Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Saturday notes: Run-draft, Dalton Schultz & Keke Coutee

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

— The Seahawks haven’t had a running game crisis like this since the end of the 2010 season. Pete Carroll stated, clearly, at the end of that season that fixing it would be a priority. He made similar noises in his latest press conference. The response in 2011? Seattle spent their first two draft picks on James Carpenter and John Moffitt. When the lockout concluded, they signed Zach Miller and Robert Gallery.

When the Seahawks have a need they tend to go after it aggressively. And this is, clearly I think, Seattle’s biggest problem. Carroll will coach up and field a capable defense. Without the running game, one of they key focal points of his identity isn’t there. The circle is incomplete.

It’s still very early in the process. Things will change. There’s a reason, however, that we’ve spent an increasing amount of time looking at Ronald Jones II, Isaiah Wynn and Billy Price for their first pick. These are three of the players that give you a chance to properly address the running game and take the offense forward.

If they ended up trading Earl Thomas and acquiring another high pick, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if they added two of Jones II, Wynn and Price. Just at they targeted Carpenter and Moffitt in 2011.

There are defensive options that could be appealing. Maurice Hurst, Derwin James. Others too. Yet fixing the run is absolutely crucial. And Jones II, Wynn and Price are all worthy of top-25 consideration.

— With Jimmy Graham almost certainly on the way out and Luke Willson also a free agent, the Seahawks have to do something at tight end. That could be a free agent pick-up but it could also be a draft pick. Following the Graham experiment, it feels like they’re more likely to target a tight end who can block.

We’ve talked about Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe. He’s a classic ‘Y’ tight end and has shown a strong ability to feature as a blocker. At the Senior Bowl he also impressed mightily as a pass catcher. He’s well sized with a good character.

Smythe is one to watch. He has short arms though — not ideal for blocking at the line or competing for difficult red zone catches. The tight end class across the board is a bit overrated and Seattle’s options might be quite narrow. Thankfully, there’s a Stanford tight end who could also provide a solution.

Dalton Schultz is a terrific blocker. Look at the play below. Schultz goes 1v1 with the DE. He stones him at the LOS and then dumps him to the ground and finishes the block:

This is what the Seahawks need. A tight end who can actually excel as a blocker.

The difference between Schultz and Smythe appears to be length. Schutlz is tall and long but lighter (estimated to be 242lbs). Yet his ability to keep his frame clean, lock on and sustain blocks is crucial. Here’s what Lance Zierlein noted when watching Schultz:

Very tenacious and tough as a blocker. Well-schooled in blocking fundamentals. Leaned on as vital part of the run blocking unit. Initial hand placement is good. Ability to sustain and finish. Improves positioning after contact and can generate some movement at point of attack without a double team. Gave it to USC’s Rasheem Green on more than a couple of snaps when matched head to head.

Statistically Schultz has not been a big feature. Stanford have long been a run-heavy team and if anything that has increased since the Andrew Luck days. Schultz’s main responsibility is to block. I don’t think you can read too much into his paltry 555 receiving yards and five touchdowns in three seasons. He’s done what he’s been asked to do.

It could actually work in Seattle’s favour. While the rest of the league is looking for big slot receivers acting as tight ends, we know the Seahawks want to play a more classical style. They drafted Nick Vannett in round three. They might be able to land Schultz in a similar range.

There are solutions in this draft class for the Seahawks. A long list of running backs. A similarly long list of interior lineman. Now two good tight ends that excel at blocking. If ever there was a year to try and fix the running game, the 2018 draft could provide a jump start.

Here’s another video highlighting some of Schultz’s talents as a receiver/blocker:

— One other name to perhaps keep an eye on is Texas Tech receiver Keke Coutee. This isn’t a particularly exciting draft in terms of legit first round talent — but there are plenty of intriguing names for the middle and later rounds. Coutee could be one of those gems where a few years down the line, you wonder how he lasted as long as he did. Take a look:

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2018 Running backs in review

Monday, February 5th, 2018

When I put together an updated top-50 a few weeks ago, eight running backs were included:

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Ronald Jones II (USC)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Sony Michel (Georgia)
Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)

It’s a strong class. There will be some depth heading into day three but the best of the talent will go quickly. It’s possible all of the names above could go in the top-75 if not the first two rounds.

We’ve already featured several of these players in greater detail but I wanted to offer some short-form reviews for each, discussing their suitability in Seattle:

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)

Pro’s: Perfect modern day running back. Barkley is a swiss army knife and provides so many options. A defense has to be constantly alert to where he is on the field. Whenever he has the ball he’s a threat to score. Has the size of a power back (5-11, 228) but the skills of an Alvin Kamara. He could get Andrew Luck grades. Big, explosive, fantastic character. Amazing talent and as good as advertised.

Con’s: Looks really quick on the field but it’ll be a surprise if he runs the 4.3 times he reportedly manages at Penn State. He only ran a 4.63 at the SPARQ combine. The media will over analyse his forty time but he’s more explosive than fast — and that’s more important for a RB anyway. Expect a +40 inch vertical (he topped 38 inches in High School and he’s more explosive now).

Pro-comparisons: Barry Sanders, Ezekiel Elliott

Fit in Seattle: He’d be perfect but he’s going to go in the top-five if not #1 overall. So it’s not happening.

Predicted draft range: Top-five lock

Ronald Jones II (USC)

Pro’s: He’s Jamaal Charles 2.0. The two players are stunningly similar and look almost identical in terms of body type, competitiveness, athleticism and playing style. Despite only being around 6-0 and 203lbs, Jones II is incredibly tough and finishes runs. He has a sensational ability to avoid pressure in the backfield, work through traffic, cut and accelerate. In the open field he’s as exciting as any player in college football. A star in the making and a legit first round talent.

Con’s: You’d think he’d be great in the passing game given his skill set but he barely got involved at USC. It’s unclear why. There’s no evidence of any development in pass protection. He isn’t 225lbs so you might need to manage his workload.

Fit in Seattle: In terms of drafting history under Carroll/Schneider, they’ve consistently gone after backs that are approximately 210-225lbs. Jones II is smaller but he also looks like a phenomenal talent capable of genuine stardom. Put him next to a bigger back (Chris Carson? Carlos Hyde?) and you might have your answer to Ingram & Kamara. He looks special and the Seahawks love tilt-the-room types.

Pro-comparison: Jamaal Charles

Predicted draft range: First round, possibly top-20

Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)

Pro’s: It’s easily forgotten but for two weeks Auburn looked like the team to beat in college football. They absolutely destroyed Georgia and then beat Alabama convincingly. Johnson and a ferocious defense were the reason. He’s well sized (6-0, 212) with a similar body type and playing style to Chris Carson. He’s incredibly patient in the backfield and has drawn legitimate comparisons to Le’Veon Bell. Plays with toughness, he’s an asset in the passing game and has been a workhorse for Auburn.

Con’s: Johnson has a very upright running style and it’s problematic. He’s not squatty, plays tall and has been a walking target for big hits. Ronnie Harrison absolutely hammered him in the Iron Bowl and essentially prevented him from being anywhere near 100% in the SEC Championship. Does a good job falling forward but not the most elusive when backed into a corner.

Fit in Seattle: Considering how high they were on Carson, it stands to reason they’ll like Johnson too. They share some striking similarities. He matches up with their size ideal, he’s carried an offense and he’s tough. Do they want another back like Carson, however?

Pro-comparisons: Chris Carson, Le’Veon Bell

Predicted draft range: First or second round

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)

Pro’s: Incredibly tough running back who plays with a chip on his shoulder. Perfect size (5-11, 228) and capable of setting the tone. Classic north/south runner but doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to find space and make things happen. Not just an up-the-gut runner. Surprising speed when he gets going. Pre-injury he was one of the best athletes to ever test at the Nike SPARQ combine (143.91) and if he’s back to that level, watch out. He ran a 4.47 and managed a 41-inch vertical. Can force opponents to commit to defending the inside run.

Con’s: The injury was career threatening and in 2016 he didn’t look quite the same player. By 2017 he regained some of the explosive physicality and hopefully he’ll keep getting stronger with time. He rushed back in 2016 and lost a significant amount of weight in recovery. Not a multi-dimensional back you want to feature in the passing game. He’ll likely need to be paired with a more versatile compadre.

Fit in Seattle: They love tough, physical, gritty backs that have battled adversity. He’s a no-nonsense, 24/7 football man with a laser focus. He fits their size ideal and he’s as explosive as they like. If he’s physically back to his best and passes all the combine medical checks, he could be their guy. They also like to seek value and if Chubb drops because of the injury history, it possibly works into their favour.

Pro-comparisons: Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, Mark Ingram

Predicted draft range: If he tests well, rounds 1-2

Sony Michel (Georgia)

Pro’s: Really came on in 2017 and found a consistent role within the offense. Extremely high character and good size (5-10, 220). Plays like a much lighter runner but is bigger and sturdier than you think. Incredible footwork and balance and finds improbable ways to dodge defenders on the perimeter and break off big gains. Only needs an opening to make a long run and can be a home-run hitter. Better working outside than inside.

Con’s: Despite his size, Michel isn’t a particularly impressive inside runner and isn’t likely to get many short-yardage carries. Not the passing game dynamo you might expect — he only had nine (!!!) catches for 96 yards in 2017. Ran a similar forty time to Nick Chubb at the Nike combine (4.46) but wasn’t as explosive (his 30.5 inch vertical was 10.5 inches weaker than Chubb’s). Not as elusive as you might expect.

Fit in Seattle: The combine will be important. He has the size they like but they value explosive traits over speed. He’ll need to do better in the vertical jump. Is he more of a compliment than a feature runner?

Pro-comparisons: Knowshon Moreno, Maurice Morris

Predicted draft range: Round 2

Derrius Guice (LSU)

Pro’s: Guice runs with his hair on fire. He’s tough, leaves his mark on the field and competes. He’s difficult to bring down and builds as the game goes on. Capable of breaking off long runs and taking a high number of carries. Did a good job spotting Leonard Fournette in 2016 when he was fully healthy and at times looked like he was destined for big things. Not overly active in the passing game but showed some potential.

Con’s: 2017 season was, in fairness, a disappointment. He was banged up but also showed some limitations. Guice isn’t a great athlete and his success is born out of sheer determination. Forget the spurious ‘reports’ suggesting he’s been running in the low 4.4’s. He ran a 4.61 at the Nike combine, managed an appalling 4.66 short shuttle and only a 30-inch vertical. He’s not a bad player, far from it, but he has limited physical potential. Guice had a tough upbringing and it’s something teams will spend time on.

Fit in Seattle: There’ll come a point in the draft where Guice could present great value. He’s intense, physical and tough. If he drifts into the second or even the early third — the athletic limitations are less of a problem. You take him and feel happy about it. The Seahawks could love his attitude to running the ball and he’s very similar to Thomas Rawls in personality and size. He likely won’t be an explosive tester though.

Pro-comparisons: Thomas Rawls

Predicted draft range: Round 2

Royce Freeman (Oregon)

Pro’s: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some teams are going to really like what Freeman offers. Of all the running backs in this draft, he might get the broadest variety of grades. For a bigger back (5-11 ½, 234) he can really shift. If he gets an opening he can turn a good run into a great one and has shown the ability to get outside. Has the frame to be an early-down back and has been ultra-productive even during Oregon’s recent down-period.

Con’s: Doesn’t play to his size and you’re often left wanting more. He’s good — but you’d love to see a little more punishment dished out. He’s the opposite of Kerryon Johnson who always seems to find a way to fall forward. Freeman isn’t the best cut-back runner and will fit some schemes better than others. Will need to work on his effectiveness in the passing game.

Fit in Seattle: The Seahawks might be one of the teams who aren’t overly enamoured by Freeman. He isn’t going to help them set a tone up front and he isn’t a cut-back runner. He’s bigger than the backs they’ve drafted so far and might not be the most explosive tester (34 inch vertical at the Nike combine).

Pro-comparisons: D’Onta Foreman, Jordan Howard

Predicted draft range: Round 2

Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)

Pro’s: Good size (5-11, 220lbs) and incredibly versatile. Exciting player. Penny runs hard but with control and skill. He’s shifty enough to make people miss and if you give him a lane he’ll capitalise. Highly productive kick returner. Showed his potential at the Senior Bowl by having a relatively quiet practise week and then went about making big plays in the game. Has shown patience in the backfield. Exceptional production.

Con’s: It’s hard to imagine a middle ground with Penny. It feels like he’s either going to come into the league and be the next Kareem Hunt or he’s going to be overwhelmed. It’s hard to pick holes in his play but there’s something preventing you going all-in. Competition was weak in college and it shows on tape. Pass-pro needs serious work. Was a bit disappointing during the catching drills in Mobile which was a surprise.

Fit in Seattle: He fits the size ideal. The combine is important. They like explosive athletes at running back. How he tests in the vertical and broad jumps could be the determining factor on whether he truly fits.

Pro-comparisons: Jay Ajayi

Predicted draft range: Round 2

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Nike SPARQ data for the 2018 draft class

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

If you’re not familiar with SPARQ here’s a simple breakdown courtesy of Top End Sports:

SPARQ is an acronym for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness. The SPARQ Rating is a scoring system designed to measure sport-specific athleticism. The results from various tests in each of the areas of speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness are combined and weighted using a sport specific formula.

Every year Nike hold a SPARQ combine and the top high school athletes are invited to take part. If you know where to look there’s plenty of data involving many of the big names making up the 2018 draft class.

Even though their testing results could easily be different at the NFL combine — it’s still a useful benchmark for what we can expect in Indianapolis.

I had to search numerous websites for this info. Many prospects either didn’t participate or chose not to reveal their results. You’ll notice there’s no mention of Bradley Chubb, Vita Vea or Tremaine Edmunds.

Here are the SPARQ scores I did find:

Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas) — 145.65
Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia) — 143.91
Josh Sweat (EDGE, Florida State) — 140.01
Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama) — 130.41
Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia) — 129.75
Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) — 129.30
Derwin James (S, Florida State) — 124.35
Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon) — 121.17
Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State) — 116.79
Quin Blanding (S, Virginia) — 115.95
Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama) — 113.7
M.J. Stewart (CB, North Carolina) — 112.08
Jerome Baker (LB, Ohio State) — 106.35
Kevin Toliver (CB, LSU) — 99.03
Roquon Smith (LB, Georgia) — 97.20
Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA) — 96.90
Armani Watts (S, Texas A&M) — 96.51
Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama) — 92.70
Tavarus McFadden (CB, Florida State) — 91.86
Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame) — 85.20
Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama) — 84.00
Derrius Guice (RB, LSU) — 83.37
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech) — 73.17
Sam Darnold (QB, USC) — 71.25
Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State) — 70.14
Isaiah Wynn (T, Georgia) — 54.45

Running backs Damien Harris (126.93) and Bryce Love (122.43) didn’t declare. Bo Scarborough, Sony Michel and Braden Smith didn’t complete a full test to qualify for a score.

I’ve listed the testing information in full below. There’s some very interesting data. Here are some of the highlights:

— Malik Jefferson’s sensational 145.65 SPARQ score is mostly down to a 4.39 forty and a 40 inch vertical at 6-2, 215lbs. If he gets close to these marks at the combine, he’ll be one of the big winners.

— We’ve often discussed Nick Chubb’s incredible SPARQ performance. The key to his stock will be medical checks on his knee and whether he’s still capable of an elite workout. If he ticks both boxes he could easily be a high pick.

— Chubb’s Georgia team mate Sony Michel isn’t quite as explosive. He was reasonably quick with a 4.46 forty but he only managed a 30.5 inch vertical — that’s a 10.5 inch difference compared to Chubb’s attempt.

— Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James and Christian Kirk completed SPARQ tests in 2013 and 2014. The data I’d been using for Fitzpatrick and James was from 2013. They both significantly improved their scores the following year.

— Roquon Smith plays fast with great intensity but he only managed a 4.55 forty at 203lbs here. His SPARQ score of 97.20 is well below the likes of Lorenzo Carter, Rashaan Evans and Jerome Baker. It’s something to keep an eye on at the combine. He’s really good — but a mediocre combine would hamper his stock. Teams want speed at linebacker these days.

— Calvin Ridley is a very consistent receiver. Physically, however, he’s unspectacular. He isn’t big or particularly fast and at the SPARQ combine he ran a 4.54 at just 169lbs with a 32 inch vertical. It’s hard to get excited about Ridley.

— Quenton Nelson and Da’Ron Payne weighed a combined 650lbs at the SPARQ combine. They both scored higher than Derrius Guice.

— Braden Smith is known as an explosive, athletic freak at Auburn. He managed a 35.5 inch vertical at 285lbs. Providing he tests at the combine, he’s going to put on a show.

Full breakdown

Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 215lbs
Forty: 4.39
Short Shuttle: 4.19
Powerball: 42
Vertical: 40
SPARQ: 145.65

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 217lbs
Forty: 4.47
Short Shuttle: 4.12
Powerball: 43
Vertical: 41
SPARQ: 143.91

Josh Sweat (EDGE, Florida State)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 240lbs
Forty: 4.46
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 42
Vertical: 39
SPARQ: 140.01

Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama) (2014)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 194lbs
Forty: 4.51
Short Shuttle: 3.81
Powerball: 39.5
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 130.41

Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama) (2013)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 183lbs
Forty: 4.67
Short Shuttle: 4.05
Powerball: 34
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 106.26

Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 234lbs
Forty: 4.63
Short Shuttle: 4.32
Powerball: 41.5
Vertical: 40
SPARQ: 129.75

Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) (2014)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 191lbs
Forty: 4.47
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 41.5
Vertical: 39
SPARQ: 129.30

Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) (2013)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 185lbs
Forty: 4.49
Short Shuttle: 4.15
Powerball: 38
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 115.83

Derwin James (S, Florida State) (2014)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 200lbs
Forty: 4.50
Short Shuttle: 4.21
Powerball: 41
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 124.35

Derwin James (S, Florida State) (2013)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 197lbs
Forty: 4.52
Short Shuttle: 4.32
Powerball: 38
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 108.57

Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 227lbs
Forty: 4.58
Short Shuttle: 4.07
Powerball: 39
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 121.17

Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 208lbs
Forty: 4.63
Short Shuttle: 4.06
Powerball: 35
Vertical: 38
SPARQ: 116.79

Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 209lbs
Forty: 4.62
Short Shuttle: 4.18
Powerball: 38
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 115.95

Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 217lbs
Forty: 4.51
Short Shuttle: 4.27
Powerball: 33
Vertical: 38.4
SPARQ: 113.7

M.J. Stewart (CB, North Carolina)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 190lbs
Forty: 4.57
Short Shuttle: 4.00
Powerball: 36
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 112.08

Jerome Baker (LB, Ohio State)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 202lbs
Forty: 4.54
Short Shuttle: 4.09
Powerball: 35.5
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 106.35

Kevin Toliver (CB, LSU)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 193lbs
Forty: 4.61
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 32
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 99.03

Roquon Smith (LB, Georgia)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 203lbs
Forty: 4.55
Short Shuttle: 4.29
Powerball: 31
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 97.20

Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206lbs
Forty: 4.99
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 40
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 96.90

Armani Watts (S, Texas A&M)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 183lbs
Forty: 4.76
Short Shuttle: 4.07
Powerball: 33
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 96.51

Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 169lbs
Forty: 4.54
Short Shuttle: 4.15
Powerball: 32
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 92.70

Tavarus McFadden (CB, Florida State)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 198lbs
Forty: 4.60
Short Shuttle: 4.34
Powerball: 33.5
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 91.86

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 302lbs
Forty: 5.64
Short Shuttle: 4.81
Powerball: 42.5
Vertical: 24
SPARQ: 85.2

Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 348lbs
Forty: 5.24
Short Shuttle: 4.80
Powerball: 37.5
Vertical: 25
SPARQ: 84.0

Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 215lbs
Forty: 4.61
Short Shuttle: 4.66
Powerball: 35
Vertical: 30
SPARQ: 83.37

Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 339lbs
Forty: 5.35
Short Shuttle: 5.06
Powerball: 31.5
Vertical: 24
SPARQ: 73.17

Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 202lbs
Forty: 4.96
Short Shuttle: 4.47
Powerball: 35
Vertical: 27
SPARQ: 71.25

Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 299lbs
Forty: 5.53
Short Shuttle: 5.06
Powerball: 34
Vertical: 26
SPARQ: 70.14

Isaiah Wynn (T, Georgia)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 274lbs
Forty: 5.30
Short Shuttle: 5.06
Powerball: 32
Vertical: 27
SPARQ: 54.45

Bo Scarborough (RB, Alabama)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 215lbs
Forty: 4.59
Short Shuttle: 4.09
Powerball: DNP
Vertical: 31
SPARQ: Incomplete

Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 194lbs
Forty: 4.46
Short Shuttle: 4.22
Powerball: DNP
Vertical: 30.5
SPARQ: Incomplete

Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 285lbs
Forty: 5.12
Short Shuttle: 4.65
Powerball: DNP
Vertical: 35.5
SPARQ: Incomplete

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Legit first round grades & an updated top-50

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

In a good class you might have 20 players graded in the first round.

I think it’ll be a lot less this year.

It’s still very early in the process and the Senior Bowl and combine will change things dramatically. We’ll come back to this list down the road and see how things have shifted. For now though, here are the players I think are worthy of first round grades:

Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)

11 players.

A lot of people will have Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James listed as legit first rounders. I think they are both a bit overrated. Roquan Smith seriously warrants consideration but he’s only 6-0 and 225lbs. Quarterback needy teams might have Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield listed.

For me though, these are the eleven I think are genuinely worth a first round grade.

Barkley, Nelson, Chubb, Darnold and Rosen will appear on many similar lists so I want to concentrate on the other six.

Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech) — he’s just an incredible talent. Edmunds can play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, LEO, he can rush. You can ask him to do so many jobs. He’ll appear from nowhere to blow up a screen or sweep, he’ll chase down the ball carrier and make a secure tackle in space, force turnovers with jarring hits and he’s always in control. He has great size (6-4, 235lbs) and length. Expect a great workout at the combine and a very, very high grade among scouts. For more on Tremaine Edmunds click here.

Vita Vea (DT, Washington) — there are plenty of mixed opinions on Vea but you have to watch him live to appreciate his talent. He’s 6-4 and 340lbs but he moves around the field with incredible mobility. You expect him to be powerful and capable of controlling the LOS with his size. He does that very well. Yet it’s his ability to play across the line, sprint to the ball carrier and move with unnatural ease that makes him one of those rare nose tackle prospects who go early in the draft. He could be Haloti Ngata.

Billy Price (C, Ohio State) — Price is pretty much the complete package. He plays the way you want your offensive linemen to play — with great intensity and a nasty edge. He sets the tone up front. He combines athleticism and power with strength and physical toughness. He plays like a third Pouncey brother. Urban Meyer absolutely raves about him, crediting Price with a stirring motivational speech to kick start Ohio State’s season after their big loss at Iowa. Plus he’s smart, intelligent and knows what he wants in life. He used the 2017 season to set himself a challenge of becoming a first round pick. He will go early.

Ronald Jones II (RB, USC) — apparently he only received a second round grade from the draft committee but I think he’s special. The comparisons to Jamaal Charles are legit — absolutely legit. So how can I not name him here? He dodges tackles and cuts his way through traffic like a slalom skier. He has the burst, suddenness and acceleration to explode to the second level and capitalise on an opening. Most of all though, he finishes every single run. He’s tough. He’ll need to show he can pass protect but he has star quality. For more on Ronald Jones II click here.

Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech) — it’s surprising to see Settle receive so little hype, especially after he declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore. You don’t see many players do that, especially not 6-3, 328lbs defensive tackles. There’s a reason though. Settle has the size to play nose but the quickness, get-off and pass rush ability to be so much more. He had 12.5 TFL’s in 2017. That’s incredible for a 328lber. In comparison, Vita Vea had 5.5 TFL’s and Da’Ron Payne 1.0. The scary thing is he could stand to lose a little weight and be even better. For more on Tim Settle click here.

Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA) — watching his tape he looks special. At first you wonder about the competition level and then you see him do it to every opponent and you have to buy in. He’s about 6-5 or 6-6 and around 254lbs. At times you feel like you’re watching DeMarcus Ware. He has a violent bull rush, he explodes off the edge and dominates the tackle. He can hold off offensive linemen with one arm and he has the quickness to win with speed. He’ll chase down a ball carrier and finish consistently. He has a big opportunity to impress at the Senior Bowl and prove the hype is warranted. If he succeeds — he could be a top-15 lock. For more on Marcus Davenport click here.

This list could grow. At the moment this is how I see things. It looks like a draft where there will be around 10-15 legit first round grades. That’s my current estimate. There might be better value in round two than in the second half of round one.

Seeing as a number of high profile prospects have chosen not to declare for the draft (Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, Damien Harris, Bryce Love) I thought I’d also update my top-50:

Quarterbacks (5)

Sam Darnold (USC)
Josh Rosen (UCLA)
Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
Josh Allen (Wyoming)

It’s possible all five could go in the first round.

Running backs (8)

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Ronald Jones II (USC)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Sony Michel (Georgia)
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)

The group takes a hit with Damien Harris and Bryce Love opting not to turn pro. Still, this is a strong looking list with 3-4 potential stars.

Wide receiver (5)

Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
Courtland Sutton (SMU)
James Washington (Oklahoma State)
Anthony Miller (Memphis)
D.J. Moore (Maryland)

The depth at receiver is better than the early round talent. Ridley isn’t particularly big or fast but he gets open and he’s consistent. Sutton is a big bodied Alshon Jeffrey type. Washington could go in the 20-40 range.

Tight end (0)

As things stand, there’s a chance we won’t see a tight end go in the first two rounds of the draft. It’s almost certain there won’t be a first round tight end.

Offensive line (9)

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State)
Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
Coleman Shelton (C, Washington)

It’s a decent crop of interior linemen but a weak looking tackle class. Nelson could go in the top-10 and Price isn’t far behind. Brown and McGlinchey are expected to be first round tackles. The rest could go in the late first or second round.

Defensive line (10)

Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
Arden Key (DE, LSU)
Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE, Oklahoma)

Clelin Ferrell could’ve been a top five pick. The Clemson trio staying in school is big news. There’s still a bit of everything here — speed, power, length, size.

Linebacker (7)

Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech)
Roquan Smith (Georgia)
Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State)
Rashaan Evans (Alabama)
Lorenzo Carter (Georgia)
Keishawn Bierria (Washington)
Harold Landry (Boston College)

Edmunds is the outstanding linebacker prospect. Smith, Vander Esch, Evans and Carter are capable of going in the first frame.

Cornerback (3)

Denzel Ward (Ohio State)
Joshua Jackson (Iowa)
Anthony Averett (Alabama)

It’s not a good looking cornerback class. Iowa’s Joshua Jackson has major production this year with eight interceptions and a pair of touchdowns. He could sneak into the first round. Some think Ohio State’s Denzel Ward is the best corner in the draft and he’s expected to have a great combine. Averett is sparky and could be a useful slot corner.

Safety (3)

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
Derwin James (Florida State)
Ronnie Harrison (Alabama)

The safety’s are a bit overrated but Fitzpatrick is likely a top-15 pick, James could go between 15-30 and Ronnie Harrison could be a second rounder.

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New mock draft & the benefit of trading down

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Could the Seahawks move down and address two key needs?

Trade down or stay put.

We’ll be having this discussion a lot over the next three months.

Here are the two arguments:

1. Stay put

The Seahawks haven’t picked in the top-20 for six years. The intention should be to make this a rare one-off. Do they need to make the most of this opportunity? The last three players taken at #18 were Adoree’ Jackson, Ryan Kelly and Marcus Peters. This has been a sweet spot in the draft in recent years.

2. Trade down

With no picks in rounds two or three, the Seahawks are currently set to pick just once before day three. Without a massive amount of cap space, the draft is Seattle’s best opportunity to address several needs. There will be good depth on day two. They might be able to get two or even three players by moving down instead of just one.

Weighing up the options

There are cases to be made for both scenarios.

If the Seahawks had their second and third round picks, it’s a no-brainer. Play the draft board at #18 as you see fit. You’ll still have a chance to get two more good players.

Unfortunately they don’t have those picks — so they have to consider the bigger picture.

It doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t just take BPA at #18. It’s still possible. The problem is — with the likes of Clelin Ferrell and Drew Lock opting to stay at Clemson and Missouri respectively, the chances of a top player dropping to #18 are slimmer.

Tremaine Edmunds isn’t going to last to #18. He’s too good. Billy Price? Possible. Good interior linemen have lasted into that range before. Quenton Nelson will go in the top ten and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts Price. If he falls to #18 they might have to consider taking him.

Why would trading down be attractive?

This draft class is particularly deep in three need areas:

1. Running back

2. Interior O-line

3. Defensive front seven

By trading down, you might be able to address two of these needs before the end of day two.

Let’s focus on the running game for a moment. Among our top-50 draft eligible players, here are the names included on the O-line and at running back:

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State)
Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
Coleman Shelton (C, Washington)

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Ronald Jones II (USC)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
Sony Michel (Georgia)

(Bryce Love and Damien Harris aren’t included after they opted not to turn pro)

The names in bold, plus Derrius Guice, could be available in rounds 2-3.

So you’re faced with a situation. Let’s say Billy Price lasts to #18. You take him but miss out on the best players in this excellent running back class. Is that better than being able to get a pairing of Ronald Jones II and Frank Ragnow or Isaiah Wynn and Nick Chubb?

Here’s a mock draft that looks at a trade down scenario:

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
There have been reports that John Dorsey is a big fan of Allen’s. If the Browns make a deal for a veteran (eg Alex Smith) they might sit Allen for a year.

#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
This could be either Darnold or Rosen but with Pat Shurmur expected to be the new Head Coach, Darnold’s mobility could give him the edge.

#3 Indianapolis — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Barkley deserves to go this early. He could be the highest graded player to enter the league since, funnily enough, Andrew Luck.

#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
The Browns pair Chubb with Myles Garrett to create a fearsome pass-rushing double act.

#5 Buffalo (via Denver) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Armed with the #21 and #22 picks, the Bills trade ahead of their divisional rivals in New York to get Rosen.

#6 New York Jets — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
With three quarterbacks off the board already, Mike Maccagnan falls back on taking the best player available.

#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Someone will take Vea early. He’s too big, too quick for his size and too powerful. He has a shot to be Haloti Ngata.

#8 Chicago — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
If they use free agency to improve at the receiver position, this will allow the Bears to take a top defensive prospect here.

#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
Quite frankly a sensational prospect worthy of a place in the top-10. He can play inside linebacker, SAM, EDGE, LEO. An incredible talent and clearly one of the ten best players in this draft class.

#10 Oakland — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Enormous prospect with NFL bloodlines and could solve a problem for the Raiders at right tackle.

#11 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Teams will love Price. His attitude, his physicality, his versatility. He’s a third Pouncey brother. A top end talent in this draft.

#12 Cincinnati — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
Fitzpatrick is a bit overrated and it’ll be quite the thing if he goes earlier than Earl Thomas, Keanu Neal and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

#13 Washington — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
The Redskins cling on to Kirk Cousins for another year and take the best defensive player on their board.

#14 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Underrated player who managed 12.5 TFL’s at 330lbs. That’s relatively unheard of and considerably more than Vita Vea (5.5) and Da’Ron Payne (1.0).

#15 Arizona — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
The tackle position has become a big problem for the Cardinals. McGlinchey is finesse but one of the best options in a weak OT class.

#16 Baltimore — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
Not an exciting player. Lacks size and not the most sudden. His interviews are a bit weird. He is consistent though and Baltimore loves ‘Bama.

#17 LA Chargers — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
The Chargers are reportedly looking to develop a player to be the heir apparent to Philip Rivers. Mayfield could be their guy. Rightly or wrongly, might last due to his height.

#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
John Dorsey trades up to secure the best cornerback in the draft.

#19 Dallas — Arden Key (DE, LSU)
Jerry Jones loves a splash and isn’t afraid to take a risk. Key has talent but will he ever put it together?

#20 Detroit — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
Matt Patricia begins his stint as Head Coach by drafting an on-field leader.

#21 Denver (via Buf) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
The Broncos fill a big need here. Like Fitzpatrick, James is a little overrated. He looks the part and tackles well but he’s a box safety. More Eric Reid than Eric Berry.

#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
The Broncos draft a quarterback capable of delivering some excitement back to Denver.

#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
He’s not physical enough to play DE so he has to go to the right scheme. Wade Phillips’ defense is a good fit.

#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
Bryan could be used as an inside/out pass rusher for the Panthers. He has major upside.

#25 Tennessee — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
Despite drafting Adoree’ Jackson a year ago, the Titans still need more in their secondary. Jackson’s combine will determine if he goes this early.

#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Hurst can rush the passer from the interior and these types of players always have value.

#27 New Orleans — Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
Carter has explosive qualities and finds a way to impact games. Capable of playing SAM/LEO or OLB.

#28 Pittsburgh — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Payne just looks like an ideal fit for the AFC North. Arguably the best run defender in the draft.

#29 Jacksonville — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
If they lose Allen Robinson they might look for a big receiver to replace him on the outside.

#30 Minnesota — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Nnadi played better in 2016 but he’s still a disruptive nose capable of providing some pass rush.

#31 New England — Ben Banogu (DE, TCU)
He just feels like the type of unheralded defensive prospect the Patriots take in the late first round.

#32 Philadelphia — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
Evans doesn’t just tackle and hit, he hammers people. The combine will be big for his stock.

Trade breakdown

— Buffalo trades #21 & #22 to Denver for #5 and a sixth round pick

— Cleveland trades #33, #63 and a fifth rounder to Seattle for #18

Trade notes

It feels like the Bills are setting up for a big move. With the #21 and #22 picks, they have the stock needed to climb into the top-10.

The Browns have two first round picks and three second round picks currently. Trading back into the top-20 would give them three top-tier picks and an opportunity to pick again at #35.

John Schneider and John Dorsey know each other very well, so it’s plausible they could work together on a trade.

So what would the Seahawks do if they did end up with #33 and #63?

Simple — repair the running game or take one player for each side of the ball.

For example, if Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter lasted into round two — could he be an option to fill the Bruce Irvin role at SAM/LEO? Would they have any interest in Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo? The Senior Bowl and combine will reveal more about possible defensive options.

If they wanted to focus on offense, they could go running back and O-line. That could mean considering Georgia’s brilliant Isaiah Wynn to play guard with their first pick and then assessing the running back options at #63. Would Nick Chubb, Rashaad Penny or Royce Freeman be there in the late second? Possibly.

In 2016 they used a fourth round pick to move up seven spots to select Jarran Reed. A similar deal in this scenario could secure the running back they want. If the Browns give Seattle their fifth round pick as part of a trade, that could also be used.

Alternatively they could take a running back at #33. In this scenario Ronald Jones II, Kerryon Johnson, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Derrius Guice and others are available. They might even move down again, as they did a year ago before selecting Malik McDowell.

With a running back secured, they can wait to see which interior offensive linemen are left at the end of round two. Frank Ragnow (Arkansas), Braden Smith (Auburn), Will Hernandez (UTEP) or Coleman Shelton (Washington) could be options.

The late second could be another trade-down spot — and that could bring receiver, tight end and several defensive positions into play too.

When you look at it like this, trading down is a reasonable option. You’re moving into the heart of the value zone for Seattle’s key positions of need. And you’re giving yourself a chance to acquire more picks to help repair the running game and aid the transition to a younger (and cheaper) defense.

Mock draft in full

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#3 Indianapolis — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#5 Buffalo (via Den) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#6 New York Jets — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Chicago — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#10 Oakland — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
#11 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#12 Cincinnati — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#13 Washington — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#14 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#15 Arizona — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#16 Baltimore — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#17 LA Chargers — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#19 Dallas — Arden Key (DE, LSU)
#20 Detroit — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#21 Denver (via Buf) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#25 Tennessee — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#27 New Orleans — Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
#28 Pittsburgh — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#29 Jacksonville — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#30 Minnesota — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
#31 New England — Ben Banogu (EDGE, TCU)
#32 Philadelphia — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)

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Why the defense has to be younger & Jones II = Charles

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Why Seattle’s defense needs to get younger (and cheaper)

In 2017 the Seahawks spent $93,714,666 on their defense, more than any team in the NFL. The split between offense and defense was 36.37% vs 55.98%.

They spent $60,885,063 on the offense — 29th highest in the league.

Of the 12 biggest cap hits on the roster, nine were defensive players. The three offensive players were Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham and Luke Joeckel. Graham and Joeckel are both free agents.

At the moment they’re facing a very similar situation for 2018. They’re set to pay $91,613,442 for their defense (#5 in the NFL) and $62,541,747 for the offense (#24).

These numbers will change if/when Jeremy Lane is cut, Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor retire and if some other moves are made. Even so, this could be one of the reasons why a transition is expected. The percentage needs to be nearer 50-50 than the current 56-36.

It’s going to be difficult to redress the balance in 2018 alone, which is one of the reasons they might initiate a transition now. For example, they won’t save much by cutting Michael Bennett (around $3m). However, his cap hit for 2019 (around $9m) would be completely off the books.

It would put pressure on the team to find some cheap replacements. However, pass rushers have been their speciality. They brought in Bennett and Cliff Avril at bargain prices, pulled off a killer trade for Chris Clemons, found Frank Clark with a late second round pick and have identified an exciting reclamation project with Dion Jordan.

It’s not often you see a team paying so many big name players on one side of the ball. The Seahawks did it because they had so much talent. Keeping the defense together felt like the key to multiple opportunities to win a Super Bowl. As those days fade, the need to change is clear.

Part of being younger on defense is also about being a cheaper.

The imbalance in spending isn’t the only reason why Seattle’s offense hasn’t performed. There was still enough talent to expect better results in 2017. However, if you actually write down the number of defensive studs vs offensive studs on Seattle’s roster, it’s quite significantly weighted in one direction. If you want a balanced team, you might need a more balanced spread of talent.

After cuts and possible retirements the Seahawks could be left with around $30m in cap space. It depends how aggressive they want to be. A portion of that would be required to fill out the roster (they carried a lot of players on one-year contracts in 2017). They’d also ideally retain players like Bradley McDougald and Sheldon Richardson. McDougald is the easier keep but I wonder if a statistically poor year for Richardson leads to a colder market than currently expected? Perhaps he’d be willing to return on a one-year deal to improve his stock in 12 months?

If there is the money to spend, it could come on offense. Value deals, possibly short term, appear likely to fill out the roster (with the hope of finding some longer term parts for the next core).

Green Bay want John Schneider

Multiple reports today are suggesting the Packers are interested in making John Schneider their new GM. Some have even suggested, not surprisingly, that Schneider is very interested in the Green Bay job. There’s not really much to say on this other than whatever happens, let’s hope it happens as soon as possible. This is a big off-season for the Seahawks. They need to know where they stand.

Proof Ronald Jones II is Jamaal Charles

Ask most Seahawks fans what they want in a running back and they’ll say tough, physical and someone who gets the hard yards. Many will have watched Nick Chubb against Oklahoma last week and salivated at the thought of him trying to fill the RB void in Seattle.

Clearly the Seahawks have a preference too. It’s worth highlighting again that this team has a type at running back. These are the backs they’ve drafted in recent years:

Robert Turbin — 5-10, 222lbs
Spencer Ware — 5-10, 228lbs
Christine Michael — 5-10, 220lbs
C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs
Alex Collins — 5-10, 217lbs
Chris Carson — 6-0, 218lbs

Size matters to this team, as does explosive traits. A strong vertical (+35 inches) and broad jump (10-5) has also been a factor. Speed? Not as much.

Chubb, Damien Harris, Kerryon Johnson, Rashaad Penny and others will fit into Seattle’s size prototype. Ronald Jones II probably won’t. He’s expected to be measured at about 6-0 and 203lbs.

The thing is, he is pretty much a Jamaal Charles clone. Charles was one of the more dynamic players in the NFL in recent history, at any position.

Watch the videos below. One is Jones II running for USC, the other is Charles running for Texas. It’s freaky how similar they are:

Jones II, like Charles, is just so dynamic. And despite neither player being 220lbs they get as much as they can out of most runs.

He might not be an aggressive north-south runner with prototype size but if any team believes Jones II can be as good as Charles, that has to be worth an early pick.

He just has ‘it’. He looks like a dynamic playmaker for the next level. Someone capable of making big plays on a consistent basis.

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Rose Bowl review: Isaiah Wynn is really underrated

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

When I published the top-50 2018 eligible prospects piece on Sunday, Georgia left tackle Isaiah Wynn was included. I haven’t done a specific piece on him because we’ve been focusing on other positions. Wynn’s performance in the Rose Bowl was so good, he warrants extra attention today.

I’m fairly confident he’s going to go in round two as an absolute worst case scenario. There’s a chance he sneaks into the first.

At around 6-2 and 300lbs he’s likely going to move inside to guard. Tackle experience at a high level in college will be useful though — and he’ll always have the ability to cover at tackle if needed.

It’s difficult to find flaws in his game.

For starters he’s a true mauler. His hand placement is really good — he delivers a strong jab to the defender and just controls his man. Wynn’s footwork and balance are really good and he rarely loses ground. You don’t see him bull-rushed into the backfield or knocked back. He’s very measured, engages and finishes.

He’s tough and will hand fight to win a battle if required. He’s adept at picking up stunts. Oklahoma were happy to feign the edge rush and have a linebacker make a late move. Wynn identified this and didn’t overcommit. He was prepared and ready and easily passed off the DE to lock onto the new rusher.

His agility and athleticism aren’t going to see him run a 4.90 at the combine and he’s not Lane Johnson. I suspect he won’t be a workout warrior and that’s what might limit his stock. Whatever limitations he might possibly have won’t matter as much when he moves inside. He barely ever loses control, position or leverage. His height and size work to his advantage in that regard. It’s difficult to get under his pads. I’ve not seen one play to date where he overextends — he doesn’t lunge and get himself into trouble. He’s never rattled.

On Nick Chubb’s first big run against Oklahoma, Wynn pulled to the outside and sealed the edge. He had to locate his blocker on the move, engage and finish. Chubb achieved a big gain as a consequence. He’s comfortable on the move and it’s a part of his game that could become even more of a factor at the next level.

This isn’t a great class for offensive tackles. It’s a better class for interior linemen. Nelson, Price and Wynn should go early and Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow (a guard or center) and Washington’s Coleman Shelton (a center) won’t be far behind.

The Seahawks appear likely to draft a running back early. If they’re able to acquire another early pick in the first or second round range — they might be willing to consider someone like Wynn too.

Thoughts on the other Georgia prospects

The Rose Bowl wasn’t just a fantastically entertaining game of football, it was loaded with NFL talent. I want to focus on the Georgia prospects.

Roquan Smith (LB)
After a quiet first half with Oklahoma’s offense rolling, Smith really stepped up his game after half time. He had two fierce, punishing tackles — stone-walling the ball carrier at the point of impact. One tackle possibly denied a touchdown, the other a first down:

He timed a blitz perfectly up the middle with 11:05 left in the third quarter, showing great closing speed and acceleration to force Baker Mayfield’s eyes down. Smith easily skipped by the running back who stayed in to protect, moved Mayfield off the spot and sent him right into the arms of Lorenzo Carter.

Smith flew around the field in the second half. He frequently had an angle on Mayfield when he moved out of the pocket and maybe spied him a few times. He’s not the biggest (6-1, 225lbs) so his workout will be important. There’s evidence to suggest he’s going to test rather well. Look at his closing speed and finish with the tackle:

Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
I’ve watched a lot of Carter this season and he’s the one player I’ve really struggled to get a feel for. How good is he? For large stretches in games he doesn’t have much impact. Yet in virtually every Georgia game I watched in 2017, he would still make at least one big play.

The Rose Bowl was an interesting watch. Georgia had him lined up in coverage against Mark Andrews the tight end. Andrews is a little bit overrated as a prospect. He gets open on the more basic routes but isn’t a special athlete and he’s not much of a blocker. Oklahoma tried to run the same play to Andrews twice in this game — one throw hit the mark, Georgia learned their lesson the second time and picked off Mayfield.

Carter jolted Andrews back a few times when they matched up in the run — but as noted, Andrews isn’t much of a blocker. In coverage Andrews had the beating of Carter on a couple of occasions — but it’s a bit of a mismatch overall.

There was one play where Carter did a really good job in coverage, albeit in an unorthodox way. Oklahoma tried to use the running back on a wheel route and Carter was able to, quite subtly, get in the way and disrupt the route. He identified quickly what they were trying to do. Mayfield wanted to throw the ball to the right sideline but saw it wasn’t on, tried to scramble to the left and took a big sack.

Carter recorded a sack in the game but that was mostly down to Roquan Smith. Both players blitzed up the middle. Carter was initially held up but Smith got into the backfield to move Mayfield off the spot. Carter cleaned up.

His big play though was vitally important and possibly the most decisive in the game. In overtime Oklahoma were forced to kick a field goal to go three points ahead. Carter leapt from the line of scrimmage and at full extension got a fingertip to the ball. It was an outstanding, athletic play. For a player measuring at about 6-4 and 242lbs, it was an incredible jump:

He should perform well in the vertical at the combine. Sony Michel scored a touchdown to win the game moments later.

Carter’s potential is to be a Bruce Irvin type. He’s not the pass rusher Irvin was at West Virginia but he might be better suited to an orthodox linebacker role, while still acting as a rusher for passing downs.

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel (RB)

Both Chubb and Michel saved their best performances of the season for the most important game. They’ve both enjoyed a productive year but they took it to another level here. The only blip was Michel’s fumble returned for a touchdown in the second half.

I did a feature piece on Chubb in November, noting he could still go in the first round. There’s no disputing his potential and talent. Chubb had one of the all-time great workouts at the Nike SPARQ combine in 2013:

Height — 5-10
Weight — 217lbs
Forty yard dash — 4.47
Vertical — 40 inches
Short shuttle — 4.12
SPARQ — 143.91

He is basically a Christine Michael-level athlete.

Without the serious knee injury he suffered in 2015, he would’ve been a high first round pick. Based on what we saw at the Rose Bowl, he’s back to his best. Now we just need to see how he tests. How much juice, if any, has he lost? And what do the medicals say at the combine?

If everything checks out, Chubb will undoubtedly be on Seattle’s radar. He fits their physical profile perfectly (5-10, 228lbs), he’s an extremely explosive athlete and he’s as tough as they come. His running style is physical and sets the tone. He also has the ability to break off big runs.

Despite the athletic comparisons to Christine Michael, Chubb is an incredibly serious individual. He’s all business. His interviews are among the most boring you’ll hear. That just adds to the intrigue. He’s all about football.

Watch this:

I suspect this is what Pete Carroll is looking for. That doesn’t mean the Seahawks are going to be all-in on Nick Chubb. This is a fantastic running back class. We’ve already talked up the quality of Damien Harris, Ronald Jones II and Kerryon Johnson too. Any of those three — and a cluster of others — could interest the Seahawks.

Yet there’s no doubting Chubb fits their prototype and he could easily be a player they consider with their first pick.

(A quick note — Kerryon Johnson announced his decision to turn pro yesterday. Tony Pauline reports Ronald Jones II will make the same decision. The other Auburn runner, Kamryn Pettway, missed most of 2017 but also announced he’s turning pro and could be a day-three bargain).

As for Michel, he’s an interesting partner. If you could insert Chubb, Michel and Wynn into the Seahawks offense for next season, they’d probably see a decent upturn in production. Chubb and Michel are college football’s answer to Ingram and Kamara. Michel probably isn’t the same kind of athlete as Kamara — but they compliment each other in the same way.

Chubb is the more natural ‘born to be a running back’ type. Michel is quicker and more of a factor in the passing game. Yet he showed in this contest why he’s such a dynamic X-factor. Depending on Chubb’s health, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Michel is the first off the board.

He scored a 75-yard touchdown against Oklahoma. In fairness it was a huge open running lane he exploited — but the acceleration he showed to finish was impressive.

Here’s the game winner:

He’s patient to work to the edge, find the gap and then finishes.

Michel isn’t just a player who works well in space or excels in the passing game. He can show toughness and provide some of the inside running to keep things balanced. He’s 5-10 and 220lbs so he’s not small by any stretch. He too fits Seattle’s size profile. They might be willing to consider him as a compliment to Chris Carson.

Both players could be off the board by the time round two concludes.

Javon Wims (WR, Georgia)

Wims is a player we’ve talked about a few times during the season. He really emerged as Georgia’s go-to target in the passing game. Every week he seemed to make a few big plays.

He has seven touchdowns now and 704 yards. Considering he’s working with a true-freshman quarterback, his numbers are quite impressive. Before this season he’d barely featured for Georgia. He saved his best play for his Senior year.

Wims might’ve played himself into the middle rounds, which is a shame. Originally I’d hoped he might last into day three and make a nice project. He’s 6-4 and 215lbs and could provide the kind of dynamic big outside target the Seahawks have lacked over the years.

The back-shoulder fade has been his best friend but he’s also developed into a key red-zone threat and he does well high-pointing the football. He sometimes produces a nice check down option settling over the middle and he can separate on the shorter routes. He’s at his best, however, working the red line to make big plays.

Wims is still a bit underrated and he’s helped provide the balance Georgia’s offense requires to compliment their dynamic duo at running back. Look at the video below. Wims has become enough of a threat that Georgia can use him as a decoy to exploit Sony Michel in the passing game:

And this is what he does in the red zone:

There’s no replay in the clip above but it was a difficult catch under pressure.

Some people might not like the fact it’s two SEC teams in the National Championship game this week. For me, it’s the perfect final for Seahawks fans. Four interesting running backs (Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel) a ton of defensive talent on both rosters and some good O-liners and receivers too. It’s a dream for Seahawks fans ready and willing to look ahead to the draft.

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Pete Carroll: Running back “a big focal point”

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Pete Carroll wants to add to the running back position.

That was my big takeaway from his two media appearances today — firstly with Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN and then with reporters in his usual press conference.

We have a real formula (for) how we win” stated Carroll. “We’ve been unable the last two years to incorporate a major aspect of that… (it) is to run the football the way we want to run.”

He went on to highlight the resurgence of teams like the Rams, the Saints, the Eagles and the Vikings. Many of the teams in the playoffs are those capable of providing balance on offense.

The Seahawks haven’t had that balance for two seasons. They haven’t been able to run the ball effectively.

In November I wrote a piece titled, ‘Marshawn Lynch shaped hole still gaping in Seattle’. It was clear, I think, even in 2014 when Lynch was still helping the team, that replacing him was going to be the greatest challenge John Schneider and Pete Carroll faced. They either had to find gold somehow as they did drafting Russell Wilson in round three — or it was going to take an early round pick like the ones spent on Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette.

They’re still looking for a guy they crave to feature. A player they can rely on — to provide the tough yards, durability and consistency. It appeared Chris Carson could be that guy. He still could be. You can’t rely on that, however. He only managed a handful of games as a rookie.

So the search has to continue.

Like the Saints and Rams, Carroll believes Seattle can change their fortunes by running effectively:

The critical guys I think are the runners. The runners need to come back to life to us. And that’s Chris Carson and C.J. (Prosise) and Mike (Davis) coming back and whoever else can be part of that thing. J.D. McKissic was a really good positive aspect of our team this year and we need to make that position more competitive. That’s going to be one that we’re focused on because of the durability issues that we’ve faced the last two seasons.”

Carroll later said they would add to the runners, asking, “Who can we add to make it more competitive?” and stating, again, it would be “a big focal point“.

It was particularly interesting when Brock Huard pushed Carroll on the situation. Huard pulled no punches, laying out his concerns about the running game:

“Can you understand from me in this seat or a fan listening when saying, ‘Chris Carson?’ and C.J. — C.J.’s not been able to stay healthy so I can’t count on C.J. and a fan would say, ‘Chris looked really dynamic in the pre-season but I don’t know…’

We’ve gone from Christine Michael to Chris and Rawls and Eddie Lacy and there’s just been so much turnover at that position that a fan, I think, has a hard time saying, ‘man if Chris Carson were running behind that line in the season and with some of the blocking we watched Sunday, that he would be dynamic and be able to close that loop’.”

Carroll’s response?

I think it’s more impacting than you know

Carroll went on to admit the O-line could’ve been better up front. Yet it’s the sentence above I found most telling. He’s essentially spelling out the importance of a quality running back. When Carson was healthy, he ran effectively. He averaged 4.2 YPC and that’s when Rees Odhiambo was at left tackle, not Duane Brown.

They need more at the position. It’s not a cure-all to the problem. The offensive line does need to continue to make progress. They might add a veteran O-liner or two again, as they did a year ago.

But ultimately they need to find their answer to what LA has with Todd Gurley or New Orleans with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Carroll’s end of season press conferences have provided a good insight into what the team is planning for the draft and free agency.

A year ago Carroll listed the secondary, young depth at linebacker and the O-line as priorities. The Seahawks spent multiple picks on defensive backs and spent a second rounder on Ethan Pocic while adding Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi in free agency.

They brought in several linebackers to provide depth.

Before the 2011 season the focus was on improving the running game (they drafted James Carpenter and John Moffitt and signed Robert Gallery). In 2012 the target was speed in the front seven (they drafted Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner). In 2013 it was touchdown makers (enter Percy Harvin and Christine Michael with their first two picks).

The comments about the running back position today are enlightening. They’re also not that surprising. There’s a reason why we’ve been talking about college running backs for weeks. It’s also a position of strength and depth in the 2018 draft. This is one of those times where need matches availability perfectly.

The Seahawks don’t have to spend the #18 pick on a running back. They might acquire picks in rounds 2-3, they might trade down in round one. Whatever they do, they’re going to be able to find a running back (or two) that they like.

When I put together an early top-50 for 2018 list on Sunday, ten running backs were listed. That’s ten prospects potentially going before the end of round two. It’s not unrealistic. Some might drop into round three. Alvin Kamara did after all. It speaks to the depth at the position though — and the options available to the Seahawks.

They won’t have a shot at Saquon Barkley but the rest could all be in range. They might wish to consider Nick Chubb, Damien Harris or Ronald Jones II with their first pick. They could find a way to get into round two and look at Sony Michel, Royce Freeman or Kerryon Johnson.

There will be options later in the draft too. It feels like a class where adding two running backs would be a wise move. Take advantage of the depth.

If they had their second and third round picks, they might be more inclined to wait. With only one pick currently — even if they trade down — it feels likely running back will be an early-ish target in the draft.

That’s perhaps backed up by Carroll’s comments later on in his two media appearances. He not only spoke about the positive impact of consistency on the offensive line — he also discussed the “new nucleus” emerging with the likes of Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, Bradley McDougald and others. He said he’d “love to have” Byron Maxwell back and said he was “really excited” about Dion Jordan — a player who could be a “legitimate factor” in 2018.

Change is imminent on the defense. Too many well sourced reporters are talking about it. Michael Bennett admits he doesn’t think he’ll be back. Carroll suitably dodged a question about Earl Thomas returning, opting to answer by saying he’d had a great season.

Most of the change might come from within. They do have some pieces. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright will return for sure. Frank Clark and Jarran Reed have become important players while Naz Jones had a great rookie season. Sheldon Richardson could still return while Shaq Griffin, Maxwell, McDougald and Justin Coleman impressed at various points.

A younger, cheaper defense appears to be on the cards. A new era, so to speak.

And that could mean more investment and greater expense on the offense.

That’s not to say they won’t add to the new core on defense. There are some very appealing defensive players eligible for 2018. Carroll’s words today were revealing, however. He knows he needs to repair his running game. They can’t continue to struggle there for a third straight year.

Fixing the run has to be — and will be — a priority.

If you missed it earlier I posted a piece on the recent history of the #18 pick. Check it out by clicking here. Sometimes I will be posting multiple posts in a day, so if you want to follow along click the ‘HOME’ tab in the title bar and scroll down.

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Strength of the draft & best ten players for 2018

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

Tremaine Edmunds is without doubt one of the best players eligible for the 2018 draft

What is the strength of the 2018 draft?

It’s still early but increasingly it’s looking like the following positions:

Defensive front seven
Running back
Quarterback

All three areas contain depth and first round talent.

There are numerous potential first round picks at defensive line and linebacker. Bradley Chubb could/should be the first defensive player drafted. Clelin Ferrell and Vita Vea won’t last long either. Tim Settle, if he declares, is another big talent. The depth is significant too with Christian Wilkins, Taven Bryan, Derrick Nnadi, Maurice Hurst, Harrison Phillips and Da’Ron Payne all possible top-50 types.

The depth at DE/EDGE isn’t quite as good but there are a few names that jump out including Austin Bryant and Marcus Davenport. Arden Key is talented but with baggage while Harold Landry is quick but had a fairly disappointing season.

The linebacker group is highlighted by Virginia Tech’s brilliant Tremaine Edmunds. He is legitimately one of the best players eligible for 2018. He should be the first linebacker taken if he declares with Leighton Vander Esch, Roquan Smith, Rashaan Evans and T.J. Edwards all possible top-40 picks.

It could be a glorious crop of running backs. Saquon Barkley is the headliner but Ronald Jones II, Damien Harris, Kerryon Johnson and Bryce Love could find a home in round one. Royce Freeman might not be a great fit in Seattle’s scheme but he’s worth a second round pick. The sky’s the limit for Nick Chubb if he tests well at the combine and checks out medically.

Then you run down the depth. Derrius Guice is limited physically and possibly won’t go as early as some are projecting — but there’ll come a point where he’s a value pick. Rashaad Penny, Sony Michel, Bo Scarborough, Kalen Ballage, Kamryn Pettway and others provide the depth.

Quarterback likely won’t be a position the Seahawks target early but if Sam Darnold declares there’s a realistic prospect of five QB’s going in round one. Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Drew Lock have a chance while Mason Rudolph also has his backers. Luke Falk ended the season disappointingly but will be worth a shot in the middle rounds. Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham could be a wildcard and several teams will be interested in trying to develop Memphis’ Riley Ferguson.

The weaker positions appear to be offensive tackle, secondary and tight end. It’s possible no cornerbacks will be graded in the first round — unusual for such an important position. It’s also possible no tight ends will be drafted in the first two rounds. There are long standing issues with offensive tackles and while two or three could go in round one — it’s not a great class for the position.

Below are my ten best prospects eligible for the 2018 draft as of December 27th. I haven’t included quarterbacks because Seattle are one of the few teams with a Championship-winning franchise QB:

1. Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
An incredible talent. Big, fast, versatile, great character, kick return skills. One way or another Barkley’s going to impact a game. He scored 116.79 in SPARQ at the Nike combine in 2014. He could be the #1 overall pick, easily. The only thing to keep an eye on is his speed. He ran a 4.63 in 2014 at 208lbs. He looks faster but it won’t be too surprising if he proves to be more sudden than a sprinter.

2. Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Possibly as good a pure guard prospect as you’ll see entering the league. He has great size at 6-5 and 330lbs but moves well. He pulls nicely, he loves to get to the second level, he plays with an edge and he’s physical. Nelson’s got it all. It’s very difficult to identify flaws in his game. He deserves to go in the top-10.

3. Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
He’s the cousin of Georgia’s Nick Chubb. Nick famously had a sensational SPARQ combine, scoring an elite 143.91. Bradley is basically the 6-4, 275lbs version. He’s a difference-maker with the kind of charismatic personality often reserved for quality defensive linemen. He’s a great edge rusher but he’s strong with the ideal size to set the edge vs the run. Chubb has an incredible 25 TFL’s in 2017, having recorded 21.5 last year.

4. Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Listed at 6-5 and 260lbs, Ferrell looks and plays big. He’s an inside-out rusher with the ability to attack from different positions. He could be the best defensive lineman in the class. It’ll be interesting to get official weight and height numbers to see how he compares athletically to the other top defensive linemen. He does play in a star-studded Clemson front. It’s been suggested he could end up as a three-technique. Ferrell has 17 TFL’s in 2017.

5. Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
I don’t think you can fully appreciate Vea until you’ve seen him live. When you see a 6-5, 340lbs defensive lineman sprinting to the sideline, roaming the field and chasing down runners — it’s an incredible sight. Vea could be Haloti Ngata. He can rush the passer, hold the point and anchor and move around with unreal mobility for his size. Despite suggestions to the contrary, I’ve seen little evidence of him taking snaps off. He plays very hard and he’s immensely powerful.

6. Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
There are things Edmunds can work on if he starts at middle linebacker at the next level. Sometimes he misreads the play, or he’s slightly out of position. The thing is, I wouldn’t keep him at middle linebacker. He’s 6-5 and 236lbs, flies around the field, apparently is set to run in the 4.5 range and push 40 inches in the vertical. He’s a Bruce Irvin. He can play any spot at linebacker and rush the edge. His run defense is excellent in short yardage situations, he’s super quick and constantly plays in attack mode. Fantastic prospect.

7. Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
When you know to look for Settle and Edmunds, it’s fun to watch Virginia Tech’s defense. One moment Edmunds appears from nowhere to close on a running back or receiver in space to make an open-field tackle. The next there’s this 6-3, 328lbs monster moving like a 290lber rushing the interior and beating blockers with quickness and a swim move. He had 12.5 TFL’s in 2017 which is unusual for a player this big. Settle is extremely underrated.

8. Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
Some players just have ‘it’. It’s hard to describe but when you watch skill players on offense, the good ones just have a star quality sometimes. Odell Beckham Junior had it. Ezekiel Elliott had it. Mike Evans had it. Ronald Jones II has it. He plays with fantastic physicality despite weighing in the 200-210lbs range and will often break tackles and gain extra yardage. He’s also a home-run hitter if he finds a crease or the edge. The comparisons to Jamaal Charles are fair and Jones II just carries himself like a future stud. Look at the picture below. Jones II scores a touchdown on this play:

9. Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Harris is pretty close to the complete back. He’s a good size (5-11, 221lbs), he was a 126.93 SPARQ athlete at the Nike combine (where he ran a 4.48), he is a home-run hitter in the open field but also plays with great physicality. Harris pass-protects like the season is on the line every snap. There’s a legit feeling he might not declare for the draft. This year he averaged 8.2 YPC. Here’s a list of Alabama’s famous running backs over the years and their YPC’s:

Mark Ingram 2009 (Heisman winner) — 6.1 YPC
Mark Ingram 2010 — 5.5 YPC
Trent Richardson 2009 — 6.3 YPC
Trent Richardson 2010 — 5.9 YPC
Eddie Lacy 2012 — 6.5 YPC
T.J. Yeldon 2012 — 6.3 YPC
T.J. Yeldon 2013 — 6.0 YPC
T.J. Yeldon 2014 — 5.0 YPC
Derrick Henry 2014 — 5.8 YPC
Derrick Henry 2015 (Heisman winner) — 5.6 YPC
Bo Scarborough 2016 — 6.5 YPC
Bo Scarborough 2017 — 4.6 YPC
Damien Harris 2016 — 7.2 YPC
Damien Harris 2017 — 8.2 YPC

10. Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Urban Meyer raves about Price. It’s worth remembering that Meyer has coached great interior O-line talent, including both Pouncey brothers. Price is in that mould. He can play guard or center and he combines edge, physicality and footwork to dominate up front. He’s really tough and plays like his hair’s on fire. Very active, very aggressive with the mobility to move to the second level. The type of player who helps set the tone and settles into the NFL quickly. He’s not too far behind Quenton Nelson.

#11 would be UTSA’s Marcus Davenport.

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Speed on defense & thoughts on Marcus Davenport

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

UTSA’s Marcus Davenport appears to have freakish athleticism

Here’s a quote from Pete Carroll, speaking to Brock & Salk on 710 ESPN, the day after the Rams hammering:

“It seemed like they were faster than us, and that’s what we like to pride ourselves on, that we play faster than the teams that we play.”

It’s probably something to remember when the off-season begins.

The Seahawks haven’t looked particularly fast on defense this year. Even when healthy, the game against Tennessee sticks in the mind. They had some really tough, physical performances. Early in the year they propped up a stalling offense. They’ve had some clunkers too. And Carroll’s point on speed was an interesting one.

There are exceptions of course. Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner clearly are very fast for the two positions they play. Overall though?

If the Seahawks do look to make significant changes to the defense in the off-season, raw speed is likely to be at the forefront of their thinking. Carroll stated ‘speed in the front seven’ as a key need before the 2012 draft. They selected Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner with their first two picks. Irvin ran a 4.50 at 245lbs and Wagner a 4.45 at 241lbs.

That could be the starting point for a reshaping of the defense. Speed. Whether that’s in the front seven or at defensive back. The Seahawks set out to be bigger, faster and stronger. They might be about to focus on the ‘faster’ part in the 2018 off-season.

On that note, I want to spend today’s piece looking at Marcus Davenport. He’s a small school prospect at UTSA. He received attention from draft writers during the season — with some even including him in first round projections.

Over the years I haven’t written a lot about small school prospects. Tape access is limited. It’s also very difficult to get a feel for their potential playing a lower level of competition.

It really comes down to whether they absolutely dominate at the level. They need to if you’re going to imagine the huge jump to the NFL.

There are quarterback success stories. Carson Wentz is a recent example. Joe Flacco played at Delaware. Tony Romo at Eastern Illinois. Akiem Hicks, the brilliant defensive lineman at Chicago, attended Regina in Canada.

Generally though it seems like small school prospects get talked about a lot but many fail to get anywhere near the level of the names above. Davenport, however, might have a shot.

He will clearly benefit from a pro-weight training regime. He looks like he can actually become more physically impressive — which is saying something considering his size.

Tony Pauline wrote this about Davenport in October:

If your team needs a pass rusher in the offseason, remember the name Marcus Davenport. Entering the year graded as a priority free agent, Davenport has made scouts take notice with his dominant 2017 campaign. Six games into the season he’s recorded 32 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and has also broken up four passes. During the weekend victory over Rice, he led UTSA with 11 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Measuring in over 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Davenport plays quick, explosive football and makes plays behind the line of scrimmage as well as out in space. Versatility is key and Davenport offers potential as a one-gap defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. I would expect him to receive an invitation to a January All-Star game then attend the combine and eventually end up in the early part of the draft’s final day.

He did receive an invite to the Senior Bowl. He will be a fascinating player to observe in Mobile.

I’m going to go through some clips here. Firstly though, a quick point. Davenport is going to look like peak Jadeveon Clowney in some of these videos. He looks very impressive. He’s an intriguing prospect. So was Margus Hunt at SMU, drafted in the second round in 2013. He measured at 6-8 and 295lbs. His college tape, at times, was ridiculous. He looked like a monster. He’s had a pretty average NFL career though.

That doesn’t mean Davenport faces the same fate. That’s not the point I’m making. It’s merely that sometimes these devastating clips look amazing — but the next level is a giant leap.

Now let’s look at why Davenport is freakishly good:

There are not many defensive ends with Davenport’s size and this level of mobility in space. He chases the ball carrier down like a defensive back and does just enough to force him out of bounds for a huge loss.

The clip lists him at 6-7 and 255lbs. He’s actually 6-5 and 254lbs. You don’t see many draft prospects with that level of mobility and agility at that size.

Here’s another example:

Look at him work to the sideline. The quarterback isn’t the best athlete but Davenport barely breaks into a sweat controlling his movement and delivering a sledgehammer hit.

At times UTSA pretty much used him as a roaming/blitzing linebacker. He doesn’t just work well laterally, his closing burst is exceptional too:

On this evidence you’d expect a great 10-yard split.

One of the plays in the video above shows him lining up at DE and sprinting to cover the running back in the flat. Small school opponent or not — that’s impressive.

How is he as an EDGE rusher? Violent:

Look at his bend for the size, the explosion off the snap, the ability to just overpower blockers and hammer the quarterback. This is where you want to see him dominate. He’s facing inferior blockers. And Davenport takes their lunch money.

Watch him 17 seconds into this video. Not a great idea trying to block him with a running back:

Why not try a double team? In fairness this is a terribly executed double but Davenport just barges his way through, combining power and speed:

Here’s a full game of his snaps against North Texas:

If the Seahawks do set out to get younger and faster on defense, switching the identity of the franchise in the process, I’m not sure they’ll go after a small school D-liner to launch the re-tool. Davenport might be the type of player who needs time to deliver on his athletic potential.

Having said that, let’s see how he gets on at the combine. There’s a lot of potential and a lot to like. Davenport’s mobility and size isn’t common and he can clearly feature in a number of different roles.

If they want bigger, faster, stronger — he could be an option. As noted earlier, size and particularly speed could easily be the focus on defense in the off-season.

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