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NFL mock draft: Free agency edition 16th March

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Don’t forget to check out this weeks podcast…

A few thoughts before we get into this weeks projection…

— The Seahawks were never going to enter the Kelechi Osemele market and the latest reports have Russell Okung wanting $13-14m a year. Limited cap room plus a desire to keep the bulk of their free agents limited their ability to be extremely aggressive in free agency. They’ve fixed their biggest needs in the draft before and it seems like that will be the case again this year.

— Garry Gilliam possibly switching to left tackle, the idea of starting two rookies drafted in rounds 1-3, adding increased competition at a reasonable price. We’ve discussed these things for months. Seattle’s moves in free agency really haven’t been that surprising. They prioritised keeping Ahtyba Rubin and Jeremy Lane and now they’re looking for value in the market. Increased competition on the O-line is crucial in 2016. They didn’t have that last year.

— This is a better draft for the offensive line than the general media has recognised. It’s deep on the defensive line — but there’s a better mix of freaky athletes and physical tough guys on the O-line. They should be able to find two prospective starters and this is the best way to build a cohesive unit for the next few years.

Cris Collinsworth posted an interesting mock draft earlier today and had the Seahawks taking Alabama center Ryan Kelly. If they were to re-sign Okung and with sufficient depth at tackle and guard — this could be a possibility. At the moment they arguably need to keep adding players that can play tackle or guard. There are some nice center options in the middle rounds.

— Following the Chandler Jones trade yesterday, it wouldn’t be a total shock if the Seahawks put together a similar move to add a pass rusher. This isn’t a great class in that regard. If they want to get back to the depth they had in 2013 — trading for a pass rusher makes some sense.

Round 1

** Indicates trade

#1 Tennessee — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
#2 Cleveland — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
#3 San Diego — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
#4 Dallas — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#5 Jacksonville — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
#6 Baltimore — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
#7 San Francisco — Jared Goff (QB, California)
#8 Philadelphia — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
#9 Tampa Bay — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
#10 ** Los Angeles — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
#11 Chicago — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
#12 New Orleans — Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
#13 Miami — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
#14 Oakland — Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
#15 ** New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
#16 Detroit — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
#17 Atlanta — Leonard Floyd (LB, Georgia)
#18 Indianapolis — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
#19 Buffalo — Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson)
#20 New York Jets — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
#21 Washington — Keanu Neal (S, Florida)
#22 Houston — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
#23 Minnesota — Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
#24 Cincinatti — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
#25 Pittsburgh — Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
#26 Seattle — Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
#27 Green Bay — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
#28 Kansas City — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
#29 Arizona — William Jackson (CB, Houston)
#30 Carolina — Emmanuel Ogbah (DE, Oklahoma State)
#31 Denver — Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)

Round 2

#32 Cleveland — Josh Doctson (WR, TCU)
#33 Tennessee — Ryan Kelly (C, Alabama)
#34 Dallas — Vonn Bell (S, Ohio State)
#35 San Diego — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
#36 Baltimore — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
#37 San Francisco — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
#38 Miami — Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida)
#39 Jacksonville — Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)
#40 New York Giants — Sterling Shepard (WR, Oklahoma)
#41 Chicago — Willie Henry (DT, Michigan)
#42 Tampa Bay — Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
#43 Los Angeles — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
#44 Oakland — Karl Joseph (S, West Virginia)
#45 Los Angeles — Robert Nkemdiche (DT, Ole Miss)
#46 Detroit — Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech)
#47 New Orleans — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
#48 Indianapolis — Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
#49 Buffalo — Kamalei Correa (DE, Boise State)
#50 Atlanta — Kenny Clark (DT, UCLA)
#51 New York Jets — Travis Feeney (LB, Washington)
#52 Houston — Cody Whitehair (C, Kansas State)
#53 Washington — Joshua Perry (LB, Ohio State)
#54 Minnesota — Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
#55 Cincinnati — Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford)
#56 Seattle — Connor McGovern (T, Missouri)
#57 Green Bay — Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
#58 Pittsburgh — Xavien Howard (CB, Baylor)
#59 Kansas City — Chris Jones (DT, Mississippi State)
#60 New England — Devontae Booker (RB, Utah)
#61 New England — Jihad Ward (DE, Illinois)
#62 Denver — Christian Westerman (G, Arizona State)
#63 Carolina — Kenneth Dixon (RB, Louisiana Tech)

Thoughts on Seattle’s picks

Ifedi and McGovern are both flexible players. Ifedi played right tackle in college but has the size, length and athleticism to play left guard and both tackle spots in Seattle. McGovern has started all across Missouri’s line but played left tackle in 2016. He’s projected as a possible center candidate.

The Seahawks love unique traits and athleticism and Ifeid and McGovern are both ranked in the top four for SLA. Physically Ifedi is in the 98th percentile for NFL offensive linemen. McGovern’s in the 87th percentile.

Ifedi can compete at right tackle or left guard immediately (with J’Marcus Webb) and McGovern could start at guard or center.

Mock Draftable says Ifedi’s closest pro-comparison physically at guard is Kelechi Osemele. McGovern shares some comparisons to Mitch Morse — who also switched from tackle to center after playing for Missouri. He started immediately for the Chiefs last season.

Alternative scenario

If the Seahawks don’t make a pre-draft trade for a pass rusher, they might look to move up in round two using one of their third round picks.

In the 2014 draft Philadelphia traded from #54 to #42 with Tennessee for the price of a late fourth round pick. It was a generous deal — but a third rounder should at least get you into a similar range.

It could enable them to target a player like Jonathan Bullard or Emmanuel Ogbah if he drops into round two.

Possible Seahawks target Germain Ifedi creating a buzz

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Germain Ifedi (right) looked and moved like a first round pick at the combine

This week we mocked Germain Ifedi to the Seahawks at #26. Ifedi’s tape is far better than some people will have you believe, he’s a genuine physical freak of nature with incredible upside and athleticism.

Essentially, he’s exactly the type of player the Seahawks have drafted in round one.

Ifedi was one of the big winners at the combine. He looked like the Hulk, moved incredibly well in the mirror and kick-slide drills and he had the second best vertical jump at 32.5 inches (Connor McGovern beat him by half an inch). Jumping 32.5 inches at 324lbs isn’t easy.

Scouts Inc. moved him up to #21 on their big board after the combine. You need to subscribe to read their full breakdown — but here are some of the highlights…

They grade players using a 1-5 scale:

1 — Exceptional
2 — Above average
3 — Average
4 — Below average
5 — Marginal

Ifedi is given an exceptional grade for: Production, height-weight, durability and pass protection. He’s given an above average grade for: Intangibles, awareness and toughness.

The one average grade he gets is run blocking. The blurb reads:

“Raw run blocker. Has the size and natural strength. Comes from an offense that predominantly features two-point stances and is more finesse than power in the run game.”

They end with the following status report:

“Straight out of central casting with a massive, long and ripped frame. Ifedi is an early entry with three full seasons as a starter under his belt (started freshman season at right guard and primarily right tackle last two seasons). Ifedi has the tools to develop.”

Jason Spriggs is generally considered the big O-line riser because of his athleticism. However, Scouts Inc. grades him at #46 overall with several average grades for durability, pass protection, run blocking and awareness. He gets a below average grade for toughness.

When you consider Taylor Decker’s middling combine performance, Ifedi could be challenging to be in the top five at his position. His #21 overall ranking on Scouts Inc’s board makes him the #4 offensive tackle.

They aren’t the only ones speaking highly of Ifedi. He was mocked in the first round by Daniel Jeremiah too. At the combine Jeremiah made the following remarks:

“I think he can play tackle. I know that there’s some debate, some belief that he can kick inside and be better at guard. But guys, to me he is what you want your tackle to look like. He can bend. To me the awareness is an issue and that’s something he’s going to have to learn and develop but man all of the tools are there for him to maybe even jump up — maybe sneak into the bottom of the first round. He’s right on that edge.”

It shouldn’t be a major surprise that he’s creating a buzz. He’s always been one of the more underrated prospects in this draft. The fact he wasn’t moved to left tackle in 2015 seems to have created a false impression of his ability.

Here’s what I wrote about him in December:

He’s an enormous 6-5 and 320lbs yet moves superbly. His footwork is quite brilliant for a man his size — his kick slide is good, he moves freely to the second level. In the two games I watched he didn’t get beat once off the edge by a speed rush.

There’s very little ‘bad weight’ to his frame — he’s an enormous tackle and most of it is muscle. When a D-end tries to hand fight he usually absorbs the defender and it’s over. Technically he had some nice blocks — turning his man to open up a crease and moving people off the LOS to create a running lane. He has the athleticism to adjust on the move and if he ever moved to guard he’d have no trouble pulling or kicking out to the next level.

Ifedi’s size and raw athleticism makes for an interesting combination. If the Seahawks make the playoffs and you’re pinning your hopes on an offensive tackle being available beyond the 21st pick — this could be your best bet.

There’s usually a blossoming offensive tackle who makes a late rise. Lane Johnson experienced it in 2013, Ja’wuan James in 2014 and Ereck Flowers in 2015.

Because he doesn’t get hyped like a lot of other prospects — people tend to assume Ifedi isn’t that attractive. As a worst case scenario you’re probably getting a good left guard. It’s a safe pick with the potential to be a great pick if he works out at tackle.

If you missed it earlier in the week, here’s evidence of his athleticism vs Laremy Tunsil in the mirror drill at the combine:

And here’s four back-to-back snaps vs Alabama. Note the way he uses length and a strong base to stone edge rushers. On the third snap he drives the DE into the turf and finishes. On the fourth snap he identifies and reads a stunt and shuts it down.

For all the talk of him not moving to left tackle — look at the pressure given up on the left side vs the right…

It’s only four snaps but it gives you an insight into his pass-protection skills vs the toughest opponent Texas A&M faced in 2015.

We need to spend more time looking at Le’Raven Clark over the next few weeks as an insurance option. He and Shon Coleman (who we’ve covered a lot) likely present the best two alternatives if Ifedi is off the board. Clark also has a high ceiling. Ifedi is far better prepared to start quickly.

While many are projecting a defensive lineman to the Seahawks at #26 — it really goes against everything we know at this stage. If Russell Okung departs in free agency, it creates a major need at tackle. It’ll be difficult to address that need after the first round looking at the players available. The Seahawks have also preferred to use the middle/later rounds and the cheap free agent market for defensive linemen. The sheer depth on the D-line will undoubtedly provide some attractive options in rounds 2-4.

Unless they find a way to retain Okung — everything points towards an O-line pick at #26. Ifedi provides a rare opportunity if he lasts — a prototype at the position available in the late first.

Seahawks free agency & draft predictions

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Jeremy Lane could be Seattle’s top priority in free agency

Russell Okung moves on
With Cordy Glenn getting the franchise tag and reports of an aggressive move by the Raiders to keep Donald Penn, Okung will be the most attractive free agent tackle on the market.

The Seahawks are in a tough spot. Unless they view Okung as the top priority — they can’t offer him a big deal without risking losing the majority of their other remaining free agents. They have to let this one play out and hope he receives a lukewarm market (which is possible due to his shoulder issue and history of injuries).

If a team offers a deal similar to Jake Long’s four-year, $36m contract with the Rams — he’s likely gone.

The Detroit Lions have $33m in free cap space and need a left tackle. Add another $11m if Calvin Johnson retires. Switching to an offense that isn’t quite as physical up front and is tailored to the passing game could suit Okung and keep him healthy.

Prediction: Okung signs a deal with the Lions

Bruce Irvin gets paid
Malik Jackson could be set to earn a deal worth $13m a year. You better believe Irvin’s going to get some serious offers when free agency begins.

There aren’t many super-athletic edge rushers in the draft. With teams trying to copycat Von Miller — Irvin at least has the athletic capacity to be that type of player.

Expect a ton of suitors. San Francisco needs an athletic pass rusher and they have $55m in free cap room. The Giants are rebuilding their defense and have $58m in cap space. Tampa Bay are likely to focus on their defense and have $49m to spend. Chicago and Vic Fangio need an edge rusher and have $46m to play with.

Then there’s the obvious fits — Jacksonville and Atlanta — because of familiarity with the Head Coaches. Irvin’s preference might be returning home to Atlanta.

Fourteen teams in the NFL have +$30m in cap space to spend. Very few are strong defensively. Irvin is going to be wined and dined and can take his pick.

Prediction: If it isn’t Atlanta, the Giants, 49ers, Bears and Buccs could sign Irvin

Jeremy Lane will be Seattle’s priority
Seattle’s famous ‘Legion of Boom’ was a bit of shambles to start 2015. Kam Chancellor’s holdout and Cary Williams’ introduction made for a few struggles in key games — snatching away Seattle’s prime identity in the process.

It became evident that Seattle’s technique at cornerback and safety isn’t easy to pick up in a matter of months. The Seahawks have trained their guys over time with only Brandon Browner and Earl Thomas starting immediately. Chancellor sat out a year, Richard Sherman started in 2011 only due to injuries, Byron Maxwell and Lane had to wait.

There is a stable of young defensive backs in the clubhouse — but losing Lane would put a lot of pressure on one or two to step up in 2016 and possibly start. Keeping Lane maintains a level of consistency — something they haven’t had over the last few years with Browner, Maxwell, Williams, DeShawn Shead and Lane all starting across from Sherman.

The structure of the deal could be interesting. Lane only turns 26 in July. Maxwell signed his enormous contract in Philadelphia aged 27. The Seahawks could make a convincing case to sign Lane to a one-year deal with a promise not to franchise him — allowing him to start for a full year and enter free agency in 12 months with a lot of momentum.

That would also buy more time for the Seahawks to train and establish an heir apparent.

It won’t be cheap to get such a deal sorted — and if a team is willing to offer $8m APY over 3-4 years it could be game over. Good corners get paid in the NFL and even $8m a year would be considerably less than Maxwell’s $10.5m average.

Prediction: If it’s not a multi-year deal, the Seahawks sign Lane to a one-year contract worth $6m-7.5m in 2016 — a similar amount to Cary Williams.

Jermaine Kearse switches teams
The one thing that really works for Kearse is the way he performed in primetime games. The casual observer won’t watch every Seahawks game — but coaches, scouts, GM’s and owners will have noticed the guy who always seemed to make a crucial play on the big stage.

Any team that has a #1 star receiver will view Kearse as an ideal #2. Tough, reliable, a capable run-blocker and unlikely to complain about how many targets he’s getting.

He’s not going to get paid a huge salary — but he’ll likely get offers that are a little too rich for the Seahawks.

Prediction: The Falcons sign him to provide a no-drama sidekick for Julio Jones after cutting Roddy White this week.

UPDATE: Kearse is gone…

J.R. Sweezy moves on
A year ago it seemed likely the Seahawks would make keeping Sweezy a priority. Pete Carroll regularly sang his praises during the 2014 season. He’s young, one of their homegrown stars and the poster-child for Tom Cable’s O-line revolution in Seattle.

A Twitter rumour recently suggested there was friction between Cable and the Seahawks front office. There’s no way of verifying that — but it’d be understandable.

Cable is regularly asked to create a productive O-line on the cheap. Having had a relative success story in Sweezy (a 7th round D-line convert) — to then lose him in free agency must be galling. If they’re asking him to rebuild the line again because Okung is also moving on — his reputation is constantly being scrutinised.

Offensive lines are built on consistency, familiarity and cohesion. Cable’s almost never had that because of all the changes up front. His ability to improve the performance in 2015 from wretched to passable is perhaps his greatest achievement to date.

Unfortunately this is life in football. The Seahawks have chosen to prioritise the defense and their quarterback. Sweezy is a good age and doesn’t have much competition at guard on the open market. He likely commands an offer that is too expensive for Seattle to match. If he’s only getting offers in the $3.5m-4m range — he could easily return.

Prediction: A handful of teams show interest and he ends up in Oakland, San Francisco or Tennessee — unless the value keeps him in Seattle.

Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin remain — maybe
If the only move the Seahawks make is to prioritise and ultimately keep Jeremy Lane — they’ll have plenty of cap room to keep both Mebane and Rubin.

The question is — can they find a better option?

A year ago they swapped Tony McDaniel for Rubin and it seemed like a questionable decision. Carroll later praised Rubin as the best three technique the Seahawks have had during his tenure.

It wasn’t an obvious upgrade at the time. Rubin mustered minimal interest as a free agent and was a bit of a surprise signing. It might not be obvious right now but the Seahawks might be able to find alternatives again to save a bit of cap space.

That said, it’s unlikely both depart. They performed very well in 2015, preventing any 100-yard rushers during the regular season.

They likely place a limited value on what is essentially two base run-stuffing DT’s. If Mebane or Rubin get offers beyond the limit, Seattle probably just moves on.

They didn’t go anywhere near Terrance Knighton before he signed a one-year, $4.45m contract in Washington a year ago. Their limit might be $3.5m-4m for this position moving forward. Maybe less.

Consider this as well — the draft is loaded with run stuffing defensive tackles. The Seahawks might be able to find a replacement in the middle rounds for either player. Alternatively, the extreme depth at DT could weaken the free agent market considerably. That could impact the demands of both Rubin and Mebane — and other potential free agents too.

The Seahawks can go hunting for the best deal — without any real pressure.

Prediction: Rubin signs, we’ll see on Mebane.

Any outside free agents?
If Lane, Rubin, Mebane (or another DT) re-sign, the total outlay could be approximately $13-14m. Based on the brilliant Davis Hsu’s calculations, that would leave around $3-5m to spend on any extras.

They could look to add some D-line depth — especially if there’s a cold market due to the strong draft class. They’re unlikely to be able to afford Mario Williams or any other big name.

They could also look to sign a veteran offensive lineman.

Again, it’s unlikely to be a big name. Not even a backloaded deal starting at around $4m is going to tempt Alex Mack, Alex Boone or Kelechi Osemele.

Mack could sign with the Rams (he went to Cal, they have the cap room to offer him $10m APY).

Minnesota is likely to cut one of Phil Loadholt or Matt Kalil. Loadholt is the favourite to go and could be had at a minimal cost after he missed the entire 2015 season. He’s familiar with Darrell Bevell, specialises in run blocking and has the size plus tackle experience the Seahawks love at left guard.

It also wouldn’t impact Seattle’s compensatory picks in 2017 with Loadholt having been cut. Some of Loadholt’s perceived issues versus speed won’t be a problem if he plays guard.

It’s also a nice hedge. If the top offensive tackles are off the board by #26 (including Germain Ifedi for example) — they can look to start Loadholt at right tackle and draft a left guard possibly in round two (with a DE like Emmanuel Ogbah becoming an alternative pick at #26). It gives them flexibility.

If the contract is low enough it could leave enough room to add a veteran backup quarterback at a minimal cost and some second or third tier FA’s to add depth.

Prediction: Phil Loadholt signs a 1-2 year deal, a veteran quarterback is also added (possibly Tarvaris Jackson after a long wait).

How would this set up the Seahawks in the draft?
The #1 priority would be to fill the hole left by Okung at tackle. The draft is stacked with defensive players so they can wait until rounds 2-3 to address that need. They won’t get a starting tackle after the first day.

Germain Ifedi, Shon Coleman, Jason Spriggs or Le’Raven Clark at #26.

In round two they would need to add to the defense with an impact player. We projected Travis Feeney this week to replace Bruce Irvin and it’s an ideal fit if he checks out medically. Alternatively they could add the best available defensive lineman, linebacker or ‘deathbacker’ (aka the role played by Deone Bucannon and Mark Barron).

The Seahawks have three picks in rounds 3-4 and could target a running back partner for Thomas Rawls (Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise makes sense) an interior lineman (competition at center — possibly Connor McGovern, Joe Dahl, Christian Westerman, Graham Glasgow) and a defensive lineman..

Receiver, cornerback and special teams (punter) to be addressed on day three.

Prediction: R1 — Germain Ifedi (T), R2 — Travis Feeney (LB), R3 — Joe Dahl (C) R3 — C.J. Prosise (RB), R4 — Best available defensive lineman (DT), R5 — Marquez North (WR), R6 — Deandre Elliott (CB), R7 — Nick O’Toole (P)

Tony Pauline’s draft rankings were used to determine who was/wasn’t available in the mid/later rounds. Concentrate on the positions/rounds more than the players.

If you missed this weeks podcast, don’t forget to check it out.

Seahawks combine review, takeaways & questions

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Travis Feeney is one of the few explosive athletes in the draft class

Who is starting at tackle?
This is the first question the Seahawks have to ask. The key to the draft is the future of Russell Okung. With Cordy Glenn getting the franchise tag and reports today that the Raiders are intent to lock up Donald Penn — Okung is probably going to receive a sizeable offer from another team.

Even Mitchell Schwartz is being touted as an $8m APY tackle. The chances of keeping Okung or finding a replacement in free agency appear limited.

But isn’t it a great D-line class?
It’s a very deep class but it lacks more than a handful of exceptional athletes. There will be players you can get at #26 and #56 with similar grades. You can even find a good option in rounds three or four.

Bang the drum for a defensive lineman at #26 if you want. The smarter move is probably to use the depth to your advantage. The depth at offensive tackle is far weaker and if you don’t take one in the first frame — you risk missing out.

So what about this tackle class?
There’s an exceptional chance the top five (Tunsil, Stanley, Conklin, Spriggs and Decker) will be off the board by Seattle’s pick.

Such a scenario would leave three genuine candidates — Shon Coleman, Germain Ifedi and Le’Raven Clark. Coleman didn’t work out at the combine but plays with a tremendous edge, has battled adversity like nobody else in this draft (cancer survivor) and has excellent size/length (6-5, 307lbs, +35 inch arms).

Ifedi gets a bad press in the media but he has incredible upside and the potential to play either tackle spot or left guard. He’s pushing 6-6 and 324lbs with 36 inch arms. This is the profile of a Seahawks offensive tackle based on their draft history.

Ifedi also had the best vertical jump among linemen (32.5 inches) topping even Jason Spriggs despite being 20lbs heavier. He also had one of the top broad jumps (9-1). I wrote about Ifedi back in December. Tony Pauline yesterday reported the Seahawks and Broncos are interested: “Teams were impressed with Germain Ifedi’s workout, and there’s a feeling the Texas A&M offensive tackle could slide into the late part of Round 1. I’m told right now Seattle and Denver are the teams targeting Ifedi late in round one.”

Greg Robinson hasn’t lived up to expectations as a pro but he was considered an athletic monster at the 2014 combine. Ifedi had a superior vertical by four inches, a broad jump that was only three inches shorter and his short shuttle was 0.10 quicker.

Clark had a good workout at the combine and he’s an athletic 6-5, 314lbs with +36 inch arms. Again — size and length is Seattle’s profile. He’s technically poor but has the ceiling of a top-five tackle in the league. A team with a good O-line coach might fancy their chances of turning Clark into a stud.

These three ‘fall-back’ options might not sound all that appealing. The alternative — not taking a tackle and putting Justin Britt back on the right — might be even less appealing.

Coleman, Ifedi and Clark don’t carry anywhere near as much hype as the D-line class but it’s rare to find this combination of length, size and athleticism at offensive tackle in the late first round. To find it in three players? That’s not to be sniffed at.

What about the defensive linemen?
I’m not sure about the talk of needing to go D-line at #26. That’s somewhat missing the point on the class. It’s not that the options in round one are particularly fantastic. It’s the overall depth and quality. There could be +30 prospects carrying grades in rounds 1-3.

Pete Carroll noted to Pat Kirwan that they’re looking for players that can force turnovers. The one big complaint about this deep D-line class is its lack of quick-twitch pass-rushers (edge or interior).

Emmanuel Ogbah can impact plays and had 13 sacks in 2015 — but his motor is wildly inconsistent. The Seahawks spoke to him at the combine and with good reason. Has he got the grit-factor? He and Charles Tapper were the only two D-liners to run an elite 1.5 10-yard split. These two are the most intriguing edge rushers in the class with length (Ogbah 35.5 inch arms, Tapper 34.5 inches) and size (Ogbah 6-4, 273lbs, Tapper 6-3, 271lbs).

Ogbah also had a 35.5 inch vertical, a 10-1 broad jump and a 4.62 forty. Tapper had a 34 inch vertical, a 9-9 broad jump and the quickest forty among D-liners (4.59). They both flash on tape.

According to Bob McGinn’s anonymous source, Ogbah could be available in the late first round. Tapper is likely a second round selection.

If you feel comfortable with Ogbah’s motor and you’re able to find a solution at offensive tackle (or keep Okung) he makes sense at #26.

Jonathan Bullard had a better than expected workout, testing well among potential interior candidates. On tape he looks most comfortable as a five-technique. McGinn’s source suggests he’ll be available in rounds 2-3 and despite his performance in Indianapolis that grade seems pretty accurate. His best fit might be at DE in a 3-4.

There were several disappointing performances including Adolphus Washington and Chris Jones. Kenny Clark likely bolstered his stock with a good performance and looks like an early second round pick as a pure one-technique. Michigan’s Willie Henry could also provide some value — and Javon Hargrave continues to be an intriguing smaller school option.

Seattle drafted Jordan Hill in round three with a 5.23 forty (1.75 split) and a 22.5 inch vertical. He did have a decent 4.51 in the short shuttle. The Seahawks seem less concerned by SPARQ stars on the D-line once they cross the third round threshold. Keep an eye on Washington if he falls into round three — he’s a better pass-rusher on tape than he is a combine warrior.

Two others players are pretty interesting. Shaq Lawson is 6-3 and 269lbs with 33 inch arms. He had a fairly average forty (4.70) but had a fantastic three-cone and short shuttle. His ten-yard split time was 1.64. Carl Nassib is 6-7 and 277lbs with 34.5 inch arms. He ran a nice 1.62 split for his size and a good 4.37 short shuttle and 7.27 three cone. He did only jump 28.5 inches in the vertical though. Both players were productive in 2015 (Lawson 12.5 sacks, Nassib 15.5). Lawson could be a late first or early second round pick. Nassib could go in the third or fourth round.

Cutting down the running back class
Based on the combine workouts there’s really only three options — Derrick Henry, C.J. Prosise and Kenneth Dixon. Henry could be off the board by #26 and probably won’t appeal as a first round candidate. Dixon is being graded in rounds 2/3. Prosise might be available in the late third.

The Seahawks have a definitive size ideal at running back and demand a certain level of athleticism and toughness. Alex Collins (4.59, 28.5 inch vertical) and Paul Perkins (4.54, 32 inch vertical) didn’t really make any waves.

Prosise has the size (6-0, 220lbs), speed (4.48) and explosion (35.5 inch vertical) they seem to like. Dixon isn’t far behind at 5-10, 215lbs with a 4.58 and a 37.5 inch vertical. Both players are useful in the passing game and finish their runs.

Indiana’s Jordan Howard and Utah’s Devontae Booker didn’t workout so we’ll need to see how they test at their respective pro-days.

Round two could be a wildcard
While they might feel obliged to draft the best available offensive tackle at #26, they could have a ton of flexibility at #56.

The D-line class is deep enough to wait until round three if they want to. That could open the door for a receiver (Braxton Miller? Sterling Shepard?) an interior offensive lineman (Christian Westerman? Connor McGovern?) or another position.

The Green Bay Packers consistently draft receivers in round two and the Seahawks have used some of that philosophy with John Schneider. Golden Tate (2010) and Paul Richardson (2014) were both second rounders. They traded up in 2015 to take Tyler Lockett in the early third round.

With some uncertainty over Jermaine Kearse’s retainability, Doug Baldwin being a free agent next year and Paul Richardson’s injury concerns — it wouldn’t be a total surprise if they considered someone like Miller or Shepard in the late second.

What about a defensive playmaker?
The one player I couldn’t get off my mind yesterday was linebacker Travis Feeney. This is a guy who had eight sacks in 2015, has terrific size and length (6-4, 230lbs, 33.5 inch arms) and just exploded at the combine.

Feeney ran a 4.50 with an elite 1.59 split. He also had a 10-10 in the broad jump and a 40-inch vertical. According to Rand Getlin, he was also suffering with a hernia. Imagine if he was 100% healthy?

That’s part of the issue with Feeney — his health. He’s had multiple shoulder surgeries and who knows how he checked out medically in Indianapolis?

If he got the all-clear — he could go much earlier than people expect. In a class lacking genuine explosive athletes with freaky length and size — Feeney is a diamond in the rough. Health permitting, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Seahawks took him a lot earlier than expected to fill the hole left by Bruce Irvin.

And the interior offensive line?
Missouri’s Connor McGovern is 6-4, 306lbs with 33 inch arms and he put on a show with a 1.72 split, a 33 inch vertical and a 4.65 in the short shuttle. The Seahawks like their Mizzou O-liners and McGovern could easily find himself in Seattle to play guard or center.

South Carolina’s Brandon Shell could be a classic Tom Cable tackle-to-guard convert. He has the size Seattle likes at left guard (6-5, 324lbs) with 35 inch arms. Shell ran a 1.75 split and managed a 30.5 inch vertical.

Michigan center Graham Glasgow also had a good workout posting a 1.76 split and a 4.63 short shuttle (both excellent). He’s 6-6, 307lbs with 33.5 inch arms and nearly 11 inch hands. He’s the definition of gritty and hard-nosed. He’s also almost identical in size to Max Unger (with longer arms).

Cornerback options on day three
The Seahawks quietly have a deep crop of up-and-coming corners. Because of the technique they teach it’s difficult to pick it up and start quickly. Even a veteran like Cary Williams struggled badly with the adjustment.

Tye Smith, George Farmer, Stanley-Jean Baptiste, Mo Seisay, Marcus Burley and Tharold Simon could all compete in camp. There’s also a chance they retain Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead will be with the team in 2016.

This looks like another 5th or 6th round job — if at all. We also know the Seahawks like length and size and are unlikely to draft any cornerback with sub-32 inch arms.

Of the list working out today that fit the size criteria, here’s the ones that stand out:

James Bradberry — 6-0, 211lbs, 33 inch arms — 4.50, 36 inch vertical
Deandre Elliott — 6-0, 188lbs, 32 inch arms — 4.55, 41 inch vertical
T.J. Green — 6-2, 209lbs, 32 inch arms — 4.34, 35.5 inch vertical
Deiondre Hall — 6-1, 199lbs, 34.5 inch arms — 4.68, 37 inch vertical
Eric Murray — 5-10, 199lbs, 32 inch arms — 4.50 u, 39.5 inch vertical
Rashard Robinson — 6-1, 171lbs, 32 inch arms — 4.50 u, 35.5 inch vertical
Justin Simmons — 6-2, 203lbs, 32.5 inch arms — 4.62 u, 40 inch vertical
Daryl Worley — 6-0, 204lbs, 33.5 inch arms — 4.66 u, 35.5 inch vertical

Richard Sherman ran a 4.56 with a 38 inch vertical at 6-3, 195lbs. Justin Simmons is the best comparison physically and athletically, although he played safety at Boston College. Some people are ranking Simmons in day two after he beat Byron Jones’ long shuttle time.

Byron Maxwell ran a 4.46 with a 33 inch vertical at 6-0, 202lbs. Daryl Worley is similar physically but ran a much slower time.

Late round or UDFA sleeper?
We’ve talked a lot about Tennessee receiver Marquez North. He burst onto the college scene as a major recruit and just as quickly disappeared. A change of regime, injury and inconsistency led to a disappointing career for the Vols.

North still showed flashes of genuine talent. With the right mentor and pro-coaching he could be a great project for someone. North ran a 4.48 at 6-2 and 223lbs. He has a big catch radius (33.5 inch arms) and had a 35 inch vertical. He also shone in the short shuttle (4.13).

Scouting combine day two review

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-combine mock

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

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

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

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

Keanu Neal (S, Florida) is a player.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle Seahawks combine preview & watch list 2016

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Friday’s workouts

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

Offensive linemen

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

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

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

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

We know they have certain ideals at the different positions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight ends

Tyler Higbee is a catching machine with great athleticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday’s workouts

Quarterbacks

Dak Prescott is mobile and makes plays

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running backs

Derrick Henry could be the star of the weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wide receivers

Will Fuller is a dynamic playmaker with the suddenness Seattle loves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday’s workouts

Defensive linemen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday’s workouts

Cornerbacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona State’s Christian Westerman is very intriguing

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

Christian Westerman’s tape is very impressive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Need convincing about his natural strength? How about this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further thoughts on Adolphus Washington

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINK: Adolphus Washington vs Northern Illinois

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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