Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

USC’s Ronald Jones is interesting, different

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

As we run through the running back class, here’s a reminder of the players we’ve looked at so far:

Damien Harris (Alabama)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Derrius Guice (LSU)

Here’s a post with further notes on Harris and Johnson

USC’s Ronald Jones II isn’t like the four names above. This was the first time I’d had a chance to properly study him and it’s impossible not to be extremely impressed. I wouldn’t argue with anyone who believed he was the second best eligible running back (behind Saquon Barkley).

There’s something to consider before we look at why he’s an exciting prospect. He’s listed at 6-0 and 200lbs. That would be a move away from Seattle’s preferred physical profile.

Here are the running backs they’ve drafted since 2012:

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

This doesn’t exclude Jones from being an option for the Seahawks but it is something to consider. Taking him would be a departure from their recent drafting style.

You might argue that this preferred physical profile hasn’t brought about good results recently. Let’s not forget though that Seattle’s ‘preferred profile’ also includes Marshawn Lynch, Alex Collins is currently having a great time in Baltimore, Chris Carson looked really good before his injury, Spencer Ware has had success in Kansas City and none of Christine Michael’s issues were due to physical build or athleticism.

The Seahawks met with Jamaal Charles in the off-season. According to Ian Rapaport both parties had ‘strong mutual interest’. This suggests the Seahawks might be flexible in their approach to RB’s for the right player.

Jones is eerily similar to Charles. They have almost identical bodies. They’re 6-0 and 200lbs. Their running styles are very similar. USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin even made the comparison:

“He reminded me of Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs. That type of skill set. Just a guy who runs and it’s easy for him. It doesn’t look like he’s working hard and he’s running by everyone.”

Jones himself has admitted he looks up to Charles.

Pro-comparisons are often lazy and serve only to create false expectations. With Jones, the comparison feels reasonable. And that’s why I wouldn’t rule out interest from the Seahawks even if he is a different body type. Who wouldn’t want someone like Charles?

We’ll see how accurate the comparison is by the combine. They look similar on tape but Charles ran an excellent 4.38 at the combine. I haven’t been able to find any workout information from the Nike combines but Jones reportedly clocked a 4.41 during recruiting. That’s the kind of time he needs. In terms of explosive qualities, Charles managed a 30.5 inch vertical and a 10-2 broad. He also had a 4.22 short shuttle. Those are the types of marks Jones needs to hit.

Let’s look at what he’s about.

Often a player with great speed isn’t a tough runner up the middle. That’s not the case here. Jones has tough runs dragging tacklers for extra yardage while keeping his legs moving. He might prove to be a little slower at the combine than Charles but he might be a more explosive tester.

For example, look at this:

That’s a 200lbs running back pushing the pile there, getting the absolute maximum out of that run. That’s not a weak defensive line he’s facing either. It’s Stanford.

He’s also capable of breaking tackles and fighting for extra yardage in the open field:

The defender he throws off there is a linebacker playing up at the LOS. He turned a relatively routine first down conversion into a big 25-yard gain. Pure physicality, explosive power. Exciting.

Toughness and physicality isn’t just about running through tackles either. Damien Harris at Alabama is a highly competitive pass blocker. There’s some evidence that Jones is equally willing to put a hit on a pass rusher and protect the quarterback:

The next clip is my favourite play though:

Pause the video after a single second and look at the screenshot. Jones is staring at a wall of bodies and the run appears destined to be stuffed. He somehow squirts through the scrum and with one cut takes out three defenders who overcommit to the left side. It’s such a sharp, sudden, nasty cut. Once he reaches the second level it’s over. He sprints away, untouched, for a huge touchdown.

It’s the perfect example of his ability to get skinny and find a running lane, show some physicality to fight through the initial pile and then explode thanks to one perfectly executed cut.

Clearly he isn’t ‘just’ a sprinter. He is extremely smooth and sudden as a runner though. He makes it look so effortless:

He bounces this run to the outside, sprints in-between a couple of defenders and takes it in for a big touchdown. Jones barely breaks stride, he just glides. This is why the Jamaal Charles comparisons carry some weight. Can’t you just imagine peak Jamaal making a play like that?

Here’s another example. This video reminds me a little bit of one of Adoree’ Jackson’s returns for USC. There’s virtually no room by the right sideline and somehow he cuts his way into space and finds a lane. It’s an incredible play that demands so much body control, speed and acceleration. The balance he shows to set up the blocks and max out such a tiny portion of space to make this long touchdown is incredible:

How do you not get excited looking at a play like that?

Here’s another one:

It’s like he’s on ski’s — slaloming through traffic while remaining perfectly balanced and in control. When he sees the opportunity to get upfield he turns on the jets and just accelerates away from the defense. His ability to cut away from trouble and then go from 0-60 in a flash is highly impressive.

He’s not going to punish a team with up-the-middle running, wearing down an opponent and forcing them into fourth quarter submission. That’s not what you draft him to be. He’ll infuriate opponents in a different way — his ability to turn relatively mundane plays into huge gains. He’s able to find the edge and suddenly explode to a big gain. He sets up downfield blocks like a returner and he’s a really difficult out when he gets to the second level despite being only 200lbs.

If he declares for the draft, Jones is going to be in the conversation to be the second running back drafted. He’s a major talent, with an attitude and personality that just fits the position. He appears tough, both in the way he carries himself and the way he performs on the field.

There’s an X-factor about his game that is exciting.

For the year he had 1486 yards at 6.1 YPC. He had 19 total touchdowns.

It’ll be hard to separate the likes of Jones, Damien Harris and Kerryon Johnson if they all turn pro. They’re all very different runners with appealing traits.

Consider this as well. If Jones’ best comparison is Jamaal Charles — well Charles lasted until round three. Kerryon Johnson’s patience in the backfield is reminiscent of Le’Veon Bell (although there’s a big difference in size). Bell was a round two pick. How many Alabama running backs have lasted into round two over the years? Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon, Eddie Lacy. Kenyon Drake was a third rounder.

This looks a great year to consider spending a high pick on a running back. The Seahawks might have the luxury of being able to trade down before making it happen.

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A few more thoughts on Derrius Guice

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

This week Todd McShay published his first mock draft with the Seahawks selecting LSU running back Derrius Guice. We addressed the pick here.

I wanted to offer a few more thoughts on Guice today.

There’s no doubting he’s a tough, physical runner. He’s well sized at a listed 5-11 and 212lbs and that’s more or less in Seattle’s ballpark for profile.

There are two really good qualities about his game. Firstly, he’s tough to bring down. He’ll collide into defenders, bounce away from the initial contact and get extra yardage. He’s not an easy get if he can find a crease to the second level:

This quality helps in the red zone too. He’s really tough:

So while he’s not necessarily a big, physical tone-setter — defenders are going to need to bring it to get him on the turf.

His second best quality is he’s quite adept at hitting the line with authority. He’s not going to be the fastest tester at the combine — but he generally gets up to speed quickly and he’s assertive in his decision making. He scampers rather than sprints but it enables him to chew up ground:

He’s not lightning quick but those short strides enable him to cover a lot of yards. He doesn’t run away from many defenders and there are plenty of examples where he gets caught from behind. Yet that initial burst and decisiveness at the line make up for a lack of pure speed.

So here’s what I think he is — a tough as nails running back who won’t quit and has enough initial quickness to take advantage of good blocking. He will effectively take what is available more often than not and leave everything on the field.

It’s also worth noting, however, that he is quite limited physically.

Speed isn’t everything for a running back. Explosive traits can make up for a lack of pure straight-line speed. Unfortunately for Guice he seems to be lacking in both areas. His game is going to be more about tough physical running than it is about great athleticism. There’s a danger, however, that at the next level he’ll struggle to stand out against a higher level of athletic competition.

Let’s compare Guice to some of his peers.

Here’s his workout from the SPARQ combine:

Height: 5’11”
Weight: 216
40: 4.61
Short Shuttle: 4.66
Vertical Leap: 30.4″
Power Throw: 35.0″
SPARQ: 83.37

This is a particularly pedestrian workout compared to some of the other running backs in this class. For example, here’s how Damien Harris performed:

Height: 5-10
Weight: 210lbs
40-yard: 4.48
Short shuttle: 4.00
Vertical: 38 inches
SPARQ: 126.93

Again, workouts aren’t everything. Guice’s mentality and physicality will cover some of the physical flaws. Yet Harris is quicker and more explosive per his testing results and you do see evidence of that on tape (for more on Harris check out this piece from a few weeks ago).

Harris is also just as tough and physical as Guice, he’s just as difficult to bring down:

But he also does this:

And of course this:

Now let’s look at Oregon’s Royce Freeman:

Height: 6-0
Weight: 227lbs
40-yard: 4.58
Short shuttle: 4.07
Vertical: 33.6 inches
SPARQ: 121.17

Freeman was 10lbs heavier than Guice at the SPARQ combine but ran a slightly quicker forty time. He was far superior to Guice in the short shuttle and he had a more explosive vertical jump.

A lot of people enjoyed comparing the brilliant Leonard Fournette with Guice last year, after Guice successfully spelled the now Jacksonville Jaguar. Fournette at his SPARQ combine didn’t do all of the tests (and therefore didn’t receive an overall score) but it’s worth noting how much quicker he was in the short shuttle (4.3 vs 4.66) despite being exactly 10lbs heavier. At the NFL combine Fournette ran a 4.51 — 0.10 seconds quicker than Guice’s SPARQ test.

Dalvin Cook managed a 110.64 SPARQ score at his workout. It wasn’t a brilliant performance given his size (5-11, 196lbs) but it’s still considerably higher than Guice’s 83.37.

I’ll say it again because I want this message to be clear. SPARQ isn’t everything. Explosive testing isn’t everything. However, the Seahawks have a pretty consistent track record in drafting explosive testers at running back (the history of which is detailed in my Damien Harris piece).

I can imagine the Seahawks appreciating and liking Guice’s running style and his vibrant personality. Yet one of the objective’s of this blog is to try and discuss trends and use the information we have to judge how likely a player is to end up a Seahawk. We won’t get everything right. It seems, however, that Guice will likely need a better workout at the NFL combine if he’s going to be a first round pick by Seattle.

It’s a competitive group of running backs. Little things like a great physical profile and durability will end up being a difference maker in the final rankings.

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The pro’s and con’s of re-signing each future free agent

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

This is good news for the Seahawks. They were projected to have around $8-9m in cap space in 2018 before this update. If the cap goes up by as much as $10m and they create room elsewhere (they’d gain an extra $12.5m if they cut Jeremy Lane and Cliff Avril retires) then they could have over $30m available.

We’ve talked a lot recently about some of they key future free agents on the roster. Here are some of the pro’s and con’s for re-signing each:

Jimmy Graham

The argument for…

For years the Seahawks were not a good redzone team, even when they had peak Marshawn Lynch. In 2017 they’ve been pretty automatic, thanks largely to the chemistry between Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham.

Having finally worked it out with Graham to the tune of nine touchdowns (so far), it’d be quite something to move on and lose what has finally clicked. Redzone touchdowns are not to be sniffed at, especially with Seattle giving up more points defensively these days. They can’t keep things tight and win in the fourth quarter with defense and the run like they used to. Seven instead of three is important.

It’s also not as simple as just giving Graham’s targets to somebody else. There’s a reason the likes of Luke Willson, Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy didn’t rack up TD’s in previous seasons. Graham is a special player when it comes to operating in the end zone, with a unique frame and catching radius. It won’t be easy to simply move his scoring streak to somebody else.

As Graham has become so effective in the redzone it’s become increasingly difficult for teams to avoid focusing on him. That in turn can lead to opportunities for other receivers. For the first time in a long time the redzone doesn’t feel like a problem for Seattle — an incredible feat given how inept they’ve been rushing the ball.

Graham is also very close to Russell Wilson. If this is increasingly Wilson’s team, it would be interesting if they allowed his BFF and favourite redzone target to walk away.

The argument against…

Graham looks less effective these days when Seattle isn’t in the redzone. Although he’s been prolific as a touchdown scorer, between the 20’s he hasn’t been much of a factor. For the year he only has 473 yards — just over 36 per game. His career per-catch average is 12.3 yards. In 2017 he’s managing just 9.1.

Is he still the great athlete we once knew? He’ll turn 32 during the 2018 season. It has to be expected that he’s going to lose some speed. While he’s still clearly a difference maker in certain situations, he might never be pushing 1000 yards again. How much you want to commit to a 31-year-old tight end is a conversation they’ll likely have. Although Graham does seem to have a bit of a timeless quality in terms of his ability to box-out and make plays in the redzone.

There have been games where Graham has looked strikingly poor, such as the recent loss in Jacksonville. He had a bad drop on Seattle’s final, crucial drive. He received criticism from Pete Carroll for Wilson’s second interception. His body language was poor and without the redzone opportunities he was a non-factor.

Graham is very good at the things he does well. Arguably he hasn’t done enough to improve in other areas and fit into what this team wants from a star TE. Pete Carroll talked frequently in the past about how he could become the complete tight end. Now, he’s kind of just Jimmy Graham doing Jimmy Graham things. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but is it enough to consider paying out a big new contract?

Bradley McDougald

The argument for…

After a quiet start to the season McDougald has excelled since replacing Kam Chancellor at strong safety. He’s a different player to Kam but what he lacks in big hits and run defense he perhaps makes up for in quickness and the ability to cover ground.

It’ll be impossible for anyone to replace Kam’s stature, leadership and tone-setting presence. Yet McDougald’s play hasn’t made Chancellor’s absence a big factor in Seattle’s 8-5 record. Compare the way he’s performing to the relief safety’s a year ago when Chancellor and Earl Thomas both missed time. McDougald looks like a legit starter.

With Chancellor set to make a decision on whether he continues playing in 2017, retaining McDougald would buy him and the team some time. They did draft Delano Hill this year, spending a valuable third round pick to bring him in. Yet McDougald has played well enough to wonder whether they should automatically turn it over to the younger, cheaper player. In 2018 if Richard Sherman returns as expected and they get healthy — the Seahawks will not suffer a significant drop off at safety if McDougald is the full-time starter.

He’s not the biggest name set for free agency but he might be one of the most valuable to keep around, especially if Chancellor does retire. Replacing Kam once looked like a daunting task. They might’ve found the man for the job.

The argument against…

Cost could be an issue. The Seahawks admitted they were a bit surprised when they found McDougald was available in free agency. They weren’t necessarily looking to add a veteran safety but quickly signed him to a $2m contract. After a successful stint in Seattle and with McDougald at a good age (27) he might not be as cheap or be willing to sign another short term deal.

With cap space limited it comes down to priorities. Having drafted Hill in round three and with at least the possibility of Chancellor returning, this might not work out. Personally I think McDougald could and should be a priority, if not the priority. He’s at a good age and represents an opportunity to replace a key, ageing star with another high quality replacement. His attitude and playing style seems to fit the team.

Yet if they decide other players need to be the priority instead, they might not be able to make this work. And you have to believe other teams have noticed how well McDougald is playing this year.

Luke Joeckel

The argument for…

Seattle’s offensive line, after a rough season and a half, is finally taking shape. It’s still a work in progress but the recent improvement is obvious and substantial. Duane Brown has provided a major positive influence at left tackle and the five current starters look like a unit that could competently start for some time.

Brown, Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi appear relatively locked in. Yes, that includes Ifedi. Breno Giacomini had an issue with penalties too but once he addressed that he was a worthy starter. This is Ifedi’s first season at right tackle in the NFL and he has, overall, performed well enough to expect continued progression. Hopefully we’ll see similar progress from Ethan Pocic in time.

If Joeckel walks they have to fill the left guard spot again and go through more change. The alternatives in free agency are dreadful and with limited draft stock, they might have to look at the options already on the roster. Going back to Mark Glowinski, moving George Fant to guard or going with Jordan Roos or Rees Odhiambo are options. None are former #2 overall picks though and Joeckel, when healthy, has been competent. Not flawless, but competent.

Consistency is a big thing for an offensive line. Chemistry, turning five guys into one machine. There’s been too much churn for too long with this O-line. Now that they have five guys they can grow and build with, it might be time to roll with it.

The argument against…

The health of Joeckel’s knee is a question mark. He’s already had significant injuries in his career and he missed a number of games this season to have a minor repair. We have no idea about his medical situation. The team might actually be quite optimistic about the knee. It’s an issue that’s out there though and makes you wonder how the Seahawks might approach this one.

They clearly like Joeckel. At one point in the summer they were talking him up as one of the better guards in the NFL. Within minutes of free agency opening, Seattle’s first move was to sign Joeckel. Now they’ve had a year to work with him, check on his health, see how he fits. Yet if they’re concerned about his durability they almost have to continue to think short term again or move on.

The growing cost of offensive linemen also needs to be considered here. There’s been a recent explosion in O-line contracts with even middling players getting huge deals. Joeckel’s 2017 contract is described as expensive by some but it’s actually pretty good value all things considered.

If he has a market in the off-season he could receive some lucrative offers. That could make it hard for the Seahawks to compete with limited cap room.

They’re also paying significantly for two players on their O-line already. Duane Brown’s cap hit in 2018 is $9.75m. Justin Britt’s new average salary is $9m per year. This could be a factor — but they were willing to pay Brown, Joeckel and Britt this year so there’s nothing to suggest that’d be a road block.

Sheldon Richardson

The argument for…

They’ve already spent their 2018 second round pick on Richardson. If he walks and gets a huge contract, they’ll potentially get a comp pick in 2019. That’s a long way in the future though and depends on the deal he gets and Seattle not making any big free agent acquisitions themselves.

It would be quite the thing for the Seahawks to move on from Richardson and essentially get nothing more than one season out of their 2018 second rounder. When you consider they might not get anything out of their first pick from 2017 (Malik McDowell) they’d have wasted two high picks in the space of a year. That would be tolerable if the Seahawks were serious contenders to win the Super Bowl this season. Imagine if they don’t make the playoffs though, a stark possibility unfortunately, having been so wasteful with high draft picks?

It wouldn’t be a good look. And while saving face isn’t a good enough reason alone to give someone a massive new contract — they surely had to have a long term plan for Richardson? Unless they just believed he would help them win a title this year, thus limiting the negative reaction if he was to walk after one year?

On the field he hasn’t had the kind of impact many were hoping for, at least in terms of sacks. The minimum expectation was probably 5-6 sacks, similar to the production Clinton McDonald and Jordan Hill produced in 2013 and 2014. Instead Richardson has just one sack, albeit with a number of near misses.

That said, personally I think Richardson has been a good acquisition. He fits the personality of the defense, has provided an aggressive and physical presence for the interior and he’s a quality defender against the run. We know he can be more of a pass rush threat and this might just be ‘one of those years’ for him in terms of stats.

The simple fact is there aren’t many great interior defensive linemen in the league. Richardson isn’t Aaron Donald but he’s a cut above most of the other options out there. The Seahawks will either need a top-15 pick in the future or about $15-18m to spend in free agency if they want to find a player of this quality down the road. If anything, his lack of production in 2017 could lead to a discounted extension.

The argument against…

Teams are throwing money at the trenches. Offensive and defensive linemen are getting two or three times more than they were earning just a few years ago. Richardson could get a contract offer in the region of $13-16m a year. Lesser players have received big offers.

Malik Jackson for example is earning $14.25m a year in Jacksonville. Bad teams looking to make a big jump could look at the Jags’ and their big spending on the D-line and try to emulate their approach. It won’t be a big shock if Richardson gets an offer similar to Jackson’s. If that happens, Seattle will struggle to match and likely has to settle for a third round comp pick in 2019.

If they want to keep him at a big cost, it limits their ability to do much else. Unless Richardson is willing to take a discount or just doesn’t get the big offer because of a lack of 2017 production and some character concerns, they won’t have much money to retain the other names in this piece.

And consider this. If his average salary is more than $14m a year, he’d be the second highest paid player on the team behind only Russell Wilson. Are you comfortable with Sheldon Richardson being the second highest paid player on the roster? Currently the top five are Wilson, Sherman, Chancellor, Baldwin and Wagner (followed by Bennett and Thomas). That all makes perfect sense. Richardson at #2 ahead of some of those names? Not so much.

Paul Richardson

The argument for…

When Richardson has been healthy he’s looked really good. That goes back to his rookie season in 2014, the way he finished strongly in 2016 and this 2017 season where he’s scored six touchdowns and compiled 664 yards. After Doug Baldwin, he’s become the next most vital receiver — making explosive plays downfield and contributing in the short game too.

Richardson is capable of the spectacular. And for a team that loves exciting, dynamic, highlight reel plays from the skill positions — Richardson ticks that box.

He also looks like he’s really just getting started. It’s not unusual for a receiver to play his best football 3-4 years into a career. Golden Tate is a good example of that. Look at how Robert Woods has come on playing for the Rams. It’d be a shame to go this far with Richardson only to watch him go elsewhere and deliver on the major potential he’s started to show.

It’s also increasingly the Russell Wilson show in Seattle. They’ve started to invest more cap space into the offensive line. They kind of have a duty to keep Wilson’s receivers intact too. Especially the ones who are stepping up to make plays consistently.

The argument against…

They drafted Amara Darboh in round three a year ago and could potentially make a big saving by allowing Richardson to leave, putting their faith in a prospect they clearly liked a lot. It’d be a big risk to rely on a second year receiver but the Seahawks can’t pay everyone.

In many ways this is similar to the Bradley McDougald situation. The Seahawks began planning ahead with their 2017 draft. Darboh was a good hedge considering Jermaine Kearse and Richardson might be close to the end. Delano Hill could come in as a potential heir apparent to Kam Chancellor. Some of these younger draft picks are going to need an opportunity eventually.

Receiver contracts are also quite big at the moment. Alshon Jeffery just signed a deal worth $13m a year in Philadelphia. Jeffery has 732 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017 — so his numbers are quite similar to Richardson’s. Robert Woods was offered a $6.8m a year deal by the Rams despite a fairly underwhelming spell in Buffalo.

That $6-7m range might be the floor Richardson is looking at unless teams are put off by his injury history. In isolation that’s not an unreasonable sum of money for a good #2 receiver. Yet the Seahawks have multiple big decisions to make and are already paying a high number of players large salaries. Eventually they have to start making some tough decisions.

If you missed it earlier, I was invited onto a Field Gulls podcast to talk draft yesterday. Check it out by clicking here.

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Updated 2018 watch list: November 22nd

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

#1 Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
His production stalled for a while but that’s as much on Penn State as it is Barkley. He’s an explosive athlete and an incredible playmaker, destined for greatness. Puts points on the board as a runner, receiver and returner. Will join Fournette, Gurley and Elliott in a growing group of young studs at RB.

#2 Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Only knocked off top spot by Saquon Barkley. Nelson is nasty at the LOS with the mobility and desire to pull and get to the second level. Just a fantastic football player. Guards go early if they’re good enough — Nelson certainly is.

#3 Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Redshirt sophomore so might not declare but Settle is ready for the NFL. He’s 6-3 and 328lbs but moves like a 290lber. Fantastic pass rusher with the size to work against the run. Tremendous prospect.

#4 Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
There are question marks about his personality but on the field Rosen is a surgeon. He ticks every box — accuracy, poise, ability to make every throw. His talent is worth taking a chance on in the top five.

#5 Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
Sensational athlete with great bloodlines (Nick Chubb’s cousin). Carries 275lbs superbly, can round the tackle with speed but also sets the edge vs the run. Lively personality and big production at NC State.

#6 Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Sheldon Richardson type — a compact, energetic D-tackle. Wilkins isn’t Aaron Donald or Ndamukong Suh as a pass rusher but he just doesn’t stop. His motor keeps revving, making plays sideline-to-sideline and in pursuit.

#7 Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
Having a great year for Alabama. Capable of dropping down and covering the slot, physical enough to play man-to-man but with the range to play as a roaming safety. Doesn’t give up any plays. Not outspoken, a reserved leader.

#8 Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
Jackson compares favourably to Michael Vick and there aren’t enough good QB’s in the league to ignore a talent like that. He’s shown development as a passer. It’s been Jackson vs the world this year at Louisville.

#9 Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Rare nose tackle. Watch him live and he’ll wow you with how much ground he covers. Stout against the run, plugs holes but shifts around the field in pursuit like a much lighter D-liner. Cornerstone defender.

#10 Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Shaq Lawson type who could play five technique or power end. 7.5 sacks this season and plays bigger than his listed 6-5 and 260lbs. Might not be a sack specialist at the next level but will tie up an end.

#11 Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
Sparky character and won’t appeal to the stuffed-shirt element in the NFL. More open minded coaches and scouts will see a playmaker who is adept at improvisation and keeping things alive. Accurate, in control. Will be very good.

#12 Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Underrated back who is averaging 8.2 YPC this year. Much better athlete than people realise — his Nike SPARQ combine matched Bryce Love’s despite carrying a lot more weight. A bit stiff stretching plays out wide but he’s fantastic at breaking off big north-south runs given a crease. Great in pass pro too.

#13 Taven Bryan (DE, Florida)
Florida’s season has collapsed and it’s tempered some of the attention their only genuine pro-prospect deserves. Bryan can play inside or out and wins with power and speed. Fun player to watch and his best football should come at the next level.

#14 Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Bradley Chubb’s cousin and he’s basically a 225lbs version of the NC State pass rusher. Fantastic athlete pre-injury but looking back to his best now. Very serious individual. If the medical checks are fine and he matches his 2013 Nike SPARQ performance at the combine, he’ll go very early.

#15 Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
Another really underrated running back. Johnson has taken Auburn to a new level with his tough running style. He’s a great athlete once touted to play defensive back. Long legged runner similar to Chris Carson. Has a similar running style. One to watch this weekend in the Iron Bowl vs Alabama.

#16 Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Completely shut down Harold Landry when Notre Dame faced Boston College. That tape will be poured over by scouts and coaches in the off-season. Maybe won’t show to be a fantastic athlete at the combine but that wasn’t a problem for Taylor Decker.

#17 Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
In a fairly middling season for Michigan, Hurst has been a real bright spot. Wins as a three technique and consistently disruptive. These types of players aren’t readily available and that should ensure Hurst goes early.

#18 Anthony Miller (WR, Memphis)
Miller is having a fantastic year and has a little OBJ to his playing style. A yardage and touchdown machine, Miller is appointment viewing. Fantastic backstory will appeal to teams — Miller has shown tremendous grit as a former walk-on.

#19 Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Not a million miles behind Quenton Nelson. Price could play guard or center at the next level. Tenacious blocker who loves to get to the second level. Both Nelson and Price are aggressive, active and have the kind of mean streak teams will love.

#20 Connor Williams (T, Texas)
He’s back from his knee injury and has a chance to end the season strongly. There aren’t enough good left tackles in the league so Williams has a shot to go very early if he declares for the 2018 draft. Very athletic.

#21 Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
Guice’s 2016 tape carried a lot of excitement. He was lightning quick, physical and explosive. 2017 has been a bit of a disappointment despite a couple of really good games (eg Ole Miss). Guice is good but is he that much better than Damien Harris?

#22 Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
Sutton’s frame reminds you of Dez Bryant. SMU haven’t had a great year and it’s maybe dented his stock. His talent and potential is unquestionable though and he could provide real value in a draft class light on good receivers.

#23 Derwin James (S, Florida State)
When James squares up a ball carrier and delivers a jarring hit, you get excited. Sadly there are occasions where he’s covering the open field and looks so stiff, you wonder if he has more limitations that people thought after a strong freshman campaign (and an injury-hit sophomore season).

#24 Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
Nowhere near as exciting as Jarrad Davis a year ago but Smith roams around the field as a tone-setting inside linebacker. Not a big playmaker but rarely puts a foot wrong. Has shown up as much as anyone when watching Georgia’s defense this year.

#25 Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
The latest big-production running back at Stanford. He’s smaller, listed at only 5-10 and 196lbs. He only ran a 4.47 at the Nike combine while weighing in the 180’s. There’s no doubting he’s an excellent player and a legit Heisman candidate — but will he be less of an X-factor at the next level?

Note — Sam Darnold (QB, USC) and Trey Adams (T, Washington) were not included. Numerous reports suggest both players will likely opt against turning pro in 2018.

Value prospects to keep an eye on

Javon Wims (WR, Georgia)
Georgia has a knack of producing big, athletic pass catchers who fly under the radar until the combine. Wims is 6-4 and 215lbs and has become a go-to target for the Bulldog’s freshman QB. High-points the ball, makes plays.

Rashaad Penny (RB, San Diego State)
Fits Seattle’s size profile at running back. Physical and fast — Penny is a productive return man and could be a diamond for someone in the second or third round.

Hercules Mata’afa (DE, Washington State)
Mata’afa is a pretty unique player, rushing inside at just 6-2 and 252lbs. A lack of size could hamper his draft credentials — but he’s just such an active pass rusher, he’s worth a shot at the next level.

Marquise Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
Haynes stood out in 2016 but has been lost in the wash with Ole Miss regressing under a messy coaching situation. He has 7.5 sacks. A lack of size will put off some — but he’s a playmaker.

Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Like Haynes, Nnadi is suffering a bit because FSU are having a down year. He’s stout against the run but offers enough pass rush to be a Brandon Mebane-style one technique in the NFL. Big potential.

Josey Jewell (LB, Iowa)
Not the biggest or the fastest player — but Jewell is a hard-hitting, passionate linebacker who plays with his hair on fire every week. The type of guy you want on the roster and at the very least will provide some special teams value early in his career.

Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford)
Phillips is getting some nice publicity after a strong year. There’s even been some first round talk but that’s a bit rich for me. Henry Anderson was bigger and a fantastic athlete but he only went in round three in 2015. Phillips might go in a similar range.

Greg Gaines (DT, Washington)
I’m a huge Greg Gaines fan. Watching him next to Vita Vea is a joy for anyone who loves watching good run defense. He’s also more active than he gets credit for as a pass rusher. Gaines is a very intriguing prospect and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in the NFL.

Nick Chubb could still land in round one

Monday, November 20th, 2017

In our recent review of running backs (a safe bet target for the Seahawks in the off-season), we noted the underrated talent of Damien Harris (Alabama) and Kerryon Johnson (Auburn). It’s the Iron Bowl this weekend, so a good opportunity to see both on the same field.

Today it’s time to look at Nick Chubb.

We’ve talked a lot about Chubb over the years. His explosive entrance at Georgia, replacing the injured Todd Gurley. The knee injury that threatened his career. His fairly modest 2016 return. His decision not to declare. A 2017 that saw a return to something like top form.

It’s been quite a college career so far. He’s only the fifth player in SEC history to record three 1000-yard seasons (Alex Collins is one of the others). He’s up to fourth for career rushing yards in the SEC (recently passing Bo Jackson). He could still end with a SEC title and a playoff berth.

We’ve talked about Chubb as a potential Seahawks option for the reasons outlined in the Damien Harris piece. Seattle seems to have a ‘type’ at running back. Here’s a reminder:

Here are the running backs drafted by the Seahawks between 2012 and 2016:

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

Some of these players either didn’t test at the combine or had reasons for underperforming (injury, illness). We can make some physical comparisons though:

Forty yard dash

Robert Turbin: 4.50
Christine Michael: 4.54
C.J. Prosise: 4.48
Chris Carson: 4.58

Broad jump

Robert Turbin: 122 inches
Christine Michael: 125 inches
C.J. Prosise: 121 inches
Chris Carson: 130 inches

Vertical jump

Robert Turbin: 36 inches
Christine Michael: 43 inches
C.J. Prosise: 35.5 inches
Chris Carson: 37 inches

Short shuttle

Robert Turbin: 4.31
Christine Michael: 4.02
C.J. Prosise: DNP
Chris Carson: DNP

Bench press

Robert Turbin: 28 reps
Christine Michael: 27 reps
C.J. Prosise: DNP
Chris Carson: 23 reps

Look at the similarities here across the board. It doesn’t mean they’ll never sway from this profile. They did sign Eddie Lacy after all. It’s not completely down to physical profile either. Attitude, running style or versatility also seem to be important.

Yet when we’re running through possible targets, physical profile is something to consider.

Chubb is a perfect fit in many ways. He’s 5-10 and 225lbs, so he ticks the size box. He’s also an incredibly explosive athlete.

If you weren’t aware, Nick is the cousin of Bradley Chubb at NC State. Bradley is a pass rusher with 10 sacks this year, destined to go in the top-10. He carries 6-4 and 275lbs perfectly, is quick on his feet with all of the speed, explosion and agility you want from a top-tier pass rusher.

Nick has the bloodlines and is basically a 5-10, 225lbs version of Bradley.

He ran a 4.47 forty at 5-10 and 217lbs at the Nike SPARQ combine in 2013, jumped a 40-inch vertical and ran a 4.12 in the short shuttle. His SPARQ score of 143.91 is elite at any position.

In comparison, Christine Michael’s SPARQ score was 147.4. The Seahawks drafted Michael with their first pick in the 2013 draft despite some fairly substantial character concerns (he was basically banished from Texas A&M’s line-up). They took him because of the extreme athletic potential he offered.

If Michael had the focus to match the body — he could be one of the NFL’s leading running backs.

Chubb’s athletic profile from 2013 is similar to Michael’s. His story, however, is obviously very different.

This is a player who has battled adversity with the knee injury, fought to recover in time for the 2016 season and then snubbed the chance to turn pro because he wanted to come back and leave a mark at Georgia. Go out on his terms.

He’s football 24/7 with a steely, serious personality.

If he tests at the combine (we have to at least be prepared that he might not) and performs anywhere near his 2013 marks — he’ll be talked about as a first round pick. He might not even be available to the Seahawks.

The key is — has he made a full recovery? It was a really bad injury. How much explosion did he lose? And do the medical checks show his knee has fully recovered?

We can’t answer those questions for a long time yet — but it’s encouraging to see plays like this:

In his weekly ‘risers and sliders’ piece, Tony Pauline talked up Chubb’s first round credentials:

“The Kentucky contest was a nice rebound game for Chubb, who was held to 27 rushing yards against Auburn one week ago. The Wildcats boast one of the better rushing defenses in the SEC and rank just below Auburn in yards allowed per game (121.9). Chubb shredded the Wildcats for 151 yards on 15 carries with 2 TD’s. The Georgia ball carrier is often lost in the shuffle as much of the talk focuses on Saquon Barkley of Penn State while his own teammate Sony Michel steals a bit of thunder. Make no doubt about it, if Chubb checks out medically he’s worthy of being selected in the late portion of round one and projects as a feature runner for the next level.”

I watched the Kentucky game live and it was a fantastic performance. Last week against Auburn was a grind. The Tigers’ D-line dominated throughout and made Georgia’s running attack look very similar to Seattle’s. It was easy to watch that game and imagine Chubb and running partner Sony Michel wearing navy blue and toiling for 2-3 YPC. This Kentucky performance was a reminder to hold that thought for now. Georgia will either get a rematch against Auburn or a contest with Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Let’s see how they do there.

As Pauline notes, Kentucky has a good run-defense. Here’s how well they handled Chubb:

Look at the initial patience to let the gaps develop, the explosion Chubb shows when he finds his crease, the agility to move to his left and the acceleration to run away from the defense and score. It’s a special play.

Chubb is a nice blend of a lot of running styles. He can be shifty when he needs to be, shrinking at the LOS to find a hole and picking his way through traffic. He has some power and physicality to his game. He also has enough speed to make a good run a great run.

Here’s a good example of some of those skills combined on one play:

One thing he does better than Damien Harris is his ability to stretch plays wide when needed to max out the run. Harris is no slouch — but his lateral mobility isn’t great. He’s better running north-south.

In the play below Chubb makes the defender miss at the LOS but what he does next is exceptional. He sees his forward progress blocked but rather than take what’s there and grind out a handful, he quickly changes direction and darts to the left hand side. He finds the space and has enough speed to turn the run into a chunk play:

Here’s another example:

Chubb’s athleticism tends to be underrated, possibly because of his build. To look at him you’d probably compare him to Michael Turner (who was actually 10lbs heavier than Chubb).

Then you see this lateral mobility and the acceleration and you realise he’s different. He has the advantage of a compact, powerful running frame but enough quicks and explosive qualities to work in most schemes. He can cut at the LOS, he can run outside — but he can also pound it up the middle.

The Seahawks will have options in the 2018 draft if they want to aggressively upgrade at running back. The lack of a second or third round pick limits them somewhat — but it also possibly increases the chances they look at the position early.

Nick Chubb, Damien Harris and Kerryon Johnson are all possibilities, whether that’s first round or after a small trade down. They’re really good RB’s.

The key for Chubb is whether he has retained his incredible athletic profile post-injury and whether he gets a clean medical report at the combine.

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Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson is very impressive

Monday, November 13th, 2017

We’re focusing on running backs at the moment and with good reason. The Seahawks are going through a bit of a crisis with their running game. It doesn’t exist. They have two rushing touchdowns — both coming in the game against the Colts. This isn’t what they envisaged at the start of the year.

Even today’s news from Pete Carroll that Chris Carson could return in December has to be met with some caution. He suffered a broken leg and a high ankle sprain. It’s optimistic to think he’ll jump back into the lineup and provide the solution to this greatest of problems.

Change has to be expected in the off-season. We’ll see how generous the Seahawks want to be in giving C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls another opportunity. Eddie Lacy almost certainly will be a one-and-done. Whatever the situation with Carson’s health, they have to bring in another back. Possibly two. And because this is such a serious issue they probably have to do a little more than just look for value in day three.

This is a team known for aggressively addressing needs on the roster. That likely isn’t going to stop now. Running back could be the #1 target area in 2018 and they might go after it with some gusto.

Saturday was a good opportunity to watch some potential draft options. Auburn vs Georgia (see video above) featured Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Kerryon Johnson. There was a clear winner on the day.

Georgia came into the game as the #1 team in the country (the latest example of the playoff committee being as contrarian as possible to make headlines). They had a long touchdown drive to start the game — and were then completely dominated by Auburn’s impressive front seven for the rest of the day.

Watching Chubb and Michel try to run the ball in that environment brought back horrible memories of watching the Seahawks this year. Chubb managed 2.5 YPC on 11 carries. Michel managed 2.3 YPC on his nine totes.

It’s perhaps harsh to judge either running back on this evidence. Auburn got ahead and Georgia had to chase the game. Inevitably the run game was going to suffer and the Tigers were just too good up front.

That said — I suspect the Seahawks need more than just a decent back. As we’ve seen this year, the temptation to put the ball in the hands of Russell Wilson is too strong. He’s the best player on Seattle’s offense — joined by the likes of Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and the receivers. They give the Seahawks the best chance to move the ball. And when things start slowly, as they’ve been known to do, the ball goes to Wilson.

That’s understandable.

Yet the Seahawks were at their best on offense when a 7-2 half-time deficit like they had against the Redskins recently would lead to a heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch. They felt a pressure to feature Lynch. And between that desire to run and the quality of the quarterback — the balance was always there. It created the perfect storm. Even when things started slowly.

Watching Georgia desert the run game and ask the freshman quarterback to throw more times than all but one of his games so far this season reminded me of the Seahawks. That might be a mistake on my behalf. It might not be indicative of Chubb or Michel. But I had nightmarish visions of either player in all-navy blue in 2018 watching Wilson doing his magician act while they run for 3 YPC on 10 carries before exiting stage left.

I think you have to be sceptical that Chubb is going to be the same athlete we saw at the 2013 Nike SPARQ combines too. He’s playing well this year. But he doesn’t seem like the player who shone so brightly when Todd Gurley got injured in 2014.

Then there was Kerryon Johnson.

There were two players who came to mind while watching him run for 167 yards on 32 carries. His patience and ability to wait for a play to develop was quite a lot like Le’Veon Bell. He isn’t Bell — for starters he’s about 12-15lbs lighter. Yet it’s the name that springs to mind watching the way he waited behind the LOS for the opportunity to emerge to make a big gain.

He also, funnily enough, looked a little bit like Chris Carson in his build. They’re both quite long-legged runners. Johnson is listed at 6-0 and 212lbs, Carson at 5-11 and 218lbs. They are both useful in the passing game.

I’ve watched Johnson a few times this season because we get a lot of the SEC games over here. With every performance you just get more and more excited. Physical, agile, a capable pass-catcher with some all-round ability. He is one of the best players to emerge in 2017 as a legit pro-prospect.

So let’s see what he does well:

Initially I don’t think he does the best job on this play. A reasonable hole emerges on the right hand side of the line and he manages to run into the back of his own center and almost into the arms of a defensive linemen. Having initiated that contact however he then somehow explodes to the second level, shows terrific balance to stay on his feet and then stiff-arms a defender to get the maximum out of this run.

That’s a tough guy to bring down right there.

Gary Danielson noticed the Le’Veon Bell stuff too (volume required):

I’m not sure a Bell-type is best suited to the Seahawks. A decisive, physical runner with either some suddenness or punishing physicality seems to be the order of the day. Pittsburgh’s blocking scheme is quite different to Seattle’s ZBS.

That’s the good thing about Johnson. He can be patient. He can also be very physical and aggressive to get the hard yards:

Does this look good to you?

During recruiting there was a feeling Johnson might end up as a safety. He was an ‘athlete’ prospect. With a run and a punishing hit like that, you can see why some people thought he’d end up being a strong safety.

He’s also decisive and willing to get up-field:

He likely won’t get a run as easy as this at the next level but here’s another example of his ability to take advantage of a hole and get upfield:

There’s something be said about a back that just consistently gets the most out of every run. That seemed to be what Carson was doing before his injury. Johnson doesn’t give up on any carry:

One of the slight issues with Damien Harris is his ability to get outside quickly when he needs to. He’s more of a north-south type runner. This is an area where Johnson has the edge:

For the season so far Johnson has 1035 rushing yards at 5.2 YPC and 17 total touchdowns. He should be in the Heisman discussion — and that campaign will grow if Auburn beats Alabama and makes it to the SEC Championship (setting up a rematch with Georgia who they just pummelled).

I haven’t been able to find any Nike SPARQ combine numbers for Johnson. He was listed as running a 4.50 according to this website — but that could’ve occurred at an all-star event. If anyone can find the numbers let me know.

While looking for Johnson’s SPARQ numbers I stumbled across a couple of interesting things. At the 2014 combine Saquon Barkley ran a 4.68 (!!!) at 5-11 and 208lbs. Don’t expect him to run at the NFL combine. He did perform well in the powerball and vertical jump though — so he’s likely more explosive than quick. Bryce Love ran a 4.47 but did so at 180lbs. Love was much better in the short shuttle, powerball and vertical — so he’s another who is probably more explosive than lightning quick.

A reminder that Alabama’s Damien Harris ran a 4.48 at the Nike combine — at 208lbs. He’s very underrated as an athlete. Here’s the difference in SPARQ score and forty times from the 2014 event:

Bryce Love — 129.75
Damien Harris — 126.93
Saquon Barkley — 116.79

Bryce Love (180lbs) — 4.47
Damien Harris (208lbs) — 4.48
Saquon Barkley (208lbs) — 4.68

If Johnson is in the 4.50 range it won’t really make much difference to the Seahawks as long as his size is as listed (around 6-0, 212lbs) and he can have an explosive workout. For a reminder of what Seattle seems to like in a running back prospect, check out Friday’s piece on Damien Harris here.

A quick final note on the Auburn vs Georgia game. Keep an eye on receiver Javon Wims at Georgia. Every time I’ve watched the Bulldogs this season he’s found a way to make an impact. He high-points the ball, makes competitive grabs and is the type of player you can imagine the Seahawks having a bit of interest in on day three. He’s 6-4 and 215lbs.

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Damien Harris fits Seattle’s running back profile

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Damien Harris — possible future Seahawk?

Damien Harris has somehow avoided hype. It’s probably because he’s been living in the land of the giants at Alabama. First Derrick Henry, then Bo Scarborough.

Yet when you actually take the time to sit down and study his physical profile, he’s someone we need to keep in mind for the Seahawks.

You’re going to read this a lot over the coming months. Seattle likes explosive running backs of a certain height/size. If you run through their draft history under John Schneider and Pete Carroll, the trends are pretty clear.

It’s helped us refine the running back options over the last couple of years. In 2016 we were able to focus on C.J. Prosise merely by following the trends. This year we noted the following after the combine:

The Seahawks have a type (explosive tester, around 5-11 and 220lbs) and the ones best matching it are Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Brian Hill and Chris Carson. Kamara might be a top-45 pick and out of contention but Jones, Hill and Carson could provide day three value and extra competition.

Here are the running backs drafted by the Seahawks between 2012 and 2016:

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

Some of these players either didn’t test at the combine or had reasons for underperforming (injury, illness). We can make some physical comparisons though:

Forty yard dash

Robert Turbin: 4.50
Christine Michael: 4.54
C.J. Prosise: 4.48
Chris Carson: 4.58

Broad jump

Robert Turbin: 122 inches
Christine Michael: 125 inches
C.J. Prosise: 121 inches
Chris Carson: 130 inches

Vertical jump

Robert Turbin: 36 inches
Christine Michael: 43 inches
C.J. Prosise: 35.5 inches
Chris Carson: 37 inches

Short shuttle

Robert Turbin: 4.31
Christine Michael: 4.02
C.J. Prosise: DNP
Chris Carson: DNP

Bench press

Robert Turbin: 28 reps
Christine Michael: 27 reps
C.J. Prosise: DNP
Chris Carson: 23 reps

Look at the similarities here across the board. This surely isn’t a coincidence?

It doesn’t mean they’ll never sway from this profile. They did sign Eddie Lacy after all. It’s not completely down to physical profile either. Attitude, running style or versatility also seem to be important.

Yet when we’re running through possible targets, physical profile is something to consider. Are they likely, for example, to look seriously at 5-10 and 196lbs Bryce Love at Stanford? Maybe. He showed incredible form against Washington last night and is possibly too much of a playmaker to ignore. He would be quite a departure from their previous draft picks at RB though.

The evidence above shows the Seahawks are not too concerned with fantastic speed. They’ll take a back running in the 4.5’s. What they want is explosive power. The broad jump, vertical jump and bench press appear to be vital.

We’ll have to wait until the combine for a clearer picture on who may or may not be on their radar — but some information is already available to us thanks to the Nike SPARQ combines.

In 2013 Nick Chubb had a sensational workout and looks like the prototype Seattle draft target. He ran a 4.47 forty at 5-10 and 217lbs, jumped a 40-inch vertical and ran a 4.12 in the short shuttle. His SPARQ score of 143.91 is elite at any position.

Such a workout would put him in Christine Michael territory if repeated at the combine. For all of Michael’s flaws he was a sensational, other-worldly athlete.

Chubb of course suffered a serious knee injury at Georgia so we’ll have to see if he can repeat that workout performance at the combine in 2018.

So what about Damien Harris?

He too participated in the Nike SPARQ combines, working out at a regional Kentucky event in 2014.

While his performance doesn’t match Chubb’s incredible display, he still had a good showing:

Height: 5-10
Weight: 210lbs
40-yard: 4.48
Short shuttle: 4.00
Vertical: 38 inches
SPARQ: 126.93

That’s a really good score for Harris. For what it’s worth they don’t use the bench press in SPARQ — it’s a kneeling medicine ball throw instead. Chubb managed 43 inches, Harris 35.5. Both will be expected to match the bench marks set by the likes of Turbin and Carson when they test.

Harris’ profile matches up to a possible Seahawks target. He’s now listed at 5-11 and 221lbs. What you see on tape are flashes of suddenness. When he finds a crease he often explodes through the hole to break off big gains.

For example, look at the decisive nature of this run against USC last season:

Harris sees the hole, executes the play and then makes a great cut at the second level to maximise the run. He gets chased down but it’s Adoree’ Jackson — one of the best athletes in the NFL. It takes a complete effort by Jackson to make the stop too.

His cut-back ability is impressive and you see evidence of good vision and a desire to get north quickly without any wasted movement.

While his straight line speed and explosion is a big positive, where Harris struggles sometimes is when he tries to bounce plays outside. He’s an up-the-middle type of runner as we see here:

That’s not to say he won’t give absolutely everything to make it happen. Here’s another example where he bounces outside and should be stopped. Sheer effort (and some poor tackling) gets him into the end zone:

He’s a patient runner and as we’ve already seen — he can be a chunk play artist. This was the first snap of the game against Arkansas this season. He waits for the gap to develop and then hits a home run:

If you give him a crease, he’ll hurt you. Whether or not he’ll have such generous holes to work with at the next level will depend on the team he lands with. Alabama are, again, dominating every opponent they face. Yet Harris still has to make the plays. He is doing.

Look at the work he does here at the LOS. He cuts back to the right and finds the hole and then just explodes into the second level. Big play:

He puts his foot in the ground, makes the cut and breaks off a huge run.

He can also push the pile too:

Here are some general highlights:

An underrated positive with Harris is his lack of wear and tear. This year he’s sharing the load with Scarborough and even then it’s not a strenuous grind. Alabama has been so dominant at the LOS he has an incredible 8.1 YPC this season. So while he’s accumulated 730 yards and 10 touchdowns — he’s doing it averaging just 10 carries a game. The running backs eat, they get a big lead and then they get a rest.

Harris has only 90 carries for the season. He had 145 carries in 2016. Compare that to Derrick Henry and his time with the Crimson Tide. Despite sharing the load in 2014, Henry ran 172 times. As the feature back and Heisman winner in 2015 he carried the ball 395 times (!!!).

Harris isn’t going to get anywhere near that total in 2017.

Character wise he’s a very impressive talker in public. Personable, talkative and respectful. Teams will like him and the way he handles media interviews.

He’s only a junior and he could technically decide to return for another year at Alabama — especially if he has an opportunity to be the lead back and make a Heisman challenge in 2018.

If he does decide to turn pro, the combine will likely determine his draft range. If he gets close to his 2014 SPARQ performance — he could be a big riser.

Either way, he’s someone Seahawks fans need to monitor.

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Tim Settle is a fantastic prospect

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

In Tony Pauline’s latest ‘risers and sliders’ piece today, he highlighted Virginia Tech defensive tackle Tim Settle:

A redshirt sophomore graded by a number of scouts prior to the season, Settle is playing beyond expectations and has turned in some dominant performances this year. One of those performances occurred this weekend when he was a one-man show against North Carolina, posting five tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack. The big defensive tackle has recorded 9.5 tackles for loss in seven games this season. Tipping the scales around 325 pounds, Settle is more than a big man that takes up space in the middle of the line; he’s a playmaker who displays a great degree of athleticism and explosion in his game.

After reading the words ‘325 pounds’, ‘playmaker’ and ‘great degree of athleticism’ I wanted to check him out today. I managed to find the North Carolina game on Youtube (see above) and also watched his performance vs Clemson last season.

Tony wasn’t kidding — this guy can move. The 325lbs feels like a conservative estimate. Settle is enormous — and yet he moves with the quickness of a much lighter defensive tackle.

His swim move in particular is a thing of beauty. Take a look:

That’s Settle taking down Deshaun Watson. Look how quickly he’s on the right guard. He just brushes him aside with a perfect swim and he’s in the backfield. Watson tries to take off, sensing the pressure, but no dice. Settle brings him down by the ankles.

You don’t often see this level of athleticism combined with that size.

He’s a former four or five star recruit and he’s always been big (listed at 325lbs by Rivals during recruiting and in some places at 339lbs). He’s a local guy and committed to Virginia Tech but he was coveted by Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and others. He took a visit to USC, Oklahoma State and, somewhat surprisingly, Washington State.

He’s only a redshirt sophomore so might not declare for the 2018 draft. Considering the way he’s playing this year, he’ll likely have a big decision to make.

In the North Carolina game he was terrific. Granted he was playing a weak opponent (UNC’s first two offensive snaps went for -20 yards and the game ended 59-7). Yet he kept jumping off the screen. You just don’t see big men move as fluidly as this:

On one play he lined up at DE and patiently just contained the edge. He then exploded through the B gap and chased the quarterback as he scrambled out of the pocket forcing an incompletion.

The first hit in the video above knocked the QB out of the game. The second hit had him carried off the field.

On the following drive, North Carolina started at their own one yard line. Virginia Tech spelled Settle here and took him off the field. UNC moved the ball well, converting a couple of third downs and getting up to the 25. Settle came back onto the field at this point and immediately bull rushed the right guard two yards into the backfield and dropped the running back for a loss.

Next play? Settle initially shapes as if he’s running a stunt before engaging the center. He shrugs him off with a superb pull/push move and shares a sack with a blitzing defensive back for a loss of 11 yards.

He was off the field and UNC moved the ball 24 yards. He comes back on to the field and immediately generates two huge TFL’s to kill the drive.

Just look at this against Boston College:

Be excited about this guy. He is special.

It’s always exciting to find a player like this. Tim Settle is a player to keep an eye on from now on. On this evidence he could be a very high pick one day.

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Memphis receiver Anthony Miller is really good

Friday, October 20th, 2017

On the recommendation of community member Volume 12, I spent tonight taking a look at Memphis receiver Anthony Miller.

He’s received a fair bit of buzz recently. One anonymous NFL executive said this about him:

“He’s a highly productive, competitive receiver who plays faster than he will test. He runs very good routes and has a large catching radius. All he does is make plays.”

Chad Reuter at NFL.com says:

“(Miller) will be one of those third-round receivers who contributes immediately for whatever NFL team drafts him.”

And Tony Pauline listed him as a week three draft riser:

“Miller gave serious consideration on entering last April’s draft but decided to return to Memphis for another season. It looks as though he made the correct choice.”

Tony also notes the importance of his combine workout. At 5-10 and 190lbs he’ll need to test well. The Seahawks drafted Tyler Lockett after the following workout:

Height: 5-10
Weight: 182lbs
Forty: 4.40
Vertical: 35.5
Short shuttle: 4.07

Lockett performed as well as any receiver before the 2015 draft. He also had a strong Senior Bowl. Hopefully Miller will compete in Mobile too.

So far in 2017 he’s put up major numbers, providing the Memphis offense with a dynamic X-factor. In the same way Paxton Lynch elevated the Tigers a couple of years ago, Miller seems to be having the same effect.

Today I watched his play against Houston, UCLA and Connecticut and he had a huge impact in all three games:

UCLA — 9/185 and two touchdowns
Connecticut — 15/224 and four touchdowns
Houston — 10/178

He combines crisp routes and excellent body control with fantastic speed. He’ll explode out of his routes to create separation, he’s a terrific deep threat and always competes for the ball.

Miller isn’t a flawless hands catcher but he has a tendency to make the occasional spectacular grab:

He also makes his fair share of contested catches:

Against UCLA he made a fantastic diving catch, laying out to collect a deep shot despite tight coverage. He runs by the defensive back on a post route and just extends to make a finger-tip grab. It’s a stunning play made with just a minute to go until half time. Shortly afterwards he beats man-to-man coverage to complete a 33-yard touchdown. Memphis went ahead 27-24 before the break and it’s all on Miller and the quarterback.

That drive was the perfect illustration of the way he can have a game-changing impact.

When you consider his athleticism, the chunk plays and the contested catch ability — Miller absolutely has to be on our radar moving forward.

In terms of his character, here’s his postgame interview last night:

Note the bit about him being a former walk-on (grit).

This isn’t a great class for wide receivers. Some of the bigger names have been a bit underwhelming so far and a prospect like Miller could rise up the boards considerably over the next few weeks. There’s always a team looking for an early round weapon on offense.

It’s hard to say whether the Seahawks will be in the market for another receiver next year. They have been willing to spend high picks on the position (Golden Tate, Percy Harvin, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Amara Darboh). They have a young group they clearly like. Richardson is out of contract though — and Miller is the kind of player you can imagine them liking even if they ultimately don’t draft him.

So far he has 55 catches for 784 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. Last year he finished with a 95/1434/14 stat line.

Keep an eye on this guy.

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2018 draft October projection list (not a mock)

Monday, October 9th, 2017

I don’t want to call this a mock draft because it’s October 9th. There are teams paired with players but really it’s just an exercise to highlight a few names.

A glorified watch-list.

If there’s anyone you think should’ve been included, let me know in the comments section or on Twitter (@robstaton).

A quick note — USC quarterback Sam Darnold is not included. He hasn’t completed a full season as the starter in college. I suspect he will weigh up his options and feel another year starting at USC in 2018 will be the best plan. If he was included, he’d be right up there with Josh Rosen in the top two.

For the draft order I used this website, because it is brilliantly called ‘Tankathon’.

#1 New York Giants — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Rosen has really looked the part so far this season. Poised in the pocket, accurate, nice variety of throws and highly productive.

#2 Cleveland Browns — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
Allen has the tools — good size, athleticism and a great arm. He needs time, more so than Rosen. Makes too many poor decisions at the moment.

#3 San Francisco 49ers — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
A highly dynamic playmaker with star quality. Barkley warrants going this early. He’s a complete player with freaky athleticism.

#4 Los Angeles Chargers — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
Incredible playmaker with a Michael Vick skill-set. Better than some will have you believe. Puts points on the board.

#5 Chicago Bears — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
All-action player, never stops moving. Capable of playing inside or out and highly athletic. A Sheldon Richardson type player.

#6 Indianapolis Colts — Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
Wonderful talent with the perfect blend of speed, mobility, size (6-4, 275lbs) and attitude. Big time player.

#7 Arizona Cardinals — Taven Bryan (DE, Florida)
Bryan is a wrecking ball on the D-line. He’s just as likely to beat you with a violent bull rush as he is to win with speed and quickness. Exceptional.

#8 Cincinnati Bengals — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Nelson brings the physicality every week. Dominating at the LOS, he also moves with ease to pull and reach the second level.

#9 Tennessee Titans — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
Like James, Fitzpatrick is a match-up option for defenses. He could line up over the slot, start at free safety. Very athletic and tough.

#10 Dallas Cowboys — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
Playmaking safety who provides a match-up option. Instinctive with the size (6-3, 211lbs) to move around.

#11 Oakland Raiders — Trey Adams (T, Washington)
Adams is a very accomplished tackle with the ideal size and frame to make it work at the next level. Could go even higher after testing.

#12 Cleveland Browns (via HOU) — Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
Landry is a bit one-dimensional as a speed rusher but he has exceptional quickness and works well in space.

#13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Shaq Lawson type pass rusher with the size to set the edge and the athleticism to make plays in the backfield.

#14 Miami Dolphins — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
A nose tackle who teams up with Greg Gaines to shut down the running game. Vea has the necessary athleticism to go very early.

#15 Minnesota Vikings — Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State)
Followed Tony Pauline’s advice and watched Price today. A very active, gritty lineman who locks on and finishes consistently well. Like Quenton Nelson he plays with an edge and moves well.

#16 New Orleans Saints — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
I think he can play left tackle at the next level but teams will be happy to try him on the right side too. He excelled vs Harold Landry.

Two players who deserve a mention

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Medical testing will likely determine Chubb’s stock in the 2018 draft — but he looks a lot sharper a year on from his rushed return from a knee injury. It’s worth highlighting again just how special an athlete Chubb is. He scored a 143.91 at the 2013 Nike SPARQ combine — topped only by 5-10, 180lbs Speedy Noil. Chubb’s mark included a +40 inch vertical and a 4.47 forty. If he gets close to those numbers at the combine — watch out. So far this year he has 618 yards at 6.8 YPC and eight touchdowns.

Luke Falk (QB, Washington State)
It won’t be a major shock if Falk goes a lot earlier than people are currently projecting. A safe estimate would be round two — but this has been a nice step forward in 2017. He looks healthy, his arm strength is improved and he’s making some really difficult throws look easy. His combination of accurate, catchable passes, size and excellent character will appeal to teams. He carries himself like a franchise quarterback. If a reasonable team like Washington loses Kirk Cousins, is it beyond the realms of possibility they would target someone like Falk as a replacement? They’re not going to get at the names at the top of round one after all.

Meanwhile, if you want a Seahawks topic to discuss today:

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