Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Some thoughts on the controversial subject of Joe Mixon

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Joe Mixon is a controversial figure in college football

The last time we discussed a topic like this it was Frank Clark — long before the Seahawks took him in the second round. The community here handled the debate with maturity and I hope that’ll be the case again.

Please be sensitive and respectful in the comments section.

Joe Mixon might be the most explosive player in college football not named Leonard Fournette. That’s not a surprise. Here’s a list of the top-20 2014 High School recruits per Rivals:

1. Da’Shawn Hand (DL, Alabama)
2. Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
3. Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
4. Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
5. Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
6. Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
7. Kyle Allen (QB, Texas A&M)
8. Joe Mixon (RB, Oklahoma)
9. Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
10. Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
11. Travis Rudolph (WR, Florida State)
12. Racean Thomas (RB, Auburn)
13. Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
14. Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
15. Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU)
16. Bo Scarborough (RB, Alabama)
17. Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
18. Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
19. Raekwon McMillan (LB, Ohio State)
20. Damian Price (OL, Maryland)

Here are some other select names lower down the list:

26. Malik McDowell (DL, Michigan State)
31. DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
35. Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
38. Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
49. Curtis Samuel (WR, Ohio State)
52. Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
61. Budda Baker (S, Washington)
77. Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)

It reads like a who’s who of 2017 draft prospects. The best of the best in college football. It’s unusual for the top-20 to have so many names destined not just for the NFL — but as high draft picks. Mixon being at #8 in this group says a lot about his potential.

On tape he is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most impressive prospects you’ll watch this year. Oklahoma’s offense/team is a bit of a mess — but when Mixon is involved it’s must-see TV. Jenni Carlson wrote this piece calling — no demanding — the Sooners feature Mixon instead of persisting with a committee involving fellow running back Samaje Perine.

Mixon has everything you look for. Breakaway speed and the ability to accelerate at the second level, toughness and the willingness to finish runs, ability in the passing game, the physicality to push the pile and break tackles plus the elusiveness to make people miss. As a bonus he’s also a terrific kick returner. Mixon is 6-1 and 226lbs — the same height and 9lbs heavier than Adrian Peterson at the 2007 combine.

He has the freaky athleticism the Seahawks seem to love — plus the suddenness, physicality and ability to turn a good play into a scoring play.

When I wrote about Frank Clark in 2015 — I said something like this: He’s an explosive talent, one of the best in the draft. His tape is incredibly underrated and he dominates. He is a first round, top-20 talent based on what you see on the field. Yet his well publicised character flags involving domestic violence will make him undraftable for many — and some fans and the media will be uncomfortable and find it unacceptable if the Seahawks were to draft him.

This is, unfortunately, a similar situation with Mixon.

In Clark’s case the police report suggested he punched a woman in the face. It also quoted the victim’s brothers as saying they witnessed Clark punch her. He was dismissed by Michigan. After drafting him, the Seahawks claimed they conducted a thorough investigation before making the decision.

John Schneider said the following:

“Our organization has an in-depth understanding of Frank Clark’s situation and background… We have done a ton of research on this young man. There hasn’t been one player in this draft that we have spent more time researching and scrutinizing more than Frank. That’s why we have provided Frank with this opportunity and are looking forward to him succeeding in our culture here in Seattle.”

It was a decision that led to an initial backlash, especially at a time when the league was handling the high-profile Ray Rice domestic violence case. This article on Deadspin used the headline: ‘The Seahawks Didn’t Care Whether Frank Clark Punched A Woman

Two years ago Mixon entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor assault charge for punching Amelia Molitor in response to her pushing and hitting him. The incident happened on July 25, 2014.

Unlike the Clark case where there was no video evidence, surveillance video of the incident shows, after the two had a discussion, Amelia Molitor pushing, then slapping Mixon, followed by Mixon punching Molitor. The video hasn’t been released yet but has been shown to reporters and could eventually be released to the public.

The plea allowed him to maintain his innocence while also admitting that the prosecution had enough evidence to convict.

As a consequence Mixon received a one-year deferred sentence and was required to perform 100 hours of community service and undergo counselling. He was suspended for the entire 2014 season by the Sooners although he was allowed to take classes and keep his financial aid but not take part in any team activities.

The incident became a heated talking point:

Mixon was reinstated by the team on February 14th 2015 and played last season. He was kept away from media duties and didn’t talk at all throughout the season — until he was required to speak per the rules of the Orange Bowl. It appears he was advised not to discuss the incident:

There’s a very obvious legal case for why he shouldn’t be talking to the media but some have argued the moment was not handled well by the Sooners:

The footage of the press conference isn’t particularly easy to watch. A well prepared apology or signs of sincere regret upon his return would’ve been preferable — instead this delayed, awkward and forced exchange really didn’t aid the situation.

Mixon hasn’t spoken to reporters since the Orange Bowl in December 2015 but last month Bob Stoops suggested he might be set to speak again:

“It’s something we’ve talked about… I’ve talked about it with the administration. We’re working on that. So there’s a possibility.”

Brady Vardeman notes, ‘It’s unlikely Mixon’s lawyers would allow him to talk about his incident with Molitor given the ongoing civil suit filed by her legal team in July.’

It’s impossible to know how the NFL will handle this. Frank Clark was dismissed by Michigan immediately after his incident but still attended the combine and then became a second round pick. He started his pro-career with no limitations, suspensions or sanctions and people rarely refer to what happened anymore.

Mixon wasn’t dismissed by Oklahoma but did sit out a whole season. In context it really isn’t much of a ‘punishment’ but will it conveniently allow the league or specific teams to judge the situation as at least partially addressed?

Clark didn’t fall much by going in round two. Who knows what’ll happen to Mixon — a legitimate first or second round talent. He could fall completely off the radar and never get a chance, he could be an UDFA or like Clark he could still be an early pick.

Teams will investigate. They will research the incident, the legal case and Mixon as an individual.

As the writer of this blog all I try to do is highlight the talent in college football so we can discuss possible Seahawks picks in the draft. I don’t know if Seattle or any other team would entertain drafting Mixon. This isn’t any kind of endorsement — but the Clark situation suggests we also shouldn’t avoid the subject. Talking about Clark pre-draft at least gave the readers of this website an insight into his backstory before the team subsequently selected him.

Mixon truly has the ability to be one of the great playmakers in the NFL. Seriously. We’ll see if the NFL decides he deserves a chance to prove it.

One other note on Mixon — when asked who his mentors were during a pre-college interview, the first name he gave was Marshawn Lynch:

2017 prospect watch list: October 4th

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
Maye is a lot closer to the brilliant Keanu Neal than I think many people realise. He’s 6-0 and 216lbs so he’s right in the range to be a safety/linebacker hybrid (Deone Bucannon was 6-1 and 211lbs at his combine). Maye’s field awareness and read/react skills are superb. He had five forced fumbles last year and already has a sack, a pick and three PD’s in 2016. He has the speed and size to line up vs tight ends and his ability to direct traffic and get to the ball carrier is a good sign for any possible move to hybrid LB/S. There’s evidence of him being able to line up in the box and even set an edge. Great character and the QB of Florida’s secondary. In the video above Maye is #20 and Neal #42.

Azeem Victor (LB, Washington)
I stayed up until the early hours to watch Washington’s demolition of Stanford and it was worth it to watch the Huskies defense properly for the first time this year. Greg Gaines’ mobility for his size on his sack jumped off the screen, I could watch Vita Vea and Elijah Qualls all day and Joe Mathis might be undersized but he had the game of a lifetime rushing the passer. No wonder John Schneider attended in person. Yet the player who stood out most after Mathis was linebacker Azeem Victor. His range and closing ability stood out constantly — he was always around the ball. He took the right angles, didn’t miss a tackle and just kept a lid on things all night. At the 2015 Husky combine he ran a 4.10 short shuttle — that would’ve been the third fastest time by a linebacker at the 2016 NFL combine (Alex McCallister 4.00, Nick Vigil 4.00). This is a loaded defense without even mentioned Sidney Jones or Budda Baker.

Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
He’s been superb in the last two games and he’s one of the main reasons Tennessee somehow remains unbeaten. His sack/fumble led to a touchdown against Georgia (he had two sacks on the day) and he took over the second half vs Florida (registering two more sacks). Great effort player but not a slouch athletically. Is he twitchy enough to go top-25? That’s going to be the question — but there’s a bit of Everson Griffen to his playing style and Griffen didn’t blow up the 2010 combine. Barnett plays with his hair on fire and that’ll make up for some of his possible physical limitations. He has good size for the Seahawks EDGE (6-3, 265bs) but his frame on tape looks more than capable of some inside work too.

Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
Florida State’s defense is a mess but Walker is one of the few to come away with his reputation enhanced. His 4.5 sack performance vs Ole Miss was a sight to behold and he was the only FSU defender capable of containing Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. He’s an inside/out D-liner (6-4, 280lbs) with violent hands and the ability to disengage and then explode to the QB. He could play with more consistent intensity but players like this are valuable in the modern NFL. His swim/rip move is excellent and he can win in multiple ways — technique, speed, power. He’ll set the edge playing DE vs the run and collapse the interior as a pass rusher. For more check out this post from a few weeks ago.

Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)
Impressive range and blitzing ability. Flies to the quarterback when asked to rush and showed potential in coverage vs Tennessee. Plays with intensity and is well respected by the coaches at Florida. Looks a lot like Clay Matthews at USC and not just the hair. Not the SPARQiest player during recruiting — only posting a 108.9 (Darron Lee had a 135.94 pre-draft). Matthews only ran a 4.67 at his combine but had a good split. Anzalone is so similar. You’d like to see Florida use him more as a rusher — against the Vols he was almost exclusively used in coverage and played well. Matthews had a similar issue at USC and then started piling up sacks at the next level.

Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
He’s putting it together this year (as noted yesterday — check out the piece) with big performances against CFB’s elite. Impressive vertical, mobility and speed. A genuine modern day X-factor who lines up in multiple positions to create mismatches. Good character and well spoken. Vastly underrated. Averaging 16.25 yards a catch against top opponents including Alabama is not easy. Incredible hands. Love the guy. One of my favourite prospects to watch so far in 2016. Don’t undersell his athleticism and while he’s only around 6-3 and 227lbs — he shows up as a blocker and he can handle work in the slot or split out wide. Just draft him.

Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
It isn’t a good tackle draft unless others emerge and McGlinchey might be the best available. He definitely looks the part and he’s a chiseled 6-7/310lbs. Former basketball player with the kind of mobility you’d expect — he’s also a well spoken, intelligent individual (something Tom Cable admitted was important after the 2016 draft). Struggled a bit vs Malik McDowell but that’s understandable. Looked at ease vs Duke and Syracuse. Decent balance and ability to set quickly. Kick slide isn’t explosive but good enough and he’s technically sound. Might never be one of the greats but certainly capable of being a starter for a long time in the NFL. He might be the only first round tackle in 2017.

Dan Feeney (G, Indiana)
The Seahawks look set at this position but Feeney still warrants a mention. He’s adept at pulling and hitting the target at the second level. His pass protection and run blocking is equally good working in a phone booth at the LOS and he plays with the kind of aggression you want to see. Finishes plays. Another impressive, modest individual. Speaks well. Technically sound as well as powerful — shows well driving at the line but also capable of subtle hand use to turn the DL and create a running lane.

Carl Lawson (DE, Auburn)
I’ve not had a chance to watch Lawson or Auburn properly this year but I’m really keen to watch him down the line. His injury history is a problem and could really impact his stock. He missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL and missed six games last year with a hip injury (the details of which were suspiciously vague). He has four sacks already this season and if he’s finally healthy he could be set for a major rise. Based on what we’ve seen in the past — in terms of physicality, intensity, ability vs the run and ability to convert speed-to-power Lawson is one of the best 2017 prospects. His size fits Seattle’s EDGE profile (6-2, 258lbs) and he plays big — but does he have the required length? Lawson is a tone setter who plays through the whistle and fits the personality of this defense. Former 5-star recruit.

The Evan Engram appreciation post

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Evan Engram — underrated and very, very interesting

Jimmy Graham is borderline unstoppable at the moment. His blossoming chemistry with Russell Wilson is exciting for Seattle’s offense and he’s starting to look like the 1200 yards, 10-15 touchdown TE we saw in New Orleans.

Nick Vannett’s return to health makes the tight end position quite a strength for Seattle. Luke Willson is a very solid #2 while Brandon Williams is a decent blocker and core special teamer.

Tanner McEvoy is also on the roster and had his first career pass (and touchdown) yesterday. He’s essentially a WR/TE hybrid and a project who could end up permanently at either position.

The Seahawks seem to like McEvoy while their receivers are all signed up for the long haul. Graham isn’t going anywhere and they just drafted Vannett. Yet Willson and Williams are both free agents in 2017 and if both depart — that leaves at least one opening in the off-season.

Is there room for another crazy athletic big target on the roster in the future?

Always.

The line between receiver and tight end is becoming increasingly blurred these days. Big, explosive TE’s with a massive catching radius are all the rage — occasionally taking the place of the ‘orthodox’ #1 receiver. Complimenting these seam-busting giants are the smaller, sudden receivers who work as well in the slot as they do hugging the sideline (eg OBJ, Antonio Brown, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and lately Will Fuller).

The idea of two truly dynamic TE’s has been intriguing since the Gronk/Aaron Hernandez days in New England. It was incredibly difficult to defend. Gronk was the all-round monster and Hernandez more of the ‘joker’ style receiver or H-back. There’s a chance Graham and Willson could develop a similar dual-threat partnership this year — but if that happens it’ll be harder to re-sign Willson.

Vannett could be pencilled in for such a role too but appears to be more of a traditional TE that can be used as an extra blocker. Even in that role he’d be an asset in this physical offense. Theoretically you could see all three TE’s on the field at the same time later in the year — with Graham in the slot or out wide and Willson/Vannett book-ending the OL.

The point I’m making is multiple TE sets and TE/WR hybrids appear to be here to stay and they might lose a couple of TE’s in free agency. So why not spend a bit of time looking at a player who is extremely underrated today?

Ole Miss’ Evan Engram is a little bit like Jordan Reed albeit 10lbs lighter. He can line up anywhere — inline TE, detached, slot, H-back. He’s a mismatch. At a listed 6-3 and 227lbs you could just use him as an out-and-out bigger receiver if you wanted. He has the agility, fluidity and athleticism to make it work.

So far in 2016 Engram has averaged 95.8 yards per game and 17.3 yards per catch. He is Ole Miss’ leading receiver with a healthy 174-yard lead over #2 target Damore’ea Stringfellow. Engram also has four touchdowns in five games.

These numbers are even more impressive when you consider his poorest statistical performance came in a week two walkover against Wofford. Presumably he didn’t play many snaps in the 38-13 victory where the Rebels never got out of second gear. Here are the collective numbers he put up in the other four games against Florida State, Alabama, Georgia and Memphis:

Receiving yards: 436
Receiving yards average per game: 109
Yards per catch: 16.25
Touchdowns: 4

That’s an impressive return against tough opponents — and Engram is well on his way to a +1000 yard season with +10 touchdowns.

It’s easy to see why he’s so productive… those hands…

Now fast forward to 0:38 in the video below. Doesn’t this catch just remind you of Jimmy Graham’s brilliant one-handed grab against the Jets yesterday?

How athletic is he? Expect an incredible vertical leap at the combine. Check out his touchdown vs Georgia at 1:41 in the video below:

Check out 0:48 and 1:31 below from the Florida State game to see his capabilities as a blocker, helping to spring a couple of really nice runs by sealing the edge. He also has a nice touchdown at 2:17, running a crisp route and showing he’s in sync with the QB on a timing throw:

In terms of his personality/character — he also seems personable and intelligent:

If he runs well — and there’s no reason to doubt that — I suspect Engram will go a lot higher than people are currently projecting. Athleticism + size + character + production in the SEC = high draft grade.

It’s worth putting him near the top of your watch list this season.

Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage one to watch

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage scored eight touchdowns against Texas Tech last weekend. Even more remarkable is that he did it with just 15 touches.

Ballage’s most impressive score was a 75-yard run (see above) where he ran away from the defense. It’s pretty impressive for a runner listed at 6-3 and 230lbs. He admitted in a recent interview he’s actually 6-2 but the weight is accurate.

I did a bit more digging on Ballage — a player I haven’t focused on much because he works in a committee and has never really been the lead guy. He had just 653 yards last season but did average 5.2 YPC. He scored just four times.

This season he already has 193 yards, nine scores and 8.4 YPC in two games.

One of those four touchdowns from last season included this against UCLA:

Physicality, effectiveness, speed, size. This guy is intriguing.

His character and personality is even more impressive. Listen to his demeanour in this interview, or the way he handled the on-the-field post game reaction to his record setting night (it’s at the end of the video at the top of the page).

Character is big for the Seahawks. So is difference making physical qualities. If Ballage continues to produce, he could be a name to keep an eye on. After all, Christine Michael’s contract expires next year and as the Seahawks transition towards more of a committee approach — they’ll be looking to add bodies at running back all the time.

I’m going to be attending the Washington vs Arizona State game in November so will get the opportunity to watch Ballage live.

He at least has the potential to get into the second round mix. Oregon’s Royce Freeman is a similar bigger back with plus speed. They could both go in a similar range. Right now you’d also have to put Nick Chubb in that bracket. Keep an eye on NC State’s Matt Dayes too. Leonard Fournette is a shoe-in for the top five picks while Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook could also find a home in round one.

2017 draft top-50 watch list

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

So we’re at the end of another draft season. I want to thank everyone who is part of this increasingly active community for making this such a great blog. It’s incredible that as traffic has grown — the comments section has remained a mature place to discuss football matters (even when disagreements occur).

In case you’re interested, between January and the end of the draft we had 18,076,727 hits. We had 606,134 hits during the first round of the draft alone.

This is usually where I take a break. It’s been virtually an article a day since September and it’s time to focus on the day job and family. We’ll get things going again in the summer and begin to preview the new college and NFL season.

In the meantime here’s a list of 50 names to chew on for 2017.

The top ten

These are the players we can say with some degree of certainty will be generating most of the draft headlines this year.

Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Just an incredible football player. He could very easily be the #1 overall pick next year. There are no flaws. An absolute beast.

Myles Garrett (DE, Texas A&M)
Really dynamic edge rusher with speed, bend and technique. Looks like a sure fire top-five pick.

Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
Some possible character issues that’ll need to be looked into — but there’s no denying his talent. Fast, powerful and dynamic. Only a notch below Fournette.

Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Modern day linebacker who jumped off the screen while watching Jonathan Bullard and Keanu Neal. A candidate to go very early.

Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
Superior to some of the previous Alabama left tackles to enter the league. Ideal size and has a chance to be the top 2017 tackle.

DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
A genuine playmaker with room to continue improving. Elusive and improvises well. Can he take the next step and secure himself as the top QB prospect?

Tim Williams (DE, Alabama)
He could’ve been a top-20 pick this year. Terrific edge rusher with fantastic athleticism. Major talent.

Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Really productive and physical — has the size to play DE in a 3-4 or 4-3. A nice compliment to Williams for ‘Bama.

Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Would’ve been an early pick this year but decided to return to LSU. Great character, great athlete, good kick returner. Top-15 potential.

Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
Better than Vernon Hargreaves who went in the top-12. Has the size (6-1, 191lbs) and length teams crave. Could be another top-15 talent.

Five personal favourites

Players who stood out during the 2014 and 2015 season that are eligible for the 2017 draft.

Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
Great size (6-3, 207lbs) with room to add weight. Owned Vernon Hargreaves in the Citrus Bowl. Returned an opening kick off 96-yard for a TD against Northwestern. Underrated.

Harold Brantley (DT, Missouri)
A car crash kept him out for the 2015 season but he’ll be healthy and ready to return this year. Fantastic three-technique interior rusher.

Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
A stud athlete, Sutton glides around the field. He’s a playmaker, a kick returner and he could’ve gone in round one this year. So fluid.

Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
A modern day weapon. Ten years ago he wouldn’t go early — in 2017? This is the type of player teams are looking for. Shifty rather than fast.

Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
It was a bit surprising he didn’t declare this year. Will likely move to guard in the NFL but he could be another Evan Mathis.

Looking to take the next step

The following group are fairly established college players who can really help their stock with a good 2016 season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, USC)
A few recent USC receivers haven’t lived up to expectations in the NFL. JuJu is bigger and more physical. He’s lost his quarterback though (Cody Kessler).

Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
‘Rolls’ Royce isn’t Fournette or Freeman but don’t sleep on his potential. Well sized with good athleticism if not elite speed.

Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma)
A different type of back to the ones listed above. Perine is big and physical but has enough speed to make plays.

O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
He exploded in the National Championship game after an underwhelming start to his college career. His size/speed combo could secure a first round grade next year.

Eddie Jackson (S, Alabama)
Very agile safety prospect with some decent size (6-0, 194lbs). Scored two touchdowns in 2015 and had three big interception returns.

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Horrible injury ended his 2015 season and it looked as bad as Jaylon Smith’s. If he returns to 100% — he has a chance to go early. Extremely competitive.

Brad Kaaya (QB, Miami)
Considered a possible school saviour when he was drafted, Kaaya hasn’t really matched the hype. 2016 is his chance to boost a weak looking QB class.

Charles Walker (DT, Oklahoma)
Classic three-technique. Sets up his blocks and wins with a great swim move and quickness. Had six sacks last year.

Ethan Pocic (C, LSU)
Received a second round grade from the committee but chose not to declare this year. Absolutely massive (6-7, 309lbs). Very solid.

Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
Already has 20 sacks in just two seasons with the Vols. Built like a pro already. Big thick frame — a bit like Shaq Lawson.

Adoree Jackson (CB/WR, USC)
Incredible athlete. Crown him 2017’s top combine performer today. Needs to nail down one specific position. Might be better on offense.

Carl Lawson (DE, Auburn)
Finally healthy. Laremy Tunsil said at the combine Lawson was his toughest college opponent. Tough to block but needs to put together a strong (full) season.

Jabrill Peppers (CB, Michigan)
Former big time recruit. Ideal length and athleticism for the position. A modern day prototype at corner.

Desmond King (CB, Iowa)
Very productive in Iowa’s 2015 run but maybe a little overrated in terms of the pro’s. Is he big enough to go early?

Guys to keep an eye on

This is a list of prospects who are moving into starting roles for the first time or could be ready for a breakout season.

Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
Had a big impact in 2015 forcing five fumbles and collecting two interceptions. He’ll take on an even greater role with Keanu Neal now in the NFL.

Denzil Ware (DE, Kentucky)
Lacks elite size (6-2, 255lbs) but just started to put things together at the back end of last season.

David Sharpe (LT, Florida)
Good size and length for the position. Moving into his third season as a starter. Passes the eye test.

Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
Former top five star recruit who doesn’t get much attention due to the team he plays for. A new coaching staff at Virginia could help change that.

Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama)
Expect Hand to fill the hole created by ‘Bama’s D-line exodus. He could play a similar role to D.J. Pettway and he’s a far superior athlete.

Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
Not short on confidence but needs to be more productive. Has the talent and size. Disruptive.

Bo Scarbrough (RB, Alabama)
Massive running back. Could replace Derrick Henry. Dubbed the next big thing at Alabama but we’ll see how his role develops this year.

Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Receives lofty praise but could do with a consistent season where he makes a number of plays and stands out.

Daeshon Hall (DE, Texas A&M)
Exploded to start 2015 with a four-sack game to start the season vs Arizona State. Looked the part there but needs to be an every-week performer. Has length and size.

Devonte Fields (DE, Louisville)
Always seemed to be near the action when watching Sheldon Rankins tape. Long, fluid athlete. Can he perform with Rankins in the NFL?

Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
Took over from Nick Chubb and might end up remaining in the starting role to start 2016. Michel, like Chubb, was a big time recruit.

Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU)
Wiry, thin receiver but capable of big plays. Suffers because of the mess at QB. Can he add some weight?

Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Tabor will get the praise but don’t sleep on Wilson — another talented Florida CB off the production line.

Raekwon McMillan (LB, Ohio State)
Wasn’t quite as enamoured by McMillan as some others — but he’ll have to be a playmaker for the Buckeye’s this year with all the talent they’ve lost to the NFL.

Charles Harris (DE, Missouri)
Raw as anything you’ll see but recorded major TFL stats in 2015 and could be the next top-tier EDGE from Mizzou.

Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
Had three picks in 2015 and his responsibility will expand this year. Could develop into another Nick Saban early round DB.

Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)
He posted 6.5 sacks last year and like everyone at Michigan will only continue to improve with Jim Harbaugh.

Skai Moore (LB, South Carolina)
Tackle machine and developed into a playmaker for the Gamecocks. Smaller linebacker in the Darron Lee mould.

Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Rangy tackler with decent size and length. Former four-star recruit who drew attention from several top schools.

Davon Godchaux (DT, LSU)
Has looked really good at times. Stood out in the win against Auburn last year. Certainly capable of drawing NFL attention.

Roderick Johnson (T, Florida State)
Big, long and well proportioned left tackle prospect. Doesn’t play with his hair on fire though. Too passive.

Thoughts on Jarran Reed & Rees Odhiambo

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
Who really expected Reed to last until pick #49? We had him at #16 in our final mock draft to the Detroit Lions.

The Seahawks love to be unconventional and so it proved again this year. While the rest of the NFL sought three-down prospects who can play in a world dominated by nickel defense and high-octane passing offenses — the Seahawks took a fierce run-defender and a blocking tight end (Nick Vannett) before the end of day two.

Having dragged the entire league into a new modern era — the Seahawks seem to be re-establishing the core foundation of what really made them successful. For all the new-age thinking and the many ways they’ve revolutionised the NFL — the Seahawks’ style of play is classical all the way.

Run the ball. Stop the run. Force turnovers. Protect the ball.

If you like tough football dripping with blood and sweat in the trenches — you’ll love Jarran Reed. I watched four games in the last 24 hours and didn’t see a single play where he lost leverage or was shoved into the backfield.

I’ve watched a lot of defensive linemen since starting the blog in 2008. Only Ndamukong Suh had quite this level of toughness up front.

Now let’s get one thing straight here — Reed is not Suh. For such an immovable object at the LOS he’s not the most effective bull rusher. He does have better athleticism than you’d think — and he played some DE as well as lining up inside. He can get into the backfield and chase down a quarterback.

He just isn’t Suh.

And that doesn’t matter.

In Seattle he’s going to be a run defender. I suspect he’ll continue to play some DE mixed in with most of his snaps at DT. He’s an absolute beast vs the run. He locks out brilliantly, controlling one or sometimes two blockers while somehow managing to locate the ball and make the tackle. He had more tackles than any other Alabama defensive lineman in 2014 and 2015 and it’s easy to see why.

Even as he controls the LOS he disengages like a savvy veteran. It’s a thing of beauty. You hardly ever see him linger on a block for more than a split second. When he needs to get clean and go chase the football — he’ll do it. When he finds the ball carrier he can pursue and finish and he’s a powerful form-tackler.

You never see him knocked off balance or on the turf. When he sets position and plants his legs — you’re not going to move him. He took on several double teams vs LSU and Clemson in particular and just maintained the original LOS. There’s no push. On one snap vs Tennessee he held up two blockers allowing linebacker Reggie Ragland a clean route to hammer the running back for a jarring hit.

Watching him next to A’Shawn Robinson is ideal. Robinson is passive and doesn’t play with the same level of sheer intensity. Reed is the tone-setter, the natural leader. His motor never stopped while Robinson was too often happy to stay blocked.

It helped that Reed was used in a heavy rotation and played about 60-70% of the snaps. The Seahawks would be wise to use him in the same way — and they can afford to with their new-found depth up front.

Watch the video below and fast forward to 2:09:10. This is the fourth quarter of the Senior Bowl — a showpiece finale to the more important week of workouts and drills.

Jarran Reed had just played in the National Championship game a couple of weeks earlier and didn’t even need to show up in Mobile (Ryan Kelly the center chose not to attend and compete). In the game he’d already made a big splash — chasing down Carson Wentz on one eye-catching play in the first quarter. Yet even with the game won and with just over five minutes to play — this is the kind of impact he was having:

Snap 1 — 2nd and 15
Reed disengages, chases down Jeff Driskel and tackles him from behind for a short gain. He dances in celebration.

Snap 2 — 3rd and 12
Short throw to Tyler Ervin. Jarran Reed disengages, retreats and again makes the tackle from behind to prevent the first down.

Snap 3 — 4th an 1
Tyler Ervin runs to try and make the first down. Reed escapes his block and helps stop the RB for a loss. Turnover on downs.

The Seahawks value gap discipline and he’s adept here. He does his job first and foremost and then looks for the ball. He’s not a one-gap penetrator but again — the Seahawks don’t need him to be. They’ll get their pass rush from Bennett, Avril, Clemons, Clark and hopefully Jefferson and Hill.

If he can control the LOS and absorb blocks like he did at the college level (that remains to be seen) it’ll create a lot of 1v1 opportunities for the DE working his side of the field plus Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.

Reed barely has any flaws. He’s just not a prolific pass rusher. The modern NFL has deemed that isn’t valuable enough to go early. The Seahawks saw an opportunity and grabbed it. More power to them.

If they wanted to become the bully again in 2016 — this was the guy to draft. Nobody embodies that identity more than Jarran Reed.

Daniel Jeremiah’s ranking of Reed (#13 overall in the class) was totally justified. The Seahawks stole one here.

Rees Odhiambo (T, Boise State)
I could only find one video for Odhiambo (vs Virginia) so it’s difficult to judge him (the usual minimum is three games). Even so, here’s what I noted…

In terms of agility you can see why the Seahawks’ sport science guys supposedly really value his upside. At 6-4 and 314lbs he moves really well. He has one of the best kick-slides you’ll see in this class and he had no issues at all setting his stance, re-setting, keeping the defender in front and mirroring.

There’s a lot to like about his fit in the ZBS. He’s an athlete for sure.

His upper body power was obvious and looks like another key characteristic the Seahawks valued. He delivered several jolts and he can hand-fight. As a run blocker he stoned a couple of defenders with a really nice piece of hand-use, gaining leverage and finishing.

Combining strength and mobility appears to be a major emphasis at the moment. It’s almost like a return to the ZBS roots albeit with size thrown into the mix (Joey Hunt, a classic ZBS center, is the exception).

On the slightly negative side though there wasn’t a clear edge to Odhimabo’s play and you’d love to see him knocking some helmet’s like we saw from Shon Coleman at Auburn. At tackle he’s a bit of a lunger and he sometimes overextends. Moving him inside will limit some of his weaknesses and bring out his power/agility.

To that extent he’s an exciting project for Tom Cable. He’s big, strong and mobile. Everything you hear about him suggests he’s a quick learner, he’s intelligent and a good worker. There’s no real pressure for him to start immediately (Mark Glowsinki appears to be pencilled in at left guard) and in a years time he could be really pushing to be the long term answer at that position.

Even though he’s better suited inside — like Ifedi he also has some swing-tackle benefits.

The key is health. He’s missed at least four games in each of the last three seasons. Injuries have been an issue for the Seahawks O-line in the past due to the physical nature of the scheme and their running style.

If he can avoid injuries he has a shot. John Schneider suggested this week he could’ve been a top-45 prospect without the health problems. At the very least it’ll be good to see legitimate competition across the O-line this summer — something the Seahawks badly lacked a year ago.

If you missed any of our other reviews so far, here’s the list:

Germain Ifedi
Joey Hunt
Nick Vannett & Alex Collins

At the moment there isn’t any Draft Breakdown tape of Quinton Jefferson and only a highlights video on Youtube. It’s not ideal but it is all-22:

We talked about him briefly in this weeks podcast, plus Kenny Lawler and Zac Brooks.

C.J. Prosise is someone we often discussed during the season and in the early part of the post-season. His role has been pretty much established as the third down back. He has excellent burst to the second level, is capable of taking a run to the house but he also has plenty of experience running routes as a former receiver. Expect him to wind up being the running back in the two minute drill.

We touched on some of the UDFA’s in the podcast but it’s a really good group.

Tyvis Powell has genuine Deone Bucannon potential. Brandin Bryant’s tape is fantastic and matches up with a tremendous pre-draft workout. He might be their most exciting UDFA signing if they can tap into his potential.

Cornerback DeAndre Elliott is someone we identified post-combine as a real candidate for Seattle — he ticks all the boxes in terms of playing style, size, length and range. George Fant could be the next Garry Gilliam while Christian French and Steve Longa will battle with the existing linebackers in one of the more intriguing camp battles.

Tanner McEvoy is 6-5, 231lbs and an amazing athlete. He could be their next Jameson Konz-style project because he doesn’t really have a set position. Montese Overton and David Perkins have a shot to make the team and who would rule out Trevone Boykin landing as a future backup for Russell Wilson?

The sheer depth of numbers and quality from the 2016 draft and UDFA could create a 2013 level of depth for the Seahawks.

I’ll be posting a 2017 top-25 summer watch list tomorrow and then taking a break. If anything happens (a podcast or radio appearance, some breaking news) I’ll make sure it’s posted on the blog.

Bronson Kaufusi could be Seattle’s first pick

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

There’s a very good argument for the Seahawks drafting Florida’s Jonathan Bullard. So why aren’t more people talking about Bronson Kaufusi?

Here’s the comparison:

Jonathan Bullard
Height: 6-3
Weight: 285lbs
Arm length: 33 5/8 inches
40-yd: 4.93
10-yd: 1.66
Vertical: 32 inches
Broad: 9-8
Bench: 23
Three cone: 7.31
Short shuttle: 4.56
2015 sacks: 6.5
2015 TFL’s: 17.5

Bronson Kaufusi
Height: 6-6
Weight: 285lbs
Arm length: 34 1/2 inches
40-yd: 4.87
10-yd: 1.69
Vertical: 30 inches
Broad: 9-3
Bench: 25
Three cone: 7.03
Short shuttle: 4.25
2015 sacks: 11
2015 TFL’s: 19.5

Both weigh 285lbs and ran similar times. Kaufusi’s forty is 0.06 seconds quicker and Bullard’s split is 0.03 seconds quicker. So basically the same.

Bullard performed better in the vertical (32 inches vs 30 inches) and broad (9-8 vs 9-3) and they put up similar numbers in the bench press.

However — look at the difference in the agility testing (important if you want either to play DE).

Kaufusi ran an elite 4.25 in the short shuttle compared to Bullard’s 4.56. The average time among defensive linemen at the combine was a 4.55.

In the three cone, again Kaufusi managed an elite time for his size (7.03) while Bullard recorded a 7.31. The average time this year was 7.50 seconds.

Let’s put those numbers into context. Darron Lee is 53lbs lighter than Kaufusi and ran a 4.20 in the short shuttle. That’s 0.05 seconds faster. Lee is considered an exceptional athlete at 232lbs and is expected to go in the top-15.

In the three cone Sterling Shepard ran a 7.00. He is 194lbs and ran a 4.48 in the forty. His three cone is 0.03 seconds faster than Kaufusi’s.

Will Fuller’s three cone is 0.10 seconds faster and he’s the most dynamic speed receiver in the draft — he also weighs 100lbs (!!!) less than Kaufusi.

That athleticism — along with supreme balance for his size — shows up on tape:

J.J. Watt, for what it’s worth, ran a 4.21 short shuttle at 290lbs and a 6.88 three cone. Kaufusi isn’t Watt — but who is? The short shuttle times are similar though.

I’ve seen some comparisons between Kaufusi and Margus Hunt. They ran a similar time in the three cone drill (7.03 vs 7.08) but Hunt’s short shuttle is way off at 4.51 — and he was 8lbs lighter.

We know the Seahawks, like most teams, treasure three key things:

1. Grit
2. Production
3. Freaky athleticism

Here are some select quotes used to describe Kaufusi:

“Plays with the motor expected from a coach’’s son”
Lance Zierlein

“Is a high character prospect who should only get better”
Tony Pauline

“A fighter that doesn’t back down or get discouraged”
Scouts Inc

Here’s how he’s described by his Head Coach at BYU:

In terms of production he finished ninth in the country for sacks in 2015:

Carl Nassib — 16
Emmanuel Ogbah — 13
Shaq Lawson — 13
Myles Garrett — 12
Jatavis Brown — 12
Kevin Dodd — 12
Jonathan Allen — 12
Ejuan Price — 12
Bronson Kaufusi — 11

That’s some nice company, including several first or second round picks and a potential top-five pick in 2017 (Myles Garrett).

Freaky athleticism? How about running a short shuttle and three cone as fast as some of the smaller speed receivers in the draft at 6-6 and 285lbs?

Grit, production, freaky athleticism? Kaufusi ticks every box.

Let’s go back to the comparison with Jonathan Bullard. While they have some similarities like weight and speed they’re also very different players. Bullard isn’t much of a pass rusher at DE but can play with stoutness, solidity and offer something inside at the one or three technique. Kaufusi can be an absolute demon off the edge — but how does he fit inside?

According to PFF, Kaufusi performed very well in that department:

Whether rushing the passer or playing the run as a 3-4 defensive end for BYU, Kaufusi was one of the nation’s most productive players in 2015, ranking sixth among all interior defensive linemen at +47.1. He led the way with a pass-rush productivity of 13.2, while ranking fourth in run-stop percentage at 12.1. He works non-stop, picking up clean-up pressure more than any lineman in the nation and he looks like an interior pass-rush threat at the next level as he continues to learn how to use his long frame more effectively in the running game.

If the Seahawks are looking for a DE-DT hybrid who can line up outside in base and kick inside on third down — this is another tick in the box for Kaufusi.

An anonymous scout recently told NJ.com:

“Don’t sleep on this guy. He’s a little older (25 after serving a LDS mission in New Zealand) but he’s really productive. He’s always around the ball and he’s always making plays. He could go late first.

“He’s big and very athletic. He could play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. He just needs to get stronger and I think he will.

“He has a real good burst off the ball. He looks like a basketball player (which he was his freshman year). He’s a smart kid and that doesn’t hurt either.”

It often gets said that the Seahawks like to surprise people. None of the players we’ve highlighted so far would be a surprise at #26 or after a trade down. Not Bullard, Butler, Dodd, Jones, Ifedi or Spriggs.

Kaufusi would surprise people. And yet when you compare his physical profile to the rest it stands up beautifully. He has unique athletic traits, production and grit.

The full set.

He’s also a pass rusher. The one thing that makes you pause on Vernon Butler is his lack of a pass rushing skill set. Bullard is better in that regard — but he’s not a fierce pass rusher either. Neither is Chris Jones.

If you’re taking a D-liner early, you surely want to see some pass rush?

So what does Seattle’s previous draft history tell us?

Cassius Marsh didn’t have an amazing workout pre-draft in 2014. However, at 6-4 and 252lbs he ran a 4.25 short shuttle (same as Kaufusi) and a 7.08 three cone. Those were his standout numbers.

Marsh was drafted with the eighth pick in round four. Kaufusi matched those numbers with an extra 33lbs on his frame. It might be good for a couple of rounds.

Frank Clark also ran a 7.08 in the three cone at 271lbs but he recorded a blistering 4.05 in the short shuttle. It suggests the Seahawks put a degree of emphasis on the agility tests for edge rushers. Kaufusi ran a faster three cone than Clark with a weight disadvantage of 14lbs.

People will probably hate it if he is Seattle’s first pick. Just keep this article in the back of your mind.

A quick note as well on another player we’ve talked about — Devon Cajuste. Bob McGinn has quoted an anonymous source stating the following:

“That son of a guy is talented talented,” he said. “Now he’s a weird kid but he’s talented. Not a tight end. He’d be a big slot. Excellent athlete.”

“He’s that new breed of receiving tight end,” another scout said. “Put him in the slot. I like him to a point.”

“Boy, this guy likes to sneak up on ’em. He (hit) a couple guys from UCLA and turned ’em thistle end up, I’ll tell you. … He’s one of those gliders and sliders in that you don’t have to be real fast but you time where you pop open in the seam. He’d be that fourth or fifth wide receiver who comes in on third down because he can block and catch in traffic.”

Cajuste ran the fastest three-cone drill (6.49) at the combine (all positions) and ranked fifth among all receivers this decade.

A quick reminder — he’s 234lbs, not 185lbs.

Cajuste’s run blocking, catch/target efficiency and relationship with Doug Baldwin makes it almost too easy to link him to the Seahawks.

If they can acquire an early fourth round pick — pencil him in to Seattle.

100 players to monitor for the Seahawks

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Sheldon Rankins probably won’t fall to #26 — but it’d be great if he did…

Here’s the premise…

— 100 players
— Realistic options only (no Laremy Tunsil)
— Players we have discussed
— Players that visited, met or worked out for the Seahawks

Some other things to consider…

— The round-by-round breakdown is just a guide
— Physical ideals & red flags were considered
— The Seahawks pick late in each round so they might take players a round early
— The UDFA’s listed are also potential 6th and 7th round picks
TEF qualifiers on the O-line we identified are highlighted in green

First round (the ideal/dream scenaro) (1)
Sheldon Rankins (DT)

Fringe first/second round (12)
Vernon Butler (DT)
Jonathan Bullard (DT)
Kevin Dodd (DE)
Shaq Lawson (DE)
Emmanuel Ogbah (DE)
Reggie Ragland (LB)
Derrick Henry (RB)
Germain Ifedi (OL)
Jason Spriggs (OL)
Ryan Kelly (OL)
Keanu Neal (S)
William Jackson III (CB)

Second round (10)
Kenneth Dixon (RB)
Braxton Miller (WR)
Sterling Shephard (WR)
Kyler Fackrell (LB)
Bronson Kaufusi (DE)
Chris Jones (DT)
Shon Coleman (OL)
Le’Raven Clark (OL)
Nick Martin (OL)
Artie Burns (CB)

Third round (17)
Connor McGovern (OL)
Joe Haeg (OL)
Joe Dahl (OL)
Tyler Ervin (RB)
Paul Perkins (RB)
Devontae Booker (RB)
Kenyan Drake (RB)
Willie Henry (DT)
Hassan Ridgeway (DT)
Jihad Ward (DT)
Javon Hargrave (DT)
Charles Tapper (DE)
Eric Murray (CB)
Darryl Worley (CB)
Joshua Perry (LB)
T.J. Green (S)
Sean Davis (S)

Round four (10)
Devon Cajuste (WR)
Ben Braunecker (TE)
Justin Simmons (S)
Miles Killebrew (S)
Ronald Blair III (DT)
Deiondre Hall (CB)
Keivarae Russell (CB)
C.J. Prosise (RB)
Jordan Howard (RB)
Dak Prescott (QB)

Round five (7)
Ricardo Louis (WR)
Moritz Boehringer (WR)
Jonathan Williams (RB)
Keith Marshall (RB)
Kevon Seymour (CB)
Travis Feeney (LB)
B.J. Goodson (LB)

Round six (6)
Joel Heath (DT)
Kenny Lawler (WR)
Jordan Payton (WR)
Daniel Braverman (WR)
Blake Countess (CB)
James Bradberry (CB)

Round seven & UDFA (37)
Rees Odhiambo (OL)
Hal Vaitai (OL)
Alex Redmond (OL)
Marcus Henry (OL)
Torian White (OL)
Justin Murray (OL)
Lene Maiava (OL)
Liam Nadler (QB)
Keenan Reynolds (QB/RB/WR)
D.J. Foster (RB/WR)
Zac Brooks (RB)
Devon Johnson (RB)
Darius Jackson (RB)
Paul McRoberts (WR)
Marquez North (WR)
Jay Lee (WR)
Jaydon Mickens (WR)
Dez Stewart (WR)
Brandon Swindall (WR)
Davonte Allen (WR)
Hakeem Valles (TE)
Terenn Houk (TE)
George Fant (TE)
Alex Balducci (DT)
D.J. Reader (DT)
Justin Zimmer (DT)
David Onyemata (DT)
Trent Corney (DE)
Alex McCallister (LB)
Christian French (LB)
DeAndre Elliott (CB)
Rashard Robinson (CB)
Brandon Williams (CB)
William Parks (S)
Andrew Adams (S)
Taj Letman (S)
D.J. Hunter (S)

Introducing weighted TEF & what it tells us

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Vernon Butler is the second most explosive D-liner in the draft

One of our community members Cysco (could it be?) came up with a way to enhance TEF and offer a new dimension to the formula.

At the moment it doesn’t account for weight/size. I think that’s fine because it’s a combination of tallied explosive skills and being ‘bigger’ doesn’t necessarily matter. Aaron Donald is only 285lbs but wins with explosion and speed, not size.

Even so, TEF doesn’t really account for the players who are enormous (eg Germain Ifedi) and test well for their size. Cysco’s idea is a bit of an equaliser in that regard.

His suggestion was to multiply a player’s weight with his TEF score — and then multiply the results by 0.1. This creates a score in the 75-110 range. For example:

Germain Ifedi — 324 x 2.97 x 0.1 = 96.1

Ifedi’s TEF score of 2.97 didn’t emphasise how well he’d performed as a 324lbs athlete. A 32.5 inch vertical was the second highest among O-liners, a 9-1 broad jump was excellent and he had 24 reps on the bench press. He didn’t hit the ideal 3.00 purely due to his bench reps. That seemed a little bit harsh given he has 36 inch arms — making the test a lot trickier.

Ifedi’s TEF score put him at #8 in the O-line class. His weighted TEF puts him at #3. That felt like a better representation of what he achieved.

Here’s the full list of O-liners using weighted TEF:

Spriggs, Jason — 104.9
McGovern, Conner — 101.4
Ifedi, Germain — 96.1
Shell, Brandon — 94.4
Vaitai, Halapoulivaati — 93.8
Nembot, Stephane — 93.6
Dahl, Joe — 93.2
Joe Haeg — 93.0
Thuney, Joe — 91.6
Robertson, Dominique — 91.5
Redmond, Alex — 91.1
Lewis, Alex — 89.6
Garnett, Joshua — 87.9
Drango, Spencer — 87.4
Kelly, Ryan — 87.0
Conklin, Jack — 85.0
Clark, Le’Raven — 84.1
Westerman, Christian — 83.8
Johnstone, Tyler — 83.2
Brendel, Jake — 80.9
Skura, Matt — 80.6
Glasgow, Graham — 79.9
Martin, Nick — 79.7
Greene, Darrell — 79.5
Blythe, Austin — 79.5
Beavers, Willie — 78.8
Alexander, Vadal — 77.6
Boehm, Evan — 77.6
Theus, John — 77.4
Decker, Taylor — 77.3
Toner, Cole — 77.1
Turner, Landon — 74.7
Marz, Tyler — 74.6
Seumalo, Isaac — 74.6
Young, Avery — 74.5
Whitehair, Cody — 74.4
Allen, Jack — 74.2
Hawkins, Jerald — 73.3
Kasitati, Nila — 73.0
Jackson, Dominick — 72.1
Cooper, Fahn — 71.3
Slater, Pearce — 70.3
Kirkland, Denver — 70.0
Tretola, Sebastian — 67.6

Average score: 82.1

Here’s how Seattle’s previous O-line picks tested (since 2012):

Poole, Terry — 94.3
Glowinski, Mark — 101.1
Sokoli, Kristjan — 107.6
Britt, Justin — 97.5
Scott, Garrett — 98.7
Gilliam, Garry — 91.1
Seymour, Ryan — 93.1
Smith, Jared — 99.4

Average score: 97.9

I don’t expect the Seahawks to use a system as simple as TEF — but I suspect they’re using something similar albeit more sophisticated. We know what their ideal is per Tom Cable (31 inch vert, 9″ broad, 27 bench reps). They might have a formula that also accounts for size and length.

Sadly weighted TEF doesn’t provide a basic ‘ideal’. Original TEF provides that with 3.00. If you perform a 31 — 9 — 27 you score a 1.00 in each test. TEF offers a cumulative score which is helpful and accounts for slightly higher or lower marks in each individual drill.

It’s harder to judge weighted TEF in the same way. What is a benchmark score? 90.0? 100.0? We can’t really answer that unless you want to use Seattle’s 97.9 average. However — it does give a bit of a boost to the bigger guys who complete an explosive test. And for that reason it gives us a nice insight into why they seemingly covet Ifedi considering he’s third only to Spriggs and McGovern — the two athletic freaks in this O-line class.

Players like Ryan Kelly (87.0) and Joshua Garnett (87.9) — both often linked to the Seahawks — don’t test comparatively well compared to Seattle’s previous picks. That doesn’t mean they won’t be drafted early by the team but the evidence suggests they’re less likely to be targeted than perhaps a Connor McGovern (for example).

I know some people dislike that assertion — but that’s just what the formula tells us. This tool is just a way to project what the Seahawks might do in the draft. Again — it’s not projecting who will succeed/fail at the next level and it’s not judging who is a good/bad player.

What about defense?

We can’t use TEF/weighted TEF as a projection tool for defensive linemen because we don’t have the necessary information. We don’t know Seattle’s ideal physical profile. We also don’t have enough draft history (one recent third and one fourth rounder at DT) to pick up on any trends.

We can, however, use it to compare the different prospects. It’s still a formula that ranks the D-liners against each other. It can tell us how much more explosive Sheldon Rankins is versus the rest of the class. So here are the results:

Rankins, Sheldon — 103.3
Butler, Vernon — 101.1
Nkemdiche, Robert — 100.1
Hargrave, Javon — 99.3
Billings, Andrew — 98.9
Lowry, Dean — 98.7
Mayes, Chris — 97.1
Oakman, Shawn — 96.5
Blair, Ronald — 93.7
Henry, Willie — 93.2
Wujciak, Connor — 93.1
Heath, Joel — 93.0
Ridgeway, Hassan — 92.9
Reader, D.J. — 92.6
Ioannidis, Matthew — 92.3
Thomas, Lawrence — 90.5
Collins, Maliek — 90.4
Ogbah, Emmanuel — 89.9
Judon, Matt — 89.9
Tapper, Charles — 89.1
Clark, Kenny — 89.0
Bullard, Jonathan — 89.0
Buckner, DeForest — 88.7
Bosa, Joey — 88.6
Okwara, Romeo — 87.1
Spence, Noah — 86.9
Valentine, Vincent — 86.3
Ngakoue, Yannick — 85.2
Fanaika, Jason — 85.2
Kaufusi, Bronson — 84.9
Zettel, Anthony — 84.5
Jones, Chris — 83.7
Newberry, Giorgio — 82.2
Abdesmad, Mehdi — 81.7
Kamalu, Ufomba — 80.1
Calhoun, Shilique — 80.0
Cowser, James — 80.0
Robinson, A’Shawn — 79.8
Bailey, Sterling — 79.6
Johnson, Austin — 79.6
Nassib, Carl — 79.6
Jackson, Branden — 79.2
Dodd, Kevin — 79.1
Latham, Darius — 78.7
Ward, Jihad — 78.2
Day, Sheldon — 75.8
Washington, Adolphus — 72.8
Nicolas, Dadi — 72.4
Sigler, DeVaunte — 72.4
Correa, Kamalei — 69.1
Pettway, D.J. — 67.1

It’s perhaps no surprise that the Seahawks and the rest of the league are showing interest in Vernon Butler. His combination of size/explosiveness is second only to Sheldon Rankins.

We’ve talked a lot about Rankins arguably being Seattle’s ideal pick. Unfortunately he’ll probably be long gone by #26. According to our formula Butler is the next man up.

Equally interesting is the placement of Jonathan Bullard. Although he ran a superior 10-yard split to a lot of the defensive tackles at the combine — his agility testing and explosion testing is in a similar range to a lot of other players. Here he ranks behind the following defensive linemen:

Rankins, Sheldon — 103.3
Butler, Vernon — 101.1
Nkemdiche, Robert — 100.1
Hargrave, Javon — 99.3
Billings, Andrew — 98.9
Lowry, Dean — 98.7
Mayes, Chris — 97.1
Oakman, Shawn — 96.5
Blair, Ronald — 93.7
Henry, Willie — 93.2
Wujciak, Connor — 93.1
Heath, Joel — 93.0
Ridgeway, Hassan — 92.9
Reader, D.J. — 92.6
Ioannidis, Matthew — 92.3
Thomas, Lawrence — 90.5
Collins, Maliek — 90.4
Ogbah, Emmanuel — 89.9
Judon, Matt — 89.9
Tapper, Charles — 89.1
Clark, Kenny — 89.0
Bullard, Jonathan — 89.0

Bullard is a fun player to watch — he plays with his hair on fire. He doesn’t miss tackles and his gap discipline is solid. Yet as an athletic specimen he is not ‘special’ — and that is consistently something the Seahawks have sought in the early rounds of the draft.

We can project, with this information, that Willie Henry, Ronald Blair III, Hassan Ridgeway and Maliek Collins would provide a similar physical profile — but they might be available in round two. So how do you weigh up the value of Bullard at #26 versus the others at #56?

In terms of grit and personality — Bullard might be a difference maker in that regard. He might be the #1 character prospect in the entire draft. Yet the Seahawks have to decide the value of attitude vs physicality and how it dictates what they do early.

If the Seahawks can’t get at the top explosive linemen (Rankins, Butler, Ifedi, Spriggs) or if they don’t like a particular fit (that might be the case with Spriggs, for example) — that could be the catalyst for a move down the board where they can select from several of the D-liners listed above and O-liners like Connor McGovern, Joe Haeg and Joe Dahl.

La Canfora’s draft notes

When it comes to insider info — Jason La Canfora is a respected voice. Last year he called the Marshawn Lynch contract extension and Seattle’s desire to pick Frank Clark. He had some interesting things to say today on the draft, including:

— Jared Goff is Cleveland’s preferred quarterback at #2

— A’Shawn Robinson is seen as overrated (we’ve known this for a long time)

— Jack Conklin is seen by some as the #2 offensive tackle in the class

— La Canfora expects Josh Doctson to be the first receiver drafted

— Expect the Eagles to draft Ezekiel Elliott

— The Steelers like the cornerback group and Kendall Fuller could go in round one

The thing that caught my eye though was La Canfora’s notes on Vernon Butler:

Teams are very high on Louisiana Tech defensive linemen Vernon Butler, and I expect him to go in the first round and pretty high at that. The Chiefs are among the teams I have heard him linked to. Scouts love his versatility and ability to pair run stuffing ability with some natural pass rushing moves.

There’s a slight contradiction here because on the one hand Butler is being projected to go “pretty high” in the first round — but the team mentioned (Kansas City) doesn’t pick until #28.

Butler has been an interesting guy to follow during this draft season. At the end of the college season he was getting a lot of buzz from media ‘insiders’ like Daniel Jeremiah. That seemed to dip after an average combine — but an excellent pro-day has put him back on the radar.

Just look at the results above in weighted TEF.

I’m not convinced he’ll be Muhammad Wilkerson as some are projecting he might be. Wilkerson has freaky speed and quickness for 315lbs — his closing speed and finishing ability is unlike anything you’ll ever see from a big man like that. He ran a 4.59 short shuttle and a 7.31 three cone and it shows.

Butler is bigger at 323lbs and lacks that same kind of quickness. He ran a 7.82 three cone and a 4.76 short shuttle. He produced a more explosive vertical and broad jump though and the 10-yard splits are similar (1.77 vs 1.80).

One thing we didn’t talk about yesterday is Butler’s personality. He’s a pretty cool guy. Laid back but in a good way, confident. Well spoken. Teams will like that about him.

He can also play some end in base and move inside. He’s versatile. The big question mark is on the pass rushing side of his game. Will he ever develop into a true disruptor? He doesn’t have to be a 10-12 sack guy like Wilkerson — but can he at least consistently provide 5-7?

The way his stock is going he might not be available at #26. Washington in particular might show some interest at #21. If the Seahawks are limiting themselves to ‘ideally’ explosive offensive linemen as we suspect — they might not like the options at #26 compared to the options in rounds 2-3 (McGovern, Dahl, Haeg). That could increase the chances of Butler being their choice in round one — if he lasts that long.

TEF follow up: 2015 class & thoughts on the center position

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Are the Seahawks really letting Tom Cable pick his guys? Or are they looking for explosive athletes to combat the likes of Aaron Donald?

The Seahawks drafted three offensive linemen last year — Terry Poole, Mark Glowinski and Kristjan Sokoli. All three players passed had:

— At least a 9″ broad jump

— A cumulative score in TEF that matches Seattle’s ideal physical profile (31 inch vert, 9″ broad, 27 bench reps)

If you missed it here’s an explanation of what TEF (Trench Explosion Formula) is and why it matters.

Here’s every offensive lineman drafted in 2015 along with their TEF scores:

(ID = insufficient data to calculate)

Brandon Scherff — 2.90
Ereck Flowers — 3.07
Andrus Peat — ID
Cedric Ogbuehi — ID
Laken Tomlinson — 2.95
Donovan Smith — 3.02
Mitch Morse — 3.45
Jake Fisher — ID
Rob Havenstein — 2.34
Ty Sambrailo — 2.52
Ali Marpet — 3.09
Jeremiah Poutasi — 2.49
A.J. Cann — 3.19
Hroniss Grasu — ID
Jamon Brown — ID
John Miller — 2.91
Chaz Green — 2.67
Daryl Williams — 2.56
T.J. Clemmings — 2.95
Tre Jackson — 2.23
Arie Kouandjio — ID
Jamil Douglas — 2.76
Andrew Donnal — 2.71
Jon Feliciano — 2.43
Terry Poole — 3.12
Shaq Mason — 3.02
Max Garcia — 2.89
Mark Glowinski — 3.34
Jarvis Harrison — 2.77
Robert Myers — ID
Tayo Fabuluje — 2.29
Tyrus Thompson — 2.74
Ian Silberman — 2.94
Andy Galik — 2.62
Kristjan Sokoli — 3.75
Cody Wichmann — 2.55
Anthony Morris — 2.88
Austin Reiter — ID
Jake Rodgers — 2.81
Bobby Hart — 2.36
Austin Shepherd — 2.25
Corey Robinson — 3.04
Laurence Gibson — 3.16

Trenton Brown — 2.23
Denzelle Good — 2.76

Of the 45 drafted offensive linemen, only 11 scored a +3.00 using TEF. Ereck Flowers, Donovan Smith, Mitch Morse and Ali Marpet were all off the board before Seattle’s first pick — leaving only seven available to the Seahawks.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider have not drafted a single offensive lineman with sub-33 inch arms since 2010. That would also rule out A.J. Cann and Shaq Mason — meaning five TEF qualified linemen available.

Of that five, the Seahawks drafted three:

R4 Terry Poole
R4 Mark Glowinski
R6 Kristjan Sokoli

R7 Corey Robinson
R7 Laurence Gibson

Considering the arm length issue with Cann and Mason, the Seahawks didn’t actually pass on ANY TEF qualified lineman between Ali Marpet leaving the board and Terry Poole being selected. In fact after Marpet’s selection before Seattle’s second round pick, they proceeded to draft the next three TEF qualifiers to leave the board.

It looks like a calculated decision, just like the selection of Justin Britt in 2014 (explained here).

The evidence continues to stack up in support of the formula. This front office appears to be narrowing it’s search to the most explosive offensive linemen in each draft and picking from a select pool of players.

Here’s a quick review of the evidence we’ve found in the last week:

— Since 2012 they’ve only drafted players that fit the criteria we’ve identified in terms of TEF and the broad jump

In 2014 Justin Britt was the last TEF qualified lineman in the draft available before Garrett Scott in round six — explaining why Seattle took Britt when they did and then added Scott later

— In 2015 they drafted three of five players that beat the TEF test

— Of this years combine group, the following five players in the 2016 draft are ‘TEF enough’: Jason Spriggs, Connor McGovern, Alex Redmond, Joe Haeg, Joe Dahl

— Brian Bobek (3.39) and Vi Teofilo (3.84) are two non-combine invitees that fit the TEF criteria. Anthony Fabiano scored a 2.98. Bobek probably has sub-33 inch arms given his smaller frame. Teofilo definitely misses out on arm length (30 3/4 inch arms).

I suspect the Seahawks use a more sophisticated albeit similar formula. I’m not convinced Laken Tomlinson’s 2.95 would’ve ruled him out considering he jumped a 9-0 in the broad and had the size/length they like. By the same token, I think Germain Ifedi’s 2.95 puts him in contention this year.

John Schneider admitted after the 2015 draft they got all the players ‘they had to have’ apart from one. It’s a safe prediction that this was Mitch Morse. His 3.45 TEF score was by far the highest in the O-line class and would’ve been an ideal replacement for Max Unger at center. Seattle’s fumbled approach to the position last season was possibly a direct impact of missing out on Morse — who they maybe expected to last until the late second round.

That said, the purpose of TEF is not to identify the most explosive/athletic offensive linemen and assume the Seahawks will draft them. It’s more about eliminating those who don’t meet the criteria and focusing on those who do.

For example, Jason Spriggs is clearly the best TEF lineman in the 2016 draft with a 3.54. That said, they might be more inclined to target Connor McGovern (3.29), Joe Haeg (3.06) or Joe Dahl (3.05) with a later pick. Likewise they might think Ifedi’s 2.95 is freaky enough for a 6-6, 324lbs lineman with 36 inch arms.

We’ll find out in less than three weeks whether we are truly onto something with TEF. If their draft habits continue as they have since 2012 — it probably won’t be a coincidence.

It could also prove that actually it’s not ‘Tom Cable picking his guys’ in Seattle. It’s the Seahawks working to a coordinated plan to find explosive offensive linemen to combat the growing disparity between college O-lines and D-lines.

Is center an outlier?

I’ve been asked a few times if the center position is relevant for TEF considering the decent number of ‘mediocre’ athletes playing the position effectively in the NFL.

I think if anything, TEF might be even more important at center in the modern NFL.

Kristjan Sokoli scored a 3.75 before the 2015 draft. That legitimately makes him a generational athlete entering the league. The Seahawks not only converted him from defense to offense — they strictly placed him at center.

When asked about Sokoli in his final press conference of the 2015 season, Pete Carroll stated it was their intention to keep him at center and give him more time to learn the position. He called Sokoli an “exceptional athlete”, adding if he can make it work they’ll have “one of the really good athletes at center”.

It’s pretty obvious why they are interested in this kind of move. Aaron Donald scores a 3.63 in TEF. Geno Atkins is a 3.65. Sheldon Rankins is a 3.52. Ndamukong Suh is a 3.28.

This is the type of player you’re facing in the NFL these days.

Seattle’s plan to try and create a 3.75 counter punch is, quite frankly, brave and brilliant. If it comes off they will be visionaries (again). While some in the league hope tough, hard-nosed and overmatched players can handle the Donald’s, Atkins’, Suh’s and Rankins’ — the Seahawks have what appears to be a much better plan.

Fight fire with fire.

Mitch Morse as a 3.45 TEF star would’ve been ideal and it goes to show that not only the Seahawks are conscious of the changing face of the NFL. The Chiefs knew what they were doing.

Connor McGovern (3.29) can play guard or center and, if drafted, could compete at both positions in camp.

The argument for going O-line at #26 over defense

When you put the entire 2016 class of defensive linemen through TEF, there are 27 players who pass the test compared to six offensive linemen.

While there are plenty of reasons to argue for Jonathan Bullard in round one — and it’d be a strong case — he is comparatively explosive to Vernon Butler, Hassan Ridgeway, Matt Ioannidis, Willie Henry and Anthony Zettel. Other prospects like Joel Heath, Charles Tapper, Ronald Blair III, Javon Hargrave and Yannick Ngakoue actually tested significantly better.

The pool of explosive defensive linemen to pick from is substantially greater than the O-liners. In turn, if you don’t take an offensive lineman at #26 — you run the risk of missing out because there’s no guarantee McGovern, Dahl and Haeg are going to last deep into rounds two and three.

Hatching a plan

In 2014 the Seahawks likely didn’t take Joel Bitonio because his explosive grade (3.03) was similar to Justin Britt’s (3.00). Taking Bitonio at #32 would’ve prevented them getting the receiver they wanted (Paul Richardson, who clearly fits their profile at wide out). Whether you agree with the plan or not — the Seahawks made sure they drafted two players they felt really comfortable with instead of one.

In 2016 — they likewise will concoct a plan to get two players they really like in rounds 1-2 instead of one. So while the players they actually select might confuse and befuddle fans and the media — we know better than to react like that.

The ideal pick?

It’s arguably Sheldon Rankins. He is, without doubt, the most explosive defensive player in the class with an incredible 3.52 TEF score at 300lbs. He has the physical profile to be as good as any defensive tackle in the NFL. He’s also very capable of playing D-end and wouldn’t need to come off the field at any point.

Unfortunately he’s highly unlikely to last until pick #26 and should be a top-15 pick. Assuming he’s gone, O-line at #26 looks the most likely option.