Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Maxx Williams, Markus Golden & Melvin Gordon impress

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

A few days ago we pondered the stock of Minnesota’s Maxx Williams. He announced his decision to declare as a redshirt sophomore — perhaps taking advantage of a paper-thin tight end class. Featuring in a run-heavy offense and used as an H-back/lead blocker on a lot of snaps, it was hard to judge his stock. How athletic is he? What is he capable of in the passing game?

Today answered a few questions. Or more specifically, the play above did. Wow.

That’s just beautifully improvised. As the quarterback extended the play he found the soft spot in behind the defense, caught the ball and turned a big play into a scoring play by hurdling two defenders. It’s one of the plays of the season for sure and hints at some sneaky athleticism and big play potential in the passing game.

I’ve watched three Minnesota games this year and haven’t seen a single bad snap out of Williams. No ugly drops (in fact, no drops period). No lack of effort. He’s a reliable target in the red zone and he’s capable of the spectacular catch. He might not be a Gronk or a Jimmy Graham in terms of size/speed — but he’s a freaking football player. He’s going to get out there and do a job every week. Not always flashy, but you know it’s there. The play in the Vine above isn’t the only example of his playmaking quality. It’s not the first time he’s hurdled a defender either:

He’s such a fascinating case. His combine will be interesting. The modest passing game in Minnesota explains the lack of targets and stats. He makes the most of what he gets — and the Seahawks love that. It’s one of the reasons they loved Kevin Norwood and why he screamed ‘Seattle’ pre-2014 draft. This isn’t an offense where you’ll get ten opportunities to make a play as a tight end or receiver. You might get three targets — so fill your boots when the time comes. That appears to be Williams’ forté.

The Seahawks have gone after production, difference making athleticism and/or size early in the draft. Williams doesn’t have great size and neither does he have the production. He might not be a difference making athlete. These are all things that could limit Seattle’s interest in the first/second round range. But you never know. He gives off a bit of a Seahawky vibe. And he could be a long term replacement for Zach Miller.

In the same Minnesota/Missouri Citrus Bowl game, Markus Golden was named MVP. He had 10 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. The guy is a flat out beast. He was a demon off the edge all day — he can play the run too. He has a terrific frame for the next level. Whether he has the length Seattle loves — that’s debatable. But you could just see him playing for the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s that type. He was barking at the Minnesota players all day too — “this isn’t the Big Ten”. If he isn’t a top-40 pick this game isn’t fair.

Melvin Gordon also put an exclamation point on his college career, leading Wisconsin to a big win against Auburn in the Outback Bowl. He ran for a game-record 251-yards and scored three touchdowns. The first was a wonderful weaving scamper, cutting back and forth through traffic (see it here). He was gliding the whole way — it was such a perfect, patient, fluid run. The second (see it here) was pure effort — out-running the secondary and fighting off a DB to make it across the line.

He actually came agonizingly close to breaking the NCAA record for rushing yards in a season. For those who say he was only productive in a piece of cake Big Ten — this performance should answer some of the doubters. This wasn’t Auburn at its best — far from it. But 251-yards against a top SEC outfit is intriguing — especially after a similar display against LSU in week one.

Gordon is going to be a top-20 pick. Maybe top-15. He’s that good. He will destroy the combine with an electric forty, a brilliant bench press and excellent broad/vertical jumps. He’s a gym rat — he lives in the gym. He has a tremendous frame to go with that fluid running style. In the right offense he could be a superstar. He’s not going to grind down a team with physical inside running. But if you give him a lane, he’s a threat to take it to the house. He will be a chunk-play artist and a threat to find the edge and explode. He has some of the creativity of Jamaal Charles with the sturdier frame of Demarco Murray.

It was frustrating to see Sammie Coates underused in his final game for Auburn. He was barely on the field. Was he healthy? Was he in the doghouse for choosing to declare? Who knows.

Meanwhile some interesting players declared for the draft this week — Oklahoma’s massive, athletic nose tackle Jordan Phillips could easily be a high pick. He’s much more agile than guys like Danny Shelton and the type of interior space-eater that goes early. Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson also declared. He’s a little bowling ball of power, similar to Michael Turner in his better years. He’ll be great value for someone.

There could be bad news for Tevin Coleman. Tony Pauline is reporting the Indiana running back has a foot injury and might not work out at the combine.

Ohio State’s impressive receiver Devin Smith has received an invite to the Shrine Game:

You can see Smith in tonight’s Sugar Bowl vs Alabama.

Finally — a quick thought on the Rose Bowl playoff game between Florida State and Oregon. Neither of the star quarterbacks played well. Marcus Mariota had an ugly interception before half time and looked antsy early on. He settled into a rhythm in the second half. But Jameis Winston showed why I didn’t put him in the first round of my first 2015 mock a few weeks ago.

After a bad fumble returned for a score virtually ended the game in the third quarter, Winston was pictured arguing with Head Coach Jimbo Fisher. You didn’t have to be a lip reader to notice Fisher state, “Jameis, if you don’t calm the (expletive) down, you’re going to the bench” (see for yourself). For all the talent. For all the potential. He is just immature. Off the field and on the field, the way he conducts himself is not how a franchise quarterback should act. It doesn’t matter how talented you are — he doesn’t look like a guy you want to go to war with. Don’t underestimate that, especially with Johnny Manziel’s shocking rookie season and all the off-field drama dominating NFL headlines this year.

Some players you just take the stance — “let someone else draft him”. Winston is a classic case there. If I was a Head Coach I wouldn’t want to deal with him. If I was a GM, I wouldn’t want my franchise depending on him. On the field he’s been a turnover machine in 2014/2015 to compound matters — and that’s before you get into all the nonsense off the field. It’ll take a brave team to invest a high pick here.

Ohio State’s Devin Smith is special, should be a first rounder

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Devin Smith should go in round one — he’s the real deal

You don’t need to be 6-4 and 220lbs to be a leading NFL receiver. Size helps. Julio Jones, Megatron, Demaryius Thomas, Mike Evans. Players that are open even when they’re not. Throw them the ball. They’ll make the play. They’re also a key mismatch in the red zone.

Yet recently we’ve seen a different type of receiver emerge. The sudden athlete. The guy who works the middle and just finds a way to get open with quick-twitch athleticism. Antonio Brown led the league in receiving yards this year. We all saw what Odell Beckham Jr did as a rookie. Emmanuel Sanders excelled in Denver. It helps when you play in a high-powered passing offense. but it shows you don’t need size to be a great receiver.

The Seahawks need a big target — but not because they lack an orthodox, tall #1 receiver. They need a red zone option more than anything. Seattle should be a better red zone team — they have Russell Wilson’s mobility, Marshawn Lynch running and yet it’s been another year of settling for field goals inside the 20. Wilson needs a fade option, he needs someone who can line up against a linebacker and just win with size/speed. If there’s a flaw in Wilson’s game it is the tendency to occasionally over-throw. The Seahawks needs someone who can go up and get a safe, deliberately over-thrown pass against a smaller defender.

This receiver or tight end doesn’t have to be a 1000-yard mass production guy. He just needs to be a touchdown maker. He needs to turn three into seven a few more times next year. For that reason, one way or another, I expect they’ll look at hulking big targets in free agency or the draft. Vincent Jackson might still be an option via trade. Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Cameron might reach free agency. It makes sense to add a veteran proven commodity like Jackson — especially given the thin options in the draft.

It doesn’t stop them (or us) looking at smaller receivers, similar to what the Seahawks already have. Ohio State’s Devin Smith looks Seahawky whether they draft him or not. He is a fantastic prospect and should be a first round pick.

He’s 6-0/6-1 and just under 200lbs. He has all of the explosive suddenness we’re seeing with Brown and Sanders. I’m not even scared to make a Beckham Jr comparison. He shares some similar characteristics. He can be a home-run hitter downfield but he’s also savvy on the shorter routes, knowing how to get open and settle into the soft zone. He has excellent hands and ideal catching technique. He’s controlled and competitive in equal measure. He’s got the long speed to be a deep threat but it’s that initial burst getting into his route that is most attractive.

A stat-line of 30 catches for 799 yards in 2014 doesn’t do his talent justice. It’s worth remembering he was playing with a second and then third string QB this year. He’ll be one to watch in the Sugar Bowl playoff game with Alabama.

Let’s look at the tape:

0:14 — Here’s a classic example of settling into a soft spot in the defense. The corner lines up tight on the snap but expects a deeper route over the middle. Smith settles down and throws off the defender, presenting an easy pitch and catch. He turns and gets up field. Textbook play to convert a 3rd and 15.

1:29 — Lines up in the slot and makes a difficult contested grab over the middle. Snatches the ball away from his body.

1:59 — Runs a route on the right sideline and wins at the red line. Keeps the defender away from the sideline creating a huge space for the quarterback to throw into. It’s a simple pass after that — all he has to do is drop it into the space and Smith tracks the ball in the air to catch over his shoulder. Perfect route technique and understanding. Smooth catch for a huge gain on 3rd and 23.

2:42 — Downfield touchdown. Again lines up in the slot and just runs away from two defensive backs on a go route. He eats up the cushion against the first DB easily and the safety doesn’t have enough time to react. It’s pure explosive speed and yet another nice catch away from his body for the big play.

0:11 — This is a hopeful chuck by the third string quarterback — and he’s bailed out by Smith’s ability to adjust and locate the ball in the air. Look at the replay and see how he destroys the cushion and turns the DB. The corner is in panic mode almost immediately, struggling to keep up. At the point the two meet to run downfield, Smith could’ve done anything. If he works back to the QB he has the whole field to aim at. He continues to the end zone but he’s got the leverage and the position — so he can afford to look for the ball while the defender simply tries to stick. It’s a bail out by the receiver, but one hell of a bail out.

1:14 — Another big touchdown play. Again Wisconsin give him a huge cushion (this equals respect) — but he flies past the DB and the quarterback does a nice job dropping it into the endzone. Smith locates the ball and catches it over his shoulder.

1:56 — My favorite play on either video. The corner blitzes leaving Smith to run downfield and match-up against a safety. Bad idea. The quarterback sees the mismatch and throws to the left corner of the endzone. Smith again has position (the DB isn’t facing the ball and is simply trying to keep up) and just goes up to high point the football for another touchdown. It’s just perfection.

He’s also active as a special teams gunner. His run blocking could be better, but you wouldn’t draft Odell Beckham Jr and then complain about run blocking. Can he return kicks or punts? Possibly.

Speed, suddenness, hands, technique, grit, intelligence. Smith is one of the most exciting players I’ve watched this year looking ahead to the 2015 draft. The type where you immediately realize ‘this guy gets it‘. I have no doubt over time he will begin to fly up the media boards and eventually settle into the first round debate. Perhaps even in the top-20.

We’ve discussed Seattle’s need for a big target for two whole seasons. Whether they get one or not — if they draft Devin Smith in the first round, you’d find no complaints from me. This guy is the real deal.

Tight end Maxx Williams turning pro, so how good is he?

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

It’ll be a dry year for tight ends in 2015. There’s a lack of depth and no obvious first round stand-out.

Michigan’s Devin Funchess reverted to wide receiver this year and a lot of people think he should make the switch back. For me — he’ll be used as a big receiver whatever title you give him. Watching the Ohio State tape you see a player with a lot of potential — it’s just a shame the rest of his career at Michigan was so thoroughly underwhelming. He needs to be pushed.

Minnesota’s Maxx Williams is the closest thing to a rounded tight end who can block and receive. He’s only a redshirt sophomore but according to reports today he plans to declare. I guess he’s striking while the iron is hot. Need a tight end? By default you’re going to spend a lot of time looking at this guy.

So what is he?

For the most part he’s been used as a blocking tight end and a redzone target. That’s not such a bad thing for the Seahawks considering they like blocking tight ends and need a redzone threat. But these types of prospects don’t tend to go early.

He had a 52-yard grab against Northwestern and a 53-yarder against Wisconsin. It shows he can make big gains in the passing game. The question is — can he expand beyond the role he had in Minnesota? The Gophers ran the ball 566 times this year compared to 221 throws. It’s not a tally conducive with great receiving stats. Is he a fairly modest blocking tight end without unique size (6-4, 250lbs) or great speed? Or can he show over the next couple of months that he is capable of being a dynamic receiver/blocker?

He doesn’t look big or particularly fast. He is incredibly reliable. This article by Darren Wolfson suggests he could sneak into the first round. That might be a stretch, barring a freakish work out at the combine. For me he looks like a solid third round type at best who could provide some value. Perhaps he sneaks into the second. Again, much will depend on his work out — even in a weak class for tight ends.

Rob Gronkowski is 6-6 and 265lbs. Jimmy Graham is 6-7 and 265lbs. Antonio Gates on the other hand is a comparable 6-4 and 255lbs. Nobody is going to mistake Williams for the freak-of-nature tight ends dominating the NFL over the last few years. He’s the son of former NFL center Brian Williams — a first round pick (#18 overall) in 1989. He had ten years with the New York Giants. His grandfather (Robert Williams) was a quarterback at Notre Dame and a former draft pick in 1959 by Chicago.

Here’s the tape:

It’s tough to judge his potential watching only his most productive performance of the season, but it’s all we’ve got for now. In terms of blocking there’s not much to complain about but neither is there anything really to excite. He does his job for the most part. He doesn’t blow anyone up in the video above. He takes a lot of snaps at H-back and roams around like a glorified lead blocker.

At the 2:08 mark he makes an eye-catching sideline grab, dragging a toe in bounds to make a leaping catch. It’s excellent control and skill rather than brilliant athleticism here — which kind of sums him up as a prospect. Modest but really, really effective.

At 2:49 he does a good job getting open in the endzone for the first score. Solid movement, understands the route and executes perfectly. At 3:39 it’s more of the same — another fantastic route to the back of the endzone straining to get in position to make another very accomplished grab. It’s effort and determination plus more execution. Totally solid. The final touchdown is a nice little crossing route — nobody picks him up and it’s a wide open score.

It’s hard to say this is what the Seahawks are missing on offense, despite their need for better weapons in the red zone. If he lasts into the middle rounds he could easily be an option — but if he goes as early as Wolfson suggests, it might be a bit rich for Seattle.

A quick note to finish — I’m currently running through the NC State/UCF Bowl tape. I mentioned offensive tackle Rob Crisp as a nice prospect to monitor in October and once again he looked the part. He did a good job handling Clemson’s Vic Beasley earlier in the year. I don’t expect the Seahawks to spend high picks on the offensive line again in 2015, but if they’re looking for depth later on — Crisp could be an option.

NFL Draft: Potential first round targets for the Seahawks

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Gym-rat Melvin Gordon will almost certainly interest the Seahawks

What I considered making this list:

1. It’s about more than SPARQ
The Seahawks love difference-making athleticism, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Bruce Irvin is a stunning athlete but he was also the best pass rusher in college football in 2010 (he had a good season in 2011 too). Bobby Wagner was productive and so was Russell Wilson. Earl Thomas had eight interceptions in 2009 for Texas. More recently, Paul Richardson had a 1343-yard season for Colorado — including ten touchdowns. Yes — they want the best athletes. But there needs to be a level of production to back up the potential.

2. They need to fit in
Before the last draft Pete Carroll and John Schneider talked about finding players that can survive in Seattle’s ultra-competitive locker room. A potential defensive prospect has to mesh with the big personalities on this team. A receiver has to be comfortable competing against the LOB every day. Character, self-confidence and competitiveness has to be part of the make-up here. Shy and retiring won’t cut it.

Running backs
Whether it’s retirement or just time to move on, Marshawn Lynch’s days in Seattle (sadly) appear numbered. This will leave a big hole in the running game. Unlike a lot of other teams that treat the position as an afterthought, the Seahawks want to dominate in the run game. They’ve had a superstar playing the position during Pete Carroll’s first five seasons in Seattle — they’d probably like another X-Factor player to lead the rushing attack going forward. It’s a good class for running backs with three stand-outs.

Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
There’s every chance he’s a top-15 pick and therefore out of reach for the Seahawks. If he lasts, it could be a no-brainer. He’s a totally different player to Lynch but ticks all the required boxes: he’s a fantastic athlete and gym rat, he has major production (Heisman finalist) and a competitive, team-friendly personality. You can imagine him shadowing Russell Wilson, working identical hours. A lot of teams will grade Gordon in the top 15-20 but need and positional value could keep him on the board. It’s a long-shot to think he’d be there for the Seahawks but he’s also the type of player you can build around. You can imagine John Schneider really liking him. Enough to move up? Maybe.

Production: 2336 rushing yards in 2014, 29 total touchdowns

Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
In terms of pure talent Gurley would be among the top five players in the draft. He won’t go that early because of a nasty ACL injury towards the end of the college season. He probably won’t work out pre-draft and the fierce nature of the position plus an injury history might put some teams off. One of two things will happen in April: a team in the teens will take a punt on his obvious potential or a really good team in the 20’s or 30’s is going to get a rehab project for the ages. If the Seahawks were willing to play the long-game with Gurley they could end up with another superstar to replace Lynch. He’s a 230lbs home-run hitter who returns kick-offs for TD’s, explodes through running lanes, knows how to break a tackle and work into the passing game. You might not get an immediate return due to the injury, but when he’s healthy — Gurley’s a beast. He commands respect from his team mates. Business like personality, speaks with ingrained self-belief.

Production: 911 rushing yards in just six games, 10 total touchdowns

Tevin Coleman (RB, Indiana)
Coleman deserves as much attention as the other two, especially after a fanastic season for the Hoosiers. Everything you read about him is positive — he’s loved by the Indiana coaches. He had a close family upbringing and stayed in contact with his Pee-Wee coaches. He was born three months premature and given a 20% chance of living. He’s a humble, respectable individual. On the field he’s electric — a terrific one cut and go runner. He has the size to work up the middle but he’s at his best finding a crease and exploding. Intense competitor on the field and throws his body around in pass protection. Always seems to fall forward. He should go in the top-40 and whoever gets him will land a productive runner for the next few years. It’ll be interesting to see how he does at the combine but he looks athletic and he ticks all the boxes in terms of competitiveness and character.

Production: 2036 rushing yards in 2014, 15 total touchdowns

Wide receivers
Even after drafting Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood in 2014, the Seahawks stand to add another option to their passing game in the off-season. They’ve lost Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice in the last few months. They have a lot of similar receivers in terms of size, frame and speed. They don’t have a player with Harvin’s explosive ability or Rice’s size. For that reason there’s every chance they’ll consider another early pick here. Ideally they’d grab a big target — but the options are limited. Michigan’s Devin Funchess looks the part but he’s not a self motivator and needs to be pushed. He’s also inconsistent catching the ball and never lived up to expectations.

Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
He ticks all the boxes with his on-field play. White high points the football naturally with terrific catching technique. He’s a physical receiver who competes for the ball in the air. He’s shown he can be a red zone threat and a reliable third-down target. He’s not a burner but he can run away from speedy cornerbacks on shorter routes exploiting YAC. His team mates really respect him at WVU and have taken on his “Easy” catchphrase after making a big play. Turned his career around after a tough start in the JUCO’s. Has a little Larry Fitzgerald to his game even if he doesn’t look as imposing physically. Could easily go in the top-20 but he’s also a one-year wonder and there’s some depth at receiver again this year.

Production: 1318 receiving yards in 2014, nine touchdowns

Sammie Coates (WR, Auburn)
A candidate to be the best athlete at the combine, Coates is just a rare combination of muscle and speed. He made #1 in Bruce Feldman’s annual ‘freaks’ list for 2015. He’s also a humble individual who befriended a young cancer sufferer and spends a considerable amount of his free time with her. On the field he’s inconsistent — he drops too many passes and doesn’t have major production in a run-heavy scheme. I suspect Seattle is willing to look beyond production if you make the most of your limited chances — that’s why they drafted Kevin Norwood. Coates isn’t anywhere near as efficient as Norwood but he did make some key plays in big games against Alabama and LSU. Essentially he’s a big-time threat downfield and has the size to play the Sidney Rice role. Major SPARQ candidate.

Production: 23.90 YPC, three of his four big-play touchdowns occurred when Auburn trailed

D’haquille ‘Duke’ Williams (WR, Auburn)
Coates’ team mate at Auburn is a very different player — perhaps the type Seattle has lacked. He just looks like a #1 receiver with similar size to Dez Bryant. Big hands, long arms, great size. Williams has only played one season with the Tigers and already looks like a stud. He’s just a very naturally gifted player who will, one day, be a very effective NFL receiver. He was the unquestioned leader at his old JUCO team and he plays with an edge. He wouldn’t have any trouble surviving Seattle’s fierce locker room. He’d provide a red zone threat and another option over the middle/working the seam. He might need some seasoning — it’s tough to go from the JUCO’s to the NFL after just one year in the SEC. But he’s such a natural pass-catcher you wouldn’t bet against an early impact. The sky’s the limit for Williams.

Production: 730 yards and five touchdowns in ten games on a run-heavy offense

Pass rushers
After extending Cliff Avril’s contract they might steer clear of a high pick at defensive end. Depth is the key really and there’s enough talent to wait until the middle rounds. They could even bring in a Brian Orakpo or Jabaal Sheard in free agency, depending on how much cap room is left. Even so — this is a terrific class for pass rushers. Not all fit Seattle’s penchant for length, explosive speed (eg 1.50 ten yard split) and production. The ones that do could be on the radar.

Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
He’s a project with major upside. When you watch Harold on tape there’s a lot to work on. He has a ton of snaps where he struggles to have an impact. But then he’ll fly around the edge at warp-speed to make a splash play. His get off is potentially elite. He looks like he’ll run an outstanding ten yard split and he appears to have enough length to interest Seattle. Hand placement can be improved and you wonder if he’ll be able to win using just speed but the upside is clear to see. What I like most about Harold, aside from the athleticism, is his personality. He’s incredibly mature. Lost his mother at a young age and made Virginia coach Mike London a father-figure. Speaks with tremendous passion and heart. You want to root for him.

Production: 14.5 TFL’s in 2014 plus seven sacks

Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
What isn’t Seahawky about a 6-8, 285lbs defensive linemen who is the heart and soul of his team and plays loose and ferocious at the same time? Oakman has battled adversity, poverty and disappointment to become the leader of the Baylor Bears. His back-story is fascinating and his athletic potential is outstanding. If he declares he too could be one of the stars of the combine. He carries minimal body fat — he’s 6-8 and pure muscle. He plays with great upper body strength. He’s not the most agile as you’d expect but his straight-line speed is fine. He’s different in a good way. He could be special. The Seahawks like ‘special’ difference makers. There aren’t many human beings like this. He does struggle to get off blocks but you see his power and length every snap. He could develop into a more athletic Calais Campbell.

Production: 18.5 TFL’s in 2014 plus 10 sacks

Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
I think Dupree could be a top-15 pick but others have him in the late first. He doesn’t have great length and that could be an issue. Everything else about his game is so ‘Seattle’. He’s a big time leader, a disruptive pass rusher with tremendous athleticism. He could play defensive end and outside linebacker. He flies to the ball and constantly makes plays. You have to account for his presence every snap. Technically he’s assured and he’s primed to make a quick impact at the next level. It’s impossible not to admire Dupree and he’ll have a long and successful NFL career wherever he ends up. His coaches love him and he’s dragged a struggling program towards relevance in the SEC this season. Very mature and accomplished.

Production: One pick-six, 12.5 TFL’s, 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, five QB hurries and a blocked kick in 2014

Other positions
I’ve listed three possible needs above but there’s every chance they just take one of the better players on their board. This is a good enough team to not have to go after specific needs, especially when you have 10-11 picks and a track record of finding starters in the later rounds.

Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
Incredible range. It’d be fun to consider how the Seahawks would use him in their defense. He could do some rushing off the edge, he could line up in any of the linebacker spots. They could use him as a roaming safety similar to Deone Bucannon. Could they use him to cover a specific target? He could even take some snaps at running back and be a special teams demon. He’s a playmaker and a great athlete — the type creative coaches (like Pete Carroll) love to get their hands on. In many ways it’d be interesting to see Thompson game-planned into different roles instead of being used as an orthodox outsider linebacker.

Production: 456 rushing yards (two TD’s), three fumble returns for touchdowns, a pick-six, two TFL’s and a sack

T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
A converted defensive linemen with plenty of upside. He admits he had a rough first year after the switch but settled into the right tackle spot in 2014. Honest, talented and room to develop. A lack of experience will concern some in a relatively good tackle class — especially considering he didn’t cover the blind side. I’m not convinced Seattle will spend yet another high pick on the offensive line but with Russell Okung’s contract nearing it’s conclusion and Justin Britt struggling a bit they could consider it. I think an extension for Okung and patience with Britt is more likely, but we’ll see. After Stanford’s Andrus Peat, Clemmings is the most intriguing tackle in the class for me.

Production: Pitt ranked 16th nationally for rushing yards, with Clemmings leading the way

Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State) & Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
I think the Seahawks are happy to use the second-wave free agent market and middle rounds to go after interior defensive linemen. I think it’d take a really special talent (such as Aaron Donald) to force their hand. I’m not convinced we’ll see them take a first round defensive tackle in 2015. The two players that might fit are former 5-star recruits Goldman and Brown. Goldman in particular is a tremendous athlete with genuine power in the running game. He could rise into the top-ten with a good off-season. Brown is no less impressive and also excels against both the run and pass. I’d expect both to be off the board before Seattle’s pick.

Production: Goldman — eight TFL’s and four sacks, Brown — 12.5 TFL’s and 6.5 sacks

Shawn Oakman is an interesting case, kind of Seahawky

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Watch the video above. It’s the best way to introduce this piece.

Shawn Oakman is considering turning pro and you can understand why. He knows what he needs to do. This is about helping his family. He is the great hope. The 6-8, 285lbs freak of nature who simply had to make the most of his talent.

And yet he was expected to do it all on his own.

A lot of NCAA athletes get help. They receive expensive scholarships. They’re mollycoddled along through college. There are players that are destined to play in the NFL the moment they leave High School. Everything is geared towards getting them there. I get that.

Then there’s a guy like Oakman, who was dropped off at the door to begin life at Penn State with $200 in his pocket.

He didn’t last long, of course. In his words, “I’m either gonna eat or go to bed hungry once again. I chose to eat.” So he stole.

It’s not an excuse for shoplifting. I’m not trying to say what he did was right. He paid for it — Bill O’Brien kicked him off the team. But this is college life for some of these athletes. How many rookies do you hear reference, “I can afford to eat now” when they turn pro? College can be a real struggle.

It can also make a man as he looks to begin a career.

It’s hard not to be impressed with Oakman’s physical make-up. His height, length and power are quite frankly amazing. For that reason he could easily go in the top ten next April. There aren’t many human beings that look this good at 6-8 and 285lbs. He is built like a Greek God. He’s all muscle — he will have a ridiculously low body fat percentage even at 285lbs.

For me it’s not even the most impressive thing about him. I’m more impressed that someone as respectable as Larry Johnson went to bat for him to get him back on track. That he understood the problems he faced at Penn State and went out of his way to get him to Baylor. I’m equally impressed with the way he became the heart and soul of the Bears in less than a year.

There are plenty of good players at Baylor. Oakman is their leader. He doesn’t just lead the D-line or the defense. He leads the team. See for yourself:

Getting an offensive lineman to dance in pads doesn’t seem like an easy thing to do. Kudos to Shawn Oakman.

The second video is pretty telling. He marches around the field like one of the coaches while the rest of the squad are going through warm-ups. Art Briles, Baylor’s General, is seen encouraging Oakman to feed the message: “Nobody better” to the rest of the team.

It’s impossible not to respect the journey he’s taken or to appreciate how comfortable he is leading this group.

So what about the on-field play?

For a guy with such unbelievable size, at times he’s a little underwhelming. Your expectations are so high because of the physical measurements. You almost expect J.J. Watt. You don’t get it. He mixes between ineffective and explosive. He’s still a work in progress. But he’ll be a fantastic project for a good defensive minded coach.

His great reach is a major positive. He often keeps blockers at arms length and does a good job setting the edge, rolling the OT and eating up space along the line. He holds the point well and rarely gets pushed around. When he gets the speed-to-power working he can dominate — rag-dolling a lineman to break into the backfield to work against the run or pass. He has 10 sacks in 2014 and 18.5 TFL’s — a great return in his first full year as a starter. The potential is off the charts.

There are flaws too. His size is a strength and a weakness — he’s not the most agile pass rusher as you’d expect at 6-8. He’s not going to explode off the spot and beat a great left tackle for speed off the edge. He’s going to have to win more often than not with power and the bull rush. His enormous frame presents a great big target for a lineman to get his hands on. Despite having such great length he will struggle to disengage and break free from a blocker. He wastes far too much time getting caught at the line and you’d like to think he’d be better defending the run inside.

I think all the flaws are correctable because you see such explosive plays in pretty much every game. Against Texas he destroyed a double-team, leaving both blockers on the floor to hammer a running back for a loss. He decimated a terrible SMU outfit. The only Big-12 game where he didn’t get a sack was a blowout victory over Oklahoma. If you accept he’s never going to be J.J. Watt and try to max out the tremendous value of his unnatural size, you can nurture his potential into a really effective (if not dominant) defensive lineman.

He could develop into an even more athletic version of Calais Campbell. At Miami he was always bigger and built to play inside. And yet the measurements are similar — they’re both 6-8. Campbell has an extra 15lbs on Oakman. They’re both very powerful but not pure edge rushers. The big difference is Campbell can line up in the middle and take away the run. I highly doubt Oakman will be able to do that, at least in the early years.

Campbell ended up being the #50 pick in 2008. Oakman’s being graded anywhere from the top ten to the late first and beyond. Some teams will pass because he’s not the finished article and this is going to be a draft filled with talented plug-and-play pass rushers.

You have to believe the Seahawks will be attracted to his size. SPARQ isn’t just about speed, it’s about measurables too. He won’t need to run a 4.5 to be off the charts. If you improve his technique he could be a major asset for a D-line — working inside and out. They do love players that have special qualities. He might not be the finished product, but he sure could be special. And he has also that edge to him — the guy who battled adversity to lead his team. He has that ‘loose but determined’ character.

I suspect this could be an offensive minded draft for the Seahawks early on — especially given the way the defense is playing. There is something so appealing though in adding another defensive stud to the mix. I think it’s unlikely he lasts until the back-end of round one. He could be an intriguing option if he did.

He’s yet to make a firm decision on whether he’ll declare for 2015 but after such a productive year it’d certainly make sense. It’s not often a player like this comes along.

Nate Orchard is underrated, could be a mid-round pick

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Utah’s Nate Orchard could be a nice option

When I watched Utah beat UCLA, one player stood out. Nate Orchard had four sacks in the game. He dominated from start to finish. But it wasn’t a surprise.

Brett Hundley has been sacked over 100 times at UCLA in just three years. The Bruins offensive line is a shambles. It’s any wonder Jim Mora hasn’t made a few ‘dirt bag’ references since moving to L.A. So watching a guy like Orchard fly around the field and make plays wasn’t a shock. I kind of chalked it down to a ‘right time, right place’ type of situation.

And then I watched the Oregon State game. It was no fluke. The guy can play.

He has 17.5 sacks on the season so far with a Bowl game to come. He’s about 6-2 and 250lbs — so he doesn’t have great length. And that’s going to be a problem for a lot of teams. He doesn’t have the size to be an every-down pure end in the 4-3. He might be pigeon-holed as an outside backer in the 3-4. But if he’s quick enough he might find a role in Seattle’s rotation.

It’ll be interesting to see what his wingspan is. You wouldn’t expect long arms at 6-2. He consistently flashes a nice get off and the ability to get off blocks. The way he disengages is top notch. While a guy like Shawn Oakman will linger on a block far too long, Orchard has a real ‘get off me’ mentality. That’s encouraging, particularly if the arm length is at least average. It’s more likely to translate.

His pad level is always spot on and he understands leverage and hand placement. Despite a lack of great size he’ll offer a real jolt to the body to stun a tackle. You can have all the speed in the world but when a pass rusher is converting to the pro’s he HAS to show this kind of ability. Defensive end is one of the toughest positions to project for the next level. Think of all the high-profile busts in recent years. Just because you’re a great athlete who wins with speed in college doesn’t mean it’ll translate when you take on better, tougher offensive linemen. You simply have to show you can get off a block with hand placement. It’s a necessity.

You also need to show you can convert speed to power. Orchard does that too. He’ll feign the outside rush and deliver a fantastic bull rush right into the body of an unbalanced tackle. There are times when he gets engulfed but that shouldn’t be a surprise at 250lbs. You’ll take that. He isn’t going to win every play, nobody should expect him to.

I’m not convinced he’ll be an explosive runner at the combine and that could hurt his chances of landing in Seattle. They are big on the 10-yard split. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin both ran explosive splits. But Orchard’s first step quickness is good enough to be a threat and he does round the edge nicely. In one rush against Oregon State he left the tackle for dead to fly around the edge and get to the QB. He can get stronger — add some muscle tone to his upper half and really improve his lower body power. I think that’d be the way to go given he probably isn’t going to be a 1.50 runner over ten yards.

For me he’d be a very solid mid-round selection. You have to temper expectations because of the size and the lack of brilliant athletic qualities. He doesn’t have the same athleticism as some of the other prospects who will go in the first — or necessarily the upside. But he’s technically superior and has the production. If he performed above expectations at the combine his stock could go through the roof, much like Marcus Smith this year. Don’t rule that out. If Seattle did want to add a little more depth to the edge rush, this is definitely a guy to monitor.

In the aftermath of the Avril extension, Seattle is possibly less likely to go DE early. The offense needs work — particularly if they lose Marshawn Lynch. But they’re likely to add a pass rusher at some stage. Orchard is an option. He’s also a team captain at Utah and he’s already married with a child. He’s a mature guy who will impress teams with his character.

Do the Seahawks need a new right tackle?

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Justin Britt has had a mixed rookie season at right tackle

Justin Britt is fourteen games into his NFL career. Some would argue it’s too early to judge his performance. He’s a rookie. He’s learning a new position and scheme. He’s also faced some of the top pass rushers in the league — whether it’s Denver’s Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware combo or the prolific blitz attack of the Arizona Cardinals. This has been the proverbial baptism of fire.

Inexperience could be used as a legitimate excuse. He could improve with time. Look at the way Jordan Hill has suddenly exploded onto the scene towards the back-end of his second season in Seattle. It’s taken Tharold Simon time to get healthy and have an impact. Golden Tate was a slow burner and even Kam Chancellor sat as a rookie to learn the ropes.

Britt hasn’t been afforded that luxury. The Seahawks needed a right tackle after losing Breno Giacomini. When they reached the final pick in the second round of the draft — they simply had to take one.

By pick #64, seven offensive tackles had been drafted. When the Indianapolis Colts took Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort at #59 (a possible Seahawks target), Seattle faced a dilemma. They didn’t have a third round pick — they coughed it up in the ill-fated Percy Harvin trade. They were next on the board at pick #108 at the top of round four. If they didn’t take Britt at #64, they were probably not going to come away with a guy they liked at right tackle.

Britt is a Tom Cable type of guy. No nonsense. Former wrestler. Tough as nails. The Seahawks have leaned on their offensive line coach for advice in the draft — he appeared to be instrumental in the decision to select James Carpenter and John Moffitt months after arriving in Seattle. They also signed one of his former Oakland players — Robert Gallery — to further bolster the line. They even allowed him to draft a defensive lineman, convert him to guard, and start him in the first game of his rookie season. J.R. Sweezy has since become a mainstay on the O-line.

It’d be easy to look at the acquired group (including Britt) with indifference. The results, however, speak volumes. Pete Carroll wants the best running game in the NFL and that’s what he has — with Cable pulling the strings. For all the complaints over pass protection, before week 15 Seattle ranked only four places below the celebrated Dallas Cowboys offensive line according to Football Outsiders. I suspect both Carroll and Cable are quite satisfied to have a highly ranked run-blocking unit, even if the pass-pro is distinctly average.

That’s part of the reason Britt was drafted in round two. I watched two Missouri games over the summer where he played the run superbly — but looked awkward in pass protection. He played at left tackle but looked far from a natural.

I doubt they planned on rolling out a finished article in 2014. Losing Zach Miller — perhaps the best blocking tight end in the league — hasn’t helped. His presence on the right side would’ve taken the pressure off Britt in his first year. Instead he’s had to get out there and take on the best. It hasn’t been pretty.

In Sunday’s win over San Francisco, Ahmad Brooks had him for dinner. On more than one occasion he had a free run to Russell Wilson. Britt didn’t even lay a finger on him. Giacomini was a brawler and far from perfect in pass protection but he usually did enough to buy his quarterback a bit of extra time. Britt has to develop that kind of effectiveness. He’s never going to be the natural pass blocker who kick-slides with ease and ushers the top DE’s out of danger. But he needs to be disruptive, get into the pads and at least buy Wilson a second or two.

Life won’t get any easier in the final two weeks of the regular season. A rematch with the Cardinals in Arizona — and then St. Louis’ all-star D-line. Ouch.

With every struggling performance you wonder how Seattle’s front office and coaching staff will assess this situation. Will they feel Britt can take the next step in year two? Can he grow just like J.R. Sweezy and others. Can he lock down the position for years to come?

Or is he better off moving inside — just as James Carpenter did after a tough rookie season — and trying his hand at guard?

If the Seahawks were willing to give up on the #25 overall pick at right tackle after one year, you better believe they’ll do the same with the #64 pick. Carpenter’s pending free agency status adds another dimension to this debate. If he walks they could let Britt battle with Alvin Bailey for the left guard spot. The other player, theoretically, could start at tackle. Or they could bring in a new body.

Should they decide to bring in a new tackle — what are the options?

It’s another good class for offensive linemen, even if there isn’t that sure-fire top-five pick heading the group. Depth is the key here — and that’s a good thing for the Seahawks. They’ll be picking in the 20’s or 30’s if they make the playoffs. And there’s every chance they’ll have the opportunity to get a solid player if they want to add another early pick to this unit.

La’el Collins (T/G, LSU) divides opinion. For me he needs to kick inside to guard at the next level — but he has a chance to turn into a perennial Pro-Bowler at that position. Could he operate at right tackle? Perhaps. But you’d be wasting a damn fine guard.

T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh) is the most intriguing tackle in the class. A converted defensive lineman, he’s looked terrific this year playing at right tackle. He’s mobile, athletic, loves to get to the second level. He has the potential to dominate in the run game. He could work his way into being the first or second tackle off the board.

Two of the bigger names — Cedric Oguehi (T, Texas A&M) and Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa) are a bit overrated. Ogbuehi in particular has struggled this year after moving to left tackle. Scherff might be better suited to guard — he’s another player with the potential to excel in the run game but is he good enough in pass protection?

It’s debatable whether Andrus Peat (T, Stanford) and Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame) will declare. If either does, they have a shot to be among the top-15 picks. Peat is a natural in pass-pro and the best pure left tackle eligible for this draft. Tyrus Thompson (T, Oklahoma), Corey Robinson (T, South Carolina) and Ty Sambrailo (T, Colorado State) could all be options too. The depth extends to Cameron Erving (T/C, Florida State), Chaz Green (T, Florida), Jake Fisher (T, Oregon) and Daryl Williams (T, Oklahoma).

Here’s the issue though. Is replacing a struggling rookie with another first-year player the answer? Spending a first round pick on a right tackle (Carpenter) didn’t provide a solution. Spending a second round pick on a right tackle (Britt) hasn’t paid off so far. Do you keep throwing picks at a non-premium position in the hope you finally strike it lucky?

And yes — it is a non-premium position. If Zach Miller returns in 2015, Britt will get the kind of help he currently desperately needs. The Seahawks have won a whole host of games in the last two years starting Michael Bowie and Britt. Their most productive starting right tackle under Carroll and Cable has been a 5th round pick signed off the Packers practice squad.

It would be unprecedented for a team to spend two first round picks and a second round pick within a five year span trying to get a long term starting right tackle.

If they’re going to sign another player, wouldn’t they be better off adding a competent veteran tackle to the roster? Playing it safe at a slightly greater cost? Doug Free could be a cap casualty in Dallas as they try to re-sign DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant. He has his critics in Dallas — but he is the kind of player who could become available.

Alternatively, there is one not insignificant reason to draft a first round tackle. Russell Okung will enter the final year of his rookie deal in 2015. His cap hit is just $7m — a relative bargain for a player of his ability. But what happens after 2015? He could be a difficult keep. On the one hand he made a Pro-Bowl in 2012 and is a highly respected member of the roster. A team leader and a consistent feature during the Carroll revolution. He’s also struggled to stay healthy and might generate serious money on the open market.

Is a first round left tackle necessary? More often than not, yes. Defenses are getting faster. The top, athletic O-liners go early. It’s why Carroll’s first pick in Seattle was a top-ten tackle.

Would they draft a player to initially feature at right tackle, providing security on the left side if Okung walks? Possibly.

Of course, there’s every chance time will be a healer with Justin Britt. And it’s also very possible the Seahawks re-sign Okung. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing either. Again — the Seahawks want the best run-blocking line in the NFL. They’ve set out to draft run blockers. They know they have a scrambling quarterback who can evade pressure — they want to be a scrambling team. Wilson is a difficult guy to block for and it should be no surprise that the top two pass-protecting lines in the NFL according to FO are Denver and New England. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are easier to block for and they both have a super-quick release.

Don’t underestimate consistency either. Keeping a line together is vital — more vital than endless high picks at the position hoping something eventually clicks.

The play of Britt didn’t cost Seattle in any of their four defeats. Let’s hear that perspective. There’s every chance he will improve in year two. But it’ll be interesting to see how they approach this situation in the off-season. Does he switch to guard? What do they do with Carpenter? And would they be prepared to spend yet another early pick trying to find a long term option at right tackle?

T.J. Clemmings vs Miami

Ty Sambrailo vs Boston College

Jake Fisher vs Washington

Brandon Scherff vs Maryland

The curious case of Auburn’s Sammie Coates

Friday, December 12th, 2014

In our first 2015 mock draft yesterday, some of you asked why we had Seattle taking D’haquille ‘Duke’ Williams over his Auburn team mate Sammie Coates.

It’s a fair question. Coates is a tremendous athlete and a safe bet to be one of the combine’s winners in February (if he decides to turn pro as a redshirt junior). In Bruce Feldman’s annual ‘Freaks’ list, this year he had Coates at #1:

Asked about Coates’ 40-time, Russell (Ryan Russell, Auburn strength coach) said they use hand times (which are often faster than electronic times) and they clocked him eight times, dropped out the highest and lowest and said he was at 4.25. Coates’ vertical jump: 44 inches. He benches 405 pounds. Maybe even more impressively, Russell said, the wideout did three strict chin-up reps despite have three 45-pound plates strapped to a weight belt around his waist. “He’s just a stud,” said Russell.

You just have to look at the guy to realize he’s as advertised. Coates is ripped. The extreme speed shows when he’s running downfield. At 6-2 and 201lbs he’s big enough. Simply put, he’s an outstanding athlete.

The type Seattle loves.

Ever since the 2012 draft they’ve focused on big-time, difference making athleticism. Bruce Irvin in the first round, followed by Bobby Wagner. In 2013 they traded the farm for Percy Harvin and followed it up by drafting Christine Michael in round two. This year they went after Paul Richardson with their top pick. You can see a theme emerging.

A lot of people wondered why we didn’t put a defensive tackle with the Seahawks yesterday. I don’t think they’d do it to be honest. I think they’ll continue to look for special athletic potential. Kind of like a modified Al Davis view of the game. Go after the stud’s in the early rounds — get your meat and potatoes type’s later on.

If SPARQ is such a big factor — ask yourself this. How many defensive tackles are great SPARQ athletes? Very few. The ones who are go early (see: Aaron Donald). Too early for a competitor. I think they’ll continue to look for the run stoppers, the interior defensive (and offensive) linemen later in the draft — mid-to-late rounds and UDFA. I don’t think they’re going to change, even if the Irvin pick provided mix results and the Michael selection is yet to pay off.

Coates the athlete is practically already wearing College Navy and Wolf Grey. But is Coates the football player worthy of consideration? That’s the big question.

We identified several big-time athletes at the wide receiver position prior to the 2014 draft. Guys like Cody Latimer, Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant. None landed in Seattle. We can speculate why — was Latimer the type of character to mesh in an intense locker room? Perhaps not. Moncrief’s play jumped between frustrating and fine. He underwhelmed at Ole Miss despite such incredible potential. Bryant was a potential head-case (albeit a talented potential head-case).

There are no character questions with Coates — and this is a good example as to why:

But what about his play on the field? Well, it’s underwhelming. Could be better.

For starters he’s earned a reputation for making big plays. Against Alabama in the Iron Bowl he had 206 yards from just five receptions. He had similar games against LSU (four catches, 144 yards) and Ole Miss (five catches, 122 yards). In those three games he recorded 472 yards and four touchdowns. In the other eight games he played this year he totaled just 245 yards and zero touchdowns. His 2014 season basically came down to three big games. The rest was a whole lot of nothing.

Well, ‘a whole lot of nothing’ might be a positive review. He dropped passes, couldn’t get open and was at times a non-factor. It’s telling that one of the more creative offenses in college football couldn’t find a way to get him more involved. Why was that? He didn’t have a single rushing attempt from a reverse or trick play. He was pretty much a guy who ran downfield and tried to make a big gain. And not much more.

You have to qualify that by pointing out he started the year struggling with a knee injury and didn’t get healthy until a few weeks into the season. He missed the second game against San Jose State.

I want to focus on his ability as a downfield receiver — because I think it’s his greatest strength and perhaps also his biggest problem.

When Coates has made his big plays this year, they’ve all been a little strange. For example, against LSU (see the video at the top of the piece) he made a difficult catch between two defenders for a big gain. And yet he barely left the ground. The pass was underthrown and he had time to adjust to the ball, track it in the air and go get it. Instead he took the catch into his body as he fell to the turf. Ideally you see him go up and get the football at its highest point. Let’s see the great vertical leap and some catching technique. We see none of that. You can’t criticize too much because he made the play — but it was almost inexplicable how it wasn’t defended.

Later in the game he made another big play over the middle — again he has time to track the ball, adjust and make the catch. And again it’s taken at chest-height despite the presence of two defenders. I’m not sure I’ve seen two catches like this completed in the same game. You want to throw something at the screen because his catching technique is so poor — and yet there he is making huge downfield catches for major yardage. How do you complain about that?

The more you watch the tape, the more you see plays like this. Look at this catch against Texas A&M. Almost exactly the same. He collects the ball falling backwards into double coverage:

It’s almost like his signature move. “Here’s Coates — it looks like he’s going for the ‘stands still and catches it falling backwards between two defenders move’ — HE IS! HE GOT IT! SAMMIE COATES WINS THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP!”

In the Iron Bowl he made yet another of these plays right before half time to set up a last gasp field goal. It’s quite incredible:

Maybe he goes to the NFL and just continues to make plays this way? Who knows? I suspect, however, that it’s one of the first things he’ll need to work on. If you can track the football in the air, if you have leverage over the defensive back — just go up and get the football. Don’t wait for it to come to you. We know he can do it:

Because Coates’ biggest strength is also a major area for improvement, it’s hard to judge him as a prospect. There’s no tape of him working in the short passing game. There’s no tape of him making explosive special teams plays. There’s no tape of him running after the catch or being utilized via screens. As good an athlete as he is with so much potential — he might just be a great athlete. He might not be a good football player.

That’s the great conundrum here. If you’re able to get him some plays as a rookie and find a role — then work with him over time — you could be left with one of the more exciting players in the league. Or you could be left with a SPARQ champion who is no use at all.

The Seahawks love their difference making athletes — but they’re not daft. They don’t just look at a list of times and measurements. Bruce Irvin was the best pass rusher in college football during the 2010 season at West Virginia. He followed it up with another good year in 2011. Christine Michael had plenty of production before falling out with the coaches at Texas A&M. Paul Richardson had 1343 yards at Colorado last year and ten touchdowns.

Coates’ best production came last season — a 902-yard, seven touchdown campaign. This included four +100-yard outings but also two games with less than 20-yards (vs Ole Miss & Tennessee). He ticks a lot of boxes in terms of raw potential and athleticism. But is he a good enough football player to warrant early consideration?

That’s the question we’ll be asking if he does indeed declare for the draft.

The first 2015 mock draft: 10th December

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

D’haquille Williams — possible first round pick

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon)
#2 Tennessee Titans — Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska)
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
#4 New York Jets — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
#5 Oakland Raiders — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
#6 Washington Redskins — Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
#7 New York Giants — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
#8 Carolina Panthers — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
#9 Chicago Bears — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
#10 New Orleans Saints — La’el Collins (G, LSU)
#11 Minnesota Vikings — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
#12 St. Louis Rams — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
#13 Houston Texans — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
#14 Cleveland Browns — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
#15 San Francisco 49ers — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
#16 Miami Dolphins — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
#17 Cleveland Browns — Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
#19 Baltimore Ravens — Tevin Coleman (RB, Indiana)
#20 Dallas Cowboys — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
#21 Atlanta Falcons — Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
#23 San Diego Chargers — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
#24 Cincinnati Bengals — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
#25 Detroit Lions — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
#26 Indianapolis Colts — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
#27 Philadelphia Eagles — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
#28 Seattle Seahawks — D’haquille Williams (WR, Auburn)
#29 Green Bay Packers — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
#30 New England Patriots — Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
#31 Arizona Cardinals — T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama)
#32 Denver Broncos — Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)

Thoughts on pick #28

I’m not in love with the idea of giving the Seahawks another wide out. If you count Percy Harvin in 2013, it’d be a hat-trick of first picks spent on the position. That’s a lot. But is it a good enough reason to pass on a particular player if it’s still a need?

Seattle will make Russell Wilson the latest $100m quarterback in the next few months. With that new contract will come extra responsibility, especially if Marshawn Lynch is gone. The Seahawks will remain a run-focused offense, of course they will. But they’ll need to pick up the slack if they lose an almost irreplaceable player like Lynch. The passing game will have to improve. The best way for it to improve is to give Wilson better weapons.

This pick wouldn’t be about adding a pure #1 receiver, throwing the ball more and making one player the focal point of the attack. It’d be about adding a physical possession receiver who can win in the red zone, dominate the seam and make plays on the red line. The Seahawks have clearly lacked that bigger target and they know it. We all saw the reports claiming they asked about Vincent Jackson, Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron and Coby Fleener. It wasn’t a coincidence.

In the last six months they’vr lost Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. They added Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. Jermaine Kearse is a RFA and will almost certainly stick around in 2015 — but after that, who knows? Lockette will be 29 next year. There’s room for one more.

Ideally they pick up the phone, work out a deal with Tampa Bay and acquire Vincent Jackson. He’d need to re-work his contract. You wouldn’t want to give up too much for a 32-year-old receiver. But he’d offer that proven veteran impact to the offense allowing you to focus on other needs in the draft. Who knows how likely that is? If the Buccs are breaking in a new quarterback (eg Marcus Mariota) they might be best served keeping hold of Jackson for another year.

So what does D’haquille Williams bring to the table? For starters, there’s this:

He’s an alpha male — something I guess you need to be to compete with the LOB every day. Against Alabama in the Iron Bowl — the biggest game of his career — he’s dancing in between plays. He’s loose. He’s confident. He had the ear of his JUCO team. Based on the available information — he at least looks like he could live in Seattle’s locker room. That was something Pete Carroll and John Schneider made a point of stressing after the last draft.

Despite recently being compared to Alshon Jeffrey and Mike Evans, he doesn’t possess the same kind of size. He’s listed at 6-2 and 216lbs. He looks like he could comfortably play at 220lbs — matching the size of Dez Bryant. It’s not all about height. Williams has great length. You can see in the first video below — he’ll go up and extend to get the football in tight coverage. Against Alabama he made one incredible grab leaping between two defenders (including Landon Collins) to snatch the ball out of the air. He has big hands and has shown to be a reliable target.

He’s not a blazer but has enough speed to be effective. In the Iron Bowl he ran straight past one Alabama defensive back on an overthrown deep shot in the first quarter. On another play he lined up in the slot, ate up the cushion against the corner and exploded into a crossing route creating immediate separation to make the completion. He’s not going to be a 4.4 runner at the combine. That’s not why you’d draft him. He was a 5-star recruit leaving the JUCO ranks and was coveted by all the big SEC schools.

There are some issues too. His catching technique lurches from textbook to less than ideal. There are times when he’ll let a pass get into his body. On a couple of plays against Alabama he got his body into a poor position to make a possible touchdown grab. There’s not much evidence of any real YAC quality and the Seahawks this year have really gone after the short pass and screen game. With just a years experience in the SEC is he polished enough to have an impact? Or can his natural ability as a receiver get him through a possible tough rookie campaign? Let’s not forget — several rookies have excelled in the NFL this season. Kelvin Benjamin only had two seasons at Florida State (30 catches, 495 yards in 2012 — 54 catches, 1011 yards in 2013).

There’s no clear indication yet on whether he’ll turn pro. Much will depend on what he hears between now and decision time. There’s every chance he won’t declare. But if he hears first round talk, it’ll be hard to ignore. It always is.

This is one of the toughest first mock drafts I’ve had to do from a Seahawks perspective. It would’ve been easy to manipulate the board to put a running back or defensive end at #28. I want to keep challenging different scenarios with these mocks and this week — this is just how it played out.

Take a look at Williams’ JUCO tape below, plus his first game for Auburn against Arkansas:

Would the Seahawks consider Dorial Green-Beckham?

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Dorial Green-Beckham could be great. Or he could be a nightmare.

Imagine what Russell Wilson could do with a couple of top-end targets?

That’s a question a lot of Seahawks fans have been asking recently. I’m not sure the offense would change much. First and foremost this is a running team that wants to limit turnovers. They’re never going to field a mass-production receiver because, ideally, they won’t have to throw enough for that to happen.

And yet this is an offense that has lacked an explosive edge in the passing game this year. Wilson hasn’t taken as many shots. I’m not sure whether this is a lack of options or Wilson just being especially careful. He talked in the off-season about a slightly unrealistic completion percentage (above 70% I think). Last year they were willing to challenge the receivers 1v1 or even throw into double coverage. We haven’t seen that this year.

It’s fascinating to consider what an explosive target could do for the offense. The Seahawks have clearly battled to find that elusive superstar. They coveted Brandon Marshall, they paid big money to Sidney Rice and they traded for Percy Harvin. And here they are. Minus Golden Tate and still lacking that true #1.

The draft is likely to be Seattle’s best bet to scratch this particular itch. It’s going to be difficult to tempt big name free agents to come and play in a run-focused scheme. We’ve said this many times. Receivers love to win, but they love to win putting up crazy numbers in the process. Is Demaryius Thomas really going to swap Denver’s offense and Peyton Manning to try and become Pete Carroll’s first 1000 yard receiver in Seattle? What about Dez Bryant? Is he passing on Tony Romo and a comfortable statistical situation in Dallas?

The only way it happens is if you overpay. That’s what brought Sidney Rice to the Seahawks and to a certain extent Zach Miller. But that was a time when Seattle had a lot of free cap room. Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and others have now been paid. Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner are next. There’s likely going to be money available to make free agency work, but not in the way that’ll get a superstar to Seattle.

Having pumped so much draft stock into the receiver position recently (the Harvin trade cost three picks, plus a second rounder on Paul Richardson), it’s frustrating to think it could be an early target again. I suppose they could reignite talks with Tampa Bay over Vincent Jackson but the compensation would have to be favorable and he’d need to take a pay cut. Going after a tight end is possible too.

If they do look at the draft, we’ve already spent a lot of time talking about Kevin White and others. So what about Dorial Green-Beckham — a player we’ve not touched on much?

Here’s a quick refresher on why we haven’t spent much time on DGB. He was kicked out of Missouri last year and wound up transferring to Oklahoma. The NCAA ruled not to allow him to play in 2014. I suspect his aim was to spend one year with a contender and then turn pro. Now he has a decision to make. He’s not offered any indication on whether he’ll bolt for the NFL without playing a snap for the Sooners.

In a year where the NFL has had to deal with high profile domestic abuse cases, Green-Beckham’s departure from Mizzou had a similar theme. After multiple incidents involving Marijuana (one suspension, one arrest that was later dismissed), he reportedly forced his way into an apartment and pushed a female down some stairs. He wasn’t arrested, but it was the final straw for Gary Pinkel and the Tigers.

When the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson controversies were dominating the headlines, I think we all considered what it meant for Green-Beckham. Would teams be less likely to take a chance in light of what’s happened this year? Who knows. Only today Frank Tarkenton said he didn’t think Rice and Peterson should be allowed back into the league. Green-Beckham has obvious talent but is he a problem waiting to happen?

The Seahawks in particular aren’t just dealing with a changing NFL that is under pressure to be tougher on domestic abuse. They’re dealing with a season heavily impacted by a problematic wide receiver. After spending so much on Harvin, are they less inclined to take a risk on a guy like DGB?

There’s absolutely no doubt at all about his talent. He’s a rare, 6-5/6-6 receiver with an ideal 225lbs frame, good speed and a fantastic ability to go up and get the ball. He’s not quite as explosive as Josh Gordon but he is a go-up-and-get-it wide-out who makes plays in the red zone. Without the off-field flags he’s likely a top-15 pick, if not top ten.

I think the Seahawks — and many other teams — would probably consider a flier in the middle rounds. Maybe even as early as the second round. But what about the first? What if you know you can fill this crucial need, that DGB is a former 5-star recruit with everything you look for (he’ll probably be a top SPARQ talent) and there are teams behind you possibly willing to take him? Do you have to consider it? Or do you let him sink like a stone and if he’s there later on or even in UDFA, you assess the situation? How do you balance out risk vs need after the Harvin mess?

Look at the video below. Watch the way he high points the ball in the end zone.

This is exactly the type of player Seattle currently lacks. Big time. Someone you can overthrow in the red zone and he’ll still make a play on the ball. If the Seahawks want to be conservative but still take shots 1v1 — they need a long, tall receiver like this. If Green-Beckham was a flawless diamond they’d have no shot to draft him. The fact he is a perceived walking disaster zone offers them an opportunity to get a player with his potential and help get him on the right track.

If he came into the league and actually had no issues off the field, he wouldn’t be the first. Any moderate NFL fan can think of a troublesome receiver in college who carried a bad reputation throughout their career and still produced. The new CBA also makes it less of a financial risk. A late first rounder doesn’t earn more than $2m until the final year of a rookie contract. A second rounder earns even less.

In the aftermath of the Harvin trade to New York, John Schneider said the Seahawks would continue to take their shots. They aren’t afraid to make bold moves as we’ve seen. If they felt they could manage DGB within the locker room, they might consider it. Of course it would take a whole lot of homework to feel comfortable about that. The last thing they need is another headache. But if it works out? They could land a fantastic talent.

We don’t know enough about the situation to make a firm projection right now. Has the move to Oklahoma acted as a wake up call? Will he declare? How are teams projecting him? He’s an interesting case though. And if you believe you can trust him — who knows? He could be the answer to Seattle’s red zone woes. Or he could be just another headache.