Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Why the Seahawks might not draft a guard early

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Here are three facts about this draft class:

1. It’s top heavy at running back
2. It’s thin at EDGE
3. There’s some talent at guard/center in the first two rounds

The Seahawks have the #18 pick and then nothing until #120. It’ll be virtually impossible to draft one of the best running backs, a top guard and a pass rusher before round four. Even if they trade down.

Let’s go through each position.

1. Running back

We could see 6-8 going in the top-60. It’s that kind of class. By the start of round three all eight of the top runners could be gone. Then there’s a drop-off.

The top eight are likely Saquon Barkley, Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny and Royce Freeman.

If you want to tap into this great running back group you’re probably going to have to take one in the top-50. And teams know that. Jay Gruden pretty much admitted the Redskins intend to. They won’t be alone.

2. Defensive end

Bradley Chubb and Marcus Davenport will go in the top-15. If you want an impact EDGE rusher with serious potential after that, you’re looking at Harold Landry, Josh Sweat and Kemoko Turay. Some teams might view Uchenna Nwosu, Lorenzo Carter and Leon Jacobs as EDGE options but they’re arguably better suited to SAM/LEO (where Seattle just added Barkevious Mingo). There are inside/out type rushers too (Rasheem Green) but there are some nice DE/DT types available later. That might be a role reserved for Dion Jordan. This could be about finding the next Cliff Avril.

A 1.5 10-yard split is usually a good indicator for a talented EDGE and only Landry (1.59) and Sweat (1.55) managed that. Turay ran a 1.62. Tulane’s Ade Aruna ran a 1.60 and had a very good combine workout but will likely need at least one redshirt year. To compare, Avril ran a 1.50 and Bruce Irvin a 1.55.

The Seahawks need some pass rushers. If Avril retires they’re currently relying on Frank Clark, Jordan and Mingo. They probably need to add a veteran and a rookie. If they don’t take an EDGE early they might miss out.

3. Guard/center

Quenton Nelson will go in the top-10 and then we could see a handful of interior offensive linemen drafted in the late first or early second round. That’s the range where Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez and Austin Corbett are slated to go. Iowa center James Daniels will also go quickly plus injured duo Frank Ragnow and Billy Price will probably be top-50 picks. Braden Smith could also go in round two.

As with the running back position, we’ll then see a drop-off.

If you had multiple picks between 20-60 you could address all three areas. The Colts own #6, #35, #36 and #49. They’ll be rubbing their hands looking at this class. Not only can they address DE early (Bradley Chubb) they’ll be in prime range to add a guard and a running back in the value zone and fill another need.

Jealous much?

The Seahawks are in a very different situation. They’re not going to be able to turn #18 into two early second round picks. At best they might be able to take advantage of New England (#31) and Cleveland (#33) owning multiple second round picks. A deal to move down 13-15 spots could net a late second.

They’re going to have to pick their poison.

Only a big trade involving Earl Thomas can change the situation. Even then, you’d be creating a void at safety that might need to be filled by a Jessie Bates III or Justin Reid. And currently, nothing appears imminent on Thomas. It’s over a week since Jason La Canfora’s tweet about interest in a deal.

By trading down significantly from #18 and acquiring a late second rounder or an early third rounder, they might be able to target two of the need positions.

So far they haven’t signed a defensive end. They re-signed Mike Davis today, although that’s likely a deal to provide competition and depth. The addition of D.J. Fluker as a likely starter suggests they won’t be drafting a guard early.

The focus instead could be RB + DE.

Reasons why they might’ve come to that conclusion

The Seahawks are only a year removed from drafting Ethan Pocic in round two. It’d be a big call to determine he isn’t good enough after just one season.

They’ve invested a ton of draft picks into their offensive line:

Duane Brown — 2018 R3 and 2019 R2
Ethan Pocic — 2017 R2
Justin Britt — 2014 R2
Germain Ifedi — 2016 R1
Rees Odhimabo — 2016 R3

Now they’ve signed D.J. Fluker too.

Eventually, you have to back your judgement and challenge the coaches to make the group function. Mike Solari hasn’t come in to blow up the personnel and create a new line. He’s here to work with the bulk of the existing group. The only new starter might be Fluker at right guard.

There could be some shifting around. George Fant might win the job at right tackle. Rees Odhiambo could compete at left guard. The Seahawks have already poured picks into their O-line. Now it’s time to get it working.

It can’t always be about ‘one more high pick’. The success or failure of the line is unlikely to be determined by the left guard alone. It’s one man in a group of five. Solari’s challenge is to improve communication and execution, particularly in the run game.

Time to deliver.

That’s not to say they wouldn’t benefit from having Isaiah Wynn, Austin Corbett or Will Hernandez lining up at left guard. It’d be great. But what’s the proposal? Bench Pocic and call it a wasted pick, while failing to properly address running back or defensive end? Or give Pocic a chance to take a step forward and fill the other two needs?

This is just part of building a roster. Every team has a call to make. Very few come into the draft with only one or two holes to fill. You’re nearly always working out the best combination.

Seattle drafted Pocic. They signed Fluker. They’ve not done anything significant at running back or defensive end. Things can change but right now those two positions seem to be the draft focus.

If nothing else, it’s logical.

And while some might suggest the Mike Davis signing addresses running back — you’re not passing on the top runners in this draft because of this news. You really aren’t. This is about making sure you’re not going into camp with just a rookie, Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise as your depth.

We should spend some time discussing combinations at running back + EDGE that fit for the Seahawks.

They could find a way to go Ronald Jones II then Josh Sweat. Or it could be Harold Landry and Nick Chubb.

Either scenario makes some sense.

They’d be taking a pass rusher that fits what they’ve gone for in the past (highly athletic, 1.5 10-yard split, good agility/explosive testing). If they want an EDGE with plus athleticism, Landry and Sweat are certainly options.

There are alternatives too. If they wanted to go with an inside/out rusher instead they could consider Rasheem Green. He’s projected in the late first or early second round. Sam Hubbard is another who could go in that range. Andrew Brown is rising quickly and could be a target as early as round two.

Jones II is a little lighter than they’ve drafted at running back but he’s that explosive, sudden, dynamic playmaker they’ve often coveted. He has star potential and looks every bit Jamaal Charles 2.0. That’s hard to ignore. He’s also much tougher and aggressive than some of the bigger backs in this class. If only Bo Scarborough played with Rojo’s intensity. He’d be going a lot earlier in the draft.

Chubb meanwhile is practically the definition of the type of running back they’ve previously drafted. About 5-10 and 225lbs, incredibly explosive and tough. Kerryon Johnson is another alternative.

Address these two needs early and you’re set up for the rest of the draft. You can fill out your D-line depth with the beef at Ohio State (Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes) and NC State (B.J. Hill, Justin Jones, Kentavius Street). You can look to bring in another blocking tight end (Dalton Schultz, Durham Smythe, Will Dissly). There are plenty of options at linebacker (Leon Jacobs, Fred Warner, Dorian O’Daniel, Oren Burks) and you can add some talent to the secondary (Natrell Jamerson, Nick Nelson, Tre Flowers, Isaac Yiadom, Brandon Facyson, Terrell Edmunds).

If there’s one other thing free agency is telling us, it’s that the Seahawks aren’t enamoured with the draft options at receiver. They’ve already added Marcus Johnson and Jaron Brown. Reportedly they’re still in the hunt for Terrelle Pryor. They might wait until the last round or UDFA although Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimious St. Brown are intriguing options from the combine.

Re-signing Bradley McDougald and adding Maurice Alexander could take strong safety off the board too, especially if Earl Thomas is retained at free safety.

EDIT — The Seahawks also re-signed Marcus Smith today. It’s valuable depth and he can be an EDGE. As with the Davis signing, I’m not sure it changes anything in terms of the overall discussion in this piece.

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Wisconsin trio could be in play for Seahawks

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Wisconsin could be something of a supply line for the Seahawks in the draft. In our Seahawks seven-round mock recently we had them taking Leon Jacobs (LB) and Natrell Jamerson (FS).

Tony Pauline reported on Wednesday that Seattle had dinner with Jamerson and cornerback Nick Nelson after the Badgers’ pro-day.

The Seahawks love speed at linebacker and Jacobs was one of the few to run particularly well at the combine. At 6-1 and 246lbs he ran an impressive 4.48:

He’s not as tall as previous LEO projects but he has good arm length to make up for it (33.5 inch arms). He tested well in the vertical (34.5) and broad (10-2). Crucially he also ran a 1.58 10-yard split — the measure of initial quickness and burst. Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin and Barkevious Mingo all ran in the 1.5’s.

As a linebacker prospect Jacobs also ran a similar short shuttle to K.J. Wright (4.44 vs 4.46). In many ways he’s a solid fit. There are limited LEO prospects in the draft or free agency (thus the Mingo signing). He’s a hitter who plays with intensity. He has the demeanour that you want in a linebacker and the potential to develop into a solid pass rush contributor.

Not many players can do this to a left tackle:

He reads plays particularly well and plays with patience. Here he is blowing up a screen:

Here is showing patience in the open field and then the closing speed/finish to make the TFL against the running back:

Here he is handling a receiver to make a one-armed TFL:

There weren’t really any players like Jacobs in last years draft (when Pete Carroll talked about adding youth to the linebacker position). He’s the perfect combination of size, speed, explosive traits and intensity. There’s work to be done here (he was more of a role player at Wisconsin) and he’ll need refining. There aren’t many players with a higher physical upside in this draft, however.

Natrell Jamerson initially stood out for his special teams value. He flies around and recorded 20 tackles on kickoff coverage. He can be a gunner and a returner:

As a safety there’s also an awful lot to work with. He ran a 4.40 at 5-10 and 201lbs so he has range. Somehow he managed 25 reps on the bench press at the combine despite the weight disadvantage (try benching your body weight +25lbs). That’s an incredible achievement. At the Wisconsin pro-day he add three inches to his vertical jump (38) and also improved on his broad jump (10-3).

With Earl Thomas’ future still relatively undecided, the Seahawks are assessing the draft options. Tony Pauline previously noted interest in Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates III. Jamerson has the raw tools and instinct in zone to make plays like this:

I needed to take a look at Nick Nelson. He wasn’t on the radar. After all, why are the Seahawks meeting with him? He’s somewhere between 5-10 and 5-11 and has 30 3/4 inch arms. He is the very definition of a cornerback they don’t draft. He only ran a 4.52 at 200lbs too.

Yet watching him at Wisconsin, it’s clear why they’re showing some interest. Arguably there isn’t a cornerback in this class that plays tighter coverage. He smothers receivers and blankets them, frequently getting a hand to the football.

His performance against Maryland’s D.J. Moore (a possible first round pick) was outstanding. He’s #11 for Wisconsin:

Look at the first attempt in the red zone and how quickly he closes space and narrows the throwing window for the quarterback. On the second red zone snap, he’s all over Moore. There’s no chance for the quarterback to get him the ball.

At the 1:45 minute mark you’ll note the long, looping pass thrown by the quarterback that falls incomplete. Watch after the ball drops to the ground. Nelson comes in and absolute dumps Moore on his backside. It’s a bit unnecessary but fun nonetheless. Seattle has missed some of that attitude recently.

The only reception Moore completed came on a play where Nelson forces him to re-route and he steps out of bounds before illegally catching the pass. At about the 3:20 mark he has blanket coverage on Moore downfield and plays the ball to force an incompletion.

He pitched a shut-out against one of the most athletic, tough and highly rated receivers in the draft.

In total Nelson had 21 passes defended in 2017 — the most in college football. He recorded 42 for his career. It’s very clear why. His footwork is efficient, you don’t see him fooled on double moves. He’s just sticky. It all looks so effortless. He mirrors receivers, tracks the route, doesn’t make many mistakes and when the ball’s in the air he’ll compete.

He’s thick set and physical. He looks like a tremendous prospect to handle slot-corner duties. In an emergency even a team like Seattle could probably trust him to put in a shift outside.

You also wonder if they see him as a possible safety project. After all, he’s so far away from Seattle’s prototype cornerback. They simply don’t draft guys like this. His size, composure, timing and reading of the game could fit a move to free safety. He plays with the competitiveness of a Seahawks safety, that’s for sure.

He didn’t do the agility tests at the combine but he took part at the Wisconsin pro-day:

There’s some quickness on show here:

Nelson received a second round grade from the draft committee but he’s being projected to last a little longer than that.

Jacobs, Jamerson and Nelson are three names to keep an eye on here. All three are highly athletic, physical and competitive. They’re winners. And the Seahawks are going to need to draft some young players like this for their defense.

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What are the Seahawks doing? Plus Austin Corbett

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

Pete Carroll is staring a challenging off-season right in the eyes

What are the Seahawks doing?

We’re all seeking clarity. Here’s my best attempt at answering some of the big questions we’re all asking at the moment…

Are they giving up on 2018?

It’ll never be about ‘not winning’ for Pete Carroll. Even in 2010 when the Seahawks were a cobbled together bunch of retreads, rejects, journeymen and rookies — Seattle found a way to compete.

Here’s a reminder:

Change has been on the cards. We’ve known that since Mike Silver published his piece in December.

It doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t or can’t be competitive next season.

So how are they going to be competitive? They’re cutting key veterans!

I think they believe if they can fix the running game it will cure a lot of ills. Russell Wilson would get the support he needs on offense and that helps the defense too.

Complete the circle.

This also allows them to challenge as best they can in 2018 while they make some difficult but possibly necessary changes to the roster. Moves that will increase competition and the speed/health of the defense.

That’s all well and good but there’s intent and there’s execution!

As bad as the Seahawks were at times in 2017, they still won nine games and should’ve won more despite playing virtually an entire season without a running game.

When they were able to run the ball, they looked terrific.

Remember the Eagles game in week 13? Seattle defeated the eventual Super Bowl Champions handsomely. Richard Sherman didn’t play. They ran the ball and were balanced. It was one of the few times in 2017 everything clicked together. They were a proper team.

So even as bad as things were last year, they still put together a clear example of what they want to be. It’ll be a lot easier to repeat that performance if they can turn a hopeless running game into a functioning and consistent one in 2018.

Why couldn’t they just fix the run and keep Sherman?

The Seahawks spent spent $93,714,666 on their defense last season, more than any team in the NFL. The split between offensive and defensive spend was 36.37% vs 55.98%.

There needs to be more balance there.

Not only was it an expensive defense, it was an ageing one too. Multiple veteran players suffered key injuries or simply didn’t practise during the week.

Getting cheaper and younger on defense had to be part of the 2018 plan. And that meant difficult decisions had to be made.

But now they have so many holes on defense!

Pete Carroll deserves some benefit of the doubt here. Even last year they found Dion Jordan, Justin Coleman, Bradley McDougald, Shaq Griffin and Naz Jones.

Carroll is a very experienced and proven developer of talent. He gets the best out of people, especially on defense. So here we go again. Let’s see what they can do.

Even if they needed to get younger and cheaper on defense, they won’t be that competitive even if they fix the run!

Any team with a franchise quarterback and a running game will be tough to beat. Any team carrying those two aspects plus a defense led by Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas will be competitive.

What are they going to spend all this cap space on?

They don’t have to spend it immediately. They can be picky. They have the flexibility to chase the next Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril if they become available in 2018, 2019, 2020 or whenever. The next time a Calais Campbell hits the market, that player might be heading to Seattle.

Their biggest outlay this year might be a veteran blocking tight end, a receiver or a recently cut defensive or offensive lineman. It might be a hedge running back for the draft. They might spend to retain their own, be it Bradley McDougald or Sheldon Richardson.

Rolling cap and protecting comp picks could be the ultimate goal.

So how do they fix the run if they’re not going to just go and spend $14m a year on Andrew Norwell?

Well, this just so happens to be the ideal draft class to fix the running game. The first two rounds will be loaded with talented running backs and interior offensive linemen.

They couldn’t have picked a better year to face this challenge.

I know some people (no names mentioned *cough* *Seahawks Twitter* *cough*) are allergic to talking about the running back position with anything other than pure disdain — but the Seahawks have a great opportunity to get things back on track.

They only have one early pick though! So how are they going to do this?

They’ll need to be creative but that’s fine.

Trading down twice from #18 (initially into the mid-20’s and then possibly down into round two) could net two third round picks. That would give you three picks in the sweet-spot of the draft (R2-3).

Turning #18 into three day-two picks could be their objective. And it’s achievable.

They’d also have much more flexibility if that happened. They could trade down again, trade up if needed. They should be able to land the tools they need to fix the run.

Trade down AGAIN? No thanks!

Well, there aren’t that many legit first round players in the draft this year. I think there are about 10-15. Phil Savage says 20. Either way, the player you take at #18 might not have a significantly higher grade than the player drafted at #35.

The sweet-spot this year, without a doubt, is rounds 2-3.

What about the defense though! Surely they need to spend a high pick there!

Let’s have some names then. Defensive line is often suggested as a must-pick following Michael Bennett’s departure. The options are limited in round one. If you compare Marcus Davenport, Harold Landry and Taven Bryan to Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez, Austin Corbett and the running backs (especially players like Ronald Jones II) — good luck convincing anyone a defensive lineman at #18 is a better option.

Vita Vea will go in the top-10. Leighton Vander Esch could go in the top-16 and Derwin James might be off the board too. The defensive options at #18 aren’t likely to be that appealing and they’ll be even thinner if you trade down.

So how exactly do you plan to add to the defense!?

Again, you play to the strength of the draft. It’s quite simple this year. The early round value is at running back, linebacker and the interior offensive line. The later round picks should provide a lot of value on defense in general.

Our seven-round Seahawks mock draft highlighted this. There is plenty of day three talent on defense this year.

So how quickly can they get back to their best?

Atlanta and Philadelphia turned things around pretty quickly. Seattle can do the same. But it starts with fixing the run first and foremost.

Nevada’s Austin Corbett could be Seattle’s first pick in the draft

Austin Corbett should be on our radar

Tony Pauline connected him to the Seahawks during Senior Bowl week, suggesting they could target him in round two.

Considering the Seahawks are likely to trade down from #18 — possibly out of the first round altogether — Corbett is a name to monitor. If they did want to go O-line first after a significant move down, Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez might be off the board. Corbett could be a prominent alternative.

Today I spent time watching two of his games from 2017 (vs Boise State, Hawaii) and it’s easy to see why he’s being considered a possible first round pick by some scouts.

Watching him leaves you wondering whether Corbett has done any martial arts. Often he’ll judo-throw a defensive lineman off balance. he generates a lot of power in his hips. In the two games I kept seeing this same move time and time again and he tried it at the Senior Bowl when lining up at center for this rep:

He also has a chop he likes to bring in which is a thing of beauty. Hand-technique is vital in the trenches:

He also has a great punch, jolting blockers off balance and frequently stoning them at the point of attack. Here he is versus likely top-25 pick Marcus Davenport:

He’s very willing to progress to the second level and Corbett combo blocks as well as anyone else in this class. He appeared very comfortable dealing with stunts and twists:

Corbett is physical and plays with the attitude you want to see on the O-line. Need evidence?

That’s him dominating Marcus Davenport again, by the way.

Like Wynn he’s extremely competent and doesn’t get flustered. It’s difficult to beat him. It’s incredibly difficult to find obvious flaws. And that’s the one thing that separates this class of lineman compared to previous years. Even the guys like Wynn and Corbett who played left tackle in college are barely ever beaten off the edge. They combat speed, get into position and have the kind of hand technique and recovery to sustain blocks. You’re not looking at highly athletic, raw projects and seeing the obvious areas where they can improve. This is rare in 2018 but they genuinely look like plug-in-and-play O-liners.

This isn’t the cleanest rep against Ogbonnia Okoronkwo in the Senior Bowl. His footwork isn’t particularly smooth but he just finds a way to get it done. Decent use of the hands, eventually gets into position. No way through for Okoronkwo:

You can find tape where Mike McGlinchey is beaten, for example. Watching Wynn and Corbett — it barely ever happens. They are both incredibly difficult to beat. There’s no rhyme or reason to it either. Neither are sensational athletes or particularly long or big. They’re both adequately sized. Decent but not elite physical traits. There aren’t many of these players around in college football but they’re just really, really good at blocking. In both the passing and running game.

Being extremely competent might seem like you’re dabbing a prospect with faint praise. Maybe so for other positions but not necessarily on the O-line.

This might be important too — he’s very durable. He played more than 600 snaps in college, starting 49 of 50 games at Nevada. He missed only one game because of an ankle injury and that came in his Freshman year.

Corbett’s not the most explosive lineman. He only managed an 8-10 broad and a 28.5 inch vertical. His 5.15 forty isn’t bad but Joel Bitonio, who he’s often compared to, ran a 4.97 and also had better explosive testing results (e.g. 32 inch vertical).

He did do well in the 10-yard split though. His 1.76 was only bettered by Kolton Miller (1.67), Brian O’Neill (1.70) and Joseph Noteboom (1.72). Miller, O’Neill and Noteboom all ran sub-5.00 forty’s. Joel Bitonio might’ve run a quicker forty but Corbett beat him in the split (1.76 vs 1.78).

It’s also worth noting that one of the other players to run a 1.76 split was 327lbs Will Hernandez. Both Corbett and Hernandez ran 1.76 splits and 5.15 forty’s (Hernandez is 21lbs heavier though).

Corbett excelled in the short shuttle, running a 4.50. That’s similar to Bitonio’s 4.44 and better than Garett Bolles’ 4.55 and Jack Conklin’s 4.57. It’s the eighth best time in the last three years and put him in the top five for O-liners at the 2018 combine:

James Daniels — 4.40
Joseph Noteboom — 4.44
Kolton Miller — 4.49
Austin Corbett — 4.50
Brian O’Neill — 4.50

He showed off his agility during the combine drills:

As we’ve often discussed, this is a very strong looking group of interior linemen this year. Quenton Nelson could go in the top-five. Wynn and Hernandez likely sneak into the back-end of round one and Billy Price could still get into that range too. Frank Ragnow and Austin Corbett won’t be too far behind. I’m yet to study James Daniels the Iowa center.

It won’t be a surprise if teams look to trade into the last 5-7 picks of the first round to get at the interior O-line class or the group of running backs. There’s going to be a ton of talent at those two positions leaving the board between 25-45.

It won’t be a total shocker either if Corbett sneaks into round one. He’s probably more likely to be an early R2 but listen — this is possible. He’s really good.

If the Seahawks want to go OL-RB — and if Wynn and Hernandez are off the board after they’ve traded down — Corbett could be a target. It might surprise a few people on draft day but it’s possible.

It’s a shame they don’t have their native second round pick to be able to say with some confidence they can tap into the interior O-line and running back classes early.

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Leighton Vander Esch is really good

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Open a mock draft over the next few days and you’ll very likely see the Seahawks paired with a defensive player at #18.

Most mocks don’t include trades so it won’t really mean much. The Seahawks are as likely as any team to move down, considering they don’t own picks in rounds 2-3. Even so, the mocks are interesting to read because it’s an outsider view on where the Seahawks are at.

Unfortunately, most will overreact to the Richard Sherman departure. They’ll put a cornerback at #18 despite the fact the Seahawks have a proven record of doing the opposite. They’ve waited until day three for their corners and drafted a profile. The earliest they’ve taken a corner is round three and it’s almost certain they won’t take a corner any earlier this year.

If there’s one position Pete Carroll is comfortable coaching up, it’s corner.

The most likely early pick will be something to help the running game. Pete Carroll has identified this as a major cause for concern. Anyone following the team closely will know how desperate the situation became in 2017. One running touchdown by a back all year. That isn’t Pete Carroll football.

They’re unlikely to just blame this on the O-line too. Having invested so many early picks on the unit, it’ll likely be up to Mike Solari to get more out of the group. They might make some changes but a ‘just one more high pick‘ approach might be unlikely — even if there are some exceptional guard candidates this year (Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez etc).

It’s fashionable to play down the importance of the running back position but we’ll see how the Seahawks approach it in April.

If they were going to go defense early (a proposition much more likely if they acquire extra stock in rounds 2-3) it probably wouldn’t be a corner. I’m not sure it’d be a defensive lineman either. There’s isn’t any quite special enough. Nobody with Bruce Irvin’s 4.4 speed or Cliff Avril’s 1.50 split to work the edge. Marcus Davenport didn’t have a bad workout but it wasn’t particularly exciting either.

Bruce Irvin, Frank Clark, Malik McDowell — all freakishly athletic and physical in their own different way. Nobody is particularly unique among this D-line class outside of Bradley Chubb and Vita Vea.

And that’s why both Chubb and Vea will go in the top-10.

So what would the Seahawks do if they wanted to take a defensive player in round one? And what would they look for?

It’d probably have to be a player with cornerstone potential. Someone who can develop into an integral part of the next core. It’d also need to be someone with leadership qualities and eye-catching physical numbers.

Derwin James will be a name that springs to mind. It’s difficult to judge his stock at the moment. He had a terrific combine but that wasn’t unexpected. He’s considered a leader. The only thing holding him back somewhat is position (few teams take a box safety early). Are you getting a major, significant impact if you take him in round one? At Florida State his tape was, in fairness, frequently quite dull. What counters that is the ability of James to develop into a greater playmaker given his testing numbers and the impact he might provide for a young defense breaking in a new identity.

For those reasons, he could interest Seattle.

That said, there might be an even more appealing option.

I spent some time today looking closely at Leighton Vander Esch. It’s high time he earned widespread recognition as a likely top-20 pick.

His first-step quickness at 6-4 and 256lbs is legit. He explodes to the ball and has enough range to play inside or outside linebacker. So often it’s difficult for opponents to get to him — whether it’s a running back covering the blitz or even a lineman. He’s just too quick, too agile:

When he needs to power through a blocker, he can do that too:

We’re talking about a highly athletic, physical and at times violent player. He plays the game bigger and stronger than the opponent and has the attitude and passion on the field you want to see for the position. He loves to fill gaps vs the run, he’ll chase down the ball-carrier from behind and he has a knack for being in the right place due to an instinctive feel for the game.

Last year he had eight TFL’s, three interceptions, four sacks and four forced fumbles. At the next level he’ll be a stat machine and a playmaker.

He ran a 4.65 at the combine which is fine. Not outstanding but fine. Vander Esch more than made up for it elsewhere. He had an outstanding 4.15 short shuttle highlighting his extraordinary quickness for his size. Mike Gesicki was lauded for his short shuttle time (4.10) but Vander Esch is nine pounds heavier.

He showed off his mobility/agility during the drills:

He also managed a 39.5 inch vertical, a 10-4 broad and a 6.88 three-cone.

A man weighing 256lbs shouldn’t be able to move like this covering a pass to the flat (and bonus points for the hit):

This might be my favourite clip. Look at the way he diagnoses the play, works across the line, avoids blockers and executes the tackle. Not to mention the way he stands over the ball-carrier afterwards and gives him a little, ‘enjoy it down there’:

Can he drop into coverage, read the play and make a pick? You bet:

Let’s look at how his testing numbers compare to some of the players already in the league:

Short shuttle

Thomas Davis — 4.01
Von Miller — 4.06
Shaq Thompson — 4.08
Luke Kuechly — 4.12
T.J. Watt — 4.13
Vic Beasley — 4.15
Leighton Vander Esch — 4.15
Sean Lee — 4.16
Khalil Mack — 4.18
Anthony Barr — 4.19
Lavonte David — 4.22
Bobby Wagner — 4.28
Jordan Willis — 4.28
Zach Cunningham — 4.29
Jamie Collins — 4.32
K.J. Wright — 4.35
Haason Reddick — 4.37
Telvin Smith — 4.57

Quicker in the short shuttle than Bobby Wagner and placed nicely between Luke Kuechly, Sean Lee, Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr. He also ran the same time as Vic Beasley.

Three cone

Von Miller — 6.70
Tyus Bowser — 6.75
T.J. Watt — 6.79
Anthony Barr — 6.82
Jordan Willis — 6.85
Leighton Vander Esch — 6.88
Sean Lee — 6.89
Vic Beasley — 6.91
Luke Kuechly — 6.92
Shaq Thompson — 6.99
Haason Reddick — 7.01
Zach Cunningham — 7.03
Telvin Smith — 7.04
Khalil Mack — 7.08
Jamie Collins — 7.10
Thomas Davis — 7.10
Bobby Wagner — 7.10
K.J. Wright — 7.21
Lavonte David — 7.28

Again, this is impressive company. This time he’s quicker than lee and Kuechly (but ran a comparable time) and was considerably quicker than Mack, Wagner and Telvin Smith.

Vertical jump

Jamie Collins — 41.5
Vic Beasley — 41
Khalil Mack — 40
Leighton Vander Esch — 39.5
Bobby Wagner — 39.5
Jordan Willis — 39
Luke Kuechly — 38
Tyus Bowser — 37.5
Sean Lee — 37.5
Von Miller — 37
T.J. Watt — 37
Lavonte David — 36.5
Thomas Davis — 36.5
Haason Reddick — 36.5
Zach Cunningham — 35
Anthony Barr — 34.5
K.J. Wright — 34
Shaq Thompson — 33.5
Telvin Smith — 31.5

It’s never a bad thing to be as explosive in the vertical jump as Bobby Wagner (despite carrying an extra 15lbs in weight). Vander Esch is again nicely placed near Mack and above Kuechly, Lee and even Von Miller.

Broad jump

Jamie Collins — 11-7
Haason Reddick — 11-1
Bobby Wagner — 11-0
Vic Beasley — 10-10
Khalil Mack — 10-8
T.J. Watt — 10-8
Tyus Bowser — 10-6
Von Miller — 10-6
Anthony Barr — 10-5
Zach Cunningham — 10-5
Jordan Willis — 10-5
Leighton Vander Esch — 10-4
Luke Kuechly — 10-3
Sean Lee — 10-0
K.J. Wright — 10-0
Lavonte David — 9-11
Telvin Smith — 9-11
Shaq Thompson — 9-9
Thomas Davis — 9-7

Vander Esch didn’t perform as well as Wagner and Mack here but he’s in the same range as Barr, Kuechly and Lee.

Forty yard dash

Bobby Wagner — 4.46
Haason Reddick — 4.52
Telvin Smith — 4.52
Vic Beasley — 4.53
Von Miller — 4.53
Jordan Willis — 4.53
Luke Kuechly — 4.58
Thomas Davis — 4.60
Sean Lee — 4.60
Jamie Collins — 4.64
Shaq Thompson — 4.64
Tyus Bowser — 4.65
Lavonte David — 4.65
Khalil Mack — 4.65
Leighton Vander Esch — 4.65
Anthony Barr — 4.66
Zach Cunningham — 4.67
T.J. Watt — 4.69
K.J. Wright — 4.71

Even in the forty yard dash — his time didn’t initially stand out but it’s as quick as Mack and and Barr and in a similar range to Kuechly and Lee.

This isn’t a draft class loaded with legit first round graded players. It’s still easy to look at certain prospects and imagine star-quality. Saquon Barkley obviously has it. I think Ronald Jones II has it too. Bradley Chubb, Vita Vea, Quenton Nelson, Tremaine Edmunds. At least a couple of the quarterbacks could become big names in the league and I wouldn’t rule out Derwin James having an excellent career too.

It’s possible a decent number from this class could become top players in the league.

Vander Esch also has that kind of feel.

He can learn to shed better but he has the arm length (34 inches) to improve there. If he plays outside it won’t be as much of an issue (he played inside for Boise State).

I think you’re talking about a player who will fly to the ball, play fast and raise the intensity level of your defense. You can trust him to play the run and pass, he’ll be instinctive and he won’t just be a tackle collector. He will make plays, force turnovers and impact games.

I’m not sure whether the Seahawks will contemplate drafting him given their needs in the running game. He could end up in Oakland, Washington or Green Bay inside the top-15. It’s not improbable.

As Seattle begins a new chapter on defense, you can’t necessarily pick and choose where your blue-chip players will come. Vander Esch would be a temporary SAM and possibly a long term WILL. If they had their full compliment of picks, Vander Esch might be able to give them the type of attitude and talent they require as they turn over a new leaf.

He might not end up in navy blue but he’s still a player worthy of a high projection this year.

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Seahawks seven round mock draft

Friday, March 9th, 2018

The projection

R1/2 — Running back (one of Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb or Kerryon Johnson)
R3 — Dalton Schultz (TE, Stanford)
R4 — Leon Jacobs (LB, Wisconsin)
R5 — Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State)
R5 — Tre Flowers (DB, Oklahoma State)
R5 — Dorian O’Daniel (LB, Clemson)
R5 — Jordan Thomas (CB, Oklahoma)
R7 — Natrell Jamerson (S, Wisconsin)
R7 — Chase Edmonds (RB, Fordham)

Round one — #18
Trade down

It feels inevitable the Seahawks will trade down. The value in this draft will come in rounds 2-3. With no pick currently in either round, Seattle is highly likely to try and acquire some stock in that range. They could trade down into the late first or early second. What can they get in return? The only precedent we have is the 2013 trade between Dallas and San Francisco. The Niners moved from #31 to #18 and gave up a relatively early third round pick.

First pick — R1/2
Running back

Many fans will want the Seahawks to consider adding an O-liner here. It’s a very valid position to take. This is an extremely good class for interior offensive lineman. We’ve talked a lot recently about the possibility of Isaiah Wynn or Will Hernandez. Both players could be a consideration.

However, if the Seahawks retain Earl Thomas and don’t add extra picks in the second or third round, they’ll be limited. Having already spent a bounty of high draft picks on Duane Brown, Ethan Pocic, Germain Ifedi, Justin Britt and Rees Odhiambo, they might feel it’s time to invest in a different area of the team. They’re also creating the kind of cap room that could enable them to sign a veteran in free agency.

‘Getting by’ at running back hasn’t worked for two straight years. For all the talk about ‘finding running backs anywhere’, Seattle’s collection of mid/late round picks, UDFA’s and free agents haven’t brought about a solution. They were at their best when they had a consistent, physical, reliable running back with exceptional skill. It’s time to find another and this is the draft class to do it.

With their first pick in this seven round projection, the Seahawks select one of Ronald Jones II, Kerryon Johnson or Nick Chubb.

Round three — acquired via trading down in round one
Dalton Schultz (TE, Stanford)

The Seahawks need to address the tight end position at some stage, possibly with a rookie and a free agent. Jimmy Graham is on the way out and Luke Willson is also hitting the market. They could re-sign Willson or another veteran. That could be a blocking TE like Virgil Green or Niles Paul. It’s also quite possible they will spend a high pick on the position.

Schultz’s main responsibility at Stanford was to block. He frequently opened up lanes for Bryce Love and was a major factor in the running game. The Seahawks need someone who can be a factor as a blocker and make the occasional chain-moving catch.

Zach Miller did this job superbly and Schultz had a very similar combine:

Zach Miller
Height: 6-4
Weight: 256
Arm length: 32
Hand size: 10
Forty: 4.86
Vertical: 34
Broad: 9-7
Bench: 16 (pro day)
Short shuttle: 4.42
Three cone: 7.01

Dalton Schultz
Height: 6-5
Weight: 244
Arm length: 31 1/4
Hand size: 9.5
Forty: 4.75
Vertical: DNP
Broad: 10-0
Bench: 15
Short shuttle: 4.40
Three cone: 7.00

They’re particularly similar in the short shuttle and three cone plus their explosive testing and size/length are similar. Schultz was quite a bit quicker in the forty.

Round four
Leon Jacobs (LB, Wisconsin)

The Seahawks love speed at linebacker. Jacobs was one of the few to run particularly well at the combine, recording a superb 4.48 at 6-1 and 246lbs. He also jumped a 34.5 inch vertical and managed a 10-2 broad jump. He’s explosive and fast and also has good length (33.5 inch arms). Jacobs put up 26 reps on the bench press (second only to Malik Jefferson among linebackers). His short shuttle time (4.44) was similar to K.J. Wright’s (4.46). After re-watching some Wisconsin yesterday, Jacobs plays with real intensity. He’s a hitter with good closing speed and he can offer some value as a pass rusher. He could be an option to play strongside linebacker.

Round five
Defense time

This isn’t a bad round to own four picks. There will be some value on defense in this range. The four players I’m projecting are Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State), Tre Flowers (DB, Oklahoma State), Dorian O’Daniel (LB, Clemson) and Jordan Thomas (CB, Oklahoma).

Tyquan Lewis had an explosive workout at the combine (35.5 inch vertical, 10-2 broad jump) and has the ideal size to play inside/out (6-3, 270lbs). He also has 34 inch arms. Lewis had a strong Senior Bowl and is a mature, well spoken individual. He could develop quickly into a strong voice on the team.

Tre Flowers competed as a safety at the combine but looks every bit a cornerback. He’s 6-3 and 200lbs with 34 inch arms. He ran a 4.45 forty and managed a 34.5 inch vertical and a 10-2 broad. He’s long and lean and as soon as he started working out in Indianapolis, he just looked like a Seahawks cornerback project.

Dorian O’Daniel is a skull collector on special teams. He’s not the biggest (6-0, 223lbs) or the fastest (4.61) but he ran an excellent 4.07 short shuttle and a 6.64 three cone. These short area tests are vital for linebackers (highlighted here) and O’Daniel found a way to make plays for Clemson in 2017 (11.5 TFL’s, two interceptions, two touchdowns).

Jordan Thomas is 6-0 and 187lbs and has 32 inch arms. He only ran a 4.64 forty but he became only the fifth player since 2010 to run a sub-four second short shuttle (3.94) with 32 inch arms (joining Kevin King, Byron Jones, Tye Smith and DeAndre Elliott). His short shuttle (6.28) is the fastest in 10 years at the combine by an enormous 0.16 seconds. Thomas has some issues but there’s a lot to work with here.

Round seven
Natrell Jamerson (S, Wisconsin) & Chase Edmonds (RB, Fordham)

Wisconsin’s Natrell Jamerson is another fantastic special teams player. Seattle’s special teams wasn’t good enough last year for many reasons and I’ve deliberately looked for players who excelled in that area. Jamerson can return kicks and is an excellent gunner. He had 20 special teams tackles on kickoff coverage. He’s also rangy, running a 4.40 at 5-10 and 201lbs. Jamerson added an impressive 25 reps on the bench press (pretty incredible at his weight) plus a 35.5 inch vertical and 10-0 broad.

Yesterday Tony Pauline reported the Seahawks sent a number of people to watch Chase Edmonds perform at his pro day:

Fordham running back Chase Edmonds stood on most of his combine numbers but looked terrific in position drills, especially catching the ball, for the 18 teams who were on hand. Edmonds ran more than a dozen routes coming out of the backfield as well as lining up as a receiver. He did re-run the 3 cone (6.89s) and short shuttle (4.00s).

The Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons sent multiple people to watch Edmonds’ workout and the running back spent time with the New York Jets, New York Giants and Tennessee Titans.

Edmonds is smaller than they’ve drafted previously (5-9, 205lbs) but he’s also reasonably explosive (34 inch vertical, 10-2 broad). It could indicate they are looking for a complimentary back of this size. For what it’s worth, Ronald Jones II is also 205lbs. Perhaps if they don’t get Jones II they’ll look for a similar runner?

No offensive linemen!?!
If it doesn’t happen early, it might not happen. At the end of the day, they have a collection of highly drafted linemen already. Unless they’re planning major changes to the line, they might be looking to fill one or two spots only. And they might want a more veteran-influenced O-line. So it’s possible they address this next week and focus on other areas. It’s not necessarily what I would do — but they’re limited with their solitary early pick.

What else could it mean for free agency?

— If they plan to draft Ronald Jones II, potentially they could pair him with a bigger veteran like Carlos Hyde or Jonathan Stewart.

— Re-sign Bradley McDougald or consider adding Eric Reid.

— Sign a receiver (Marqise Lee?) and a veteran tight end (or re-sign Luke Willson). They might add a big target too.

— Find some veteran D-line options. With the freed cap room they might be able to retain Sheldon Richardson but they might prefer the 2019 comp pick. Luckily this is one area where they have a proven track record (Clemons, Bennett, Avril, Clark, Jordan). If Ndamukong Suh is cut, would the Seahawks look at him? It wouldn’t cost a comp pick.

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Updated first round mock draft: Post-combine

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Before we get started, I was invited onto the Field Gulls podcast yesterday to discuss the combine. Check it out below. Plus if you missed it over the weekend, don’t forget to listen to the Seahawkers Podcast appearance from Sunday (click here).

Two quick notes before we get into the mock…

— This draft is going to provide much better value in rounds 2-3 than it is in round one. I’m using this projection to emphasise this. I suspect teams will be happy to trade out of the back-end of round one and might be willing to take relatively cheap deals to do so.

— The Seahawks trade down from #18 here and take an offensive linemen. However, this is on the basis they manage to accumulate extra picks in rounds 2-3. There are mixed reports doing the rounds. Jason La Canfora recently said he expects Earl Thomas to be traded, while Ian Rapoport is saying Thomas is staying in Seattle. If the Seahawks don’t trade Thomas (their only realistic chance to gain extra picks in rounds 2-3) I think it’s much more likely their first pick will end up being a running back, either in the late first round or early second round.

Updated first round mock draft

This mock draft contains several trades.

#1 Cleveland — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#2 Cleveland (trade w/NYG) — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#3 Buffalo (trade w/Ind) — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#4 NY Giants (trade w/Cle, via Hou) — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#5 Arizona (trade w/Den) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#6 NY Jets — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Miami (trade w/Chi) — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#10 Oakland — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#11 Chicago (trade w/Mia) — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#12 Cincinnati — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#13 Washington — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#14 Green Bay — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#15 Denver (trade w/Ari) — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#16 LA Rams (trade w/Bal) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#17 LA Chargers — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#18 Atlanta (trade w/Sea) — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#19 Dallas — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#20 Detroit — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
#21 Indianapolis (trade w/Buf) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
#22 Indianapolis (trade w/Buf, via KC) — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#23 Baltimore (trade w/LAR) — D.J. Moore (WR, Maryland)
#24 Carolina — Justin Reid (S, Stanford)
#25 NY Giants (trade w/NO) — Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
#26 Seattle (trade w/Atl) — Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
#27 NY Jets (trade w/NO) — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#28 Pittsburgh — Harold Landry (DE, Boston College)
#29 Jacksonville — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#30 Minnesota — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#31 Cincinnati (trade w/NE) — Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
#32 Tampa Bay (trade w/Phi) — Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)

The trades…

Cleveland trades #4 & #33 to New York (Giants) for #2
Having taken Saquon Barkley with the top pick, the Browns make a deal to secure their preferred quarterback at #2.

Buffalo trades #21 & #22 & a 2019 pick to Indianapolis for #3
The Bills pull off a blockbuster move to go up and get Sam Darnold.

Arizona trades #15, #47 & a 2019 pick to Denver for #5
The Cardinals miss out on the top quarterbacks in free agency so make a big move, trading away their first picks in 2018 and 2019 plus a second rounder to land Josh Rosen.

Miami trades #11 & #73 to Chicago for #8
Adam Gase goes and gets his quarterback, with lingering doubts about Ryan Tannehill’s ability to stay healthy.

LA Rams trade #23, #87 & #195 to Baltimore for #16
The Rams are being aggressive and want to win now. They move up to get Derwin James and find a willing trade partner in Baltimore.

Atlanta trades #26, #90 and #200 to Seattle for #18
The Falcons want an interior defensive lineman and go up to get Maurice Hurst (Star Loutlelei was taken at #13 despite having a similar medical concern at the combine). The Seahawks want to move down and get a needed third round pick.

New York Giants trade #33 & #102 to Tennessee for #25
The Titans don’t like the look of the cornerback or linebacker options so take a deal to move down. The Giants trade up to get a lead runner in Kerryon Johnson.

New York Jets trade #37, #107 & #179 to New Orleans for #27
The Jets are after a center and move up to draft Billy Price.

Cincinnati trades #46 & #77 to New England for #31
The Bengals have to draft an offensive lineman early. Will Hernandez was one of the standout performers at the combine.

Denver trades #38 & #108 to Philadelphia for #32
The Buccs make a minor deal to move up four spots and select Derrius Guice before the end of the first round.

Tomorrow I’ll be publishing a seven-round mock draft for the Seahawks.

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The 2018 NFL combine review

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Firstly, if you missed this earlier — be sure to listen to the Seahawkers Podcast below. I was invited on to talk about the combine:

The lasting memory of this combine will be — underwhelming, too many injuries and very few headline performances.

It highlighted the following:

1. The lack of legit first round prospects

2. The greater value in rounds 2-3 compared to round one

3. Confirmed this is a good draft for interior offensive linemen, running backs and linebackers (early) and not so much for cornerbacks, receivers or offensive tackles

The big positive was the athletic performance of the safety class which far exceeded expectations. We’ll start with a few thoughts on the defensive backs today…

Cornerbacks seriously underwhelm

This was one of the sloppiest group performances in recent memory. Numerous players had to stop and re-start certain drills. At one point Mike Mayock remarked:

“I think I’ve seen more guys get stopped in these drills than I’ve ever seen. Which is not a good thing.”

Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson was stopped four times, including twice on one drill. It was a messy session with several players coasting or failing to execute.

Very few players impressed but Louisville’s Jaire Alexander was an exception. He excelled in the drills after running a 4.38. He doesn’t fit Seattle’s measurables at 5-10 and 196lbs with only 31 1/8 inch arms but he was the most impressive performer. Alabama’s Levi Wallace also had a strong outing but needs to add size at 6-0 and 179lbs.

Jackson coasted way too much and Mike Hughes was mostly unimpressive too. Both players have been touted as possible first round picks but there was very little evidence of that today. Denzel Ward ran well (4.32) but he had to at his size (5-10, 183lbs). Ward might be the only cornerback taken in round one and his stock might be limited due to his frame.

Safety’s put on a show

As disappointing as the cornerbacks were, the safety’s were the complete opposite. Many of the safety’s actually ran faster than the cornerbacks. The expectation was that this isn’t a particularly deep class at the position but on this evidence, there’ll be some intriguing options lasting into day three.

Stanford’s Justin Reid likely pushed his way into the first round conversation with his performance. Oklahoma State’s Trey Flowers is tall and lean (6-3, 202lbs) with great length (34 inch arms) and could be a possible cornerback conversion for the Seahawks. He ran in the 4.4’s.

Penn State’s Troy Akpe (6-1, 200lbs, +32 inch arms, 4.34, 41 inch vertical) and Terrell Edmunds (6-0, 217lbs, 33 inch arms, 4.47, 41.5 inch vertical, 11-2 broad) are worth a closer look in the coming days. Arizona’s Dane Cruikshank and Wisconsin’s Natrell Jamerson likewise warrant further study.

Derwin James did everything well in terms of testing and looked very smooth in transition and changing direction during the drills.

What did we learn about this draft class at the combine?

A normal draft class includes about 15-20 players graded in the first round. This year, that number could be lower. It’s possibly at about 10-15 but will vary from team to team.

It means the grade difference between a player drafted in the 20-30 range will be very similar to players taken in round two. This year, the best value is going to be found in rounds 2-3.

Rather than present a rare opportunity for the Seahawks to get a blue-chip player, at #18 they’re more likely to be just outside the zone where you’ll get true first round value.

What can we take away from this week for the Seahawks?

Pete Carroll reaffirmed his desire to improve the running game in a conversation with Mike Florio. Nothing about this combine suggests it won’t be Seattle’s #1 draft priority.

If (when?) the Seahawks trade down (possibly multiple times) they’re likely to address the running game first and foremost (RB, OL). That would be playing to the strength of the draft while addressing a key need.

With some appealing defensive talent likely to be available in rounds 3-7, they might be willing to wait to add to the defensive front seven and secondary.

Positon-by-position thoughts from the combine

Josh Allen showed off his exceptional arm talent and combined with his size and mobility, there’s a very good chance he and Saquon Barkley will be the first two players drafted. Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson didn’t do anything to harm their chances of going in round one and while Sam Darnold chose not to throw, it’s unlikely teams will be overly concerned by that. All five players could go in the first frame but the depth beyond that isn’t particularly good.

Seahawks targets: Unless they really want to take a punt on developing Luke Falk, it seems like a draft where the Seahawks will again bypass the position.

Running back
The deepest and arguably strongest position in the class, this was a good combine for the position and the Seahawks as they will likely add at least one running back in April. Nick Chubb showed he’s back to his explosive best following his knee injury, Kerryon ‘underrated’ Johnson had a sensational performance and Derrius Guice tested better than many (including myself) expected. Rashaad Penny and Royce Freeman performed well. Bo Scarborough will be well worth a pick in the fourth round range, while John Kelly is a dynamic complimentary back with the capability of carrying the load on occasion. We could see eight backs leave the board in the top-75. The only disappointment was Ronald Jones II’s hamstring injury running the forty. Expect a big performance at the USC pro-day from Jamaal Charles 2.0.

Seahawks targets: Nick Chubb has every physical trait the Seahawks have looked for in a running back in the Pete Carroll era. They’ve consistently valued explosive athleticism and a particular size. Kerryon Johnson isn’t just an explosive runner, he set the tone for Auburn during their SEC Championship game run. John Kelly and Bo Scarborough could be options in the fourth or fifth round range. And although Ronald Jones II suffered an injury, he has a genuine ‘IT’ factor and has to be considered an option too. A quick final point on Chubb. He’s often described as the ‘north-south’ compliment to Sony Michel. Chubb ran a faster forty (4.52 vs 4.54) and the short shuttle times are similar too (4.25 vs 4.21). Do not underestimate the importance of explosive traits for Seattle running backs. Chubb’s 38.5 inch vertical and 10-8 broad plus Kerryon Johnson’s 40 inch vertical and 10-6 broad stand out. It feels like at least one if not two of Chubb, Johnson, Jones II, Scarborough and Kelly will be wearing navy blue next year.

Offensive line
It’s not a good offensive tackle class. We’ll likely see 2-3 go in the first round because of the importance of the position but we might not see a single tackle garnering consistent first round grades. Kolton Miller and Mike McGlinchey might be the two who make it. On the other hand, it’s an outstanding looking interior O-line class. Quenton Nelson, Will Hernandez, Austin Corbett, Braden Smith and Wyatt Teller all excelled during drills and all but Corbett had an explosive workout according to TEF. Billy Price, Isaiah Wynn and Frank Ragnow didn’t work out but they could join Nelson, Hernandez and Corbett in being taken before the end of round two.

Seahawks targets: It’s a little difficult to say given the change of O-line coach. However, they have a fantastic opportunity to add both a new ‘franchise’ running back and a top option at left guard in this class. Wynn, to me, compares favourably to Zack Martin. He’s that good. Will Hernandez had an exceptional workout. He’s 20lbs lighter and looked the best during the kick-slide and agility drills. Both Wynn and Hernandez could go between 25-35. If they take a running back first, Corbett is an option if they still want to draft a guard early. Smith had the most explosive O-line TEF test (3.52) since we started recording data and he had a strong career at Auburn.

Wide receiver
It’s been clear for some time that this isn’t a class with multiple first round receiver prospects. Calvin Ridley didn’t test well athletically but he looked very crisp during drills and he’s adept at route running and finding ways to get open consistently. He might be the only wide out taken on day one. After that, D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton and D.J. Chark might follow. All three tested well at the combine, particularly Moore (4.42 forty, 39.5 inch vertical, 11-0 broad) and Chark (4.34 forty, 40 inch vertical, 10-9 broad). James Washington didn’t have a great combine but there’s been plenty of talk that he’ll find a home in the 25-40 range.

Seahawks targets: It feels like free agency might provide a solution here. They might need to replace the production of both Jimmy Graham in the red zone and Paul Richardson. John Schneider recently talked about how hard it is for college receivers to transition to the pro’s and make an impact. There are big-bodied wide outs that could appeal on day three including Auden Tate, Simmie Cobbs and Marcell Ateman but none tested well here and the Seahawks have consistently looked for receivers able to run a 4.4. Equanimeous St. Brown could be a possible target after he ran a 4.48. Smaller, more dynamic players like Keke Coutee, Anthony Miller and Dante Pettis could provide some value. Antonio Callaway is a character flag disaster but might be the most natural receiver in the class after Ridley. Javon Wims at Georgia is another mid or later round possibility and he has some size.

Tight end
Before the combine it was distinctly possible no tight ends would be drafted in the first two rounds. Mark Andrews, Dallas Goedert and Troy Fumagalli were all very overrated. Mike Gesicki’s performance likely means at least one will find a home in the first two rounds. He had one of the all-time great workouts for a tight end, managing a 4.54 forty, a 41.5 inch vertical and a 10-9 broad jump. He tested well in the three cone (6.76) and short shuttle too (4.10). And he did all this at 6-5 and 247lbs. The thing is, he isn’t a blocker. At all. So he’s a step below O.J. Howard and he isn’t the dynamic sprinter that Evan Engram was. So we’ll see if teams want to take what amounts to a big slot receiver in the top-40. Apart from Gesicki, it was a middling tight end display with only likely H-back/full back Jaylen Samuels providing any intrigue.

Seahawks targets: Let’s assume they aren’t going to spend a high pick on Gesicki. They spent three years trying to turn Jimmy Graham into the complete tight end. Are they really going to spend the next three trying to turn Gesicki into something he isn’t too? They might look to re-sign Luke Willson and add a blocking tight end in free agency. If not, there are three names to keep an eye on. Stanford’s Dalton Schultz, Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe and Washington’s Will Dissly didn’t pull up any trees in Indianapolis. However, all three were asked predominantly to block in college and all three had success in doing so. Schultz in particular opened up many lanes for Bryce Love. If they want to add a ‘Y’ tight end, these three are players to monitor. Unless, of course, they are completely enamoured with a 6-5, 247lbs freak of nature.

Defensive line
Sunday’s session was a mixed bag. Only two EDGE rushers ran an elite 1.5 10-yard split (Harold Landry & Josh Sweat), only four pass rushers ran a sub-7.00 three-cone and the main highlight in the agility testing was Sam Hubbard recording the sixth fastest time for a D-liner in the last 10 years (6.84). We saw fewer explosive testers this year too. There were some big stand out performances though. Taven Bryan was a big winner, performing well in TEF (3.58) while still managing an excellent 1.68 10-yard split and a 4.48 short shuttle. Josh Sweat might’ve propelled himself into the second round with an incredible running and jumping display. Harold Landry likely secured a place in round one too. Several players didn’t run or jump particularly well but performed well in the drills including Tim Settle and Derrick Nnadi. Da’Ron Payne isn’t an explosive defender (TEF: 2.89) but he’s extremely quick (1.67 10-yard).

Seahawks targets: Sweat might be out of range for them now and the options at SAM/LEO appear limited. However, there are a number of appealing later round options. We know the Seahawks like their interior linemen and inside/out rushers to perform well in the short shuttle and 10-yard split. We also know they haven’t drafted a D-liner with sub-33 inch arms. Jalyn Holmes, Kentavius Street and Breeland Speaks all showed great quickness over a short area while Andrew Brown, B.J. Hill, Nathan Shepherd and Foley Fatukasi performed well in the short shuttle. There are several explosive testers they might look at too, including Tyquan Lewis (TEF: 3.48), Chad Thomas (TEF: 3.06) and Da’Shawn Hand (TEF: 3.14). Shepherd, a small school prospect, excelled in the drills to follow up a strong Senior Bowl performance. Sadly, he has 32 inch arms. We’ll have to see if that matters.

The first round options are attractive but there might not be quite as much depth at the position as we first thought. Tremaine Edmunds will likely find a home in the top-12. Leighton Vander Esch could go in the top-20 after a sensational performance in the jumps (39.5 inch vertical, 10-4 broad), short shuttle (4.15) and three-cone (6.88). Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter carry injury flags according to Tony Pauline but both could still find a home in round one. It was felt Rashaan Evans needed a good combine to secure a first round slot but he passed on running. It’s unclear if Malik Jefferson did enough to secure a home in round two after a good but not great display. It was disappointing that Darius Leonard only managed one forty (4.70) and didn’t compete in any of the drills.

Seahawks targets: Seattle could use some youth and speed at linebacker but it was sadly lacking here. Only six players ran a sub-4.55 forty (Jerome Baker, Lorenzo Carter, Tremaine Edmunds, Shaquem Griffin, Malik Jefferson, Roquan Smith) and all but two of those players (Baker, Griffin) are likely to go in a palatable range. Griffin was the talk of the combine after his 4.38 forty and the Seahawks might be interested in pairing him with his twin brother. There is another test the Seahawks seem to value at linebacker and that’s the short shuttle (more detail here). There were several players who ran an excellent 4.2 shuttle — Matthew Thomas, Oren Burks, Micah Kiser, Christian Sam and Fred Warner. Thomas (41.5 inch vertical, 10-11 broad), Burks (39.5 inch vertical, 10-11 broad) and Warner (38.5 inch vertical, 9-11 broad) all had explosive workouts while Kiser tested much better than expected and was a crucial leader for Virginia in college. They could find a late round option or two within this bunch.

As noted above, it was an unimpressive group. The way the drills were executed today was awkward and messy, with several false starts. At one point Deion Sanders remarked: “We’re missing the energy givers, the guys who know, man, I am the guy. I’m not seeing that yet in the corners.” He was right. Usually the CB class is loaded with alpha’s. This was a shy and retiring bunch seemingly trying too hard not to make a mistake. Jaire Alexander was the standout performer in drills but unless teams want to reach, there are limited first round options here. Denzel Ward could be the only corner to go early. Tarvarus McFadden had a very difficult morning.

Seahawks options: I’m going to include Tre Flowers here. He worked out with the safety’s but ran a 4.45 at 6-3 and 202lbs. He has 34 inch arms. He just looked like a Seattle corner running through the drills. Very few of the cornerbacks impressed today but Holton Hill, Levi Wallace and Isaac Yiadom are three names that fit their size/length criteria. Auburn’s Carlton Davis might go a round or two too early. If they add a cornerback in the draft this year, it might be someone who wasn’t invited to the combine they spot on the pro-day trail.

It took until the final session but finally there was a bit of a buzz around a positional group. For once several players overachieved. Many of the forty times were faster than the cornerbacks and the drills were a lot smoother and well executed. Troy Akpe ran a 4.34, jumped a 41.5 inch vertical and looked really good in his transition and backpedal. Justin Reid is built like a tank and ran a 4.40. He could go in the first round. Minkah Fitzpatrick likely secured a place in the 8-15 range of the first round while Derwin James put on a show in the drills and the tests. You would imagine, based on this performance, he’ll go in the top-20.

Seahawks targets: The first name I’m going to mention tested with the linebackers — Clemson’s Dorian O’Daniel. He didn’t run well (4.61) but he did manage a really good short shuttle of 4.07. He’s been touted as a safety convert for some time at 6-0 and 223lbs. He could be a later round target they try to develop as a strong safety. Terrell Edmunds was fast and explosive and has the bloodlines, Dane Cruikshank had a terrific workout and Natrell Jamerson excelled too. Jessie Bates III could be an option in rounds 2-3. If they want to take a safety early the most likely options are Derwin James and Justin Reid.

Any post-combine predictions?

— Saquon Barkley & Josh Allen will be the top two picks in the draft. Perhaps Cleveland will trade with the Giants to secure both players?

— The Seahawks will trade down at least once and will draft a running back early. The options? I think it’ll be one of Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson or Ronald Jones II. Ideally they’ll be able to acquire one of Will Hernandez, Isaiah Wynn or Billy Price too.

— Vita Vea will be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and if not, his floor is Washington at #13.

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Top-25 prospects broken into tiers

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

I wanted to put this down before the combine — then reflect on it afterwards to see what has changed. Some of the names below contain hyperlinks. The links take you to individual articles written about the player in question. So if you want more info/opinion, click on the name.

Tier One

Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
Vita Vea (DT, Washington)

The five freakish difference makers in the class. Barkley could be the most explosive offensive player to enter the league in a generation with a jump-cut to die for. Nelson will likely have a Steve Hutchinson impact on the league. Edmunds is the most unique player in the class — incredible size, length, versatility. There isn’t another player like him in the league.

Chubb has the same bloodlines as cousin Nick and we know how incredible he is as an athlete. Vea’s mobility and quickness at 340lbs is shocking and can only truly be appreciated watching him live. All five players should go in the top-10.

Tier two

Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State)
Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)

The quarterbacks both have talent and upside but some question marks. Darnold has incredible potential but isn’t anywhere near as refined as DeShaun Watson a year ago (Watson was criminally underrated pre-draft by the media). Rosen technically looks the part but there are questions about his personality.

Jones II is a Jamaal Charles clone and a player with legitimate star quality. An exceptional prospect. Price is intense, plays with occasional reckless abandon and goes after the opponent. He sets the tone up front. Wynn reminds me of Zack Martin at Notre Dame. He isn’t the biggest, he isn’t the most explosive or athletic. He is just really fundamentally sound and tough to beat. He doesn’t make mistakes.

Settle won’t run like Vita Vea and he doesn’t carry his weight as well. Yet as a pass rusher it’s quite incredible to watch a player of his size swim/rip like he does, not to mention his excellent get-off. He’s the best 330lbs pass rusher you’ll see in a long time. Maurice Hurst is a classic three-technique with great quickness off the snap, solid hand-technique and a consistent ability to impact games from the interior. Players like Hurst are rare.

Tier three

Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)

Jackson has a rocket arm, showed major improvement as a touch passer in 2017 and is capable of being a Michael Vick-style playmaker. He is Vick. And for some reason people aren’t giving him his dues. Fitzpatrick on the other hand is the opposite — a little bit overrated — and more likely to go in the 10-15 range than the top-10.

Vander Esch is a modern day linebacker. He has the size to play inside at middle linebacker in any scheme, the range and mobility to run to the sideline and the instinct to be a major playmaker. In a couple of years he could be up there with Wagner and Kuechly as the best in the game. Smith gets a lot of top-15 love but you have to remember — he’s not a burner and he’s going to weigh about 225lbs. I like him as a player but we have to acknowledge he won’t fit every team or scheme. Smith will be a first rounder and likely a very useful pro but probably won’t go as early as some are projecting.

Bryan has incredible upside and while he might need a redshirt year to work things out, he has inside/out rush ability and the potential to be an absolute game-wrecker.

Tier four

Rasheem Green (DE, USC)
Derwin James (S, Florida State)
Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)

I watched some of Green this week and came away impressed with his physical potential. Whether he can take it to the next level and continue to grow remains to be seen but he has sensational size and length and carries his weight extremely well. He ran a 4.44 short shuttle at the Nike combine at 290lbs and achieved a 113.04 SPARQ rating. He could be a big time riser after the combine.

James will likely have an explosive combine too — testing well in the jumps. Yet he is what he is — a box safety that didn’t impact many games with big plays. I’ve said before, his tape is a bit boring. He has appealing character traits and size. He’ll go in round one. How early remains up for debate.

Davenport didn’t perform as well as hoped at the Senior Bowl and came across as a bit shy and retiring. He too might need a redshirt year and strong coaching/guidance. Yet his tape and physical ability warrants a first round pick.

Tier five
Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)

Payne is the strongest D-line prospect in the class with the size and bulk to act as a key run defender. He showed, especially in the two Playoff games, he also has some pass rush potential. Johnson (when healthy) was leading Auburn to a possible National Championship. His upright running style could invite injury and he’s not the quickest but he runs with authority, he’s tough and he has fantastic patience in the backfield.

Evans plays with his hair on fire and doesn’t hit, he hammers opponents. The combine will be crucial for his stock. He’s likely a late first rounder. Ridley isn’t big or particularly fast but he’s adept at getting open and he’s consistent. Mayfield won the Heisman and is clearly a playmaker but he lacks the physical tools of the other top quarterbacks available.

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The future of the Seahawks defense?

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Let’s call this a first draft because we’ll receive so much information at the combine. We need to know 10-yard split times for the LEO candidates, short shuttle times for the linebackers, length and size for the cornerbacks and a lot more.

That said, here’s a review of some of the possible options if the Seahawks do gut the defense and decide to get a lot younger in 2018…

D-line & Pass rush

Possible departures: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson

The Seahawks could do with adding a LEO. They need quickness off the edge. Rutgers’ Kemoko Turay could be the ideal player for the role — with excellent get-off, at least some evidence of good hand technique and a great athletic profile. He looked explosive at the Senior Bowl and has a ton of potential. If the Seahawks are able to acquire extra picks in the third or fourth round range, Turay could be a key acquisition.

It’s going to need to be someone with good length, a really quick 10-yard split and overall high athleticism. The 1.50-1.59 splits are the ones to look out for at the combine. There won’t be many but if Turay manages it at 6-5 and 252lbs he could quite easily be a Seahawks target.

Alternatives at LEO? Boston College’s Harold Landry could be targeted albeit with a much earlier pick. We know Florida State’s Josh Sweat is a fantastic athlete. If you’re comfortable with his injury history, he’s another option. Sweat ran a 4.46 at 240lbs at the SPARQ combine.

What else might they need? It’s hard to say. If Malik McDowell returns there’s every chance he could fill the void left by either Sheldon Richardson or Michael Bennett. Dion Jordan equally has some inside/out ability now he’s added size and Frank Clark isn’t small either. If you knew all three would be healthy and available going into camp you might feel quite comfortable about the situation. There’s very little news on McDowell however and Jordan missed most of the 2017 season.

NC State’s Kentavius Street could be a possible three-technique option. He’s about 280lbs these days but what an athlete. At the SPARQ combine he ran a 4.70, managed a 36-inch vertical and a 4.44 short shuttle. His SPARQ score was 115.41. He’s said to be an even better athlete these days too, plus he’s a former four-star recruit. He’s being projected as a late rounder and could be someone the Seahawks want to work with.

Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis is no slouch and he had a good showing at the Senior Bowl. He scored 108.57 at the SPARQ combine including a 37 inch vertical. He’s a possible inside/out rusher who could last as he had to operate in a heavy rotation with the Buckeyes. He’s also someone who could develop into a leader. Auburn’s Jeff Holland lacks an attractive physical profile but plays with intensity and skill.

Virginia’s Andrew Brown is another prospect with upside who could be available on day three. A former five-star recruit he also performed well at the Senior Bowl. He managed a 103.11 SPARQ rating in High School and ran a 4.47 short shuttle at 295lbs.

The Seahawks have also shown they’re adept at finding veteran talent on the defensive line over the years. So on top of the options in the draft, there’s every chance they’ll bring in some options in free agency too.


Possible departures: Richard Sherman

We’ll need to see how the players measure at the combine. The Seahawks have stuck to a strict body type since 2010 and that isn’t likely to change. Whatever happens with Sherman, the Seahawks could do with adding another cornerback in the round 4-7 range this year to train up.

Despite many of the national mock drafts touting a cornerback to Seattle in round one, the chances are remote at best. They haven’t taken a CB earlier than the late third round under Pete Carroll. There’s very little reason to believe that’ll change this year. It won’t even be a position of significant need if they retain Sherman and re-sign Maxwell (hardly improbable scenarios). The Seahawks believe in their (proven) ability to develop young cornerbacks without spending high picks. That simply won’t change unless they’re picking in the top ten and happen to see a Jalen Ramsey or Patrick Peterson waiting for them.

LSU’s Kevin Toliver is said to be 6-3 and 203lbs with good length. He’s a former five-star recruit who never really lived up to expectations in college. According to his bio, Toliver has “an entitled attitude” and a big ego. It could put a lot of teams off, including the Seahawks, but they did draft Tharold Simon who similarly faced criticism for his time at LSU. It’s unusual for a player with Toliver’s potential to last into the round four range but if he does, they might see him as a project worth taking on. He’d be a nice challenge for a team with Seattle’s development chops.

Texas’ Holton Hill also possesses size, length and undelivered potential. He could be another attractive project. Virginia Tech’s Brandon Facyson also looks the part. He had a very strong start to his college career but a broken leg stalled his progress. He could be one of those players that falls a bit further than he should and provides some value.


Possible departures: No significant ones

This isn’t about replacing anyone, rather than bolstering the ranks. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright need some help. And we saw what happened when Wagner wasn’t full-go and Wright was absent against the Rams. They could also do with adding a SAM/LEO type if possible.

Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter could be an option. At the Nike SPARQ combine he managed a 40-inch vertical at 6-5 and 234lbs. He’s highly explosive and athletic, posting a 129.75 SPARQ score. He’s not necessarily the quickest though (4.63 at the Nike combine) so his short-area quickness testing and 10-yard split could be crucial.

Another option could be South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard. Few bolstered their stock like Leonard at the Senior Bowl. He excelled in coverage drills against smaller, quicker running backs and had a couple of ferocious hits too. He has +34 inch arms and we know they really liked K.J. Wright for his length. Leonard looks and sounds like he’s ready for battle and could be a fantastic project for Ken Norton Jr.

Other options include Texas’ Malik Jefferson (who could be the combine’s big winner after his sensational Nike test) and Ohio State’s Jerome Baker. It’s a really good looking group of linebackers though. The combine will be fascinating and crucial. This is a position that seems to be thick throughout the draft and there will be attractive day three options to go with some of the early round studs.


Possible departures: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor

It’s hard to get excited about this safety class and you can forget about replacing either of Seattle’s two legends. There probably won’t be another Earl or Kam. They’re unique people and players. If the Seahawks have to replace both, they’ll likely adjust their scheme to compensate.

The safety class is littered with players you kind of like but don’t love. Derwin James is a great athlete but his tape is boring and it’s a hard sell to draft a box safety in round one who doesn’t make a lot of big plays. He’s the popular pick for Seattle in mock drafts and there’s no doubting his athleticism and size. Is he worth their first round pick?
They’d have to believe he was a true ’tilt the field’ player to justify it. There’s a reason why they’ve only taken one defensive back in the first two rounds of the draft since 2010 (Earl Thomas).

Minkah Fitzpatrick is a bit overrated. Ronnie Harrison is perfectly fine as a prospect but might go earlier than warranted.

Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates III is probably the most intriguing player. He’s quick, clearly does his homework, understands the opponent and had a number of big plays as a redshirt freshman. He isn’t Earl but he could end up being a reliable starting safety. He’s consistent and disciplined which is important in Seattle’s scheme.

Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds could be one to watch. He’s Tremaine’s brother and has good size (6-2, 220lbs). It’s also worth remembering the Seahawks could keep Bradley McDougald and only last year drafted Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill. San Francisco’s Eric Reid could be an option as a free agent too.

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Monday notes: Jeff Holland, Steven Mitchell Jr & more

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Before we get started if you missed it yesterday, check out the Seahawkers podcast this week. There’s a ton of draft info from 12:37 in…

On to the notes. Featured today: Jeff Holland, Steven Mitchell Jr, Ronald Jones II and Derwin James…

— Auburn finished the SEC season superbly. They built momentum, rallied after a difficult loss to LSU and suddenly became the team to beat. They absolutely hammered Georgia, then comfortably handled Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

The two teams that eventually met in the Playoff decider — taken apart by Auburn.

They managed it playing a very familiar brand of football to Seattle (at least the 2012-15 version). Point guard quarterback. Fearsome running game. Jacked-up defense playing with their hair on fire, flying to the ball. This was a band of brothers, playing together with all three units connecting. The defense danced, celebrated and set the tone. It was like watching the LOB in 2013.

I remember thinking at the time — this is what the Seahawks used to be like. That energy, the physicality. It was a Gus Malzahn offense but at the heart of everything was a very classic combination of good running game and great defense.

If they want to get back to that — tapping into that Auburn spirit could be a possibility.

They’re not alone of course. Georgia got to the final with the same kind of ingredients. Alabama always play defense and run the ball. It’ll be interesting to see how many players the Seahawks cherry pick from those three schools.

The player I wanted to highlight today is EDGE rusher Jeff Holland.

He’s not the biggest (listed by ESPN at 6-2 and 250lbs) and it’s fair to say he’s not going to win Mr. Universe. He looks quite unremarkable in terms of his physique. He’s not the biggest or fastest.

Yet every time I watched Auburn in 2017, he stood out. He finished the season with 10 sacks, 13 TFL’s and four forced fumbles. Holland is a high-intensity, physical, fierce pass rusher with quickness off the snap. For his size he isn’t a liability against the run.

His best quality, however, is hand technique. His ability to use a two-handed swipe is highly impressive. He can rip and swim and he can beat a tackle off the edge with lean. Hand use continues to be one of the more lesser talked about features in the media — but it’s vital for a pass rusher. Holland spent a lot of time learning this skill:

Not being the biggest, fastest or most impressive athlete might dent Holland’s stock. He might not be on Seattle’s radar as a consequence. Yet there is talent to work with here and Holland did as much as anybody to embody the spirit of Auburn’s charged-up defense.

Look at this effort in pursuit (he’s #4):

On the first play he chases down the running back on a pitch, sprinting from the left hand side of the line to the right. On the second play he bullies the tackle before slamming down the quarterback on a draw.

Here’s an example of his hand use and how it keeps his frame clean and helps him get around the edge to the QB:

That’s the same play from different angles (broadcast & all-22). Look at the way he chops his hands at the tackle and stays clean.

He doesn’t have to use his hands. He has enough lean to get around the arc:

Here’s a clip where he uses the depth of the tackles’ drop to his advantage, jolts him off balance and beats him:

How is he working the goal line against the run? No touchdown here for Derrius Guice:

The Seahawks might need some of this attitude going forward:

Holland isn’t loaded with upside. He isn’t Frank Clark, Bruce Irvin or Cliff Avril. Unremarkable size and length. He probably won’t have an amazing combine. Admittedly, this would be a change of pace for the Seahawks. Against the bigger, stronger and quicker athletes at the next level, he might be less impactful.

He’s still intriguing in the middle rounds and you wouldn’t bet against this guy. Maybe they need one or two overachievers? You’re not going to have to worry about him being ‘all-in’. He might be able to fill a leadership void down the line. And if the Seahawks are moving on without Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, they’ll need to find some possible options to help the pass rush.

And he can do this:

— I haven’t spent much time studying him yet but I wanted to mention USC receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. He can be a ferocious and committed blocker. I’m not sure if he’ll be on Seattle’s radar but USC’s #4 kept showing up on Ronald Jones II’s runs. He had 644 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. He’s only 5-10 and 194lbs (per ESPN). Mitchell Jr is willing to hit though and do some of the dirty work. He seems to take a great deal of enjoyment from blocking (often celebrating after a key block). In SPARQ testing he managed a score of 107.34 with a 33.5 inch vertical and a 4.55 forty. He’ll need to run faster than that at the combine but based on his tenacity he might be a name to remember.

Here are some highlights:

— Speaking of Ronald Jones II, there’s yet more evidence why he could easily be a first round target for the Seahawks. Fumble rates are very important. Dane Brugler has worked out how each running back in the draft ranks. Jones II has the third best fumble rate in the class. Ball security is key and it’s another big positive next to his uncanny similarity to Jamaal Charles (also note LSU’s Darrel Williams at the top, a late round option for Seattle).

This is also an interesting series of tweets/clips highlighting his play using all-22:

To follow the full strand of Tweets in this review, click here. Jones II is a special player. In the past, with the Seahawks picking later in round one, we’d be having a conversation about him being off the board by their pick. We had similar conversations about Haason Reddick, Sheldon Rankins, Garret Bolles, Keanu Neal, Odell Beckham Jr and others. Players initially projected by the media as first or second round types but ultimately they go much earlier. Jones II, to me, is a legit top-20 prospect.

— We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Derwin James but one more note won’t hurt. James was invited to participate in an online game of Madden 18 on the PS4 over the weekend. He accepted the challenge against a Florida State fan, noting he would donate a pair of his cleats if he was beaten.

As you can see James won somewhat comfortably. The interesting thing is he chose to play as the Seahawks. It could be nothing. It could be something. Who knows. It’s February and there’s no harm in a bit of speculation to pass the time.