his character and kept reading the same things. He’s a leader. Outstanding character and work ethic. Responsible individual.

I searched Youtube for an interview. Notice the Russell Wilson style quote early on about “improving every day”…

I’m not sure what else we need to see here to take this guy very seriously.

Interestingly, Tony Pauline had some further information on Bitonio’s stock today

“I’ve learned two things about Bitonio since Saturday; 1) the feeling is he’s cemented himself as a second round pick and 2) he’s going to be drafted at offensive guard and not a tackle. The latter surprised me a bit. Though I initially graded Bitonio as a guard I thought his performance at the Senior Bowl, primarily the fact he was the only one able to stop Dee Ford, would’ve given him more consideration at left tackle.”

So according to Pauline, he’s likely a second round pick at worst.

I’m starting to wonder if he could be an option for the Seahawks at #32…

— Outstanding physical talent as we discussed earlier in the piece. He has as much athletic upside as any tackle in this class, with the possible exception of Greg Robinson.

— He has the required athleticism to work in the ZBS. His desire to reach the second level and good lateral mobility are a big positive here.

— Tom Cable, like most offensive line coaches, loves a player who finishes and plays with attitude. He also likes players that perhaps aren’t quite the finished article. In the past that’s meant drafting for potential later in the draft or during UDFA. This year, the latest project might be a first or second round pick.

— Bitonio’s versatility should also be taken seriously. Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey have both been praised for their ability to play guard and tackle. While other teams want to define roles and limit versatility on the OL — rotation and being able to play multiple spots appears to be a positive thing when it comes to the Seahawks.

If Pauline’s right and he’s receiving a firm grade in the second round, is it such a stretch to think Seattle would be prepared to take him with the last pick in round one?

It’s possible. Let’s not get too carried away here, but nobody can argue he doesn’t tick a lot of boxes. It’s certainly worth further tape study over the next few weeks. It’s a legit talking point.

There are enough teams in this draft that need a tackle or guard and Bitonio could get caught up in the first round rush. It’s not just within the top ten this year, Miami (#19), Arizona (#20) and Carolina (#28) are all expected to target the offensive line.

Who knows — he might not be there for the Seahawks.

But if they are open to going OL early, I think he could be a serious candidate for that first pick.

Examples of ‘Seahawky’ prospects

(including players who only have a slim shot of lasting into the 20-32 range)

Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Fiercely competitive, X-factor playmaker as a return man and receiver. High points the football better than anyone in this class. Impeccable character. Terrific athlete with strong bloodlines. Big hands.

Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Relentless pass rusher who consistently has an impact. Plays with an edge. Leads by example and the heartbeat of everything Pittsburgh did in 2013. Blew up the combine with his athleticism.

Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Unbelievable physical skills — amazing athlete who compares to the top offensive tackles in this class. Gritty offensive lineman you just know Tom Cable will appreciate. Versatile.

Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
Massive defensive lineman. Freakish size but when healthy still moves well. Can line up inside or out. Capable of commanding blockers on one side, helping to shut down the run.

Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
In terms of SPARQ, you have to respect Moncrief’s numbers. Not everyone’s ideal pick but in a way that alone makes him kind of ‘Seahawky’. Ran a 4.40, had a 39.5 vertical and a 1.50 10 yard split. Managed 11-0 on the broad jump.

Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Length and ball skils. The end. Seahawks style corner. Only 6-3 Keith McGill had longer arms among the defensive backs. Ran a 4.37 and had a cluster of interceptions in 2013. Also an accomplished return man.

Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Long defensive tackle (6-6, 310lbs with +34 inch arms). Former basketball player and it showed with a 35.5 inch vertical. Needs coaching but that wouldn’t bother Seattle.

Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
It’s just a shame he couldn’t run the forty. He had a 42 vertical and 10.10 broad jump. That’s insane. Also managed a 6.91 three cone and benched 25 reps at 6-1 and 237lbs. It’s not a stretch to predict he has 4.4 speed.

Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Pete Carroll likes size at receiver — and he doesn’t have ‘his guy’ right now. He entertains the concept of winning when you get off the bus. Benjamin doesn’t have Megatron athleticism, but he’s enormous and physical. You can win with a guy like this in the red zone.

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