Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Aaron Donald is much better than I thought

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Yeah -- time for a rethink

I’m not sure how I got it so wrong.

My first impression of Aaron Donald was pretty middling. Sometimes when you watch full games instead of tape cuts, it’s hard to notice consistently good play.

That’s the excuse I’ll roll with, but at the end of the day I just made a bad call.

Donald can play.

And he could be a first round pick.

In going back to re-access his potential I wanted to focus on two games against very different opponents.

I wanted to see how he faired against the best of the best — National Champions Florida State. And I wanted to watch him against a much less polished opponent — Bowling Green State.

On both occasions he was superb. I couldn’t have been more impressed.

Again — how did I miss on this guy so badly?

I’ll get to the positives in a moment, but first here’s one lingering issue. You will be able to have some success in the run game versus Donald.

As good as he is at getting into the backfield and having an impact, you can scheme against him in the run.

He’s not an immovable object, and you wouldn’t expect that at 6-0 and 288lbs.

When you face off against him 1v1 — he nearly always wins with leverage because of the size. Being small is actually a positive in that sense. He also has the hands and lower body power to excel in that type of situation.

Yet when blockers take a different angle and try to stretch a run out wide, he can be moved. When he can’t set and get the hands up, the lack of size shows. That opens up cut back lanes and there are a few occasions where you think at the next level that would be exploited.

Whoever drafts Donald is probably just going to have to live with the fact he’ll give up the odd big hole/run play.

Even so, it might be worth it for all the positives you get as a pocket collapsing, dominating interior force.

I liked Jordan Hill a lot last year and was pleased to see Seattle spend a third round pick bringing him in — even if his rookie year has been severely hampered with injuries.

Donald is kind of like a top of the range version of Hill. In some ways they have a very similar game. But where as Hill flashed as a playmaker in the backfield, Donald practically lives there.

Time and time again he collapses the pocket. He ended the year with 11 sacks but was probably responsible for a lot more. In the two games I watched he was consistently having an impact — driving blockers into the backfield, forcing quarterbacks to move out of the pocket and recording a splash.

When he doesn’t get the sack, he’ll at least force a bad throw or get a teammate on the stat sheet.

It’s been a while since I saw a defensive lineman this busy, causing so many problems for two very different opponents.

In the FSU game I actually think he could’ve done a better job finishing, but the fact of the matter is he was there time and time again in position to make a play.

I wanted to see how he coped against the best in college football and it was interesting to see how much success he had against the Seminoles. He was the only one causing Jameis Winston any problems. And Winston had a day for the ages — a truly sensational quarterbacking performance.

He needed it too, with the way Donald was playing.

Then I put on the BGSU tape hoping to see him clean up against a much weaker team.

He did just that.

It’s unusual to see a defensive lineman just rag-doll a blocker, but there was Donald going to work. On a couple of occasions he practically tossed the guard or center into the quarterbacks lap.

Remember the way we looked at the three technique position last year? I wrote this piece in February 2013 titled ‘The Bill Walsh defensive tackle’.

It contains notes from Matt Waldman detailing what Walsh looked for when drafting players.

We know Pete Carroll’s links to Walsh and there’s some crossover between the two styles of coaching. This line quoted in the piece has stayed with me, referring to what he wanted in a DT:

The best defensive tackles move the offensive guard back into the quarterback. (emphasis mine) They won’t have nearly as many sacks as others, but if they can move the guard back into the quarterback, then the quarterback has to avoid his own lineman as if he were a pass rusher before he throws the ball. So this is a key ability.

This is Donald.

Even when he’s not getting on the stat sheet, he’s going to make life easy for the edge rushers. He’ll get the quarterback on the move, trying to make reads on the hop.

He uses his hands well, makes the most of his leverage advantage, has a strong lower base that generates plenty of power, his first step quickness is right up there and he’s capable of slipping blockers with a quick swim move.

Every time an undersized pass rusher like this comes onto the scene he gets compared to Geno Atkins.

Perhaps for the first time, that comparison may be legit.

Donald may never ever get anywhere near that kind of impact. There’s a reason Atkins is a bit of a freak of nature.

But if there’s one player capable of getting into the league and actually making it happen at this size, Donald is your guy.

One more time — I’m not sure how I got it so wrong before.

A good team should consider him late in the first.

A team with some edge rushers to compliment his ability to collapse the pocket.

A team that can rotate their defensive linemen and limit some of the issues he’ll have against the run.

In many ways Seattle would perfect for him. I think we should put him on the radar — especially if they lose Clinton McDonald to free agency. McDonald’s impact this year is really underrated — he had 5.5 sacks and it’d be an upset if other teams weren’t willing to reward him for that.

In fact I’d put money on him ending up in Jacksonville.

Spending a first rounder to replace McDonald might be overkill — but I do think it’ll be an option. You could argue Jordan Hill may be tagged for that role — and nobody should write him off after one year.

But if Donald’s there in the late first, you have to consider it.

One of Seattle’s biggest off-season priorities has to be getting a big bodied receiver for Russell Wilson to compliment the current group.

If Kelvin Benjamin or Brandon Coleman are there at #31/32 they have to be in play. It’s the one area Seattle can really take a tangible step forward, particularly with the way they’re structuring the offense.

They want to run the ball and hit big plays downfield off play action. Not having a starting receiver over 6-0/6-1 is conducive to that.

A bigger red zone threat would also be nice, especially considering the struggles they’ve had recently inside the 20.

Benjamin and Coleman aren’t just big — both have limitless potential. They’re also far from the finished article and need time. I’ll take a chance on either in the late first.

If they’re both gone, then you look down the list at other needs. And maintaining the depth and quality of the defensive line has to be up there.

Remember — McDonald isn’t the only free agent in waiting. Tony McDaniel and Michael Bennett are also set to hit the market.

Donald is a really exciting player to watch. He could go in the top-25. His size could also see him last into the second round.

Either way — I wouldn’t bet against him having a lot of success in the NFL.

Exciting player.

Shop for Seattle Seahawks NFC Champs Merchandise at

Game tape vs Florida State & Bowling Green State:

Further thoughts & tape on Brandon Coleman

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Oh, for a 6-6 receiver this weekend.

The Seahawks #1 need right now is a big target for Russell Wilson.

Consistency, speed, competitiveness. He’s throwing to a solid group.

But he hasn’t got someone who can be a mismatch in the redzone and generally dominate with height and speed. A possession receiver-plus, so to speak.

I am convinced Brandon Coleman is a great option for the Seahawks with their first round pick this year.

Sometimes we have to look beyond the numbers or even the tape. What is a player capable of? What can he become?

Rutgers have barely had a functioning passing game for two years. Mediocre would be a compliment.

If Coleman played for Florida State I truly believe he’d be seen in a totally different light. Give him a Heisman winner at quarterback and a power house unbeaten supporting cast and he’d be flying.

I don’t think we realise how difficult it is to make technical improvements at receiver when the guy throwing you the ball just isn’t good enough.

He has to take some of the blame too, I appreciate that. Does he do a good enough job high pointing the football? No. Although in fairness a lot of the throws he gets aren’t catchable anyway.

It’s not like there’s tape of 10-15 throws you can say — he should’ve high pointed that. It’s more like 3-4 because they just don’t attempt all that many deep shots.

If he can learn this skill, the sky really is the limit for Coleman.

He has a size/speed combo that reminds me a ton of Josh Gordon. I’ve used that comparison before. Just look at Gordon after a year learning the ropes. He was the most productive wide out in the NFL playing in Cleveland. Cleveland.

It was reassuring to see Dan Pompei report last week that an unnamed National Scout viewed Coleman as a late first rounder.

That’s exactly how I see it.

Physically he’s a top ten pick. Yet because of the offensive struggles at Rutgers and the lack of development, he’s more of a late first rounder.

In that range you can’t expect to draft the complete package. If you want a great player, you have to take a shot.

Whoever you take in the late first is going to be somewhat flawed. And that’s why guys like Coleman and Kelvin Benjamin will go in the 20’s or 30’s and why Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins are top-15 locks.

The game against Notre Dame at the top of this page is a fantastic review of the situation.

Rutgers started the game by throwing away from Coleman — their best offensive weapon. Work that one out.

The below average Gary Nova had been replaced under center by the possibly even worse Chas Dodd (who completed 10/28 throwing and had three picks).

You have to wait six snaps into the video before Coleman gets his first target — a 51-yard downfield bomb. He’s beats the cornerback down the sideline with pure speed, creates separation and hauls in the catch.

That’s what I’m talking about. There aren’t many 6-6 receivers who can do that.

On his next snap he runs a perfect route to the corner of the end zone, beating a pair of defensive backs, and scoring the touchdown. The ball is thrown behind Coleman, but he adjusts to make the grab.

That’s the potential I’m talking about. That’s the positive side of his game. A reason to believe in him, even as a first round pick. You know he can do it.

And yet people turn off. Why? After those two catches, he didn’t register on the stat sheet again.

Draftnik types generally want to buy into production when it comes to receivers. They’ll overrate players with major stats. They’ll look beyond players who don’t have the right numbers.

The thing is, I come back to the offense and the quarterback situation again.

Look at the play at 1:58. Coleman isn’t even into his route before Dodd — without pressure — throws it his way. He’s not ready for that football, he’s still running the damn route. The quarterback deserves that pick. That throw was never on.

At 2:29 Coleman should’ve had another touchdown — but it’s yet another terrible throw. He beats the corner and has position. The ball is thrown just as Coleman reaches the end zone so if you throw that out in front of him it’s an easy six.

Dodd throws it behind the receiver, almost like a back shoulder throw, and nearly gets picked again.

That is insanely poor quarterback play.

At 3:21 they try a gimmick play and let the running back throw it. Can he do any worse? Yes, yes he can. He throws it behind Coleman (again) and it’s picked off. Just awful.

At 3:31 we see the big area for improvement. That’s a pass Coleman can high point and do a better job challenging for. It’s at a good height, and if he leaps up and reaches out he can make a difficult play. He doesn’t and it’s incomplete instead.

At 3:45 he beats the corner and is pulled back in a blatant pass interference call. Better to give up yards than a touchdown, but it’s another example of a 6-6 man looking more agile and athletic than a Notre Dame corner half his size.

It’s this kind of play that makes me say — OK — we need to work on the high pointing. He can do better there. But my god I have to get the chance to work with a player who has this size, movement, control and flat out deep speed.

Put his ability to get open in this video alongside the highlight reel plays we’ve seen him make — running away from defensive backs for 80-yard scores and looking potentially like one of the best playmakers to enter the NFL in recent memory.

There’s no doubt in my mind that he can be big time with a good quarterback and offense.

And I implore you to see past the lack of stats and buy into the upside. Because this guy has it in spades.

Updated mock draft: 8th January

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Johnny Manziel declared for the draft today -- could he be the #1 pick?

There are a couple of early trades this year that make a ton of sense.

Last year we experimented with ‘trade’ mocks and it’s something I intend to do again. Why not have a play around instead of churning out the same thing over and over again?

This week I’ve included just a couple of moves — right at the top.

Houston and St. Louis have both made it abundantly clear they want to deal down.

It shouldn’t be a big surprise.

The Texans don’t have a pressing need for a brilliant pass rusher like Jadeveon Clowney — they already have the best in the league. They do need a quarterback, but theoretically they could trade down and still get the QB they really want.

The Rams say they’re sticking with Sam Bradford. They also don’t need a pass rusher with Robert Quinn and Chris Long two of the best around. They can move down and still get an offensive tackle — the position most people expect them to target.

It really does make absolute sense for both teams to find a trade partner — and this year there could be some takers.

I can see three or four teams talking themselves into needing Johnny Manziel. He’s the best playmaker in the draft, the most exciting quarterback available and even if he defies convention — teams shouldn’t be scared off by that any more.

(see: Russell Wilson)

Would Houston take Manziel at #1? Very possible. But I just get the sense Bill O’Brien wants a more orthodox passer. It’s what he’s used to working with. Big, tall quarterbacks who can sling it from the pocket.

Maybe I’m wrong there? I’m just guessing. But I think a lot of people believe Blake Bortles will be O’Brien’s guy. It just seems like a good fit. And he’s well aware of him after UCF’s 34-31 victory at Penn State in September, where Bortles completed 74% of his passes and scored three touchdowns.

If a team like the Browns, for example, are pining for Manziel — it’s time to make a trade. It might not include the two first rounders owned by Cleveland, but some sort of package makes sense and probably suits both teams.

That way Houston gets the player they want at #4 with some extra draft stock included for good measure. Cleveland leapfrogs not only the Jaguars — who could show interest in Manziel — but also the Rams, who would almost certainly be fielding calls from teams looking to draft Manziel.

After firing the old front office for failing to make a deal for Robert Griffin III, Cleveland’s brain trust might be a bit more aggressive here.

If Jadeveon Clowney is still on the board at #2 — St. Louis suddenly is in a strong position. We have to assume he won’t get past Jacksonville at #3.

Teams like Atlanta at #6 and Minnesota at #8 are likely to be in the market for a pass rusher. Oakland, Tampa Bay and Tennessee could also be interested.

If any of them want Clowney badly enough, they’ll pick up the phone.

The Rams could move down a few spots, grab some stock (let’s say an extra second rounder) and still land an offensive tackle like Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson.

In both scenarios it’s win-win.

Since the new CBA kicked in we haven’t seen quite as much movement as we expected, aside from the blockbuster RGIII deal.

This might be the year where it really takes off.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll see the #1 pick dealt for the first time in a long time?

It’s something worth discussing anyway.

TRADE #1 Johnny Manziel (QB, Cleveland)
The Browns trade places with Houston and get the best playmaker in the draft.
TRADE #2 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
The Falcons need a stud on defense. They’re also no stranger to a big trade. This makes a ton of sense.
#3 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
Gus Bradley could use a great edge rusher. I have my doubts about Barr, but physically he has a ton of upside.
#4 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
After trading down a few spots, Bill O’Brien gets the quarterback that best suits his offensive scheme.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
He could shoot up boards after the combine. Oakland also needs a quarterback and should target one at the top of round two.
#6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
The Rams can afford to move down and still get one of the top offensive tackles on the board.
#7 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Fantastic prospect. Elite athletic qualities. Looks like a complete stud. He’s a better prospect than Matthews for me.
#8 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
The Vikings will be pretty fortunate if one of the top three quarterbacks falls into their lap.
#9 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
The more I watch Evans, the more convinced I am he’s a top ten pick and a true #1 receiver.
#10 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Just a really good, competitive football player. Would look great alongside Megatron.
#11 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
Kouandjio and Robinson are the top two tackles for me. If he lasts this long it’d be a steal.
#12 Tyler Lewan (T, Michigan)
Solid if unspectacular tackle prospect. Just a good, honest football player.
#13 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
The Rams could use another corner and Dennard looks like the best in this class.
#14 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
He will dominate at the Senior Bowl and secure a place in the top-20 next May.
#15 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
Massive tackle prospect. Could be the next Anthony Davis, minus the outspoken Tweets.
#16 Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
I’m not completely sold on Mack, but the Ravens have a lot of needs including adding another pass rusher.
#17 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s not dominated in 2013 and it’s a concern. Has he added too much bad weight?
#18 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Modern day tight end. Would provide a much needed weapon for the Jets offense.
#19 Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Reports say he’ll stay at A&M for another year. If he chooses to declare he’ll likely be a first rounder.
#20 Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Converted defensive lineman. Having a good year. Might not turn pro this year but we’ll wait and see.
#21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Green Bay’s defense badly needs an upgrade. Mosley would be a nice presence at inside linebacker.
#22 Brent Urban (DE, Virginia)
Chip Kelly likes defenders with length and speed.
#23 Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
A difficult one to work out. Just how athletic is he? There’s no doubting his reliable hands.
#24 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
He’s had a productive year. I’ve only seen one of his games but came away impressed
#25 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Roby didn’t have a great 2013 season but I’m a believer.
#26 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Could provide a dynamic double threat with Josh Gordon.
#27 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
Big upside prospect with his best years ahead.
#28 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Huge upside, could be another Josh Gordon. Bill Belichick loves to draft Rutgers’ players.
#29 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
I’m not a huge fan. Too inconsistent. But he’s the big bodied wide out Carolina currently lacks.
#30 Zack Martin (T/G, Notre Dame)
I really, really like this guy. He can play tackle in the NFL for me. Top-20 grade.
#31 Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington)
Earlier this week I wrote about why this could be an option. Big, orthodox tight end who can make plays.
#32 Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Underrated speed rusher who can cause havoc in the backfield. Huge production in the last two years.

Proposal: Seahawks could make TE a round one target

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Zach Miller, terrific player -- but possible sacrificial lamb?

Could drafting a tight end in round one actually be one of the most productive moves this team makes in 2014?

Let’s call it addition by subtraction.

You might have to cut one popular veteran as a consequence. But it could help you keep two or three others.

Let’s start by discussing Zach Miller.

Statistically he hasn’t put up big numbers in Seattle, despite signing a $34m contract in 2011.

In Oakland he was the #1 target in the passing game. He had 2268 receiving yards in his final three years with the Raiders — an average of 756 per season.

In his three years with the Seahawks so far, that production has halved. He has just 1016 yards and a single-season best of 396 in 2012.

It’d be easy to look at that and say it’s underwhelming. I’d argue strongly against that. It only takes a little digging to find out how unfair it’d be to compare those statistics.

For starters, his touchdown production is almost exactly the same. He has eight TD’s in three seasons with Seattle. He had nine scores in his final three years in Oakland.

So right off the bat, he’s no less of a scoring threat.

Here’s the difference in targets between the two three-year spells:

Oakland (2008-10) — 278 targets
Seattle (2011-13) — 153 targets

Clearly he has a different role these days. The Raiders made him a primary target. In Seattle, within a much more balanced attack, that isn’t the case.

He’s also been a key blocking force in a scheme he’s very familiar with. Let’s not underestimate how important that has been — particular during the 2011 and 2013 seasons when the Seahawks suffered multiple injuries at offensive tackle.

When called upon, Miller has been an extremely reliable safety net for Russell Wilson. I see no reason why that’ll change any time soon. He’s only just turned 28, so he has time on his side.

You can make a pretty strong case to argue Zach Miller has been a terrific addition to this team — even without the big stats to back it up.

There is a ‘but’, however…

Miller is far from an elite player. He isn’t a big time difference maker.

His contract suggests he should be.

The most expensive player on Seattle’s 2013 roster was — you guessed it — Zach Miller.

And it wasn’t  even close.

His $11m salary was $1.5m more expensive than #2 on the list — Russell Oking ($9.5m). Marshawn Lynch at #3 accounted for $2.5m LESS than Miller.

Rob Gronkowski’s cap hit in 2013 was $2.75m having recently signed an 8-year $55m mega-deal in New England. That steadily increases as you’d expect. Yet during the entire course of that contract, he doesn’t top Miller’s 2013 salary until 2019 ($11.25m cap hit) — the final year of the deal.

Even with Miller’s contract dropping to a $7m cap hit in 2014, he’ll still earn $1.6m more than Gronkowski next season.

As much as I appreciate the job he’s done in Seattle, his attitude and contribution to this young team — he’s simply earning far too much for a tight end who hasn’t topped 400 yards in three seasons.

In comparison, a tight end drafted in the #28-34 region could be expected to earn around $1.25m as a rookie and $1.5m as a second year player.

That’s a huge difference.

You can save $5m by cutting Miller ($7m cap hit, $2m in dead money). So you’re talking about a $4m overall saving by replacing him with one of the tight ends in this rookie class.

That’s money that could go towards keeping Golden Tate and/or Michael Bennett.

It really comes down to determining just how valuable you believe the 28-year-old is to the offense, compared to how effective a rookie can be as an immediate starter.

Would the production substantially decrease? Arguably not, given Miller had just 387 yards in 14 starts in 2013.

Would you miss his ability as a blocker? Absolutely, but not as much as you’ll miss Bennett rushing the passer or Tate making plays at receiver.

Can the rookie become a reliable safety net? Debatable.

Could you significantly upgrade the position within the four year rookie contract? Possibly — if you pick the right guy.

You’d have to expect some growing pains. But the Seahawks have shown they’re willing to go through that (see: Michael Robinson/Derrick Coleman — even if they eventually brought Robinson back).

We’ve spent the last few months discussing difficult cuts that are forthcoming. They’re unavoidable. Fan favourites are going to be moving on. It’s about keeping together the most important pieces of the puzzle (Wilson, Sherman, Thomas, Lynch) and filling in the gaps.

You could counter by arguing if you cut Miller, what guarantee is there that your guy will be sat there waiting in the back end of the first round?

Thankfully, there are insurance policies at hand.

Luke Willson has shown promise. Perhaps not enough promise to be a full-time starter next season, but at least enough to see his role expand in year two.

Fred Davis is likely to be a free agent. It went sour very quickly in Washington for Davis, but he has history with Pete Carroll and could be available for a bargain price.

Anthony McCoy will return to health — and I think he’s done at least enough to justify another camp if there aren’t any takers elsewhere.

You could go into the draft with all three on your roster and it wouldn’t break the bank. If you then draft a tight end in round one, just let the competition begin — keep three and cut the unlucky loser.

The Seahawks should be looking for a big target for Russell Wilson. Ideally that comes in the form of a tall receiver who can develop into a true #1.

Perhaps they see enough upside in Brandon Coleman or Kelvin Benjamin to justify an early pick?

Both have legitimate upside and #1 potential, but they also have serious technical improvements to make and would carry a degree of risk.

Are they first round picks? Some will think so, others won’t.

There will be options beyond the first round. Donte Moncrief, Cody Hoffman and Martavis Bryant could all be available later depending on how well they test.

Hey — I’m assuming Coleman and Benjamin won’t be there in round two. Stranger things have happened.

Really there’s nothing to stop the Seahawks going TE/WR in the first two rounds. Those hoping for offensive line depth won’t be happy, but making savings elsewhere (eg by cutting Rice, Clemons and Miller) will increase the chances of holding onto Breno Giacomini.

It won’t be a disaster (at least in my view) if James Carpenter, Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie are fighting to start at left guard in 2014.

Getting a big tight end and a big receiver in the first two rounds would put a lot more size (and talent) on the field for Wilson.

I’d argue that’ll have a much bigger impact than drafting a guard in a pretty mediocre year at the position.

So what about the candidates at tight end that could make this a justifiable move?

Unless there’s a big mover on the cards, it looks like there are three first round options:

Eric Ebron – North Carolina
Athletic, former basketball player and the type of tight end the NFL is looking for. Everyone wants a big target that can get around the field and create a mismatch. On tape he’s made some dazzling plays this year — one handed grabs, 60-yard runs after the catch. This is usually the time where a blogger or pundit says his blocking isn’t great. Cut the crap. How many times do we have to hear that? The NFL has changed. Tight ends need to look like this. I’m not going to mark Ebron down for his blocking. Coach him up. It simply isn’t a good enough reason not to draft him in the top-20. And ultimately, I expect that’s where he’ll go.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Washington
Former big time recruit who generated interest from Alabama, Florida, USC and Texas before committing to home-state Washington. ASJ maybe didn’t max-out his potential with the Huskies, but there’s no denying his potential. Carroll/Schneider have always been interested in physical difference makers and big time high school recruits. He’s more of a traditional tight end, but so is Miller. How fast is he? That’s going to be crucial. He doesn’t have to run a 4.6, he just has to avoid running a 4.8. Easier said than done at 266lbs. I like him though — and I believe he can turn into a very productive NFL tight end.

Jace Amaro – Texas Tech
I’m still trying to work out Amaro. He’s listed at 255lbs, but looks big. At least as big as ASJ. He isn’t incredibly mobile or shifty, but out of the three listed here he’s probably the one I’d prefer to go to for a third down conversion. At times I’m not convinced he’s much more than an above average tight end working in an ultra-productive passing game. Then you see him put up 136 yards against West Virginia, 174 against Oklahoma State and 119 against Oklahoma — and all three teams knew where the ball was going. They couldn’t stop him. I want to believe. Bring on the combine, let’s see how athletic he really is.

After these three, it’s not much of a group. But you don’t get many deep TE classes.

You could argue it’d provide the best value in the 28-32 range where Seattle will draft.

Think about it. At that point Austin Seferian-Jenkins might be the best player available. Ditto Jace Amaro. Ebron will be long gone, but the other two could be there.

Why fight the board?

It’s something else to consider.

So let’s sum up what we’re talking about doing here….

Zach Miller, Sidney Rice and Chris Clemons.

Total savings
$19m (approx) – $7m Rice, $7m Clemons and $5m Miller

Michael Bennett, Golden Tate and Breno Giacomini

Tight end in round one (eg Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro) and, board permitting, a tall receiver in round two.

The Seahawks need to find a way to keep Bennett and Tate (and possibly Giacomini). They need to do it — in my opinion — without thinning the defense by cutting guys like Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane.

Miller might be a sacrificial lamb in this instance. But it could be necessary.

And this is before we even get into finding a way to extend Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas’ contracts — two nigh on certainties on the horizon.

I’m not saying this is what they should do. It’s merely a proposal.

Food for thought, though.

Sammy Watkins proves he’s a star in the making

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

What a way for Sammy Watkins to head into the NFL.

16 catches, 227 yards and a couple of touchdowns helped Clemson defeat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl (40-35).

It was the performance of a star in the making. A display that should solidify a top ten grade.

A former 5-star recruit who was a big catch for Clemson in 2011, he had an immediate impact as a true freshman (82 catches, 1219 yards and 12 touchdowns).

He had to get through a challenging sophomore year. He was arrested in May 2012 and charged with possession of a controlled substance and simple possession of marijuana, both misdemeanors. As a consequence he started the season serving a two-game suspension and it allowed DeAndre Hopkins to become the focal point of the Tigers’ passing game.

When he needed to show up big as a junior, and maybe grow up a little bit, Watkins delivered.

The Clemson coaches have had to push him along. On more than one occasion they’ve been vocal (and public) about him delivering on his massive potential.

Eventually the light switched on. And what we’re left with is an ultra-competitive, highly skilled explosive athlete.

This is what he brings to the table:

Fantastic body control — Watkins is such a smooth runner. He never seems to get out of position and he adjusts to the ball perfectly. He’s very loose and can change direction easily. This is an underrated skill. Just look at the way Kelvin Benjamin ties himself up in knots trying to turn quickly and adjust to the ball. It helps that Watkins has a more compact frame, but he makes the most of it. As a consequence most of his routes are run crisply and this’ll help him make a quick impact at the next level.

Superb hands — I’ll be very interested to check out how big they are at the combine. The ball just gets swallowed up in those mitts — you rarely see him juggle a pass or double catch. He can high point the football, he can grab it away from his body. Watkins will be a consistent hands catcher at the next level, a great red zone threat despite only being 6-1 and he’ll make his fair share of third down conversions.

Elite speed — Whether he’s running a downfield route or taking a screen, Watkins has the potential to be a true difference maker. He can take the top of a defense, but he’s also going to be a big time threat on screens, reverses and the occasional end-around. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ran in the 4.3’s at the combine. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s a much more accomplished, rounded player than Tavon Austin — and he was a top ten pick last year.

Excellent football IQ — DeAndre Hopkins was a student of the game. During interviews he’d regularly quote specific routes when detailing plays. He’d discuss what a defense was showing and how he exploited the call to make a catch. Watkins has picked up these habits. I’m not sure many people realise how switched on Watkins is. Clemson do a good job coaching their receivers.

He’s the ultimate competitor — Another Hopkins cross-over. Both players seem to love the game. You HAVE to be this way to be a great receiver. You can’t coast. You can’t play at your own speed. Corner’s are getting bigger, tougher and faster. Thank the Seahawks for that. Receivers have to bring it. They must have an edge. Watkins has it in spades, just like Mike Evans and Marqise Lee. And it’s why all three should be top ten picks.

The term ‘complete player’ is thrown around too often, but in Watkins’ case it’s absolutely true.

There are some teams picking in the top ten who need a quarterback. This guy will make them second guess what they’re going to do.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we see Watkins going in the top-five — just like A.J. Green in 2011 — to a team who is willing to wait until round two to get a quarterback.

Whichever signal caller ends up with Sammy Watkins should count his blessings.

This guy is legit.

One of the best years to need a receiver…

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

These are all tweets from today.

This receiver class really does have everything.

Right off the bat you have three players who could go in the top ten — Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee.

Evans is a Vincent Jackson clone. He’ll need to prove he’s as fast to max out his stock (Jackson ran in the 4.4’s), but there’s no denying he’s a terrific next-level prospect. He’ll be a quarterbacks best friend — coming back for the football, winning endless jump-balls, being a third down demon. He’s a star in the making and would be ideal for any young quarterback (such as E.J. Manuel at Buffalo, who own the #9 pick).

Watkins is a pure playmaker with underrated football intelligence, elite speed, strong hands and great body control. They coach receivers well at Clemson. DeAndre Hopkins had a perfect understanding of his offense and regularly broke down routes and schemes during interviews. Watkins has picked that up too. Teams could target him in the top ten and then go back for a quarterback (like A.J. McCarron or Derek Carr) in round two.

Lee is just a heck of a football player. The last prospect who flashed similar technical gifts and an ultra competitive attitude was A.J. Green. He doesn’t have Green’s size, but they have similar traits. I’d love to see him in a prolific passing offense such as Detroit’s. Imagine having to deal with Calvin Johnson on one side and Lee on the other? Like Evans, he’s pissed off for greatness. Receivers need that.

After that you’ve got a mountain of depth. Penn State’s Robinson is tall at 6-3 but surprisingly better with the ball in his hands as a YAC specialist. Whether he can take on a more orthodox role, make plays downfield and high point the football remains to be seen. He moves well, has a lean frame that can maybe add a bit more bulk. He might need time to adjust to the next level.

Brandon Coleman (6-6) and Kelvin Benjamin (6-5) offer more height and supreme physical qualities — even if they have a lot to work on.

Coleman must high point the football better but he’s really not been helped by the disastrous Rutgers passing offense. Look at him like a ball of clay, ready to be moulded into an effective pro-wide out. Not many guys can do what he does at that size. Don’t be shocked if he ends up being another sensational Josh Gordon-style physical freak. Gordon needed a year before blowing up the NFL.

Benjamin had the Heisman Trophy winner throwing dimes all season and it helped him put up big numbers. If you were designing a #1 receiver, he’d look a lot like Kelvin Benjamin. Great size, powerful frame. Yet he could be so much better than he’s shown in college. He has to cut out the frequent mental mistakes (plenty of lousy drops in 2013). He has to show more desire to dominate — which he is capable of doing. And he needs to show better body control and route running skills. If the light switches on –watch out.

Odell Beckham is an exceptional talent — huge hands, super smooth route runner, fantastic kick returner. He’s one of the best players in the draft. Any team that wants a receiver who can get on the field right away and make a quick transition needs to consider Beckham. He’s not the biggest, but he plays way above his size. Not many 6-0 receivers high point the ball like he does.

His partner at LSU — Jarvis Landry — isn’t too far behind. He’s also a reliable playmaker and a great safety net. Again — not the biggest. No problem. He’s just a really good player.

Oregon State’s Cooks is a smaller, quicker wide out who will likely operate in the slot at the next level and work heavily in the screen game. He won the Biletnikoff Award this year and put up huge numbers. Jordan Matthews is an incredibly polished #2 type who would suit the Indianapolis offense as a heir apparent to Reggie Wayne, while Paul Richardson is a capable playmaker on his day.

The list goes on — Devante Parker, Jared Abbrederis, Donte Moncrief, Cody Hoffman, Josh Huff, Michael Campanaro.

Receiver and offensive tackle are two positions of real depth in 2014.

But it’s the top end talent that is really exciting.

If the Seahawks want to target a wide out — this is as good a year as any. They’re unlikely to get close to Dorial Green-Beckham or Amari Cooper in 2015.

Even if Percy Harvin gets going and they re-sign Golden Tate, for me this has to be an area of focus for Seattle in May.

Updated mock draft: 31st December

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Here’s an interesting angle for the 2014 draft.

Jadeveon Clowney is the best defensive physical specimen to enter the NFL since Mario Williams and Julius Peppers.

The one thing all three have in common?

Houston owned the #1 overall pick when they all turned pro.

In 2002 the Texans were an expansion franchise and passed on Peppers to take David Carr.

You can see the thought process. They felt they needed a quarterback to launch the team. In hindsight it was a big mistake. Carr flopped with no supporting cast and a bad offensive line. Peppers is an eight-time Pro-Bowler with 119 career sacks.

In 2006 they passed on two quarterbacks — Vince Young and Matt Leinart — plus Reggie Bush, to take Williams. This time the plan worked.

Now they face a familiar dilemma.

Once again they need a quarterback. It’s why they ended up with the #1 pick in the first place. They already have without question the best defensive player in the NFL in J.J. Watt. There’s enough playmaking talent on the offense — including an elite running back and two excellent receivers.

Better playcalling, better schemes and a new quarterback and Houston could quickly get back into contention in a weak AFC South.

They’re bringing in Penn State’s Bill O’Brien to replace Gary Kubiak. The next task will be to get a quarterback.

And this is where the situation gets complicated.

If they like Teddy Bridgewater (or Johnny Manziel) enough, they’ll just make that pick. Often with time, teams will talk themselves into liking a quarterback. There’s every chance that happens here.

At the back of their minds though will be the lingering presence of Clowney.

Put him alongside Watt, and you could be looking at an outrageous superstar double-act.

When Clowney gets to the combine — assuming he works out — he’ll put on a masterclass. That’s when people will remember what all the fuss was about at the start of the year. He really is the kind of rare physical talent that only comes around 2-3 times in a decade.

The Texans need a quarterback, but they don’t need to invest in the wrong one for the sake of it.

They might be able to do a deal for a veteran, just like Kansas City a year ago. What is Jay Cutler’s future in Chicago? That’s the big question. How easy would it be to do a deal there, if the Bears are even interested? Would the #33 pick and a high 2015 selection be enough? It’d be comparable to the Alex Smith trade.

Alternatively can they find an option in round two? Whether that’s A.J. McCarron or Brett Hundley or whoever.

I think it’d be wrong to just assume Houston will just take a quarterback first overall and that’s that. Clowney has to be in play. And if there’s any doubt about Bridgewater, they need to take him and try to turn the #33 pick into a quarterback, even if it involves a trade.

One other note before we get into it — the Rams are already making it known they want to deal the #2 pick. They’ll struggle to get the treasure-trove they received from Washington in the RGIII deal, but I can definitely see interest emerging.

Either Clowney or Bridgewater is going to be there when they’re on the clock. Someone is going to pick up the phone. So although Bridgewater is at #2 here, I fully expect St. Louis to make a trade. This isn’t me projecting Bridgewater to the Rams. I just don’t think he’s special enough to expect he’ll be any better than the already average Sam Bradford.

So here we go.

And Happy New Year.

#1 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Take Clowney at #1, put him next to J.J. Watt and enjoy. Do whatever it takes to turn the #33 pick into a QB you can win with.
#2 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
I don’t expect the Rams to draft Bridgewater. But I do expect someone to trade into this slot for the top QB or Clowney.
#3 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
Gus Bradley could use a great edge rusher. I have my doubts about Barr, but physically he has a ton of upside.
#4 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
If they really do have a lot of interest in Manziel, they might as well take him here.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
He could shoot up boards by the combine. Oakland also needs a quarterback and should target one at the top of round two.
#6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
The type of player Atlanta typically goes for. They need a tackle. Matthews might be better suited on the right side.
#7 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Fantastic prospect. Elite athletic qualities. Looks like a complete stud. He’s a better prospect than Matthews for me.
#8 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
What are they going to do next at quarterback? They wasted a pick on Ponder, brought in Cassel and then signed Freeman. Shambles.
#9 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
The more I watch Evans, the more convinced I am he’s a top ten pick and a true #1 receiver.
#10 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Just a really good, competitive football player. Would look great alongside Megatron.
#11 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
Kouandjio and Robinson are the top two tackles for me. If he lasts this long it’d be a steal.
#12 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
Massive tackle prospect with a ton of potential. If he finds a level of consistency, he could be another Anthony Davis.
#13 Tyler Lewan (T, Michigan)
Solid if unspectacular tackle prospect. Just a good, honest football player.
#14 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
He will dominate at the Senior Bowl and secure a place in the top-20 next May.
#15 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
The best corner in a very average class.
#16 Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
I’m not completely sold on Mack, but the Ravens have a lot of needs including adding another pass rusher.
#17 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s not dominated in 2013 and it’s a concern. Has he added too much bad weight?
#18 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Modern day tight end. Would provide a much needed weapon for the Jets offense.
#19 Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Reports say he’ll stay at A&M for another year. If he chooses to declare he’ll likely be a first rounder.
#20 Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Converted defensive lineman. Having a good year. One to coach up and mould into a competent left tackle.
#21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Green Bay’s defense badly needs an upgrade. Mosley would be a nice presence at inside linebacker.
#22 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State
He’s had a productive year. I’ve only seen one of his games but came away impressed
#23 Brent Urban (DE, Virginia)
Chip Kelly likes defenders with length and speed.
#24 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Is he a first round pick? Possibly. The Chiefs don’t have any glaring needs.
#25 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Roby didn’t have a great 2013 season but I’m a believer.
#26 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Could provide a dynamic double threat with Josh Gordon.
#27 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
Big upside prospect with his best years ahead.
#28 Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington)
Big, orthodox tight end. Could go in round one, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he dropped into the second.
#29 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
I’m not a huge fan. Too inconsistent. But he’s the big bodied wide out Carolina currently lacks.
#30 Zack Martin (T/G, Notre Dame)
I really, really like this guy. He can play tackle in the NFL for me. Top-20 grade.
#31 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Forget the numbers and concentrate on the upside. He could be another Josh Gordon. See the video at the top of the article.
#32 La’el Collins (G, LSU)
I think he’ll end up at guard in the NFL, despite playing tackle this year.

The Seahawks need Mike Evans… go get him

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Just a quick post for Boxing Day (and I trust you all had an excellent Christmas)…

Last night I had a bit of quiet time in the evening, and decided to go back and watch all four of the Draft Breakdown videos for Mike Evans.

Yes, I live an exciting life.

If you want to spend Boxing Day evening doing what I did on Christmas Day, click here.

It just reaffirmed my take on Evans — he’s a terrific player, exactly what the Seahawks need and worth moving up the board for if the opportunity arises.

I’m stunned he’s rated so lowly by some. ESPN’s Scouts Inc have him down as the 24th best player in the draft. He’s not even listed on Mel Kiper’s big board. The two CBS sports mock drafts have him at #18.

He’s right up there with Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee. It’s a three-pronged, elite receiver group for 2014 with depth to follow.

I can’t get enough of Evans. Forget about the deep speed, it’s not an issue. He falls under the category of ‘fast enough’.

At the end of the day, he can create separation. And that’s the important thing. He can beat press, he’s shifty to slip a corner and get down field. He knows how to set up the double move.

When he faces tight coverage (and he has, against the best college football has to offer) he goes and gets the football. Nobody high points the ball like Evans in college.

But it’s the competitive spirit he shows in every single game that is also so important. You need to have an edge to play receiver. Watch Lee at USC and you see it every week. All of the current top receivers in the NFL have it. It’s not arrogance, it’s fight. It’s a permanent pissed off attitude and a sheer rejection to accept a single missed opportunity.

It’s this kind of approach that has made Doug Baldwin a legit pro as an UDFA. Larry Fitzgerald, a consummate professional, quietly is among the most competitive players in the league. You can’t saunter and coast. Not if you want to dominate every single year.

Evans just gets it.

I want five things from a true #1 receiver:

1 — Be a red zone threat, regardless of size

2 — Contest the ball in the air, high point it and consistently exploit single coverage

3 — Go back to the quarterback when a play breaks down

4 — Be a big play threat

5 — Be a great third down option

Evans ticks every single box.

If he runs a 4.6 at the combine, I simply don’t care. I’ve seen enough to want this guy on my team.

Playing with Johnny Manziel makes the prospect even more enticing. Manziel’s ‘hair on fire’ act is similar to Russell Wilson’s. When a play breaks down, he’ll scramble around to extend it. He’ll buy time. Evans has learnt how to react in that situation.

Even when Manziel makes the wrong choice and just throws it up for grabs, Evans will make the play.

The Seahawks want explosive throws downfield. They want to dominate the red line. They want to exploit single coverage and the blitz.

Go get Evans.

Plus, what is the one thing they don’t have right now? A great red zone threat.

Here’s your answer.

If the NFL shares the opinion of Kiper, McShay, the CBS duo and the rest… I hope the Seahawks are ready to act.

Mike Evans would be a perfect compliment to this offense. Arguably, the receiver Wilson needs to reach his absolute peak.

Christmas Eve mock draft

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

What’s one of the toughest things to do when putting a mock together?

Accepting your opinion on a player might not be universally recognised.

In this projection I’ve included a handful of guys I don’t rate all that highly.

Stephon Tuitt is in there, even though I’d only take him in round three. Somebody else might take him in round one based on the upside — so that’s why he’s in.

Khalil Mack is projected in the top ten. There are some character issues to be looked into. He’s a playmaker — no doubt about it. But is he quite the athlete some people believe? For me his greatest move is a bull rush, not speed off the edge. We’ll see how he tests.

People like Tony Pauline, who were sceptical of Mack going into the season, are now calling him a lock for round one. That’s difficult to ignore. And I’m choosing not to ignore it today.

I like C.J. Mosley a lot. Is he a top-20 pick? I wouldn’t take him that early, purely because he isn’t going to be a pass rushing linebacker at the next level. He isn’t Luke Kuechly either. But in a class without a lot of obvious elite players, he’d provide a solid addition to any 3-4 defense looking for a bit of mettle inside.

Jackson Jeffcoat exploded in the second half of the season for Texas. Whenever I’ve watched him, he’s been pretty inconsistent. I’m eager to see some recent tape and watch their Bowl game. A lot of reports say he’s really improved his effort and intensity. So he’s in too… for now.

There are other picks I like a lot more.

Jadeveon Clowney is still the top player in this draft for me. I’ll take a generational physical talent over whoever happens to be the top quarterback by default. However badly you need a quarterback. If Clowney works out at the combine, watch out.

Sammy Watkins will surprise people. Watch the tape and you see an extreme playmaker who got back to his best in 2013. What people don’t realise is he’s a smart receiver who picked up some good habits from DeAndre Hopkins. He will go early.

Marqise Lee is a top-ten talent. So why not put him in the top ten?

The clear strength of this class will be the offensive tackle and wide receiver positions. So I’ve no issue including so many in the first round of this mock.

And then there’s Seattle’s pick, which is at #31 today.

Ra’Shede Hageman is a really interesting case.

Last time I had him in the top ten, and that could happen.

He could go to the Senior Bowl and dominate. He could go to the combine and be one of the stars in Indianapolis.

If that happens, it’s unlikely he lasts until #31.

But there’s a catch.

There are some character question marks. Hageman had a difficult upbringing. Minnesota Jerry Kill kind of sums it up…

“He’s got a tremendous future… He’s a guy a lot of people will want to get their hands on as long as he stays on track”

How easy will it be for Hageman to stay on track? He’s had further issues in college, including being suspended for three games in 2010 for academic reasons.

Then there’s this report from Albert Breer, with quotes from an unnamed executive…

“[Hageman] is big, athletic — he flashes top-10 talent… He’s just inconsistent with his motor and his overall play style”

In terms of what he offers, he has the kind of length (6-6) and size (approximately 305lbs) Seattle looks for. They might have to replace Tony McDaniel in the off-season, or even Michael Bennett.

He has a great burst off the line. I like his hand use, his bull rush and the ability to move outside to the edge. There are some technical issues he needs to address. There’s also plenty to work with if he’s willing to learn.

Making projections late in the first round is a thankless task this early in the process. I set out with the intention of placing a receiver with the Seahawks, but too many were off the board. And I think they need a true #1, not an extension of what they already have.

So here is my Christmas Eve mock draft. Enjoy… and debate away.

#1 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Take Clowney at #1, put him next to J.J. Watt and enjoy. Yeah they need a QB, but who’s worth the top pick?
#2 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Jake Long’s knee injury in week 16 makes this even more likely.
#3 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
Gus Bradley could use a defense-defining LEO.
#4 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Oakland needs something — anything — to build around.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
He could shoot up boards by the combine. And he’d look great next to Josh Gordan and Jordan Cameron.
#6 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Really good run blocker. Has everything you look for physically in a franchise tackle.
#7 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
He deserves more credit. Really, really good tackle prospect.
#8 Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo)
I’m not a huge fan, but other people are. Minnesota will probably lose Jared Allen and needs a pass rusher.
#9 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Who wouldn’t want to see Marqise Lee and Robert Woods reunited?
#10 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
Athletic ‘beast’ of a player with limitless potential. His play has been inconsistent this year, however.
#11 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Solid, if unspectacular, offensive lineman. New York needs to rebuild in the trenches.
#12 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Imagine Vincent Jackson and Calvin Johnson on the same roster. That’s what this would look like.
#13 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Athletic tight end with an engaging personality. Playmaker.
#14 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
The Jets and Johnny Football are made for each other.
#15 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
The best corner in this class.
#16 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Green Bay really needs to improve that defense.
#17 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s not dominated in 2013 and it’s a concern. Has he added too much bad weight?
#18 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Incredibly polished, makes plays. Terrific return man too and massive hands.
#19 Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
I’m not a fan. I’d take him in round three. But I suspect someone’s going to fall for the upside.
#20 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
I’m a big Zack Martin fan. Tremendous all-round lineman with impeccable character. Underrated.
#21 Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
He could be a big time riser if he declares.
#22 Brent Urban (DE, Virginia)
Chip Kelly likes defenders with length and speed.
#23 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
He’s had a productive year. I’ve seen one of his games and came away impressed.
#24 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
I’m not convinced he’ll make a huge move into the top ten, but I can see why he’d go before some of the other QB’s in this class.
#25 Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
The combine will be Erving’s friend. Former defensive lineman.
#26 Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas)
Might end up rising a little during the off-season. Has 12 sacks in 2013 going into Bowl season.
#27 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
Big upside prospect with his best years ahead.
#28 Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington)
Big, orthodox tight end. Could go in round one, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he fell.
#29 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
I think he’ll go earlier than people expect. Belichick hearts Rutgers.
#30 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Not had the year everybody expected, but still a good prospect.
#31 Ra-Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Character flags and a lack of production are the issue. Size, burst and upside are the big positives.
#32 La’el Collins (G, LSU)
I think he’ll end up at guard in the NFL, despite playing tackle this year.

2014 mock draft: 4th December

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Time for the first mock draft of the year.

I wanted to mix things up a little bit compared to some of the mocks out there, but here’s a few pointers…

– Whichever team gets the #1 pick, I still think they’re going to find it very difficult to pass on Jadeveon Clowney. When you pick that early, you want a special player. Or at least a player with the potential to be special. Clowney and J.J. Watt could be a partnership for the ages, and something Houston simply has to consider even if they feel Case Keenum isn’t the guy. If I’d done a second round projection, I would’ve had the Texans selecting A.J. McCarron at #33.

– Sam Bradford has had a tough time in St. Louis. Multiple offensive coordinators. Very little consistency. A dearth of weapons. And his huge pre-CBA contract has severely limited the Rams’ ability to really attack free agency. At the same time, he has one year left on his contract. And because he’s been earning so much these last four seasons — any extension will need to be massive. I don’t see how you can make that commitment. The Rams have the luxury of two picks and could even end up with the #1 choice. They need to consider taking Teddy Bridgewater.

– The two positions of strength in this class are offensive tackle and receiver. That’s my take. But a ton of league sources are raving about the cornerbacks. I’ve tried to represent that in this mock.

– I’m not a Washington Huskies fan. I’m not a fan of any college team. The reason Bishop Sankey is in the first round of this mock is down to one thing and one thing only. He’s a hell of a football player.

– Cincinnati needs to find a quarterback. Andy Dalton teases the Bengals fans with 4-5 games every year where he looks the part. The rest of the time he wastes all that talent on the Cincy roster. That’s not to say Johnny Manziel is necessarily the answer. But surely the Bengals have to weigh up their options here? They’ll have to pay Dalton in a year. Do you really want to make that long term commitment?

– Keep an eye on UCF’s Blake Bortles. He’s a very modern NFL quarterback — a big, mobile presence with an arm. I can see Cleveland going down that road with one of their two first round picks ahead of someone like Derek Carr. And I like Carr, just not necessarily in round one.

– For the Seahawks I took a tackle. Brandon Scherff is a punishing run blocker and looks like a Tom Cable prospect. I sincerely hope the Seahawks find a way to keep Breno Giacomini, but it’s going to be tough to pay him and the likes of Richard Sherman, Golden Tate, Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett. You can see some Scherff tape at the top of this piece.

All thoughts welcome in the comments section.

#1 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Jadeveon Clowney next to J.J. Watt makes it acceptable to wait until round two for a quarterback.
#2 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
The Rams are coming to a crossroads with Sam Bradford. Either they pay him mega bucks, or they move on. I’d move on.
#3 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
Gus Bradley’s new athletic LEO. Their defense needs a guy with his speed off the edge.
#4 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
With the top two DE’s gone, this is the other big need in Atlanta.
#5 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
The best tackle in this class for me. Superb talent. Not sure why he has so many critics.
#6 Re’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
Athletic specimen. Why else have they stashed Josh Freeman? He must be the plan for 2014. Surely?
#7 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Who wouldn’t want a Vincent Jackson clone?
#8 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
He’d be a great compliment to Josh Gordon in Cleveland.
#9 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Robinson’s a fast rising prospect who looks the part of a NFL left tackle.
#10 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
Athletic ‘beast’ of a player with limitless potential. His play has been inconsistent this year, however.
#11 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Looks like a difference maker at tight end. Ebron’s production hasn’t dipped despite the change of quarterback at UNC.
#12 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
Keep an eye on this guy against Ohio State. He could be the top corner for 2014.
#13 Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Elite speed off the edge, 12 sacks this year. Welcome to the modern day pass rusher.
#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
The Rams defense is perhaps a great safety (or corner) away from being very scary.
#15 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Solid, if unspectacular, offensive lineman. New York needs to rebuild in the trenches.
#16 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
He’s making plays and getting good reviews all year.
#17 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s not been dominant in 2013 and it’s a concern. Has he added too much bad weight?
#18 Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Converted defensive lineman. Big upside. Would test well at the combine.
#19 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
A lot of people want to convert him to guard. I like him where he is — at left tackle.
#20 Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU)
Philly desperately needs talent on defense. Van Noy is a playmaker.
#21 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Terrific, polished, explosive receiver. He could go earlier than this.
#22 Loucheiz Purifoy (CB, Florida)
Inconsistent corner but plays the run well and a decent athlete.
#23 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Criminally underrated because he lacks elite physical tools. He could be a star.
#24 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon)
Solid all-round corner prospect who can play outside or in the slot.
#25 Bishop Sankey (RB, Washington)
Dallas reached for a center last year, so why not a running back? Sankey is a stud.
#26 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Average 2013 season could prove costly. Still, the talent is there.
#27 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Andy Dalton has had more than enough time to prove he’s the guy. Someone is going to roll the dice on Manziel.
#28 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
Big, mobile quarterback who can get the ball downfield. Could begin a quick rise up the boards. Having a great season.
#29 Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
Small but highly competitive corner.
#30 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
Athletic freak who can play tackle or guard. He has a ton of upside.
#31 Marcus Roberson (CB, Florida)
They need to add talent to that secondary. Roberson has character red flags.
#32 Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Punishing run blocker with attitude. Looks like a Tom Cable type player.