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.
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.
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.
“[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.
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.
Watching the Alabama vs Texas A&M game this year, it’d be easy to write off Mike Evans’ performance as a one off.
But when he keeps doing it — eventually, you just need to accept he is that good.
We’ll hear a lot about Evans’ proposed lack of deep speed, his limited athletic qualities.
It’s getting to the point where I just don’t care. If you draft a 6-5, 225lbs receiver you shouldn’t expect him to be lightning quick. As long as he isn’t a complete slouch, you can live with it.
What he keeps consistently putting on tape is everything you want from a guy his size. He is the perfect receiver for Johnny Manziel. And in many ways he could be the perfect receiver for Russell Wilson.
Manziel runs around like his hair’s on fire. He gets out of the pocket, he buys time. He improvises. And while Wilson is more about controlled chaos, they do share the ability to extend plays when everything seems lost.
Evans is adept at coming back to the quarterback. Some receivers just get it. When the initial call breaks down, it’s scramble drill time. And consistently Evans works his way back to Manziel to make a key grab. He finds a way to get open and provide an outlet.
His jump-ball ability is as good as it gets. Time and time again Manziel just tosses it up there giving him the chance to make a play. And he does. It’s men against boys out there. He goes up, high points the football and makes the big catches.
Evans plays every game like he’s pissed off. His interviews are notoriously curt and to the point. He has a spark to his game, a competitive edge. You want to see that.
And while he isn’t Calvin Johnson and won’t be running a 4.35 — there’s enough tape of him running away from defensive backs to at least feel comfortable with that part of his game.
Doesn’t it look like Evans fits perfectly with that concept?
In the Auburn game (see above) he had eleven catches for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
Touchdown #1 — yards after the catch on an inside slant
Touchdown #2 — quick hit to the sideline, runs away from everyone for a 65-yard score
Touchdown #3 — more YAC and a nice leap into the end zone to finish the play
Touchdown #4 — another big downfield play in tight single coverage
It’s hard to find fault within his game when you look at the 2013 tape.
Seattle has some big decisions to make in the off-season. Golden Tate is a free agent, Doug Baldwin is a RFA. They’ve already spent big money on Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice’s contract will make for a lengthy debate.
If they keep Tate and Baldwin but lose Rice, it’s still going to be tough to get everyone their touches for the financial outlay.
For that reason, a first round receiver might struggle to have an early impact.
Yet there’s just something so appealing about Wilson having a guy like Evans to throw to. Someone to really put the icing on the cake for that positional group. The explosive playmaking quality of Harvin and Tate. The consistency and edge of Baldwin. And then the height, catch radius and red zone benefit of Evans.
The word ‘unstoppable’ suddenly springs to mind.
Imagine seeing Wilson scrambling around but having Evans as that safety net — coming back to the quarterback. Imagine having him in the red zone, having him running that sideline.
And imagine a defensive coordinator trying to work out who to double cover between Evans’ reach and ability to high point the ball, and Harvin’s pure game-changing physical quality.
Drafting him in round one would be a luxury and it’s unlikely Evans will last deep into the first round (unless he really clocks a slow time at the combine).
But if you’re looking for the next big physical freak of nature who comes into the league and just churns out production — Evans could easily be that guy.
Michael Bowie has ended up starting earlier than expected
The injuries to Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini might actually be a blessing in disguise.
That’s assuming Russell Wilson survives the next couple of weeks of course…
They’re getting a chance to test Michael Bowie. They’ll have a whole lot of tape to judge him on during the off-season and be well positioned to determine whether he has long term potential as a starter.
They may decide he isn’t up to the task.
Either way, they’ll know.
The injury to Okung has highlighted the need for superior depth. As well as he’s played in Seattle, he’s also picked up injuries. And simply switching your left guard to tackle can’t be the backup plan beyond this season.
It’s hard enough finding one serviceable left tackle, let alone two. But that’s the task facing this front office.
The Seahawks are wiser for this experience. And there is a solution that makes at least some sense, it’s just incredibly difficult to implement.
When they drafted James Carpenter in 2011, I had genuine hope they’d drafted a versatile tackle who could play on the left and right. Although he struggled defending the edge as a rookie, Carpenter was a fantastic blocker for Alabama. It’s no exaggeration that he jumped off the screen in college.
In the NFL, it’d didn’t translate. They moved him to guard. And now he’s having to fight for a starting spot.
It’s quite likely they won’t be able to afford to keep Breno Giacomini next season. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett and Golden Tate will all be priority re-signings. They will all cost money. And it’ll be a case of managing who you can and can’t keep.
It’ll be hard to replace Bennett or Tate in the draft (although I like the receiver class). Sherman and Thomas aren’t anywhere. Giacomini — an underrated player in my eyes — might end up being the unfortunate odd man out.
If that ends up being the case, they’re surely going to draft a tackle. It’s just whether they make it an early round priority.
For me, they need to go out and try the path that was possibly intended with Carpenter. Get a tackle who starts on the right side but can adequately backup Okung on the left if required, at least for a few weeks.
You’d have Bowie and Alvin Bailey for depth at tackle or guard. You’d feel more comfortable about spelling for Okung. You may even upgrade the right tackle spot on a cheap rookie contract. The whole situation can be improved.
The Carpenter example shows how difficult it’ll be. Three tackles went in the top four last year and it’ll be no different in 2014. The best offensive lineman will fly off the board. And presuming an 8-1 team makes the post season, the Seahawks will face a similar situation to 2011.
A lot of people were underwhelmed by the Carpenter pick. Will people react the same way if they roll the dice again on another low profile tackle?
Even if they flop in the post season and pick around #21-23 overall, you’re unlikely to find an accomplished big name tackle in that range. Not these days. Any lineman athletic enough to man the blind side will be long gone.
A deep positional class might help the situation, but these guys are going earlier and earlier every year. It’s funny that all the time we’ve talked about moving up for quarterbacks or impact players over the years, the big move they might have to make is for a tackle capable of playing both spots.
They’ve avoided moving up at all costs so far, it almost seems slightly absurd to suggest they do it for a swing tackle. They found a franchise quarterback and a shutdown corner in the mid-to-late rounds and so avoided having to make any bold moves.
It could be that once again they rely on Tom Cable’s advice to go hunting later on for another gem.
Or maybe the chaos on the offensive line and the risk they’re taking with Wilson’s health will force a more aggressive turn?
Either way, there’s a lot to think about here.
So who could potentially play both right and left tackle?
Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) hasn’t had the year everyone expected in 2013. Some have suggested it will send him spiralling down the draft boards. I don’t see it that way. He has enough overall potential to easily find a home in the top-15. If D.J. Fluker can go as early as #11 overall, it’s hard to see Kouandjio dropping much further than that.
Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) might be better than Luke Joeckel — the #2 pick last year. If we’re talking about guys who can play left and right tackle comfortably, Matthews is the prototype. I suspect in the NFL he will revert back permanently to the right but he’s shown the ability to work the blind side in the SEC. He’s probably a top ten pick. Which is a shame.
Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) reminds me of Anthony Davis. Big, athletic guy who shouldn’t be able to move around like he does. And like Davis, Richardson isn’t showing his best football in college. The 49ers spent the 2010 #11 pick to cover both tackle spots. If the Seahawks want to mimic that plan, they might need a pick as high as #11 next year.
Taylor Lewan (Michigan) looks like a pure right tackle to me. Yet if Detroit are prepared to try Riley Reiff on the blindside (ditto Green Bay with Bryan Bulaga), then perhaps Lewan could at least play a few games on the left? His stock is difficult to project. Some see him as a top-15 lock. Others feel he could fall a bit. I’m yet to really make up my mind here.
Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) has looked terrific across from Jake Matthews. If he declares, he too could be a first round pick with major upside. I suspect he won’t declare and will likely start at left tackle for the Aggies in 2014.
James Hurst (North Carlona) might end up as a permanent right tackle like Lewan. Lunch-pail type of guy, nothing too flashy. Coped reasonably well against Jadeveon Clowney early in the season. Can he work at left tackle? I just have a feeling he’s more effort than athleticism. That will get found out at the next level. But he is physical.
Zack Martin (Notre Dame) doesn’t get enough attention for me. Big time recruit. Highly thought of by his school. Could be the guy.
Cameron Erving (Florida State) is a former defensive lineman who is showing enough athleticism to warrant major consideration. Technique wise, he has a way to go. That’s to be expected. There’s so much potential here but will there be serious growing pains?
Corey Robinson (South Carolina) is another former defensive lineman. And we know Cable likes guys like that.
Players I’ll be looking at over the next few weeks: La’el Collins (LSU), Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA), Cameron Fleming (Stanford)
Rugters' Brandon Coleman had a bounce-back game against Louisville
Working out Brandon Coleman might be one of the toughest things we have to do going into the 2014 draft.
We’ve talked a lot about him. He’s 6-5/6-6, 220lbs with speed to burn and physical qualities to die for. Essentially, something the Seahawks currently lack.
Pete Carroll, by his own admission, likes “the big guys”.
Coleman started the season with a sloppy (yet productive) performance against Fresno State. He then dropped off the radar with four lacklustre games where he tallied just six catches for 126 yards.
Last night he was back on form in Rutgers’ most difficult test of the season so far. He was productive against Louisville, making 66 yards on five grabs. He looked smooth, he ran good routes. It’s what we wanted to see all year.
So what is the cause of such inconsistency?
He had knee surgery in the off-season, with some observers claiming he just wasn’t the same player as a consequence. Having watched the Louisville and Fresno games, I didn’t see any hard evidence to argue for or against that. Coleman was never great when it came to short area quickness, but he has unnatural long speed for his size. He managed to get deep and create separation on a play downfield against the Bulldogs, but then dropped an easy catch.
It’d be reassuring to see him take a short pass 80-yards for a score as he’s done in the past. It might settle this particular concern. But ultimately this is a question that’ll be answered in the medical room at the combine. Teams will want to check out the injury report to see what state his knee is in. Staying healthy the rest of year can only help.
Whatever the situation, you want to see players making tangible progress. The mistakes against Fresno were alarming. While we’ve seen this guy make some incredible plays at Rutgers, he’s also good for the occasional mental lapse. Perhaps of more pressing concern is the repeated unwillingness to really high point the football. With his size and frame he should be nearly impossible to cover in jump ball situations. Yet we never really see evidence of that.
It’s kind of ‘meh’ when he should be ‘wow’.
Get your hands up, let your quarterback throw it up there. I’m craving to see it.
Right now there’s very little evidence of technical improvement made from the 2012 season. Again, the surgery possibly prevented him from putting in the time this summer. If that is the case, he has to show gradual improvement during the season. The work has to happen now.
Finally, the quarterback situation at Rutgers has to take some of the blame. The simple fact is, Gary Nova isn’t very good. And while Teddy Bridgewater did enough last night to keep his team ticking along, Nova threw four interceptions.
He’s inaccurate, he struggles under pressure, he hasn’t got a great arm and he’s frustrating to watch.
This doesn’t give Coleman a pass. Nova managed 346 passing yards against Arkansas and 283 against SMU. Of those 629 yards, Coleman had just 81.
He needs to be the #1 target. Simple as that. He’s their best receiver.
There’s quite a lot at play here that could be preventing Coleman from being the consistent target we all want to see. However, the chances are this is going to continue. Nova isn’t going to improve. The knee may or may not be an issue. And it could be argued it’s harder to make technical improvements during the season compared to focused work during camp.
He’ll probably still have two or three big games. And he’ll also have two or three where he barely registers.
This is the interesting angle though — how much are you willing to invest in potential?
The Seahawks have shown they’re willing to take a gamble. I suppose you could call it calculated risk. If the player ticks a lot of boxes but hasn’t quite got the consistent college production you want to see, do you back yourself to get it out of him at the next level? Do you back your coaches to make the required technical adjustments to uncover a gem?
Coleman has everything you want in a big receiver in terms of the physical side of the game. He can be a dynamic red zone threat. It still wouldn’t surprise me — health permitting — if he was a high draft pick.
And potentially a high draft pick for the Seattle Seahawks.
After all, John Schneider was at the Rutgers-Louisville game last night.
It’s still way too early to get a handle on next years draft, but I’ve had a chance to rattle through some tape in between changing a baby, feeding a baby and trying, in vain, to entertain a baby.
So here we go.
Top quarterback prospect – Zach Mettenburg (QB, LSU)
Teddy Bridgewater is getting the most attention, but Mettenburg is quickly developing into the superior player. He’s taken giant leaps this season after an underwhelming first year at LSU.
He lacks the mobility and elusiveness a lot of teams are looking for, but as a pure pocket passer he has a complete skill set. He’s reading coverages like a pro. Mechanically he’s sound with a good arm — and he makes very few mistakes.
The game against Georgia, even in defeat, cemented his position as a legit pro-prospect. One throw to Jarvis Landry really stood out — a downfield bullet into the tightest of windows, hitting his receiver right in the hands despite triple coverage. It’s a great example of Mettenberger’s accuracy, arm strength and ability to make big plays. Yet the performance on the whole was a masterclass. He was one step ahead of the Bulldogs defense all afternoon.
Bridgewater is a fine prospect, but he’s a little over hyped. It’s assumed he’ll be the first quarterback off the board in much the same way it was assumed Geno Smith would be last year. He won’t sink like Smith (he’s a better player) but he’s no lock to be the first QB off the board. Like Mettenberger, Bridgewater isn’t the most mobile quarterback — neither is going to be running the read option. And in the key areas such as pocket presence, accuracy, arm strength and touch — Mettenberger gets the edge.
Both players could easily be top ten picks. But out of the two, right now, I think Mettenberger will be the first off the board. There’s plenty of time for that to change.
Who knows what the Cleveland Browns are planning to do with their two first round picks, but Mettenberger looks like a great fit for Norv Turner’s scheme. If they have to move up, could he be the guy they target?
I also want to say this is a better quarterback class than I initially anticipated. Watching tape over the last 6-7 days, I’ve been impressed with a handful of guys. Today in particular opened my eyes up to a couple of players. You’ll see the change in my rankings later.
Top offensive playmaker – Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, LSU)
It’s none of the players we expected. Not Sammy Watkins. Not Marqise Lee. There’s no running back worthy of the status. Again it’s back to LSU. So far Odell Beckham Jr. is the top playmaker eligible for the 2014 draft.
The only thing Beckham lacks is height. He’s listed at 6-0. Aside from that he’s the complete receiver prospect. He wins jump balls against taller cornerbacks. He has huge hands that absorb the football — and he’s a pure hands catcher. He’s explosive. He runs good routes. In six games this year he has 686 yards and seven total touchdowns.
Really, what’s not to like?
He’ll have an immediate impact as a kick return threat and it won’t be a total shocker if he hits the ground running as a receiver. This year he’s looked like a NFL receiver on loan to college football. He just looks ready. And working within a productive passing game at LSU he’s thriving.
Like A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, Beckham oozes a natural instinct for the position. You just feel like he’s going to learn the playbook quickly and be out there making plays. Don’t be put off by his size — everything else is good enough to warrant major attention.
In a draft without any clear cut playmakers, Beckham offers the best value and could be a first round pick.
Need more convincing?
Top overall player – Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Don’t be fooled into thinking the current drama involving Clowney will have a big impact on his stock. Even if he sits the rest of the season, eventually he’s going to turn up at the combine and put on a display for the ages.
Physically he is every bit as good as the hype suggests.
So while there’s a lot of hand wringing going on at the moment about his decision to sit out Saturday’s game against Kentucky due to a rib injury, the fact is he’s going to be nigh on impossible to pass on. We’re talking about one of the most talented players to enter the NFL in recent memory. In terms of sheer physical brilliance, he’s up there with Calvin Johnson. A real freak of nature.
And like Johnson, he might not go first overall if the team that owns the top pick feels they simply have to draft a quarterback. The first team that doesn’t desperately need a QB will draft Clowney. Simple as that. He is too good. There is too much potential.
He is going to be the player with the most upside in the 2014 draft and it isn’t even close.
Let’s assume Jacksonville ‘earns’ the #1 pick. They are several drafts away from relevance. And while they clearly need a quarterback, drafting one with the #1 pick won’t automatically turn them into a contender. There’s no Andrew Luck in this class.
So do you take a longer term approach and draft a player who could be an elite difference maker on defense? I say yes. They need to accumulate talent right now, not chase needs. The Jaguars would be better served drafting Clowney at #1 to help establish an identity behind their defensive minded Head Coach.
With the right coaches in the NFL, he’ll be a superstar. Gus Bradley would be a great coach for Jadeveon Clowney. And Bradley needs good football players across the board, not just at quarterback.
Position with the most depth – Offensive tackle
Again, it’s still early. But this looks like another year where we see a cluster of offensive linemen going in the top 10-15. There aren’t any guards as good as Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack, but there are several decent tackles.
The position overall is getting over drafted, so the league will be all over this crop.
All of the following could be early picks: Jake Matthews, Cyrus Kouandjio, Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin, Antonio Richardson and James Hurst.
Out of that group, I wouldn’t rate any higher than 2010’s top tackle (Trent Williams), 2011’s (Tyron Smith) or 2012’s (Matt Kalil) going into their respective draft classes. They’re all good players. Are they great? Debatable. But the league likes the idea of drafting a tackle early.
Multiple teams could be targeting the position in 2014 which also helps, such as the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on Florida State’s converted defensive lineman Cameron Erving. I need to get a better look at him, but he’s looked fairly accomplished so far after making the switch. The best athletes are playing defense in college these days — and it’s a serious problem for NFL teams trying to find blockers who can match up.
Seattle was ahead of the curve in looking for defensive players who can play on offense. Now some college teams appear willing to try their fringe defenders on the O-line. Both the NCAA and the NFL have to find a way to deal with the speed and athleticism that’s gravitating towards defense. The mismatch is too extreme.
I was very close to naming quarterback as the position with most depth. It’s right up there.
Players who have underwhelmed so far
Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
It’s assumed Nix is a top ten lock, but when I’ve watched him this year he’s looked sluggish and heavy. He has a reputation for a dominating, athletic nose tackle. Has he made any big plays yet? It’s time to raise some concern. He isn’t anything like the same kind of athlete as Dontari Poe (#11 overall, 2012). Teams are always looking for a good nose tackle, but right now he just looks average. A big body.
Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
As USC drifted into farce, Lee’s stock took a hammering. Instead of the unstoppable force we’ve come to expect, he’s made basic mental errors (bad drops, turnovers) and failed to make much of an impact. A lot of it is down to Lane Kiffin and the ridiculous decision to keep him on for 2013. But Lee doesn’t have outstanding physical tools and recently picked up a knee injury. On current form is anyone going to see him as a top-15 pick? Robert Woods’ stock dropped into round two last year and it’s not too unrealistic that the same could happen to Lee.
Will Sutton (DT, Arizona State)
I don’t really get what all the fuss is about. He looks like a classic JAG. Last year he made headlines for his production. Yet on tape he only played in flashes. There’s nothing particularly impressive about his physical make-up. Frequently he’s blown up in run plays or shoved backwards in pass protection. He hasn’t got the greatest motor and where’s the nasty streak? This season he hasn’t even got the production — with just one sack in five games. I wouldn’t even offer a mid-round grade at this stage.
David Yankey (G, Stanford)
Stanford offensive linemen are well coached and technically excellent. The scheme they use is a thing of beauty. It’s primed for players to excel, with lots of movement and pulling. If you execute, you’ll look good. But as we’ve seen with previous Cardinal linemen, it doesn’t always translate to the next level. You need a certain level of physical quality too, not just technical expertise. Jonathan Martin looked like a first round pick at times in college, but has struggled mightily in Miami. David De Castro was flavour of the month in 2012 but dropped into the 20’s for a reason and hasn’t looked all that great in Pittsburgh. Yankey looks like the next technically gifted Stanford lineman who just isn’t all that special.
Other underwhelming players: the entire tight end group (including Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Colt Lyerla), Aaron Lynch (DE, USF), Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame), Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State) and Stephen Morris (QB, Miami),
20 players I like the most so far
(Note — this is only based on the players I’ve actually had a chance to watch in multiple games)
#1 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Elite talent, despite all the current negative publicity. Guys like this don’t come along very often.
#2 Zach Mettenberger (QB, LSU)
Looks like he could be the best QB prospect eligible for 2014. Pure pocket passer.
#3 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Better than Luke Joeckel, but not quite as good as some of the other top tackles that have entered the league recently.
#4 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
Far from flawless this year but possibly has the most upside of all the tackles.
#5 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
In a down year for receivers and running backs, this guy stands out.
#6 Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU)
A pure playmaker on defense. Would be great for a creative defensive mind.
#7 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Not quite as good as the internet hype suggests, but still a solid prospect.
#8 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
Highly touted recruit whose best football will come at the next level.
#9 Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
16 sacks in his last 12 starts. Brilliant speed rusher.
#10 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Might be best suited to the right side.
#11 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
Upside pick. Has looked a bit hit and miss this year. I suspect he’ll look good at the combine.
#12 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
Not quite as good as some are saying. Technique still needs refining, gets by on physical ability.
#13 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
This isn’t a great draft class. Manziel at least offers some special qualities. There are lot’s of concerns, too.
#14 James Hurst (T, North Carolina)
Did well against Clowney and looks relatively solid.
#15 Ed Reynolds (S, Stanford)
Needs more attention. A flat out playmaker in the secondary.
#16 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
Speed receiver who will make a nice #2.
#17 Dominique Easley (DT, Florida)
Even despite the ACL injury, I had to include him here.
#18 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Catches the ball well in traffic. Big and strong. But is he enough of an athlete to impact the next level?
#19 Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
Better than expected arm strength. Surprised me this year. Much better than I thought.
#20 Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Needs to keep working on technique, but has a natural feel for the offensive line.
Next up: Scott Crichton (DE, Oregon State), A.J. McCarron (QB, Alabama), Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson), Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU), Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami), Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt), C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama), Ha Ha Clinton Dix (S, Alabama).
Players I expect to stay in college: Brett Hundley (QB, UCLA), Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon), Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
This is the least excited I’ve been about a draft class in a long time. There’s still time for that to change, but so far it’s mostly been about disappointing performances, injuries, suspensions and character issues. This is pretty much the ‘bad news draft class’.
LSU’s Odell Beckham is a player I want on the Seahawks roster. In fact if they lose Golden Tate in free agency, Beckham would be an ideal replacement. He’s incredibly polished, has huge hands and has underrated athletic qualities. He’s also an explosive kick returner. Against Mississippi State he stood out again with nine catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He was the best player on the field. Beckham isn’t quite the big, physical receiver Seattle lacks (he’s 6-0 and 187lbs) but I don’t care. He still high points the ball (see his first TD here). He’s a smooth, fluid runner (and his second here is evidence of that). You need playmakers like this. I mentioned his hand size — and while I don’t have the measurements — it looks unnatural for his height. He absorbs the football into his mits. I don’t think this is going to be a great draft, although we know how that can change quickly. Right now I’d happily give Beckham a late first round or early second round grade.
Part of the problem with this draft class appears to be all the negativity out there. Marqise Lee at USC — once a sure-fire top ten lock — has suffered a knee injury, loss of form and seen his stock fall as USC drifts into farce. Dominique Easley, looking so good to start the year, picked up a fresh ACL injury. Notre Dame’s highly rated nose tackle Louis Nix looks cumbersome and heavy and he’s struggling to have an impact. Anthony Barr at UCLA hasn’t quite lived up to his hype, while Bradley Roby at Ohio State hasn’t looked anywhere near as good as last season. Ha Ha Clinton Dix has been suspended for the year by Alabama.
Even the anointed top prospect Jadeveon Clowney has got involved in the ‘bad news draft’. He decided to sit out South Carolina’s game against Kentucky with bruised ribs. That’s not too shocking. The reaction of Steve Spurrier, however, painted the situation in a different light. “(If Clowney) wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants. But if he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play. Simple as that.” If Clowney is protecting himself for the NFL, it’s his prerogative. But it’s not a good look. A lot of this will be forgotten when he turns up at the combine and puts on a display for the ages. Right now he’s copping some flack. And it’s a long way until February.
Clowney wasn’t the only one making headlines this weekend. Colt Lyerla — a controversial figure at the best of times — has walked out on Oregon. Or he was kicked off the team. Whatever you want to believe, it’s still a mess. Lyerla has all the physical qualities you want in a modern NFL tight end, but you have to seriously question his mental make-up after this. Let’s not forget, this is the man who made ill-advised conspiracy theorist tweets about the Sandy Hook shootings. He didn’t feature against Colorado due to a team suspension, he’d been warring with Head Coach Mark Helfrich for most of the season. He’ll probably get a chance in the NFL, even if it’s as an UDFA. But he can forget any chance of being an early round pick.
On the subject of tight ends — and it’s a position Seattle might look at in the 2014 draft — it’s hard to see any going in the first round. Austin Seferian-Jenkins looks out of shape and had a crucial drop against Stanford. Eric Ebron had another good outing for North Carolina and recorded another nice touchdown. He looks like a solid second or third round player to me rather than a day one pick.
On a positive note, it’s a good year for offensive tackles. It’s the position of depth in this class. Even so, they all kind of blend into one. There’s no obvious stand out. Cyrus Kouandijo, Jake Matthews, Zack Martin, Taylor Lewan, Antonio Richardson, James Hurst. All could be first round picks, but who’s the #1 in that group? Whoever wins that particular race, it’s not too early to expect a cluster of tackles to go in the top-15 picks.
It might be time to start considering Clemson’s Vic Beasley as a first round pick. He’s not the biggest pass rusher, but his get off and pure speed is almost as good as Bruce Irvin’s. You can’t argue with his production either. Two sacks against Syracuse on Saturday made it 16 in 12 games during the last two seasons. This year he has eight sacks in five outings. I watched the game at the weekend and Beasley was constantly in the backfield — stunting inside, bursting off the edge. He made good plays against the run too. I’ve not seen a pass rusher as accomplished as Beasley this season.
Team mate Tajh Boyd had a productive day in the stat column (455 yards, five touchdowns) but we’re not seeing a jump in consistency from last year. At his best (vs LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl) he looks the part of a first round pick. But last year he had a tendency to miss on simple throws, making life difficult for his receivers. We’re still seeing that. He had two picks against Syracuse, including a bad overthrow over the middle. It should’ve been a simple connection, he just missed. I kind of feel like we’re waiting for the day Boyd and the Clemson offense hit a wall. Last season that came against Florida State. The Tigers play FSU in two weeks.
Brandon Coleman continues to toil a little for Rutgers. I found out this week he’d had surgery to reconstruct his knee during the off-season. Is it hampering his progress? And did it impact he decision not to turn pro in 2013? He doesn’t look the same player so far and while he had a big catch and run against SMU, he was wide open on the play. The other receivers at Rutgers are getting the production. Coleman has so much upside but appears destined for a mid-round grade at best unless things pick up soon.
Justin Houston should've been a higher pick in 2011
Never let anyone say that offensive line picks are ‘safe’. I’ve watched the top three offensive tackles from the 2013 draft closely so far. Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson are all struggling.
More and more of the superior athletes are playing defense.
The likes of Joeckel, Fisher and Johnson are not on the same level. Just like pretty much every tackle coming into the league.
Here’s a good example. Lane Johnson, considered a big-time athlete for an offensive tackle, was drafted #4 overall by Philadelphia. He ran a 4.72 at the combine with a 10-yard split of 1.68.
Dion Jordan, a defensive end drafted #3 overall by Miami, ran a 4.54 at the combine with a split of 1.61.
The difference between the two isn’t enormous. But it’s big enough. Jordan isn’t anything like the best athlete playing defensive end in the NFL.
The days of a lockdown blindside protector who excels in pass protection may be over until the next Walter Jones appears on the scene. We may be drifting into an era where scheming is king in pass protection. An era where quick throws, mobile quarterbacks and misdirection become the equaliser to elite speed off the edge.
Spending high draft picks on trendy offensive tackles doesn’t automatically improve your line play. We’re seeing that now.
As Pete Carroll said on KIRO this week when discussing Paul McQuistan starting in place of the injured Russell Okung: “They have to work in concert”.
Consistency, knowing the system, familiarity. All of these things are vital. More vital than throwing endless picks at the offensive line.
Yet the unit has a reputation for being ‘safe’ in the draft.
Here are the first round offensive lineman taken in the 2011 class:
Tyron Smith, Nate Solder, Anthony Castonzo, Danny Watkins, James Carpenter, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod.
Smith was a good athlete with a lot of upside and worthy of a top-ten grade. The rest? For the most part decidedly unspectacular. Watkins and Carimi are no longer with the teams that drafted them.
On the other hand a guy like Justin Houston (another 2011 prospect who sank due to minor concerns that he took plays off) currently leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks in three games.
He was a third round pick. He looked like a first or second rounder at Georgia. He’s a great athlete playing defense. The offensive tackles in the NFL struggle to match-up to him.
Scouting wide receivers is hard. Most of the time.
Anyone could watch A.J. Green at Georgia and see he was going to be a star. He was on a different technical level to any receiver going into the NFL in recent history.
Route running, hands, competitive spirit, athleticism, character. Green had everything.
And for the last two years he’s made Andy Dalton look like an acceptable starting quarterback. That’s good for Dalton, but bad for Bengals fans who, you know, want to compete for a Super Bowl.
Guys like Green are the major exception though. The only receiver I’ve seen that gets close to his level of polish entering the league is DeAndre Hopkins — and we started to see glimpses of his natural ability on Sunday. You could probably add Julio Jones to the list too.
The rest are a complete mixed bag that are almost impossible to judge with any certainty.
You’re throwing darts with this position.
Most of the time you take a chance on rare size and speed. Some prospects dominate — like Calvin Johnson. Others look clumsy, struggle to raise their game to the next level or become frustrated within a struggling offense.
(see: Jonathan Baldwin)
It’s about so much more than physical talent when you talk about first round picks who need to have an impact quickly. You absolutely have to have — in my opinion — an understanding of route concepts in college. It’s the only way you’ll transition quickly. DeAndre Hopkins used to reel off play calls and discuss specific routes during interviews at Clemson. The guy gets it.
Other players feature in these wide open spread offenses that require very little thought. This hand signal means to run a crosser. This number means go deep. You get the picture.
Those guys often come into the league not really knowing what they’re doing or why. They take an age to adjust in a league that demands instant gratification.
Receivers also need to be fiercely competitive for me if they’re going to go early. Why? See the Anquan Boldin vs Richard Sherman contest on Sunday. In college you might be able to run routes untouched, gliding past cornerbacks who don’t jam you on the line and get in your face.
In the NFL, you’ll get it every time you line up.
Wide receivers have to be sparky, scratchy, tetchy individuals who feel humiliated when they lose even one battle. It needs to burn in their mind like wildfire until the next snap.
“Next time I’ll get you.”
Hands are vital, but that’s obvious. Hands without route-intelligence and competitive spirit are worthless. They have to come as a package.
If they tick those boxes — then (and only then) I want to talk about physical skills.
Height, speed, reach.
That’s just how I approach the position these days. Not because I’m speaking from any position of authority. Not because I’ve read up on how the teams act. Mainly it’s because too often I fell for the guy with height and reach and too often those players didn’t work out on physical qualities alone.
Sadly, nowhere near enough receivers in college are ready for the NFL. It’s too easy in college. When you find the guy who is ready, you better draft him.
So when I come across Mike Evans, there’s immediate suspicion.
As impressive as the numbers were against Alabama, he basically makes a series of catches foreign to what he can expect in the NFL. Against Alabama, he gets downfield and wins jump balls. No jam at the line. All the passes are uncontested. He’s covered, but the defensive back isn’t playing the ball.
Without wishing to undermine his massive game, a lot of those catches are… well… easy. At least for him with his height advantage.
Stuff like this doesn’t happen all that often at the next level. Maybe against the Washington Redskins secondary, but yeah.
Seattle could use a 6-5 receiver with size who can win jump balls and be a factor in the red zone. Evans, with his basketball background, looks the part. And yet I have no idea what kind of prospect he’s going to be at the next level.
There’s no real evidence on tape that he’s a great route runner or understands route concepts. Neither is there a great deal of evidence he’s a fighter capable of dealing with the physical demands of the NFL. How will he do when there’s another pair of hands going after those jump balls?
And yet there’s no real evidence to the contrary either. Nothing to suggest he won’t be just as much of a force.
I suppose you could argue the fact he put up nearly 300 yards on a Nick Saban secondary is something. Is this ‘Bama secondary quite as good as previous seasons though? That’s debatable.
I do like the way he came back to the quarterback at 1:10, adjusting to Johnny Manziel leaving the pocket and giving his quarterback a target. I do like his body control and the way he high points the football. I like the way he appears capable of making a huge play like the 96-yard catch and run for a score.
But as I said, how do we determine whether this guy can be a success at the next level based on the video above?
I’m not sure we’ll ever know, without the ability to sit down and talk about him. Without the chance to speak to coaches about him. Without the chance to dig into his work ethic and discover whether he’s the type of guy who wants to be the best. Badly.
Such is the fallacy of what we do. It’s why for the most part blogging about the NFL Draft is a futile exercise. We only ever scratch the surface. And yet we’re ready and willing to praise and condemn in equal measure.
If the Seahawks drafted Mike Evans on the basis of performances like the one against Alabama, I’d be excited to see how he works out as the teams ‘big man’ at receiver. But I’ll have no qualifications to judge whether it’s a good decision. Not based off tape like above.
Such is the difficulty of trying to project receivers without obvious crossover traits.
If only guys like A.J. Green and DeAndre Hopkins were more common.
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