Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Scouting combine day two review

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

A mediocre day
As far as underwhelming combine days go — this was right up there. Is this a defensive draft? Absolutely based on the way the skill positions performed on Friday and Saturday.

If you want to know why the Seahawks are firmly keeping hold of Jimmy Graham — this is why. It’s a horrible tight end class again. Graham, even coming off a significant injury, is a far superior option than anyone in this draft.

The receivers are mostly slow or average (or both) and the top quarterback trio (Lynch, Wentz, Goff) look like guys you prefer to admire from afar. If you’re a fan with Russell Wilson leading your team they probably seem pretty good. I’m not sure, however, if you’d be quite so thrilled if you were pinning your hopes on any of the three winning you a Championship over the next decade.

The running backs yesterday had a couple of highlights (Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry) but some of the second tier options were very average. C.J. Prosise and Kenneth Dixon are probably battling to be the next guys up.

There are some nice options on the O-line — but the star power is mostly on defense.

Josh Doctson made a statement
After running a decent 4.50 at 6-2 and 202lbs — Doctson followed it up with a 41 inch vertical and a 10-11 broad jump. He’s not the longest player (31 7/8 inch arms) but on tape he does a good job adjusting to the ball and making difficult grabs. He’s a nice compliment of reasonable size and explosion (he does turn 24 this year). He could be an early second round pick depending on what teams are looking for. If you want speed you go Will Fuller, if you want a bit more size you take Doctson.

Sterling Shepard is also moving up
Bring on the comparisons to Tyler Lockett. Shepard was incredibly reliable in college but needed to flash some athleticism here. Job done. After running a 4.48 he jumped 41 inches in the vertical. That’s a nice combination and could secure a second round grade.

Marquez North states his case
We highlighted North as a later round option — or even an UDFA option. At 6-2 and 223lbs he ran a 4.48, jumped 35 inches in the vertical and had a 10-3 in the broad. North is pretty much the receiver version of running back Keith Marshall. They were both highly rated recruits flashing major talent early in their college careers. Now they’re starting over in the NFL after some struggles and injuries. North also caught the ball very well during drills, presenting his hands to the quarterback.

Duke Williams & De’Runya Wilson struggle badly
Nothing represents the rampant mediocrity of the day better than these two. Williams, who was kicked out of Auburn, claimed he was a first round talent with seventh round character earlier in the week. After running a 4.72 he might want to rethink the self-scouting. Wilson was even worse — running a 4.85 and posting a ridiculous 28 inch vertical. He’ll sink like a stone unless a legit injury issue emerges.

How to rank the receivers
Corey Coleman didn’t run a forty but jumped a 40.5 inch vertical. He’s an explosive athlete who makes big plays. Laquon Treadwell is sturdy and looks in great condition — he’s just not a speed guy. That’s your top two. After that? It could be anything. Josh Doctson and Will Fuller maybe stole a march on Michael Thomas and the rest. Sterling Shepard is closing the gap.

The top three QB’s
There wasn’t a great deal to separate the top three. Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch and Jared Goff all looked fairly comfortable. Lynch was perhaps a little weaker in terms of accuracy during the throwing drills. He also arguably has the greater physical upside — jumping a 36 inch vertical at 6-7 and 244lbs. In comparison, Andrew Luck also jumped a 36 and Cam Newton had a 35. Wentz managed a 30.5 inch vertical and Goff a 27. Lynch presents an intriguing skill-set. Wentz and Goff might be deemed ‘safer’ prospects — but neither has Lynch’s upside, size, arm strength and athleticism. The combine buzz seems to indicate Wentz will be the first off the board.

What about the next group?
Christian Hackenburg has some of the physical traits you like but he was all over the place during drills today. His accuracy was well off — even standing in shorts throwing to open receivers. Connor Cook looked OK — pretty much how he looked in college. Good but not great. Nobody else really stood out as a nice developmental guy to work behind Russell Wilson.

Time to forget about Apple, Alexander and Howard
The Seahawks won’t take cornerbacks with sub-32 inch arms. There’s always a chance they make an exception for an exceptional athlete. Eli Apple and Mackensie Alexander don’t appear to have the dynamic athleticism to combat a lack of length. Xavien Howard? We’ll see. We’ll find out for sure on Monday when the DB’s work out.

Apple and Mackensie have 31.5 inches arms, while Howard’s are 31 inches. It’d take an amazing athlete for the Seahawks to consider a corner in the first frame regardless. They’re unlikely to find one at #26.

Vernon Hargreaves — still overrated
On tape he bites on double moves, gambles way too much and is a poor open field tackler. Yes — he’ll probably have a great work out on Monday. At 5-10, 204lbs and with 30.5 inch arms — can you seriously put him out wide? People love to compare Hargreaves to Joe Haden — but Haden has 33 inch arms and was far more polished.

Hargreaves looks like a pure slot corner. Which is fine — he could be a very good one with explosive athleticism and a nose for the ball working across the middle. It’s a nice fit. But how early are you willing to take a slot corner? Bradley Roby was the #31 pick in 2014. I still think there’s a chance Hargreaves drops into that kind of range.

Keanu Neal looks more attractive by the day
We highlighted him a couple of days ago as a possible option at #26. That talk isn’t going away. Neal is almost identical in size to Deone Bucannon (6-0, 211lbs) but he has superior length (33 inch arms). Length, speed, athleticism, grit, tenacity — it’s everything the Seahawks look for.

I sense some scepticism about taking a ‘deathbacker’ (hybrid S/LB) in the first round. I get that. There are bigger needs today on the O-line and D-line. If they’re able to fill some of those needs in free agency then don’t rule this out. The Seahawks pick four times in the first three rounds and will have an opportunity to fill several needs in the first two days.

Neal is explosive and hard-hitting and would be Seattle’s answer to Bucannon and Mark Barron. He can cover the slot too and possibly replace Kam Chancellor at strong safety one day.

He might not even make it to #26. For me Keanu Neal is one of the best 25 players in the draft. And if you’re wondering about the name…

The group of 32
If we need to focus on defensive backs with 32 inch arms, here’s the list:

James Bradberry — 6-0, 211lbs, 33 inch arms
Artie Burns — 6-0, 193lbs, 33 inch arms
Jeremy Cash — 6-0, 212lbs, 32.5 inch arms
Deandre Elliott — 6-0, 188lbs, 32 inch arms
T.J. Green — 6-2, 209lbs, 32 inch arms
Deiondre Hall — 6-1, 199lbs, 34.5 inch arms
William Jackson — 6-0, 189lbs, 32 inch arms
Karl Joseph — 5-10, 205lbs, 32 inch arms
Jayron Kearse — 6-4, 216lbs, 34 inch arms
Miles Killebrew — 6-2, 217lbs, 32 inch arms
Jordan Lomax — 5-10, 202lbs, 32 inch arms
Eric Murray — 5-10, 199lbs, 32 inch arms
Keanu Neal — 6-0, 211lbs, 33 inch arms
Jaylen Ramsey — 6-1, 209lbs, 33.5 inch arms
Rashard Robinson — 6-1, 171lbs, 32 inch arms
Keivarae Russell — 6-0, 192lbs, 32 inch arms
Justin Simmons — 6-2, 203lbs, 32.5 inch arms
Brandon Williams — 5-11, 197lbs, 32.5 inch arms
Daryl Worley — 6-0, 204lbs, 33.5 inch arms

Tony Pauline says Jaylon Smith could be a day three pick
It’s the saddest story of the combine so far — but Notre Dame’s star linebacker is set to go from top-five lock to day three flier. All because he injured his knee in a meaningless bowl game.

Pauline says he could last until rounds 4-7. Like Marcus Lattimore, he’ll get a chance to return. There’s also a realistic possibility we don’t see him until 2017 at the earliest — and will he ever be 100%?

Pauline also says Jack Conklin is destined to go in the top-15, Le’Raven Clark is going to be a second round pick at worst and Mitchell Schwartz will command $8m APY in free agency.

The line on Clark is interesting. Teams clearly love the potential but are probably petrified of the work he needs on his technique. If it clicks though you could be looking at an elite left tackle. The risk/reward could be appealing to any team with a good O-line coach.

Tomorrow and Monday is when the fun begins
Here’s the key for tomorrow — look for edge rushers running a 10-yard split in the 1.5’s. Cliff Avril ran a 1.50, Bruce Irvin a 1.55 and Frank Clark a 1.59. Anything in the 1.5’s is elite.

For the defensive tackles — anything in the 1.6’s is excellent. Aaron Donald ran a 1.59 split but he’s a freak of nature.

The Seahawks would like to add a pass-rusher and while it might be interesting to look at some of the bigger-bodied guys and see how they move — this front office has preferred to draft base DT’s in rounds 3-5 or look to free agency.

Quickness, agility, explosion. For all the depth on the D-line in this class there aren’t a ton of great interior pass rushers. Let’s see if there are any prospects with at least the upside to get there.

Mid-combine mock

#1 Tennessee — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
#2 Cleveland — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
#3 San Diego — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
#4 Dallas — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
#5 Jacksonville — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#6 *TRADE W/BALTIMORE* Los Angeles — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
#7 San Francisco — Jared Goff (QB, California)
#8 Miami — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
#9 Tampa Bay — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
#10 New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
#11 Chicago — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
#12 New Orleans — Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
#13 Philadelphia — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
#14 Oakland — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
#15 Baltimore — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
#16 Detroit — Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
#17 Atlanta — Leonard Floyd (LB, Georgia)
#18 Indianapolis — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
#19 Buffalo — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
#20 New York Jets — Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
#21 Washington — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
#22 Houston — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
#23 Minnesota — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
#24 Cincinatti — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
#25 Pittsburgh — Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford)
#26 Seattle — Keanu Neal (S, Florida)
#27 Green Bay — Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
#28 Kansas City — Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
#29 Arizona — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
#30 Carolina — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
#31 Denver — Cody Whitehair (G, Kansas State)

Florida’s Keanu Neal could be an option at #26

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

I spent the night watching this guy and had to write something down.

Keanu Neal (S, Florida) is a player.

The Seahawks say they want to be the bully again. Well here you go. This is the reason I ended up watching Neal in the first place tonight. I deliberately set out to try and find a guy who best fits the term ‘tone setter’.

There are a few in this draft — but not many with a supreme athletic profile, explosive quick-twitch athleticism, extreme tenacity and the ability to deliver bone-breaking hits.

They’re going to lose, as Marshawn Lynch might say, “some dogs” this off-season. Lynch has retired, Bruce Irvin likely moves on. In 2013 they had guys like Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Brandon Browner. Physicality, toughness, street-fighter style attitude.

It’s hard to find guys like that within a group of rookies. It’s easier in free agency when you can dig out a guy like Tony ‘just take my lunch money’ McDaniel. If the Seahawks want to re-establish their attitude — Neal could be the answer.

He’s tentatively listed at 6-1 and 216lbs. That’s only a few pounds lighter than LSU linebacker Deion Jones.

Neal could play some ‘deathbacker’ like Deone Bucannon. He can play some safety. They can be creative with a guy like this. Bucannon was 6-1 and 211lbs at his combine and ran a 4.49. Let’s see if Neal gets into that speed range.

There’s every chance — he was a coveted four-star recruit in High School. He gets up to top speed very quickly — he looks explosive. He can play the run up at the line and that shouldn’t be an issue despite his lack of size. And when he locks on to a ball-carrier — he’ll hammer the guy.

He’s the type of player that can help the Seahawks establish that fear factor for receivers running across the middle. Get Kam Chancellor healthy and back to 100%, put him with Neal and it won’t be much fun at the second level.

If you were going to write down a list of ‘best players’ likely to be available at #26, Neal has to be on there. And while adding this type of player might not feel like a priority at the moment — let’s see what they do in free agency. Drafting Neal is arguably the type of aggressive, physical, high-character, high-production, SPARQy move the Seahawks love to make in round one.

Neal could also be an insurance hedge against Chancellor. Kelcie McCray is 28-years-old this year after all. If you’re thinking about a linebacker/safety for today and a starting strong safety for tomorrow — this could be an option. Like Bucannon in Arizona and Mark Barron with the Rams — you find a way to get the guy on the field.

In all honesty he might not even make it to #26. Atlanta at #17 and Washington at #21 could be surprise options. Minnesota and Pittsburgh could also show interest.

There are very few obvious flaws here. There are some missed tackles — but you could say the same for Earl Thomas. He’s certainly not a deep coverage specialist or rangy free safety — but he isn’t trying to be. And while he plays with a fierce intensity — he’s well spoken and seems like a good team mate. See for yourself:

Keep an eye on his workout on Monday. If he runs in the late 4.4’s like Bucannon — watch out.

Don’t forget to check out Thursday’s combine notes from earlier.

Seattle Seahawks combine preview & watch list 2016

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Friday’s workouts

Auburn’s Shon Coleman has size, length, athleticism and he plays with an edge

Offensive linemen

2015 leaders
40-yard dash — Ali Marpet (4.98)
Vertical jump — Laurence Gibson (33.5 inches)
Bench press — Ereck Flowers (37 reps)

Seahawks performer
In 2011 James Carpenter ran a 5.28 at 6-4 and 321lbs. He managed 23 reps on the bench with 34 inch arms. He was drafted for his excellent run blocking in college rather than a great workout.

Pete Carroll’s self-confessed priority is to get a consistent O-line in 2016. It’s dubious whether he’ll be able to achieve that with rookies. They might prefer to take their chances in free agency — especially if the market allows them to find the 2016 version of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.

That said, they’ll probably still need to find at least one prospective starter from this class and some developmental prospects.

We know they have certain ideals at the different positions:

Left tackle: Length and height is crucial, with a degree of athleticism

Left guard: They’ve consistently used converted college left tackles with excellent run-blocking skills and size (320lbs)

Center: They seem to like size — Max Unger is 6-5 and 305lbs — exactly the same height and weight as 6th round developmental prospect Kristjan Sokoli

Right guard: More of a lighter, athletic position with movement skills crucial

Right tackle: Previously a mauling run-blocker but switched to a more athletic profile with Garry Gilliam in 2015

Length is generally important for any offensive lineman and 33.5 inches is a good benchmark for the Seahawks. Justin Britt, a 2014 second round pick, has 33.5 inch arms. It’s hard to imagine they’ll draft a tackle with shorter arms than that. Russell Okung has 36 inch arms. It’s not as much of an issue inside — Unger had 32.5 inch arms and they were comfortable signing him to a long-term contract. J.R. Sweezy has 34 inch arms at right guard. Mark Glowinski’s arms are a shade over 33 inches.

Here are the some of the highlights from today’s weigh-in and measurements:

Tackle
Le’Raven Clark — 6-5, 312lbs, +36 inch arms
Shon Coleman — 6-5, 307lbs, +35 inch arms
Jack Conklin — 6-5, 308lbs, 35 inch arms
Fahn Cooper — 6-4, 303lbs, 35 inch arms
Taylor Decker — 6-7, 310lbs, 34 inch arms
Germain Ifedi — 6-6, 324lbs, 36 inch arms
Alex Lewis — 6-6, 312lbs, 34 inch arms
Jason Spriggs — 6-6, 301lbs, 34 inch arms
Ronnie Stanley — 6-6, 312lbs, 35.5 inch arms
Laremy Tunsil — 6-4, 310lbs, 34.5 inch arms

Interior
Joe Dahl — 6-4, 304lbs, 33 inch arms
Graham Glasgow — 6-5, 307lbs, 33.5 inch arms
Ryan Kelly — 6-4, 311lbs, 33.5 inch arms
Nick Martin — 6-4, 299lbs, 32.5 inch arms
Connor McGovern — 6-4, 306lbs, 33 inch arms
Sebastien Tretola — 6-4, 314lbs, 31.5 inch arms
Chris Westerman — 6-3, 298lbs, 33.5 inch arms
Cody Whitehair — 6-4, 301lbs, 32.5 inch arms

Expect the top performers to significantly boost their stock on Friday. The entire NFL is looking athletic O-liners. Indiana’s Jason Spriggs should test well and could move into the top-15 as a consequence. Remember, not many people saw Lane Johnson coming in 2013. He went #4 overall after a great Senior Bowl and combine (Spriggs was named the best offensive line performer in practise at the Senior Bowl).

Ohio State’s Taylor Decker gets a chance to prove he’s more athletic than people realise. Michigan State’s Jack Conklin is being tipped to crack the 4.9’s in the forty by Tony Pauline which could secure a place in the top-20. It’ll alleviate some of the concerns about his athleticism. He weighed in at 308lbs with 35 inch arms — that’s considerably lighter than in college.

Teams will drool over Auburn’s Shon Coleman’s workout during drills — he has +35 inch arms and is over-analysed in some sections of the media. Coleman is a terrific prospect but medical checks will be crucial to his stock after beating cancer.

Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark is technically inept and a major project but he’s the nearest thing to Okung’s size, length (+36 inch arms) and foot-speed. Don’t be shocked if he goes earlier than expected based on the NFL’s desperation for long, athletic offensive linemen. Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi is well proportioned and carries minimal bad weight — he should do well in Indianapolis. He also has 36-inch arms and could fit at guard or tackle for Seattle. He’s one to keep an eye on.

Nebraska’s Alex Lewis and Ole Miss’ Fahn Cooper are two prospects that could be interesting later on. Expect both to test better than expected. Cooper filled in for Laremy Tunsil at left tackle in 2015 and Lewis is a very athletic lineman who plays with an edge.

In the interior — Notre Dame’s excellent Nick Martin will no doubt draw comparisons to his brother Zack. Cody Whitehair and Ryan Kelly might not test brilliantly but they’re hard nosed, physical blockers. Whitehair will switch from tackle to center. Michigan’s Graham Glasgow fits Seattle’s size ideal at center perfectly (6-5, 307lbs) and he’s incredibly physically and tough up front — a possible ideal pick for the Seahawks in round three.

Arizona State’s Christian Westerman could have an explosive combine across the board. He played left guard in college but might be better suited at center. He’s a must watch. He can bench 310lbs twenty times so he could get near to 50 benching 225lbs. Washington State tackle Joe Dahl is also expected to test well as he prepares to move to right guard.

It’s a shame Ferris State’s Justin Zimmer didn’t receive an invite to the combine. At a recent regional combine he ran a 4.89 and had a 33-inch vertical at 6-3 and 303lbs. He could be the next D-line-to-O-line convert project for the Seahawks.

Tight ends

Tyler Higbee is a catching machine with great athleticism

2015 leaders
40-yard dash — Mycole Pruitt (4.58)
Vertical jump — Mycole Pruitt (38 inches)
Bench press — Gerald Christian (28 reps)

Seahawks performer
Luke Willson (6-5, 251lbs) wasn’t invited to the combine in 2013 but at the Rice pro-day he ran a 4.57 and a 4.46 in the forty, had a 38 inch vertical jump and a 10’2 in the broad. He also managed 23 reps on the bench press.

With Jimmy Graham set to return and the presence of Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet — it’s unclear whether the Seahawks are prepared to pump major stock into this position. Willson is a free agent in 2017 and Graham is returning from a serious knee injury. However — a weak class and better options elsewhere makes this a likely day three target at best.

The Seahawks have generally avoided this position in the draft — despite their desire to feature the tight ends heavily in the offense. They spent a 5th round pick on Willson and a 6th round pick on Anthony McCoy in 2010 (McCoy played under Pete Carroll at USC). Had they not traded their 2010 third round pick to San Diego for Charlie Whitehurst do they draft Jimmy Graham given his extreme athletic profile? In 2013 they chose Christine Michael one pick before Travis Kelce left the board. Jordan Reed was also available at that point.

Arkansas’ Hunter Henry and Ohio State’s Nick Varnett are the two big names but neither is really expected to put on a show here. Think Zach Ertz. There’s very little to get excited about but one name to monitor is Western Kentucky’s Tyler Higbee. He’s a converted receiver who seems to be flying under the media radar. He’s only 6-3 and 243lbs and that could be an issue — but as a move-TE working the seam, Higbee has big potential. He also has excellent hands and plays with an edge.

Florida’s Jake McGee is probably a bit limited physically for the Seahawks but he’s a reliable player and could provide some value later on.

Saturday’s workouts

Quarterbacks

Dak Prescott is mobile and makes plays

2015 leaders
40-yard dash — Marcus Mariota (4.52)
Vertical jump — Nick Marshall (37.5 inches)
Broad jump — Bryan Bennett (10’5)

Seahawks performer
In 2012 Russell Wilson ran a 4.55, managed 34 inches in the vertical and produced a 6.97 in the three-cone drill.

If they’re going to add to this position it’s likely to be someone with a similar skill-set to Russell Wilson. They’ll want to run the same offense even if they’re forced into a quarterback change. Mobility, arm strength and the ability to act as a point guard will be crucial.

Despite claiming they’d look to draft one every year, John Schneider has only pulled the trigger once (Wilson). It’d be cost effective to find a late rounder to act as a backup — but the Seahawks have consistently gone back to Tarvaris Jackson and might have to again in 2016.

Of the quarterbacks attending the combine, there are four that might be of interest. Oregon’s Vernon Adams is short, mobile and a playmaker. He’s often compared to Wilson but has significantly smaller hands and isn’t likely to have anywhere near the same impact. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is tall and physical as a runner with some skills as a passer. He’s limited reading the field and needs time as a pro — but he has an intriguing skill-set. Ohio State’s Cardale Jones is incredibly mobile for his size (6-5, 250lbs) and could be the best arm talent in the class. His perceived immaturity and inability to lock down a starting role in college could lead to a fall. Stanford’s Kevin Hogan had an up-and-down college career but he’s mobile and can move around to create plays.

All four might be off the board by the early stages of day three. The Seahawks probably have too many needs to select a guy that early. Let’s hope they kept Tarvaris’ cellphone number.

Running backs

Derrick Henry could be the star of the weekend

2015 leaders
40-yard dash — Jeremy Langford (4.42)
Vertical jump — Ameer Abdullah (42.5 inches)
Broad jump — Ameer Abdullah (10’10)

Seahawks performer
Christine Michael wowed at the 2013 combine with a 4.54 at 5-10 and 220lbs, a 43 inch vertical and a 10-4 in the broad jump. He also had 27 reps on the bench.

The Seahawks will add to this position during the off-season. They previously relied on Marshawn Lynch to carry the running game and while Thomas Rawls flashed major talent in 2015 — they’re unlikely to burden him with Lynch’s workload. John Schneider confirmed during his combine press conference today that they’ll add a couple of guys to the stable.

They’ve generally looked for players who run in the 4.4-4.5 range with a sturdy frame (215-220lbs). I’m less inclined to think their ‘type’ is to do with size ideal as it is style of play. Physical, tough runners who finish their runs and have the ability to gain yards after contact and set the tone appears to be the order of the day. Extreme athleticism will also get a look in — emphasised by the Christine Michael pick in 2013.

Alabama’s Derrick Henry is box office viewing on Saturday. He’s being tipped to run a 4.4 and jump +40 inches in the vertical at 6-3 and 247lbs. If he manages that fresh off a Heisman winning season — he could push his stock into round one and catch Seattle’s eye. One other thing to remember on Henry — he led nation in missed tackles forced (60) and had 29.6% of his explosive carries come in the fourth quarter. It’s not how you start…

The Seahawks like field-tilting athleticism and are willing to turn a blind eye to size ideals if a player excels in many different ways (see: 5-10 Russell Wilson). Henry is a truly unique prospect and even if you’re against the idea of drafting a running back early — make sure you track his progress in Indianapolis this weekend. They took Christine Michael in round two despite having Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. If Henry smashes Michael’s explosive combine performance weighing 20lbs more — watch out.

Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is almost assured of a place in the top-20. Expect a rockstar performance this weekend at 6-0 and 225lbs. He is the complete package of size, speed, quickness, explosion and pass-blocking.

There are alternative options likely to be available later. It’ll be interesting to see how Arkansas’ Alex Collins performs overall. He’s shown an ability to explode into the second level and finish long runs. Can he gets into the 4.4’s? He’s a tough, physical runner and at 5-10, 217lbs fits Seattle’s size ideal. UCLA’s Paul Perkins (5-10, 208lbs) provides ankle-breaking cuts, toughness and speed. He should test well. Kenneth Dixon (5-10, 215lbs), C.J. Prosise (6-0, 220lbs) and Jordan Howard (6-0, 230lbs) are others to monitor. Utah’s Devontae Booker and Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams will not workout.

Georgia’s Keith Marshall (5-11, 219lbs) could also be an intriguing case and a candidate to be another Thomas Rawls. He was a major recruit for the Bulldogs and Todd Gurley’s original partner before injury hampered his college career. If he can show he’s 100% healthy at the combine he could be a later round or UDFA steal. A forty time in the 4.4’s makes him interesting. He has the potential and became the forgotten man behind Gurley and then Nick Chubb. Auburn’s Peyton Barber is another player to look out for.

Wide receivers

Will Fuller is a dynamic playmaker with the suddenness Seattle loves

2015 leaders
40-yard dash — J.J. Nelson (4.28)
Vertical jump — Chris Conley (45 inches)
Broad jump — Chris Conley (11’7)

Seahawks performer
Last year Tyler Lockett ran a 4.40, had a 35.5 inch vertical and a 10′ in the broad jump.

The Seahawks have a sort of need here — at least for the time being. Jermaine Kearse is a free agent and Doug Baldwin is scheduled to test the market next year. Paul Richardson has been unable to stay healthy and Ricardo Lockette’s future is unclear. Jimmy Graham’s injury also adds to the situation and suddenly the only long-term fixture is Tyler Lockett.

If they’re able to keep Kearse and/or extend Baldwin’s deal the pressure will ease. If they don’t address this position pre-draft and they’re able to fill needs on the O-line and D-line in free agency, it could come into play.

Seattle loves suddenness, athleticism and the ability to ‘win the red-line’ (the area close to each sideline). Their offense is built on running the ball effectively and explosive plays in the passing game. Possession receivers need not apply — this position is all about dynamism.

Baylor’s Corey Coleman won’t run at the combine citing a lack of full health. That’s a shame because he was destined for a big performance and a possible top-20 grade (Coleman will still jump the vertical). It could leave the door open for Notre Dame’s Will Fuller to excel. He has the potential to run in the high 4.3’s and cement his place in round one. Fuller is a major threat in space and running downfield. He’s likely to impress teams during meetings in Indianapolis too.

Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell also won’t run but arguably doesn’t fit Seattle’s need for suddenness. He’s a very polished possession receiver who could go early — but he’s also a likely 4.6 runner without unique size.

Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd is a terrific football player and the heart and soul of the Panthers offense. If he tests well he could jump into the first round discussion. Ohio State’s Michael Thomas is a bigger receiver (6-3, 209lbs) but has the agility of a smaller target and could be a big riser if he runs and jumps well here. Clemson’s Charone Peake is another big target with big-time athleticism. TCU’s Josh Doctson is not the same kind of athlete but is technically very good adjusting to the ball and high-pointing.

All of these players are likely to be gone by the first few picks in round three. Players available later to keep an eye on include Cal’s Kenny Lawler, Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge, South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper and Mississippi State’s De’Runya Wilson (who isn’t too dissimilar to Kelvin Benjamin). Lawler in particular offers a nice blend of size, speed and catching technique.

Florida’s Demarcus Robinson could have the best performance among receivers but he earned the title ‘Mr. Suspension’ in college and has terrible catching technique. He is a special athlete though.

Tennessee’s Marquez North could be a later round wildcard. He was a key recruit and flashed as a freshman before disappearing in college. He has a ton of upside, size and speed. He’s one to monitor this weekend.

Sunday’s workouts

Defensive linemen

Sheldon Rankins secured a likely top-20 grade at the Senior Bowl

2015 leaders
40-yard dash — Danielle Hunter (4.57)
Vertical jump — Owamagbe Odighizuwa (39 inches)
Broad jump — Owamagbe Odighizuwa (10’7)

Seahawks performer
Last year Frank Clark put on a show with a 4.79 forty, 38.5 inches on the vertical and a 7.08 in the three cone drill — all at 6-3, 271lbs and 34.5 inch arms.

During a conference call yesterday, Mike Mayock suggested defensive linemen will go in rounds two and three this year that would’ve been first round picks in previous drafts. The depth at defensive tackle is incredibly rich — with one caveat. There aren’t many interior pass-rushers. It’s a class full of compromises — you’re either getting size, strength, motor, quickness or a combination of two traits. There isn’t that one genuine top tier DT that goes in the top-10 like Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. There also isn’t anyone with the kind of pass-rush quality Aaron Donald and Kawann Short flashed in college.

What do the Seahawks need? We’ve highlighted it many times. The big difference between 2013, 2014 and 2015 is the production of one player. Clinton McDonald had 5.5 sacks in 2013. Jordan Hill, McDonald’s replacement, had 5.5 sacks in 2014. Hill had zero sacks in 2015.

If they’re able to retain Ahtyba Rubin and Brandon Mebane — or find cheap veteran alternatives (a consistent approach for this front office) — they could focus on finding an explosive interior rusher to get the kind of production they lacked in 2015.

Get-off is incredibly important and that initial burst of speed. The defensive line drills at the combine are as important as any (along with the cornerbacks). Who separates with great mobility, quickness, a strong punch into the pads and doesn’t tire quickly?

The Seahawks haven’t drafted a run-stuffing defensive tackle earlier than round four. Their highest pick so far on a DT is Hill in round three (2013). They’re unlikely to draft a modest athlete in round one so even if it’s one of the bigger guys at +300lbs — they’re going to need to possess unique traits, athleticism, quickness and length to interest the Seahawks.

Nobody is likely to match Aaron Donald’s sensational performance in 2014 — he ran a 4.68 at 285lbs with a 1.59 10-yard split. Focus on those split times for all defensive line prospects on Sunday. Anything in the 1.5’s is elite even for an edge rusher — so any defensive tackle that breaks that barrier or runs in the low 1.6’s will be intriguing to a team looking for an interior rusher.

The bench press is generally an overrated exercise. It’s more of an endurance test than anything — and has no relevance to a game where you have to show short, explosive bursts of power not long consistent stretches. However, a guy who benches 35 times like Donald clearly has natural strength. So it’s not a totally hopeless exercise — just don’t worry too much if a guy only manages 25 reps compared to others that hit 40. The player who benches only 25 times might be able to do one heavier rep than the guy making 40.

Concentrate on every prospect here. You’d be doing yourself an injustice to leave anyone out. Here are some of the names of particular interest…

— Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson is built like a Greek God but plays within himself and doesn’t dominate, offering minimal pass rush. He should test well across the board and if he does — teams will bite on the upside. Can he show more at the next level?

— Mississippi State’s Chris Jones is a former #2 overall national recruit who generated major buzz in High School. He has supreme size (6-6, 308lbs) and athleticism and could easily be the type of player the Seahawks fall for. He’s very disciplined in the run game and has untapped pass rushing potential. Can he put in a really good workout and record a nice split to get into the discussion at #26?

— Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins dominated the Senior Bowl and isn’t likely to last until #26. He’s the nearest thing to Aaron Donald in terms of playing style although he’s not quite the same exceptional pass rusher. It’ll be interesting to compare his performance in Indianapolis to Donald’s. He does weigh nearly 20lbs more so keep that in mind. Tony Pauline reported the Seahawks have a first round grade on Rankins but he’s likely to be off the board in the top-20.

— Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington might be the best pure pass rusher at defensive tackle in this class. He wins with head fakes, swim/rip, excellent get-off and he uses his length (34 inch arms) to great effect. He’s flying under the radar a bit due to a lack of overall consistency and some character concerns. A great performance at the combine will get the hype factor going again.

— Baylor Andrew Billings and Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler are both big — and Butler has 34 inch arms and a similar physical profile to Muhammad Wilkerson. Butler isn’t anything like the same kind of pass rusher as Wilkerson but they share similar traits. Billings is an athletic, powerful prospect who plays with ill-discipline in terms of gap control and he tends to freelance a lot trying to get to the quarterback. He’s incredibly strong and could be a star on the bench press.

— Michigan’s Willie Henry is disruptive, powerful and he has some pass rush quality. He’s close friends with Seattle’s Frank Clark. In another year Henry could be generating some first round hype but such is the depth of the class. Keep an eye on him — he could be a steal in rounds 2-3 as a player capable of rotating into a line-up as an impact player.

— Indiana’s Darius Latham was part of a loaded recruiting class that set a mission to put Indiana football on the map. He’s a very underrated athlete with good size and he swim/rips very easily and can be a disruptive force. He could be one of the better testers at the combine and push his stock right into the second round range.

— Florida’s Jonathan Bullard lacks ideal size to play inside and could be better as a 3-4 end — he’s also a high-motor, high-effort player who relies on the bull rush. One anonymous scout is quoted as saying, “Bullard isn’t special” and he doesn’t look like a great athlete. That could eliminate him from contention for the Seahawks. This is his chance to prove he has a higher ceiling than expected — although I wouldn’t anticipate an eye-catching performance.

— Penn State’s Austin Johnson is 325lbs of intense, high-octane physicality that just never stops motoring. He’s quick for his size — as emphasised by an incredible scoop-and-score on a fumble return during the season. Don’t be shocked if he raises a few eyebrows on Sunday and moves quickly into the early second round range.

— Appalachian State’s Ronald Blair III is one of the better pass rushers in the class and he dominated Clemson during the 2015 season. He plays inside and out and could develop into a very successful three-technique or specialist rusher. He received interest from the SEC before going to Appalachian State.

— Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche might be too much for most teams in terms of red flags and he could sink into round two like Randy Gregory a year ago. Even so, he was compared to Jadeveon Clowney as a High School recruit and can get a bit of momentum back into his stock at the combine.

— Nebraska’s Maliek Collins plays without a pass rush repertoire and he’s a bit too predictable working the interior. He’s a former wrestler though and he knows how to battle. He’s also quite the athlete and could shine here. He has the upside to be a productive interior rusher but the flashes were too few and far between in 2015.

A note of caution — based on trends since 2010, the Seahawks are unlikely to draft anyone with sub-32-inch arms at defensive tackle.

The edge rush class isn’t quite as exciting. Joey Bosa and Noah Spence will likely go in the top-12 but after that it’s just a case of seeing who runs a 1.5 10-yard split. Cliff Avril had a 1.50, Bruce Irvin a 1.55 and Frank Clark a 1.59. That’s what the Seahawks look for coming off the edge. Explosion.

Clemson duo Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd seem unlikely to crack the 1.5’s. Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun had a thoroughly underwhelming college career but he might get into that range. It’ll be interesting to see how well Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper and Penn State’s Carl Nassib test.

Overall we’re left waiting to see who emerges from this group.

Linebackers

Deion Jones could be an ideal fit for Seattle’s defense

2015 leaders
40-yard dash — Vic Beasley (4.53)
Vertical jump — Davis Tull (42.5 inches)
Broad jump — Bud Dupree (11’6)

Seahawks performer
Kevin Pierre-Louis ran a 4.51 at 6-0 and 232lbs. He also jumped 39 inches in the vertical. Explosive.

Speed, speed, speed. That’s what the Seahawks have generally looked for at linebacker. Bobby Wagner ran a 4.46 at his pro-day, Bruce Irvin and Kevin Pierre-Louis both ran 4.50’s. K.J. Wright is the exception — but he provided fantastic range, incredibly long arms and physicality.

Part of fielding such a stout front four is having a group of linebackers that can fly to the ball, work through traffic and make plays. Seattle is unlikely to move away from raw speed and athleticism.

Unless the Seahawks start one of Pierre-Louis, Eric Pinkins or Mike Morgan — they’re going to need to replace Bruce Irvin. Pierre-Louis was unconvincing in spot-duty in 2015 while Morgan actually replaced Irvin in some games.

Forget about finding a direct replacement for Irvin. He was the best pass rusher in college football for two years, recording 22.5 sacks for West Virginia. He had the athleticism and range to work at the LEO or at linebacker. Nobody in this class — and in most draft classes — has this kind of profile.

Georgia’s Leonard Floyd is best at linebacker because he’s very athletic and capable of covering receivers downfield. He was disappointing as a pass rusher in college and probably needs to make a permanent switch to OLB whether that’s in a 4-3 or a 3-4. He should test well in Indianapolis and could go in the top-25.

There are four key linebackers in this class with the potential to go early. Two won’t workout due to injury — Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith and UCLA’s Myles Jack. Ohio State’s Darron Lee and LSU’s Deion Jones will likely capitalise to really enhance their standing. Lee in particular is a dynamic playmaker with top-15 potential. Jones could crack the first round if he performs as expected. He had five sacks and a pick six to go with 99 tackles in 2015. Jones is the only one of the top-four likely to be available at #26. He’s explosive enough for Seattle and plays well against the run — he’s a thoroughly modern NFL linebacker in the Telvin Smith mould. He’s also terrific on special teams.

Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell could be an intriguing pass rush convert for the Seahawks as a LEO. He lives in the backfield and is a splash play specialist. He needs to run a 1.5 in the ten-yard split to have any chance of going at #26. Georgia’s Jordan Jenkins is in a similar position.

Ohio State’s Joshua Perry is such a fun player to watch — it’d be cool to see him have a good combine. He’s a terrific leader with a real nose for the ball. Oklahoma’s Eric Striker was a big-time playmaker for the Sooners breaking their record for sacks by a linebacker. Boise State’s Kamalei Correa needs to back up some of the first round talk.

Washington’s Travis Feeney has injury-flags but if he presents an athletic profile here he could be a later round option as someone who can do a bit of what Irvin did. He could also act a key special teamer and maybe split time with a Morgan or KPL.

It’s worth keeping an eye on the safety class too for potential linebacker converts. The en vogue thing at the moment is to try and find a Mark Barron or Deone Bucannon. USC’s Su’a Cravens, Duke’s Jeremy Cash and Southern Utah’s Miles Killebrew are candidates to make the switch.

Monday’s workouts

Cornerbacks

Xavien Howard is tall, long and a big-time playmaker

2015 leaders
40-yard dash — Trae Waynes (4.31)
Vertical jump — Byron Jones (44.5 inches)
Broad jump — Byron Jones (12’3)

Seahawks performer
Richard Sherman ran a 4.56 at 6-3 and 195lbs. He has 32 inch arms. He also managed a very good 38 inch vertical.

Seattle’s size ideal at corner is strict and obvious. They value length and won’t draft a corner with sub-32-inch arms unless, perhaps, it’s an explosive athlete working the slot. They’re unlikely to target the position early unless the player is truly explosive. The earliest they’ve drafted a cornerback is Walter Thurmond in round four in 2010.

They have a stable of young corners already and might only add to it on day three if they lose Jeremy Lane in free agency. They’ve regularly targeted rounds 5-6 for this position.

They also have a specific technique they teach and it takes time to learn. A player drafted in this class is probably unlikely to start quickly but for an exceptional circumstance. That probably also weakens the possibility of an early pick at corner.

The Seahawks already traded a sixth round pick for Mohammed Seisay. Like Kelcie McCray (see below) he has to be included as part of this class and might be their ‘day three guy’ this year.

Houston’s William Jackson III and Baylor’s Xavien Howard are tall, long, athletic playmakers with five picks each in 2015. They could push towards the late first round if they outshine the likes of Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander and Ohio State’s Eli Apple. Alexander didn’t record a single pick in college while Apple only had one in 2015. A lack of size could hurt the pair too so they better be fast and explosive.

Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves is one of the more overrated players in the class. He bites on double coverage way too much and is a liability tackling in the open-field. He could face a similar fate to Bradley Roby — being taken later than originally projected to work exclusively as a slot corner.

LSU’s Rashard Robinson, Miami’s Artie Burns, Notre Dame’s KeiVarae Russell, West Virginia’s Daryl Worley, Northern Iowa’s Deiondre’ Hall and Oklahoma’s Zack Sanchez are players to monitor. Check the arm length, check the speed and watch how fluid they are changing direction during drills. Hip torque, suddenness and fluid movement is all crucial.

Safety

Kelcie McCray might be Seattle’s safety pick in this draft

2015 leaders
40-yard dash — Justin Cox (4.36)
Vertical jump — Kurtis Drummond (39.5 inches)
Broad jump — Justin Cox (10’9)

Seahawks performer
Kelcie McCray ran a 4.54 at 6-2 and 202lbs — among the fastest times at the position in 2012.

Seattle spent their fifth round pick on Kelcie McCray. While many fans have discussed the possibility of adding a safety this year — McCray likely already filled that spot. His physicality and speed are a major plus for the Seahawks. He turns 28 in September but McCray showed he can start when needed and he has terrific special teams value.

If Kam Chancellor did leave the team — and there’s nothing to suggest that will be the case as of yet — McCray likely steps into the starting role.

Pete Carroll puts great value at the safety position and it was a major priority in 2010 when he joined the team. They spent the #14 pick on Earl Thomas and drafted Kam Chancellor in round five. Since then they haven’t really had to focus too much on drafting safety’s. Last year they took Ryan Murphy in round seven but he didn’t make the roster.

Florida’s Keanu Neal might be the best player available — but it’s a close battle with Boise State’s Darian Thompson, Ohio State’s Vonn Bell and West Virginia’s Karl Joseph. All are likely to leave the board before the Seahawks begin to think about drafting a safety.

Maryland’s Sean Davis didn’t look comfortable at cornerback but hits hard, has shown some playmaking qualities and has a shredded physique at 6-1 and 201lbs. He speaks three languages (English, French and Chinese) and could be a depth/developmental project at either corner or safety (he has +32 inch arms).

Clemson’s Jayron Kearse gets a lot of hype for his size (6-5, 220lbs) but he had a poor 2015 season — frequently taking bad angles, whiffing on tackles and just not looking very good. He needs a good combine to get some positivity back into his stock.

Miles Killebrew — who could face a switch to linebacker — is expected to have the best performance among safety’s.

N-O-line: A scenario where the Seahawks don’t go OL at #26

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Tony Pauline is now saying Jack Conklin is likely to go in the top half of round one

When asked about the teams priorities in the off-season, Pete Carroll admitted the O-line needed some attention:

“I think it’s still a work in progress. I don’t think we’ve nailed it yet. I think this needs to be a really competitive spot again, and we’re going to work really hard to build it up. For the course of the season, we weren’t consistent enough. We found a real good rhythm, but we can’t start and go through that again. We don’t want to have to experience that if we don’t have to, if we can avoid it.”

So how do you go about setting up a more consistent offensive line?

You could argue rookies (plural) aren’t going to guarantee consistency if you’re incorporating two or three. Improved competition is one thing — but how much competing can you really have if you’re also trying to teach techniques, scheme and the ways of a pro-offense?

Is the winner of this kind of competition merely the guy who picks things up the best? Or the quickest? A race to be less unreliable than the guy next to you?

First and second round talent — the ‘crème de la crème’ — might be up to the challenge. That wasn’t necessarily the case though when the Seahawks drafted James Carpenter at #25 in 2011 or Justin Britt at #64 in 2014.

Many of the top offensive tackles are going to be off the board by pick #26. One or two might last into range — but there’s no guarantee. Tony Pauline, who recently suggested Jack Conklin could fall into the final third of round one, has performed something of a u-turn today:

The Michigan State junior is expected to tip the scales around 315 pounds, about 10 pounds lighter than his playing weight last season, and should time the 40-yard dash in the 4.9-second range.

I’m told last spring that the Michigan State coaches timed Conklin at 4.85-seconds. Conklin is expected to interview well with teams and good testing marks could secure his place in the top half of the first round.

In 2013 three of the first four picks were offensive linemen. Teams are universally looking for options here. It wouldn’t be a shock if Tunsil, Decker, Spriggs, Conklin, Stanley and possibly Coleman are gone by #26. It’s perhaps increasingly likely given the lack of options after that sextuplet are drafted. It possibly leaves the Seahawks considering a move for Germain Ifedi or Le’Raven Clark if they feel they had to draft a tackle.

Can they risk waiting for the draft only to see one after another leave the board? Are they facing a double dilemma — the need for immediate consistency and limited options in round one?

They could draft for the interior O-line and there’s some nice options in the late first or early second. I’m not sure they’ll do that with some of the alternative interior prospects available in rounds 2-4.

It’s time to consider a scenario where the Seahawks don’t go O-line at #26.

There’s probably a reason they’ve relied on veteran free agent defensive linemen over the years. It’s a man’s game in the trenches. You know what you’re getting with a veteran. He’s been there before — he has a few war stories.

They’ve gone the other way on the O-line — seeking out younger, developmental projects with upside. That’s probably down to the complete dearth of talent on the O-line in the NFL. Trying to train your own is the way to go and in that regard the Seahawks are ahead of the curve. They’re unlikely to abandon that plan completely.

Yet maybe they need a stop-gap or two? Someone to come in and provide some solidity? Some consistency? Players to push the younger guys. To teach them a few tricks. To show them what it’s going to take to succeed.

After all, look at Seattle’s Super Bowl winning O-line: Okung, Carpenter, Unger, Sweezy, Giacomini. A veteran line with Sweezy in his second year.

They weren’t perfect — but they didn’t hold the team back either.

There isn’t a bottomless pit of money and Carroll has stated his desire to re-sign as many of their existing free agents as possible. Even so, with some of the UFA’s the situation will be taken out of their hands.

Bruce Irvin is going to get at least a couple of big offers — and there’s nothing they can do about that. C’est la vie. J.R. Sweezy has been linked to a heated market. Jermaine Kearse maybe turned up in enough prime-time games to get a team to bite on his playmaking quality. Jeremy Lane is a talented, versatile corner and they get paid in the NFL. It could go either way with Russell Okung.

If they keep only three of their seven free agents expected to earn an average salary greater than $2m a year — they might be left with enough room to bring in a couple of savvy veteran O-liners. It might not be the big names — Osemele, Boone, Mack — but players who can fill in and allow the Seahawks to keep working with their young talent.

Maybe they can land a big fish somehow? We saw what a lukewarm market did for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in 2013. A name player on a prove-it deal could work nicely for the Seahawks — allowing them to get a year or two of quality play while developing the replacements. Signing Avril and Bennett seemed unlikely in 2013 — so let’s not rule anything out.

Such a scenario would also free them up to look at different positions early in the draft. They can look for that next SPARQ superstar with production.

It opens the door for a D-liner, linebacker and running back in rounds 1-3 in any order. Whatever suits. And the depth in the middle rounds for interior offensive linemen could allow them to add to the competition in 2016 and for the future — although they would probably need to hit on one good O-line pick between rounds 2-7. A provisional starter.

You can imagine whatever scenario you like. Add a tackle (or re-sign Okung) and a veteran guard but still draft a center (Martin, Glasgow, Kelly, Whitehair, Westerman etc). Add a tackle (or re-sign Okung) and a veteran center and look at the guards (Tretola, Glasgow, Dahl etc). Or build the interior in free agency and draft someone on day two or three who can handle a speed rush off the edge (Fahn Cooper?).

There are plenty of options. If they can add a couple of veterans — or sign one and retain Okung — it’s arguably the best way to provide immediate consistency in 2016.

They wouldn’t be ignoring the O-line in the draft completely. They’d still be bringing in one, two or even three players with a view to starting one and developing the others.

The Seahawks probably aren’t going to be able to suddenly create an elite offensive line in one off-season. They might replace the entire starting line from 2015 if Garry Gilliam switches to left tackle. This is going to take time and development — at a time when they need to get this sorted now because they’re in a Championship window.

Again, it all depends on the free agent market. Don’t ask me to name any possible targets because I can’t help you there. Who expected Stefen Wisniewski to be without a team until mid-April last year? Ditto Evan Mathis until late August. The Seahawks are likely to be looking at the second and third wave of free agency — or even beyond. Wisniewski and Mathis are examples of the type of value you can find. Mathis’ cap hit in 2015 was $2.9m, Wisniewski’s $2.5m.

If they’re able to bring in a couple of vets that could mean going in a different direction at #26. It’ll bring a linebacker like Deion Jones into play, a Derrick Henry, one of the dynamic receivers (Coleman or Fuller) or one of the long list of defensive tackles in this class.

Arizona State’s Christian Westerman is very intriguing

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

Christian Westerman’s tape is very impressive

It’ll be reassuring to any Seahawks fan concerned about the offensive line that this is a decent class at every position.

Plenty of tackles are going to go early — and once they’re gone there isn’t much left. Laremy Tunsil, Taylor Decker and Ronnie Stanley almost certainly won’t make it to #26. Jason Spriggs’ expected performance at the combine could push him into the top-20. Jack Conklin still figures to go in round one and Shon Coleman deserves a first frame grade.

A rush on the position could lead to a high upside project like Le’Raven Clark going earlier than he probably should. Germain Ifedi is likely to get bumped up too. After that the best option might be Ole Miss’ Fahn Cooper and Nebraska’s Alex Lewis.

The Seahawks could feel obliged to take a tackle in round one if they lose Russell Okung. If they fear a day one rush they might have to come up with a different plan — either finding a way to keep Okung or signing a veteran replacement.

If they pull this off they can focus on another area in round one (D-line, linebacker, cornerback or even running back) knowing there are plenty of interior options to come in rounds 2-4.

I hadn’t had the opportunity to check out Arizona State left guard Christian Westerman until today. He needs to be added to the watch list.

There is a slight caveat. Westerman’s calling card is gritty athleticism, not size and power. The Seahawks have generally gone for his type at right guard. Whether they re-sign J.R. Sweezy or promote Mark Glowinski — it’s one of the positions where they at least have some kind of an answer. The same can’t necessarily be said for left guard (Justin Britt struggled) or right tackle (they might need to move Garry Gilliam to the blindside).

I’m not sure how open they are to starting a different type of left guard. Generally they’ve gone for converted tackles with major size and power — signing Robert Gallery, moving on to James Carpenter, trying Alvin Bailey and then settling on Britt. Terry Poole was drafted to compete at guard last year and he’s listed at 6-5 and 307lbs — a considerable difference to Britt (325lbs) and Carpenter (321lbs).

Westerman’s tape hints at a player that might be worth serious consideration at left guard — even if he’s only 6-3 and 296lbs. So why might they look beyond his size?

For starters he’s a good athlete and a former major national recruit. He generated interest from all the top schools — Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas and USC. He committed to Auburn before eventually transferring home to Arizona State.

You can tell he’s an athlete — his back pedal and set is very good and he anchors well off his back foot. He loves to get to the second level and unlike many prospects — knows how to lock on and make a block. He also appears to sit well in his set as a natural knee bender.

Westerman’s a good wrestler in a phone-booth and knows how to contain. You don’t have to block a guy for five seconds or put him on the turf to win — sometimes a subtle turn is enough to create a lane. He also has very busy feet in pass protection.

There is an edge to his game. Against USC he drove a DL to the ground and finished. He pulls very well as you’d expect given his mobility. Westerman gets that initial jolt at the POA and turns the defensive lineman.

I’ve seen his power questioned in places but I didn’t see any evidence of that. He seems to have excellent upper body strength and his ability to get movement off the LOS is no worse than most of the top-tier prospects in this class. Is there a lack of a big initial punch? Yes — but that’s not really any different to the Martin’s, Kelly’s or Whitehair’s.

Need convincing about his natural strength? How about this:

I can bench just over my own body weight. The thought of benching 315lbs makes me want to cry. Even if you think he’s not showing a comparable level of game strength — you know the potential is there.

On the downside there wasn’t any real evidence of a successful combo block. Conklin and Tretola do this very well, getting initial contact before quickly moving onto a second target. If you execute well here you can create wide open lanes and make a lot of money in the pro’s. It’s an area Westerman can improve and a reason why Conklin and Tretola will interest a lot of teams.

There were a couple of occasions where he adjusted to a stunt or blitz — you don’t often see this level of recognition in college. Having read up on Westerman after watching the games he’s been praised for his work ethic and technical awareness.

Length isn’t an issue (33.5 inch arms) and there’s plenty of upside here. He might not be a converted tackle with massive size but his attitude, athleticism and strength will be appealing. He’s not an overachiever in college who made himself great — he’s a former four-star recruit who always expected to perform.

Scouts Inc are grading him in round four and Tony Pauline has him in round five. From what I watched today I think he’s destined to rise after the combine, possibly into the second or third round.

If the Seahawks don’t address the offensive line in round one — or even if they do — there are good options to fill out the interior beyond the first day. Westerman could be an outsider for the #56 pick and if you can get him any later than that — consider it a high-upside steal.

Further thoughts on Adolphus Washington

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

If you missed it earlier don’t forget to check out our latest podcast. We cover a lot of ground this week.

By now you’ve heard about the great depth on the D-line in this years draft. Unfortunately, it’s not a great class for interior pass rushers. You can find size, power, several nose tackle prospects with upside and players with eye-catching athleticism considering their bulk. Pass rushers? Not as good.

Sheldon Rankins is destined to go in the top-20 as the best available interior rusher. After that the options are thin. And it’s why I keep coming back to Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington.

He’s probably the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the class.

No other prospect has Washington’s skill set. He’s very athletic and quick off the snap, uses a good head-fake to disguise his intentions and has the length (34 inch arms) to keep blockers off his frame. He has a good counter to get off blocks and finish. He uses the swim/rip and he’ll shoot a gap given half a chance.

There are issues too and I’m unconvinced he’ll be an every down starter in the league. Can he play a full game with stoutness against the run? Rankins is built like a tank in the lower body and he’s difficult to move — Washington’s lower body is thinner and more akin to an edge rusher. He’s not a power-rusher and doesn’t have a great bull rush. His play can be streaky — but that’s testament to what he is. An interior pass-rush specialist.

The team that drafts Washington is likely to fit him into a rotation and ask him to produce on the money downs. That’s exactly what the Seahawks need.

I’ve noticed a lot of talk in the comments section about finding an every down defensive tackle that can offer more pass-rush. The problem here is twofold:

1. Those players are very rare and usually drafted in the top-15 (Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Aaron Donald, Sheldon Richardson etc).

2. The Seahawks’ base defense is setup to predominantly stop the run.

The second point is the key one here. In 2013 when Seattle won the Super Bowl, they were starting Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel in base. Take away the running game, make an offense one-dimensional and then tee-off with your pass rushers (McDonald, Avril, Bennett, Clemons) combined with an opportunistic secondary.

It’s a plan that not only won this team a Championship — it should’ve won another the following year. And it probably would’ve done but for an enormous list of injuries on defense by the end of the New England Super Bowl.

The big difference between 2015 and 2013/2014 is as follows:

2013: Clinton McDonald — 5.5 sacks
2014: Jordan Hill — 5.5 sacks
2015: Jordan Hill — 0 sacks

The Seahawks lacked that one productive interior rusher who produced in key situations. Overall Seattle actually had more sacks in 2015 (46) than they did in 2014 (42) and 2013 (44). Yet without that inside rusher on third down or obvious passing downs — they were unable to force as many turnovers or mistakes.

Let’s not get into the mindset that the defensive plan started to fail. I’ve seen it suggested they need to switch things around in base — but really there’s no evidence for that. Which other team starts a 330lbs three technique as Seattle did in 2015? The result? Zero 100-yard rushers against the Seahawks during the regular season. That’s quite an achievement.

Seattle prioritises gap control, discipline and doing your job. T.Y. McGill flashed as a pass rusher in pre-season but received a lukewarm response from Pete Carroll when asked to review his performance. The reason? He wasn’t doing the job he was asked to do. He was cut before the season and landed with the Colts.

By taking away the run you force teams to become one-dimensional against a fearsome secondary. You’re playing to not only the strength of your team but also the identity. Run the ball, stop the run. Force turnovers. Protect the ball.

Until they are in position to draft someone like Sheldon Rankins who could play early downs and control the run — they’re likely to persevere with the current plan. And why not? They just need to find a way to replace the production they had from McDonald and Hill in 2013/2014.

Hill is still on the roster and facing a contract year. He might be able to recreate his late 2014 form and provide the answer. Yet much like the situation at running back — the Seahawks are unlikely to just ‘hope for the best’ that they already have the answer. This is a team built on competition.

They also need greater depth on the D-line. In 2013 they had a substantial rotation and it was an underrated part of their success.

If there’s a determination to add another interior-rush specialist — Adolphus Washington could be the best bet. Let’s look at the tape…

LINK: Adolphus Washington vs Northern Illinois

I cannot embed the video linked above so you’ll have to watch it on YouTube. This was a close one for Ohio State (they won 20-13). Washington was, without doubt, the MVP on the day. Here are my notes:

0:17 — Washington fakes the B-gap rush with great head-use and then beats the right guard with pure quickness and hands to shrug him off. He explodes into the backfield, hits the quarterback as he throws forcing an interception by Eli Apple. Splash play.

2:16 — Washington shoots through the C-gap, leaving the tackle for dead with great quickness using his length to shield him off, meets the running back in the backfield and misses the tackle. He should wrap-up for a TFL but had the quickness and explosion off the snap to get into the backfield immediately. You can teach tackle form. You can’t teach quicks at 297lbs.

2:48 — Washington explodes through the B-gap on third and 2 to bring down the QB short of the first down marker. This is another example of his quickness and ability to shoot through gaps with natural athleticism.

3:11 — On 3rd and 4 the running back darts up the middle. They bring the centre across to Washington and he just throws him off with ease for a clear path to the running back. He stops him short of the marker and throws the RB to the ground after for good measure. This is all about length and power, with the discipline to fill the gap they were looking to create by pulling the centre. Washington destroys this play singlehanded.

4:00 — Washington rushes the B-gap, rounding the right guard with fantastic speed (similar to an edge rusher). You cannot block Washington 1v1 with a guard like this. He will win every time. He explodes into the backfield for a big sack (loss of eight yards). Look at the hand use here combined with the speed. That’s what 34-inch arms does for you.

4:45 — Washington meets the centre in a run play, shrugs him off with more fantastic hand use forcing the running back to bounce outside right into the arms of Joey Bosa. This is pure power, handling the line of scrimmage.

5:05 — It’s fourth and ten in a one score game. Washington pushes the right guard into the grill of the quarterback forcing an inaccurate throw. Incomplete. Game over. Another splash play.

There isn’t another defensive tackle in this draft with tape similar to this. There’s a lot of good hustle (Austin Johnson), there’s better control of the LOS with power and size (Jarran Reed, Vernon Butler, Kenny Clark). You see power (Andrew Billings) and the athleticism/frame of a Greek God (A’Shawn Robinson). Yet not even Sheldon Rankins has tape where he consistently wins with quickness like this.

There are other games where Washington is less impactful, of course. That’s the very nature of this type of player. Clinton McDonald in 2013 didn’t have a fantastic game every week. Nobody is going to mistake Washington for Aaron Donald and he’s unlikely to have 10-12 sacks in a season. Is he capable of 5-7 to help a defense that emphasises stopping the run? Possibly.

The Seahawks have almost no shot of signing Denver’s Malik Jackson in the open market. After Derek Wolfe signed a deal worth $9.157m APY, Jackson is likely to get something similar. The nearest thing to Jackson in this draft is Adolphus Washington.

Jackson is smaller (284lbs vs 297lbs) but they both win with quickness and have 34-inch arms. That length cannot be underestimated here — it’s a difference maker especially when you’ve got the speed skill-set to shoot gaps and can consistently keep blockers off your frame.

There are some character issues with Washington that need to be investigated. He was arrested for solicitation in a prostitution sting in December and subsequently suspended for the Fiesta Bowl. Assuming he isn’t marked down due to red flags, he has every chance to crack the top-45.

For the Seahawks they might be unlikely to target him at #26 but he could be an option if the trade down or if the red flags move him into the second or third round.

If you’re main desire is to see a dynamic interior pass rusher added to the roster via the draft — Washington is one guy to keep a very close eye on.

NFL mock draft: 14th February (two rounds)

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

A few days ago we looked at options for the Seahawks at #26 in a sort of ‘worst case’ scenario. Here’s a complete two-round mock draft with thoughts on Seattle’s picks.

Round one

#1 Tennessee — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
The Titans have a nondescript defense and two top-12 picks on their offensive line already. So of course they’ll draft Tunsil at #1.

#2 Cleveland — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
With his combination of accuracy, mobility, size and arm strength — Lynch provides the greater upside of the top three QB’s.

#3 San Diego — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
How interested is Philip Rivers and his ever-growing family in moving to LA? Time to start planning for the future, perhaps?

#4 Dallas — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
I can see why some teams are wary of Ramsey but he’s a physical corner with the ability to play safety.

#5 Jacksonville — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
The Jaguars need to keep adding pieces to their defense. Jack can play all three linebacker positions. Fantastic athlete.

#6 Baltimore — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
This would be a no-brainer for the Ravens. A pass-rusher to help kick-start that defense.

#7 San Francisco — Jared Goff (QB, California)
Right now the 49ers don’t have a good option at quarterback. Reports say their relationship with Colin Kaepernick is still strained.

#8 Miamia — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
D-line, linebacker and cornerback. Three need positions and the Dolphins will have options at all three in this spot.

#9 Tampa Bay — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Cornerback is a huge need for the Buccs and Apple is a fantastic prospect destined for big things.

#10 New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
The Giants tend to do things differently in this range and were right to draft Odell Beckham Jr and Ereck Flowers. Here’s another underrated player for them in Lee.

#11 Chicago — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
Any pick on the defense makes sense. Alexander slots into the line-up immediately. Big character.

#12 New Orleans — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
There isn’t another player like Spence in the draft and that should ensure he gets picked up early.

#13 Philadelphia — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
Underrated tackle. Very athletic, strong and gritty. He can slot straight in across from Lane Johnson.

#14 Oakland — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
Line him up inside and out. The Raiders might be willing to take a chance on his character to add another dynamic defender.

#15 Los Angeles — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
The Rams waited it out for Todd Gurley and were rewarded. Will they do the same with the ultra-talented Smith?

#16 Detroit — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
They could add a defensive lineman but tackle is a need. Stanley can be overly passive but he has the physical profile to be a good pass-protector.

#17 Atlanta — Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
Fantastic get-off, quick-twitch interior lineman who dominated the Senior Bowl practises. Just the type of player Atlanta’s defense lacks.

#18 Indianapolis — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
They’ve shied away from obvious needs in recent years to make surprise picks. Elliott is the real deal.

#19 Buffalo — A’shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
He plays within himself and should be better — but he has incredible upside and fits as a 3-4 DE.

#20 New York Jets — Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
A good combine to follow up a solid Senior Bowl could have teams moving quickly to snap up Spriggs’ athleticism and size.

#21 Washington — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
Scot McCloughan is trying to create a tough, physically imposing football team with plus athleticism. Reed would provide a real edge to their D-line.

#22 Houston — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
He could be the big winner at the combine, forcing his way into the top-tier of players. Explosive, physical playmaker.

#23 Minnesota — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
The Vikings need a consistent target for Teddy Bridgewater. Treadwell can provide that. Value pick.

#24 Cincinnati — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
The Bengals pair Billings with Geno Atkins up front to provide a formidable duo at defensive tackle.

#25 Pittsburgh — Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
We know the Steelers love to draft linebackers in round one. They need a pass rusher who gets home. That’s Fackrell.

#26 Seattle — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Tough, physical and excels in the run game. Conklin could move inside to left guard or start at right tackle.

#27 Kansas City — Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
The Chiefs might need to replace Sean Smith. This is the range I think Hargreaves falls.

#28 Green Bay — Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
Butler combines length, strength, size and mobility. He lacks Muhammad Wilkerson’s college production but he’s similar physically.

#29 Arizona — Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
He just gets the job done. He’ll come into the league and start immediately. He’ll be as steady as his brother in Dallas.

#30 Carolina — Darian Thompson (S, Boise State)
He misses the odd tackle but Thompson’s range, ability to play in the box and playmaking skills are enticing.

#31 Denver — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Maybe age will be an issue? I’m a huge Coleman fan. The Broncos were willing to draft 25-year-old rookie Sly Williams in round one.

Round two

#32 Cleveland — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
A dynamic weapon to compliment Josh Gordon and Gary Barnidge.

#33 Tennessee — Leonard Floyd (OLB, Georgia)
Athletic, rangy outside linebacker. Can improve as a pass-rusher.

#34 Dallas — Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
Doesn’t it seem inevitable? He’s a good fit for their scheme.

#35 San Diego — Keanu Neal (S, Florida)
Favoured in league circles and the Chargers need to replace Eric Weddle.

#36 Baltimore — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)
Underrated, prolific playmaker. The heart and soul of Pitt’s offense for two years.

#37 San Francisco — Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
A no-nonsense lineman who will switch to guard or center in the NFL.

#38 Miami — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Having addressed the D-line in round one, Miami go for a talented corner here.

#39 Jacksonville — Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
Powerful DE who can play inside and out and compliment Dante Fowler.

#40 New York Giants — Chris Jones (DT, Mississippi State)
A former 5-star recruit with major athletic potential.

#41 Chicago — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
Ideally suited to play in the 3-4, Ragland would make plays for Vic Fangio.

#42 Tampa Bay — Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)
Dynamic interior rusher. Washington is streaky and needs to be more consistent.

#43 Los Angeles — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
A big target with surprising agility. He could go much earlier.

#44 Oakland — Su’a Cravens (S, USC)
They need to rebuild their secondary. Cravens is a versatile defender.

#45 Los Angeles — Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson)
They love to collect pass-rushers and might need to replace Chris Long.

#46 Detroit — Kenny Clark (DT, UCLA)
The Lions add another piece to their new-look defensive front.

#47 New Orleans — Austin Johnson (DT, Penn State)
The Saints need an athletic nose tackle. Johnson has a fantastic motor.

#48 Indianapolis — Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida)
His effort is superb but is he special enough to go earlier?

#49 Buffalo — Jordan Jenkins (OLB, Georgia)
They need another edge rusher with experience in this type of scheme.

#50 Atlanta — Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
Dan Quinn copies the Seahawks and goes for elite speed and playmaking at LB.

#51 New York Jets — Hunter Henry (TE, Arkansas)
Arguably the best all-round TE in the class. The Jets keep adding weapons.

#52 Houston — Christian Hackenburg (QB, Penn State)
Bill O’Brien takes a chance on his former protégé.

#53 Washington — Ryan Kelly (C, Alabama)
The quest to get tougher in the trenches continues.

#54 Minnesota — Germain Ifedi (T, Mississippi State)
Underrated, powerful tackle in excellent shape. Could play left guard too.

#55 Cincinnati — William Jackson (CB, Houston)
This guy can play. Great size/speed/length. Could rise much higher.

#56 Seattle — Alex Collins (RB, Arkansas)
Seeks contact, former four-star athlete, keeps moving after contact.

#57 Green Bay — Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
Give him a bit of time and he could be superb.

#58 Pittsburgh — Darius Latham (DT, Indiana)
A 6-5, 300lbs basketball player for the Steelers defensive front.

#59 Kansas City — Joshua Perry (LB, Ohio State)
Every time you watch Ohio State, Perry shines. Incredibly tough. Leader.

#60 New England — Josh Doctson (WR, TCU)
Tall and wiry but makes plays. The Pats need to upgrade Brandon LeFell.

#61 Arizona — Kamalei Correa (DE, Boise State)
Athletic edge rusher ideally suited to OLB in the 3-4.

#62 Denver — Connor Cook (QB, Michigan State)
The Broncos take a punt on Cook to compete for the gig in Denver.

#63 Carolina — Shilique Calhoun (DE, Michigan State)
A frustrating player to watch at times — but with bags of upside.

Jack Conklin to the Seahawks
Whether it’s James Carpenter, Justin Britt or Terry Poole — the Seahawks are attracted to using guards with tackle experience. They seem to like size at left guard (Conklin is listed at 6-6 and 325lbs) and they emphasise run blocking. Conklin ticks every box. They might try him at right tackle first (like Carpenter and Britt) but this could be their best opportunity to get some size and nastiness back into the interior O-line.

A running back in round two?
Hear me out. The value on the D-line at #56 in this projection wasn’t any better than it’s likely to be in the late third. There will be options in the next round. Pete Carroll at USC liked to collect talented running backs and use them all. He hasn’t needed to do that in Seattle due to the brilliance of Marshawn Lynch. Thomas Rawls will be the #1 in 2015 all being well but adding another to the group would be wise — especially someone with the physicality they’ve lost in Lynch. Yes Christine Michael will be back — but let’s not forget he was essentially dumped by three teams in 2015 before a late season revival.

There’s likely to be a run in round three on running backs where the likes of Alex Collins, Jordan Howard, Devontae Booker, Paul Perkins and Kenneth Dixon come off the board. By taking one at #56 they can secure the guy they want. The projection here says it’s Collins (I was tempted to stick with UCLA’s Perkins). He seeks contact and doesn’t go out of bounds, keeps moving after contact, has the ability to find a gap and explode for big gains and has some pass-protection upside (search online to see him blow up A’Shawn Robinson).

Collins is no slouch either — he’s a former four-star recruit in High School and had interest from schools like Florida.

Collins isn’t Marshawn Lynch (he does a good impression at 0:53 in the video above) but his physical style would be a nice compliment to Thomas Rawls. He can carry the load if needed and you’ve secured him for four years on a cheap contract.

Senquez Golson, the #56 pick in 2015, has a contract worth $1m APY. His rookie cap hit was $727,462. That’s value at a position where you get an immediate return.

The Seahawks put a ton of emphasis on their running game. Look at their investment at the position so far — trading for LenDale White, Leon Washington and Marshawn Lynch, drafting Robert Turbin, Christine Michael and Spencer Ware. They’ve always been conscious of the position.

Some people will cringe at this — but if you consider waiting until the late third and your favourite 2-3 backs are gone and you’re left hoping Rawls stays healthy and Michael stays consistent — you might not hate this quite as much. They could possibly trade down into the early third round before making a pick like this.

In this projection I’d have the Seahawks taking Graham Glasgow and either Ronald Blair III or Willie Henry in round three. Glasgow to compete at either guard or center and Blair III/Henry to add some help to the interior D-line. There’d be plenty of alternatives on the D-line too.

The one pressing concern in this scenario could be linebacker. Assuming they lose Bruce Irvin, they’d probably like to at least add some further competition to Kevin Pierre-Louis, Brock Coyle and Mike Morgan. They might be able to do that with an athletic safety convert or take a chance on Travis Feeney. This draft is not flush with athletic outside linebackers. The options are very limited once Jaylon Smith, Darron Lee, Myles Jack and Deion Jones are off the board. Keep that in mind for round one if the Seahawks are able to bolster the O-line and D-line in free agency.

If the Seahawks want to be tougher in the trenches and more physical — Conklin, Collins, Glasgow and Blair III/Henry would improve that situation. By retaining Brandon Mebane and Athyba Rubin and possibly adding another veteran defensive and offensive lineman — the Seahawks might be able to address their biggest off-season priorities.

Kawann Short vs Sheldon Rankins

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Why Kawann Short fell and why Sheldon Rankins won’t

Josh Norris’ latest mock draft has Sheldon Rankins paired with the Seahawks at #26:

“Don’t get me started on Rankins. He is a top 10 talent in this draft. He is a true upfield disruptor who is smooth, quick and versatile with his hands to win the balance advantage. I’ll go as far to say that Rankins could be this year’s Kawann Short. The Seahawks love disruption, and Rankins would offer it.”

In January 2013 I wrote a piece suggesting the Seahawks should draft Kawann Short with their first round pick (later traded for Percy Harvin):

“He generally does a great job getting off blocks using nice hands and flashing great athleticism for his size. He’ll shoot a gap effectively and gets a nice quick burst off the snap. He’s shown decent ability on stunts to skip wide and attack from a different angle. You see the swim, club and spin moves — so he’ll be creative and keep an offensive lineman guessing. When he gets low and drives into his blocker he can flash a solid bull rush. Sometimes he gets too high and loses leverage but this is coachable.”

Short lived in the backfield at Purdue and there isn’t a player with his pass-rushing technique in this draft class. He fell into round two (pick #44) and has since developed into one of the top defensive tackles in the league.

Surely if a player of that quality can drop all the way to #44 — Rankins could suffer a similar fate?

Doubtful.

#1 — Age
Short was a 24-year-old rookie. He turned 27 a few days ago. These are the peak years of his career — and he’s still on his rookie contract. Sly Williams (in Short’s draft class) also fell to the late first round (he was a 25-year-old rookie). Sharrif Floyd was a weaker pass-rusher than both in college — but he was 21 in his rookie year.

Sheldon Rankins is 21. He turns 22 on April 2nd. Age is a factor.

#2 — Motor
There were always concerns about Short’s effort at Purdue. A 2012 game against Ohio State still sticks in the memory to this day. As good as he is/was — he mailed it in against the Buckeyes. Teams often focus on the tape vs your best three opponents. That was a bad showing.

Here’s what I noted in the article endorsing him for the Seahawks in round one:

Unlike Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd, the motor seems to stop running when the play moves away from his part of the field. Richardson turns into a linebacker when the play kicks out wide, tracking the ball carrier and often being the one to make the decisive tackle. Short, more often than not, shuts down and doesn’t make the effort.

Nobody is going to doubt Sheldon Rankins’ motor. After watching three Louisville games since the Senior Bowl — Rankins just keeps on going. He hustles to the ball-carrier, keeps his feet moving and doesn’t take plays off. Teams are really going to the like the effort they see on tape. It’s similar to Austin Johnson at Penn State who will also likely go early.

Rankins proved he’s athletic when he turned up in Mobile and lit up the competition in practise. Couple that with a relentless motor and it’s a far cry from Short’s inconsistent effort.

#3 — Conditioning
Short always looked big at Purdue — like he was carrying extra weight. This was a noted concern going into the draft. When Short attended the Senior Bowl in 2013 he looked a lot leaner — having shed around 10-15lbs. It would’ve concerned teams, however, that they were going to need to monitor this situation during his career.

Rankins is a compact, cannonball of a defensive lineman. For some schemes he’ll be undersized at 6-1 and 304lbs and it’s hard to imagine him fitting in a 3-4 defense. For the 4-3 teams he’s the ideal size for a three-technique.

Pete Carroll is a Bill Walsh protégé. Walsh’s ideology for each football position was published by the Pro Sports Xchange a few years ago. Here’s what he wanted in a defensive tackle:

Ideal size: 6-2, 290

Must have the girth, strength, ballast to hold off the guard, or to step into a tackles’ block without being knocked off the line of scrimmage.

Quick, strong hands to grab and pull are critical. This is common with the great tackles. The hands, the arms, the upper body strength and then the quick feet to take advantage of a moving man, just getting him off balance.

You are looking for somebody who can move down the line of scrimmage and make a tackle, pursuing a ball-carrier. That would be lateral quickness in a short area, being able to get underway and move over and through people. If you get knocked off the line, or get knocked sideways or knocked off balance, you cannot play this position. You must be able to work your way through people, so that kind of strength is a must.

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

Not only is Rankins close to the size ideal, he also ticks a lot of boxes here. He moves down the LOS easily, working his way through traffic. He’s powerful at the point of attack with the ability to shoot gaps. His compact frame provides the “ballast” and “girth” Walsh refers to.

It’s also worth noting the bit about, “they won’t have nearly as many sacks as others.” For all the talk of needing more pass rush in the interior — Seattle’s preference for stoutness up front is perhaps indicative of Walsh’s influence on Carroll. The one key difference is Carroll’s willingness to sign bigger defensive tackles to achieve the same goal (Athbya Rubin is surely the only 330lbs three-technique in the NFL).

For teams with a similar mentality (eg — Atlanta with Dan Quinn) — Rankins will be just as ideal. The thought of him slipping beyond the Falcons and through to #26 feels like wishful thinking. As good as Kawann Short is — there just aren’t the same kind of question marks with Sheldon Rankins.

One final note. This interaction on Twitter is quite interesting…

This is a very deep defensive line class with plenty of big name, star power. It’s also a group filled with compromises.

The more secure, polished defensive linemen will go early. Rankins falls into that category.

If you want an alternative that might be available to Seattle — keep an eye on Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington. He flashed during the Senior Bowl practises with some impressive speed, get-off and hand-use. He was streaky in college but had enough splash plays to be interesting. He might be the best interior rusher in this class. He lacks Rankins’ powerful base and size in the lower body. He is extremely quick.

He also has 34 inch arms (impressive length) and good size with minimal bad weight (6-3, 297lbs).

This is what he’s capable of…

Works to get off the block with great hands, power and speed. Finishes with a sack. He’s too strong and quick for Brian Allen (Jack’s brother):

Good use of length to keep Jack Allen away from his frame, excellent counter move after Allen recovers to spin into the quarterback. Would’ve been a splash play in a game:

Draws a double team, reads the play to notice the dump-off before intercepting the pass for a pick-six:

This is how to shoot a gap in the run game:

Fast forward the video below to 11:40 for two snaps of Adolphus Washington vs Joshua Garnett. On the first play Washington tries to bull-rush Garnett who just about contains him (he’s pushed back into the pocket). On the next play Washington wins with a beautiful spin move. Fast forward to 16:15 to watch Washington have Joe Dahl’s lunch money. Dahl does a much better job on the second 1v1.

Studying the Seahawks’ draft trends: Production + Athleticism

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The Seahawks have only drafted elite athletes on defense in the early rounds — such as Frank Clark (1.58 ten-yard split at the combine)

Every now and again it’s worth reviewing Seattle’s draft trends in the Pete Carroll era. You only have to look at their first and second round history to work out the kind of prospect they like to take early:

2010: Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate
2011: James Carpenter
2012: Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner
2013: Percy Harvin (trade), Christine Michael
2014: Paul Richardson, Justin Britt
2015: Jimmy Graham (trade), Frank Clark

With the exception of the offensive linemen, every player listed above is a fantastic athlete. Speed, explosive talent.

They also produced on the field in college:

2010 — Earl Thomas had eight interceptions in his final season at Texas
2010 — Golden Tate won the Biletnikoff
2011 — James Carpenter was arguably the best run blocking tackle in college
2012 — Bruce Irvin had 22.5 sacks in two seasons at West Virginia
2012 — Bobby Wagner had four sacks as a senior and 478 (!!!) career tackles
2014 — Paul Richardson had 1343 and 10 touchdowns in his final year at Colorado
2015 — Frank Clark’s tape was actually really good with many splash plays

You could also include last years third round pick Tyler Lockett. He had 2777 yards and 22 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Kansas State.

It doesn’t guarantee anything but it’d be silly to ignore this information. Six drafts is quite a body of evidence.

Here are the takeaways I can see:

— They’ve never taken a none-elite athlete on defense in the first or second round

— They don’t seem to be quite as concerned about athleticism on the offensive line and arguably prefer size ideals, physical toughness and the mentality to mesh with Tom Cable’s way of doing things

— They generally don’t draft underachievers and the two players who did fall short of expectations in college (Christine Michael & Frank Clark) were two of the biggest SPARQ freaks to ever grace the combine

— Carroll and Schneider’s Seahawks have picked between #25-32 in four of their six drafts — and on three occasions traded the pick (so if they don’t like the value available, they’re going to do something about it)

How do we use this information to project what they might do?

We know they want to produce a consistently performing offensive line
Pete Carroll stated this was the key priority in his end-of-season press conference. The draft history suggests if they want to take an O-liner at #26 it doesn’t necessarily have to be a freak of nature. They’ve taken productive, gritty, physical offensive linemen that excel in the run game. Players that fit Tom Cable’s preferred style and not necessarily raw, athletic players with a high ceiling. The two offensive linemen they drafted earliest in 2014 and 2015 (Justin Britt, Terry Poole) were not big-time athletes. That said, they recently started to look for upside (Sweezy, Sokoli, Gilliam) albeit in the later rounds. They don’t appear to be handcuffed to a certain level of athleticism though, rather than a mental/physical ‘type’.

We know they’d like to add a pass rusher
What was the big difference between 2015 and the two previous seasons? They lacked the production of Clinton McDonald (2013) and Jordan Hill (2014). Finding someone who can get 5-8 sacks in a rotation might be the priority. They could also look to add another edge rusher if Bruce Irvin departs in free agency.

What kind of defensive prospects are we talking about?
If they’re going to take an interior or edge rusher early they need to be explosive and athletic. Sheldon Rankins is explosive and that’s probably why, according to Tony Pauline, the Seahawks gave him a first round grade. An edge rusher is going to need to produce a fantastic ten-yard split or excel in the vertical/broad/three-cone at the combine. The previous six drafts tell us speed, explosion and production is the key here. Anything else would be a significant detachment from what they’ve done so far.

Who are some of the players to keep an eye on?
We’ll know more after the combine of course. I’ve compiled a new mock draft (to be published tomorrow) with many attractive options off the board before the 20th pick. In the past, that has provoked the Seahawks to trade.

If a high ceiling isn’t entirely necessary on the O-line, the likes of Shon Coleman, Cody Whitehair, Nick Martin and Ryan Kelly aren’t going to stand out in Indianapolis but could be options. Coleman would address the tackle or left guard position. Whitehair, Martin and Kelly play center. All have the potential to solidify one key position and help provide some consistency in the trenches.

If they’re intent on shifting towards major upside, I suppose we have to bring up the name of Texas Tech left tackle Le’Raven Clark.

Watching his tape is like watching your Grandpa trying to work an iPad. He’s technically deficient in pretty much every way imaginable. And yet his athletic profile is elite — +36 inch arms, 6-5, 312lbs. He’s a freak.

Lance Zierlein offers this quote from an anonymous NFC personnel director:

“He’s going to end up being big time in our league. He’s got elite foot quickness, he’s long and he’s smart. He’ll keep getting better once he gets to a pro offense and away from that stuff Texas Tech does and he’ll become one of the top five tackles in our league.”

Zierlein also notes, “Left tackles with his potential in pass protection carry first round value.” As bad as Clark is technically, Tom Cable has stated he believes every college lineman enters the league needing to start from scratch. If the Seahawks want to shoot for the stars at left/right tackle — Clark might be a scary, exciting, concerning, potentially genius decision.

If consistency and not pure upside is the order of the day — adding a player with decent physical skills who simply gets the job done might be preferable. The likes of Coleman, Whitehair, Martin and Kelly are a picture of consistency and physicality.

On defense we have to assume the likes of Noah Spence and Sheldon Rankins will not reach the #26 pick. Both shone at the Senior Bowl. Mississippi State’s Chris Jones could be a wild card. He was once the #2 recruit in the nation. He has fantastic length and size (6-6, 308lbs) and generally does a good job controlling his gap, working vs the run and occasionally providing a dynamic pass rush.

Had Jones delivered on his massive potential in college he’d probably be a top-15 pick. The fact that he didn’t is why he could be available in rounds 2-3. The trends tell us the Seahawks will only seriously consider a perceived underachiever early if he’s a SPARQ freak. We’ll need to see what Jones does at the combine.

Seattle’s preference to emphasise gap discipline and stoutness vs the run in base perhaps makes it unlikely they’ll use their first pick on a defensive tackle unless it’s someone of Rankins’ quality. If they do want to find a player who can contribute in the same way as Clinton McDonald, they might find better value waiting until rounds 2-4. There’s abnormal depth in this class on the D-line and the highest pick they’ve used on a DT so far is the third rounder spent on Jordan Hill in 2013. If they’re bringing in a defensive impact player who doesn’t start in base — how likely are they to spend a first round pick? Some of the options in rounds 2-4 are Adolphus Washington, Jihad Ward, Willie Henry, Ronald Blair III and Darius Latham.

One player who could come into focus is LSU’s Deion Jones. He’s a possible outside linebacker replacement for Bruce Irvin. He’s not a pass rusher — but he needs to be mentioned here. Jones has an opportunity to really excel at the combine. He’s an outstanding athlete — and that’s what the Seahawks love at linebacker (see: Irvin, Wagner, Pierre-Louis).

He could easily run in the 4.4’s at 6-1 and 219lbs. He doesn’t get overmatched at that size and plays with great discipline in the run game. His ability to be a key special teamer could also have some value.

Did he produce at LSU in 2015? Five sacks at linebacker, one interception (returned for a touchdown) and 99 total tackles.

Jones isn’t a defensive or offensive lineman but he’s the type of player the Seahawks have taken early in recent years. They’ll also need to replace Irvin in all likelihood. Mike Florio suggested today he’ll get a contract offer in free agency worth $10m APY. Keep that in mind, even if it’s not a top priority. Like Chris Jones and Le’Raven Clark, Deion Jones could come into play if they trade down.

This is a difficult class to find SPARQy edge rushers in range at #26. Clemson duo Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson might not be athletic enough for the Seahawks. Leonard Floyd might be but he’s been a disappointing edge rusher for two years and hasn’t produced.

Cliff Avril ran a 1.50 ten yard split at his combine. Bruce Irvin managed a 1.55. Frank Clark had a 1.58. Anything in the 1.5’s is elite. That’s the type of edge speed the Seahawks are attracted to and it’s what we need to look for at the combine.

Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell is going to be a really interesting player to follow in Indianapolis and he’s possibly Seattle’s best shot if you want an outside rusher to be drafted in round one.

He looks like a good athlete. How good though? Can he top Clay Matthews’ 4.67 forty yard dash and 35.5 inch vertical? At USC’s pro-day Matthews ran a 1.49 ten-yard split and a 4.59 forty on a fast track. Fackrell needs to crack the 1.5’s in the split.

On tape he’s superb. A true splash-play specialist constantly impacting plays. PFF had this to say about his 2015 season:

At +34.4 he is our highest graded 3-4 OLB, with the highest grade as a pass rusher, against the run, and sixth-highest in coverage just for good measure.

The Seahawks use 3-4 personnel in a 4-3 so don’t be put off by his tag as a 3-4 OLB. He ticks the production box for sure. The big question is whether he’s athletic enough for the Seahawks to be considered early. Clay Matthews lasted until the #26 pick despite proving he was very athletic. Perhaps the same happens to Fackrell?

Will they trade down?
Carroll and Schneider have traded 75% of their picks when selecting between #25-32. If the value isn’t there, they’ll probably move down again (with limited cap space they’re unlikely to pull another Harvin or Graham trade).

I like to compare my own mock drafts to those in the draft media to see if I’m ruling out possible options for the Seahawks. I was equally pleased and alarmed to see how similar tomorrow’s mock draft was to Daniel Jeremiah’s. Noah Spence was available to the Seahawks (this was a pre-Senior Bowl mock by Jeremiah) but apart from that only Andrew Billings, Cody Whitehair and Kyler Fackrell were available that I had off the board at #26.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t some good options available in round one in both projections. It does suggest, however, that the ‘genuine’ first round talent in this class might run dry quickly. And if that happens — they’ve shown a consistent willingness to trade and hunt for better value.

They might think #26 is too early for a Chris Jones, Deion Jones, Le’Raven Clark (the athletic trio) or Cody Whitehair, Nick Martin, Ryan Kelly, Shon Coleman (the physical & consistent quartet). Can they move down into the 30’s?

Their desire to move down will be influenced by their ability to fill certain needs. In 2011 when they owned the #25 pick — the three top offensive tackles were off the board by #22. They selected James Carpenter without moving down, possibly because they didn’t want to miss out altogether.

Note the following tweet:

If they see replacing Russell Okung as an absolute priority — and with Tunsil, Decker, Stanley and Conklin likely to be off the board by #26 — how much of a risk do they want to take?

Alternatively if they know they can get their guys later on they’ve shown they’re willing to manipulate the draft in their favour. That’s exactly what they did when trading down and drafting Paul Richardson in 2014.

So what happens?

The information in this piece and study of the draft class suggests the Seahawks are possibly going to do one of four things:

1. Pick their favourite offensive lineman and just feel good about addressing the self-confessed top priority, even if the player isn’t a top athlete

2. Make a somewhat surprising high-upside pick on the O-line such as Le’Raven Clark that leaves people gasping

3. Take an elite athlete who plays defense

4. Trade down

Austin Johnson & who is the next Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson?

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Austin Johnson’s (DT, Penn State) tape vs Ohio State is frustrating. Having watched both Johnson and Michigan’s Willie Henry struggle against this unit, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. The Buckeye’s had a loaded roster across the board and it showed. When I watched Johnson against Indiana and Maryland there was much more to like.

He’s 6-4 and 323lbs so he’s a big dude. We’re not talking about a natural three-technique who comes in for the nascar package and rushes the QB. Anyone hoping Johnson alone is the answer to Seattle’s pass-rush issues is probably going to be disappointed.

That’s the case, however, for pretty much every defensive lineman in this class. Assuming a prospect like Sheldon Rankins isn’t available, you’re going to compromise one way or another. It’s about identifying the player or players you think you can develop from a deep group at the position.

They might end going for the best athlete (possibly Mississippi State’s Chris Jones) and trying to tap into his upside. They also generally haven’t gone after underachievers — and that’s really what Jones is. A former #2 overall and 5-star recruit, Jones never lived up to that billing. So while the potential is there — consider the priority Seattle has placed on production and not just extreme athleticism:

2010 — Earl Thomas had eight interceptions in his final season at Texas
2010 — Golden Tate won the Biletnikoff
2011 — James Carpenter was arguably the best run blocking tackle in college
2011 — John Moffitt helped Montee Ball set records at Wisconsin
2012 — Bruce Irvin had 22.5 sacks in two seasons at West Virginia
2012 — Bobby Wagner had four sacks as a senior and 478 (!!!) career tackles
2014 — Paul Richardson had 1343 and 10 touchdowns in his final year at Colorado
2015 — Frank Clark’s tape is actually really good with many splash plays
2015 — Tyler Lockett had 2777 yards and 22 touchdowns in his final two seasons

The one player that didn’t have major production and went very early? Christine Michael in 2013 — one of the greatest athletes to ever test at the combine, taken in a year where they hardly had any key needs. That aside, the Seahawks seem to place a certain emphasis on production.

Jones had 2.5 sacks in 2015 and three in 2014. He’s a self-confessed underachiever with a physical skill set to be incredible. In a draft of compromises on the defensive line — you could do a lot worse. Draft history suggests they’re more likely to seek out an overachiever who isn’t a slouch.

That’s where Johnson possibly comes in.

The issue might be size. It’s not usual for a team to draft a 323lbs defensive lineman to provide a spark for the pass rush. The Seahawks have also opted against drafting such size for their D-line. The early picks have gone on more quick-twitch, dynamic athletes (Irvin, Hill, Clark). It’s not like you’re going to roll a 6-4, 323lbs monster on the field for third and long.

To that extent Jones’ length (6-6), athleticism and ability to play at around 295lbs (Derek Wolfe size) might be preferable. And I do like what I’ve seen from Jones so far — it’d be easy to imagine he’s a candidate for the Seahawks.

Back to Johnson — here’s a video to show he’s not just a cumbersome nose tackle:

There is some evidence of burst off the LOS and quickness too. He’s a former basketball player in High School and you see that athleticism on tape. There’s minimal bad weight on that frame. His hustle is incredible — he’ll keep fighting until the whistle. He keeps trying to find ways to work to the ball carrier and won’t give up like some of the DT’s in this class.

There’s something to be said for a really active defensive tackle who you have to focus on for the whole play. A guy who is constantly moving his feet and fighting to get into the backfield. His tackle numbers are incredible for a DT — and it’s down to his relentless effort. So while he might not always win with speed to knife straight into the backfield or dominate with a pretty good bull-rush — his motor and determination make him a very interesting player. His closing speed and pursuit is also surprisingly good.

He doesn’t have ideal length (32 and 5/8 inch arms) and that could be an issue. Smaller defensive tackles in this class are longer (Adolphus Washington is only 6-3 and 297lbs but has 34 inch arms). You also wonder what his position is in Seattle. As intriguing and fun as he is to watch — is he upgrading the pass rush? Or is he a one-technique or a Rubin replacement who can do you a good, disciplined, hearty job but isn’t creating relentless pressure?

And how much more likely are they to perhaps consider a Chris Jones, Adolphus Washington or Jihad Ward with the offer of a little more explosion and superior length?

In fact if people are looking for the next possible Malik Jackson or the next Derek Wolfe — look no further than Washington and Ward.

Jackson is smaller than Washington (284lbs vs 297lbs) but they both have 34 inch arms and the ability to flash in the pass rush. Pete Carroll worked with Jackson at USC before he transferred to Tennessee in 2010 so he’ll know what to look for if he wants a similar player. Ward is mirroring Wolfe’s pre-draft process to a tee. Wolfe was considered a marginal later round pick without an obvious position but his stock quickly increased during the post-season and he went in round two. Ward is doing exactly the same thing and could go from projected fifth rounder to second rounder. They’re almost identical in size — Wolfe is 6-5 and 295lbs, Ward 6-5 and 296lbs. Ward also has an interesting backstory — he’s had to battle adversity in his life.

If you’re hoping for a cheap way to try and emulate Denver’s depth on the D-line — it might be time to hope Washington falls due to character flags and Ward stick with a day three grade. That’d be one way to upgrade things while affording the opportunity to make early picks on the O-line and at linebacker or running back. I suspect Austin Johnson, meanwhile, is going to go in round two or three.