Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Updated mock draft: 3rd December

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

We had some technical issues with the podcast this week — and it means we’ve only been able to salvage the first half of the recording. Please still check it out below:

First round update

#1 Tennessee Titans — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#2 Cleveland Browns — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
#3 Dallas Cowboys — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
#4 San Diego Chargers — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
#5 San Francisco 49ers — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
#6 Miami Dolphins — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
#7 Jacksonville Jaguars — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
#8 Baltimore Ravens — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
#9 Philadelphia Eagles — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
#10 St. Louis Rams — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
#11 New Orleans Saints — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
#12 Detroit Lions — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
#13 New York Giants — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
#14 Atlanta Falcons — Jaylen Ramsey (S, Florida State)
#15 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
#16 Oakland Raiders — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
#17 Buffalo Bills — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
#18 Chicago Bears — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
#19 New York Jets — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
#20 Pittsburgh Steelers — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
#21 Washington — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
#22 Seattle Seahawks — Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
#23 Houston Texans — Jared Goff (QB, California)
#24 Indianapolis Colts — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
#25 Kansas City Chiefs — Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
#26 Green Bay Packers — Adolphus Washington (DE, Ohio State)
#27 Minnesota Vikings — De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
#28 Arizona Cardinals — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
#29 Cincinnati Bengals — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
#30 Denver Broncos — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
#31 Carolina Panthers — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)

So why Eric Striker?

The Seahawks’ offensive line has improved in recent weeks. If that progression continues, perhaps it increases the likelihood of Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy being re-signed? Continuity is key to an offensive line. Having lived through the growing pains with this unit, blowing it up and starting again would probably lead to a similar slump at the start of 2016.

If the Seahawks also make the playoffs it makes it increasingly difficult to get at the top offensive linemen in this class. Picking at #22 keeps them away from the top four. Ronnie Stanley is one of the most overrated players in the 2016 class. Watch him rugby tackle Clemson’s Shaq Lawson from behind after a whiffed block a few weeks ago:

There’s a real lethargy to Stanley’s pass protection. He’s stiff. He doesn’t punish anyone in the run game or offer anything at the second level. It’s astonishing how much praise he gets compared to Auburn’s Shon Coleman.

If they do pay Okung and Sweezy — with a veteran center addition also a possibility — it’ll increase the likelihood of Bruce Irvin moving on. Kevin Pierre-Louis struggled in relief this year and finding an answer to that role is pretty underrated.

Irvin developed into quite the playmaker in 2014 and it’s something they’ve lacked since he got injured this year. I’m not sure his summer weight gain — probably to try and improve his power in the pass rush ahead of free agency — had the greatest impact.

Striker won’t be considered a first rounder on many boards. We also know the Seahawks do things differently — so I’ll make the case here for why he might be a nice option for them.

For starters he’s a terrific athlete. He lacks Irvin’s size (he’s listed at 6-1 and 223lbs) but he’s excelled in a similar role for the Sooners. He lines up at outside linebacker and splits snaps between rushing at the LOS and dropping in coverage/playing run support. Striker has exceptional first-step quickness and is constantly around the ball. He never takes a snap off. The end result? A fantastic, productive career.

This season he has 7.5 sacks. His 22 career sacks in three seasons is the most ever by an Oklahoma linebacker. He explodes off the edge, winning with pure speed. Often when he moves up to the line it messes with the protection because they need to cover him and a running back won’t cut it. He’s equally adept dropping into coverage and just plays with an incredible intensity.

Watch this video and tell me he doesn’t feel ‘Seahawky':

The lack of size doesn’t bother me because his suddenness and intensity (plus production) make up for it. I’d compare the situation to Tyler Lockett last year. Not a big guy — but his character, production and speed made him the prospect they had to have (thus, the trade up).

#22 is a tough range to draft in. On Tuesday we discussed how many first round prospects there might be in this class and I settled on 18. If you’re not getting at the top guys, do they move down again and get the player they want? Could it be someone like Striker?

It would also free them up to consider other needs in rounds 2/3. They could still add an offensive lineman like Adam Bisnowaty (who, I’ll keep saying, looks like an Evan Mathis type and should kick inside to guard in the NFL) a cornerback (Zack Sanchez at Oklahoma?) or a running back (Paul Perkins at UCLA? Alex Collins at Arkansas?).

I’ve also spent a lot of time reviewing certain prospects in the last few days. One player I was very tempted to include in this mock — and probably should’ve included — is Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller. Suddenness, fluid routes, safe hands, deep speed and production. I had him down as a second rounder. He could easily end up in the first.

First rounder Shon Coleman dominates vs Texas A&M (tape)

Friday, November 27th, 2015

At last.

Shon Coleman has some tape on Draft Breakdown. It’s a good one too — his matchup against Texas A&M and Myles Garrett.

For those not familiar with Garrett, he will likely be a top-five pick in 2017. He and LSU running back Leonard Fournette are the two outstanding 2017 eligible prospects in college football.

Watch the video for yourself (Garrett wears #15). Number of times Garrett beats Coleman? Zero.

I’ve listed some of the highlights below. It’s also worth paying attention to how often Auburn ran to Coleman’s side and gained positive yardage. They recorded 311 (!!!) rushing yards in the game and won 26-10.

This is a masterful performance by a prospect who deserves to be ranked with the elite players eligible for the 2016 draft. There’s only one tackle that comes even close to his level of talent and that’s Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil.

If Shon Coleman isn’t a first round prospect then I’m an Australian.

Adding to everything is the tremendous strength of character he’s shown to beat cancer and pursue his dream to play football.

0:54 — Look at the combination of an effective kick slide, gaining early position and a powerful jolt to the D-end. The pass rusher doesn’t know what to do here. Coleman has the leverage and the end just accepts he’s beaten and stops trying to get to the QB.

1:11 — Garrett fakes the inside move by dropping the shoulder before attempting to dart on the outside. Coleman again is in position so quickly. His drop and set is exceptional. Look at that for a kick slide. Text book. He doesn’t bite on Garrett’s double move and just absorbs him, giving the QB enough time to fire for a first down.

1:51 — This is a really fantastic play that shows he can be just as effective in the run game as pass protection. Coleman dips inside to slam the defensive tackle off balance before locking on to a linebacker at the second level to spring the running back for a huge gain. Coleman’s second level block on the LB gets the back an extra 35-yards. If he doesn’t make that block it might not even be a first down conversion. Just brilliant.

3:41 — Coleman engages the defensive tackle, drives him backwards eight yards and then dumps him on his ass. Enough said. I shouted at the TV when I saw this live.

4:55 — Auburn tries an end-around. Coleman engages at the LOS and then pulls to his left to act as an open-field blocker. He decleats a defensive back who tries to make a play by the sideline. Just buries him. Extra yardage gained.

5:39 — Coleman blocks Garrett inside and drives him out of the play to open up a huge running lane.

6:18 — Second level blocking again. Locates the linebacker, drives him well out of the play. Big run for Auburn.

6:30 — Count how many seconds Garrett engages Coleman and cannot get off the block. Ok I’ll tell you anyway — it’s five seconds. After five seconds Coleman lets go because the running back is well clear of the first down marker. Dominating run blocking. Again.

7:55 — Coleman drives #40 six yards beyond the LOS as Auburn convert the first down running to his side. Power, technique, finish.

Shon Coleman looks like a NFL ready, complete left tackle with ideal size, length, athleticism, power in the run game and foot-speed to kick-slide and set. There isn’t a range in round one I’d feel uncomfortable taking him.

Need more convincing?

Here he is giving Georgia’s Leonard Floyd a tour of the car park:

An early look at positional targets (rounds 1-3)

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

Could UCLA’s Paul Perkins be a target for the Seahawks?

Here’s what I’d consider a good looking Seahawks projection for the end of November:

R1 – Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
R2 – Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
R3 – Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
R3 comp – Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)

First round
The safe money is on an offensive line pick. With Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy both free agents, they might struggle to keep their two most experienced linemen. Even if they find a way to re-sign both — further investment in a struggling line seems inevitable.

They could look to free agency to add a center (Alex Mack would be the most intriguing option if he voids his contract in Cleveland). Adding a college left tackle here makes sense — with the option you could play them at guard or tackle. If they pick early they’ll have a shot at the bigger names. Even in the late first they’ll have options.

The best fit would be Auburn’s Shon Coleman — a complete tackle with ideal size and technique. We keep expecting to hear his name mentioned by the media among the elite prospects in this class and it never happens. Will he fly under the radar like Joel Bitonio or Ju’Wuan James? It’s possible. James was taken with the #19 pick. Bitonio went in the early second round. For more on Coleman click here.

Alternatively they could look to replace Bruce Irvin if he departs in free agency. There will be nice options in the first round — including UCLA’s Myles Jack (whose stock could take a hit due to a knee injury) and Ohio State’s Darron Lee. Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith should be a top ten pick as one of the elite prospects in this class. It’s also a good year for cornerbacks — with Tre’Davious White (LSU), Cameron Sutton (Tennessee), Eli Apple (Ohio State) and Mackensie Alexander (Clemson) names to monitor. Joe McAtee recommended Iowa’s Desmond King on this weeks podcast (check it out). King has eight interceptions this season for the Hawkeyes.

Second round
If they go O-line in the first, this could be a nice range to target one of the more underrated players in the 2016 class. Oklahoma’s Eric Striker would be a nice replacement for Bruce Irvin if he moves on. For some time Striker has been an impact player for the Sooners. He’s constantly around the ball. He’s capable of dropping in coverage, playing sideline-to-sideline. Yet like Irvin he’s at his best lining up to make key plays as a pass rusher. He has 7.5 sacks in 2015 and this season set a new career Sooners record for sacks by a linebacker. He’s a passionate, sometimes outspoken player with a determined attitude and he could live in Seattle’s defense. For a couple of years I’ve wanted to see Striker at the combine to see how he tests. Don’t rule out a rise into the first round if he has a great work out.

Striker has also campaigned for racial equality in college. For more information check out this ESPN feature by Edward Aschoff and Adam Rittenberg.

Third round
It’s hard not to consider the O-line again here until we know exactly what happens with Okung and Sweezy. It kind of makes sense to make two picks either way. There’s nothing wrong with a highly competitive O-line group going into next years camp. If Justin Britt is competing for a start at guard, if a rookie is competing with Gilliam to start at tackle — so be it. Such is the depth in this draft it could be a good year to stockpile and address this need for the foreseeable future. Of course if Okung and Sweezy walk — you’re having to fill two extra holes right off the bat anyway.

The more I watch Pittsburgh tackle Adam Bisnowaty the more I want the Seahawks to draft him. In fact he could end up being a big riser who finds a way to go in the first two rounds. A former basketball player and wrestler, he was also a highly recruited four-star player in high school. The athletic potential, size and performance all match up to a very interesting prospect overall.

For me he has Evan Mathis potential. Seriously. The two players are almost identical in terms of frame (Bisnowaty is listed at 6-6 and 300lbs, Mathis at 6-5 and 301lbs). Just to look at them they appear similar in terms of body shape. Mathis is a former third round pick who became one of the leagues best guards. I think Bisnowaty fits best kicking inside to guard — but he could still play tackle if required. I’d have no issue drafting him in the first round to be fair. Incredible upside and potential. I wrote about him in more detail here. He’s a combine away from taking off.

Moving on from Marshawn Lynch would be tough if it happens — but it’ll be easier to stomach if the money saved produces an offensive line that reads Okung-Bisnowaty-Mack-Sweezy-Coleman.

Third round (comp pick)
If Lynch does indeed depart, the Seahawks will need to add a partner for Thomas Rawls. It’s hard to judge where the backs will go in this class. Arkansas’ Alex Collins is talented enough to go in round two but would you be surprised if he lasted until round 3? Jordan Howard at Indiana might be a later round prospect but he has a physical, punishing style and a lot of toughness between the tackles.

I think the ideal compliment for Rawls would be another quick-twitch back who could be a nice option in the passing game and doesn’t lack any toughness despite his modest size. Step forward UCLA’s Paul Perkins. Like Collins he could go earlier than this — but stock at this position is unpredictable. Perkins, like Rawls, is adept at maximising running lanes and exploding into the second level. He’s tough to bring down with insane cut-back ability. He’s certainly not a bell-cow but he wouldn’t need to be next to Rawls. Perkins has the potential to develop into a nice third-down back who provides a legit passing game option. There might not be a more fun running back to watch in college football (well, apart from Leonard Fournette).

I’m not going to get too deep into day three targets (it’s way too early). At the moment you would imagine they’d take their usual cornerback pick (probably round five again) while looking to add depth to the D-line. You’d imagine one way or another they’ll need to address cornerback — with Cary Williams likely to be on the chopping block and Jeremy Lane a free agent.

Thoughts on Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Jack Conklin performed well against Ohio State

With two potential top-20 offensive tackles in the game, this was interesting viewing for Seahawks fans. Michigan State’s Jack Conklin had the better day — as the Spartans won on the road to all but end Ohio State’s hopes of the playoffs (this was their first game against a ranked opponent in 2015 — and they lost).

The Buckeye’s game plan on offense was bizarre. Instead of running Ezekiel Elliott (12 carries, 33 yards) and mixing some downfield/sideline shots to Michael Thomas, Urban Meyer constantly asked J.T. Barrett to run the QB draw (15 carries, 44 yards). Michigan State adjusted and shut it down — limiting Ohio State to 132 total yards.

Taylor Decker had a really mixed night. On the Buckeye’s first scoring drive he did a very good job winning 1v1 in the run game, driving defenders off the line to open up a crease on the left. Yet as the game went on he started to struggle.

Shilique Calhoun — a big underachiever in college football — won most of his battles against Decker. With 6:45 remaining in the first half, Calhoun worked off the tackle using length and superior power on a stretch run. Decker was quickly off balance, lost leverage and was shoved into the backfield. Calhoun tackled Elliott for a loss.

Calhoun beat him again in the second half with a nice stunt inside in what could be the play of the game. Braxton Miller had gained separation downfield and was wide open for a long touchdown. Decker was wrong-footed by Calhoun’s move allowing inside pressure to force J.T. Barrett into a bad throw. He missed Miller and Ohio State didn’t have another explosive play in the game on offense.

Decker never had a problem squaring up to a defender and winning with power. He also did a good job getting to the second level. His footwork on a simple edge rush needs major work though. He dances — trying to mirror the defenders action when really he just needs a firm base and kick slide. He was getting beat by even the most simple double move. Calhoun gets a good rep in the media — but Decker will face much tougher opponents as a pro. He has everything to be a very competent left tackle in the NFL — size, power, underrated athleticism. But this, overall, wasn’t a good look for Decker.

Jack Conklin on the other hand only had one bad play in the game. Tyquan Lewis drove him into the backfield in the first half to tackle the running back for a loss. Apart from that he was comfortable in protection — sliding nicely and running the edge rush out of contention. Technique wise he looked very assured. On a few occasions he got nicely to the second level.

It helps he didn’t come up against Joey Bosa (who stuck to the right tackle). Michigan State did a good job pulling Conklin at times to get him matched up against Bosa with some success. Whether Conklin quite has the athleticism to be as assured at left tackle in the NFL remains to be seen. However, this was a good performance overall. He keeps defenders off his pads with what appears to be decent arm length. His footwork is good. This was a nice outing for Conklin.

Perhaps the best offensive line performance came from Michigan State center Jack Allen. Time and time again he turned the interior defensive linemen to open up holes in the run game. It’s a very subtle but underrated art — using the aggressiveness of the interior rush to twist the D-liner and open up a very simple gap.

Allen is short and squatty and drew a couple of offside flags from Bosa with a classic head-nod pre-snap. He also loved to get to the second level which was good to see. His lack of size and upside might limit his stock at the next level — but this was a good show.

Ohio State’s offensive game plan gave limited their key playmakers on offense (Elliott, Thomas) but the defenders spent a lot of time on the field. Adolphus Washington had a good start working to the outside and finding interior pressure — but he slowly drifted out of the game. Bosa has Robert Quinn-style quickness off the edge and was a threat all game — but Michigan State’s heavy dose of run took away much of his effectiveness. Eli Apple is a first round talent but he’s susceptible to frustrating performances like this. He had a torrid time against Aaron Burbridge — who collected four catches for 62 yards vs Apple. Michigan State only had 91 total passing yards.

Going back to the two tackles — there’s no doubt for me that both Decker and Conklin belong behind Auburn’s Shon Coleman and Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil. Whether it’s technique (Decker) or a lack of great athleticism (Conklin) — they have outstanding issues the other pair avoid. Coleman in particular is just the complete package — size, athleticism, grit, second level blocking, helps gets the hard yards and has excelled in pass-pro against the likes of Myles Garrett.

That said, with a premium on O-liners in the NFL there’s every chance all four — and Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley — go in the top-25 in 2016. There’s quite a substantial gap from Coleman and Tunsil to the rest, however.

It’s also not a surprise, incidentally, that MSU rallied to win without starting quarterback Connor Cook. He’s quite the overrated talent as a thrower — but he’s also said to be not the most popular member of the locker room. He has a quirky personality — emphasised by his slightly unnecessary finger-to-the-lips gesture at the Ohio State fans at the end of the game. Don’t expect him to go the first round.

After the game Ezekiel Elliott confirmed it was his last home game for Ohio State, confirming he’ll turn pro (he also called out the play calling). Cardale Jones, surprisingly, also announced on Twitter it was his last home game for the Buckeye’s. If he decides to turn pro, it’ll be a bad decision. He isn’t ready. He’s getting bad advice. Unless he’s transferring — which would also be a bad move — this isn’t going to end well for Jones.

Is Jimmy Graham responsible for Seattle’s missing identity?

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Jimmy Graham’s production isn’t a problem. But is his role within Seattle’s scheme causing an issue for the Seahawks’ offense?

Trent Dilfer appeared on Brock and Salk this morning (see audio above). It’s an insightful, detailed and fascinating listen. And Dilfer doesn’t hold back on why he thinks the Seahawks are struggling on offense.

It’s Jimmy Graham.

At least, he thinks that’s the catalyst. He starts by criticising the offensive line:

“They’ve really struggled in pass protection. They’re what I call a box offensive line. They play best when it’s in a box. When it becomes a lateral game, when it becomes a movement game, a pass protection game, they really struggle. Because they’ve been less stubborn with the run this year, it’s been a little bit exposed as the year’s gone on.”

When asked why they’ve been less stubborn with the run game, this is Dilfer’s damning response:

“You can’t do it with Jimmy Graham on the field. I can’t think of a team in the NFL… that’s been a dominant run team without an in-line blocking tight end. It’s just a key in your run-blocking schemes to have an in-line tight end that can set an edge, that can work double teams, that can come down on ends so that you can run the gap scheme game, that can get to the second level in the zone game. And you don’t have to dominate you just have to be really physical, you have to have great effort and Jimmy just is not… he’s not a tight end.”

He goes on to add…

“(Darrell) Bevell does a decent job at times removing him from the formation. He’s doing everything he can. I mean, he wants to run the ball. They had a lot of success in the year detaching Jimmy Graham from the formation, put him at X or Z. Bring in another tight end as an in-line tight end so you aren’t in 12-personnel you’re in 13-personnel (3TE’s and 1RB) but now he’s playing wide receiver and you get the box you’re looking for and you’re able to run the ball, but it brings up the second issue that I think is one of the misroutes with Graham. He’s not really a separation guy. He has exceptional ball skills. He’s a speed-move route runner. But he does not create a ton of separation… So a lot of teams sit inside, adjust to the out-breaking route and sit on the in-breaking route… It’s the issue they’re going to have because of the trade they made.”

Dilfer discusses the system Seattle is asking Russell Wilson to operate. Essentially, because they aren’t able to commit as much to the run he’s being asked to throw too much. He says Wilson needs a structured offense that limits his throws to maximise his talent. Mike Salk questions whether Graham’s presence prevents them from running the offense they’d like to. This is Dilfer’s final response:

“The Jimmy Graham trade forced their hand to try and evolve into a system that is not best for the rest of their personnel. Not just Russell (Wilson) specifically but the rest of the personnel… If you’re going to have JAG’s (just another guy) running your offensive line — which is fine, a lot of teams are doing it and a lot of teams are having success doing it — if that’s the philosophy, then your system needs to protect those guys. So by making the Jimmy Graham trade, you’re in an identity crisis because now the other ten aren’t playing the type of specific system that they would thrive the most in.”

When Graham arrived in Seattle, it was easy to assume this was the missing piece of the offense. The Seahawks hadn’t really had a #1 target for Russell Wilson. This was supposed to be a trinity — Wilson, Graham and Marshawn Lynch. Three unstoppable weapons.

Instead, as Dilfer suggests, the offense feels different. Wilson has struggled at times. The run game doesn’t feel as effective. Are they obliged to force Graham into a role? Are they designing plays to feature him, instead of just playing their natural game or scheme?

Have they gone away from what worked?

Here are Seattle’s leading receivers (targets and receptions) from 2014:

Doug Baldwin — 98 targets, 66 receptions
Jermaine Kearse — 67 targets, 38 receptions
Marshawn Lynch — 48 targets, 37 receptions
Paul Richardson — 43 targets, 29 receptions

This year, Jimmy Graham is already on pace for 72 receptions and he’s been targeted 63 times in nine games. He’s set to smash Doug Baldwin’s 98 targets at this pace.

And yet his production is projected to reach 877 yards — only 52 more than Baldwin’s 2014 total.

Fitting him into the existing scheme has not been a smooth transition. Rather than provide a red-zone dynamo and touchdown machine, the Seahawks have spent nearly three months answering questions about the way they’re using him.

Instead of improving the red-zone offense, Seattle is ranked dead last in the league for scoring percentage. Think about that. A team with Wilson, Graham and Lynch is the worst in the league for scoring touchdowns in the red zone.

Complicating matters, however, is the way the offense is being graded overall. They’re tied fifth with Carolina for explosive plays. According to Football Outsiders, they’re the #11 offense and #5 team overall.

Is it just an aesthetic problem? A case of ironing out the kinks? Finding a rhythm? Or is the scheme permanently incapable of reaching it’s potential with Graham on the field?

Perhaps it’s just a case of improving the O-line and finding an in-line blocking tight end for 2016? If the protection is better and they have a capable run blocking TE, it maybe frees Graham up to be a classic joker tight end who just works the seam and finds a mismatch?

Or maybe the Seahawks were better without a #1 target? Someone they had to force-feed production. Were they better with a motley crew of undrafted receivers, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Zach Miller and Paul Richardson — all playing without the expectation of catching a certain amount of passes in a single game?

When there was no pressure to pass the ball to a certain player, could they focus on run-design and making Marshawn Lynch the focal point? Allowing Russell Wilson to do what he does best — be a point guard.

Can we still define Wilson as a point guard any more? Is his job to spread the ball around, protect the ball, find the open man and make things tick? Or is he being asked to do too much? Such as keep plays alive behind a sieve-like offensive line, make the most of Jimmy Graham and do everything else that was asked of him before 2015?

If they felt they really needed to add a big target to the offense, would they have been better investing the first round pick they used for Graham on a player like Dorial Green-Beckham — who would’ve carried a lot of upside but no serious expectations going into 2015?

It’s also hard not to look back on what could’ve been. Would there be any need to trade for Graham if they’d taken DeAndre Hopkins in 2013 instead of trading for Percy Harvin? It’s easy to use hindsight when reflecting on previous drafts — but here’s an article I wrote about Hopkins in January 2013 — and a pertinent quote:

“He’s a top-20 talent who may go later… and a smart team will be ready to capitalise…

…The way you make up for a lack of size is playing above your stature. Be physical. Master your routes. Understand the offense. Find advantages elsewhere. When you listen to Hopkins conduct an interview, he’ll talk about exploiting a cover-2 and appears to be a student of the game. Despite the arrival of highly-recruited Sammy Watkins he never complained about a reduced work-load in 2011.”

Graham, rather than provide a unique mismatch, has instead provided a constant distraction as we debate his targets, production and use. The scrutiny is never ending.

With seven games remaining, can they prove there is some light at the end of the tunnel? Otherwise the Seahawks will miss the playoffs and the inquisition begins. And as things stand, one of the questions that has to be asked is whether or not Jimmy Graham will ever be able to fit into this offense — and are they just better off without him?

Wednesday notes: Seahawks currently own the #12 pick

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Ohio State’s Taylor Decker — a better athlete than people realise with a ton of upside

Nobody should be giving up on the 2015 season. The Seahawks have two home games and a chance to be 6-5 heading to Minnesota and Baltimore. The NFC is wide open and anything can happen — including a wild card team making a run.

The 49ers are next.

Even so, at 4-5 there isn’t anything wrong with indulging in a bit of early draft talk.

There’s been some confusion over the pick the Seahawks currently ‘own’. On Monday they were paired with the #19 selection by Mocking the Draft. has them with the #18 pick, while MTD now has Seattle at #12 after a strength of schedule update.

If it is #12 — and if they stay in that range — it’d certainly give them an opportunity to upgrade the offensive line via the draft.

It’s actually been quite a nice range to pick in recently. This year Ereck Flowers was the #9 pick, Todd Gurley went at #10, Danny Shelton at #12 and Andrus Peat at #13. Given Seattle’s current needs, it would’ve been an interesting quartet to consider.

In 2014 the Seahawks would’ve been in position to select Odell Beckham Jr (#12) or Aaron Donald (#13). In 2013 they would’ve had a shot at Sheldon Richardson (#13).

They owned the #12 pick in 2012 before moving down three spots to take Bruce Irvin — who’s been a regular starter ever since.

It’s still way too early to predict how the 2016 class will shake out — but having identified at least four draftable offensive tackles for the top-15 — at least one is likely to be sitting there within range.

We’ve been banging on about Shon Coleman (T, Auburn) being the best offensive tackle in college football for a while and there’s no reason to hold back now. A cancer survivor who fought his way back into football, Coleman has dominated difficult SEC opponents like Myles Garrett, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins. His combination of size, power, mobility, attitude, willingness to get to the second level and chirpiness make him the definition of an elite prospect. He should go very early but nobody talks about him. We’ll see if his stock rises like Greg Robinson in 2014 or Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson in 2013. If not, he could be an ideal first round pick for the Seahawks.

Most people expect Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss) to go in the top ten and that’s a safe bet. While I prefer Coleman, Tunsil has also performed well against the like of Texas A&M’s fantastic speed rusher Myles Garrett since returning from a NCAA imposed suspension. He has the length, kick slide, second level willingness and sufficient grit to warrant the attention he receives. With a premium placed on athletic offensive tackles — Tunsil is well placed to be off the board before Seattle picks barring an unlikely tanking the rest of the way.

Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State) is an underrated athlete who could easily force his way into the top ten. Teams love tall, athletic, blue-collar blockers. Decker ticks all the right boxes and has similar potential to Taylor Lewan. In 2014 Lewan was actually the third tackle off the board at #11 (Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews went before him). Out of the three, Lewan’s had the better career to date. Don’t be surprised if Decker goes a little later than someone like Tunsil but ends up being the better pro. Decker shouldn’t get out of the top-15 and he could be an option if the Seahawks pick as early as #12.

Jack Conklin (T, Michigan Tate) has had a middling 2015 season so far. In the game against Oregon he looked like a typical road-grader — driving defenders off the ball, protecting Connor Cook and looking every bit a physical and capable pro-prospect. In recent weeks he’s not looked quite as sharp — culminating in a slightly torrid outing against Maryland last weekend. Cook was injured in the game as the pass protection struggled. Can Conklin play left tackle? That’s the big question. Are you moving him to the right? If so, you’re probably putting him behind Coleman, Tunsil and Decker. Even so — he’s a bit of a self-made man (former walk-on at MSU) and he’s a good run blocker with the necessary size and temperament teams like. With such a growing need for good O-liners in the league, don’t expect Conklin to get out of the top-20 picks.

I’ve not included Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley. His play and effort is inconsistent, there’s a stiffness to his pass-pro set and there’s very little evidence of any second level blocking. LSU’s Jerald Hawkins has received some attention recently — although it’s unclear why. Some of his performances this year have barely warranted a draftable grade (particularly against Alabama).

It’s hard to look beyond the O-line for obvious reasons. Seattle’s group has struggled, seemingly impacting the overall identity of the offense and affecting the performance of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.

Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy are free agents in the off-season. Even if both players re-sign — you likely have to consider upgrading the left guard, center and right tackle positions.

If things go wrong and they pick in the top-15, they’ll have ample opportunity to address their most pressing need.

Teams going O-line crazy in recent years

The Seahawks might be facing an O-line makeover in the off-season — but plenty of other teams have already been there and got the T-shirt. With mixed results.

The Arizona Cardinals spent first round picks on Jonathan Cooper (2013) and D.J. Humphries (2015) and yet both have disappointed so far. They also committed to the O-line in free agency, bringing in Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati. The Cardinals, even with two underwhelming first round players, have the #8 ranked O-line in pass protection in the NFL (all rankings in this piece via Football Outsiders) and the third best run blocking unit.

Cincinnati has planned ahead, sensing the need to protect Andy Dalton as a priority. They drafted Cedric Ogbuehi (first round) and Jake Fisher (second round) this year to eventually replace their two incumbent offensive tackles. In 2012 they also spent a first round pick on guard Kevin Zeitler and in 2014 a fourth rounder on Russell Bodine. They have the seventh best unit for pass pro and a ranked at #2 in the run game and clearly intend to stay in that range.

The Cleveland Browns hit on two elite O-liners in 2007 (Joe Thomas) and 2009 (Alex Mack). Yet 2015 first rounder Cam Erving is off to a bad start (seemingly Mack’s successor). 2012 early second rounder Mitchell Schwartz has been hit and miss but 2014 second rounder Joel Bitonio has been a roaring success. Despite some heavy draft investment in the trenches, the Browns have given up three more sacks than even the Seahawks in 2015. Their line is ranked dead last in the running game and #26 in pass pro. It’s clear evidence that a good line and a bad supporting cast at the skill positions isn’t a good mix.

The Miami Dolphins have tried to rebuild their O-line recently by drafting Ja’Wuan James in the first round (2014), spending third rounders on Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas and a fourth rounder this year on Jamil Douglas. That follows the previous first round investment on Mike Pouncey (2011). They also signed Brandon Albert in free agency. The line is still in a state of flux despite serious dedication to try and improve. Miami’s line is currently at #25 in the passing game and #19 for the run.

The New York Giants have made recent moves to improve their line, probably to preserve Eli Manning’s career for a while longer. Ereck Flowers was taken with the #9 pick this year. Justin Pugh was drafted in the first round in 2013. They also spent a second rounder last year on center Weston Richburg. It’s certainly led to some improvement. New York currently has the 12th best pass protecting line and they’re #16 in the run game. They’ve only given up 15 sacks.

Pittsburgh are another team that recently decided they had to spend considerable resource up front to repair their offense. In 2012 they spent their first two picks on guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams. They took Maurkice Pouncey in round one the previous year. They’ve gone from having a horrendous, sieve-like offensive line to a solid unit that boasts the #6 run game in 2015 and the #20 line in pass protection. Consider that they didn’t have Le’veon Bell for the first four games of the season due to suspension and have needed to start Michael Vick and Landry Jones at quarterback. Clearly the line is doing something right.

And then of course there’s Dallas. The most hyped up O-line in the league. Everyone considers the Cowboys’ unit as the best. Tony Romo has still missed games in 2014 and 2015 playing behind this O-line. While it’s certainly not a bad group by any stretch — the three first round picks spent on Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick (plus the recent addition of La’el Collins) have combined for the #23 ranked line for pass pro and at #8 in the running game. Not bad numbers — but certainly not elite given the major investment. Maybe Romo, Dez Bryant and DeMarcus Murray were the real stars last year?

So these are the teams that have gone big recently. The #1 ranked team in pass protection is Oakland surprisingly. Their line consists of free agent pickups Donald Penn, Rodney Hudson, a former 7th rounder J’Marcus Webb signed from Minnesota, undrafted Austin Howard who bounced around three teams before landing with the Raiders and 2014 third round pick Gabe Jackson.

You wouldn’t put that group together and expect greatness. It emphasises what scheming and a good blend of offensive skill players (Carr, Murray, Cooper & Crabtree) can do for an offense.

The Seahawks — who themselves have spent two first rounders, two second rounders and a third rounder on the O-line since 2009 — have shown they’re unable to scheme around a line that isn’t that talented. The solution is probably going to be expensive — be it picks or salary.

Will they go with a tackle first in 2016 (Coleman, Tunsil, Decker, Conklin) and someone like Adam Bisnowaty, Jason Spriggs or Joe Dahl in rounds 2-3? They also need to find an answer at center — and if they can afford it, might be able to coax Alex Mack to Seattle. Adding a cheaper, wily veteran at tackle or guard might also be attractive.

Ultimately they need tough football players who can pick up the technique quickly. Zack Martin was a rare case — athletic and technically adept while capable of playing any position on the line. A fantastic prospect. But players like Justin Pugh in New York, the Pouncey brothers, Joel Bitonio and others have shown you can find prospects who can make it work quickly with toughness, attitude and some athleticism.

They’ve tried the ultra-SPARQy, high ceiling approach and it hasn’t necessarily worked. They don’t need to completely abandon that plan — but it’s time to find some road graders to hold things together. The Seahawks need to be able to run the ball and provide average pass protection. They need to get back to the days where they ranked #1 in the running game and around the #20 mark for pass pro. That’s the identity of this team. Right now they’re at #9 for the run and #32 in pass pro. A jump of eight places is required in both categories — minimum — for this team to regain the offense it desires.

Possible 2016 O-line solution:

LT Shon Coleman or Taylor Decker
LG Veteran guard or Justin Britt
C Alex Mack
RG J.R. Sweezy
RT Adam Bisnowaty

(This assumes Russell Okung signs a big contract with a different team)

The Seahawks might also want to bring in another running back in the middle rounds. Indiana’s Jordan Howard showed what he’s capable of against Michigan with major yards after contact and a tough, physical running style. Alex Collins has had a very solid year for Arkansas with a blend of home-run hitting speed and a tough-to-bring-down style. UCLA’s Paul Perkins is more athletic and slight but is still tough to bring down with nice vision and a delicious cut-back ability.

Don’t forget to check out this weeks podcast:

Pittsburgh’s Adam Bisnowaty — another O-liner to monitor

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Pittsburgh’s Adam Bisnowaty could be a good option for the Seahawks in 2016

The 2016 draft looks pretty healthy for offensive lineman. That’s good news for the Seahawks.

Not only is the O-line in need of some care and attention, three fifth’s of Sunday’s starting line against Arizona is out of contract in the off-season. Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy are hitting the market. Patrick Lewis is a restricted free agent.

It seems unlikely both Okung and Sweezy will depart. The line has suffered enough thanks to a lack of cohesion and continuity. Three inexperienced new starters in 2016 looked like a recipe for disaster and so it has proved. The Seahawks are just hoping they can hold it together enough to avoid derailing a key season in the middle of the teams Championship window.

Even so, they could be facing at least three more changes in 2016. If Okung moves on, Gilliam could swap to the left tackle position. He’d need time to make that adjustment. That would create a hole at right tackle. It seems likely another face will be starting at center.

Adding more youth and inexperience isn’t an attractive proposition. More than ever young lineman are struggling to adapt to the NFL. Even the players drafted in the top ten are having a hard time making the transition. An apparent sure thing like Jake Matthews has been fairly ordinary. The insane upside of Greg Robinson hasn’t provided St. Louis with a fantastic left tackle yet.

The Seahawks would benefit from some choice veteran additions in free agency. Can they afford Alex Mack if he voids his contract? That would be a start. It’s unlikely to prevent at least one rookie starting next year. They don’t have a bottomless pit of cap space to fill the line with experienced vets.

Their ability to fill a hole in round one will be down to draft position more than anything. The later they pick, the harder it’ll be to get at the best group of tackles which for me includes Shon Coleman, Laremy Tunsil, Taylor Decker and Jack Conklin.

There will be options later on. Jason Spriggs is a largely unspectacular, solid blocker for Indiana with a shot to play right tackle at the next level. Joe Dahl is out with a foot injury for Washington State but has excelled in pass protection when healthy.

Time to throw another name into the mix.

Pittsburgh left tackle Adam Bisnowaty is extremely mobile with excellent, ideal tackle size (6-6, 300lbs). He ticks several boxes for the Seahawks. For starters, he’s a wrestler who was still competing as of 2011 (Tom Cable previously highlighted Justin Britt’s wrestling background). He’s a blue collar type who spent his youth fishing and hunting. He played basketball too — a testament to his athletic potential.

He was a former four-star recruit and one of the more heavily recruited prospects from Pennsylvania in recent memory.

He recently caught my eye watching the Pittsburgh vs North Carolina game. There’s no Bisnowaty tape on Draft Breakdown, but there’s plenty showing off Tyler Boyd. Including the UNC game:

Bisnowaty plays LT and wears #69.

So what stands out? He has a very fluid kick slide. Although he was never really challenged by speed in this game, he showed ample mobility and balance. He delivers a fantastic initial punch and showed off the ability to dominate and finish when squared up 1v1. It’d be very interesting to see how he’d adjust to guard where he can focus on downfield blocking where he should excel. I still think he has the mobility and range to play tackle.

There’s a willingness to get to the second level and he moves well laterally so he can pull and kick across easily enough. He passes off blockers and transitions with ease. There’s an awful lot to like here. Attitude, toughness, strength, size, mobility. A lot more to like than someone like Ronnie Stanley or Jerald Hawkins, that’s for sure. Stanley is a borderline first rounder for me, while LSU’s Hawkins has barely warranted a draftable grade (watch the Alabama game).

If the Seahawks wanted an upside prospect who could potentially man a tackle spot or move inside to guard, Bisnowaty is one to monitor. He’s a redshirt junior so should theoretically declare for the draft. He has a chance to rise. The skill set is there.

Updated first round mock draft — 10th November

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

For more on the Seahawks pick, the mock draft and general NFL/NFL Draft thoughts — check out this weeks podcast…

Picks 1-10

1 Detroit Lions — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
2 Cleveland Browns — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
4 Tennessee Titans — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
5 San Diego Chargers — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
6 Baltimore Ravens — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
7 Dallas Cowboys — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
8 Chicago Bears — Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
9 San Francisco 49ers — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)

After watching Shon Coleman shut down Texas A&M’s brilliant Myles Garrett — there’s no reason not to make him the #1 offensive tackle prospect in this class. He’s the perfect compliment of attitude, athleticism and size. He loves to get to the second level and punish linebackers. He can mirror and kick slide well enough to play the blindside. People aren’t talking about him but don’t be surprised if he has a Greg Robinson, Lane Johnson, Eric Fisher, Ereck Flowers style rise.

Corey Coleman should be in the top ten of every mock draft you read. He probably should be leading the Heisman race. Incredible production is only part of the story. He will destroy the combine with eye-catching athleticism. He’ll take the ball away in contested situations, he’ll get downfield. He’s terrific in space. There’s no reason why he won’t be productive early in his pro-career. He could be the best offensive player in the class.

Paxton Lynch could’ve gone to the Browns at #2 but in this projection I have them waiting until the early second round for a quarterback. DeForest Buckner isn’t a fantastic, elite athlete but his play warrants an early first round grade.

Picks 11-20

11 Miami Dolphins — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
12 Houston Texans — Jaylen Ramsey (CB/S, Florida State)
13 Washington — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
14 Kansas City Chiefs — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
15 New Orleans Saints — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
16 Philadelphia Eagles — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
17 Oakland Raiders — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
18 St. Louis Rams — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
19 Seattle Seahawks — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
20 Buffalo — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)

Why are the Seahawks drafting a linebacker?

In this projection Shon Coleman, Laremy Tunsil, Taylor Decker and Jack Conklin are off the board. This represents the possible dilemma facing the Seahawks if they intend to go offensive line early in this draft. It’s still too early to determine who will or won’t be there if they pick even this late in round one (#19) — but there is such a crisis in the NFL with a dearth of good, young O-liners. The ones that are available will go quickly. The Seahawks, even in a scenario where they don’t make the playoffs, could be met with a situation where they either have to force a pick or look elsewhere.

Taking Ronnie Stanley or Germain Ifedi would be forcing the pick. Stanley’s play is too hit and miss. He looks assured and technically adept against USC and then sluggish and lazy against Temple. Unlike Coleman and Tunsil he doesn’t look to get to the second level. His footwork can be poor. You want to light a fire under him he’s so passive. He will likely go early because of the NFL’s need for linemen — but don’t be shocked if he drops into round two either. Ifedi meanwhile has not looked particularly great at right tackle this season. He has the size to move inside at the next level. That’s fine. But to me he looks like a James Carpenter type.

In the brilliant Real in the Field Gulls podcast last week with Danny O’Neil we heard about the possibility of Garry Gilliam moving to left tackle to replace Russell Okung. If you think about it, Gilliam has the athletic profile to make it work. And unlike some of these first round picks, he’ll have a year starting in the NFL under his belt. If you’re going to have to go through the growing pains with a rookie anyway — you can see the thought process here. Whether you believe Gilliam is good enough to make the transition — that’s a different story.

If Gilliam moves to the left you need a right tackle and possible a center (Justin Britt has actually improved considerably in recent games at left guard). If you’re not paying Okung can you lure Alex Mack to Seattle if he voids his contract? Can you add a veteran right tackle? These are all possibilities that theoretically enable some flexibility in the first round.

I went with Myles Jack because of the athleticism and versatility he’s shown at UCLA, the likelihood of Bruce Irvin departing and the opportunity provided due to Jack’s knee injury. He likely goes a little earlier without the injury. If the Seahawks do miss the playoffs and pick at #19 — they might see it as a bonus opportunity to get a genuine top-20 talent.

And now that I’ve spent the last few para’s trying to convince you they might not go O-line early next year… I still think it’s incredibly likely that’s exactly what they’ll do. But hey — it’s November and a bye week. We need something to discuss.

Picks 21-32

21 Indianapolis Colts — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
22 New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
23 Pittsburgh Steelers — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
24 New York Jets — Germain Ifedi (T/G, Texas A&M)
25 Atlanta — Jonathan Bullard (DT/DE, Florida)
26 Green Bay — De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
27 Arizona — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
28 Minnesota — Adolphus Washington (DT/DE, Ohio State)
29 Denver — Jared Goff (QB, California)
30 Cincinnati — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)
31 Carolina — Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)

There’s every chance I’ll move Ronnie Stanley out of the first round again. For now he survives, just, due to the demand for OT’s in the NFL. Mackensie Alexander has impressed enough recently to warrant some attention in round one — adding to a talented cornerback class. De’Runnya Wilson is a poor man’s Kelvin Benjamin and could go in a similar range.

Mock draft breakdown (November 4th): Seahawks go O-line

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Taylor Decker could help upgrade Seattle’s O-line. But yeah, it’s November. So who knows?

In the podcast this week we conducted a live 1-31 mock draft (the Pats don’t have a first rounder). I said I’d list it out in full today and you’ll find it below. It’s very much a loose projection, designed mainly to look at the kind of range certain players might be drafted. Do I think the Bears will prioritise replacing prospective free agent Alshon Jeffery over defensive help? Not really. But I wanted to emphasise Laquon Treadwell’s stock as a possible top ten pick.

Picks 1-10

#1 Detroit Lions — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#2 Tennessee Titans — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
#3 Baltimore Ravens — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
#4 Cleveland Browns — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
#5 San Diego Chargers — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
#6 San Francisco 49ers — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
#7 Jacksonville Jaguars — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
#8 Chicago Bears — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
#9 Dallas Cowboys — Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
#10 Houston Texans — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)

The Lions, Titans and Ravens aren’t likely to be in the quarterback market. If the Browns ended up with the first overall pick — or the 49ers — I’d have no issue putting Paxton Lynch right at the top of this class. He could go that early. I’ve said it a few times now — but teams are going to look at this quarterback class and decide Lynch has the bigger upside and the greatest combination of physical tools and accuracy. He’s leading Memphis, almost single-handedly, into the top-15 teams in the nation. Think about that. They beat Ole Miss, who won at Alabama. He doesn’t turn it over. He throws with touch and he’s mobile enough to be a threat as a runner. He won’t be Cam Newton. But he won’t be far off if he lands with the right team.

Corey Coleman is a production machine who competes for the ball and an elite athlete. He will destroy the combine if he declares for the 2016 draft. He has a realistic shot to propel his stock into the upper echelon of prospects — similar to Tavon Austin’s rise in 2013.

Laremy Tunsil could go as early as the #1 overall pick but in this projection I had teams looking at other needs. It’s no slur on Tunsil — and he lands with the Jaguars here because the value is just too good.

Tre’Davious White in my opinion is going to be highly coveted (leadership, coverage skills and an underrated kick returner). Cameron Sutton and Eli Apple aren’t far behind. Shon Coleman might be the most underrated player in college football. Like Corey Coleman, don’t be surprised if he leaps into the top ten in the new year.

Picks 11-20

#11 Kansas City Chiefs — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
#12 Miami Dolphins — Jaylon Ramsey (CB/S, Florida State)
#13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
#14 Philadelphia Eagles — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
#15 Washington — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
#16 Buffalo Bills — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
#17 New Orleans Saints — Adolphus Washington (DT/DE, Ohio State)
#18 Seattle Seahawks — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
#19 Pittsburgh Steelers — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
#20 St. Louis Rams — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)

Eli Apple would make a nice partner for Marcus Peters while Jaylon Ramsey fills a big hole for the Dolphins either at corner or free safety. DeForest Buckner is a better football player than Arik Armstead who went in this range to the 49ers a year ago. Jack Conklin might end up at right tackle in the NFL — the Eagles could get creative with Lane Johnson to accommodate him.

Michael Thomas is just a terrific receiver with everything you want in a true #1. Reggie Ragland would be a tone setter and organiser for Rex Ryan’s talented but underachieving defense in Buffalo. Adolphus Washington makes enough splash plays to warrant consideration in round one. Kendall Fuller is a top talent coming off an injury otherwise he’d go earlier. Tyler Boyd is a gritty playmaker and the heart and soul of Pittsburgh’s offense.

What about the Seahawks? Right now it looks like they’ll simply have to take the best offensive lineman available next year — barring some big (unlikely?) moves in free agency. This need will be even more desperate if they lose Russell Okung. Ideally they find a way to keep Okung and then draft a right tackle. Decker’s an underrated athlete and should do better than expected at the combine. He’s technically very sound and has practised against Joey Bosa for a few years. Good personality with a ‘working class’ feel to his game. He should be able to start quickly.

Also playing into the equation is the possibility of Garry Gilliam improving at right tackle or even being given the chance to replace Okung (not out of the question). The Seahawks could look at alternatives later such as Indiana’s Jason Spriggs. They could even target a guard convert here like Germain Ifedi or Joe Dahl.

Ronnie Stanley is also still on the board in this projection and would be a risk/reward option to replace Okung. We’ve seen the best (vs USC) and worst (vs Temple) of Stanley recently. When he squares up to blockers and can hand-fight 1v1 he wins most of his battles. His effort, however, is so inconsistent and he frequently looks lost trying to find someone to block. Coleman, Tunsil, Decker, Conklin — they play with their hair on fire. Coleman and Tunsil in particular seek out the second level and just hammer linebackers. Stanley has this ugly tendency to coast through games playing at half-speed. It’s a real concern and I’d have a hard time personally taking him in round one. Such is the need for quality tackles, however, someone might feel obliged to draft him early and hope for the best.

Picks 21-31

#21 Indianapolis Colts — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
#22 New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
#23 New York Jets — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
#24 Oakland Raiders — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
#25 Minnesota Vikings — Germain Ifedi (T/G, Texas A&M)
#26 Atlanta Falcons — Joe Dahl (T/G, Washington State)
#27 Arizona Cardinals — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
#28 Green Bay Packers — Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida)
#29 Cincinnati Bengals — Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
#30 Carolina Panthers — Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
#31 Denver Broncos — Jared Goff (QB, California)

It’s still too early to even consider how this part of the first round will play out. I like Darron Lee and Myles Jack a lot and they could go earlier than this. Ifedi and Dahl are both likely to move inside. Dahl is performing well in pass protection for the Cougs, while Ifedi is struggling a bit at right tackle for the Aggies. A’Shawn Robinson offers very little in terms of pass rush and that could hamper his stock.

Zekey Elliott could end up going to a good team who can afford to take him in round one. In this instance it’s Arizona. He might need a bit of time to click at the next level — but he’s a well-rounded weapon of a running back. Jonathan Bullard has lived in the backfield all season for Florida and deserves a first round projection here.

Shaq Lawson might be the best pure edge rusher after Joey Bosa but there will be some doubts about yet another undersized Clemson DE. I have no issues putting Braxton Miller in round open. He’s dynamic in space, has shown to be a natural hands-catcher. He’s bright, intelligent and an X-Factor.

Jared Goff completes the round. He had another rough day against USC with one horrendous interception in particular. He’s a very skilled, accurate, surgeon of a passer at times. He’s also erratic and needs to be brought along slowly at the next level. The internet has decided to anoint him as their champion (see: Teddy Bridgewater, 2014). So expect major overreactions when he goes later than ‘Draft Twitter’ projects followed by repeated ‘told you so’s’ when he has a good performance (and stoney silence when, like Bridgewater, he finds it pretty tough).

For further thoughts on each pick, check out the podcast:

Thursday notes: Paxton Lynch going very early?

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Paxton Lynch will go higher than people think

According to a report in Sports Illustrated, NFL scouts expect Memphis’ Paxton Lynch to be the first quarterback taken in the 2016 draft. It’s something we discussed a few weeks ago on the ‘3000 NFL Mock Draft’ podcast and noted here. For me it’s not a question of whether Lynch will be the first quarterback taken. It’s how high will he go?

There are two things to consider. Firstly, Lynch will not be the best overall player in the class. That honour will go to somebody else. It could be Joey Bosa. It could be Laremy Tunsil. Don’t be shocked if Baylor’s Corey Coleman really emerges as a big favourite too (more on him in a moment).

That said — any team needing a quarterback will look at Paxton Lynch and feel like they can win with him. He’s a very accurate passer with tremendous size and poise. He throws with touch and doesn’t turn the ball over. Despite being a big, strong quarterback he’s also surprisingly elusive and will make plays with his feet. He isn’t Cam Newton. That doesn’t mean he can’t be used in a similar way.

Importantly he’s also making an unfancied Memphis team competitive. They’re ranked. They’ve beaten Ole Miss (who beat Alabama on the road). In that game he made several outstanding plays. One example was a four-read progression before an accurate dart to the outside for a third down conversion. His third score was a beautiful (yet safe) deep-ball to the back-shoulder.

Lynch is making Memphis relevant. He’s elevating that squad. A bad team needing a lift will like that aspect.

If the franchise picking first overall needs a quarterback — Lynch could be in play. Believe it. At the moment Detroit, Baltimore and Tennessee are set to pick first, second and third. If it stays that way — it’s unlikely those three teams go QB in round one. Cleveland are at four and Houston at five. The Texans in particular are trending downwards largely because of their lack of an effective and consistent passing game.

Even if Lynch isn’t the top pick, he could easily find a home in the top five with the task of changing the fortunes of a slumping team. GM’s and coaches will look at his flaws and feel they’re fixable. They’ll love his upside.

Watch out for Corey Coleman

West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen recently called Baylor receiver Corey Coleman the best player in college football. Presumably he forgot about Leonard Fournette, but he still raised an interesting point.

There just aren’t many players like Coleman in the NFL, let alone in college.

He’s gaining headlines for a ridiculous stat line in 2015. He’s scored 18 touchdowns in seven games, adding 962 receiving yards. He’s virtually sewn up the Biletnikoff Award for this year and we’re not even into November.

When you watch the tape — you see his success isn’t purely down to a well-drilled, prolific passing offense.

Coleman is a perfect blend of competitiveness, attitude, skill and speed. He’s incredibly quick into his breaks creating separation almost immediately and often appearing wide open. Teams are petrified of his speed over the top and offer such a soft cushion that he’s nearly always open in the short-range passing game. He’ll go up and snatch a pass out of the air, he’ll make the tough grabs. He’s had a couple of ugly drops but it doesn’t appear to be a reoccurring issue.

He’s a thoroughly dynamic playmaker. He speaks well and doesn’t appear to be a diva. He looks the part of a new age wide receiver making it in the NFL. He’s only 5-11 and 190lbs. He’s just so explosive — not unlike Odell Beckham Jr. at LSU and Antonio Brown currently at Pittsburgh. That’s not to say he’ll have their success — he’d need to land on a good passing offense for a start. The potential is clearly there, however.

There are some issues too.

Coleman has a knack of giving up when he knows the ball isn’t coming his way. If it’s a run call, for example, he frequently lines up and just doesn’t do anything off the snap. No attempted block. No route to throw off a defense. He’ll just stand still or walk around. On a couple of occasions a running play has broken off to this side of the field and with a greater effort he could’ve made a downfield block.

At Baylor it doesn’t really matter. They’re so explosive most teams get blown out of the water by half time. At the next level he’s going to need to up the ante and the work rate. He can’t be taking snaps off when it’s a run. He can’t saunter through plays when he’s not the primary target. I suspect he’ll know and appreciate this — it’s just strange to see a player so lethargic on the field when he’s not getting the ball. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it before.

That aside he has the potential to blow up the combine (he’s a junior and eligible for next years draft). Don’t be shocked if he ends up going as early as Tavon Austin in 2013. Players like Coleman with mass production and insane athleticism always rise and rise. He could be a top ten or fifteen pick.

An elite group emerges

Opinions are still pretty varied but for me a clear handful of players are separating themselves as the best crop eligible for 2016:

Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)

There’s also a good looking second tier that arguably includes:

Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
Laquan Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
Jalen Ramsey (CB/S, Florida State)
Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)

Obviously I haven’t seen every player yet — this is just based on my own personal thoughts so far.

It’s hard to figure out how Ezekiel Elliott fits into the class. He’s a very talented running back but doesn’t possess a unique skill set. He’s reasonably sized, pretty fast and doesn’t go down on first contact. A good back to build a running game around and a possible feature runner. Is he going to transform a team, carry the load and have an instant impact? Debatable. Todd Gurley he aint. It wouldn’t really be a surprise if he went in the top-20 or lasted into round two. His stock is wide open.

Jared Goff is equally confusing. He throws a prettier deep ball than most quarterbacks in college football. He can be very accurate, he can win games on his own for California and he’s helped make an average looking roster somewhat respectable. He’s also very skinny, prone to head-scratching errors and a five-interception game at Utah wasn’t pretty (not all the picks were his fault, but there were two ugly ones).

He could easily be a first round pick. He could also face a similar fate to the likes of Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater. Teams will like Goff. But do they like him enough to make him a high first round pick? Is a GM or Head Coach going to tie himself to Goff with the big investment? The difference between pick #15 and #35-40 isn’t that much — but it offers much more wiggle room for a team to save face and ultimately move on if it doesn’t work out.